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Sean

BELVEDERE TIBURON, CA, United States | Member Since 2009

298
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 56 reviews
  • 86 ratings
  • 319 titles in library
  • 20 purchased in 2014
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28

  • The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 52 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Greenberg
    Overall
    (119)
    Performance
    (108)
    Story
    (106)

    Over the centuries, orchestral music has given us a category of works that stand apart as transcendent expressions of the human spirit. What are these "greatest of the greats"? Find out in these 32 richly detailed lectures that take you on a sumptuous grand tour of the symphonic pieces that continue to live at the center of our musical culture.These 30 masterworks form an essential foundation for any music collection and a focal point for understanding the orchestral medium and deepening your insight into the communicative power of music.

    Jacob says: "Really happy with the format"
    "This is what audio books were made for"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    14 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Great Minds of the Medieval World

    • ORIGINAL (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Dorsey Armstrong
    Overall
    (27)
    Performance
    (27)
    Story
    (23)

    In this gallery of extraordinary minds, you’ll encounter the leading lights of a world-shaping era, including figures such as Maimonides, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Abelard, and Francesco Petrarch. Professor Armstrong goes to great lengths to bring these historic figures to life, revealing both the great intellectual contributions and the personal strivings, challenges, and triumphs of some of history’s most remarkable human beings.

    Benoibe says: "Prof Armstrong at her best!!!"
    "Discovering new heros"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Star-Spangled Men: America's Ten Worst Presidents

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Nathan Miller
    • Narrated By Andy Caploe
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (7)

    Picking America's best presidents is easy. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt usually lead the list. But choosing the nation's worst presidents requires more thought. In Star-Spangled Men, respected presidential biographer Nathan Miller puts on display those leaders who were abject failures as chief executive. With pointed humor and a deft hand, he presents a rogues' gallery of the men who dropped the presidential ball, and sometimes their pants as well.

    Sean says: "Entertaining and factual"
    "Entertaining and factual"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • 36 Revolutionary Figures of History

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Professor Bob Brier, Professor Dennis Dalton, and others
    Overall
    (18)
    Performance
    (16)
    Story
    (17)

    Alexander the Great, Jesus, Darwin, and Churchill are just a few of the many politicians, religious leaders, scientists, philosophers, authors, inventors, and generals who transformed our world in ways that still resonate today. Now, with this unique collection of 36 lectures from our extensive course catalog, meet the remarkable people without whom the world would never be the same.

    Sean says: "A hodgepodge"
    "A hodgepodge"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 18 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
    Overall
    (161)
    Performance
    (138)
    Story
    (141)

    Step into the real world of the spy with this detailed and unforgettable tour of the millennia-long history and enduring legacy of espionage and covert operations. While most of us associate this top-secret subject with popular fiction and film, its true story is more fascinating, surprising, and important than you could possibly imagine. These 24 thrilling lectures survey how world powers have attempted to work in the shadows to gain secret information or subvert enemies behind the scenes.

    Christopher says: "Learn About the History of Spying."
    "Entertaining and informative"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Age of Pericles

    • ORIGINAL (12 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Jeremy McInerney
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    The career of Pericles, the leading Athenian politician and general from c. 450 to 429 B.C., is a prism through which to view the "Golden Age" of Greece, a brief but remarkable era when Athens experienced a cultural flowering of extraordinary power and importance for Western culture. These 24 stimulating lectures present a well-rounded portrait of almost every aspect of Athenian life during the Golden Age.

    Sean says: "Unflinching look at the Golden Age of Athens"
    "Unflinching look at the Golden Age of Athens"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • George Washington and Benedict Arnold: A Tale of Two Patriots

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 49 mins)
    • By Dave Richard Palmer
    • Narrated By Lynn Benson
    Overall
    (1)
    Performance
    (1)
    Story
    (1)

    From 1775 through 1777, George Washington and Benedict Arnold were America's two most celebrated warriors. Their earlier lives had surprisingly parallel paths. They were strong leaders in combat, they admired and respected each other, and they even shared common enemies. Yet one became our greatest hero and the other our most notorious traitor. Why? Author and military historian Dave Palmer reveals the answer: character.

    Sean says: "Insightful look at the Revolution's generals"
    "Insightful look at the Revolution's generals"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Rise and Fall of Intelligence: An International Security History

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Michael Warner
    • Narrated By Robert J. Eckrich
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Historian Michael Warner addresses the birth of professional intelligence in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and the subsequent rise of US intelligence during the Cold War. He brings this history up to the present day as intelligence agencies used the struggle against terrorism and the digital revolution to improve capabilities in the 2000s.

    Sean says: "A random walk through the Cold War and beyond"
    "A random walk through the Cold War and beyond"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Decoding the Heavens

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 36 mins)
    • By Jo Marchant
    • Narrated By Julie Eickhoff
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (6)

    In Decoding the Heavens, Jo Marchant tells for the first time the full story of the 100-year quest to decipher the ancient Greek computer known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Along the way she unearths a diverse cast of remarkable characters and explores the deep roots of modern technology in ancient Greece and the medieval European and Islamic worlds. At its heart, this is an epic adventure and mystery, a book that challenges our assumptions about technology through the ages.

    Sean says: "Very satisfying account of an ancient mystery"
    "Very satisfying account of an ancient mystery"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched Our Lives and Changed the World

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Steven Kent
    • Narrated By Dan Woren
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (95)
    Performance
    (94)
    Story
    (94)

    The Ultimate History of Video Games reveals everything you ever wanted to know and more about the unforgettable games that changed the world, the visionaries who made them, and the fanatics who played them. From the arcade to television and from the PC to the handheld device, video games have entraced kids at heart for nearly 30 years. And author and gaming historian Steven L. Kent has been there to record the craze from the very beginning.

    Sean says: "Repetitive but interesting"
    "Repetitive but interesting"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is a well researched book but it could be half as long if he didn't repeat himself so often.

    He presents many nuggets of video game lore. Often he has found the original sources for stories that have become myths. This allows him to tell the myth and the real events that generated the story. This is not the repetition I am complaining about.

    When presenting details of a story his style is like this:

    They started having problems with their chips around this time. "Our engineers said that there was a problem with the chips."--Joe CEO. "I was working as an engineer at that time and we encountered several problems with the chips."--Jim Engineer.

    Each iteration of the information adds nothing to the story and it becomes very frustrating to listen to.

    This appears to be the definitive work on video game history, but the writing makes it difficult to get through.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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