Sunday, October 18, 2009

Freemasons - Rear Vision

The history program Rear Vision from Australia's ABC, responded to the media attention to Dan Brown's piece of fiction, Angels and Demons, which predominantly features the society of Freemasons. Rear Vision brought in two historians to demystify the Freemasons

If you read the transcript of the program about Freemasons, you see the discussion in interspersed with lines by a 'Documentary Narrator'. On the podcast these lines sound exalted as if they are from a movie's trailer. As a matter of fact that is what I felt and it bothered me that it was not explained. Between these hefty statements lie the explanations of the historians and in comparison they sound very timid and inconclusive.

It is with the Freemasons as it is with any social system that lies hidden. Whatever facts are available tell little, but leave much to the imagination. Such is it with Freemasons, just is it is with Jesuits, international communism, the Mafia and the CIA or Al-Qaeda. The point is that the hard facts give us so little to go on, yet suggest so much that on the subject of secret organisations the historian cannot win and the fiction writer cannot lose. In Rear Vision this is shown not otherwise.

More Rear Vision:
A history of the Israeli-Arab conflict,
Fish depletion,
Follow up on Iran and Versailles,
Versailles 1919.

The Death of Edgar Allan Poe - The Memory Palace

The wonderful history podcast The Memory Palace (feed) has its strength mainly in its narrative force and in its short episodes. Nate DiMeo takes five minutes to tell small, humane, tales in history. Apart from history drama, one could also call it micro-history.

Micro-history is not necessarily lost in oceanic waves of the larger scheme of history. DiMeo shows this for example in his latest production This Ungainly Fowl. This is the story, as far as it can be reconstructed, of the last 24 hours in the life of Edgar Allan Poe. These hours are unrecorded and utterly unclear. It begins as Poe finds himself on a train to Baltimore and it ends as he is found dying in the street, in some other man's clothes. There are several theories as to what happened and The Memory Palace offers one of them.

Not only does this attempt to give an answer as to what might have happened to the great writer, but also tells a thing or two about daily life in contemporary US in general and in Baltimore specifically. This serves as an illustration and a tale that, no matter how small, touches relevance in the greater seas of history. This, for an otherwise fine history podcast to begin with, serves as a lot of extra credit. This podcast is worth following for everyone.

More The Memory Palace:
A Great Escape,
The Memory Palace,
Ferris Wheel and other historic experiences,
The hollow earth,
The Memory Palace - history narration.