Saturday, May 31, 2008


Here is yet another tip that I got through the great blog of DIY Scholar. She reviews high quality podcasts, just like me, but is more exclusively focussed on University lectures and in addition writes also about books, vodcasts or video and anything else that has to do with free learning.

Slide from Busch's powerpointShe has a very good grip on what academic institutions all over the world have to offer and as a result caught up on the British universities of Oxford and Cambridge, who have started to follow their American counterparts and begun to put good courses on line. One of DIY Scholar's mentions is a course on Oxford about German politics since 1945.

A German scholar, Andreas Busch (with hardly an accent it needs to be pointed out) gives this series with historic and legal constitutional background. The podcasts are enhanced with his power point (feed). I am in the third lecture now and like what I hear. A good podcast in political science and also interesting for history buffs such as myself. (And here I try to forget that once upon a time I taught constitutional law - god forbid!)

More Germany:
New Europe, Old Europe,
Germany (Berkeley History 167B),
Missing Link from Berlin.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Non Violence readers

Here is a short review for a lecture series that I occasionally listen to. It is a twofold feature, officially named PACS 164A and PACS 164B. In the academic year 2006/2007 Berkeley offered these courses about Non-Violence. The lecturer Michael Nagler uses the first series to explain the philosophy of Gandhi and then proceeds to tell the history of Gandhi non-violent career and then connects to Martin Luther King. The second series intends to reveal non-violence in the current time.

I do not succeed in very persistently follow the lectures. There is an air of self-righteousness I cannot stand for a long time, no matter how hard I want to believe in non-violence. Nevertheless, I do not abandon altogether and so, some time in the far future, I will sum up these podcasts in hindsight. Until then, I'd like to point out again, they are there and deliver also some news. The readers that go with the courses have been published on line so that, everyone who wishes, can follow more closely.

Previously on PACS 164:
Non Violence

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Kingdom of Ghana

Before I tell about a podcast lecture that touches upon the Kingdom of Ghana (not the same as contemporary Ghana) a few words about UCSD. This university delivers some great content that is easily accessible on line. The current courses available contain among others two series about Medieval History (MMW3). My advice to you is to download all lectures as soon as you can, for further use. I found out that UCSD rather quickly tends to archive those courses and then empties the feed. This happened for example to the course CATS 2 about the interaction of science, religion, culture and society. The course was given earlier this year and has been removed, before I could finish it.

Now to Ghana. This medieval kingdom is touched upon in the UCSD series MMW 3, more specifically in the series by Professor Herbst in lecture 15 (May 20th, 2008). Mostly, Africa has been tribal, but a kingdom could come into existence because of trade. Trade became possible as soon as the Arabs and Berbers figured out, how to cross the Sahara with camels. With the camels they brought in salt from the salt pans in the Sahara and traded it, most importantly for gold. Ghana was a kingdom situated roughly where today are Mauretania and Mali. The gold was not from their soil, they got it from peoples further south. With trade, also Islam reached this part of the world. Soon the elite of the Kingdom of Ghana became Muslims.

I was wondering whether also in earlier times gold made it from West-Africa to the rest of the world. Maybe through Egypt or Ethiopia. There are so many questions and so few podcasts with answers. Maybe there are very few sources, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was also little research. Africa still lies largely undiscovered.

More MMW 3:
Gupta History,
World history guided by the religions,
World history outside the European box,
Making of the Modern World - UCSD,
UC San Diego's podcast courses.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bob on Tours - history podcast review

The most productive of all history podcasts is History according to Bob. Bob Packett is a college history professor, who uses his spare time to crank out straightforward podcast episodes on a daily basis. He touches on the widest variety of subjects imaginable, but does this as part of various programmatic lines he commits to. For example, he has embarked upon a series to tell the history of the Franks. After many episodes, he has reached the first big known climax: Charles Martel's victory at the battle of Tours.

Recently we have had another podcast, with David Levering Lewis, touching upon this subject. (review) This took a detached, if Muslim, perspective on the battle. Bob, of course, takes the Frankish, Christian perspective of Charles Martel. He dedicated two podcasts to Charles Martel personally and one to the Battle of Tours. The latter, was actually an older podcast he had done many months ago, Bob has reissued. On a side note: we can see how Bob has developed over time.

Bob makes a very meticulous report of the Battle of Tours (732 AD). He sets the stage; showing the Arab advance into Europe, explaining the importance of Tours (holy site) and constructing the position of Martel. Martel was a lot stronger than the Arabs assumed. Martel was a good strategist and he had battle-hardened troops at his disposal. He also managed to rally the Church and through the Church the people to his personal cause. The Ummayyad cavalry was maneuvered in an unfavorable position, but decided to attack anyway. Martel's troops maintained formation and the Arab's were the first to break discipline, thus taking the loss. Ultimately Bob also analyzes the importance and effects of the victory (interestingly, not incoherent with David Levering Lewis) and as usual gives his sources.

Relevant posts:
Islam and Europe,
Making of the Modern World - UCSD,
Islam meets Europe,
The Franks,
Thinking Outside the European Box.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Samson, the conflicted hero

Muscular Judaism is the title of a podcast delivering the recordings of five lectures delving into the story of Samson and trying to interpret this unusual figure in Judaism. I was directed to this podcast by fellow blogger DIY Scholar.

Two elements make this from the start an refreshing enterprise. One is the parallels that are being made with the current situation of Israel and the Palestinians. However the positions are reversed; the Israelis rule and the Palestinians are the subdued. The other is that Samson is taken for the uneasy figure he is. He is an unusual kind of hero in Judaism with his physical prowess and his sexual escapades with enemy women. Deeper than that, he is a man with a troubled, torn psyche; uneasy with his holy task, confused about his identity and hopelessly failing in his relations.

Lecturer Eli Ungarn, reveals he is inspired by David Grossman's interpretation of Samson, but to my taste, he doesn't completely succeed in supporting, or even explaining Grossman's characterization of Samson as an artist. What struck me more than that, was how Samson seemingly rebels against his task. He tries to connect with, and become part of the Philistines, but even in his rebellion, he fumbles and achieves nothing but the opposite. The story emphasizes, how this was all part and parcel of God's plan from the start. And so, even more, Samson in spite of all his might (he also turns out to be quite smart) is a human disaster from the git go.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The dialectic of knowledge and culture

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) offers a podcast containing a lecture series of Professor Tal Golan (History of Science). It is part of a scientific program that usually is rather technical. This particular series (CATS2), however, is historical and it proposes to hand the history of science and reveal the relationship between what we know and how we organize the world. (feed)

Golan says, you could title the series with 'Laws of men and laws of nature', which is also a book of his. He intends to show that what is perceived as knowledge and how knowledge is organized and institutionalized in society, is closely related with how society is organized, politically, legally, economically and so on. Considerations about truth designate how research is done (if at all), how theories are conceived (if at all) and who is assumed to have authority in this field. This authority in turn designates who can advise the political leaders, what agendas are served, what problems are detected and how it is assumed they can be handled.

In many ways this is a history of ideas and consequently, a more structured and deeper version of the BBC's In Our Time. At times it is very abstract and since I have not finished the course yet, I cannot begin to make any final review about it. I can only strongly recommend it. You are going to find out why for the Greeks it was not meaningful to conduct experiments, why this was essential for Christianity and the society of the Middle Ages and how the intellectual efforts of Galileo, to Descartes to Kant and others, completely revolutionized the world. Such a deep search is also confusing at times and Golan admits that right from the beginning and occasionally starts all over again. He announces he is not happy with how he has construed his argument and gives it another try. This may seem unstructured, but actually is thrilling.

More UCSD:
Gupta History,
World history guided by the religions,
World history outside the European box,
Making of the Modern World - UCSD,
UC San Diego's podcast courses.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Marita Mathijsen - Marathon Interview

Op Kerstdag 2007 had Ger Jochems een interview met Marita Mathijsen, hoogleraar Moderne Nederlandse Letterkunde aan de UvA. De drie uur die dit interview duurde, deed het passen in de serie marathon interviews van de VPRO. Het gesprek is zo onderhoudend en niet af na drie uur, dat je verlangt naar de tijd dat een marathon interview vijf uur duurde.

Interviewer Ger Jochems voelt kennelijk ook de tijdsdruk en menigmaal valt hij haar in de rede om het gesprek te sturen. Marita moet snel op het juiste spoor gebracht worden en antwoorden zoals hij het wil horen. Soms is zijn ongeduld overbodig; Mathijsen zit al op het goede spoor. En vaak ook is het storend; je had zo graag willen horen wat ze wilde zeggen. Want Marita Mathijsen is een van de meeste onderhoudende gasten in de lange, lange serie.

Behalve haar eigen leven, wordt de rode draad gevormd door de 19e eeuw. De literatuur uit die eeuw heeft haar speciale belangstelling en waardering. Daar waar sommige specialisten de (moderne) Nederlandse literatuur laten aanvangen, op zijn vroegst, met de Tachtigers, begint het voor Mathijsen al voor die tijd. Zij neemt het op voor De Genestet, Potgieter, Van Lennep en Bosboom-Toussaint om maar wat namen te noemen. Niet in de laatste plaats komt ook Gerrit van de Linde, pseudoniem De Schoolmeester, waar ze op gepromoveerd is.

De negentiende eeuw is een 'gemaskerde eeuw' (ook de titel van een boek van haar hand), wat maakt dat dat wat publiek is, gemaskerd is. Om daar doorheen te zien, moet men tussen de regels door weten te lezen. De maskers vallen al wat meer weg in briefwisselingen. De briefwisseling tussen Van de Linde en Van Lennep, voert ze aan als een voorbeeld daarvan. Ze leest voor, ook uit ander werk, en doet het met een passie die je jaloers maakt op haar studenten. Warm aanbevolen.

Meer Marathon Interviews:
Ruud Lubbers,
Jan Leijten,
Bertus Hendriks,
Gerrit Wagner,
Rijk de Gooyer.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, May 26, 2008

Religion and Law in US society - History Podcasts

HIUS 155A is the code of a course at the University of California San Diego, which, upon closer inspection carries a number of varying subtitles. Whatever the subtitles are, the course, taught by Professor Michael Parrish, teaches the legal and religious foundations of the American Society until the Civil War. The follow-up is HIUS 155B, which continues until the present.

This course is part of a Program for the Study of Religion, but could, just as well, be a part of a legal studies program. This lecture series combines history, religion and law very closely. Parrish goes over the history of the religious and legal foundations of US society, entering both theology and legal theory. This is a history starts in Europe and consequently, kicks off with the reformation and even if the narrative is taken fast enough to the colonies, the European roots are widely brought to bare.

One must be aware of the low audio at the beginning of the podcasts. It takes invariably up to 5 minutes to finally reach an audible sound. One never misses much and eventually can catch on. Should the sound still be tad too low for you, you can consider to use a utility that I apply for various university lectures in order to enhance the volume: MP3gain. This is easy to use. After download, let MP3gain analyze the sound level of the files and then crank it up to a value between 90 and 100 db.

Comparable podcasts are:
Binge Thinking History Podcast, The American Constitution's British roots,
Berkeley's History 7B, US History - from Civil War to Present,
History 1301, American History before 1870.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Mees en Van Roozendaal

Er waren nieuwe afleveringen van Simek 's Nachts, maar lange tijd stonden ze niet in de feed. Tot vorige week de sluizen open gingen en er meteen zeven nieuwe interviews als podcast gepubliceerd werden. Ik heb er twee uitgekozen om te beluisteren: Maarten van Roozendaal (stream, download) en Heleen Mees (stream, download). Het beste nieuws: Martin Simek was weer goed op dreef.

Maarten van Roozendaal beschrijft zichzelf als 'neurotisch depressief', wat hij nader definieert als: teveel met zichzelf bezig. Toch is er een punt dat Simek aan het licht brengt waar Van Roozendaal niet met zichzelf bezig is. Hij is niet bezig zichzelf te laten excelleren. Er is een climax waarin Maarten een gedicht van Jean-Pierre Rawie voordraagt en Simek haarfijn oppikt dat hier meer toewijding in gelegd wordt, dan in het eigen werk. "Nee daar ben ik niet mee bezig," geeft de zanger toe en laat doorschemeren dat hij een beetje bang voor de kwestie is. Hij wil 'het handig gedaan hebben' en de vraag of het echt goed is, liever met rust laten.

Hebben we met een bangige gast te maken? Nee, verre van dat. Wat vooral opvalt is de zelfbewuste assertiviteit die Maarten van Roozendaal aan de dag legt. Ad rem en spitsvondig en snel reageert hij en dat levert een razendsnelle productie op. Alleen achteraf kan je denken dat die goed van de tongriem gesneden attitude misschien wel meer 'handig gedaan' is en een afleidingsmanoeuvre zou kunnen zijn van wat Maarten van Roozendaal aan diepte zou kunnen hebben. Diepte die hij pas met het gedicht van Rawie toelaat. Als hij het nou nog in zijn eigen werk toelaat, kan hij de Nederlandse Brel worden.

Heleen Mees is een andere assertieve gast, maar dan een die eigenlijk verrassend zwak formuleert. Al in de eerste drie zinnen die ze loslaat, buitelen de gedachtes en theorieen zo wild over elkaar heen dat er een opgeblazen kretologie overblijft. "De wereld is niet af, dat idee is begonnen met 'The end of history', maar ik dacht dat kan niet. [...] De hele lounge cultuur die sindsdien is ontstaan, hedonisme maar niet echt. [...] Ik vind dat het allemaal wel wat leaner en meaner kan." Simek laat het haar uitleggen en ontlokt nog een mooie gedachte (liefdevolle verwaarlozing van kinderen), maar moet ten slotte zelf met een metafoor komen om wat handvaten aan deze brij te geven.

Zijn metafoor (tennis, natuurlijk!) is briljant en verrast Mees merkbaar, die er vervolgens nauwelijks iets uithaalt. We kunnen het eens zijn met Mees dat Nederlandse vrouwen gezapig vluchten in ambitieloosheid, maar de essentie van Mees' antwoord, dat vrouwen wakker moeten worden en aanpakken laat precies de zere plek zien waar Simek met zijn metafoor juist de vinger op legt: dat is een imitatie van de mannen. Is dat wat je wilt? Kennelijk. Maar is dat nou wel zo goed? levert dat de gewenste vooruitgang op? Mees blijft er wazig over, schrijft misschien beter dan ze spreekt, maar zal hopelijk nog veel scherpte winnen.

Meer Simek op dit blog:
Barbara van Beukering, Gert Dumbar,
Jaap van der Zwan,
Lucie Stepanova,
Olaf Tempelman,
Paul Gelderloos.

Heleen Mees was ook te beluisteren op NRC FM:
Amerikaanse verkiezingen,
Mannen, zijn ze nog ergens goed voor?
De argeloze luisteraar zij gewaarschuwd: NRC FM, is nogal een zwakke podcast.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Karen Armstrong - SOF and TED

Years and years ago, I bought Karen Armstrong's A History of God; it was the early 90's and she had begun to make a name for herself. This book, as I recall, is still about the historical roots of the monotheistic religions and their construction. Armstrong analyzed the theology as it were. By now she has developed to something more: a criticism and a proposed alternative.

This was the subject of her talk at TED and this also brought her to Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. What I find attractive that in all instances, Armstrong lumps the three monotheistic religions together and given the chance, chips in some Buddhism as well. Her quest is not for theological doctrines, her quest, if I have to put it in my own words, is what religions have to offer to people. In the end she emphasizes, again in my words, the existential importance of faith, the experience, the effect on emotions and conduct. For her, religion must and can improve the quality of life and in this respect they do not differ and in this respect, those three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have so much in common, they nearly speak the same language.

In the interview with Tippett, she related her own spiritual path, from being a drop-out nun, to a secular theologian, a TV maker and eventually the writer and thinker she is today. This personal journey involves her own struggle with Catholic roots. This is tangible when she speaks of Paul, calling him Saint Paul. This may detach the non-catholic listener, but it is worthwhile to tag along. (audio, transcript, uncut audio)

One of the most important aspects of the religions and one that has gone lost in recent time, as she sees it, is compassion. This is also the subject of her presentation at TED.

More Speaking of Faith:
Wangari Maathai
Faith based diplomacy
Rachel Naomi Remen, (highly recommended)
New Evangelicals,
V. V. Raman.

More TED:
Ben Dunlap. (highly recommended)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Environmental history

For some time now, I have been following the podcast Exploring Environmental History. In the past days there was yet another installment, about the Flanders Moss, a marsh land (peat bog) in Scotland. I had a bit of a hard time, following the speaker, John Harrison, for he has an accent in his English too unfamiliar to me, but that is just my problem. So go ahead and listen.

I'd like to take this review to raise another point. To ask what is Environmental History altogether. Somehow this is not so easy to pin point and in spite of the expert podcasts, this definition still hasn't made it, even intuitively, to my mind. The best I can say, is the history of how man has dealt with his environment through the ages.

Recently, I discovered a lecture series in Berkeley: ESPM 160AC American Environmental and Cultural History. The starting lectures attempt at addressing this issue. There are numerous examples given. They differ and therefore supplement those of the Exploring Environmental History podcast. But there is also some tentative definition coming up and this is a tad different to what I thought before. Environmental history is taking a specific environment, complete with its inhabitants and their culture as this is part of it, and considers the history of that environment. Like the history of the Flanders Moss. (Incidentally, as far as I could find out, this has nothing to do with the north of Belgium...)

More Environmental History podcast on this blog:
Climate Change in recent history,
Urban Air Pollution,
Apartheid and Environmental History,
Environmental History and South Africa,
Environmental History.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, May 23, 2008

The denials of yesterday

UChannel podcast had yet again a lecture about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The speaker was Sylvain Cypel, the editor-in-chief of Le Monde and writer of the 2006 book Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse. Cypel tries to show how this conflict is governed in the minds of the parties involved.

In his version, the parties live in denial. They have not yet understood and accepted the facts in which they live and this governs their perception of the conflict and attitude in the conflict. The Israelis, as Cypel sees it, live in denial regarding to their force. They are not aware of their power and relative security. They have a reflex to reach to the use of force as a means in foreign policy. They cannot accept a position other than of dominance. They keep denying that does not work and they are not so weak that they need it. Hence they fail to engage in peace policy with a refrain of force and a basis of parity.

The Palestinians, alternately, deny they need to build society. The deny their leaders have failed to do so thus far. Even if they voted Hamas as a protest against Fatah, they still do not actively seek to build society. Hence they cannot have a state and cannot become a full partner in a peace process. The outlook is very grave.

I find this view akin to what is expressed by the title (and contents) of Benny Morris's book Righteous Victims, where the bottom-line is that both side cherish their victimhood and use this to justify their policies. All of these analysis (plural) have in common that they stress how the conflict is governed by perceptions. How different narratives are fed to serve the cause. As James Sheehan days it in the podcast History of the International System, the atrocities committed in the conflict only serve to reinforce the narratives.

The only grain of hope Cypel offers is that where there is denial, there is always also some suppressed knowledge this IS denial, that facts are actually other than widely assumed. And when this is called upon, the public is relatively easily capable of making the switch. This allowed for talks with Arafat in 1993, when before, until then, the standing portrayal of Arafat for the Israelis was that of the new Hitler. But when the Oslo accords began, the public was capable of accepting that Arafat was not really a new Hitler.

More UChannel:
Nuts and bolts of empire,
Islam meets Europe,
The rise and demise of Palestine,
Alan Johnston,
Nuclear Terrorism.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Drugged history

Dan Carlin released another issue of Hardcore History. Before he gets to the subject (History under the influence) he reveals his intent to release more shows and identifies the current show as a 'blitz' show. This terminology seems to indicate a shorter and more swiftly produced show. However, it really seems like a regular show to me. In any case, even if it is a bit shorter, the show is by no means too short and it has all the qualities Dan Carlin normally brings to his history show: great narration, provoking thoughts and an engaged speaker.

So, where did our history receive a turn as a result of substance abuse? Dan Carlin mentions quite a few. From World War II he reveals the abuse of a several of the main players. Churchill and Stalin were heavy drinkers. Goering was hooked on morphine and Hitler was on speed. There are a couple of concrete examples where this may have had an effect. From antiquity, Alexander is put forth as the raging alcoholic. Another example is a specific event with Napoleon. Waterloo was a close call, where he could have won also. He had had stomach trouble and taken opium. Witnesses report he was sluggish and absent-minded on the day of the battle.

By the end of the show Carlin asks his listeners whether they can come up with more examples. My thoughts went to the 'jenevercrisis'. In 1960, the Dutch cabinet fell after one of the parties resigned. This has been ascribed to the heavy drinking that had gone on before the government went in session. Recent studies claim that it has probably not been jenever (Dutch gin), but more likely sherry or white wine, but by all accounts, plenty had been consumed and right after that, the politicians went in session and blew up the coalition.

More Dan Carlin's Hardcore History:
Succession in Macedon
Dan Carlin praises Anne is a Man!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Europe, Old Europe

In History 5, The Making of Modern Europe, 1453 to the Present, (feed), Professor Anderson proposes a somewhat different emphasis within 19th century imperialism. Not the greedy, megalomaniac, warlike, if adventurous land grab, but a whole other kind of expansion made the heavy point of this era. Europe's population grew much, much faster in the nineteenth century than that of the rest of the world. A large portion of the population decided to emigrate to the colonies. And here they didn't go for the land grab, but to make a life and consequently, they mostly moved into the open spaces and into the areas with a climate like Europe's. There they built a new Europe and this Europe lasted much longer than the colonies. North America, the south of South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand - they are still with us today and their populations are largely descending from Europe.

In Africa there were also open spaces, but this was just the scene of the more known version of imperialism. Actually, there is a very interesting explanation why the entry of Europeans into Africa happened so late. The continent is so near, but it was 'white man's grave'; disease. What did the native Americans in, was the protection of the native Africans. Non-Africans were not fit to deal with the microbes of the continent. What opened Africa up was the discovery of quinine. First in South-America, where it nearly extinguished its source, the cinchona tree and then, brought into culture, among others by the Dutch on Java, where the quality was best and the Dutch acquired a (near) monopoly on the quinine medicine, adding to their imperial wealth. (Lecture Europeans All Around: Globalization and Imperialism in the 19th Century; audio, video)

Imperialism back home in the old continent, in the mean time developed two power blocks; Germany and Austria-Hungary on the one hand and France, Russia and Britain on the other. While this operated as the 'concert of Europe' it could maintain stability. It survived a series of Balkan Wars, but eventually the conflicts spilled over and the powers marched to war - the Great War. Anderson meticulously explains this build up and I find it one of the very best narratives I know of the prewar period. (Lecture Shooting an Elephant: Why Europe Went to War in 1914; audio, video)

More History 5:
Women and Freud,
Romanticism and Bismarck,
Capitalism and Socialism,
Enlightenment and French Revolution,
Absolutism and Science.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Psychoanalysis - Shrink Rap radio review

My old favorite podcast, to which I am no longer able to keep the pace is Shrink Rap Radio. The psychology interview and talk show is cranking out issues at least once a week and maintains a remarkable high quality standard. Host David van Nuys is not only a good psychologist both scientific and in practice, but also a very professional podcaster with a great radio voice.

The 144th issue of Shrink Rap Radio tackles to good old, ancient ground of psychology, psychoanalysis. (Funny that my previous post should have been about a history podcast featuring Freud) Dr. Dave's guest is Fern W. Cohen a psychoanalyst who wrote the book From Both Sides of the Couch ... Reflections of a Psychoanalyst, Daughter, Tennis Player and Other Selves. Both in the book and in the interview she explains the development of psychoanalysis by Freud's followers into a direction which gives more and more attention to early child development and the relationship with the parent. She divulges her own relationship with her father, her admiration, her attempts of getting close to him and in a way to imitate him.

This is where psychoanalysis can help and Cohen makes a strong plea for serious in-depth analysis; the kind that has fallen out of fashion completely: three to five sessions a week for years on end. Dr. Dave mentions this has become nearly impossible unless you are very rich and willing to pay, for insurance is vying for the short term solutions. Cohen acknowledges, that the short term solutions can get people back on track, but claims that it takes much more intensive treatment to deepen the process and will do more than just get the patient back on track. She sort of paints a picture of people in need of a transformation, a growth, rather than a couple of skills to keep their neuroses in check and maintain a civil life.

The thought stuck with me, that although it seems plausible, more need to be done for people in need of mental support, than just to get them back into daily routine. The root of the problem should be treated. However, is that possible? Or in other words: will a shower of attention to the problem, help solve the problem? In any way, both a very personal and a very thought provoking podcast.

NB: This podcast has a transcript available (pdf).

Previous reviews of Shrink Rap Radio:
Conscious Living,
The Happiness Hypothesis,
Sign language for babies,
Doll Work and what with the brain,
Confronting Death (and more).

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, May 19, 2008

Women and Freud

History 5 has long finished, but I am still lagging behind, but also still intent on reviewing the cycle two lectures at a time. The next two are moving us thematically into the end of the 19th century. About women (video, audio) and about Freud (video, audio).

Professor Anderson ventures into making a joke. "I apologize for always talking about sex so much. I know it is nothing you are interested in, but in any case [...] it would be an appropriate introduction to Freud." The shackles of Victorian society has everything to do with these two lectures. The prudery was both a cage, as well as a protection for women. Prudery, especially in England, was imposed, not only on women, but also on men. It allowed women to gain some development and this pathed the way to emancipation.

At the same time, these shackles turned our attention to the suppressed instincts and Freud is presented as the necessary, if not logical proponent of the thought train triggered by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. I wonder if you could add to that pessimism some more of the tormented thinkers and artists, Kierkegaard for example. I am not sure it Anderson intended not to make a very explicit link from romanticism to the late century pessimism, but I saw it clearly. The real shock of the lecture are the grim experiments Freud and a nose doctor engage in on one of his patients.

More History 5:
Romanticism and Bismarck,
Capitalism and Socialism,
Enlightenment and French Revolution,
Absolutism and Science,
Witches, plague, war and Hobbes.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The State in The International System

Stanford's podcast The History of the International system (feed) has come to its conclusion. The lecturer, professor James Sheehan, spends a large part of his last lecture pondering what power could compete with the supremacy of the United States in the international system. Undoubtedly that is a very compelling question, but it is also a rather speculative one and there is another subject that had me thrilled even more.

The central agent within the International System, as Sheehan has painted it over the 28 lectures (earlier I wrote there would be 29, but I counted the mid term exam as a lecture - my bad), is the state. The international system is a community of national states, some more powerful and large, some puny and unimportant, but each a legitimate player. This we can see until today in an organization such as the UN. Its members are states and only states are its members. The uneven distribution of power among its players has always put this system under pressure, but the state as such is problematic, so Sheehan shows.

One problem is that of failed states. States that do not control their territory, are not representing their populace neither effectively, nor in a legitimate way. Furthermore, there are more players that influence the system: international organizations, non-governmental organizations and multinational business. On a deeper level, the state has always been a fiction, an imagined community. Many states are not nation-states, never have been and nobody really wants to reorder the nations into states or states into nations.

The thought occurred to me, that the whole idea of assuming the sovereign (the state) as the sole player internationally has been a stretch and become more so under modern circumstances. It is a presumption of isolation; the national sphere isolated from the international. The citizen of a state is only related to his own sovereign and not beyond. Other sovereigns are related to the sovereigns, but not to each others subjects. That seems workable as a fiction and has conceptually organized our idea of the international system well so far, but effectively this has never completely been true and with subjects of human rights, intellectual property, economy, ecology and more, we even accept and applaud non-sovereigns to act within the international system. Maybe the idea of states is going to go away.

Previous reviews:
A century of geopolitics,
History of the International System.

More geopolitics:
Nuts and bolts of empire,
Global Geopolitics - Martin Lewis,
A listener's guide to Geography of World Cultures,
Geography of World Cultures by Martin W. Lewis,
The End of Hegemony.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Report a podcast

This blog is about the podcasts I have found and mostly about those I like. I review those podcasts, trying to give you some kind of an impression on what to expect. My hope is, you will find this blog to be a source for finding new podcasts to listen to. My main area of interest is history and this spills over into geography, social sciences, language, science, philosophy and religion.

There are, however, so many more valuable podcasts to be found and likely to be overlooked by me, either because I missed out on a major source of podcasts or because I dismissed it out of hand. I am the first to admit some really great podcasts that deserve to be mentioned here will not be reviewed and that is a pity. Whenever readers alert me to a podcast, I always take a second look and some listening time.

Let me know which podcast you want me to pay attention to and provided I can give some words of appraisal about them, they will certainly make it to the blog. You can communicate your podcast tips by leaving a comment anywhere in the blog or send me a mail, Anne Frid de Vries (in one word) AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk.

I am looking forward to your input.

See also the podcast directories:
Or the long, long list of podcasts reviewed.

Library of Nineveh

The library of Nineveh may have been larger than the great library of Alexandria, but it was destroyed in 612 BCE by the Medes and lay covered under the ruins, until it was finally discovered in the 1849 by an English adventurer, Layard. BBC's In Our Time discussed this find in last week's program. In this blog we have touched upon it on the side.

Professor Patrick Hunt, from various podcast at Stanford (a.o. Hannibal), wrote a book Ten Discoveries that Rewrote History in which the story of Layard's find is recounted. Until then, we knew very little about ancient Mesopotamia, and its script, the cuneiform, had not been deciphered yet. The library supplied such a large amount of new material that that could finally be established and then we proceeded to uncovering the roots of civilization, among others many stories known from the Bible.

In Our Time's panel also addresses these subjects and clarifies them as elegant and deep as usual. A peculiar fact is noted both by Hunt as well as In Our Time is that we have to be thankful the Medes destroyed the Library. The other enemy, the Babylonians would surely have looted the place, but the illiterate Medes were content merely to set it on fire. The fire destroyed a large portion of the contents, but not the clay tablets. In stead they were baked and thus preserved for many centuries, so that Layard could find them.

More Patrick Hunt:
Hannibal in the end,
Ten discoveries that rewrote history,
Patrick Hunt on Hannibal (and more),
Hannibal Barca on the couch,
Where did Hannibal cross the Alps?.

More In Our Time:
General review of In Our Time,
The Brain: A History,
Yeats, Enclosures and Materialism,
King Lear,
Ada Lovelace.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Nuts and bolts of empire

In many of the history podcasts, recently as well as over all time, a lot of attention is paid to empires, without digging too much into what constitutes an empire or rather what allows an authority to govern a wide stretched territory spanning many lands, religions and cultures, whether it is the British Empire, the Roman, Persian, Chinese or other. At the London School of Economics Professor Paul Kennedy held a lecture which addressed this technical issue. The lecture was podcast both by LSE as well as UChannel. Appropriately it got the title Nuts and bolts of empire.

All great empires have required a sophisticated logistical system, and a secure communications system to sustain themselves. In a world of endless challenges imperial ambitions soon collapse. This lecture will examine the hard, infrastructural underpinnings of the Roman, Spanish and British Empires, and reflect on how the USA compares in this regard.

Kennedy emphasizes tow aspects of empire, one is efficient infrastructure, the other healthy finances and proper auditing of the such. Empires cannot live without an efficient structure of transport and communications, lest the rulers can't know what goes on and properly, coherently respond. However, such large-scale structure is a costly enterprise and therefore the empire needs to make sure at all time it can sustain it in the long run. Kennedy argues that most empires fall under the weight of their expenses and the question whether the US should be regarded as an empire is evaded but nevertheless a warning is implied towards the current delicate finances of the state.

More LSE:
Islam and Europe - LSE podcast review,
Beyond the genome.

More UChannel:
Islam meets Europe,
The rise and demise of Palestine,
Alan Johnston,
Nuclear Terrorism,
Attack Iran (or not).

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Scopes Trial

Berkeley's History 7b (US History : from civil war to present) deals somewhere halfway the lecture series with the Scopes Trial - a trial in Dayton Tennessee where it was attempted to keep a biology textbook out of the curriculum for it taught evolution. The trial took place in 1925, but has some significant differences and nuances from the discourse in the US today.

DIY scholar, a fellow blog containing many splendid podcast reviews comparable to Anne is a Man!, spent also a post on The Scopes Trial. It seems, for Americans the Scopes Trial is much more known than for a European such as myself. Consequently one very important nuance easily got lost and was dug up, not only in Berkeley's lecture, but also in a podcast by UCSD (the one DIY reviews). If one was intuitively tempted to side with the evolutionists in the trial and would condemn keeping the biology book from the curriculum, out of hand, you may be surprised.

One of the criticisms on the book is that it propagates eugenics. From the concepts of evolution, the leap is made to breeding and the suggestion inserted to apply to people as well. DIY gives a quote from the text book that is also read in Berkeley's lecture:
Parasitism and its Cost to Society. — Hundreds of families such as those described above exist today, spreading disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country. The cost to society of such families is very severe. Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing, or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites.

The Remedy. — If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with some success in this country.

The jump from evolution to Eugenics (or Social Darwinism for that matter) is neither necessary nor self-evident, but historically has been easily made and it serves well to be aware of it. A very worthy podcast therefore.

More American History:
History Podcast month - wrap up,
American History before 1870,
The American Constitution's British roots - BTHP,
US History - from Civil War to Present.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Herhaald: J.A.A. van Doorn

Gisteren postte ik al naar aanleiding van het overlijden van J.A.A. van Doorn. Ik behoor tot de generatie die uit zijn basisboek sociologie heeft geleerd en die zijn commentaren in de krant las. In podcasts heb ik hem tweemaal gehoord - twee interviews bij de VPRO. Ter nagedachtenis bij deze beide stukjes opnieuw gepost. De eerste kwam gisteren, de twee hieronder.

Het interview Vrijdag, met J. A. A. van Doorn

Op vrijdagochtend, zendt de VPRO uit op radio 1 en onder meer het interview, waar het programma traditioneel mee begint wordt wekelijks ook als podcast gepubliceerd.

Op 1 juni werd Emeritus Professor J.A.A. van Doorn geinterviewd. Ik ken Van Doorn van de inleiding in de Sociologie die hij met Lammers schreef en die ik in 1989 voor een intensief keuzevak Theoretische Rechtssociologie kapotgelezen heb. Hij werd echter niet direct als socioloog geinterviewd, maar naar aanleiding van een historisch boek dat hij gepubliceerd heeft: Duits Socialisme. Daardoor ging het over het succes van het Nationaal Socialisme in een land waar de sociaal democratie in principe de meerderheid vormde.

Op historisch vlak werden voor mij de bekende paden bewandeld. De combinatie van anti-kapitalisme, sociale maatregelen en nationalisme sprak in tijden van politieke onstabiliteit en economische neergang een grote meerderheid aan. Het afschaffen van de democratie werd daarbij geaccepteerd. (Over dat laatste iets minder woorden) Het belangrijkste wat Van Doorn probeert duidelijk te maken is dat de Nazis voor elk wat wils brachten. Niet alleen racistische onderbuikgevoelens, populisme, anti-kapitalisme, maar ook idealisme; het gaf de gemiddelde Duitser het idee dat er bezig was een beter land te ontstaan.

De interviewer Heerma van Vos, wil het ook over hier en nu hebben. Als populisme zo succesvol kan zijn, hoe kwetsbaar zijn we dan vandaag de dag tegen Geert Wilders (hij wordt met name genoemd) en wat kan er aldus Van Doorn gedaan worden. Naar mijn mening komt de professor dan met een recept dat niet erg overtuigt, net zo min voor Duitsland toen als Nederland vandaag. De concurrentie aangaan; hoe? Betekent dat de agenda overnemen. Zich meer afzetten (De VVD profileert zich niet genoeg tegen PVV)? Helpt dat? En hoe verhoudt zich dat met voornoemde concurrentie? Eventueel zelfs verbieden. Hoe dan? Met welke rechtvaardiging en bovendien: waarom zou dat werken?

Het interview duurt minder dan dertig minuten, dus daar kan niet al te diep op in gegaan worden.

Meer Van Doorn.
Meer Interview Vrijdag:
Uri Rosenthal over Ayaan Hirsi Ali,
Karin Spaink en Kitty Nooij over internetgevaren,
Niko Koffeman.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, May 16, 2008

Podcast listening for Beginners (3)

In the first post in this series, I gave the shortest way to listening to a podcast: clicking on it in the web and playing it in your browser or media player.
In the second, I explained how you can download and store podcast files.

Now we proceed and come to the same thing, but all in one environment, with the added capacity of finding new podcasts. Moreover, and more essential, here we also meet the indispensable subscription to podcasts: in iTunes. iTunes is a free application that allows you to find, store and play podcasts, as well as subscribe to them.

The installer can be downloaded here. Click the blue button, proceed according to the instructions. The installer file will be downloaded to your computer. Store wherever you want and after the install you can delete the file if you wish.

After the download you will have iTunesSetUp.exe on your computer. Double-click the file and proceed through the installation according to the instructions it prompts. (My advice is to go with the default settings the installer proposes. Apart from iTunes, it will also install QuickTime, which you will need on occasion.)

Once installed, iTunes will be the application that plays your MP3 files. Double-click any such file, iTunes will fire up and play. Every file that has been played once, will be stored in iTunes' local library and you can easily find this in the Music folder.

There is also a podcast folder and here is where you will become a true podcast listener. In this folder you will store and play your podcasts, from here you can find nearly any podcast and from here you can also copy them to an iPod or other player. Have you heard some criticism on iTunes here and there? That may well be, it may even have been me, but those issues hurt advanced users and they have advanced solutions. For the beginner and the moderately experienced podcast listener, iTunes is the ideal starting point.

Using iTunes to get podcasts will be the subject for the next article.

Downloading audio files from the web
Listening on line

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

In Memoriam: J.A.A. van Doorn

Vanochtend las ik in zowel NRC als de Volkskrant dat de socioloog en columnist J.A.A. van Doorn is overleden. Ik behoor tot de generatie die uit zijn basisboek sociologie heeft geleerd en die zijn commentaren in de krant las. In podcasts heb ik hem tweemaal gehoord - twee interviews bij de VPRO. Ter nagedachtenis bij deze een van de twee opnieuw gepost. De tweede zal ik morgen nogmaals uitbrengen.

Marathon interview J. A. A. van Doorn

Arend jan Heerma van Voss zoekt naar woorden. Er is een zekere passie in de interviewer. Ik heb het gevoel dat hij niet alleen ongelofelijk veel respect voor de geinterviewde Van Doorn heeft. Hij is ook geinspireerd, maar nog op zoek om zijn gedachten te ordenen. Van Doorn wacht het geduldig af.

Zo gaat het interview. Heerma van Voss zoekt en Van Doorn blijft geduldig. En zo zoeken we onze weg. Door de vaderlandse politiek, door het Duitse Socialisme (opnieuw) en de ontwikkeling van de sociologie. Wat mij betreft mag het nog wel langer dan drie uur duren. Wat ben ik blij dat deze radio ook als podcast uitgebracht wordt.

Meer marathon interviews:
Ruud Lubbers,
Jan Leijten,
Bertus Hendriks,
Gerrit Wagner,
Rijk de Gooyer.

Interview Vrijdag met J.A.A. van Doorn.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button