London Review of Books. Are you over the wall-to-wall Queen’s funeral? I am. It was a good corrective to listen to Grief Totalitarianism, where James Butler and Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite pick up on Glen Newey’s phrase “Grief Totalitarianism” which describes the way that everything is put on hold during a period of mourning. The machinery of state that we have seen in brilliant colour over the last two weeks is asserting that “this is the way things have been and the way they are going to stay”. These two commentators (one of historian) discuss the state of Britain in a week when Britain lost both its Prime Minister and monarch, looking back to Thatcher’s Britain and forward to the prospect of Truss replicating it (or not). Interesting.
History This Week Saladin takes back the Holy City goes back to 1187CE when Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt has a decision to make. Will he invade Jerusalem, where the Crusader’s lader Balian of Ibelin, is threatening to blow up the joint (and thus go down in history as the Muslim leader who caused the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest sites) or will he let the Crusaders surrender and leave (even though the Crusaders didn’t show Muslims such mercy when they took possession of Jerusalem in 1099CE. What do you reckon happened? A good podcast that doesn’t presuppose any great knowledge of these events (which is good, because I don’t have much)
History Extra Dangerous Ideas and Scandalous Lives: Germany’s first Romantics focuses on the university town of Jena in the late 18th/early 19th century which attracted philosophers, scientists and writers. I must admit that I hadn’t heard of many of them except Novalis (and that was only because of Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower) but they are very famous in German intellectual life, Andrea Wulf, author of Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self, assures us. Lots of tangled relationships and intellectual jealous ending up in tears, as you might expect. I would have enjoyed this more if I’d heard of any of them before.
99% Invisible continues on with its 500th episode (over episodes 501 and 502) with Vernacular Volume 2. This time they look at Witch Windows in Vermont, a window placed on the diagonal in an upper floor room (supposedly because witches can’t fly on the diagonal); concrete wheat silos in Minneapolis and ‘lanais’ (pronounced la-naze) in Florida, which actually originated in Hawaii. They just look like a big porch to me’
Democracy Sausage. I’ve just finished reading Joelle Gergis’ Humanity’s Moment. Here she talks about the book, and why she wrote it. The podcast is okay, but you’d be better off reading the book.
Flightless Bird (Armchair Expert). This podcast got a mention in last Saturday’s Age. Flightless Bird is a series presented by a New Zealand journalist who got stuck in America during the COVID lockdown and decided that he wanted to explore America through an outsider’s eyes. He is accompanied in his quest by Dax Shepard and Monica Padman (two Americans). They are young, foul-mouthed, chatty and not particularly well-educated. He starts off by launching into Religion– what is it with Americans and religion? He talks with Mike McHargue – a Baptist who became an atheist who then became a Christian again, drawing on studies of neurology and left and right brain thinking (interestingly, Karen Armstrong, who is much more well-educated, draws on similar studies). They talk about the concept of a State Church in UK and other European countries (and obviously non-conformism doesn’t come onto their radar, and they don’t seem particularly aware of the lack of an established church in Australian and NZ history). Don’t know if I’ll persist with this one.