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Smooth Bourbon

An Education in Government, Google, and the CIA
Narrated by: Giancarlo Maranzano
Length: 3 hrs and 10 mins
4 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Smooth Bourbon: An Education in Government, Google, and the CIA is the true story about one man's fateful intersection between American government, one of the most elusive organizations in the world, and one of the most powerful corporations in existence today. It delves deep into the framework of US government and touches on sobering problems inherent within the Constitutional design, while at the same time interweaving stories that range from intriguing to humorous.

Smooth Bourbon: An Education in Government, Google, and the CIA is intended for both high school- or college-level students who know very little about government and to better-informed listeners who are familiar with American government and are interested in hearing a fresh perspective. This audiobook is also intended for those interested in the intrigue around the CIA and for those interested in learning exactly what it's like to work for Google. 

With college students in mind, this audiobook has easily accessible footnote citations to better facilitate research. It is organized in a binary fashion, with a chapter about the incredible experience of working for Google and going through the CIA's very secretive interview processes, followed by chapters that detail different aspects of national governance. Every other chapter can best be characterized as a lecture. 

The real names and exact locations of all persons, except for the author, have been changed to protect the secrecy interests of the CIA and to provide confidentiality to all parties. 

To be sure, Smooth Bourbon is not intended to be a comprehensive account of government, Google, or the CIA. It is more of gripping story about my making sense of three very-misunderstood entities. The following audiobook represents personal arguments, many of them backed by scholars.

©2017 Christopher Ortega (P)2018 Christopher Ortega

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Loved this audible book

Very good observations, experiences. Great author, and excellent narrator very clear and easy to follow.

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A 2-in-1 DEFINITE MUST LISTEN AND READ!!

What i love about Chris Ortega's Smooth Bourbon is that it's a great introduction into American politics and government, past and present, and you get an amazing story of a smart, well educated young man from less than humble roots and hardships, who managed to overcome many obstacles in life, and somehow managing to get the attention of two powerful establishments.

The book has amazing pacing: one chapter is a captivating story, with the next chapter a lesson. It achieves that perfect balance of never filling like its too little or too much. I listened to Smooth Bourbon during long distance road trips, and it always had my attention. I look forward to seeing and hearing what Chris Ortega writes next.

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  • Philo
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 02-08-19

Pretty much as advertised

Here we get a pretty solid high school-to-early college level civics lesson (similar to what I teach in college), and a paint-by-numbers tour of entry-level recruitment pathways at google and CIA. These are not from an elite perspective but from the perspective of a pretty (for all one can tell here, middling-) smart person knocking on the door and walking through the process. The latter never gets an inch past the surface. This guy is not at all quantitative (he admits being bad at math), so he was, in my view, nowhere near anything that really matters in these organizations. He would have been recruited differently if he really had anything. His motivational speechifying and cheerleading is completely standard. This could be useful for someone interviewing there, though this info of interviewing techniques is pretty widely available.
The google and CIA parts have zero depth, though. We see nothing of the structure or workings of these organizations, or any deep views or paths into them. I thought there might be something about the nexus of USA's constitutional structure, and particular current (perhaps problematic) features and moves of these organizations. There is zero of that sort here. CIA and google might as well be the Boy Scouts (or actually, even less controversial). This guy is wide-eyed and grateful and either uncritical or unwilling to say anything of substance about this. That makes him a model ex-employee but for me, a write-off as an author. Sorry, the career path out of federal USA for many is a book, but with some beef. Of course, for a high-schooler aspiring to work at these places, that may be beside the point. Enjoy your innocence while it lasts! But it was marketed to me too.
Don't get me wrong: I am proud to be in a country that has a path for a guy like this (or like me). It's a spectacular place, for many of us, and that comes through in this book. His cheeriness is genuine, well-founded and pleasing. He's a scrappy guy who reaches for tools and uses them. He is certainly not a whiner. If everybody was in this guy's range, I would feel darn good about my country.
My impression (listening to this fellow's reciting of his interview Q and A) is that google interviewers read him as a good BS'er, a fast talker, not really a serious deep problem-solver. I thought his interview answers were superficial and ludicrous, but google hired him (with job title unstated). So whatever he did at google, and for whatever time, both of which are oddly skirted by, was (I'm guessing) probably a PR related kind of thing at some organizational surface level. And that's what this book winds up being: a love-note to the US Navy, google, CIA, and the USA, which is fine. But any deep, dark corners of, or conflicts within, any of these things, are not here. (The political science part does hint at some possible tensions within our USA institutional framework, but nothing startling, and it isn't pursued.) Well, there was a little sense of oddness in the description of the perhaps aggressively politicized (to hear it) google PR culture, and its idiosyncracies interacting with employees about that. This is an apparatchik's-eye-view.
The most disappointing part for me? This author doting on the free food at google (and wasting my time on that) truly showed him as (IMO) an intellectual and consumerist mediocrity. Such preoccupations mean I would never let him within a thousand miles of anything important in my firm. What's worse, google employees circulating critiques of the food day to day as if it mattered is a contrary indicator, to me, of google's survival potential. Either there is a layer of total morons there this guy was immersed in, or that organization is growing weak-brained and decadent. I found this part repugnant and too long.

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