Rough Translations This time, they look at Australia. The Stoop: Reclaiming Black in Australia is a discussion of Indigenous Australians and their adoption of the term ‘Black’ or ‘Blak’ to describe themselves. Two rather incredulous comperes Leila Day and Hana Baba interview Rhianna Patrick, a Torres Strait woman who used to work for the ABC. They also interview Jackie Huggins and Daniel Browning about the use of the term ‘black’ historically; the effect of American Black politics, and the delicate issue of ‘black’ as referring to colour or culture.
99% Invisible Finishing off their 500th episode three-part series on Vernacular architecture, this episode Vernacular- Volume 3 deals with the houseboats on San Francisco Bay- some very luxurious, others piled together with driftwood. They then go on to look at stone houses in Bermuda, constructed with stone roofs no less, to stop the houses being destroyed by the ‘suck-in’ effect of a hurricane. The roofs are painted white to reflect the sun and they channel and filter rainwater. They then travel to Oakland California where the Queen Anne Victorian took advantage of the slightly larger block size, and added everything possible to the decoration. Finally, the episode goes to Santa Fe, where the historic district has strict building regulation insisting on ‘earth coloured’ adobe construction – but what does ‘earth coloured’ mean? The regulations specify brown, tan or ‘local earth tones’.
Lives Less Ordinary (BBC) My Father’s Hidden Crime tells the story of an Argentinian woman, Analía Kalinec, who is an adult when she learns that her father has been arrested for crimes committed during the Pinochet regime more than 30 years ago. The rest of the family stood behind him, but when she did her own research, she decided that he was, indeed, a torturer and responsible for many kidnappings. This caused a breach with her sisters, and her father is now trying to disinherit her after she wrote a book “I Will Carry His/Your? Name” (I’m translating here, so I’m not sure).
History Extra A whistle-stop tour around the world in AD 1500 takes us, as the title promises, around the Chinese, Indian, Ottoman, Sassanid and European empires and dynasties, and nomadic kingdoms. Jerry Brotton is a Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary University of London, which is a bit difficult because he distances himself in this podcast from the European-centric term “Renaissance”. He notes that England under the Tudors is largely peripheral to the action, and that Islam was spreading like wild-fire. Europe was small and fractured, but starting to look outwards, especially after the Black Death, but it remained a bit-player. The Americas had just been “discovered”, and the Spanish tried to conceptualize them as ‘Islam’, the only reference source for the ‘other’ that they knew. The Portuguese were travelling along the west coast of Africa, where they encountered Benin. This was really wide-ranging, and enjoyable – I loved the breadth of his analysis.
Emperors of Rome Interlude: What is an Emperor? points out that, strictly speaking, what we call ’emperors’ were actually ‘princeps’ and that Julius Caesar wasn’t actually an Emperor in terms of all power being located in one man. If he had lived longer, Julius Caesar might have entrenched himself as an Emperor but we all know what happened to him, and he spent most of his time fighting a civil war. When Augustus ascended, it wasn’t clear if he was part of a dynasty or not. Under emperors, the military became more important and they began choosing their own emperors, which meant that the Emperor was always beholden to the army. The Emperor came to have the role of the Chief Priest (the Pontifex Maximus)- a name adopted by current Popes. Episode VIII The Augustan Revolution sees Octavian taking on the name Augustus in 27BCE. He did toy with the idea of adopting the name ‘Romulus’ but the name had connotations of fracticide, so he went for Augustus or ‘revered one’ instead. He was lucky to have triumphed over Mark Antony, who was the better soldier, and probably made a mistake in fleeing with Cleopatra because he probably would have won had he stayed to fight Octavian. Octavian used anti-Eastern/ anti-Egyptian prejudice to win the propaganda war too. So who was Octavian/Augustus? He was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar, which meant that he was the adopted son of a God (because Caesar was deified after his death), but he was aware of Caesar’s mistakes and was determined not to repeat them. He gave the republic back to itself, but he retained veto power and had huge authority over his tame Senate. He burnt the oracles that were unfavourable towards him, exercised censorship and assassinated those who threatened him. Episode IX Augustan Rome looks at Rome under Augustus. He consolidated the empire, mainly through Tiberius’ success. He spent a lot of money on Rome itself, and exercised good brand management.He publicized a return to “old fashioned values” by proscribing adultery, giving baby bonuses and insisting on men wearing togas).
Then jumping ahead about 190 episodes and a few years later, up to the recent Episode CC1 Actium features Barry Strauss (Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies at Cornell University, author of The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium). The battle at Actium was between Mark Antony and Octavian. Cleopatra -politician, Queen, good strategic thinker and Mark Antony’s banker) was present because she was Queen and because she didn’t trust Mark Antony to actually fight (she feared that Octavian would talk him into not fighting). Mark Antony had a fleet of 500 state-of-the-art warships as against Octavian’s 400 ships. But Mark Antony needed to protect his supply line and his men were not as experienced in naval battles. Actium, near Corfu, was a good base and a good crossing point from Greece to Italy. However, Mark Antony and Cleopatra were losing ships and men, and they were both sick with malaria, and planning to head back to Greece and burn their ships. The battle took place on 2 September 31BCE, and right from the start Mark Antony and Cleopatra kept their sails and masts up so that they could make a quick getaway. The battle started in the morning and Cleopatra and her sixty ships began to leave, leaving Mark Antony’s troops behind as he fled too. Professor Strauss points out that Atrium was a campaign of which this battle was only a part. If Mark Antony and Cleopatra had won, the Roman Empire would have been more Eastern and more Greek.
Russia If You’re Listening. One of my favourite journalists, Matt Bevan is back with a seventh series of his “…If You’re Listening” program. He returns to where he started with “Russia If You’re Listening” part II, dealing with the invasion of Ukraine. In Episode 1 How war weakened strongman Putin, Bevan asks why Putin decided to invade Ukraine now. It wasn’t to earn another stint as president because he had already achieved the status of ‘lifetime President’, but perhaps it was a way of deflecting talk of succession. Bevan describes the four-hour radio programs that Putin gives where he takes live questions (albeit pre-vetted) for four hours. He said that he would write an essay on Russian history, which he did, setting out his justification for the ‘special operation’. Zelenskyy was not a very effective leader, and most Ukrainian leaders ended up being dictators after a couple of years – and Zelenskyy was certainly losing support. The US warned Zelenskyy that Putin was planning an attack but Zelenskyy kept it quiet, so the US went public with their information. Zelenskyy is Jewish, so the ‘Nazi’ excuse is bullshit. More accurately, it reflects the Soviet WWII meaning of Nazism as ‘the enemy’.