I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 February 2021

How my Grandmother Won WWII This was recommended by the Guardian, but I don’t know if I’m going to stick with it. The writer and narrator Enid Tihanyi Weisz Zentelis tells the story of her Hungarian grandmother during WWII in How My Grandmother Won WWII but the narrator is off on a frolic of her own to feel better about her dysfunctional family. She “needs” to know this, and “needs” to learn that. I can’t bear upwardly inflected accents (Australian or American) but this is a downwardly inflected accent instead, which comes over as a depressing, self-centred moan. I don’t know where she comes from, but remind me not to go there.

Strong Songs. This podcast takes a famous popular song and pulls it apart musically. And what could be better to explore than the Beatles’ A Day in the Life. Kirk Hamilton discusses the musical theory behind the song, separates the different tracks etc. and in the end you hear the song with completely new ears.

Latin American History Podcast. Max Sarjeant starts this essay with what was, at the time of recording in June 2019, current news e.g. Mexico’s request/demand that Spain apologize for the Conquest; the discovery from space of more meso-american ruins in impenetrable jungle etc. He then returns to his history. In Episode 5 Cortez was determined to meet with emperor Moctezuma, even though Moctezuma had made it very clear that he wasn’t interested in meeting them. To get there, he had to get past the Aztec city of Cholula (second only to Tenochtitlan) and the land of the Tlaxcalans, neither of whom had any great love of Moctezuma. When they started plotting to kill the Spaniards at the request of Moctezuma, Cortez found out about it and massacred the main warriors and partially burnt the city.

Heather Cox Richardson. Continuing with her Reconstruction story, she starts off her episode of 21 January by sharing why she enjoys this period so much. She read through about 40 years of newspapers, and all of the literature of the time: she likes that from 1860-1900 it is a ‘manageable’ period historically. But her talk gets pretty detailed very quickly, and just covers the 1870s. After the Civil War, many east coast Republicans were disgusted that Grant was made president, and they formed the Liberal Republicans. The election of 1876 was heavily contested and the candidate that won the popular vote did not win the electoral college vote (sounds familiar) and there was widespread cheating by the Democrats in the South. In the end a deal was stitched up where the Republican Rutherford Hayes was made President, but the role of Postmaster General went to a Democrat, who proceeded to place Democrats where-ever he could. Republicans were beginning to wonder if all Americans should have the vote, after all, when it included migrants and poor people. Meanwhile, a courtcase that found that while women were American citizens, they were not necessarily entitled to vote would be used to disenfranchise African Americans.

Saturday Extra (ABC) Not necessarily the whole show this time, but an interesting segment The Glamour Boys, a book by UK Labor MP Chris Bryant, author of The Glamour Boys: The Secret Story of the Rebels who Fought for Britain to Defeat Hitler. The term ‘glamour boys’ was a derogatory sneer at a group of conservative MPs, many of whom were gay or bisexual who challenged Chamberlain’s appeasement policy towards Hitler. I think that he has overstretched a little in suggesting that without their actions, the UK would never have fought, let alone defeated Hitler.

The Forum (BBC) What a lot of programs nestle under the wings of the Beeb. The Forum seems to have historical biographies and events- and I’d never heard of it. Nor had I heard of Sister Juana, a great mind of Mexico. She was born in Mexico of Spanish/Criollo parents in the mid 17th century and was a writer, public intellectual, and feminist long before these terms were in use. There are three experts in this program, two of whom disagree vehemently with each other. Sister Juana, or Sor Juana as she was known, became a nun which gave her the space and freedom to write. She was published in Spain and in Mexico, although our experts disagreed about the degree of agency she had in later life. There are excerpts from her writing- she was incredible! How have I gone my whole life unaware of this woman?

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