An interactive exploration of the methods that could be used to add an extra star to the American flag.
It’s been a couple of years since I wrote about my favorite podcasts, but a recent discussion with Jonathan has nudged me to document my current recommendations.
(in no order…)
Radiolab focuses on a single “Big IDea” per episode, using the medium of sound to the fullest extent possible. It is indescribable, so I will simply say that if you subscribe to nothing else on this list, you must experience Radiolab.
How can you beat a show hosted by a man with over three decades of experience in espionage made up of interviews with “ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars.” It is a truly fascinating glimpse into the shadows.
Most people reading this have likely been listening to This American Life for a while, but just in case you haven’t experienced what is quite possibly one of the best shows to ever ride the radio waves, I list it here.
Being the history geek that I am, I love this series, which traces “the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and ending (someday) with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire.”
This BBC podcast covers an amazing array of topics under the banner of discussing “the history of ideas”. Isaac Newton, the samurai, genetics and the philosophy behind Communism are a small sampling of the topics you can hear each week.
The Moth is a series of storytelling events held in several cities around the US, from which they take some of the funniest and most poignant to place on the podcast.
More Awesome Podcasts
You should get these too. They may not be in my top five, but the fact that I listen to them still speaks highly of their value – I’m pretty brutal about cutting out shows that aren’t amazing.
John Lienhard’s stories and perspective on the history of our technology and its impact on culture are inviting and informative. It’s a nice short podcast, every episode of which teaches me something.
While I like to watch some sports (football and boxing for the most part), Frank Deford can hook me no matter which sport or aspect of the business of sports he decides to talk about. He is an amazing story-teller who truly cares about the subject and the people who play.
Yet another NPR show that fills my iPod. If you care in the least about how the media works nd its impact on those of us who consume it, you need to listen to the show. On the Media ‘explores how the media “sausage” is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad. For one hour a week, the show tries to lift the veil from the process of “making media,” especially news media, because it’s through that lens that we literally see the world and the world sees us.’
While this is a bit of a niche, Dave Rupert and friends put together a great show highlighting the Web design and development community here in town. It’s a great way to keep up with the future.
Exactly as their names imply, each of these podcasts come in bite-sized chunks, ready to make you smarter and help you understand how things truly work in the world at large and the world in our brain.
Lars Brownworth’s love of the subject is clear from the first minute and will quickly attract anyone interested in history. As noted on the site, Mr. Brownworth’s “passion for Byzantine history has taken him on travels from the furthest reaches of the Byzantine Empire right into Constantinople, (present day Istanbul) the very heart of Byzantium. He has traveled and studied Byzantine history extensively and produced this lecture series giving us an overview of Byzantine history as seen through 12 of its greatest rulers.”
Another great history podcast from Lars Brownworth, starts with the humble beginnings of the Normans traces the path of the Normans over the two centuries that they “launched a series of extraordinary conquests, transforming Anglo-Saxon England into Great Britain, setting up a powerful Crusader state in Antioch, and turning Palermo into the dazzling cultural and economic capital of the western Mediterranean”.
What am I Missing
What are your favorite podcasts?
“The line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep into our own history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthty’s methods to keep silent. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.”
Important words no matter the decade.
Growing up in the safe confines of the middle-class womb here in the U.S., it is easy to lose sight of the larger world around me. While I count myself a student of history and a constant consumer of information, I tend to focus on specific periods of the past (World War II, the Crusades, the founding of the United States etc.) or on specific realms of the present (the intricacies of the war in Iraq or the convoluted meanderings of those seeking the Presidency). So, having heard an amazing interview on NPR, I was excited to pick up the copy of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah that Sarah had read for her book club.
Reading the book feels like you are sitting across from a friend in a coffee shop, or over a pint, learning about a past that is both intriguing and scary. The informality of the telling pulled me in quickly and made the environment that much more real, as it remained very personal throughout. He didn’t pull back to the 50,000 foot view to tell you the maneuvers of each side, or the political gambits played by the government and the rebel forces. Instead, he told you how he ran from the rebels and soldiers alike, how he eventually became a soldier at the age of thirteen, how he returned to what was left of his childhood a few years later, only to be forced to escape to a new life far different than he could have ever expected.
It is hard to reconcile the giant grin on Ishmael’s face adorning the back cover, with the stories he tells. I grew fond of the boy who listend to early rap cassettes, practicing his dances for a talent show, and I could never quite come to terms with the thought that the same child became a killer many times over. His story cuts to the core of what it is to be human, dissecting the constant struggle to do what is “right” versus what needs to be done to survive. It’s also important to note how “right” can be defined in many different ways for the same situation. It may mean leniency and generosity, but it can just as easily mean vengeance against those who killed your family and took everything you had, including your sense of security and childhood.
I cannot recall any news reports or history books that could deliver this sense of day-to-day, on the ground reality, and I truly hope that school systems across the U.S. add Ishmael’s work to their reading list. It is important for us to look beyond our borders and the confines of our regular reality, keeping our eyes open to the fact that there are problems much larger than ours around the globe. What we do about them is another question – one which I am turning over in my head.
I highly recommend you pick up a copy of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Amazon), or if you have read it, please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts.
The National Atlas provides “reference and outline maps of the United States that you can print or use online. The reference maps display general reference features such as boundaries, cities, capitals, major highways, rivers and lakes, and terrain. Outline maps showing county boundaries, State boundaries, capitals, or other basic features are also available.” The maps are provided in color, as GIFs and PDFs, but will apparently print out nicely in grayscale.
The National Archives provides an amazing resource in their new site the Charters of Freedom. High-resolution images of key U.S. historical documents have been made available to the world, including the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.