Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

February 2009

and An Interview with Author Harry S. Dent
by Jonathan Lowe

Black Mask Audio Magazine by Various Authors Back in the golden age of radio (before video killed the radio star) stories were routinely dramatized for public consumption. Use of the imagination predated the now ubiquitous made-for-TV movie. For an engaging return to yesteryear, the creative minds over at Blackstone have produced a first edition of THE BLACK MASK AUDIO MAGAZINE, with stories taken from the pages of the original magazine of the 1930s and 40s, and including hard boiled tales by Hugh B. Cave, Paul Cain, Frederick Nebel, Reuben J. Shay, William Cole, and the legendary Dashiell Hammett. The stories are fully dramatized with sound effects and period music, as directed by veteran Yuri Rasovsky, and with sound editing supplied by—among others—Sue Zizza. The talented cast is headed by GROVER GARDNER, and includes Anthony Heald, Lorna Raver, George Guidall, Richard Ferrone, Tom Weiner, Christine Williams, Jeff Woodman, Rochelle Savitt, Malcolm Hillgartner, Richard Allen, Kaitlin Hopkins, William Hughes, and Burt Ross. In one of the best tales, "Pigeon Blood," a woman with a dead man on her floor is asked if the guy is drunk, and she replies, "Hammered." When it turns out that the hammer was hers, she admits, "I was always good with tools." Twists turn to double twists when, as in the short piece "Taking His Time," a policeman with a penchant for legal details has no problem with. . .well, you'll just have to take the time and hear for yourself. Bravo to Blackstone's Hollywood Theater of the Ear for bringing back a forgotten genre with fresh new twists of dramatic interpretation. The sound quality is excellent, the acting superb, and the stories themselves seem unpredictably propelled within a backdrop of subtle complexity. Also available on MP3 disk for easy iPod downloading, the production features "tough gumshoes, rotten yeggs, and dangerous dames." Not to mention those responsible already listed. (Blackstone Audio; 5 hours unabridged)
Rhubarb by Garrison Keillor Garrison Keillor may seem, to some, a throwback to the age of Ozzie & Harriet or Leave It to Beaver, when television hadn't yet diminished radio programming to the wasteland of repetitive Top 40 and political talk a la Rush Limbaugh. But if you've never heard A Prairie Home Companion, you've missed out on a true slice of Americana. With his traveling road show, still heard every week on NPR, Keillor brings his quirky characters to life on the stage, and all of them are funnier than the folks you find these days at your typical suburban shopping mall. Take, for example, those living in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. In RHUBARB and other audio productions taken from the show, you learn about the luxury of rhubarb pie (and why this "weed" is a secret obsession), then you go on a vacation with Myrtle and Florian (whose obsession with thrift gets in the way of relaxation). You discover the perils of prophecy, and why March is the most restless month in town, "a month God created to show people who don't drink what a hangover is like." Staring up at the vapor lights of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility with your mind's eye is somehow more satisfying than seeing it on the boob tube, too, although Garrison did produce a movie starring Meryl Streep about the road show—one which, ironically, also starred Lindsay Lohan. Tune in, or pop in a CD, and you'll discover, as I did, that there are still people living, even today, in a land that TV forgot (except in syndication on the Andy Griffith Show), and that these folks are entertaining to hear about because, as Keillor puts it, "our women are strong, our children are above average, and as for the men—well, we could look worse." (Highbridge Audio; 77 minutes unabridged)
The Great Depression Ahead by Harry S. Dent Leaving yesteryear can be a pain, especially when you consider our current economy. There is a reason, after all, why Obama's book was titled The Audacity of Hope, and it's because there are larger trends at work here which overshadow any Presidential term. In his new book THE GREAT DEPRESSION AHEAD author Harry S. Dent, Jr. outlines these trends in startling detail, and from a wider perspective than merely one political season. Having successfully predicted the crash of Fall 2008 years ago, Dent was also the author of The Great Boom Ahead, published in 1992, when he stood virtually alone in forecasting the unanticipated boom of the 1990s. And now he is saying that the party is over. Dent holds a Harvard MBA, is a Fortune 100 consultant, and is president of the HS Dent Foundation, whose mission is to help business leaders understand change. His analytical techniques have allowed him to predict economic trends with unprecedented accuracy, which is why this latest book is such an eye-opener, and is narrated by the author himself on audio. Among the predictions being made here is that we are at the end of an historic boom cycle, and so while the economy may appear to recover from the subprime crisis and "minor recession" by mid to late 2009, (given Obama's deficit spending to aid infrastructure and create jobs), it is actually "the calm before the real storm." By 2010 America will enter a truly Great depression, with stocks not reaching their lows until 2012. Scared yet? Let's hope he's wrong for once. Because this means that housing prices will continue to fall along with stocks, and so despite the supposedly "low" valuations of today, he advises selling now if you can, and to rent, waiting to buy again after the housing market hits bottom by 2012. And there's more. A global bull market will not return until 2020 at the earliest. Still, there is a silver lining here. According to Dent, there are buying opportunities along the way, particularly in long term bonds as inflation's brief return will cause the Fed to raise interest rates. Also, the depression will cause Congress to act in restructuring entitlement programs and to tax the rich more. An enhanced CD includes a PDF file of various charts and graphs, outlining the major trends of the past, and extending them into the future. State by state breakdowns of population changes and market projections are included, too. Bottom line? The era of conspicuous consumption is over, as leaders cut waste and fraud in an effort to avoid the collapse of the dollar. As all the bubbles pop, we will all be forced to either adapt or perish. (Simon & Schuster Audio; 2009; 6 hours abridged)
Excerpt from my recent interview with Dent:

LOWE: We'll probably remember 2008 as the year of the Great Banking Crisis, following the subprime bubble. Why do you think so many people—both professional and non—were fooled into believing that the common sense adage "what goes up must come down" somehow did not apply to housing prices?

DENT: The hardest thing to convince people of in the last several years was that house prices could go down a lot! We would show the example from 1925 to 1933 and 1991 to 2005 in Japan. People have seen real estate go up their entire life and with only minor corrections. People can believe our predictions for another major stock or oil crash, but not real estate. Well, obviously, now they do believe it. We are saying that house prices nationally have to go down 50% to 55%, or back to at least the levels in 2000. Hence, there is another major crash in housing prices ahead as well with the worst slide likely from early 2010 into mid 2011. We don't recommend buying real estate again until around late 2012 or early 2013. The bubble in real estate is the greatest in U.S. history. We wouldn't see as large a decline if the bubble had not been so extreme. Housing prices only went down around 30% in the Great Depression as there wasn't a major bubble before the deflation process set in.

LOWE: We still seem to be victims of our own near-sightedness, somehow believing that Washington will save us. Meanwhile, we save very little (if at all) for our own retirements, while the Chinese save a lot. As companies and markets hunker down for the lean years ahead, what can the average person do to survive or prosper in such an environment?

DENT: First of all, the government cannot save us. They did not create this boom, the baby boom generation did—and they can't stop the steep slide in spending ahead as that generation slows in their spending and accelerates in their retirement. At best we will get a strong temporary rebound, but that will be met with inflation pressures and accelerating oil and commodity prices again. At worst, and more likely, all of this stimulus will only create a modest rebound and that will be seen as a sign of serious weakness with the stock markets and US dollar crashing again. The best thing people can do is to save and to convert their stocks and excess real estate into cash during the temporary rebound in 2009. Our target for the Dow is just below 11,000 between April and July. Sell your investments and wait for all assets to deflate into late 2010 to late 2012. Then buy at the greatest bargains of your lifetime.

Men Are Stupid . . . And They Like Big Boobs by Joan Rivers Finally, speaking of surviving, Joan Rivers is not averse to turning back the clock through the miracles of plastic surgery. In her new audiobook, which she also narrates, Joan advises women how, when, and why to choose that nip and tuck, with the aid of coauthor Valerie Frankel. Naturally men can be blamed for this obsession with beauty, and so the title is MEN ARE STUPID...AND THEY LIKE BIG BOOBS. Now, I've been told that women dress for other women, but I must admit that maybe it's because men don't really seem to care what a woman is wearing, they're too busy trying to imagine what's underneath. Still, in my opinion, men are stupid because they buy big boob tubes to watch Baywatch reruns. Yet Joan has a point, and she has no trouble poking fun at both the men and women involved, either—especially those in Hollywood who routinely walk the red carpet. How sad it is that the public still embraces this last and so widely accepted prejudice against aging. In the meantime, laugh and do something about it, Joan seems to say. This sometimes funny audiobook is recommended mainly for those who are considering plastic surgery, as it provides information on how to find the right doctor, with horror stories about those who didn't shop well. A better choice, of course, would be to just accept who you are, and live with it. The problem is, given our obsession with youth, can you afford to accept what other people, men included, may think or not think? (Simon & Schuster Audio; 6 hours abridged)

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