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Who Is Clark Barr?

My friend Pastor Wildman called me up last year, and asked if I would be interested in participating in a music video for a song he was working on. I was immediately in, and when he described the part he envisioned for me, moreso.

The song “Wildman” is about John the Baptist, and the vision for the video’s open was a newscaster noting a developing story about a “wild man” who was a prophet and a preacher. I put together some rough drafts, there was some back and forth with the Right Good Reverend Wildman, and we hashed out the final details. Then came the time to shoot my video portion.

For that, I turned to my hetero life mate and Empowered Parent Podcast partner, Ryan. He and Kayla have a business, One Big Happy Home, they do their speaking engagements and trainings under. It’s also the umbrella we run the podcast from under, because, no longer being supported by a ministry, we have to pay the hosting bills. (Podcasts ain’t free to produce and maintain, folks. And we are very picky about sponsors and what products we might promote.) To that end, they maintain an office with a setup that’s great for virtual training and, as it turns out, filming fake news casts.

You may have seen a pair of photos I posted last month, joking that I wasn’t ready to say what was going on, but that it had nothing to do with the Iowa caucus, which had actually taken place that day, if memory serves.

Now that Wildman has released the debut single, and if you haven’t seen any of my social media posts about it, you can now see my finished work:


To celebrate the music video debut, and to promote pre-ordering the EP, Wildman had me and the other actors—his podcast partner Steve, and our mutual friend Pastor Paul Ahnert—on The Wildman & Steve Show to talk about how it all got put together. (You can listen to Part 2 as well.)

This past Saturday, Wildman had me on his evening show on Classic Christian Rock Radio, and we talked more about my portion of the video, and how “Clark Barr” came to be. That interview got turned in to a podcast episode.

The interview is more wide-ranging, and the podcast doesn’t have the music that was played in between our chats, but the gist of my newscaster persona is this: he’s cobbled together from lots of different anchors and other media personalities, as well as a little of myself. The name Clark Barr came first from Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, and also from a scene in the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com *You’ve Got Mail. The pair are discussing the online handle “ny512,” and trying to decipher what the 512 is for.

Ryan: “Five hundred and twelve people who think he looks like Clark Gable.”

Hanks: “Five hundred and twelve people who think he looks like a Clark bar.”

And thus, Clark Barr was born.

So there you have it, my music video debut, and my story behind it. Buy Wildman’s EP today!

Retrophisch Review: Outlaw

Cover art for Jack Stewart's book OutlawI will be honest up front that it is impossible for me to be totally unbiased in this review. I got to know the author, Jack Stewart, a bit before his first book, Unknown Rider, was published, and that is documented in the review linked to the just-mentioned title. That said, I respect Jack enough as a writer to not ask for hints and tidbits in our conversations, and he respects me as reader in only offering teasing morsels to whet the reading appetite. We talk more about the business/working side of writing than the content. Which is refreshing, as it allows me to go in with a clean palate.

Outlaw opens about a year after the events of Unknown Rider. Navy fighter pilot Colt Bancroft is back in the cockpit, albeit in a FA-18E Super Hornet stationed aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, instead of the F-35 we first met him in. NCIS Special Agent Emmy “Punky” King is still looking for the traitor within the Navy’s ranks who eluded her in the first book, and her search turns up more questions regarding the Chinese Ministry of State Security’s network of spies on the American West Coast. Her investigation puts her on the scent of a new agent working in southern California, one possibly tied to events in Shanghai that landed a CIA officer in the hands of the Chinese intelligence service.

As Punky realizes the spy she’s after could trigger a synthetic bioweapon breakout, Colt is flying air support for the rescue mission underway to get the CIA’s case officer back. Both come to the realization that if they fail, the implications wouldn’t stop at geopolitical fallout, but the opening of a new world war.

Outlaw differs from its predecessor in that Colt and Punky never share the printed page. They think about the other on occasion, but their storylines do not directly intertwine like in Unknown Rider. Nevertheless, each is responsible for massively important parts of the plot, as we are introduced to many fresh faces, as well as one or two others from the first book.

Another key difference is the scope. Unknown Rider dealt with a specific instance that brought the two characters together, whereas in Outlaw, things play out on a much larger scale. To his credit, Jack handles this with deft hands and a tight plot.

As stated before, Jack’s writing heroes are Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney, the inventor, and one of the current kings, respectively, of the technothriller genre. As a long-time fan of both of those, it gives me great pleasure to say that Jack may have reached the peak of publication and planted his flag with Unknown Rider, but in Outlaw he begins the establishment of his own empire as a technothriller master. This absolutely reads like a Clancy novel of old, and it’s an anxiety-filled roller-coaster of a ride in all the best of ways. There are even more subplots and moving parts in this book, and if you thought Jack took you inside the mind of a fighter pilot for a glimpse of life in the cockpit before, brother, the afterburners really kick to life in this one.

Let’s just say there may have been a moment during my reading when I texted Jack to curse him out. And I meant it in the most respectful way possible. It’s. Just. That. Good.

If you love reading thrillers, stop reading whatever else has your attention at the moment and dive in to Outlaw. You won’t regret it.

5/5 phins, a stunning and incredible sequel

Amazon: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle
Barnes & Noble: Hardcover, paperback
Bookshop: Hardcover, paperback

Well, it’s quite obvious why the icon for the Apple Sports app is a soccer field. 🙄

No college baseball? College softball? Is there no NFL because it’s the off-season?

Used for less than 5 minutes, already deleted.

I will spare my Louisiana friends the utter travesty being displayed today at our office cafeteria.

Let’s just say the items kale, tofu, and Old Bay are attached to “New Orleans recipes.” 🤢

Eight years ago today, the first episode of The Empowered Parent Podcast (aka, the Tapestry Empowered to Connect Podcast) was published.

It’s been a great run with Ryan and Kayla, over 160 episodes to date, over 600,000 downloads, no telling how many streams from various platforms, listeners from all over the world. Can’t wait to see where we go in the next 8 years!

Okay, this is funny.

It’s incredibly humbling to be stopped by a stranger at a conference, and they can tell you the exact day in May 2017 when their life changed as a parent, because they heard your voice introducing a podcast episode about how traditional parenting doesn’t work for kids who have suffered trauma.

Excuse me, I’m a little verklempt.

empoweredparent.podbean.com/e/why-tra…

Retrophisch Review: After Moses

Cover art for Michael Kane's book After MosesMy Twitter pal Trevor has done some great writing on how the Western archetype has been so successful since it’s introduction on the silver screen a century ago. One reason for the success of The Mandalorian is it is essentially a Western set in the Star Wars universe. So too, is Firefly nothing more than a space western, something which no doubt aided its success (with viewers, at any rate, the studio not so much). So when Trevor made note of Michael F. Kane’s, novel After Moses this past September, I purchased the Kindle version because it sounded intriguing, and though my reading queue is already too deep to add more to, I nevertheless did so. With no regrets.

I was so smitten with the first two chapters that I managed to find a slightly used paperback version, and do not regret that, either. For me, there’s something about the printed page, and especially of science fiction novels, since print was all we had back when Michael and I were coming of age. And paperback—though what I read would be referred to today as “mass market” paperbacks while After Moses is more trade sized—were what all the sci-fi greats I first read in the early ’80s were available in.

Matthew Cole is from the Arizona Colony on Mars. He’s what is known as a freelancer; a captain with a ship looking to collect a paycheck by nearly any means necessary. Nearly, because Cole is a gaucho with a conscience. While on one job, he tangles with another freelancer in an armored exo-suit. She gets the better of him, but they are soon reunited as reluctant partners on another job, one where they are betrayed and left for dead.

But it’s pretty hard to kill a seven-foot-tall woman in an armored suit, and she owes Cole, so they track down the criminals and the one who betrayed them to set things right. Which leads to another job for the pair, and as Cole’s broker feeds him more and more jobs, they begin collecting an unlikely crew aboard the ship Cole famously ran solo for a decade. All of whom have secrets they’d rather not share, secrets which may or may not hurt themselves, or the others, should things go bad. And with the last job Benny the broker hands them, things could go very bad indeed.

My paperback copy of Michael Kane's book After Moses The world-building—or rather, the solar system-building—Kane has done isn’t anything new; readers of the Expanse series will recognize where some of the off-Earth colonies end up, though Kane’s seeding of them comes about in a very different way than that of the writing duo known as Jams S.A. Corey. How those colonies got there is also way more entertaining in Kane’s novel; humanity had help from an AI.

Moses isn’t just any ol' artificial intelligence, however. He is the ultimate artificial intelligence. No one knows where he came from, how he works, or why he’s dedicated himself to helping humanity advance, but there he is benevolently doing it. Until the day he isn’t. Hence the name of the first novel in the series, also named After Moses.

I appreciate Kane’s scientific explanations for space travel. This is by no means a “hard” sci-fi novel, but the frameshift technology actually sounds feasible, given its origin from Moses. The technology doesn’t come across to me as Prometheus (Alien)-slick, but feels more like the lived-in-ness George Lucas envisioned for Star Wars. Which isn’t surprising, given how influential the latter has been on Kane. It also makes sense, given how scientific progress has slowed, since most of it was outsourced to Moses and now he’s gone, as what remains of humanity scrambles to attempt to figure all this wonderful tech he provided out. Things break down, including society, and some if it doesn’t get fixed. Which on the societal side, leads to a serious repercussion.

The character of Matthew Cole and his moral compass really resonated with me. We all have favorite characters from the novels we love, but for me, Cole is one of those I wish was a real person I could sit down and have a conversation with. His hard stance—I would even venture, his hatred—toward slavery, very much a real thing in the After Moses universe due to those aforementioned scientific and societal breakdowns, is not only admirable, but something he takes action upon.

All in all, if you love Firefly, The Mandalorian, Westerns, or just really great writing and heroes trying to do the right thing, you will love After Moses. Highly recommended.

5/5 phins

If I had been thinking ahead, I would have dug out my “I was a Mac user before Apple was doomed” t-shirt to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Macintosh.

#MyFirstMac was a Performa 6115CD I got at the Tulane University bookstore when my wife was in law school.

Not quite ready to say what’s going on here, but I can assure you it has nothing to do with Iowa caucus results.

Should you find yourself in the mood for some manly sailing acapella, may I suggest The Ballina Whalers? theballinawhalers.bandcamp.com

“Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy,” from Haul The Bowline, is at once haunting and stirring, and could have easily been used over a scene in Master & Commander: Far Side of the World.

As if I needed any more reasons to love C.S. Lewis. x.com/henryeoli…

On the road with the oldest driving him back to college in North Carolina. As naturalized and native Texans, we fulfilled our obligation of stopping at Buc-ee’s. (This one in Leeds, AL.)

Retrophisch Review: Unknown Rider

Cover art for Jack Stewart's book Unknown RiderI would be remiss if I didn’t mention the novel I was most excited about this year, and that is Unknown Rider, by my friend Jack Stewart. Jack and I met via Twitter; we both love thrillers and share favorite authors. I met Jack in person, along with Ward Larsen and David McCloskey, at one of Don Bentley’s book signings in Dallas. We would meet up again at two of Jack Carr’s signings. A former Naval aviator, with 23 years as a fighter pilot under his belt, Jack also graduated from the famous TOPGUN Fighter Weapons School. In a word, he knows what he’s talking about.

While on a routine night flight in his F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, Colt Bancroft is routed to check out mysterious lights which are orbiting above and around one of the escort cruisers in his aircraft carrier’s strike group. As Colt arrives on station, his aircraft fails to respond to his control; nothing he does in the cockpit can keep it from rolling inverted—that’s upside down for us non-pilots—and nosediving down directly at the cruiser. At the last moment, the F-35 veers away from the cruiser and Colt regains control of his aircraft. But not his reputation.

Now deemed a threat to his fellow naval crewmen, and looking at the career he fought so hard for slipping away through no fault of his own, Colt begins his own investigation into what happened that night. He finds himself teaming up with a NCIS agent in the middle of her own hunt for a traitor selling secrets to the enemy, and the two realize not only have their paths intertwined, but the people they are looking for are one and the same. Not knowing who they can fully trust, the pair stumble in to a much bigger, and more dangerous, gambit.

Given my friendship with Jack, it’s impossible for me to be 100% impartial in reviewing Unknown Rider, but as I pored over an Advanced Reader Copy while, appropriately enough, flying, I could tell he was on to something with his debut. Mark Greaney, one of Jack’s writing heroes, nailed it when he said, “Strongly evocative of classic Clancy,” and Mark would know a thing or two about Tom Clancy novels. And that’s just it: if, like us, you grew up loving Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, and Dale Brown novels, you will love Unknown Rider. It carries the same spirit and multiple plot lines those authors became famous for. It is definitely recommended, and I can’t wait to see what Colt and Punky get up to next.

5/5 phins, a great debut

Amazon: Hardcover, paperback, Kindle
Barnes & Noble: Hardcover, paperback
Bookshop: Hardcover, paperback

“Texas and Oklahoma think they’re ready for the hell that awaits them in the college football heaven known as the Southeastern Conference.

“They are not.”

www.al.com/alabamafo…

Retrophisch Review: Montezuma Strip

Kindle cover art for Alan Dean Foster's Montezuma StripSome times, the Kindle Daily Deal email can really deliver, and one day this month, it did with Alan Dean Foster’s Montezuma Strip. A collection of short stories originally published in 1995, it focuses on an imagined USA-Mexico border a century in the future. Here, “stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico,” is the center of techno-industrialization for the world. Like any such place, where there’s industry, there’s greed, and where there’s greed, there’s crime. And crime is the industry Angel Cardenas works in.

Cardenas is a Tex-Mex federal cop based out of Nogales. He is also an “Intuit.” Born with a heightened intuition, he is something of a living lie detector. Angel is able to pick up the subtle visual and audible cues we all give off, but rarely glean from others, and this, coupled with his experience and his own logical thinking, makes him a damn good officer. One who is in much demand when crimes in other districts are beyond the ken of local law enforcement.

From figuring out how two software designers were killed, or in Foster’s parlance, “vacuumed,” to infiltrating a protection racket masquerading as a religious order, Cardenas has his hands full in a world where First World technology butts up against Third World labor practices.

I found the world Foster created fascinating, on par with those built by Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson, Rucker, and others in the 1980s and ’90s. If you’ve ever read those authors' dystopian science fiction works, you’ll feel right at home in the Montezuma Strip. Angel Cardenas reads to me like a prototype for Steven Kotler’s Lion Zorn. Given the current socio-political situation on the US-Mexico border, and the deteriorating relationship with China as an economic partner, Foster’s work from nearly two decades ago doesn’t sound as far-fetched as it might have when first published.

If you’re a fan of Alan Dean Foster, cyberpunk-style sci-fi, or just good characters and great writing in general, you won’t be disappointed with Montezuma Strip.

5/5 phins, I loved it.

Amazon: Kindle, Mass Market Paperback

New Signum Regis single and music video released today! Joha’s vocals are terrific on “Servants of the Fallen One,” as well as Filip’s usual shredding. And a guest solo by Jimi Cimbala! youtu.be/V1dWWuwiP…

Oh man, if only.

What if a fantasy band of adventurers were treated like we treat rock bands in our time?

That’s the premise behind one of my favorite fantasy novels of the past decade, Nicholas Eames' “Kings of the Wyld,” on sale for $3 on Kindle today. Definitely recommended: www.amazon.com/dp/B01KT7…

A public service announcement

The fact that the first song the Apple Infinite Playlist algorithm churned out after the entirety of the debut album by Bad English finished playing was Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” makes me think said algorithm programmer has a very good sense of humor.

Happy Signum Regis release day to all who celebrate.

And is that a kick-butt metal cover or what?

I pulled up “Close My Eyes Forever” by Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne, and the Apple Autoplay has been doing yeoman’s work with the ’80s hard rock/heavy metal since.

Just musically wandering through my teenage years while working…

Narrator: It would not be necessary. #WentAndTookIt

It’s been a pretty great year for baseball in our house! #GeauxTigers #LetsGoRangers