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Philo

San Diego, CA, United States
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  • Landfall

  • A Novel
  • By: Thomas Mallon
  • Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
  • Length: 16 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 14
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13

Set during the tumultuous middle of the George W. Bush years - amid the twin catastrophes of the Iraq insurgency and Hurricane Katrina - Landfall brings Thomas Mallon's cavalcade of contemporary American politics, which began with Watergate and continue with Finale, to a vivid and emotional climax.  

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Mallon's strange craft, a strange baroque trip

  • By Philo on 03-21-19

Mallon's strange craft, a strange baroque trip

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

Reviewed: 03-21-19

I don't (yet) have the AI at my elbow to check every one of the thousands of references here. I'm not much of a fiction fan so please forgive my ignorance of the (much-trumpeted) writer's process. In his novel, plenty of the off-the-record conversations, at least, are fabricated, thus part of the conjectural fancy of Mr. Mallon. But this does fill a place that regular nonfiction does not.

I can only imagine what the vast panoramic-down-to-microscopic creative process is like here. Having, I would assume, chosen main characters and some big events, Mallon (I speculate) in some manner creates a mental model of each person, more or less well known, like a cluster of algorithms, or perhaps a mental puppet, of each character, which can be played by him like running a program, in words and thoughts and hypotheticals. This includes a lot of each character's sense of humor, as the quips abound. Each conversational scene almost starts to sound like the unfailingly punchy, acerbic patter of main characters in a film noir. These are portraits of the original people but a little bit caricatures, I think. Words are seamlessly put in their mouths and thoughts in their minds. This is like a cartoon but with a high degree of CGI realism. Then around some themes, he fires these simulacra up and tosses them together in the midst of the specific events. At turns the author (suddenly the self-arrogated god of the thoughts and acts of these -- actual people, mostly, some still alive) seems like a wicked little boy pulling arms off insects, gleeful at animating and tossing these sock puppets into cringe-worthy situations. Merv Griffin materializes and effuses "Ooooh!" (also in the last novel) almost like an instrument in an oom-pah song, like a novelty whistle, as if this was some vast stumbling (then lyrical) post-modern orchestral piece. I like it, I get it (at least the layers my amateurish political junkie-hood can fathom), but it sure is odd, swerving for me between illuminating and creepy and maybe presumptuous. (Gee, like so much journalism today?) As the audience I realize I am sort of part of the joke, the cosmic joke of the whimsical-to-awful (and yes, sometimes glorious) US history these books span.

The inserted, invented characters Ross and Allie quickly lost any sympathy for me, because they were so stupid and lost in their choices. I was rooting for both of them to fail. But then I had a growing sense this might be intentional, they might each be the author's befuddled "everyperson," reflecting in individual lives the lost and stupid character of the morass surrounding them in which USA stumbled from one fiasco to another. The stumbling that started here hasn't stopped, in my view, we are still struggling to stay afloat and make headway in its maelstrom. And for better or worse, it sure aint lifting all boats. It is complexity in all its glorious -- um, complexity. Which is like the sprawling mandala that is this novel. The hurricane image is a good one for this complexity washing over our beloved vessel here. I can't say some tune emerged here that gave me reason to believe it will suddenly snap into some lovely order. Maybe that's the point.

  • White Shoe

  • How a New Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century
  • By: John Oller
  • Narrated by: Stephen Graybill
  • Length: 12 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1

The fascinating true story of how a group of visionary attorneys helped make American business synonymous with big business and Wall Street the center of the financial world. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Adds sharp, telling detail to big biz-law tales

  • By Philo on 03-21-19

Adds sharp, telling detail to big biz-law tales

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

Reviewed: 03-21-19

I had heard many of the big, basic stories from authors such as Ron Chernow (in the J.P. Morgan bio and Death of the Banker). These are usually business-titan-centric. So, knowing the basic contours of the history helps to really draw out the value of this piece. This story stays close to the known figures but fills out the map of all sorts of vital personalities who came from the side of strategy and getting things done, creating as they went. Sometimes this involved creating new legal structures, as William Nelson Cromwell's innovations (throwing together bankruptcy structures through constellations of deals across state lines before the law provided them, and inaugurating the holding company to get around political attacks on the infamous trusts, and more!). Here we see genius strategists, with financiers' funds behind them, stretching their thinking and tools across jurisdictions in fascinating ways.

A crucial moment in U.S. history and the dawning American century is lit here from a different, very revealing angle. J.P. Morgan is widely known as a proto-Fed, privately coordinating rescues of the banking system and the Treasury at crucial moments. Similarly, here, in the Panama Canal affair, Cromwell acts as a sort of private (but publicly connected) proto-CIA, at turns visible and invisible, shepherding a national project through the framing-up, lobbying Congress, and then apparently coordinating the revolution that carved a separate Panana out of Colombia. Finally with a few deft (and sometimes tricky) moves he saw that the desired treaties were signed and sealed, giving the U.S. effective sovereignty over the Canal Zone, and leaving many Panamanian revolutionary patriots in the lurch. In this we see a master artist at work in the Macchiavellian lawyer sense, using selective invisibility to move people and various levers all over the map. Nobody could see the whole picture and strategy except perhaps Cromwell himself. This is a master-class in these arts. Watch too as Cromwell switches clients (as well as alliances) across that story -- it is quite a tightrope walk. It is of particular interest now, inasmuch as, I think, Trump fancies himself a sort of Teddy Roosevelt, selectively wacving big sticks and getting in various players' faces, public and private in the interest of a muscular projection of presidential power.

Then at moments we are back to nuts and bolts of the design of law firms. This book has an interesting reach, especially to a lawyer.

This is a unique and favorite addition to my business-finance-law bookshelf. I was a bit hesitant at first because a few books of this type have been rather stale and starchy. But once this one gets going, it is consistently pleasing and illuminating.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Reading Financial Reports for Dummies, 3rd Edition

  • By: Lita Epstein
  • Narrated by: Siiri Scott
  • Length: 16 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1

Especially relevant in today's world of corporate scandals and new accounting laws, the numbers in a financial report contain vitally important information about where a company has been and where it is going. Packed with new and updated information, Reading Financial Reports for Dummies, 3rd Edition gives you a quick but clear introduction to financial reports - and how to decipher the information in them.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very solid and complete, A-Z, if a bit plodding

  • By Philo on 03-15-19

Very solid and complete, A-Z, if a bit plodding

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

Reviewed: 03-15-19

This fits the bill very well for me. Some years back I took a financial accounting class and this is a fine refresher. It would work well for a beginner. As the book's length suggests, it is thorough. Every term is defined along the way. Nothing is left mysterious.

The book goes beyond a mere laundry list of terms and definitions, referring to actual financial statements. Using both Mattel and Hasbro side by side is useful.

As I am often physically engaged when listening (hiking and running trails, crossing busy streets on foot, etc.), I like audiobooks to not be too technically fast or data-packed. The rate of information flow here is just right. The author introduces a term or topic and then often says, I will explain more in chapter X. It makes sense to do this, but some may be rolling their eyes, thinking it is repetitive or plodding. These sorts of cross-references slow the pace just enough to support the way I am listening -- without having to repeatedly rewind and re-listen. A CPA or someone already very advanced wold be advised to look elsewhere.

  • Hunting LeRoux

  • The Inside Story of the DEA Takedown of a Criminal Genius and His Empire
  • By: Elaine Shannon
  • Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 49
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 43
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 45

The story of Paul LeRoux, the twisted genius entrepreneur and cold-blooded killer who brought revolutionary innovation to international crime, and the exclusive inside story of how the DEA’s elite, secretive 960 Group brought him down. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Seismic Story

  • By Jaddie Dodd on 02-24-19

Has it all: movie-paced AND real AND educational

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

Reviewed: 03-12-19

What's your fancy? Cops and robbers (soldiers and merc killers too) updated into global-dark web environments and dirty exotic cities? Psychopaths and sociopaths in their newly evolved niches in the global shadows, in real-life action (and unpacked on a psych level pretty well)? Financial crimes? Freaky murder scenes? Official corruption? Nation-states getting into weird trades, making meth and such? Earnest good law enforcers in many countries who climbed from humble backgrounds to elite adventurous jobs? Justice done in the midst of all this? If any of this is your cup of tea, just push the "buy" button and dive in.
That said, the work is VERY cinematic, almost a movie score, and the drooling admiration for the rough and ready heroes is pretty cliche. But this work is at least a half-notch above the standard action-adventure fare due to its financial sophistication. That is not to say it is very technically complex (which I would like to see more of). But it does a great job of mapping a sophisticated multinational modern bunch of gangsters, and telling the criminal justice tale that ensues. The author was selective with details, which is a strength for reaching a wide audience with some pretty sharp work. Michael Mann (of Miami Vice, Heat, and similar TV and cinema projects) is involved and his fingerprints are all over this. It is like a sound-movie.
With nonfiction this good, I have to wonder why novels sell at all. Not only is the pacing first-rate, the characterizations are crisp, but also the facts and legal angles are neatly displayed too. This is a home run with bases loaded.
At the center is LeRoux himself, the quintessential amoral nerd-genius of our times, a genuine Dr. Evil.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Devil Take the Hindmost

  • A History of Financial Speculation
  • By: Edward Chancellor
  • Narrated by: Nigel Patterson
  • Length: 13 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 1

Devil Take the Hindmost is a lively, original, and challenging history of stock market speculation from the 17th century to the present day. Edward Chancellor traces the origins of the speculative spirit back to ancient Rome and chronicles its revival in the modern world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Well-picked scenes span tulips up to 20 years ago

  • By Philo on 03-07-19

Well-picked scenes span tulips up to 20 years ago

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

Reviewed: 03-07-19

I've read a good half-dozen books on this theme. This one is at the top. It has a wide span in time and place, and does not pretend to tell every story or probe every angle. But it does exceptionally well with the choice of stories and the development of each. It is nuanced and yet constantly ties to big pictures and themes. As it takes a tour of time through the lens of speculation, it likewise takes a tour of places, with concentrated stories. These include: Dutch tulip mania, Law's Mississippi Company fiasco and the South Sea Bubble in England into the 1720s, the railroad booms in 1840s England, the post-Civil War US Gilded Age, the US runup and Crash of the 1920s and 1930s, the roaring 80s in the US, a very lucid telling of the '87 crash, and the decline into the early 90s, a quite revealing look at Japan's rise and fall into the 90s, and finally, the surge of derivatives and hedge funds and their stumbling in the late 1990s. The Dot Com rise and 2000-2001 bust is not addressed (beyond a good look at Alan Greenspan and his attitudes and statements into the late 1990s). However, there is a tremendous critique of Greenspan's and his allies' efficient market faiths and the linked financial instruments and global finance defects of these, which is prescient, looking forward to 2008 and beyond. One thing very well shown here is the venality and self-dealing of government officials at each stop. Everywhere are well-picked quotes from various financial luminaries. I noticed smaller factual errors scattered here and there (regulators closed the Merc in the '87 crash, really? That's not what I heard, the heroic tale was the Merc staying open), but these are forgivable and not significant in the overall flow. The critique of Greenspan and his fellow Mandarins is prophetic and spot on. This ties now to the deeper story of weak points in global finance to this day.
The deep Japan study was one I haven't seen anywhere else and is fascinating.
Overall there is a great balance of narrative and concepts, right at the sweet spot. I learned new things.

  • Fault Lines in the Constitution

  • The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today
  • By: Cynthia Levinson, Sanford Levinson
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall, Arthur Morey, Kimberly Farr, and others
  • Length: 6 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 10

Husband-and-wife team Cynthia and Sanford Levinson take listeners back to the creation of this historic document and discuss how contemporary problems were first introduced - then they offer possible solutions. Think Electoral College, gerrymandering, even the Senate. Many of us take these features in our system for granted. But they came about through haggling in an overheated room in 1787, and we're still experiencing the ramifications.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Fantastic Primer, Extremely Thought-Provoking

  • By Eric E. Haas on 09-12-17

A tremendous work. Clear, thorough, thoughtful

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

Reviewed: 02-26-19

I am in my 34th year of teaching this at the college level. At this moment I'm doing it again, and sought a refresher and some new views. I was well rewarded here. This is one of the finest works I have seen. It has plenty of sophistication for an adult. It is very well-written and edited. It gives a good sense of what the framers faced, and what constraints they were under. They cut a lot of deals (perhaps unimaginable in these times in our USA), casting big shadows across our lives today. After the basics I got in high school government class (pretty miserably delivered, actually), this book would be a first recommendation for deepening understanding. If there is a slant one way or another, there is enough distance from the subject, and enough restraint, to not be bothersome to a reasonable listener.

  • You'll See This Message When It Is Too Late

  • The Legal and Economic Aftermath of Cybersecurity Breaches
  • By: Josephine Wolff
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading
  • Length: 14 hrs
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 5
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 6

Cybersecurity incidents make the news with startling regularity. Each breach makes headlines, inspires panic, instigates lawsuits, and is then forgotten. The cycle of alarm and amnesia continues with the next attack, and the one after that. Cybersecurity expert Josephine Wolff argues that we shouldn't forget about these incidents, we should investigate their trajectory, from technology flaws to reparations for harm done to their impact on future security measures. We can learn valuable lessons in the aftermath of cybersecurity breaches.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • The devil is in these details

  • By Philo on 02-17-19

The devil is in these details

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

Reviewed: 02-17-19

That is, for businesses, lawyers, insurers, and a whole bunch of people who stake their fortunes on the flow of these kinds of events. So, the right audience is the person who has an incentive to dig fingernails into all this (until now) murky pool of blame-shifting. Liability turns out to have very rich, fertile fields across the networks and roles of various players. This one is detail-oriented and lives up to its advertising. It gives a recent history which is a good backdrop, going forward.

  • The Business Owner's Definitive Guide to Captive Insurance Companies

  • What You Need to Know About Formation and Management
  • By: Peter J. Strauss J.D. LL.M.
  • Narrated by: Lee Shorten
  • Length: 2 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 17
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 12

Creating a captive insurance company may sound daunting, but with Mr. Strauss's guidance you can navigate the legal maze and utilize this valuable strategy with ease. Don’t miss out on crucial out-of-pocket savings and create more liquidity in a more tax-efficient manner. Take steps today and reap the benefits of captive insurance! 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting idea, tour of business model

  • By Philo on 02-16-19

Interesting idea, tour of business model

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

Reviewed: 02-16-19

The numbers aren't here for me to tell who this is feasible for. Surely there are abundant reasons why most folks would decide not to "cut out the middle-man" in order to plunge into the insurance business themselves. There are complexities. It sounds simple at first, but keep listening. For example, one's captive entity typically winds up pooling with (writing insurance for) others. And entities are typically offshore. I can see a lot of potential risks,although this author does a yeoman's job (for such a limited format) to explain a lot of aspects. All that said, it is a fascinating idea. Just going "the last mile" to see all the variables in one's particular case (well) would be costly, I would think. There are steps for getting a workup described here. It would be a fancy piece of spreadsheet work to capture all of a business's particular variables. But some pretty bright people sharpened their pencils and got creative to cook this up. And this is well-presented.
This is, it appears, something of a marketing vehicle for the author, who says he sells many of these services. There is nothing wrong with that, per se, as long as the info is valuable and sufficient caveats and non-misleading contents are there. This is not my field, but the author seems to have taken some pains to insert in general many of the usual warnings and disclaimers. Such things should always be listened to carefully. They are not simply "fine print."

I think I can intuit who the target audience is here, and what (hint: offshore) jurisdictions to host the captive would be recommended.

A substantial part of the book goes off into asset protection trusts, and surprise, these are basically offshore too. Are you comfortable with Belize, or maybe Cook Islands, as a host for a trust entity that holds various of your assets? And this, perhaps, in some instances as the legal owner of an onshore entity of yours? Very interesting ideas are here, alright, and here is a bit of a primer on these offshore vehicles. It is also interesting to hear what states onshore can and will provide at least some forms of these entities.

  • Summary and Analysis of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

  • A Guide to the Book by Kai-Fu Lee
  • By: Zip Reads
  • Narrated by: Michael London Anglado
  • Length: 58 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 9
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 8

PLEASE NOTE: This is a summary and analysis of the book and not the original book. World-renowned expert on AI and China Kai-Fu Lee presents a broad look at the current state of AI, China's dramatic progress in the last five years, and the massive social disruption that will occur as AI replaces half the jobs in the world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • AI Superpowers

  • By derazz on 03-03-19

Solid summary, thoughtful critique of book

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

Reviewed: 02-16-19

The author of this summary did attentively read the book and think about it. We hear of its contents and style, as well as the book author's history. Author Kai-Fu Lee occupies an important place straddling tech in USA and China. Mr. Lee puts up clear scenarios of the future, which spur thought and discussion.
Let me start by saying Mr. Lee is apparently a good man with a good character and outlook. He is a least trying. Trying, I mean, to humanize and rein in the worst possibilities of the AI future. He is spurring thought and discussion about tghe whole picture that is very important to do now, before these creatures are walking our streets and issuing tickets (or social discredits) to us.
But I find plenty of the possibilities of this AI-cluttered world profoundly creepy and shot-through with conflicts of interest. Just imagine the friendly "compassionate" psych robot that soothes you (nudging toward some norm formulated by some remote unelected corporate oligarchy) while spying on you, to report to a credit business. How about the actual example here, of being prompted to enter your birthdate with a micro-fine little timer judging your response time for who-knows-what calculations against your interest. Ever feel like a rat in an experiment? In all this I can feel the tidal pull toward inescapable social scoring systems of the sort being piloted in China. I am seeing no sufficient answers to these conundrums yet, and I don't see them here. Indeed, I think a person inured to huge crowds and mass-tech-mediated-personal conformity (not to mention a top tech executive career-path) might presumably have cognitive blind spots (and conflicts of interest) in framing this whole future that now supposedly Team China is winning. That is not to say Mr. Lee here is not reaching for balance, he apparently is. (Key word apparently; there is a huge "trust me" story lurking behind all this. But the trusted counter-party will morph and change and add new parts once the data is out of our hands. I think the whole manifest destiny here is skewed. And not remediated by his "love' drivel. Even a great strategic thinker and technocrat might, for that very reason, have disabilities as a philosopher. Beware the risks that pool and accrue behind bromides like "love". Beware the benign smiley-face plastered on the surface. It is where the data goes and in whose hands (in an unmapped future as of now) that counts, and that is now frightfully out of our control. Until then, in my opinion, discount the "vision thing" and the PR accordingly, regardless of what this fellow says or thinks. He's a very fallible human too. I do enjoy all the reflections this is touching off, though.
Back to this book, I have to budget my resources and I notice a flurry of offerings on AI. This buy for me was a good intermediate sampling. I very well may give the book the full listening. The narrator is competent and clear.

  • Big Data, Big Analytics

  • Emerging Business Intelligence and Analytic Trends for Today's Businesses
  • By: Michael Minelli, Michele Chambers, Ambiga Dhiraj
  • Narrated by: Ryan Burke
  • Length: 7 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

The availability of big data, low-cost commodity hardware, and new information management and analytics software has produced a unique moment in the history of business. The convergence of these trends means that we have the capabilities required to analyze astonishing data sets quickly and cost-effectively for the first time in history. These capabilities are neither theoretical nor trivial. They represent a genuine leap forward and a clear opportunity to realize enormous gains in terms of efficiency, productivity, revenue and profitability.   

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • A good wide tour of the aims and the tools

  • By Philo on 02-09-19

A good wide tour of the aims and the tools

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

Reviewed: 02-09-19

Hearing this, I feel a lot closer to overall competency with this topic and the technologies (and all the related jargon). The book works on several layers -- it reviews the technologies, the parts and people across the enterprise needed to make this work, and such matters as privacy and ethics considerations (and laws). First comes the tech, starting with a review of the evolution from proprietary database licensing, to open-source software, to various apps being built over that. The technology is amazing, as with hadoop and related software, all sorts of data can be pretty easily tossed into a big pool and then sorted and sifted. The point is made that careless purchase and use of these tools without in-house expertise wired to decisionmakers will be a costly mistake (as it is with spreadsheets and other data). It seems obvious that a lot of businesses not gathering intelligence via these means (and linking the pieces well) are in for rude surprises -- I would think it is like not having an auto when that age dawned. Everyone will be pulled into this arm's race, if you will. Part of this is staying attuned to customers, and getting that ever-faster feedback for ever-faster redeployments of resources. That feedback, like the emerging influence of artful product design since Steve Jobs elevated that some years back, is feeding back in new ways into all sorts of products and decisions. It is good to see the recognition here of the "art" skills side in the sense of data visualization skills having their rightful place.