Sunday, July 6, 2008

German Cultural History - podcast review

I have saved the best until the last. Here is an amateur podcast I am going to follow bit by bit. It only started recently (last May) and the maker, a student of history, may run out of time continuing to make the podcast, but even after five episodes, I have learned so much more about the early middle ages than I have in other podcasts, this alone will keep me going.

The podcaster, who operates under a pseudonym, shows a very wide knowledge and enthusiasm, for the the subject which seems to go, at least for the time being, much wider than German Culture. We have gone back in time way beyond the German unification, Luther, Frederick Barbarossa. We have started with Germanic peoples, before the Romans conquered Gaul. Only then, Tacitus can begin to write about Germans - that wide, almost nondescript range of tribes north of the Rhine, that, as they spread, will span from Iberia to the Black Sea, from Iceland to Sicily and continue to be multi-charactered and faceted (if you can say such a thing). Yet, our host doesn't fear that breadth and neither depth, so that we get to learn about the Gothic language and about Arian Christians - to name but a few subjects.

This is the kind of range I like, but there are some drawbacks to accept with the (Medieval) German Cultural History podcast (related blog, feed). The episodes are monologues of around thirty minutes that do not seem to be scripted and are entirely improvised. Hence, it is not always easy to see the structure and one may feel the host occasionally overlooks a remark he had wanted to make. Furthermore, the sound is of low quality. So this is no easy listening, but personally I take that unconditionally on account of the intellectual quality.

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The Pope podcast - podcast review

The Pope Podcast is a typical example of an amateur podcast. Scott Bosse is excited about the history of the papacy and without having any scholarly knowledge, he embarks upon acquiring the information he he wants, feels he needs and on that basis he makes a podcast. (feed) On a pope per episode basis, he intends to chronologically work his way through the history. The episodes come out about twice a month (unless he needs more than one episode for one pope), take ten to twenty minutes and this promises a life span for year to come. And if my experience with amateur podcasts will apply here: episodes will become longer and deeper as Scott improves on his knowledge and podcasting skills.

In his introductory episode (charmingly the second, not the first), he show awareness of the magnitude of the task he has taken upon himself. But he seems not to be deterred, his personal life which involves a conversion to Roman Catholicism, brings in the inspiration and dedication.

So, here we have the kind of very promising, if not scholarly, history podcast. So far, from what I hear it is charmingly done and I trust there will be improvement allong the way. I may not listen to all of the popes, but pick up one of particular interest to along the way.

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Ancient History - Alternative Theories

Here is a funny history podcast that had me entertained, but also asking myself how long this can go on. And as if my suspicions were heard on some other plain - the podcast dropped out of cyberspace and has left us with one orphan episode and what episode.

Ancient History - Alternative Theories takes on the question how the ancient Egyptians were capable of building the big pyramids of Giza. The two hosts discuss the subject, summing up the accuracies and immense size of the great pyramid and seem to know really well what they are talking about. So, indeed, it is a great mystery how the old Egyptians, in the bronze age pulled this off. Gradually, the expose of the immense technical difficulties, begins to convey a subtext of fantasy.

The podcast dives into the approach that the Egyptians could not have built this alone. However, they are careful enough not to go straight for Erich von Daniken and extra-terrestrials or time travelers. And so I am still listening intently, waiting for some inventive rational explanation. So, the knowledge has gone lost, but the old Egyptians were quite the archivists, so their must have been records, if secret, of how to engage such gigantic building plan.

And then you get it, what was hanging in the air comes into effect. While discussing a possible secret chamber of knowledge, for example hidden under the Sphinx, they present as a source for knowing this chamber is there 'the American prophet Edgar Cayce'. Bingo! History with the psychics. If you are in to that, or in for a good laugh, go and try. But with serious historiography this of course has nothing to do.

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