I’m not a history buff. I don’t claim to have a grasp on any particular time period, not excluding our own. I do, however, have a grand affinity for people who dedicate their studies to particular chunks of time, dissecting the eras and epochs of dusty versions of ourselves.
Since I appreciate this historical part of study, you’d think I might read about history. I don’t. Not really. I dabble. The reason is the only imaginable reason; it’s bland. Listening to people talk about history or studying a textbook about history is one of the most drawn out actions capable of clobbering me with a shadow-mallet, something unseen that makes me grit my teeth with boredom.
Finding the antithesis to this rule has been one of the finest finds in my learning-life. A man named Dan Carlin has a podcast called Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. It has shockingly (to me) bolted up the charts in my personal appreciation of sound-art. It is one of the best podcasts I know of, right up there with This American Life, RadioLab, The Sound of Young America, DicksnJanes, and a few others that I anticipate like a Christmas gift.
Carlin has a way of delivering the history he researches and truly conveying the excitement he has about it in a way that most history teachers “tell you” that history is their passion…only to bore the pants off of you during class. It’s not just his excitement though, anyone can be excited about something and similarly bore you to tears. He has found a way to bridge today with “then”. He puts things in context with today. When he discusses the regimes of the past, their inner workings, he relates it to modern-day regimes in the same regions, discussing the changes and significances of the behaviours in times past. It’s not a fact-reciting like I am familiar with when recounting my history experiences.
For instance, in one show, he discussed the realities of substance abuse among some of the greatest decision makers in the history of the world. Churchill, (Carlin loves him), was pissed up from dawn until dusk. Boozed like mad. Napoleon was rumoured to have been hung-over from opium usage the day he lost his battle at Waterloo. He discussed the plethora of pills JFK was on, including steroids (making his face puffy). It was an eye-opening topic to be discussing, to me. It leapfrogged the point-by-point fact-listing and went directly to a place I have never gone before; world leader get blitzed too, and sometimes when they shouldn’t!
Aside from his unique topic choices, his delivery is tantamount to the experience. You have to hear it to know what I mean, but I highly recommend that you do. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t holler. He raises his pitch and tone and (oh, okay) volume based on his own sense of intrigue at certain moments of the essay. He is so unabashedly awed by the subject matter, you begin to feel the butterflies yourself, through the headphones, while cutting the lawn or maneuvering trough traffic.
Dan also has another show called Dan Carlin’s Common Sense which is focused on the silliness of bi-partisan politics, discussing the issues from an unbiased standpoint, ridiculing BOTH Republicans and Democrats. I like this a hell of a lot too, but I have only heard two shows…so I can’t yet goad you into listening to them without some more filtering.
I now know of two geniuses named Dan.