What’s making me happy this week, March 21

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A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here.

A man, a wizard and a shape-shifting badger walk into a bar.

My favorite thing this week is the podcast Hello from the Magic Tavern. It’s a hilarious, fantasy-based improv comedy show that’s set up like this: Host Arnie fell through a magical portal behind a Chicago Burger King into the magical land of Foon. Fortunatley he had his podasting equipment with him, which he uses to record a weekly podcast from the tavern The Vermillion Minotaur, in the town of Hog’s Face in the land of Foon.

Each week Arnie and his cohosts — a blustery wizard named Usidore (his full name is too long to type here) and a shape-shifter who usually resembles a badger named Chunt — add to the “canon” of the show by introducing facts, guests and an ever-evolving backstory.

It’s not for everyone. You might find it annoying. It’s a bit NSFW. But boy, is it funny. The characters are fun and engaging. I especially like when the actors push each other into some tricky improv bit while remaining in character.

If you listen, start from the beginning, as  you’ll appreciate the in-jokes and references as the show goes on. You’ll love it, bay-beee!

Introducing Cereal Sommelier, my new podcast

I’ve got a new podcast about cartoons and cereal. It’s a dumb as you think.

csAbout a year ago I got an idea for a podcast while vacuuming the library at Nauset Regional High School. As usual, I was listening to The Twilight Pwn. It was a great show about The Twilight Zone that featured two hosts, John and Fred. The pair reviewed the landmark TV series one episode at a time. The were funny and smart, and they made a show that was entertaining as well as informative. The “Inevitable MST3K Connection” was a favorite segment, as well as running gags about Robby the Robot and the dreaded “Inflation Calculation” jingle.

At this time Home Work had ended and I was playing with doing something completely different. Maybe I’d do a panel show about something that I loved. I had a lot of lousy ideas*:

  • My favorite Sandwiches
  • The history of the napkin
  • Interviews with random people I admire

Later I was inspired by Scott McNulty’s Random Trek (which I love), in which Scott and a guest review a randomly-selected episode of Trek from the show’s vast history. I played with the idea of doing the same for The Twilight Zone, but really, John and Fred (and others) have that covered.

Finally, I had the worst idea of all. It’s the one I went with.

A guest and I would review a randomly-chosen episode of a Saturday Morning cartoon from the 1970’s and ‘80s. There would be two types of episodes: the odd-numbered ones introduce the guest and the episode that we’d review in the even-numbered episodes. I’d provide a link pointing to where the ep. could be watched online.

Finally, the “cereal sommelier” would pair the perfect sugar cereal with that week’s selection, in a bit of tongue-in-cheek nonsense that lent itself to a very clever name.

Thus, Cereal Sommelier was born.

Episode one is now available. In it, I set up the show, and reveal next week’s cartoon, cereal selection and guest. I sincerely hope you enjoy it and tell your friends.

After nearly five years of discussing working from home and productivity, I’m thrilled to have a show about nostalgia, fun and utter nonsense. Listen, subscribe and share. Yay!

Big thanks to Iconfactory’s Ged Maheux for the stunning logo, and to Hologram Radio for hosting.

*Not made up. These were real ideas.

What’s making me happy this week – July 22

Here’s a look at some of the amazing, hilarious and thoughtful things that are making me happy this week.

My Dad Wrote a Porno

mdwapOpen your podcast app. Delete every show you’ve got in there and then subscribe to My Dad Wrote a Porno. Why? Because it’s the only thing you’ll want to listen to for several days.

My Dad Wrote a Porno is a podcast done by a delightful British guy Jamie Morton and a couple of this friends. Apparently a couple of years ago, Jamie’s father asked him to read a few pages of a book he had written. Turns out it was an erotic novel called “Belinda Blinked*,” and it’s every bit as glorious as you imagine self-published erotica with that title would be.

Belinda is the sexy salesperson from the pots and pans company called Steels Pans. She does whatever she can to land buyers for her company’s cookware.

Jamie and his co-hosts James Cooper and BBC Radio 1’s Alice Levine are absolutely hilarious in their take-down of the book. Best of all, Jamie’s Dad — who goes by the amazing pen name Rocky Flintstone — loves the show and all of the attention that his work is getting. When you do a “so bad it’s good” kind of thing, there’s the tendency for the commentary to get mean-spirited. That’s not the case here. It’s all in good fun. Red plastic handcuffs and all.

This probably goes without saying, but the hosts spend each episode reading from a story with very adult situations and language. So be warned.

HarmonQuest

hqIn HarmonQuest, writer, producer and podcaster Dan Harmon plays a D&D-style role playing game (I think it’s Pathfinder, actually) in front of a live studio audience with a few friends and one rotating guest star. These games are typically funny enough to listen to, but throw in the audience and the fact that the adventures are animated, and you’ve got a goblin-slaying, dragon-taunting, orc loaf sandwich eating good time.

The gang plays for laughs and guest stars like John HodgmanAubrey PlazaRon Funches and Paul F. Tompkins get right into it, even when they’ve never played RPG’s before.

You can watch the first episode for free on YouTube, but you’ll have to pony up for a SeeSo subscription ($3.99/mo.) for the rest.

Stranger Things

stThis eight-episode suspence series from Netflix starring Winona Ryder is a sheer delight. It’s a real “kids on bikes” show that is presented though such a dutiful 80’s lens that the decade itself is character. Stranger Things scratches a nostalgia itch for me in a completely satisfying way.

But it’s not just a love letter to the 80’s. Stranger Things is a fantastic little show.

Four young friends are playing Dungeons and Dragons in a basement when mom insists it’s time for the game the end and the kids to go home. One of the kids goes missing along the way, and the mystery begins. There are classic thrills and chills here, and none of the torture porn that’s so popular these days.

Stranger Things feels like an after-school special, a Stephen King story, and early Spielberg all at once. And boy, does it nail the 80’s feel perfectly, from fashion to music cues, in a way that I haven’t seen since House of the Devil.

It’s a compelling show that just works, from the young actors who play the kids (they’re fantastic) to the synth-y, bass-y music and gorgeous type on the title, right on up to the casting of Winona Ryder who does a fantastic job as the harried, lower-middle-class mother who only wants to find her son. I’m already jones-ing for season two.

Ged’s Pokéwall

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My friend Ged Meheux of the Iconfactory has made a Pokéball-inspired wallpaper for your iPhone 5 Series, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad and iPad Pro.

Bring your Pokémon GO to another level and be the envy of your Pikachu-chasing friends.

*In fact, the book’s full title is, “Belinda Blinked;  A modern story of sex, erotica and passion. How the sexiest sales girl in business earns her huge bonus by being the best at removing her high heels.”

The future Home Work

The Home Work podcast is about to change again, starting with weekly “Lunch Breaks.”

cover_quarterFour years ago Aaron came to me with an idea for a podcast about working from home. We produced an episode, the show went to 70 Decibels and then to 5by5. Today, after four years and 204 episodes, Aaron has left the show.

It’s a shame to see him go, as he’s a talented podcaster and he brought a lot to the show. I wish him well in his endeavors.

Talk live with me and other home workers

What does that mean for the podcast? It will continue with changes. Right now we’re on a four-week break between season two and season three. But that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from me.

This Friday, April 15, I’ll hold the first weekly “Lunch Break,” which will be a live, 30-minute chat with me on Blab, starting at 12:00 PM Eastern. If you haven’t used Blab before, it’s really cool. Join me to talk with like-minded home workers, ask questions, share advice and so on. It’s going to be great and I’m looking forward to talking with you face-to-face.

Season three of Home Work is also under production and this time the theme is back to basics: “How to successfully work from home.” The ten-episode season will feature more amazing guests (season two featured appearance by Merlin Mann, David Sparks, Mike Vardy, Kelly Guimont, Beth Dunn, Brett Kelly, Moisés Chiullán, Patrick Rhone, Mike Schmitz and Michael Drucker) talking about specific aspects of being the most successful home worker you can be.

Best of Season One Ebook

Also in the works is a “Best of Home Work Season One” ebook, which will feature the absolute top advice and insights gleaned from our show’s first season across several topics:

  1. Work spaces
  2. Assembling a team
  3. Distraction
  4. Equipment, apps and tools
  5. Productivity
  6. Dealing with time off
  7. Email
  8. Priorities
  9. Tips for telecommuters
  10. Tips for freelancers
  11. Client work

I’m combing through each episode now to find the best bits.

Home Work is evolving and I want to thank everyone who listens to the show. A podcast that has survived four years is nothing to sneeze at. I’m very eager for season three and I’ll talk you all on Friday.