Red Koi Reviews

See what I've seen, hear what I've heard

Archive for December, 2006

“Chart Throb” by Ben Elton

Posted by redkoireviews on 17/12/2006

Chart ThrobI’ve read a few Ben Elton books before, including ‘Dead Famous‘ – a comic crime novel set on the set of a ‘Big Brother’ program. “Chart Throb” draws it’s inspiration from reality TV music shows such as ‘Australian Idol‘. The novel is great satire, poking a sharp barb into the glamour of today’s glorified talent quests. Clavin, The show’s machiavellian leader and master judge is revealed as a shallow, manipulative prick. The other judges fair little better, narcissism being their dominant personality trait.

If you love ‘Australian Idol’ and want to stay a fan, do not read this book. If you where always a bit (or a lot) suspicious of the shows credibility, reading this book will definitely confirm all your worst fears, then add in a few extras.

The plot of ‘Chart Throb’ is more distrubing than ‘Dead famous’ becuase it’s more believable – you can imagine everything that the judges and directors do as actually happening, whereas ‘Dead Famous’ was entertaining but not really . . . real.

Ben Elton has done it again – delivering great satire that draws on our current life and times. Excellent.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Posted in 4 Stars, Books, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Freakonomics

Posted by redkoireviews on 16/12/2006

Freakonomics bookcoverI picked this up at the airport, after hearing about it on the radio. Economist Steven Levitt teamed up with journalist Stephen Dubner to write about what economics can tell us about human behavior and society.

They use a variety of interesting example to make some surprising conclusions: legalised abortion reduced crime 20 years later, good parenting is more about your life before being a parent, and the relationship between names and socio-economic status.

I really enjoyed it – it’s not what most people will think of as economics so don’t dismiss it as a dry read. Statistics is the foundation of the book, with some discussion of incentives, and some crude guesses at other social phenomena.

Like most economists I’ve met, Levitt argues that incentives are what drives almost everything about people and society. I’ve always found that argument to simplistic – like hedonists who say the only thing that drives people is pursuit of their own happiness (the two are almost the same). It assumes that people respond rationally to the size of any ‘incentive’, which most people don’t. It also assumes people are good at comparing different outcomes on an equal basis over time, which they don’t. Levitt also has that tendency to make a complex system into a nice, simpler one where cause and effect is a more straightforward affair. Perhaps that comes from having to turn it into a saleable book rather than an academic paper.

Finally, it shits me when people blur science and conjecture. Levitt presents his statistical findings and then hooks his own opinion on without much distinction.

But for all that the case studies are an interesting insight into human and societal behavior. I’d love to see more, and more involvement of psychologists. You can get a flavour of the book and the authors at their blog.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Posted in 3 Stars, Books, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Little Miss Sunshine

Posted by redkoireviews on 03/12/2006

Little Miss Sunshine The MovieSorry I’ve been so long with so few posts – I’ve just changed jobs and things have been hectic. Anyway, my partner and I went and saw ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ at the movies last night. It’s one of those quirky dramas centered on a dysfunctional family and a road trip they embark on in order to get young Olive to the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ child beauty pageant.

The main theme is winning losing and luck. Most of the characters go through some sort of trial where a dream is crushed by the cruel hand of fate for no particular reason. The family has plenty of differences but they all come together for Olive, whose innocent optimism is something they all love, and perhaps miss in their own lives. Check out the full synopsis if you want.
There are plenty of moments when it’s just hilarious – you won’t be disappointed when Olive finally gets her turn on stage at the contest. Go to rotten tomatoes for another view.

I really enjoyed this – if you missed it in cinemas, go rent the DVD.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Posted in 4 Stars, Movies, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

 
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