Category Archives: In my headphones

Claybourne | 1998 | Andrew Dubber & Belinda Todd

I’m not sure what to make of this one. But I kept listening. And listening. The dishwasher has been broke, so I’ve been listening to this while I wash dishes by hand. I’d only downloaded the first 20 of 96 6-ish minute episodes and listened to them all in one go, so I’d say I’m hooked. Yet, I don’t exactly love it. Yet I kept listening.

Everything is fine. Better than fine. The design, acting, production – all very natural. Nearly perfect. A very model of how I wish all presentations sounded. The writing is solid, the story is… Well, again, not great or anything. But, oddly addictive. Among the several genres this could be categorized under, it’s a soap opera in its execution. Perhaps because of the time limitation – with only a very few minutes, they gotta keep you coming back. So, it’s got that potato chips thing going on – one doesn’t satisfy so you keep munching. Especially since there’s no clear stopping point. Chapters, seasons, whatever. The story just keeps going so I was in a “just one more” mode. Twenty episodes the first time I listened, thirty the next, thirty more next time.

Should anyone read this, it is important that I bring up the ending. It kinda has none. The story falls off a cliff after 96 episodes because the show was cancelled. That doesn’t bother me too much. I’m a fan of a several shows – audio and visual – that got cancelled before they could finish. Firefly, Freaks & Geeks, Carnivale, etc.. I still love what exists of them. But I know some people won’t bother if they can’t have full closure, so I’m mentioning it.

Anyway, bottom line – I just don’t love it, yet I can’t stop listening to it and I wish I had more. So, I’m giving it a B- but not keeping it.

Claybourne
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Part thriller, part scifi, part soap opera, part comedy, Claybourne was perhaps the most sonically ambitious radio drama production ever to hit New Zealand’s airwaves. 

Produced by Andrew Dubber & Belinda Todd in 1998, it gained something of a cult following, won a radio award for best dramatic production, and later became the most popular spoken word programme on MP3.com. It was also the first podcast radio drama series online. 

SYNOPSIS
Thompson is an American holidaying in New Zealand after his breakup nearly led to a breakdown. 

He receives a message from his employers, multinational communication giant Koestler Industries, that there’s a ‘problem’ at their satellite station up in the far north of the country, and that since he’s over there anyway, he should check it out. 

The problem is… ‘problem’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. 

Moby Dick | 2010 | Stef Penney, Kate McCall

Two 50ish minute parts.

I can’t take these actors seriously. A bit cartoonish. And most of them aren’t very good at the more archaic English. It’s precise, not natural.

But, everything else works – I’m totally wrapped up in the story. Though, I feel the second part has a bit too much narration, speeches, soliloquy, etc.. The first part was so much fun with all the details describing life on a whaling boat. The writing is great all around, though obviously that’s the source material

I give it a C+ because it did much more right than wrong and I enjoyed it. I am keeping a copy of it but only because I want to listen to the first half again sometime.

Moby Dick
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from Wikipedia
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In October 2010, BBC Radio 4‘s Classic Serial broadcast a new two-part adaptation of the novel by Stef Penney, produced and directed by Kate McAll with specially composed music by Stuart Gordon and starring Garrick Hagon as Ahab, Trevor Whiteas the narrating Ishmael, PJ Brennan as the young Ishmael of the story, Richard Laing as Starbuck and Sani Muliaumaseali’i as Queequeg.

Second Shift | 2006-2011 | Andrea Shubert, Blue Sky Red Entertainment

I’ve spent the last month listening to this, in its entirety, for the second time. This is one of my favorite long-form audio productions I’ve ever heard, alongside Earthsearch, A Canticle for Leibowitz, and We’re Alive.

The story, characters, and acting help me see past the production design and quality issues, most of which are forgivable and surely budget related.
The characters, the characters, the characters. And the story.
And it has a great fantasy world – rich and detailed, with traditions, rituals, societal classes, sporting events, even a language you start picking up as you listen.
The bloopers at the end of each episode just add to the fun.

Season Two is like a thrilling upgrade sequel. Makes the first season look like amateur hour. Everything to love about the first season but now SO much improved. The writing is more mature and darker, the storyline richer, the sound design (including the music) and quality are even better than the first season, the characters are deeper, the acting is more demanding yet the performers meet the task beautifully.

If this story has a flaw it is not fully realizing the abilities of Mike and Katherine. We’re told about the remarkable potentials of all three characters in the beginning of the story, but only Shauna’s are realized. The abilities of the other two are barely even mentioned again and certain scenes even contradict Mike’s strengths we’re told of. Was this intentional? I doubt it. I fear the story in its entirety wasn’t outlined and they simply made it up as they went and decided to abandon the two to focus on the one.
This is the only point that I would consider as a failing of this show.

As an entire package, I give this show a solid A+ and I will always keep my own personal stash of every episode. I’m positive I will listen to it many times for many years to come.

Note – When I went to gather various info for this post, I found that the Second Shift website had received quite an update and now has an incredible amount of bonus material and information about every episode. This will tip me over the brink from Second Shift fan to full blown Second Shift GEEK. We’re talking commentaries, episode notes and analyses, scripts (and drafts), and the full primer on the Charandrean language I’ve always wanted, etc., etc..
And I can’t wait to start digging into it all! :)

Second Shift

This Parsec-Award nominated audio drama follows the adventures of three students from Boston who are summoned to another world against their will. There they must either find their places or find a way home. New friends, new enemies, clashes of culture and clashes of personality help and hinder them in their search for answers.

Second Shift follows an ambitious, character-centric story arc about three college students from Boston who find themselves “shifted” against their will to another world. They must find their place in that world while trying to return to theirs.

Transmissions from Colony One | 2013, ongoing | John W. Richter & Dustin Weiskopf

– – – FOLLOWUP – – –
I listened to season three and gave it an enthusiastic B+.

My in my headphones posts are usually short – I post opinions, not reviews – but this will be shorter than it probably deserves as the app I always use to take notes for stuff I listen to lost a couple days worth of notes.

I listened to this a couple times, paired with various activities and attention levels. I wanted to be sure – I heard potential but, the first time through, I didn’t hear the potential fully realized. And I’d listened to some of season one several months ago. When I saw season two was complete, I started over from the beginning.

I’ve watched countless hours of NASA missions and they succeed in making this production realistic. The procedures, details, even all the acronyms caught my attention and really started sucking me in. But, the effect didn’t last.

For me, it just didn’t work overall. I was lost with all the characters so I didn’t care about them and the story never really grabbed me. I should have loved this – it’s solid sci-fi. The setting, concept, plot, presentation, science, speculative science, crew-centered, alien world, etc. – it sounds like I’m describing one of my favorite sci-fi shows/movies/novels but it didn’t work for me overall. But all the ingredients are there so, if you’re reading this, I say give it a try, you may love it.

The last two episodes of the second season were gripping and well written.
That husband and wife scene in 210 was very moving for me. And the dialogue a bit later – “I don’t know what I was thinking. That wasn’t me.” with the reply “It is now.” That’s great writing.

Anyway, I give it a solid C. It does most everything right that it set out to do but I just didn’t care for it. When season three is complete, I’m positive I’ll listen to it and maybe even start from season one again but I’m not keeping an archived copy – a podcatcher subscription is good enough for this one.

Transmissions from Colony One

Transmissions From Colony One is a radio drama set in the near-future of 2057. Twenty years prior, United States President Richard Thorpe (R-CO) announced the start of a “New Dawn,” a global attitude shift toward widespread space exploration. Technological advents such as fusion energy, worldwide high-speed railway systems, and internet speeds faster than ever envisioned laid the groundwork for an economic explosion, but it lacked a platform on which to occur. Thorpe gave the world an outlet for its immense wealth, asking people across the world to simply look up for humanity’s future.

In the twenty years since, the world has changed drastically. MECTI (Mars Exploration, Colonization and Terraformation Initiative) was established with the goal of starting a permanent human presence on Mars. This meant using fusion-propelled rocketry, the construction of a massive space elevator to make transportation from the surface of Earth to low orbit more cost and energy-efficient, and the creation of a mammoth space station that would dwarf today’s International Space Station. All of these things needed to be done in order for MECTI to work. Now, twenty years after the birth of MECTI, the first crew, MECTI-1, is about to land on the surface of Mars, in the flat expansive region of Amazonis Planitia. This will be the first manned mission to the surface of Mars, and the first of thousands of MECTI manned missions to the Red Planet.

Transmissions From Colony One chronicles the on-board recordings of MECTI-1 as the international crew of sixteen (eight men, eight women) conduct their mission…

Campfire Radio Theater | John Ballantine | 2012, ongoing

The production quality really is top notch. I can’t say enough about it. It just sounds great. I wish all audio productions sounded this good.

The intro guy is a bit much. I realize he’s trying to set a mood for the episode but he’s overboard and clichéd. (And, for cryin’ out loud, if you’re gonna use that voice, pronounce all four syllables nice and slow: “com-fort-a-ble”!)

I listened to all thirteen currently available stories and in all, it succeeds in what it sets out to do. These are mystery thrillers first, horror stories second. And the stories are of a pretty consistent quality level – no greats but no utter wastes either. If I were to choose a high point episode it would probably be Demon Eyes or The Philadelphia Xperiment. (The lower point was definitely RIP.) Again, the sound design and production are consistently great. Really keeps you in the story – immersive, atmospheric. The acting ranges from good enough to great and the dialogue is usually very good.

All combined, I give the series a solid B and maybe I’ll add it to the Halloween media collection but I have no plans to listen to it again more than once in a year. It’s just not my preferred genre for repeated listening. Though, this is an ongoing series and I’ll surely listen to future episodes.

Campfire Radio Theater

Welcome friend… Have a seat by the fire… Make yourself comfortable.

Creating audio plays for the iPod generation, Campfire Radio Theater is an anthology of surreal horror tales fully dramatized with actors, music and immersive sound effects recorded in digital stereo… That bump in the night is always more frightening in stereo.

Hayward Sanitarium | 2012 | Matthew Baucco and Richard Johnson

From my notes…

I kinda liked this. But only kinda. I think I need to listen to it again sometime.

I really like how they record dialogue. Natural – doesn’t sound like someone speaking into a microphone. I wish more people did it this way. The dialogue and acting itself is a mixed bag.
I love the sound production all around – natural and immersive. So natural, in fact, that I kept forgetting to judge it – it just all blends so well.

The story… isn’t bad? I didn’t enjoy it but I think it’s more an issue of my taste than the storyteller. As I think it over, I think the characters aren’t developed enough to make me care about what happens to them.

Ep10 20:00 to 23:50
SERIOUSLY?? WTF?
They surely knew this was a risky scene and it was mainly annoying to me and therefore ended the entire series on an unpleasant note.
Speaking of the ending, I would have certainly listened to more episodes if they’d made them. I don’t hesitate when someone says “Don’t bother – they got cancelled after one season and didn’t resolve anything.” Some of my favorite TV shows were cancelled after one season. And the same applies here – I’m not bothered. But, I would have kept listening and quite possibly would have come to like it more.

Anyway, I liked it more than I didn’t like it. The atmospheric sounds design would be great to listen to again during Halloween season, so I give it a tentative C+ and will listen to it again in October.

Hayward Sanitarium

There are some areas of the human mind, and indeed of the world we live in, that were never meant for investigation. There are always those who delve into the darker worlds of knowledge, and many pay with their sanity for their interest. Some of these unfortunates are taken in by the Hayward Foundation, an organization that studies paranormal experiences and their effects on humanity. It is cases such as these that are sent to a restored mansion in a small coastal town in Maine, a center for the care and study of the insane. Since the 1920s this place has been known as the Hayward Sanitarium.

Hayward Sanitarium was produced by Last Minute Productions at LodeStone Media in Bloomington, Indiana. The series aired on National Public Radio twice and remains in syndication on community radio stations nationwide. Now considered a cult classic, the series broke new ground in audio theater production as one of the first digitally recorded and edited shows. Much of the series was recorded on location with live performances. The fear you hear may be very near.

Aftermath | 2012 | Yap Audio | Matthew McLean & Robert Cudmore

I gave the first season a solid meh.
No crimes against the medium but just underwhelming. Though, I did keep listening and plan to listen to season two, as well. I do love post-apocalyptic stories.

I didn’t take many notes while I listened to this – mainly just the following…
I find Julie Hoverson’s voice annoying. She’d make a good audio book reader – she’s got a storyteller voice – but in audio theater productions she just always sounds like she’s trying too hard.

That’s it. I give this a C- because it does more right than wrong but I’m not keeping it. But, again, I plan to listen to further episodes. Maybe it’ll grow on me.

…UPDATE…

I listened to season two and I’m just going to paste my notes…

I think the dialogue is a bit better. Or maybe I just like it better. The story is certainly picking up. There is such a thing as too many plot twists, though.

The sound design is pretty seamless and natural – I kept forgetting to judge it because it just worked.

I still don’t like Julie Hoverson. Thankfully, there’s less of her in this season.

I didn’t know this wasn’t an ongoing series. I did really enjoy the end. Or rather, epilogue.

I stand by my C- and doubt I’ll ever listen to it again.

Aftermath

Welcome to 2016. For the past five years the world has become an increasingly unstable place. The threat of war between China and the USA had loomed heavily over the rest of the world. Britain, now a small, insignificant and bankrupt nation, initially, as always, had sided with the USA. But relations quickly broke down beyond repair between the two nations, leaving the UK an isolated and unimportant outcast in world diplomacy.

Faced with two gigantic, power hungry enemies on either side, things go from bad to worse in the UK when an attack on the country’s power and communications leaves its citizens without electricity, television, phone or internet. After nearly a fortnight, and with nothing more than speculation available about who carried out the attack and why, looting and riots spread throughout towns and cities like wildfire.

Rumours of an emergency radio broadcast promising help, information, food and water in the centre of every city sees millions of people on the move as they try to head for safety, hoping that the crisis may be at an end.

In reality, nothing can be further from the truth. In a car park, half way up Falkland Hill in Fife, a group of people who fled from the riot stricken towns below watch out over the river Forth in horror as Edinburgh is blitzed by a missile attack from the sky. The lucky ones are killed by the blasts, but anyone else close enough is subjected to the chemicals unleashed by the explosions. A devastating chemical attack turns ordinary people into bloodthirsty savages, and Scotland as we know it, changes forever.

And now… this is the Aftermath.

The Walking Dead Untold | 2015 | The Walking Creativity

Only two episodes so far and I listened to both.

Eh, it’s not horrible. I can’t judge it purely as audio theater since the episodes are posted to YouTube and the minimal video does contain info like chapter names and what day it is, etc.. I honestly don’t know how much visual info I missed because I listened as I worked and once caught a glimpse of “Sarah – Day Four” on the screen at one point so I don’t know many others there were or if it would have contributed to keeping up with the story. But, I didn’t find it confusing.

Anyway, the story and characters are fine, the production is a bit better than usual fan-made stuff. All I can really say having only heard two episodes is that it’s ok. No crimes against the medium committed.

I’ll give it a C- in that it does more right than wrong but I just wasn’t grabbed from the very beginning. And I’m subscribed to hear future installments.

The Walking Dead Untold

Batman – Breakdown | 2012 | Gonzo Planet | Alex Shaw & David Hartrick

Wow, this one is tough. I adored it but its faults are obvious. Though, its failings are only due to the limitations of what I assume was a practically nonexistent budget and lack of experience of the creators.

I’ll say first that the writing is excellent. I loved every minute in the hour of this production because of the writing. As I listened, I found it easy to forgive every other flaw in the production because of the story and the dialogue. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s the best Batman audio theater I’ve ever heard. Though, I could count on one hand how many I’ve heard even if I’d been born with two fingers missing on that hand.
And one was by Dirk Maggs, so of course I didn’t like it.

But the ending was overboard, I think. I don’t know. Maybe this would be an acceptable scenario to the Batman mythos hardcores. I’m not one. Wouldn’t even consider myself more than a casual fan of Batman. So, what would I know about plausibility in this particular fictional universe?

Anyway, this production is far from perfect. Really far.
The casting and the characterizations aren’t great. But, I suspect they may be imitations of the characters in the modern Batman cartoons – I wouldn’t know since I’ve never watched them. But, the voice of Batman is solid. Though, he has his bad moments. These are mostly British actors – and amateurs at that – so, not only do their accents sometimes peek through, but it could be they’re simply overdoing an American accent.

As I listened, I kept thing that this is the full realization of what fan audio theater CAN be. The producers have the same resources as every other fan-made production yet these creators use them SO much better. Compare this production to Batman – No Man’s Land, which is a prime example of really bad fan-made audio theater.

Everything technical in this production I would rate good to great use of what they had available – the editing, the music choices, the skilled use of that music, the sound effects (even when obvious free sound effects library website clips), the great use of even silence and whispers. This sound is dramatic and bold but also spends a lot of time hushed and intimate. It just sounds great. Though, it is a bit hollow log-y.
And, they did a very rare thing for audio theater – you can download an in-depth, lengthy, mostly fascinating making-of in two parts. Oh, how I wish everyone did this.

I listened to this TWICE just to be sure it really was as good as I thought the first time through. It was. Better, I say. So, I’m gonna grade on a curve, ignore the flaws, and give it an A- and am most certainly keeping a copy of it.

And now, I’m in a big hurry to hear their followup production – The Killing Joke, universally agreed to be one of the greatest Batman stories ever told. Sadly, the audio theater careers of Alex Shaw, et al. apparently ended there – I can find nothing made since.

Batman – Breakdown

What you are about to hear is my first full-length audio play. It was designed to be enjoyed by comic fans but also to people who are only familiar with the Nolan films the Arkham video games or the Animated Series.
I wanted to write something significant, honest and authentic about the Batman legend and with a lot of help from long-time serious Bat-fan, David Hartrick, I was able to shape a series of ideas into a hopefully coherent story. None of the cast, including myself are professional actors, but we all worked very hard to capture the essence of the characters we portrayed.
The writing, organisation and editing all of this together took dozens of hours, but it’s been equal parts exhausting and rewarding. I’d of course ideally love to see this adapted into a comic mini-series or animated movie someday (hint, hint, DC).
Oh and for Batman enthusiasts, take note, this is an Elseworlds tale that takes place after the 2005 storyline Under the Hood, but before the 2006 storyline Infinite Crisis.

The Kraken Wakes | 1965 CBC & 1998 BBC

I tried both productions over the course of a few days. Didn’t much care for either.

The story is an end of the world via alien invasion as experienced by the news agencies that cover the events.
The sort of story I’d usually love. I bet I’d love the John Wyndham novel they’re based on. But, somehow it didn’t translate very well to audio, neither in 90 minute form (BBC) or 5-part miniseries (CBC).

I do have a huge complaint with the 1965 CBC version – the reporters are used to describe the visuals.
Awkward descriptive dialogue. The Original Sin of audio theater.

But neither of them held my attention. Maybe it was my fault.
So often, it felt like a long, slow description of the monster to be revealed at the end. Yeah, some things happened along the way but I wouldn’t say it ever raised the dramatic tension very far. I was hoping to be gripped.

The commentary on how the media and governmental powers that be might very well control flow of information as the world ended was not lost on me but it just wasn’t enough.

I give them both a D and am not keeping either one.

The Kraken Wakes | 1965 | CBC | Eric Cameron

At first, the fireballs seemed to be nothing more than a dazzling display of lights in the sky, plunging into the deepest oceans and disappearing without trace. But when ships started sinking inexplicably and the sea-lanes became impassable it seemed that the world was facing a threat of unprecedented proportions. Recorded at CBC Radio Vancouver.

The Kraken Wakes | 1998 | BBC | John Constable

Radio reporters Mike and Phyllis Watson are on a honeymoon cruise when they see strange red lights falling out of the sky and into the sea. In John Wyndham’s 1953 classic of alien invasion, Mike and Phyl report the progress of the ‘kraken-like’ sea monsters as they emerge from the depths and challenge mankind for supremacy of the Earth. The climax, when sea levels rise and devastating flooding hits the UK, is eerily topical.

John Wyndham (1903-1969) also wrote The Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos and many short stories.

Starring Jonathan Cake and Sarah Todd. Dramatised by John Constable and directed by Susan Roberts.