Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kenneth Harl – ROME AND THE BARBARIANS (Lecture Series)

I am a guitar instructor and spend a great deal of time in my car driving from one student's house to another, and a lot of time getting from my home near Stanford to the homes scattered around the South Bay, all the way down to South San Jose. It's more time in a car than just about anyone, except of course delivery drivers. The teaching itself is all fun but the car time can be tiring. It has at least one benefit, though, which is that I have tons of time to listen to lectures from The Teaching Company, a truly wonderful company that records lecture courses by university professors around the country and sells them in convenient packages of 24 to 48 half-hour lectures (some course are up to 72 lectures, and some have 45 minute lectures). I can't say enough about how great these things are. The quality of the lectures is uniformly top-notch, and they are a cut above most audiobooks in intellectual level as well as ease of listening. They are intended for listening, and so unlike an audiobook professors will repeat important points and usually organize their lectures to be understood on first listen. For me, trapped in my car for hours a day, they've been something like life-savers for me. I think I've been through something like thirty, which I suspect may be as much as anyone else in the country, unless someone can refute that claim). So, thinking that this gives me some good perspective on them, I thought I might start writing about them as I go through them, starting with my favorite, Kenneth Harl's Rome and the Barbarians.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Music for Francisco Goldman's SAY HER NAME: Julieta Venegas -- MTV Unplugged

This is my first attempt working with a new concept for this blog. I'm a musician, as I've maybe mentioned before on this blog, and I listen to a fairly wide range of music. I've been looking for a way to talk about some of the music I really like and a way to present some of the results of my continual search for great music that I've never heard. So I'm going to try as best I can to pair every book with an album of music that I think shares some of the tone and the mood of that book. Sometimes it will be music that was mentioned in the book, sometimes it won't be. Sometimes it'll be music I know something about, other times it'll be something I just found in the process trying to match some music with the book. It'll be sort of like coming up with a hint of a soundtrack for a book, only I mean to get some the tone of the prose more than music that would be appropriate for the movie version of the book. I want it to also be a way to think differently about a writer's style, putting in some kind of cultural perspective. We'll see how it goes. First up is Julieta Venegas' live album from 2008, MTV Unplugged, as music to go with Francisco Goldman's Say Her Name, the tragic story of the death of his wife Aura.