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Christopher

BROOKLYN, NY, United States | Member Since 2012

6
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 7 reviews
  • 25 ratings
  • 202 titles in library
  • 13 purchased in 2015
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  • Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Glenn S. Holland
    Overall
    (35)
    Performance
    (32)
    Story
    (31)

    Step back to a time when the mysteries of the universe could seem overwhelming. Cycles of nature kept predictable time with the sun, the moon, and the stars, yet crops failed, disease struck, storms ravaged, and empires fell without warning. In the region surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, people responded to such tumult with a rich variety of religious beliefs.

    Christopher says: "Some good moments, but ultimately disappointing."
    "Some good moments, but ultimately disappointing."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This course makes some attempt to give a comparative perspective on several of the religions of the ancient Mediterranean. The religions covered are mentioned in the publisher's summary, and if you know very little about the religions covered, you will no doubt learn something about each, as I did. However, some major mediterranean religions are left out, most notably Phoenician/Carthaginian religion; also absent is any treatment of Celtic or Iberian peoples' beliefs. Only the briefest mention of the Etruscans as well.

    This is especially grievous in light of the large amount of time spent on Judaism and Christianity; these are no doubt Ancient Mediterranean religions, and thus worthy of some coverage, but they -- Christianity especially -- are covered in more detail than for instance the beliefs of classical Greece; this is unfortunate given that Christianity and Judaism are covered in-depth by so many other Great courses lectures, and are bound to be more familiar to most listeners besides.

    There is also very little time devoted to the rituals and actual practice involved in each religion, and too much spent on discussing stories told in the context of ancient religion that are not actually religious documents, such as the various ancient epics. As much as I love the Epic of Gilgamesh, this doesn't seem like the place for a close reading of it; more information about each of the ancient Mesopotamian gods would have filled that time better.

    However, if you know very little about ancient Mediterranean, this wouldn't be a bad place to start. And if you are primarily interested Christianity, this course would be a great place to learn about the context that gave rise to it. I definitely learned many things from this course, but I can't help feeling that I could have learned a lot more.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Cambodia: Report From a Stricken Land

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 38 mins)
    • By Henry Kamm
    • Narrated By Walter Dixon
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Based on his observations over three decades, Henry Kamm, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Southeast Asia correspondent, unravels the complexities of Cambodia. Kamm's invaluable document - a factual and personal account of its troubled history - gives the Western listener the first clear understanding of this magic land's past and present.

    Christopher says: "A Solid Introduction, but Somewhat Dated"
    "A Solid Introduction, but Somewhat Dated"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This book is an engaging and informative look at Cambodia's history, which provides, at its beginning, a quick timeline of the region's pre-modern history before delving into the bloody years of the later 20th century that made the very name of Cambodia synonymous with unspeakable brutality.
    The author was an NYT correspondent, and had in his youth experienced some of the Nazi terror, a fact which he mentions a few times in passing. Such an interesting perspective almost makes me wish he had abandoned some of his journalistic impartiality and brought more of himself into the story, but in general his detachment serves him well.
    The book suffers a bit from the fact that it is now almost 20 years old -- it was written as a contemporary history, and thus is due for an update. It also suffers for being seemingly the only history of Cambodia available on audible, something which I hope will be rectified soon. It is a short book, and as such is not as detailed as it could be.
    I don't agree with another reviewer who claims it doesn't work well as an audiobook; it works as well as any history book, and requires some concentration; I wouldn't listen to it while driving, for instance.
    Walter Dixon's performance suits the tone of the writing very well. I think both would have benefitted from a bit more emotional range, but their measured and objective styles are well suited to each other.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Interpreting the 20th Century: The Struggle Over Democracy

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Pamela Radcliff
    Overall
    (25)
    Performance
    (23)
    Story
    (22)

    Consider the intense and rapid changes that transformed the political, social, and economic struggles of the world during the 20th century: the first flight and space flight, the Manhattan Project and the Welfare State, Nietzsche and Freud, the Great Depression and inflation, moving pictures and home computers, the Cold War and terrorism - and war and peace.

    Lance says: "Philosophical differences aside, well worth it!"
    "Refreshingly Global, Wonderfully Interpretive"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is an excellent history course for a number of reasons. The first is that it makes an attempt at global coverage, which is rare. We hear about Asian and African and South American countries that are often ignored in Western-centric modern histories. Another is that it is interpretive -- not merely stating facts but identifying larger themes and tendencies as well. It also tackles social and cultural events and changes of the century, giving a history of ideas, not merely politics -- and the 20th century is a time when ideas were very powerful. Finally its nice to hear a woman's perspective on the 20th century; there seem to be very few female lecturers on history in the Great Courses' repertoire, which may be representative of the field writ large, but is nonetheless disappointing from such a great company.

    As far as performance goes, Radcliff -- just like all the other Great Courses people -- is a professor and not an orator, but she has a fine, NPR-ish voice that makes for very decent listening. Someone else pointed out that she says "in other words" (or its equivalents) a lot, which she does -- but the re-wording that follows always helps to elucidate the point, so I can't consider it a fault.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany

    • UNABRIDGED (19 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Hans Massaquoi
    • Narrated By Peter Jay Fernandez
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (14)

    What would life be like for a black boy growing up in Nazi Germany? This unprecedented autobiography answers that question with the spellbinding true story of Hans J. Massaquoi’s life in Hamburg during the height of Hitler’s regime. Hans is the son of a black Liberian diplomat father and a white German mother. His father returns to Africa at the beginning of the war, leaving them behind in poverty without the means to flee. Within this tense atmosphere, increasingly violent Nazi policies and Allied bombing raids make Hans and his mother’s lives a day-to-day survival struggle.

    Daryl says: "Destined to Witness - a Gripping biography"
    "An important story, marred by lackluster writing."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Anyone wondering what the life of an ordinary person (i.e. not a political figure, or the types usually biograph-ized) was like under Nazi rule will learn a lot from this book; Massaquoi goes into great detail discussing his daily life, and it's from a rare and interesting perspective. I was struck by how normal his life was (until the war) and one of the important and sobering takeaways from this book is that the racism he endured under the Nazis was in many ways less severe than what he experienced in America -- and what many black people still suffer through here today.
    Though it's certainly worth a listen if the above appeals to you, Massaquoi's story is bogged down by rather tedious writing. He lacks the ability to make a scene really come to life, and offers few vivid descriptions. Worse, he repeatedly makes the rookie mistake of telegraphing the result of a scene beforehand: he'll say something along the lines of (to paraphrase) "I had a bad feeling about this, and my fears would turn out to be well founded," and to THEN write the scene in which that happens, thus removing any chance at narrative suspense. And he does this ALL THE TIME.
    The reader has a pleasant voice and cadence but his emotional range is rather limited and he struggles with the German words.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rome and the Barbarians

    • ORIGINAL (18 hrs and 22 mins)
    • By The Great Courses
    • Narrated By Professor Kenneth W. Harl
    Overall
    (81)
    Performance
    (71)
    Story
    (73)

    The history of the Romans as they advanced the frontiers of Classical civilization is often told as a story of warfare and conquest-the mighty legions encountering the "barbarians." But this only tells one side of the story.Who were the Celts, Goths, Huns, and Persians met by the Romans as they marched north and east? What were the political, military, and social institutions that made Rome so stable, allowing its power to be wielded against these different cultures for nearly three centuries?

    Mike says: "History of Rome from the Barbarian's Perspective!"
    "Harl is a traditional historian, and not an orator"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    There are a lot of Harl lectures in the GC series, and his knowledge of diverse ancient historical subjects is impressive. But he is in many ways an old-school historian, in that he focuses on military actions and the push-and-pull of state borders -- often to the exclusion of the wider themes and cultural topics that are being so wonderfully folded into history by a newer style of historians... This is ok -- different tastes. But where Harl's lectures suffer is that they are not organized according to any single category -- sometimes he goes by chronology, but sometimes he skips backward; sometimes he goes by region, sometimes not... The overall effect is disorganized and so it's harder to follow these lectures than some of the other Great Courses. Also, his voice is, well, annoying, and though lecturers are and should be chosen for their intellect and not their oratorical prowess... dang: Harl's voice really grates. He also stumbles over his words, flubs grammar, and chronically mispronounces ancient names and demonyms. You'd think TTC would edit for that kind of thing.

    Despite all that, there is a lot of good information here. But it is not, as others have stated, history from the barbarians' perspective. It is still very much Roman history, from the Roman perspective -- just with an eye toward barbarian movements.

    If you're looking for Roman history, listen to Fagan's lectures on The History of Rome and The Roman Emperors first. They're better in all respects.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gilgamesh: A New English Version

    • UNABRIDGED (4 hrs and 5 mins)
    • By Stephen Mitchell
    • Narrated By George Guidall
    Overall
    (903)
    Performance
    (528)
    Story
    (523)

    This brilliant new treatment of the world's oldest epic is a literary event on par with Seamus Heaney's wildly popular Beowulf translation. Esteemed translator and best-selling author Stephen Mitchell energizes a heroic tale so old it predates Homer's Iliad by more than a millennium.

    George says: "A defense of this "translation""
    "A New Version of the Oldest Story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What a great experience this version of the epic is! What a pleasure to listen to. Normally I would bemoan the unscholarly treatment Mitchell has given the story; I'd never condone such loose treatment of, say, the Homeric epics. But given the fragmentary nature of the epic as it has come down to us, such a treatment is the only way to enable us modern readers to really dig in to the story, to experience it as a literary work rather than an archeological artifact. And what a wonderful story, and a titanic literary achievement it is!

    George Guidall is fantastic as always; one could not ask for a better reading.

    Listeners should note that the epic itself is only about half of the audiobook. The second half is an essay about the epic as literature, its discovery, and the editor's process. Not a bad essay, though a little lightweight.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World

    • ORIGINAL (24 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By The Great Courses, Robert Garland
    • Narrated By Professor Robert Garland
    Overall
    (1408)
    Performance
    (1265)
    Story
    (1248)

    Look beyond the abstract dates and figures, kings and queens, and battles and wars that make up so many historical accounts. Over the course of 48 richly detailed lectures, Professor Garland covers the breadth and depth of human history from the perspective of the so-called ordinary people, from its earliest beginnings through the Middle Ages.

    Mark says: "Tantalizing time trip"
    "Great intro to details history usually leaves out!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    What made the experience of listening to The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World the most enjoyable?

    Garland gives a very succinct and digestible, and yet impressively extensive and deep, account of the kind of details that "capital H" History, if you will, leaves out. This angle on history has garnered more and more interest in the past few decades, and yet it's still fairly difficult to find information on it that's this good. Garland gets into the details that let you really picture life in the ancient world.

    This will be an excellent resource to anyone who is interested in ancient history and wants to be able to visualize what it was like to live back then. I'd also recommend it to anyone who wants to write fiction set in the ancient world, as it'll give you some idea of what your characters should be going through on a day-to-day basis: very important for realism!


    What aspect of Professor Robert Garland’s performance would you have changed?

    Garland's diction is not smooth the way one might want the reader of a story to be, but his highly annunciated and somewhat halting speech patterns are actually great for a lecture; it's how one might read a history book aloud to oneself for maximum comprehension and retention of facts. Also, he's got a bit of a lisp, but don't let that put you off; it's really not unpleasant once you get used to it.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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