You Should Be Listening To Bullseye With Jesse Thorn

Last year I started getting more and more into podcasts.  This coincided directly with the download of NPR One.  Of course, Pop Culture Happy Hour became my must-hear event.  I grew to really enjoy Freakonomics Radio as well.  I tried a few others that didn’t do much for me.

Eventually, a friend recommended Bullseye with Jesse Thorn.  My friend said that Pop Culture Happy Hour got a little tired for him, but that Bullseye addressed some of the same topics in a far more interesting way.

I found Bullseye on the NPR One app and took a look at past titles.  They typically featured two public figures of some sort, usually actors, comedians, or musicians.  None of the names I saw really interested me.  I moved on.

Not too long after, I kept running out of podcasts to listen to.  I didn’t have a deep rotation, so within a few days of a new week I would already be searching for something fresh.  I remembered my friend’s recommendation.

I dove in and listened to a few Bullseye episodes a week, and I did this whether the interviewee appealed to me or not.  Finally, Bullseye found my sweet-spot.  The episode focused on interviewing interviewers.  Jesse spoke with Katie Couric, Marc Maron, and Audie Cornish.  I listened to Jesse asking the most interesting questions, and I found his interviewees being far more candid than I expected.  That’s when I realized the magic of Bullseye — Jesse Thorn makes everyone interesting.

My friend, once again, was right.

Thorn has such an ease about him.  His voice is incredibly pleasant; he’s got a fantastic radio voice.  He’s warm and unafraid to laugh.  Yet, he’s bold in what he decides to ask.  He’s direct.  I’ve heard him forge ahead with difficult questions despite trepidation.  I’ve also heard him pump the brakes and check on his guest’s comfort when the conversation’s direction became a little too intense.  Sometimes he barely speaks at all because his guest gets going on such a roll.

Thorn has an innate ability to ask about things that his guests often want to discuss.  However, those questions are also things he knows his listeners will find interesting.  This seems to be a rare instinct in his field.

That’s why Bullseye works.  It took me too long to discover this.  I had several starts and stops with Bullseye, but it eventually dawned on me that every interview, no matter who the guest, will entertain and prove educational.  I’d never heard of Beth Ditto, yet Jesse’s interview with her is among my favorites.  Jesse showed me a whole new side to Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  He made me realize Rick Moranis is probably a genius.  He and Louie Anderson damn near made me cry while I mowed my lawn.  Every episode touches me in some way — there are no wasted moments.

Honestly, though, it’s Jesse himself who keeps me coming back.  I’ve listened to enough installments now to piece together a bit of the man himself, and he’s someone I want to support.  His life has not always been easy, and I love that he is willing to share that with his audience and guests.  I started following him on Twitter and I find him wise, funny, blunt, and receptive.  In fact, he’s actually interacted with me on occasion, which is always a thrill.  (The folks at Pop Culture Happy Hour?  Not so much as a “like.”  Not even once.  But, who’s keeping score?  [I guess I am … apparently.])

So if you’re looking for a new podcast, I completely recommend Bullseye with Jesse Thorn.  Keep in mind it will take a few episodes to really win you over, but once you get a feel for it, you will look forward to it every week.  You can find the show at NPR One or Maximum Fun.  Let’s go.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

 

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Shade, the Changing Girl: Vol. 1 by Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone – A Book Review

If you’re looking for weird, Shade, the Changing Girl is for you.  As part of DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint, author Cecil Castellucci is unafraid to make this book as strange a trip as possible.  However, as odd as it is, at the core, it’s still a story of self-discovery and independent choice.

Fan of previous Shade iterations will recognize several familiar aspects.  For example, Meta is still alive and well, Rac Shade’s persona is very much a part of the book, and the madness coat remains integral.

Things are different this time around, though, in that an alien, birdlike creature named Loma steals the madness coat in an effort to enliven her own existence.  She ends up possessing a brain-damaged young woman on Earth and living this girl’s life.  Unfortunately, she quickly discovers that the original owner of the body  led a dark existence, one Loma doesn’t necessarily want to continue.

The artist, Marley Zarcone, lives up to Castellucci’s bonkers script with equally bonkers art.  Though cartoonish in style, Zarcone delivers surrealistic panels that absolutely maintain an unstable tone.  I think it’s also important to mention Zarcone’s attention to detail.  One panel features an utterly mundane moment – two kids walking along a sidewalk through a residential neighborhood.  Something caught my attention, though.  Zarcone included grass growing between the cracks of the sidewalk.  Though not substantial to the overall story, that sort of nuance really won me over.

Finally, Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors are the perfect compliment to Castellucci and Zarcone.  Though almost primary in terms of hue, Fitzpatrick makes sure to include interesting patterns in most of her panels.  I don’t know enough about the medium to get specific about the kinds of patterns, but you will rarely see a solid background color in this book.  That small touch adds depth to an already carefully constructed book.

Shade, the Changing Girl is not the stuff of super heroes.  It’s also not full of action or violence, though there is always an atmosphere of potential danger.  However, it bursts with story, mystery, and evolving characters.  If you like that sort of thing with a heavy coating of weird, this book is for you.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Read “Terminal Synchronicity” – My Latest Short Story

Terminal Synchronicity: A Short Story by [Foley, Scott William]

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In this brief tale, Eli and Molly collide in a terminal. They are ecstatic to see one another again, yet both state that such a meeting is impossible. Their love has seemingly conquered time and space, but how? And for how long? (Science fiction/Fantasy/Love)

Mister Miracle #1 (2017) by Tom King and Mitch Gerads – A (Comic) Book Review

I fell in love with Mister Miracle (Scott Free), his wife Big Barda, and his partner Oberon in 1987 when they first appeared in Justice League and then also when Steve Rude drew his one-shot special.  He appealed to all of my sensibilities as a ten-year-old.  I mean, he was a super hero, so that was most important.  But he was also a super escape artist!  Awesome!  Married?  That’s cool!  From another planet?  What!?  Traded as part of a peace treaty to Apokolips and raised in torture even though he’s the son of the Highfather, which is pretty much the equivalent to a supreme god?  The stuff was amazing.  Of course, back then, I didn’t realize this was all the brainchild of Jack Kirby.  Had I known that, my astonishment would not have been so unexpected.

Tom King has been on fire lately with Batman, which has not gone unnoticed by me.  I’ve read those available collected editions, and while they are very good, I didn’t really understand why people were so ecstatic about his writing.  Furthermore, if we’re being totally honest, I’ve never head of Mitch Gerads, the artist.

However, I’ll buy anything with Scott Free in it, especially when he’s starring in his own title.  That, plus the positive word of mouth, compounded by Gerads’ delightful Twitter persona, convinced me to run to the comic book store and pick up this first issue.  (I had to wait until after an emergency root canal, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Plainly stated — this may very well be the best first issue I’ve ever read (keep in mind I’ve been reading comics for thirty-seven years).

Mitch Gerads won me over utterly and completely with the very first page.  This first page simply shows Scott Free’s face, but his expression is so real, so, well, expressive, that it haunted me.  I also noticed right away the dot matrix coloring, something totally unnecessary but absolutely charming.  When you consider that Gerads drew, inked, and colored the art in this book … that’s quite a feat, especially because he did all three exquisitely.

Almost all of the pages in this issue are nine-panel grids.  That is a rarity in today’s comic book, yet it’s so brilliantly effective.  It keeps the eyes moving, it keeps the pace going, it conveys both more story and action, and it’s just more fun.  I love that the creative team took a chance on doing something considered passe and making it fresh.

By the way, that expression on the first page?  That’s nothing compared to what Gerads does later in the book.  This is the most real Scott Free has ever felt.  At times I could swear I saw a soul behind his eyes.

Let’s talk about Tom King.  By the second page, King displays his fearlessness by depicting Scott Free in need of a greater miracle than ever before.  King presents a very serious conflict from the onset, one that he treats both respectfully and effectively.  However, as you might expect, things are not necessarily what they seem.  King offers just enough clues to lay the foundation of quite a mystery, one that makes both Scott Free and the reader question everything unfolding throughout the book.

I love the constraint King displays in this first issue.  By utilizing the nine-panel grid, he is able to convey a lot of story without hardly any words at all.  As a result, he can keep the dialogue to a minimum.  These characters actually talk like real people in short bursts.  King does not fall into the trap of making his characters double as narrators explaining the events surrounding them.  They subscribe to the philosophy that, if given enough space to work, Gerads can draw everything we need to know.

I rarely buy single issues because, frankly, they don’t feel worth the cover price.  Often times they strike me as far too brief, disjointed, and obviously part of a much larger whole.   Mister Miracle #1 is obviously part of a larger story, yet due to the sheer amount of artwork, events, and story within, it proved totally satisfying.  Like I said, I consider it the best first issue I’ve read in a quite a while, maybe ever!  Well done to all involved!

On a final note, and this is perhaps the greatest compliment I can offer, I will definitely be in my local comic shop for issue #2.  If such quality continues, I plan to buy all twelve issues of this series.  As someone who has primarily bought only collected editions during the past fifteen years, I can bestow no greater honor.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)