2016 Movie Reviews: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

20.Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Watched on August 21, 2016

Buy it on iTunes in HD with Special Features 

The primary reason John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" is so successful is because his team does wonderful video production and it translates perfectly to YouTube and social media. The second reason they're successful however is because they have discovered a way to give us news, of terrible, tragic or alarming events and issues, while making us laugh the entire time. They don't trivialize or sugarcoat the facts they're imparting, we're all smarter when we finish watching them. And yet we're also left positively uplifted and entertained. Motivated to make change perhaps, but not angry or depressed.

Tina Fey and the team behind Whiskey Tango Foxtrot were able to take the War on Terror (or at least a certain sliver of it) and do much the same thing.

This real-life tale is harrowing and heartwarming and heartbreaking, all in equal measure. But it's also laugh out loud funny. That is supposedly true about the book from the real life Kim Baker that this film is based on as well. It's absolutely on my list, and if you're reader, feel free to add it to yours as well. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/whiskey-tango-foxtrot-taliban/id1076152807?mt=11&uo=4&at=1000lqR

An amazing cast makes this one of the rare instances where I don't mind at all finding the movie before the book, and if you're not an avid reader may be a case where you're not missing much at all by sticking with just the film.

This movie gave me a glimpse into the lives and issues facing those in and around the war in Afghanistan, while entertaining me too. I really couldn't have asked more from a two hour film.

2016 Movie Reviews: Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition

19. Batman v Superman (Ultimate Edition)

Watched August 10, 2016

Buy it in HD on iTunes with Special Features 

I remember going to see the 1989 Batman film like it was yesterday. Michael Keaton and Tim Burton changed my life that day. I had always (and still do) lean toward the Marvel side of the comics aisle, but this film opened my eyes to the amazing potential of Bruce Wayne and the world he inhabits.

I've basically dreamed of a Batman and Superman movie since then. It never made sense to me why they couldn't make it work since for all of modern history, the rights to both characters have been firmly under the Warner Brothers banner. The Avengers wasn't something I actually had daydreams about seeing on screen because I didn't think it would ever happen. This team up though was genuinely possible.

When I saw the first trailer for Snyder's film, I was anticipating disappointment. I had hated Man of Steel (or at least that's what it had settled into in my memory), and basically everything that had leaked as rumor from the set or script made me think they were even further off the rails than I thought MOS was. But then I saw Batman in that metal suit.

Zach Snyder has always been able to craft an amazing image, it is his calling card as a director, but his propensity for shortchanging character development in favor of those "hero shots" leaves this historical film cold and sad. No movie that features Batman, Superman AND THE FIRST MODERN CINEMATIC TAKE ON WONDER WOMAN should leave you cold and sad. But boy howdy this one does.

Luthor is an insane person, not the megalomaniacal super-genius he would need to be to have out planned Bruce Wayne and outgunned Superman. Doomsday was completely unnecessary, unless you're a lazy writer who can't think of anyway to unite your heroes other than immediately making them face a mindless rage monster.

Even then, the few moments of direct page-to-screen adaptation might make this a film I at least am glad to have seen, but those were even ruined by the conclusion of the titular fight being based on a coincidence which apparently caught Snyder's attention in his cursory glance at the source material. Ugh.

I'd waited to see this one on video once I could get the "ultimate edition" knowing that Snyder had gotten to put back in some extra character moments and the plot was supposedly much more coherent in the longer take. If so, then the theatrical must have seemed like some sort of Absurdist art film, this movie takes three hours to go nowhere with people you don't like and do things that are only barely worth watching, let alone discussing afterward. Please, please be better, Justice League.

What I Listened to Last Week: Week ending August 21st, 2016.

A new blog series, highlighting 5 great podcast episodes that I listened to last week. Hat tip for the idea to Chad Brooks of The Productive Pastor.

I use Overcast links which will allow you to play the episode in any good browser and have iTunes subscription links below each highlighted episode.

Week ending August 21st, 2016.

Free Agents: Free Agents 2: Booked Up With Myself

Maybe my new favorite show. From Relay.fm and featuring two gentlemen who took their writing and podcasting independent a couple years ago. Very helpful since I am (as the show says in the opening) an independent worker in the digital age myself. Subscribe in iTunes here.

The Incomparable - Star Wars: The Incomparable 313: The Ziggurats of Yavin IV

The Incomparable is another product of Jason Snell's (featured in the Free Agents podcast mentioned above) but this episode doesn't feature him (or the Star Wars aficionado, John Siracusa, either. It does, however, feature a lively band of international rebels brought together to discuss ad nauseum the latest trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This movie literally can't get here fast enough for me. It IS my Christmas present! If you're like me, The Incomparable may be too much to listen to every week, but it's a great show to drop in and out of as the topics intrigue you. This one was right up my alley. Subscribe in iTunes here

Always Listening: Podcast Reviews: Always Listening to Being Honest with My Ex (Patreon Review Special)

Shameless self promotion here! This week we released our first Patreon-backed episode of Always Listening. It's a new experiment for us, if you join our Patreon campaign at the $27 level or above, you get to "name a review" including your own show. That's exactly what Peter C. Hayward did here with Being Honest with My Ex. I've already gotten great feedback on it, so I know our listeners are enjoying it, but I'd love to know what you think about this experiment too. Subscribe in iTunes here.

 Science Vs - New Season: Guns

This is Gimlet media's newest show, and while I'm a couple of weeks behind on it, it's well worth their name brand being attached. This is an imported show (even closer to its original form than Reply All and TLDR), and you can see why they wanted to grab it and it's host. This episode (and it's part two sister) in particular is amazing no matter what side of the guns debate you come down on. Subscribe in iTunes here.

Podcast Fiend: PF-17: Alternative Ways to Make Money Podcasting with Joel Sharpton

Jeff Perry is (as the title suggests) a Podcast Fiend. This week, he featured a certain lovable podcaster/audiobook narrator/blogger/father of four on his podcast, and I'd be remiss if I didn't let you fine folks know about it. Since it's so rare that I get to be on a podcast I don't actually edit myself, I really love to listen to the interviews I do and how the conversation actually flowed. This one was a lot of fun, and features inside baseball talk about my podcasting history as well as some chat about how I got into audiobooks. Subscribe in iTunes here.

What I Listened to Last Week: August 7th, 2016

A new blog series, highlighting 5 great podcast episodes that I listened to last week. Hat tip for the idea to Chad Brooks of The Productive Pastor.

I use Overcast links which will allow you to play the episode in any good browser and have iTunes subscription links below each highlighted episode.


Week ending August 7th, 2016.

Fugitive Waves with The Kitchen Sisters: 50 – An Unexpected Kitchen: The George Foreman Grill

Meeting Nikki Silva a year ago at Podcast Movement was one of the highlights of my life. The Kitchen Sisters are not only radio and podcast pioneers, they're beautiful artists who live their art as much as produce it. That last part sort of describes George Foreman too. This episode focuses on his (in)famous grill. Subscribe in iTunes here.


Raw & Real with CJ and Ray: Ra-mona

My good friend, Ramona Rice visited with CJ about the loss of her husband, her new job(s) and the story behind her latest podcast. Great listen. Subscribe in iTunes here.

Polygon's Quality Control: Batman: The Telltale Series

Great videogame critique series. This episode focuses on the latest game from Telltale, the storytelling creators famous for their Walking Dead games. Subscribe in iTunes here.

Plumbing the Death Star: What Did We Think of Suicide Squad?

You know my love of Australian podcasts by now. These folks help me stay current with pop culture while avoiding sooooo many terrible movies. Thus one is one I was really looking forward to but the reviews turned me off it. Now that I've listened to this, I don't have to see it until I can suffer in peace at home. Subscribe in iTunes here.

The Messengers A Podcast Documentary: The Idea - The Movie - The Crew

Some wonderful podcasters are behind this project. And while I haven't been that clued in thus far, thanks to this show, I'm catching up quickly! Subscribe in iTunes here.

What I Listened To Last Week: July 31st, 2016


A new blog series, highlighting 5 great podcast episodes that I listened to last week. Hat tip for the idea to Chad Brooks of The Productive Pastor.

I use Overcast links which will allow you to play the episode in any good browser and have iTunes subscription links below each highlighted episode.

Week ending July 31st, 2016.

Alice Isn't Dead: 1: Omelet

As requested by one of our Patreon supporters, I finally started listening to the new jam from the Welcome to Nightvale crew. Our review will be out in August, so why don't you check it out too, and we'll compare notes later! Subscribe in iTunes here.

Fat Man on Batman: 134: BvS Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition

Make mine Marvel. There, I said it. I LOVE the Marvel studios films, and admit to having been disappointed in Man of Steel. So much so that I stayed out of this one in the theatre altogether. On home video, finally got a chance to see the "Ultimate Edition" so now I can hear the Fatmen take it apart (or tell me why it's awesome). Subscribe in iTunes here.

Keepin' it 1600: 21: DNC Midweek Check-in With Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer

So far, this is my favorite thing that's come out of The Ringer, Bill Simmons new podcast/blog empire. I enjoy the HBO show and it's a work in progress. This political podcast with two former Obama staffers is a great inside look for political junkies. This episode discusses the first day of the DNC. Subscribe in iTunes here.

WTF with Marc Maron Podcast: 726 - Chuck Klosterman

I love Marc, but don't listen to every episode. This one was a must. Chuck Klosterman is one of my favorite authors. This is a great conversation too. Subscribe in iTunes.

ReLaunch - 500 Relationship Success after Divorce - Joel Sharpton

Not only does the host of this show have a great name, he's a great guy to boot. I met Joel Boggess at this year's Podcast Movement in Chicago. He and I both spoke at PMx. Turns out, we have a lot in common. We also had a great chat for what turned out to be his 500th episode. Hear me talk about my remarriage and relaunch as an audiobook narrator. Subscribe in iTunes here.

What I Listened to Last Week: Week ending July 24th, 2016

A new blog series, highlighting 5 great podcast episodes that I listened to last week. Hat tip for the idea to Chad Brooks of The Productive Pastor.

I use Overcast links which will allow you to play the episode in any good browser and have iTunes subscription links below each highlighted episode.

Week ending July 24th, 2016

Being Honest With My Ex: 1: Introducing My Ex

A perfect example of the kind of thing that can only happen in the Podcasting world. Two Austrailan ex's cohost a weekly chat about the lives and love. Interesting, open often hilarious conversation between former fiancée's. Subscribe in iTunes here.

AlphaBeatical - And I Love Her

The only music podcast I listen to regularly, these buddies discuss each and every Beatles song alphabetically, of course! I'm working my way through the catalog and here's where I was last week.  Subscribe in iTunes here.

My Brother, My Brother And Me: 313: Bone Dry Feeners

The brothers spent a long time talking about a gritty reboot of Canadian children's TV program, Today's Special. Yes. This is the best episode of MBMBaM ever!!!! Subscribe in iTunes here.

You Must Remember This - The Blacklist part 16

A brilliant show that always surprises me with some piece of trivia about Old Hollywood. The Blacklist series has been especially wonderful and this one was no exception. Subscribe on iTunes here.

Beyond Bourbon Street - The History of the Streetcar

Mark Balogna is a friend (and full disclosure a client, I did the intros for this show), but he's also a great Podcaster. This is my regular dip into the amazing city I've loved my whole life but only lived in for a few short years. This episode in particular is a highlight as he shares the history of the streetcar! Subscribe in iTunes here.

2016 Movie Reviews: Man of Steel

Buy it now in HD with special features on iTunes. 

18. Man of Steel    

Watched on July 22nd, 2016

I was so disappointed by this movie when it launched that I didn't bother watching Batman v Superman in the theatre, or even when it first launched on digital video. Once the "ultimate edition" finally came out I thought I should revisit this one to give the story the most fair chance of hitting home.

It's weird the things that stick out on a second viewing (or in this case third total). This time I noticed Clark saving a lot more people than I ever gave him credit for in my initial viewing. I enjoyed the initial parts of Zod's performance and especially enjoyed the human characters roles in helping Clark along the course of the film (Lois on the ship with Jor-El, the Colonel and Richard Schiff in destroying the World Engine. There's still almost an hour too much of pure punching at the end, and I'm still bothered by introducing a Superman who kills in his first public outing. But the themes and the visuals of this film are hard to argue with. Several good performances (including Cavill’s who I overlooked originally) buoy a script that’s a little leaden in the dialogue department and Kevin Costner infuriates in the ways that his character deviates from traditional “Pa Kent” but also thrills in the quality of his performance and the genuineness of his parental directions for Clark.

It’s a frustrating movie, that I can’t wait to see Warner Bros. continue to try to redeem. As I said, I have not seen Batman v Superman yet (it’s next!) but I HAVE seen the trailers for Justice League, and I AM IN for more of this universe, ham-handed stumbling first entries and all.




2016 Movie Reviews: The Big Lebowski

Buy it in HD with Special Features in iTunes now.

17. The Big Lebowski

Watched on July 19, 2016

There are some movies that are just perfect. This is one of them. I understand how and why it’s not really for everyone. It’s weird. Out of chronological order at times, full of dream and drug-induced sequences and long lingering musical interludes.

It’s a tone poem from the Coens as much as a straightforward narrative. A meditation on a time and a place. “The Dude” is based on a real figure, both infuriating and entertaining as his fictional counterpart. Jeff Bridges gives his most endearing performance here, the ultimate lovable loser.

There is so little of this movie that I wouldn't claim as one of my favorite parts, I hesitate to begin to list any specifics but i'll call out a couple of things that stood out to me on this viewing.

Julianne Moore is amazing as Maude, she's sexy and bizarre and a little scary all at the same time. John Goodman is every obnoxious friend that you wouldn't trade for anything. And I bet we've all had one of those.

The set designs were something that I took special note of this time and found them to be as note perfect as any other part of the film.

I did end up trying to watch a piece of the film while my daughter's played in the living room and I was struck for the first time with just HOW MUCH vulgarity and profanity there is in this beautiful little movie. It's filthy. That realization made the Stranger's question to the Dude, "do you have to use so many dang cuss words?" all the funnier.

I've yet to dig into all the extras on this one, but there are some good ones, especially considering that the Coens still don't do directors commentaries.


2016 Movie Reviews: The Matrix Reloaded

Buy it in HD with Special Features in iTunes now.

16. The Matrix Reloaded

Watched July 4th, 2016

How do you follow up a movie that completely changed its genre? It's probably an impossibly high bar for anyone to hurdle, but for the relatively young filmmaking duo of the Wachowskis, who fresh off their unexpected success, were largely given carte blanche, it was evidently too high.

This movie is however more reviled than it deserves. There are many unbelievable sequences and concepts that still hold up years later, in the light of the better spiritual successors and the even worse threequel. But there's more bad than good, less structure or polish than its predecessor and overall little to redeem this reload.

Nixon/Trump or, How 2016 is NOT 1968

I read the text of this yesterday after reading the leaked text of Trump's speech. I've been fascinated by the comparison many have made of this summer to 1968.

That's hyperbole in the worst sense. 100's of cities ended up with riots in 1968 and campuses across the country were overtaken by their students as the populace literally went to war with each other over the war they were fighting abroad.

2016 is not 1968. We've got our problems, but we've come farther and are safer now than anyone in 1968 could have possibly imagined. That doesn't mean the work is finished. But it also makes it hard for me to believe that Richard Nixon, a man shamed out of the office of President, a harsh, calculating, and abrasive man even to those he called ally, Tricky Dick himself talked about "law and order" in 1968 as Trump did last night. But even a half century ago, even from Nixon, those words were surrounded with more sense, more conciliation towards the opposition, more tact and basic human decency (including specifically calling out and dismissing the racist "dog-whistle" connotations of the "law and order" campaign.

Basically, I'm saying this. If you make Nixon look reasonable and tender-hearted, maybe you should never ever get to be President, of your book club, your homeowners association, your company and definitely not the United States of America. God bless us, every one. And may be "bless" Donald's little heart all the way back to reality TV.


What I Listened to Last Week: Week ending July 17, 2016.

A new blog series, highlighting 5 great podcast episodes that I listened to last week. Hat tip for the idea to Chad Brooks of The Productive Pastor.

I use Overcast links which will allow you to play the episode in any good browser and have iTunes subscription links below each highlighted episode.

Week ending July 17th, 2016.


The Weekly Planet: 143 Dumb Movie Futures That Are Wrong

I love Australian podcasters and I love Sci fi futures. This is one of the more perfect episodes of one of the more perfect podcasts in existence. Subscribe in iTunes here.

What's This Tao All About?: Show 10 – The Three Treasures and Chapter 17

Since college when I first read the Tao Te Ching and (more on my level) the Tao Te Pooh, I've considered myself at least a bit of a Taoist.

It may not be for everyone and I know many of my fellow Christians would look ascance at me claiming both, but the Tao is just an ethos for living, and one that for me aligns directly with what I understand of Jesus.

This is the first podcast I've found that captures the calm but inquisitive feeling I get from the Tao. If that sounds like your kind of thing, dig in. Subscribe in iTunes here.

Clockwise: 145: I’ve Always Wanted to Have a French Accent

A great show for people who like tech news but not hours and hours of it. 30 minutes or less, 4 topics, 4 hosts, very well done. And in this episode they talk about Pokémon Go! Subscribe in iTunes here.

The Feed - Post PM16

This one isn't for everyone but if you are a Podcaster whether or not you host with Libsyn this is a "need to listen to" podcast. This week in particular was interesting as I just saw Rob and Elsie at Podcast Movement, and they discuss their experiences at the conference. Subscribe in iTunes.

I am  Salt Lake: #214 - 100 Things to Do in Salt Lake Before You Die

When Kelly and I took our recent cross country road trip, we originally planned to go to Salt Lake City. I searched for a local Podcast to listen to in preparation and this was it. We actually didn't go that way but the show was interesting nonetheless.

I missed meeting the couple behind the show at Podcast Movement, but I've "met" them both online since. Good show about the interesting things people and places in SLC. Subscribe in iTunes here.

2016 Movie Reviews: The Matrix

15. The Matrix

Watched 7/3/16

I came to this so late in the cycle of the film's life. I rented it on VHS and can best sum up my first reaction to it with the following anecdote:

I'm watching it with my sister in my college apartment and get a call from a friend.


Friend: Whatcha doing?

Me: watching a movie. The Matrix.

Friend: Oh, nice! How is it? I've heard good things about it.

Me: It's great so far!

Friend: What's it about?

Me: I've got no clue.

Friend: Oh, you just started it?

Me: Nah, we're like an hour in. I just have no clue what the hell the deal is.


Years later, two less than solid sequels later, millions of imitators later, it still holds up. Other than the supreme focus on hardwired phone lines, the effects, pace and action all hold up with modern blockbuster action movies.

Some choices are still supremely good, like the green hue on all the scenes in the Matrix. A few fall a little flat, but the major players are all great, the plotline is smarter than most major movies and the mythos of the world is only explained enough to be interesting and intriguing. Some of those things are the very reasons the sequels fail.

It's the silly cyberpunk kung fu movie that launched a thousand action scenes. But it's also required watching for action or Sci-fi fans.

Buy it in HD with Special Features in iTunes now.

ACX.com Narration: How Do You Pick The Audiobooks You Read?

How Do You Pick The Audiobooks You Read?

I can’t say enough ‘Thank yous’ to the people who have read and responded to my PMx talk and blog post about how I started narrating Audiobooks with ACX.com

The inspiration for my researching ACX in the first place was Wayne Henderson, from MediaVoiceOvers.com After egging him on a bit about not actually having narrated one yet, he asked this in reply to my post:

Hi Joel. Thanks for sharing the article, and your PMx presentation. I've heard from more than a few podcasters who found it motivating!

Would you mind sharing a bit about how you select the royalty share ACX audiobooks you audition for? There is such a huge collection of titles available. Although it is definitely a good idea to do some research on the prospective book's content, style, targeted audience, and how well the digital version is doing in Amazon, I think I am doing too much of this research. So much so, that I end up with the dreaded "Paralysis by Analysis" syndrome.

Thanks again for everything!


That’s a GREAT question, of course, and when you’re talking about potentially putting in 30 hours of work or more with the only financial gains to be made if and when it sales, then yes, what book you pick is very important.

Here’s the process that I’ve followed so far:

  1. Try to always have a book in production. - The fact is you’re not going to be a great “picker of books” if you were you should stop narrating audiobooks and find yourself a job in publishing. You’re gonna pick some gems, you’re gonna get some stinkers. The point is to in the aggregate build a portfolio of audiobooks that sell consistently over time. This isn’t day-trading, it’s more like mutual funds.
  2. Any book is better than no book. - Especially in the beginning, you’re going to be at the mercy of the publishers/authors, not picking and choosing. Find a book that you’re a good fit for, and can get excited about working on, but when the first offer comes, I’d think twice about passing just because it wasn’t YOUR first choice.
  3. More books are better than fewer books. - This is not necessarily the case when you get Per Finished Hour narration contracts, since the longer the book, the more money coming your way. But for revenue split contracts, narrating two shorter books over the course of a couple of months is likely to net you more sales than narrating one Game of Thrones length tome.
  4. One for them, one for me. - Advice given by Matt Damon to Ben Affleck back in the day works just as well for those of us entering the audiobook world. Just because YOU aren’t a non-fiction reader doesn’t mean your voice wouldn’t work well in that world. Just because you’ve never enjoyed fantasy, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put on your wizard hat and hit the road to adventure in your next audiobook. Again, think Mutual Funds, diversification is the key to ensuring your long term sales growth (as well as improving your chances of getting the NEXT audition)!
  5. One for now, one for later. - Revenue split has more upside, but maybe it’s not what you NEED to be doing NOW. - Personally, I’ve done 6 books in my first year narrating. 4 of those were revenue split and 2 were paid Per Finished Hour. Frankly, I canoften use the extra immediate cash that PFH offers. For me, it’s good to “shop” for those contracts from time to time amongst my revenue split work so that I’m both earning and investing alongside one another. Your personal money situation, current workload and future plans obviously will dictate your own best practices here.

There will always be more overall revenue split opportunities for ACX authors than PFH, simply because there is no barrier to entry for the author! That doesn’t mean that a beginning narrator can’t begin to build a business IN PART on the dollars earned with per finished hour audiobook narration. When in doubt over which way you want to go, or which book to pursue, focus hardest on rules #1 and #2.


2016 Movie Reviews: Commando

14. Commando

Watched June 20, 2016

I am, in so many ways, a child of the 80s. To me, this is the quintessential action movie of the 80s. It boiled the whole thing down to its essential core, then spiced everything up to level 11.

Die Hard, Predator, Terminator and Commando.  They didn't make comic book superhero movies very often when I was a kid, they made action hero movies. They had super powers, just no secret origins.

Kelly asked me how I square my anti-gun stance with my love of these violent action movies. For me, these are the logical conclusion of the gun-loving culture I was raised in, the complete "good-guy-with-a-gun" story in it's most pure form. They're wish fulfillment more than anything approaching reality. As a guy who doesn't love that gun-culture, these movies allow me to play tourist in a headspace and idealogy that I can't fully comprehend, even though I'm surrounded by it.

Dan Hedaya is his most slimy in this role, making a wonderful bad guy even though he's the opposite of a physical threat for Schwarzenegger. The homo-erotically charged final fight between Arnold and Vernon Wells as Bennett is the real showstopper though. It's the perfect 80s action movie and I'm so glad I can revisit it all the time now.

Buy it in HD with Special features in iTunes now.

How to Make Your (Podcasting) Hobby Pay, When Your Show Doesn't: Joel Sharpton at PMx, Podcast Movement 2016

How To Make Your (Podcasting) Hobby Pay, When Your Show Doesn't. (Photo courtesy of Mark Bologna)


I was honored to speak at PMx as part of Podcast Movement 2016 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago about my journey towards independence and how narrating audiobooks with ACX.com is one simple method many if not all podcasters can adopt. Thanks to Ramona Rice, host of The Sports Gal Pal podcast and Community Manager for Podcast Websites, for the introduction. Visit http://joelsharpton.com/pmx/ to download my Tips and Tricks, see my gear recommendations lists and sign up for ACX.com yourself.

(***Update*** Wayne Henderson of MediaVoiceovers.com asked how I picked the books I pursue. I've answered that in a new post here.***Update***)

What I Listened to Last Week: Week ending June 26th, 2016.

A new blog series, highlighting 5 great podcast episodes that I listened to last week. Hat tip for the idea to Chad Brooks of The Productive Pastor.

I use Overcast links which will allow you to play the episode in any good browser and have iTunes subscription links below each highlighted episode.


Week ending June 26th, 2016.


Robot or Not?: 51: Lego Simulated Worm Toy

I love this show so much. Jason Snell and John Siracusa cohost this ongoing exploration of the true nature of robotics. My eldest child just went through Lego Robotics camp and this episode blew his mind. Subscribe in iTunes here.

Fat Man on Batman: 131: Getting Punished with Lexi Alexander

Kevin Smith normally anchors this podcast focusing on Batman and the wider comics world, but he's on vacation this episode as cohost Marc Bernardin chats with Lexi Alexander, the director of Punisher: War Zone about her history in film and with Frank Castle directly. Subscribe in iTunes here.

MBMBaM 308: Burgertrees

The MacElroy brothers (Justin, Travis and Griffin) make me laugh every week. They answer emails from listeners and Yahoo Answers questions too, applying their own hilarious "homespun" advice. This episode was especially chuckleworthy. Subscribe in iTunes here


Imaginary Worlds Beware of CyberCity

In my continued binge of this great show, I came across this one. About what's really at stake in the and who is fighting it in secret for us. Subscribe in iTunes here


Lore 37: Passing Notes

Aaron Mahnke is such a good Podcaster, they're gonna make him a tv star. This episode is all about crossing over for contact with the other side. Subscribe in iTunes here.

What I Listened to Last Week: June 20th, 2016

A new blog series, highlighting 5 great podcast episodes that I listened to last week. Hat tip for the idea to Chad Brooks of The Productive Pastor.

I use Overcast links which will allow you to play the episode in any good browser and have iTunes subscription links below each highlighted episode.

Week ending June 18th, 2016. 

Reconcilable Differences: 28: Getting to Know a Broken Person

John Siracusa and Merlin Mann "figure each other out" one podcast episode at a time. This week they discussed "repping stuff" and whether we do that for ourselves or each other. Subscribe in iTunes here. 


The Talk Show With John Gruber: Ep. 158: Live From WWDC 2016, With Guests Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi

John Gruber hosts Craig Federighi and Phil Schiller as they discuss Apple's World Wide Developer Conference and the announcements of iOS 10, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3 and more. Subscribe in iTunes here.


Trends Like These: Tony’s, Sex Study, E3, Orlando Reactions

Tracis Macelroy and Brent Black host a weekly chat about everything that's "trending" on the internet. This week they discuss the Tony's and reactions to the Orlando Mass Shooting. I read a lot of news every week, and I generally DON'T want to hear about the headlines too. These guys do a great job of informing and entertaining, while they work out their own feelings about things on the air. Subscribe in iTunes here.


Invisibilia: The New Norm

Invisiblia is back! Season One was one of my favorite NPR productions. Now in episode one of season two, Alix Spiegel and new cohost Hannah Rosen discuss social norms. I'm so glad this show is back! Subscribe in iTunes here.


Imaginary Worlds: Inside the Snow Globe

Eric Molinsky hosts this biweekly podcast about stories and storytelling. In this episode he talks to Tom Fontana about Tommy Westphall and the biggest "shared universe" in pop culture. This episode is from January but I just discovered the show and it's my new favorite. Subscribe in iTunes here.

Thoughts on WWDC 2016

Thoughts on WWDC 2016

Today, Apple started their annual World Wide Developers Conference and made big announcements about all of their major platforms. Here’s a few of my big thoughts about the days announcements. More to come over the next few months as I get access to the betas in July and begin hands-on use.

  1. Overall User-Interface improvements for iOS - Better and more interactive notifications, quicker access to lots of things from the lock screen (3D Touch was demoed here, but iPad support was discussed which means all these things work somehow on older iPhones and iPads).
  2. Siri on the Mac - Siri is coming to the Mac and includes lots of new tricks merging the usefulness of Spotlight Search with the accessibility of Siri. If this works like it demos, it’ll change the way I work with my Mac, and potentially make me want to use my Mac even more than I do now.
  3. Siri for 3rd Party apps - Call an Uber with Siri, Get a response from pretty much any app in the native Siri interface all with your voice. Again, the proof is in the pudding, and will require some work from developers. But if it works, it’ll be amazing. The promise of Siri, delivered.
  4. Single Sign-In on Apple TV - I still haven’t upgraded to the new Apple TV, so I’m living in the pre-app TV world, but I do suffer from the million authentications of cable tv apps even on the older device. With this new system, you’ll have one sign-in experience, and not only will the Apple TV handle your authentication in each individual app, it’ll give you a page detailing all the apps available to you with your cable or satellite subscription. It’s pretty amazing, and this one should work just as advertised.
  5. Faster app launching for Apple Watch (and general overhaul of the Watch OS) - I also am Apple Watch-less, but the friends I have that wear them and all the coverage I’ve read or heard concurs that while many things about the device are great, the app experience is terrible. WatchOS 3.0 is coming and it promises among other things, instant app launching. And behind the scenes loading of data which has happened on the phone for a while.
  6. Even the apps are platforms now - Both Maps and Messages were shown with 3rd party function WITHIN the apps themselves. Find your destination in Maps and instead of routing your drive, call an Uber, pay for it with Apple Pay and never leave the Maps app. Or send new stickers in Messages. Pay friends with Square Cash, and theoretically much, much more.
  7. VOIP API - If you regularly use Skype, WeChat, Facebook Messenger etc to make “phone calls” then you’ll now be able to get those notifications on your lock screen, just like a “real” phone call. They’ll show up in your missed calls etc. I’m hopeful that there’s something in here that will make podcasting with iOS devices easier too, but I’m doubtful.
  8. You can FINALLY remove “stock” Apple apps. Let’s say you, like me, don’t follow your portfolio with the Apple default Stocks app. You can now delete that app, instead of hiding it deep in a folder. Same goes for ANY of the following apps:

• Calendar 

• Compass 

• Contacts 

• FaceTime 

• Find My Friends 

• Home 


iCloud Drive 

• iTunes Store 

• Mail 

• Maps 

• Music 

• News 

• Notes 

• Podcasts

• Reminders 

• Stocks 

• Tips 

• Videos 

• Voice Memos 

• Watch app 

• Weather

These apps will all now live in the App store too for redownloading, which means Apple can update them faster and independently from the system itself. All good stuff.

9. Picture in Picture Video on Mac - This is one that I’ve seen lots of people make light of, but will be incredibly useful to anyone who every tries it. The same PIP function on the iPads, now available on the Mac, anywhere you’re playing video, you’ll be able to instantly shrink that into a box that you can resize and move from any corner of the screen to another and make it float above other apps, even when they’re in full-screen mode. For watching the game while you’re getting work done or using software training videos this really is a world better than having to meticulously resize the little player window and move it around manually.

10. Cross-Platform Copy and Paste - So, you’re on the Mac, copy something from your browser or an email and you want to send it to someone but that app you’d like to use is on your phone. Now, any device you’re also logged into with iCloud will have access to that “clipboard”. Copy on your Mac, paste it into an app on your phone or iPad. Again, this will be revolutionary if it works. There are apps that have done this for ages, but to have it built into the operating system on your desktop/laptop and your mobile devices would be something special.

Developers have access to all this coolness with the first beta today. The public beta starts in July and normal folks will get access in the fall (with the launch of the next iPhone, most likely) all for FREE.

2016 Movie Reviews: Gremlins

11. Gremlins

Watched May 24th, 2016.

Learning how to be scared, how to ride the rollercoaster of adrenaline and fight or flight in a controlled environment, one where you’re fairly certain there’s no real danger to your body or soul, is essential to the growth process. It’s one of the milestones like the training wheels coming off, the first day of school, the Learner’s Permit etc.

I know there are modern day equivalents of my own amazing “training-wheel” horror childhood, but I’m more protective in that way of my own children than my parents were and I don’t seek it out myself, so I’m not so familiar.

But my childhood had the best onramp for scares imaginable. Everything from scary adventure stories like Temple of Doom and The Goonies, to childish horror movies like this one, Critters and The Lost Boys, to real horror films with the themes of childhood and adolescence at their center (Child’s Play, Nightmare on Elm Street). It was a great time to be terrified.

The onramp for my boys has been pretty slow and safe. We watched Jurassic Park about a year and a half ago, and it was maybe too early. Son #1 loved it, but had no interest in watching any of the rest of the series anytime soon. Looking through our movie library, we crossed Gremlins the other night and he wanted to know the deal. We watched the trailer, I told him it would walk a similar line to JP, scary in moments, but overall about adventure and fun stuff. He was sold, 100%.

How does the movie hold up? The eyes of an 8 year old are a pretty good test, in my mind. He loved it, every moment. The very first transformation in the teacher’s classroom, which ends in a needle to the butt, almost made him ask me to stop the movie. He held on though, and eventually was laughing and cheering as Gizmo and crew rounded up the last of the Gremlins and saved the day. He’s already excited about watching this one again at Christmastime (it’s proper place in the calendar) and he can’t wait to watch Gremlins 2.

***BUT**** There is that terribly weird scene in the middle of the movie, where Kate is telling Billy exactly why she “hates” Christmas so much (a notion that’s been hinted at several times already) it’s a gruesome little story, which has exactly zero bearing on the rest of the film, other than to explain the absence of Kate’s Dad and the aforementioned Christmas hatred. It also spoils the big fat Christmas guest stuff, and for my kid at least, that whole scene just got skipped. I strongly suggest you do the same.

It’s absolutely normal to be scared of the dark. It’s important to start at an early age moving that fear into the “imaginary” box, experiences like Gremlins helped me do it, and I think they’re helping my sons 30 years later.

Buy it in HD on iTunes with special features included!

2016 Movie Reviews: The Man From Snowy River

6.The Man From Snowy River

Watched on 4/29/16

There are a handful of movies that just say "childhood" to me. These movies don't necessarily have anything to do with childhood thematically, they just happen to be the movies that I watched ad nauseum IN my childhood.

Disney's Robin Hood and The Jungle Book, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Spaceballs and Weird Science, strangely Die Hard and then The Man From Snowy River. I don't know how my folks stumbled on this one, what friend suggested it, or if it was just serendipity that we found this one as a family, but it was one of the movies that we all (Mom, Dad, the siblings and me) loved equally.

First and foremost it's a romance, the story of a boy from nowhere that falls in love with a girl who has everything and all the reasons they shouldn't get together. But it's also a love story between these mountain men and their land, and the struggle with those who want to change everything.

It's also a damn fine adventure, with more exciting horse riding than any movie of its time had a right to have. I've recently heard that the lead actor was a novice rider before he took the role, but I'd never imagined him as anything other than the greatest Australian cowboy of all time.

It didn't all land for my boys like it did and does for me, but that solo slow motion ride down the cliffside absolutely blew their minds too. I'll save the Return to Snowy River for a few years down the road, but I'm ecstatic that this one is now just an iTunes stream away from me forever.

Buy it in HD on iTunes now!