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"A and not-A are mutually exclusive. That’s negation."
July 2, 2014 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to Night Vale: where even “not” isn’t what it seems. All Things Linguistic considers how MeFi favorite Welcome to Night Vale  (previously) achieves its humor through violating certain deeply-held beliefs.
posted by Lexica (52 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
And it's got nothing to do with the B-3 bomber.
posted by RogerB at 2:06 PM on July 2


I read this earlier and loved it. It's another great article from Toast contributor, Gretchen McCulloch -- you know, the linguist?
posted by boo_radley at 2:08 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


WTNV and linguistics in one post. I swoon.

All Things Linguistic looks like a splendid blog, cheers! Could the Toast and its contributors please take a break from being so good, though, please? I have stuff to do.
posted by daisyk at 2:24 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


WTNV definitely does not do this all the time.

I like how sometimes the negation is in the official statements Cecil reads, and sometimes it's in his attempts to pass messages to listeners that he doesn't want certain people who are definitely not oppressors and definitely should not be overthrown to pick up on.

And then there's the mountain denialism, the "not angels" and so on...
posted by Foosnark at 2:24 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of "Can neither confirm nor deny..."
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:26 PM on July 2


I swear Night Vale leaked a bit into reality when I recently heard the local NPR affiliate talking about the weather. "Today: hot. Tomorrow: hotter." And it was said with Cecil's inflections. Given that I'm in a desert climate, and I'm pretty sure I saw some ocean-related street name on a recent tour of this state, I was worried I'd inadvertently take a wrong turn and end up in Radon Canyon. Who knows, it might not be too far from Radium Springs.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:31 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


And can we talk about how amazing the WTNV live episodes were?
posted by boo_radley at 2:31 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


The examples in the post sound to me like ones in which the maxim of quantity is being flouted, not the maxim of relevance. (But I think that there are serious disputes about the type and number of Gricean maxims that exist. Some people think that there is only the maxim of relevance.)

And can we talk about how amazing the WTNV live episodes were?

On the contrary, I very much disliked them. They're easily my least favorite episodes. I think they would have been a lot of fun to attend. It was less fun to listen to them and have the flow of the story interrupted by hooting and cheering. And they were fourth-wall-breaking in a way that I didn't like. I really hope they don't push any more of the live shows to the podcast.
posted by painquale at 2:38 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


Huh, I had the opposite experience with the live episodes. I hated how everything had to stop for the faintly-heard audience to stop screaming, and how they were obviously reacting to things on stage that I couldn't see. It was probably a lot of fun to be there, but it didn't translate to podcast for me.
posted by echo target at 2:38 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


They where very fun to attend.
posted by The Whelk at 2:40 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


This is great. Reminds me of Cecil's amazing "I am not a good salesman" refrain from Cookies.

(Also, while I'm sure they're a total blast in person, I agree that the live shows do not translate well into recorded episodes. The sound quality's not great, and it's a bit obnoxious to hear the audience squeeing and stepping all over the lines when you can't even see what they're reacting to. Maybe they'd be better as youtube videos.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:42 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I especially didn't like that the live episode was the finale to the StrexCorp and mayoral election arcs! I think it might have been less grating if it were a monstrous-phenomenon-of-the-week episode. The revolution could have been so cool if the audience atmosphere didn't ruin it.
posted by painquale at 2:48 PM on July 2


I actually disliked the live ones so much I stopped listening partway through the first one. Anyone want to spoil the second one for me?
posted by echo target at 2:52 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


echo target: "I actually disliked the live ones so much I stopped listening partway through the first one. Anyone want to spoil the second one for me?"

rivers of blood, years of darkness.
posted by boo_radley at 2:52 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


painquale: "I really hope they don't push any more of the live shows to the podcast."

See, I thought of them as Weird Prarie Home Companion episodes.
posted by boo_radley at 2:54 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I actually disliked the live ones so much I stopped listening partway through the first one. Anyone want to spoil the second one for me?

The librarian made it home.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:00 PM on July 2


The Night Vale people have been following me on twitter and likewise for years, I've been aware of the show since it was first aired, and I've still never listened to a single episode. What can I say, I'm not much of a podcast person. Where does one even start if you wanted to dig in? From the beginning?
posted by naju at 3:02 PM on July 2


I'm looking forward to seeing the current tour later this month, but I agree, listening to the live shows in podcast form is underwhelming.

In the absence of a fanfare though, and we use this thread as a "so that's how the election ended" discussion zone? Because I would like that.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:02 PM on July 2


I find the way WTNV does this is rather in artful. Too often a negation is pounded and pounded well past the point of diminishing returns as if to say to even the least ept listener: see what I did here?

I'm also with everyone who is rather annoyed by the live two parter. The quality of Cecil's voice and the way that everything is filtered through his well meaning but not very bright viewpoint, locked in a soundproof room are essential to the way that the story is told.
posted by wotsac at 3:10 PM on July 2 [4 favorites]


The Night Vale people have been following me on twitter and likewise for years, I've been aware of the show since it was first aired, and I've still never listened to a single episode. What can I say, I'm not much of a podcast person. Where does one even start if you wanted to dig in? From the beginning?

There's not THAT much of it to catch up on -- ~50ish episodes, most of which are in the 20-25 minute range. Do what I did -- start at the beginning and listen to two or three at a time. The show definitely evolves over time and there are lots of callbacks.

Alternatively, stand in your bathtub and weep until it is all gone. Nothing left. You can let go now. Let go. Shhhh. Let go.
posted by delfin at 3:16 PM on July 2 [11 favorites]


How have I managed to miss this? I'm listening to the first episode and love it. Kinda reminds me of "Dead Like Me" in its bland acceptance of the weird.

I don't know how it will hold up for 50 episodes but I have high hopes. Thanks for posting, Lexica.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:42 PM on July 2


The live podcasts don't work for me either, but the live shows in person are great fun. Totally recommended, if you have the chance to go.

And now I'm running away from this thread until tomorrow because I haven't listened to the new episode yet. But this looks like a fun link and I will be back to check it out more thoroughly once I'm caught up. Thanks, Lexica!
posted by Stacey at 3:45 PM on July 2


There is also that weirdness where the entire audience coos when Carlos comes on stage.
posted by The Whelk at 3:46 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Oh, and Firesign Theater too. It also reminds me of Firesign Theater.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:51 PM on July 2


And can we talk about how amazing the WTNV live episodes were?

Oh my god, RIGHT?! I can imagine that audience and being amongst them so vividly as to experience none of the "breaking the 4th wall" issues mentioned by some upthread.
I'm still kicking myself for not going to the one in Portland back in January.
But Portland does not and never has existed so, I guess it's ok.

I've discovered that an unfortunate consequence of cyber stalking The Whelk is being reminded, on like 3 different sources of media, that WTNV live a thing I really should have experienced.
posted by The Legit Republic of Blanketsburg at 3:52 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I have yet to listen to one episode, mostly because my ADHD makes me podcast averse. I did download the first ten and I have good intentions. Seriously.

Somewhere on the Blue it was mentioned that the first season was superior but based on the dates on iTunes I have no idea when the second season begins. Can someone enlighten this noob?
posted by Ber at 4:21 PM on July 2


I like the live shows. I am annoyed when the live shows are podcast, because it doesn't work well. Luckily I saw the 2nd anniversary podcast live, so I don't need to listen to it as a podcast. Even though the people there are huge fucking assholes who don't understand the difference between "music concert" and "live theatre" shut UP when they are talking.

Ahem. The one in Montreal was full of much better behaved people.

Anyone want to spoil the second one for me?

YES HERE BE SPOILERS SPOILERS.

Intern Dana comes back, is "elected" mayor; Carlos gets stuck outside of Night Vale for weird reasons but intends to try to come back; Strex Corp is gone thanks Tamika.

END SPOILERS.
posted by jeather at 4:29 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


The only problem with the NYC live show was me and my date outstripping everyone else in the clothes department. Seriously people you're at a theatre at night in Midtown Manhattan, put on a damn tie.

I have finally gotten over them not buying the script me and Shakesperian wrote, no really, I am.
posted by The Whelk at 4:38 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


The only problem with the NYC live show

Then your seat was nowhere near mine because you would have had other problems.
posted by jeather at 4:41 PM on July 2


I was at the second show and people don't really talk? I was like, two rows from the stage tho.
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on July 2


Somewhere on the Blue it was mentioned that the first season was superior but based on the dates on iTunes I have no idea when the second season begins. Can someone enlighten this noob?

The climax to the first major story arc is in Episode 25.
posted by delfin at 5:02 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


We were at the same show! I was not much further back but the person directly in front of me kept shrieking while the actors were talking -- not just when actors came on stage. Literally shrieking for absolutely no reason (but she only did it during the show, not before or during the music part, so I don't think it was something she couldn't help). I couldn't hear half the time because either she was screaming or my ears were ringing.
posted by jeather at 5:02 PM on July 2


Oh god my condolences.
posted by The Whelk at 5:03 PM on July 2


She came with someone who seemed to be a friend and not, like, the trained assassin she deserved.

Not that I am bitter that I wasted a night not-hearing this show instead of going to a different one that I could have heard and not sat there all resentful the whole time.
posted by jeather at 5:07 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Anyways, Gricean maxims are cool. So is Intern Dana.
posted by jeather at 5:07 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Hey, I sat next to Joseph Fink's mom, and she was wearing a t-shirt.

Also, I sat to Dylan Marron's dad.
posted by leviathan3k at 5:20 PM on July 2


I keep reminding myself that this does all have to be funded somehow and that's the reason for it--but I don't mind the audio recordings of the live shows at all, I mind that the rest of us had to wait forever to find out what a select few already knew. Not that it was vital info, but what it turns into is, well, this. Some fans get to have the discussion about this special experience of the show that they got to have, and some fans did not have the funds or the geographic location to have access to that.

I'm trying not to hold it against them or against anybody else, it's more a question of just feeling like this isn't really in the spirit of things, for some people to be more special than other people, instead of the usual reassurance that we are all broken in unique and equally valuable ways.
posted by Sequence at 5:20 PM on July 2


The librarian made it home.

Don't fuck with librarians.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:37 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I did love the part when they loaded up slingshots full of copies of The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People.
posted by The Whelk at 5:49 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


I too found the live-show format of the last couple of episodes problematic. I have attended a live show and really enjoyed it, I've even bought recordings of live shows (Condos and The Debate) on Bandcamp and enjoyed those--but those were all sort of tangential to the main storyline.

Having the climax of the second-year story arc in live format, on the other hand, bugged me a lot because it felt like a much more significant rupture of the fourth wall and strained my suspension-of-disbelief muscles. I really hope they choose to re-record those episodes in the studio with something more like their usual production values. What's the most effective way to express this opinion to the people who make the decisions? Tweet at them?
posted by fermion at 5:58 PM on July 2 [7 favorites]


(oh and I put the script for the Night Vale episode me and Shakesperian wrote here, we got pretty far along on the development path with the producers before it was killed. Boooo.)
posted by The Whelk at 5:59 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I fell out of it for awhile and then got caught up on the most recents while driving back home from vacation. The revolution storyline was really good. I'll spare the spoilers, but the defeat in Cecil's voice was quite touching. And then came the new show.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:01 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


huh, I'm rapidly approaching the strexcorp and mayor plot conclusions. Did they do a real podcast recording for the finale, or do I have to sit through a live show?
posted by rebent at 7:09 PM on July 2


The "season finale" of the Strexcorp arc currently consists of a live show divided into 2 episodes for the podcast. So yeah, it must be endured.

I enjoyed the ending though, so I think it was worth it.

What exactly is a Synernist anyways?
posted by sparklemotion at 7:39 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I actually completely lost interest in the show once the on-going story lines started to become the focus of the show. I'm not actually very invested in Cecil as a character, and preferred the show when it was a bunch of barely related surrealistic anecdotes. I think the Sandstorm episode was the last one I really enjoyed -- maybe Summer Reading program. The cassette episode was the last one I listened to all the way through.
posted by empath at 7:49 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


As to the topic of the linked article in the OP, TVTropes calls it a Suspciously Specific Denial.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:36 PM on July 2


If you don't want to listen to the live show, you can read the transcripts for Part A and Part B here. But it's worth listening to the beginning of Part B, as the highlight of the episode is one character doing a series of really spot-on impressions.

Though I'm underwhelmed by the conclusion to the Strex arc, I've really liked Year 2 otherwise. I think, except for a few missteps, the show has generally become more compelling as Cecil brings more emotion into it. ("Parade Day" is masterful and drawing you into the world, imo.) Dispassionate reporter Cecil is fun, but I don't think that could have continued being interesting after 50 episodes. I do think the show could use a break from being so plot-heavy and Cecil-centered, but I don't have a problem with year 2!Cecil otherwise.

Plus, year 2 brought us the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home, and she's easily the best character.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:47 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


Also, year 2 brought us the Kevin & Lauren Passive-Aggressive Morning Talk Radio Show. C'mon. Hilarious.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:53 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


I saw "The Librarian" in St. Louis and it was a fantastically good time. Enhanced somewhat by the crowd's enthusiasm (and cosplay).

I think having seen one live made me more receptive to that format. But...


"Cookies" was strong. "Parade Day" was absolutely my favorite episode and "Company Picnic" was a strong follow-up. But the climax was in those two episodes. "Renovations" and "Old Oak Doors" resolved the various tensions, but it was something of a letdown.

Somehow, the two former mayoral candidates wanting to oust the mayor (and maybe burn Night Vale to the ground) aren't as creepy as the more mysterious villains. I really hope the story hasn't peaked and there will be fresh exciting madness to come.
posted by Foosnark at 6:20 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


I had really mixed feelings about the NYC live show. The crowd's level of enthusiasm was very sweet and the performers were clearly basking in it, but it definitely killed the spooky contemplative mood that one gets when listening to the podcast alone while jogging in the morning. I've had basically no connection to the 'fan' aspects of the show except being vaguely aware they exist, so it was all a bit overwhelming.

There was a moment when I got legitimately nervous about crowd dynamics - it was during Carlos's explanation of how open connections between Nightvale and the other world were causing all kinds of strain. The show up to that point had been uncharacteristically meta enough that I thought this was going to wind up being a reference to the fact that we the audience could hear Cecil's broadcasts, and I started getting worried that they were building up to an ending for the show itself - that this was going to become the story of how they had to disable the podcast audience's ability to hear Cecil's broadcasts.

Anyway. That's not where they were going with that, which was good. They'll have to end the show sometime but if they had done it that way at that time there would have been a terrifying riot on 43rd Street.

The other funny thing was that as we left the show (we were at the early one) and walked a few blocks downtown we passed a huge crowd in Bryant Park watching the Rangers game - it was the NHL championships. It really underlined how apt a term "fandom" is - here was a totally different tribe with costumes and painted faces yelling and screaming for the entity they were rooting for, but the vibe was very very similar.
posted by yarrow at 7:41 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Even though the people there are huge fucking assholes who don't understand the difference between "music concert" and "live theatre" shut UP when they are talking.

I had to shush the bartenders at the show in Philly, was kind of annoying. They apologized and stayed quiet after so no big deal. Awesome show though. I do enjoy listening to the live shows as well, have paid for the ones they released and enjoyed the last two episodes. It's definitely a change of pace from the normal shows, but they can do some pretty fun stuff when they have the audience to work with. Down with Strex!
posted by Drinky Die at 4:38 PM on July 3


I probably would have enjoyed listening to the live shows if it was 100% fan service instead of it being accidentally about 50% live service 50% important story points that I really wanted to focus on.

Being a screaming teenager is cool if they're just doing cheap gags. Its really annoying if its breaking up the rhythm and mood of the show. Those parts along with the linguistic considerations mentioned in TFA really make the show. Oh well, nothing's perfect.
posted by lownote at 5:52 PM on July 3


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