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Hal VT

High school history and psychology teacher and coach

Bennington, VT USA | Member Since 2009

ratings
17
REVIEWS
13
FOLLOWING
0
FOLLOWERS
0
HELPFUL VOTES
8

  • A Briefer History of Time

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 21 mins)
    • By Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow
    • Narrated By Erik Davies
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (592)
    Performance
    (127)
    Story
    (128)

    Stephen Hawking's worldwide best seller, A Brief History of Time, has been a landmark volume in scientific writing. Its author's engaging voice is one reason, and the compelling subjects he addresses is another: the nature of space and time, the role of God in creation, the history and future of the universe.

    David says: "Stick with the original: A brief history of time"
    "Science I can get!"
    Overall

    As a teacher, I know that it's one thing to understand complex ideas; it's quite another to articulate them clearly to someone who lacks a good frame of reference for understanding. Hawking's real genius is not in his knowledge and understanding of complicated ideas, it's in his ability to simplify them so that a guy like me, who dropped high school physics because it seemed so much like pure magic, is able to understand them on a basic level.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Stephen E. Ambrose
    • Narrated By Tim Jerome
    Overall
    (328)
    Performance
    (291)
    Story
    (295)

    Easy Company, 506th Airborne Division, U.S. Army, was as good a rifle company as any in the world. From their rigorous training in Georgia in 1942 to D-Day and victory, Ambrose tells the story of this remarkable company, which kept getting the tough assignments. Easy Company was responsible for everything from parachuting into France early D-Day morning to the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. Band of Brothers is the account of the men of this remarkable unit.

    Christopher says: "Greatest Generation"
    "The gold standard for the genre"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you want to see how company- and platoon-level combat played out between Normandy and the fall of Berlin, this is the one you want. If you want the "Big Picture," I recommend Rick Atkinson's The Guns At Last Light. Reading both - I suggest Atkinson first - gives a really nice appreciation for what US troops faced between June 1944 and April 1945.

    This is the best of Ambrose's audiobooks that I have listened to or books that I have read. If there is a better audiobook or book out there covering the troop's-eye view of combat on the western front of WWII, I haven't seen it yet.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Viper Pilot: The Autobiography of One of America's Most Decorated Combat Pilots

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Dan Hampton
    • Narrated By John Pruden
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (222)
    Performance
    (206)
    Story
    (209)

    Sure to rank as one of the greatest aviation memoirs ever written, Viper Pilot is an Air Force legend's thrilling eyewitness account of modern air warfare. From 1986 to 2006, Lt. Col. Dan Hampton was a leading member of the Wild Weasels, the elite Air Force fighter squadrons whose mission is recognized as the most dangerous job in modern air combat. Weasels are the first planes sent into a war zone, flying deep behind enemy lines purposely seeking to draw fire from surface-to-air missiles and artillery. They must skillfully evade being shot down - and then return to destroy the threats, thereby making the skies safe for everyone else to follow.

    Frances says: "Fast and Furious"
    "Action is good - political views not so much"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What made the experience of listening to Viper Pilot the most enjoyable?

    It's definitely full of action, and Hampton's career has been long and varied enough to provide a view from the cockpit in many different scenarios, from training, through Desert Storm and the "intermission" as he calls the time between the wars, through 9/11 to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It gives you a view to a lifestyle most of us will never see very closely.


    What about John Pruden’s performance did you like?

    As someone who worked alongside (I'm sure Hampton would say "under") the F-16 jocks out of Prince Sultan Airbase as a member of the Army medevac detachment in Operation Southern Watch, I can definitely say he nailed the voice of a fighter pilot, and he pronounced everything correctly, not to be taken from granted when acronyms and middle eastern locations are involved. His tone carries the right amount of arrogance and derision for non-fighter pilots to be a believable voice for the author.


    Any additional comments?

    I understand that separating a long military career from politics is difficult. But the editorializing became too frequent and a bit distracting. (If you're wondering, the author applauds George W. Bush's strong and resolute leadership in going to war, but badmouths Clinton's maintenance of the no-fly zones as an attempt to distract the public from his marital indiscretions, and his line of reasoning in how 9/11 led to OIF in the first place is an exercise in jingoism over logic.)

    As these political asides begin to pile up, you start to wonder if this guy has a long-term beef with civilian control of the military, one of the basic tenets of US military policy from its inception. This can be seen in other military memoirs - the otherwise outstanding No Easy Day comes immediately to mind - and I know from experience that the "ours is not to question why" attitude is hard to maintain when it seems like your life and death are a political poker chip, but that's ultimately part of the job.

    Overall? The action and the revelations are very, very good, but by the end of the book, you might not like the protagonist very much. I came away with great respect for his "particular set of skills," but not for his professionalism outside the cockpit.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Bruce Weber
    • Narrated By Charley Steiner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (59)
    Performance
    (21)
    Story
    (23)

    Millions of American baseball fans know, with absolute certainty, that umpires are simply overpaid galoots who are doing an easy job badly. Millions of American baseball fans are wrong. As They See 'Em is an insider's look at the largely unknown world of professional umpires, the small group of men (and the very occasional woman) who make sure America's favorite pastime is conducted in a manner that is clean, crisp, and true.

    A User says: "Judging Umpires"
    "Lots of insider knowledge here"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What made the experience of listening to As They See 'Em the most enjoyable?

    The author made me rethink not just how I view the umpires (and, as he points out, when they are succeeding, we don't view them at all), but how I view baseball. Lots of insight on topics you just don't really think about, like what exactly this mythical beast known as a "strike zone" is, or the labor issues these guys have had to deal with, or how a call that appears on replay to have been blown is sometimes, in protecting the game's integrity, the right call.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The umpires come out of this as larger-than-life characters, and they're almost all likeable.


    Which character – as performed by Charley Steiner – was your favorite?

    Steiner didn't do impressions, but his voice fits with what umpires should sound like: naturally jocular, middle-American guys with big voices who can convey authority and gravitas between the lines.


    Any additional comments?

    It drags a bit when the author describes the process of making an umpire: schooling, minor-league assignment, and the slow slog to the top. But it's worth getting over that early hump.

    As someone who has played, watched, and coached baseball, I got a new perspective on a thing I've seen thousands of from many different angles: a baseball game. How many books can deliver that?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Godfather

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Mario Puzo
    • Narrated By full cast
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (861)
    Performance
    (563)
    Story
    (568)

    The Godfather is an extraordinary novel which has become a modern-day classic. Puzo pulls us inside the violent society of the Mafia and its gang wars. The leader, Vito Corleone, is the Godfather. He is a benevolent despot who stops at nothing to gain and hold power.

    Tim says: "Couldn't Disagree More..."
    "Nicely done"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about The Godfather?

    As someone who grew up on the movies, it was good to get a more complete picture of the Corleone family, which this book provided. Puzo's writing is good, I suspect as good in his medium as Coppola in his own.


    What other book might you compare The Godfather to and why?

    The other Puzo books, of course, though they are a bit harder to keep up with, because I'm not familiar with where the plot will go next, as I was with The Godfather.


    What about full cast’s performance did you like?

    It was a good decision to do this audiobook this way - there is a lot of dialogue - though I found myself envisioning the cast from the film delivering the lines, for good or ill. Michael in particular sounded to me like they intentionally hired someone whose voice was similar to Pacino's, which was probably for the best but a bit distracting.


    Any additional comments?

    If you liked the films, this should hold your attention well. It moves along at a brisk pace, but anyone familiar with the general arc of the story should be fine.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Modern Scholar: Command and Control: Great Military Leaders from Washington to the Twenty-First Century

    • ORIGINAL (7 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Mark R. Polelle
    Overall
    (20)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    Professor Mark R. Polelle examines great military leaders in history, beginning with George Washington and moving on to Napoleon, U.S. Grant, Pershing, MacArthur, and Schwarzkopf, among others. The course also addresses the politics of military history and leadership and illustrates the circumstances that enable the rise of great leaders. Perhaps most importantly, Professor Polelle raises and answers that essential question: What is it that makes a good leader?

    Hal VT says: "Portraits of military leadership"
    "Portraits of military leadership"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you listen to The Modern Scholar: Command and Control again? Why?

    Probably not - though I might listen to specific chapters on certain leaders to reorient myself to them when I run across them in other books.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Pershing was interesting. On the flip side, I came away with less respect for Patton.


    Any additional comments?

    Most of this is broken down into portraits of particular leaders in the United States' major military conflicts, though there are also interesting chapters on how western military leadership changed from the French Napoleonic model to the Prussian model. The transition from horseback generals to administrators gives better understanding of the context in which each of these men succeeded in their craft. Overall, it was informative and interesting, and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting an overview of the evolution of western military methods and leadership.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War

    • UNABRIDGED (24 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Rick Atkinson
    • Narrated By Jeff Riggenbach
    Overall
    (34)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (29)

    Throughout the Gulf War of 1991, unprecedented restrictions on the media’s access to the battlefield kept the true story of that brief, brutal conflict from being told. Now, after two years of intensive research, Rick Atkinson has written what will surely come to be recognized as the definitive chronicle of the war.

    Lyle says: "A very decent account of the gulf war"
    "Great account of Desert Shield/Storm"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you consider the audio edition of Crusade to be better than the print version?

    No. In fact, I got most of the way through this, then ordered it in hardcover.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Atkinson has a knack for finding a perfect middle-ground between The War as an event run by entire coalitions of governments and massive military units on the one side, and the troops in the proverbial trenches on the other side. It is therefore more readable than a history of politics and policy or of divisional maneuvers and terrain, while being broader in scope than, say, Jarhead. Stylistically, his writing brings things to life while giving the "big picture" history.


    Have you listened to any of Jeff Riggenbach’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This was my first. As other reviewers have doubtlessly pointed out, he mispronounces household names like Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. He also pronounces Arabic place names oddly; though "Sa-OO-di" may well be technically correct, it's not how anyone pronounced it when I was there twice with Operation Southern Watch. Aggravating.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Radicalism of the American Revolution

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Gordon S. Wood
    • Narrated By Paul Boehmer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (95)
    Performance
    (66)
    Story
    (66)

    Grand in scope, rigorous in its arguments, and elegantly synthesizing 30 years of scholarship, Gordon S. Wood's Pulitzer Prize–winning book analyzes the social, political, and economic consequences of 1776. In The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Wood depicts not just a break with England, but the rejection of an entire way of life: of a society with feudal dependencies, a politics of patronage, and a world view in which people were divided between the nobility and "the Herd."

    Cynthia says: "Changed the Way I Think"
    "Regurgitating Gordon Wood"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    If you could sum up The Radicalism of the American Revolution in three words, what would they be?

    Seminal social history


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I think my head would explode. Look, this is the kind of thing that qualifies as Very Legitimate History, and if you want a fairly deep understanding of what made the American Revolution revolutionary in the social sense, it's a great listen. It's probably not what the casual watcher of the History Channel wants to chew on, unless he's in training to go to a Harvard bar and have an argument with a math genius from Southie.


    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Amazing Tales from the Boston Red Sox Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Red Sox Stories Ever Told

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Bill Nowlin, Jim Prime
    • Narrated By Gary Telles
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    huge treasury to delight Red Sox Nation. Founded in 1901, the Boston Red Sox have been making history for over a century. The passion of the players, the tragedy and triumph of the “Bambino’s Curse” - the Boston spirit comes alive in this collection of stories and anecdotes from Fenway Park. Any baseball fan will find this book irresistible.

    Hal VT says: "Not a format conducive to audiobook"
    "Not a format conducive to audiobook"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The book is a series of anecdotes, seemingly anywhere from one to several pages long. It is not organized chronologically or, as far as I can tell, thematically. Each section is titled with the name of the individual at the center of the anecdote, so a story on, say, Dom Dimaggio ends without warning, the narrator abruptly announces, for example, "Roger Clemens," and it's off to the races on his 20-K performance against Seattle. Probably fine in a book, but as an audiobook, it's like sitting next to a talkative and somewhat drunk old man at a Boston bar.

    The lack of context around each makes the perpetual shifting of time particularly hard to follow. Oh, Billy Rohr got the Impossible Dream season off to such a start....oh, wait! now we're considering Wade Boggs' penchant for chicken and, strangely, his marriage trouble...but there's no time to figure out what one has to do with the other, because now it's an apocryphal account of that time Harry Hooper threw a ball really far....oh, no time for that, Ted Williams is a fighter pilot now....and now the war must be over, because Wakefield is throwing knuckleballs that only Doug Mirabelli can handle...even an experienced Sox fan - one who likely knows most of these "Amazing Tales" - will find his or her head spinning.

    Rearranging the stories into chronological order may have made this listenable....but maybe not.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Some of the anecdotes are interesting-ish...but not as much so as those in, say, Francona, Bouton's infamous Ball Four, or even The Baseball Codes.


    Was Amazing Tales from the Boston Red Sox Dugout worth the listening time?

    Probably not. Lifelong fans already have heard these along the way from the NESN crew or elsewhere, and casual fans will find it perplexing.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Fighting the Flying Circus

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Eddie V. Rickenbacker
    • Narrated By John Pruden
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (17)
    Performance
    (14)
    Story
    (16)

    Captain Eddie V. Rickenbacker, originally from Ohio, was best known as one of the commanders of the 94th "Hat-in-the-Ring" Squadron, a crack unit of World War I pilots that included many former members of the famed Lafayette Escadrille. The 94th ended the war in France with the highest number of air victories of any American squadron.

    Jean says: "World War 1 ace"
    "A primary source from America's Ace of Aces"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What did you love best about Fighting the Flying Circus?

    Historical primary sources that are this colorful are rare. WWI has been hugely overshadowed by WWII for most Americans interested in history for a number of reasons, one being that it seems obscure, foreign, and bleak to today's reader. Rickenbacker's account gives it an immediacy that cannot be denied: these were young men fighting on the last front of modern war that had some claim to a code of gallantry and chivalry, though total war is by its nature brutal and unromantic.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I like social and military history, so getting a firsthand account of an aviator's life just as military aviation began to develop was right up my alley.


    What does John Pruden bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    As the book is written in the first person, having it narrated made it feel more like Rickenbacker was telling his story to me personally. The narration is competent and unremarkable, which is probably a good thing with a book like this; the narrator has no quirks that detract from the story.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Francona: The Red Sox Years

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Terry Francona, Dan Shaughnessy
    • Narrated By Jeff Gurner
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (137)
    Performance
    (124)
    Story
    (122)

    From famed manager Terry Francona, a lively, unvarnished narrative of his tenure with the storied Boston Red Sox... From 2004 to 2011, Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox, the most talked-about, scrutinized team in all of sports. In Francona the legendary manager opens up for the first time about his eight years there, as they went from cursed franchise to one of the most successful and profitable in baseball history. He takes listeners inside the rarefied world of a 21st-century clubhouse.

    Sean says: "I enjoyed it a lot,"
    "Fly on the clubhouse wall"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely. Any Sox fan who has felt a little like George Steinbrenner or Bill Veeck has been running things at Fenway for the past few years without quite being able to put their finger on why they have that feeling will find a lot of clarity in this behind-the-scenes look at the ballclub from a manager's-eye-view. Things you may have noticed, without quite making sense of, all add up here. I expected a bit of sour grapes, but Tito's criticisms of the organization all fit with the more-than-casual fan's experiences of the Red Sox over the past decade or so, and he invariably qualifies them with the acknowledgement that the front office and the manager's office have different agendas because they serve different purposes for the organization.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Francona, somewhat obviously. It's good to hear that some of his more seemingly boneheaded decisions were in view of the bigger picture. While it sucks to spend money to go to Fenway on a day the team rolls over, Tito explains why sometimes that's still the best call for the team and the organization.


    Have you listened to any of Jeff Gurner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Not sure if I've heard anything else of his, but the occasional mispronunciations of names - it's "Bill Miller," not "Bill Mueller," regardlesss of spelling - exposes him as someone who doesn't follow the team. Distracting? Not terribly. Could they have found ONE narrator who knows the player names for the Boston Red Sox? I'd imagine so.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Funny in spots, sure. Crying....uhh, no.


    Any additional comments?

    This is, overall, probably the most addictive audiobook I've gotten in the past year. If you've been a Sox fan, especially if you've been around for the entire career arc of Francona at Four Yawkey Way, give it a listen. You'll be surprised at how many of these games you personally remember, and at Tito's commentary on those games and the circumstances in which they were played. A really nice fly-on-the-clubhouse-wall book that tempts a lifelong Boston fan to root for the Indians in 2013....especially once you learn about what a nutroll the ownership group for the Red Sox is.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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