At first, I was like... "really? a tiny hands joke?"
Then I was like... "I'm laughing so hard I can't breathe please save me"
Your Podthinker's normal standard of podcast-journalistic integrity demands that he listen to no fewer than ten or fifteen hours of each show under review. This is an ironclad, uncompromisable rule, except when it isn't. In no normal case would less than four hours of material constitute background material adequate for a reasonably descriptive review. A Life Well Wasted [iTunes link], however, is not a normal case.
Its first and most apparent distinguishing feature is the hyperbolic-sounding, borderline ridiculous praise it receives from its fans. "The best-produced podcast around," they say. "Without a doubt the finest video-game-related thing in circulation on the internet, even if you hate video games," they say. "We would trade our immortal souls for the next episode of this podcast," they probably say. Hear all this once and it sounds like mere fanatic enthusiasm. Hear it again and again and it sounds suspicious, especially given that only three full episodes have been released. Host and producer Robert Ashley has somehow managed, with just a few hours of content pertaining to the still-kinda-sorta-niche-y sphere of video gaming, gained a listenership ready to hard-sell his product at a moment's notice.
A Life Well Wasted has been described as "the This American Life of video games," and not without good cause. The format, such as it has thus far emerged, is nearly identical to that of Ira Glass' brainchild, except there's a lot less wistful commentary on humanity's foibles and a lot more pressing of the B button. If you momentarily stopped understanding spoken English, though, you'd mistake it for This American Life itself. Ashley conducts and dramatically recuts interviews, he weaves his own words in with others' and he aligns the whole shebang against a low-key but sharp musical score. It's a slick package.
It's also hard not to read some sort of symbolic changing of the guard into the fact that the program not only sounds as good as the behemoth that pioneered its format, but that it sometimes sounds even better. (And it probably costs a damn sight less per minute to produce, at that.) Its choice of subject matter will no doubt keep it from unseating the unseatable, but that's no bad thing: video game culture has always lacked accessible coverage of not just the people who make them, but the people who journalize about and simply play them. The show has thus far tidily covered all these bases in a way that, to concede a point to those unsettlingly zealous subscribers, may well appeal even to those who continue to regard video gaming as the unchallenged domain of the dateless wonder.
Episode one, "The Death of EGM" MP3, finds Ashley at the staff party following the demise of the once-beloved magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, reminiscing about the salad days of print game journalism with the likes of Crispin Boyer and Sean "Seanbaby" Reiley, exhuming the kind of memories that are hugely resonant for the kind of gamer now likely, still gaming or not, to reside in his mid-twenties. Episode two, "Gotta Catch 'Em All" MP3 is, rather than an ode Pokemon — though that would have been good too — a first-hand exploration of extreme collectorhood, from a guy with a sprawling underground warren filled with every console known to man to the proprietor of an all-vintage-pinball arcade to a Stanford academic bent on preserving our increasingly distant gaming past. Episode three, "Why Game?" MP3, delves into deeper issues surrounding the pressing of buttons and the watching of onscreen actions corresponding to said button-pressings, but it's probably most memorable for its conversation with an eccentric conceptual game designer who rides a recumbent bike and somehow survives on about fifteen cents a year. Runner-up for memorability is an interview with a developer who, despite talking through a voice filter that puts him on the edge of unintelligibility, makes with the juicy details about how bad games become bad. (The fourth episode is an extended version of the conversation with that game-preserving academic. Considering the infrequency of the main episodes, periodically releasing a handful of in-between supplements wouldn't be a bad idea.)
The best-produced podcast around? It's one of them, certainly. The finest video-game-related thing in circulation on the internet? Sure, but the competition ain't much. One immortal soul for another episode? Sorry, but if we're talking souls, your Podthinker demands at least three A Life Well Wasteds.
Format: "the This American Life of video games"
Running since: January 2009
Frequency: monthlyish, plus supplement(s?)
Archive available on iTunes: all
[Podthinker Colin Marshall does most of his gaming str8-up Turbografx-16-style. Share Turbo tips with him at colinjmarshall at gmail.]
Hey, guess what?
Our pals at Sketchfest Seattle are now taking applications for performers. It's a really great festival, in a really great town, and highly recommended.
Which reminds me... The Sound of Young America is proud to be a sponsor of This year's Sketchfest NYC. We're still working on getting the names of events into the live shows section of the sidebar, but there it is down there as "New York, NY." It runs the same dates as MaxFunCon, so I won't be there, but those guys always put together an amazing festival.
I've been working on getting Quik, one of the most underrated producers (and artists overall) in hip-hop, on The Sound. He's got a new record about to drop with Kurupt and a solo record later this summer.
This is a crazy street single. Who knows what that singing is. Love it.
Also: love them wearing red and blue together in the video, Increase the Peace style. Art is more important than set-tripping bullshit.
Hey friends --
The last two days have been really great ones. We've had two of our most successful fundraising days ever. We've surpassed 500 new donors. Now, there's only one day left. Less than 24 hours.
If you haven't donated, do so now:
Our great friend, mentor and stalwart supporter John Hodgman has laid down the law: he will match all donations today up to a cool $1000. I'm really touched by his generosity, as I am touched by the generosity of all the folks who give to support this operation.
If you or a friend haven't yet, you can here:
If you have, please accept my sincere and emphatic thanks. I'm really excited about the next phase of MaxFun.
I've been visiting and posting on okayplayer.com for about ten years now. In that time, I've seen a lot of talented amateur hip-hop producers come and go, even some who made it (9th Wonder, for example). DJW, aka Dan Wally, who makes the music for TSOYA was one of my favorites. Another was a European fella named Krewcial. I found myself wondering the other day what he was up to, so I googled him and came up with this great new record her produced. The artist, Lucinda Slim, is apparently based in London. I wanna say Krewcial is Dutch? Anyway, a lovely track.
In 2006, director Rian Johnson released his first feature Brick, a hyper-stylized noir set in a Southern California high school. The film was the product of ten years of effort, and the result, produced on a tiny budget, was remarkable. His new film, The Brothers Bloom, is a similarly interesting take on a genre picture: a distinctly fantastical con man comedy starring Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody.
From the brilliant mind of Lonely Sandwich, a brief film on supporting the things you love.