Fangirl Fav: The Black Tapes Podcast

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tbtI know it’s been awhile since I posted, so to get my creative mojo flowing, I thought I would resurrect and slightly revise a post from one of my past (now deleted) blogs. Over the past couple of years, I have become a huge fan of podcasts. I listen to all different kinds, but it seems like I tend to favor personal growth podcasts and audio dramas. So, it’s no surprise that my very favorite podcast is The Black Tapes.  

Once I realized the power of podcasts in making my shitty work commute less shitty, I started listening to them on the daily. I wanted to add some fiction podcasts to my list, because hello – writer! That’s when I stumbled upon The Black Tapes.

Here’s the official blurb from the podcast’s website:

The Black Tapes is a bi-weekly podcast from Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, and is hosted by Alex Reagan. The Black Tapes is a serialized docudrama about one journalist’s search for truth, her enigmatic subject’s mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both.

How do you feel about paranormal activity or the Supernatural? Ghosts? Spirits? Demons?

Do you believe?

I’m a total nerd for anything paranormal, which is why The Black Tapes originally caught my eye. I wasn’t exactly swept away by the first episode, but by episode three, I was completely hooked. Two 12-episode seasons have been aired so far, and SADLY – SO SADLY – the third and final season (which I hear is only 6 episodes) will begin on August 30th.

I’ll admit that the delay in production and distribution of season three, as well as the announcement of the podcast ending (on a shorter season no less), was a HUGE disappointment. I heard murmurings (through Reddit) of some behind the scenes drama between the creators, but I’m not going to put too much stock into that. I suppose, at the end of the day, I’m just grateful that we are receiving an end to such a wonderful and addictive story.  

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t delve too deeply into plot details or my own thoughts/theories, but I’ll just post a few reasons why I love The Black Tapes:

  • Dr. Richard Strand. He is the “enigmatic subject” mentioned in the podcast blurb. First and foremost, allow me to fangirl for a moment and just swoon over the voice actor for this character. Hot dayum he has the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard. Audio objectification aside, his character really is intriguing and insanely intelligent. And a bit sassy. Have I already swooned?!
  • Blurring the lines. Again with me being a nerd, but I kind of love that the creators, actors, etc. of The Black Tapes refuse to acknowledge it as fictional. The organizations and institutes they refer to on the podcast each have a website, and many of the characters have social media accounts. It’s just an added layer of dedication and production that I–a fellow creative–appreciate.
  • Alex Reagan. She’s the main character. I love her. She’s smart, kind, intelligent, and not a pushover. She probably falls into the category of “no self-preservation whatsoever,” but that’s what makes The Black Tapes so fun. Plus, she has mad chemistry with Dr. Strand. I so ship it 😉
  • Ensemble cast. Actually, I really enjoy most of the characters on this podcast. Even the throwaways are usually well acted and unique. This really is a world in which you can get lost (because death to commuting!!!).
  • Creativity like woah. I haven’t googled or looked into any of the information broadcasted on the podcast, like the “evidence” and “research” that’s disclosed to listeners, so I’m not sure how much of it–if any–is based off of history or legit sources, but whether it is or isn’t doesn’t matter. I’m just blown away by the dedication of all parties involved in the podcast and the layers of creativity that make up this show.

Although I’m so very sad to see The Black Tapes end in the near future, I’m super excited to see how the rest of the story unfolds. I really hope the conclusion is satisfying and we get some Streagan romance thrown in for good measure.

P.S. If you like The Black Tapes, check out the two other podcasts by one of the creators of The Black Tapes: Tanis and Rabbits. Tanis sucked me in immediately, but I’ve sort of lost a bit of interest in it recently. However, relistening to The Black Tapes makes me want to get caught up. Same deal with Rabbits. I think it’s the “weakest” of the stories from the trio, but it was interesting enough for me to listen to most of season one. The Black Tapes is the best of the group, by far. Well, in my humble opinion 😉

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That Time I Was Anti Harry Potter

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HP Books

I know, my bookshelves are hot af.

Lately my social feeds and favorite news sources have been flooded with headlines reflecting on the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, and just reminiscing on my own personal history with the fandom has me all sorts of nostalgic. Anyone who knows me and my fangirl ways would probably just assume that I’m a HP fangirl, and although I am, that wasn’t always the case.

::cue dramatic music::

I was a teenager when Harry Potter became the it thing. I was also (and still am) a bit of a rebel, so although I loved to read, I refused to read the books simply because everyone else was reading them. I was sick of hearing my friends talk about them and decided to stubbornly stay as far away from the HP bandwagon as I could.

Until weeks before the release of the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

My childhood best friend was an avid Harry Potter fan. Just before the release of the fifth book, she begged me–one final time–to just give the books a try: “Please just try the first book, and if you don’t like it, I’ll never talk about Harry Potter to you again.” Irritated, but wanting to make her happy, I did give the first book a try. And within four days, I had borrowed and read all four books. By release day of book 5, I was attending the midnight release party at my local Borders, and I owned the other four books.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Poster

Said German Draco Malfoy poster.

For years thereafter, Harry Potter topped my fangirl favs list. I’m talking midnight release parties, reading the books aloud to my siblings (my character voices are awesome, if I do say so myself), buying all sorts of memorabilia (my prized possession being a German Draco Malfoy poster), and applying and being accepted (via sorting) to a infamous Harry Potter livejournal community (I was sorted into Gryffindor, although Slytherin was a close call).

Since I’m a huge (and unrepentant) nerdbomber, it’s fun to look back on my Harry Potter days. So, without further ado:

Harry Potter Highlights From the Life O’ Pam

  • Fanfiction: I dipped my toes in the pool of fanfiction thanks to Harry Potter. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at fanfiction, but as a fledgling writer, there is no better way to improve and gain confidence. Fanfiction was the first time I shared my writing with anyone, and it helped me grow more confident in my talent and learn to adhere to deadlines (because you can’t leave readers hanging too long for a new chapter!).
  • HP OTP: Speaking of fanfiction, my HP one true pairing was Draco Malfoy/Ginny Weasely. I know, I know, impossible in canon, but in fandom…well, talk about a following! She was the fire to his ice! They were the modern day Romeo and Juliet! Oh, the possibilities!
  • Goblet of Fire Movie Premiere: So, I may have attended the GoF movie premiere in NYC. It may or may not have been INSANE. I will never do something like that again, but it was a pretty cool once-in-a-lifetime experience. People were crazy, there were hundreds of fans lining up on the street hours and hours in advance. My friends and I took the train in at about 4AM for an early evening premiere. Although we weren’t as close the the red carpet as I had hoped (we were across the street), I did get a photo and signed movie poster of Katie Leung  (aka Cho Chang).
  • Sirius Denial: Sirius Black was and will always be one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. I know he was a hot head. I know he was terrible to teenage!Snape. But, well, I have a thing for bad boys, especially bad boys with motorcycles. #sorrynotsorry Also, in book 5, it sure as hell didn’t seem like he was hit with the killing curse, just saying. It was a RED flash, okay!? Needless to say, when they changed it to green in the movie, I was not happy.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: I’m convinced that the second time my family went to Disney was solely for the purpose of me visiting the HP theme park. And um, it was awesome. I can’t even tell you what it felt like to walk down streets that resembled Diagon Alley and stand in front of a Hogwarts replica. Oh em gee. I’m sure you can imagine the amount of shopping I did in that park haha. A couple of wands here, a leather bound journal there. Sigh. I’d like to go back ASAP.
  • Writing Inspiration: I fell in love with the world and writing of Harry Potter, and I fell hard. I was immersed in this fandom as a late teen into my early twenties, and silly as it may seem, my love for these books helped to further validate my desire to be a writer. Rowling has such a great rags to riches story, and even back then, I found it truly inspirational. One of my favorite things about the Harry Potter series is that you can see how Rowling progressed as a writer. More so than the actual writing was the imagination that went into the HP books. Rowling created such a nuanced world filled with hundreds of different characters. She had threads, so many threads, of plot and subplot woven throughout the series. The aspiring writer in me was in awe of the intricacy of her writing and the way she brought so many things–things that seemed extremely minor at first mention–full circle. I remember thinking, how did she do that? How did a quick mention of something in book one or two turn into THIS in book five or six? And now, as a writer, I see that it actually comes naturally. It happens when you dive deep into your story and characters. But back then, before I understood this, well, it was magic 🙂

Holy novel length blog post, Batman! I suppose you can see how dear the Harry Potter world is to me. J.K. Rowling has created something amazing and inspiring – a story and characters that have touched and mesmerized millions of people around the world. And now, I need to bust out my calendar and start planning a Harry Potter marathon, both reading and watching, because it’s been far too long since I last got lost in the halls of Hogwarts.

Fangirl Fav: Big Little Lies

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BLLBig Little Lies is so good that I finished watching it a few weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I tend to enjoy HBO programming in general (Game of Thrones is my jam!), and when I saw the top billed cast for this (::heart eyes at Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon::), I knew I needed to give it a try. Holy hell, am I glad that I did!

The show is based on the book by Liane Moriarty. I didn’t know about the book before the show, but you better believe that I’ve since added it to my reading list. As an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, I enjoy comparing adaptations of the same story, so I’m really looking forward to reading the book.

So, because I’m feeling in a list-making mood…

Reasons Why I Love Big Little Lies (TV Series)

  • Nicole Kidman is fierce, beautiful, and believable as Celeste Wright. I’ve always thought of Kidman as a good actress, but in BLL, she is brilliant. I won’t get too spoilery here, but Kidman’s character is in an abusive relationship, and there are so many layers to the relationship and the characters involved that it’s mesmerizing.
  • The ocean should get a screen credit in this show. I’m not even joking. BLL is beautifully shot. It’s set in Monterey, CA, and the creators and producers absolutely took advantage of that in the best way possible. Most of the main characters live right on the ocean and spend many a scene contemplating life as they stare out at the crashing waves of divine awesomeness.
  • Alexander Skarsgard. He’s so tall. And lithe. And yummy. Objectification aside, I really enjoy his acting and was so pumped to see him team up with HBO again, as I was a big fan of True Blood. As Perry Wright, Skarsgard was opposite of Nicole Kidman in many of his scenes, and again with being mesmerized. In my opinion, the Wright plotline stole the show. What I love about Skarsgard as a talent, and what he really played up in BLL, is that he can go from terrifying and towering one moment to apologetic and petulant the next.
  • Awesome tunes like woah. BLL has a great soundtrack! The opening theme, “Cold Little Heart,” by Michael Kiwanuka is something of a religious experience. Although only a moment of the song is played during the opening credits, the actual song clocks it at just under 10 minutes long and is the best kind of ear candy. 
  • One of the aspects that I really loved and appreciated about Big Little Lies is that it gave viewers a satisfying ending. The last episode, and in particular the last few minutes of the finale, wrapped up everything so well. There was one big mystery throughout the series, and it was not only answered, but the discovery and resulting resolution united all of the characters in an unexpected way, which was awesome.

I didn’t have many expectations going into Big Little Lies. That’s not to say that I had low expectations, but I didn’t know much about it one way or the other. I was just curious to try it out because it’s an HBO show with some actors that I enjoy. Needless to say, my non-existent expectations were blown out of the water. I plan to re-watch BLL again over the summer, just because, and it’s now become my top recommendation to anyone and everyone who shows even the slightest interest in TV. Seriously, go forth and binge watch!

Fangirl Fav: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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BTVSThis past week marked the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the tv series). Although I enjoyed a variety of pop culture as a wee one, anything from Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to X-Men and the Superman movies, I didn’t get a true taste of fangirl obsession until Buffy the Vampire Slayer walked into my life (well, not literally, because then I would be dead from awesome overload).

My BtVS obsession goes waaay back to the original movie starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. I was in love with Luke Perry, thanks to Beverly Hills, 90210, which I watched with my mom. (Sidenote: although mom appreciated Luke Perry, her heart belonged to Jason Priestley.) I was only eight when the BtVS movie came out in 1992, but I was instantly hooked. Although I think, even back then, part of me knew this wasn’t cinema at its best lol. Still, Luke Perry was hot, Kristy Swanson was a girl who kicked major ass, and there were vampires! Lots and lots of vampires!

When the TV version of BtVS launched in 1997, I was 13 and the perfect age for an instant obsession. And I mean obsession. Some of the first posters I ever hung on my walls were of the BtVS cast, including my treasured poster of Buffy and Angel, my very first OTP. I wrote letters to the cast which prompted a response including a signed cast photo which earned many, many squeal/flail combos. I had action figures, trading cards, clothing, and basically any BtVS memorabilia I could get my grubby little hands on, most of which were proudly displayed in my bedroom.

Of course, as many people know, obsession comes with a price. My adoration for BtVS caused my very first fangirl meltdown, the extent of which still earns reminiscent chuckles from my family. Spoiler Alert: When Angel was killed at the end of season 2, I was literally in mourning all summer. I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion, and when he was resurrected the next season, well, PURE HAPPINESS was suddenly my new jam. End Spoiler Alert. Don’t even get me started on when the show was resurrected for it’s second leg of life on a different network. I mean……I can’t.

In honor of the 20th anniversary, and my fond fangirl memories, I’d like to list some of my favorite things about Buffy the Vampire Slayer before wrapping this up while I still have a modicum of self-respect (I hope?).

Random Reasons Why I Love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Show)

  • I love the Buffy/Angel relationship as much as they loved each other.
  • Joss Whedon’s writing. His dialogue is amazing. Some of my favorite quotes ever came from BtVS.
  • I love the various friendships portrayed over the duration of the show: Buffy/Willow, Buffy/Xander, Buffy/Willow/Xander, etc.
  • The fight scenes! I’m such a nerd for action sequences.
  • Doppelgangers. Specifically Willow’s doppelganger, who was amazing and hilarious.
  • Anya. (Yes, she deserves her own bullet.)
  • The development of Cordelia over the progression of the show (and later the spinoff). She was the original mean girl and had some of the best lines of the show.
  • The Angel spinoff!
  • Obviously outdated now, but I loooved the styling of that show, fashion and hair wise.
  • I loved that Buffy could be a badass, a badass girl at that, and still be feminine and vulnerable.
  • Spike with a side of Drusilla. They were delightfully, twistedly awesome.

To this day, I still have random BtVS bingewatch fests. Whenever I come across current fandoms or popular series, I think of BtVS and hope that today’s fangirls and fanboys stumble across the 90’s gem that launched a global cult phenomenon. Sure, the show isn’t exactly timeless. The clothing, hair, slang, and way of life has changed, but the core of the show–the relationships, the love stories, the heartbreaks, the trials and tribulations of life–transcends decades and wardrobe. Most of it, maybe even all of it, is relatable. With vampires! Lots and lots of vampires!

Fangirl Fav: The Lord of the Rings

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img_2693I was sick over New Year’s and sadly missed my scheduled NYE plans, but instead of moping and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to start a 3-night rewatch of The Lord of the Rings movies. The extended editions, of course, because I do not mess around with my fangirl favs.

I fell in love with The Lord of the Rings (LotR) by accident. I’d heard of the books of course, but had always kind of rebelled against them because long, and my mean 8th grade Algebra teacher had dogs named Bilbo and Frodo. I could not possibly like something that he enjoyed. And yet, years later when FotR was released and my dad picked up the VHS (yes, you read that right) at Acme on a whim…well, the rest, as they say, is history.

LotR was probably my first completely-obsessed-with-fangirl fav movie (the TV show equivalent is Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I’ve had other books, movies, and TV shows that I’ve adored over the years, but LoTR hit around the time the internet started to get big, and I remember actually having countdowns until the trailers were released online. Not even the movie release date, first was the trailer release. And then I would watch it over and over again and make everyone I knew (who wouldn’t judge me too harshly) watch it too. Then came the movie releases. I saw both TTT and RotK in the theater three times each, and still, to this day, I mourn the fact that I never viewed FotR in theaters 😦

The movies, as anyone (and I hope that means everyone) who has seen them knows, are epic. In fact, I wish I could think of a more impressive and celebratory word than “epic” to describe them. They are insanely well cast (thank god for that whole Viggo Mortensen was a last minute replacement stroke of luck), visually stunning, obviously made with love and reverence, and everything good movies should be (albeit a little long – come on, I’m not delusional). They also brought about a new self-discovery: how much I love the shooting and production side of movies. The DVDs/blurays are filled with hours upon hours of interviews with director Peter Jackson, the producers, the cast, special effects geniuses, composer Howard Shore, and everyone else who was involved in the creation of the films. I spent so many hours watching that footage, being completely immersed and in awe of the love and work that went into the LotR trilogy.

Which is why it’s both funny and duh-inducing that I’m now an aspiring screenwriter. As if I really had a choice 😉

So falling sick recently was a blessing in disguise, as it reintroduced my once loved annual tradition of rewatching the LotR movies. In closing, I’ll just list, in chronological order, some of my favorite moments in the LotR trilogy (sidenote, my original list was 34082340 items long, so I’ve sadly cut it):

  • The formation of the Fellowship at the end of the Council of Elrond. Sigh. I just ::flails:: Such an epic moment!
  • Boromir redeeming himself at the end of the first movie. His parting line to Aragorn still gets me every single time: “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.”
  • The reveal of Gandalf the Sparkly White.
  • Gandalf, Eomer, and the Rohirrim arriving at the end of the battle to kick orc/urukhai ass!
  • Gandalf and Pippin arriving to Minas Tirith and riding Shadowfax up to the top of the city while Howard Shore’s epic “Minas Tirith” plays in the background.
  • Gandalf using his sparkly white staff of light and magic to ride out and save the soldiers fleeing the Nazgul. And Faramir! My Gondorian bae!
  • Theoden and the Rohirrim arriving at Pelennor Fields to join the battle. Makes me cry every time!
  • Aragorn going all badass king-to-be on the King of the Dead: “You will suffer me!”
  • Aragorn leading the army to the Black Gates. His speech. His head chopping. I can’t.
  • Everyone’s reaction to the fall of Sauron. Ugh. Perfection.
  • At the end of Aragorn’s coronation, when the hobbits bow to him, and he replies: “My friends, you bow to no one.” Then he and the ENTIRE country, plus some, bow to those furry-footed princes. Staaaahp.
  • And, finally, Gandalf’s goodbye to the hobbits, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

P.S. I love The Lord of the Rings books as well. In fact, I did a 3-credit independent study on them my senior year of college, ‘cause nerd 😉