The SFFaudio Podcast #422 – READALONG: The Running Man by Stephen King and The Prize Of Peril by Robert Sheckley

May 22, 2017 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast
The Running Man
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #422 -Jesse, Scott Danielson, Paul Weimer, and Marissa talk about The Running Man by Stephen King and The Prize Of Peril by Robert Sheckley

Talked about today’s show:
What’s wrong with society?, Harlan Ellison talking about Stephen King and Robert Sheckley, so eloquent, dismissing Stephen King, The Long Walk, one of the best science fiction books of the 1980s, at the heart of it, the world, when King was hungry and angry, the introduction, giving it away, a pretty extravagant and great ending, he’s old and angry on Twitter now, he talks good, a distant anger, his attiotufe is what makes the book, The Prize Of Peril is a joke, Das Millionenspiel (1970), the Schwarzenegger, turning anger into a farce action comedy, not even a satire, so much hate, shocking lines, smash her and rape her, when King was very poor, Rage, uncomfortable, connections to actual school shootings, bizarre tie between fiction and action, I’m gonna come up to that floor and getcha, pulling books off the shelves, The Dead Zone, the Dead Zone TV show, the world fits this kind of character, psychological, Richard K. Morgan doesn’t write them this angry, Mr. Mercedes, Take The Money And Run, The Hunted, sticking it to the man, “the internet never forgets”, auto-pulldowns by robots, a disturbing show, Myke Cole, without the killing, so freaky, same ethics and motivation, poor people, Jimmy Dore, half of America is poor, Scott would dispute that, it seems high, American poor, healthcare, GoFundMe for healthcare, hoping to put my kids into college, Paul Bishop, everybody loses the money, Big Brother Canada, horror, becoming a homeless person for 30 days, distributing, why did I like this?, interviewing audience members, a War Of The Worlds-effect, cutting to the control room, former CIA, former FBI, former U.S. Marshall, former British intelligence, this isn’t stacked at all, economic incentive, the mother, the book readers are the heroes, The Prize Of Peril, Raeder = Reader, putting ourselves into this situation, the ultimate protagonist, Killian, stick close to your own people, mapping, May of 1958 (everybody’s doing great), real unemployment 24%, I work three jobs, clown for president, the 1970 movie existential interest in, Too Many Cooks, the sponsor of Das Millionenspiel is Stablelite, male enhancement, Stablelite = the stable elite, The Running Man (1987), tracking real-life trends, 1950s = isn’t this funny (a satire), Sheckley was a god in Europe, The Tenth Victim (adapted from Seventh Victim), an assassination game, keeping violence down, Black Mirror: White Bear, X-Minus One, about psychology, the death wish and the life wish, a suicide option, the voluntary suicide act, Prix De Danger, the Sheckley short story, “Hazard”, “Spills”, “Underwater Perils”, “Terroro”, why Marissa loves this podcast, if we go there…, CBC, CTV, remaking American shows, Canadian Idol, people wouldn’t accept, everything commercialized, even Netflix has this, poor loser helpless people, Fear Factor, you haven’t been poor and desperate enough, I’ll just shoot you then, part of the criticism, that feeling, this Stephen King book feels way more relevant today, air pollution, the media, Sam Harris, the attention economy, status, the environmental sub-plot, thinking about and talking about the environment, only for the lip readers, They Live (1988), a spiritual riff, desperately squeezing, the temptation to power motif, we could use you, a three year contract, standard for a network stalker, you do it to your own kind, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Eight O’Clock In The Morning by Ray Nelson, the trickle down economy, the network editing, agreeing on what real is, subtext, looking at SF causally, SF is reflective not predictive, framing, when a hospital gets bombed, Leonard Cohen, “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons”, Brian Williams, how much in the context, humiliating interrogation by professionals, a Japanese game show, Trans-America Ultra Quiz, the look and the inspiration is from Japanese game show, The Hunger Games, what it’s all built from, ancient Rome, the tension, I have no idea what I’m supposed to feel, here’s this phenomenon, non-judgemental, the conclusion is not in the movie, you’re watching the host, through the host’s eyes, the Italian French Russian movie, Le Prix Du Danger (1983), surveillance cameras all over England, mailing in your tapes, at the homeless shelter, the meta-issue, Raeder is the first thing you see in the story, we become the Ben Richards, Richard Dawson, Harlan Ellison doesn’t give you his varnished opinion, The Pest, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, battle royale style, Battle Royale, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, even a frying pan, the war of all against all, Thomas Hobbes, Paul is tribute, first person shooters, so funny so dark, Tag: The Assassination Game, Gotcha! (1985), thinking about fake news, a cartoon for stupid people, so great and stop stupid, Dweezil Zappa, Mick Fleetwood, Stephen King movies are mostly horrible, 1408, The Storm Of The Century, The Shining, The Mist, “Whitman, Price, and Haddad”, basking under the Maui sun, the big lie, when a revolution becomes show business, he’s a game show host, ultimate reality show, Scott has checked out, Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger two future governors wrestling each other, wrestling as ballet for big guys, set in 2017, when Killian gets his ending, when the truth is known the people will revolt, no agreement on what the truth is, agreeing on what the facts are, brainwashing, it’s not all bottom down, ignorance at the bottom, the school system is broken, teaching civics, getting a good SAT score, good job vs. good citizens, bubbles, the “freeview”, greater than Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or The Veldt, subtlety in The Running Man movie, bread and circuses, healthcare too, vacation time, better education, grow our minds, some clean air (or water), automated manufacturing, technicians, robotics, what will society look like in 20 years?, an opportunity, truck driver, work through what it means, truck guard like Mad Max, the reason for pirates in Somalia, dignity, stepping on his own guts, a dignity in defiance, living with your mom in your 40s or 50s or 60s, food riots, nerve gas in the mid-east, protests did not work, a thin scythe, jellyfish slime, and he’s pimping out his wife, is anybody thinking about it, earlier industrial revolutions, a new Roosevelt with a new New Deal, analyzing art, buying literature written by A.I., kiosks and self checkouts, robots cooking the food, nursing the babies, all a prequel to Wall-E, the soft apocalypse, The Machine Stops, to feed their kid, medicine for the kid, people do that, that’s where the sex industry comes from, the power of a pseudonym, Thinner, Donald E. Westlake and Richard Stark, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, embarrassed about, 100% honest, admire them, The Long Walk, Misery, Steve Brown, 1985, real journalism, you can tell, one thing we know about writers is that they used to be readers, Ben Richards is really well read, fuck off and get me some books, a general atomics novel, book reviews, William Shakespeare, off center of Science Fiction, Stephen King is the gateway drug, The Dark Tower, The Gunslinger, Richard from Richard Stark, a Westlake novel about the pseudonym problem, The Hook, writer’s block, the hall of mirrors effect, King has a voice that is different than Koontz and Dick and Lovecraft, other Bachman books, Rage, Thinner, Misery, his biggest fan, writing the novel in the novel, meta, Roadwork, an interstellar bypass without the interstellar, The Bachman Books, Different Seasons, an official photo of Richard Bachman, Philip K. Dick, Four Past Midnight, The Langoliers, Kevin Kenerly was a terrific narrator, George Guidall, American Gods, damn good listen, damn good book, The Millions Game, after death beauty products, the Kling Klang knife company, a knife for killing your wife, Germany in the 70s was a very interesting place.




NEL - The Running Man by Richard Bachman
Signet - The Running Man by Richard Bachman
The Running Man (1987)
The Prize Of Peril by Robert Sheckley

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #376 – READALONG: Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne

July 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #376 – Jesse, Julie Davis, and Maissa Bessada talk about Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne.

Talked about on today’s show:
title variations, they don’t go to the center of the Earth, Arne Saknussemm, Lit2Go, the Tim Curry narration, how did the paperwork get out of the Earth?, he was too specific, the knife, what happened to Arne Saknussemm?, barometer, manometer, dead servants, taciturn servants, would you like some bacon cooked on the lava (magma), overdosing on adaptations, comic adaptations, the 2008 Brendan Fraser version (3D movie), fluffy, the nephew-uncle dynamic, a page turner, adding a female expeditionary member, inspiration vs. adaptation, inspired by this book, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the same setup, irascible professors, going for a girl, a forerunner (a person who went before), Maplewhite vs. Saknussemm, dinosaurs, underground journey, subterranean, fun, huge science expositions, Around The World In Eighty Days, the Fantastic Voyages (or Journeys) series, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Five Weeks In A Balloon, Jules Verne wrote 66 novels!, one of the things he’s doing, visit every place in the world and characterize every nation, Germans and Icelanders and Danes, national personalities, everyone is a cartoon, “stereotype”, a crazy uncle, a light comedy, science vs. adventure, Verne takes us on tours, touring Copenhagen, vicarious travel, adventurous passion, not to poop all over this book, At The Earth’s Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this book is missing a 12-foot giantess cave-girl girlfriend, standing on the ceiling of the basement, a vast hollow sphere, Pluto and Porcupine (the roman equivalent of Persephone), Jules Verne’s spelling of Edgar Allan Poe (he called him Edgard Allan Poe), referencing everything, The Sphinx In The Ice, Verne was Poe’s #1 fan, a beautiful tradition, The Green Girl by Jack Williamson, biological phases compared to geological phases, looking at the stars and the earth you’re looking backward in time, the science, the original french version of this book was in 1864, 10 years later the relationship with Germany is fundamentally different, the mechanistic world, 10 years made a hell of a difference, this is a very international book, the humor, I was in love with her, “you could say I adored her (if any such word exists in the German language)”, he’s right about us, Verne is very sly, just like the professor, languages, Verne’s dad tried to make him a lawyer, trying not to be provincial, Virgil and Homer and Shakespeare, “You monument to ignorance”, a zinger in every chapter, “great as it is that asylum is it is not big enough to contain all of Professor Lidenbrock’s madness”, you have no vision, “I care nothing about seeing magnificent spectacles”, a walking tour of Copenhagen, crawling up the stairs, Axel’s maturity (or lack thereof), the names, Henry vs. Axel, Lidenbrock vs. Hardwigg, the different translations [the Professor’s name is a pun], a secret history, the Saknussemm document becomes the Jules Verne novel in the 2008 movie, the 1959 movie makes the professor Scottish, translations and adaptations to make it more relevant for the audience, Gretchen -> Grauben -> Gretel, bad translations, learning about eiderdown and eiderdown hunters, stealing nest fluff, the science is pretty damn good, you can’t have an adventure to the center of the Earth if the Earth’s center is hot, EVIDENCE!, “everyone is laughing at me, here’s a pterodactyl”, “science is composed of errors, but errors that are right to make”, the ball-lightning, St. Elmo’s fire, the compass problems, almost realistic, Stromboli was Tolkien’s model for Mount Doom, we will not tell them how we actually got here, they said they were shipwrecked (and it is kind of true), dense with humour, history, architecture, an enduring classic, Hans was the opposite of the uncle, characters exchanging personalities, a process of maturation, an inveterate coward and then he craters, the seeds of what he will become, Axel will become like his uncles when he grows older, Verne shows a character’s worst and best sides, a giant fur covered creature pounding his chest -> it’s King Kong!, 16 foot giant bones discovered, a skull the size of a Volkswagen, a moral panic, a real newspaper article, Jesse does an Icelandic accent, The Odyssey, like Professor Challenger, The Poison Belt, aliens, Hans has to get paid every Sunday, Icelandic life is hard, Icelanders are Eskimos without the benefits of being Eskimos, Master, Verne’s racism is a sympathetic racism, Conan Doyle’s internationalism is very different, Burroughs’s characterization, what Verne is doing is cool, I’m not usually the persons who says: “You know what this needs? More romance”, mineralogists, all good characterization, Conan Doyle’s cute cynicism, Burroughs’s hero characters find girls and have them lay some eggs, H. Rider Haggard’s lost worlds were in Africa, adventure types, She!, The People Of The Mist, a White Goddess among the Zulu people, this is sort of Vernianian: science, history, literature and reveling in that knowledge, The Mysterious Island, a parody meme -> Mysterious Island, Nellie Bly, pretending to be insane to see what life in an asylum is like, Librivox, what it’s like to live in Mexico, back when newspapers paid reporters to investigate things, BBC, gravity in the center of the Earth would pull you in every direction, BBC Radio 4: In Our Time on the Earth’s core, biology is taught wrong, there names are what they do, telling rocks apart at a glance, smell, sound, taste, rocks can be tested it with your body, on the final exam in geology they give you a tray full of rocks, the ferrous iron taste of the water, Hans brock water, flood that whole compartment (luckily it was the size of the Earth), draining the Mediterranean, Verne is the second most translated author in the world, looking at it from our perspective today, Ben Hur, Lew Wallace, do your own abridging.

Scholastic - A Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne - cover art by Mort Kuntsler

A Journey To The Center Of The Earth by Jules Verne - T618

Journey To The Center Of The Earth - adapted for BOYS' LIFE (1995)

Journey To The Center Of The Earth - illustrated by Jim Thiesen

Journey To The Center Of The Earth - illustrated by Journey To The Center Of The Earth - illustrated by Patrick Whelan

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #358 – READALONG: The Simulacra by Philip K. Dick

February 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #358 – Jesse, Paul, and Marissa talk about The Simulacra by Philip K. Dick.

Talked about on today’s show:
1964, Simulacrum vs. Simulacra, Dick is right in complaining about the title, Ace Books, what this book is about, “The First Lady Of The United States”, in the background, a tiny little hint, are chupas androids?, a closed-circuit-like passing spasm, who and what are robots, simulacrum, undercooked, best novel or worst novel, the audiobook, well-crafted, juggling, so confusing, a populated novel, psychoanalyzing Philip K. Dick, the settings, a complex complicated world, the Warsaw Pact, Poland, the Soviet Union, jalopies, why is the world the way it is?, der alter = the old man, Philip K. Dick saying…, my wife is my boss, changeable husbands, my emotions aren’t real, a fine idea for an SF novel, Queen Elizabeth II, the society is profoundly different, they don’t have books (or knowledge about anything), projecting into minds, your one chance, mass psychosis, societal control, a caste system, “the Ges”, the USEA society, education?, hobbies, “Let’s Watch Nichole”, it was nightmare world, passing the social studies test to keep your apartment, deep sea divers, knowing the numbers, a glimmering seed of an idea, revisionist history all the time, busywork, having political correct terms for everything, a Stalinist version of this story, the New Pravda, Wikipedia, “the euphemism treadmill”, what sounds like attack words, the word shit is a shitty word, toilet, escape to another planet, there’s always people going off-world, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, when you leave Earth, service simulacra, a worker of your own to help you, a warm jacket and a packed lunch, quick divorce, “I divorced my wife last night”, the Frontier Thesis, Frederick Jackson Turner, space as the new frontier, “the artificial worlds of Philip K. Dick”, the default, “the final frontier”, colonizing the solar system and the universe, other countries, Canadian bacon exists, moving to another apartment complex is a huge deal, what will the kids think?, a satire, the latest season of Homeland, an unprecedented, American television is very strange, House Of Cards, has there ever been an American television series set in another country?, not a Netflix show, tricked Americans into seeing another country, increasing America, the Berlin Airlift, JFK, the Philippine conquest, and Cuba, Germanophile weirdness, time travel is very easy, why always with the Hermann Göring in SF?, “he looks like he’s having fun”, he knows how to use power, Caligula, monsters, you have to have dinner with someone in the Third Reich, To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer, why is Hermann Göring in this book?, a transplanted plot?, looking to change time, palace intrigue, a time war, hilarious, more of everything, he’s running into himself, Sir Francis Drake, Time Pawn aka Dr. Futurity, apartment complexes, The Man Who Japed, fear of the pop-quiz, history isn’t neat, from democracy to totalitarian hermit kingdoms, baroque weird alien things (from the outside), it hangs itself (together), jug bands?, “Jug Band Plays The Whitehouse”, Richard Congrosian believes his body odor is lethal, Chick, chupa, the way Dick’s mind works, she’s so mean she can’t be a robot, that explains my lack of emotion, palupas are fake, am I invisible?, nits?, the crawling advertisements, they shoot the adveritzments to make them shut up, the reason Richard Congrosian thinks he stinks, I’ve had sex with 755 women, I’ve met three presidents of the United States, the default response, brainwashing, Jesse is sensitive to scent, Tide laundry detergent, gender equality vs. not touching door-handles, Paul’s superpower is he can smell ketchup from a mile away, Jesse thinks the general public is brainwashed by clothing cleaning products advertising, soap operas, Gain laundry detergent, advertising a product can create a market, fake creation of desire, the pets, my sheep’s not real, like the Dr. Bloodmoney, psychiatry, Mars, neanderthals, political factions, mutants, he just read something, The Crawlers, “more evolved” isn’t really a thing, a group of sad-sack mental deficients, what circumstances would allow you to enjoy a future that is grim?, he wanted vegetables and they gave him a coin, if they were the simulacra at the end, waiting for their time to rise up over the humans, the neanderthals will inherit the earth, this (novel) is a stew, not the best meal he (Dick) has served, electic music enterprise, do they have any ethnic music before you die?, funny digs, German conglomerates, Dick seemed to enjoy writing this, the next thing you know you have twenty characters and ten plots, it’s all held together by Dr. Egon Superb, Strikerock, Wilder Pembroke, National Police, one of his biographies or an interview, other than being a psychoanalysis of his own marriage, Dick never came at it from whatever the dominant view was, sometime in this period…, communists, the FBI came by and interviewed him, a locked filing cabinet, bikers, drug addicts, the FBI, or he did it, he became friends with one of the FBI agents (who taught Dick to drive), Donald A. Wollheim, in the paranoid phase, I’m gonna help out, no matter what novel there’s only thirty or forty people in the entire society, eventually their in the crank file, when you see the NP men, the Secret Service, an insight, when Philip K. Dick is at home he’s at work, all grist for his mill, when he isn’t writing novels he’s writing letters to the FBI, a terrible Philip K. Dick novel but a pretty good science fiction novel, fun and funny, a prism, that’s okay, sometimes you get stuff that’s okay, was there boobs?, “she had high-rise breasts”, 90-year old breasts, no quivering breasts, they were poking out every now and then, “her breasts protruded divinely”, we have marriage we have boobs, somebody is drinking coffee, you can see his life, so true, so familiar, just hanging out with Philip K. Dick again, random Germans, he likes Germans, hanging out with Philip K. Dick.

ACE Books - F301 - The Simulacra by Philip K. Dick
The Simulacra by Philip K. Dick - Illustration by Ed Emshwiller

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

September 23, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

Hachette Audio - Arguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensArguably: Essays
By Christopher Hitchens; Read by Simon Prebble
24 CDs – Approx. 28.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Published: September 1, 2011
ISBN: 9781611139068
Themes: / Non-fiction / History / War / Biography / Science Fiction / Fantasy / Iran / Afghanistan / Germany / North Korea / France / Dystopia / Utopia / Religion / Tunisia / Piracy / Terrorism / Feminism / Pakistan /

The first new collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, Arguably offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking. Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men to the haunting science fiction of J.G. Ballard; from the enduring legacies of Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell to the persistent agonies of anti-Semitism and jihad. Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx. The audio book forms a bridge between the two parallel enterprises of culture and politics. It reveals how politics justifies itself by culture, and how the latter prompts the former. In this fashion, Arguably burnishes Christopher Hitchens’ credentials as-to quote Christopher Buckley-our “greatest living essayist in the English language.”

Here’s a question I was thinking about while listening to Arguably.

What is fiction for?

One answer, the bad one, is that it’s for entertainment. That’s certainly where many readers are willing go, and the fiction writers who write it too. Maybe that’s precisely why so much fiction is just so very shitty.

To me, if you aren’t exploring ideas in your fiction, then you really aren’t serving a greater purpose. Idea fiction, fiction with ideas rather than just action and plot, is to my mind a kind of supplement to the wisdom found in writings on history, biography and science.

Of the many lessons learned I in listening to the 107 essays in Arguably I was particularly struck by the wisdom Christopher Hitchens gleaned from his reading of fiction. Hitchens reviews many books in this collection, nearly half of the essays are book reviews. Books like 1984, Animal Farm, Flashman, The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard, Our Man In Havana, and even, surprisingly, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows all get fascinating, critical, and reverent reviews.

Yet Hitchens also takes the lessons with him into his writing about his travels. Hitchens writes about visits to such places as North Korea, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and Kurdish Iraq. When talking about his visit to Beirut we see what comes when Hitchens, a man of ideas, acts upon them. The essay, The Swastika and the Cedar sees the convictions of the commited anti-fascist Hitchens beaten and nearly kidnapped for an act of vandalism on a prominently displayed swastika. Writes Hitchens:

“Well, call me old-fashioned if you will, but I have always taken the view that swastika symbols exist for one purpose only—to be defaced.”

In a review of two books, Lolita and The Annotated Lolita, Hitchens applies the controversial subject in a real life look at the modern, and very non-fictional oppression and objectification of women. Indeed, the ideas he appreciated in fiction helped Hitchens to come to grips with the real world.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

As to the narration of the audiobook. I’m ashamed to admit that I was initially dismayed when I saw that Christopher Hitchens had not narrated this audiobook himself. I was wrong to worry. Incredibly, Simon Prebble seems to have have become Hitchens for this narration. Prebble perfectly captures the erudite words, so eloquently performs them, and with an accent so like that of Hitchens’ own so as to make me think that it was Hitchens who had actually read it.

I think the worst essay in this collection is the one on the serving of wine and restaurants, Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite. It was simply a waste of the talent, too light, too easy a target. And yet, even that essay, the worst essay in all 107 has a memorable anecdote: “Why,” asks Hitchens’ five year old son, “are they called waiters? It’s we who are doing all the waiting.”

Here’s a list of the book’s contents, with links to the original etexts when available, along with my own notes on each:

ALL AMERICAN
Gods Of Our Fathers: The United States Of Enlightenment – a review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen

The Private Jefferson – a review of Jefferson’s Secrets: Death And Desire At Monticello by Andrew Burstein

Jefferson Vs. The Muslim Pirates – a review of Power, Faith, And Fantasy: America In The Middle East: 1776 To The Present by Michael B. Oren

Benjamin Franklin: Free And Easy – a review of Benjamin Franklin Unmasked: On the Unity of His Moral, Religious, And Political Thought by Jerry Weinberger

John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slavery – a review of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked The Civil War, And Seeded Civil Rights by David S. Reynolds

Abraham Lincoln: Misery’s Child (aka Lincoln’s Emancipation) – a review of Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingame

Mark Twain: American Radical – a scathing review of The Singular Mark Twain: A Biography by Fred Kaplan

Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primer – a review of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

JFK: In Sickness And By Stealth – a review of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963 by Robert Dallek

Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilator – review of six novels by Saul Bellow (The Dangling Man, The Victim, The Adventures Of Augie March, Seize The Day, Henderson The Rain King, and Herzog)

Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita – reviews of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Annotated Lolita edited and annotated by Alfred Appel, Jr.

John Updike: No Way – a review of The Terrorist by John Updike (with reference to The Coup too)

John Updike: Mr. Geniality
– a critical review of the affable Due Considerations: Essays And Considerations by John Updike

Vidal Loco – Gore Vidal went crazier, more elitist and perhaps more racist as he got older (with attention and quips for Quentin Crisp and Oscar Wilde and Joyce Carol Oates)

America The Banana Republic – Hitchens on the “socialistic” bank bailout of 2008 (“socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the rest”)

An Anglosphere Future – a review of The History Of The English Speaking Peoples by Andrew Roberts (with reference to both Sherlock Holmes and The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as to Cecil Rhodes and Rudyard Kipling)

Political Animals – a review of Dominion: The Power Of Man, The Suffering Of Animals, And The Call To Mercy by Matthew Scully

Old Enough To Die – on capital punishment as applied to children

In Defense Of Foxhole Atheists
– a visit to the United States Air Force Academy and the tax funded proselytizing

In Search Of The Washington Novel – a search for some good fiction about Washington, D.C.

ECLECTIC AFFINITIES
Isaac Newton: Flaws Of Gravity – a stroll through the medieval streets of Cambridge with the scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers who worked there

The Men Who Made England: Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” – a review of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Edmund Burke: Reactionary Prophet – a review of Reflections On The Revolution In France by Edmund Burke

Samuel Johnson: Demons And Dictionaries
– a review of Samuel Johnson: A Biography by Peter Martin

Gustave Flaubert: I’m With Stupide – a review of Bouvard et Pécuchet by Gustave Flaubert translated by Mark Polizzotti

The Dark Side Of Dickens
– a review of Charles Dickens by Michael Slater a biography (Hitchens was a not uncritical admirer of the subject)

Marx’s Journalism: The Grub Street Years – a glowing review of Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism Of Karl Marx edited by James Ledbetter, foreword by Francis Wheen (Marx admired the United States, and other fascinating facts about the father of communism)

Rebecca West: Things Worth Fighting For – an introduction to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West

Ezra Pound: A Revolutionary Simpleton – a review of Ezra Pound, Poet: A Portrait Of The Man And His Work: Volume I: The Young Genius, 1885-1920 by A. David Moody (a biography of the fascist poet)

On “Animal Farm” – an introduction to Animal Farm

Jessica Mitford’s Poison Pen – a review of Decca: The Letters Of Jessica Mitford edited by Peter Y. Sussman

W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Willie – a review of W. Somerset Maugham: A Life by Jeffery Meyers

Evelyn Waugh: The Permanent Adolescent – a look at the enigmatic life, writing, religion, and sexuality of Evelyn Waugh

P.G. Wodehouse: The Honorable Schoolboy – a review of Wodehouse: A Life by Robert McCrum

Anthony Powell: An Omnivorous Curiosity – a review of To Keep The Ball Rolling: The Memoirs Of Anthony Powell

John Buchan: Spy Thriller’s Father – a review of John Buchan The Presbyterian Cavalier by David R. Godine (with discussion of The 39 Steps and a fantasy novelette The Grove Of Ashtaroth)

Graham Greene: I’ll Be Damned – a review of The Life Of Graham Green: Volume II: 1939-1955 by Norman Sherry

Death From A Salesman: Graham Greene’s Bottle Ontology – an introduction to Our Man In Havana by Graham Greene

Loving Philip Larkin (aka Philip Larkin, the Impossible Man) – a review of Philip Larkin: Letters To Monica edited by Anthony Thwaite

Stephen Spender: A Nice Bloody Fool – a review of Stephen Spender: The Authorized Biography by John Sutherland

Edward Upward: The Captive Mind – a look at the British novelist and short story Edward Upward

C.L.R. James: Mid Off, Not Right On – a review of Cricket, The Caribbean, And World Revolution by Farrukh Dhondy

J.G. Ballard: The Catastrophist – a review of The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard

Fraser’s Flashman: Scoundrel Time – a look at the George MacDonald Fraser series of Flashman books and the connection with The Adventure Of The Empty House

Fleet Street’s Finest: From Waugh To Frayn – an essay on the dubious romance of journalism

Saki: Where The Wild Things Are – a review of The Unbearable Saki: The Work of H.H. Munro by Sandie Byrne

Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived – a review of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

AMUSEMENTS, ANNOYANCES, AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
Why Women Aren’t Funny – a controversial essay on why more comedians are male and why women laugh at them the way they do

Stieg Larsson: The Author Who Played With Fire – a look at the phenomenon of the bestselling author of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo

As American As Apple Pie – a literary and chronological history of the blowjob, with reference to Valdamir Nobokov’s Lolita

So Many Men’s Rooms, So Little Time – a fascinatingly insightful argument on what’s was going on with the Larry Craig bathroom airport scandal and related phenomena

The New Commandments – deconstructing the Ten Commandments

In Your Face – are bans on burqas and veils actually bans, or are they liberation?

Wine Drinkers Of The World, Unite – ill mannered waiters are ruining the business of wine drinking

Charles, Prince Of Piffle – a damning look at the prince who shouldn’t be king

OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS
Afghanistan’s Dangerous Bet – a visit to Afghanistan, it’s all about the women

First, Silence The Whistle-Blower – is there any hope for democracy in Afghanistan?

Believe Me, It’s Torture – a report on what it’s like to be water-boarded

Iran’s Waiting Game – a visit to Iran and a meeting with Hussein Khomeini the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini

Long Live Democratic Seismology – on democracy, Chile, Iran, and earthquakes

Benazir Bhutto: Daughter Of Destiny – a personal remembrance of the brave liar, Benazir Bhutto

From Abbottabad To Worse – an explanation for the existence of Pakistan as the U.S.A.’s worst best friend

The Perils Of Partition – on what dividing a country does to it (it’s like a man with a broken leg – he can think of nothing else)

Algeria: A French Quarrel – a review of A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne

The Case Of Orientalism (aka East Is East) – a review of Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents by Robert Irwin

Edward Said: Where The Twain Should Have Met – a review of Orientalism by Edward Said

The Swastika And The Cedar – a visit to “the Arab street”

Holiday In Iraq – Hitchens on holiday in Kurdish Iraq: it’s lovely

Tunisia: At The desert’s Edge – a lavish and lengthy visit to Africa’s gentlest country

What Happened To The Suicide Bombers Of Jerusalem? – why is no one writing about the dog that didn’t bark?

Childhood’s End: An African Nightmare – on Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The Vietnam Syndrome – on the horrific effects of Agent Orange and the legacies of dioxin

Once Upon A Time In Germany – a review of the movie The Baader Meinhof Complex, it explores the origins of The Red Army Faction

Worse Than “Nineteen Eighty-Four” – North Korea is a slave state seemingly modeled on 1984

North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarfs – a visit to North Korea

The Eighteenth Brumaire Of The Castro Dynasty – a look at the Castro regime’s familial coup

Hugo Boss – a visit to Venezuela with Sean Penn and a meeting with Hugo Chávez – he’s nuts

Is The Euro Doomed? – what will be the fate of Europe’s common currency?

Overstating Jewish Power – In the Israeli American relationship who’s pulling who’s strings?

The Case For Humanitarian Intervention – a review of Freedom’s Battle: The Origins Of Humanitarian Intervention by Gary J. Bass

LEGACIES OF TOTALITARIANISM
Victor Serge: Pictures From An Inquisition – reviews of The Case Of Comrade Tulayev and Memoirs Of A Revolutionary by Victor Serge

André Malraux: One Man’s Fate – a review of Malraux: A Life by Olivier Todd, translated by Joseph West

Arthur Koestler: The Zealot – a review of Koestler: The Literary And Political Odyssey Of A Twentieth-Century Skeptic by Michael Scammell

Isabel Allende: Chile Redux – an introduction to The House Of The Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Persian Version – a review of Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology Of Contemporary Iranian Literature edited by Nahid Mozaffari

Martin Amis: Lightness At Midnight – a review of Koba The Dread: Laughter And The Twenty Million by Martin Amis

Imagining Hitler – the problem of evil, and Hitler, with reference to Explaining Hitler by Ron Rosenbaum and Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw

Victor Klemperer: Survivor

A War Worth Fighting – a persuasively systematic review of Churchill, Hitler And The Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire And The West Lost The World by Pat Buchanan

Just Give Peace A Chance? – a critical review of Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker

W.G. Sebald: Requiem For Germany – a review of On The Natural History Of Destruction by W.G. Sebald

WORDS’ WORTH
When The King Saved God – for the love of the King James version

Let Them Eat Pork Rinds – Berthold Brecht, Charles Dickens and various other sources inform Hitch’s view of the Hurricane Katrina relief disaster

Stand Up For Denmark! – a still timely plea for preferring free speech to religious tolerance

Eschew The Taboo – on the banning of words, particularly the word “nigger”

She’s No Fundamentalist – a spirited defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Burned Out – the verb “fuel” is fueled by journalistic sloppiness

Easter Charade – on life and death and Terri Schiavo

Don’t Mince Words – the disenfranchisement of south Asians in Britain isn’t the cause of bombings, hatred of women is.

History And Mystery – al-Qaeda in Iraq, jihadists, or “insurgents”? Do words matter? Of course they bloody well do.

Words Matter – political slogans make of “every adult in the country” an “illiterate jerk who would rather feel than think”

This Was Not Looting – how can a government “loot” it’s own weapons manufacturing facility? The government of Iraq managed it according to The New York Times.

The “Other” L-Word – a lighthearted piece on the prominence of the word “like” and it’s use

The You Decade – what’s wrong with you (marketing to the selfish)

Suck It Up – the Virginia Tech shootings prompted the wrong response from the world (namely that it prompted one)

A Very, Very Dirty Word – the English empire, in centuries to come, may only be remembered for soccer and the phrase “fuck off”

Prisoner Of Shelves – on the indispensability of books

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Red Panda Adventures – Season 7

July 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, Reviews, SFFaudio essential 

SFFaudio Review

If you haven’t already started listening to The Red Panda Adventures you’re doing yourself a grave disservice. Go back to the beginning and start with Season 1 (that’s HERE).

Superhero Audio Drama - The Red Panda Adventures - Season SevenThe Red Panda Adventures – Season 7
By Gregg Taylor; Performed by a full cast
12 MP3 Files via podcast – Approx. 6 Hours [AUDIO DRAMA]
Podcaster: Decoder Ring Theatre
Podcast: August 2011 – July 2012
Themes: / Fantasy / Superheroes / Mystery / Crime / Nazis / War / WWII / Adventure / Toronto / Androids / Espionage / Zombies / Magic / Aliens / Poetry / Astral Projection / Hypnosis / France / Germany / Berlin / Dinosaurs / Identity / Forgery / Romance /

The Red Panda Adventures is a comic book superhero series with a world, now in it’s seventh season, that is only comparable in scale to the entire Marvel or DC universes. But unlike either DC and Marvel, the Red Panda universe has all been written by one man, Greg Taylor. Because of that it has a consistency like the best seasons of Babylon 5.

The first episode of Season 7 follows right on the heels of last season’s final episode. In the season opener, From the Ashes, Kit Baxter gets a visit from the highest power in the land. And what with the Red Panda being presumed dead there’s only one thing to do – find a replacement for Canada’s greatest superhero. The government suggests that an unkillable machine, bent on vengeance, become the new Red Panda. And Kit, is fairly forced to accept the government’s choice. Now I won’t summarize any more of the plot. But, I will say this – Season 7 is a very different season than the previous six seasons.

What isn’t different is Taylor’s scripting. It’s still great, in fact its almost unbelievably great. Taylor has one of those highly distinctive writing styles, one that’s instantly recognizable – he’s like an Aaron Sorkin, a David Mamet, or an Ian Mackintosh. And with Taylor’s style comes a whole lot of substance too. He does incredible things with each half-hour script. Each standalone tale features a carefully measured combination of snappy repartee, genuine mystery, thrilling suspense, and clever action. And he does it all within a expanded universe so consistent so as to have become a kind of complete alternate history. His seven year series, and running, has created an image so vivid as to be completely realized. Taylor’s 1930s-1940s Toronto is far realer to me than any Gotham or Metropolis offered up in comics or movies. In fact to find anything comparable you’d have to go to the Springfield of The Simpsons!

Indeed, for the last seven years I’ve followed The Red Panda Adventures rather avidly and with each season I’ve become more engrossed in the show. The release of a new episode has become so inextricably linked to my listening habits so as to become like a good a visit from an old friend. It’s truly wonderful.

In my re-listening to the first eleven episodes of this Season 7 I picked up dozens and dozens of minor details in dialogue and plot that I’d missed the first time around. Take one point, early in the season, as an example – a character quotes the tagline of the CBS Radio series Suspense as a part of her dialogue.

How wonderful to find that!

And of course there are all the usual line echoes that we know from all past seasons (if you’re curious there’s a whole thread of Taylorisms over on AudioDramaTalk).

As for Season 7 as a whole, it has a sense of deep loss, very much in keeping with the times in which the story is set and the fallout from Season 6. Earlier I mentioned that Season 7 was unlike previous seasons, that’s because it features two overarching, and eventually intersecting, plots. The first, set in Toronto, deals with Kit Baxter, her new sidekick, her new job as associate editor of the Chronicle, and her developing pregnancy. The other plotline, set in Europe introduces us to a new character, a Lieutenant Flynn, a man in a deep denial, and his attempts to fight the Nazis behind their lines. It’s a radical change, and unforeseen change of pace, but not an unpleasant one.

The smaller scale stories from this season, like The Milk Run, work terrifically well too. As even the characters themselves will admit a plot about the forgery of rationing books doesn’t sound very dramatic next to the events unfolding in war torn France. But it’s a job that has to be done, and should be done, and done well it is. And that’s because the relatively harmless domestic crime of forgery is an important part of the story of WWII Toronto. The The Milk Run script tackles it in a way that makes it seem as if such a story could not not be told. In fact, this whole home-front end of the season’s story holds up very well next to the very dramatic later episodes.

One other such, The Case Of The Missing Muse, works very similairly. It’s a story in which we meet a super-villain, with a super-vocabulary, in a mystery that could have been set in any of the previous episodes. But what with the war time setting it of Season 7, and a new Red Panda running the show, it has a resolution that has its own unique wartime fit.

That replacement Red Panda, who in fact is a character from a previous season is still voiced by the wonderful Christopher Mott. The new Panda has a very different personality and temperament than our good friend August Fenwick. His goals as Red Panda are different, his methods are different, and it’s basically everything you like about when a hero regular superhero, from the comics gets, a replacement. It’s a new origins story – a fresh start – with all the promise that brings.

Some have argued that The Red Panda Adventures is really Kit Baxter’s story – and that certainly could be argued especially within the first arc of Season 7. Indeed, Kit Baxter, aka Flying Squirrel, does not get short shrift there. Besides her regular superhero duties, Kit’s also required to train the new Panda, fill in for the shattered Home Team (from last season) and somehow deal with the fact that her butler now knows she’s the Flying Squirrel! But that’s not all over at The Chronicle, the fictional Toronto newspaper that Kit works for, she, and we, get to visit with one of the best editor voices I’ve ever heard. Editor Pearly is your typical fatherly J. Jonah Jameson type caricature of an editor, but with a voice so crazily stressed out, a voice with lines so quickly delivered, you’ll barely understand a word he’s saying. It’s both fun and funny.

Then, just short of the midway point, a kind of focal transition takes place in between episodes 78 and 79, The Darkness Beyond and Flying Blind. The second arc begins slowly but soon ramps up. The aforementioned “Lieutenant Flynn”, and a team of commandos lead by one Captain Parker must escape from a Nazi stalag prison. Once achieved they spend much of the rest of the season either on the run or doing Special Operations Executive style missions in Nazi occupied France or in Berlin itself! And long time fans of the series will recognize the return of a certain Australian accented commando in one episode.

This new military aspect of the show is actually rather remarkable, being like a kind of Canadian version of WWII Captain America. It features a large male cast, allied soldiers, that act like something like a hybrid of the comics like Sgt. Rock, Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos, and The Unknown Soldier. Indeed, in the final episode of Season 7, The Black Heart, the show even gives a nice tip of the hat towards the later Nick Fury (the one who’s an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D.). That final season episode, incidentally, is set to be podcast later this month and features several other reveals, and dare I say reunions, which fans will be sure to love – I know I sure did. Suffice it to say, the Season 7 season-ender is definitely not a cliffhanger.

Here’s the podcast feed:

http://decoderring.libsyn.com/rss

Happy Canada Day everybody, go celebrate with some RED PANDA!

Posted by Jesse Willis

LibriVox: Otto Of The Silver Hand by Howard Pyle

October 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxWere you intrigued by my Howard Pyle post from the other day but still not quite ready to commit to nearly 7 hours of listening? If the answer was yes then why not try this…

Otto Of The Silver Hand by Howard Pyle, an 1888 novellette published three years prior to Men Of Iron. Unlike the latter this story is set in Germany, sometime in the late Dark Ages, and features a far more villainous father figure. There’s also a different focus, namely the apparent disparity between the cruelty of the era vs. the rise of chivalry. This makes a nice contrast: Just think, the sedate manors of the modern landed gentry are merely the millennial old skeletons of their ancestors, the wicked robber barons and their deadly feuds. Christianity and gentlemanlyness is all well and good, but dark times call for dark manners eh?

Here’s a quick plot hook: Our hero, Otto, after being born is quickly shuffled off to monastery for some early childhood education. When Otto reaches eleven years of age his father returns to claim him from the monastery and take him back to live in their ancestral castle “Drachenhausen” (which my one semester of German tells me literally means “Dragon House”). It is then that Otto learns of his father’s life as a thief and robber and particularly how his father killed a defenseless enemy. Needless to say the sin of the father comes back to hurt poor young Otto. The trauma is great, but survivable – and that alone is a very neat message. There’s also the requisite romance so this short audiobook has something for everybody.

LibriVox - Otto Of The Silver Hand by Howard PyleOtto Of The Silver Hand
By Howard Pyle; Read by various
15 Zipped MP3 Files or Podcast – Approx. 3 Hours 3 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: March 30, 2007
The story of little Otto, a gentle, peace-loving child born into the heart of turmoil and strife in the castle of a feuding robber baron in medieval Germany.

Podcast feed:

http://librivox.org/bookfeeds/otto-of-the-silver-hand-by-howard-pyle.xml

iTunes 1-Click |SUBSCRIBE|

Posted by Jesse Willis

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