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CARL V PHILLIPS

Houston, TX United States
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  • Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist

  • By: Michael Shermer, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Michael Shermer
  • Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,133
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,016
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,007

Despite our best efforts, we're all vulnerable to believing things without using logic or having proper evidence—and it doesn't matter how educated or well read we are.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • One Truely Great Course

  • By Heizenberg on 09-14-13

By far the worst "Great" Courses I have listened

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-15-16

This is the only "Great Courses" recording I have listened to that I found to be bad; indeed, it is terrible. Perhaps I am biased by being more expert in the material than I am for history or literature courses I have listened to, though I do not think that is it. Unlike the other lecturers, that delve into interesting points with a good balance of deep insight and humility, this came across more like a Malcolm Gladwell book of just-so stories and sloppy reasoning. I suppose if you are a fan of that approach, and you know absolutely nothing about scientific reasoning, you might find this worthwhile. But if you are looking for something more insightful (a genuine great course!), this is not it.

Shermer (who is a fine narrator/speaker -- credit for that) grossly oversimplifies almost everything he talks about. He gets many scientific points out-and-out wrong. He plays it well, so you might not realize that (I have studied and taught a lot of the same material for decades), which makes it all the more hazardous. I suspect this is the result of him being accustomed to talking to people who deny or do not understand the most basic principles of scientific inquiry. The problem is that he is trying to replace their simplistic view with another simplistic view, which might be fine for an airport book or a grade-school class, but this is not supposed to be one of those.

I kept listening for two reasons. The first is the delicious irony of someone who claims to be teaching about skepticism reciting simplified interpretations of the science (e.g., lab psychology experiments) as if it were indisputable truth, and that the single interpretation of the results that is convenient for his story is the only possible interpretation. The second is to get inspiration to write a book about debunking the debunkers who recite a simplified view of scientific inquiry that may indeed help protect people against utter woo (which is Shermer's mission in life) but that create a layer of more subtle problems that can be just as dangerous.

Needless to say, neither of those upsides is worth getting this listen for most people.

Some examples for those familiar with the topics: He lists many of the standard "heuristics and biases" reasons for people drawing erroneous causal conclusions. But for about half of them he describes them incorrectly. For most all of them, he asserts they are real phenomena based on one or two artificial psych experiments whose results have many possible interpretations. Some of them he spins into just-so stories about why we have that bias, which is fine, except that he presents these as facts rather than the reasonable speculations that they are. He refers to "the scientific method" even though there is no such "the", which he actually acknowledges in passing at a few points. But this does not stop him from basing most of what he says on a notion that scientific inquiry is always about following a particular script (e.g., that particular research methods trump others, or that particular statistical rules-of-thumb are natural laws rather than just a different kind of heuristic).

I suspect that Shermer has a more sophisticated understanding than he presents here. But his approach in these lectures is to infantilize the listener and present a grade-school-level lesson. Even apart from the the out-and-out errors, this is a terrible way to teach a college-level course, telling people what to think rather than exploring the topic. It is completely out of place in the "Great Courses" series.

31 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Ready Player One

  • By: Ernest Cline
  • Narrated by: Wil Wheaton
  • Length: 15 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 198,956
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 185,766
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 185,369

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I’m sorry I waited so long to read this book.

  • By Julie W. Capell on 05-27-14

Delightful story (if u r target), great narration

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-26-12

Where does Ready Player One rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It may be the most fun I have had listening to an audiobook that was not by Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams.

What other book might you compare Ready Player One to and why?

The setting is kind of a sci-fi cyberpunk-lite, but the story structure is really more quest fantasy or action-spy story. In that sense, it is a fairly standard

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

Wheaton's narration is skillful and spot on. I am not sure that he necessarily adds something per se -- he definitely narrates, rather than voice acting (though one of his character voices is still a bit annoying, but there is not much of it). But this book is written to be heard, and is incredibly immersive in that medium, and Wheaton simply gets it right, not detracting from it in any, showing much greater skill than most narrators. Also, when you happened to come up out of the story and notice whose voice it is, his geek chic (from TNG and Big Bang Theory) is just perfect for the book. Indeed, his real-life self makes two Hitchcock-level cameos in the story.

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

I definitely wanted to listen to the last 1/3 in one sitting. Early on, I was not quite so convinced because a few things were grating on me a bit (see my comments below). Even still, it was captivating. One factor that made it a bit less

Any additional comments?

As I noted, I found this completely delightful. I should add the caveat, though, that I am exactly the perfect demographic for this book. I came of age in the same years as Halliday (the character who is responsible for the 1980s pop culture domination of the story); I was the exact type of intellectual-pop, game playing geek; and I even grew up in Columbus! I recognized almost every one of the hundred (thousands?) of references, and figured out most of the clues (and I am not a mystery reader). I even recognized [very minor spoiler of an early event] that the

  • The Big Burn

  • Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America
  • By: Timothy Egan
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 10 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,643
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,202
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,208

In The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan put the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl at the center of a rich history, told through characters he brought to indelible life. Now he performs the same alchemy with The Big Burn, the largest-ever forest fire in America, a tragedy that cemented Teddy Roosevelt's legacy.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A fascinating history of early Forest Service

  • By P. Bergh on 11-11-09

wonderful audio experience

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-25-09

This is an very good book, but an excellent listen. The story is captivating and uplifting as both success and tragedy. The mix of personal adventure and non-wonky political analysis work very well at oral pace. The flaws in the writing (see, e.g., the New York Times review), such as the author's tendency toward over-dramatic or breathless prose, turn out to be little or no problem when listening rather than reading. (You notice the phrases that seem comical out of context if you look for them, but only if you look for them. Otherwise, they glide right by.) Dean's narration is near perfect, and adds much to what is already a very good book. I would definitely recommend this book, and make the rarely-deserved recommendation that listening is much better than reading. The book is such an inspiration that if it were not winter right now, I would be off exploring the locales from the book rather than taking time to write this.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • The Persistence of Vision

  • By: John Varley
  • Narrated by: Peter Ganim
  • Length: 2 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 100
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 56
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 55

On the surface, this Hugo and Nebula Award-winning classic is about a drifter who comes to stay in a New Mexico commune founded by a group of deaf-blind people. But beneath the story, author John Varley examines deep, universal issues. What is the nature of communication? What does an individual gain - or lose - by subsuming himself to the whole? Can an outsider ever truly "belong"?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Don't think you like Sci-Fi? Try this one!

  • By Kindle Customer on 12-03-08

interesting as history of culture

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-14-09

The story is archetype, proto-new-age 1970s socio-political cultural and psychological commentary. Amusing (or at least interesting) if you think of it that way -- not so much if you just want to take the story at face value. The narration is a bit annoying, coming close to monotone. It actually started to work for me most of the way through, but at first I thought it was more like reading the newspaper for the blind than story telling (though given the theme, it might appeal to the blind). The odd thing is that it really deserves a "don't bother with this" recommendation, but somehow the tedious narration and the tedious 1970s self-indulgent culture were amusing enough that I finished it and did not hate it.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Very Bad Deaths

  • By: Spider Robinson
  • Narrated by: Spider Robinson
  • Length: 7 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 113
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49

Russell Walker retreats from the shock of his wife's death by becoming a hermit in the woods of British Columbia. There he finds himself thrust into a precarious role as intermediary between a telepath called Smelly, so sensitive he can't stand to be near most people, and Constable Hilda, a skeptical police officer who needs Smelly's insight to track down a monstrous serial killer.

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Disappointing, self indulgent violemce.

  • By Colleen on 11-28-14

a bit unpleasant

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-15-08

A reasonably good story, though nothing like you would expect based on the Callahan's tales. Normally I try to review the audio side of things, figuring that there are many reviews of the content at other booksellers. But I have to mention that the content is somewhat disturbing and more visceral due to the audio experience. It is certainly not the nastiest, and certainly not the scariest or most violent, story around, but it has some "I wish I had never heard something that creepy" bits that remind me of wishing I had never seen the movies Seven or 8mm. Fair warning -- be sure you like stuff like that.

The narration by Spider is a bit weak. Far from the worst around, for sure, and the critics of his narration have gone a bit far. Since it is his story, there is some value added in him narrating it. But you certainly would not want him as a narrator for someone else's work. He really only has three or four character voices, and there are (a few) more than four characters that need voices.

Overall, I would have to say that this is fine, but there are better choices for Robinson irreverence, for spooky stories, for characterization, and for narrations (though maybe not all four at once).

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Lamb

  • The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
  • By: Christopher Moore
  • Narrated by: Fisher Stevens
  • Length: 15 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,212
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,540
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,556

Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior's pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there's no one who loves Josh more (except maybe "Maggie," Mary of Magdalan) and Biff isn't about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Perfect for intelligent comedy!

  • By Gene on 04-17-07

Best Narrator Ever!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-10-08

Really. Fisher Stevens's reading is, I think, even better than Nigel Planer's readings of Pratchett's books. I am not entirely sure this would be a great book to read on paper, but it was truly great to listen to.

Not that the story is bad. Moore does a nice job of weaving various religions/philosophies into Jesus's experiences during the missing decades. It makes for a very entertaining story, and quite a twist on coming-of-age. The humor is definitely laugh-out-loud quality in many places. The quality trends down over time, with the childhood story being best, and the travels as a young adult being good, but the end -- where the story needs to be congruent with the "real" gospels -- being rather weak.

Oh, and it is definitely just entertainment, with maybe a splash of pointing out how many spiritualities are quite similar at their core. If the author wanted and expected the reader to really think anything new and different after finishing this, I have to admit that the lesson was lost on me.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

  • A Year of Food Life
  • By: Barbara Kingsolver
  • Narrated by: Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, Camille Kingsolver
  • Length: 14 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,692
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 929
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 935

When Barbara Kingsolver and her family move from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they take on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally-produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle follows the family through the first year of their experiment.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Eye opening

  • By Sydney on 11-12-07

good book, especially good audio

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-25-07

This is a good book in any form (I have a paper copy too), though it is not a scientific reference manual. Those interested in the details should really read more widely because Kingsolver gets some stuff wrong (including part of her core theses). But the broad sweeps are excellent and she does a good job of painting a picture, and teaching lessons, in terms you will not soon forget. But what really sets it apart as an aural experience is the narration by the authors, which is personable and perfectly recorded and paced. As another reviewer suggested, you really feel connected to them through their narration, bringing another level to the experience of this captivating story and analysis. Without hearing her wax about it, I would never be inclined to plant asparagus! This is particularly good road-trip listening, as you drive through the in-between spaces where most of our food is produced (and also because the radio-style pace is better for driving than some audiobooks which are distracting or sleep-inducing). Even if you have read the paper version, get this and listen to it again in a year, and you will enjoy it again.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Rules of Enragement

  • By: Lewis Black
  • Narrated by: Lewis Black
  • Length: 1 hr and 5 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 101
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 38

Satirist and stand-up comic Lewis Black rose to prominence in the late 1990s with regular appearances as a commentator on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Obsessed with human stupidity, Black became one of the show's most distinctive contributors with his weekly "Back in Black" segment. Recorded live June 26-29, 2003 at Acme Comedy Company in Minneapolis.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Black fans: stick to t.v.

  • By CARL V PHILLIPS on 06-22-07

Black fans: stick to t.v.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-22-07

I am a big fan of Lewis Black, but this did not work well as an audio performance. First, the recording mixing was pretty bad, resulting in the laughter from the audience (this was a spoken-word concert recording) being so loud and shrill that it was rather unpleasant to listen to. If you do buy this, I suggest turning the treble way down to compensate, since Black does not have much treble in his voice anyway. Second, listening to a comic read his own book is usually quite rewarding - much better than just reading it. But in Black's case, without the visuals, it is not nearly as funny as seeing him on Jon Stewart or other television performances. As a long-time fan, I could imagine what his face and hands were doing, but it was just not the same.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  • By: Douglas Adams
  • Narrated by: Douglas Adams
  • Length: 4 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,478
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 566
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 578

The Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy, the first volume in the five-part Hitchhiker "trilogy" made Douglas Adams a science fiction sensation, and is a must-listen for any and all fans of the genre. Don't forget to bring a towel!

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • still a winner!!!

  • By Victor on 01-09-03

read by the author, as it should be

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-13-04

This (and the other books by the author) are either your cup of tea or not, and you probably already know which category you fall into. If you are a fan, no matter how many times you have read them, you should definitely get this audio version (and the radio scripts). The excellent reading by the author adds to the experience and really makes you feel more a part of it. Hearing it (read definitively) is entertaining in ways that reading it cannot be.

  • Oh, the Things I Know! A Guide to Success, or, Failing That, Happiness

  • By: Al Franken
  • Narrated by: Al Franken
  • Length: 2 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 222
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 41
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 41

What does a megasuccess like Al Franken - best selling author, Emmy-award winning television star, and honorary Ph.D. - have to say to ordinary people like you? Well, as Dr. Al himself says, "There's no point in getting advice from hopeless failures." Filled with wisdom, observations, and practical tips you can put to work right away, this is a cradle-to-grave guide to living, an easy-to-follow user's manual for human existence.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • You either have a sense of humor or ...

  • By Eric on 11-20-03

just fun, no insight required

Overall
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-04

A silly send-up of American self-help books. Unlike Franken's two major books ("Rush..." and "Lies...", which are some of the most insightful political commentary of recent times, there may not be any useful information or analysis in this books. But it's good enough, it's smart (witty) enough, and doggone it, people like it. I know I did. It's really funny. Enjoy it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful