Sunday, January 27, 2019

Netflix and take notes.

I had every intention of getting a ton of stuff done this weekend. But this past week turned out to be pretty wrenching for me emotionally. (Fun Fact: Growing up with a bully, and then having to deal with a succession of narcissists and sociopaths later in life, can give a person Chronic PTSD. And watching a bully hold 800,000 federal employees hostage financially for no good reason, and apparently with no remorse, can be a trigger for that person, especially when it happens close to the first anniversary of resolving a similarly pointless financial hostage situation with her original bully.)

Anyway, I ended up tossing most of my original plans for the weekend and giving myself a day off. Yesterday, I stayed in my jammies, knitted, and watched a bunch of episodes of one of the Great Courses.

Stolen from their website. I hope they don't come after me.
Some of y'all may remember when I groused on Facebook a few weeks back that this company appeared to be stalking me. First I received their full-color catalog in the mail, and then, without ever searching for their website, I started seeing their ads on Facebook. They weren't really stalking me, of course; I suspect they're just really good at targeting their potential customer base. Anyway, they were running a deal on a bunch of courses for $35 each. So I bought several to try them out.

These are college-level courses, and the production is about as low-tech as you would expect from a college course: Mostly it's the professor lecturing, with some maps and photos. The episodes are about a half-hour long apiece -- not quite long enough to start nodding off, unless you're very tired on a Friday night and you watch a bunch of them back-to-back (don't ask me how I know).

One of the courses I purchased is called The Celtic World. I decided to try that one first, as I already knew a bit about the subject and figured it would be a good test to see whether I was wasting my money. Not to worry. The professor -- Jennifer Paxton from Catholic University -- was engaging and knew her stuff. I never felt like arguing with her. Well, maybe once or twice: I would have liked more information on the Celtic pantheon (of course!) and a little more technical information about the ornamentation in Celtic music. (Fun Fact: Ornamentation -- all those extra little notes -- were added by bagpipers first. Most wind instruments are played by the musician blowing directly into the instrument; the musician differentiates notes of the same tone by using the lips and tongue to stop the airflow. But a bagpipe has to keep the airflow moving for the drone -- that sustained note that runs under the whole song -- so bagpipers had to come up with another way to separate the notes in the melody from one another. They hit upon adding in grace notes, and the practice became more elaborate over time. Because that sounded cool, other melody instruments, like the fiddle and harp, added them to their repertoire. Another Fun Fact: Those extra notes aren't written in the sheet music. You're just supposed to feel where to put them in, which isn't a hell of a lot of help when you're first learning to play Irish music. I never got the hang of it.)

But for a survey course that covered a ton of material, from the ancient La Tene and Hallstadt civilizations to Riverdance, it was fine.

My initial impression, after this first course, is that the Great Courses are college-level introductory classes you can take for the fun of it -- no tests or homework. If you're the sort of person who used to look through your college catalog and drool over the classes you couldn't fit into your schedule, it's something to keep in mind.

These moments of educational blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

No comments: