Wednesday, December 31, 2008

12 New podcasts in December 2008 - Anne is a Man!

Podcasts reviewed for the first time on this blog in December

Freedomain Radio (review, site, feed)
Community podcast for an on-line movement of anarchists. One of their ideas being that one has a choice whether to stay connected with one's family of origin. An actual event of a follower breaking with his family let to a media storm at, among others, The Guardian and the BBC.

Hoor! Geschiedenis (review, site, feed)
A very adequate and from the onset complete history of the Netherlands, going back to the earliest roots of Dutch culture and coming into existence of the state. (Dutch language)

Thinking Allowed (review, site, feed)
BBC radio program about the social sciences.

Game Theory (Yale) (review, site, no feed)
Economics course on Yale, bringing the basics of Game Theory with as little math as possible, making Game Theory and its application accessible also beyond the field of economics.

RSA Current Audio (review, site, feed)
Podcast of events at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Skythen-Podcast (review, site, feed)
Very extensive promotional podcast for an exhibition on the Scythians. (German Language)

Media Matters (review, site, feed)
Talkshow on NPR with Bob McChesney in which he speaks with guests on current themes in the media, mostly on economics and politics.

Family History - Genealogy made easy (review, site, feed)
Podcast for beginners in the field of genealogy.

Genealogy Gems Podcast (review, site, feed)
A professional podcast for anybody who is taking genealogy seriously.

Cambridge Alumni Podcast (review, site, feed)
Podcast of events for Cambridge Alumni.

Introduction to Ancient Greek History (Yale) (review, site, no feed)
Open Course on Yale delivering the history of the Ancient Greeks tracing the development of Greek civilization as manifested in political, intellectual, and creative achievements from the Bronze Age to the end of the classical period.

New York Coffee Cup (review, site, feed)
Audio blog of a man scrambling to put up with New York City, the past and his teenage daughter simultaneously.

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I love to get new podcast recommendations. You can let your preferences  know by commenting on the blog or sending mail to Anne is a Man at: Anne Frid de Vries (in one word) AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New York Coffee Cup

Dave went to New York on two missions, each of which was difficult enough to cope with, but to combine them should be deemed impossible at the outset. One mission was to guide thirteen year old daughter Georgette around and let it be her trip, along her rules, the rules of the Apple Store, the ice cream parlor, sleeping in and the vibes of 'you are not going to embarrass me dad, are you?' The other was to confront the past life in New York, from beyond Georgette's time and beyond Georgette's capacity to fathom. This mission was ruled by grief, by guilt and old scares, enough to make an innocent podcast listener cry, terribly confusing and taxing for one to whom these memories and emotions are his own unfinished business.

The New York Coffee Cup podcast is not one of stylish fiction, as is Dave's other podcast Namaste Stories. This time we are reading the dairy, we are listening in on an audio blog, with the confusion as raw, unpolished and direct as real life. Dave reports silently whispering into his recorder as events unfold. He does so in his familiar serene voice, but more naturally and more shaken, than in Namaste Stories. My heart goes out to him, as the hours creep by, he tries to keep control, gives in, gives up and somehow, if weakly, manages to reach out to both goals.

The events are long passed. It happened in August; just a few days in New York, but the podcast hasn't rolled out till the end yet. Now we are at episode #26 and in the middle of one of the cataclysmic confrontations. One of the truly important reasons Dave came to New York after all, with all due respect to Georgette. Unfinished business, stuck up emotions and guilt, but as things go in real life, the solution, if there is one, out of reach and petty frustration dominating. My heart goes out.

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Yale Classical - this is not a podcast review

The Open Courses on Yale are not brought as a podcast. You will have to use other means than a podcatcher to download the episodes. I import them into iTunes as music and then alter the file settings to those of podcasts, which most importantly is setting 'remember playback position'. Many courses this semester and in others, are very interesting on face value. The one that I picked up first and I wish to review here is Donald Kagan's Introduction to Ancient Greek History.

An initial snag in the course is Kagan's throat condition. He coughs and scrapes and rattles so frequently, unable to clear his throat, especially in the first lectures, it nearly put me off. After nine lectures this has either nearly died down, or I have grown so used to it and become so engaged, I am hooked. There is still lots to come, but even at this early stage into the history, I have had so many questions answered and so many new things learned, the course has become extremely rewarding.

Simply irresistible is Kagan's self-acclaimed inclination towards the 'higher naïveté', which means he accepts the factual possibility of anything mentioned in the old sources about Ancient Greek history, as long is it is not supernatural, or falsified by archeology. It turns the story of the Greeks into a narrative full of imagination and wonder. And while wondering, asking for example how the Greeks could have acquired their economic and cultural wealth and how hoplite warfare would have been, Kagan delivers answers. His answers, he credits specifically to Victor Davis Hanson, which is exciting for those who have heard Hanson in other podcasts as well as for the charm of Kagan - both naive, great story-teller as well as modest, who wouldn't love a professor like that?

More Yale:
Game theory - Yale online course review.

More Classics:
Political Science - UCLA Podcast review,
Some things Classical,
Roman History in podcasts,
Berkeley's History 4A.

More Victor Davis Hanson:
Hardcore History.

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Enver Pasha - veertien achttien podcast recensie

In de uiterst verdienstelijke serie over de Eerste Wereldoorlog, de podcast Veertien Achttien, geeft Tom Tacken in de laatste aflevering aandacht aan de Turkse bijdrage in die oorlog. Met alle aandacht voor het Westelijke Front heeft het oosten nogal eens last van onderbelichting. Als het al aan de orde komt, is het in de relevantie van het oostelijke front op het westelijke. Met andere woorden: zolang de Russen de tegenstanders in het oosten nog bezighouden, kunnen ze in het Westen niet domineren.

Dan gaat het vooral over Duitsland. Dat er ook nog meer zuidelijk oorlog werd gevoerd, kwam al aan het licht in de aflevering over Oskar Potiorek, zodat we iets meer over Servie en Oostenrijk te weten komen - daar was het ten slotte allemaal begonnen. De Turken maakten ook deel uit van de centrale alliantie en door middel van een biografie van Enver Pasha komt de rol van het Ottomaanse Rijk in de oorlog ook eens voor het voetlicht.

Het is achteraf bezien vooral een verhaal van een rappe modernisering van de Turkse staat. Het is een vergeten voorloper van de dekolonialisering, waarbij de laatste hand werd gelegd aan de ontmanteling van het Ottomaanse Imperium en het Turkije begint dat we vandaag nog kennen. Enver Pasha is niet de laatste in die ontwikkeling. Hooguit de wat ongemakkelijke brug van Sultanaat, naar Kemal Ataturk's gelatiniseerde democratie.

Meer Veertien Achttien:
Veertien Achttien premium,
Oskar Potiorek,
Kato Takaaki,
Maximilian von Spee.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Whither the Middle East - Dennis Ross on UChannel

While the war has escalated around Gaza and the Middle-East seems less stable than ever, it is refreshing to hear a relatively old podcast on the subject, that is from December 10th before the IDF offensive started. It is a talk by Dennis Ross delivered at Princeton and published in the UChannel Podcast series. Only yesterday another one came out, which I still have to listen to (with Martin Indyk, Richard Haass and Gary Samore)

Ross talks about the diplomatic possibilities in the Middle-East, getting into the details with regards to Iran and to the Israeli-Arab conflict. I found it very interesting to hear a case being made for diplomacy, without being starkly anti-war, nor being blissfully optimistic. Ross seems to soberly paint the various options there are. His leading principle is that of leverage. With leverage you can pressure anybody towards where you want them to go and the point is to see where you can have some leverage. The US has little leverage on Iran, but China and Russia have and and through Saudi-Arabia, the US can put pressure on China - for example. Along this kind of chain thinking, Ross proposes way for diplomacy, rather than military to steer Iran away from its nuclear program.

Similarly, and perhaps not by chance also with an important role for Saudi-Arabia, Ross proposes approaches for Israel. However, here he also introduces another dimension: the deepest lack of confidence between Israel and the Palestinians, most notably Hamas. Ross calls it 'disbelief', which in his view goes further than just distrust. The situation of disbelief is the conviction that there is absolutely no partner for diplomacy, no basis for talk whatsoever. Hence, the start Ross proposes, is to deal with that psychology of the conflict and take measures that bring the populace to reevaluate its beliefs and hopefully draw different conclusions. What the current war, however, does for disbelief is dishearteningly predictable.

More UChannel:
Kafka comes to America,
Lord Lawson and the alarmists,
Terror and Consent,
Nudge: improving decisions and behavior,
Hot, Flat and Crowded.

More Israel:
Desiring Walls,
Gabriela Shalev,
UCLA Israel Studies,
The Arab-Israeli conflict,

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Angela Merkel (Angie) in Volkis Stimme

If you subscribe to the feed of Volkis Stimme right now, you will be offered the last episode of this comedy news podcast. This chapter contains Volkis retrospect on 2008 and this means he is not producing his news items but rather converses with a rather exceptional guest in the studio.

The guest on the podcast is nobody less than Frau Dr. Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel. With her host Volker Klärchen discusses the past year of 2008. There are many great achievements for Merkel to mark and this gives for a very close atmosphere. The chanceler surprises us by allowing Klärchen to thaw a bit and address her less formally. For as long as it lasts.

Klärchen's podcast is released every weekend promptly and usually marks for me the beginning of the working week. Every Sunday morning, when life has started too soon and it is hard to shake off the relaxation of the weekend and pick up working life where I left off before the weekend, Volkis Stimme manages to cheer me up and start the week with a smile on my face. And Angie Merkel, she made me laugh out loud. The year went out with a bang. Einfach Klasse!

Previously about Volkis Stimme:
Volkis Stimme - German podcast review.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Kafka to America - UChannel Podcast Review

I have both legal and sociological training. I usually take a sociologist's perspective on things as, apparently, that is the mode of thinking and viewing that comes to me naturally. However, I can easily switch to legal, just as I can switch between languages and that should come as no surprise. The sociological view of a profession and of training provides ample explanation: when you learn law, you do not only acquire the knowledge of the trade, you are also initiated into the trade, that is, educated in the social norms and the cognitive logic of the field. The norms are: the rule of law, due process and fair trial.

And so this is where I stand on the subject of detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely at the discretion of the administration, without the suspect ever being allowed access to one or more of the following: a charge, a process or a defense attorney. Even if you have only weakly internalized the principles of the rule of law, due process and fair trial your hairs must stand on end. If at all, any remote case can be made for this policy, it is through the bleakest utilitarianism, the mechanics of the world should be such that these draconian measures are the only means to the end. Even such is case is feeble to say the least; the means are not the only means and the chosen means are not the least intrusive means. Hence, this is such a shut case, I find it mind-boggling we need to discuss it at all.

Consequently, with Steve Wax's lecture at UChannel Podcast in which he discusses specific cases he has handled as a defense attorney in which individuals were held under these foul measures and he eventually could take the cases to court, my stand is a slightly abashed: this is an open and shut case, what is there to say? Wax uses the title Kafka Comes to America: Fighting for Justice in the War on Terror to underline this part of this sentiment. Yet, he apparently feels he must persuade the audience emotionally and embarks on a lecture that has nothing to do with Kafka or the indignation any true legalist should feel. He produces the melodramatic argument that possibly is needed for a jury and a TV audience, but lacks the sharpness of a true legal argument. This only becomes visible when the question and answer round commences and the first response from the audience is someone accusing him of murder and conspiracy against the US. Only then Wax exacts the cool refutation that was needed in the first place: the execution of state power was deemed to be in need of procedural monitoring and it is only this that I aim to enable.

If you are interested what exact excesses unmonitored state power exerts, given the chance, Wax's lecture is very instructive. If you are remotely like Kafka, or convinced a priori by the fundamental value of the rule of law, due process and fair trial and can sufficiently imagine excesses by yourself, the podcast will only be going through the motions. Even the pathetic shouter at the end is a predictable obligate.

More UChannel:
Lord Lawson and the alarmists,
Terror and Consent,
Nudge: improving decisions and behavior,
Hot, Flat and Crowded,
In 2050.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Cambridge Alumni Podcast review

The Cambridge Alumni Podcast of the University of Cambridge contains mainly vodcasts, that I must admit, I have not paid any attention to. I am trying to concentrate on the content you can take with you on the run, on the drive and along with menial tasks, or in other words: I concentrate on the audio. The vodcasts may be worthwhile, or are likely to be so and I may write about it in the future, but for now, I will talk about the few audio only in the Cambridge Alumni Podcast feed.

It was, as so often, Dara of DIY Scholar who put me on the track of this podcast. She wrote about the historic yet amusing lecture about Cambridge's codebreakers. MI 5's historian, Professor Christopher Andrew, lectures in a very light mood about Cambridge's contribution to the intelligence efforts in both World Wars and the Cold War. I recommend, just as Dara did, everybody to listen to this lecture. Yet, what I took away from the podcast was a lesson for the blog and for reviewing more than anything else. Since Dara so warmly recommended this specific lecture, apparently, I went in with high expectations and was slightly disappointed, not at the entertainment level, but rather at the historic content. This is hardly fair on Christopher Andrew, I suppose, but must be put down on the immense subjectivity of the listener. Subjective to the extent that the same listener under different circumstances can come to a radically different appreciation. (Should I stop writing in acclaim?)

While we are at the subject of Cambridge, its mathematicians and Intelligence, two more lectures deserve mention. For one: Cambridge Computing, 1937 - 2007: A history of not quite everything. What most fascinated me in this lecture is the development of computing altogether. How different computing was in the pre-PC era, how it developed and how this made for such a different set of users and experiences.

The next is Enigma and the Turing Bombe. Especially if you heard the first podcast, this is one not to miss. After the eccentricity of Alan Turing was mentioned in the previous podcast, this is the podcast to get acquainted with the actual problem he was faced with, when he attempted to crack the German's Enigma code.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Investeren in veertien achttien

Elke week luister ik trouw naar Veertien Achttien, de podcast van Tom Tacken die het verhaal van de Eerste Wereldoorlog terugvertelt in korte biografieën - podcasts van ongeveer een kwartier. Tacken plant hiermee nog vier jaar door te gaan, daarbij de Grote Oorlog op de voet volgend. Ik heb al een maand niet meer over podcast geschreven. Laat ik dat proberen te repareren.

Wat is er in te halen? Vijf afleveringen te beginnen bij August de Block. Dat is het verre van eenvoudige verhaal over de Belgen die naar Nederland uitweken. Voor hen die soldaten waren, wachtte een verblijf in kampen. Ze werden geangenen van een buurnatie die krampachtig neutraal bleef.

Daarna ging het over Christiaan de Wet en hoe de boerenoorlog in Zuid Afrika doorwerkte tijdens de Grote Oorlog in de nieuwe eeuw. In de biografie van Sir Alfred Ewing komen we het bestaan van kamer 40 te weten, de plek waar de Britten codes kraakten.

Ten slotte is er de briljante uitzending over Alfred Anderson. Anderson is een van de laatste getuigen van het befaamde, spontane Kerstbestand van 1914. Tacken maakt, in tegenstelling tot zovele anderen, het verhaal niet mooier dan het is. Hoezeer de verbroedering van die twee dagen tot de verbeelding spreekt en je er de grootse kwaliteiten van de mensheid in kunt zien, uiteindelijk is het niet meer dan een incident. Wellicht een laatste stuiptrekking van 19e eeuwse romantiek; het is daarna niet meer voorgekomen. Tegelijk is het iets blijvends maar dan ook heel pragmatisch. Tacken betoogt dat er op grote schaal stilzwijgend de hand werd gelicht met de geweldadigheden. Mannen die weliswaar niet muitten, maar toch ook niet in volle heftigheid oorlog gingen voeren.

Je mag veronderstellen dat de podcasts eeuwigheidswaarde hebben en het bewaren waard zijn. Je zal misschien de teksten die Tacken uitspreekt willen kunnen nalezen. Voor wie er wat geld voor over heeft, kan dat allemaal. Tacken biedt zijn teksten in een boekje en zijn opnames op CD aan wie betaalt. Details zijn te vinden op de website van Veertien Achttien (Wordt volger van Veertien Achttien).

Meer Veertien Achttien:
Oskar Potiorek,
Kato Takaaki,
Maximilian von Spee,
Khudadad Khan.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sinterklaas - The Biography Show

TPN's Biography Show just did a show on Santaclaus and with it has outdone itself in sheer entertainment, historic enchantment and even some raised eyebrows on my part. The show was fun, had great historic information which was compelling and thought-provoking, yet produced some details about Sinterklaas that sounded off in the ears of this semi-average Dutchman.

The entertainment lies with the opinionated disposition both David Markham and Cameron Reilly take in this show. Markham minces a few words on some conservatives in the US whose sense of injury is great enough to perceive a "War on Christmas" and feel the need to protect a tradition of which Markham shows that it is hardly a tradition if there is a war at all. And should you think there must be a tradition, wait for Cameron Reilly to deconstruct Santaclaus.

The greatest charm of Cameron Reilly's view of the origins I find is that he links back to Odin and the pagan traditions, just as most of the other rituals around Christmas root in European paganism. It is where he tries to render the morphing from Odin into Sinterklaas, so familiar for the Dutch, I think he makes a couple of mistakes, but nothing awful, to get back on track and reveal how the Dutch Sinterklaas morphs into the American Santaclaus with some of the details around this figure date back less than a century.

Reilly claims that Odin had a staff that was called 'zwartpiet' and that just can't be. But he when he reveals that the Byzantine Saint Nicholas had an Ethiopian servant, the next step makes it right again: for the Dutch, Sinterklaas comes from Spain and has a Moorish servant (or several) and this is Zwarte Piet, black Pete. Even in Israel the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet and the tradition of giving presents and they do so on the 5th of December. Let this be added to fill out a minor omission in an otherwise fantastic show.

More TPN's Biography Show:
Biography podcasts,
Sargon of Akkad and Ramses II,
Helen of Troy,
Alexander the Great - Biography Show.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Genealogy for beginners and more - podcast review

When dealing with history, I am usually swept to the grand scheme of things, but whatever we claim to be able to say about it boils down to meticulous research and delving into the details. The details of history, when told as uninterpreted facts, have run the love of history for many a listener into the ground, but a sure way, I venture, to get hooked into the details of history, is when you get involved in family history, especially your own.

On the subject of genealogy, which is a science and a skill in itself, which overlaps history and these days goes beyond it as well, I have discovered (with the help of some friends) a couple of great podcasts. One for the beginners and one for the advanced genealogist. Both podcasts are produced by a greatly talented lady Lisa Louise Cooke. So here goes.

For those who want to try their hand at genealogy and have need of advice how to go about uncovering their family's history, Lisa makes the podcast Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. This podcast helps you get started. There is advice how to organize your data (good tips what software to use in all sorts of price ranges) which is very important because many amateur family historians find along their way they have to go back and reorganize their work. And a lot of advice where and how to find out what you need to know.

For those who have been on the road for a long time and need the encouragement and connection with tales of genealogy there is the Genealogy Gems podcast. If you ever thought there is only so much you can find out, only so far to get - this podcast tells you there is always more. And should you have thought that family history stays small scale micro-history and never connects with the grand scheme of things, you may be in for a surprise.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

The crisis - podcasts galore

If the economic crisis is on your mind and you want to listen in podcasts what people have to say about it, you have a million options to go. On the LSE events podcast, there was a lecture on the subject that had a spectacularly large audience turning up. This triggered the remark: 'We should be using the words Credit Crunch in each of our lecture titles'. (Central Banking and the Credit Crunch)

Apart from the question how Central Banking has in one way or another contributed to the current downturn, the lecture makes a thorough assessment of central banking throughout the world today. Frankly, I wasn't aware there were so many different models and had no idea that the model I knew best, that of The Netherlands, is rather the exception than the rule. Needless to say, lessons are learned and changes as a response to the crisis are expected. The speaker, Howard Davies, reveals that the US is considering adapting to the UK model, while the UK tends to develop towards the US model. So, if you are confused, you are with the best of them.

If you weren't gloomy enough about the prospects, here is a remark made at the podcast Media Matters. Bob McChesney talks with guests and frequently with listeners calling in about current affairs. In the recorded (hence without callers) issue of November 23rd, the outcome of the US election were analyzed and guest John Nichols almost casually made the remark: "We do not yet feel the credit card crisis." So there may be even more bad news to come.

However, there may be also a very different angle to take on the crisis. This is proposed by Speaking of Faith in a short conversation with Rachel Naomi Remen (exclusively on the Speaking of Faith podcast). Remen takes the philosophical inroad: a crisis is a moment of change. This crisis is focusing us on questions we need to ask and reorient ourselves. The happy note then is that crisis is the chance for renewal and betterment. Remen suggests that the credit crisis forces us to ask what we trust. We have been trusting our money and our investments, yet we find this was wrong. This is the moment to single out the stars that we sail by and she adds: the stars characteristically only come out in darkness. So, we may also be happy with our crisis.

More LSE Events:
Desiring Walls,
The Post-American World,
Reparing Failed States,
Europe and the Middle East,
Nuts and bolts of empire.

More Speaking of Faith:
Listening Generously,
The Sunni-Shia Divide and the future of Islam,
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,
Karen Armstrong,
Wangari Maathai.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scythians (Skythen) - review of history podcast in German

I think podcasts are an excellent promotional device for museums, yet I have not yet seen the medium applied very much. I thought it would help for museums to publish their audio tours they have anyway and while at it, they might add some more content. What better way for a visitor to come prepared after a series of podcasts. What better way to become interested in an exhibition when you have been sufficiently warmed up. In Germany an exhibition about the Scythians has applied this method and done so very well. Museums in Hamburg and Berlin have profited - I hope.

I traced the podcast through Chronico's Geschichtspodcast, that I have reviewed before (Geschichtspodcast - history podcast review), where the maker of the Skythen-podcast (Im Zeichen des Goldenen Greifen; Königsgräber der Skythen), Birge Tetzer was interviewed and explained the ratio of making a podcast series for a museum exhibition, just as I pointed out above. She also explains how to cut the issues for an audience as wide as to range from the ignorant and mildly interested, to the enthusiast experts.

Tetzer interviewed Hermann Parzinger, of the German Archeological Institute, to explain about the Scythians and his research after them and cut this to thematic, short and to the point podcasts. They range from explaining the origins of the Scythians, the range to where they lived, the sources we have for them (mostly Herodotus) and eventually what remains of them today. Between the sound bits of Parzinger's, Tetzer explains what can be seen on the exhibition, relevant to the theme at hand. It feels I have already been there and as soon as I get near the exhibition, or it gets near me, I will attend.

Geschichtspodcast - history podcast review,
When Steppe meets Empire,
Gengis Khan,
Dan Carlin about the Scythians and other steppe people.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Keynes - RSA podcast review

An impression that I took with me from economics classes in secondary school and university was that Keynes was hardly relevant any longer. His models were nice to explain economics and to understand anti-cyclical policy, but with those policies firm in place there were no longer the depressions Keynes had developed his ideas on.

Not surprisingly, even if the above idea was a crude misconception, just as we enter economic depression today, Keynes is back on the lips of economists and others who need to comment on the current situation. The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) invited several of those to speak of Keynes. From this wide variety of speakers one receives the impression Keynes should not have been abandoned at all. As one of the speakers puts it: "with all of the spending you do and with asset prices going up, Keynes would have said: you are going to get a depression." So a more prolonged attempt is made to apply Keynes to today. Let Keynes and his influence on the Bretton Woods agreement be a model for today to conjure up a similar international system to keep heavy fluctuations in the economy in hand.

Keynes is credited to have discovered 'the grammar of economics', but what also is discussed is the more contemplative, poetic as it were, side of his thinking. Keynes seemed to have envisioned a limit to economic policy and economic strive. His ideas, so it is presented, were to ascertain a level of security for all and not to be applied ad infinitum for wealth without end. Terms like usury and avarice go over the table. Have I ever heard those words used by economists before? Asking the question is giving the answer.

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Dhyan Sutorius - Simek podcast recensie

In de uitzending van 14 december jongstleden van Simek 's Nachts lijkt het doek echt te vallen. Heb ik het nou goed begrepen dat er nog een, of twee, uitzendingen komen? Het einde was al aangekondigd en Simek had er in de vorige uitzending die ik recenseerde voor het eerst ook aan gerefereerd, maar in de uitzending van afgelopen zondag was het haast of er een andere Simek zat. De oude Simek die we zo goed vinden.

Het moet aan hem geknaagd hebben. Het heeft in ieder geval aan mij geknaagd. Vaak had ik in het afgelopen jaar het gevoel dat Simek wat mat was. Maar nu dat het echt echt voorbij is, kwam er opeens een vechter naar boven. Het leek wel alsof hij nog een maal aan de ether wilde laten voelen waar hij toe in staat is. Zijn gast was de lach-therapeut Dhyan Sutorius en Simek pakte hem aan zonder mededogen. Onthulde de argeloze gast en pakte hem met liefde weer in.

Het is wel vaker gebeurd dat Simek zijn gast met stomheid slaat. Vaak komen ze daar wel weer uit, meestal met een beetje terugvallen in de 'comfort zone', soms door het interview grondig te verpesten - zoals Rita Verdonk deed. Maar hoe het ook uitpakt, als Simek zijn gast op het verkeerde been heeft gezet, hoe ongepolijst het verderr ook mag lopen, dan heb je de beste Simek dan heb je de meest onversneden podcast die je kan hebben. En Dhyan Sutorius had de ongelofelijke moed om op het verkeerde been te blijven staan en ook al betekent dat vele stiltes en kom je zoveel niet te weten. Het levert het meest intrigerende tweegesprek op dat ik in tijden heb gehoord.

Blijft dit een daverend slotakkoord? Niet zeker, want er zijn al geruchten dat Simek doorgaat op de een of andere manier. (Martin Simek en Gijs Groenteman)

Meer Simek:
Louis Tas,
Piet Hein Eek,
Ernst van de Wetering,
Ageeth Veenemans,
Marc de Hond.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Lord Lawson and The Alarmists - global warming review

I thought there was consensus. At the UChannel Podcast we have had many speakers who build on the assumption there is consensus about global warming and rush to tell us what dramatic policy changes we need to take up. We have had Lord Stern and more recently Thomas Friedman and many others. I can recall only one who took a contrary view in account and this was on waste management. There the word religion was applied. And Lord Lawson, in a recent UChannel Podcast speaks of the likes of Stern and Friedman as alarmists and warns of the alleged consensus also in a way of a intolerant religion.

Lord Lawson propagates a cool look at global warming and in short argues that the warming may not be half as bad as the alarmists claim it to be. He also claims that the time span in which the warming will take place gives ample window for man's adaptation so in his view, global warming, if at all happening, is not a problem. Consequently, the economics of the 'alarmists' are completely wrong in his view. Not only won't they be applicable, or if applied won't work, but also the divert the attention from much worse and pressing problems.

And just as the German Thomas Deichmann complained about the absurd investments in waste management and how the views about this take on a religious character so that discussion has become impossible, so Lord Lawson warns that the alleged scientific consensus about Climate Change is much less than it seems, but has become a rigid ideology on the level of bureaucrats and policy makers. He claims to know young scientists and politicians who refrain from voicing their doubts in fear of their careers.

I find it very important and refreshing to hear these views even though they leave me utterly confused. I really do not know what to believe any more. I feel I must be critical and knowledgeable beyond my capacity. However there were three thoughts that stuck with me all the way: pollution reduction seems like a good idea by all means, so one can still make thoughts how to sensibly and effectively go about that. The other thought is: being dependent on fossil fuels for our energy is problematic even if the carbon-dioxide emissions are not a problem as Lawson argues, hence attempting to develop alternatives is sensible anyway. And thirdly: one must indeed be very careful not to lose sight of direct and practical problems such as poverty and human rights violations, while getting caught up in measures for Global Warming. Climate Change by all means is a global problem, but not as certain and as short term that it allows to ignore everything else.

More UChannel:
Terror and Consent,
Nudge: improving decisions and behavior,
Hot, Flat and Crowded,
In 2050,
The Arab-Israeli Conflict.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Great Fire - In Our Time podcast review

In September 1666 burnt the Great Fire of London. BBC's In Our Time spoke of the fire last week and I hope you can still download the podcast, before it will be replaced today with the program made this morning.

I can be short about this issue of In Our Time. It was as good as always. The event of the Great Fire is amply made tangible and, needless to say, very clearly put in a historic perspective. The Fire not only devastated a huge part of London, but it also marked a kind of watershed in history. These connections between facts on the ground and the grand scheme of developments, are always what interest me most

What stayed with me however, were this time a few almost casually mentioned facts about London and about the Fire. For example, the fire raged on for four days and for a long time afterward, one couldn't move through the debris. First of all, because of the remaining heat - the ground was still hot for days on end. Afterward there was the great logistical problem of removing the debris. So many Londoner just left, never to return. And here is another point: who were the Londoners? Cities in those days (I remember this from Amsterdam) hardly managed to maintain their size by themselves. The death rate was enormous. The city stayed huge, on account of constant immigration. These immigrants came from everywhere, rather from far than from close by. In London there were a lot of English from remote locations and there were a lot of foreigners, French and Dutch mostly. It gives for a different perspective on the roots of the citizens.

More In Our Time:
Simon Bolivar,
The Translation Movement.

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Game theory - Yale online course review

Many academic institutions in the Anglo-Saxon world are putting lectures and lecture series on line for listening or, occasionally, viewing. Most of these come as podcasts, through iTunes-U or independently, however a few are available for download without any RSS feed whatsoever. An example are all the courses that Yale offers. Those are many and of great quality.

In this review I'd like to pay attention to the course in Game Theory that is served as an economics course, but basically is a math subject and has implications beyond math and economics. The lectures can be downloaded or followed on-line as audio as well as video. (Game Theory audio and video) The course involves a reasonable amount of mathematics, but the complexity of this is very low. Professor Ben Polak makes a point of putting the lessons of Game Theory in natural language and is very effective in showing the application in practical terms with examples from economics, politics and even soccer and dating. Aside from being very clear, Professor Polak is also very entertaining.

My excitement just came to a high point during the 8th lecture when Polak showed an important implication for the social sciences, where I immediately saw it profoundly important for sociology of law - my old field of specialty.

Suppose you see in mixed societies that people generally live in segregated cities or quarters. And you also see that when given the choice where to live, they will move into the areas where the people of their own kind live. Can you conclude from this that people generally prefer to live segregated? Game Theory shows that the answer is no. If people prefer to live in mixed towns, but rather not be part of a minority, their strategic choices will result in segregation. In more broad terms this means that if you see people act according to a certain pattern, this does not necessarily imply this is their preferred pattern, but rather it could be the result of a strategic choice, aiming to optimize the result, in stead of gambling to get to a maximum.

The is especially important for social sciences that attempt to make observations about normative rules, such as the sociology of law. It is sort of generally accepted that if a rule is not abided by, it may legally be a rule, but sociologists do not consider it a social norm. With the game theory lesson in mind, this may be false. Social actors can choose to break the rule for strategic reasons, but on the normative level still accept the validity of the rule. It makes the social scientific, empirical, approach of normative fields all the more complicated.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Edgy 59 - Podcast review podcast reviewed

The Edgy reviews podcast has taken up the small challenge I threw at it in my last review: explain the rather lengthy official name it carries: Edgy Reviews from That Podcast Show.

This is done in it's 59th edition which includes as usual three lengthy podcast reviews by Daniel and Sue. After that they both give their own podcast recommendation for the week and eventually Daniel explains the name of the show.

As I had already noticed, the original starting name was That Podcast Show. Even though that sounded good and maybe even definitive in the kind of way a meta-podcast should sound, it had a bad search engine implication. The name is rather indifferent in the proximity of other show names and more problematically, it doesn't carry the word review in it. Consequently, the show will react weakly to searches on 'podcast reviews' and that is quite opposite to what was to be intended.

So the word reviews was added and in order to maintain some of the original cheeky line, the reviews became edgy. Understandable, but likely to be too long for anybody to maintain. I predict it will over time become Edgy Reviews Podcast for short.

As to the contents: Edgy reviews gives the widest range of podcast reviews with professional valuation you can find on the internet.

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Louis Tas - Simek 's Nachts recensie

En zo komt het fatale moment langzaam dichterbij. Er zullen nog twee, hooguit drie uitzendingen met Simek op podcast te bespreken zijn en dan is het afgelopen. Een lezer op dit blog liet een commentaar achter dat in de laatste uitzending, die van 14 december, Simek het afscheid het interview laat overschaduwen. Dat kan ik nog niet beluisteren, want er is nog geen podcast van gemaakt, maar ik kan al wel vertellen dat Martin in de uitzending met Louis Tas voor het eerst gewag maakt van het aanstaande afscheid.

Martin Simek houdt zich nog in. 'Het is niet anders', lijkt hij te willen zeggen, maar er was een onafgemaakte zin die me bijbleef. "de RVU heeft me ontdekt," begint hij en waar gaat die zin naartoe vroeg ik mij af? De RVU heeft me gemaakt en nu mogen ze me ook afbreken. De RVU heeft in me geinvesteerd, maar heeft geen sentimenten. God geeft en god neemt ook weer weg. Wat verbeelden ze zich wel. Of: ik dacht ergens thuis te horen en nu word ik er zonder pardon of goede reden uitgeschopt.

Louis Tas is niet de eerste holocaust overlevende die Simek interviewt. Hij is niet de eerste die in snikken uitbarst tijdens de uitzending. Maar deze keer gebeurde dat wel in de allerlaatste seconde. Het afscheid slaat al met de laatste muziekkeus van de gast - Orfeus. Wat os dit vraagt Martin, argeloos. Er komt een halve zin als antwoord: hij probeerde zijn geliefde uit de onderwereld te redden... En daar stokt het in huilen. Uit de onderwereld redden. Kennelijk een onmogelijke opgave die we toch steeds weer aangaan.

Meer Simek:
Piet Hein Eek,
Ernst van de Wetering,
Ageeth Veenemans,
Marc de Hond,
Geen podcast?.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Male Immaturity - Thinking Allowed (BBC)

Two inputs made me notice the new BBC podcast Thinking Allowed (feed). For one, at the end of each issue of BBC's In Our Time, ever since the new season started, there was a promo for Thinking Allowed (thinking aloud, I thought for a moment). Then, secondly, one of my readers alerted me to the podcast. And so I took on my first episode about Male Immaturity among others.

Well, if thinking is allowed, I took the liberty of doing so, and did not stop pondering Male Immaturity for a long time after finishing the show. The, relatively short, studio discussion with Gary Cross and Michael Bywater had a near fatal flaw in it. I found the explanation for the new boyish nature of men completely unconvincing and I doubt whether anything can be helped by initiation rites. Bar Mitzvahs for us all? However, the creeping notion that the immaturity might be a problem, not just a phenomenon to describe, stuck. And also, the connection with female immaturity, the child woman, Kindfrau, kindvrouwtje, as an entity that has a much longer history was necessary and possibly revealing.

So here is a tip of my thoughts. I think immaturity can partly be explained by prosperity. In a world of wealth man (or woman) doesn't have to take responsibility and can just enjoy all play and no work. Spoiled, childish, useless princes and princesses of wealth have also always been part of the landscape. The width of the male immaturity is new. And the fact that women are not staying immature to the same extent. So in addition to wealth and certainty, I add the technological, urban society. If men were hunters and women were homemakers, the hunting grounds in the modern western world have gone extinct and the metropolis is a huge home (note metropolis means mother-city). Women are better equipped for modern society and men have to change, acquire whole new skills way beyond the game of hunting or stay boys. In a nutshell.

More BBC:
In Our Time,
Pods and Blogs,
BBC History Magazine,
From Our Own Correspondent.

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Returning from Space with Ran Levy

As usual with science history podcasts, with each episode the balance varies, sometimes there is a little more science, sometimes a little more history. Under the title What goes up, must come down (מה שעולה חייב לרדת), Ran Levi's Making History podcast took on the problem space travel faces with the return to earth. (עושים היסטוריה עם רן לוי)

So the issue starts with a scientific and technological problem. Getting out of the atmosphere is one thing, but much more difficult and dangerous is entering the atmosphere. Meaning, for the early stages of space travel, returning to earth and living to tell the tale, was nearly overlooked. Almost naturally the attention went to getting out, few realized the dangers of return and the price was high. Ran Levi excels as usual in explaining the physical problem.

In addition, he reveals the history. How did the scientist approach it and more interestingly: how did the politics of Cold War and Communism affect the outcome in the Soviet Union. Fantastic are the tales of NASA, Apollo and the Space Shuttle, but more bizarre and stunning are the stories of Soyuz, Sputnik and the hardships of the Soviet Cosmonauts. Ran brings it all.

More Making History:
Douglas Adams,
Sophie Germain,
Max Planck,
Isaac Newton,
Making History with Ran Levy - Hebrew Review.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Nova Spivack - Shrink Rap Radio podcast review

The psychology podcast Shrink Rap Radio is immensely varied. As rich as the field of psychology is in perspectives and methods and theories it is all brought to you by the host Dr. David van Nuys. The podcast is in its fourth year and still comes out regularly, about once a week.

As I have written before, even though Shrink Rap Radio is one of my all time favorites in the podcasting landscape, I find it hard to keep up. So that last show I have finally finished listening to is show #180 with Nova Spivack, whereas Dr. Dave has already proceeded to publishing shows up to number 186. And the show is still getting better all the time.

At a first glance, the interview with Nova Spivack does not seem to relate to the field of psychology too much, however, we may soon find out it is extremely relevant. Dr. Dave has a knack for registering what is important and he seems to indicate, that the rapid developments in other sciences about the brain, both in the realm of neuroscience and of artificial intelligence and robotics are going to radically influence psychology in the near future. Spivack comes to speak about ideas about the brain. What it is and to what extent for example the internet is approaching the existence of a one large brain. From brain the talk spills into issues of consciousness and this becomes, indeed, a psychology podcast again.

As so many other podcasters, Dr. Dave is struggling with the financing of his show. He has been experimenting with advertising and he has been considering making a premium show. Many podcasts feature advertisements these days, but still the income hardly covers the costs of the show. I have just noted Dan Klass's Bitterest Pill that has taken the direction of the premium show, but Dr. Dave announces on his show, that is not his idea. He takes the direction Cameron Reilly (The Podcasting Network) has chosen, that of the pledge drive. Listeners are asked for their donations and in turn, David van Nuys will attempt to make the show without advertising and without premium content.

I hope this will work. I feel that maybe this approach should have more chance if a group of shows would pool together and ask for funds - I figure that is the direction of the future. Until then, if there is any show on the web that deserves the support it is asking, it is Shrink Rap Radio.

More Shrink Rap Radio:
Relationships and the brain,
Psychologist writer,
Dana Houck, Prison Psychologist,
The humane working place,
Nirvana and the Brain.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Non-realism of God - Philosophy Bites review

Here is a short review of one of the last interviews on Philosophy Bites. I'll write down what thoughts were provoked on my end and let this be an encouragement for you to find out what it does to you. Even if the subject, God, doesn't speak to you that much. Believe me, he doesn't speak too much to me either. Pun intended.

The podcast featured theologian Don Cupitt touching upon his approach to God, in which God doesn't need to exist, or more accurately, I suppose, is non-real. God doesn't have to be real, like the real world. His point is that with a non-real God, there is still point for god in our ideas; in theology and even in religion. If I understood him correctly there is no point in arguing as vehemently as some people do that God exists in reality, that sort of diverts the attention to what is truly important in religion. His ideas, he argues, are not atheism, certainly not in the modern sense, as this is an ideological stream against religion in general and to god existing in ideas as well.

What I liked particularly, even if I may have taken it completely wrong, is the idea that for all the tradition of religion it is not essential that God exists. It is a point I have been putting forward in my own fumbling way for several decades, drawing on literature and arguing that a figure such as Meursault in Albert Camus's L'etranger, is a meaningful person and of importance in our tradition even if he is not real. The same goes for God, where all the stories about the deities are just as formative and meaningful and culturally true, even if the deity doesn't have a real existence. Trying to maintain the real existence and entering debate about that issue is a kind of naturalistic fallacy, like arguing that the word dog and the actual dog are one and the same phenomenon. I am afraid, I have taken this very crudely and ignorantly in my own fashion, yet it goes to show how thought-provoking and inspiring Cupitt's argument is.

More Philosophy Bites

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sir Charles Mackerras - Naxos podcast review

Naxos Classical Music Spotlight Podcast is more than a promotional podcast. It does more than a promotional podcast. Even if each episode is to publicize a new CD that is out at the company, the podcast almost always manages to bring in some added value. The added value comes to the extent it is even valuable listening to the podcast even if you are not considering a purchase. Even if you are only remotely interested in the music discussed.

Personally I am fascinated by conductors. So when Naxos interviewed the conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, I rushed in to listen. Even though Mackerras is in his eighties, he is still working and he is also sharp and engaging in his remarks about the music he was involved with in his life. As must be the case with conductors, his attention goes from the playing of the various instruments, to the history of music and naturally to the question of how pieces of music need to be interpreted. His contribution to the performance of the music of Mozart, Handel, Janacek and Strauss are discussed.

In addition, the interview receives the quality of a history podcast with his personal witness of the communist coup of 1948 in Czechoslovakia. Sir Charles had come to Europe to study and wound up in Prague, right after the war, when affairs had settled. However, as it turned out, he had to leave soon, as the communists ceased power. Not only did the atmosphere change from day to day, but also his teachers had fallen out of favor. For a moment this worked to Sir Charles's advantage though. Listen and find out.

Previously about the Naxos podcast:
Pictures at an Exhibition,
Hildegard von Bingen.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Admiration of Europe - History 5 review

Berkeley's History 5, that covers European History from the Renaissance until today, has a different professor each semester. Though the material covered is the same each time, naturally, each professor brings her own emphasis to the course. Now that the latest course has ended, especially by the end, we can compare the perspectives on Europe and most notably the differences.

The previous course, if I recall correctly, by Professor Anderson ended with a bit of a downturn. Or at least, it ended with the feeling of true end. Europe's glory started with the Renaissance and right now we witness its secession of power, of influence, of importance. Anderson noted in addition to the reduced military power of Europe, its receding population and sort of hinted that this might well be the end of Europe, at least the Europe as we know it.

This semester History 5 by Professor Carla Hesse ended completely differently. Hesse ended with an admiration of Europe I have seldom experienced, not even among Europeans themselves. Hesse's take on the EU is that of an impressive upturn. She painted the picture of a continent that has retrieved its unity it had in the Middle Ages and thus has overcome all the adverse circumstances that have followed us during the course. Europe, it suddenly seems, stands on the threshold of a whole new era, a whole new flourishing with renewed vitality. It is all in the eye of the beholder. A very fascinating conclusion though.

More on History 5:
Industrialization (Carla Hesse),
History 5 by Carla Hesse,
History 5 by Margaret Anderson,
History 5 by Thomas Laqueur.

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