Welcome To Night Vale Podcast Review (and update)

So, I am going to start a new series of blog posts, each one detailing a podcast that I am listening to. I am going to go in roughly chronological order based on when I started listening to it.

I am also going to include at the end a paragraph or two about the podcast that I am currently working on.

Podcast for You

To start things off, there’s the podcast that I started with: Welcome to Night Vale. I first heard about it from my friend from high school. Then I ignored it’s presence until I started watching the PBS Idea Channel. Then I remembered what my friend had said about it, and I started downloading like mad.

A charming little town in the American southwest desert (exactly where is never stated), Night Vale that has number of features that other charming little towns would do everything they can to keep secret for a decade and then turn in to a horror film after Stephen King gets a hold of it. Features like the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, or Hiram McDaniels (who is a fugitive from the secret police, a candidate for mayor, and a literal 5-headed dragon all at once), or the house that shouldn’t exist (according to scientists), or reports of mountains being sighted out in the desert.

Narrated by the in-world public radio host, Cecil Baldwin, we get a glimpse in to the supernatural goings-on around town. He tells us about the news with an air of…just kind of… not shocked by stuff in town. Don’t get me wrong, he does a great job of relaying the news and community announcements, and even being excited by doing it – but considering it nothing out of the ordinary except maybe the occasional political upheaval – much like any small town. Only he reports on health issues like throat spiders. Or education issues like the literacy rate of tarantulas being almost as low as 25% (which is shockingly low).

Each episode usually starts with the creator (Joseph Fink) talking to us about news of the WtNV brand – products, live shows, “thank-yous”, and other stuff. Once we get to the real content, the format of the show follows that of a small-town community radio show (or, I think so – I’ve never listened to a real small town community radio channel). There are segments like the community calendar, community announcements, sponsors, local celebrities and business owners being interviewed or giving advice, and a few others, in addition to ‘the news’ which is a phenomenon almost everyone is familiar with. There is also “The Weather,” which instead of “we live in the desert, it’s going to be bright and hot,” it is always an interlude featuring some indie band’s undiscovered music. At the end of the episode, Cecil always signs off with “Goodnight, Night Vale. Goodnight.” After his sign off are credits and maybe another announcement or two by someone else that helps on the show, and then a ‘quote of the day,’ which are universally a little disturbing.

Disparition makes most of the music. I don’t know who Disparition is outside of WtNV, but I absolutely love the music here. Usually it’s just normal kinda-creepy background music, but sometimes it underscores what is going on in the episode so well that I doubt the episode would be worth a listen without it. In addition to all that, I also use a few of his songs (most notably the Ballad of Fiedler and Mundt) to put my daughter to sleep.

If you are new to WtNV, I would suggest that you listen to the first few episodes (here is episode 1), so that you can understand how new characters are introduced, and how different phenomena or discoveries about the town are approached. After that, I would suggest you listen to Episode 17 (Valentine) for a well done “what happens when Night Vale has a crisis”, which does seem to happen pretty often. Then I would suggest listening to episodes 19a and 19b (The Sandstorm), because they are well written and use a very old SF/fantasy trope well, while also further detailing the hatred of the sister city, Desert Bluffs. Finally, episode 13 (A Story About You) is just some of the best writing I have ever seen. I tend to like the early episodes more, because it was more about discovering the town instead of just watching the town do it’s thing. I personally didn’t like the episodes that are in the ‘middle,’ (by current reckoning) because they tended to be about the people in the town, rather than the town itself. The most recent episodes have been getting back to that feeling, but we’ll see where it goes in 2016.

So in general – you should go listen to it. I have been listening to it consistently since I started. Every two weeks, without fail. At it’s worst it is a little annoying but still clever and entertaining. At it’s best, it makes me sit back in my chair at work and have a think for a few minutes.

Podcast for Me

Today’s update about the podcast I am currently working on is that I had my initial (unpublished) meeting with the people I am going to be recording with. At a party in mid-November, Eric Sterbenz was trying to convince me to give 5th Edition D&D a try, while at the same time I was trying to convince him to do a podcast. SO, we decided that he would DM and teach me as I learn how to play it, and have a microphone around to tell all of you about it. Also with us are my brother, Gary Kleinpaste (whom I have gamed with quite a bit), and our fellow long-time-nerdy-friend, Jeff Jackson (who was also there for much of the time that Gary and I were gaming).

This meeting was to establish that we were a group and that while it is a D&D campaign, it was also a podcast, and so certain things might have to be changed about how we play.

I am building Nerd Fort #1 – a 10 x 10 x 7 wooden frame in my basement, upon which sound-dampening fabric (blankets not otherwise being used) will be hung – to give us a pretty decent (if only hacked-together from available parts) studio. In this studio there are more side-tables than I know what to do with, and a large coffee table. On the coffee table is a battlemat almost the same size as the table. I have two microphones, a Blue Snowball and an ATR-2100. I have a computer down there, and one of the next investments that I will make is a sound mixer and more microphones.

End result: everyone is on the same page and still wants to be a part.