History on Fire podkast

EPISODE 47 Give Me Back My Legions! (Part 1)

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“Bits of weapons and horses' limbs lay about, and human heads fixed to tree-trunks. In groves nearby were barbaric altars, where the Germans had laid the tribunes and senior centurions and sacrificed them.” Tacitus  “It stands on record that armies already wavering and on the point of collapse have been rallied by the women, pleading heroically with their men, thrusting forward their bared breasts…” Tacitus “They are not so easily convinced to plough the land and wait patiently for harvest as to challenge an enemy and run the risk to be wounded. They think it is weak and spiritless to earn by sweat what they might purchase with blood.” Tacitus  A little over 2,000 years ago, Rome was a well-oiled war machine crushing everything in its path. At that time, the Roman legions were the most deadly military force in the Western world, and possibly in the whole world. Every year, they conquered new peoples and pushed the boundaries of their empire. Rape and pillage was the name of the game, and they were masters at it. But in the year 9 CE, something happened in the forests of Germany that was going to have a profound impact on the destiny of the world. Some historians go so far as to suggest that both the German and English languages may not exist as we know them, had things gone differently. News arriving from Germany, along with a severed head delivered by courier, threw Emperor Augustus in a deep depression.  In this first of two parts about the clash between Rome’s power with Germanic tribesmen, we’ll look at what we know about Germanic tribal cultures from those days, walk among the grisly remnants of a battlefield with Roman general Germanicus, and consider how Tacitus’ work was fuel to the fire of Nazi ideology 2,000 years later. Also, in this episode: Europe’s pre-Christian religions, naked tribesmen snowboarding on their shields, the dramatic encounter between Gaius Marius with Cimbri & Teutones, Gaius Julius Caesar making a larger-than-life entrance into Germany, Drusus’ campaign beyond the Rhine, racing on horseback for 200 miles to see one’s brother, slavery with golden chains, and much more as we set the stage for part 2, when the big showdown will take place.

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    EPISODE 85: The Siege That Changed All of History

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    “I cut off their heads. I burned them with fire. With their blood I dyed the mountain red like red wool. Men I impaled on stakes. The city I destroyed, devastated… the young men and maidens I burned in the fire.” Ashurnairpal II “I filled the wide plain with the corpses of his warriors…. These [rebels] I impaled on stakes. …A pyramid of heads I erected in front of the city.” Salmaneser III “Don’t let Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will rescue us!’ Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria?  What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the Lord can rescue Jerusalem from me?” Isaiah 36:18-20 History is a fickle beast. Some events may not seem like much at the time when they happen, but they end up radically shaping all events afterwards. For example, had just one event turned out different—an event largely forgotten today, such as the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE—and all of history would have changed. If the siege had ended in the way everyone expected it to end, Judaism would have disappeared from the pages of history, and Christianity and Islam would have never been born. Can you imagine how different the world would be if you were to remove the entire history of the three main monotheistic religions? In this episode we’ll tackle this greatest of ‘what ifs.’ In the process of doing so, we’ll discuss the origins of Western monotheism, Assyrian culture, Hebrew legends, the Assyrian protection racket, the clash between monotheistic Hebrews and polytheistic Hebrews, how the Assyrians turned 10 of the tribes of Israel into the “lost tribes”, committing ‘suicide by Assyrian’, the destruction of Lachish, what may have happened in Jerusalem in 701 BCE, and much more.
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    EPISODE 78 Bruce Lee (Part 2)

    2:28:56

    “Jeet Kune Do favors formlessness so that it can assume all forms and since Jeet Kune Do has no style, it can fit with all styles. As a result, Jeet Kune Do utilizes all ways and is bound by none and, likewise, uses any techniques or means which serve its ends.” — Bruce Lee  Bruce Lee’s methodology : “1. Research your own experience. 2. Absorb what is useful. 3. Reject what is useless. 4. Add what is specifically your own.” “I maintain that truth is a pathless land and you cannot approach it by any religion. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others.” — Jiddhu Krishnamurti    “This doesn’t look like success to me.” — Sovannahry Em  “A martial artist is a human being first. Just as nationalities have nothing to do with one’s humanity, so they have nothing to do with the martial arts.” — Bruce Lee Ask anyone for one name they associate with martial arts, and odds are they will mention Bruce Lee. Because of his career, millions of people were introduced to martial arts. Thanks to his movies, Lee achieved enduring, worldwide fame, broke plenty of box office records, and forever changed the aesthetics of action films. Not bad for a skinny kid from Hong Kong who arrived in United States with the proverbial shirt on his back. The image of his hyper-muscular body in combat pose has become iconic. But there was a lot more to Bruce Lee than meets the eye. He could have been a rock star or a spiritual leader or anything else he had wished… Martial arts was just a channel for his energy. Had he put that same energy anywhere else, he’d have probably had similar success. Despite Hollywood turning him down time and time again due to racial prejudices, Lee refused to take no for an answer and more or less single-handedly changed the way in which Asian people were perceived in the West. His philosophical insights also changed the face of martial arts training, and introduced masses of people to Taoism and Zen Buddhism. His creative & anti-authoritarian approach to life captured the best of the essence of the 1960s. Get ready for a ride because this is an incredible story I have wanted to tell since I first started podcasting. This episode covers Bruce Lee’s philosophy and life from 1965 through his death in 1973.
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    EPISODE 77 Bruce Lee (Part 1)

    2:16:02

    “Energy is eternal delight.” William Blake  “Hong Kong in the 1950s was a depressed place. Post–World War II Hong Kong had suffered from unemployment, a poor economy, over-crowding, homelessness, and people taking advantage of each other. Gangs roamed the street, and juvenile delinquents ran rampant.” Hawkins Cheung “Teachers should never impose their favorite patterns on their students—he said—They should be finding out what works for them, and what does not work for them. The individual is more important than the style.” Bruce Lee  “I feel I have this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all of these combined…” Bruce Lee  Ask anyone for one name they associate with martial arts, and odds are they will mention Bruce Lee. Because of his career, millions of people were introduced to martial arts. Thanks to his movies, Lee achieved enduring, worldwide fame, broke plenty of box office records, and forever changed the aesthetics of action films. Not bad for a skinny kid from Hong Kong who arrived in United States with the proverbial shirt on his back. The image of his hyper-muscular body in combat pose has become iconic. But there was a lot more to Bruce Lee than meets the eye. He could have been a rock star or a spiritual leader or anything else he had wished… Martial arts was just a channel for his energy. Had he put that same energy anywhere else, he’d have probably had similar success. Despite Hollywood turning him down time and time again due to racial prejudices, Lee refused to take no for an answer and more or less single-handedly changed the way in which Asian people were perceived in the West. His philosophical insights also changed the face of martial arts training, and introduced masses of people to Taoism and Zen Buddhism. His creative & anti-authoritarian approach to life captured the best of the essence of the 1960s. Get ready for a ride because this is an incredible story I have wanted to tell since I first started podcasting. This episode covers Bruce Lee’s life from birth to his famous fight with Wong Jack Man in 1964.
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    EPISODE 67 Ripples of History

    2:54:43

    “If I knew the way, I would take you home.” From the song Ripple by the Grateful Dead  “The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” Bertrand Russell  “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Michael Jordan  “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Tao Te Ching  In most fields, we are taught that people in your same profession are your competitors, and you need to do whatever you can to prevent them from rising above you. In podcasting I found the opposite attitude—people helping each other out and doing whatever possible to facilitate things for other podcasters in the same field. In this spirit, today we’ll do something unique: six history podcasters cooperating, with each one tackling a segment, to create a super-episode together. As the host, yours truly will get the ball rolling setting the theme and offering some examples of ‘historical ripples’—events that end up having unforeseen consequences years, or decades, or centuries after they take place. Alexander Rader Von Sternberg (History Impossible) will chat about how a man who died feeling like he had failed to make his mark in history ended up—possibly more than any other—shaping the culture of several Asian civilizations. CJ Killmer (Dangerous History) will tackle the Bacon’s Rebellion and its ramifications. Sebastian Major (Our Fake History) will play with the myth and lasting impact of Homer’s telling of the Trojan War. Sam Davis (Inward Empire) will be discussing the impact of Henry David Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience on the Civil Rights Movement about a century later. And Darryl Cooper (Martyrmade) will make a case for the Japanese origin for suicide bombings in the Middle East.
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    EPISODE 53 The Punk Rocker of Ancient Greece

    1:50:09

    “A Socrates gone mad.” Plato referring to Diogenes  “Had I not been Alexander, I would have liked to have been Diogenes.” Alexander the Great  "If I wasn't Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too." Diogenes “There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers… To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.” Henry David Thoreau  “I am a citizen of the world.” Diogenes “Free from what? As if that mattered. . . . But your eyes should tell me brightly: free for what?” Friedrich Nietzsche  “He maintained, moreover, that nothing in life has any chance of succeeding without strenuous practice, which is capable of overcoming any obstacles.” Diogenes Laertius  2,400 years ago, long before punk rock was created, there was a man in ancient Greece who embodied the spirit of punk as much as anyone ever did. He was known as Diogenes The Dog. And Sid Vicious had nothing on him.  Between the end of the Peloponnesian War, the bloody reign of the Thirty Tyrants, Socrates’ death… the times he lived in were wild ones, but Diogenes was considerably wilder than his historical context. As a master of frugality, he lived on the streets as a homeless philosopher inviting people to stop being slaves of their possessions. In this episode, we’ll see him clashing with the father of Western philosophy, getting busted for manipulating the currency, being the recipient of the good graces of celebrity sex workers, planting the seeds at the roots of Stoicism, defying Alexander the Great, getting kidnapped by pirates, rejecting nationalism, and pushing forward ideas that were as outlandish in Ancient Greece as they are today. The Amazons, the Oracle at Delphi, Game of Thrones, The Clash, The Temptations, The Princess Bride, and Nicki Minaj also make an appearance in this episode. And before we wrap things up, we’ll consider the limitations of punk as a worldview.
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    BONUS: Dan Carlin’s “The End Is Always Near”

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    “That is the nicest guilt trip anybody has ever given me in my entire life.” Dan Carlin  Dan Carlin is one of my all time favorite human beings, and on top of that an incredible podcaster. He’s now a published author as well. In this episode we chat about his new book, The End is Always Near. The conversation covers more than should theoretically be possible to cover in little over an hour—from Dan’s understanding for Thanos’ plight to the collapse of civilizations, the concept of Gross National Happiness, the delusion of infinite growth in a finite system, Jared Diamond, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, meteors, nuclear weapons, James Burke, the need for nuance, the future of Common Sense, what to do when people can’t agree on basic evidence, social media, incredibly fast historical changes, and the nicest guilt trip in Dan’s life.
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    EPISODE 52 The Lady and Her Gun

    1:46:44

    “It's just incredible that this little hand has killed Nazis, has scythed them down by the hundreds, without missing…” Charlie Chaplin  “Miss Pavlichenko's well known to fame,  Russia's your country, fighting is your game,  Your smile shines as bright as any new morning sun,  But more than three hundred Nazi dogs fell by your gun.” Woody Guthrie  “Charging together, we would dash into battle and forget about everything else in the world.” Lyudmila Pavlichenko “Gentlemen, I am 25 years old and I have already managed to kill 309 of the fascist invaders. Do you not think, gentlemen, that you have now been hiding behind my back for rather too long?” Lyudmila Pavlichenko During WW II, women in the Soviet Union had many reasons to fear German soldiers. But in some cases it was the German soldiers’ turn to be the targets of Soviet ladies. Among the many women who would fight tooth and nail and send quite a few Axis soldiers to a premature death, one stood out among the rest. Germans would know her by name, and would grow to fear her. And they had good reasons to fear her since it was by killing 309 of them that she would become the most deadly female sniper in history. Legends about her would grow both among her own comrades and among the terrified Nazi soldiers who heard rumors about this vengeful female demon who seemed to have made it her personal mission to make them pay for any outrage committed by anyone wearing their same uniform had ever. Some told stories about how a witch in some village near Odessa had cast a spell deflecting enemy bullets away from her. Others swore that she was followed by the lord of the forest himself—a wood sprite with a huge tree-like body who protected her, made her invisible and gave her the supernatural ability to move through the forest without making a sound, to know what was happening a mile away, and to see in complete darkness as well as normal people see in daylight. She was Lyudmila Pavlichenko aka Lady Death.  Among other things, in this episode: Operation Barbarossa, caught between vicious dictators, Stalin (even better than Nazis at killing his own people), Nazi guns in front of you and Soviet guns pointed at your back, a song by Woody Guthrie, Charlie Chaplin kissing her hand, Lyudmila disappoints Yoda, bringing Belgian chocolates as a gift for your girlfriend (after looting them from a corpse), love found & love lost, bloody revenge, hanging out with the American First Lady.
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    EPISODE 47 Give Me Back My Legions! (Part 1)

    1:27:47

    “Bits of weapons and horses' limbs lay about, and human heads fixed to tree-trunks. In groves nearby were barbaric altars, where the Germans had laid the tribunes and senior centurions and sacrificed them.” Tacitus  “It stands on record that armies already wavering and on the point of collapse have been rallied by the women, pleading heroically with their men, thrusting forward their bared breasts…” Tacitus “They are not so easily convinced to plough the land and wait patiently for harvest as to challenge an enemy and run the risk to be wounded. They think it is weak and spiritless to earn by sweat what they might purchase with blood.” Tacitus  A little over 2,000 years ago, Rome was a well-oiled war machine crushing everything in its path. At that time, the Roman legions were the most deadly military force in the Western world, and possibly in the whole world. Every year, they conquered new peoples and pushed the boundaries of their empire. Rape and pillage was the name of the game, and they were masters at it. But in the year 9 CE, something happened in the forests of Germany that was going to have a profound impact on the destiny of the world. Some historians go so far as to suggest that both the German and English languages may not exist as we know them, had things gone differently. News arriving from Germany, along with a severed head delivered by courier, threw Emperor Augustus in a deep depression.  In this first of two parts about the clash between Rome’s power with Germanic tribesmen, we’ll look at what we know about Germanic tribal cultures from those days, walk among the grisly remnants of a battlefield with Roman general Germanicus, and consider how Tacitus’ work was fuel to the fire of Nazi ideology 2,000 years later. Also, in this episode: Europe’s pre-Christian religions, naked tribesmen snowboarding on their shields, the dramatic encounter between Gaius Marius with Cimbri & Teutones, Gaius Julius Caesar making a larger-than-life entrance into Germany, Drusus’ campaign beyond the Rhine, racing on horseback for 200 miles to see one’s brother, slavery with golden chains, and much more as we set the stage for part 2, when the big showdown will take place.
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    EPISODE 46 Enjoying Hell: The Life of Ikkyu Sojun (Part 2)

    1:39:31

    So many History on Fire episodes feature incredibly violent pages from humanity’s past. This is not one of those episodes. The hero of our tale was too busy enjoying life in 15th century Japan to join the civil wars raging around him or to go around killing people. As the illegitimate son of the Emperor of Japan, Ikkyu Sojun experienced the harsh side of life from the moment he was born, but always looked for a way not to let it spoil his good mood. His main passions (in no particular order) were Zen Buddhism, sex and drinking. And in the midst of the endless party that was in life, he managed to have a tremendously powerful impact on Japanese culture. In this episode, we see Ikkyu’s wanderings taking him through torrid love affairs, friendships with pirate-merchants, and clashes with the Zen establishment. Living in an age of shoguns being assassinated, peasant uprisings, and the fury of the Onin War, Ikkyu found the time to save very Zen temple he had criticized throughout his life, and to launch an artistic renaissance that would have a lasting impact on Japanese history. In the course of our journey, we’ll find out how Ikkyu affected the creation of tea ceremony, how he and Lady Mori shared the greatest love story in Japanese history, and Ikkyu can teach about finding joy in the midst of suffering
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    EPISODE 45 Sex, Sake and Zen: The Life of Ikkyu Sojun (Part 1)

    1:52:37

    So many History on Fire episodes feature incredibly violent pages from humanity’s past. This is not one of those episodes. The hero of our tale was too busy enjoying life in 15th century Japan to join the civil wars raging around him or to go around killing people. As the illegitimate son of the Emperor of Japan, Ikkyu Sojun experienced the harsh side of life from the moment he was born, but always looked for a way not to let it spoil his good mood. His main passions (in no particular order) were Zen Buddhism, sex and drinking. And in the midst of the endless party that was in life, he managed to have a tremendously powerful impact on Japanese culture. In this episode, we will tackle the odd phenomenon of people being more comfortable with warfare and violence than sex, how Tom Robbins introduced me to Ikkyu, Sovannahry’s Ikkyu painting (the first thing I see every morning), the odd circumstances of Ikkyu’s birth, a history of Zen, Ikkyu’s training and attempted suicide, Ikkyu’s burning of his ‘certificate of enlightenment’, his clashes with the Zen establishment, Jack London’s Call of the Wild, becoming ‘the Crazy Cloud’, Drukpa Kunley and his… ehm… ‘flaming thunderbolt of wisdom’…

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