Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

May 2011

by Jonathan Lowe

Imagine Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, not as distributors of mass information, but only of classified information. Now imagine, drunk on power and controversy, and after revealing military intelligence documents, diplomatic cables, operations handbooks, secret Scientology beliefs, and Sarah Palin's private emails, one of them has a falling out and writes an embittered tell-all book on the other while planning a competing site (called OpenLeaks.) There you have the synopsis of INSIDE WIKILEAKS by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, narrated on audio with studious diligence to documentary tone by Erik Davies. What is absolutely true about the relationships here we have little way of knowing, except that the founder of of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is "a cad." But it is an fascinating read or listen. Some notable "reveals" by these hackers and whistleblowers is that they welcomed lawsuits and threats, which tended to validate what they were posting. And that L. Ron Hubbard believed he was a space cadet millions of years old, and anyone who didn't fully get with the program was given latrine duty on his private ghost fleet.

Next, it's a familiar theme: you wake up somehow alone or isolated from the world, and try to figure things out while trying to survive. In "Lost" it was an island lost in time. In THE SILENT LAND by Graham Joyce it's a French ski hotel where a couple dig out of an avalanche to discover a silent landscape devoid of people. Walking to the next town doesn't help, either; it's a closed loop. As with Lost, the story is more about the characters than the plot. Supernatural elements aside, this is a unique love story, well told by veteran British performer John Lee, whose elegant sentence construction lends a authoritative and other-worldly air to the tale.
Today, Americans watch more TV than anyone on Earth. Millions of fat latch key kids addicted to soda are watching it right now. Millions of bored viewers get their entire philosophy of life, values, and perverse purchasing habits by watching porky televangelists with Frankenstein hair. Ironically, some former stars on both little and big screens (along with former Enron employees) are now collecting beer cans thrown out the window by passing Jerry Springer fans. To hear what Barbara Eden thinks on the subject of stardom and unbridled ambition, listen to her narrate JEANNIE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. And no, that's not a liquor bottle, either. Eden has things to say about Elvis, Paul Newman, O.J. Simpson, Tom Jones, and Marilyn Monroe, among others. This is a sober assessment of TV's golden age, not without fond memories, and certainly not bitter. Just "eyes wide open." Eden's autobiography, which she also reads, is a candid ear to the reality of Hollywood celebrity, told by a woman of once beguiling fantasy, no longer restrained by that illusory image.
America also spends more on its military than every other country in the world combined. We have more bases abroad, more weapons, more high tech warships and planes, more soldiers and sailors overseas (over 230,000), and yet. . . we can't fix our own highways. Is there something wrong with this picture? We spend billions on new weapons systems for enemies that no longer exist, yet we wring our hands when terrorists use low tech weapons like fertilizer bombs and IEDs, or when school programs are cut due to lack of funds. In WASHINGTON RULES, former Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich shows why American foreign policy is overdue for a overhaul, and that this should be approached with courage instead of a blind refusal to face the new socio-economic realities of the 21st Century. Sean Runnette narrates.

Finally, looking for an offbeat twist on a familiar theme? A fallen angel--Mary--tempts Christ, but also loves Him, in THIS IS MY BLOOD, an alternate history with a Judas twist by David Niall Wilson. Subtle and provocative, this new audio production of Wilson's novel is narrated by Phillippa Ballantine, and brings a whole new meaning--well shy of blasphemy---to the phrase "he who drinks My Blood." Recommended to anyone who is tired of vampire cliches.

2011 Past Columns