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Ray Hecht

Taiwan
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Bedtime Stories for Cynics audiobook cover art

Cool performances if you're into it, but not great

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

Reviewed: 09-01-19

Pretty fun audio comedy if one is into that sort of thing.

It's a treat to hear Offerman and so many other great comedians tell these cynical fairy tales. They are all talented and good actors so the narration and presentation is very well-done. As for the content, all X-ratedly offensive takes on various fairy tales and poems. Mostly too short to be groundbreaking in any way, just quality laughs without trying too hard to make any kind of brilliant statement.

Bedtime Stories for Cynics is short, entertaining, and worth listening to if you're a fan of anyone in the cast.

All that said... this collection is pretty good, but not great.

Good Omens audiobook cover art

Blasphemous!

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

Reviewed: 07-08-19

What a blasphemous book, Disney should immediately cancel it! How dare HBO commission such an unholy work?? Make sure to boycott Apple so they never produce anything so evil again!!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Heads Will Roll audiobook cover art

Hilarious dirty fantasy, so unique!

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

Reviewed: 06-05-19

Very hilarious comedy audio play, and it seems like part of a new genre that is forming. What can Heads Will Roll be compared it to? Kind of like the classic Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide radio series, but medieval comedy like Monty Python. But, like modernly updated.

A stellar cast with Kate McKinnon as the evil queen, and the bird girl is a treat, not to mention fellow SNLer Alex Moffat as Odin. There are skits with Peter Dinklage, the Fab Five, and more! And, amazingly, Meryl Streep.

The world of this Disney-esque kingdom with a dark edge makes just enough sense to work (that is, not that much sense, as it should be). So many fantasy tropes satirized, as well as some political takes and more among all the many skits. I also liked the weird commercials peppered around.

I'd definitely like to see more of what Audible can do with this new storytelling medium of uncensored "radio" dramas.

Lastly, Warning: extremely dirty jokes herein. You better be into such to enjoy.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

The Big Short audiobook cover art

Narrative of our times, sadly

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

Reviewed: 05-29-19

The Big Short. Remember that movie? We all should, and never forget...

If you're like me, and don't know anything about the Wall Street high finance, but just kind of suspect that it's all bullshit and nobody really knows what they are doing, then this is the book for you!

The 2007-2008 financial crisis was one of the most important historical events of the young 21st century. It wasn't even that long ago, and already we've mostly forgotten. Whether or not you're the type to have strong political opinions, on this it's just too complicated for most of us to care about.

Luckily, Michael Lewis has penned this fascinatingly entertaining book. A book which is in no way a dull summation of mortgage fraud, although you'll definitely learn a lot about CDOs and the culture which nearly destroyed the entire system. But really, this is a book about people. And that's the brilliance of it.

An engaging tome about those who were smart enough to predict what in retrospect should have been obvious all along. This is the best way to learn, by hearing it from the true experts themselves who are fascinating characters in their own right. That is why The Big Short is the best book for learning about all these things, because of Lewis' excellent writing readers will care on a deeper level.

(However, if you've watched the film first you may be a bit confused by how the film changed most of the names of these real people. Another reason why reading is ultimately superior to watching movies, if one truly wants to be educated, right?)

Sadly, upon finishing this you may be left with much pessimism. It doesn't seem that Wall Street and the government have learned any lessons at all from this catastrophe and we are doomed to repeat it all over again very soon. Seriously, think about who is in charge now and shudder.

Well, should make for a good sequel soon enough ~

Team Human audiobook cover art

Great primer for a Team Human introduction

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

Reviewed: 02-05-19

If you haven't been listening to podcast Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff--the great techno guru of the 90s who has now become more of a skeptic and the social consciousness of the silicon era--do so now. Full of brilliant ideas and dialogues about our current confusing era. Then, after listening to most of the archive, get the book Team Human.

To be honest, it's rather light for Rushkoff. To delve deeper, try Life Inc. or Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. Team Human could be accused of oversimplifying a host of issues, but the book does provide a valuable service by summing up the ethos that humanity needs to start living by if we are going to survive the digital landscape that we are in. These things do need to sorted in an orderly manner, like a manifesto or at least a starter, so that well-meaning people will have a foundation to fall back on.

Much of the book is fascinating, on the connection between computerized media and nationalism as opposed to the unifying nature of other mediums. On the absurd abstraction of the economy, and how we must care more about the foreground and not be lost in the background. Why the Renaissance, which takes in positive old ideas, is a better metaphor for the state of the world than 'revolution', which always ends up with the same power structures in the end. There is even an analysis about how story structure in cinema has warped people's expectations of reality, and even gets into the cyclical nature of time in cultures both pre- and post-agriculturalism. And my personal favorite, the dangerous concept of mechanomorphism in which humans start imitating the machines.

Team Human is an important book for anyone who cares about just that, humans. Armed with these ideas, let's choose a team that has our interests in mind before it's too late...

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

My Squirrel Days audiobook cover art

More for fans of the Office than Kimmy Schmidt :)

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

Reviewed: 01-30-19

Ellie Kemper is a delight, and her fun comedic energy is a joy to be around (especially when listening to her narrate the audiobook)... but no offense I wouldn't quite put My Squirrel Days in the high ranks of comedy writing memoirs.

The book jumps around to silly stories about her childhood--like the squirrel story hence the title--family, acting, college years, early imrov work, etc. Eventually, she gets to marriage and motherhood. It's all quite charming, all hilarious and with a lot of heart. Nothing particularly scandalous or tragic seemed to have ever happened to her, which is fine because the lighthearted take on her life is what she was going for and it's always expressed well and quirky.

Generally speaking, for the Hollywood stuff the book is probably more for fans of the Office than for fans of Kimmy Schmidt. There are more quips about Steve Carell et. al than Tina Fey. Which is a bit of a shame for me as a fan as I'm very into the latter. The Office is classic no doubt, but I find a lot more depth in the societal analysis (and ridiculousness) of Kimmy Schmidt's world.

My Squirrel Days is pretty much totally apolitical, which can be a rare respite in books these days. Kemper even points this outright, how Kimmy's character has influenced her to be more optimistic in this contemporary era~

The last chapter does get into the backstory of the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt show with the pilot and Titus and everything, and was extremely interesting to me. It was rather late in the book though. So... in conclusion, I more recommend this book for fans of the Office and nothin necessarily wrong that :)

Radio Free Albemuth audiobook cover art

Hauntingly contemporary politics

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

Reviewed: 01-22-19

Can P.K. Dick please stop being so damn ahead of his time?! I promised myself I wouldn't read any more books about the current depraved political landscape, and I just wanted some nice trippy escapism. Somehow I forgot how poignant this 1976 book would be...

Get this: In Radio Free Albemuth (the sort of 4th book post-script of the VALIS trilogy), there is a dystopian present in which the president is below average right-wing idiot who has used the lowest common denominator of paranoia to claw his way to the top. He's actually a secret Russian agent though, and has a lame son named Don!

Somehow Dick was able to predict that the worst America could offer wasn't some highly intelligent dictatorship, but a pathetic state where misinformation and fear would dumb down the public enough that the most cynical fascists could easily take over. It all comes across as very familiar, sigh~

Ostensibly, Ferris F. Fremont is an analogue of Nixon. Although the 666 aspect seems like Ronald Wilson Reagan as well. The politics of Radio Free Albemuth are all over the place, in excellent P.K. Dick schizo fashion, with satires of Berkeley radicals. And the take on how intelligence agencies actually prefer corrupt politicians as easier to exploit is extremely fascinating. It's about sci-fi Gnosticism as much as anything else, with "God" as a pink light feeding information in order to save the world, and all the mindfucks therein contemplating such.

I happen prefer the first half of the book, which is pseudo-autobiographical in which Phil narrates and talks about his crazed friend Nick. Then it gets into Nick's point of view which has far more theological ranting. And, being that this is Dick, the writing isn't always polished but it does have a certain brilliant energy so don't overly nitpick.

Essential reading for latter-Dick cannon, but do ignore if you are in the mood to ignore the daily onslaught of Prez T****.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

American Tantrum audiobook cover art

Brilliant. Hilarious. Terrifying. All those things

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

Reviewed: 01-06-19

I honestly cannot sing enough praises to this book. Absolutely brilliant. What a shame it's not a big hit, poor Anthony Atamanuik... He is of course the star of Comedy Central's President Show, and in my view the greatest 45-impersonator out there. It is a crowded field these days, true, but his oddly deep take analyzes this tragical/satirical era like no one else.

I have no idea why there's not more President Show (or The Opposition for that matter, but that's a lament for another day), damn you Comedy Central!

The premise of American tantrum, is that an editor of a golf magazine is interviewing our illustrious prez for a presidental library pocktbook that needs to come out before Obama's actual presidential library opens. It starts out innocuous enough, this seemingly apolitical fellow as the straight man to Atamanuik's crazed commander-in-chief. In fact, at the start of the book it's pretty funny but not outstanding and one wonders if the joke can be sustained for an entire book.

Then, some kind of a plot begins to develop. The interviewer is apparently an alcoholic, and starts to go on his own rants which can get very dark and very racist, and also involve an infidelity episode. I shouldn't say more and spoil it. Then there's the weird Nikola Tesla references which actually taught me a few things.

Some of the funniest parts were the calls to various world leaders and business tycoons, with more smart impressions and unique takes on the state of the whole world not just America.

I also enjoyed the call to Area 51 and the Illuminati orgy party descriptions. What a wonderful blend of conspiracy theory (JFK stuff there too) and cutting edge topical analysis.

And lest I forget, Bannon's "Jack Renegade" stupid action hero self fan fiction makes horrible anti-Semitism a laugh riot! Seriously, this gets the essence of Bannon like you won't believe.

As the book comes to a climax, the Mueller and Cohen plot becomes more central. (The messages at his "consulting" firm, ha! Those election recordings, like that tower meeting and other collusions, are both absolutely hilarious and also seem surprisingly probable.

The epilogue absolutely blew me away. Like an essay on the darkness of America's soul, exposing what's bigger than who is in office now, the past and future and what to make of humanity's destiny, and then there's the 7-eyed raven. If only it was required reading all through the land...

After reading Woodward's book, I needed this. Even though it's comedy, Atamanuik and Casey are as qualified as anyone to frame just how the world works these days. I suppose one could make comparisons to Fire and Fury, in that much of it may not technically be confirmed but there certainly is a feeling of truth in this kinda-historical document.

In fact, Anthony Atamanuik has come up with actual predictions in character on multiple occasions. Look it up: he's done ridiculous bits on his show and then they've turned out to come true later. That's how good he is at getting into our demented leader's head.

This is a valuable skill. I just wish this book stood out more among all political tomes that swell the bookstore.

Lastly, give audiobooks a chance and experience this book by listening. With the prez in character among other great actors, it's basically a comedy album. Which also happens to be the culmination of the legendary President Show.

What a ride. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face as I'm crying.

Recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Cosmic Trigger I audiobook cover art

Psychedelia Classica

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

Reviewed: 12-27-18

Cosmic Trigger is an excellent companion piece for the RAW reader, essential but also part of a larger picture. Obviously, read Illuminatus! first. And if you want to utilize metaprogramming 'magikal' powers, Prometheus Rising may be more useful.

But for a summary and rehash of all the essential philosophical takes by the great Robert Anton Wilson, enjoy this. All over the place, it covers Crowley and telepathy theories and much autobiography (sad at the end, but is what it is). Learn about the Timothy Leary 8 circuit model and how all psychedelics fit in that. Tragically, when the book gets into life-extension medical optimism the book sure feels dated as we've definitely not made the progress that was expected.

In a way, the book is a window into what was cutting edge in the 1970s, and there is value in that.

Perhaps it's still too ahead of its time, and perhaps it's not always best to be that ahead of your time that 40 years later readers are still waiting for the world to catch up to all those post-2012 space migration theories.

It is fun to refresh on Wilson every so often, because there's still no mind quite like his after all this time!

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams audiobook cover art

Essential PK Dick, great selection

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

Reviewed: 12-11-18

I really enjoyed this short story collection of some of PK Dick's finest and weirdest or short stories. Of course, as we all know, he was a genius and predicted the anxiety and reality confusion of the modern world like no one else! Etc. etc., you've heard it all before. 

What is unique about this anthology is that it ties into the Amazon television series. Now, it is true that this series has it's highlights but it's frankly not as good as Black Mirror. But it's still solid science fiction, which should always be embraced, and it's most interesting to watch the adaptation with all their choices in rewrites, and then go to the original source material to read what else could be. 

At the same time, PK Dick's prose was sloppy here and there but that's not the point. The powerful ideas are incredible enough that these stories are worth the legendary hype of this important author. 

I particularly got a lot out of Human Is, a love story about how the alien that possesses a woman's husband is actually the good guy, and Sales Pitch which with its obsessive salesrobot is probably one of the most biting satire of consumerism you'll ever read. 

I imagine these stories will resonate for decades, if not centuries, to come. Nothing as timeless as the great Philip K. Dick!