Friday, April 30, 2010

First time review podcasts on Anne is a Man

The list of newly reviewed podcasts was long overdue. I used to give it each month, but skipped last month. So here goes...

Philosophy 132 - philosophy of mind (Berkeley) (review, site, feed)
University Lecture series. Mandatory for anyone interested in philosophy of mind, consciousness, or free will.

Brain Science Podcast (review, site, feed)
The strength of this podcast is exploring the scientific aspects and medical applications with respect to the brain.

Ice Podcast (review, site, feed)
Conversational podcast with the occasional interview.

Paradigms (review, site, feed)
A weekly thematic program in subjects of ecology and environmentalism that is offered as a podcast as well as broadcast on a Vermont radio station, WBKM.

SFF Audio Podcast (review, site, feed)
Jesse Willis and Scott Danielson discuss what is new in SciFi and Fantasy audio and reading and they do the occasional interview.

PON podcast (Harvard) (review, site, feed)
University podcast from the Program on Negotiations.

Democratization of Knowledge or Triumph of Amateurs (Eastern Michigan) (review, site, feed)
A fascinating series of four lectures on the curses and blessings of Wikipedia. With Marshall Poe, Larry Sanger and Andrew Keen.

World Religions (Eastern Michigan) (review, site, feed)
A general and easy to access introduction in the five major religions

WTF with Marc Maron (review, site, feed)
Comedy Podcast with stand-up comedian Marc Maron who talks about comedy and show business with a variety of comedian guests.

Comedy and Everything Else (review, site, feed)
Comedy Podcast with Jimmy Dore, Todd Glass, and Stefane Zamorano.

Comedy Death Ray Radio (review, site, feed)
Comedy Podcast by Scott Aukerman. Based on the live stage show.

Nerdist (review, site, feed)
Comedy Podcast with stand-up comedian Chris Hardwick.

Catholic Stuff You Should Know (review, site, feed)
Amateur podcast about Catholic Trivia.

Justice with Michael Sandel (Harvard) (review, site, feed)
Vodcast in which Harvard professor Michael Sandel discusses issues of Justice with his students.

Healthy Living (Stanford) (review, site, feed)
Lecture series about various subjects in medicine and health.

MedPod101 (review, site, feed)
Medical podcast by Dr. Jacob with small issues about disease and therapy.

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I love to get new podcast recommendations. You can let me know your preferences 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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Thursday, April 29, 2010

China, secularism, religiosity - SOF

Just as the west, China struggles with its secularism and its traditions, Confucianism, ancestor worship, Taoism, Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhism and its officially recognized religions. It struggles in a very Chinese way, but much of its secularist stance is learned and adapted from the west. This we learn in a very interesting issue of Speaking of Faith.

Krista Tippett spoke with the Chinese anthropologist Mayfair Yang director of the East Asia Center at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Yang describes the irony that is going on in China. First of all, this traditionalist and highly spiritual society had shut its doors to the west for a long time, but once the doors spun open, around the humiliating defeats in the Opium Wars, it felt it had to rush in an make up. The wind flowing from Europe was one of 19th century rationalist industrial society and Protestant reformation. This was what should be emulated and in short, anything old, ritualistic and religious became suspect, considered superstition. Not only the communists but also the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang) were of this secular line. All traditions became repressed.

However, the mind set allowed just as much the 'liberation' of Tibet - that backward traditional, feudal society, as well as the person cult of Mao and the zealous dedication to the Cultural Revolution. As much as the official line repressed the spiritual mind set it tapped into it. Although today, the Chinese try to come clean, suspicion of 'superstition' is still strong. And never mind how much this is typically Chinese, I want to suggest in many ways the Chinese struggle is deeply similar to the western struggle. It serves to look for the same kind of ironies; how we suspect 'superstitions' and at the same time unwittingly tap into them.

In addition to the program there is the Full interview with Mayfair Yang and a Transcript of Speaking of Faith on China's struggle with secularism and religiosity.

More Speaking of Faith:
Three issues of Speaking of Faith,
Preserving Ojibwe,
The story and God,
Fragility and Humanity,
The Sunni-Shia divide and the future of Islam.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

UK Elections - recommended podcasts

With the elections coming up in Great Britain on May 6th, there are several ways to go following it in podcast and getting good background information. Always good is The Economist (feed) which does weekly updates. A week is a long time in politics, especially during the election season.

Australia's Rear Vision had a special: UK Elections 2010. As usual with Rear Vision, it puts the current situation in a historical perspective. It goes back to the early 1970's when Labour reign came to an end. Labour failed on economics and the conservatives took over with Thatcher. Labout only could take over after having reformed itself to a centrist party under Blair. In 2010, Labour seems to be losing, but the Conservatives have a hard time to capitalize on that.

I would like to recommend diving deeper into the history of the UK in modernity and take up Berkeley's History 151c - The Peculiar Modernity of Britain (feed). Professor James Vernon is a very captivating lecturer with good British Humour thrown into the academic mix. His grand theme on Britian's peculiar modernity, is that the kingdom developed into a liberalist democracy full of paradoxes. (History 151c syllabus) Tomorrow will be the last lecture 'Thatcher and Blair: the return of liberalism'.

I love the way Vernon typifies the austere character of the socialists (and liberals) and the savoir vivre of the conservatives, which explains why the conservatives appeal to the masses (for being fun) when in fact, we might assume that the socialists have the mass's interest served in their politics. The liberals go back and forth between socialists and conservatives and occasionally have a feeble life on their own. Yet, the just might take on a significant role in 2010 as the Liberal Democrats.

Quick update: There is also a lecture at the LSE podcast about women voters in this election.

More of The Economist:
Avi Shlaim on Israel and Palestine,
A crisis of authority in Iran,
Comfort with Obama,
Democracy in America - podcast review,
Issues of Race.

More Rear Vision:
Two podcast issues on the history of Haiti
History of Yemen,
A history of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

More History 151c:
The Great War in podcasts,
The Indian Rebellion,
Friday Portion for Anne is a Man.

Giordano Bruno - Tapestry

In 1600 after seven (some say eight) years of trials, Giordano Bruno was convicted by the Roman Inquisition for heresy and burned at the stake. Bruno was a thinker who dabbled in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and theology. Even if his ideas were not exactly fitting with the Roman Catholic Church's dogma, you wonder why the Inquisition went through the trouble of spending years of trials on an obscure thinker and having him publicly executed in the end.

We have met Bruno in podcast before. The Dutch OVT Podcast had an issue about him and just now CBC's Tapestry spent 50 minutes on him. Just as OVT, there was a lot of attention to begin with for Bruno's statue on the Piazza Di Fiore in Rome - the place of his execution. Bruno was eventually received as a martyr for free speech, free thought and even atheist celebrate this old Dominican. Somehow, ideas may indeed be really powerful, but if I have to guess what did him in, it was not that and maybe not even that he refused to recant. He denied the Inquisitors the right to judge him and that must have been just a little too much.

Tapestry's guest Ingrid Rowland then makes a very interesting remark: Maybe if Bruno had not been a Dominican priest, but rather ordained in the order of Jesus (The Jesuits). They might have been able to control him and protect him. By chance, an example of such a Jesuit jumped from another podcast I listened to: Entitled Opinions, which had Paula Findlen on the show to talk about Athanasius Kircher. Kircher lived half a century later, had ideas about just as wild and exotic as Bruno, but he was a Jesuit and, as it turns out, somehow enjoyed the protection of the order, also against the Vatican.

By the end of the Kircher show, Bruno comes up. Comparisons are made and Findlen even proposes in a very convinced way that Kircher must have read Bruno. You really must listen to these shows. As much as these men are megalomaniac thinkers and part or full heretics, which may seem sincere, but also has an element of unrewarding idiosyncrasy to it, they speak to the imagination and somehow continue to inspire.

(Photo by Joshua Corey; used with permission)

More Giordano Bruno:
Het zwijgen opgelegd - OVT.

More Tapestry:
Surviving in the Wilderness,
Survival of the Kindest,
Karen Armstrong,
Terry Eagleton.

More Entitled Opinions:
Albert Camus,
Unabomber world views,
Byzantine Culture,
Jimi Hendrix,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three years Anne is a Man - New Design

I think May 10th will be a good day to start using the new design. On that day it will be three years since I started this blog. 1600 posts and 400 different podcasts reviewed and one and a half years with the current, adapted, design. As reported before, Blogger has expanded the possibilities with the standard templates and by that move taken away all the reasons I had for reverting to an adapted design in November 2008.

At a sample blog I have set up, you can get an idea what the blog will look like as of next month. The ease at which I can change the settings however, will imply that I, almost effortlessly, can continue to play around. Background images and color schemes are updated in a matter of seconds. It is the kind of flexibility I have been lacking for such a long time.

I would love to get some feedback on this projected design. Leave a comment and let your thoughts know. Thanks in advance.

Previously about the new design:
Choosing a design for Anne is a Man,
Where is the new look going?,
Your opinion on a new look for Anne is a Man,
An uncertain wind of change.

Philology guest lecture - Tolkien Professor

A podcast that has many people excited is The Tolkien Professor (feed). Professor Corey Olsen from Washington College teaches the works by J.R.R. Tolkien in a way, as he claims, would have been approved by Tolkien himself. I know people who do the readings before they listen to the next podcast - that shows how involving these lectures are.

From time to time Olsen invites guest speakers and one of the regular listeners alerted me to one of them: Michael Drout (download). Drout is a philologist just as J.R.R. Tolkien and aside from studying the same subjects, he studied the work of Tolkien from a philology perspective. He starts the lecture by reciting Beowulf, as Tolkien would start his, and kicks off from the text and the words of Beowulf, taking it to Tolkien and to the Lord of the Rings from there.

The point Drout so elegantly and entertainingly makes is that specific words and philological mysteries in texts such as Beowulf force the philologist to make wide stretching assumptions and conjectures. In that process, when he has to leave the realm of science and more and more enters the world of imagination, as a philologist he has to stop. Tolkien would not stop. And so, Drout argues, in order to give the words he struggled with a life, he invented a whole world for them. And he gives a number of examples from both Beowulf and Tolkien's literary work. Even if you are not into following the entire course, at least pick up this bonus lecture.

More Tolkien:
Tolkien Professor.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Podcast with pictures - Europe from its origins

Podcasts that contain visuals present me with a problem. The most of my listening time goes without the possibility to glance at a screen. So, I always try to figure out how much you can do without the visuals a usually I will be glad if I can. This is how I started the series Europe from its origins (feed). The conclusion remains you can follow without the pictures, but personally I cannot resist them.

For this podcast I will sit down and watch. Still, you do not absolutely have to see the pictures (apart from the occasional map), but they are just too good to miss out on. Also, my curiosity is roused all the time. Every couple of seconds the slide changes and I just want to know what depiction has been chosen when a certain figure or concept was discussed. Many of the images are reconstructions, or indicators, but still they liven up the experience. At some point, the images also have begun to serve as mental anchors in the story. The same picture for feudal knights, the same picture for Pope Innocent III and so on.

The maker of this series, Joseph Hogarty, has taken upon himself a huge project, not only because of the multimedia aspect of the podcast (in addition to the numerous images there is video and very fitting music incorporated). The task of telling the history of Europe from its origins (in 3rd century Rome ) until modern times is an enormous task. There have been 16 episodes up until now. Hogarty has improved on all aspects, but with each era he seems to be needing more time and the last episodes run beyond 60 minutes. We have just reached the 13th century and so there is at least 600 years of history ahead of us. An amazing achievement so far and I hope passionately, he will continue likewise.

I have not yet said all that impresses me about this series. As the speaker of five languages, I am especially sensitive to what podcasters do with names, words and sentences that are not in English. Hogarty makes in this respect an outstanding performance, which I find unparalleled in the podcasting world. To my ears he is impeccable in German, French, Spanish and Italian. In addition he is very convincing with Arabic. As to Greek and the Slavic languages, I have a limited power of evaluation, but with his prowess in the other languages, I trust him also beyond - something I never do with any other English speaker.

More Europe from its origins:
A history of Europe.

Baboons teach us about stress - Healthy Living (Stanford)

Thanks to a question at the Podcast Parlor I went to look for the answer to the question 'What do baboons tell us about stress?' Apart from a commercial podcast called MedPod101 (feed) which had a short introduction on the subject, with a promise to more I did not find anything. However, the MedPod101 issue about stress (download) referred to Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky as the source and this made me go search iTunesU.

On iTunesU I found Stanford's series Healthy Living in which Robert Sapolsky himself gives two lectures on stress. One telling why Zebras do not get ulcers and one relating what baboons teach us about stress. Sapolsky studied baboons in the field in Kenya for decades and his research on these primates taught him about stress among the apes many things that can be paralleled to humans. Not only do Baboons live under stress, they actually show stress related health problems that we know so well: high cholesterol, ulcers, heart disease and diabetes.

Here is how it works in a nut shell. Since baboons live in a strict hierarchy, being higher up is better for stress. When however, the hierarchy is threatened, the stress on top is just as bad. So, apart from being on top, it is best for a baboon to also have a good capacity to cope with stress. That is, to recognize stressful situation, react right and have an outlet. Sapolsky describes in detail what this means for baboons, but the bottom-line, that the more sociable ones are better at coping with stress, is easily translated to human society. As I would paraphrase Sapolsky: for your health it is best, first of all, not to be born poor, but beyond the poor line, you'd better be well socialized, have a good relationship, have friends and be around kids.

Check out the Healthy Living feed for many more interesting lectures on various subjects in medicine. (feed)

More Stanford:
Historical Jesus,
Global Geopolitics,
History of the International System,
Stem Cells - policy and ethics.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Justice with Michael Sandel - Harvard lecture series

Harvard opened its gates on iTunesU and last month I learned about it through Open Culture (a blog you all must follow). Among the supply is Michael Sandel teaching his students about Justice (Justice with Michael Sandel). These sessions are extremely professionally recorded on video and vodcast in 12 issues. In spite of the great video, I would say you will not miss much, if anything at all, if you treat this series as an audio podcast (feed). The point is to hear Sandel and his lively interaction with the students. The few clips and slides can be easily caught without seeing them.

The first lecture video (Moral side of Murder on YouTube) takes the students down the path of consequentialism and utilitarianism. In stead of defining these concepts on morality, Sandel throws carefully tailored cases with moral dilemmas at the students and lets them sort out their evaluations. At this point the aim is to teach them consequentialism and introduce them to utilitarianism and so the cases are designed to let them make decisions about outcomes and the sacrifice of a few for the good of the many. This is continued in the second lecture where finally the opposition is met: categorical ideas of Justice.

I am always surprised how people are willing to take on these cases, especially if they are not based on real occurrences and how they agree to stay within the confines of the question. How can you possibly make decisions about running a trolley into either five workers, or one worker down the road? If you take a bit more time to evaluate these riddles, or if you have done so in the past, it may come as a bit of a disappointment that the students do not challenge Sandel a bit more. In spite of this slight drawback, the advantage is that Sandel remains in total control and has ample to guide even the most inexperienced listener into the tricky world of evaluations of Justice. I will surely take this course on until the end and keep you updated.

More Michael Sandel:
Michael Sandel - LSE / UChannel,
A new politics of the common good,
The bioethics concern,
Morality in Politics,
Morality and the Market,
Michael Sandel - Philosophy Bites.

Sir Mark Sykes - Veertien Achttien

De laatste aflevering van de onvolprezen podcast Veertien Achttien heeft een onverwacht staartje. Sir Mark Sykes, bekend van het Sykes-Picot verdrag, is in 2008 opeens terug in het nieuws. Een ander verhaal van de Grote Oorlog dan dat van het geheime verdrag tussen de Fransen en de Britten is dat van de Spaanse Griep. Een van de meer dan 50 miljoen slachtoffers van de pandemie is de Britse diplomaat Sykes. Hij blijkt begraven in een met lood geisoleerde kist - zou men daar het virus uit op kunnen graven? Dat was de vraag in 2008.

In 1916 was de vraag wat er na het verscheiden van het Ottomaanse Rijk met het Midden-Oosten moest gebeuren. De Fransen en Britten lieten hun diplomaten Picot en Sykes in een geheim verdrag de boedel verdelen. Daarin werden voor het gemak de Arabieren, de Zionisten, de Italianen en wie er verder nog maar belang hadden, buiten beschouwing gelaten. De vredesverdragen in 1919, hebben een en ander nog wel enigszins proberen bij te stellen, maar veel van de hedendaagse problemen in het Midden-Oosten en in de problematische verhoudingen tussen de Arabische en de Westerse wereld vinden hier hun oorsprong.

Het zij nog maar weer eens gezegd: De grote kracht van Veertien Achttiens biografieën is dat deze verhalen belangrijke historische mijlpalen zoals het Sykes-Picot verdrag in historisch perspectief zetten en een buitengewoon inzicht in de geschiedenis van de Grote Oorlog geven. En in dit specifieke geval, ook verbanden zichtbaar maakt met het heden. Voeg daarbij het uitnemende, narratieve talent van de verteller Tom Tacken en je hebt een van de beste historische podcasts te pakken.

Meer Veertien Achttien:
De Eerste Wereldoorlog in podcast,
Ford en anderen,
Sigmund Freud,
Edith Cavell,
Rudyard Kipling. (speciaal aanbevolen)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sati - British India UCLA

Sati is the Hindu practice of widow immolation. When the husband dies, the widow is burned with him on the cremation pyre. The practice was made illegal by the British rulers in India in the middle of the nineteenth century. Sati was considered barbaric and oppressive for women and therefore they felt they needed to put a stop to it. So far so good, you could hardly think of any argument against the ruling. Apart maybe from some pragmatic sense that the colonials better not interfere with local customs or some cultural relativism taken to the extreme. Or so it seems.

Without making any claims in favor of Sati, Professor Vinay Lal in his UCLA series History of British India (history 174c) in the lectures of 25 March and on, gives a very critical review of this piece of legislation. Of all the social problems in India they could have taken issue with, they chose exactly this one. Not by chance, as Lal argues, a practice that is so strange to them, there is no English parallel and therefore most easily be condemned, unlike other, and probably more harmful social circumstances and practices.

It is also interesting to see a quite sudden switch in attitude towards Sati, from a reverence to the noble savage, to the puritan outrage about barbarism. If that is not indicative for a kind of hypocrisy then maybe it should be observed that no women were asked what their stance on Sati was - even though they were the alleged victims to be protected. Deeper goes the problem that the English not only did not understand Sati, but also in their search for arguments against it, went to look in the Vedas which, in Lal's view, is a very anachronistic and unfit way to go. And here is by all means a lesson to learn, even if we have to be happy Sati was banned, it is easy to condemn that which you do not understand and in order to maintain the condemnation, understanding will be continuously avoided. It serves to make a very close self-criticism before one criticizes another.

More Vinay Lal:
History of British India,
History of India - the search goes on,
8 podcasts I listened to,
History of India or Europe?
History of India.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Riddle of the Sands - Forgotten Classics

For the British, one of the shocks of the Great War was that they suddenly were pitted against Germany. The Germans and before them the Prussians had always been seen in a rather friendly light. The French had always been the enemy. When in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian war, Germany came into existence and developed into a great power, some saw the coming confrontation, but largely it had to take until 1914, until the Germans could really be broadly perceived as the real enemies. A 1871 invasion novel - The Battle of Dorking - which envisioned a German invasion of Britain was quickly forgotten.

Yet, by the early twentieth century the tide began to turn and a 1903 novel which describes how two English sailing tourists stumble upon a German invasion fleet not only marked a changing attitude, it even is acclaimed to have alerted the English to what was threatening them. This book, The Riddle of the Sands, featured as the conversation subject in an old issue of BBC's In Our Time (In Our Time on The Riddle of the Sands. Only available in stream). Melvyn Bragg and his guests hardly touch upon the novel and mainly speak of British attitudes towards Germany and vice versa.

If you want to hear the novel being read and find out a bit more, listen to Forgotten Classics. Host Julie gives a magnificent reading of the book (chapters 1-2, 3-5 and the just released 6-7) in which she captures the two main characters Carruthers and Davies each with their peculiarities. I was particularly delighted by the story as I have sailed the Frisian Islands some twenty years ago, as Carruthers and Davies do. That and the thought of the book's historical significance makes it a true delight.

More Forgotten Classics:
The message of Uncle Tom's Cabin,
Cooking with Forgotten Classics,
Forgotten Classics - podcast review.

More In Our Time:
Frankfurt School,
The history of the Royal Society,
The weekly treat,
New season of In Our Time,
St. Thomas Aquinas.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Diversity and sensitivities in Christianity

For the fourth post on a row, I will touch upon religion. It just so happened that yesterday's post triggered quite some discussion. It serves to take a look at the comments and follow the discussion around what is Catholic and what not. This digs into the history of Christianity and its many divisions (and the ensuing sensitivities). For that subject, I have many podcasts to direct you to. Let us start with one that I found recently.

The podcast series from Eastern Michigan University by Rick Rogers: World Religions (History 100) gives a general and easy to access introduction in the five major religions (feed). For the purpose of yesterday's discussion, and since I had come around those chapters anyway, I listened to the the six episodes about Christianity. Each is about 20 minutes long and one by one they set you up very neatly into Christian history, doctrine, church and holidays. Actually, I found the section about Christianity the best I have heard so far (with only Islam to go). You sense that this is Professor Rogers' own field of research.

Other podcasts that I can warmly recommend for getting up to date about the history of Christianity and its divisions are:
Phil Harland's Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean
UCSD's MMW3 The Medieval Heritage (Charles Chamberlain, Matthew Herbst) which runs this semester as well (with a.o. David Jordan).
Yale's New Testament History and Literature (Dale Martin)
Stanford's Historical Jesus (Thomas Sheehan)
LSE's Christianity's past and futures (Diarmaid MacCulloch)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Catholic Stuff - facts or doctrine

Catholic Stuff You Should Know is a podcast that was recently recommended to me. This came after I looked into and abandoned the Catholic Laboratory Podcast (Cathlab in short). Also The Pope Podcast is a Catholic podcast. What these have in common is that they take on their subject with an explicit Roman Catholic perspective. The issue that comes up is: does this turn up to be about facts or about doctrine?

Of course the two are in such a framework naturally intertwined, but when the doctrine part takes over, the facts tend to become stretched. Catholic Stuff You Should Know shows this in their issue about the Holy Sepulcher. The way they tell about this Jerusalem church makes it sound like it is an exclusively Catholic church and since they claim to have been there in actuality why would you check up on this? A peek at Wikipedia about the Holy Sepulcher already points in another direction. I have been to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher myself and I can see this from my own experience: what you run into in this Church is Armenian, Greek, Syriac, Coptic and only in a very limited way Roman Catholic - as opposed to many other famous churches in Israel, such as those in Nazareth, Capernaum and Mount Tabor.

More obvious is a small item about the etymology of Monday. (EDIT: I got this wrong. They discussed Maundy, not Monday) I thought: this is Moon-day and Wikipedia on Monday matches that expectation. However, this apparently is too pagan for the Catholic podcasters and so they propose two Latin, Biblical possibilities: Mandatum and Mendicare. Well, that is taking it very far from what would widely be considered factual and so, the conclusion must be: this podcast is about doctrine. As such, it is an interesting one. Find out about Arius, about the Ethiopian Church, Stylites, Indulgences and more. It is also short (no more than 10 minutes) and presented in a very free conversational style. (feed)

EDIT: As one of the readers pointed out in the comments below (thank God for comments); the issue was Maundy Thursday and where the addition Maundy comes from. Indeed Catholic stuff that I should know. Well maybe not absolutely have to, but it certainly helps to keep my feet out of my mouth.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Secularism - Thinking Allowed (BBC)

In conjunction with the last Philosophy Bites issue I wrote about (on Morality) I think it is a good idea to listen to a rather recent issue of BBC's Thinking Allowed. Laurie Taylor had a fascinating and spirited discussion with Rebecca Goldstein, Eric Kaufmann and Tariq Ramadan under the title Secularism under Threat?

Part of the problem is a confusion in terminology, which Tariq Ramadan takes on, by separating Secularism, from the modern ideological atheism that is heard from so often. Secularism, is a way of organizing society and political authority independent from organized religion and leaving place for all sorts of religious streams. And here it serves to keep Susan Neiman in mind as she spoke on Philosophy Bites and reformulated with the Enlightenment was all about secular society.

Once this is settled, it is relevant to view the non-fundamentalist religious, who are secularists in the political sense. And so, secularism under threat is an issue of secularism being challenged by the religious literalists. However, somehow, related but also different is the question of the rise of Islam in Europe. Both these are discussed. What is left out, is a rise of spiritualism, which, probably opposes the atheist kind of secularists.

More Thinking Allowed:
History and sociology,
Boffins and WW I,
Richard Hoggart,
Secular vs. Religious,
Renoir and Slumming.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jesus - Egalitarian or Apocalyptic

It was a theme I did not recall so vividly from the previous podcast series on the Historical Jesus I followed (Stanford's Historical Jesus, with Tom Sheehan - feed) Although I do recall that Sheehan repeatedly mentioned John Dominic Crossan and his view on Jesus, I do not recall any mention of E. P. Sanders. It is such a long time ago...

The current theme in Philip Harland's Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean is the historical Jesus. And Harland juxtaposes the views of Crossan and Sanders. He shows how Crossan comes to a view of Jesus in which he is an Egalitarian spiritual teacher. Sanders, however, has a view that is radically different, he sees Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet. Harland takes no position. He simply shows how Crossan and Sanders arrive at these fundamentally different positions that are each defensible in their own right.

The consecutive chapters have begun to dig deeper into the sources. Harland combines what little written sources about Jesus there are, with a more general historic knowledge about the time and place (Galilee at the beginning of the CE calendar), based on broader sources and upon archeology. I have no idea yet where he will be going. Will he be arriving at a conclusion different from Crossan and Sanders, at either one of them or stop at the inconclusive facts? We will have to wait and see.

More on Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean:
Historical Jesus (2) - Philip Harland,
Historical Jesus (1) - Philip Harland,
New Testament, history and literature,
Da Vinci Code,
Early Christianity podcasts.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Volcanoes in European History - EEH podcast

The Exploring Environmental History Podcast has just published a very timely and fascinating issue about the effect volcanic eruptions may have had on European and World History. While Europe has not felt such effects in many many years, with the recent eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull on Iceland, starting with the disruption of air traffic, this has changed. Apart from traffic, the ash plumes are likely to affect crops, sun light, the climate and thus, economic, social and political history.

Host Jan Oosthoek digs into a couple of established events in the Middle Ages that show a combination of bad crops, decreased sun light and lowering of temperatures. He cites research that suggests volcanic eruption and ash plumes as an explanation for these. By extension, this connects famines, migrations, plagues and social instability to volcanic eruptions. It could mean that the Plague and the Renaissance may indirectly have been caused by volcanism. Oosthoek mentions no known volcanic eruption that could be a candidate for this explanation.

In turn, he goes over the recorded effects of the Laki eruption of 1783 (also in Iceland). Here he has no major occurrences such as famine, epidemic and revolution to report, yet the effect on weather and harvest in 1783 and 1784 seems considerable. In short, without being able to give definitive indications, with the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull we see environmental history in action.

More Exploring Environmental History:
Environmental History in the Middle Ages,
New weeds in Africa,
Biological invasions and transformations,
Environmental history: an applied science,
Defining Environmental History with Marc Hall.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quick podcast reviews - Anne is a Man

Now that I have so much less time to write for the blog, I feel bad I let my audience miss out on some of the listening I manage to do. And it is worth give a couple of quick mentions, so here goes:

The Writing Show - I hadn't listened to the writing show in years. I couldn't resist to listen to Melissa Hart, writer of an autobiographical novel (Gringa) about a white, straight girl who desperately tries to be Hispanic and lesbian. (feed)

Entitled Opinions tackled Karl Marx. Robert Harrison gives his view why Marx is more relevant today than ever and his guest Mark Mancall saves him from sounding too superficial and turns this conversation is a really indispensable one about Marx. Who really seems to be more relevant today than ever.

Veertien Achttien. For those who understand Dutch. A biography of Petain you have to hear.

SALT podcast (Seminars About Long Term Thinking) aka The Long Now. Guest Speaker David Eagleman give a stunningly optimistic talk how the internet is going to prevent civilization collapses as we know from the past. Not a word about how the internet may become our downfall, only a few about how we need to make sure there will be no lapses. In spite of this naiveté still a commendable listen. Oh, and I had no patience for the Q&A, so maybe somebody asked about the dangers of the internet there.

New Books in History - Currently my favorite podcast. I have done a ton of listening. Eight shows rolled through my ears that I didn't manage to review. And they are all worth it. A similar amount is still waiting in the playlist. Can you imagine?
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, “The Anti-Imperial Choice: The Making of the Ukrainian Jew”; Ukrainian culture is known to be anti-semitic, yet some Jews count as promoters of Ukranian literature.
David Aaronovitch, “Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theory in the Shaping of Modern History”; This is lovely; how you just have to love conspiracy theories - but never believe them.
Robert Gellately, “Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe”; the finer details of ruining society.
Nicholas Thompson, “The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War”; NBIH has many cold ware issues you should not miss - this is one of them.
Mark Mazower, “Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe”; So we know how they conquered Europe, but how could they rule so vast a realm with so few forces?
Joel Wolfe, “Autos and Progress: The Brazilian Search for Modernity”; History of Brazil, filling an omission in my knowledge.
David Day, “Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others”; a tough interview to swallow for an Israeli - we are constantly mentioned in line with the endless list of peoples who trampled others to steal their land.
David Laskin, “The Long Way Home. An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War” Immigrants fighting for the US in WW1 and thus obtaining citizenship - and it still happens today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

William the Conqueror - Norman Centuries

As soon as Lars Brownsworth started his Norman Centuries series, I knew what was the episode I was waiting for the most: The one about William the Conqueror. Not that I minded waiting a lot, quite to the contrary. Four preceding podcasts, handing me four predecessors and a century and a half of preceding history, elegantly leading em up to this Norman King I have heard so much, but knew so little about.

The subtle charm in Lars's narratives is the turn up of the unexpected. Many of the Norman Dukes and Kings start out on the wrong foot in life and somehow manage to survive and reverse their lot. This means not just their position of power, frequently also the perception others have of them. I won't give away to much, I urge to listen for yourself and not let me spoil the joy.

William is, in this respect, no different. The orphan king-child seems to be destined to be a puppet for the nobility or for the King of France or the ruler of Burgundy - whoever. Yet, just as we learn from Lars how young William wriggles away from under the yoke of his custodians, the podcast chapter is done. William will have two (at least) podcasts dedicated to him. So, he is not yet the Conquerer, but on this occasion I won't withhold from you a fine piece I found on YouTube: the Animated Bayeux Tapestry

More Norman Centuries:
Magnificent Devil,
Richard the Fearless,
Norman Centuries - Lars is back!.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Comedy podcasts and philosophy - Saeed Ahmed guest post

I have been writing about academic podcasts on philosophy for quite some time. After getting a bit stuck on the notion of "synthetic apriori," I have decided to take a diversion and have been sampling funny podcasts.

Not surprisingly, there is plenty of philosophy to be found here. The series I previously posted about, WTF by Marc Maron, provides an example.

Mark talks about a heavy "WHAT THE FU**?" and a light "what the fu**?" The first, according to Marc is "external", like when you are surprised or shocked by something. The latter is "kind of an internal thing," like when you are ready to take a risk. Take that, Bishop Berkeley.
He even covers the notion of temporality when he discusses leaving his cats for more than a few weeks, and they don't treat him quite the right way when he comes back. "They probably think I died and are bit confused when they see me". "Is it really the same guy, they may wonder." Martin Heidegger must be turning in his grave, but in sort of good way. (feed)

I am getting addicted to Maron's musings and interviews (he is a very good interviewer, and generally interviews other comedians). But if he is not for you, there are a number of other good comedy podcasts out there.

On Comedy and everything else, one of the regulars asked "has someone ever dared you 'if I give you a million bucks, would you do a naked handstand in times square.'" "What kind of a question is that; I don't acknowledge it as test of moral standing, and don't enter the hypothetical." Now if it truly were a million, then perhaps he would enter the discussion. (feed)

A couple of others:
Comedy Death-Ray Radio (feed)
Nerdist Podcast (feed)

And they are all free, although contributions are welcome, as many of these comedians are not regularly employed and do these podcasts between gigs.

Saeed Ahmed

Photos that changed the world - Jonathan Klein on TED

Jonathan Klein of Getty Images speaks of famous images and of their impact on our understanding, on public opinion and on our politics.

More TED:
Karen Armstrong on The Golden Rule,
Media revolution and the effect on power - Clay Shirky,
Shay Agassi's visionary plan to bring electric cars to the world,
Elizabeth Gilbert,
Bill Gates.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Choosing a design for Anne is a Man

As you may recall, I have started looking for a new design for the blog. When I asked your opinion about it the last time, thanks to your feedback, we had the choice nearly shut. It has to be admitted, I was not yet completely satisfied with it and as a consequence I postponed the implementation a bit more.

Then the present overtook the past: Blogger introduced a whole set of new templates to choose from, replete with a much broader set of fine tuning options and this has thrown us back to the beginning of the process. Although we were nearly set on a design with one column on the left and with a tailored header picture, this choice needs to be revised as the new looks offer so much more, look so different and what is most important: look so much more sleek, professional and advanced.

Before I give you four applied blog looks to get a taste from, I'll introduce you to one of the most important, basic, choices: the column lay-out. Look at the picture to the right and observe the eight choices Blogger offers. From no columns, to columns left right and split through the middle. The columns are to hold the content I now offer in the left column alone and while I dabbled with having two columns and split columns two years ago, I eventually decided against it. Enough room needs to be left for the text and all those add-ons left and right are only distracting. Nowadays I can stretch the blog to a width of 1000 pix though, which does leave some room. I also see use for split columns, as I have add-ons that do and those that do not need ample width.

After getting your input on the columns-issue, I'd love to hear thoughts on all the rest - and there is so much. Background image or pattern. Header image or pattern. Font style and size. Picture frames or not. And so on. Here are five examples of what you might get:
  1. Simple design with no header or background image and with only one column on the left and with picture frames,
  2. Awesome design with header image and left split column and with picture frames,
  3. Picture Window design with standard background image with columns left and right (split) and no picture frames,
  4. Watermark design with header image and columns left and right and with picture frames.

Previously about blog design:
Where is the new look going?,
Your opinion on a new look for Anne is a Man,
An uncertain wind of change
How about a new look and feel?,
A new year, a new style.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Anne is a Man readers report podcasts

Here are some podcasts reported by readers of the blog:

Flat 29 (feed)

Hi Anne,

I realise you don't focus on comedy podcasts too much, but wondered if you might fancy a brief look at our new podcast, Flat 29's Big Book of Everything? We would love to see what you think of it! Its available at

Here is a brief description of the show:
Flat 29's Big Book of Everything is a weekly comedy podcast cataloguing and discussing the contents of our universe. Each week a new chapter is released tackling a new and exciting subject.

Full of useless trivia, rambling anecdotes, ludicrous discussions, and a new comedy song every week, Flat 29's Big Book of Everything is an enjoyable way to expand your knowledge about everything (as long as you currently know nothing at all about anything)
Hope you enjoy it!

WTF with Marc Maron (feed)

Reported through the Podcast Parlor:

It is VERY funny and philosophical. In fact It is the philosophical angle which connects with of the other things I have been discussing. If you decide to listen the the most recent episode (featuring Dave Hill), you will hear Marc expound on his relationship with his cats. You'll have to listen for yourself because I don't want to ruin it. Suffice it to say he quickly covers the metaphysics of "self", "identity," and "religion," in this context.

Enjoy this; pure fun.
Saeed Ahmed

Bob and Dan Cast (feed)

Hey Anne,

I like the site and wanted to request a review.

The Bob and Dan Cast ( It's comedy and film mostly but sometimes it goes other places.

I won't leave a review, as doing so would be a tad unethical (I'm the Dan in "Bob and Dan")

Not sure if you take requests from the podcasters themselves, but thought I'd give it a shot anyway.

Keep up the good work!


The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (feed)

From a post at SFF Audio:

Damn and blast both David Barr Kirtley and John Joseph Adams!

These two rogues are the hosts of The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy podcast. I have had good reason to curse them publicly. Their podcast is both a terrific listen week after week, and is often horning in on SFFaudio’s territory (by talking about audiobooks). I’ve held my tongue until this latest incident. These two hoseheads, Kirtley and Adams, have now gone too far! They’ve poached Dan Carlin as their guest for next week’s podcast.

This is a scandalous thievery. We posted our plan to get Carlin a full 4 Hours and 44 minutes before they did!

And so while I cannot possibly condone their unwarranted guest poaching, I cannot also, in good conscience, deny their podcast’s high quality. Thus it is with disgust I must hold my nose and recommend you subscribe to The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy podcast.

But also let it be know, across the internet, that The Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy is formally ON NOTICE as of right now. You’d better not wander into any dark alleys Kirtley/Adams.

Jesse Willis

The Reel Pour podcast (feed)

I just recently found this really interesting podcast... I thought you might want to do a review of. These 3 guys in Chicago pair wine and movies together.... They taste, discuss and review both at the same time... it's really interesting, and kinda funny too. I actually learn a little about wine too. (it's not condescending which is nice) it's called "Reel Pour" and I found it on itunes, check it out.

- Brian Bondragazon

More readers' recommendations:
Reported podcasts in January 2010.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Philosophy Bites on Morality

As usual, Philosophy Bites is worth to listen to at least twice. Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds received Susan Neiman to talk about morality in the 21st century. Neiman makes in important point against the moral relativism that most people tend to hold to. Ethics are not like beauty, where the good and the bad are in the eye of the beholder. She claims that in opinions on morality, people think remarkably alike.

Her views are in that a response, not only to relativism, but also to fundamentalism and she proposes a reinforcement of morality within liberalism. Liberalism seems to be identified, or easily slide into relativism and Neiman points back at the roots of liberalism, the Enlightenment. However, what in her mind has gone wrong is that liberalism, deteriorated into rampant capitalism in which consumerism took over from most moral values. Fundamentalism may well be just a reaction to that and there, she admits sits a valid criticism.

She extracts four values from the Enlightenment and argues that this is a defense of 'the modern world with its capacity of self-criticism and transformation'. The values she chooses are: Happiness - people have a right to strive for the good life. Reason - against superstition and blind authority. Reverence - the capacity to feel respect and awe, without sliding into the authoritative structures of organized religion. Hope - the incentive to keep trying for the best.

More Philosophy Bites:
The genocide and the trial,
Dirty Hands,
Understanding decisions,
Nietzsche repossessed,
What can you do with philosophy?.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Catching up for Anne is a Man

This post is to give you a quick list of podcasts I listened to over the past weeks. These I recommend, but unfortunately I won't come round giving full reviews for them. I am just too busy these days and for the time being it seems that situation is not going to change soon. In order to keep you informed I resort to this short hand reporting.

There were a couple of Israel related podcasts I took up:
Rear Vision with a short history of the Mossad,
The Economist about Israeli Arabs and
Harvard's PON (program on Negotiations) podcast about the aftermath of the Annapolis conference (feed).

The Harvard podcast issue is a rather old one, but the nice thing about some podcasts is that they are timeless. Another old but interesting podcast (series) I ran into was from Eastern Michigan University a 2008 lecture series with Marshal Poe, Larry Sanger and Andrew Keen delivering a construction and critical evaluation of the phenomenon of Wikipedia under the title: 'Democratization of Knowledge or Triumph of Amateurs' (feed)

Another academic level podcast I loved was the Entitled Opinions issue in which Robert Harrison delved into the subject of literature with Tobias Wolff.

Also, there were a couple of great new issues at The Memory Palace. Especially outstanding was the last episode (Babysitting) about 'a man in a box with a bomb'.

Another podcast series from Eastern Michigan University I started is Rick Rogers' series World Religions (History 100) (feed). I have done the intro and the five lectures about Hinduism. There is a superficiality and a sense of political correctness that bothers me a bit, but other than that, this series seems very informative.

Philosophy Bites had two fascinating chapters I really enjoyed. One about John Rawls' Theory of Justice and the other about the Sense of Self.

Philip Harland's Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean has made very interesting progress with his new subject: The historical Jesus.

I was inspired by my appearance at SFFaudio and followed up on Jesse Willis's recommendation CBC's Ideas and heard a thrilling issue about Morality. (feed) Here I learned human beings can be 'high' on morality, for better and for worse.

Last but not least, I very much enjoyed the last show of Ran Levi's Making History about genetics. (Hebrew)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Anne is a Man on SFFaudio podcast

One of the most exciting things that from time to time happens to me (and I hope to you as well) is that I bump into someone who also listens to podcasts. On such an occasion I immediately find myself engaged in great conversation, in great enthusiasm and invariably come away from the encounter with fresh ideas and new podcasts to explore. You'd want to record such encounters, wouldn't you?

The closest approximation was staged at the podcast SFFaudio (feed), which is a weekly show on which Jesse Willis and Scott Danielson speak with various guests about great audio on the web. Their usual subject is narration audio in general and SciFi and Fantasy stories in particular. Yet, both their blog and their podcast has a wider range than this and also touches upon all sorts of podcasts and audiobooks. On their last show they decided to invite me and talk with me about Anne is a Man, the blog and related subjects, mostly podcasts and podcasts reviewing. (SFFaudio #053 - with Anne is a Man)

We had a couple of lapses in the Skype connection, but other than that this was a very pleasant conversation. Fun to do and when I listen back, as far as I can say, fun to listen to. And we just scratched the surface. I hope we get to do this some more. On this one hour show you can hear us discuss Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, The Memory Palace, podcasting versus radio, podcasting in other countries and languages and much more.

More Jesse Willis:
Five Free Favorites