A Conflicted History
A great new (to me) history podcast, a little Civics 101, how the heck does cultural taste work these days, and a bunch of podcasts and links to make you think.
Welcome to Hurt Your Brain #196, the place to get podcasts and links that will make you think, sent every other Sunday (well usually).
For links in the “for fun” and “other links” sections below, I always go back and look through my entire YouTube history for the past several weeks. We share one account as a family, and boy do my kids watch some weird things (appropriate, but weird). I always want to judge what they watch, but then I have to admit that my content is actually pretty weird too (but like, a cool weird y’know?) Hey Google, here’s a nice slogan: YouTube, a place everyone can watch their own insane weird stuff in peace.
Podcasts though? We have a much more refined taste if I do say so myself.
Let’s jump in and find out if that’s true.
The Big Idea: While on my history kick, this show came across my radar (see below). I started with this episode and found it to be excellent in its storytelling and format, and horrifying in its content. Dresden was a pearl of world culture, and one of the last large cities in Germany during the end of WW2 that was largely unscathed. The allies dropped enough bombs and incendiaries that the entire city turned into a literal fire tornado over a mile high.
As the name of the show suggests, you’ll be conflicted about how necessary this bombing was and how much credence goes into the argument that it was a war crime. Easy for us to debate 80 years later, but still it’s good to know the details.
I heard about this show from Keelin, who writes the excellent Mentally? A Magpie newsletter that is full of podcast reviews. Look for the subscribe button on the site to add some goodness to your inbox.
The Big Idea: Ever wonder what the deal is with the National Weather Service? Well this episode is a pretty interesting explainer and history. Private weather forecasting is a multi-billion dollar industry built off the incredible data collected by this part of the US government.
The Big Idea: A really thoughtful episode on what it means to develop your own taste in culture during 2024. It’s an interesting and overwhelming time, where it is super easy to go niche with your interests, but also to feel a nagging sameness driven by algorithms and Instagram aesthetics.
But don’t just take my word for it, check out the excellentnewsletter to see what Devin had to say about the same episode. Speaking of taste, Podstack does have some of the best taste in recommendations in my opinion.
Ezra Klein turned me onto Brian Eno’s Music for Airports, which I had never heard, and is indeed great ambient music.
The Big Idea: Regardless of how you felt about season 3 of The Dream, this is a great collection of fans and callers who shared their experiences with “life coaches.” The last 25 minutes is a single story that is pretty devastating.
You don’t need to have listened to the season (or the show) to appreciate these.
The Big Idea: Turns out Ronan Farrow is a pretty interesting dude. I had never heard him interviewed and while Smartless certainly isn’t for everyone, this was an actual decent interview.
FROM THE ARCHIVE (#87 of Hurt Your Brain):
Nice Try!: Jamestown—Utopia for Whom. I finally started this new series that examines various failed utopias. This first season is hosted by the talented Avery Trufelman (from 99 Percent Invisible) and this episode focuses on Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in the new world.
You get a great historical account of all the grim things they didn't cover in the Disney movie Pocahontas.
It starts off quite fascinating with information I had never heard, and then it all turns into a horror movie: "Can you imagine someone lying down dying and you come up to them and lick the blood off their face because that's how starving you are?"
How Good Is GPT-4 At Solving Podcast Riddles? Just take a look at the first one or two to see how scary good AI is at parsing images and podcast riddles.
OTHER LINKS TO MAKE YOU THINK
There are two types of smoke alarm. One of 'em ain't so good. I replaced our smoke alarms, which like with most things, I made the mistake of doing some research which made it 10x more overwhelming and time consuming. This video is a great summary of what I found. Basically, buy photo electric smoke alarms, not ionization (like 90% of what is sold).
The French Revolution: Crash Course European History. I wanted to recommend a podcast episode about this topic, but the one I found I honestly didn’t like (will eventually find a good one). But this is a nice 15 minute video overview.
Napoleon Bonaparte: Crash Course European History. A natural follow up to the one above.
Dumb and Dumber’s writing is overlooked. A Reddit thread full of people quoting Dumb and Dumber scenes, which let’s be honest, is a great way to spend some time on the internet. The guys guys guys scene is basically me as a parent and I think about it at least once a week.
People leaping face first while doing “walk the plank” VR. I know I’m a bad person for watching the first clip multiple times, and now you get to be a bad person too.
Alright that’s all for today. Please like or comment (or reply) if you want to share any comments. See you next time.
P.S. Getting ready to watch second episode of True Detective: Night Country. First episode was great.
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