Audiobooks

Audiobook Reviews October 2016 by Jonathan Lowe

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FACT, FICTION, AND FLYING SAUCERS by Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marden is a new audiobook narrated by a slow talking Chris Sorensen. (Others that are available on the subject are UFOs by Leslie Kean and The Alien Abduction Files by Kathleen Marden and Denise Stoner.) Regarding the new book, it is mainly an attempt to debunk the debunkers: those critical of the UFO reports on record suggesting that alien craft are visiting Earth from other star systems. While some valid points are made by the authors, (including that there has been a systematic denigration of Ufologists by the media and other scientists,) I do have problems with the flaws in logic employed in flipping the argument. For example, they attribute bias to most of those skeptics who interpret the evidence differently, (these skeptics discounting the eyewitness accounts of professionals.) Chapters are spent recounting the backgrounds of witnesses…their degrees, their accreditations, awards, even that they are highly respected by their communities or have served in the military or law enforcement. This amounts to an appeal to authority, one of the fallacies outlined in “The Beginning of Infinity,” an audiobook which shows how science actually works. The problem is that real science doesn’t care WHO says something, only if it can be proven or repeated. There is no doubt that many of these respectable people saw something, but any accident investigator will tell you that eyewitnesses often give contradictory accounts. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and there is still no absolute physical evidence for UFOs in museums. Even the Roswell museum, (which I have visited, and where the author claims a real UFO crash happened) is unclear about what happened, and presents both sides. To posit that NASA and the Air Force are hiding UFOs is conjecture and supposition, based on redacted documents and questionable testimony. If you go the conspiracy route, you may end up with believing that the moon landing was faked, and that the Earth is flat (as many on Youtube try to “prove” as a means of diverting attention from simply claiming global warming is a hoax.) It is pseudo-science. One can say one doesn’t believe anything the government says, but that is illogical too. The choice is not all or nothing. Life is not black and white except to racists. Science is not a ball game with opposite end zones. I do believe we are not alone in the universe, but to say that Ancient Aliens built the pyramids is just nonsense. Dr. Michio Kaku, which the authors denigrate in the book, has said that in order for aliens to be here on Earth they would need to be over a million times as energy efficient as us, and would probably not send biological beings but rather robots (if they themselves are not now machine intelligence, as in 2001: A Space Odyssey.) “They wouldn’t land on the White House lawn because we would be ants to them, anyway.” The authors, rather than discuss the physics of what Kaku says in his new book Parallel Worlds (which mentions human signals only reaching a tiny portion of space so far, plus the odds against travel at near light speed) suggests that the UFOs haven’t visited the White House due to detection by radar and weapons in the no-fly zone. If a civilization is a million times more advanced, what possible threat could military jets pose to them? Have the authors been watching comic book movies? Furthermore, could a craft from another star system endure the rigors of deep space, skirting light years of violence and radiation, only to crash in the New Mexico desert? And what about the wide varieties of craft purportedly seen and defended by the authors? Some make no sound at all, others shoot flames that light up the countryside. Yet they are both included in the 5% of “valid” UFO sightings, outside the 95% explained as weather, other craft, or hoaxes. Would alien technology used to reach Earth really spew fire? What kind of fuel would that be: regular or diesel? Finally, the authors have a few Freudian slips, as when they refer to the “UFO Movement,” which implies a dogma or religion. One 18 year old witness is described twice as a “man.” He can’t drink alcohol in many states, and he’s a man, not a teenager? Here I am just using their own logic. Yes, data gathering should continue. But you can’t cherry-pick your “evidence” and call it science. Especially since most of their evidence is from the 50s and 60s, back when there were no cell phones. (In a new book, why not limit the evidence to new sightings? Are there no iPhone videos and high def photos to illustrate? Have the UFOs returned to some star system SETI has yet to hear from? If so, why should we care about UFOs anymore?) A quote from physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: “Science doesn’t care what you believe. It’s what you can prove.” Let them show those redacted documents…the print below the blacked out lines. If they are NOT about keeping Air Force experimental aircraft technology secret (but rather about UFO technology) I’ll eat my hat, and they will win the Nobel Prize.

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As a longtime reviewer and Audie Award judge, I’ll now recommend ten all-time fav audiobooks which you should absolutely hear, if you haven’t already. 1) THE POWER OF NOW. You don’t have to embrace Buddhism to benefit from universal truths of this masterpiece of philosophy. Read by the author, Eckhart Tolle, it is his story, but also the story of why violence has taken over the world, and how to end it. I was so moved by this book that I wrote a novel based on it, and received permission to quote the book in “The Miraculous Plot of Leiter & Lott.” 2) THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY by David Deutsch, read by Walter Dixon. This is the most amazing science book I’ve ever heard. It is comprehensive and logical while being both realistic and optimistic about the power of seeking “better explanations for things.” It tells how science works, the history of progress, and a complete understanding of flaws in logic, all of which have dominated past static cultures is presented with clarity and rigor. This one audiobook is like a college course in itself, arming you with the tools to never fall for pseudo-science or conspiracy theories. And I’m not the only one who says this. “Brilliant and profound. Smart, imaginative, and ambitious.” —NY Times 3) THE FILTER BUBBLE by Eli Pariser, read by Kirby Heyborne. An ear opening and surprising look at social media’s dark side: the personalization filters employed by Facebook, Google, IG, Twitter, and others. Pariser argues that “giving the people what they want” has led to universal myopia and a deeply fractured political reality. This is because the media feeds back to us exactly what we already believe (and only that) in order to keep us in a demographic box which is more easily marketed to (and sold to third parties.) The side effect is that we rarely encounter alternate views or ideas, and they can then manipulate us to buy their products (food, CDs, drugs, movies, candidates, etc) with better accuracy. Knowing what influences us gives them a power to work behind the scenes, subliminally. 4) FUTURE CRIMES by Marc Goodman, read by the always engaging actor Robertson Dean. This is a continuation of Pariser’s conclusions with actual crimes committed by multinational companies spying on us to obtain personal data and sell it to third parties. True horror stories of hackers and stalkers, too. Even that “free” game you downloaded comes with a price! They are watching every keystroke, and your phone calls and texts are being recorded and stored in supercomputers. (Thank Snowden for some of this. We wouldn’t know otherwise.) 5) SALT SUGAR FAT by Michael Moss, read by my friend and #1 narrator Scott Brick. You may never drink soda again after hearing this. Not only is it bad for you, but the food and drink companies don’t want you to know how they lie and cheat behind the scenes. It is all spelled out here in vivid detail. 6) ANTIFRAGILE by Nicholas Taleb. Parallels revelations from Moss with statistics and probability. Taleb is a scientist talking about why everything in the world can’t be predicted. For example, we can never be 100% safe, no matter how many trillions we throw at security. Some things benefit from disorder, and exercise works because it strains the body to become stronger. He also covers why “big” is not good in business or egos. Only the artisan (and not the giant corporations) can be good for both the economy and the planet. (His critics do not want to debate him! He simply knows too much.) 7) PURPLE CANE ROAD by James Lee Burke, read by the amazing voiceover talent and actor Will Patton. The most profound mystery novel I’ve ever read. I interviewed the author, who told me on the phone that it was his fav too: “Everything came together on that one.” Burke has been compared to Faulkner, but chooses to write mystery. Here is what Michael Connelly (who has has movies produced on his own novels by Clint Eastwood, among others) said: “No other living writer has been more influential on the contemporary crime novel than James Lee Burke. Using a painter’s careful brush strokes of character and place, he has turned the form into a literary exploration of the moral ambiguities that lie in the darkness of our souls. His work has set the watermark so high that I don’t think anyone else will ever reach it. With Purple Cane Road, he has moved it up yet one more notch. This one is his best.” And as I told Audiofile magazine in my review, there has never been a better match between writer and narrator. 8) DANDELION WINE by Ray Bradbury, read by Paul Michael Garcia. Ray was a giant literary talent who, as an adult, was nonetheless able to see the world with the eyes of a child. Stephen King looks up to him, too. Ray answered every letter (eight?) that I wrote him with encouragement and even poetry! 9) THE FOREVER WAR (and The War That Ended Peace.) The first is an award winning SF novel which influenced Avatar, read by George Wilson, the second is an amazing history of the First World War (begun over an argument and trivial insult) by Margaret MacMillan, read by Richard Burnip. 10) BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK by Ben Fountain, read by Oliver Wyman. A novel soon to be a movie, about a returning vet who feels that people only see his uniform and not him. Only flags, and not reality. (It is why many vets commit suicide.) You are made to walk in the protagonist’s shoes at a football game featuring Beyonce at halftime. The book has won multiple awards, including the National Book Award. Another must-hear. Also, especially for the ladies I also recommend ME, MYSELF, AND WHY by Jennifer Ouellette; GHETTOSIDE by Jill Leovy; BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS by Katherine Boo; COCO CHANEL AND THE PULSE OF HISTORY by Rhonda Garelick; IN ORDER TO LIVE by Yeonmi Park; FIFTH AVENUE 5 AM by Sam Wasson (about Audrey Hepburn); STATION ELEVEN by Emily Mandel (have interviewed); FALLING AWAKE by Jayne Anne Krentz, and CONSIDER THIS, SENORA by Harriet Doerr (read by the legendary industry pioneer narrator Barbara Rosenblat, a friend and Orange is the New Black cast member.)

(For ladies reading this, visit AudiobookGals.wordpress.com for details about reading short passages from books on Youtube to support literacy, possibly earn money from Youtube, and win free audiobook downloads if you get the most hits.)

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