LISTENER

Marc

  • 60
  • reviews
  • 392
  • helpful votes
  • 60
  • ratings
  • The Coming Storm

  • By: Michael Lewis
  • Narrated by: Michael Lewis
  • Length: 2 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,027
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,831
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,790

Tornadoes, cyclones, tsunamis… Weather can be deadly – especially when it strikes without warning. Millions of Americans could soon find themselves at the mercy of violent weather if the public data behind lifesaving storm alerts gets privatized for personal gain. In his first Audible Original feature, New York Times best-selling author and journalist Michael Lewis delivers hard-hitting research on not-so-random weather data – and how Washington plans to release it. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Why you shouldn't ignore the weather forecast

  • By Elisabeth Carey on 09-10-18

Incoherent and demotivating

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-17-18

The narrator seems to be bored by the text and does not tell his story in an engaging or fascinating tone. He sounds tired. Speeding playback up helps a bit but doesn't make the narration sound better.
At first the story is straight confusing, jumping from topic to topic without focus or target. Later it turns into a mixture of a rant on US government, US people and Trump's "family biz" style of running things.

This audio book is NOT ABOUT weather, climate or anything like that, but about contemporary US politics and how weather data management is an example of lack of respect for scientific work.

I would have rated this with 0 stars, but there are some (few) interesting insights into weather data interpretation and big data. And it has a few nice bits about scients' history that I really enjoyed.

  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques

  • By: James Hynes, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: James Hynes
  • Length: 12 hrs and 17 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,403
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,152
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,086

From evoking a scene to charting a plot to revising your drafts, Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques offers a master class in storytelling. Taught by award-winning novelist James Hynes, a former visiting professor at the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop, these 24 insightful lectures show you the ins and outs of the fiction writer's craft.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theory AND Practice

  • By Madeleine on 11-19-15

For Firsttimers: One of many ways into Writing

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-14-18

This course obviously focuses on first time writers, the lecturer keeps mentioning high school experiences, first novels (he has published three books or so himself, so he is not a "full-time writer" but an author who has been lucky enough to land a few sales). There is nothing in this course that you don't find in all the other creative-writing courses, books, tutorials, essays.
What I find interesting about this course is: It perfectly illustrates the shortcomings of "creative writing". Way, WAY too many words for just not enough content to fill a single page. How do I stretch it if I have nothing to tell? If I don't have a story, how do I say that in the most elaborate way? If I only have to tell the same things again that I told last time, how do I make subtle changes so that my agent doesn't notice?
Or, to put it more brutal, "creative writing is the art of making money out of no air at all."

Some examples to illustrate this: When the lecturer quotes from his own novels, especially when he does so in order to make a point, the examples don't exactly sound "polished" or "perfected", but seem arbitrarily written. That is NOT to say that his books are "arbitrary", it is just that the whole method presented here is NOT about writing GOOD books but about "writing if you don't know how to write - or getting a book hammered together if you don't have the material to fill it."
Near the end of the course the lecturer even says (I am paraphrasing here): "That scene in my book could have been much shorter but I made it so long because I wanted to have fun and maybe the reader would have, too."
To me, it should have been "I made the scene as long as necessary to make it work and as short as possible to keep the momentum going. The fun the reader has should always be the main target, leave the FUN in writing to your first draft!"
But, as I said above, "creative writing" is not and never has been about "writing a good text", but about "get that damned text written in the first place."

To be fair: I do agree with a lot of suggestions the lecturer gives, I do disagree with some full-heartedly, and that seems like a good sign for a course on something so personal as WRITING. Especially the last couple of chapters where he talks about not limiting yourself when writings drafts, trying to keep the energy flowing and finalize the text AFTER you put everything in that needs to be in are actually GOOD.

Unfortunately, and this is partly due to the presentation, those perfectly helpful notes are drowned in loads of repetitive variations of the same statement. Not only does the lecturer repeat the same information over and over again as if his audience was too dumb to memorize it the first time around, he sometimes even pretends to say something NEW when in fact he simply states the same idea again he had the paragraph before. Most of the lectures could have been shortened to 5-10 minutes without losing a single bit of information and without getting too complex.
The lecturer's narration is very slow, I had to speed up playback considerably - this, along with the feeling of "get to the point, you said that before!" made listening to the course exhausting. I did listen to it all because THERE are some good points and I can still recommend this course to someone who has never written more than a few pages at school.
What I would have prefered are discussions about what makes a text GOOD and WHY this definition of "good" would be valid. Some examples showcasing how a BAD text was turned into a GOOD text and WHAT made that good text better than the first (I am afraid that I would have disagreed on some of those examples as I did with some of those the lecturer actually did give in the course ;) )

The good stuff: Anyone who doesn't know how to TRAIN writing, should follow the lecturer's suggestions for exercises. Nothing helps you more in becoming a better author than constant exercise. Don't expect to PUBLISH everything you write, in fact: DO WRITE for the bin. Let it all out. Experiment. Then keep the good stuff and refine it, but keep writing, experimenting, take to your heart all the etudes from this course and vary them.

  • Ripples in Spacetime

  • Einstein, Gravitational Waves, and the Future of Astronomy
  • By: Govert Schilling, Martin Rees
  • Narrated by: Joel Richards
  • Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 164
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 153
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 152

Ripples in Spacetime is an engaging account of the international effort to complete Einstein's project, capture his elusive ripples, and launch an era of gravitational-wave astronomy that promises to explain, more vividly than ever before, our universe's structure and origin. The quest for gravitational waves involved years of risky research and many personal and professional struggles that threatened to derail one of the world's largest scientific endeavors.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Absolutely Loved it.

  • By Quidne IT on 10-11-17

Not so much about Ripples, but about measuring

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-24-18

Since this is the second time I review this title - I guess Audible deleted my previous review - I am summing up. I just don't have the will to give all the arguments over again that I gave the first time.
This book is undecided between telling a personal journey with anecdotes, vast amounts of name-dropping and place-mentioning that don't help with understanding the topic at all. and giving an insight into how "measuring quantum physics" developed over a century. While most of the historical sidenotes are interesting by themselves, they don't "help" that much with understanding what "ripples in spacetime ARE".
If you have a more or less "solid" background in what the current state of affairs in physics are, most of this book's content will be well known to you. If you don't you may find yourself slightly lost at times. So it *would* have been the subjective, personal experiences the author has "glimpse through" that could have made this a fascinating listen, but those incidents are rare, unconnected and unmotivated.

Narration is good, but very slow. I listened at 1.25 speed and that was fine.

  • Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy

  • By: The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Professor David K. Johnson PhD University of Oklahoma
  • Length: 13 hrs and 31 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 151
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 136
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 134

The science fiction genre has become increasingly influential in mainstream popular culture, evolving into one of the most engaging storytelling tools we use to think about technology and consider the shape of the future. Along the way, it has also become one of the major lenses we use to explore important philosophical questions. The origins of science fiction are most often thought to trace to Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, a story born from a night of spooky tale-telling by the fireside that explores scientific, moral, and ethical questions that were of great concern in the 19th century - and that continue to resonate today.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • It only scratches the surface

  • By Marcos Trujillo Cue on 06-14-18

Fun to listen to, even with its limitations

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-24-18

This is one of the better "Great Courses" I have listened to - the lecturer turns his limited view (only US- and Britain based movies/TV series are considered "SF", the rest of the world is being completely ignored) into an advantage by assigning some more or less dull movies deeper meaning than even their directors probably ever thought of.

This I mean in the most respectful, positive way.

Yes, I would have wished for more respect to the often much older European or Russian stories that most of the movies the lecturer discusses are based on or developed of, especially when the lecturer claims those modern movies to be somewhat "original". But still, the philosophical questions, the lines of thought that the movies invite you to follow are interesting, fascinating, thrilling. No matter who came up first with the ideas.
I really enjoyed the mostly up-to-date state of the course with respect to physics and philosophy. Most "Great" Courses I
listened to sound like 50 years behind, not taking in any development in their respective field that has happened after the Americas have been rediscovered (I am, slightly, exaggerating).
Instead, this course takes place "today" (2018 that is, for any reader from the future), mentions current views on quantum physics, probabilities, recent discussions in philosophy and history. That I really appreciate.

I liked most of the narration, subtracting one star for the fact that the narrator *is* the professor who created the course and his "ignorance" of, sometimes, "better" approaches to the topics he discusses outside the (originally) English speaking world and his neglecting of SF books (which, in my world, often are more consistent and believable, as they don't have to cater that much to an audience with an attention span of 7 seconds like some observers consider movie audiences to have).

The major critic I have about the content ("Story" in Audible's stars-bar) is that quite often the lecturer does not discuss obvious flaws in philosophical ideas or thought experiments he presents. In that respect, he is TOO MUCH movie/show-centered: As long as the action works, don't care about the story. No, with philosophy, the action should be third, not first.
A simple example (and really just one of many) is the "20% probability of us living in a simulated world". Even if this is excused to be a subjective probability, its explanation doesn't hold up, since most "possible states we live in" are objectively identical or overlap. Not only sets that the calculation plain wrong, but it also diminishes the plausibility and believability of the argument. It's not that the thought is *wrong*, but if you want to turn a thought into an argument, it should hold enough water.

Again, in sum, this is definitely one of the better Great Courses, well worth the time and triggering interest in looking into philosophy authors mentioned throughout the discussions. Just don't think this course can make those movies better. Read a book instead.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Screenwriting 101: Mastering the Art of Story

  • By: Angus Fletcher, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Angus Fletcher
  • Length: 12 hrs and 44 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 167
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 147
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 145

Whether you want to write your own scripts or simply gain a deeper appreciation for the great stories you see unfold on the screen, Professor Angus Fletcher is here to show you the way in Screenwriting 101: Mastering the Art of Story. Professor Fletcher, Professor of English and Film at The Ohio State University, brings both a personal and scholarly perspective to this craft. As a screenwriter himself, he has experienced the ins and outs of the process first-hand.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • it's great

  • By Kindle Customer on 02-11-18

A Mixed Bag of Not Much

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-12-18

The title of this course is misleading, to say the least, as it is not about "mastering the art of story", but about "reverse engineering what successful screen-writings look like".
Just because a screen-writing has been successful at the box office does not tell you that it is GOOD. It only tells you that the movie, as a whole, has been a success. The author confuses commercial success with quality.

The course is centered on the technique of reverse engineering: Looking at a movie or script and backward-explaining how it may have been constructed in order to create what you see. Of course, this is NOT how (successful) scripts are being created (if it was, every single script that was constructed this way would be an equal success, which it is not). It is simply a cheap trick of killing time in a workshop (been there, done that!) if you don't have any original ideas.
That said, it is a good idea to DO reverse engineering every now and then! Understanding how others managed to create certain feelings in the audience or how characters can be built is helpful when you are just starting out with writing. And, no doubt, a lot of scripts out there are being manufactured this way: Just redo what was successful before. Luckily every now and then someone dares to think for herself and try something else - luckily, because else this course would have had to concentrate on a single script that had been copied over and over, right? :-)

In short, the content is GOOD if you never dissected a script before. The content is FINE if you never watched a movie "analytically", trying to grasp "how they did it" (how did they fascinate you?). The content is COOL if you don't have any ideas (or experience in life) of your own but want to rely on other people's recipes.
If you want to "master the art of story" - visit other places. Read books. Listen to story-tellers. Understand, how STORIES work (not how movies are successful at the box office). Different topic altogether, really.

Performance: Whenever someone starts to yell at me, my reaction is "oh, is she THAT uncertain of her arguments? Is she so afraid that she might be wrong - so that yelling and shouting at me makes her more confident?" The lecturer here is constantly yelling and pushing his perspective as if he was afraid that a single voice in the audience might say "erm, Sir, that's not quite believeable what you say ..."
Interestingly the lecturer calms down and switched into a confident, narrative voice when he talks about the course as such (one single lecture!) - he is also much calmer when he (unconsciously?) questions his theory and method (in the TV/Series lectures at the end). I found that observation quite intriguing.

One can have quite different opinions on how "the Classics" (the Greek dramas) worked and how "drama" and "comedy" where perceived or considered when they were written. I happen to HAVE such a different perspective and question the author's understanding of the historic meaning of theatre.

By the way ... the name is "Brecht" (talking about the German theatre writer), not "Bragged", as the lecturer keeps calling him.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Celtic World

  • By: The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Professor Jennifer Paxton PhD
  • Length: 12 hrs and 52 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 341
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 310
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 308

Following the surge of interest and pride in Celtic identity since the 19th century, much of what we thought we knew about the Celts has been radically transformed. In The Celtic World, discover the incredible story of the Celtic-speaking peoples, whose art, language, and culture once spread from Ireland to Austria. This series of 24 enlightening lectures explains the traditional historical view of who the Celts were, then contrasts it with brand-new evidence from DNA analysis and archeology that totally changes our perspective on where the Celts came from.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • It's Celtic

  • By Jolene on 06-17-18

Focuses on what the lecturer is interested in

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-29-18

Giving the "story" only 2 stars here feels unfair - yet, I am trying to judge the overall impression I am left with after finishing the course. What the lecturer tells about is interesting and for the major part of it coherent. What irritates me is the VASTNESS of what she leaves out.
The course starts out with a very short hint at "the" Celtic realm not yet being well defined in geography, linguistics, ethnics or time. From almost the Arab "frontiers" over Spain, the (sorry:) English group of islands to France, Northern Germany and parts of Scandinavia "they" roamed, yet the lecturer exclusively focuses on what she is interested in: Everything King Arthur (which, of course, is unfair again - it's just clear that this is the topic she loves, so it takes up quite some space). I find it unfortunate to only hear about Ireland, Scotland, Wales over and over again - those Celtic heritages have been covered so often in such detail that I often thought "yes, heard that before, tell me something NEW".
What I would have LOVED to hear was more about that Spanish enclave. Where the Celtic (speaking) people moved (on the continent) and why. What interaction with (not-British-Island-related) peoples they had. What their mythological, political, sociological history was. In short: DETAILS, not the broad overview you can find everywhere in books, TV documentaries or the interweb.
On another point, I found it irritating that the lecturer kept contradicting herself. There have been quite a lot of - often small - points where I went "huh? Didn't she say something else just the other lecture?" A trivial example might be: She explains that the common belief is OUTDATED that "The Celtic" had been a Central-European "movement" that spread out and could be described as a homogenous area that was well defined and that you could reliably define an "area of origin". In the next lecture(s) she then says "let's now concentrate on the area that the Celtic originated from or that they lived in", basically saying the exact opposite of what she proposed before.
She seems to dislike Archeology - the chapter on "what is usable historical research" seems to dismiss the whole approach of "digging up dirt and basing assumptions on your findings" as nonsense. I am exaggerating here. Yet, over the following lectures, she often uses EXACTLY that "digging up dirt" as a PROOF of her theories ("this has been confirmed by archeological findings"), which sounds strange, after she put Linguistic and text-evidence based research over Archeology.

In short: Content-wise this is mainly, if not almost only, about the Ireland/Scotland/Wales part of Celtic history, a good part of the lectures is spent on English history (independent from its relevance to the topic "Celtic World"). You do NOT get an impression of what the lecturer calls the modern view of where and when the Celtic peoples lived but are limited to somewhat stereotype England-centric History lessons. At this, the course is quite good, well presented and captivating. Just don't expect too much "new".

(Technical note: Again, the audio quality, although mostly good, lacks professional editing. Often the sound "fades" when the lecturer seems to move her head to one side, not talking towards the microphone consistently. A simple pre-fetching EQ pass and moderate compression would have helped. It's OK if you listen through headphones on in quiet surroundings, but less so in distractive environment.)

  • The Ode Less Travelled

  • Unlocking the Poet Within
  • By: Stephen Fry
  • Narrated by: Stephen Fry
  • Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3

Stephen Fry believes that if you can speak and read English, you can write poetry. But it is no fun if you don't know where to start or have been led to believe that anything goes. Stephen, who has long written poems, and indeed has written long poems, for his own private pleasure, invites you to discover the incomparable delights of metre, rhyme and verse forms.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Too many words - but it's Fry'ckin' awesome ...

  • By Marc on 07-09-18

Too many words - but it's Fry'ckin' awesome ...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-09-18

The author makes it clear from the beginning that his intentions are not to present his own lyrics/poems but to give guidance for writing your own. While this is clearly an acceptable proposition, it leaves the author with a need for overwhelming examples of how "good poetics" can look like.
It would have helped me a lot if there had been more "good" examples in the early parts of this book. Starting around the middle of the book, the author does provide more examples (that, often enough, help in making his points), yet the beginning is quite "dry", Mr. Fry (sorry, couldn't resist).

Overall the text could have done with some heavy editing. The author loves to give "thesaurus"-lists of words to describe matters he discusses, never-ending enumerations of words, where two or a maximum of three would have done nicely. This *can* be done in a humorous way, yet in this book, it *feels* as if the author just wants to have a play with vocabulary.

From a didactic perspective, I would have welcomed more "show the process" instead of "tell about the beauty". By this I mean: Why not come up with a rough version of a poem (which the author does) and then WORK on it, get it into shape, turn it from a "proof of concept" into what the author would consider a "well-done example of good poetry"? Instead, the author provides a line-up of exercises for that he comes up with solutions of his own, almost always saying "but I am sure you can write something better" (at least that was my impression). For someone (like me) who wants to get a "feeling" for poetry this is not helpful at all: I can do poor poetry. I want to learn what GOOD poetry is. I need examples for that and explanations WHY it is good and HOW it was made "good" instead of mediocre.

Sumup: I listened to this "book" because I wanted to learn what "good poetry" is and how I could, maybe, improve my own writing skills. This expectation of mine has not been met by the book, as I still don't know what separates "good" poetry from "bad" (and don't tell me it's in the ear of the listener - for that, I don't need a 9-hour-book).
What the book did provide me with was an overview of what rhyme- and rhythmic-schemes are out there. A very small background is given for most of them, but did not get a "tool-set" to work with poetry nor did I get to listen to any overwhelmingly great texts/lyrics.

I am left with 9 hours of fun-to-listen-to-Mr-Fry (which I enjoyed for the enthusiasm and "personal touch" style of the narration) and a big question mark with an annotation saying "so, what IS poetry all about, then?"

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Roadside Picnic

  • By: Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky, Olena Bormashenko (translator)
  • Narrated by: Robert Forster
  • Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 879
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 808
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 805

Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a "full empty", something goes wrong.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Gritty, resonant sci-fi classic

  • By Ryan on 02-14-13

It's a Classic. It's a Strugatsky. It's ...

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-21-18

Stories told by "the Strugatskys" tend to unfold their power only after you have read them, closed the book and almost forgot about it. This was my experience with "It's not easy being a God" (I apologize if that is not the common English title, I read the German translation a long, long time ago) - and it sure is with "Roadside Picnic".
There isn't much to be said about the story - it's a plot often used in SciFi, sometimes to show wonders of alien abilities, sometimes to show the inabilities of mankind. Here, it clearly is of the latter, although, being Russian in tone, there isn't much of "exploration" or "study" going on. You just take the situation and deal with it, trying to get your share of whatever bonus might be in there.
It would be trivial to point out political and social inklings - some obvious, some hidden between the lines and, very likely so, somewhat lost in translation. You could, if you wanted to do so, compare the scenario to the Russian versus Western civilization. You could, if you preferred to do so, see it all as an experiment about "what is our place in the universe anyway?"

The reason for me not giving this audiobook a higher rating is that it doesn't *work* for me as an audiobook. Mr. Forster does a fine job giving Red Shuhart as much character as there is - unfortunately showing that this character is even less interesting than it would be in writing only.
I do think that a "weak character" like this, one that neither has the intelligence NOR the interest to understand the world around him and that is NOT wondering about what is going on really works best if the reader can skip paragraphs, jump back to what he skipped over and find his own PACE instead of being forced to listening to Red remaining "tumb".
This just isn't a story about "a hero discovering a secret" or "marvels of the Universe and how we cope with them" or anything you can "wrap your head around". This is JUST a GIVEN situation and some dull figures trying to deal with it. Its meaning, if you want to find some, unravels over time, gets you thinking, remembering scenes or situations.

Overall: If you are interested in classic SF and stories that don't "end" with a solution - give Roadside Picnic a go. If you are looking for a strong narrative, for fascinating characters or storylines, look somewhere else.
That's not what Strugatskys are about. And that's not dismissive at all.

  • Our Mathematical Universe

  • My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality
  • By: Max Tegmark
  • Narrated by: Rob Shapiro
  • Length: 15 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,618
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,447
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,442

Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present and future, and through the physics, astronomy, and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse. In a dazzling combination of both popular and groundbreaking science, he not only helps us grasp his often mind-boggling theories, but he also shares with us some of the often surprising triumphs and disappointments that have shaped his life as a scientist.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wow!

  • By Michael on 02-02-14

Too repititive and too many irritating pictures

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-06-18

First off, Rob Shapiro does a great job narrating this book, which is clearly not written to be read out loud!

The many word-identical repetitions, often seemingly paragraph after paragraph, are exhausting, to say the least. It often feels as if the author considers the reader dumb and has to say the same thing again over and over again using the EXACT same phrasing. A better (didactical) approach would be to change the wording - so that those readers who didn't get it the first time around would get a different perspective on the matter.

Many pictures the author paints in order to illustrate his - otherwise interesting - ideas are more often than not flawed and just don't work right. He seems to notice that, so he never sticks to an image but keeps changing his attempts at transferring his ideas into "real world" examples. Just when you think you've got it - he is off to something completely different.
The same problem applies to another issue I am having with the author's ideas of didactics (i.e. making his audience understand what he is trying to convey): He invests a lot of energy into building up a theory, seemingly considering it "working" and "un-falsified" (i.e. still in place). Then, a few chapters later, he tears it down. If he would simply hint at a theory being in doubt and currently considered non-valid, the reader would not waste energy by trying to keep everything in mind and make sense of it all.

Probably because of the two former points (pictures not working well and theories not being valid even though introduced as such) the author seems to often contradict himself. An example would be his claim that it is more likely (statistically speaking) that the reader is a Boltzmann brain than her being a "normal human being". Tegmark supports this claim by saying that there are "infinitely more constellations in which you are a Boltzmann brain than there are in which you are a human being" (note that this is not a precise quote but told from memory). This is contradicting the author's own interpretation of infinite possibilities, which would just as well allow for infinite "human beings" being solutions. And infinite isn't larger or smaller than infinite - by the author's own (later) discussion.
Because of "glitches" like this one the reader is losing concentration needed to follow the next jump the author takes with another twist to the theories he is discussing.

The book is colored up with lots of private anecdotes from the author's life which sometimes are funny, interesting or even helpful (to understand where he's coming from, figuratively speaking) At times the anecdotes feel like unmotivated "give the audience a cookie" injections that don't have any connection to the actual content of the chapter.

I enjoyed the ride nevertheless because the book gave me some interesting nudges to how I perceive "reality". It might have helped the book to have a co-author more experienced in telling "science stories for the mere mortals".

  • The Modern Scholar: Tolkien and the West

  • Recovering the Lost Tradition of Europe
  • By: Professor Michael Drout
  • Narrated by: Michael Drout
  • Length: 5 hrs and 15 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 308
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 277
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 275

The works of J.R.R. Tolkien are quite possibly the most widely read pieces of literature written in the 20th century. But as Professor Michael Drout illuminates in this engaging course of lectures, Tolkien's writings are built upon a centuries-old literary tradition that developed in Europe and is quite uniquely Western in its outlook and style. Drout explores how that tradition still resonates with us to this day, even if many Modernist critics would argue otherwise. He begins the course with the allegory of a tower....

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The Professor Who Loves Tolkien As Much As You Do

  • By Phebe on 12-19-12

Interesting summary on Tolkien's motivation and ..

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-27-18

I have done some studies on J.R.R. Tolkien's life and work myself, so I was quite familiar with most of the background given by Mr. Drout. I somewhat disagree on some of his angles (e.g. I do see quite some "quotes" from Northern Mythology in Tolkien's "world building" that Mr. Drout seems to put aside, even if he does mention parallels - talking about the idea of "what is a hero" here, amongst other topics).
Overall this course IS a nice introduction to reading The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and other texts by Tolkien with a different perspective than what you normally would apply. For this alone, thank you, Mr. Drout.

Technically I did have some issues. For once, the audio recording hasn't been balanced professionally. Mr. Drout keeps changing his volume (or is probably moving to and fro the microphone) and the recording does not compensate for that very well. A simple compression would have done the trick and made listening a lot more convenient. Second, Mr. Drout constantly keeps repeating himself, sometimes even word by word. While this may be due to this being a "course" he has been giving with pauses between "chapters" (lectures), for an audio recording I found it unnecessary.

Still, if you are interested in giving Tolkien another go (if you failed to get through the "style" the last time you tried) OR if you want to re-read some of this works with a new approach, I can recommend this course.