I used to fall asleep to this audiobook, since the narrator seems to simply read the text from sheets, repeating the same intonation over and over again (may be, but not necessarily, due to the nature of pop songs that repeat themselves over and over again?). While on some pages she seemed to be alone at home, calling out her words to the mike, in other times she seemed to have to keep quiet to not wake up the kids.
Well, I found out the Audible player could speed up playback. 1.25 speed made listening not so dry.
As for content: There's nothing new in here, everyone who ever read or heard about creative writing or anything the like knows all there is in this book (and considerably more, I bet). Also, the perspective is rather limited to mainstream music, mainstream business, mainstream genres, mainstream production and mainstream "how to". Legal advice is applicable to US listeners only, although, with a bit of brain, you can "translate" what little help on rights & cie is there (although it wouldn't help you much if you were, like me, German and had to suffer from the absurd German creative rights system. Ask YouTube about that).
Ok, too many words from me already: The book is ok for the money spent (much less than for a cheap lunch), but I won't listen to it again.
That's it? Erm, ok.
The book could benefit (a bit) from a professional narrator, who could bring live, color and dramatic to the content.
If you didn't know that in order to write songs now you have to write songs now, you really should read this book (listen to it), because it basically tells you that in order to write songs now you should write songs now. And not listen to books that tell you to write songs now.
Sorry for being lame, I guess there are people out there who need the "kick in the butt" the author tries to give the reader/listener (but somewhat fails). I just expected a little more insight into how professionals run their job - I happen to know a few professional song writers who see their job as a 9-5 daytime business with routine, know how and creativity. 30 minutes of chatting with them gives me more than a couple of hours of "Write Songs Right Now".
I have done a lot of recherche on "Nordic Culture" over the last 20 years and expected this course to "refresh" me from a different perspective. That is exactly what it did. I remembered why I got interested in those strange, funny, furious, free people. Michael Drout seems to "love" them just as well, his will to bridge the gap of time by trying to vocalize the language, his energy (though ignoring time frames and differences in geographic contexts) and the well delivered lectures (often starting with a common misconception / icon that is then revealed as a translation flaw or just poet's invention) make this course a must-have.
The course is short, much too short to even do the topic justice that Mr. Drout touches. This becomes more and more obvious when he constantly takes a short cut saying "but I won't get into this any further here" in the saga-related chapters.
Mr. Drout himself mentions that he would love to see movies being created from some of the sagas he quotes. While understanding why he feels this way, I cannot quite agree: Modern movies are based on very simple, very straight ideas and seemingly try to avoid ANY thinking on the audience's side. This approach obviously would never work with one of Mr. Drout's beloved Scandinavian sagas and he would most likely regret having mentioned his wish if he saw "Hollywood" picking up the idea :-)
That said, a tag line - provocative, sure - could be: They've been there, they've done that. All of it.
I love Mr. Drout's performances of Nordic and Germanic languages, although (being German) I did have my difficulties actually understanding some of the Germanic parts :-D
Nevertheless, by reciting (more or less original) texts Mr. Drout manages to give the listener a glimpse of the FEEL of how those people were, since your (spoken) language really tells a lot about you.
I would have wished for more details, especially on the differences between geographically separated groups of people. My own studies prepared me with some (good and bad) prejudices that I would have loved to challenge, alas there was no time.
Yes, the course does concentrate on literature - and is right in doing so, since archaeological proof is sparse. But there IS material that could be discussed. You CAN learn a lot about the life of someone if you have access to his clothing, the way he/she built houses and villages. There IS evidence that could have served the headline of this course better than written material that was created hundreds of years after the fact.
This topic is widely discussed among historians, and unfortunately Mr. Drout seems to ignore this, delivering what he considers "facts" as "reliable", even basing social critics on his personal view of (out of time frame) "constructed" literature. This was what I found disappointing, since it represents a branch of history education that does not care about facts. In other words: Written history is always faked by "victors". You don't get to hear the "other side" and, except in a very few side notes, Mr. Drout seems to ignore that "Understanding Vikings" (etc) is a more than questionable undertaking if your material is solely created by strangers, foreigners and people who did not understand (and did not WANT to understand) the social, philosophical and religious systems they were mocking about.
This tour-de-force overview over several hundreds of years of popular views on human history is, content-wise, well selected, easy to follow and gives a great first introduction into what historians believe to be next-to-true about "people like you and me living throughout the times".
Since the course only gives a broad overview, a lot (and I mean A LOT) of details are left out, variances in people's life and believes are ignored (and have to be).
Mr. Garland says his area of expertise isn't the "middle ages" (roughly about 1000 years of enormous changes to the way people lived), on the other hand reliable knowledge about people before that time is very limited, no matter how convinced Mr. Garland may seem to know.
So the lectures have to be taken with several spoons of salt.
What bothered me the most was the - sorry for the word - arrogance of a "modern Christian guy" seriously JUDGING the way other people, especially in times long gone, believed or saw the world. Passages like "there couldn't be a more absurd way of believe system" (this aren't his exact words, it is just what I FELT he was saying) about a multi-god-believe-system are absurd themselves, since the very concept of "any god" isn't exactly science. But it isn't just the believe-systems, but also the "state of mind" people were in. The constant comparisons between ancient ways of thinking and modern "we know what is right" attitude made the course hard to follow at times.
Mr. Garland ... separates ... every ......word ......from ......... the ......... next ...(you get the picture, don't you?)
His intonation stays very alike throughout a lecture. It sounds as if he is more or less reading from a script and, although he sounds excited about what he is saying, the CONSTANT excitement along with the ... separation ... of ... words ... without ... any ... professional ... dramaturgy ... would make me fall asleep if I listened to Mr. Garland in a life lecture at university.
I converted parts of the audio book to mp3 and used an audio editing software to narrow down the gaps (without speeding up the actual spoken words), which allowed me to follow the content a lot better.Mr. Garlands narration is, unfortunately, a typical "university professor style":
He knows a lot, he loves his topics, he WANTS to take people part in this and the energy he puts into his efforts to drag students along is overpowering him.Yet: He DOES love his topic and he DOES have a lot to offer. I am very interested in reading his books now and I'd love to chat with him :-)
My original verdict was "1.5 stars on performance". That would have been unfair, there are, by far, worse narrators present on Audible. Mr. Garland is easy to understand, he does not derail from the topic, he gives a lot of good examples and tries to match limited time to an enormous amount of content.
On the negative side my most intense reaction was that the constant "judging" of non-Christian believe-systems along with a very, VERY limited distance to the "modern western" religions shocked me*.
The lack of pointing out a lot of POSITIVE social achievements (that the Christian churches have destroyed by force), especially along the lines of equal rights for men and women, but also regarding the understanding of what a slave is, was sad, it's not as if human society only has improved over the last 2000 years.
On the positive side Mr. Garland tried hard to make "every day life" as understandable to a modern "next door guy or girl" as possible without getting into too much detail. You do not need ANY knowledge of history to understand what he is talking about (this may be part of my issue here).
It is the broad picture, the parallels throughout thousands and thousands of years of human history that gives the listener a glimpse of what "history" is about.
* As an example: Mr. Garland puts Aristoteles, Platon and Sokrates in the same sack, although those three present such fundamental changes in the "image of what a human being is" (including slaves and women). One could easily say that, the closer we get to "modern times", the "worse" (in modern understanding) it got, while nowadays "ethic and moral" are mainly based on the later philosophers (Aristotels in particular), it's exactly those later theories that are racist, sexist and ignorant. But, pointing this out would have contradicted the (unmentioned) theory of the course that "things constantly got BETTER throughout the times" ...
Did Mr. Garland succeed in making me understand how "the people on the other side of history" thought, lived and changed (meaning those of whom the history books do not tell you)?
This course covers too large a time span to really make me UNDERSTAND what a Roman Citizen "ticks" like or what a peasant in 1300 in North-England really believes in.
Mr. Garland takes it as granted that "there is but ONE GOD" and that believing the Christian way is the "natural order of things". NO, he is not teaching religion here, don't get me wrong! He just assumes that his listeners "know their god".
Many - seemingly strange - ways of living in the past are very closely related to the respective religion and/or philosophy. Mr. Garland concentrates on describing official practices (such as sacrifices), but did not succeed in making me understand how people could believe one way or another and let this (religious) believe actually govern their whole lives. I _do_ have some grasp of that topic from other courses (real life) and some decades of personal studies, but I still find it very hard to really comprehend.
To be fair, I can only repeat: It is the span of time this course covers (topic-wise) and the strong simplification owed to that fact that leaves me unsatisfied. 48 lectures seem like a lot, but to really understand the life of someone you just need more than 15-30 minutes of arbitrary examples from every day life.
Since I do not know the printed version of the course I cannot say much about such a comparison. Yet, I would think that for a printed version there's not enough background information (that one could skip over if not interested) in the lectures, which seem to be tailored just right for listening experiences.
What I really enjoyed was the open approach to how heroes, legends and reception of them change over time. This could have even be stretched more, the definition of a hero being an "archetypal muscle muppet", that is repeated a lot, seems too limited to me. I cannot imagine people from 2000 years ago being that hollywood-cliche-addicted.
You clearly get the impression of a tutor loving his topic. Sure, Mr. Shippey's pronunciation of "Don Quixote" is more than disturbing (if I, being German, would pronounce American heroes like "Darth Vader" the way they are written, the result would be, as Americans might "hear" it, something like "that daddy").
But funny "English-is-the-center-of-the-world-all-other-languages-are-obsolete" escapades aside, the energy and warmth-from-the-heart these lectures transport makes you accept the few passages easily, where Mr. Shippey stretches the content a bit to fill the time :)
On a side note: I did have to speed up the playback, because his many pauses between words, more often than not interrupting the line of thoughts, made following Mr. Shippey a bit difficult at times.
If you love literature and want to get some new ideas about how to understand older (and even new) stories, Mr. Shippeys course is a wonderful overview over different types of texts, story telling, dependencies of characters on their historic background, expectations and fears of audience.
It does help to KNOW the texts, but I think that Mr. Shippey has chosen a good canon of literature work that most listeners should be familiar enough with to have their own ideas of what makes the "hero character" a "hero" - or, in some cases, NOT.
Yes, I would have loved some more historic background in some lectures. Yes, I would have loved some critical comments on the "quality" of certain texts (I am not going to name one here). There's a lot more to "understanding" what a literature hero is versus a "real world" hero, I think, but, after all, this is a spare-time hobby course, not some university study :-)
This is a tricky review, since neither topic nor text, reading-performance nor audio technique are "all bad" (or "good"). It has been a mixed experience.
As for content: It's all old wine. Sure, this book is rather old (more than 10 years), so I should not have expected anything surprisingly fresh, still, it's just the same thoughts chewed over. On the other hand, the author makes some astounding claims that, even if you consider them naive, are worth thinking about.
I chose the headline I set, because the author keeps contradicting himself. A simple example: He makes it very clear, that "genes" are not "on or off" values for specific functions or features, but have to be seen as tiny bits of a larger matrix, changing a singe gene may very well lead to hundreds, thousands or more of varying results. Yet, he also claims that some banal tests on "genetically altered food" are good enough to state, once and for all, that no harm can ever arise from such "gene-food".
It is a well accepted rule in science, that you cannot prove a negative. You cannot prove that something does NOT exist (like God). Even if the author claims so, you just cannot prove that genetically altered food is harmless. You can only say "we haven't found any issues so far, but we haven't tested all possible billions and billions of combinations of genes".
Nuff said, that's really just one thing - the author is convinced that he knows all and everything, that he is never mistaken and that everyone thinking otherwise is kind of stupid. He makes this point very clear and that makes BELIEVING him quite hard.
Like I said some ideas or thoughts are worth considering. Pinker's ideas of "discrimination schemes" are "nice", but not necessarily reality-proof, for example.
Unfortunately the author keeps reiterating on ideas over and over again. Once he said something that the reader/listener has to think about and "digest", the author says the same thing again with other words. And then he says something similar. Then he jumps to a different topic, forgets about the previous one - and returns, only to say the same again in new, different words. It is HARD to follow your ow thoughts and understandings if an author thinks he is so all-knowing that he can do the thinking for you!
Three words? Ha!
I did not find the performance of Mr. Bevine very helpful to follow the book. He starts chapters very slow, at a low tone, with very even intonation. Over the run of a chapter his voice gets louder and more dramatic, till he ends chapters with energy, faster pace and sometimes "breathless", only to fall back to a dramatic flatline at the next chapter's start.
I am not sure Mr. Bevine really understood everything he read. Quite often his intonation made understanding the content unnecessarily difficult. A more "to-the-text" performance would have been nice.
The content has been too well known and widely discussed to really inspire me to more than a good espresso.
I was doubting if buying another old "book" with a narration that did not convince me in the sample audio was a good choice.
Now I know I will not do that again. After all, READING the book myself would have been a lot better, being able to skip half of the pages for their repetitions ...
My headline above should make sense if you read or listened to this book/performance. Mr. Crystal gives some good performances (and some not so great), demonstrating what his success is based on. The live performance parts indeed are the better ones, the studio-read ones ... not so much (and the changing quality of recording at times is distracting).
A good book lives on a a good story. You may think that what better story could there be than the life of the author telling it himself? Unfortunately Mr. Crystal cannot make up his mind whether to bring up an anecdote to present a punch line OR to tell you something about himself, his life, "where he's been and where he's going to". When in doubt, he'll always choose the laugh.
That may be what his FANs are after.
I personally love the films I saw him working in, so I admire Mr. Crystal's work. I see how great he is as a stand up comedian. I get a glimpse of how he may be as a family man (although this somehow slips through my fingers in this book). But what do I REMEMBER of the story after I finished listening to the book?
Not much. In fact, I only remember a few good one liners.
For a biography that isn't enough, be it presented as congenially as it is.
I would actually like to listen to Mr. Crystal reading good books that tell a great story. Are there any? Please let me know.
As I said above: Mr. Crystal is a great stand up comedian. So the life performances recorded here live and breath, his interaction with the audience, the TIMING you get there, are just great.
Well, if Mr. Crystal was plaid by, let's say, Mr. Crystal, I surely would love to see a move starring Mr. Crystal performing as Mr. Crystal. I fear it would need a good screen writer to work at the dramatics :)
The good thing about Great-Courses audio versions is that most of the tutors are able to show their own enthusiasm about the topic they talk about. This is true for this course as well, for sure Mr. McWhorter loves his theories and his perspective on the history of language.
There is a lot I would discuss in depth in terms of "believability" (or call it "proof") when Mr. McWhorter just states that something "is". Where other scientists understand that seeing flaws in a theory or simply expressing doubts, these lectures have a touch of "religion" to them. I really missed the more open minded approach of other Great-Courses I listened to.
Performance-wise I have had some problems following the narration. This is the first course that made me wish that the next break would come so that I could CONCENTRATE on something. Mr. McWhorter loves to stray from a line of thoughts (many times just in order to laugh about jokes on torturing dogs, which he finds quite funny - being a "cat person") and the way the lectures have been recorded (with him obviously just loosely following notes and vividly interacting with an audience) were distracting me. There are some sound issues when Mr. McWhorter turned his mouth away from the mike, but these weren't that hard to ignore.
What was talked about (and I said I would like to DISCUSS rather than just "believe") basically is the "standard introduction" into the one-language-theory (that has never really convinced me and this course didn't succeed in doing so either). "How have different language evolved", "why do languages change", "how can we trace back languages to common ancestors". I don't think there was much missing from the "rough overview" and Mr. McWhorter had quite some anecdotes to tell (although his humor isn't mine, so he had to laugh on his jokes without me - that's ok). But anyone having read anything about language history won't find much "new" in here.
Other "Great Courses" did better in giving glimpses of "there is more to this, if you liked this, you might want to look into ..."
I love The Great Courses, but I doubt that I would like to passively listen to another McWhorter-Lecture. I would rather have a good cup of coffee with him and talk about some of the principles of his language-religion :-D
vivid, understandable, friendly
As said above: If you have never ever heard anything about how language develops and changes (and dies), this is a GOOD overview (just don't think that those linguists have the final knowledge - they just pretend). If you actively read newspapers, magazines and have a somewhat normal connection to the world you live in (and didn't sleep all the time in history at school) the bits of this course that are "new" are some anecdotes, semi-funny incidents with dogs being kicked from a ship and the repeated fact that a 38years-old man (this course is VERY old, it must have been recorded in 2003/2004) cannot tell a 1-year old child from a 9-year old one (and finds that quite normal).
Sorry - Mr. McWhorter started that, I am just quoting.
It is STILL worth the money, because WHAT is told is interesting, good to know and MAY help understanding people better.
That's great music?
(does that count as three?)
When I was a very young being (yes, before the war ...) I was convinced that, one day, within the span of my lifetime, I would be able to understand why "that guy in the orchestra is threatening the girl with a stick - and if he is not, why the heck she doesn't stop screaming".
This course has fulfilled one of my great wishes: To understand what some people consider "great" with that "old" music. For this I am grateful. Really, deeply, honestly grateful. I found an approach to Mozart (and more important composers) that I would not have considered possible (since I don't find Mozart's music that impressive - although I LOVE orchestral music).
What I still do not get is: Why this music types should be considered "greater" than any (and I mean: ANY) other type of professionally composed, orchestrated, conducted and played music. While I do "understand" now, what some people find interesting in Mozart, Wagner(?!) or Schönberg, the examples provided in the course weren't able to demonstrate the "greatness" of the music (or their composers) to me. Sorry. I like some stuff of it, I dislike others - but I frankly don't care if it is "great" music or just "good" music, if it tells me something and moves me.
Ok: Just take "great" out of the title and this course is a "no-brainer" (how strange that expression seems ...). Get it. Listen to it. I did - I did not skip a singe minute.
I would, can and already have done several times: Recommend this course to ANYONE who feels even the slightest interest in "understanding that kind of music". The course is approachable, understandable, moving, pulls you with it, gives ideas and inspirations for "further listening" and, not the least point, each lecture ends before it gets too hard to keep up with the enthusiasm of Prof. Greenberg!
I really loved the ideas about how Mozart might have reacted to later music compositions, although I somewhat doubt he would have done it the way presented here. Still, the idea of how he might have felt is very believable.
The sheer length of the course doesn't make listening to it in one "tour de force" unlikely. Besides, you need time to think through, iterate over and "try out" what you heard. You have to listen to different (in many cases: better) recordings of the music excerpts presented.
This book is for people interested in the matter - not for people wanting to get "smart" by listening to a course and "be done".
A complex course and shortened overview over such a huge matter as it is presented in this course cries for discussion. There are many, many things that I can not agree on with Prof. Greenberg (having some historical education myself). Examples would be the role the (Christian) Church has played according to Mr. Greenberg in regards to preserving art (his point of view) instead of actively destroying it or concentrating it on a minimalistic "mainstream" (mine).
A point that Prof. Greenberg seems to love is "musical typology is driven by spoken language", which does make sense to some extend. The examples of (German) spoken language he presents don't resemble typical "German" to me, though. One could be mean and counter with "Well, if what Prof. Greenberg says is true, then typical contemporary American music must be ugly, arhythmic, stuttering - because that is the way that I speak American". German does have variations (dialects) and even sub-types. German has not been the "language of art" through all centuries, so basing musical typology on "German" as an American speaks it today is irritating at best.
Sure - nitpicking I am. These are just examples of topics I would like to discuss, which, unfortunately, does not work in a one-way-communication like this course. There are many hickups begging to be pointed out, yet, none of these render the course any less worthy.
Get it. Listen to it. Open up a world you did not think interesting or worth examining ever before!
(Well, if you DID understand classic, romantic and whatsnotic music before, you probably bought the course for the fun of being doped with ecstasy for the topic by the tutor, didn't you?)
This is one of the very few books that take an honest, self-critic point of view on what the Darwin (or Wallace!) theory of evolution puts on the table to explain human (and animal) behavior. By doing so it offers some revealing and quite intriguing ideas about why we love, why we hate and why, the heck, that guy over there is getting away with my coffee.
Other than religiously colored books - which includes the "New Atheists" pamphlets with their own religion-like uberpowered self-confidence - the author takes a step back and tries to keep perspective: He knows that he is presenting theories and theories can be wrong. He takes the SCIENCE approach by trying to falsify claims, looking for gaps in arguments - and in this brings the matter to the reader/listener in a much more comprehensible way than any "I know what I am talking about, just listen, you dumb-ass"-book.
Aside from that the books has humor. You have to have some background knowledge to get every joke the author makes, but it _is_ funny.
For me there wasn't a climax, a most memorable moment (mmm), but the whole idea of being able to EXPLAIN emotional behavior and still accepting and even appreciating it (like "love") is something not that easily achievable by a completely scientific view on the emotional world.
Yes, this book does offer an idea of a religion-free common base for moral. Yet, that approach may not be acceptable to all humans, as it does not place humans at the top of the "moral landscape". In fact, it does not place humans on any top anywhere. It puts us back into a place where we belong. THAT may be an unwanted feeling for some.
Unfortunately the reading performance was quite distracting. At times it seemed like the narrator was completely uninterested in what he was reading, as if he just read it from paper and be done with it (which probably was the case). I had to speed playback up to 1.25 or even 1.5 to get SOME dramatic tone into it and not fall asleep (I am listening to audio books when taking my daily walk).
There are some narrative "gags" in the book which Mr Thornton (the voice actor) didn't seem to get.
I was tempted to give the performance a 1 star rating, but that would have been unfair. He still did a good job by speaking very clearly, perfectly understandably, easy to follow.
The content COULD have been stripped down to a 2-hour session without loosing too much of its information. But since the author follows Darwin's life and takes this as an example to illustrate evolution theory, he would have had to delete most of the "aha moments", which make this book so worthwhile.
So, no, I prefer listening to books like this in turns, even with other books in alternation.
I hope that what I was able to say what I wanted to in the comments above. This book really is worth some time of your life, either in printed form or as an audio book. One of the very few books I would actually recommend to people. And that's for the upright, honest and fair point of view taken in it, the acceptance of even the most weird (religious or not) perspective as "human" and "understandable" and even explaining why that is.
Let me put it this way: If someone is able to explain to the point what LOVE is and how it works and leaves you still being able and even wanting to love afterwards, he did a good job.
I haven't read the print edition (otherwise I obviously wouldn't have bought the audio edition), so I cannot compare them. Yet, I believe that I would not have had the issues with the print version that I had with the audio version, so ... maybe I'd preferred the printed book. Again.
What I did not expect from a collection of anecdotes (a "biography" in my understanding would be a bit more "to the point", not just jumping from story to story) is this: I hear a lot of people getting all emotional about whether they hate or adore Mr. Shatner. I never understood this, as for me he was always "just an actor", I never bothered to know anything personal about him. I found it quite nice to see, that to Mr. Shatner Mr. Shatner actually is "just an actor" and that he, Mr. Shatner, never bothered to have the audience know anything personal about him.
After listening to his - subjective, biased and in many occasions obviously not "well thought through" - stories I kind of sympathize with the man. Both the actor and the human being. It seems that some people expect "role model qualities" from someone, who, at the end of the day, always wanted to be "just an actor".
Actually I found the narration the most irritating part of the book. Sure, Shatner has a nice voice to listen to, is easy to follow - but the production allowed him to drop into mumbling and get away with far too many "volume issues" that my listening experience wasn't very positive. More often than not I found it hard to understand his "into the beard"-passages, which, for an audio book you listen to while walking the woods, isn't that cool.
There's too much jumping from story to story, too much sidekicks, too many "thought-to-be-funny" self-advertisements (I believe those are meant as a running gag, performed in the "Shatner wit" of humor) to listen to the narration for more than 1-2 hours in a sitting. That's for me, naturally. I guess, if you are a ShatFanBoy, you probably would consider this point of view invalid.
I sometimes think that audio book productions should consider "famous" narrators less god-like (which turns out into letting them "perform" the reading no matter of that performance fits the purpose of the production). Sometimes those "celebrities" are JUST ACTORS and need someone to guide them through a performance, asking them to "speak clearly" and "could you do that part again".
Sure. Fans want to have all the "funny bits". But funny bits can be handled in ways that make them fun for (nearly) everyone, if production treats actors as actors, not as "he knows what he's doin'"-wonders.
I haven't read the print version, so I am not able to compare.
Wolke does not hide that he falls for sales pitches himself and has to remind himself of simple things from time to time - like salt being generally SALT, not some magic powder that can solve problems or sugar being everywhere, often in disguise ...
I am a skeptic food buyer, trying to prepare as much as possible on his own, not relying on "convenience food" from the super market. Yet, this book has reminded me to be even more open eyed ...
The book consists of several, not necessarily connected, articles or columns that deal with separate topics. This makes it a good mix of various topics, but lacks a bit of a "red line".
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