Saturday, July 5, 2008

Backstory - podcast review

Backstory is a recorded radio program from VFH - Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. A  panel of three historians meets in the studio to discuss the background story of an item in the news. For example, as in the episode I heard: family values.

They featured three recorded interviews with relevant specialists in the field. In this case, since there is some political debate on family values, they took one person from each side of the spectrum and a third who was a history researcher on the subject. This sounds a bit more organized than it worked out, but as a popular science program it worked rather well.

The commercial breaks are cut out of the podcast (here is another reason to hear the podcast and not the radio show), but what is kept in, is the phone in section. In this particular episode, the caller came with very good questions, worthy of an item themselves. So, even if the end result is a very entertaining and slightly informative show, many questions basically left unanswered. Well, you cannot expect that from a radio show; you'd have to have a podcast series to definitively dig into the history of our family values and the practical ways in which we lived in families.

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Historicast - podcast review

Here is a very charming history podcast. It is of the short monologue style, but it inserts audio fragments and by that makes optimal use of the podcast medium. Historicast. (feed)

With particular appreciation I listened to the episode about the Hindenburg disaster. The added value of the audio fragment is that it is authentic, in addition to it being very famous and dramatic. Here we see an amateur podcaster showing the way for podcasts to go, where mostly professionals still haven't gone. In my opinion, this is a podcast that is here to stay.

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Oxford Biographies - podcast review

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a website containing biographies of some fifty to sixty thousand people in British history, from 400 BC to today. In order to draw attention to its varied contents, the website has a podcast, Oxford Biographies, that delivers spoken biographies in seven to fifteen minutes. The apparent schedule is to put out one each fortnight.

This is a charming podcast to browse from. It is really of the pick and choose kind. Look your character up in the list and listen. If you really are into biographies, this could be a charming entry and have you look up unexpected figures.

It seems to me, so far, the podcast tries to deliver talks on lesser known people. We won't see the likes of Henry VIII or Winston Churchill, the way they have started. But who knows, this might change.

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Fact or Fiction - podcast review

Fact or Fiction is a promotional podcast of It is a rather new production and that probably explains why it doesn't show up on the website, but the podcast can be found in iTunes.

Under the motto History stuff for the history buff the cast delivers short episodes of less than five minutes in which there is a scripted dialog between expert Candice and counterpart Joshua, who comes up with the question. The question involves invariably some tidbit of popular historical assumption, to which Candice must reply whether it is fact or fiction. The subject corresponds with an article on the main website. Was there a curse on the tomb of Tut ankh Amon? Were the American colonists drugged during the Salem witchcraft trial? And so on.

This podcast is short, anecdotal and entertaining - very light stuff, for the very light buff.

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