PODCASTS

I love podcasts, but I’m not a “subscriber.” I have lots of go-to shows I listen to frequently, but I’ve never fully embraced the subscribe-listen-to-every-episode lifestyle. But I’ve been thinking about why some of these shows seem to have such an enormous following (and cultural effect.)

It seems to me that the best podcasts are the ones that reflect, rather than predict. We listen and love podcasts when they remind us of something in our own lives or reflect our own experience. This is evident in three or four of my go-to shows.

NERDIST - The Nerdist podcast seems to have cracked the code of creating amazing interviews with newsmakers of all kinds…by avoiding promotion. Listen to how many episodes of Nerdist (featuring some famous person promoting something) spend the entire show talking about everything except the thing that needs promotion. Chris Hardwick has figured out that no matter how famous the person, he or she just wants to talk. And we want to listen. The culture is tired of some star spending their full five minutes on late-night tv bragging on their newest project. In fact, most of us much more likely to buy those goods after getting to know that person. As a person.

WTF w/ MARC MARON – Maron is grumpy and crass and angry. I’m sure that’s a draw for some, but I think the beauty of WTF is found when Marc brings in someone he doesn’t know. They don’t sound like interviews; they sound like we’re eavesdropping on Marc meeting someone at a party for the first time. There’s a newness and a sense of discovery that’s contagious. I’d much rather listen to Marc make friends with somebody new than hear him rehash old hurts with former enemies.

COMEDY BANG BANG - I don’t follow the Comedy Bang Bang universe very closely. (It’s massive!) But I love hearing a show where friends goof off for an hour. We’ve all been there: those late night hang outs where the jokes get weirder and more inside and the laughter gets better and better. To be fair, the people on Comedy Bang Bang are geniuses when it comes to improvisation and performance, but there’s nothing more enjoyable than hearing funny people who like each other make each other laugh without any sort of plan or rehearsal.

ON COMICS: THE KILLING JOKE

51cMN2iaShL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Killing Joke (Alan Moore, Brian Bolland)
DC Comics, 1988

I’m a trade paperback guy. I mentioned in an earlier post that I don’t have the time or resources to be a weekly comic reader. Buying them in volumes suits me just fine.

But occasionally, I come across comics that make me wish I had read them week-to-week. Considering I was 11-years old at the time of its publication, I don’t think I would been have been prepared for The Killing Joke, but it would have been fun to follow that story week-to-week.

I’ll admit: I had this book for months before I learned of its controversial ending from an interview with Grant Morrison. I don’t buy the prevailing theory about the last panel, but I do love a good conspiracy.

First off, I love that the origin story makes us feel sorry for The Joker. Up until reading this book, I had never really given a lot of thought to the villain’s motivations. I know some people hate the idea of creating new origins, but I thought it was brilliant writing.

Secondly, the fun-house/roller coaster sequence is probably one of the best monologues on madness I’ve ever read. Joker’s soliloquy is all that more believable and sad if read from a place of sympathy. We’re not supposed to read Joker and think, “That’s right!” But it’s hard not to affirm everything he’s saying since he’s so damaged inside.

Third, it’s just fun to read a book that so powerfully shaped the Batman mythos. The attack on Barbara as a definitive moment in her storyline, the co-dependent relationship between Batman and Joker…things created in The Killing Joke that are still a huge part of the Batman identity. It’s fun to read a book so critically cherished and realized that, yeah, everybody’s right…it’s one of the best Joker stories ever told.

*And come on…that last panel.

FILM THOUGHTS: PREDESTINATION

PREDESTINATION_27X40_R3MECH.inddI’m a sucker for time-travel movies. I freely admit that the mere mention of time-travel as a premise is enough to guarantee me as a viewer. I want my mind to be blown. The more confusing and vague, the better in my opinion.

Predestination didn’t disappoint in this regard, by the way. It’s a head scratcher. I kept me up way past my bedtime, simply because I couldn’t get my head around what had actually happened…and why.

If you watch a lot of these movies, you know what happens. As you think through the twists and turns, you start to notice similarities to other time-related films. You start to recognize tropes and arcs that have appeared in earlier works. That’s the fun of being a genre fan, I guess.

This movie was still rolling around in my head the next morning. I was enjoying the futile process of finding balance in the story, but something else was lurking just outside all my fun theorizing. For the rest of the day, it got stronger. What was bothering me so much about Predestination? It was great…mysterious, well-acted, creatively written.

But when it finally hit me, it colored the entire time-travel filmography in my head. I’ll try to do this without SPOILERS, but if you’r tentative about that sort of thing, maybe don’t read on…better safe than sorry.

Predestination fails in the same pace as other time-travel films – the premise. Watch 20 movies about jumping through time and you’ll find the same central idea over and over and over again: repetition.

Think about how many time-based sci-fi films simply loop on itself. It’s as if the only way they can keep us guessing is to make sure that the narrative folds in on itself in a way that can’t be logically justified.

There’s a part of me that wants to believe that filmmakers doing time travel stories are trying to make a bigger statement – that somehow by making all these movies cautionary and illogical, we’ll collectively learn that yes, actually, time-travel is a bad idea. It would be amazing if these sci-fi writers were trying to wave us off of these theories in an effort to protect us by writing movies that can’t be parsed in the end. But I don’t think that’s the case.

There are fantastic parts of Predestination, by the way. There are lots of fresh ideas and performances. But in the end, it’s the same time-travel movie you’ve seen before.

I’m glad I watched it. But I’m a glutton for punishment.

SONGWRITING UPDATE

Not as much to report this time…too busy! I always underestimate the ramp-up to Easter and find myself overwhelmed in late February. The writing itself has been slow, but a few fun things are in progress.

  • Lined up studio time to track two new Bethel Songs. These are the free download worship songs I make available as a part of our worship ministry at church. I’ll be working on two songs simultaneously – a new worship songs called “Shield” and a hymn titled “Refuge, Safe From Harm.”
  • I’ll actually introduce “Shield” this week at church. I’m excited to see how it goes. (I’ve been sharing the YouTube version on Facebook this week to prep our people to sing it.)
  • “Hallelujah For The Cross” is still growing. It will most likely be used on an indie project this year, as well as a big church release. There’s rumor that it might end up on the new Newsboys movie, Do You Believe, but that’s not totally for sure.
  • Had one of those rare, sit-down-and-write-a-song-start-to-finish moments earlier today. I don’t think the song’s great, but it was a good exercise to just power through and finish it.
  • Finally got a demo finished up for a country tune called “Get Some Living In” I wrote last year. My co-writer called in a favor and we got some awesome electric guitar laid down.
  • I had to cancel my take-away video project for the three Easter songs. I’ve been plagued by sickness for a couple months and my voice is still very weak. We were up against a deadline and I couldn’t make it happen. I feel bad, but will probably do simple vids of those songs in the next week or so.
  • That last update is my dream of running a song game. I’ve got a friend who’s a part of one. It’s a group of 6-8 writers who commit to write one song a week for set period of time. The head of the group sends out a song title at the first of every week and the writers have to turn them in by the end of the week. The songs aren’t posted anywhere – just emailed among the group. I think this would be fun.