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  • Through Two Doors at Once

  • The Elegant Experiment That Captures the Enigma of Our Quantum Reality
  • By: Anil Ananthaswamy
  • Narrated by: Rene Ruiz
  • Length: 7 hrs and 36 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 45
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 40

The intellectual adventure story of the "double-slit" experiment, showing how a sunbeam split into two paths first challenged our understanding of light and then the nature of reality itself - and continues to almost 200 years later. Through Two Doors at Once celebrates the elegant simplicity of an iconic experiment and its profound reach. With his extraordinarily gifted eloquence, Anil Ananthaswamy travels around the world, through history and down to the smallest scales of physical reality we have yet fathomed. It is the most fantastic voyage you can take. 

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent exposition of the conundrum

  • By GLYNN A on 08-14-18

A mystery still unsolved - and here's why

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

Reviewed: 12-09-18

I really, really enjoyed this book - it compensates for so many really bad "Great Courses" hours!

This is a well narrated (by the book's author, see below for voice artist performance) overview on current (yes, Great Courses, CURRENT, not decades old) perspectives on the Quantum World, the Copenhagen Interpretation and approaches to the "macroscopic world and why it seems so different".
The author does not downplay any perspective, he stays fair to the angles taken by different interpretations and points out obvious and not so obvious problems with the various approaches. This is a refreshing way of looking at things, not the standard "I know everything"-attitude others are taking.

When I first heard of the double slit experiment - early 1980s at school - some of us in the class came up with a question "what about there being a secondary wave or maybe the particle is guided by the wave instead of being one or the other?" Those (to us pupils simply obvious) questions immediately were turned down by (several, actually) physics teachers as "complete nonsense". Turns out, we weren't *that* nonsensical, after all, even if we were "only teenagers" and therefore not to be taken seriously. Which is to say, I enjoyed seeing the "pilot wave" idea been taken as an option a lot, even though I see its shortcomings.

Performance: The narrator does an overall good job, his pace is comfortable, his narration is quite clear and not as muffled, mumbled or irritating as many "Great Courses outstanding teachers". His intonation is somewhat monotonous, though, but that was bearable enough.
However, he does speak in a strong American accent: Where others would split atoms, he kept on splitting ADAMS, which I found quite inhumane and, frankly, brutal. Just as an example. Then, with many theories and discussions on the matter having originated in Switzerland, Germany, Austria (and, obviously, Denmark), German language quotes seem necessary. In a (written) book this isn't a problem, just have a footnote giving the original quote and use the Engli... sorry, American translation in the text. Here, the narrator tries to use the GERMAN quotes. Since I am German, this was really frustrating, as I could not understand a SINGLE one of those quotes. Why would someone, in a more or less scientific book, use a foreign language to "say something" if he isn't fluent in that language? Just quote the English translation, so that you do not interrupt the narration.

  • Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets

  • An Audible Original
  • By: John Woolf, Nick Baker
  • Narrated by: Stephen Fry
  • Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 7,405
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 6,801
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 6,771

On the surface, the Victorian age is one of propriety, industry, prudishness and piety. But scratch the surface and you’ll find scandal, sadism, sex, madness, malice and murder. Presented by Stephen Fry, this series delves deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality. The stories we’re told offer a different perspective on an era which underwent massive social change. As education, trade, technology and culture blossomed, why was there an undercurrent of the ‘forbidden’ festering beneath Victorian society? 

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Fascinating content with noisy background sound

  • By Wayne on 11-12-18

Nice, somewhat arbitrary - unbearable background

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

Reviewed: 11-08-18

I love to listen to Mr. Fry. He's not the world's best writer, by far, but his British intonation, his wit, his "between the lines winking" is brilliant.

Why Audible hired an amateur(?) audio engineer to pollute Mr. Fry's narration with someone practising piano lessons is beyond my grasp. You learn, within the first five minutes of mixing lessons at a studio, that the MAIN component of a mix (here: the narration) defines what frequencies the BACKGROUND (here: the piano noise) has to lose, so that the listener can concentrate and follow what is important and does not get distracted from the content.
In this audio production, the background, although quieter, is the most prominent component - it is HIGHLY distracting, irritating, counter-informative and just an overall annoyance.

Content: The "story" (there is none) follow a few arbitrarily chosen characters from the late 19th to early 20th century (Wilhelm II for example) and tells their "secrets" (not really much of "secrets", just some yellow-press-like details of how their childhood went, what sexual fantasies they might have had, in the end just trivial gossip). The most interesting point really seems to be that having such (again, mostly sexually or at least bodily oriented) "secrets" was both important for people to know that they are "alive" and "distinct", but also kept families together - which sounds like those "secrets" have been hyped far beyond their actual gravity. Which proves the point: You don't know anything more about what really DROVE the people 150 years ago, nor do you get a better understanding of why our society still is obsessed with banalities ...

Be it as it is: The background noise (or "experimental music" or whatever) forced me to stop listening halfway into episode 2.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Big Questions of Philosophy

  • By: David K. Johnson, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: David K. Johnson
  • Length: 19 hrs and 2 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 878
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 791
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 778

We have all pondered seemingly unanswerably but significant questions about our existence - the biggest of all being, "Why are we here?" Philosophy has developed over millennia to help us grapple with these essential intangibles. There is no better way to study the big questions in philosophy than to compare how the world's greatest minds have analyzed these questions, defined the terms, and then reasoned out potential solutions. Once you've compared the arguments, the final step is always deciding for yourself whether you find an explanation convincing.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • No easy answers, just easy questions

  • By Gary on 03-17-16

Only for a very young audience or those without an

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

Reviewed: 11-07-18

Being unsure if this review is helpful to anyone at all (there's virtually NO FEEDBACK on this site and I keep wondering why I invest so much time into trying to give honest opinions on the products I review), I don't want to shorten the title so that it fits into what Audible allows.

Anyway, here's the SHORT story:
This course isn't as "bad" as my rating makes it look. If you can stand the lecturer's narration (which I found hard), it's fine if you don't have ANY previous idea of what Philosophy in the White-West is. It's useless if you aren't interested in White-West Philosophy but in any "more global" view, I think.

Here's my personal nitpicking:
I love Philosophy. I am actually quite happy with what the lecturer brings to the table. I am fine with being not in line with some of his personal statements or conclusions and doubt my judgement when I am agreeing with him. Which is exactly the result he intended to produce.
He gives a broad overview of some standard questions in Philosophy, although (first minus) he is so desperately locked-in to Western Philosophy and narrow-minded within a Christian world-view that it is, at times, hard to listen up to the end of a lecture. The few times he acknowledges that many more people in the world believe completely other things to be "true" than the Christians he stops right there and does not consider if, maybe, their perspective would be more helpful to understand what he calls "big questions" (I am not only speaking of atheists, agnostics and other "doubters", I am speaking of all the variants on religion that you can find).

DO LISTEN to the lectures to their end.
The lecturer often provides skewed or obviously flawed examples, that tend to make you go crazy and shout "nonsense, don't you see where you are going wrong there?", but he also does RECOVER from his in-your-face fallacies. After a few lectures, you get the drift: He seems to intentionally construct some theory/position that just cannot work, in order to make the audience THINK and come up with critics.

Sometimes I couldn't help myself but simply accept that the lecturer seems to see his Christianity-imprinted, US-centric perspective as the only one possible for anything and shrug. When he criticizes others (philosophers) for not giving arguments for their theories, although he "feels" like they "might be right", he completely ignores that he himself refuses to give arguments to what he, himself, considers "right just because it is right". He never judges other people's opinions the way he judges his own beliefs. While this may be because his course is targeted at a very young audience (he tends to only give real-live-examples that apply to young people) and he tries to be seen as a "luminary", I don't like this didactic. It is OK once or twice, but continuously pretending that the audience is dumb and does not get it "right away" is not my cup of tea.

This is why I can only give two stars to the "content" (the "Story"). Which is unfair, because, as mentioned above, the lecturer DOES give a broad overview.
For my taste, it is way, WAY too much "Christian-God-centric". Every other paragraph brings this figure into play, everything seems to get measured against "what would God say if God existed" - even though the lecturer does not SEEM to believe in this "God", he cannot help but think of God. That's ...

Performance:
I listened to the lecturer's (newer) course on Philosophy in Science Fiction, which I enjoyed more than this one. If I had only listened to this course, I would have wished for the professor to take a lesson in public speaking. He is constantly over-emphasizing words or syllables, pitching up his voice and even "shouting" without helping the narration.
Since his other course is considerably better in that respect, I *think* he actually *did* take a course :-) Now, I know this sounds arrogant - but such a "Great Course" is quite expensive and since the lecturer DOES have a pleasant voice, his "auditorium style" in this course is not up to par.
As for didactics: I said enough about my issues with that above, so let's just state that a "layout" for an older audience or one that does have some "life experience" would be welcome.

Gender-speak:
One (small) irritating thing: While I personally LOVE the American way of mixing male and female pronouns throughout a text in order to indicate that "everyone is addressed", this falls short if you use "she" for everyone you consider a "positive" person and "he" for everyone that is evil. This is a tendency in this lecturer's style that I do not like. Sure, it is catering for the aggressive feminists, I get that ... but why the heck is "God" always referred to as "HE"? "God" would be THE ONE figure that NEEDS to be addressed as "she" if this approach was honest.

Conclusion:
Like the lecturer says in the final sum-up: Do not expect this course to provide ANSWERS - it is a course about QUESTIONS.
The course does give you a few (though from a very narrow perspective) HINTS at how answers MIGHT look like, but it is up to you to delve further into matters, read, discuss and re-think your position over and over again.
If you don't have any idea about Philosophy, what "Moral" could be derived from or if that public talk about "soul" and "heaven" even makes any sense at all: Give this course a go.
If you do have even some limited background in the subject, and be it from a critical religious point of view, the course is much too shallow to give you any more insights or ideas, it is only reciting standard, superficial "beginners' routines", plus it is far too limited to a very specific perspective.

  • The Coming Storm

  • By: Michael Lewis
  • Narrated by: Michael Lewis
  • Length: 2 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 16,013
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14,538
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14,499

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 2,474
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,213
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,145

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.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • 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 178
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 166
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 165

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 191
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 175
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 171

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.

3 of 3 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 182
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 161
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 158

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.

3 of 4 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 403
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 367
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 365

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
  • I wish this had a different title

  • By Kindle Customer on 06-20-18

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?"

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