Thursday, April 8, 2010

Time travel, menstruation, and the Crusades.. But not in that order


Flow: The cultural story of menstruation

By Elissa Stein and Susan Kim

AKA

“A loosely woven feministic tale of the red tide, and the response to the same”
Or
The Return of the Menstrual Avenger” (A video mentioned in the closing chapter of the book. Not safe for work.)

Summary: Two women take on the tale of menstruation, menstrual products, marketing, menopause, and the evils therein.

Rating: It’s a pretty interesting read if you’re a female, falling squarely into “read if you’ve got a spare moment” category. I would absolutely love to hear a guy’s response to this book.

The authors do go a bit heavy on corporate bashing, which is only to be expected, considering the overall tone of this book. It was interesting enough in its own right for recreational reading, but didn’t make a stunning impact that a good story might have.


Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut
Read by Ethan Hawke

AKA

“The third science fiction book that I’ve ever liked”
Or
“World War II… and aliens!”

Summary: A fragmented narrative of the bombing of Dresden, along with the ‘before’ and the ‘after’. Alien abductions and time travel factor into this tale rather heavily.

Rating: A must-listen-to.

Rating of the reader: A stunning, whispered account. Makes me want to write fan mail Ethan Hawke.

I’m not a big fan of science fiction, primarily because there are seemingly so few good authors in the genre. The ones that come to mind are Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s guide series), Ray Bradbury (Short stories) , and Neal Stephenson (Snowcrash, which I need to reread, badly). Slaughterhouse-Five isn’t a mere sci-fi junk novel, however. It’s a social commentary, it’s a war story, it’s an almost-humorous account through sheer human ingenuity with the concept of time.

It is vaguely Memento-ish and Blood-red Snow-ish at the same time. No wonder it’s a classic.


“God Wills It!”: Understanding the Crusades
The Modern Scholar series


By Thomas F. Madden
Read by the same

AKA

“Byzantine empire, the early Sweden”
Or
“Crusades: it was all the Catholic’s fault”

Summary: A series of lectures concerning the history of the Crusades.

Rating: A good educational resource, if you’ve the time and interest for it.

Rating of the reader: So-so. The material is interesting, but the guy lacks a certain emotional appeal that might make some of the facts sink in better.

The Modern Scholar series is a pretty good one if you want to fill in the gaps in your knowledge on certain topics. After doing about 5 of the individual courses, I must report that the overall quality is pleasantly good, and that while the lecturers themselves may not be the top-notch voice actors, they certainly know their stuff.

According to this one, the first three crusades were the most effective ones, the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem existed just short of 200 years for sole purpose of controlling the territory for the pilgrims to holy sites, the Muslims were mostly ignorant of the crusaders’ purpose throughout, and the split between Catholics and Protestants as well as the increase in royal authority contributed to the Crusades’ eventual decline. (And then there were the Mongols…).

A pleasant 7-disk program, altogether. I’m glad that the local library carries a huge number of these.