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Gary

Las Cruces, NM, United States
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  • Oathbringer

  • By: Brandon Sanderson
  • Narrated by: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
  • Length: 55 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 27,376
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 25,794
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 25,741

Dalinar Kholin's Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost. The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Strong Storytelling, will upset Kaladin fans

  • By Deana on 11-16-17

From Dull to Drudgery

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

Reviewed: 10-14-18

The fantasy genre should never bore the listener. By the end (or was it the beginning), I lost interest. I would mock the lack of character development, fine plot points and relevant lessons for the listener, but there were none to mock just as there were no teeth between the spaces of Wit’s mouth to notice.

Without a doubt this is a superbly performed audio book, and listens better than most TV shows but even a good performance cannot overcome at times long winded drudgery.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Medieval World

  • By: Dorsey Armstrong, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Dorsey Armstrong
  • Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,959
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,779
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,770

Far from being a time of darkness, the Middle Ages was an essential period in the grand narrative of Western history. But what was it like to actually live in those extraordinary times? Now you can find out.These 36 lectures provide a different perspective on the society and culture of the Middle Ages: one that entrenches you in the daily human experience of living during this underappreciated era.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Prof. Armstrong is an rockstar. Loved her class.

  • By Rocco on 10-04-13

Worthwhile peek into the past

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

Reviewed: 10-04-18

Armstrong helps one understand this period of history by understanding how they thought about themselves during the time period. Those who work, those who pray, those who fight and as well as those who lead are covered in these lectures and anyone who listens to these will understand just a little bit more about who we are today

  • The Wisdom of History

  • By: J. Rufus Fears, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: J. Rufus Fears
  • Length: 18 hrs and 18 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 280
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 262
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 258

Do the lessons passed down to us by history, lessons whose origins may lie hundreds, even thousands of years in the past, still have value for us today? Is Santayana's oft-repeated saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," merely a way to offer lip service to history as a teacher-or can we indeed learn from it? And if we can, what is it that we should be learning?

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • History in broad strokes

  • By Eric S. White on 10-22-16

Mangles history and forces weird framing

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

Reviewed: 10-04-18

Jingoistic approach to history and is best appreciated by those who refuse to be challenged and see history only in terms of a pernicious teleological perspective.

I absolutely loved Rufus Fears’ other courses. His ‘Great Books’ course was my introduction to the ‘The Great Courses’. He lit a fire in me and I’ve probably have done 50 or so Great Course Lectures because of him. Gosh, was I surprised by the way he mangled history and forced it into his weird framing by trying to create ‘laws of history’ with ‘freedom is not universal but power is’ and ‘preemptive wars are good’ and ‘the old testament is part of our modern day basis for freedom’ and ‘great leaders come along and give us the history we deserve’.

First Samuel was not written in 950 B.C.E. (check Wiki), the North did not preemptively invade the South to start the Civil War, the Old Testament is not the basis for today’s freedom (good gosh, slavery is explicitly allowed in it and you can beat a slave as long as they don't die within three days, see Exodus 21:20, it just seems absurd to claim our freedom comes from such a book), Christianity is not an exemplar for freedom (Fears will say, that you have the freedom to choose to be a Christian voluntarily but of course if you don't they will often 'believe' you will go to eternal damnation, doesn't really seem like a free choice to me), and beliefs without foundation are a great thing and leads to positive results: all these things and more are things Fears wrongly tells his listener in order to defend his overall theme of ‘freedom is not universal’ and democracies are not made to be a super power, but the USA is special because we are, at least he’ll say we are, and you know, he'll say you really can't trust the Muslim countries because their religion and their government are one and the same not like the USA's at least that what he says (tell me again why America did not allow gays to marry in 2007 when this lecture was done. Oh, yeah, it had something to do with 'marriage is between a man and a woman' and that's what the Christian bible says, end of debate!).

Also, Fears has what I would call the ‘great man theory of history’ which means that cultures need a great man (or evil man) for destiny to unfold, and he even had a lecture on Napoleon. I would strongly suggest reading ‘War and Peace’ for a refutation of Fear’s perspective, but if you don’t have the time to read the 80 hours of that book, I’ll just tell you that Tolstoy said Napoleon’s barber changed the fate of the world by giving him a cold and causing the Russians to win that war and therefore the real great man was Napoleon's barber.

We understand our now, but when one looks at history retroactively through the lenses of the now one can force an unintended teleology to the past and derive ‘laws of history’ (which don’t exist, at the most history gives us suggestions, never laws as Fears believes), and Fears says he is using Thucydides’ ‘Peloponnesus War’ as a template for his lectures, but he misses the real theme of that book, namely, understanding the particular of history leads to understanding the universal of life and not the themes that Fears says. Read Thucydides and decide for yourself.

In spite of all my negativity expressed above, I still appreciate the great story telling within the lectures, but I’m reminded of the old line ‘in spite of all that Mrs. Lincoln how did you like the play’. I didn't like the heavy handedness of the lectures overall and I can’t ignore the disaster of his major themes within these lectures, and I really am amazed by how Fears twisted history in order to connect dots that shouldn’t be connected.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Fear

  • Trump in the White House
  • By: Bob Woodward
  • Narrated by: Robert Petkoff
  • Length: 12 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,615
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,338
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,274

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files, and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One, and the White House residence.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extremely Depressing...

  • By Sena on 09-11-18

I'm waiting for 'The Fall of Trump' to come out

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

Reviewed: 09-21-18

There is almost nothing knew is this book. I already knew ‘Trump can’t be trusted and is a freaking liar’, as Woodward clearly is quoting Dowd, Trump’s Lawyer, will say. Dowd will also say that Mueller is a fool and is wasting his time because collusion and conspiracy were never intended. That’s a distraction. Woodward falls for distractions in this book all the time. Mueller’s investigation is wide ranging, but a reader could not tell much about the true nature of the Mueller investigation or a host of other issues from Woodward’s quoting self serving sycophants (Lindsey Graham), wives beaters (Portman, yes he beat more than one wife), alt-right neo Nazi (Bannon) and deniers of science who believe ‘the environment doesn’t matter when it comes to the economic interest of the United States’.
Woodward will tell the story of Trump saying ‘both sides are to blame’ when Nazis kill. He tells the story by making Trump seem brave and willing to stand up to ‘political correctness’, and having his wife, Melania sound so reasonable but never really mentions that she was a ‘birther’ who believed without any evidence whatsoever that Obama was a foreign born Kenyan Socialist spy. I’m going to make it easy for journalist, WHEN IT COMES TO NAZIs, TOLERANCE IS NOT REQUIRED. I don’t want to hear the argument ‘both sides’ are to blame when NAZIs are involved, and you can take your ‘political correctness’ excuse and shove it up where the sun don’t shine because tolerance is not a suicide pact.

Woodward said that this book is ‘1000% correct’. It is. That’s the problem. Woodward and Judith ‘I was freaking right’ Miller never wrote (or babbled on TV) untrue things when they lead us into the Iraq War because they hid behind their quoted people who said self serving things. To them it didn’t matter that there was a real truth that they were ignoring. The ‘Weekly World News’ is never wrong when they say things like ‘famous scientist says aliens have Elvis on Mars’. The scientist is famous because he is quoted in a national publication, but a good reporter will put the right context onto the story and not report things which are obviously manipulative or are just plain wrong. They throw their standard of truth back to ‘sources say’, but forget they have an obligation to ferret out truthful sources in order to tell the most correct version of reality. Woodward, the Washington Post, and ABC News never retracted the ‘anthrax came from Iraq’ story from 2002 or the propagation of the lie about WMD. To this day, they continue to hide behind their sources and haven’t corrected the record and their complicity in throwing gasoline onto the fire which they ignited.

My vote for the dumbest line for all of 2018 and it was said by Woodward in this book, ‘When it comes to tax expertise there is no greater expert than the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan’. Woodward actually said that. I say that Granny Starving Monster is not a tax expert and he always seems a little dim to me when it came to taxes or any other Republican orthodoxy. He cares about his billionaire donors and the almost 2 trillion dollar tax cut he advocated overwhelmingly goes to the rich and their already fat bank accounts. Woodward really and truly believes that line he wrote about Ryan and that kind of thinking is why we are ruled by somebody who thinks ‘climate change is a Chinese Hoax’, ‘Obama wasn’t born in America’, ‘CNN doctored the Lester Holt Tape’, ‘I’d lock her up when I’m president’, ‘trade is bad’, and believes ‘vaccines cause autism’.

Woodward is telling his story almost exclusively with the voices of Trump enablers. There’s a real story to be told and Woodward doesn’t really get at the real story. He and his kind are how we got into this mess and his brand of storytelling doesn’t allow for the unfolding of the real story; the world has passed Woodward by; I did not need quotes from a Nazi, sycophant, or enablers to falsely spin to me NATO is bad, only Trump can negotiate with a crazy leader, protecting the environment is wrong, and so on. I already knew Trump loves to create fear and practices ‘deny, deny, deny’ when faced with uncomfortable truths, and has no respect for anyone not in his tribe of hate. [There was one thing that was new in this book. Porter, the wives beater, thought it made him look good by removing documents from the president’s desk. I thought it made him look like a snake in the grass, and besides, most of those things he tried to stop Trump ended up doing any ways (trade wars with China, trusting North Korea, helping Russia). Another thing, do you really believe the claim made in the book about five times, that ‘they can detect North Korean missiles launching within seven seconds from South Korea as opposed to 15 minutes from Alaska’. Is that really true? If so, does it mean South Korea wouldn’t work with the US? Call me skeptical, but I think I didn’t believe that assertion without knowing other bits of data, but Woodward’s self serving sources told him that and that’s good enough for him].

The book I’m waiting to read is ‘The Fall of Trump: He, His Family and the Disgrace of all His Sycophants, Enablers, Fellow NAZIs and Accomplices’. Woodward won’t be able to write such a book because the world has passed him by, but it will happen in spite of Dowd’s claim as steno-graphed by Woodward that Mueller’s investigation is wobbly.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Identity

  • The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment
  • By: Francis Fukuyama
  • Narrated by: P. J. Ochlan
  • Length: 6 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 107
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 91
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 90

In 2014, Francis Fukuyama wrote that American institutions were in decay, as the state was progressively captured by powerful interest groups. Two years later, his predictions were borne out by the rise to power of a series of political outsiders whose economic nationalism and authoritarian tendencies threatened to destabilize the entire international order. These populist nationalists seek direct charismatic connection to “the people”, who are usually defined in narrow identity terms that offer an irresistible call to an in-group and exclude large parts of the population as a whole.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Robotic narrator

  • By Shahin on 09-19-18

Lacks foundation, poor framing, silly remedies

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

Reviewed: 09-17-18

Let me cut to the quick, there are three reasons why I felt this book was inadequate: 1) there was little new in it, 2) the author wrongly argues both sides are to blame by appealing to false dichotomies and false framing and 3) his solutions provided would only exasperate the real problem and not make it better.

For item 1), every author should assume that a reader of their book is interested in the topic and wants to learn more about the topic and is obligated to provide the reader something they don’t already know. In the first third of the book, the author breaks no new ground for those familiar with Charles Taylor’s ‘Sources of the Self’, Plato’s ‘Republic’, and for those who have listened to multiple Great Course Lectures on ‘identity’ and Martin Luther, and who are intimately familiar with Rousseau, and have read some of Freud, read lots of Kant, Nietzsche and Hegel, or have vaguely already understood what identity means. All of those items or people were presented within the first third of this book. I’ll even say it’s okay to bring the all too familiar up if the author can provide a narrative or look at it from a different angle and make the reader see differently, but this author did not. Do not underestimate your reading audience. Most of us want to really understand the world we live in and are doing what we can to the best of our abilities to learn about our world.

Charles Taylor made Schopenhauer his main character in his book. Fukuyama doesn’t mention Schopenhauer and he makes Rousseau his main character. That’s fine I guess, but there are connections that needed to be filled in that Fukuyama didn’t do for his reader and Rousseau’s dignity concept can be derived from Spinoza’s ‘conatus’ which led to Schopenhauer’s ‘will to live’ and Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’. In the end, it’s possible to describe Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’ as self worth or one’s own self esteem (this author makes dignity and respect, self worth and self esteem of the individual, pivotal). The author is out of his field and expertise (I think he is a political scientist) and sometimes I felt he covered his topic superficially and to be brutally honest he should stick to topics he understands.

The author uses dignity as his focal point for rationalizing ones hate. I’ll say that in order to feel superior to the other all one needs to do is hate them, but in order to be superior all one needs to do is not hate the other. Using the word ‘dignity’ does not change the fact that one is justifying their feelings over their reason. The author appeals to ‘lived experiences’ and dignity as he strives to defend his ‘both siderism’, and the squishy middle which really does not exist when it comes to a reality that includes Nazis, alt-right and those who want a return to 1950s America which privileges the privileged over all others.

For item 2), when a Nazi runs a car into peaceful protesters the proper response is not ‘both sides are to blame’. That’s psychotic and an appeal to identity based on dignity doesn’t make it any less psychotic. (I want to be careful here, the author is not advocating that response, but he does rationalize it in some ways, and he does not call it for the psychotic unacceptable behavior that it surely is). Tolerance is not necessary when it comes to the ultimate purveyors of identity, Nazis. Diversity and tolerance are good, but is not necessary when it comes to purveyors of hate or Nazis. There were a lot of false equivalences and poor framing the author made in the middle part of the book. The author seemed to justify mocking a disable person (as candidate Trump did) as a standing up to ‘political correctness’ and that doesn’t make the act itself any less hateful and wrong. Shrouding ones hate with the label of anti ‘political correctness’ doesn’t lessen the cruelty of the act. I always translate ‘political correctness’ into terms of ‘politeness’. Things which are impolite are politically incorrect.

The author mocked changing the name of ‘manhole’ covers for the sake of political correctness. He really seemed to be channeling the spirit of the ravings against political correctness as espoused in the Unabomber’s Manifesto (I really recommend people read that trash, not because of its stupid arguments, but because that kind of thinking still prevails among the alt-right and Trump followers and those who think ‘both sides are to blame’ when Nazis run their cars into peaceful demonstrators). I think one of the most eye opening segments I’ve seen on TV was when an award show a couple of years ago pointed out how the word ‘actress’ is really sexist and that the ‘actors’ male and female would individually stand up and say ‘I am an actor’, sometimes ‘political correct’ (polite) behavior can make us aware of the ‘ism’ that lies within us such as sexism. That made a difference for me and it changed how I speak (and think) because of that. Morons still want to live in the 1950s and ‘make America great again’ as those supposedly ‘good old days’ by retaining the privileges of the privileged over everyone else who is not a member of the in-tribe.

For item 3), the author’s solutions are the exact opposite from the ones I would recommend. He wants to meld everyone’s identity (and values) into an amorphous blob that would best be characterized by that currently possessed by the privileged. He wants to bring back unearned pride in one’s own culture and the belief that just because it is one’s own tradition that makes it superior and more just than those of the others not part of the in-tribe thus making it easier to exclude those who are different. I think that one should never outsource ones beliefs and must appeal instead to rational justification, evidence, analysis and empirical reasoning. Why is it that those with the power and the privileges never think they are motivated by identity? I’m being rhetorical and already know the answer, but this book doesn’t seem to question that premise.

Those who want to learn nothing new, and think both sides are to blame and want the status quo to remain will enjoy this book. For the rest who really want to understand the sources of the self, read or listen to the books, the authors and the Great Courses alluded to in the second paragraph above.

4 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • The Peloponnesian War

  • By: Thucydides
  • Narrated by: Charlton Griffin
  • Length: 26 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 230
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 205
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 202

Historians universally agree that Thucydides was the greatest historian who has ever lived, and that his story of the Peloponnesian conflict is a marvel of forensic science and fine literature. That such a triumph of intellectual accomplishment was created at the end of the fifth century B.C. in Greece is, perhaps, not so surprising, given the number of original geniuses we find in that period. But that such an historical work would also be simultaneously acknowledged as a work of great literature and a penetrating ethical evaluation of humanity is one of the miracles of ancient history.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • You better know the events before listening

  • By David A. Montalvo on 05-25-16

Just as relevant to today as it was when written

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

Reviewed: 09-15-18

‘Spartan dogs!, Turkish Taffy’, I’ve always wanted to use that line from Woody Allen’s Japanese redubbed into English movie ‘What’s Up Tiger Lilly’. Now the Spartan’s really aren’t dogs and taffy and Turkey have nothing to do with this book, but this book ranks as one of the greatest books ever written, and it’s clear that the Spartan’s were more than just laconic warriors and Athenians might have been lovers of wisdom but were also lovers of hegemonic domination.

It is not necessary to understand all the players, the interlocking rivalries or the specifics as they are brilliantly told in this war chronicle. The book takes the particular and connects them to the universal, truths across time. What is justice, what is deserving of our time or what makes the good? All this is laid out in this story telling about the war and the often fatal hubris of humans and what motivates us as human beings.

This book surprised me. I was reluctant to try it because I thought it was going to be a boring telling of war and its inner details. I was wrong. Yes, it does have actual war details but that is only a prelude in order to let the narrative allow the author to get at the universal truth of discovering our meaning of being human, and yes, even why we choose to fight and go to war. (‘Only an admiral can lose a war in a day’)!

I would bet Abraham Lincoln read this book and understood it beyond a story of just the war itself. Pericles funeral oration as dramatized in this book is clearly as moving and meaningful as the Gettysburg Address and probably influenced Lincoln’s thought on sacrificing a life for the sake of ones country, and shows that in each cohort even separated by over 2000 years of time that what we want from life and what matters has a constancy embedded within it and that we as humans are willing to give all for a belief that transcends the material. Each oration has within it the reason why humans will give the ultimate for a cause (ideology), a person (family) or their country (culture). (There are actually shades of ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son in order for you to have eternal life’, within both orations. That just shows that our meaning often lies within us from the value that we place on our own self dignity or self worth).

The description of the plague in Athens in 429 B.C.E. is unlike anything I’ve read elsewhere. History is often best told by observation. Thucydides understands why it mattered and describes the particular while providing the context inside the web of moving parts which make up history and determine the future. I wonder what would have happened to world history if Athens was not devastated with a plague.

Regarding the siege of Syracuse I was totally enraptured by the unfolding of the events. As with most moderns, I had no idea who was going to win the battle and couldn’t wait to find out. The story telling was that good, no, it was better than good, it was great!

But, I haven’t even hinted at the best part of the book. The speeches and the motivations that key players use to rationalize their reasoning. Life is complex and we are easily misled by the framing of the arguments. As an objective observer because of the remoteness of time, I would listen to the first speaker give his piece and think ‘his arguments are irrefutable’, then the contra argument was made and I would think the same. Should we attack, should we not, or should we kill every single man woman and child in the defeated city in order to send a message. The same arguments are used today and politicians always love to ‘send a message’ by projecting strength so the others don’t perceive us as weak. ‘The more things change, the more they remain the same’.

‘Silence and order’ is what the sailors were told before their sea battle. That is what they were told they needed in order to survive. In life ‘silence and order’ serve us well. Two words to describe our modern day perceptions of ancient Spartans: silence and order, also ‘silence and order’ could be a two word definition for ‘stoic’. Conversely, two thoughts to describe our modern day perceptions of ancient Athenians and also serve us well for life: ‘speak and act as an individual’, also a two thought definition for ‘epicurean’.

This book transcends the story that is being told. For those who don’t like it, or think it has no relevance with today, the problem is with them not the book. This is a rare book for which I would recommend to anybody because of the truths that abound within it. This book precedes Plato’s Republic, but one can’t help feeling the echo from this book intentionally reverberating within ‘The Republic’. At least Plato’s contemporary readers would have seen the similarities within this book and would have understood the intentional connections.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Tangled Tree

  • A Radical New History of Life
  • By: David Quammen
  • Narrated by: Jacques Roy
  • Length: 13 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 196
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 182
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 180

In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection - a type of HGT. In The Tangled Tree David Quammen chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very Enjoyable and Readable

  • By Dennis on 08-18-18

Life's a funny riddle, solve it

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

Reviewed: 09-06-18

There is no one correct way of dividing a world, identity is fleeting and reification leads to oversimplification. All of that is within this book as the author looks at where the incredibly interesting world of microbiology stands today and what it means for understanding our current understanding of the world we find ourselves in. I have read many stimulating books on the early 20th century development of quantum physics and gravitational theory and this book has that feel to it and lays out the recent and just as exciting history of why micro and molecular biology’s recent discoveries about whom we are and where we came from is just as exciting.

I have to expand on my first sentence above because it might not be obvious how this book embraces that sentence in such a succinct way. First, ‘no correct way of dividing the world’, Darwin’s greatest realization was that there is no absolute ‘nature of things’ in and of themselves (i.e. ‘a unique world structure’ or an unique ontological foundation), essences are human imposed order on to the world, and for his theory to work ‘species’ needed a fluid nuanced definition and its own inherent truth was a myth (‘essences’ and species are not things they are human constructs). Even though Darwin titles his book ‘On the Origin of Species’ he dances around the meaning of the word ‘species’ because without fluidity he can’t get to evolution by way of natural selection.

Second ‘identity is fleeting’, the individual under consideration might not always be as obvious as common sense dictates. The author gave the example by asking is it the ant, the colony or all of the colonies that make the entity worthy of consideration, and the author made note of the ship of Theseus and its paradox as related to self identity of the individual. In other words, if we were to analyze every single oyster would we understand the oyster? Or as Nietzsche once mockingly said by way of criticizing philosophy ‘would we be any nearer to the truth of understanding women by asking every woman what they want’. Or, moreover, are bacteria best thought of as individuals or can they be thought of in their totality as one? Descartes takes the world away from us with his cogito by literally assuming it away, but Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger think we are not separate from the world and the world needs to be considered in order to understand our Being.

The third item from my opening sentence is on ‘reification’. Is the map actually the thing? Or in the case for this book is the ‘tree of life’ such as nature demands it, or do we as humans make nature fit our model, the tree of life. I love Darwin and I love his book and I love when people say that they accept ‘evolution by way of natural selection’ as the best description to explain how life developed over the eons, but in reality the truth is more nuanced and especially for the first 3 billion years of life on earth and even in our more recent history (check out what the author tells the reader about the placenta and what we think we know about it!).

The power plant that produces the universal currency of life by creating ATP (little battery like energy sources) by way of the cells mitochondria and are within all living creatures that have complexity with structure and that are more complicated than bacteria or archaea or fungi or blue-green algae and which are not plants (i.e. get their energy directly from the sun through chloroplast) for each and every eukaryote that has ever lived (humans are eukaryotes since we are made up of cells that usually have a nucleolus and organelles and mitochondria) or are alive today that original event of endobiosis happened only once in the history of the world (endobiosis is a big theme within this book and will be explained in great detail for the observant reader). The fact that event only happened once as stated in this book always floors me and anyone who thinks that the galaxy or the universe is teeming with complex intelligent life first needs to explain why that event only happened once on earth as far as we know today.

The chapters on Lynn Margulis were fascinating and illustrated why this book was so very fun to read. First, I had no idea she was Carl Sagan’s first wife. She latched on to a concept that was only on the fringes of microbiology and made it mainstream. Scientists in general hate nothing more than to have their paradigms be overturned while an individual scientist likes nothing more than to challenge the status quo and overthrow a paradigm. Science knows itself by correcting itself. Lynn Margulis took what was known within footnotes and mostly obscure corners (including, most probably, a Russian pedophile) and popularized HGT (horizontal gene transfer) and gave it a pedigree that was lacking. Margulis is a scientist worth knowing and remembering, and oddly, she couldn’t help herself in later days by goofingly thinking 9/11 was an inside job or thinking HIV did not cause Aids (fringe thinking also, but wrongheaded).

I had previously read Margulis’ book ‘The Five Kingdoms’, and therefore I have a bias towards how she sees the world and it explains why I think archaea are different from bacteria and prokaryote is the wrong label for them. I would recommend that book not to read but to look at the beautiful pictures of single cell life, and one day when you happen to be in a used book store do yourself a favor and pick it up at least to glance through.

Overall this book doesn’t make a definitive statement on how many life kingdoms there are and how the tree of life should be designed. That’s a feature not a bug with this book because in the end there aren’t absolutely correct ways of categorizing the world or if there are we don’t know it when we get it right. I don’t want to give away the punch line in this book, but the very last sentence of this book made me laugh out loud, and will make you laugh too.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The History of the Renaissance World

  • From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople
  • By: Susan Wise Bauer
  • Narrated by: John Lee
  • Length: 21 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 636
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 568
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 564

Beginning in the heady days just after the First Crusade, this volume - the third in the series that began with The History of the Ancient World and The History of the Medieval World - chronicles the contradictions of a world in transition. Impressively researched and brilliantly told, The History of the Renaissance World offers not just the names, dates, and facts but the memorable characters who illuminate the years between 1100 and 1453 - years that marked a sea change in mankind's perception of the world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The 2nd Half of the Medieval World

  • By Troy on 05-20-15

Earthlings observations at 50 yr intervals

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

Reviewed: 08-28-18

I found this volume the weakest of the three. Based on this volume, I can’t tell you the meaning of the ‘Renaissance’, what the author defines as the period from 1100 – 1452 or what most others would call the ‘Early Modern Age’. Oh, it has meaning, but when the story is told as this author does strictly chronologically with an eye to the events in themselves as an end in themselves sometimes the meaning, the reason and the modern day significance gets lost in the shuffle.

The story is told by this author in this volume as if an alien spectator from another planet was compiling a set of diverse worldwide events from on high and dwelling mostly on the movement of local fiefdoms as they rubbed up against each other and reporting that to their overlords on a distant planet on a 25 to 50 solar year basis. I enjoyed the story telling of Genghis Khan and his hoards, a segue from England and the Magna Carta all told in a serial fashion, and all the various events related such as a very detailed 50 year history of Sri Lanka from 1150 to 1200 and even the African nation of Chad which is one of my first times understanding its importance of itself, but never quite understanding exactly how Chad or Sri Lanka intersected with the world as a totality, or how all the events related as if by an alien observer gave meaning to the ‘renaissance’ period with itself or to today or as a continuation of history from itself.

Europe and its dysfunctional family of rulers, cousins and petty family squabbles never fail to amaze, but I still challenge a reader of this book and using this book alone to tell me the meaning of the ‘Renaissance’. I think it has meaning for today, I think all history has meaning. I think those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it and are liable to end up with narcissistic ruler who appeals to our hate in order to control us by creating an alternative set of facts which transcend the real world of historical facts. The claim of ‘fake news’ can only work on those who are ignorant of the truth and the meaning inherent from our common history. Hungary and Poland today are returning to their xenophobic totalitarian core and both states are mentioned in detail within this book and to understand what is happening today sometimes the context of history enlightens, but even in this book’s telling the contextual meaning and significance was obscured by the chronological event telling.

Were the scholastics even mentioned in this book? I guess some were (I don’t remember which, but if they were they were only briefly mentioned). The period of time covered in this book is when ‘love of wisdom’ goes from grammar as the root of understanding to logic as the gateway and then to rhetoric for the rediscovery of the old Latin masters (thank you, Petrarch and Florence) as role models (or in other words, from the pre-scholastics, to scholastics to what most people refer to as the Renaissance). None of the depth or complexity of thought that emerges from this time period gets any detailed treatment within this book.

The Early Modern Age has meaning beyond the events themselves observed and transcribed by an alien from another planet. (The author used the word ‘Renaissance’ in her title, it’s her book and she can title it anyway she pleases but I don’t think she should have if she was writing a story about the Renaissance in the sense that most people think about the Renaissance. She probably should have called it ‘Early Modern Age’, but even then she still owes the reader the reason why the period of time has meaning for today and the time period itself).

  • The Foundations of Western Civilization

  • By: Thomas F. X. Noble, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Thomas F. X. Noble
  • Length: 24 hrs and 51 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 947
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 822
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 819

What is Western Civilization? According to Professor Noble, it is "much more than human and political geography," encompassing myriad forms of political and institutional structures - from monarchies to participatory republics - and its own traditions of political discourse. It involves choices about who gets to participate in any given society and the ways in which societies have resolved the tension between individual self-interest and the common good.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Highly recommended

  • By Mike Keith on 08-08-16

History properly revealed gives meaning today

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

Reviewed: 08-26-18

History reveals itself through itself. Prof. Noble suggest that the listener imagine that they build a time machine and travel back in time to question where the epoch in history will go from that point onward without knowing the sequel, and the listener must always see that point in history through itself but realize that what often follows is not what would have been expected.

For example, the participants of the Reformation, circa 1517, never would have seen themselves as ‘a reformation’ at that point in time. They would not have initially seen themselves as transforming the world’s understanding of itself. Erasmus came first and planted seeds of humanist thought, the Netherlands was stepping away from the Habsburg Empire’s yoke or soon would be, the ‘meaning’ of a simple placing of a ’95 Theses’ on the Wittenburg Castle church was understood on that Halloween as only as far as the nail that placed it on the wall and at best would lead to a lively discussion on topics mostly centered around indulgences. Luther has no idea what it would ‘mean’ or that it would lead to a Bible written in the German vernacular by Luther ultimately leading to a uniting of Germany through a common language based culture but not yet a united Germany itself and then a 30 year war (1619 – 1649) splintering Europe and turning Germany into a battleground which will take Germany 100 years to recover from allowing England and France to exert hegemony beyond their fiefdoms and so on. The meaning of the past as it happened through today’s eyes gets filtered by what the participants thought about themselves as they experienced their happenings through what they believed their world had been telling them previously.

History reveals itself through itself and it gives us the necessary wisdom to understand when it is presented as intelligently as these lectures do. Prof. Noble mentioned that our understanding of love of wisdom moved from a grammar to logic to rhetoric for the understanding of philosophy, roughly a pre-scholastic (grammar) to scholastic (Peter Lombard, Peter Abelard, St. Thomas Aquinas, logic) to a renaissance (Florence, Dante and Petrarch, rhetoric). Of course, during each period they never understood themselves in those terms and all of these concepts and thinkers are presented with greater details in multiple lectures.

I can’t build a time machine and I don’t want to go back to a time period that did not have indoor plumbing, but I do want to understand history in order to understand the meaning of today. I have no idea why some of the other reviewers seem to think this lecture was too simple. The Professor tells his story by way of a factical consideration while fitting his narrative into a ‘big history’ framework. I never grow tired about learning about my place in the universe thus leading to an uncovering of meaning for myself, and I think the approach the professor uses is the most appropriate for that purpose.

To understand who we are today and where we might be going, one first must understand the foundations that explain our building blocks. I do not need names of kings, or wars or bridges fought over or places I never heard of in lands that I know almost nothing about in order to understand history correctly. I need to understand the threads that make us who we are today woven in such a way that I can give meaning to what is happening today by understanding the foundations that brought us here.

  • Crashed

  • How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World
  • By: Adam Tooze
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance, Adam Tooze
  • Length: 25 hrs and 27 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 94
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 85
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 84

Crashed is a dramatic new narrative resting on original themes: the haphazard nature of economic development and the erratic path of debt around the world; the unseen way individual countries and regions are linked together in deeply unequal relationships through financial interdependence, investment, politics, and force; the ways the financial crisis interacted with the spectacular rise of social media, the crisis of middle-class America, the rise of China, and global struggles over fossil fuels.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A vaccine against substance free deceivers

  • By Gary on 08-19-18

A vaccine against substance free deceivers

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

Reviewed: 08-19-18

This is not an easy book to follow but it is a necessary one in order to avoid being misled by bloviators of substance free self appointed spewers of financial misinformation. It deals intelligently with an incredibly complicated set of worldwide connections (financial, geo-political and sociological) and delves into one of the defining moments of our time period, the financial crisis and its aftermath.

If one reads a book about WW II, one should know the date September 1, 1939 as the date when it started and that way the narrative of the story telling never gets away from the reading of the book. Similarly, if one wants to understand our present times one must know the date September 15, 2008, the day that the ATMs almost did not deliver $20 bills and the day that the commercial paper almost ‘broke the buck’ if the government had not intervened. The day the world’s financial system almost collapsed. This book tells that day’s story, what led up to it and what happened after.

There’s a movie and a book that are cited by the author, ‘The Big Short’. They captured the craziness that led to the ‘great recession’. This book, ‘Crashed’, fills in the details and the aftermath and explains in a detailed and erudite fashion (unfortunately, this book does read complexly and I would even venture to say that the person who wrote the review on this book in the New York Times was not able to fully understand this book, but he definitely understood enough of why this book is important and relayed enough such that I knew I wanted to read this book. Even if a reader doesn’t know the difference between a ‘swap and a ‘repo’ or ‘reverse repo’ a reader will get the gist of the book).

The author explains the world before September 15, 2008 and what led to it, then highlights the FED and what America did right, and then looks at the pre and post 2011 period and the self inflicted chaos that Europe and Asia foisted on themselves when they wrongly dealt with the systemic problem inherent in the financial system. The world and its parts are globally connected and made of many moving parts. NATO matters and Putin was an authoritarian thrower of monkey wrenches even in those days and wanted to create chaos mainly against America and in order to try to expand his hegemony at any cost even if it meant unilaterally selling MBSs in order to hurt America just for its own sake, and China did smart things and then did stupid things.

Confidence fairies (bond vigilantes) and austerity hawks (lovers of misery for others, but never for themselves) riled against all the solutions that worked and mindlessly echoed empty slogans such as ‘don’t debase the dollar’ and ‘runaway inflation is the real threat’ and ‘balance the budget to restore prosperity’ in their substance fact free universe while preaching against every single reasonable action while being wrong about everything. The author does specifically quote from Fox News, Brietbart News and Steve Bannon, Glenn Beck and Niall Ferguson (sp?) as gloom and doom substance free and fact free mongers who had nothing but fear and feelings as their guidepost as they spouted those empty slogans. That kind of substance free critic never gets proved wrong since they have no solutions but only offer substance free criticism void of data or academic rigor. They can never fail. They can only be failed by imaginary others, and they never let facts get in the way of the false version of reality they create, because in the end they need FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in order to maintain ignorance so they can ultimately keep people afraid and try to convince you to hate the same people they hate. This book is an antidote to that stupidity.

A major theme of the book is that blame for the crisis was put on ‘politicians, workers and welfare recipients’ and not on the real culprits ‘bankers and financial institutions’. As stated in this book, at the start of the crisis Fox News and other right wing outlets blamed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) for the crisis for allowing minorities to have subpar loans thus in their twisted world view causing the complete melt down of the housing market. This book will provide data, facts, and a narrative shooting down such irresponsible statements. The bankers and the financial institutions (with the assistance of the rating agencies) almost destroyed the financial stability of the world and their enablers in the media put the blame on politicians and regulators, workers and welfare recipients (remember, they used to say 47% of Americans don’t pay taxes as if that was the cause of the rich bankers and financial institutions stealing and purposely creating a financial bubble. The only honest thing Greenspan ever said was ‘I’m shocked, I can’t believe it. The bankers lied to me’).

We live in a complex world within a web of interlocking connections. Simpletons love to get on TV and spout their idle chatter on subjects that they know nothing about all the while thinking that the more they talk about the subject means the more they know, when in reality it’s the converse, the more they talk the less informed they are.

Reality is complex, and the financial world and its interactions are not easily comprehended. The hateful want us to remain ignorant of the connections and it is easy for them to shout ‘fake news’ and spout substance free idle chatter on my TV in order to control us through fear. The truth is out there but it sometimes takes effort to find it and understand it.

It’s not easy to understand what happened. It is easy to be misled. A book like this one goes a long way towards immunizing us from the virus of substance free deceivers.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful