April Medialogging
By Dwip April 30, 2015, 10:28 am Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

I was going to talk about this being a short month, on account of the entire second half of it being consumed with my epic bout of pneumonia, which I encourage you all dear readers to never contract in any form because it’s awful, but on second thought I did a lot here. Couple of very solid books, some really good visual entertainment, and a bit more outside that.

Too, this is an important month in the history of this project. Some big things in here.

YTD stats:

January: : 5 books; 5 fiction (2,398 p.) / 2 videos; 2 movies (4.8 h.)
February: : 11 books; 7 graphic (1,411 p.); 3 fiction (1,079 p.); 1 non-fiction (12.7 h.) / 2 videos; 1 anime series (5.4 h.); 1 movies (2.0 h.)
March:: 1 books; 1 fiction (108 p.) / 6 videos; 2 documentaries (3.3 h.); 1 movies (2.0 h.); 3 TV seasons (45.5 h.)
April:: 3 books; 3 non-fiction (1,336 p.) / 3 videos; 1 documentaries (11.7 h.); 1 movies (1.9 h.); 1 TV seasons (16.2 h.)

Year to Date: 20 books; 7 graphic (1,411 p.); 9 fiction (3,585 p.); 4 non-fiction (1,336 p., 12.7166666666667 h.) / 13 videos; 1 anime series (5.4 h.); 3 documentaries (15.0 h.); 5 movies (10.7 h.); 4 TV seasons (61.7 h.)

Details for April after the jump.

04/09/2015 Toby Wilkinson, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt (2011 Random House hardcover, 611 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

So all of this Stargate lately had me wanting to read some real Egyptian history because it’s been ages, and this book comes highly reviewed, so here we are.

It must be said that attempting to cover the entire several thousand year span of ancient Egyptian history in a mere 600 pages is a rather monumental undertaking, and Wilkinson’s book is about as good as you’re going to get. This is an enormously readable book that’s actually something of a page turner and a joy to read.

Unfortunately, both the limitations of the source material and the need for brevity mean that most of the narrative is concerned with kings and battles and things with only limited digressions on things like daily life, and you’ll need more specialist works if you want to get into the weeds on religion and the like, but all the highlights are here.

Ultimately, I found the best way to approach the book was to think of it as an extended meditation on the various virtues and vices of absolute rulership, delving into the peculiarities of how and why absolute dictatorships are run the way they are and why the Egyptian fanaticism for a stable state was what it was. Insofar as that was concerned I enjoyed myself. I just thought there might be slightly more to the thing.

04/05/2015 Brad Wright, Jonathan Glassner, et al., Stargate SG-1: Season Four (2007 MGM DVD, 973 minutes, 22 episodes – Personal collection, 2009)

As per the usual, this one gets its own post.

04/13/2015 Robert M. Edsel, The Monuments Men (2009 Center Street hardcover, 473 pages – Corvallis Public Library)

At this point, the Nazi looting of the great treasures of Europe should be pretty well known. What is less known is that the Allies, in one of those random seat of the pants somebody’s good idea things that World War 2 is noted for, came up with a small unit of people, mostly museum curators, art historians, and the like, tasked to save as much of Europe’s cultural heritage as possible.

It must be said that this is a riveting book, and I blew through it in one night. Edsel isn’t a professional historian, doesn’t write like one (to his great credit), and seems to have primarily worked off of interviews, which all makes for an engrossing, storytelling sort of work. It’s almost immediately obvious why they made a movie out of it, because I movie deserves to be made out of it.

That said, the thing does at times get slightly too limited, sometimes lacking a bit of scope on the big picture of things. Italy and Japan are almost entirely left out, though I understand there is a second work covering the former. A bit of editorializing and a couple minor factual errors were also noticable, but don’t notably detract from the thing.

04/22/2015 Ken Burns, et al., The Civil War (2004 PBS Home Video DVD, 700 minutes, 9 episodes – Personal collection, 2008)

I just missed watching this over the 150th anniversary of Appomattox, but I figure the 150th anniversary of 1865 will do.

The Civil War is a series that I have talked about many times before over the course of this blog.

After having put so many words forth on the subject, I find it difficult to elaborate on what I’ve already put forth. But the main fact of the thing is this: I first saw this series, all 11+ hours of it when I was 9 or 10 years old waiting up every evening to watch it at my grandparents’ house on PBS. Along with Shogun and Roots, two books that will undoubtably be discussed here in future, this series is one of the foundations of why I have and do love history, and why I try to be a student of the human condition. I have always thought of it as being about the best condensation of the enormously complex topic of the war onto film, and its combination of music, sound, and hearing the language of the time discussing the time over photographs of that time have worked like few other things in my experience to captivate me and transport me to that world. These experiences have touched me deeply, and the music especially is some ofthe most important in my life.

I’ve discussed before as well the places this series has led me, particularly to a strong affinity for many of the central figures – Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, Grant, Sherman. It was also a catalyst, with Roots, for attempting to think very strongly about race in this country from a very early age, which in turn has had a very strong effect on me. The politics too stay with me, especially in an age where the Republican party seems hell bent on becoming the party of John C. Calhoun rather than the party of Lincoln. I am a Union man. I can be no other thing.

I’d like to go on here, but at some point lack the words. There are experiences that I have had in my life that cannot be easily summed up in words, whose effects linger possibly for the rest of it. This is one of them.

04/23/2015 Edgar Wright, et al., Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010 Universal Studios DVD, 113 minutes – Personal collection, 2012)

I’ve talked about the comics this movie is based on before, but since Cole has had possession of my copy of the movie for like a year, I’m just getting around to talking about it.

The short version is that this is about as good an adaptation of the source material as possibly could have been made, hitting most if not all of the high points of the comics without dwelling overmuch on the interludes. The cast is brilliant, and while Scott is slightly less of a loser in the comics, he’s got a Smashing Pumpkins shirt on for most of the movie so like, whatever.

The other big thing about this movie is how utterly, relentlessly clever it is. Almost every scene is hilarious and quotable in a way I haven’t experienced since Bill and Ted were a thing, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that was so good at adapting the style of comics to film, including any given Marvel or DC film. Then again, there’s a difference between Batman and a movie that features boss battles with a Bollywood musical guy with demon hipster chicks and two seperate bass battles.

I mean, I could go on here, but since I love music and video games and the 90s and I was (am?) a huge slacker, this movie instantly became one of my favorites the instant I saw it. If any of those things sound appealing to you, you should go watch it too.

04/25/2015 Sam Watkins, Co. “Aytch” (1882 Columbia Herald Kindle edition, 252 pages – Personal collection, 2012)

Sam Watkins and this book were primary sources for Ken Burns’ The Civil War, which is how I came to know about it. I’ve read several of the big name memoirs of the Union side, but I’ve never read a Confederate one. Since I was stuck for several hours at the doctor’s office while getting diagnosed with pneumonia, what better time to pick the thing up.

Watkins is an engaging writer, especially for a 19th century writer, and his jocular, conversational style makes for a light, witty, tales around the fire in the evening sort of take on things, which was enormously helpful and enormously readable even for somebody with a 102 fever and coughing fits.

That having been said, while the depictions of army life are vivid and descriptive, and one gets a pretty good sense of just how hungry these guys were, I do find myself slightly skeptical of Watkins’ account, given the number of heroic near misses and tales of derring do that would be exciting if they happened to any five men. Maybe I suspect too much.

Too, I find it interesting that his stated reasons for joining were pretty much Shelby Foote’s old quote of “because you’re down here.” and the almost complete lack of any black people in the entire narrative despite it being the South. On the one hand, it means no grinding through all the casual 19th century racism, and it does make Watkins way more sympathetic to modern ears, but on the other hand I don’t quite buy it.

But there again, maybe I suspect too much. Nathan Bedford Forrest Watkins is not.

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