Taking the atomic elixir
January 29, 2017 7:27 PM   Subscribe

Dan Carlin dives into the Cold War. The latest Hardcore History podcast explores the Atomic Age and what became the balance of terror. Dan Carlin (previously) starts with Hiroshima and ends with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nearly six hours of nuclear war audio history. (SLgiantpodcast)
posted by doctornemo (27 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thank you. This will be my background audio this week*—and boy do I need a break from NPR/current events. It's a pity that reliving the Cold War is preferable to living in real time.

(*Because I'm not giving the material my full attention, I will rewind/replay repeatedly, stretching 6 hours of material over several days.)
posted by she's not there at 7:42 PM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


I've got some long flights coming up and I'm waiting until then to listen.

I really enjoy Carlin's Hardcore History stuff, but at their current length they're not really suitable as podcasts. I wish he'd chop them up into smaller chapters instead of a giant 6-hour audio file. More than once I've totally lost my place in a Hardcore History episode due to accidentally hitting the next episode button while jostling my phone in my pocket. Or fallen asleep listening and instead of having to scrobble around for my spot in a 30 minute episode, I've got to hunt around using a timeline slider that was not designed for files this long.

It's the equivalent of publishing a book so big you know the spine is going to coming apart as you read it.
posted by thecjm at 8:04 PM on January 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


[this is good]
posted by panama joe at 8:07 PM on January 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Love Dan Carlin... if you're looking for an escape from the day-to-day news, this episode definitely won't make you feel any better. That said, fascinating stuff, well presented as all of Hardcore History stuff is...
posted by ph00dz at 8:07 PM on January 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


I am already reading "The Dead Hand" about the arms race and Cold War; I'm going to have to save this podcast for a while because I couldn't take the book plus a Carlin podcast epic all at once!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:09 PM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ah, predictable nuclear game theory brinksmanship, rather than crazy old racist uncle and crazy neo nazis under the influence of the kremlin. The good old days.
posted by benzenedream at 8:11 PM on January 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


So, what was the verdict, anyhow? Ben : real or fake?

(I suspect Ben is actually a teddy bear he keeps on a shelf in his studio)
posted by panama joe at 8:17 PM on January 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


I always listen to Hardcore History but at this moment in time I didn't think I could bear focusing on impending nuclear war for five hours.
posted by edheil at 8:19 PM on January 29, 2017


Had a good laugh to myself watching M. Night Shyamalan's Split yesterday, when we meet some of James McAvoy's tertiary personalities and one of them ("Orwell") is a history buff who enunciates just like Dan Carlin. I'll probably check this one out over the next week of workouts.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:55 PM on January 29, 2017


So what ever happened to the "peace dividend"? I'm still waiting.
posted by boilermonster at 9:04 PM on January 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


I enjoy Carlin very much, but it's worth noting that whenever he touches on eras of history I happen to know a little bit about, he suddenly becomes much less impressive. His love of drama leads to distortion and exaggeration; he will take interesting bad history over more staid good history, so do take what he says with a pinch of salt. This is not to rubbish everything he does, but the focus is on narrative and awe - many of The Teaching Company courses that cover the same eras make excellent complementary listening.

Ben used to post on the HH forum, seems a lot of trouble to go for a made up person.
posted by smoke at 2:30 AM on January 30, 2017 [10 favorites]


... I wish he'd chop them up into smaller chapters instead of a giant 6-hour audio file. ...
posted by thecjm at 10:04 PM on January 29


Carlin has chopped it up, but not in separate downloads, rather broken it into parts inside the .mp3 file.

Part 2 starts @ 1:48:35

~~~~~

So, what was the verdict, anyhow? Ben : real or fake?

(I suspect Ben is actually a teddy bear he keeps on a shelf in his studio)
posted by panama joe at 10:17 PM on January 29


I'm betting that "Ben" is a broad wink he's giving us, a bit of fun he has with the show and our interactions with it.

~~~~~

I always listen to Hardcore History but at this moment in time I didn't think I could bear focusing on impending nuclear war for five hours.
posted by edheil at 10:19 PM on January 29


I'm almost two hours into it and it's not focused on impending nuclear war, other than in a very broad way. A lot of talk about:
~~ the use of the two bombs that have been used, the effects of them upon the cities they were used upon
~~ the physicists who created them,
~~ the politicians given the control of them
~~ the formation of the US military/industrial complex
~~ the beginnings of "The Cold War" between US and it's allies and the Soviet Union

~~~~~

So far, so good, through with Part 1. As usual, I am learning a lot from Carlin. He always says that he's *not* a historian, so I'll go with that. And as smoke just wrote, he can go heavy on dramatizing events. But these are pretty heavy events, and are dramatic, and he gets caught up in it I think. I trust smoke %200, so I'll know now to take Carlin with a few more grains of salt than I have been taking as I listen.

But. It's because of Carlin that I've read Antony Beevor. (A *lot* of Antony Beevor; what he writes is complete, or even exhaustive, but accessible to me. I love it.) And Barbara Tuchman. Carlin's "Blueprint For Armageddon" series, covering the European theater in WW1, that series is just great (I've listened to it twice),a tremendous amount of work put into it, and I felt tremendous amount awe in listening to it, how huge that war was, the complexities, the dizzying pace of change in fighting ideas and new technologies and how to apply them, the absolute horror of so many of the battles.

And listening to that series has piqued an interest in Winston Churchill -- what an amazing man he was! Love him or hate him you could not ignore him at any time in his career, which didn't end until his death, really. A true mover and shaker. He saw Germany, in between WW1 and WW2 he saw what Germany was up to, Churchill recognized the dangers before most anyone else, and continually sounded the alarm, which fell on many deaf ears, the ears of people who had fought "The War To End All Wars" and didn't want any more of it, even as it was being forced upon them by Hitler.

And the last two shows in that series have gotten me to wondering about the US president, Woodrow Wilson, and was he a prince of peace, as he always presented himself, or was he instead a conniving shitbird war-mongering pol spouting "peace love and understanding" whilst making it impossible for the Germans to strike the US as the US supplied the Allied forces, Wilson saying that he was open to all sides but deeply supporting the English and French while cutting Germanys throat.

Because of Carlin's series on the fighting between the Germans and Russians in WW2, I've probably read more than any person should about the battle of Stalingrad. And other battles also -- the savagery of those combatants and the no-holds barred total war they waged upon one another, it's just amazing to me. Read "The Last Battle" by Cornelius Ryan someday if you're up for a few chuckles -- gawd. It covers the huge battle to take out Berlin, it covers the Russians coming in from the east, and it covers the US and Canadians and Brits and Aussies and all the rest who came from the west but stopped *way* this side of Berlin, and ceded it to the Russians. It is an amazing read, and, again, a book written that is accessible to me as a layman, and not a historian.

ANYWAYS, I guess I'm saying that I really have benefited from Carlin doing what he has done, and is doing. I throw a few bucks his way every month to support what he's up to. He's given me a lot over the years, and I'm sure that he and Ben are appreciative....
posted by dancestoblue at 3:34 AM on January 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


>So what ever happened to the "peace dividend"? I'm still waiting.

I believe the peace dividend was spent invading Colombia and then having a shit-fit about a blowjob, until normal perpetual-war service resumed.
posted by pompomtom at 4:05 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


This one did not feel like six hours upon listening.
posted by filtergik at 4:28 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Count me in, too, for thinking that both 1) Hardcore History in general is gripping and 2) you do need to remember as you read it that Carlin's got a strong bias towards narratives and interpretations that make for exciting stories. But I do appreciate that he's upfront about being an enthusiast, and that he does at least quote sources frequently. I'm currently in an art history master's program (often taking classes that straddle the line between history and art history) and if Carlin were in one of my seminars, he'd be more perceptive and source-careful than at least some of the other students.

That said, what do people think of his other podcast, the current events one? I wanted to like it, since i'm such a big fan of HH, but I had to quit in disgust last year (and man, do I regret going back and checking out his post-election episode). His loose grasp on the present does make me less inclined to trust limbs he goes out on in the past.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 5:39 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's my treadmill audio for the week. His Common Sense podcast, which is current events focused, is also often really interesting.
posted by COD at 6:06 AM on January 30, 2017


At least he's open with his bias. *shrug*

I really enjoy his podcasts because they light up history in a way that none of my teachers ever managed. And like dancestoblue says, above, getting hooked on a good story will lead me to do the reading on my own.

Like, experts agreed that Stephen Ambrose's books weren't 24-karat scholarship, but after I finished reading them, I also went on to read Eric Bergerud and Ernie Pyle and Beevor and Max Hastings and a bunch of other writers, and I ended up touring the archives of the National WWII Museum in a pair of white gloves -- so Carlin lead me to better sources and firsthand accounts.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:50 AM on January 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'd just started on Dan Carlin when I'd read the different critiques of him by historians, so then I stopped.

Then after Trump was elected I started in on him again, because nearly my entire podcast feed was mostly related to politics with a smattering of comedy, and I couldn't do either. So instead I dwelled on the horrors of trench warfare, because that seemed preferable to reading the news.
posted by schroedinger at 7:44 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


More than once I've totally lost my place in a Hardcore History episode due to accidentally hitting the next episode button

One thing I've done to fix this is open the file in Audacity and use the "Find Silence" thing to find and label gaps, and then split one mp3 into multiple short segments. It's a bit erratic, but you can tell it roughly how many pieces you want, and it does allow for easier access. Takes time though...
posted by sneebler at 8:34 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'd just started on Dan Carlin when I'd read the different critiques of him by historians, so then I stopped.

posted by schroedinger


I'm curious - do you have links handy to any of those? I'd be really interested in reading them.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:40 AM on January 30, 2017


I just started listening to HH, based on the recommendation of a colleague; I'm slogging my way through an episode a bit at a time.

About 1.5 hours in, this thought popped unbidden into my head:

"If Curtis Armstrong were auditioning to replace Kevin Conroy as the voice of Batman, it would sound just like this."

Now I can't shake it.

It's not ruining the podcast, but I am engaging with it quite a bit differently now.
posted by Shepherd at 10:00 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


A number of years ago, our family's shared iTunes account resulted in my podcast subscriptions getting intermingled with those of my then-13-year-old son's. I ended up being introduced to some indie hip hop and goofy improv. My son ended up listening to Hardcore History... and hasn't stopped. It's led to his tracking down other history podcasts, youtube channels and books, so, as some above have mentioned, a good telling of the story of history will get one hooked -- even the young-uns.

(I've always considered his delivery Shatner-esque, btw.)
posted by jupturch at 11:25 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


That said, what do people think of his other podcast, the current events one?

Well he does seem to have succeeded, to some degree, in making 'centrist' or 'pragmatist' look like a viable position. He's the most right-wing person I can stand to listen to and who doesn't make me immediately want to flush my phone down the toilet - he presents his ideas with enough clarity and thought that I can actually stand to hear him out. I can no longer do this with any other commentator.

But I think the Common Sense shows are becoming less frequent because he has covered the same ground too many times. Would love him to expand to a more international focus, although he claims he's not enough of an expert to do a good job.
posted by Jimbob at 11:44 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


http://www.agreenroadjournal.com/2014/03/background-radiation-has-increased-600.html

hmmmm ..... I remember my dad (a biology prof who ran an air filter at college, and measured the radiation from the material caught in the filter paper every day) telling us to go tell the neighborhood kids not to eat the snow from time to time. Yeah, we were downwind of the Nevada tests. So was everybody: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/37/US_fallout_exposure.png/300px-US_fallout_exposure.png

Want current info?
Program System: RadNet
URL: https://iaspub.epa.gov/enviro/erams_query_v2.get_city

If you get an authorization error, it's a server problem, they say refresh the query in a few minutes.
posted by hank at 1:30 PM on January 30, 2017


See also low-background steel.
posted by whuppy at 2:22 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was just about to make a breathless case for Carlin's dramatic episode loving side being comparable to Herodotus, but I'm 90% sure I'd be shadowbanned from MeFi for ignorant heresy.
posted by Collaterly Sisters at 2:32 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


That said, what do people think of his other podcast, the current events one?

Politically, he lost a lot of credibility with me in the run-up to the election. I mean, he had a whole episode about how inhuman torture is, and how unethical Trump was for wanting to go after terrorists' families, and yet ... and yet ... and yet ... he just couldn't bring himself to pull the lever for Hillary. Feh.

I actually used to like Common Sense, even if his "solutions" to global problems were pretty out-there. Yeah, he was a crank, but I was generally on his side. However, his coverage of the election lost me to such a degree that I was like, "dude, you know that nobody would give an actual crap what you had to say if it weren't for Hardcore History, right? Maybe you should stick to that?"

It seems that he was a staunch Democrat in an earlier lifetime who became hardcore disillusioned, probably during the Clinton years. Well, boo hoo hoo. We're going through a once-in-a-generation crisis, and if he can't bring himself to sacrifice some purity in the name of stopping a greater evil... bah.

I'll always love Hardcore History, but Common Sense can go to hell.
posted by panama joe at 9:04 AM on January 31, 2017 [2 favorites]


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