Category Archives: Podcasts 2020

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17- 24 November 2020

Rough Translations There’s much talk of trolling and cancelling online, and the episode Dream Boy and the Poison Fans looks at the story of Chinese celebrity Xiao Zhan, whose fans took trolling to a new level. Xiao Zhan was riding the celebrity wave, earning huge sums for product endorsements, until a story on a fan fiction website prompted his fans to turn on the fan fiction site. Supporters of the fan fiction site then attacked the products that he had endorsed. In the end, it was Xiao Zhan who suffered most. The ‘reporting’ culture of China’s past seems to have revived, now using social media.

99% Invisible How perverse! Ecologically fragile peat bogs are drained in order to plants trees to soak up carbon, thereby releasing the carbon from the bog! For the Love of Peat looks at peat bogs, how they are formed, and ecological programs that threaten or protect them.

Nothing on TV. I do enjoy Robyn Annear with her quirky little podcast program! Deadwood Dick and the Picture Show Panic looks at the moral panic about boys reading comics and watching the picture shows. She then goes on to explain the craze for the ‘movies’, all over Australia, where the audience consisted almost entirely of children under 14 who would save up their bottles and threepences to go to the movies – often! By post WWI, there was more restriction on the morals depicted in the movies. Fascinating!

Dan Snow’s History Hit The title How Deep History Swung the US election sounds pretty out-there, given that Deep History deals with the distant past of human history, integrating archaeology, anthropology, geology, primatology and genetics. What Lewis Dartnell is arguing is that the geological construction of America has encouraged particular industries (cotton growing; iron; coal) which in turn has political implications for party affiliations.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9-16 November 2020

I’ve had enough of America. All my listening this week comes from anywhere other than the Disunited States of America.

The History Listen (ABC). This is fantastic! The Scholar’s Hut is about Thomas Shadrach James, a Mauritian born school teacher who worked with indigenous students at Maloga Mission (about 15 ks from Moama) in 1883-8, and after the mission closed, he reopened his school at Cummeragunja. The program featured a restaged roll-call of students, and at first I thought that it was just for effect, because it’s a virtual who’s-who of 20th century southeastern Australian aboriginal activists : Bill Onus, Doug Nicholls, Jack Patten, William Cooper, Margaret Tucker. But it’s not just for effect: Thomas Shadrach James taught them all, and encouraged them to use ‘leading and writing’ (rather than ‘reading and writing’) to agitate for change.

My Marvellous Melbourne Episode 13: St Kilda Main Drain may not sound very exciting, but for a Melburnian who likes sticky-beaking, it’s just the thing – especially as the lockdown has prompted us to walk our neighbourhood more than we ever have before. Andy May starts off with a reflection on Darebin Creek, then Sophie Couchman talks about the St Kilda Main Drain. Living on the other side of town, I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the streets that she mentioned, but she has a blog with maps and pictures.

Rear Vision (ABC) In July 2020 during the COVID lockdown here in Melbourne, suddenly the Housing Commission residents of high-rise towers in Flemington and North Melbourne found themselves quarantined, with chaotic service delivery and a heavy police presence. Cruise ships in the sky- the story of public housing and high-rise towers looks at the move across the world during the 20th century to build multi-storey housing, at first of relatively good quality, and the political decisions that resulted in its later success or failure.

And here’s one of my favourite historians, Graeme Davison, among others, talking about petrol stations in Fill ‘er up- the history of the Australian servo. After talking about the history of servos, the program talks about the future of petrol stations. If and when electric vehicles are more common,petrol stations will be leisure stops while you rapid-charge your car – or at least, that’s what they’re planning to do. And did you know that the best selling product at petrol stations with convenience stores attached (i.e. nearly all of them) is not petrol but 500 ml energy drinks?

The Documentary (BBC) I often listen to the BBC in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and wish days later that I could remember what program it was that interested me. I did find these ones again- The Burning Scar is about the dodgy deals that Indonesian palm oil companies are making with traditional owners in Papua. Don’t trust that Forest Stewardship Council accreditation you see on packets of printer paper: they have accredited Korindo, one of the worst offenders. Here’s a video by Greenpeace about recent burning.

India’s Missing Children is about the selling and kidnapping of children in India to work in factories, as domestic labour and in brothels. It’s estimated that a child goes missing every eight minutes, and the coronavirus pandemic has only made things worse.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 November 2020

Heather Cox Richardson. Her podcast on Thursday 29 October was the last one before election day. If you haven’t listened to her before, this would be a good catchup one, because she went over things that she has said many times previously (hence, it was a little repetitious for rusted-on listeners like myself). Her podcast on Thursday 5th November was before the results had been announced, and she was soothing about waiting for the process to play itself out.

History Workshop. The Violence of Empire was originally broadcast in May 2019 and it features Kim Wagner – author of Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre. His book argues that colonial violence didn’t start after the war, and he draws a link between the Indian Rebellion/Mutiny/First War of Independence (it has various names) of 1857 and the Amritsar Massacre or Jallianwala Bagh Massacre where at least 379 (and some say 1000) were fired upon in a confined area by members of the British Indian Army. He rejects the politicized anti-British feeling of Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire (my review here) and likewise pro-Empire British historians (like Niall Ferguson, I guess), arguing for a more nuanced approach. His book seems to take a thick description, microhistory approach to the Massacre. Both the author and the interviewer assume that the listener knows about Amritsar (I had to look it up) and a bit more backgrounding wouldn’t have gone astray.

America if you’re listening. It’s the 5th November, and counting continues in the U.S. elections. I’d better hurry up and listen to these podcasts, because if Trump wins I’ll be too discouraged and depressed to do so. Episode 7 How Donald Trump turned the Presidency into a business looks at Trump’s use of his hotels and golf courses as a way of leveraging public money into his wallet. The man is shameless. Episode 8 How China fooled Donald Trump examines the way that once Xi Jinping worked out that all Trump wanted was a trade deal, then he could get away with anything- Hong Kong, Uighurs, the South China Sea etc. And the final Episode 9 How Coronavirus destroyed Trump’s MAGA promise traces through the last year, and Trump’s mishandling of the whole thing.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 25-31 October 2020

Sydney Writers Festival. Did you know that the Sydney Writers Festival has a site with podcasts by writers who would have participated in the Sydney Writers Festival in a COVID free world? I listened to Cassandra Pybus being interviewed by Jakelin Troy about her book Truganini which I reviewed here. She spoke about lots of things that I don’t remember from the book- I wonder if she was talking from her familiarity with the sources, or whether I just forgot?

The Last Archive. This podcast series is presented by American historian Jill Lepore whose book These Truths: A History of the United States I must read one of these days. In it, she poses the question “Who Killed Truth?”. In episode 1 The Clue of the Blue Bottle, she looks at a murder case from 1919 in Barre, Vermont where a young woman was strangled. Instead of crimes being seen as acts of god, there were now clues, and facts and photographs. It’s a case that was reported in great detail as far as the body was concerned, but the press reports of the trial itself glided over facts that were deemed “unfit for publication”.

Heather Cox Richardson The History and Politics Chat on Tuesday 27th November talks about the opinion polls. She points out that polls are useful for highlighting the issues that people are concerned about, but not for how people vote. She cautions that only Associated Press are in a position to ‘call’ a poll: the other polls are going unofficially on projections from exit polls. She points out that Americans can recall their votes- how weird! I am so grateful to live in a country with compulsory voting.

In Our Time BBC. A few episodes from their ‘Religion’ series. The Thirty Years War pitched Catholics against Protestants, Lutherans against Calvinists and Catholics against Catholics, although it wasn’t a war that the soldiers necessarily believed in from an ideological and political point of view, as 20th century wars are. Instead, it was pretty much soldiers for hire as various kingdoms fought themselves to a point where it was possible to sue for peace.

Papal Infallibility traces through the history of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility from its origins as a means of cementing the authority of the Bishop of Rome, through the Franciscans wanting to ensure that arrangements granted under one pope couldn’t be withdrawn by the next, through the Reformation- and most importantly the Counter Reformation- then the Enlightenment and more recent papal history. If you were Pope, you’d want to keep a handle on what the ‘infallible’ Popes before you had said, because if he could be wrong, so could you.

West Midlands History Beatrice Cadbury: The Heiress Who Gave Away Her Fortune is really good. It’s based on the book by Fiona Joseph. Born into the wealthy Quaker Cadbury family, Beatrice became increasingly uncomfortable about her unearned wealth, and after becoming a Christian Socialist, she tried to give it away. A peace activist, philanthropist and a woman who lived her faith and her politics.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 October 2020

Heather Cox Richardson On 24 September, she finally finished her History of the Republican Party. She reminded us that Donald Trump was not the most conservative of the Republican candidates standing in 2016, and suggests that he was more angling for a TV career as a pundit, rather than President. He is not ideological: instead he makes himself what ever his supporters want him to be. She finished by suggesting that even if Trump wins, the Republican Party has painted itself into a corner, and that the older Lincolnesque Republicanism will re-emerge. I’m not so sanguine.

Her History and Politics Chat of October 21st looks in detail at Hunter Biden, and I certainly learned new things here: he is a History graduate and has a law degree from Yale; he joined the navy in his early 40s and was discharged but it was not a ‘dishonorable discharge’, and he was appointed to Burisma by George W. Bush. And certainly, there are just so many holes in the New York Post story.

America if You’re Listening. If Matt Bevan had given Trump a few leave passes in earlier episodes, he doesn’t here. Episode 6 Trump’s desperate measure to halt immigration is a sordid tale, and with his family separation policy, just possibly worse than what Australia is doing.

A. C. Grayling ‘The Good Book: A Humanist Bible’ I’ve been reading this book each morning, a chapter at a time, so it will take me until about 2023 to finish it! In the meantime, I jumped ahead to learn about why Grayling wrote it and why. This is actually a video, but I listened to it on my walk, as if it were a podcast. The Good Book is set out like a bible, with two columns on each page, verses and fairly short chapters, and it draws on humanist wisdom from many sources. I’m one of the people he complains about who want to know what bits came from where- but that’s what Google is for, isn’t it?

99% Invisible My son recommended this episode in particular to me, and it’s great! Goodnight Nobody looks at the popular children’s book Goodnight Moon (which I admit, I never read to my children but there’s a beautiful animated version narrated by Susan Saradon here). Despite its enormous popularity, it was not listed among the 10 most borrowed books from the New York Public Library, because it didn’t appear on its shelves until 1972. The formidable and yet revolutionary librarian Anne Carroll Moore started the children’s library at the NYPL at the turn of the century, and she had very clear ideas about children’s literature- and Goodnight Moon didn’t fit her criteria. A lovely podcast about reading and children.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9-16 October 2020

Conversations (ABC) I’ve just finished reading William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy and so I listened to Richard Fidler interviewing him on Conversations in a program called ‘William Dalrymple on the ruthless rise of the British East India Company‘. This conversation was more topical than the book itself, which is largely based on history, drawing parallels with current day corporations and the East India Company.

Heather Cox Richardson Although I’m running behind on HCR’s History chats, I’m right up to date with her History and Politics chats because so much is happening in America at the moment. This week she missed her History and Politics chat on the Tuesday, so she moved it to the Thursday instead. So on Thursday 16 October she gave a review of the American constitution and the respective roles of the Congress, Executive and Supreme Court. She comes right out and says that if Trump wins, that will be the end of Democracy in the United States. She predicts a period of violence in the wake of the election result no matter what happens. I just can’t believe that America has ended up here.

In her History chat of 17 September she picks up with George W. Bush’s presidency after the contested ballot of 2000. Now that the USSR had splintered there was no Manichean ‘baddies’ any more, so in effect that had to create them. She picks up on the comment of ‘a senior advisor to Bush’ to Ron Suskind “We’re an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” She goes on to talk about 9/11, Iraq, the Weapons of Mass Destruction, Hurricane Katrina, the Global Financial Crisis etc. etc. In 2008 McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, thus further embedding Movement Conservatism into the Republican Party. When Barak Obama was elected, he was everything that Movement Conservatives hated, and it is here that you can see the planting of the tropes that Trump is pushing now: ‘voter fraud’, ‘socialism’ ‘UnAmericanism’.

The History Listen (ABC) Spies, Lies and Hairdryers is the story of Kay Marshall, who became an ASIO double agent during the Cold War, who became involved in the Skripov Affair (which I’d never heard of). She seemed so ordinary, and yet there she was hanging around Taronga Park zoo, with a copy of the Age in her hand, waiting to meet with a Soviet spy.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 October 2020

Heather Cox Richardson. As a matter of course, HCR always asks for questions before her History and Politics Chat on Tuesdays. On 6th October she received over 2000 questions! She started off by talking about the importance of not letting Trump control the conversation, which he certainly has been doing since being diagnosed with COVID. She said that Trump is taking up where Joseph McCarthy left off- a politician can blatantly lie, knowing that the lie will be reported, and that newspapers will print the lie because it is news. She also talked about voter suppression and the history of the Secret Service.

In her History of the Republican Party podcast of September 10, she looks at the election of 2000 that brought us George W. Bush (along with its hanging chads) and September 11. Ah- the irony of the Republican Party claiming that only the Republican Party could keep America safe from terrorists, when September 11 occurred on their watch (not unlike Trump now claiming that he is the Law and Order President when violence is occurring under his administration.) It was here that the practice of governing by ideology began, and the use of signing statements and evocation of a world other than the reality-based world took root.

America If You’re Listening. How Trump widened racial divides for political gain looks at Trump’s long history of racism. He took after his father Fred in his racism, and don’t forget his active role with the Central Park Five. Then there’s the AltR, and Charlottesville, and Black Lives Matter….

Women and Evacuation in the Second World War. This podcast comes from the excellent History West Midland website, which looks to have some really interesting material. In the four-part episode I listened to, historian Maggie Andrews talks about her 2019 book Women and Evacuation in the Second World War. We all have the mental picture of the children standing with their little cases, waiting to be evacuated, but this book looks at the experience of the mothers who packed those little cases; those who accompanied their children and those women who acted as foster mothers. Episode 1 Introduction to Evacuation sets the scene. The evacuation program was set into train even before war was declared, with a great deal of upfront planning that all fell apart completely when it was actually implemented. Then came the ‘phoney war’ war, when nothing happened and by Christmas, many of the children had returned to their homes. Then when the bombing started in earnest, there was a rush of evacuation, much of it initiated and arranged privately. Once the war was over, some children arrived home fairly quickly, others took months if not years. Some never returned home. Episode 2 Mothers Who Waved Goodbye had me in tears while striding around the park. The idea of a mother whose six children were being sent to six different homes cutting up her only towel into six (useless) pieces just seemed too sad. Episode 3 The Mothers Who Accompanied Their Children looks at the women who, in the first wave, accompanied their children as part of the school evacuation, and then when the bombing started, fled with their children hoping to find private accommodation in the country. Episode 4 Foster Mothers takes the other perspective: that of women who had their lives turned upside down by children, sometimes accompanied by their mothers, who came into their family homes. This is a really interesting, emotionally affecting series of podcasts about another time when people were told “we’re all in this together”, even though they weren’t. [I was tempted to get the book until I saw the price. I’m always disappointed when a book is published by academic publishers, who obviously think that only university libraries are likely to purchase it. But – oh good- the State Library of Victoria has it as an ebook.]

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 25-30 September

Heather Cox Richardson. In the relative tranquility before the Presidential debate shitstorm, on 29 September Heather answered questions about the Supreme Court which, interestingly, up to Susan Day O’Connor always had someone sitting who was not a judge. Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist- someone who believes that the constitution cannot be changed and who rejects judicial activism. There was also a question about the First Amendment and lying, and she finishes off with the question “How do we heal?” which she answers by looking at other times in America’s history when society was similarly riven.

Her History of the Republican Party of 3rd September Part 14 looks at the history of the Clinton years, from the perspective of the Republicans. She follows through with the Movement Conservatives, who were disappointed with George H. W. Bush and who were horrified by Bill Clinton. She does quite a bit of editorializing in this episodes, I guess because it’s coming into living history.

America If You’re Listening (ABC). The last two episodes of this analysis of Trump’s first (oh, please let it be his last) term of office credited him somewhat in at least standing up initially to the NRA and not starting any wars. But in How Saudi Arabia Found an Ally in the White House there’s nothing redeeming at all in Saudi Arabia’s cultivation of Jared Kushner and Trump himself.

Conversations (ABC) Tracking the trial of a Mississippi murder is an older episode from 2013 where John Safran talks about his book Murder in Mississippi which I reviewed here. Listening to the podcast is quicker than reading the book.

I hear with my little ear: 9th-16th September

Heather Cox Richardson Her History and Politics Chat of 8th September asked: why are the Republicans so good at breaking things down and explaining them simply and the Democrats so poor? She partially agreed. She then explored the question of “Is democracy good? Why is democracy good?”, coming to much the same conclusion as Churchill “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”. She also looked at campaign funding (which she has covered previously) and noted that Trump started his 2020 campaign almost as soon as he was sworn in. This means that for the past four years, he has been able to hold rallies with selected audience, and more importantly, have his legal bills paid.

Her History of the Republican Party of 20th August looked at Ronald Reagan, and the rise of ‘western’ tropes (e.g. RR dressing up as a cowboy, prairie dresses, even Star Wars as a modern version). The Movement Conservatives were still active. Reagan was all over the shop in terms of tax cuts and spending.

The Real Story. Each night, I am stunned by the number of new cases in India. The commentators in India’s COVID-19 Challenge all came from fairly entrenched positions e.g. the BJP commentator had nothing but praise for Modi’s government; one of the women brought everything back to Modi’s decision to lay the foundation stone for a new temple to Lord Ram on the site of the Babri mosque, destroyed by Hindu mobs in 1992. Still, all rather sobering.

America, Are You Listening? In this episode, The surprising story of how Donald Trump took on the NRA, Matt Bevan looks at Trump’s relationship with the NRA. Surprisingly (especially for a Republican President), Trump initially stood up to the NRA and for a moment it seemed that the stars were aligning to end the madness of America’s ‘sacred’ relationship with guns: an unconventional President, a willing House, public revulsion at mass shootings, and the NRA in internal disarray. But somehow, and for some reason, all that seems to have gone away.

Dan Snow’s History Hit Pilgrimage in the Middle Ages looks at the practice of making a pilgrimage within England – a rather flexible activity it seems, as you could pay someone to do it for you, just thinking about it counted as actually doing it and Saints Days could be shifted around to take advantage of better weather. The podcast features Dr. Sheila Sweetinberg.

And while we’re talking about religious things, Stealing from the Saracens: Islam and European Architecture looks at the Muslim (and particularly Syrian) architecture brought back by merchants, pilgrims and crusaders to the Holy City, and it was incorporated into what we see as the quintessentially European ‘gothic’. The interviewee, Diana Darke, comments on the expungement of Syrian influence in the mosque at Cordoba, something that I noticed too. Although I think that it is too strong, and that the Christian additions are mere excrescences.

Outlook (BBC) In Sewing to Protest in a Chilean Prison Camp, London-based Jimena Pardo visited a display of handcrafts created by Chilean prisoners in Pinochet’s prison camps. It gave her the courage to ask her mother, Cristina about her own prison experience- something that she had never spoken about before. This is Cristina’s story, when as a medical student and mother of a young baby, she and her husband were swept up in a raid and imprisoned. (There’s a really good video about the imprisonments and the exhibition here, in English)

Rough Translation (NPR) American Surrogate 30 months later picks up on a program from 2017 where an American woman agrees to act as a surrogate for a Chinese couple. The American woman, who hoped to have a friendship with the couple when they returned to China with their baby, was stunned when the Chinese woman said that she would not tell their child of the surrogacy arrangement. This catches up with them 3 years after the birth, which had been more difficult than they anticipated because of eclampsia .

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 September 2020

99% Invisible. When I went to Spain quite recently, I was told and read that the Spanish Civil War was still a topic best avoided. This episode, Valley of the Fallen, talks about the memorial constructed by Franco, using prisoner labour, which he envisaged as a huge monument to honor the achievements of “our crusade,” and the “heroic sacrifices of our victory.”  It was only when Spain’s allies in the Cold War became uneasy about the size and divisiveness of the memorial that Franco announced that it would be for all the fallen. But once again, being Franco, ordered that bodies be exhumed from mass graves  and taken to The Valley of the Fallen for reburial. Many of these bodies were of his enemies, and they were disinterred and thrown together in a way that they could not be identified. When he was buried there, it became a site of pilgrimage for fascists. I had heard that he had been exhumed last year and shifted elsewhere. I hadn’t heard that many of the families of his victims are trying to get the other bodies exhumed and identified. Post-Franco Spain had agreed to forget about the crimes in a ‘Pacto del Olvido’ – a pact of forgetting- that silenced any memory of the past. But some things cannot, and should not, be forgotten.  The website has a transcript with videos (in fact, it’s probably better than the podcast).

Heather Cox Richardson. Her History and Politics Chat of 18th August started off by looking at De Joy and his removal of the sorting boxes. She then moved briefly to Trump’s convention trick of ‘pardoning’ Susan B. Anthony. The major part of her chat this week is about the republican-lead Senate report into Russian interference in the last election- something that made my eyes goggle, and which seemed to disappear completely afterwards (as no doubt the Republicans intended by releasing it during the Democratic convention). I think she must be tired because this was a bit disjointed, although I think that she was also being very careful about what she said.

Her chat of 25 August was interrupted by a storm! In the fifteen minutes that she recorded,  she responded to a question over whether it was unusual that the Republican National Convention had not released a policy platform but just recycled the 2016 one. Yes, it was unusual she said. She noted that there are three groups within the Republican party: Trump supporters, anti-Trumpers and a group with four letter names who oppose government action of any sort- Rand, Cruz and I can’t remember the others (and neither can she).  And then BANG! The power went off.

The following 1 September she talked about Social Security and Unemployment Insurance and whether Trump really would get rid of the payroll tax through which these programs are funded (as distinct from deferring it, which he has already done). Yes, he would,  because that would be consistent with the ideological position that many in the Republican party, if not Trump himself, endorse.  She was then asked why Donna Hylton, author, criminal justice activist and convicted for 25 years for second-degree murder and kidnapping, appeared at the Democratic Convention. Her answer- because she had done her time, and this is what rehabilitation looks like.

Her History of the Republican Party of 13 August is the one I have been waiting for: when the Republican party switched from the big-government, New Deal party to the individualistic, evangelical party that it is today.  This Southern Strategy took place between 1964 and the 1980s. She intended getting to Reagan, but instead ending up spending the whole session on Nixon. An interesting take on Watergate: Nixon had actively undermined LBJ’s peace talks in Vietnam, and Nixon was terrified that the Pentagon Papers would reveal this (they didn’t – they didn’t go up that far). And that was why he needed the ‘plumbers’ to find the dirt on Daniel Ellsberg and the Democrats in the Watergate building.

The Real Story (BBC) This program frightened the bejesus out of me. Why is QAnon going global looks at the the QAnon conspiracy theory that Mr Trump is leading a top-secret campaign to dismantle a global network of Satan worshipping cannibal paedophiles led by billionaires, celebrities and Democrats. It’s spreading in US, Europe and Latin America, right from President Trump through to evangelical churches. Really scary.

The Navalny ‘poisoning’ puts inverted commas around the word ‘poisoning ‘ as there is debate amongst these commentators about whether he was poisoned, and whether Putin was behind it. Yevgenia Albats (Russian investigative journalist), Sir Tony Brenton (former British Ambassador to Russia), Mary Dejevsky (former Times correspondent to Moscow), Vladimir Milov (opposition politian, Navalny adviser) and Sergei Markov (former member of the Duma from President Putin’s United Russia party) barely agree on a single proposition in this podcast.

America if You’re Listening (ABC) Russia If You’re Listening is back with a new name! This time Matt Bevan looks at the four year presidency of Donald Trump, starting off with What a hurricane taught Trump about being President. Trump handled hurricanes in Florida and Texas well but once it came to Puerto Rico….What did he learn? That when things are going badly, lie.