Movie Review: Queen of the Desert by Werner Herzog

Combining the cinematic extravaganza of Werner Herzog with the history of a truly inspiring woman should have resulted in an epic and inspirational film.  Gertrude Bell was an amazing woman who was crucial in establishing an archaeological context for the Middle East, founding the Iraqi Archaeological Museum, and as well as being an important figure behind the construction of the Middle East (see the links below to learn more).  So, obviously, the movie focused on the most interesting aspects of her life, right?  Not quite.  Herzog created a cinematically lovely film, but completely missed the mark by focusing on Bell’s romantic relationships.  And, those relationships were poorly represented.  I found myself fast-forwarding through portions of the movie, which does not bode well for the rest of the film.  Unfortunately, Herzog took a strong female heroine and reduced her and her actions as responses to unrequited love with relatively boring individuals.  The movie felt bland and stilted. If one must focus on relationships, why not combine the romance, adventure, and her many accomplishments? Or, how about just her exciting adventures?  I would watch ‘Gertrude of Arabia’ in a heartbeat.  I hope another director tries to showcase the fascinating life of Gertrude Bell!

Links:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00xhh2q

https://trowelblazers.com/gertrude-bell-awesome-in-arabia/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/queen_of_the_desert/

Book Review: Introducing Postmodernism By Appignanesi and Garratt

Theory in any discipline can be extremely difficult to grasp.  Bring in postmodernism and many students are completely lost.  This book helped me understand the postmodernism movement when I was first introduced to historical and archaeological theory.  Appignanesi and Garratt answer such questions as, what on earth is false postmodernism?  Eclectic postmodernism?  The Anthropic Principle?  Introducing Postmodernism is a great companion to any theoretical textbook/compilation of works for an undergraduate theory class.  I found myself pulling out this book even for my graduate anthropology theory class.

Through cartoons and brief but concise explanations, the authors trace the complexities of the postmodernist movement in art, theory, science, and history.  Reading original texts by Derrida and Levi-Strauss can bring on massive headaches—this book, however, breaks down such authors’ concepts into something understandable.  After reading about major postmodernists and their thoughts brought to life via drawings, I was then able to tackle some of their writing.  Although, Derrida still has me scratching my head.

Textbook Review of ‘The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome’ by Chris Scarre

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If you need the entire history of the Roman Empire reduced into a nutshell, with fantastic maps and photographs of archaeological ruins and busts, then this is the book for you!  The history of Roman civilization is a huge topic to tackle, especially in the span of a semester.  As a Classics minor, I had a difficult time remembering the major dates, people, and places figuring from 800 BC to 540 AD, from the origins in Rome, to fall of the Western Empire.  The Atlas provides a visual depiction of the rise and fall of Rome.  I personally like being able to see a broad depiction in order to better understand the major themes of a civilization.  Scarre provides detailed maps of important places of expansion, as well as information on trade, literacy, and cultural life in different periods.  The timelines are excellent; the timeline is broken down into The Roman State, Building and Construction, Literature and Philosophy, and Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean.  This book, however, cannot stand alone since it is a broad overview.  It is a great companion to classical texts and textbooks on the Roman Empire.  It is also perfect for a quick overview before an exam.  For those simply interested the rise and fall of Rome, the Atlas provides a great overview with fantastic images.