We're back to alt.NPR's suite of podcasts for this week's Podthoughts. If you missed my coverage of the first three, check it out here. All of this week's shows range from ten to thirty minutes a podcast, and all are allegedly biweekly. Operative word: "allegedly". If I've noticed one common problem with alt.NPR podcasts, it's that they're a long way from regularity. They sound good and all, so if they could just get the uploading thing down, alt.NPR would be an unstoppable e-radio behemoth. Or something.
As a die-hard Turbografx-16 player — you think I'm kidding, but I'm not — I can't claim to be the target audience for video game news: I suppose commentary about the PlayStation 3, Wii and XBox 360 has about as much relevance for me as coverage of the Uzbekistan Youth Curling League. But as a twentysomething American male, I nevertheless feel that video games constitute the culture of my people
. Even if I don't get all the specific references, I can't say I don't enjoy the occasional fix of gamer discourse, whether provided by friends, a Penny Arcade
strip, or the more flip-flopped half of Jordan, Jesse, Go!
. alt.NPR's Press Start
], a "podcast on the art and craft of video games," fills the need equally well. Game journalists Kyle Orland, Ralph Cooper and Robert Holt chat about what they've been playing, which releases they're looking forward to, and what they think of current industry trends. They also do interviews, recent subjects of which include Nintendo's Vice President of Marketing [MP3
] and this one dude who built an arcade machine containing every console known to man [MP3
]. Even as an owner of zero current consoles, I'm likely to come back to Press Start
every so often, but I don't know if I can make it priority one. Let's be realistic; there's a lot of Bonk's Adventure
to be played, and it's not gonna play itself.
] is a project of Generation PRX
, an online social network — I understand those are all the rage lately — for young, hungry, up-and-coming, health-insurance-free public radio producers. (Would that I could tell you that PRX stands for Public Radio Xtreme, but alas, it means "Public Radio Exchange
".) The neat thing is that the pieces are made by high-school- or college-age producers. The less neat thing is that I once again find myself having to break out the term "This American Life
-y", which I apply to a regrettably high number of shows. Either I've got to come up with a more catchy term with the same meaning, or Ira Glass has to be less influential. Youthcasted stories are, as one might expect, about pretty standard Young Person Issues: whether or not to go to the prom [MP3
], whether to go to college or become a bigtime rapper [MP3
], and where to turn now that International Male
is no longer flamboyant enough [MP3
]. Par for the course, there's also some Iraq stuff in there and concern about teen suicide. Fortunately, none of it's dull. I'd imagine the most fitting audience for the Youthcast
is Youthcasters themselves; that is, young people looking to break into the This American Life
-y — d'oh! — branch of public radio who want to keep any eye on the competition.
The producers of Love and Radio
] must also be aware of the problem of This American Life
-yness, because they seem to have attempted to skirt it with sheer weirdness. Recently on the program, we've heard from a guy who makes art out of roadkill [MP3
], the owner of a business that cleans up old corpses and "filth" of myriad varieties [MP3
], and a performance artist who routinely gives away all her money in the world [MP3
]. That's a fine sort of differentiation from the mainstream, although the production is distractingly weird; if I hadn't vowed long ago not to employ the widely, badly misused descriptor "random", I'd be very, very tempted to break it out now. Odd, unsuitable music; herky-jerky, sometimes repetitive speech editing; thin context; it all creates an eerie sort of atmosphere, which sometimes works well but sometimes doesn't work at all. And that's just the story segments; there are other ones, bizarre ones, as when a series of discomfiting voices read out loud scraps of text found on the internet [MP3
]. Maybe the word for this is "experimental radio." Beats plain vanilla, at any rate.
[Direct all correspondence to colinjmarshall at gmail. Podthoughts discussion thread available here. I'm working on a special series of Podthoughts on podcasts by Max Funsters; if you do one, let me know about it here.]