PBS Proves Again, Its Importance In Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Documentaries List

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

Documentaries, it would seem, are more important in today’s world of television and movies than ever before.  What with the seeming never-ending ocean of prequels, sequels and remakes being turned out by the major movie and television studios, and the equally endless ocean of dumbed down “reality tv” competition shows and dramas being turned out by television studios, documentaries are now the last way for audiences to get anything original, let alone truly engaging and entertaining.  To that end, it goes without saying that there is just as much for a list of the best new documentaries each year as for any other category.  Keeping that in mind, Phil’s Picks has created just such a list once again this year.  As with past years, this list is composed primarily of titles from PBS, the very last bastion of truly family friendly and worthwhile programming.  They come from PBS’ most beloved and respected series, Nature, Nova, and Secrets of the Dead.  One is even a standalone presentation that will appeal equally to lovers of cats and dogs.

As with each past year’s list of top new documentaries, this year’s list features the Top 10 new documentaries and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Documentaries.

PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW DOCUMENTARIES

  1. Nature: Okavango: River of Dreams
  2. Secrets of the Dead: Abandoning The Titanic
  3. NOVA: Guess Who’s Driving
  4. Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
  5. Secrets of the Dead: Bombing Auschwitz
  6. NOVA: Why Bridges  Collapse
  7. Cat and Dog Tales
  8. NOVA: Rise of the Mammals
  9. NOVA: Dead Sea Scrolls Detectives
  10. NOVA: A To Z: The First Alphabet/How Writing Changed The World
  11. ZZ Top: That Lil Ol’ Band From Texas
  12. NOVA: Secret Mind of Slime
  13. Nature: Bears
  14. NOVA: Human Nature
  15. NOVA: Decoding DaVinci

Next up from Phil’s Picks is 2020’s Top 10 New Family DVDs & BDs.  Stay tuned for that.

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‘Okavango — River of Dreams’ Is The Best Episode Of PBS’ Series ‘Nature’ So Far This Year

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

The Okavango River is one of Africa’s most important and one of the world’s most important and awe-inspiring bodies of water.  Instead of flowing out into the ocean, the river flows inland through Botswana and toward the Kalahari Desert.  The river creates a virtual paradise for the animals that live in the desert’s hostile environment while also being a virtual Eden in its source and its delta.  Now thanks to PBS Distribution, audiences can take a journey along the river with the animals that migrate along its length and that call the river home in the new episode Okavango: River of Dreams.  The nearly three hour documentary, released Jan. 7, is an engaging and entertaining presentation in part due to the information that is featured throughout its three segments.  That information will be discussed shortly.  Speaking of the segments, the fact that the two-hour, forty-minute program is presented in three separate segments is another key aspect to its presentation.  It will be discussed a little later.  The cinematography featured in this episode of Nature is also worth noting, and will also be addressed later.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of this program.  All things considered, they make it one of the year’s best new documentaries even despite the unnecessary preachy pro-conservation message featured in the episode’s finale.

OkavangoRiver of Dreams is an awe-inspiring presentation that is among the best new Nature episodes released so far this year and among the best new overall documentaries so far this year.  That is proven in part through the story at its center.  The story in question is that of the Okavango River, and its role as the center of a much larger ecosystem.  Audiences will remain engaged and entertained as they watch the river course its way from its source, into its delta and into the dry, arid desert land where it ends, at least until rains fall to give those lands new life.  Learning of the role that elephants play in the river’s course and even that some seemingly natural foes – hyenas and warthogs – actually find some moments in which they live peacefully at times is enlightening.  Seeing the lengths that some animals go to for survival at the far, drier end of the river is just as enlightening, as those behaviors prove to be quite similar to human behaviors, in terms of survival of the fittest.  Simply watching the interactions of the overall ecosystem of the Okavango River is in itself enlightening. From the hierarchies of the cat families (lions and leopards) to the influence of elephants on the whole of the ecosystem to the sheer vast number of species is another key portion of the program’s informational aspect.  Between all of this and so much more, the general content of this episode of Nature gives audiences so much to appreciate.

While the content featured throughout the course of Okavango River of Dreams does a lot to make this episode engaging and entertaining, it is just one of the presentation’s important elements.  The fact that the nearly three-hour program is broken up into segments ensures even more, audiences’ engagement and entertainment.  The program is broken up into three distinct segments – “Paradise,” “Limbo,” and “Inferno” – a la Dante’s epic poem.  The whole thing starts at the best point in the river’s extension, “Paradise.”  As the rive flows through the African continent, resources begin to become less, leading to more competition for resources and survival.  That moment is “Limbo.”  The river’s end near the Kalahari Desert is the “Inferno.”  It is the harshest point for all of the creatures that rely on the river for life.  The far southern end of the river is a point at which the water becomes far less available for creatures above and below the waves.  Each segment has a distinct beginning, middle and end.  Viewers are not forced to sit through the story in one whole watch.  This is important to note because in segmenting the story, it allows viewers to take the story at their own pace.  That ability to take in the story of the river and its ecosystem ensures even more, that audiences will be more focused and in turn engaged as they watch each segment.  So while this might not seem all that important on the surface, it is of great importance in the bigger picture.  What’s more, the pacing within each segment partners with that segmentation to add even more certainty that audiences will remain engaged and entertained throughout the program overall.  Keeping in mind the impact of the episode’s pacing and segmentation along with the general content, the whole of this presentation is even stronger.  They are not the program’s only key elements.  The cinematography featured throughout the episode puts the finishing touch to its whole.

The cinematography that is featured throughout the course of OkavangoRiver of Dreams is award-worthy to say the absolute least.  Whether it be the aerial shots from high above the African continent, the close ups of animals wading through the river’s waters, the creatures of the deep (so to speak) who live in the river or even the smooth, seamless shots of the river that flow just as smoothly as the river itself, every one of those shots does its own part to keep viewers engaged and entertained, too.  The program may be presented on DVD, but the footage is so rich and full of life and color, as if it was shot in high definition.  Whether watching the flamingos take to the skies in “Inferno,” the elephants make their way along the river in all three segments and big cats working to survive all along the river while also training their cubs, audiences are given the best seat in the house while feeling like there are immersed in the program thanks to the cinematography.  The blue skies set against the dry, cracked ground at the river’s end creates such a stark contrast that creates its own powerful impact for audiences.  The slow motion shots of gazelles bounding through the river’s waters is moving in its own way, too.  Simply put, the cinematography featured throughout the course of this episode of Nature is just as important to its presentation as the episode’s primary content and its segmentation.  When all three elements are considered together, the whole of those elements makes this presentation a work that is the best episode of PBS’ Nature so far this year and one of the year’s top new documentaries so far, too.  That is even despite the inclusion of the completely unnecessary preachy pro-conservationist message pushed at the finale of the program and also the equally confusing inclusion of Marilyn Manson’s cover of The Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ at the beginning and end of each segment.  Yes, it actually incorporates Marilyn Manson into its whole.  Again, even with this in mind, the program in whole is still worth the watch.

PBS’ presentation of Nature: OkavangoRiver of Dreams is one of the best of the series’ episodes so far this year and easily and one of the year’s top new documentaries.  That is evidenced in part through the general content that makes up the body of the episode.  It is rich in its own right, as has been pointed out here.  The fact that the nearly three-hour program is separated into three distinct segments will encourage audiences to watch the program in whole, and in turn ensure even more, audiences will remain engaged and entertained.  The cinematography featured throughout the program round out its most important elements.  The only real negatives to the whole are the fact that once again, that unnecessary preachy pro-conservationist message is there and the inclusion of Marilyn Manson’s cover of The Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).’  One can’t even begin to figure out what necessity had for the program.  That was just a poor choice as there is no connection between that song and this program in terms of content.  What’s more, audiences who watch Nature know that we need to care for planet Earth and all of its ecosystems.  We do not need to be preached at time and again.  The people behind Nature have got to get this through their heads and stop letting that preaching get into every episode.  Save the preaching for one episode of the program.  People watch this show to learn and to be entertained, not to be preached at.  Now, getting back on track, even despite the two noted negatives, this program still boasts so much to its positive that it is still well worth the watch time and again.  It is available now on DVD.  More information on this and other episodes of Naure is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

 

 

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PBS’ New ‘Nature’ Episode Is A ‘Big’ Success

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

Nature is full of giant creatures, and in a new episode of its hit wildlife series Nature, PBS is introducing audiences to some of nature’s biggest beasts.  Nature: Nature’s Biggest Beasts was released on DVD Jan. 14.  The hour-long episode takes viewers around the world, presenting the biggest of the big and even the biggest of the small.  That central aspect of the DVD forms the program’s foundation, and does a good job of doing so.  As interesting as all of the discoveries are throughout the episode, the program is not perfect, sadly.  The program’s final statement detracts from the episode, but thankfully not to the point that it makes the episode unwatchable.  This will be addressed a little later.  While the program’s finale does detract from its whole, it is the program’s only negative.  There is at least one more positive to note in examining the episode.  That positive is the episode’s pacing.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the episode.  All things considered, they make Nature: Nature’s Biggest Beasts its own “big” hit.

Nature: Nature’s Biggest Beasts is its own big, successful presentation.  That is due in large part (no pun intended) to its central story.  The hour-long program takes viewers around the world, offering audiences introductions to the biggest of the biggest and biggest of the small beasts.  From the giraffe, which has to position itself just right in order to be able to get a drink of water, to a certain kind of leech, which can eat other invertebrates, to a giant octopus, which can eat other sea life twice its size and more, the program’s central feature serves as a good starting point for so many biology lessons from high school onward.  The program takes audiences into the treetops and skies and even below the waves time and again, wasting little time along the way.  That matter, that of the program’s pacing, will be discussed later.  The central story will surprise many viewers as it introduces them to creatures that they otherwise might not have ever known about.  Case in point are the specific species of bats, beetles and even crabs featured within the program.  On a side note, the crab that is introduced in this program looks a lot like the one who held Maui’s hook in Disney’s Moana.  One can’t help but wonder if that real life crab served as the model for that character.  Getting back on the topic at hand, the various beasts that are introduced throughout the course of Nature’s Biggest Beasts and what makes them so intriguing more than gives audiences reason to take in this episode of NOVA.  That ensured engagement forms a solid foundation for the DVD.

For all of the strength that Nature’s Biggest Beasts gains through its central presentation, there is one problem with this episode that cannot be ignored.  That problem is presented, go figure, at the episode’s end.  As viewers are introduced to the corals that make up the Great Barrier Reef, the narrator makes a direct statement about appreciating and protecting all of nature’s beasts, whether they are the biggest of the big or the biggest of the small.  This is important to note because in hindsight, the whole episode essentially rounds out to one big preachy presentation.  The thing is that the preachy aspect was so covertly incorporated into the program.  It would have been so easy to have not had that element added to the mix, but the fact that it was put in at the very end results in that lasting impression that audiences really are sitting through one big statement story.  That realization that audiences will experience can and does leave a bad taste in some viewers’ mouths so to speak.  Keeping that in mind, this is a detriment to the episode’s presentation.  It is not so bad that it makes the episode unwatchable.  Regardless, it is an element that cannot be ignored.  Luckily for the episode’s sake (and for that of everyone involved in the episode’s creation), this negative is the program’s only con.  Its pacing works with its central presentation to make it that much more worth watching.

The pacing of Nature’s Biggest Beasts is key to note because over the course of roughly an hour, a lot of ground (and water – yes, that awful pun was intended) is covered.  From Africa to North America to Asia to the Atlantic and even to the Arctic, viewers are taken around the globe.  Considering how many regions and animals are examined, it would have been so easy for the pacing to get out of control and leave viewers behind.  Thankfully, that did not happen here.  For all of the material that is presented throughout, each beast and each region of the world gets just enough time.  The transitions from one segment to the next adds to the positive impact of the program’s pacing.  The two elements collectively do just enough to ensure viewers are able to keep up with everything, and in turn to ensure that they gain a certain appreciation for what makes each big beast so intriguing.  That time and thought that was incorporated into the program’s pacing and the transitions clearly paid off.  Considering the successful result of that material and the engagement and entertainment ensured through the presentation itself, the two elements do a lot to make it another positive offering from PBS.  That is even with the issue of the preachy message that was so covertly included in the program.  All things considered, Nature’s Biggest Beasts proves to be a possible candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new documentaries.

Nature: Nature’s Biggest Beasts is an engaging and entertaining new episode of PBS’s hit wildlife series that deserves consideration for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new documentaries.  That is due in part to the wide range of animals and areas that are covered throughout the course of the program.  The program’s pacing and its related transitions, which play into the pacing, make the program that much more worth the watch.  The one negative from which the episode suffers is the covert inclusion of the episode’s preachy message about conservation.  Yes, we as viewers know that we need to take care of the earth and its many great creatures.  The last thing we need in watching such an other wise enjoyable program is to be preached at.  The fact that the program’s script saves that preachy message until its end is really slick. It makes the episode in whole seem like one giant preachy message in whole, which detracts from its presentation.  Thankfully, the impact is not so negative that the episode is unwatchable.  It can’t be ignored either, though.  Keeping all of this in mind, Nature: Nature’s Biggest Beasts is a big success.  It just could have been even bigger if not for that unnecessary, covert preachy aspect.  Either way, it is an episode of Nature that is well worth the watch even with its one con.  The DVD is available now.  More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

 

 

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PBS Delves Into The Realm Of Bears In New ‘Nature’ Episode

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

Bears are among the world’s most awe-inspiring creatures.  From the powerful grizzly bear, to the sloth bear to the polar and panda bears and beyond, bears are key to so many ecosystems around the world. Now later this month, PBS Distribution will present a new profile of the world’s various bear species in the apty titled Nature episode Bears.

NatureBears is  scheduled for release Jan. 28 on DVD and digital.  The hour-long program does more than just profile bears and the adaptations the help them survive.  It also examines the impact of humans on that ability to survive.

The trailer for the program is streaming online here.  The DVD will retail for MSRP of $24.99, but can be ordered at a reduced price of $19.99 through PBS’ online store.

More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

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PBS Distribution “Goes Big” With New ‘Nature’ Documentary

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

Nature is full of giant creatures, and in a new episode of its hit wildlife series Nature, PBS will introduce audiences to some of nature’s biggest beasts.

NatureNature’s Biggest Beasts is scheduled for release Tuesday on DVD and digital.  The hour-long program examines how the Komodo Dragon uses its powerful bite to maintain its place in its ecosystem.  It also examines how the giraffe has to work extra hard to control its blood pressure as a result of its height.  As if that is not enough, the program presents the Blue Whale’s ability to eat up to four tons of krill daily in order to keep a full stomach.

Mammals are not the only creatures featured in PBS’ latest episode of Nature.  Even some of the largest animals in the insect world — the finger-length giant hornets of Japan — receive their own focus during the course of the presentation.

NatureNature’s Biggest Beasts will retail for MSRP of $24.99, but can be ordered at a reduced price of $19.99 through PBS’ online store.

More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

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PBS Takes Audiences On A Journey Along The Okavango River In New ‘Nature’ Episode

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

The Okavango River is one of Africa’s most important bodies of water.

Instead of flowing out into the ocean, the river flows inland through Botswana and toward the Kalahari Desert.  The river creates a virtual paradise for the animals that live in the desert’s hostile environment.

Now in a new episode of NatureOkavangoRiver of Dreams, PBS examines the river and its part in the region’s ecosystem.  Along the course of the journey along the river, viewers watch an injured lioness left for dead by her pride as she recovers and tries to care for her cubs.  Audiences also see warthog families sharing dens, protecting one another from predators, such as lions and leopards.

NatureOkavangoRiver of Dreams is retailing for MSRP of $24.99, but can be ordered at a reduced price of $19.99 through PBS’ online store.

More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

CNN Films, Magnolia Pictures’ Gilda Radner Bio Is The Best Of 2019’s New Documentary Field

Courtesy: CNN Films/Magnolia Pictures

Movies based on actual events and biased news from both sides of the aisle have done so much damage to the world.  The movies based on actual events are over embellished forgettable works that tell half the story if even that.  The biased news on both sides of the aisle tells just as little as the noted movies, if not less.  To that end, one can’t help but be very thankful for all the new documentaries that are released each year.  The documentaries released this year went a long way toward making up for the problems caused by the noted news and movies, so many that there were more than enough to fit on any critic’s list of the year’s top new documentaries, but this critic tried to assemble a fitting list.

This year’s list features documentaries centered on topics, such as the history of Country Music, the Apollo 11 mission and a famed movie star.  Each documentary brings its own important and enjoyable presentation for audiences thanks to its unique content and story.  From one to the next, each proves itself fully deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new docs.  This critic’s list features, as with previous lists, the top 10 titles from the year as well as five honorable mention titles for a total  of 15 titles.  This list’s titles come from PBS, Cohen Media Group, Magnolia Pictures and even Shout! Factory, so they are not just from one company.  In other words, there is some diversity here.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration if Phil’s Picks 2019 Top 10 New Documentaries

 

PHIL’S PICKS 2019 TOP 10 NEW DOCUMENTARIES

  1. Love, Gilda
  2. Bad Reputation
  3. American ExperienceChasing The Moon
  4. Buster KeatonThe Great Buster
  5. Ken BurnsCountry Music
  6. 8 Daysto The Moon and Back
  7. American ExperienceSealab
  8. NeverEnding ManHayao Miyizaki
  9. NOVAApollo’s Daring Mission
  10. Sinatra in Palm SpringsThe Place He Called Home
  11. NOVALast B-24
  12. NOVAPluto & Beyond
  13. NOVAFirst Horse Warriors
  14. NatureDogs in the Land of Lions
  15. Nature: A Squirrel’s Guide To Success

 

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Two New ‘Nature’ Docs On The Way This Month

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

PBS Distribution will release two new episodes of its hit wildlife series Nature on DVD this month.

NatureA Squirrel’s Guide To Success is scheduled for release Jan. 22.  The episode delves into the world of squirrels, examining just a handful of the roughly 300 species that exist today, such as the fox squirrel, Arctic ground squirrel and the red squirrel.

Audiences learn about the abilities and adaptations that have helped squirrels survive for eons in their various environments over the course of one hour. Those abilities and adaptations include, but are not limited to, being able to glide through the air, the ability to make astounding leaps and extensive memory.

NatureA Squirrel’s Guide To Success will retail for MSRP of $24.99, but can be pre-ordered now at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.

 

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Distribution/WNET

NatureDogs in the Land of Lions is scheduled for release Jan. 29.  Filmed over the course of two years, the program follows a family of African dogs. The family is led by the mother — named Puzzles — after her mate — Jigsaw — is killed by lions, the African dog’s biggest enemy.  The moving presentation of motherhood and family loyalty exhibits what sets wild dogs apart from other large, social carnivores.

NatureDogs in the Land of Lions will retail for $24.99, but can be pre-ordered now at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.

More information on these and other episodes of Nature is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org//wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

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PBS Shows Even Other Animals Can Be Rebels In New Three-Part “Nature” Episode

Courtesy: PBS

Truth is, more often than not, stranger than fiction, and that is just as true when it comes to the animal kingdom as in any other aspect of life.  Audiences will see that for themselves firsthand this summer when PBS Distribution releases PBS’ new Nature documentary Natural Born Rebels on DVD.

NatureNatural Born Rebels is currently scheduled to be released on DVD June 5. The 159 minute (2 hours, 39 minutes) documentary presents to viewers some animals whose behavior seems so unbelievable, yet is very real.  That includes a crab that can’t help stealing, a chimpanzee who rules his group with an iron fist and even a rather amorous prairie dog.  As audiences will learn throughout the three-part series, these are just some of the surprising yet very real behaviors that animals display, too.

Over the course of the program, researchers reveal to viewers that these behaviors may be the key to survival in the animal kingdom.  NatureNatural Born Rebels will retails for MSRP of $24.99 and can be pre-ordered at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.

More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

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PBS Heads To Brazil For New ‘Nature’ Episode

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

PBS is taking audiences to South America next month with the second of tow new episodes of its hit wildlife series Nature.

Nature: Hotel Armadillo will be released Tuesday, June 20 exclusively on DVD.  The program takes audiences on a journey to Brazil’s remote 80,000+ square foot Pantanal wet land in search of the elusive Giant Armadillo.

Very little is known about the solitary, nocturnal creature.  That is why the conservation biologist Arnaud Desbiez and members of the Giant Armadillo Project, which is supported by more than 40 zoos and aquariums worldwide, set out to find the animals.

Desbiez and company took specialized equipment on their journey to capture pictures and footage of the giant armadillo in its natural habitat, and learn much more than they ever expected in the process.  They discover once the armadillo vacates its burrow, which can be as deep as 20-feet, the burrow is used for both food and shelter by any number of other animals.

Along with the discovery of the semi-symbiotic relationship between the giant armadillo and other animals, the research team also discovers the armadillo’s wide home range.  It also presents a serious man-made danger facing the creature, which plays such a crucial part in Pantanal’s ecosystem—ranchers who burn the area to promote vegetative growth.

The DVD’s run time is approximately one hour. It will retail for MSRP of $24.99, but can be pre-ordered at a reduced price of $19.99 via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of Nature is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PBSNature

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PBSNature

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.