PRIMER Podcast

Joseph McCormack

Primer is a podcast that gets you quickly going on a variety of topics (books, people, events, issues, etc.). Once primed, you are ready to go deeper. The podcast was started by Joe McCormack, author of “BRIEF” and “NOISE.”

All Episodes

In today’s Primer+ episode, Charley talks with the world’s leading C.S. Lewis expert— Michael Ward. Michael Ward, a Catholic priest, is Senior Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford, and Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of the best-selling and award-winning Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis, co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, and presenter of the BBC television documentary The Narnia Code. His newest book After Humanity is a guide to one of C.S. Lewis’s most widely admired but least accessible works, The Abolition of Man. Tune in to hear more of the duo’s conversation!

Jun 30

55 min 45 sec

In this episode, I get you primed on a remarkable, incredibly readable author— C.S. Lewis. While he is best known as the author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis was also a highly-esteemed professor, poet, broadcaster, and theologian. One of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century, Lewis wrote more than thirty books in his lifetime with genres ranging from Christian apologetics, fantasy, science fiction, and children’s literature. Lewis’ eternal legacy can never stale: he will continue to delight and inspire future generations with his spiritual guidance, thoughtful essays on a far-ranging subject matter, and entertaining fiction. Tune in to learn more about this prolific writer with timeless insights. Links: · The Screwtape Letters · The Chronicles of Narnia · Dr. Michael Ward · Bishop Barron on C.S. Lewis' “The Great Divorce” · C.S. Lewis Website · Socrates in the City Interview

Jun 28

16 min 10 sec

In this Primer Plus Episode, Melissa Rihl interviews Jerry Lenaburg about the historical nonfiction book, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. Written by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Erik Larson, this book goes into the life of Winston Churchill precisely when he becomes the “Churchill” that history remembers. Melissa and Jerry discuss Churchill’s quirks, the impact of his family on his decisions, his ability to choose “the right man for the job,” and lasting lessons in leadership. About Jerry D. Lenaburg: Jerry is a Project Manager and Senior Military Analyst with over 30 years' experience in the defense and intelligence community, where he has written extensively on military and national security topics relating to both conventional and unconventional warfare. Links: · The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson · Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert · Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

May 27

46 min 10 sec

In this episode, I get you primed on Winston Churchill and a remarkable book that captures the predicament he was in on his first day as prime minister. Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile, tells the story of London facing the Blitz during World War II from May of 1940 to May of 1941. An enthralling page-turner, Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year and lesser-known details of Churchill’s personal life during this time.In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would “never surrender.” They never did. Tune in to learn more about this fearless leader and his bold plans for British resistance during a pivotal moment in history. Links: Darkest Hour Dunkirk The Splendid and the Vile Winston Churchill biography

May 24

15 min 50 sec

Charley sits down with Malachy Walsh, author of Socratic Scribbling. Malachy spent some 25 years at J. Walter Thompson working directly with some of the world’s favorite brands. His new book reveals how he was able to leave his mark in advertising, namely through classical rhetoric and a deep appreciation of the Great Books.

May 5

48 min 51 sec

In this episode, we go back 2,500 years to address a modern writing dilemma called “Blank Page Syndrome.” As a retired advertising man, Malachy Walsh had to write on demand for 30 years. In his new book Socratic Scribbling, Malachy reveals secrets he learned from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintillion, Shakespeare, and other ancient philosophers that helped him face the blank page and make his mark in advertising. Socrates becomes the model of dealing with the Blank Page Syndrome because of his question-and-answer method. This method empowers us to pick our own minds, for ideas we didn’t even realize were there. Tune in as I discuss the elements of Classical Rhetoric which have been honed, mastered, and imitated by the greatest writers and thinkers of Western Civilization. Links: Socratic Scribbling website Schemes and Tropes Examples Todd Rundgren - Onomatopoeia

May 3

16 min 47 sec

In this episode, I talk about the detective comedy-drama television series that never disappoints. Psych follows the adventures of a detective agency run by a fake psychic, Shawn, and his dubious sidekick Gus. Shawn uses his amazing observational abilities to solve crimes and has a lot of fun in the process. In all eight seasons, you can expect to find reliably witty dialogue, engaging trivia references, and reoccurring themes that keep you constantly entertained. While Psych was the highest-rated US cable television premiere of 2006, the show has developed a cult following especially in the years since going off air, with fans of the show being called "PsychOs.“ Tune in and get primed on the TV show that provides a refreshing take on the crime-solving genre.   Episode notes: · Top 10 show and movie reference episodes: · Top 10 characters: · Gus aliases:

Mar 29

13 min 33 sec

In this Primer Plus episode, Melissa Rihl interviews Professor Susan Hanssen on the Battle of Lepanto, which occurred on October 7, 1571. Professor Hanssen describes the historical details and circumstances leading up this significant battle between two large powers: The fleet of the Ottoman Turk Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.  This was the greatest naval battle before the modern period, and the turning point of the Crusades. Professor Hanssen is an Associate Professor and chair of the History Department at the University of Dallas. Tune in for a fascinating conversation about this historic battle and it’s importance.

Mar 17

40 min 59 sec

In this episode, I revisit an epic naval battle that determined the fate of Christian Europe in 1571. This event represents a turning point between the daunting forces of the Ottoman Empire against a splintered and leaderless Holy League. The outcome of the battle would determine not only who would control the flow of commerce in the Mediterranean but also shape if Europe would remain Christian or be Muslim dominated. Pope Pius V called on all Christians to pray the rosary on October 7th to bring much-needed spiritual intercession in a time of desperation.   Links: The Battle of Lepanto: YouTube video: G.K. Chesterton poem: Catholic Answers:

Mar 15

15 min 29 sec

Charley talks to Scott Hambrick the founder of and the host of The Online Great Books and Music and Ideas podcasts. They dig into some of the hurdles to approaching these epic texts and the immense wisdom that they still offer.  

Mar 3

52 min 4 sec

In this episode, I talk about how valuable it is to delve into some of the “great books” that educated people I’ve known and respected have read, struggled with and discussed. Growing up, my father always talked about a University of Chicago professor with an odd yet memorable name, Mortimer Adler. Decades later, I now understand why my Dad had his own personal library and how many of the titles in it were on the recommended reading list that Adler compiled. What’s more, I talk about how a new program called the Online Great Books Program, and its founder Scott Hambrick, are leading hordes of inquiring, thirsty minds to read these books. Links: • Mortimer Adler• Book review video (“How to read a book” by Mortimer Adler)• Online Great Books Program

Mar 1

18 min 21 sec

In today’s episode, Melissa sits down with Chris Juen, a producer for The Chosen. Chris comes from an animation and visual effects background and has been a part of bringing this show to life from near the very beginning.They discuss the unique aspects of this show, now filming it’s second season, and the impact that it is having around the world.To watch The Chosen, you can download the app via Google or Apple app stores, and cast the episodes to your TV.If you enjoy the series, you can pay it forward to assist with production costs and continue to provide the show for free, by going to The Chosen is the first multi-season television series about the life of Christ, as witnessed through the eyes of those He impacted. Directed by Dallas Jenkins (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone) and distributed by VidAngel Studios, The Chosen has grown to become the largest crowdfunded TV series of all time.

Feb 17

18 min 40 sec

In this entertainment review, I share with you a new streaming TV series on the life of Jesus Christ that really caught me by surprise. “The Chosen” is the best depiction of the humanity of Christ and his disciples I have ever seen. The online series, produced and directed by Dallas Jenkins, was funded by crowdsourcing and bypassed Netflix, Amazon and others and was streamed via an app and hosted on YouTube. They plan on releasing multiple seasons and are creating strong word-of-mouth worldwide. The shows are well written, superbly casted and acted, and always moving. I enjoyed season 1 so much I watched it twice and can’t wait for the release of season 2. Links:       Vid Angel Studio site The Chosen YouTube channel

Feb 15

13 min 35 sec

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing badly.” For many people, there is a need for perfection and immediate success. We cannot see God, and do not always hear a response in prayer; He is not sitting right next to us as if we were at a coffee shop. How does someone know if they are “successful with prayer?” and building a relationship with God? Mental prayer is often thought of as something for only really “holy people,” and something difficult to achieve. However, it is available to each person, and not meant to be a cause of discouragement. Questions often arise such as, “What is mental prayer? Is it normal to have easy and difficult times with prayer? How does one cancel out the noise of the world to even make time for undistracted mental prayer or silence?” Enter Father Jacques Philippe. Fr. Jacques Philippe is a member of the Community of the Beatitudes, founded in France in 1983. After studying in Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Rome, he was ordained a priest in 1985. He primarily devotes himself to spiritual direction and preaching retreats internationally. His published books on spirituality are the consolidated result of such work. He is the author of Fire & Light, Interior Freedom, Time for God, and The Eight Doors of the Kingdom, among others. Over a million copies have been sold in 24 languages. In this interview, Melissa Rihl speaks with Father Jacques Philippe about the many difficulties of mental prayer. With references from his work, Time for God, and the wisdom of Carmelite Saints, Father Jacques offers wisdom and guidance of how to pray, how to achieve mental prayer without being discouraged, and to advance in a friendship with God. Whether you have never tried to pray or have been praying for a long time, there is something of reflection for everyone.  “Mental Prayer is a question of heart!”   Show links:

Jan 13

35 min 56 sec

In this episode, I discuss openly the difficulties of spending time alone in prayer with God. Though the idea of praying every day (in quiet) may seem appealing to some or absurd to others, the reality is that overcoming diverse challenges (i.e., distractions, temptations, constant activity, etc.) all play a role. We all may acknowledge that finding time and the presence of mind for any sort of conversation with a friend is difficult, yet it’s worth it not to be alone. Time for God is even more so, yet there are some serious hurdles to cross. Links: “Noise: living and leading when nobody can focus” Time for God Spiritual Batteries 5 tips on prayer Persistence in prayer

Jan 11

16 min 11 sec

Joe Byerly is an officer in the U.S. Army with over 16 years of experience in combat and training environments and a Non-Resident Fellow with the Modern War Institute. He’s also the founder and biggest contributor to From The Green Notebook. Walk into any organization in our Army and there is one thing you are guaranteed to find on a desk or in a cargo pocket: a small, green, government-issued notebook. “It’s where you capture your thoughts; it’s a great source of knowledge that we each individually have,” Joe says. “The idea with the blog is to create a place where we can collectively share those ideas.” Since 2013, the blog has transformed into a leadership and self-development resource for military leaders and professionals. In this short interview, Charley Thornton talks with Joe about one military leader who has frequently been misunderstood in modern history, Ulysses S. Grant. Most of us know him as the civil war hero and a two-term president, but what many people don’t know is his backstory and struggles with alcohol. Charley says, “We remember where they got, but we don’t always remember the rough journey that they took.” In their conversation, Joe and Charley discuss the #1 New York Times bestseller, Grant, by Ron Chernow. Chernow is one of the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency. Through this lens, Charlie and Joe shed new light on the man Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic... and yet the greatest hero.” Tune in for a fascinating conversation on one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.

Dec 2020

25 min 52 sec

In this episode, I introduce you to a famous Civil War hero and successful two-term president. U.S. Grant achieved much during his military and political careers, yet he struggled with alcohol and was forced to resign from the Army in 1854, seven years before he would ultimately resume service. He lived in poverty and his bouts with booze almost ruined him forever. I chose to tackle this historical hero because his personal flaw may have been precisely what pushed him to achieve greatness. Links: “Grant” by Ron Chernow Historical snapshot History in 5 (YouTube video)

Dec 2020

12 min 59 sec

In this episode, I invite Dr. Gerard Wegemer, a professor at The University of Dallas, to share his extensive knowledge and rich personal perspective on the life and person of St. Thomas More. A friend of mine for over 30 years, Gerry is a foremost expert on More’s life and writings and is the founder of The Center for St. Thomas More Studies. In our lengthy interview, Dr. Wegemer provides insights into More’s wit, courage, statesmanship, notoriety and seemingly silent and tragic ending. Our conversation will provide listeners a welcome introduction to this remarkable man and the incredible impact he has had on our world.

Dec 2020

39 min 48 sec

In this second episode, I focus on a personal hero who was extremely educated, reached the highest professional heights, lived a rich family life, had many friends yet died in the Tower of London alone as a martyr for his Roman Catholic faith. In my childhood, I developed an admiration to this man who lived nearly 500 years ago. As a parishioner of St. Thomas More parish on Chicago’s southwest side, I grew to develop a devotion to this saint would always play a role in my life.

Dec 2020

15 min 42 sec

My first episode explains why I launched a new podcast to share my personal (not professional) insights, experiences, opinions, concerns and recommendations. It aims to give you a spark to go deeper on a variety of topics that I care about deeply (i.e., people, issues, events, insights, entertainment, philosophy, etc.).

Nov 2020

12 min 19 sec