XIXAX Film Forum

Non-Film Discussion => Other Media => Topic started by: Jeremy Blackman on November 25, 2014, 04:24:45 PM

Title: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on November 25, 2014, 04:24:45 PM
Sword and Scale is my new podcast obsession. The problem I'm having with it right now is it's so engaging and well-produced and utterly fascinating that I can't stop listening, but I want to stop listening, because things can get quite unsettling.

http://swordandscale.com/

It's a true crime podcast that mostly tells the stories of murderers and serial killers. The interviews he manages to get, the audio he's somehow able to obtain, and the sensitivity and thoughtfulness with which everything is put together... those are what make Sword and Scale great.

Episode 1 is the ideal introduction to the podcast.

Edit: Jump to THIS POST (http://xixax.com/index.php?topic=13140.msg337358#msg337358) for recommendations for less disturbing episodes.

Episode 15, specifically the second part, is probably the one that's affected me the most. It's basically real-life Fargo. It even happened in small-town Minnesota. There is some audio of the murder which I was definitely not prepared for, but if you can handle that, give it a listen.

Episodes 27 & 28, an epic two-parter, is also fairly amazing. And a little more palatable.

I've been jumping around a lot. Will probably start to go through them in order. Slowly, if I can.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: ©brad on November 25, 2014, 07:10:48 PM
I don't know if I have room in my life for another podcast but I trust your judgement JB. How does it compare to Serial?
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Reelist on November 25, 2014, 07:19:51 PM
holy shit, I might never listen to anything else!
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Reelist on November 28, 2014, 02:11:32 PM
I take it back, this is DARK. Be warned that this show does not lightly tiptoe around graphic depictions of the most depraved violence imaginable. To hear the perpetrators go into detail about their crimes or intentions to commit them is not easy to shake off. However, I appreciate this in depth coverage because too often these horrific headlines show up in the news and I forget about them as soon as the next one pops up. This show treats the events with the respect of a documentary and instead of barraging the listener with shock value, gives us a context to digest these unspeakable acts as difficult as that may still be...
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on November 28, 2014, 03:42:36 PM
Yeah, pretty much that. Which episodes are you thinking about specifically? I've had to skip a couple. And I had to take a break for a few days.

However, I appreciate this in depth coverage because too often these horrific headlines show up in the news and I forget about them as soon as the next one pops up. This show treats the events with the respect of a documentary and instead of barraging the listener with shock value, gives us a context to digest these unspeakable acts as difficult as that may still be...

Yes, exactly. The depth is amazing and also makes these stories unforgettable.

Anyway I should reiterate to people, not all of the episodes are super dark/graphic. If you're worried, there are warnings in the podcast... just take those warnings seriously.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Reelist on November 28, 2014, 05:11:33 PM
I started with episode 25, and there was no warning in the description or disclaimer about what I was going to hear. That first 2 minutes nearly ruined my day. They should've put that later in the episode to show how far the abuse escalated, hearing it with no introduction really made me sick to my stomach. Why does it have to be front and center? Surprisingly, that's the worst the episode gets. I'm telling you right now, DON'T LISTEN TO IT! If you do, just know that it's gonna put some unwelcome images in your head that you won't be able to get rid of for a long time.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Pedro on November 28, 2014, 05:49:58 PM
I have mixed feelings.  I find the host incredibly irritating.  His delivery is like John Walsh from America's Most Wanted. 

This show treats the events with the respect of a documentary and instead of barraging the listener with shock value, gives us a context to digest these unspeakable acts as difficult as that may still be...

Yes and no.  Again, my problem stems from the host and the writing.  It delves into the details of disturbing crimes, but there's always some narration about "pure evil" or something like that.  (I'm thinking in particular about episode 15).  It's a very awkward mix of detailed reporting and sensationalism.  I'm not trying to justify these horrible crimes, but I just wish the host was less, well, excited about outing these "monsters."   

How does it compare to Serial?

It's very different and not nearly as good.  Judging from what I've heard it seems primarily interested in studying horrific crimes.  I haven't encountered anything as twisty and illuminating as Serial so far.  I'm still listening, though. 
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on November 29, 2014, 11:18:08 AM
Hmm Reelist I haven't heard that one. That's disappointing that he didn't give a warning. I guess I would say read the description of the episode before you listen and assume the worst. And maybe skip all of the ones where child victims are involved.

Pedro I can see where you're coming from. But I don't view his editorializing as sensationalism at all. Those interjections seem to function as moments of grounding... He expresses his disgust almost to recenter the listener, to remind you that you live in a world of real human values, and to prevent you from falling under the spell of whatever psychopath is speaking. That's how it works for me I guess.

Some episodes are in fact more about deep dives into convoluted mysteries, but yeah, overall it's not like Serial.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on November 29, 2014, 12:35:50 PM
Okay yeah, I'm definitely skipping the ones that involve children. And I don't feel like I'll be missing much, since those are more about the horror of the situation and probably can't offer as much in terms of explanation or illumination anyway.

Once I've listened to more episodes, I should make a list of the lighter & less disturbing ones. The one I'm listening to now is a good example, Episode 8, about the theater texting shooter. Tons of editorializing in this one, but it's easy to agree with him.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on November 30, 2014, 10:59:35 AM
I guess I'm starting this early. I'll fill it out when I'm all caught up, which hopefully won't be soon. There looks to be at least 4 or 5 other listenable ones that I haven't heard.

Relatively Safe & Palatable, Less Disturbing Episodes
In Approximate Order of Excellence

Episode 22 — Listen to this one spoiler-free.
Episode 01 — Schizophrenic Bruce Blackman
Episode 27/28 — Trey Zwicker murder
Episode 30 — H.H. Holmes
Episode 18 — Eric Preimesberger murder
Episode 16 — Lauren Giddings murder
Episode 08 — Movie theater texting shooter
Episode 29 — Bluebeards
Episode 24 — Jennings, Louisiana
Episode 03 — Belle Gunness
Episode 02 — About Psychopaths
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: swordandscale on November 30, 2014, 08:20:37 PM
Don't ever listen to Episode 20.  Ever.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on November 30, 2014, 08:43:13 PM
*faints*
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: polkablues on December 01, 2014, 02:18:34 AM
And now I'm downloading episode 20. Goddamn reverse psychology!
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Reelist on December 01, 2014, 08:15:31 AM
I listened to 25 minutes, if you don't heed Mike's advice it's your own fault
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: 03 on December 01, 2014, 11:15:30 AM
that was mortifying.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Reelist on December 01, 2014, 04:26:59 PM
Come on now, there's nothing in that episode we haven't talked about in our PM's  :wink:
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: matt35mm on December 04, 2014, 05:16:15 PM
I dunno what it says about me that my response for most of EP. 20 was sort of a bemused "Huh, people are weird." I think it was that the computer voices gave me some distance from what they were talking about.

However, the bemusement definitely faded toward the end when the pictures that were found were described. And the reminders that this dude spent a lot of time with children, inviting them into his house and driving them around.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: ©brad on December 04, 2014, 08:41:04 PM
I'm still torn on this. I've listened to a handful of episodes and they're all consistently riveting and well-produced. I especially love his use of music. There are times when I think the show would benefit from tighter editing. A few of the clips, phone calls and interviews tend to drag on and on.

But I still question the overall intent. If the idea is "bad guys are all around us" well okay, sure. I'm interested in what you guys think the point of this show is, beyond satisfying our seemingly insatiable thirst for true crime and serial killer stories. Some episodes are so gratuitous they're almost snuff films in podcast form.

Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on December 06, 2014, 11:51:29 AM
I'm still torn on this. I've listened to a handful of episodes and they're all consistently riveting and well-produced. I especially love his use of music. There are times when I think the show would benefit from tighter editing. A few of the clips, phone calls and interviews tend to drag on and on.

But I still question the overall intent. If the idea is "bad guys are all around us" well okay, sure. I'm interested in what you guys think the point of this show is, beyond satisfying our seemingly insatiable thirst for true crime and serial killer stories. Some episodes are so gratuitous they're almost snuff films in podcast form.

I know what you're getting at. There are a few moments where I think he goes a bit too far, where he sinks into the depravity of the stories maybe a little too much, where I can see someone viewing it as a kind of enthusiasm. But I absolutely believe that the intent is to elicit horror. And to inspire disgust in the face of evil.

Perhaps we don't always need that extra push, but it's there for those who might. As I said before: Mike's voice is there to recenter the listener, to remind you that you live in moral universe. The way he tells these stories (with shocking detail and an editorial voice), in direct contrast to some other mediums, seems to completely disallow any sort of enchantment with violence and death. He skips right past that and goes right for horror and disgust. I think it works.

That largely seems to be the intent of this project. But you can also tell that he's grappling with causes. There's extensive coverage of schizophrenia, psychopathy, and mental illness in general. He also covers how problematic our solutions can be; there's a whole episode about the insanity of the prison system, and one about lethal injection. I think Mike is inspired by genuine moral outrage, about those things, and particularly about murderers who seem to have gotten away with it.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on January 04, 2015, 06:28:31 PM
New episode today. There is audio of a murder at the end, specifically of the victim suffering, which is horrifying and goes on way too long. I had to turn it down, so I didn't even hear all of it. Let's just say there was moaning and gurgling. I would probably be scarred for a while had I kept listening. I honestly don't think I can recommend this podcast anymore, unless he stops with this kind of thing.

It's a shame, because the rest of the episode was absolutely great and fascinating. (If you want, you can safely listen and just turn it off when he mentions a video being posted on Facebook, which is after the discussion of 2 Girls 1 Cup.)
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Garam on January 07, 2015, 09:31:18 AM
Yes and no.  Again, my problem stems from the host and the writing.  It delves into the details of disturbing crimes, but there's always some narration about "pure evil" or something like that.  (I'm thinking in particular about episode 15).  It's a very awkward mix of detailed reporting and sensationalism.  I'm not trying to justify these horrible crimes, but I just wish the host was less, well, excited about outing these "monsters."   

I just listened to episode 15 and I couldn't agree more. I found it kind of appalling honestly. He has a very unpleasant, moralistic, simplified look on things where these murderers are 'monsters' committing acts of 'pure evil', like they crawled out of some netherworld, and all we can do is lock ourselves up to avoid them, or call them scum. No, i'm not defending the awful crimes, but to understand and prevent these things from happening, you have to attempt to empathise with the person who committed them. Immorality is not born in a vacuum, these stories are so frightening (and fascinating) not because they are monsters, but because they are human beings and we wonder whether if circumstances had been different for us, could we be capable of the same acts?

But no, he wants to berate a police interrogator for being too kind to this monster, apparently.

 At one point the murderer mentions something about not going to Thanksgiving dinner because he feels anxious around large crowds, and the twat of a host interjects with '...classic loner psychopath.' No, that's classic agoraphobia, which is not synonymous with psychopathy. Remotely. I swear this guy is one step away from classifying introversion as a classic psychopathic trait. It's irresponsible and mean-spirited to blur the lines between mental illness/eccentricity and being a murderer. Who is this guy? Does he have a degree in criminal psychology? At another point he ...basically mocks the murderer because he lives alone with his mother, again, as if this act in itself is deplorable or suspicious. That's not unusual! In fact it's a kind of commendable societal norm for anyone below a certain economic position but he still finds a way to turn it into some sort of telltale sign of EVILLLLLLLLL like it's a 666 birthmark or something.

I don't know. There's stuff to like in there for sure, the raw material is fascinating. But the way it's presented just kind of sickens me. It's tapping into that kind of insular American culture of fear, that you should be suspicious of the man with a stutter next to you on the bus cause he might stab your dog. Associating any mental illness with these terrible crimes so breezily isn't just fucking lazy and stupid, it's socially irresponsible. It perpetuates and exacerbates the problem.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: pete on January 11, 2015, 12:40:28 AM
I've never heard of this show but I bet Garam's take is spot-on.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on January 11, 2015, 11:35:08 AM
Those particular interjections from Episode 15 did bother me, for the exact reasons Garam describes... I think I was so enthralled and disturbed by the meat of the content that I chose to ignore them.

This goes to the thing he says at the top of each episode: "Sword and Scale... the show that proves that the worst monsters are real." Once Mike has decided that one of the killers is an irredeemable monster, the worst of the worst, he likes to freely express his disgust. I still think this is (mostly) true:

Those interjections seem to function as moments of grounding... He expresses his disgust almost to recenter the listener, to remind you that you live in a world of real human values, and to prevent you from falling under the spell of whatever psychopath is speaking. That's how it works for me I guess.
There are a few moments where I think he goes a bit too far, where he sinks into the depravity of the stories maybe a little too much, where I can see someone viewing it as a kind of enthusiasm . . . The way he tells these stories (with shocking detail and an editorial voice), in direct contrast to some other mediums, seems to completely disallow any sort of enchantment with violence and death. He skips right past that and goes right for horror and disgust.

It's strange. I do think Mike's editorializing prevents the listener from getting too fascinated with death, channeling all of that into horror and disgust. But at certain points, it goes past that and circles back around to an unhealthy and sensationalistic fascination with death.

Garam, in the most recent episode, he does suggest that the abuse Luka Magnotta suffered as a child could be what messed him up. So there is some of that... perhaps not enough. He does seem to believe that once one has become a murderous monster, there's no coming back from that. The apparent lack of remorse in his subjects seems to support that, but maybe it is too simplified.

I take the moralizing and editorializing in stride. What really bothers me about the podcast, and what leads me to not recommend it, is the sensationalism. There is an undercurrent of fearmongering that I am not okay with, and which became more apparent once I got caught up on most of the episodes. In one episode he muses on the randomness of who ends up being a murderer and asks (in a spooky voice) if your neighbor could be one of them. I don't think I've ever rolled my eyes harder.

And there are two or three moments of totally unnecessary gratuity that are there only to shock — the most unredeemable one, as I described, from the end of the last episode.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on January 12, 2015, 01:57:57 PM
Hmm, well, after all my recent complaining about this show here and in the shoutbox... this latest episode is probably one of the best ever. Don't get me wrong, it's a very disturbing and very sad episode, but it's controlled and surprisingly humane. I have to assume that Mike has taken a lot of the negative feedback from his last episode to heart.

It's the part 2 to last week's part 1. There is no audio of murder in this one, thank God. Luka Magnotta posted a snuff film online, and we hear audio from "reaction videos" where idiots who've chosen to watch this thing describe what they're seeing and express their horror. The only thing audible from the original recording is the new wave song that Luka ironically provided for its soundtrack. This is all quite disturbing and affecting, but nothing like actually hearing a murder victim suffering.

It's a shame, without that clip at the end of the previous episode, this 2-parter would probably be the best thing Sword and Scale has ever produced.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on January 16, 2015, 12:03:39 AM
Some extra Luka Magnotta trivia...

The song that I assumed Luka used just for ironic effect:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzeNAUOp17c


Was actually featured in American Psycho:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hogo30JoDYw


Also, apparently he took the name Magnotta from a video game about a serial killer. In the game, Detective Magnotta is one of the potential killers, depending on which path the player chooses. Pretty crazy that he chose that name so far in advance of the actual murder(s). (source (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/1990s-video-game-ripper-bears-eerie-similarities-luka-magnotta-cannibal-case-article-1.1092432))
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on July 06, 2015, 03:33:07 PM
The latest episode (#49) about Dee Dee and Gypsy Blancharde is endlessly fascinating. And not gruesome. Highly recommended. This is also a current news story. I would elaborate, but there are some things I don't want to spoil.

http://swordandscale.com/sword-and-scale-episode-49/
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on May 24, 2016, 06:00:48 PM
If you've ever wanted to know exactly how abuse perpetuates from one generation to the next, the latest S&S tells of one very clear example:

http://swordandscale.com/sword-and-scale-episode-67
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: ©brad on May 25, 2016, 01:06:06 PM
The last couple of episodes of this show made me sick to my stomach, but I'll give it one more college try.
Title: Re: Sword and Scale (Podcast)
Post by: Jeremy Blackman on May 25, 2016, 01:29:57 PM
Oh, it definitely still does that. And I haven't been listening to it much.