Podcast Spotlight: Outside/In

Change of plans! Since a lot of the podcasts I listen to are pretty stylistically similar (either NPR-style non-fiction or your standard conversational round-table), I’ve realized that trying to talk about what makes individual episodes unique without just summarizing the content would be pretty difficult and would probably result in a lot of repetition. 

Instead, I’ll be highlighting the podcasts themselves. Each week, I’ll write aboust a podcast I enjoy and link to a few particularly good episodes. 

Let’s get started!


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Source: http://outsideinradio.org/

Outside/In from New Hampshire Public Radio is a podcast “about the natural world and how we use it,” as host Sam Evans-Brown describes it, and it’s the best nature-centric podcast I’ve come across.

The BBC’s Costing the Earth is okay, but only because its old, European-style radio conventions aren’t as in-your face as Deutsche Welle’s Living Planet, whose shouting announcer makes you feel like you’ve just tuned into a 90’s Australian T.V. broadcast. Michigan Radio’s The Environment Report is good for bite-sized environmental news updates (and is probably worth listening to in its own right), but that makes it naturally less compelling listening than longer shows. And don’t get me started on PRI’s Living on Earth.


Whoops, I got started. Here was my experience with that show:

I listen to an episode. I’m not a big fan. I unsubscribe. I subscribe again several months later to give it another chance. I hit play.

Cheesy jazz music plays.

Steve Curwood, the host, enthusiastically announces that recovery from hurricane Harvey will take lots of time and teases some stories. The bad jazz music continues to play beneath some sound bites.

Steve says “STICK AR-AAAAAHHH-OUND.”

Steve continues dramatically summarizing Harvey’s damage. Steve introduces a reporter, welcoming her to the podcast. She responds:

“Thank you, Steve. Glad to be here.”

At this point, Steve tries to make a funny joke:

“Yeah, I guess at this point though, maybe the show should be ‘Living on the Water’ for you, huh?”

Steve did a bad job. You’re being insensitive, Steven.

Later, after Steve interviews the journalist in a weird, detached tone of voice that makes you think maybe he’s some sort of alien who doesn’t know how to talk to people like a normal human being, I stop the episode.

I try another, thinking maybe it was just a fluke. After a segment about the worth of national parks, a Mary McCann hosts a segment called “BirdNote.” She enthusiastically describes bird calls. You can hear the uncomfortably big smile on her face.

With that same spooky smile, she concludes the segment with this awful, tried, stupid, no-good, very bad pun:

“Now that’s somethin’ to crow about!”

I unsubscribe.

So, uh… Yeah… Anyway…


But Outside/In isn’t like Living on Earth. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s very, very good.

Most episodes of Outside/In focuses stories. Ironically, this is basically all that sets it apart from the rest—well, that, its more casual, NPR-style tone, its high production value, its aesthetically appealing logo design and its tasteful music and sound mixing.

The other podcasts I’ve mentioned mostly focus on issues. They try to make their listeners want to listen based on the content of the news, alone. Maybe that’s why they amp up their “radio voices” so much—so they can try to make things interesting that aren’t.

Outside/In takes environmental issues and distills them down to human stories. And that’s why I think it’s so good. In my experience, if you want someone to care about the environment, you have make them love it. Throwing scary facts about the dying planet at people won’t do anything if they don’t care about the planet they’re hurting in the first place.

Outside/In makes takes all the little things that make the Earth fascinating and nurtures them into their own little stories. It shows listeners the kinds of cool adventures there are to be had in the natural world.

My favorite episode, hands-down, is called “Lime and Tobasco.” It’s about two turtle conservationists who figured out how to collaborate with turtle poachers in Mexico in order to prevent the turtles’ extinction. It’s a super compelling listen, and, as I’ve said on Twitter, the story itself is a really cool example of conservation without colonialism.

The episode perfectly exemplifies the show’s knack for storytelling. I’ll admit, the first four minutes are a little slow, but stick with it. It’s got smooth editing, natural-sounding host and reporter narration and well-chosen sound bites. If you’ve got a spare half hour, give it a listen.

But yeah. I love this show.


Here are some more links to a few really good Outside/In episodes: 

“Healing Hands of Nature”

“The Death Machine”

“After the Flood”


Join me again next week on camdenjones.org for another podcast spotlight!

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Podcast Spotlight: The Black Tapes 301 – “Sins of the Father”

I’ve already spoken about this on Twitter, but it’ll still be the subject of my first post on account of the fact that I’m under a bit of a time crunch and that this episode really irked me enough to write about it twice.

I’ll include my previously-shared thoughts below, but essentially The Black Tapes has gone from one of my favorite podcasts of all time to just another jargon-filled, amateur sci-fi show.

For the uninitiated, The Black Tapes is a Serial-style, fictional mystery podcast about a journalist investigating paranormal happenings in the Pacific Northwest. Its first two seasons were well-produced and (mostly) well-written, but the season three premiere threw all of that out of the window.

I’d be really curious to talk to the show’s creators to find out what happened, but I have my suspicions.

There was a year-long wait between seasons two and three, compared to just three months between season one and two. I’ve seen enough video games be delayed and then released at mediocre levels of quality to know that sometimes such a big creative endeavor can get away from you when you’re lost in the weeds.

As soon as it was suddenly announced this May that season three would be the last season, that it would only have six episodes and that it still wouldn’t be coming out for another three months, I worried that it would be one of these situations. And sure enough, it was, at least for season three’s first episode.

There’s a chance that the rest of the season will be better –  that the premiere’s poor quality was just shoddy because the creators were a little rusty, but that remains to be seen.

For more details on my thoughts, read/listen to the stuff below.


Here’s what I said in the tweets:

“The Black Tapes asks us in its logo ‘Do you believe?’ The show’s season three premiere has made me a non-believer, at least for now.

The Black Tapes was once a compelling mystery that kept listeners hooked with every cliffhanger and revelation, but with this new episode, it has fallen into the same pitfalls that made me stop listening to its sister show, Tanis: it’s become muddied in its mess of capital-‘n’ Nouns to the point of engendering disinterest. And it feels like the main characters are just as disinterested as I was, or at least as uninformed.

Alex’s narration is stilted and unnatural. It’s just so obvious that she’s reading. When you listen to real-life journalists like Brian Reed or Sarah Koenig, their narration comes off as if they’re just telling you about something they’re very knowledgeable about. Alex’s narration lacks much of the genuine fascination and ‘eagerness to share’ that these journalists display, and feels more like she’s reading a book out loud to a group of elementary schoolers. And this issue permeates the show’s dialogue, as well.

When you listen to Alex and Nic discuss the show’s events with one another, it’s as if nothing surprises them. There’s no like’s, no um’s, no hesitation. It sounds like someone talking to themself. It’s just so obviously a fake conversation. Seriously, go back and listen to their conversation from 26:10 to 28:08:

Nic: ‘Anything new with Strand?’

Alex: ‘Nothing really. Just one inexplicable oddity after another.’

N: ‘Including the man himself.’

A: ‘He’s definitely an inexplicable oddity.’

N: ‘I think he’s warming up a little, isn’t he?’

What?

And later:

A: ‘There were dozens of them [black tapes] in that back room, just waiting.’

N: ‘That many?’

A: ‘Well, it’s gonna take forever if we’re gonna be thorough about this.’

N: ‘Anything that relates to [PROPER NOUNS]?’

A: ‘Or [PROPER NOUNS] or [PROPER NOUNS], or any of the dozens of unrelated mysteries we’re trying to connect.’

N: ‘You think they’re unrelated?’

A: ‘I don’t know what to think.’

N: ‘Are you not sleeping?’

A: ‘I just… I need a dog. That’s what I need.’

N: ‘Yeah?’

That’s not a conversation. People don’t talk like that. Even journalists who are following the same story don’t talk like that. If someone answered ‘Are you not sleeping?’ with ‘I need a dog,’ you might catch their meaning, but you wouldn’t just say ‘Yeah.’ You’d be like, ‘Haha what? A dog? Do you mean ‘cuz that would help with your stress?’ SERIOUSLY. Just listen! Their line delivery is so damn immediate and flat. You hear this crap and you can just picture them sitting next to each other in front of a mic, looking down at a piece of paper with a script written on it.

The show has also fallen into Tanis’ tendency to punctuate every bit of dialogue with a dramatic sound effect or musical cue, which only serves to emphasize the characters’ lack of enthusiasm for what they’re saying.

I’m going to keep listening to The Black Tapes to see what happens, and I think the story has potential to pick up as the season comes to a close. But, for me, The Black Tapes no longer demands I stop typing emails or texts to give it my undivided attention. GOD, I’M LISTENING TO THE END OF THE EPISODE AGAIN, AND THE WAY ALEX REACTS TO SIMON’S CREEPY, CRYPTIC NONSENSE IS JUST SO BAD. SHE’S SO MONOTONED [sic] AND REHEARSED AND UGH.”


I also discussed the episode on my podcast 6 Feet Undergrad with Eric Trapp, 6FU’s co-host and the one who initially introduced me to The Black Tapes. Skip to 11:23 for that conversation:


Thanks for reading! I’ll be back next week with a more fleshed-out take on a different pod. Talk to you then!

So What’s This Site All About?

Me, duh.

Welcome to CamdenJones.Org, the official Camden Jones fansite, run by Camden Jones himself.

Every week, I’ll be posting about something I find interesting. For now, I’m planning on doing little write-ups on podcast episodes that I find particularly interesting, funny or compelling.

This “Podcast Spotlight” series will go on for the foreseeable future, but I’ll most likely throw in some other stuff occasionally, like a movie review or a video game editorial.

Join me on this journey through my oh-so-special mind.

You can find more of me on Twitter (@CCJ1997), and you can find my podcast, 6 Feet Undergrad, on SoundCloud and iTunes.