Autobiologic


Pledge Drives


If you follow me on social media, you probably remember me talking about how “Pledge Drives” was supposed to go up before “Welcome to the Hidden Almanac,” but was pushed back due to technical difficulties. At the time, I was little upset about it, but now, I’m actually kind of glad this episode ended up where it did. It felt right to open the new season with the Hidden Almanac crossover, and this episode does it’s job as a welcoming to the world of the show.

And what a world, that has such people in it! Listeners will recognize my sister Kate, reprising her role from “How’s It Gonna End?” as my GPR supervisor. Phil Thomas, who also put in a voice for “How’s It Gonna End?” shows up with his West Phillians partner Andy Holman. Jennifer Steen, of the much-missed podcast Jennisodes, is someone I’ve wanted to be on the show since I started looking for other people to voice it.

The real coup of this episode about fake public radio shows is two real public radio people. Edison Carter (not his real name) is an award-winning NPR journalist has done NPR’s Morning Edition in, like, three states now. And Ellen Kushner, in addition to being a beloved fantasy novelist (she wrote the delightful Swordspoint) and a subject for one of J.R. Blackwell’s In Their Own Worlds photos, also did a wonderful show called Sound & Spirit. An archive of over 90 episodes of Sound & Spirit are available online for your listening pleasure, and you and your ears (or whatever you use to listen; I don’t judge) should really take advantage of that. I recommend “Dreams” and “Tricksters,” but every one I’ve listened to so far has been great, so I imagine you can’t go wrong.


I recently saw Alexandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, and it has quickly become one of my favorite films. It’s not for everyone–certainly not for anyone who has problems with plots that are barely there and weirdness for weirdness’s sake–and for all it’s dizzying heights, there are some pretty dismal lows. But it does have a scene where some meticulously-costumed iguanas and toads reinact the Spanish Conquest of Mexico (you can watch it here, with film’s score replaced by Apocalyptica’s cover of “Fade to Black”) and if you can’t see the brilliance in that, I’ve got nothing for you.

Yes, this is going to be referenced in an upcoming episode.

No, not in the way you think.

Actually, maybe in the way you think. You folks are pretty smart. You’ve probably got a lot of what I’m setting up already figured out.


New episodes mean a new Shirt of the Month! And for March, for your sartorial pleasure, we have none other than the glaring visage of Reverend Mord!

Who wouldn’t want that on your chest?

I’m taking votes on what the Shirt of the Month should be for April. Make your voice heard! I’m curious as which one of these shirts you folks like the most.

There is, of course, a possibility of a three-way tie. I don’t know what I’m going to do if that happens.

I’ll think of something.


Welcome To The Hidden Alamanac

And so we begin Season 2, offering very little explanation for what happened at the end of Episode 12. Instead, here is a crossover with one of my favorite podcasts, The Hidden Almanac, done by my good friends Ursula Vernon and Kevin Sonney of Dark Canvas Media.

I’ve been itching to a crossover for awhile—the conceit of VFPX means that me plopping down in someone else’s world and talking to them is a matter of course—and it was only natural that I show up on the door step of Reverend Mord and Pastor Drom. The Hidden Almanac is a show where an eccentric radio host goes through the fantastic by way of the mundane. Really, the only differences are that The Hidden Almanac comes out three times a week, and I use more sound effects.

I cannot thank Ursula and Kevin enough to allowing me to play around in their world. The whole process, from when I first sat down to write the script to when we all gathered together the day after Christmas to record, was like a dream. I’ve never had an episode come together so smoothly before. When I sent Ursula the script, I was worried that she might not like it, and would request serious changes. She did have one change, which was the addition of a gardener’s joke.

And she was right to put that in. Wouldn’t be The Hidden Almanac without gardening jokes.


You can, of course, purchase a print or card of Ursula Vernon’s amazing work of Reverend Mord glaring over a microphone, just as you can for all the other episode artwork. Because who doesn’t want a adorable demon on their wall?

That’s just classy, that’s what that is.


I’ve seen the DEADPOOL film, as I assume most people on the planet have. It is, without a doubt, not only the best film based on the X-Men franchise, but also the one that is the truest to its source material. While you and I would think that this would lead to a shift in the way these funnybook adaptations are made, where more attention is paid to properly delivering to the big screen the characters and concepts that made these corporate trademarks worth filming in the first place, it looks like the only real change is going to be more “R” rated superhero films.

Conventional wisdom dictated that anything over a “PG-13″ meant a huge chunk of the potential audience for a cape flick wouldn’t be able to buy tickets, but if the litany of babies in the theater when I saw the film is any indication, that’s not really a problem.

(They all hated the strip-club scene, by the by)

I don’t have a problem with “R” rated superhero movies. Wolverine would certainly benefit from being able to use his knife-hands on screen as opposed to just out of frame, and Lexi Alexander’s PUNISHER WAR ZONE is a hoot and a half. And if you were curious as to what an “R” rated Batman film would look like, look no further than ICHI THE KILLER. ICHI THE KILLER is directed by Takashi Miike, and it’s exactly as wonderfully horrible and horribly wonderful as you might expect an “R”-rated Batman film to be.

But part of the reason I like ICHI THE KILLER is that it isn’t a Batman film. Some characters have too much symbolic weight as figures in children’s literature to truly be enjoyed engaging in the sex and violence that Deadpool wallowed it. And you don’t need either thing to tell an adult story.

DEADPOOL for all its flashbacks and swearing, is still a pretty simple and direct tale. Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT film is one of the few truly sophisticated superhero stories—and it’s rated PG-13.


I’ve got a new day job, as the lead editor at Drexel University’s Communication Department, which both awesome and and incredibly busy. I’m confident I can keep up the usual every-two-weeks schedule on the podcast, It’s also been a long time since I had a regular job, so I couldn’t tell exactly how I plan to make that happen.

I’ll think of something.


A Haiku of Garbage Food

While I am taking a month off, I am not a monster. I’ve added “A Haiku of Garbage Food” to the feed, where J. R. Blackwell and I joined  Ursula Vernon and Kevin Sonneys remarkable podcast Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap. It’s a good two hours of us eating questionable items and making jokes about “children’s whiskey” and “Man Scouts,” and it ends with us eating meticulously-crafted replica poop.

No, really. That’s what we ended on. J.R. and I brought the poop as a gift:

The bear was nice, but I think the raccoon was my favorite.

Ursula and Kevin have another remarkable podcast, The Hidden Almanac, where the vaguely-Catholic Reverend Mord expounds on the history and culture of a rich fantasy world. If you’re a fan of The Voice of Free Planet X, there’s a plethora of reasons to check out The Hidden Almanac. Not the least of which is the fact that VFPX will be crossing over with HA in February!

It’s my favorite episode of the new season, folks. Perhaps because it was so easy to record; we all just stood in Kevin’s recording studio and said our lines. It felt remarkably professional.


I made an upgrade to my gear for the new season, finally purchasing a Blue Snowball, the microphone that has been the standard for my podcasting pals for awhile now. My setup for the past few years has involved a combination of a Zoom H4n recorder and a Blue Snowflake, both of which are marvelous, portable microphones. But with more people coming to me to record, I wanted something a little sturdier, something that will stay at home and record more than one person at once.

Plus, I could get one in chrome. That was a huge selling point.

I’ve been using it a bit, and it is a very, very fine microphone. If you’re thinking about getting into podcasting, trust me, this is the one mic you need.


J.R. and I recently discovered Marie Kondo’s method for tidying up and getting rid of the things you neither want nor need, but are inexplicably holding onto. We’ve become quite taken with it. We’ve already gone through all our clothes and books, both of which were difficult for their own reasons. I am apparently a sock-hoarder; when I had counted all the socks I had accumulated, I found I could go nearly two months without having to wash socks once. Now, I admit to being a bit of a clothes-horse–I kept more clothes than J.R. did–but that was beyond the pale even for me. Some of those socks had literally never been worn.

It’s gotten me to rethink my definition of ownership. I had three pairs of pants that I hadn’t worn in years. They were just sitting in my drawer, taking up space. If you had seen what I’ve worn every day (and, if you follow me on Instagram, you have), you wouldn’t think I owned those three pairs of pants. And if I never used them, did I actually own them? Or was I just storing them?

Going through the books and comics was even harder. I haven’t tackled my longboxes yet, but I reduced my trades and graphic novels by about half. It was difficult to separate from the collector mentality, to look a my comics not as a collection, but as a library. Not “What was I proud I owned,” but “What do I enjoy reading.” So, a lot of comics J.R. had been proud to collect over the past years were removed, some of them common, some obscure, some of them even autographed. But when I look at the book shelf now, I don’t miss them. I kept all the stuff I enjoy.

I donated the rest to Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, which just opened not too long ago. My friend Randy Green–aka R-Son The Voice of Reason of Gangstagrass and other such impressive projects–does their comics ordering, which meant he took me seriously when I said I had comics to give, but didn’t quite believe me when I said I didn’t want any money for them. They’re still accumulating their stock, so they were much happier to have volumes of Preacher and Lupin III to sell than I was just storing them. Amalgam is fantastic store, too. If you’re in the Philly area and you haven’t stopped by, you’re cheating yourself.

Seeing Randy so pleased with the comics took some of the edge off how difficult it was to go through them. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to go through my accumulation of toys.

I’ll think of something.


How’s It Gonna End?

How’s It Gonna End” is a weird episode. I mean, they all are. VFPX is nothing if not an odd show, start to finish. But “How’s It Gonna End,” is odd beast even among those. For one, I take an active role in this one, instead of just asking questions (though I do ask a lot of questions). It’s full of continuity bits and pieces, callbacks to episodes from months ago like “Paused” and “Mistaking Our Mirrors,” and bit more information on the show’s lurking boogeyman. It’s a story about time, about endings, and finishes with that eternal symbol of unfinished business, the answering machine message. It’s a weird episode, of a weird show.

Because of that, it’s one of my favorites. Your mileage may vary, but I love it, weirdness and all.

Also, how great is that painting Avalon Batory did for the episode? She’s a wonder, she is. I wish you guys could see the painting in person. Digital copies do not it justice.


Part of the reason this episode is so great is the cast, the largest one yet. It’s pretty much an all-star cast of my favorite web entertainments: Jason Banks of Talk Nerdy 2 Me, Phil Thomas of West Phillians, and Christiana Ellis of Space Casey & Five More Minutes join VFPX stalwarts Kennedy Allen of The Black Tribbles  and Chris Morse of Supervillian Corner. Rounding out the cast is Whitney Strix Beltrán, making an impressive VFPX debut as a character we’re going to see a lot of in the future, and Kate Axelrod, who puts the button on the episode with the practiced disdain that can only come from growing up with me as a brother.

Working with all of them was fantastic. I could not have asked for a better cast to close out Season 1. Expect to hear more from every one of them in Season 2.


Those of you who happened to be tuned into G-Town Radio on Christmas Eve may have heard something… familiar. Len Webb managed to make sure everyone had a very merry Planet X-Mas, putting episodes of VFPX on the radio!

Yes, that’s right, VFPX is a radio show, now, in addition to being a podcast. I’ve long been talking about the difference between podcasts and radio shows as being philosophical at best, and here I am, thanks to Len, being able to practice what I preach.

VFPX is going to be on the radio again tonight at 9pm, with G-Town Radio playing “Oddfellows Local” and “My Wife In Hell.” Both of which have Len in prominent roles, so if you like Len–and who doesn’t, after this?–go to the G-Town website and listen to the stream. Show him that VFPX on the radio is a very, very good idea.

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to end the year.


If the year is ending, that must mean it’s the last day to purchase the T-shirt of the Month for December, the shiny metallic logo for Huxley Interplanetary. Chris asked me for this very shirt months ago, and with Chris reprising Huxley Branson for “How’s It Gonna End,” it seemed like a good time to make it available.


There’s some mugs, too, made by request. I’m actually very open to merch requests, so if there’s something you’d like to see in the coming year, drop me a line.


There will be no t-shirt for January, as I am taking the month off. There will be 12 episodes in 2016, just like this year, but they won’t start until February 1st. Creative work, I’ve come to realize, is a lot like farming: Everything happens in seasons. These past couple of months have been all about the harvest, putting this show out for everyone experience. I need to take some winter for myself, to recharge, to let my mental ground go fallow before I plant more seeds. So, no episodes in January. Those of you who support the show with Patreon will not be charged anything for the month.

I’m actually looking forward to it, which is unlike me. I have a tendency to be sorta…non-stop. Often, to the detriment of my physical health. So I’m gonna take January off. Draw some things. Write stuff that isn’t podcast scripts. Watch some movies in the theater instead of on my laptop screen. Finish those books I started in 2015. Or maybe just catch up on my sleep. There’s plenty of ways to spend winter, after all.

I’ll think of something.


My Wife In Hell


The next to the last episode of the year, the penultimate episode of the 1st season of this new format of the The Voice of Free Planet X, is deeply, unrepentantly silly. The title says as much. My Wife In Hell. It’s almost a pun, for crying out loud. A main character, Gorgah, who you can see in the above illustration by Jennifer Rodgers, is essential a Muppet, speaking as he does in high-pitched, Elmo-esque manner. There’s a loud-mouthed demon who’s exasperation is only matched by his inability to do math. And the Devil throws a Christmas party.

It’s also one of the most personal things I’ve written, filled with my own fears and anxiety. It’s about taking care of a adorable dog…baby…demon, sure. But it’s also about being simultaneously worried about your life changing and not changing, staying in the same place while everything else alters around you.

The two opening scenes, where the Cosmic Hosts wake J.R. and I up, and our first tour of Hell, where I meet Gorgah, is an almost verbatim adaption of a dream I had years ago. I told J.R. about it, and we’ve elaborated on it since, improvising banter between our fictional selves and her demonic co-workers. It became a running play between the two of us, a sort of inside-vaudeville. So much so, the only thing that was written down for the whole is the Christmas party. Those 7 minutes were scripted. The other 63? Oft-rehearsed improv between J.R. and I.

J.R. is, as ever, the best partner anyone could ask for.


Speaking of the extended length of this episode, that was made possible by the Patreon backers. The first milestone was an extra-long episode every year, and this here is the first.

I told myself that I’d consider the Patreon a success if I hit that first milestone by the end of the year. We’ve raised twice that. I am constantly in awe of the generosity of the people who listen to the show.

You folks, in other words. Thank you.


This episode is full of familiar voices–and not just because I do the voices for Gorgah and Eddie. Russell Collins, the man behind the VoFPX theme and the voice of corporate wizardry in Industrial Dark & Magic, lent his delightfully silver-plated tongue to Lucifer, Who Is The Morningstar. I’m making a habit of going to Russell whenever I need someone to be charmingly evil. I supposed there’s worse things to be typecast as…

You may recognize Len Webb’s impressive pipes as the voice of the Cosmic Hosts of Forever. I talked about how great Len is in the last newsletter, but it bears repeating: the man is incandescent with talent. I had no back-up voice in mind for the Cosmic Hosts of Forever; if Len hadn’t been game, I don’t know who I would have chosen instead. Luckily for all of us, he had no problem lending his inherent gravitas to a role that was mainly shouting. Class act, that Len.

Len and the rest of the Black Tribbles held their “Holiday Tribbilee” and, while I cannot speak for everyone, I had a grand time. I was stressing out a bit about what to wear–with good reason, it turned out, as there was some impressive costuming at the party. I ended just making a special necktie for the event. Something simple and understated:


Okay, maybe not understated. But I did look very, very snazzy in it.


I have just made the Annual Southern Migration, and am currently snuggled in with my family NC for X-Mas. I hope, that no matter what holiday you celebrate or have already celebrated (Hanukkah shout-out!) you were/are/will be surrounded by the ones you love, and who love you back. If have one wish this season, it’s that.

Second wish is for one of those Doctor Who Lego TARDIS sets.

Third wish? Third wish…I dunno.

I’ll think of something.


Oddfellows Local


Superheroes. You can’t escape ’em. I’m a fan of the genre, and even I have trouble keeping up with the TV shows, movies, not to mention the comics from which these caped crusaders spring from. I’ve actually stopped reading superhero comics on the regular. Every now and then I’ll grab a trade paperback of something unusual like Wilson & Alphona’s MS. MARVEL or Fraction & Aja’s HAWKEYE, but I’m far from the waiting-for-Wednesday fanboy I used to be. When I look at the superhero content currently being published, it’s quite clear that a great deal of it is not for me. I have long-standing love-affair with the character of Batman, but I haven’t purchased a current Batman comic in years. The superheroes being published are not my kind of heroes.

What are my kind of heroes? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Despite my affection for Batman, the superhero I’ve always identified with was Cliff Steele, the Robotman, particularly his portrayal in Grant Morrison & Richard Case’s run on DOOM PATROL. Cliff Steele was a human brain placed inside an android, a man uncomfortable with the size and power of body that doesn’t feel like his own. I’m a large man, and I was a large kid growing up, so I felt an instant kinship to this character. Reading those comics again as an adult, it’s clear that Cliff Steele is written as depressed person; I suppose it would be no surprise I would feel a kinship to this character long before I realized how much I suffer from depression as well.

Characters like Cliff Steele and the rest of the DOOM PATROL–which included a woman whose multiple personalities each have a different superpower, and person wrapped in bandages who was literal merging of a man and woman–are my kind of superheroes. Weirdos with personal baggage who nonetheless set about doing the right thing. Because that’s what heroes do.

The superheroes in Oddfellows Local are not as bizarre as those in DOOM PATROL, but I imagine they’d have a lot to talk about if they ever met.


This episode was an absolute dream to work on. I wrote Kicks the Kung Fu Clown with Dave Robison’s voice in mind. If you’ve ever listened to Dave The Roundtable Podcast, you know how his introductions flow pour out like thick hot chocolate. The man’s vocal chords are a national treasure. And if you haven’t listened to The Roundtable Podcast, you should. They had me on once upon a time, if you’re looking for a place to start.

When Dave asked for character influences, I sent him links to videos of the two men that inspired Kicks. The first was Tom Waits, expounding on, well, everything. The second was Puddles Pity Party, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice, singing Lorde’s “Royals” with Postmodern Jukebox. Dave got the Tom Waits element, but when it came to Puddles, he was utterly baffled.

“What am I supposed to do with THAT?!” he asked, incredulous.

“Just carry it with you as you go, Dave,” I said. And he did, too.

Kennedy Allen, who you may remember killing it as Lupe the Werewolf in “Wolf Like Me” came back for this episode to bring her idiosyncratic presence to the character of Rumblr. Kennedy is a voice actor I can’t work with enough, frankly. She always brings something I never expect to the characters she plays, and it’s always wonderful.

Kennedy’s fellow Black Tribble–and my occasional panel partner–Len Webb came on to bring our Batman stand-in Darchangel. This won’t be the last time you’ll hear from Len–he’ll be providing the same gravitas he did here next episode. This won’t be the last time you’ll hear Darchangel, either. We had so much fun recording that character, it’d be a shame not to bring him back.

I’ve also been on The Black Tribbles‘ show, talking about STAR WARS. So if you aren’t listening to The Black Tribbles, go ahead and start there. Rasheeda Phillips, who in addition to creating The Afrofuturist Affair, played a stranded time traveler on “Paused,” says some great stuff in that episode.


I may be too hard on Batman. After listening to Eric Molinsky’s fascinating interview with reigning Bat-scribe Scott Snyder for Imaginary Worlds, I’m thinking may have to give those books another look.

As of this writing, I haven’t been on an episode of Imaginary Worlds. I know! I can’t believe it either.



I was fortunate enough to have my mother visit for Thanksgiving AND to have made my personal best turkey and gravy (you always want to roll out your personal best when your mom is tasting). The soft pretzel stuffing was a hit, as it has been for years now and should forever be.

As a southern gentleman, I have…opinions about the so-called “cuisine” offered by the Northern region of these United States. The concept of soft-pretzel stuffing, however, is a glory I cannot and will not deny. It was first introduced to me at a “Friendsgiving” party, and while the original creator was tight-fisted with the recipe (he has since relented, giving me a list of instructions far too long to replicated, even if they do finally find a use for gibblets), I have made my own.

The nature of the soft pretzel, being salty and buttery before you even begin, allows a recipe that is sheer elegance in its simplicity. You can dress up a soft pretzel if you like, I suppose, but why would you?

I recommend using the soft pretzels found at Miller’s Twist in Reading Terminal, but any soft-pretzel will do.

Soft-Pretzel Stuffing

10 soft pretzels (I go ahead and get a dozen, for mid-prep snacking)
2 quart chicken or vegetable broth
4 oz of butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 sprigs of fresh sage, chopped
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
Salt
A dash of Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle (an optional touch, but I always find it adds a little somethin’-somthin.’ Garlic powder will serve)

1)    Preheat the oven to 350°. I usually make this along side a roast turkey, using Alton Brown’s recipe, so the oven has already been at 350° for quite some time before I shove the stuffing in.

2)    Chop the soft pretzels into 1-inch pieces, place in a large bowl. Poor one quart of the broth into bowl, and allow the pretzel pieces to soak the broth up

3)    Melt the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots celery and a pinch of salt, and sweat until the onions are translucent

4)    Add  sage and thyme to the vegetable mixture, stir until the vegetables are evenly coated.

5)    Add the pretzel pieces, including the broth at the bottom of the bowl. Add Sandwich Sprinkle. Stir well.

6)    Add more broth, so that the liquid comes halfway up the sides of the dutch oven (usually only 2 cups, but it depends on how dry or absorbent you pretzels are)

7)    Place the dutch oven in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes.

8)    Remove cover, and cook for another 20 minutes.

9)    Serve immediately in huge honking spoonfuls.

Not a fancy recipe, I will admit. But a crowd-pleaser just the same.


I have so much to be thankful for this year, not the least of which is you lot, and everyone else who has enjoyed The Voice of Free Planet X but not subscribed to this (crazy, I know!). The response to the show has been phenomenal. December last year was a dark time for me; I wasn’t sure where I was going, only that I was in an increasingly tenuous holding pattern. VoFPX was an attempt to find direction again, and the way you folks have embraced it proves to me I’m on the right track. Thank you for that. I don’t know how I could possibly repay you.


Starting Over

I was a job interview yesterday, and the interviewer pulled up my website to see some links to some of the journalism I’ve done recently. Rather than the usual, cleanly-designed hub of all things Jared Axelrod I had come to expect, what we found instead was series of ads hawking generic erectile dysfunction drugs.

Not the best foot forward, no.

I’ve had this problem before on my website, ever since I downloaded a free template that had a very sneaky bit of code embedded. I’ve deleted files and tracked down suspicious elements, but it was clear the only way to to truly make this thing go away was to burn down everything and start from scratch. So, here we are.

This happened, I should add, just one week after my hard-drive gave up the ghost without a proper back-up. Starting over has been a theme, recently

So with that in mind, welcome to the new, improved, jaredaxelrod.com. Update your RSS feeds. I’ll be re-running a few “greatest hits” blog posts from years past, and then…who knows?

I’ve always wanted to do more with this site. Starting over is a perfect excuse to do that.