baleanoptera: (books)
Somehow, despite being on a rather tight schedule I’ve managed to finish a few books. Huzzah! Although, by the look of this list, it would probably do me good to read some fiction. ;P

Christopher Tyerman: God’s War – a New History of the Crusades

Tyerman goal is to write a new introduction to the Crusades, one that also could be seen as a more modern version to the classics by Steven Runciman. He gives it a good try, but I’m not sure he succeeds. He writes well, but lacks Runciman’s style - and as introductions go God’s War is a little messy.
While talking about the First Crusade he keeps sliding in sentences like "this law was later changed during Baldwin II". Now this will make sense if you know a little bit about the crusades, but if this is your first introduction I suspect the mention of Baldwin II is a little awkward. Seeing as you’ve just gotten your Bohemond’s and Tancred’s in order and all. (and that is no mean feat! Yes, geeky Crusader humour. Sorry..)

What Tyreman is good at is shedding the light on the economic and political aspects of the world surrounding the Crusades. He has a great analysis of how the cost of siege weapons varied largely dependent on the ease with which one could get hold of timber. In Palestine wood was scarce so siege weapons where expensive. Tyerman argues that the First Crusaders had an advantage since they could use the cheap, European timber that they had shipped to Palestine. Ergo more siege weapons and easier to take cities.

It’s aspects like these that make the book enjoyable, and I would say it is a well written and very interesting book. Just not an introduction.

Christopher Clark: The Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947

This now is a great introduction! Clark follows the history of Prussia from the Brandenburgs to the fall of the Third Reich. He has a great, flowing style – and is often quite funny. The fact that he always makes it quite clear which Friedrich Wilhelm he is talking about is also a plus.

His portrait of Friedrich the Great is wonderful – as he manages to combine the large historical lines with small, personal anecdotes. Did you know that the great Friedrich apparently wrote a poem about orgasm? (Sadly this has been lost.) Or that his father, Friedrich Wilhelm I, once forced a professor to be locked in a lecture hall with several bears, while spectators shot fireworks at the bears? Personally I prefer the one with the poetic inclination.

So in conclusion;I really liked this book and heartily recommend it.

Emma Hartley: Did David Hasselhoff end the Cold War – facts you need to know about Europe.

I bought this in Berlin seeing as it deals with, among other things, a little known part of German history; David Hasselhoff and his part in bringing down the Berlin Wall. His song "I’ve been looking for Freedom" (based on a German song Auf Der Strasse Nach Suden) topped the charts for three months in the summer of 1989. Ten years later Hasselhoff visited Berlin and the Checkpoint Charlie museum and lamented that he was not featured as part of the exhibition "How the Wall came down". He felt his song had inspired the movement. *g*

The book lists other facts as well. The Norwegian fact is "In 1998, the Norwegian Prime Minister announced that he was depressed and took several weeks off work". 'tis true, 'tis true. There is also a chapter called "Finnish food is better than French", "The Twelve Stars on the EU flag are a symbol of the Virgin Mary" and so forth.

Great fun and actually quite interesting despite it's odd chapter titles.

Did this man help bring down the Berlin Wall? Well, he just might have...

Cut for Hasselhoffian evidence )
baleanoptera: (books)
Somehow, despite being on a rather tight schedule I’ve managed to finish a few books. Huzzah! Although, by the look of this list, it would probably do me good to read some fiction. ;P

Christopher Tyerman: God’s War – a New History of the Crusades

Tyerman goal is to write a new introduction to the Crusades, one that also could be seen as a more modern version to the classics by Steven Runciman. He gives it a good try, but I’m not sure he succeeds. He writes well, but lacks Runciman’s style - and as introductions go God’s War is a little messy.
While talking about the First Crusade he keeps sliding in sentences like "this law was later changed during Baldwin II". Now this will make sense if you know a little bit about the crusades, but if this is your first introduction I suspect the mention of Baldwin II is a little awkward. Seeing as you’ve just gotten your Bohemond’s and Tancred’s in order and all. (and that is no mean feat! Yes, geeky Crusader humour. Sorry..)

What Tyreman is good at is shedding the light on the economic and political aspects of the world surrounding the Crusades. He has a great analysis of how the cost of siege weapons varied largely dependent on the ease with which one could get hold of timber. In Palestine wood was scarce so siege weapons where expensive. Tyerman argues that the First Crusaders had an advantage since they could use the cheap, European timber that they had shipped to Palestine. Ergo more siege weapons and easier to take cities.

It’s aspects like these that make the book enjoyable, and I would say it is a well written and very interesting book. Just not an introduction.

Christopher Clark: The Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947

This now is a great introduction! Clark follows the history of Prussia from the Brandenburgs to the fall of the Third Reich. He has a great, flowing style – and is often quite funny. The fact that he always makes it quite clear which Friedrich Wilhelm he is talking about is also a plus.

His portrait of Friedrich the Great is wonderful – as he manages to combine the large historical lines with small, personal anecdotes. Did you know that the great Friedrich apparently wrote a poem about orgasm? (Sadly this has been lost.) Or that his father, Friedrich Wilhelm I, once forced a professor to be locked in a lecture hall with several bears, while spectators shot fireworks at the bears? Personally I prefer the one with the poetic inclination.

So in conclusion;I really liked this book and heartily recommend it.

Emma Hartley: Did David Hasselhoff end the Cold War – facts you need to know about Europe.

I bought this in Berlin seeing as it deals with, among other things, a little known part of German history; David Hasselhoff and his part in bringing down the Berlin Wall. His song "I’ve been looking for Freedom" (based on a German song Auf Der Strasse Nach Suden) topped the charts for three months in the summer of 1989. Ten years later Hasselhoff visited Berlin and the Checkpoint Charlie museum and lamented that he was not featured as part of the exhibition "How the Wall came down". He felt his song had inspired the movement. *g*

The book lists other facts as well. The Norwegian fact is "In 1998, the Norwegian Prime Minister announced that he was depressed and took several weeks off work". 'tis true, 'tis true. There is also a chapter called "Finnish food is better than French", "The Twelve Stars on the EU flag are a symbol of the Virgin Mary" and so forth.

Great fun and actually quite interesting despite it's odd chapter titles.

Did this man help bring down the Berlin Wall? Well, he just might have...

Cut for Hasselhoffian evidence )
baleanoptera: (fairytale snowwhite)


Catherynne M. Valente : The Orphan’s Tales: In the night garden , Vol. I

I recently read Valente’s book, and first let me say I truly enjoyed it. I might even love it a little. So I wanted to write a little about the book, but since I’m apparently incapable of writing about a book without skittering in all directions I also ended up writing about female characters and some pondering on if this is a collection of fairytales or fantasy literature. You are here by warned. ;) Also - there are a few tiny spoilers in here, but nothing major and nothing you wouldn't find on the dust cover.

The main frame of The Orphan’s Tales takes place at night when whispered stories are weaved into a wonderful tapestry. The storyteller is a strange young girl who has stories inked on her eyelids, like a swirling black mask. She is the orphan of the title, and these are her tales.

The second part of the title In the Night Garden is particularly apt for Valente likes the shadow and dusk side of things. She seems so side with the witches and the monsters of the fairytales, and desires to show that what might look ugly doesn’t necessarily act ugly. Foul is fair and fair is foul indeed.

Valente’s world is drawn from quite lot of cultures. There are traces of Arabian Nights, of Russian fairytales, of Inuit stories and African tales – and her brilliance lies with her ability to weave this all together and make a coherent, fantastical world. There are several protagonists, and some really scary villains. And all of it is described in a very poetic language that manages to thread the fine line between descriptive and fascinating, and flowery, purple prose.

Female Characters )

Fantasy or fairytale? - some touches of fairytale meta. )
baleanoptera: (fairytale snowwhite)


Catherynne M. Valente : The Orphan’s Tales: In the night garden , Vol. I

I recently read Valente’s book, and first let me say I truly enjoyed it. I might even love it a little. So I wanted to write a little about the book, but since I’m apparently incapable of writing about a book without skittering in all directions I also ended up writing about female characters and some pondering on if this is a collection of fairytales or fantasy literature. You are here by warned. ;) Also - there are a few tiny spoilers in here, but nothing major and nothing you wouldn't find on the dust cover.

The main frame of The Orphan’s Tales takes place at night when whispered stories are weaved into a wonderful tapestry. The storyteller is a strange young girl who has stories inked on her eyelids, like a swirling black mask. She is the orphan of the title, and these are her tales.

The second part of the title In the Night Garden is particularly apt for Valente likes the shadow and dusk side of things. She seems so side with the witches and the monsters of the fairytales, and desires to show that what might look ugly doesn’t necessarily act ugly. Foul is fair and fair is foul indeed.

Valente’s world is drawn from quite lot of cultures. There are traces of Arabian Nights, of Russian fairytales, of Inuit stories and African tales – and her brilliance lies with her ability to weave this all together and make a coherent, fantastical world. There are several protagonists, and some really scary villains. And all of it is described in a very poetic language that manages to thread the fine line between descriptive and fascinating, and flowery, purple prose.

Female Characters )

Fantasy or fairytale? - some touches of fairytale meta. )
baleanoptera: (Norge Stavechurch)
Grabbed from pretty much every one:


Favorite books of 2006

- in which I post a list of no particular order, the contents of which is formed by my memory of the previous year, the words written on a bleak December morning when the writer found herself surrounded by whale-song (don't ask..).


ze books )
baleanoptera: (Norge Stavechurch)
Grabbed from pretty much every one:


Favorite books of 2006

- in which I post a list of no particular order, the contents of which is formed by my memory of the previous year, the words written on a bleak December morning when the writer found herself surrounded by whale-song (don't ask..).


ze books )
baleanoptera: (Norge atlanterhavsveien)


This picture shows a stretch of road in Norway. I think it's slightly amazing, so I did a post about it here: [livejournal.com profile] newtranschool . The info says: This is for art lovers who just want to bask in the glow of beautiful amazingness. This is a place to put art that stirs in us nearly religious feelings. You could call us the Sufi equivalents of art lovers.Humor is a good idea.

Acceptable media: songs, song lyrics, video clips, snatches (big and small) of a book/poem/whatever, pictures, paintings, DIY projects, found things, huge fanfiction epics, not-so-huge fanfiction epics, moments in real life, etc etc etc...

So far it's been great fun. So please - go and take a look around.
baleanoptera: (Norge atlanterhavsveien)


This picture shows a stretch of road in Norway. I think it's slightly amazing, so I did a post about it here: [livejournal.com profile] newtranschool . The info says: This is for art lovers who just want to bask in the glow of beautiful amazingness. This is a place to put art that stirs in us nearly religious feelings. You could call us the Sufi equivalents of art lovers.Humor is a good idea.

Acceptable media: songs, song lyrics, video clips, snatches (big and small) of a book/poem/whatever, pictures, paintings, DIY projects, found things, huge fanfiction epics, not-so-huge fanfiction epics, moments in real life, etc etc etc...

So far it's been great fun. So please - go and take a look around.
baleanoptera: (Equibrium Bale looking sorrowful)
I'd just like to give a little shout about a few things that have caught my attention this last month. I might be a little late in recommending some of these things, but I can always use the excuse that I have been away. ;)

A community:

[livejournal.com profile] told_tales It discusses fairytales, as well as adaptations and art centered in and from fairytales. The first fairytale discussed has been little Red Riding Hood, and the contributions have ranged from art, to Christmas decorations to the infamous Monty Python retelling.

Some icons:

Lovely [livejournal.com profile] alexandral made some very nice icons from the movie Equilibrium, and if you like that movie (and you should) then definitely take a peak.

And [livejournal.com profile] sunnyskywalker made some rather nifty icons based on Star Wars cartoons and concept art. The Original trilogy here and some Padme ones here.


Then there are a few books:


"People are sexually aroused by pictures and sculptures; they break pictures and sculptures; they mutilate them, cry before them, and go on journeys to them; they are calmed by them, stirred by them, and incited to revolt. They give thanks by means of them, and are moved to the highest levels of empathy. They have always responded in these ways; they still do."


This is from David Freedberg’s "The Power of Images", which is one of the best books about visual culture and the effect of images I have read in a long time. You know when you read a book that sometimes subtly and sometimes distinctly changes your perceptions? This book did that for me. I’ve filled my notebook with quotes and I’ve spent hours just pondering. I love it when books enable that. ... )



"All that I saw that day, from afar, and that I heard of, I want you to hear, now, if you wish to understand the death I wanted to die."
- Patroclus from Alessandro Baricco’s An Iliad


The Italian author Alessandro Baricco has begot an Iliad. Notice the use of an for this is very clearly and with intent an adaptation. But it is a very good an interesting adaptation. ... )

And some moving images:

And lastly a series called Perfect Strangers, written by the rather talented Stephen Poliakof. It stars Matthew Macfadyen, Michael Gambon, Lindsey Duncan and Toby Stephens. (and a whole host of others listed here.)

The setting is a family reunion. Right at the beginning one character says that all families contain at least three great stories, and with the help of flashbacks, photographs and truly haunting music the series wishes to tell a few of those stories.

This isn’t a great, flashy drama – but something rather understated. I loved it, and especially how it managed to convey that families can be both frightfully ordinary as well as fantastically original. It’s just a lovely series to watch, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
baleanoptera: (Equibrium Bale looking sorrowful)
I'd just like to give a little shout about a few things that have caught my attention this last month. I might be a little late in recommending some of these things, but I can always use the excuse that I have been away. ;)

A community:

[livejournal.com profile] told_tales It discusses fairytales, as well as adaptations and art centered in and from fairytales. The first fairytale discussed has been little Red Riding Hood, and the contributions have ranged from art, to Christmas decorations to the infamous Monty Python retelling.

Some icons:

Lovely [livejournal.com profile] alexandral made some very nice icons from the movie Equilibrium, and if you like that movie (and you should) then definitely take a peak.

And [livejournal.com profile] sunnyskywalker made some rather nifty icons based on Star Wars cartoons and concept art. The Original trilogy here and some Padme ones here.


Then there are a few books:


"People are sexually aroused by pictures and sculptures; they break pictures and sculptures; they mutilate them, cry before them, and go on journeys to them; they are calmed by them, stirred by them, and incited to revolt. They give thanks by means of them, and are moved to the highest levels of empathy. They have always responded in these ways; they still do."


This is from David Freedberg’s "The Power of Images", which is one of the best books about visual culture and the effect of images I have read in a long time. You know when you read a book that sometimes subtly and sometimes distinctly changes your perceptions? This book did that for me. I’ve filled my notebook with quotes and I’ve spent hours just pondering. I love it when books enable that. ... )



"All that I saw that day, from afar, and that I heard of, I want you to hear, now, if you wish to understand the death I wanted to die."
- Patroclus from Alessandro Baricco’s An Iliad


The Italian author Alessandro Baricco has begot an Iliad. Notice the use of an for this is very clearly and with intent an adaptation. But it is a very good an interesting adaptation. ... )

And some moving images:

And lastly a series called Perfect Strangers, written by the rather talented Stephen Poliakof. It stars Matthew Macfadyen, Michael Gambon, Lindsey Duncan and Toby Stephens. (and a whole host of others listed here.)

The setting is a family reunion. Right at the beginning one character says that all families contain at least three great stories, and with the help of flashbacks, photographs and truly haunting music the series wishes to tell a few of those stories.

This isn’t a great, flashy drama – but something rather understated. I loved it, and especially how it managed to convey that families can be both frightfully ordinary as well as fantastically original. It’s just a lovely series to watch, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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