Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Funeral Game

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History is an entirely unique history podcast. Dan Carlin presents an element of world history in his own words and does two very original things. One is that he brings the history in an entirely oral style. He tells about it as if he is engaging in a one on one conversation with you, the listener, and tells what he knows about the subject at hand - in the latest edition: the succession of Alexander the Great.

The second very original element is that he shifts emphasis from handing the facts to his own interpretation of the facts and his own thoughts about it. This results in a story with the analysis with comparisons, evaluations and what-ifs built in. No other history podcast I know does this. It makes for an exciting, and very different podcast experience.

There is actually a third element that Dan Carlin adds. He tries to dramatize the cast with the help of sound effects. I think this element is still very much in the back ground. It has been developing over the past shows and, I expect, will become more and more profound in shows to come. It takes the podcast well beyond the experience of a history lecture.

Go and listen to the latest episode - The Macedonian soap opera - and enjoy what is called: The Funeral Game.

History Network - Peninsular war

Occasionally I listen to the history podcast of the History Network. By the name, one would expect a general history podcast, but in practice this is a podcast about military history. I am much less into military history, hence, the history network is not exactly my thing. The issues I listen to are the ones that have my general historic interest.

Thus it was with the latest show, 301, I listened again. This show is about the peninsular campaign; the battle between Napoleonic France and the English, the Spanish and the Portuguese on the Iberian peninsula. This was a rather long cast, 25 minutes. Usually the casts take between 10 and 20 minutes. They are well read and well written and I like the British accent, but here we run into, also, a relative weak point of the podcast.

First of all, it is one of those monologue podcasts that consist of somebody reading out loud an essay on the subject. Only on account of it being well written and well read, the podcast is still worthwhile, otherwise it would have been choked by this less than perfect approach of podcasting. Second, the British perspective makes it a bit one sided in the particular podcast about the Peninsular War. We hardly are informed about the French side.

All in all a reasonable podcast, but my recommendation only for those who are interested in military history.

TWN #89: Synonyms

The Word Nerds have made a new show, show number 89 it is. Howard (left) and Dave (below) Shepherd have a talk about synonyms.

The show is much inspired by both brothers' recent visit to Germany. Hence, the show is less about English synonyms and more about the difficulty of discerning the fine distinctions between synonyms in your second language -- German in particular. And about the difficulty finding the right synonym in German to an English specific.

Only by the end English synonyms are discussed as well as the inability to discern between those when there is talk of the rude word of the week. I think it helped me a lot, that I know German and I was on top of the examples that came on the table. I liked the show as usual. For anyone who wants to try the show, but is wondering whether to feel put off by the amount of German in the show, I say: do not be afraid. Even though German is the most featured foreign language, as the one most prominent foreign language the Shepherds master (there are more!), the show is first and foremost about English. I think I do not recall such emphasis on German ever before.