Thursday, June 11, 2020

Review: Nut Jobs: Cracking California's Strangest $10 Million Dollar Heist

Nut Jobs: Cracking California's Strangest $10 Million Dollar Heist Nut Jobs: Cracking California's Strangest $10 Million Dollar Heist by Marc Fennell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought I was getting an offbeat crime story about the clever theft of millions of dollar worth of nuts that were stolen from various California farmers via an elaborate scheme in which the legitimate shipping process was used to swipe truckloads of almonds. What I got instead was 4 hours of irritation.

I’ve noted before that the Audible Originals that I’ve listened to aren’t really audio books, they’re podcasts. Apparently the folks at Audible got my memo because Marc Fennell flatly refers to it as “a podcast for Audible Originals” in his introduction. However, while the structure and style are trying to rip off that Serial style it's still delivered in one big chunk so I’m not sure why that intro was repeated multiple times as if these were episodes delivered week to week. Yeah, it has different chapters, but you could do some kind of break indicating that instead of having Fennell reintroduce himself and the show with the full musical theme several times.

Fennell also comes across as incredibly stupid and/or na├»ve for repeatedly bringing up how amazed he is that anybody would steal nuts. Then when he learns that some kind of organized crime was involved he’s even more shocked. Which then leads to maybe the most idiotic question I’ve ever heard posed: “Does it surprise you that people would want to steal millions of dollars worth of nuts?”

It shouldn’t surprise anybody to hear that people would want to steal millions of dollars worth of ANYTHING. Particularly when it’s an untraceable commodity that could then be quickly turned around and sold for full market value. News flash - Where there's an illegal buck to be made, then you can usually count on some kind of organized crime figures to try and get in on it.

I suspect that Fennell is playing up the Gee-Whiz!-This-Is-Crazy! factor for the podcast, and he uses being an Australian in America to put some extra mustard on it. It also doesn’t help that he  hits that same note repeatedly when doing things like freaking out about the guns that some security guards he interviews carry as he does a whole Wow!-America-Is-Crazy! angle. I live here, Fennell, so I’m well aware of it.

My biggest gripe is that this is a perfect example of false advertising. Out of the 4 hours of this, I think there’s probably less than 45 minutes actually talking about the nut heists in detail. Which is too bad because when that’s the focus it’s an interesting account of a complex criminal scheme. Unfortunately, what Fennell really wanted to do was to use that crime story as a Trojan horse to sneak in an audio essay about how our food is grown, transported, marketed, and sold to us.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody who knows anything about capitalism, but it turns out that the whole thing is dependent on big money interests using a variety of low paid workers while destroying the environment to provide overpriced items for a market they created. As a famous quote goes, "I am shocked, SHOCKED to find out there's gambling going on in here!"

And that’s an important story, but it’s not what I signed up for when I clicked on something that said it was going to be about stealing nuts. At this point in the hellish year of 2020 I really wasn’t in the mood to hear another yet example of how everything is fucked. I got Twitter for that.

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