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2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 780 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

“William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back” 18666146
by Ian Doescher
Read by Ian Doescher, Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Jeff Gurney, January LaVoy, Marc Thompson
Published by Random House Audio
Listening Length: 3 hours and 25 minutes

Holy cow, how much nerdy fun can be had by reading Shakespeare? Well thanks to an acting teacher back in college, I can have lots of fun reading Shakespeare. That teacher taught me how to appreciate the quirks written into the characters. So imagine the fun this sci-fi nerd had when I discovered that someone was doing a Shakespeare/Star Wars Mashup. I love sci-fi but I was never a huge Star Wars Fan (I was on the Star Trek side of that fence) but I couldn’t resist this mashup.

There are many aspects of this audiobook to love from the vocal performances to the sound effects, the audio version of this book really brought it to life. Back to that old college acting teacher, he once said that Shakespeare is meant to be performed not merely read, that is proven even more so in this audiobook. While the author captures all aspects of Shakespeares plays in his writing, with iambic pentameter, choruses, asides, soliloquies, and the language of the Bard, once you hear the performance there is no turning back.

I forced my brother, who has got to be the biggest Star Wars fan on the planet, to listen and from the first ten syllables he was hooked and laughing out loud. Knowing the film, The Empire Strikes Back, inside and he knew exactly what line was happening next and, along with me, loving revisiting the story while at the same time feeling smarter for enjoying the rhythm of the speech.

This audiobook perfectly retells the story of the film, but adds in some extras in the mashup that create a story that could have been easily performed on the Old Globe stage. One of the interesting aspects of the writing is the speech of Yoda. In the movies all fans know Yoda has a unique reverse speech pattern. Doescher works with this in giving Yoda a unique style different from any character in the book. At first I was thinking, wait, he’s not speaking the backwards Yoda speak, but it stood out and was different. After looking up more info on the book, I discovered that Yoda was speaking in Haiku. Every time Yoda spoke it was in the form of a Haiku poem.

Another great aspect was that of the voice actors. There are several which makes for unique characterizations for each character in the story. The best part is the voice of Han Solo sounds exactly like that of a young Harrison Ford, which makes the story that much more fun and appealing to all fans.

All in all I highly recommend this audiobook to all nerds everywhere. You will laugh out loud while at the same time learn some techniques of classic literature. I think this book would make for a great teaching device, for example teaching Shakespeare to a group of high school students burnt out on Romeo & Juliet.

“Double Star”540500
by Robert A. Heinlein
Read By Tom Weiner
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Running Time 5 hours and 31 minutes

There have been many stories written with the plot centering around mistaken identity or swapped identity, “The Importance of being Earnest,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” and more. Sometimes the identity swap that happens in the story is accidental but there are many cases where the identity swap is intentional. There have been movies, books and stories written where a person has been hired to impersonate someone in power, in order to protect that person in power. This book slides right into that genre but with a little twist.

Down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe sits in a bar day after day drinking away his sorrows and troubles. His career has not gone the way he has wanted. He has not become as famous as he feels he should be. That all changes when a space pilot offers to buy him a drink. The pilot offers him the role of a lifetime, quite literally as it turns out, in which the great Lorenzo Smythe finds himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career, impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians is at stake. If Smythe fails pull off the act it could result in interplanetary war.

This role places Smythe at, not only risk of losing his life, but losing his identity as well. I will not give any spoilers in this revie because I strongly believe that this story deserves to be heard or read. The twists and turns in the story create a surprise ending that will leave the listener/reader cheering for the arrogant Smythe.

The politician Smythe must impersonate is John Joseph Bonforte. Bonforte is the leader of the Expansionist coalition on Mars and is currently out of office but with a good chance of changing that at the next general election. Smythe and Bonforte are the most opposite that can be found when it comes to political views, making this even more of a challenge for Smythe.

Bonforte has been kidnapped by his political opponents, and his aides want Smythe to impersonate Bonforte while they try to find him. So to confuse the opposition Smythe must make public appearances as Bonforte.

Bonforte is rescued, but he is in poor health due to the treatment inflicted on him during his imprisonment thus forcing Smythe to extend his performance, even to becoming temporary Supreme Minister and running in an election. The central political issue in the election is the granting of the vote to Martians in the human-dominated Solar System. Lorenzo shares the anti-Martian prejudice prevalent among large parts of Earth’s population, but he is called upon to assume the persona of the most prominent advocate for Martian enfranchisement. Smith takes on not only Bonforte’s appearance, but some aspects of his personality.

In this story the martians are looked down upon as disgusting vile creatures, while in reality they are supremely intelligent. One of the things Smythe must overcome is the urge to cringe when in a Martian’s presence. This aspect of the story is a great comparison to race relations still going on today.

Tom Weiner delivers the story in this audiobook with great characterization, especially when it comes to the transformation between Smythe and Bonforte. Vocally Weiner creates the two characters superbly. This already must read Heinlein story becomes a must listen audiobook thanks to the talents of Tom Weiner.

Episode #62.”It’s Your Funeral”

It seems as though this week’s episode focuses on television.  Gil T. basically listens in as Tim M. and Eric talk about; “The Man in the High Castle” (an Amazon TV series pilot), “12 Monkeys,” and more.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.  It was a slow year for me but 2015 will be bigger and better.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


“Richmond Smokes a Joint”
By Larry Weiner
Starring: Patricia Tallman as Jean Richmond, Kris Holden-Ried as Sid, Jerry Robbins as Herm
Produced 2014, The Radio Repertory Company of America
Also Starring:
Shells: Michael Burkett, Cap: Jerry Robbins, Sears:D J Vogel, McCarthy: Bob Hunt, Maitre’d: Tom Dheere, Bartender: Bob Arsena, Goin’ North: Kevin Crawley, Robot 365: Tom Dheere, Man: Jon Duclos, Sous: D J Vogel, Man in Stall: Angelo Panetta, Gunner: D J Vogel, Marangian Scout: Tom Dheere, Doplar: Bob Hunt
Length: 37 minutes.

If you are looking for about a half an hours worth of some quick entertainment this may be your book or audio production whichever you prefer. I of course preferred the audio version, since I am a big fan of audiobooks. This one attracted my attention because of my love of the TV series, “Babylon 5.” The lead actress in this production is Patricia Tallman who portrayed Lyta Alexander, the telepath assigned to Babylon 5 by the Psi corps. I see that this is a short space adventure and that seconds my decision to give this production a listen.

With the title “Richmond Smokes a Joint,” I really wasn’t sure what I was in for. Sid “Bum” Knee knows the secret location of the mythical Sacred Plate of Marange. He approaches Richmond’s Boyfriend, Herm, about grabbing the priceless item they are all set on an adventure across space to find the plate and untold riches. The problem is the journey is filled with double crosses on double crosses and by the end of the story you still don’t really know who the good guys are. The ship’s crew is full of colorful characters that keep the story rolling along until the final double cross.

Take a large helping of “Barbarella,” mix in a few dashes of “Airplane” (actually “Airplane 3,” the one that wasn’t quite as funny but tried really hard) and you have this space adventure. Some definite plays on words insert humor throughout, but, to be honest, they may be trying too hard at times. Still, though, it is a nice short mystery space adventure that will entertain most folks.  I know I had fun, even while groaning.

The acting is what really brings out this story, Patricia Tallman pretty much steals the show, but everyone is carrying their weight in the voice talent department. This keeps the story running smooth and helps when some of the “forced” humor actually stings a little.


If you’d like to find out more about Radio Repertory, visit their Facebook Page:


“Attack on Titan, Vol. 1”
by Hajime Isayama
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Kodansha Comics
(first published March 7th 2010)

I can’t say I’m a big fan of Manga, I like most of the stories, but the books seem gimmicky to me. I love comic books, and I love a good story, but with Manga comics the books are printed backwards and it takes me about halfway through the book before I start to get the hang of reading right to left. I understand the original printings in Japan are written that way, but they could easily be printed in the same way books are printed on this side of the planet and nothing will be missed. When Western hemisphere books are printed in the other countries that read in the opposite direction they are printed to make it easier for the readers there. So to be geek chic when you find a good Manga they are printed to be read “backwards.” The only reason this happens is to be different, cool, or hip.

I had to overcome this bias because I had heard a lot of good reviews about both the “Attack on Titan” Manga books and TV series. When I started reading this book I hadn’t yet started watching the TV series and all I knew was that it was a survival series much along the lines of “The Walking Dead.” Yes it did take some time to get used to reading backwards, but once I started flowing with the story I was rewarded with a great story told in comic book form and using the tools of flashbacks, and weapon and tactics specifications all interwoven in the story. Again I say, I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t have to retrain my brain to read backwards.

As for the story, it is a survival story set 100 years after the Titans have forced humanity to live behind walls. Humankind is down to just a few thousand people who live in a city surrounded by three concentric walls. The walls protect them from their enemies, the Titans. The Titans are humanoid giants that eat the humans alive. Untouched by the Titans for a century, humanity has become complacent. But Eren Jaeger, a trainee in the Army has had enough. While his fellow citizens are content to hide, Jaeger has the passion to take action to not only protect the city, but to learn what the Titans actually are. But on his first mission he comes face to face with horrors beyond his imagination and secrets from his own past that could shift the tides of war.

I have since started watching the animated TV series and am hooked. The story is phenomenal. I am glad I read the Manga first only because it introduced me to the TV series which I could have easily not watched and would have missed out on a great show. If they do reprint these to be read from left to right I will definitely continue to read the series, but until then I’ll just have to settle with the fact that I’m too old to be taught new reading habits.


“Peter Pan”
by J. M. Barrie
read by Christopher Cazenove
Published by Blackstone Audio
Approx. 5 hours

It’s time once again to visit a classic, this time a children’s classic, “Peter Pan.” I had thought I had read “Peter Pan” before, but I must have been wrong, or maybe read a cleaned up/Disneyfied version. I know the Disney film version was definitely made more fun for the kids and all the versions on television were fun (remember Sandy Duncan as Peter?). Don’t get me wrong, the original is the way to go and the story really should be read by all, but maybe wait until the teen years before reading this dark story about a boy that never grows up.

The gist of the story seems to always be there in the retelling of the story. Peter Pan sneaks into the Darling family home and in his hasty retreat leaves his shadow behind. Returning to retrieve the shadow he finds the shadow to not want to remain attached to Peter. Wailing in sorrow, Peter wakes Wendy, the oldest of the Darling children. Wendy proceeds to help Peter by sewing on his shadow. Peter is smitten by Wendy and tells her of Neverland where children never have to grow up. He brings Wendy back with him, despite some stern protestations from Tinker Bell, a fairy who seems to be in love with Peter. Tinker Bell becomes insanely jealous and proceeds to make Wendy’s life difficult. Wendy’s arrival at Neverland brings her to her new role in life, that as a mother the Peter’s “Lost Boys.” She makes the boys more responsible and soon falls into the role of mother and as time goes by she and her brothers begin to forget about their home.

Peter wants them to forget so they may stay forever with him. But soon Wendy breaks out of her stupor and begins to remember her life before and tries to return home, but is captured by Captain Hook, the pirate leader who is always out to kill Peter.

The darkness in the story dwells within the characters of Peter, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook. Peter is a knowing kidnapper of Wendy and the boys and will not let them escape. Tinker Bell is insanely jealous and nips at Wendy every chance she gets. Finally there’s Captain Hook, who lost his hand to a crocodile. Hook doesn’t merely want to capture the Lost Boys, he wants to kill them, and he wants to keep the young Wendy as his bride. Very dark and mature story matter here that makes revisiting the classic worthwhile.

In this audiobook version published by Blackstone Audio, the reader, Christopher Cazenove, does a smash up job creating voices for all the wily characters in the story while reading with just enough vigor to never allow the listener to get bored.

Grab this classic and be prepared to remember the fun while being surprised at some of the darker sides of the story you may have missed.

One-More-Thing-B.J.-Novak-e1392823050260“One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories”
By B.J. Novak
Read by: by B. J. Novak, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Jason Schwartzman, Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling
Published by Random House Audio
6 hours and 48 minutes

Being a fan of the TV series, “The Office,” I was prepared for the quirky writing by B.J. Novak. What I wasn’t prepared for was the laugh-out-loud moments and the surreal storytelling that makes up this audiobook. 64 stories make up the book that will at least have you giggling from beginning. Not all the stories will be a hit for everyone but with that many to read/hear many will strike a chord. Personally I laughed out loud for many of the stories and probably made a spectacle of myself while listening to the book on my iPod.

Novak’s talent on writing is only enhanced by the cast of characters doing the reading. Hearing the voices of his “Office” alumni was not so surprising. What was surprising was hearing Katy Perry, yes the singer, take part in this collection. Each of the voices were perfect for each story they read and added a little bit of oomph to the presentation. Each voice had the perfect mix of great comedic timing and tone and when needed the “straight man” in the comedy bit. This great combination of actors and writing made this audiobook too much fun.

The subjects of the different stories vary from story to story and no theme is repeated throughout the book. I want to summarize every story for this review, but I would not be doing you a favor. Each story has its own little surprise in not only the subject but in delivery, depth and some even supply a surprise ending. You owe it to yourself to pick up this book and read or listen for yourself.

In order to get you a little more interested I will describe (minimally) some of my favorite stories from this collection.

Opening the book is the story of what happened to the hare after the fabled tortoise and hare race. The hare decides there should be a rematch, but this time he trains and decides to take the race seriously.

A little boy, who is forbidden to eat sugary cereals, sneaks a box home only to find he’s won the million dollar sweepstakes, but his parents forbid him to claim the prize. When he sneaks off to the cereal’s business offices what he discovers is that he is ineligible to win and what he learns further could tear his family apart.

This book contains lots of references to pop-culture but the best is the story of “Wikipedia Brown and the case of the Missing Bicycle.” This time around the genius of the story, Wikipedia Brown, is not as much help as you’d think.

The final story I should mention is a futuristic sci-fi story where sex-robots can be ordered through the mail. But what happens if the female sex robot actually falls in love?

You owe it to yourself to get this book and enjoy the wit and whimsy of B.J. Novak. The humor ranges from just pure fun to some really smart humor that will leave you feeling like you just got a degree from an Ivy League school.


Audiobook review “The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4”

Edited by Ellen Datlow

Read by Various Readers

Published by Blackstone Audio

Approx. 17 hours

Always the fan of horror and always the fan of short stories this book was a must read for me. When I saw the title, “The Best Horror of the Year…” my first question was what year? Seeing that the hardcover version was published in 2012, I looked further and discovered this was the best of 2011. Being a bit cynical I thought, we’ll have to see about that.

Well, the cynicism went away right at the first story. Each story in this collection represented a different point in the horror genre of fiction from mysterious faith-healers to monsters that live underground and sense vibrations of their prey to two spies trying to capture a Lovecraftian villain and more. This collection will introduce you to some new horror story telling and allow you to revisit some of your favorite storytellers.

Each story was read by a different narrator creating the fun from each of their own vocal talents. The editors matched perfectly each story to a different voice, not only allowing the difference from a male or female point of view, but also the tone of the stories match the vocal tones of the readers. The narrators includes Lindy Nettleton, Charles Carroll, Shaun Grindell, Angela Brazil, and Fred Sullivan

I will briefly describe a few of my favorite stories from this collection, in no particular order.

“The Little Green God of Agony,” by Stephen King opens the book with a story of a rich man seeking to live forever, pain-free without the grueling physical rehab. Hearing of a faith healer that has a history of positive results the man uses his influences to bring in the faith-healer, not all of the man’s staff hold the same faith. He summons the Rev. Rideout to his bedside. Rideout is no mere faith healer. He doesn’t heal, “I expel.” He casts out the demon god that feeds on hurt.

“Blackwood’s Baby,” takes place in rural Washington state, This story tracks a 1930s expedition of diverse hunters seeking a beast of legend more dangerous than any of them anticipate.

In John Langan’s “In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos,” two government agents try to prove themselves when they’re hired to grab a “Mr. White,” who may not be a human. Mixing spy thriller with a touch of Lovecraft this story has a great creepiness factor.

“The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub is a bit of a surreal journey down a river on a luxury yacht where Ballard and Sandrine could live comfortably as long as they don’t ask questions. But as is human nature the couple investigate their surroundings if only to find where their food comes from. Everytime they gain new information it seems to be lost, forgotten or clouded by the next interlude.

“The Moraine” has a feuding couple lost on a mountain in a whiteout fog with a monster. The monster in this story mixes the monsters from “Tremors,” “The Ruins” and “The Mist.” This is a good old-fashioned monster story that could have been a drive-in movie theater hit if made into a movie.

In my favorite story out of the group, A.C. Wise’s “Final Girl Theory,” “‘Kaleidoscope’ isn’t a movie, it’s an infection, whispered from mouth to mouth in the dark.” A cult movie is the basis for an underground following that leads one fan to seek out the leading lady in the film.

A great collection of different horror stories with a great collection of narrators makes this audiobook one to grab.

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