We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season



We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season  

created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland
12 podcasts  performed by a full cast
10.30 hours


Michael, Angel and Saul are three soldiers in present day Northern California ordered to report for duty: to restore order to their beleaguered city which is ravaged by “zombies.” The infected are necrotic bodies that can only be truly taken down by fire or beheading and, the transmutation of the corporeal states is triggered via a bite from one of the infected.

We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season is a collection of twelve podcasts that details the story of Michael, Angel and Saul as they make their way through  the new landscape where the infrastructure is crumbling and other survivors are recovered. The survivors hold a position in an abandoned apartment building, referred to amongst themselves as “The Tower.” Here, the military triumvirate fight to provide food, clothing and shelter as well as security against the zombies and “Mallers.” The Mallers are the convicts from a local prison who  have holed up at a local mall and who pose a threat with their unchecked violence and ambitions to seize the Tower.  The Tower residents and the Mallers are the antithesis of the other, representing civilization and anarchy respectively.


The production quality of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season is very much in the tradition of foley inspired radio drama. Sue Zizza of Sue Media Productions, once coined the phrase “testosterone grade sound effects” when describing the heavy usage of sound effects like guns, squealing tires, etc. in an audio drama and, in the case of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season, the description is apt. This is not to say that the “testosterone grade sound effects” aren’t appropriate; only that subtlety is not in play. The sound effects take an almost equal place in the sound track as the characters’ lines, as opposed to underscoring or used in service to the action or dialogue.

Jim Gleason, Shane Salk and Nate Geez, as Michael, Angel and Saul respectively are noteworthy in voicing their roles convincingly, naturally and without getting into excessive hyperbole. However, the pulp tenor of the story lent itself to a temptation that many of the other performers could not resist: to drop into over-characterization or stereotyping. Mostly, this works to keeps the characters distinct; but occasionally, a performer’s choices didn’t work out quite as well as might have been expected: Claire Dodin plays Riley, a French restauranteur/survivor/Tower resident. Ms Dodin seems to have had a little trouble settling into a French accent, which seemed to have come by way of  Britain and Asia; all of which left the character of Riley as something of a enigma until the story spelled it out as to who she was and where she came from. Datu, a Filipino who worked as the apartment building’s maintenance supervisor before becoming the Tower’s engineer, sounded more like Apu from The Simpsons than he did a native from the Philippines. There was no question as to who was speaking when any of the performers rendered their lines; it was just a bit jarring when a performer didn’t really seem to be “in character.”

There is plenty of action, adventure, and “testosterone grade sound effects” to galvanize the listener to the story: There are no guarantees as to who will survive and what will happen next and the unexpected twists in We’re Alive: A Story of Survival, The First Season will keep you on the hook for Season Two.  


05/24/2012 – Correction: Strikethrough of the word “Northern” in the first line. Bell, CA is a town in Southern California. 

See Also:


Other Stuff:
We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) qualifies for:



I borrowed a LIbrary CD edition of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. I had no involvement in the production of We’re Alive: A Story of Survival – The First Season (created by Shane Salk and Kc Wayland; written by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.
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Out of My Head

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head*)

by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti
narrated by Bronson Pinchot
4.30 hours

Martin Harris arrives in Paris and, in the rush to return to the airport to collect his forgotten laptop, grabs a cab. Unfortunately, the cab is involved in an accident with a truck and Martin ends up in a coma for three days. When he wakes up, no one recognizes him – not his wife, not his neighbors, not the doorman… he has become unknown. Martin sets about to prove his identity and reclaim his wife, his life and his career.

Van Cauweleart has created, for the most part, a great psychological thriller from the first person point of view. The listener is privy to the thoughts of Martin – his bewilderment, stubbornness, frustrations and doubts – as he careens through Paris with the help and support of a female cab driver in his efforts not only to gather evidence as to who is is; but to discredit the man who is claiming to be him! Successive sections of the story are built with tantalizing clues and intriguing possible explanations – all embedded in the scenes’ details and dialogues. This is not story driven by action/adventure as much as it is upon the subtle terrors and perceptions of the mind. But what exactly is going on? Not only does Martin not know, but the listener doesn’t either. There is no sense of imminent danger, only a case of what may be identity theft and a vague conspiracy; or maybe it’s just a matter of guilt and paranoia. Out of My Head has confused bafflement with suspense and, unfortunately, the author seems to have exhausted his burgeoning talent for creating a psychological thriller and instead opted for a cheap ending.
Bronson Pinchot, who can be seen on DIY network’s The Bronson Pinchot Project, is the American narrator for Out of My Head. He perfectly inhabits the character of Martin and of special note is the argument between Martin and… Martin! Martin, and the-man-claiming-to-be-Martin have a showdown of memories, each trying to prove that he is the true Martin. The dialogue is fast and, as the recountings escalate in tenor the longer the confrontation draws out, one can hear the frustrations and smugness of each of the men as they stake their claims. It is an absurd conversation that could never actually happen; but Bronson Pinchot makes it sound natural.
* The original name of the book is Out of My Head and it is under the original title that the submission to the APA/Audie judges was made. Upon the release of the movie, Unknown (starring Liam Neeson,) which was based on the story, the audio edition was renamed Unknown ( A Special Edition of Out of My Head.) The cover art was changed to that of the movie poster art.


Convo Starter:
The hardback edition of this story is under 200 pages long, making it a short novel or novella by definition. A short novel is a testament to an author’s skill in that it takes quite a bit of literary craftsmanship to deliver the story with enough detail to make it all work; but there is no room for extensive backstory or digressive ruminations that might otherwise add character depth or plot nuance. While this may at first seem like a limitation, it allows the reader room to project or imagine things into the novel. For instance, “3:10 to Yuma” (short story by Elmore Leonard) is a spare but complete story that has been made into a film twice and, both times the essence of the story, what Elmore Leonard wrote, was integrated into the screenplay; and yet what the screenwriters added in, in terms of backstory and other details, created vastly different results. Do you see the the short form as a concentrated story form, or as a writer’s abridgment?


See Also:
Armchair Audies (The Bad Employee/Bad Wife Edition – Inaugural Post)
3:10 to Yuma” (Audiobook Review)
Other Stuff:

Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) qualifies for:


I received a MP3-CD edition of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of Unknown (A Special Edition of Out of My Head; by Didier Van Cauweleart; translated by Mark Polizzotti; narrated by Bronson Pinchot.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3:

Encore for Murder
by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach
2.50 hours
Mike Hammer is a private investigator whose sense of justice is predicated less on the letter of the law than the spirit of the law. Bordering on vigilantism, Hammer’s actions are backed up by an ethos born of Post-War morality and by a Colt .45 named “Betsy.” Max Allan Collins has updated the time line to make Hammer a Vietnam veteran; and the story takes place in present day New York City; but Hammer comes across as something of a relic of a bygone age and as someone who neither understands nor respects due process or authority. Hammer, whose intractable sense of right and wrong and belief that the end justifies the means, exacts a rough justice for those who stand in his way.

In “Encore for Murder,” Rita Vance, an ex-girlfriend of Mike Hammer’s, needs a bodyguard. Making an acting comeback by starring in a Broadway show, she has been targeted with a series of threatening and anonymous letters. Mike Hammer agrees to protect her out of a sense of chivalry and because he has the sexual drive and control of an adolescent. It’s difficult to imagine the universal sex appeal that Spillane and Collins imbue Mike Hammer with, as the brand of machismo that Hammer wears is about as dated as his sense of justice and the Fedora he sports.

The sex and violence are blunt and even vulgar in places, not in what is being described but in how they are described. The crudity of the prose and sentiments combine to make some scenes cringe-worthy.

Stacy Keach played the role of Hammer in the 1980s television series and returns as Hammer in the audio dramas. Keach has superseded other versions of Hammer in the public eye and has invested much of his talent in successfully preserving the legacy. As such, he is Mike Hammer and the perfect casting choice for The New Adventures.

There is a different set of expectations going into The New Adventures, production-wise, than for other audio dramas. The New Adventures take more from the playbook of radio dramas instead of trying to create a virtual soundtrack of the story. The Foley and voice enhancements are rather ham-fisted in comparison; but match the prose’s style and writing manner well.

Convo Starter:
In “Encore for Murder,” Mike Hammer is an underage soldier in the Vietnam War. No date was specified in the story; but let’s say Hammer was sixteen years old the year that Saigon fell (April 30, 1975) – that would make him fifty-two to fifty-three years old in 2011/2012. That is definitely better than being a nonogenarian (cf The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 2: The Little Death)! But is it still too old for Mike Hammer to be behaving the way he is behaving (i.e. like a fifteen year old when it comes to his libido and action adventure tactics?)

See Also:

Other Stuff:
The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) qualifies for:



I received a MP3-CD edition of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. I had no involvement in the production of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3: Encore for Murder (by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins; performed by a full cast starring Stacy Keach.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Graduate

The Graduate

based on the novel by Charles Webb and;
the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
dramatized by Terry Johnson
live stage reading performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys
1.65 hours
Having graduated from from college and on track to live The American Dream, Benjamin Braddock is not so sure that that is what he really wants or even what that really means. It’s 1967, societal paradigms are being deconstructed and Ben’s self-assuredness, intelligence, angst and inexperience combine to mire him in months of indecision and a retreat into his parents’ home and the arms of Mrs. Robinson. Why, exactly Ben chooses to sleep with the much older, alcoholic, intellectually stunted woman is not clear; but she serves as a foil to Ben’s potential. Having lived according to the dictates of mid-century life, she has ended up as damaged goods and has the capacity to keep Ben bogged down. And why Mrs. Robinson chooses to seduce Ben remains equally unclear. She does not seem to gain anything other than immediate gratification from their relationship, though amelioration from the disappointments of her own life are implied. The situation becomes further complicated when Ben is set up on a date with Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s daughter!
The Graduate is a comedy that finds its humor in finding the absurdity of the quotidian. Underneath the ideals of American life is the messy, complicated and bizarre constructs of human emotions and reactions. If you didn’t laugh, you might cry; but there are great lines and ripostes written into the script and, the performances of the full cast ensemble show remarkable timing and chemistry. Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys reprised their roles as Mrs. Robinson and Ben respectively from the original run ten years ago in the West End.
The L.A. Theater Works production is a live stage reading and the audience’s reaction to the exchanges provide the auditory cues for the listener. There are no foley effects, so the audience serves as the relay between the immediate action of the performers and the listener. The audience is always one step ahead, laughing, responding perhaps to the body language or facial expressions of the actors, while the listener waits for the explanatory line. While somewhat disconcerting, the overall performance comes across as fun and funny. You’ll wish you had been there!
After graduating, Ben was at a crossroads in his life: He could either follow the path that his past had circumscribed for him or; he could try and forge ahead, creating his own path. We encounter similar choices almost continually in our lives: to go to college or not; to take on pre-med or theater courses; to live in a garrett starving for our art or selling out to take a computer programming job that pays… For decades, people were lifers in corporate jobs, pursued a single career or vocation. Now re-inventing one’s self and having multiple careers in a single lifetime are very common. Do you think that the social revolutions of the 1960s played a role in forming the now-quotidian search for self (as manifested by what we do?) Extra points if you manage to incorporate “post-modernism” in your comment(s)!

See Also:
Kathleen Turner on Mrs. Robinson and Molly Ivins (L.A. Stage Times article by Steve Julian; 12/10/2010)
The Mark of Zorro (Audiobook Review of the Audio Drama based on the novel by Johnsotn McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky and, performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer)


Other Stuff: The Graduate (based in the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry; dramatized by Terry Johnson; performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys) qualifies for:



I purchased a digital dnload copy of The Graduate (based in the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry; dramatized by Terry Johnson; performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys) from iTunes. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

The Mark of Zorro

The Mark of Zorro

based on the novel by Johnston McCulley
dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky
studio performance by a full cast starring Val Kilmer
and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor
3.1 hours

Zorro, a masked figure whose mission it is is to vindicate the poor and oppressed, cuts a romantic figure against the landscape of Spanish California, circa 1806.* The governor, Luis Quintero and a local garrison commander, Captain Ramon, are corrupt martinets who disenfranchise the wealthiest and most respected families and cheat and abuse the poor – all in order to consolidate their political influence, shore up their family bloodlines and enrich themselves. Zorro tracks these villains down to redress social injustice. Exactly who Zorro is and why he must go about his missions disguised is not explained in the story; but the listener is treated to a swashbuckling tale on the order of Robin Hood 🙂


Armin Shimerman (who is perhaps best known for his television work as Quark on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) opens the narrative from a bartender’s point of view. With a story like Zorro, an iconic adventure tale that has not been innocent of advancing certain Mexican stereotypes, there is the danger of rendering the story from a cartoonish and politically incorrect voice; but Armin Shimmerman tiptoes to the edge of this caricature without giving offense and sets the tone for a fun tale of adventure and romance.

Val Kilmer (memorable for his roles as Batman in the movie, Batman Returns and Doc Holliday in the movie, Tombstone) performs the roles of two characters: the fopish Don Diego and, of course the daring Zorro himself. Val Kilmer never pulls any punches: Always delivering his lines with the verve, slyness, humor or meekness as his roles demand. His performance (and his innate sexiness and talent) make it easy to see him, in the mind’s eye, as Zorro!

The supporting cast, which includes a voice familiar to many audio book aficionados – Stefan Rudnicki as the friar, all step up and complete the picture that this audio drama draws. The Mark of Zorro is slickly produced: At times it feels like the live soundtrack to a movie! The sound effects are artfully edited in and the musical scoring for the most part works (There was one scene in which Classical music plays under Lolita’s lines that didn’t add anything, seemed out of place and was distracting.) This was a studio production and the producers had the luxury of providing all the audio cues to prompt the listener into this world. The Mark of Zorro is an enormous amount of fun! It doesn’t succumb to cheesiness, there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments and, is family friendly 🙂


*Being unfamiliar with Californian history and, as the story does not provide a specific time frame, I referenced The Legacy of the Fox: A Chronology of Zorro by Matthew Baugh with updates by Win Eckert, a fan-created web-site.


See Also:


Other Stuff: The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor) qualifies for:


I received a MP3-CD copy of The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under reviewer auspices. The copy I received has a corrected cover from the web image above (Johnston McCulley’s last name is misspelled on the cover art image featured on web-sites.) I had no involvement in the production of The Mark of Zorro (based in the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer and featuring Ruth Livier, Elizabeth Peña, Armin Shimerman and Meshach Taylor.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Armchair Audies: The Bad Employee/Bad Wife Edition

A couple of weeks ago, the APA announced the finalists for its 2012 Audie Awards Competition. Out of the 28 categories and 140 titles, I have listened to exactly… two. And neither of them was for the company that I work for. To make matters worse, my DH was also nominated for an Audie for another company, and I haven’t listened to that one either. So, in order to make some amends for being a #bademployee and a #badwife and also because @lithousewife has set up a fun and informal Armchair Audies Challenge, I have decided to listen to as many of the Blackstone- and Grover Gardner-nominated audios as possible before the actual awards (which are in NYC on June 5, 2012.) I will not be able to attend this year’s events; but I’m still going to dress up and hopefully Skype in to someone, somewhere and at sometime during the festivities 🙂

These are the two Audie-nominated audiobooks that I have listened to:

BUSINESS/EDUCATIONAL

HUMOR

These are all the audios I am going to attempt to listen to before 06/05/2012:
AUDIO DRAMA
The Mark of Zorro (based on the novel by Johnston McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky; performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)

We’re Alive: Season 1 (by Kc Wayland; performed by a full cast; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – I will most likely post the review for this in May (Zombie Month)

BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR

My Dog Tulip (by J.R. Ackerley; narrated by Ralph Cosham; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)

FANTASY

Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures (by Walter Moers; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – Bronson!

MYSTERY

One Dog Night (by David Rosenfelt; narrated by Grover Gardner; Listen & Live Audio) – This could be tricky because I haven’t listened to the two titles in the series that precede this one and, I’m the kind of person who listens to series titles in order; but I’m going to try and get all three in 🙂

NON-FICTION
The 4 Percent Universe (by Richard Panek; narrated by Ray Porter; Blackstone Audio, Inc.)

My Korean Deli (by Ben Ryder Howe; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – Bronson again!

ORIGINAL WORK

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Vol. 3 (by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane; performed by a full cast starring Stacey Keach; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – Hmmm, I didn’t really like the first volume; but the second volume got an Earphones Award and now this. Maybe I need to re-visit.

PACKAGE DESIGN

One Grave at a Time (by Jeanine Frost; narrated by Tavia Gilbert; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – Actually, I won’t be listening to this one! Since it’s about cover art, I probably post something related to graphics 🙂

THRILLER/SUSPENSE

The Bone House (by Brian Freeman; narrated by Joe Barrett; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – Oh good, this is non-series title (so no backlist listening required)

Out of My Head (by Didier van Cauwelaert; narrated by Bronson Pinchot; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – More Bronson!

Silent Screams (by Karen Rose; narrated by Marguerite Gavin; Blackstone Audio, Inc.) – Karen Rose’s canon of works have recurring characters; but stopyourekillingme.com avoided using the word “series” to describe her work. This may be like Carl Hiassen’s world where order doesn’t matter. At least I hope not :-/


I will be posting honest reviews of what I listen to. And maybe risk getting fired and/or divorced in the process; but at least no one will be able to accuse me of playing false or being a tool 🙂