Category Archives: autobiography

Dad Is Fat

Dad Is Fat is one of several books by comedians I’ve read over the last few years. This is also one of the ones I used to forget how disappointing I found the New York Islanders in the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

I was a bit hesitant to listen to this one. I am not one of those people who loves children. I find children tend to make most people a lot less interesting because people seem to think 1) I deeply care about everything their child does 2) they don’t need to have anything else to talk about except their children I barely care about anyway.

Conversations tend to go like this:

Me: Seen any movies lately?

Friend: I saw a video my significant other took of our child! Want to watch?

Me: Sure.

*3 Hours Later*

Friend: And THIS is a video of our child taking a dump on the bathroom floor AFTER getting off the potty!

Me: Oh is that so? *quietly removes friend’s contact information from phone*

Anyway, in spite of my initial reluctance, I enjoyed this book a lot, mainly for the reasons that 1. I find Jim Gaffigan’s comedy funny and 2. Jim Gaffigan’s stories about parenting his children are basically the stories my parents told me about parenting me and my sister.

Jim and his wife have 5 children in a small New York City apartment. That’s basically all you need to know going in, and his ongoing theme is basically “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

My parents also had no idea what they were doing, and have told me so on several occasions now.

But Gaffigan’s descriptions of children’s music, books, television, interaction with each other and strangers, and all of that? My parents told me those stories, and they’re a hundred times funnier here.

This was one of the many audiobooks I listened to at work, and I highly recommend experiencing Dad Is Fat as an audiobook. Gaffigan reads it himself, which makes it very enjoyable. I’m finding most books done by funny people are best when you hear them read by the author rather than read on your own. The author is able to give the best delivery of the material.

A lot of comedians repeat their standup material in their books, but Gaffigan doesn’t do that here. There’s a little recycle material, but not much. Definitely worth the read/listen. It’s a quick listen and a quick, easy read and I highly recommend it, even as someone who has no children and doesn’t typically enjoy hearing about other people’s children.

Advertisements

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History is an autobiographical memoir by Tony Mendez and Matt Baglio, and was adapted by Ben Affleck into an Academy Award winning film of the same name. It was originally an article for Wired magazine, and was expanded after declassification of documents into a much more detailed story.

I go through phases periodically where I watch a bunch of movies and read their source material. In this case, it was was the other way around, where I audiobooked the source material first and then watched the film.

Mendez was a CIA technical operations officer in the 1970s, decorated and widely recognized for his work in evacuating 6 American diplomats during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Called “The Canadian Caper,” the effort took the cooperation of the CIA, the Canadian government, and several Hollywood professionals, including makeup artists John Chambers and Robert Sidell, and Sidell’s wife, Joan.

Spoiler alert: they get the stranded Americans out of Iran. That wasn’t the most interesting part of this story.

The most interesting part of this memoir was finding out 1. how the CIA operated at the time and 2. how the whole thing sounded like amateur hour.

IIRC, Mendez was hired into the CIA as an artist. He copied stuff, did forgeries, etc… if the CIA had any kind of super advanced tech it wasn’t in this book, or it’s so dated to 2016 that I didn’t realize it was considered advanced tech at the time.

Originally an artist, it was clear Mendez’s role grew by the time the Iranian Hostage Crisis took place. Mendez’s main job was getting the American hostages to believe their cover stories enough to get them out of Iran, which was no easy feat. The key to being a convincing liar was believing the lie, and it was difficult to get the scared Americans to believe what they were saying about themselves, which was total BS.

It was an incredibly dangerous operation, because if they had been discovered there was a good chance they’d be executed. But again, what was really fascinating to me was how incredibly low tech it was. It was drawing up passports that passed inspection and coming up with a solid cover story – the cover story being they were Canadians scouting film locations in Iran for a science fiction film, called “Argo.” (Duh, right?)

The film that came from Mendez’s memoir is a very good film but it didn’t do a good job with 2 things. It took a loooot of dramatic license. There were a lot fewer imminent danger scenarios than depicted in the film, however, this was a film and you have to keep an audience engaged.

The other thing was the film seriously downplayed the role of the Canadian government in the rescue of the hostages. The Canadian Ambassador and Embassy played crucial roles in rescuing the Americans. Mendez gives this credit, the film doesn’t. The film also makes it look as the British and New Zealand embassies turned the American hostages away – this isn’t what happened. The British, in particular, took a great risk taking in the hostages, only moving them because it was deemed too dangerous for them to stay there. The British Embassy, IIRC, was the target of attacks itself. New Zealand had organized a place for the Americans to stay if they needed to change locations and drove the Americans to the airport when it was time to leave Tehran.

It’s understandable why a lot of this was changed for film purposes – it would have been a 4 hour film – but it was hurtful to these countries anyway. Affleck tried to smooth things over but it wasn’t much help. President Carter even commented (paraphrasing), “This was mostly a Canadian achievement. Ken Taylor (the Canadian ambassador) is the real hero of the story.”

Anyway, flawed film aside, Argo was a really interesting “inner workings of the CIA” book, which I highly recommend if you’re interested in contemporary world history.

%d bloggers like this: