Blog: My Brain Dump

My 10 Essential Podcasts

Podcasting is “on the grow”. As someone who grew up loving radio, and worked in radio myself for several years…I was always a pretty heavy consumer of the medium. However, the growth of the internet, the explosion of portable technology, the ubiquity of the MP3 audio format and the death of terrestrial radio are reaching a nexus. I tuned out radio a year or two ago, and almost never listen anymore. I listen to a lot of podcasts (currently, I subscribe to 26 of them). Some are daily, some weekly, some sporadically.

Let me say up front that *my* essentials won’t likely be *your* essentials. Everyone’s tastes differ, and because podcasts tend to be focused on particular niches…interests may appear larger or smaller in your personal mirror. My main goal is to turn more people on to some of the podcasts that I enjoy so much on a regular basis.

In no particular order, here are 10 podcasts that I find essential at the moment:

1. The 48 Days Podcast: Dan Miller is a Franklin, Tennessee-based author, speaker and businessman. I first heard of him through “Debt-Free” Dave Ramsey, and have been listening every week for several years now. Dan has written some best-selling books, including 48 Days To The Work You Love and No More (Dreaded) Mondays. Dan was raised in Holmes County, Ohio (the same county where my Dad was born). He grew up in a hyper-conservative family…the son of a poor farmer/pastor, who has labored to reshape his view of the world into something more positive and successful. He’s a big proponent of turning one’s passion into opportunities for income. I find his podcast consistently challenging and encouraging, and have recommended it to many of my friends…especially those struggling through vocational challenges.

2. Big Pop Fun: Tom Wilson is an actor, comedian and…voiceover artist (like me, but on a much grander scale!). You’ll remember him as the bully Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future movies. On the podcast, he talks about show business and being creative. Some of the episodes are just him chatting to his listeners (including some fascinating “behind-the-showbiz-scenes” stories). On others, he interviews various creatives and celebrities…such as Mark Hammill, Stephen Hillenburg (creator of Spongebob Squarepants), Tim Siedell (@badbanana on Twitter) and Steve Oedekerk (writer/producer – Ace Ventura, Bruce and Evan Almighty, Kung Pow). I love his dry sense of humor and his tendency to grab his guitar and break into song. Want a two-minute taste of his humor? Watch The Question Song

3. The Dennis Miller Show: This is one of a few that originate from terrestrial radio. I’ve been listening to this show since the year it started. Dennis Miller is one of my favorite comedic minds ever. His show is a mix of comedy, interviews and politics. It blows me away that he is able to keep it fresh 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. I pay $50 a year to get the podcast version, since it’s no longer carried on local stations in my radio market. However, it is on over 300 radio stations nationwide.

4. This American Life: Also originating from terrestrial radio (NPR), the best show on radio, in my opinion. Ira Glass hosts this weekly podcast consisting of real-life stories. Humans are endlessly fascinating, and there’s no better resource for human stories than this show. It’s hard to describe what it is, or how good it is. You should check it out once or twice and see if it’s your cup of tea. Millions of us have been hooked for many, many years.

5. Fresh Air: Another NPR program…this show features interviews with luminaries from the worlds of entertainment, literature, music, and politics. Terry Gross is the best interviewer I’ve ever heard. Every show is a delight (even the fill-in host, Dave Davies, is superb!) and the highest compliment I can pay Terry is that she brings out the humanity in everyone…even those whom I am predisposed to dislike.

6. The Smart Passive Income Podcast: Pat Flynn is a young entrepeneur who was displaced from his career in architecture by the economic downturn a few years back. With a new wife and a baby on the way, he had to get creative about how to provide for his family. He more or less stumbled into a whole new way of life, creating an online business that pays him tens of thousands of dollars a month. Patient and methodical, he not only researches new facets of online business…he also lays them out in a way that many folks have found easy to learn and apply for themselves. He also publishes his income statement each month, to keep himself transparent to those who follow him. Pat is the real deal.

7. The Moth: More human stories. I believe this also originated on radio, although I never ran across it there. It’s somewhat like listening to standup comedy…although it’s only occasionally funny. It’s more focused around life experiences and life lessons. Sometimes the stories are told by celebrities, but more often they are just slices of life from ordinary people. Sometimes crass, often affecting and touching. The episodes are usually short…in the 15-20 minute range.

8. This Week In Tech (TWiT): Leo Laporte is the creator of the TWiT network, which is one of my favorite haunts. I’ll often call it up on my iPad or my Roku box while I’m working. They have a bunch of great shows, including excellent ones I watch frequently such as This Week in Google, iPad Today, All About Android, Triangulation (an hour-long conversation will brilliant minds), TWiT Photo and MacBreak Weekly. But the This Week in Tech show is the anchor of the network…a 2-hour live broadcast on Sundays at 6pm ET. I often listen to it live on my phone. It’s a roundtable discussion with the host and 3-4 guests (one or two sometimes connected remotely via Skype) covering the latest in tech news and possible implications/repercussions. As with all TWiT shows, it can be viewed as a TV show (a video podcast) or listened to as audio podcasts.

9. Left, Right and Center: Also from Public Radio (KCRW, to be more precise), this half-hour show covers the affairs of the week from the progressive, conservative and moderate viewpoints. It’s generally low-key and well-reasoned…and often provides surprising moments of consensus. It deserves to be an hour long, and I wish they could move back toward permanent panelists once again, but a couple of the key members were lost in the last year due to illness and commerce. It’s a dose of sanity in our current highly-polarized political environment. Definitely a highlight of the week for me.

10. Inside Musicast: Full-length interviews with great musicians…both big-names (Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross) and the incredibly-talented producers and players behind the scenes (Michael Omartian, Lee Sklar, Steve Lukather). Great stories about how music is made, the inspiration behind the songs and stories of life in the studio and on the road.

Here are some other podcasts to which I currently subscribe. You might be interested in checking some of them out as well:

I use and recommend the Pocket Casts app for iOS and Android. It’s got a great search engine built into the app…so finding, subscribing to and managing your podcasts is super-easy.

Facebook’s Sharp Stick In The Eye

As of the end of 2011, there were 37 million Facebook pages (aka “fan pages”) for which 10 or more people have clicked the “Like” button. They range from major brands like Pepsi to creators of witty word graphics to indie musicians. Almost everyone knows that Facebook profits greatly from the use of the personal information of its users…but now, they have a new profit center to target: owners of Facebook pages with more than 400 fans.

As the owner of several FB pages in service of a number of my web sites, I spent a lot of time building up the fan bases over the past couple years…including spending money on Facebook ads…to get the word out to those who might be interested. As a fairly heavy Facebook user myself, I felt it made a lot of sense to connect with people as part of their daily FB activity to let them know of new postings on my sites which they might find of interest.

My 3 most active FB pages have 650, 2100 and 7100 fans respectively. To be clear, none of these involve sales of products…rather, they notify particular niche audiences about free music, stories, coloring pages and music videos, which (obviously) many people have found valuable enough to express interest.

I also have a number of friends (music artists, mostly) who started out with standard Facebook accounts…hit the 5K-friend hard cap…and were forced to try to get their fans to switch over to FB pages. These pages are, by nature, less appropriate for interaction with fans…and most of the migration efforts were marginally successful, at best. And then, FB came along and told them they really should have just had people *subscribe* to them anyway. Talk about mixed messages!

So, back to the point: After this investment of time and money to maintain and grow these pages, I am now informed (initially by a blog post from Shane Eubanks) that only a small percentage of those who thought enough of my pages to press Like ever see the posts I make on their behalf.

What percentage? Hard to say definitively…due to a bug in in the Facebook interface at the moment, I can only check one of them. But on that one page, my posts this week ranged between 1% and 7% of my 2000+ subscribers. In other words…almost no one.

As an average FB user, I have always resented being told that Facebook knows better than I do what I want to see of my friends’ activity. But, that’s a minor irritation compared to them blocking my subscribers/fans from seeing what I posted based upon their declared interest! I respect Facebook’s need to make a profit, but I consider this move on their part awkward, ill-considered and utterly unjustifiable. And yet…they do try to justify it.

First off, things *have changed about how your posts are shared. They are barely shared at all. Just because the sharing mechanism remains the same hardly excuses such a statement. And, they also don’t say that most people have a limited view of activity because Facebook controls it instead of allowing you to do so. And it’s a flat-out fabrication to say that “many of the people connected to your Page may still see it”. Not when only 5% of the subscribers ever have the chance!

So, Facebook sees a potential goldmine here. And…how do they choose to implement it? By charging page owners for every single post they make on their page (assuming that the owner wants their subscribers to actually see the post)!

I can understand Facebook seeing page owners as a potential profit center. And a small monthly or yearly charge might be reasonable for many/most active page owners, considering the potential value of connecting with an interested subscriber base.

How will fan page owners react?

  • Will they be satisfied with only reaching 5% of their subscribers for free?
  • Will they pay $5 per post (or whatever Facebook demands at any given time) to reach up to 70%-80% instead?
  • Will they shut down the pages entirely…and attempt to drive fans back to their web sites or email subscriptions, where everyone at least has the *chance* to see everything in which they’ve expressed interest (also, thereby depriving FB of the opportunity to show display and profit from their own ads)?

Or is it possible that, as word of this gets out, that the backlash from page owners will force Facebook to relent and offer a more reasoned approach?

By the way, I’d LOVE to find out that I’m wrong about this…either Facebook’s actions or my interpretation thereof. But as of now…the evidence seems fairly clear: Page owners are screwed.

New Kids Music Video: Water Slide

I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest music video for kids. It’s based on the song, Water Slide, which appeared on my first Chuckleberries album, Yellowberry Jam. Enjoy!

(UPDATE: November 2018) This video was received nicely on YouTube initially, as were most of my videos. If I recall correctly, after about 5 years it had amassed some 40K views, which made me happy. But…somewhere along the line, something changed. Someone, somewhere linked to it from a high-traffic site or shared it in some large forum and it just exploded. As of this writing, it has amassed nearly 2.5 MILLION views. Thanks so much to all who have viewed and shared it over the years! 🙂

Harmony Magazine: Interview With Phil Keaggy (March 1976)

Over the Easter weekend in 1975, my friend Bill Gray and I traveled to Ithaca, New York to interview guitarist/singer/songwriter Phil Keaggy. We had actually interviewed him over the phone earlier in the week, but due to a bit of technical incompetence on my part, the quality of the phone recording was indecipherable. Bill and I were both fans of the Scott Ross radio show (which aired Sunday mornings in Central Ohio on WNCI), and we had always been curious to see the church where Scott was a leader and Phil Keaggy and Ted Sandquist were involved in the music program. So we used the occasion of my technical bumbling to head to Ithaca, to visit and interview Phil at his home…with plans to attend Easter services on Sunday, before heading home.

The interview was a wonderful experience. Phil and his new wife, Bernadette, were extremely gracious…despite the fact that I was an awkward 17 years of age at the time. After the interview, Phil pulled out his guitar and shared with Bill and I the song he had just recorded for his Love Broke Thru album…As The Ruin Falls (a C.S. Lewis poem, set to Phil’s lovely composition…still a favorite to this day). Afterward, I shared with Phil that I had recently begun to write songs as well. He handed me his guitar and asked me to play one…so I played the most complex song I’d written to that point…which was Proverbs 4:20-23 set to a contemplative melody. I was pretty proud of the song, as I had used a lot of unfamiliar chords pulled from the back page of a book on guitar lessons…but after I was done and handed the guitar back to Phil, he ran thru all the chords effortlessly. Of course, I was stunned!

The next year, in 1976, I moved to the Pittsburgh, PA area for a few months to work in radio. First, at WPLW, a small and very conservative station. That didn’t last very long, as contemporary Christian music was a real stretch for them. But then I got a call from WPIT-FM (now WORD-FM) in Pittsburgh (you KNOW a station has been there for a long time when they have the first three letters of the city’s name in their call sign!), and they wanted to talk about adding some contemporary music to their very conservative format as well. So I began playing Christian music there in the afternoons…and apparently, with a few bumps along the way, that’s still the general format of the station today…35 years later!

I also was living with a family just north of Pittsburgh at the time…the Hanchericks (Lou, his wife Peggy, and their kids). Lou was the publisher of Harmony Magazine, which was one of the earliest publications dedicated exclusively to the emerging genre of Jesus Music (later known as Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM). I still had this Phil Keaggy interview, which had only aired once previously on local radio in central Ohio…so Lou decided to make it the cover story of the third issue of the magazine (spring 1976), and then the interview was completed in the following issue (I don’t have a copy of this one anymore).

I thought it might be fun to scan the cover, the table of contents and the 3-page interview and post them here (click on the thumbnails to see the full-size scans). I hope you enjoy it!

New Kids Music Video Released: Hovercar

I’m pleased to be able to announce the release of the third in a series of “legit” videos for kids. The first was Yellowberry Jam, released in early March 2011. The second was The Fantabulous Cumulo-Nimbuli Pump, an animated story released a couple weeks later.

This new one is called Hovercar, and it’s based on a song I wrote some years ago about a boy who own a hovercar…which he loves for all the obvious reasons, but feels he has to keep a secret because he doesn’t want word to get out, less people feel jealous that he has such a cool toy and they don’t.

Rather than sing this one myself, I invited my friend D. Skite (Dave Schuiteman) to sing it. I created the music tracks, but they were significantly enhanced by my friend Dave Matchack, who then mixed and mastered it, and I found a fellow Ohioan named Kyle Akers to take my vision of a LEGO stop-motion animation and kick it up about 10 notches! Finally, I added the sound effects to help bring it all together.

I hope you enjoy it!