DanTDM Creates a Big Scene on YouTube Red

boys with DanTDM

If you have children of a certain age, you probably recognize the name DanTDM. The TDM stands for The Diamond Minecart, and Dan Middleton is the man behind the YouTube account. He’s made his fame (and fortune) by playing Minecraft and recording his gameplay at the same time as his own face while he narrates and reacts to the game. Kids all over the world watch all of his videos. He has over 14 million subscribers.

YouTube Space LA sign

So it makes total sense that YouTube Red would partner with DanTDM to make an original series. DanTDM Creates a Big Scene debuted on April 7, along with three other original content series. A celebration was held at YouTube Space LA in advance of the launch, and I attended with my sons, who thought it was seriously the coolest thing ever. I was invited to interview Dan, press junket style, but I stuck my boys in the hot seat since they know all about him, as you can see in this interview, posted on YouTube (naturally).

If you’re patient and watch through to the end, you’ll get a kick out of my younger son just firing the difficult questions like “What’s up with your hair?” and “How about those giant earrings?” He wasn’t intimidated at all. Considering I started my career in the arts as a behind-the-scenes interviewer, I’m feeling like the kid’s got it in his blood.

youtube red step and repeatBut he won’t pose for photos with Mom.

The new YouTube Red series, a fantastical take on DanTDM’s creation of a live show that actually does exist, begins with the free first episode, but the subsequent 5 episodes are viewable only by YouTube Red subscribers. YouTube Red is the paid version of YouTube, which allows you to watch all of this original content ad-free. For people used to watching YouTube videos for free like you have been since the beginning of YouTube, this might be an adjustment. But the production value seems pretty high, so you’re bound to have a positive experience if this platform works for you.

DanTDM YouTube screening

In addition to Dan’s show, three other YouTube Red Originals for families will roll out this Spring including Kings of Atlantis, an underwater animated adventure starring Cody and Joe of the immensely popular Minecraft-inspired YouTube channel, TheAtlanticCraft also debuting on April 7thFruit Ninja, inspired by the eponymously named gaming app, and Hyperlinked, a scripted series starring tween music sensation L2M will also arrive this spring. All four of the shows were screened at the party we attended, and the kids were transfixed by them all. The stars of Hyperlinked were there, and they were super friendly to all the kids at the party.

DanTDM signs kids hats

But the true star of the event was DanTDM himself. He was gracious and kind to every kid who asked him a question or had him sign their T-shirt or hat. I watched him meet kids and sign items for over an hour without ever looking tired or even wanting to sit down for a second. Such seemingly effort success couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Original series on YouTube Red. $9.99/mo.

The FAB Mom’s Guide by Jill Simonian: Book Review

In the seemingly endless pile of books about having a baby, there are a few that stand out as actually being worth your time and energy. The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby by Jill Simonian is worth the read for a few reasons.

The FAB Mom's Guide - book coverFirst, one look at Jill and you will think to yourself “How can I be like her?” Second, her down-to-earth voice and the nuggets of personal confession she shares in the book will make you laugh and remember that even glamorous women have their un-glamorous moments. Third, if you’re into this sort of thing, The FAB Mom’s Guide includes lots of up-close-and-personal advice and confessions from celebrity moms.

I’ll admit that celebrity moms are not my role models for anything, really. I don’t have fashion sense, I barely wear makeup, and I celebrate the long stretches of days when I don’t have to get dressed and leave the house. And my kids are 9 and 12 now! But I remember those days of new motherhood. I had no intention of bouncing back to anything. I just wanted a nap.

Not Jill. She is a force of nature, and if you’ve ever watched her on the local morning news show or on any of the online programs she has hosted over the last several years, you’ll see what I mean. She is warm, kind, funny, self-deprecating, and drop-dead gorgeous. (Sorry, Jill. It has to be said.) Her kids are adorable, she’s super successful at everything she tries, and she’s so nice and normal that you can’t even hate her for it all.

So, much like you’d look to self-made rich people to get advice about how to earn and save money, or fit people for how to get in shape, you can look to Jill Simonian for some advice about how to “bounce back” to your pre-mom self if you are facing new motherhood and you want to climb up out of the slump and get back to business. Whatever your business is. Because Jill did just that.

In The FAB Mom’s Guide, Jill shares some of the quirky tricks that worked for her as she prepared for the births of her daughters, and as she mothered them to toddlerhood. All along the way, she worked at getting more television hosting jobs and building up her blog. Celebrity moms were her role models, and she certainly knows plenty of them as you will read in the book. I would be intimidated by their beauty and ability to be put together out in public, but Jill took their poise as inspiration and used their examples to keep herself energetic and resilient, while cherishing her daughters and her new motherhood at the same time.

There are chapters about exercise and fashion tips, advice about necessary baby gear, how Jill kept herself connected to the world even though she had infants, and more. She is always careful to add disclaimers to her words—this book is her experience and not advice, “this is what worked for me maybe not for you,” etc. But I don’t think she needed as much of that qualification, because this is obviously one woman’s story. It certainly won’t work for everyone (stiletto heels to give you confidence? I would surely twist my ankle) but that’s okay. Not every parenting book is for every parent.

For a woman working in Hollywood, having and raising a baby is very difficult if you want to keep your career and not feel like you are neglecting your family. One thing I have learned from so many accomplished colleagues who are also mothers is that there is no need to apologize for wanting to do good work and be successful. Those are the moms who seem to be the happiest. And Jill is always the happiest of them all when I see her, so even for this not-new mom, The FAB Mom’s Guide was an inspiring book to read.

The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby
by Jill Simonian
Hardcover ($13.59 on Amazon) and Kindle

Nintendo Switch Preview

Kids playing video games

Last weekend my boys and I got to play some games on the new Nintendo Switch! We attended a launch event in Hollywood, and as I noted on Instagram, it was totally worth the drive. 

video game player and girl with multicolored hair

We’ve been anticipating the Switch’s arrival for months, and the boys were really excited that it is finally here. I’m still super old-school, so I am content to play LEGO Star Wars on the Wii U (and let’s face it, I would have been fine playing Atari for the rest of my life if things hadn’t evolved from there) but I was definitely curious.

Mario party

The selling point of the new Switch gaming system is that it can be used as a console hooked up to your big screen TV, or taken on the road and played like a tablet. So it’s sort of a cross between the Wii U game pad and the Nintendo DS systems. When the Switch is in console mode, you use the little “Joy-Cons” as multiplayer remote controls, docked in a Joy-Con grip so you can use them like a pro controller, or just use a pro controller. When you go portable with it, the Joy-Cons re-attach to the Switch and you use them both to play your single player game.

Nintendo Switch product photo

There’s a great video to demonstrate these different ways to play here.

At the launch event, the kids and I mostly used the Switch in console mode, but I did take a moment to pull the unit out of the Switch dock to see what the graphics looked like when I was playing the new (and also hotly anticipated) Nintendo open-world video game Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The graphics were great on the big screen, but you can really see the definition on the Switch unit itself. It looks better than any hand-held and certainly better than the DS or 3DS.

Boy playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

The game is awesome. We only got to play a 20-minute demo version, but it was enough to make us all wish for a Switch and the game. Kit wakes up from a 100-year nap and gets a cool magic tablet that shows him where to go on his quest. But as Kit’s controller, you get to choose where to go, what to discover, and what to do. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, but in a video game.

Breath of the Wild screenshot

We also played some neat games that you control with the Joy-Cons: Arms (first person knock out game, which my kids mastered instantly but I could not seem to grasp) Poyo Poyo Tetris (like playing Tetris, but with Gremlins), Splatoon 2 (another kid-favorite: you get to move the world around by tilting the Switch in handheld mode), 1-2 Switch! (quick-draw fire at your opponent game), and Just Dance 2017:

You can barely see the Joy-Cons in our hands because they are so small. It makes dancing much easier than with the bulkier Wii U remotes. In these pictures we are totally rocking out to “Cake by the Ocean.” The kid beat me with his sick moves.

The launch event was a gamer’s theme park. It was the coolest arcade this side of the 1980’s, no quarters needed. (These kids today. They have no idea.)

woman under giant Mario hat

We need much more time with the Switch to give it a thorough review, but from this limited experience, I can see that it’s going to be a big hit. The Switch goes for $299.99 and game cards are $49.99 and up, not compatible with the Wii U or Wii. So it’s basically a platform replacement. This is a paradigm shift for the one-at-a-time console family, like we have been since getting our first system in 2009.

Not that it matters much at the moment. The Switch has sold out everywhere already! And with a game release schedule spreading out the awesome new titles for several months, I’m betting they’ll continue to fly off the shelves (and out of online retailer warehouses) as fast as they come in! Check out the Switch website for more details and videos.