Friday, February 3, 2017

Reaping The Blue Harvest - A Look At Blue Harvest: A Star Wars Podcast.

This week, I wanted to continue my exploration of pop culture podcasts with a look at a show that I really look forward to in my podcast feed each Saturday morning.

Blue Harvest: A Star Wars Podcast is a show that has quickly come to be my Saturday soundtrack and I look forward to each episode in much the same way that I looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons as a kid - so it has the dual effect of being a satisfying listening experience as well as recalling those affetionate days of my childhood.

(image credit: H. Burkhardt.)

Here's a little nugget of trivia which Star Wars fans will appreciate. Blue Harvest takes its name from the long celebrated "code name" George Lucas gave to Return of the Jedi while it was in production. So concerned was Lucas in 1982 with potential leaks from the Yuma, Arizona set of the film, he concocted an elaborate cover for the production, dubbing it Blue Harvest: Horror Beyond Imagination. He even had T-Shirts and caps made up for the production team, merchandise which commands a high price amongst collectors today.

(image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney.)

Taking its name from that Lucas sleight of hand, Blue Harvest: A Star Wars Podcast is hosted by Birmingham, Alabama natives Hawes Burkhardt and Will Whitten. Together they bring a vast catalog of knowledge around Star Wars lore as well as a great enthusiasm and love for the franchise that has fomented in them from their earliest days of childhood.

Blue Harvest on-air team Hawes Burkhardt & Will Whitten (image credit: H. Burkhardt.)

Whereas sister podcast, Rogue Won: A Star Wars Podcast For Winners draws is strength from its comedic timing and a more bolshy presentation, Blue Harvest is a more intimate conversation between hosts and life long friends Burkhardt and Whitten. They explore Star Wars topics at length, discuss news and insights from the current productions with an authoritative voice and they wade into the tangential, exploring a wide variety of theoretical permutations in Star Wars story ideas and relish in the many "what if" scenarios those ideas throw up. I don't want to say that Blue Harvest is a more intellectual offering than its podcast mates across the Making Star Wars podcast network - but it does delve deeper into areas of Star Wars lore and culture, making it a unique show, unafraid to stand on its own.

Another appeal of Blue Harvest is Hawes Burkhardt and Will Whitten's commitment to musicians in Birmingham, providing a platform for them to showcase their music to a wider audience. The show's excellent opening theme has been generously provided to them by Birmingham metal band Stoned Cobra. A thumping metal track that builds from a subtle introduction, the song has been tweaked with some clever editing and includes key lines of dialogue from all six Star Wars films. These have been stategically placed throughout the crescendoing stanzas of the track and one can't help but get drawn into the powerful refrains from the lead guitar, especially when Darth Vader's voice rumbles satisfyingly along side it. It is a small aside but it helps to define the show in a really clever way.

Blue Harvest: A Star Wars Podcast takes the Star Wars fan conversation to another level and mixes old school childhood enthusiasm with world weary grown up affection to present a weekly show that is the perfect Saturday morning antidote after long working week.

I love it.

Subscribe to Blue Harvest: A Star Wars Podcast on iTunes.

Subscribe to Blue Harvest: A Star Wars Podcast on Podbean.

Connect with Blue Harvest: A Star Wars podcast here.

Tweet with Blue Harvest: A Star Wars Podcast here.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Star Wars In My Ears - A Look At The Sith List Podcast.

There is no doubt that popular culture and popular entertainment has exploded in recent times. The seemingly unending cornucopia of super hero franchises as well as high end television franchises now serve a fan base that was unthinkable in terms of numbers when I was growing up in the 80's. And it wasn't until the popularity of the Internet really kicked off in the early 2000's that fans and fan communities from all over the world could interact with each other. 

I've observed this pattern for pretty much my entire life, having been born into world at a time when Star Wars erupted onto the screen and into the public consciousness in a way that was unprecedented. And, I've derived immense joy - particularly recently - in having found a global community of pop culture fans who appreciate pop culture as much as I do.

The nexus of this interaction has been audio podcasts which have allowed friendships to spring up, discussions to take place and generally good times to be had.

So, this week, I'm continuing my exploration of the podcasts that have filled my ears and have given me a whole lot of satisfaction and joy. I want to share with you a show called The Sith List.

(image credit: Iraj Dowlatshahi.)

The Sith List is a weekly pop culture podcast that covers not only Star Wars - which, of course, is catnip for me - but it explores a broader spectrum of popular culture and engages wide ranging discussions on the likes of Marvel, DC, Lost, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead - just to name a few. 

Hosted by Iraj Dowlatshahi and Carlos Arguello, The Sith List's appeal lies in the team's keen knowledge of a wide variety of pop culture franchises and their passion for the storytelling, characterizations and lore contained therein. They also step out of the in-universe content to explore and discuss behind the scenes aspects of the various franchises, drawing on up-to-the-minute news items from reputable entertainment sources. Their commitment to factual reporting is really admirable in a sea of similarly constructed audio productions who don't strive for that level of accuracy.

The Sith List hosts Carlos Arguello & Iraj Dowlatshahi. (image credit: Iraj Dowlatshahi.)

What I also really like about the podcast is that, for the casual fan - who may not be familiar with a particular franchise - Iraj and Carlos present their show in such a way that you don't necessarily have to be a fan. They make their content accessible and actually invite the listener into a given franchise by giving enough background information that one is encouraged to go out and look further. 

Their discussions, their debates are lively, sometimes passionate but always entertaining. With a roster of guests drawn from within pop culture fandom, you can be guaranteed to be informed as well as entertained by the differing opinions put on show. 

There is also a healthy dose of nostalgia available in The Sith List - one that especially appeals to us 80's kids for whom much of our Saturday mornings are but a distant memory. 

The Sith List brings it all back with affectionate immediacy.

Subscribe to The Sith List on iTunes here

Subscribe to The Sith List's generic feed here.

Connect with The Sith List here

Tweet The Sith List here


Loved Up Things - A Look At The Barber Shop Girl by Georgina Penney.

Scottish based, Australian author Georgina Penney is an accomplished writer who I have spoken enthusiastically about previously, having covered her romance titles "Fly In Fly Out" and "Summer Harvest". So I'm excited to be returning to Georgina's orbit with the newly released "The Barbershop Girl" which serves as a sort of rounding out of a trilogy focusing on the Blaine sisters from those earlier novels. 

So here's the guff on The Barbershop Girl first and foremost.

You don't become a notorious British celebrity without rubbing a few people the wrong way, which is why writer and comedian Ben Martindale has decamped to Australia until the latest media frenzy dies down.

When he meets Amy Blaine, a perky blonde who dresses like a 1950s pin-up girl, he knows he's hit the satirical jackpot. He begins to fill his weekly London column with snarky observations about her life, clothes, and even their most intimate moments. It doesn't occur to him that Amy, who is letting her guard down for the first time in her adult life, might be upset - after all, it's hilarious, and his readers love her!

It isn't until Amy discovers the extent of his betrayal that Ben begins to realize just how badly he's cocked up the best thing that ever happened to him. But is it too late?

I read things...loved up things. (image credit: DFA.)

There is something addictive about Georgina Penney.

Actually - there's plenty that's addictive about Georgina Penney's story telling and it has certainly suckered me in since I entered her world through the doors of "Fly In Fly Out" which serves as the prequel to this title. I gobbled The Barbershop Girl up over a week, gleefully returning to the world of the Blaine sisters Jo and Amy. Where Jo took center stage in the previous novel, the one thousand watt Amy gets her chance in the spotlight here and it was just a delight to see the world through her eyes. I have to admit to having something of a major crush on Amy and I found myself feeling the occasional pangs of jealousy as she traverses the tight rope of romance with English journo/comedian and sometimes *complete* horses arse in Ben Martindale.

The Barbershop Girl is packed full of Penney's signature wit, attractive characterizations and vivid imagery - particularly Western Australia's cosmopolitan capital Perth and the gorgeous Margaret River wine region. Penney has a skillful sense of comic timing and she can quickly switch to moments of deep emotion, heartwarming sincerity and unbridled, crackling passion. All these combined make The Barbershop Girl such a satisfying romance and I was left, at the end, with my cup full but my heart aching to go back their and spend more time at Babyface/Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

I quite fancy an old school cut throat shave.

George writes things...loved up things. (image credit: G. Penney.)

Georgina Penney first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that's alright, she was busy doing other things until then.

Some of those things included living in a ridiculous number of towns and cities in Australia before relocating overseas to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Brunei Darussalam and presently, Bonny Scotland.

In between all these travels, Georgina managed to learn to paint, get herself a Communication and Cultural Studies degree, study Psychotherapy and learn all about Hypnotherapy. In the early days she even managed to get on the IT roller coaster during the early noughties boom, inexplicably ending the ride by becoming the registrar of a massage and naturopathy college. There was also a PhD in the mix there somewhere but moving to Saudi Arabia and rediscovering the bodice ripper fixed all that.

Today she lives with her wonderful husband, Tony in the Scottish wilds surrounded by hairy coos (yes "coos") and far too many procreating rabbits.


Purchase The Barbershop Girl here.

Connect with Georgina Penney here

Tweet with Georgina Penney here.