Tag Archives: History

135JournalsAudioReview: Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Podcast

19 Sep

Feeling puple. April 2017. Alexandra Hanson-Harding.

Got my podcast listening face on. Alexandra Hanson-Harding.

I’m sitting here among my breakfast crumbs, verklempt. I have just finished listening to the Season Two, Episode Five, edition of Revisionist History Podcast, which is entitled, “The Prime Minister and the Prof.” It is about the friendship of Winston Churchill to an odd scientist named Frederick Lindemann which affected the course of World War II in some painful ways. Although I consider myself a history buff and am rarely surprised by “Did you know” history stories, I was stunned by hearing about a brutal famine in Bengal in 1943 and its effects.

If you are familiar with the work of Malcolm Gladwell, you will no doubt know that one of the gifts of his style is his ability to follow the golden thread of his curiosity down some very unexpected byways and draw some very interesting conclusions. At times, this is also his curse, as some of those conclusions can seem, at least to me, rather simplistic. Still, if taken in the proper spirit of skepticism, it is fascinating to go along on the journey of Gladwell’s lightning mind. And I also like to consider his way of thinking as a role model for how I can tackle a wayward question that occurs to me–to pursue it, wherever it goes, and learn whatever I learn on the journey to its answer. He reminds me that it really does take a lifetime to become an educated person, and that there are many different ways to learn.

There are two seasons of ten episodes each of Revisionist History now available on http://panoply.fm/ which has a number of other great podcasts, including the The Gist, http://panoply.fm/podcasts/SM7755575778, Unorthodox, http://panoply.fm/podcasts/unorthodox, The Grift, http://panoply.fm/podcasts/thegrift, and more. The husband and I devoured all of Season One in a single gulp, and we’re trying to ration ourselves with season 2. I could give you the titles of what is in Season 1_-Saigon 1965 is one episode. The Big Man Can’t Shoot is another. Food Fight is another. But what you really need to know is: What you assume in the beginning is not where you’ll end up at the end. And you’ll go through a very interesting journey to learn why. It’s a really great way to spend 35 minutes or so, one that you’ll remember long after it’s over. Two thumbs definitely up!

July is Journaling Month #8: Make a Timeline

13 Jul

titanic disaster_Baltimore American_1912(1)

Journal 116, November 28, 2006 I am sitting in the kitchen listening tp the pops of mushrooms cooking in the black cast iron skillet). I have a warm, relaxed feeling, which means that this is another day of abnormally warm weather, because when it’s cold outside, I’m normally clenched up here inside, too. Yesterday I saw people putting out wooden candy cane decorations in their shorts! At 10:00 PM. This warmth, is welcoming, strange, comfortable, and unsettling all at the same time.

In the news this morning: The Iraq study group prepares to give its report. A pilot of a missing plane in Iraq is also missing. A home for the mentally handicapped burned down in Missouri. Wall Street had its biggest loss in four months. “They may have been buying in stores, but they’re selling ion Wall Street.” The writer Bebe Moore Campbell died at age 56 of brain cancer. Gas prices are starting to rise again. A big storm in Washington State dumped two feet of snow on the ground. Pope Benedict calls his visit to Turkey a chance for reconciliation. He was greeted by protesters . . .


I am sharing this journal excerpt from Volume 116 because it makes me remember events that happened not just in my head, but in the real world. Even though I spend an extraordinary time ruminating over this or that, sometimes a little bit of the real world sneaks in—a headline, an opinion, something. And I’m using my journal to fill in a new timeline that I’m making for myself.

Today’s challenge is to start a timeline, in your journal, or—maybe even better—on the computer, make a timeline. Just type down every year since you were born in boldface. Then, you can write things that happen to you in Roman type, things that happened in history in Italics. I’m sure there are much more creative ways of doing this, too, for the computer literate among us.This is not just a project for one day, but over time. Some of the kinds of details you can add is birthdates of siblings, the year you moved from one place to another, the dates you went out with someone else, where you got that dashing scar, jobs . . . it can be as detailed or as un-detailed as you want. I recently tried doing this exercise, and I find that I forget when many important things happen and what comes first. So that’s why I think it’s good to do on a computer, because you can always expand the amount of detail you add. It might encourage you to talk to family members and friends and ask THEM when a certain thing happened. Or to contact people you once knew through Facebook and ask, “Remember when .. .? “ Or to look through old photographs and letters. You can even use your resume as a reminder.

I am glad that SOMETIMES I remember to add in little details about what’s going on in the news. The headlines from a newspaper, the way you feel about the war in Afghanistan or a presidential election, even the weather, can bring back a sense of time and place when you read it in the future. In fact, I have been typing down parts of my old journals. I typed 50,000 words, but it barely scratched the surface. Still, what I did write sometimes mentioned historical events. Here are a few examples:

May 20, 1980, I had lunch with the woman who works behind union reception and it was really fun,. . . She told me about . . . this earthquake in Washington state that’s going on-she said it’s supposed to affect the world’s atmosphere for two years!). It said in the papers that there’s smoke rising for about twelve miles bove the earth-how AWFUL. And more and more people are being killed in boiling mud. Last night talking I said it made me uneasy that Mom told me that there hadn’t been any snow in Massachusetts this winter. Never in my life has there been no snow. Isn’t that odd? And Richard said it was strange, that it seems like more records could have been broken these past few years. One theory is sunspots, but they’re supposed to work in ten year cycles, once every ten years. They don’t know how they affect the earth’s atmosphere but they know it does. Another theory in something about nuclear testing, that scientists are doing something to the atmosphere, we can’t even imagine or begin to suspect. There seems to be something scary going on, something out of our hands, something we can’t even begin to imagine. And so we are too nervous to think about it and even prefer to think of other things, more immediate things. The trouble is, even though we know about all the people who were afraid of the world, and find them ludicrous, it is going to end sometimes. Just like people don’t get worried about the San Andreas fault and just like they didn’t worry about this Mount Saint Helens in Washington State, but it blew up on them all the same—and we look at that and think, aren’t those people foolish they didn’t know. But really, what could they possibly DO? Bitch about the milk bill, do all the things of daily living, that’s all. One neever knows where the danger is. Of all the levels of my thinking, why do I write about this, things of the wide world so little?”

Monday, September 15, 1980  Afraid I’ll be thirsty in class. Still very conscious of using water whenever I do. There’s still a terrible water shortage and the water though safe (I guess) doesn’t taste very good.


February 9, 1987 Monday  I’m on a van this morning as big puffy snowflakes come at the windshield. Today should be pretty awful. It only has snowed a few times this winter, but each time was so aggravating we are already sick of it. The van driver is listening to Lite FM. “And now from Mr. Romance, Julio Iglesias.”..” A man next to me reads the Times. “Crack Addiction: The Terrible Toll on Women and their Children,” is the article he’s reading. Are we STILL getting articles on crack, the most overrated social horror of 1986?


September 15, 1999  Tonight it is expected to get windier and windier.  a Hurricane aApproaches. It’s 10:45 and M. is still reading. I have to make him turn off his light—but I really feel for him. Oh, toughen up, mother!

I am between projects at work—Lee hasn’t decided on any stories I can work on. I did write a history of the Middle East Peace Process in 117 words.

August 19, 2003 There are still a lot of stories about the blackout. It was severe and intense, but it sounds as if people were quite civil, sleeping on the steps of the post office without being harassed, or having a party in Union Square all night long, with very little crime taking place. I heard a news report that there was more looting in Ottawa than there was in NYC! I was so proud to be of New York and New Yorkers. There is self-discipline here.

Writing Prompt #8: On the computer or in your journal. Start your outline now. And, as you keep writing, fill in more details in bullet points, both about yourself  and about what was happening this year. (You can use Roman type for yourself, Itals for history, or vice versa).