As someone with an extremely limited knowledge of music I have always felt intimidated by classical compositions. I could not tell you the difference between a symphony and a concerto, but after listening to these lectures I have a much better appreciation of them.
The lecturer's delivery is a cross of Lewis Black and George Will--authoritative but wickedly funny. He actually made me laugh out loud a few times. His passion for these works comes through in every lecture.
The format he follows is a brief bio-sketch of the composer followed by snippets of music and commentary. When he says "notice how the composer uses dissonant harmonies to convey struggle" you can actually hear it. Each lecture is meant to be complete in itself allowing you to jump around, but I found listening beginning to end to be most convenient.
This is an ideal work for an audio book.
I really enjoyed learning about the history and personalities that drove the Industrial Revolution. The author does a good job of breaking down the material into manageable chunks of information. He also managed to make production and labor tension consistently interesting.
He has a nice English accent and the pacing is good.
I would recommend this to anyone seriously interested in the history of global industrialization.
An in depth look at Hawaiian history from all sides.
Most histories either vilify the white man or explain how the natives got what they deserved. The author does a good job of portraying the major characters as real human beings warts and all. Still, one comes away with tremendous sympathy for the native Hawaiians.
He clearly demonstrates that the native monarchs were just as complicit in commercializing the islands as the sugar barons or sea captains. And they did it with full understanding of the consequences of their actions.
He dispels the myth of the "good old days" by pointing out that in pre-contact Hawaii 9,999 out of 10,000 natives were essentially serfs subject to human sacrifice or capital punishment at the whim of the rulers.
He makes no apologies for the annexation movement condemning it in the harshest terms. But he is also quick to quell historical "what ifs" by pointing out that the next most likely fate for the islands was to become a Japanese protectorate--a bullet dodged.
I enjoyed the performance but I dislike the current trend to perform audiobooks as opposed to reading them. A Scottish character--break out the Highland brogue, a Spaniard--rev up the RRRRRs. I wish they would offer a straight reading along with the performance version of these books.
I would recommend this book to anyone seriously interested in Hawaiian history, but it is detailed so don't expect to get through in on a plane ride to your island vacation.
I liked learning about many influential thinkers that I had never heard of before. Many of their ideas were encapsulated or recapitulated by later thinkers, so there were no flashes of insight. Nevertheless, hearing who first engaged some of society's thorniest problems provided a very interesting read.
The professor has a thorough understanding and genuine affection for her subject and it makes the lectures very easy to listen to.
Because there was no separation of church and state the figures are heavily involved with the Catholic Church. There's no escaping that in a book like this, but if you are not interested in the medieval church you may not want to invest your time here.
The author critiques his ten worst presidents with humor and insight. He backs up his criticism with facts while acknowledging that other interpretations are valid. The piece is relatively light in tone and makes easy listening.
He has Democrats and Republicans on his list and there does not seem to be any agenda he is pushing. For example, there are bad isolationists and bad expansionists. His idea of "badness" is mostly (lack of) character driven e.g. Nixon, but overall (lack of) performance also makes someone a target, e.g. Carter.
I would recommend the book to anyone interested in a critical look at American politics without a demagogue's screed.
This is an anthology of lectures pulled from other Great Courses. Apparently, someone decided on a list of revolutionary figures and then went in search of lectures that mention those people.
Unfortunately, the lecturers do not know that they are supposed to be talking about how or why these people were revolutionaries. Also, since the other courses vary in topic from art, history and politics it gives a very uneven feel to the work.
I couldn't finish it and would not recommend it.
This book is much better that Michael Warner's recent "The rise and fall of intelligence." He starts each lecture with a clear premise--"now we are going to discuss signals intelligence in WWI" and gives clear, complete examples.
The text is not technical, but he still manages to convey how technology and politics interact with the espionage community.
It is a concise and entertaining survey of espionage.
Anyone can tell you that Western civilization owes much to the ancient Greeks. But few people can give you the insight of this lecturer. He gives an in depth tour of ancient Greece in the 400s BCE and he does not attempt to hide the ugly aspects of a society that used slave labor. He uses the Persian and Peloponnesian wars as bookends for his examination.
He gives a detailed portrait of life for generals and politicians as well as everyday citizens and foreigners. In doing so he covers the historical and cultural events that shaped the city.
Finally, he discusses how the ancient Greeks were similar and different from us in their conception of ideas of freedom and democracy.
I would recommend this to anyone looking for an in depth look at the ancient Greeks, but you do need some familiarity with the material to get the most out of it. I would not recommend it as a first book about the ancient world.
I found this a very interesting look into the personalities of arguably the two best known American revolutionary generals. After demonstrating many similarities in their upbringing and career trajectories he shows how they ended up on paths to fame or infamy.
The pacing is well done and he weaves in important history without slowing the narrative. There is a genuine sense of excitement as he relates various campaign maneuvers and sieges. He also telegraphs just enough information to keep you oriented without spoiling the story.
I enjoyed the performance and felt the overall production value is high.
I found the book surprisingly dull and lacking insight. The author talks about how "intelligence" has been important to many historical events, but he is not interested in telling any stories or giving even brief biographies. The result is a random walk through the last 100 years of history from several different perspectives at once.
He will talk about China, Viet Nam, Northern Ireland and Central America in the same paragraph with the only common thread being secret information passing from person to person. He does not describe any covert operations or historical events from beginning to end which leaves the reader constantly adrift.
The author does not have any particular thesis about how intelligence grows or works, so you are never really sure why he chose a particular episode or technology to discuss.
He also assumes a fairly detailed understanding of 20th century history. He provides no context for events such as "Roosevelt and Stalin at Tehran" or "the Troubles" so it's not for historical dilettantes.
The performance is very dry but I am unsure if the reader was hamstrung by the material. Still, he should know how to pronounce "McAfee."
Being neither a collection of real life thriller moments nor an academic contemplation the book fell into a no man's land that I could not enjoy.
The book describes the finding and investigation of one of the most enigmatic ancient artifacts. Many theories have swirled around it (Aliens!) but in 2006 a group of math, astronomy and imaging specialists finally determined the purpose of the existing fragments.
She does a great job of describing the initial find and the first enthusiastic but erroneous interpretations of what the device was. All of the standard academic personalities are here--the Dreamer, the Enthusiastic Amatuer, the Double-crosser, the Possessive Curators, the serendipitous encounters.
I was particularly impressed by how she explained the subtleties of translating irregularities of lunar and solar motion into clockwork. Her descriptions of the actual bronze fragments were less clear, but since they are apparently barely recognizable as gears this is easy to forgive. She also describes future possibilities for investigation since there may have been more to the device than was recovered.
I was less happy with the performance. The reader has a whimsical delivery that the text really doesn't support, but her reading is accurate and easy to understand.
I would recommend this to someone interested in classical Greece and science history in general.
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