New Steve Forbert Record

Everybody has songs that serve as the soundtrack to parts of their lives.  I’ve got a lot and one of them is Steve Forbert’s Romeo’s Tune from 1979.  That song will forever remind me of my sophomore year of college, including a road trip to Orlando for the 1979 Tangerine Bowl.

“Bring me southern kisses from your room.”  Yep.

I’ve heard most of his records and seen him live a time or two.  So it’s always news when Steve does another record.  He’s about to release his 16th studio album, Compromised, on November 6, 2015.  Recorded in Woodstock and Cape Cod, it was produced by Forbert along with John Simon, who produced Jackrabbit Slim, the excellent 1979 record that included Romeo’s Tune.


I received a review copy of the title track, and it’s pure Forbert.  An excellent song that sounds a bit like a look backwards at the ups and downs we’ve all had in the decades since 1979.

Compromised collaborators include bassist Joey Spampinato (NRBQ), drummer Lou Cataldo (The Freeze), pianist/trumpeter Kami Lyle, and keyboardist Robbie Kondor, the latter of whom played on Forbert’s classic 1978 debut, Alive on Arrival.  “I recorded with the band that did the Arrival and Jackrabbit anniversary tours with me in 2013 and 2014,” Forbert says, “where we played those albums in their entireties.  It just seemed natural to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to rehearse for this tour — but let’s record an album together, too.’   And it was great reconnecting with John Simon again after all this time.”

Look for a full review as soon as I get my hands on a complete copy.

New Apple Gear Coming Soon

Those who have been conscious today know that Apple announced a bunch of new and updated products this morning.  Updated iPhones, a bigger iPad, an updated iPad Mini, some new Apple watch bands, and a new Apple TV.  You can get all the details elsewhere, so here are my thoughts on the new stuff.

New iPhones

I like the better camera, and I think 3D Touch (think of it as a right-click for an iOS device) will be useful at some point.  I’m not sure Live Photos is more than a gimmick, but it might be.  Faster chips and graphics would be nice, but I don’t use my iPhone for much that taxes it.

I know I always say this and then change my mind, but I don’t feel a compelling need to upgrade from my 6+ to the new model.

iPad Pro

I am all about bigger screens.  I have a 27″ iMac and a 15″ MacBook Pro.  I think a larger iPad makes a lot of sense, but the whole time I kept thinking I was watching Apple invent the Microsoft Surface, a tablet I once stupidly bought on impulse and sold a few weeks later.  Adding to the confusion was the fact that the best part of the demo, and one of the coolest things overall, was the Microsoft Office apps.  The new iPad has an optional stylus (something I never thought I’d see) and a magnetic keyboard/cover combination.  Crazy.

I use my iPad every day, but much more for consumption than creation.  If I did a lot of work on an iPad, I would almost certainly buy an iPad Pro.

iPad Mini

The updated specs for the littlest iPad seemed like a tossed-in afterthought.  I have an older iPad Mini that I rarely use, so I don’t need another one.

Apple Watch Accessories

I don’t know anything about Hermes, and I buy my clothes at sports and farm supply stores.  So I literally couldn’t care less about designer watch bands and exclusive watch faces.  Apple seems to be marketing the high-end Apple Watches as a way for insecure rich people to show the rest of us how awesome they think they are.  In sum, zzzzzzzz.

I am interested in the updated watchOS, however, because without native apps, my Apple Watch continues to be more about potential features than actual working features.  I am sold on the Apple Watch, but it is very much a work in progress.

New Apple TV


Now, the best part.  I had high hopes for the new Apple TV, and Apple mostly satisfied me.  I’m not a big gamer, so the gaming angle is lost on me.  I like the idea of other apps on the Apple TV.  I was happy to see a new unified search, but it badly needs to search more than just iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO and Showtime.  Hopefully it will as other content providers create apps, but I’m a little concerned there aren’t more sources out of the box (do those sources have new Apple TV apps already?).  For the Apple TV to work as my only streaming device, it needs Amazon Prime, and the major broadcast and cable networks.  I’m still hoping Apple can pull the rabbit out of the hat with a cord-cutting content package before I’m too old to care.

I’ll definitely buy one- and probably two- Apple TVs on launch day.


They talked about Macs (my very favorite Apple product) for exactly zero seconds today.  Bummer.

Stay tuned for more as I dive into these new products and updates.

The Story of the Lawson Family


Criminal, one of my favorite podcasts, did a recent episode on the 1929 Lawson family murders in Stokes County, NC.

Like many others of the era, the Lawson murders became the subject of a murder ballad, originally by the Carolina Buddies, and later covered by the Stanley Brothers.

They didn’t mention it on the podcast, but it turns out there was a documentary made about the murders.  I haven’t seen it, but the Amazon reviews, while few in number, seem reasonably positive.

Movie Review: Ex_Machina


This morning, while on the treadmill, I watched Ex_Machina. Here’s my quick review.

Title: Ex Machina
Director: Alex Garland
Genre: Sci-Fi

Why I Watched It:
It’s science fiction.  I love science fiction.

Interesting Fact:
It has similar plot elements to the (original) Star Trek Episode “Requiem for Methuselah.”

I wasn’t sure about this movie based on the reviews I read, but this is an excellent movie. I loved everything about it.  It’s great, topical science fiction, with a great story and some fine acting.

Best Thing About It:
Lots, but I’ll pick the actress that played Kyoto.

Worst Thing About It:
I can’t think of anything bad about it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Rotten Tomatos

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road


I recently watched Mad Max: Fury Road on the treadmill.  Here’s my quick review.

Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Genre: Sci-Fi

Why I Watched It:
I love post-apocalyptic science fiction, and the original Mad Max was pretty good.

Interesting Fact:
The filmmakers paid a lot of attention to the tools and weapons used by the actors.  With one giant exception, I thought the repurposing was nicely done.

I had really high hopes after reading some great reviews (it’s 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, for crying out loud), but this is the rare movie that has over-the-top action scenes and is still sort of boring.  For much of it, I felt like I was watching someone play a video game.  The last 30 minutes are better.

Best Thing About It:
Little bits of realism (art, repurposing whatever’s at hand) mixed in with the madness.

Worst Thing About It:
The guitar and guitarist standing on front of that car.

Rating: ★★

Rotten Tomatoes

What’s in My Podcast Player and Why


I’ve abandoned traditional radio (too many ads and repetitive playlists) and am in the process of abandoning Sirius XM radio (repetitive playlists, poor sound quality, and insufferable disc jockeys on the alt. country (Outlaw Radio)  channel).  As a result, when I’m on the road I rely largely on Spotify for my music, and podcasts for other content.  Here is a list of the podcasts I currently subscribe to (I use Downcast as my podcast app; there are plenty of good options), and a brief description of why.


Mac Geek Gab.  This is part of my holy trinity of tech podcasts, and I listen to it without fail every week.  Along with Mac Power Users and select episodes of This American Life, it is a workout staple.  To use a book analogy, it’s hard sci-fi, as opposed to space opera, and I’ve probably learned more under the hood tech-related stuff from hosts Dave Hamilton and John F. Braun than anyone else.

Mac Power Users.  Another part of my holy trinity of tech podcasts.  Hosts David Sparks and Katie Floyd have captured lightning in a bottle with this format, and everyone benefits.  It’s not “hard sci-fi” like Mac Geek Gab, but it’s great “space opera,” which has broader appeal.  I feel like I’m discussing tech with friends every episode.  It is the number one resource for Mac and iOS users, from beginner to expert, seeking to increase their knowledge and skill set.

Clockwise.  The third part of my holy trinity of tech podcasts.  Jason Snell, Dan Moren and two guests discuss four tech topics each episode, in 30 minutes or less.  I find the topical matter to the pretty consistent with the things I am reading or thinking about, I like the fact that I can listen to an entire episode in 30 minutes, and I love the roundtable format.

Invisibilia.  It’s between seasons at the moment (I really wish podcasts wouldn’t have seasons), but when it was releasing new episodes, a new episode of this podcast about “the invisible forces that shape human behavior” was a moment of celebration.  It’s hard to succinctly describe, but this podcast is simply wonderful. Hosts Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel are delightful.  There was a moment in the How to Become Batman episode, after they talked about some amazing things done by some amazing people who happen to be blind, when Alix Spiegel said this:


They should do an episode about why that line affected me so much.  I was in the middle of my workout, walking down a country road near the farm.  Without hesitation, I stopped, caught between the competing desires to dance and sob, and danced for a moment.  It was pure joy, and to this day I’m not sure why.

This American Life.   No discussion of podcasting and no subscription list can be complete without including the grandfather of all podcasts, hosted by Ira Glass.  If I were to compile a list of my 10 favorite podcast episodes ever, I’m reasonably certain 9 would be from This American Life (the 10th being the Batman episode of Invisibilia).  I listen to most, but not all, of the new episodes and I separately use the This American Life app to find and listen to older shows.  If you want an introduction to the wonder of podcasts, start with House on Loon Lake.

Mystery Show.  This is another fantastic new podcast.  The concept (finding random but interesting mini-mysteries and solving them in an online Scooby Doo fashion) is perfect, as is host Starlee Kine.  It has the best theme music ever, and every episode uses a mystery as a launching pad for all sorts of discovery. The episode about Jake Gyllenhaal’s height should win whatever the Emmy-equivalent is for podcasting.

Criminal.  Criminal is another “shorter” podcast, hosted by the aptly named Phoebe Judge, with episodes running in the 20 or so minute range.  It’s not a typical crime show; it’s more about people who have done something wrong, had something wrong done to them, or been caught up in between the two.  For example, a recent story about the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona was great, but not just for the obvious reasons.  I listened to the new episode on my morning workout today, about murder ballads.

Serial.  Like everyone else, I was blown away by this podcast and followed its unraveling of a 1999 murder with a cyber-microscope.  It was compelling stuff and Sarah Koenig, who also works on This American Life, is a great host.  If you haven’t heard it, you should start binge-listening right now and cancel all your plans for the next few days.  I hope season 2 will be as good, but it’s got some big shoes to fill.  For those wondering, I think Adnan probably did it, but there seem to be a lot of questions about exactly what happened and when.

Reply All.  Self-described as “a show about the internet,” this shortish  (20 to 30 minutes) podcast, hosted by Alex Goldman and P.J. Vogt, can be about almost anything.  Recent shows about a swindler turned good citizen and the battle over a boring Facebook group were both excellent.  I’m very interested in the new tech support stories feature they have started.

StoryCorps.  StoryCorps “travels the country collecting stories of everyday people.”  I don’t listen to every episode, but I listen to many of them, and some of them are excellent.  For example, a recent episode on the Americans with Disabilities Act was wonderful (the Grove Norwood/Ricky Boone story will make your day).

Note: Once my Sirius XM radio subscription expires (and it will not be renewed), I’ll add subscriptions to some of the NPR shows I still listen to via satellite radio (Diane Rehm,  Marketplace,  On Point, Radio Times, and others).