Monday, May 31, 2010

Plundered Planet - LSE

The natural resources of our planet are being squandered. Not only are the very few profiting, in stead of many, but also the revenues are consumed in stead of invested such that also future generation are being robbed of the wealth the earth has to offer. And in case you thing this is a problem of the poor countries, also rich countries make this mistake, as we can learn from a recent lecture at the LSE podcast (feed).

Guest speaker was Paul Collier, author of The Plundered Planet and he has been on LSE before, last September he spoke about Resource Management and this talk is partly a repetition, partly a continuation of the previous lecture; Collier has fine-tuned his analysis as well as his presentation. What I find both impressive and attractive is that he finds a way between conservational ecologism and market fundamentalism. Which means that neither does he say that we should not exploit nature, nor does he argue that we should let market forces steer the exploitation of natural resources. As in his previous lecture he argues for resource management.

To this extent he has written his book and he hopes to give sound advice to both the developed as well as the developing countries. Simply put, in his view, natural resources must be exploited in such a way that the whole population of profits from the income (which demands proper taxation and administered extraction) and that also future generations profit (which demands ample investment in infrastructure and new industries). When done properly, a country can exploit a resource to exhaustion (some resource are limited by nature), but in the end this will have cause an economic evolution which lifted the whole community to a higher and sustainable level.

More LSE:
China and India,
The China Hegemony,
The myth of work,
Pasts and futures of Christianity,
Global capitalism - the Gray view.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gandhi - History 174c UCLA

In Vinay Lal's previous course, History of India, there was about half a lecture about M.K. Gandhi; in the latest course, The history of British India - UCLA (feed), that I just finished listening to, there is sufficiently more attention to India's most famous nationalist.

Already when Lal arrives in his chronological narrative at the late nineteenth century, there is a short high-light - just to let you know that Gandhi is born and goes, as so many Indian intellectuals, to England to study law. But Gandhi was to disappear from India and Indian history for a longer span of time. For about twenty years he was to spend his life in South-Africa. Only by 1915 he was to return to India. He'd return, as Lal, puts it, not as an overly famous, but certainly a known Indian. From there he made a fast career in the ranks of the Indian National Congress and he was to dominate the party even when he was no longer holding an official position.

Recently on Radio Open Source, Amartya Sen stated something also Lal emphasizes in this course and this may come as new fact about Gandhi for the average reader and listener. Gandhi's was ardently anti-modern, up to the point he was even against rail-roads - an example that is pointed out by both Sen and Lal. Within the wider framework of his philosophy, I suppose, this is a very complex element for especially westerners (see also Introduction to nonviolence), but also for Indians to deal with. Hence it is an important issue to be aware of.

More History of India:
A story of India,
History of British India,
The search goes on.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reith Lectures 2010

The Reith Lectures will be podcast by the BBC just like last year when Michael Sandel gave a wonderfully inspiring performance. The lectures will be delivered in the same feed as last year. I expect that also, just like last year, the podcast will not be kept in the feed. So my advice is to subscribe, download and keep. This year, the lectures will be delivered by the astronomer Martin Rees. Under the title Scientific Horizons he explores the challenges to science today.

About the Reith Lectures in 2009:
A new politics of the common good,
The bioethics concern,
Morality in Politics,
Morality and the Market.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The uniqueness of humans - Robert Sapolsky

What makes humans unique as opposed to animals. Look at this lecture by baboon researcher Robert Sapolsky. This is simultaneously informative, entertaining, thought provoking and inspiring.

More Robert Sapolsky:
What Baboons teach us about stress.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Israel's Nuclear Program - Rear Vision

Here is a quick recommendation to listen to Rear Vision. They have recently done a documentary about Israel and its, alleged, bomb. In 30 minutes you get to understand the ratio of its policy of ambiguity and the fundamental difference in what it means for Israel to have the bomb in comparison to what it means Iran, for example, has the bomb. As usual Rear Vision is very informative, but I felt that this time the program has exceeded itself in managing to be clear and concise and captivating in one fell swoop.

More Rear Vision:
UK Elections - recommended podcasts,
Two podcast issues on the history of Haiti
History of Yemen,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time travel is easy, history is hard - Ancient Rome Refocused

Ancient Rome Refocused is a new history podcast that deserves the highest acclaim. This podcast seems to be about Roman history, but in fact is about much more. This is because it is a podcast both of history narrative, which obviously is concentrated on Rome, and of history musings. On account of the last quality, already, the podcast has been widely compared with Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. I would also like to compare the show with Nate DiMeo's Memory Palace.

Host and maker of the podcast Rob Cain is off on a magnificent start with his series and even now, three episodes into the feed, we must grant him his own ground and assure that he is making something unique, something very good and in addition to that, I am absolutely sure, the history podcast audience is going to adore. The comparisons with Dan Carlin and Nate DiMeo serve here only as a characterization and not as some example of what Cain is trying to emulate. Cain combines the history musings, like Dan Carlin, with the astonishing narrative qualities of Nate DiMeo. Cain is telling Roman history with a quality of narrative immediacy that equals the impressive standard of DiMeo's Memory Palace and continues to engage in thoughts about that history in the compelling way of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. Thus he establishes an impressive combination of styles that both work extremely well in podcast and he does so with his own voice, his own style that bears only comparison, but not similarity with the mentioned predecessors.

First of all, I'd simply urge you to go and listen without letting me spoil the surprises in particular and the fun in general (feed). Allow me to highlight just these three identifiers for the first three issues. The first makes excellent use of Monty Python's scene in Life of Brian 'What have the Romans ever done for us'. The second lays out the basics of the Roman reality by projecting time travel. The third delivers a subtle expose on slavery in Rome (that dwarfs Dan Carlin's adventure into slavery) which is both history, audio drama, a poignant contemporary critique of low wage labor and prostitution as well as the most balanced analysis of Spartacus' slave revolt I have encountered ever. With even more lines to current times.

Even if Rob Cain stops now, he has produced a podcast classic. The idea he is about to deliver a fourth, and likely more episodes has me both reel in anticipation and yet also a bit worried: can he keep up with the towering standard he has set off with?

Heidegger in podcast

One of the latest issues of Entitled Opinions had me captivated in spite of the fact that I couldn't follow a decent bit of what was being discussed. I wanted to and it sounded tremendously good and the occasional thing I did follow felt like a true gem, but Robert Harrison's conversation with Thomas Sheehan about Martin Heidegger really needs repeated listening and probably some serious preparation.

By the way, not only Robert Harrison we know from podcast, Thomas Sheehan is well known for his course on The Historical Jesus. And during the show Harrison quotes Hubert Dreyfus who delivers a number of philosophy course in podcast through Berkeley. Among those is also a course on Heidegger and so, while I am at it, I might as well direct you to more Heidegger material in podcast.

Another course is offered by J. Drabinsky and since his audio is not syndicated, I have used Huffduffer to put it in a feed for you.

In case you understand German, you can also turn to a lecture delivered on podcast by the university of Freiburg. Dichter und Denker in Freiburg (feed) has Günter Figal speak about Heidegger and his phenomenological predecessor Husserl.

I am surprised I cannot find an issue of Philosophy Bites about Heidegger. Maybe it is hard to wrap your mind around him.

More Entitled Opinions:
Pink Floyd,
Alexander the Great,
Athanasius Kircher (Giordano Bruno),
King Lear,
Albert Camus.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson - TED talks

On Open Culture, this TED video from 2006 was chosen as one of the best TED has to offer.

Ken Robinson argues in a very simple and straightforward way how frightfully lopsided education systems are and how this is actually as bad as the climate crisis.

And here is the 2010 follow up.

More TED:
Photos that changed the world - Jonathan Klein,
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.

Operation Mincemeat - OVT podcast

Amazon offers a charming promotional video for Operation Mincemeat, the new book by Ben Macintyre. The book was reviewed on the Dutch history podcast OVT on the first hour of last Sunday's issue that also had fascinating items on Charlemagne and Why German Women Love Dutch Men (with the unlikely example of Louis van Gaal). The retelling of Ben Macintyre's book turns into the most hilarious, captivating and highly informative section. (feed)

For the non-Dutch readers of the blog, I simply have to deliver my own, faulty, version of the story, because it is too good to miss out on.

Macintyre, by chance, happened upon the papers of a former MI-6 agent, who set up Operation Mincemeat, a ploy by which in 1943 a corpse was played into the hands of the Nazis, with a letter on the body that made them believe the Allies would attack Greece and not Sicily. The idea came from Ian Fleming (of 007 renown) which he had from a spy novel. The problem was, to get a convincing corpse, build a convincing story and get it into the hands of German intelligence. None of this was easy.

Most corpses are no good and most of those that are, have relatives that bury it, but somehow MI-6 managed to come up with a Welsh alcoholic who had taken rat poison. Then a story had to be made up. Part of the deal was to supply him with a love life, which had to be roleplayed by one agent and his secretary in order to conjure up love letters, which raised some eyebrows with the agent's in-laws. And eventually the corpse was to wash up the shores of Spain - a neutral country as not to raise the suspicion of the Germans. There were enough Spanish officials friendly towards the Nazis, yet by accident the body ended up with one of the few who sympathized with the British and they offered the find back. The Brits in turn managed to politely force the procedure through official channels and there the Nazi sympathizers hijacked the information and the plan went to work.

More OVT
Van Iran tot Spa,
Mata Hari en andere executies,
Hoeren en Agenten,
1943 en meer In Europa.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Amartya Sen on India - Open Source

We have encountered Amartya Sen on several podcasts. He spoke on Justice at the LSE at Cornell on Capitalism and Confusion (UChannel), there was a more free conversation with Amartya Sen at the LSE again and he even made a short appearance on A History of the World in 100 Objects (BBC), when they discussed the Pillar of Ashoka.

At Radio Open Source the host Christopher Lydon interviewed Amartya Sen on India in general. (feed) It is very interesting to listen to this interview in conjunction with two other podcasts that relate to the current state of affairs in India. Pranab Bardhan on LSE and Palagummi Sainath at Big Ideas. All three Indians, each with their own professional perspective, make an analysis of where India stands today. All three mark the widely noticed economic rise of India and all three make critical comments.

Amartya Sen comes with a very personal view of India and its history. One of the distinctive elements, in his view, is the variety and tolerance of variety in India. What this also means is what Sainath called the great Inequality: the huge differences in literacy and wealth. It also means that India shows a large variety of religions, including fundamentalist streams. A variety towards science and technology is quite surprisingly illustrated with Gandhi; Sen discloses the Mahatma's opposition even to railways. Just as Sainath, Sen is worried about the inequality and he catches it in the phrase, India is becoming part California, part sub-Saharan Africa. There is more - one should listen.

More Open Source:
Mustafa Barghouti,
Jackson Lears,
Two communities in one region,
We want Obama,
The end of Hegemony.

Simon Kuper on Dutch Football - World Cup Buzz

With the football World Cup coming up in South-Africa, I am looking around for football podcasts (sorry, some people use the word 'soccer'). Although I have a general interest in football, for this World Cup I voluntarily impose on myself a tunnel vision. It is the Dutch National football team I am interested in.

The podcast World Cup Buzz had an issue that exactly matched my state of mind (feed). It featured an interview with writer and analyst Simon Kuper to inform the podcast's audience about Dutch football in general and the team's chances in the coming World Cup. Kuper is a very interesting speaker who impressed my with fine vision and clear analysis. I have never heard such a profound assessment of Holland's performance at Euro 2008 which showed two stunning wins over World Champions Italy and the runners up France, followed by a rather pitiful defeat against the Russians.

Kuper acknowledges the impressive strength of the Dutch team with its world class midfielders and strikers. Yet, the mediocre defense, it is his conjecture, will bring Oranje down against the better teams. The greatest praise goes to Spain, but Kuper seems to project the Dutch will falter in the quarterfinals against Brazil. A confrontation with Spanish will not even be reached.

An additional weakness Kuper detects in Dutch football is a matter of cultural mentality. The Dutch are football romanticists. They try to win with elegant attacking play and when they do not succeed in making that kind of an elated performance, they lose the will to win. In that way they are also football moralists, a win should be deserved. Winning ugly or by fluke is not allowed in the Dutch mind-set. It allows for opponents to simply disturb the fluent Dutch play and then the Dutch themselves will present them the win. I fear there may be a grain of truth in this idea of Kuper's though it also seems a bit exaggerated. At least I can recall a couple of ugly wins in Oranje's history.

More football:
Total Football Soccer Show,
Frans Derks,
George Best - Oxford Biographies,
Game Theory,
De jongens van Foppe.

Also view my world cup blog in Dutch: Gezond WK.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The death of Marat - History by picture

Let's start this review with a picture: The Death of Marat, by David. Any podcast that pays ample attention to the French revolution is likely to make reference to this picture and if not to the picture then at least to the political murder that David envisaged with it. Marat was an influential figure during the reign of terror. Charlotte Corday felt he threatened the nation and decided to kill him.

The story of the murder and the details of the painting are an excellent starting point for getting a grip on the phase of the Reign of Terror during the revolution. Not only the fundamental lecture podcasts discuss the episode and the painting - Berkeley's History 5 and UCLA's History 1c. Also in UCSD's art history class Formations of Modern Art, Professor William Bryson extensively discusses this work by David and its historic and political implications.

Not only the murder is political, also the painting is. David was a supporter of Marat and he went to great lengths in this depiction to make Marat into a martyr for the revolution and Corday into the reactionary ghost of all that was wrong with France. Surely, she is not in the painting, but one must realize that the story was widely known. Corday had with a false pretense gained entrance to Marat's bathroom. Marat spent most of his days in a bath, because of a skin condition. So there was nothing weird in him receiving her. There she stabbed him to death with a kitchen knife. What is left to see of her in the painting is the letter. Her letter, together with his are carefully constructed by David to achieve his effect. Listen to Bryson on UCSD (when the course is available) and the others to be filled in on the details.

Picture: La Mort de Marat - 1793 by Jacques-Louis David
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels
Public Domain

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Russian Rulers Podcast

Here is a new amateur history podcast that deserves a break. The Russian Rulers History Podcast has reached only its fourth episode and is still struggling with audio-issues, with Russian names and with its format and as such is still far from perfect. Yet, the maker Mark Schauss has chosen a field that is beyond the beaten track of history podcasts and on account of that alone deserves our attention. (feed)

Inspired by the pioneer of history podcasts, 12 Byzantine Rulers, Schauss is intent on telling us the history of Russia, by successively treating the Princes of Kiev, Novgorod and ultimately Moscow. This project should stretch over a dozen centuries and after four episodes has reached the twelfth century. Already, Schauss feels it is not enough to talk just rulers and he has announced to add rubrics with other influential figures.

As indicated, there is a lot of quality improvement still needed. The third episode has below standard audio and Schauss should also invest more practice in his text as to be able to more fluently read it when recording. Nevertheless Schauss is giving us a historic overview you are not getting elsewhere.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Romanticism - Open University

I am always fascinated by Romanticism. Although this term is usually reserved for a cultural movement in nineteenth century Europe, it is not so clearly a movement as rather a style of thinking, a type of mind set, a particular view of man and the world. As such, it is sufficiently amorphous so that it cannot so easily be pinned in space and time. Part of my fascination is the inkling Romanticism actually never went away and is still part of our cultural landscape today.

This demands a more active definition of Romanticism and one might consider turning to the Open University which offers an undergraduate course From Enlightenment to Romanticism and together with this course, it offers a small set of audio under the title Analyzing European Romaniticism (feed). Although this is far from a course, or even an introduction to Romanticism, it does give six useful audio essays delineating critical aspects of nineteenth century Romanticism.

The Open University will set the scene in Germany, in literature, philosophy and the adversaries of Romanticism and consequently it will go on to talk of England, France and Spain. Eventually this is a mere kick off and in order to dive deeper into the atmosphere and logic of Romanticism, one must continue to look. In podcast, fine contributions were made by Entitled Opinions and Berkeley's History 5.

More Open University:
Ethics Bites,
The things we forgot to remember.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Age of Inequality - Big Ideas

In our series of podcasts about India, I want to direct you to TVO's Big Ideas which had a lecture delivered by Palagummi Sainath on the problem of poverty. Sainath makes a passionate demand for attention to the problem of poverty in India. His point concerns one of the most devastating faces of poverty: starvation. Sainath argues more people than ever are starving in India.

Should this surprise us? Just as we were being informed of the rising economic power if India, you would not immediately think of starvation happening the same time. Yet, if you have listened to Professor Pranab Bardhan at LSE, poverty already stood out as a serious challenge to India. Also the interview Christopher Lydon did with Amartya Sen (review coming soon) touched on t his subject. Yet, Sainath is most outspoken. He addresses India's successes, but claims that this reflects only the upper realm of society. In fact, he argues, the increased wealth is ending up with an increasingly smaller portion of the population. For the masses, the opposite is the case: a descent into poverty. And if statistics indicate that Indians eat better than ever, this also goes only for the upper portion. Per head, there is less food and therefore, for the absolute bottom of society Sainath asks: 'What the heck do they eat?'

He adds, that the poorest people, also do the hardest work and as a consequence are in need of more calories than the middle class office dwellers (who have the food). The implication of his argument is not only the stunning injustice and a revelation of desperate human suffering, but also a warning of great social upheaval to come. Unless the problems are addressed. A bail-out is needed for the poor and this would be a global truth, not just one for India. Bail-outs, unfortunately, in this world, are devised for the rich, not the poor.

More Big Ideas:
Disappearing cultures,
Waiting for Godot,
Religion as culture - Camille Paglia,
Christopher Hitchens on the Ten Commandments,
The empire.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mark Leslie on the Writing Show

For a long time, the 'Getting Published with...' section had not appeared at the Writing Show (feed). In this section, host Paula B speaks with aspiring writers and follows up on their current project. How is the writing progressing? And when the writing is done, how is the search for an agent or a publisher going? The idea is to show the entire process from conception to publishing.

Although I find this the most fascinating feature of the Writing Show, it has also a disheartening quality to it. It shows how hard the writers struggle with their work and ultimately how tremendously difficult it is to get published. It has been two years since we last met Mark Leslie on Getting Published and as he just reappeared, we learn he has, still, yet to finish the novel he was working on. A Canadian Werewolf in New York has mostly been lying around and needed to give way to other projects.

Leslie is full of confidence. He reminds us of what has been said by many writers, it is always good to let a finished (or nearly finished) novel lie for a while. When you return to it, not only will you view it with fresh spirit, you are likely to have grown as a writer and as a person and will be able to improve on the work so far. This is how Mark feels and with this new zeal he will finish the book and tell us about it in his next appearance on the Writing Show.

More The Writing Show:
Short Story Beginnings,
Getting Published with Jean Tennant,
Getting Published with Janice Ballenger,
Getting Published with Mark Leslie,
Psychological Aspects of Writing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

China and India - LSE podcast

At the LSE podcast (feed) Professor Pranab Bardhan appeared with two consecutive lectures comparing China and India. As the title of both his book and his two lectures, Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay, both powers are rising quickly, but in spite of their increasing economic weight, each has their own set of major problems to overcome.

The first lecture is the more technical of the two. Bardhan delivers the figures of both economies and gives an analysis how these should be interpreted. There is a funny line he recalls from his Indian socialist friends in the past. They would say, China is doing better, because they are better socialists than we are. Today, Bardhan jests, probably the Chinese do better, because they are better capitalists than the Indians. Although some of the figures seem to indicate that, India is not lost without advantages. And we awaited the second lecture to find about problems on both sides.

In the second lecture, when the huge problems of both countries, poverty, illiteracy, the position of women, minorities, lack of democracy, corruption and lack of accountability and so on, are summed up, India does not come out better or with better prospects than China. The challenges each country faces is very different from the other. The conclusion is that it very much remains to be seen how India and China will handle them and how they will come out and whether they indeed will rise to the kind of power that everybody seems to believe they do.

More LSE:
The China Hegemony,
The myth of work,
Pasts and futures of Christianity,
Global capitalism - the Gray view,
Israeli at the London School of Economics.

Returned from hiatus: A History of the World in 100 Objects

The series A History of the World in 100 Objects (BBC) returned, as announced. I sort of forgot when it was supposed to continue, but here is where RSS subscriptions help you out: the new chapter simply appeared. As you may recall, this history podcast is made by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, and it attempts to tell the history of the world by means of objects in the museum's collection. The podcast comes out every workday and each week takes on a theme.

This week the theme is Empire Builders and the first issue is about Alexander the Great. Alexander, as we learned from Entitled Opinions just now was good at conquering the empire, but not exactly at keeping it. Yet, as we learn here at the BBC, his name was made and for all those who wanted empire, identifying with Alexander was the way to go. This explains why the coin that is examined on the podcast bears Alexander's head, when it was minted by another.

It is really exciting this podcast is back and you are well advised to pick it up and follow.

More A World History in 100 Objects (in short: AHOW):
Indus Seal,
First AHOW Review.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Memory Palace fantastic find

The Memory Palace is a great podcast I cannot recommend enough (feed). I have been saying in the past that it was five minutes every two weeks you should not miss, but it is not necessarily every two weeks and the last, great, issue lasted even 9 minutes. This is not a record, there has been an episode of over 10 minutes.

Still, every time The Memory Palace comes out, you have a short (even ten minutes is short) piece of history narration that is extremely well done. Host Nate DiMeo has an exquisite feel to take a history trivia and turn it into a story full of suspense and humane irony. This he did just now with a dear and sensitive story about a serial conman. On occasion he knows how to deliver a cliffhanger, or a stark contrast with our modern mentality, but this time around none of that is the case. And still, also this time, his story is so compelling, so well delivered. It only goes to show that a good story is a good story, even if it has no dramatic turn of events, no stunning feats accomplished or any other such hyperboles.

Get this podcast. Take a subscription, do not miss any issue. It is one small download and it is tremendous fun, guaranteed.

More The Memory Palace:
The Death of Edgar Allan Poe,
A Great Escape,
The Memory Palace,
Ferris Wheel and other historic experiences,
The hollow earth.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kashmir - Rear Vision

Rear Vision is a wonderful Australian radio program and podcast that is always there to inform you with historic background about one hot spot or another in the world. Thus I have learned about the history of Fiji, Haiti and Yemen among many other places and subjects that were tackled. Within this wonderful repertoire another region was added just now: Kashmir.

Kashmir was not only the complicated testing ground of the partition between India and Pakistan, it continued also to be focal point of the strained relation between these two nuclear powers. Mostly Kashmir has shown the failures on these two subjects, but in addition, Kashmir has always shown a local political landscape that runs away from what, respectively India and Pakistan would want to have and are able to control. The state of affairs is so complex, one must listen at least twice.

I have been writing a lot about podcasts related to the history of India. This issue of Rear Vision about Kashmir can be seen is fitting into the broad subject and there were more relevant podcasts I have heard of late, from the London School of Economics, Radio Open Source and TVO's Big Ideas - all with more politics and economics. More about that in the coming days.

More Rear Vision:
UK Elections - recommended podcasts,
Two podcast issues on the history of Haiti
History of Yemen,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Total Football Soccer Show

Did you know the color of my iPod is orange? This is not by chance or fashion, this is rooted in an embarrassingly unintellectual trait of mine: I root for the Dutch national football team. They will be playing in the upcoming World Cup in South-Africa and obviously, I have been looking for some relevant podcasts.

The first one I found is the Total Football Soccer Show (feed) which is an American show, which explains the word soccer in its title. Over the past weeks they have begun reviewing the participants of the World Cup. Initially their approach seems just comical, teams are awarded points for the national anthem, their nickname and for some national figurehead, unrelated to football, that appealed to the panel of hosts. However, in between the lines of banter, you find that these guys really do understand a thing or two of the game and they find ample room to also evaluate the quality of the players, the qualification and the coach. In the Preview of Group E, I was happy to find that The Netherlands (with the help of Vincent van Gogh and Johan Cruijff) won most of the points and made it to the next round.

In spite of the poor relevance of it all, this helps to jack up the feverish excitement and exaggerated expectations that I should not give in to for this tournament. In an attempt to stay sane, I have begun writing about this personality flaw, in another blog, Gezond WK. In Dutch of course; that is the befitting language.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pink Floyd - Entitled Opinions

Previously on Entitled Opinions there was a fantastic show about Jimi Hendrix. It was only too bad that I knew Hendrix only from legend, I just a tiny bit too young to have experienced him. How different is this for the last show, where Robert Harrison and his brother Thomas Harrison will talk Pink Floyd. I collected many Pink Floyd albums, I analyzed the lyrics, I lived the music, I loved them. Admitted, this is the Pink Floyd of Roger Waters. Just as I missed out on Hendrix, I missed out on Syd Barrett, but hey, there was quite some Floyd after him. So, now, let's listen.

Entitled Opinions (about Life and Literature) on Huffduffer

It is amazing. Robert and Thomas say exactly the things I feel about Pink Floyd, they pick out exactly those features, those songs and those lyrics that have struck me. Now I have to go find those albums, because apart from 'Hey You' I have none of that digital...

By the way, I have not hijacked the podcast and placed it in my blog. I use an embedding solution offered by Huffduffer, which directly points at the podcast's servers.

More Entitled Opinions:
Alexander the Great,
Athanasius Kircher (Giordano Bruno),
King Lear,
Albert Camus,
Unabomber world views.

Frans Derks - KRO's voor 1 nacht

Bij KRO's voor 1 nacht was er weer eens een leuk interview te horen. Ik heb nogal eens kritiek op interview Marc Stakenburg en daar kom ik niet op terug, maar voor een keer ging het best goed. Gast in de studio was oud-scheidsrechter Frans Derks. Het werd een ontspannen, redelijk openhartig en vooral interessant gesprek. Stakenburg stelt de juiste vragen, krijgt Derks goed aan het praten en Derks converseert zonder schijn.

Het gaat daarbij niet alleen over het vak van scheidsrechter. Daarin was Derks een eigengereide figuur en hij komt met zijn rechtvaardiging voor de benadering. Het is een benadering die vandaag de dag niet meer zou kunnen en het geeft Derks de kans om ongezouten kritiek op de moderne manier te geven, maar hij blijft daarin mild en bescheiden. Ook als het gaat over zijn publieke optredens komt hij heel nuchter en oprecht over. Werd er ooit van hem gezegd dat hij een ijdeltuit was; ik heb er weinig van gemerkt.

Tot slot mag Derks iets zeggen overde kansen van Oranje op het komende WK - dat is dan kennelijk een van de redenen om een voetbalonderwerp in de uitzending te hebben. En ach, Frans Derks wil best iets optimistisch over de nationale elf kwijt. Het hoort eigenlijk niet in het geheel thuis, maar het is te klein om je druk over te maken. Het valt me alleen wel op. Zo gaat het elke twee jaar; de hoop wordt opgeklopt, totdat... Nu ja, dat is voedsel voor een ander stukje, of een ander blog.

Meer KRO's voor 1 nacht:
Naema Tahir,
KRO's voor 1 nacht,
Ab Osterhaus,
Freek de Jonge,
Bennie Jolink.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Europe from its origins - A history of Europe

There are a lot of special things to be said about the history podcast Europe from its Origins. (feed) The first thing should be that I really, really warmly recommend this podcast, if only for the sheer ambition of the project: to trace down the roots of European History and tell a history of Europe from these roots (which the host, Joseph Hogarty, places in third century Rome) until the present day. However, there is so much more that this podcast needs to be credited for.

The occasion on which I write this review is not because there is a new chapter in this series. On my last review there were 16 issues, bringing the tale into the 1300s, but there are still 16. What is new, and quite exceptional I might add, is that Joe Hogarty was not happy with the first chapter and has completely redone it and just published it. If you want to understand the depth of the ambition with this project, you definitely should listen (and see!) this enhanced chapter. In addition to the magnificent task of tracing Europe's roots through the ages, Hogarty openly reveals his agenda with this history.

As so many story tellers he is intent on telling the story as it was in reality, but what he means by that is also made explicit. Hogarty is unhappy with modern versions of Europe's history and implies they are anachronistic because they apply modern perspectives and modern morality on different eras. Modern, secular and politically correct historicizing, he wants to say, is overly emphasizing the importance of Islamic influence on European development, overly vilifying the crusades and generally understating that Europe is basically the political and cultural product of Rome's version of Christianity and that it was Christendom that defined Europe throughout the ages and that it was Christianity that unified the tribes, princedoms and states of Europe and that the Christian clergy was the main carrier of European culture and learning.

In a way, Hogarty seems to want to salvage a much more traditional story of Europe's history yet he does so with modern standards and also with very modern means. His enhanced podcast has developed into a vodcast and multimedia telling of the story comes with text, captions, maps, pictures, video clips and excellent music. He tops this vast delivery off with a restrained and neutral tone. His treatment of history is very modern and factual and this means that even though his narrative is placing Christianity in the center of the European experience, he is absolutely not ideological about it. There is no trace Hogarty is trying to boost religious pride or trying to sell an evangelical message. I think the best way to characterize it is to say that he treats the religion as the central cultural force, as would any outsider like a historian from another place and time or an anthropologist from another culture do.

Yet, like a good historian and like a good anthropologist, Hogarty is thoroughly versed in his subject of study. He clearly uses a wide variety of sources, also from outside his native English language. His confident handling of Latin, Greek and many European languages is very impressive and a perfect match for this Europe that comes with one cultural bagage in so many tongues and strands.

A last word about this wonderful offering among history podcasts is technical peculiarity with the podcast's feed. It antedates the chapters. Hogarty seems to be intent on forcing us to go through his series in the right order and so chapter 1 stays on top and each new episode appears on bottom, which is exactly the opposite of what is common with podcasts. Keep that in mind because you would not want to miss any of the episodes and indeed, the advice is well taken to go through them in the chronological order. Have fun. I assure you I am enjoying this one enormously.

More Europe from its origins:
Podcast with pictures - Europe from its origins,
A history of Europe.

Mustafa Barghouti - Open Source

In the wide range of podcasts that address the Israeli/Palestinian ethnic conflict and possible roads to its resolve an interesting issue to pick up is the interview with Mustafa Barghouti conducted by Christopher Lydon on Open Source Radio. Right after I had picked it up from the feed and begun to listen, I also saw a recommendation by Bernard Avishai on his blog

Mustafa Barghouti (a distant cousin of Marwan Barghouti) tries to represent a third force in Palestinian politics, independent from Hamas and Fatah. His aim is to begin to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a two-state solution and as to the Palestinian state in this constellation he drives for greater democracy, economic development and what is important to note, a strict policy of non-violence regarding Israel. He claims it is possible for Jews and Arabs to peacefully live together gives the pre-1917 situation as an example. I had wanted to know his opinion on the developments from the Balfour Declaration until 1947, but the podcast mostly speaks of the present.

Barghouti's tales of the horrors in Gaza are hard to listen to and while this litany is not at all bereft of righteous indignation towards Israel, the really interesting thing is what he has to say about Israeli society. His opinion is that the current policies are not only obviously bad for Palestinians, but are also hurting the Israelis. Even though one may want to disagree, he certainly knows the Israelis well and another point he makes is that Israelis hardly know the Palestinians at all and there it is my experience he has a point.

More Open Source:
Jackson Lears,
Two communities in one region,
We want Obama,
The end of Hegemony,
Go for a walk with Open Source.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Archaeology, Politics and the Media - Duke University

The Center for Jewish Studies at Duke University has its own podcast on iTunesU that I started listening to. The audio that sits in the feed reflects the sessions of a conference that was held at the center on the subject of Archaeology, Politics and the Media. (feed)

The relationship between archaeology and politics and the media should not be so strong, neither so problematic I thought. However, we have just had a media hype around an alleged find of Noah's Ark and this shows both. A hype that is widely mentioned on the conference is the James Ossuary and here the same problem arises: an archaeological find is captured by the media, before serious science has had a chance to draw conclusions. The idea is just too sexy to ignore, this find is alleged to be Jesus's tomb (or alternately the actual Ark built by Noah). And as the conference shows, here are not just the media guilty, also the archaeologists involved are giving in to the temptation to make a sensational appearance and get their name connected to a fantastic find.

Alternately, careful archaeologists, who evade the temptation, who are invited to comment in the media, no always succeed in defusing the hypes. Hence, the conference explores how serious science should deal with the media and once the media is talked, it is clear that there is also politics on the scene. Both the Ark and the Ossuary show this: the meaning of these finds get the importance of a verification of a religious claim. It has people passionately involved in making these finds true and their meaning engraved in stone.

Deep wreck diving - Omega Tau Podcast

The bi-lingual science and technology podcast Omega Tau made by Markus Völter and Nora Ludewig consists of excellent interviews with guests about their field of specialty. Depending on the guest's language, the podcast is done in either English or German. It is possible to subscribe to the entire podcast: Omega Tau podcast feed, but also to connect to feeds in either of the languages: Omega Tau in English and Omega Tau in German.

The latest show was in English and consisted of an interview with John Chatterton on deep wreck diving. Chatterton is a professional diver who has made a name with diving to shipwrecks at great depth. Markus Völter interviews him and discusses the intricacies of this trade. The result is an absolutely riveting expose about the extremely risky affair of diving really deep waters and entering the remains of vessels that have been lying there for ages. It is not only a talk of the technologies involved, the stringent safety measures, but also the mental resilience that is required.

Most of the conversation is about deep wreck diving in general, but there is ample mention of one of Chatterton's major achievements: the discovery in 1991 of the U-869 which was a German U-boat that went down before the coast of New Jersey in WW2. Chatterton wrote a book about this (Shadow Divers) which Markus read and made him invite Chatterton to the show. Well, he did not actually read it, but listened to it as an audio-book and on the show he reveals how you can acquire the audio-book, which he very much recommends - needless to say.

More Omega Tau:
Omega Tau - bilingual science podcast.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Desmond Tutu - Speaking of Faith

Speaking of Faith and its host Krista Tippett were delighted to have Desmond Tutu on the show and it sure turned out to be very interesting and inspiring. The start, however, in my humble opinion, was slow and awkward. What was supposed to be funny, remarks about dried fruit on the table and Tutu's laugh about the Beyers-Naude highway, missed the mark. One should listen and forget about that beginning.

What is great is how Tutu tells about the struggle against apartheid, also when it was already gone as a system. The struggle to let the amnesty and forgiving work. And most of all, to rid the soul of its thinking in racial terms. Tutu reveals of his own fall into the trap. It makes the lessons of South-Africa universal.

With respect to universality it is interesting to hear Tutu speak about the Dalai Lama. I always wonder how true believers of one faith look at those of others. Tutu says:
Do you really think that God would say, "Dalai Lama, you really are a great guy, man. What a shame you're not a Christian."?

More Speaking of Faith:
China, secularism, religiosity,
Three issues of Speaking of Faith,
Preserving Ojibwe,
The story and God,
Fragility and Humanity.

Discussing Alexander the Great

Entitled Opinions as opposed to other podcasts put him in a less favorable light. Where others are blinded by the military successes and get carried away with the size of the empire he allegedly conquered, Entitled Opinions on Alexander the Great emphasizes the folly of his campaign. It emphasized the fact the conquered land could not be held. And most of all it showed how the hero got carried away by his own issues, not least of all poetry.

The point the show begins with is this: a hero needs a poet. There is no hero if his story is not sung. Alexander understood that and as an aspiring hero he, in turn, was inspired by poetry, by Homer's Iliad. His example was that of Achilles, and so it is also poetry, that teaches the hero, what is heroism. Alexander in his uninhibited campaign was driven by the wish to emulate Achilles - for good and for bad.

Added to that is the celebration of alcohol and drunkenness. Added to that is Alexander's diminutive posture and deformation in the neck and we see an entirely different picture emerging. This is not the story of the hero of heroes, but rather of the lunatic with too much power and with generals too good to fail on the battle field. Generals who, as is told, feared the battle field less than their crazed emperor in the drinking party.

More Entitled Opinions:
Athanasius Kircher (Giordano Bruno),
King Lear,
Albert Camus,
Unabomber world views,
Byzantine Culture.

More Alexander,
The Biography Show,
Hardcore History,
History according to Bob.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Anne is a Man looks different as of today

Today it is three years ago I started the blog. It was and continues to be a happy ride. I have a lot of fun reporting about the podcasts I listen to and I feel privileged with the readership the blog gets. The feeling is that podcast reviews are followed by hundreds of people daily. There are around 250 subscribers, around 200 unique visitors (who read more than two posts on average), over 130 followers on Networked Blogs, over 170 followers on Twitter and in addition to that, my friends read my blog through Facebook, where I channel my posts through.

For the occasion I have changed the look and feel of the blog. Also, this change was long due. I had been using the old look for nearly two years. It was an entirely customized scheme, which had some initial advantages, but made the whole blog less and less adapted to Blogspot's feature over time. Now I have switched to the new standard templates that turn out to be extremely flexible and answer to my needs. They are, in fact, so easy to adapt, I may continue to play around and as a consequence you will find occasional changes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ersatz TV on huge cranes

For some time I began to think that the innovative German Vodcast Ersatz-TV had phased out. This may still be the case even though there was a new issue quite suddenly. It was a one subject issue about cranes, caterpillars and other digging machines great and small, but mostly great. It went with good camera work and good text, but without Annik and Herr Moose and so we are still waiting for the real Ersatz to continue...

More Ersatz TV:
Ersatz on swarm robotics, light art and the confusing sizes of mass produced men's suits,
Electronics, then and now,
The last before Summer break,
Ersatz TV from the Underground,
The way of the plants.

Ik ben een geraffineerde vrouw - Naema Tahir

In de laatste aflevering van KRO's voor 1 nacht was de schrijfster Naema Tahir te gast. Tahir die in Engeland geboren is uit Pakistaanse ouders en die behalve in Engeland en Pakistan, ook onder ander in Nigeria en uiteraard in Nederland heeft gewoond, brengt de thema's van identiteit (Moslima, vrouw) en sexualiteit mee in de uitzending.

Ze vertelt hoe ze haar identiteit gezocht heeft. Van een gesloten puber die haar heil in de Islam zocht, ontwikkelde ze zich tot een vrijgevochten onafhankelijke vrouw voor wie de vrijheid zichzelf te zijn het hoogste goed lijkt. Niettemin is ook dat nog een heel gevecht en de sexualiteit is een van de terreinen waarin ze dat gevecht zich ziet voltrekken. In haar Aletta Jacobslezing pleitte ze voor erkenning van de vrouwelijke sexualiteit en stelde ze dat die anders is dan de mannelijke en dat vrouwen zich niet die mannelijke sexualiteit moeten laten opdringen. Dat lijkt nogal een vage stellingname en Marc Stakenburg confronteert haar dan ook met felle reacties van vrouwen.

Het is niet zo makkelijk om er achter te komen wat ze nu precies bedoelt. Al meer wordt duidelijk als je het interview terughoort dat Martin Simek in 2006 met haar had. De RVU heeft de podcast vrijwel onvindbaar gemaakt en ik heb voor jullie gemak daarom de aflevering met Naema Tahir (met daarin haar eigen woorden: Ik ben een geraffineerde vrouw) in mijn huffduffer feed met Simek interviews gestoken.

Meer KRO's voor 1 nacht:
KRO's voor 1 nacht,
Ab Osterhaus,
Freek de Jonge,
Bennie Jolink,
Henk Spaan.

Meer Martin Simek:
Fabienne - dochter van Lucia de B (RVU),
Mohammed Jabri (RVU),
Nico Frijda (RVU),
Aaf Brandt Corstius (Elsevier),
Freek de Jonge (Elsevier).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dan Carlin's history musings

Earlier toady I wrote about Bingham and Souza's grand theory of history and how I liked their appearance at the podcast New Books In History. I guess I am average in this appreciation. Maybe I should have the reservations historians in particular and scientists in general have towards grand theories, but for people like me, who enjoy educational podcasts, the grand theories deliver a certain type of entertainment. Call it the satisfaction to get a grip on it all.

Another history podcast that approaches this quality is Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. I have frequently written on this podcast and emphasized its excellent narrative qualities, but together with Carlin's effective retelling of history, he also engages in exploring and analyzing generalities in history. You can call it grand theorizing, but surely it is more tentative than the thorough studies of Bingham and Souza, so it is maybe better to call it Dan Carlin's personal history musings. Dan Carlin loves to mull over history and try to discern general patterns and draw conclusions about humanity and its future. This we saw in the shows about Slavery, about Children, about Globalization and the most recent about Human Toughness.

Carlin plays with exactly the kind of thoughts I have and like to play with when having listened to one history podcast or another. One of the recurring themes in these explorations of his is how life in earlier times was so much harsher and then he assumes, if our ancestors were able to survive, what does that tell about them? Are they structurally haunted by PTSD? Should we assume they are much tougher and resilient than we are? If they were destructively traumatized, does that mean we can hope for a better future, since we are not? Or if they were stronger than we ever hope to be, does that mean we are on the way down?

What I would like to see Carlin add is the following thought: assuming that we and our ancestors are no fundamentally different, certainly biologically we aren't, could that mean we'd be able to cope with their fate just as they did? And if so, wouldn't that mean they are not more traumatized and more tough than we are? I am sure there would be things in our time that would seem traumatizing hardships in the perspective of people from other times and places- but that, Carlin never seems to consider. In spite of this reverse perspective that I find missing, Carlin dares to go where few history podcasts dare to go and he does it the best. It explains his popularity and deservedly so.

More Hardcore History:
The end of the war,
Ghosts of the Ostfront,
Dan Carlin about the East Front,

The best varied history podcast - NBIH

Anybody interested in history podcasts must keep a constant eye on the feed of New Books in History. Probably not all of the passing subjects are of your interest, but each week there is a new issue and there are over a hundred shows to look back at and there inevitably is a lot to find that is exactly to your liking.

Issues that I have browsed through over the past weeks are a couple of old ones, along with the new issues each week:
Tim Snyder, “The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of A Habsburg Archduke” An interview from 2008 about the eccentric Archduke Wilhelm of Austria.

John Lukacs, “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Dire Warning” Also an old interview from 2008, about Winston Churchill's inaugural speech in 1940.

Three new recent issues were:
Andrew Donson, “Youth in the Fatherless Land: War Pedagogy, Nationalism, and Authority in Germany, 1914-1918″
Amy Bass, “Those About Him Remained Silent: The Battle Over W. E. B. Du Bois”
Patrick Manning, “The African Diaspora: A History Through Culture”

I was especially inspired by the very last issue, P. Bingham and J. Souza, “Death From a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe”, which contains an interview with both these authors, none of whom are historians. They combine their knowledge in biology and social science and have come up with a theory of history. They point out how human society lives by the measure to which it can police its members and they explain the developments from the development of weapons. The weapons allow for a certain scale of policing and therefore command the size and complexity of society and hence the course of history. As the host Marshall Poe already points out, historians generally do not engage in such grand theories and it really begs the question how Bingham and Souza's work is received. For the podcast listener it is by all means interesting and thought provoking.

More NBIH:
The Caucasus,
The genocide and the trial,
Nation and Culture,
Three New Books In History,
The fourth part of the world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oudenaarde and how the Dutch went bankrupt

The order in which the podcast Historyzine offers its sections is thus that the narrative of the next part in the War of Spanish Succession always comes last. A new and very good feature within the show - the interview with a historian -therefore comes previously. This makes generally good sense, as the War of the Spanish Succession is the main subject of the show, yet in the latest issue, the order might better have been reversed.

Host Jim Mowatt spoke with James Falkner, before telling about the battle of Oudenarde in 1708. (I spell this town Oudenaarde, but that is the difference between Dutch and English) He asks Falkner about the show's continuing hero, the Duke of Marlbourough, and about the outcome of the war and that is why the talk would have probably suited better after the show. In the narrative a good portion of the tension is that you do not know in advance, how things are going to work out. However, the interview talked about the war in general and extensively discussed the outcome of the war, thus defusing part of the suspense.

Nevertheless, this is once again, a great show and I hope Mowatt will continue to have interviews with specialists. It was very enlightening to learn Falkner's analysis of the war. Even though the Allies (notably the English and Dutch) won and France lost, the result was more like a stand off. France was still powerful and especially the Dutch got bad terms in the peace treaty. The war had bankrupted them and as Falkner put it, made them draw the conclusion that playing the game of empire was not something they could or wanted to keep up with. Hence, the long-term outcome was Britain's hegemony on the seas. Very interesting, but much more effective to consider, after you have heard about troops moving around a town in Belgium.

More Historyzine:
Aftermath of victory,
The Battle of Ramillies,
Winter diplomacy,
The lines of Brabant,
Historyzine at its best.