I could have managed without the short and superficial chapters about other crime organizations and Mafia films (I'm sure there's not much new informa...moreI could have managed without the short and superficial chapters about other crime organizations and Mafia films (I'm sure there's not much new information in the latter, if you've seen even just a few gangster films), but the part about Mafia's women was much too short (especially because in Calabria women are still murdered today if they remarry, or do something else that the organization feels breaks the patriarchal order of the society).
Gasparini succeeds in peeling the glossy surface from the Mafia, but he could have taken a firmer stance on the issue of films and other media glamorizing its position in the society. It's worrying that some (or all?) who belong to these organizations feel like they're not murdering anyone per se, but instead handing out justified punishments that in their world are alright and needed to sustain the hierarchy. I wonder if the Mafia is much too rooted to get rid of it completely. Only time will tell.
An ok introduction overall, despite some problems construction-wise and with repetitiveness. For those in need of an in-depth history I would suggest turning elsewhere. There's also a slight mistake in the film section: films about organized crime did exist before the 1930s (Underworld , The Racket  etc.), but the exploits of real life criminals gradually made them more popular, making the 1930s the Golden era of gangster films.(less)
I finally managed to push myself to read up on World War I, which has so far been a fuzzy area in history for me (apart from the Russian Revolution)....moreI finally managed to push myself to read up on World War I, which has so far been a fuzzy area in history for me (apart from the Russian Revolution). I still can't say that I know the events well enough, but at least now I get the difference between this and the Second World War.
The Finnish translation wasn't that impressive, but what made reading this even more difficult were all the listings of the troop movements. A huge amount of dates and places is not my idea of engaging war history (especially since I'm not that enthusiastic about it in the first place), but makes it mind-numbing and faceless. So my expectations didn't meet with what I got, because I wanted to know more about the things visible in the photos, like new weapons and other battle related things (the text mentions mustard gas, but only briefly), the reality of what it was like at the front (maybe even told by the soldiers themselves), and general practical things of the war. The collection of photographs, however, was excellent. Even though there were some repetitiveness with all the similar ships and weapons, I would still recommend having a look at them.
I did manage to gather some interesting pieces of information, though, and I'm most certainly going to be reading more about them, when I can find some in depth descriptions (preferably cultural history).
This did leave me wondering, who the photographers were and what they felt about working in the battle fields. Were they hired specifically for this job? In any case, some of the expressions on the men's faces are eerie, and not just because most of them never saw their home again but died in the middle of rotting corpses.
A Canadian military doctor John McCrae wrote this poem on May 2 1915, when his friend was found dead on a field in the midst of millions of poppies. A touching inclusion to the book.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly scare heard amid the guns below
We are the dead, short days ago we lived, felt dawn. Saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders Fields
Take up our quarrel with the foe To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders Field.(less)
Occasionally repetitious but serves its purpose as a decent introduction. The design is pretty and the pocket size is handy.
The media section (literat...moreOccasionally repetitious but serves its purpose as a decent introduction. The design is pretty and the pocket size is handy.
The media section (literature, film, and television) was horribly superficial, though. The history section and the all ghastly stories of creepy creatures was ok, but there was no effort whatsoever with the latter part of the book. Occasionally the author recounted whole plots with nothing else to say, in addition to merely listing stuff. For example, with Bram Stoker's Dracula she did nothing else than tell the plot from start to finish and introduce Bram Stoker. No analysis on its influence, nothing. Oh, and why the hell would you introduce Hitchcock when he has nothing to do with vampires? Just because you talk about horror films, it's not necessary to bring him up because you're talking about a particular genre that he didn't have a direct influence on.
There were also a few inaccuracies that made me cringe. McLeod constantly misspells names, which is embarrassing since you can check them from Google in a few seconds. Jonathan Harper, Gerald Butler, Georges Méllès etc.? No. Just - no. Second, Carl Theodor Dreyer is not Swedish but Danish. These things are very tiny, but they made me a bit paranoid about the rest of the information I wasn't so familiar with. How can I be sure she wasn't more careful with the rest of it?
Unfortunately, this seems like a book that was hashed together in a hurry to cash in on the newer vampire phenomenon.(less)