Review: Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain
Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Was waiting in a bar for a friend to show up, so I sipped a beer and read a bit of Think Like a Freak. I had already read what I thought was half of it—and then suddenly the book was done. I had been fooled by the page count, not realizing that the end notes would take up a quarter of the pages. A bit of an anti-climax.

Which is sort of what this book is overall: anticlimactic. Not that it’s bad. But after the “cool” factor of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, Think Like a Freak was a bit thin. Like a good broth—a good broth can be very delicious, but not after a buttery baked potato and a thick steak.

The writers do offer a few examples to illustrate their lessons on “thinking like an economist i.e. consider people’s motivations” which are fun an interesting, and would make the book a decent bathroom read or something to pick up for a few bucks off the remainder shelves. But not nearly worth the full price I paid.

I don’t know if “publish or perish” is a compelling motivator for non-fiction writers like these, but that’s what this book felt like: something they needed to put out there so their names stay relevant and they get more folks listening to their podcasts. I know writing isn’t their full-time job— and Think Like a Freak feels like it.

This is a gimme, a side-bar, perhaps a fat appendix at the end of the of the SuperDuper Freakonomics Compendium. Read it if you’ve got disposable income and nothing better to do. Or you want to kill an evening. But don’t, like the other books, think of this as an investment at all.

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E-Mail to My Cousin’s Best Man re: Bachelor Party

fiction by Jason Edwards

Hey Dave—good seeing you and yours that last weekend. I’m still drinking the beers that were bought and not consumed, which sometimes makes for a rough morning, but that’s the definition of family if you ask me. Anywho, I haven’t heard from Evan yet about your bachelor party, so if you could forward to him the following, that would be great. I’m sure he’s a busy man, and I don’t want to put too much pressure on him or anything, but I figured while I’m sitting here drunk as hell with nothing better to do, I might as well get some thoughts down on paper.

Hi Evan. This is Samuel, Dave’s oldest cousin. I understand that as Dave’s best man, you’ll be in charge of his bachelor party. Just wanted to start off by saying that there are no hard feelings at all that he didn’t choose me as his best man, despite the fact that we’re related by blood and that if one of us needed a kidney the other one would probably be a good match. “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family,” they say. (I don’t know who they are, but apparently they don’t go to a lot of bachelor parties.)

I have a few ground rules when it comes to this sort of thing, bachelor parties I mean, and I wanted to let you know about them in advance. For example, bachelor parties always means strippers, and that’s fine, but there’s a brand of stripper-body-glitter that I’m allergic too, so if you could tell the strippers that in advance, it would be appreciated. It’s okay if they rub themselves on my face—it’s mainly my upper thighs that will break out into a rash. It only took my three or four parties to figure that one out!

Also, a long weekend with the boys usually means beer, and as a person who lives in Seattle, I, of course, know beer. I would appreciate it if only craft beer made with organic Pacific-Northwest hops is bought for everyone. I’ll contribute to the funds for that, no worries. You have to love the planet or the planet won’t love you back, after all.

I believe the Monday Night Football game that will be on when we’re all together will be the Bears at the Jets. I’m afraid this won’t work for me. I went to a Bears game once a few years ago when I was visiting Chicago, and a drunk guy in the men’s room shouted at me, saying “Hurry up, fatso.” (I assume he was talking to me, as I have struggled with an eating disorder since a particularly frightening episode of ‘Growing Pains’ that aired in 1988, the one where Carol is nominated for Homecoming Queen. I was so sure it was going to be a Carrie homage, I ate, like, three bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis, and I’ve been addicted ever since). I know bachelor parties are where men get to be men and real men like football, but since the Bears are one of my “triggers,” I’m sure everyone else will understand if we do something else instead. May I suggest a few games of Settlers of Cataan?

Dave indicated that he’s inviting my dad and his dad as well. Just wanted to assure you that while they both tend to get a little racist/homophic/mysoginistic/anti-semitic/pro-life/pro-Limbaugh/pro-Hobby-Lobby when they’re drunk, they’ve never actually killed anyone on purpose. Oh, I almost forgot to mention: both my dad and his dad have conceal-carry permits. But don’t worry. As long as Dave and I are more or less sober, we can handle them.

Sleeping arrangements: my sleep-apnea and snoring shouldn’t be a problem if everyone brings earplugs. Also, everyone gives GHB a bad rap but it really does help people sleep through loud noises. So just say the word, and I’ll bring some of my stash to share, and I’ll give everyone a fair price. I’ll also bring condoms if anyone’s worried.

I assume we’ll be showering together, as that’s a bachelor party tradition. I have no problem with this. I take very long showers.

And finally, wanted to let you know that I’m really looking forward to the fun! Ever since the car accident, my wife won’t let me out of the house, much less go to parties! But she had to give in on this one, house-arrest or not, since Dave and I are family after all. And you know what they say, “innocent until proven guilty;” so until the DA finds proof, I’m not letting some stupid ankle bracelet keep me from celebrating with my cuz!

Hope this email finds you well. Feel free to call me at (737) 874-2833 to discuss. English only, please.

–Samuel Hanson, age 42

Unholy Night– review on Goodreads

Unholy NightUnholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Got this one from a friend who loaned me a whole stack of books. I’ve been out of the reading rhythm for a while so I decided to start with this one since it seemed light-hearted and silly. It really wasn’t. It was kind of tedious, but I chalked that up to my being a rusty reader. Having just finished it though, I’m not so sure if it was me or just the novel.

Ostensibly a re-telling of the baby-Jesus story and His flight to Egypt. But what do you expect from a re-telling: is it an homage, a parody, straight-up plagiarism? None of these in Unholy Night, I’m afraid. Just a loose framework used to tell a hack-n-slash adventure story.

Which is fine, and don’t get me wrong—if there’s cyberpunk and steampunk, why not history-punk? I’m all for innovative genres. But everything Unholy Night got from this “history” was also the only thing it had going for it. And that included a lot of deus ex machina.

I mean, a lot. A story about one of the three wise-man using his sword and hatred to protect the Messiah as they try to escape Herod- and whenever it looks like they’re trapped, voila, a miracle happens. Please. I feel as if a great opportunity for parody was utterly missed here. I get it—this is The Living God wrapped in his arms, so “deus ex machina” is almost obligatory. Maybe that’s why it felt flat.

Too many conveniences, too many coincidences, too much horror with too little consequence. I guess the best thing I can say about Unholy Night is that, like the Bible itself, it ended up just being a bunch of words, words words.

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