#109: Heavyweight

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(Sorry to break the naming convention of having a definite article before a general word as my blog title; it had to be done!)

On the way to work, I’ll sometimes put on a podcast instead of music. I prefer music nowadays because my commute is shorter than it used to be (17 minutes versus 40 minutes is a noticeable difference) and music tends to get me more consistently in the mood I’m looking for within that short amount of time. But when I do think about listening to a podcast, it’s usually MBMBaM or TAZ, or a third option, which I’m going to discuss in this blog.

The podcast is called Heavyweight, and while it’s not syndicated weekly or biweekly like the other podcasts are, it still provides consistently thought-provoking and intriguing media. It’s one of those pieces of art where, after listening to it, you can’t help but think about it constantly afterwards; it consumes you, just as you consume it. It envelops your mind and forces you to reckon with the ideas its creator is positing throughout the episode. In one episode, the creator and his friend try to get an old record back from multi-platinum recording artist Moby, and fail in the process. But they still meet with him, talk with him, and discuss life together in one of the most beautiful episodes of a podcast I’ve ever listened to. They discuss the futility of holding onto the past so intensely, like holding onto a lost record. The creator’s friend, however, attaches a lot of sentiment and symbolism to this record, as it represents the friendship they no longer have. It’s a miraculous story, and I would highly recommend checking it out. I believe it’s episode two.

It also introduced me to a song, “Sun in an Empty Room” by The Weakerthans, which I was listening to in the car before writing this post. It’s amazing sometimes how art helps you discover more art.

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#89: The Adventure Zone

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Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Pexels.com

Welcome to… the adventure zone! (Cue techno music)

The Adventure Zone, or TAZ as it’s abbreviated sometimes, is a fantasy RPG podcast produced and performed by the McElroy family: Clint, Griffin, Justin, and Travis. The four of them are actual family, and you can tell through their interactions in the game that they care for each other and have a storied history, like all family members do. Their interactions are genuine and easy to get attached to, after a long period of binge listening to the podcast. I can’t say I have a favorite character in the podcast, because they’re all just so likable, diverse, and creative. The characterization is mostly improv-based, but that allows for the people behind the characters to really play however they want and flesh out their individual character in whatever way they please.

I remember listening to episodes of the Rockport and Crystal Kingdom chapters in the car on the way to Boston with Alex, or to visit Alex, while she was doing her internship there. It holds special meaning because of that, as it was years ago and we weren’t nearly as familiar with the larger McElroy-verse of podcasts as we are now. Even going up to Syracuse, I remember putting on TAZ to make sure the drives weren’t so boring.

It’s become almost a yearly tradition for Alex and I to re-listen to the amazing Balance arc, a story and song with so much meaning to both of us. I haven’t even considered starting my re-listen yet, but I’m sure by the end of the year I’ll have a third round under my belt. We are a bit too busy with other listening interests right now.

I actually need to catch up on my TAZ listening sometime soon, but that’s besides the point. Maybe some day I’ll get it all done. We listened a bit in the car this weekend, and then stopped before the end. Also, a quick shout out to my friend Hallie for introducing me to this great podcast in the first place. Considering how much it’s changed my life, I owe you a big one. I’m hoping to convert my other friend Jimmy to the same side!

#69: The Brothers

“My Brother, My Brother, and Me,” also known as MBMBaM, as I’ll be referring to it for the rest of this blog, is one of my favorite things in the world, and it’s only fitting that they earn the title to blog #69. I’m actually surprised it took this long for me to talk about them on here! They’re such a valuable and positive part of my life, consistently filling me with joy during difficult times. Let’s talk about them.

MBMBaM is a family-based, comedy and advice-driven podcast lead by three brothers: Justin, Travis, and Griffin, from oldest to babiest brother. It never fails to provide me with laughter and joy, as the brothers discuss ridiculous questions and give ridiculous answers to those questions. Whether they’re answering a Yahoo Answers question or a question submitted by one of their fans, the comedy never stops. The questions serve mostly as improv stems, as the brothers use them to riff off of each other and build into jokes. They are comedians, but not in the traditional sense; they depend on each other in order to make their comedy, as the interactions between brothers is what sets this podcast apart from others. Because they are brothers, they share a close, familial connection that shines through all of the mayhem.

But probably my favorite part about the McElroy brothers is their openness, tolerance, and general kindness. Every one of them values people and their feelings above all, does not disparage or “punch down” on vulnerable or marginalized folks, and demonstrates good, positive character values. I love listening to them because I know that they will have worthwhile advice underneath all the chaos and laughter, and that they will never betray their values. As someone who sometimes feels like the world outside of my little bubble is breaking down around me, in an existential nightmare, it feels good to add this podcast to my little bubble of positivity. It consistently never disappoints in that regard.

Also, the brothers have worked hard to attract amazing online communities with similarly supportive and generous people, cultivating safe spaces. The teacher page I am a part of is a consistent source of professional inspiration and feedback on questions, while the Wonderful! page provides small joys and a reminder that people can be good. I think part of the reason why they are able to attract these people to their community is because they openly and honestly discuss mental illness as well, primarily social anxiety and imposter syndrome as they become more famous in the world.