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  1. Writing Excuses

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    "This is Writing Excuses! Fifteen minutes long because you're in a hurry and we're not that smart!"

    Out here in the vast wilderness of the Internets an intrepid browser could probably discover an infinite amount of professional advice on any given topic. Naturally, much of the advice is sarcastically quotation-marked "professional" at best, and you can only filter out so many of the crazies by analyzing whether or not it looks like they used Geocities-izer to make their site before you stumble across someone that has the pretense of actual knowledge.

    So, gentle listener, how does one divine true and authentic information from the Intertrons in a safe and timely manner, without running the risk of clicking on a site that once seen, cannot be unseen?

    First you read my reviews. And then you go listen to Writing Excuses.

    Hosted by bonafide authors Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells along with verifiable web-comic creator Howard Tayler, this podcasts is a veritable font of useful information for writers. A quick-fix of advice and opinion from the viewpoints of established authors who are willing to share their experience in podcast form. I believe the audience intended for this podcast is new or unpublished authors, but I think a writer of any level could gain some usefulness information out of Writing Excuses.

    Relevant Links:
    Main Site
    ...honestly, the main site is all you need. Each host has links to their own blogs, you can find the iTunes and RSS feeds right on the front page.

    And why not, here's the Wordle you get for the Writing Excuses website:

    Can't say they're not consistent when it comes to mentioning their sponsor.

    Episode Length: Fifteen minutes on average. Occasionally longer, depending on how verbose the hosts are feeling about a particular topic.

    Release Schedule: A new episode is released every Sunday.

    Each episode focuses on one particular topic that relates to writing in some way. Example topics from previous episodes are:

    The Anti-Mary Sue episode
    How to Write Without Twists
    Plot-vs. Character-driven Fiction

    Look at those topics! They're positively brimming with...topicability.

    Each host in turn will share their ideas and experiences, and do their best to show how their information can be utilized by the listener. Their approach is friendly and welcoming; this is the kind of podcast that, could it be worn, would be your favorite hoodie from college. Brandon, Dan and Howard work together to host the majority of the episodes, but there are frequent guest hosts who are in turn harnessed to give a fresh view.

    The hosts will touch on both the creative and business ends of writing, which will be much appreciated by aspiring authors. It is not enough to know how to write a story, or even how to edit it and make it presentable to editors, but how, where, when to submit, how to approach editors and publishing houses, what to expect after you actually write something! It is refreshing to see a creative task explained and examined with reason.

    Content Rating: Clean. They may occasionally drop a very tame swear word. Or mention monkey poo.

    Unintentionally Good Part: Writing Excuses Episode 632. Trust me.

    Unintentionally Bad Part: This podcast is niche-niche-nichy. Even for aspiring authors, the advice generally pertains to only the science fiction/fantasy genres, so this podcast will attract only a very specific audience.

    Drinking Game: Have a brass monkey every time they use a monkey as a plot device in their writing prompt.

    Writing Prompt: A secret organization has implanted a device into your head that records your every thought for a live-steaming podcast. Go!
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  2. Radiolab

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Stories! Sarcasm! SCIENCE!

    This podcast comes highly recommended to people who have:

    If you don't fall into the above categories but enjoy interesting stories that focus on scientific research and discoveries, than you'll probably like it too.

    Relevant Links:
    Main Site
    Wikipedia Page
    FAQ Page

    Episode Length: Full episodes average about an hours, while the "Shorts" are about fifteen to twenty minutes.

    I'm going to separate this review into two parts.

    First: The Content

    Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich lead a narrative focused on a single theme. One or several stories might be used to illustrate various viewpoints. If Radiolab were an section in your newspaper it would be that "wacky world" section filled with stories about goldfishes that save their owners from house fires. Here's a list of five randomly chosen topics from my episode list:

    1 Famous Tumors
    2 Stochasticity
    3 Musical Language
    4 Yellow Fluff and Other Curious Encounters
    5 Sperm

    See? Thoroughly variated through subject matter, and it features a decent back catalog of episodes for listeners of any taste to browse. The wikipedia page uses the phrase "thought experiment" describe this podcast, and I feel that's accurate. The subject is pulled and kneaded like clay, bending here for an interview, there for a research article, until the listener can shape it into something recognizable, or continue beyond the podcast with their own work. Fact finders and myth hunters would probably like this series a lot. The episodes provide good explanations for those who just want to listen and great jumping-off points for those who love to search out more information.

    Content Rating: Clean. You will, as with so many things, have to decide if the subject matter is within your comfort limits. But y'know, no potty mouthings, so it should be safe for kids or students.

    Second: The Production

    The blips, squeals, murmurs and honks that permeate every episode provide nothing more than distraction from the main story being told. I understand that these sound effects are intended as emphasis, but they are so overdone that I have been forced to turn off episodes and leave them unfinished. Without fail each episode will have a streak of droning, nonsensical noise that have me digging my nails into my desk within seconds. In the episode Deception (rebroadcast on 6/1/2010) there is over a minute long stretch of disjointed electric guitar in the middle of the episode!

    I'm not kidding. Go listen here from minute 46:11 to 47:14.

    What purpose does that serve? I would prefer silence compared to the aural claustrophobia their producers are determined to make me experience. This podcast hits my interests, I want to listen, but because of these sound effects I feel the constant urge to abandon Radiolab for anything else.

    Drinking Game: Take a drink every time one host speaks the other host's name.

    Release Schedule: A new podcast is released every two weeks, according to the main site.

    Unintentionally Good Part: Oh I am fond of inter-host bickering, and this podcast supplies it in delightful bushels.

    Unintentionally Bad Part: Please see above review about the bleeps and boops.

    I know I just took all the time to write thing here thing, but please, please disregard what I dislike about the Radiolab podcast and check it out for yourself. This is a really brilliant work, and even if I have issues with it, you need to experience it for yourself before you can really decide whether you like it or not. If I find the background effects annoying then that is my personal opinion, and not a flaw of the podcast. You might like 'em! You might like 'em up and down! And there's no risk trying it out! No payments, you can delete if you don't like it, you can keep it if you don't! SO GET TO IT!

    Unrelated Rating: Three and One Half Nye per cubic meter of Science Guy.
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  3. Wizards of the Coast finally granted us the mercy of a single spot on their site
    that holds all of the Penny Arcade Podcasts.

    Even better: there is a shiny new series of podcasts in which Jerry Holkins (aka Tycho Brahe) DMs a jaunt through the new Dark Sun setting. Jerry describes the setting thusly:

    "I guess it's pre-apocalyptic, it's as though the apocalypse happened in the future, but you're in the past after time had looped. I would say that's the right description."
    Did you get any of that? I did. I think. Anyways, the newest series is as hysterical as the last, so hop to it and get to downloading!
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