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  1. News from Lake Woebegon

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    I remember back in my college days, when I was an Resident Assistant (an unfortunate time for everyone involved), there was a group discussion about how words can hurt.  A speaker during group training brought up how the root of the word sarcasm was sarco, which meant something like "to rend flesh."  My response was to hold back a snort of disbelief at the smug morality of the speaker.

    Stop being sarcastic?  Yeah, that'll work.

    But you know what?  Maybe it's good to depart from caustic humor for a while.  There are times when you want to see people being cut down in a humorous, sporting way and there are times when you want to seek out a different sense of humor.  A sense of humor where you can get away from the harshness of life, and feel actual delight for some word play or clever set up.  Perhaps there's a place that welcomes this style of humor, where the wind blows through the orchards and the jokes are at no one's expense.

    Won't you join me for the News from Lake Woebegon?

    Whatta segue!      

    Relevant Links:
    Main Site!
    Download from iTunes Here!
    Prairie Home Companion Site!

    Content Rating:  As Clean as a mason jar ready for canning season, which had better be really, really clean so as to prevent any food-borne illnesses.

    Average Episode Length:  Ten episodes gives me an average time of 13 minutes.

    A selection from the ever-popular A Prairie Home Companion, the News from Lake Woebegon features slice-of-life tales from the fictional town of Lake Woebegon, MI where,

    All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

    A listening experience this fine requires atmosphere.  Follow these simple steps to achieve the best possible setting to listen to the News from Lake Woebegon:

    1. Procure an L.L. Bean winter catalog.  Close your eyes, open the catalog to a random page, and point to a spot on the page.  Open your eyes and order whatever your finger has landed on (free monogram optional).  If you have managed to select some sort of fishing vest, then you're on the right track!  Wait for it to ship to your home, then don the garment.  Make conversation with your pets about the weather.  
    2. You're going to want a high level of Americana, so feel free to go to Hobby Lobby and grab a bunch of crap made in China that features the American flag.  Bake a few blueberry pies (home made crust! no cheats!) and allow them to cool on your windowsill.  Arrange the Americana accoutrements* around your chair, and gently mash the pies on either side of your head for full immersion.
    3. Procure some lutefisk.  Vomit.  Profusely
    4. Do your best impersonation of a Minnesota accent, which is frikken adorable:

    Okay, I think we're in the proper head space for this.  
    Like so many things that grown-ups try to interest you in, this was a huge disappointment.

    Release Schedule:  Weekly, with the release on Monday (barring holiday weekends, according to their site).

    Music:  Nah.

    This is a podcast of storytelling.  Where host Garrison Keillor begins in his topics are far from where he ends, and the rambling path he travels is what has drawn listeners since...

    -wait, seriously?  A Prairie Home Companion has been around since the 70s?  Well done!

    I'm not exactly sure what to say about this podcast.  It revolves around the lives of imaginary people in an imaginary town.  There are hot dishes, ice fishing, high school graduations, funerals, and lives that start and end within the confines of this make-believe world.  Most of it is humorous, some of it is poignant, and all of it is pretty darn charming. 

    Garrison Keillor is able to give you the world of Lake Woebegon in a brown paper-wrapped parcel, with a handwritten note wishing you a good day.  It feels like, hell, maybe like if Cracker Barrel restaurants weren't carefully calculated amalgams of tin advertising signs, and something real?  In some way he has managed to capture the spirit of the small town life everyone thinks of, but no one has actually lived.  

    Unintentionally Good Part: I like how the audience cheers at the beginning of the segment.  It is fun to hear their excitement at the arrival of what they've been waiting for.

    Unintentionally Bad Part:  I cannot bear to listen to more than 2 episodes in a 48 hour period.  As News from Lake Woebegon is a small part of a larger show, it is packed to the brim with its own charm.  This can quickly become saccharine and grating if it is listened to for long periods of time, so sprinkle in into your week and enjoy it as it should be. 

    Unrelated rating:  One ham-salad sandwich out of a dozen deviled eggs

    *I spelled that right on the first try.  HA!  Go me.
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  2. Let's sort something out real quick at the start of this entry, shall we?

    Listen to this song:

    If you're already halfway through an angry rebuttal, please feel free to peruse some of my other podcast reviews or enjoy a wholesome romp in a grassy meadow.  I'll see you next week.

    If you've already hit replay a few times, then The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is right up your podcast alley.  Let us voyage into the world of science and awesome together in a rocket ship fueled by the scientific method!   FWOOOOOSH!

    Relevant Links:
    Main Site!
    A blog!
    Store/Support the SGU
    Resources of SCIENCE!
    Their Top 20 Logical Fallacies - because what's better than destroying your enemies by shredding their own arguments before them?  It is a guaranteed gateway to the lamentation of the women. 

    According to the bottom of the main page, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe describes itself as thus:

    The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is a weekly Science podcast talkshow discussing the latest news and topics from the world of the paranormal, fringe science, and controversial claims from a scientific point of view. 

    Let's get one thing straight:  people say a lot of things, and some of these things are, if not outright wrong, than just wrong enough to lead people astray and possibly even cause harm.  This happens in every part of life that someone can observe and garner an opinion about, which is to say everything in life.  From time to time you might come to question what some of these people have to say.

    You may be forced to think skeptically, shall we say?  Host Dr. Steven Novella (he's a real doctor!) is here to show you the way of the skeptic.  He's like a spirit-guide, except instead of dream journeys through the inner mind to reach enlightenment, he'll cut through the woo-woo and lay down the facts about what's going on in the greater universe.  It may involve charts.

    Content RatingClean like the inside of your momma's autoclave.

    Average Episode Length:  A sample size of five episodes that I downloaded at random give me an AEL of 79.6 minutes.  That's a great deal for your podcast dollar!

    Okay, we're gonna go from the Head Box to the Ghost Box.

    Drinking Game:  Take a sip each time:
    • Someone points out a logical fallacy
    • Quantum Physics are used incorrectly to support something
    • You're forced to think about how big the universe really is

    Release Schedule:  Weekly with a new podcast released each Saturday.

    Music:  The typical intro/outro, nothing much to speak of.

    Unintentionally Good Part:  Is it lame if I appreciate how Skeptics' Guide to the Universe knows how to pace its discussions?  They make sure to explain whatever subject is at hand so that listeners can follow along, and take the time to let everyone have their say.  The pacing of this podcast is very pleasing. 

    Sorry, usually I notice something quirky!  I'll try harder next time.

    Unintentionally Bad PartMs. Frizzle is not real and this bums me out. 

    Skeptics' Guide to the Universe reminds of all the science shows I watched as a kid, except without the need for the visually-captivating experiments.  The segments are interesting, the interviews are engaging, and it is fun to listen to people who are honestly passionate about viewing the world through a skeptical lens. 

    And they had Bill Nye as a guest, so that in itself makes them rad. 

    Unrelated rating: Eight Neil deGrasse Tysons out of Ten Carl Sagans.
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