Phoebe Reads a Mystery: Podcast Review. (In which Phoebe Judge murders Dracula.)

Dracula has been slain, murdered, disemboweled.

Murdered.

And the killer is quietly spoken ‘Criminal’ presenter Phoebe Judge.

Now, before you see this as a character assassination (like the fate that befalls Bram Stoker’s eponymous literary legend in this truly appalling exposition of a masterpiece) I have to state that I am a big fan of Judge’s long-running ‘Criminal’ podcast in which she brings us oddball stories of crime that do not fit the usual stereotypes of the True Crime genre.

‘Criminal’ is epic.

Her rendering of Dracula is anything but.

In fact, it’s possibly the worst storytelling experience in history.

She’s a great presenter, unquestionably, but a reader?

Nope.

Every sentence. Of this classic. Book. Is delivered. In breathy snatches. Like this. It drives you. Actually. Fucking nuts.

Overwraught. Overdramatic. Appalingly badly. Rendered. As if she is. Teaching herself to. Read. As you cringe. Into your headphones. And wish a giant bat. Would swoop down. From. The Skies. And eat her. Up.

It’s a. No. From me.

Slow Burn Season 4; David Duke: Podcast Review

Wow. This is strong stuff.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a white supremacist became an American political phenomenon. David Duke’s rise to power and prominence—his election to the Louisiana Legislature, and then his campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the governorship—was an existential crisis for the state and the nation. 

That’s how Slate sells the fourth in their outstanding Podcast series (The Watergate Scandal 10/10, The Clinton Scandal 9/10 Tupac – didn’t enjoy that, and now Duke.)

Heavy stuff with heft.

Slow Burn really is an outstanding editorial platform with a great track record and this adds further weight to Slate’s enviable reputation with a gripping tale, riddled with back stories and sidebars that add colour and context to the rise of a fascist to a position of influence, but no power.

Who could ever imagine a fascist in power in the USA?

Until 2016-2020. When it became a reality.

The difference between Duke and Trump is that Duke, ex Grand Wizard of the KKK was an acknowledged Nazi who tried to cover up his past, whereas Trump is only waves the flag of fascism (No brown short and swastika) albeit with the ability to create an authoritarian police state in the world’s third largest country.

Duke sought a Nazi state, for sure, but under the auspices of The GOP, The Republican Party.

Just like today.

And, yes, the GOP was embarrassed to shit by Duke, as those that will admit it are of his fascist successor.

Where Duke failed was through his ostentatious official past. His espousal of anti-semitic, anti black politicking stated for what it was. The cross burning couldn’t be airbrushed from Duke’s history, whereas Trump gets the police to enact his enmity and racism with only a powder puff hairs and an orange fake tan that says;

“Me, a Nazi, looking like this? Oh come on.”

It’s wonderfully narrated with relish, and a degree of awe (fear really) by Josh Levin. His anguish is palpable as he tells the tale of what could have been…

…and is now.

The Dropout: Podcast Review.

The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong.

So say ABC Studios in promoting the podcast of Elizabeth Holmes’ outrageous fooling of too many people that shouldn’t have been fooled.

Theranos was her college idea (for which she dropped out hence the title) a machine that analysed single droplets of blood to diagnose up to 100’s of health conditions like diabetes in a single drop with no need to draw blood via syringe.

A life changer for the planet. And Chiat Day’s ads fell nothing short of that claim.

Except every single analysis ever done by Theranos required a syringe draw. Because they weren’t analysed on Theranos machines.

She fooled Walgreens into signing an exclusive distribution deal.

She copied Steve Jobs by wearing all black turtlenecks.

She adopted a deep baritone voice that was 100% fake, to give her an air of authority.

She suckered US Secretary of State for Defence George Schultz, but not his grandson.

Henry fucking Kissinger sat on her board.

Bill Gates invested millions, so did Rupert Murdoch ($125m to be precise).

And at one time it was valued at $9billion.

All on a bare faced lie. A hoax of grand proportions. Gargantuan in fact.

You have to feel sorry for the small investors, more so for the poor people that were given incorrect diagnoses, but the big boys were simply suckered, and failed in their due diligence.

It’s a brilliant story, brilliantly researched and brilliantly narrated by Rebecca Jarvis.

High quality stuff that you should seek out now.

Fake Heiress: Podcast Review.

Now this is glorious-if you can forgive the drama-documentary approach that makes it sound a little like ‘All ‘Allo until you zone that out.

It’s often a problem with a new podcast; you need to snuggle in and ignore the itchy sheets until you’re comfortably numb.

It’s the true story of, as described by the BBC who produced it (so no ads), “The rise and fall of Anna Delvey, who conned New York high society into believing that she was a multi-millionaire heiress.”

And, oh my, how wonderful the story is.

In America she’s hailed as something of an anti-hero because people like how she ‘beat the system’ but the simple truth she’s a lying, thieving scumbag, maggot that fooled a lot of rich wannabe suckers – although not quite as many as the story might want you to think.

Because, for a New York socialite she was struggling pretty hard to scrape together enough freeloading liggers to her bashes to make them even seem like bashes in the first place. (The one she leaves after pretending to need the bathroom as the night drew in and without paying the bill is particularly amusing.)

We are regaled with tales of how she melted a few high end hotels just by sheer gallousness, checking in to 5 star boutique joints by pretending to know the manager and so not have to leave a credit card imprint then running up thousands of dollars of bills on champagne and caviar.

She took banks to the cleaners, camped it up to put plans down for landmark statement buildings in which to house her Anna Delvey Art Foundation and generally just made a nuisance of herself.

It’s a rip roaring tale in which pretty much everyone involved is some form of a tosser, which makes it a delight for those of a Schadenfreudy nature, like me.

And it’s coming to a TV screen soon, not just in one form but two (Netflix and HBO both having different characters’ rights, although not hers).

It’s a blast. Enjoy.

Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany by Uwe Schütte: Book Review.

Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany: Amazon.co.uk: Schütte, Uwe ...

Geek alert!

Do not read this book unless you are; in descending order of relevance:

A lifelong Kraftwerk fan (like me).

A serious Krautrock aficionado (like me).

An electronica fanboy (like me).

A general music enthusiast with a taste for the obscure (like me).

A music geek (like me).

A techno/hip hop/detroit house fan looking into that genre’s roots.

(Or all of the above.)

It’s a love affair with Kraftwerk by a true beleiver and a forensic researcher who has thoroughly investigated all of Kraftwerk’s music in chronological order with neat insights into the inspiration for each record (and tour) and the influence they had.

But more than that, it’s a psychological analysis of the minds of Florian Schneider (RIP) and Ralf Hütter – the main creative driving forces of the band from the late 60’s until now.

It argues very strongly that Kraftwerk are by no means simply a pop (or even music) group, they are an art form that started in industrialle Volksmusik before creating their own zeitgeist or Gesamtkunsterwerk.

In places it’s heavy on the cod philosophy and would be a mighty slog were it not for the 14 point type that makes pages easily consumable.

It’s light on humour, indeed it’s light on most stuff other than information and philosophy, and a heavy dose of ‘Man Machine’ talk but I, for one, found it a right riveting read.

Glory glory to the Krafties.

Kamala Harris starts with a bang.

Kamala made a great speech at the Democratic Convention on Wednesday.

But it was her call to action at 17.59 that really nailed it for me.

When she calls out inaction and apathy and cynicism…

…when she calls to American voters to dump the sick, sexist, racist, psychopath as a scourge of this planet.

Where were you when the stakes were so high?

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: Book Review.

Conversations With Friends

By now you’ve no doubt been ‘Normal Peopled’. The wonderful BBC TV series that took lockdown by storm with its naughtiness and that chain.

That was Rooney’s follow up to this, her debut. Both took the book world by storm for her naturalistic style and ‘millenial-friendly’ zeitgeisty schtick.

I loved the TV show and decided to follow it up with her first book rather than go straight to the source text that so inspired me on screen.

The buzz about Rooney has been something else and I kind of get why, although I’m yet to be 100% sold on the written word she produces.

Conversations With Friends is unquestionably a great piece of writing, stylistically driven and, in places, page-turningly involving. But only in places.

My disappointment lies with the storytelling. Neither Normal People nor this has any great contribution to make to the canon of great stories (nothing unusual in that you say) so that leaves you picking through the bones of style, context and meaning.

And that’s where I think Rooney both scores and misses in almost equal measure. When it works she grabs you by the throat and can be astoundingly deft in her writing, but when she’s off I feel her style can become rambling and, dare I say it, just a little dull.

She may have sorted this by Normal People and I will find out because this ticked enough boxes to keep me curious and to read the Booker nominated follow up..

Her study of friendship, relationships, sexual or otherwise, and self esteem can be intriguing, particularly the latter of these as the main character in both novels is a 20 something female that has real doubts about their own skin. It’s this vulnerability that makes the relationships interesting and creates a level of depth that you don’t find in books with silver lettering on the cover.

Good enough to intrigue me then, but falling short of the fully fledged Monty in my opinion.

Manhunt – Finding Kevin Parle: Podcast review.

Oh man, this podcast is “quite frankly” such a con.

“Quite frankly”, avoid!

It’s “quite frankly” so shouty that in the trailer for it I thought it was a spoof, but it turns out to be serious.

“Quite frankly” our, ahem, hero, former Scotland Yard detective Peter Bleksley, famed for his appearances on Channel 4’s Hunted, takes a year out of his life, funded by the BBC, to carry out an independent Manhunt for an alleged ‘killer’ on the run for 14 years; the 6’6″ softly spoken Scouser, Kevin Parle.

It’s a deadly dangerous assignment as his friend and psychologist, a nauseatingly whiny Scot, full of self importance, keeps telling him.

Keven Parle ranges, in Bleksley’s view, from one of Britain’s most wanted killers to one of the WORLD’S most wanted men, all shouted in his “quite frankly’ loud baritone: like a sale of the Century voiceover-man pissing his pants over a 2 berth caravan.

It’s “quite frankly” ludicrous.

And it goes literally nowhere. There are more dead ends here than Pacman.

And it’s “quite frankly” so repetitive that I could scream.

Episode 9, for example, replayed some clips from 7 and 8, IN THEIR ENTIRETY that were there for no reason other than to pad out an episode that brought you “quite frankly” FUCK ALL.

So, the obvious question is why did I keep listening?

I really do not know.

After a shit opening episode, Eps 2 – 5 showed some interesting insight into the background of Parle’s case and that brought me in. (Bleksley featured very little in these episodes.)

Then it takes us on a road trip to Spain that suggests progress is imminent in the case that, “quite frankly” does not deliver, so that “quite frankly” by 9, (where 7 and 8 are essentially repeated) I was screaming at Bleksley to “quite frankly” shut the fuck up.

It took two further episodes to tell us that coronavirus was not getting in the way of the manhunt until, at the end of a preposterous Ep 12, Coronavirus “quite frankly” got in the way of the manhunt and the series has been parked.

“Quite frankly” thank fuck for that.