Episode 86 (Finishing Hold)

 

Episode 86

Click on Sheppard’s face for a hum-dinger of a story.

 

The newest episode of  The Memory Palace is out, and it’s a doozy. 

Quick peak behind the scenes: this was actually the first topic I researched for Nate, not Leo the Lion, the MGM mascot to whom you were introduced in March. As you’ll quickly realize, though, this is a far more complicated story, and the complexity only grew as we waded deeper and deeper into the archives. If my memory serves me correctly, I told Nate in one of our first phone meetings that I was really impressed he was taking this subject on, because the more I read, the more I—as an academic—wanted to “run screaming into the night.”

Nate did not run screaming into the night. Instead he put together nineteen beautiful minutes of audio, audio I feel honored to have contributed to in a small way. I hope you enjoy listening to Episode 86 (Finishing Hold) half as much as I enjoyed researching it!

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

 

I Have A New Job!

new job ahead

Way back in 2014, I wrote a blog post about this history podcast I’d recently discovered called The Memory Palace. In that blog post I described the show as “is all the reminder one needs that history can be not just fun, not just accessible, but freakin’ lyrical.”

In the time since I wrote that post, a good bit has changed at The Memory Palace. The show is now hosted by a different podcasting network, RadioTopia. Radiotopia in turn is run by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, which—per the highest of authorities, Wikipedia—is the largest on-demand catalog of public radio programs available for broadcast and Internet use. So, that’s pretty exciting.

The show is also now released every other week. So, that’s pretty exciting.

The show also now has a Research Assistant. So that’s pretty exciting.

That Research Assistant is me.

So, that’s pretty exciting.

Lucille.gif

I am of the opinion that things happen for a reason, which is why I couldn’t stop thinking about a recent episode of The Memory Palace, which ended with a call for applications. The show’s host, Nate DiMeo, was looking for somebody to help him out. Shockingly, putting together narrative history podcasts based on archival work is kind of a lot of work, and he’d been doing it all by himself for all these years (which explains why, in the early days, the show didn’t come out very often). Now that he has an actual production schedule, he needed somebody to help him speed the process up a bit.

The announcement he made on the podcast specifically asked for a Ph.D. student studying history in the LA-area.

I am that thing.

I half-heartedly tweeted at Nate, and then promptly went back to the mountain of work under which I was buried at the time. I’m writing a dissertation, teaching two courses of my own in the next six months, and already do a pretty significant amount of extracurricular work—service to the department and the profession, public writing, and intensive pedagogical training. Adding another thing—even a really cool thing—to that list seemed, well, bat-shit insane.

4.1.2016 2.jpgBut I couldn’t get the damned job out of my head. I finally did the thing I always do when I need to be talked out of a bad decision: I called my mother.

She told me I’d be an idiot if I didn’t go after the job. It was… unexpected.

After that, the process went fairly quickly. I sent in my C.V., and wrote up my various and sundry journalism credentials. I also fangirled out just the tiniest bit… and who could blame me? Not only had I listened to every episode of the podcast (going so far as to post about how much I enjoyed it on my blog), I’d gone to the most recent LA live show. I get the impression that even Nate was a little surprised by how freakishly well I fit the job description he’d put out. Short story shorter, I got the job, and now my name appears in the credits of a podcast I love.

I’d be lying if I said taking on a part-time job is easy, even when—like this one—you can make your own hours. It’s also not a choice for which a graduate student is likely to be commended. My advisor is quite possibly the best human on the planet, and she shares a great many of my political commitments. When I told her, her response was, “I’m of the opinion that’s it’s none of my business what you do with your personal life. If you’re happy, I’m happy for you. Just finish your dissertation.” And here’s the thing: I literally can’t imagine a nicer reaction coming from a graduate advisor, which is, to my mind, utterly hilarious. Ph.D. Comics, take note!

PhDcomics

It’s not easy taking on part-time work in the home stretch of my graduate career, but I’m loving every minute of it. So, from here on out, in addition to posting about my academic work, and the trials and travails of graduate school, I’m also going to be posting episodes of The Memory Palace. My first episode, “Episode 85 (AKA Leo)” came out last week. Give it a listen if you want to learn about the incredibly bizarre, and dubiously fortunate life of Jackie, the second MGM Lion. And let me know if you have any questions about the work I’m doing! I’ll definitely post about MP again, so I’ll tailor my writing to your interests insofar as I possibly can.

 

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Podcasts Humanities PhD Students Can Enjoy Despite Themselves

Brain

I rarely watch television anymore, so great is my love for all things audio. I especially enjoy listening to podcasts.

Podcasts are a great medium for graduate students, because our time is limited, and so is our brain space. Thinking for a living is hard, and by the time I get home (or disengage from my desk), the idea of having to listen, watch and understand anything seems like a chore.

Speaking of chores, since I’m not trying to focus on a screen, podcasts actually facilitate a lot of chore-doing in my house. From sorting my mail to doing the dishes to cataloging my sources, everything becomes a little less arduous when I have something else to focus on.

While (as I’ve made clear in previous posts) I love my history podcasts, I’ve also started branching out a bit. In so doing, I’ve re-discovered the beauty of thinking beyond one’s field.

Below are three of the blogs I’ve added to my “interdisciplinary audio” syllabus.


 

The Side Hustle Show

In the past couple of weeks I’ve learned something that, I have to confess, made me a little uncomfortable at first: grad students and entrepreneurs are a lot alike. At first this kind of freaked me out, because isn’t the ivory tower about escaping the drive to monetize this, leverage that, and optimize everything? Isn’t capitalism the enemy?

Well, yes and no.

Building a “side hustle”—a small business that generates supplemental income—requires a lot of the same skills that you need to build an academic career. You need to know what you’re good at, position yourself within an already thriving community, prove that you have something unique and valuable to offer that community, and—perhaps most important of all—you need to learn how to do it all with exactly zero time.

Full disclosure: I found “The Side Hustle Show with Nick Loper” because I am working on a new project to supplement my income. I didn’t just stumble upon it. That having been said, I now realize that at least some of the episodes would have been helpful to me long before I began trying to figure out how not to be poor. I especially recommend episodes like “How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half,” ”How Side Hustlers Can Get More Done in Less Time,” and “How to Live Rent Free.”

Fair warning though: getting the information you need out of this podcast will require that you leave your various and sundry prejudices against business folk at the door.

It’s embarrassing to admit one’s own prejudices in public, but the fact is I DO indeed identify the term “entrepreneurship” with bro culture, which I DO think of as a problem. I still squirm listening to “The Side Hustle Show’s” (intentionally) sales-pitchy introduction, and frequently find myself waiting for discussions of ethics and workplace structural inequalities that, shockingly, never seem to come up. I’ve heard terms like “ROI” and “SEO optimization” and “affiliate marketing” so many times it’s made my ears bleed, but I’m genuinely glad for it. If you can listen past your own culture shock, you too will find ways to make “The Side Hustle Show” work for you. You just have to do a little bit of cherry-picking.

And no… Nick Loper did not pay me to say any of this. I wish he had.

The Domestic CEO

When one hears the term “graduate student,” it conjures images of coffee stains, towering blue books, and day-old bed head. Here’s the thing: we aren’t all slovenly creatures. Some of us actually keep nice homes and organized workspaces. Still more of us aspire to!

The Domestic CEO is an awesome podcast for Martha Stewart and Pig Pen alike, but isn’t one I would suggest for “vertical listening.” While I really didn’t need to hear the “Laundry 101” episode, the “How to Keep Your Bathroom Clean Without Cleaning” episode may have just changed my life forever. I’m not kidding.

Whether you’re interested in keeping your car clean, saving time at the grocery store, the myriad ways one can use cream of tartar, or how to style a bookshelf, chances are you’ll find something worth listening to in the DCEO feed.

The benefits of listening to this show are practical yes, but they are also psychological. Graduate student’s often think of the place they live as a transitional space instead of a home, and manage it accordingly. This… is dumb. Your life is not on hold. Your home shouldn’t be either.

Give these podcasts a listen and let me know if you agree with me! Where do you go when you need inspiration outside academia? Have you found any grad school hacks in unconventional places? Share them with the rest of the class in the comments section!

 

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

 

The SMDS Listening List: History Podcasts

PART THREE OF THREE:

Sawbones

I’m going to put my cards on the table and say that, if the three history podcasts I’ve spotlighted here on SDMS were trapped in a burning building and I could only save one, it would be Sawbones. The youngest of the three podcasts (and another member of the Maximum Fun family of podcasts), Sawbones is also doing the most to make history not only accessible, but entertaining. I happen to really like the elevator pitch on their website, so I’m going to quote it here.

Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin welcome you to Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine. Every Friday, they dig through the annals of medical history to uncover all the odd, weird, wrong, dumb and just gross ways we’ve tried to fix people over the years. Educational? You bet! Fun? We hope!

Dr. and Mr. McElroy

Dr. and Mr. McElroy

Hope no longer, Dr. and Mr. McElroy! You certainly don’t need me to tell you you’ve succeeded (you have tens of thousands of listeners, after all) but I’m doing it anyway! This podcast does what so many fancy pants historians can’t: it uses humor to launch meaningful conversations about issues including, but not limited to, social justice, medical ethics, and consent.

While I’m certainly not the first person to sing the praises of this podcast, I can’t imagine that most of the folks reviewing the show are actual medical historians (well… ABD, but who’s counting). While some people might consider my scholarship peripheral to the field—a discussion for another day—the fact remains that several episodes of this show have focused on subjects about which I know a great deal. Not only were those episodes accurate, they were hilarious.

There is one exception here, and I was quick to call Dr. and Mr. McElroy out on it via the magical Twitter machine. The episode on “leprosy” was very accurate, but insufficient attention was given to the wishes of the patient community, which has been working for over half a century to try and eradicate the use of the words “leprosy” and “leper.” The correct terminology for the condition in question is Hansen’s disease (HD for short). While I understand why it might be necessary to use the “L word” in the episode title (like I just did in this aside), I felt like the McElroys missed a wonderful opportunity to advance the wishes of people with HD around the globe. Now, I’ve written a good bit on Hansen’s Disease activism, so it may be that my response to this episode was conditioned in part by an affection for the historical subjects in question, but I don’t think that invalidates the criticism.

That misstep aside, this show has consistently impressed me. Unlike a great many medical historians, the McElroys don’t treat doctors as superhuman, and DO treat patients as human. The result is a far richer story, and comedy that doesn’t reproduce the exploitation it chronicles. It’s also worth noting that, despite the fact that Dr. Sydnee McElroy was educated in the West and practices Western medicine, I don’t get the sense that she throws any shade on Eastern and indigenous medicinal traditions. It’s clearly not her bag, but she’s also devoting a tremendous amount of her time to demonstrating the ways in which Western medicine’s gotten it wrong. So there you go.

Long story short: neither of the hosts have any kind of advanced training in history, but they’re putting plenty of people who do to shame.

I want to close this review by saying that I fully intend on assigning some episodes of Sawbones in my classes. By pairing it alongside more “traditional” history texts, I think this podcast can help convince young people—young people who’ve been thoroughly steeped in anti-humanities rhetoric—that not only is history a lot of fun, it’s a field with the potential  for growth. We are not all a bunch of fogeys rolling around in the dust of ages. Some of us are actually pretty cool, and, you know… use the Internets. Thank you, Justin and Sydnee, for being my weekly reminder that I have an awesome job.

PS: Sydnee… if you’ve had your baby, a thousand congratulations! If you’re still counting the days, hang in there sister. You got this.

The SMDS Listening List: History Podcasts

PART TWO OF THREE:

The Memory Palace

Most episodes of The Memory Palace are ten minutes or less, but packed within that tiny space is poignant prose that often leaves me shaking my head in admiration.

Nate DiMeo, the show’s host and writer, is phenomenal. His work is all the reminder one needs that history can be not just fun, not just accessible, but freakin’ lyrical. Between his NPR voice (he’s done appearances on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Marketplace) and his gift for writing, DiMeo is storytelling incarnate.

Nate DiMeo looks literally nothing like the way  imagined him. Great putting a face to the voice!

Nate DiMeo looks literally nothing like the way imagined him. Great putting a face to the voice!

The vast majority of episodes are based in the US at the turn of the 20th century. DiMeo is especially captivated by scientific innovation, and—just like a good professor—he so skillfully communicates his passion that listeners can’t help but share in his awe. Seriously, he did a podcast on the invention of the elevator (a topic that, on its face, I consider exceedingly boring) and did it in such a way that I found it riveting.

If you have children and are interested in democratizing history, I strongly suggest playing an episode of The Memory Palace at bedtime. Nate DiMeo is the kind of writer who can get kids hooked on history.

The biggest problem with The Memory Palace (which, by the way, is part of the Maximum Fun family of podcasts).[1]

is that episodes are incredibly addictive, incredibly short, and released infrequently at best. DiMeo does all his own research and writng, and that takes time. I binge listened to the show during the course of a day devoted to doing all manner of housework, and The Memory Palace managed to make even that, well, memorable. I wish I’d had the discipline to listen slowly, and will probably go back and re-listen to every episode soon.

It’s time to raise the profile of this podcast. Give it a listen, and tell your friends. Art this good demands an audience.

[1] The Memory Palace has since left Maximum Fun. It is currently hosted by Radiotopia, PRX’s podcasting network.

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

SMDS Listening List: History Podcasts

PART ONE OF THREE:

STUFF YOU MISSED IN HISTORY CLASS

I crawled out from under my rock and started listening to podcasts late in the game. When I decided to give podcasts a try a little over a year ago, Stuff You Missed in History Class was the first one I downloaded.

Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey are truly prolific. They come out with two episodes every week, each of which never fails to reflect a tremendous amount of research. The geographic and temporal range their episodes offer is both remarkable and refreshing. Graduate school is about mastering an incredibly specific topic, and every once in a while it’s nice to climb out of the bubble and learn about a place and time that I’m not required to lecture on. Biography driven episodes are where SYMIHC truly shines, and I especially enjoy listening to the podcast around Halloween, when they delve into spookier fare… historical haunted houses and the like.

I think—as is the case with most of the blogs coming out of HowStuffWorks.com—most listeners only play episodes of SYMIHC on topics they suspect they’ll enjoy. I think that’s a wrongheaded approach, and would instead encourage you to weather episodes on subjects you aren’t immediately inclined to. The podcast has surprised me more than once.

Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey. Learn more about them at missedinhistory.com!

Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey. Learn more about them at missedinhistory.com!

Some reviewers have complained about the podcaster’s voices, which—in addition to being rude—doesn’t really resonate with me. I’m from the South (as are the hosts), so I actually find their voices quite soothing, and sometimes put on old episodes when I’m having trouble sleeping. The only downside re: performance is a result of the sheer volume of information the hosts communicate within a single podcast. They have to read their notes, and with any presentation that’s read aloud, that can get dull from time to time. It’s not a big problem for me, but I’m an historian, so I have a really high threshold for the “reading aloud” voice. I’ve also listened to these two ladies talk for long enough that I kind of feel like I know them. Which isn’t creepy at all.

Check out the Stuff You Missed in History Class website by clicking on this image!

Check out the Stuff You Missed in History Class website by clicking on this image!

At the level of content, I have mixed feelings about SYMIHC. The podcast has run for many years, and its quality has varied as a result. Some of the previous hosts had me throwing my iPhone against the wall, but Holly and Tracy seem hip to the cultural turn, and don’t devote a ton of time to worshipping America’s old dead white men. All I’m saying is listen to back episodes at your own risk.

Even with competent and engaging hosts like Holly and Tracy, professional historians might be turned off by exactly same elements that make the podcast appealing to others. It is true that exceptionally few of the topics the podcast covers make it into the average history class curriculum, but I don’t think that the actual approach to history is so radically different from what you’d see in high school: the hosts communicate facts and anecdotes, but don’t do a tremendous amount in the way of analysis. The topics are rarely of a subversive nature, and only rarely does historiography enter the discussion. But that’s okay; SYMIHC isn’t a podcast targeted towards professional historians; in fact, there are more than a couple of precocious young children listening. So yes, listeners sacrifice analysis for thick description but—especially given the medium—I think that’s a feature, not a bug.

In short, I highly recommend tuning in to SYMIHC; as long as you understand exactly what it is Holly and Tracy are selling, you’ll be a happy buyer. (Not that you have to pay for the podcast. You can download it for free. You know what I mean).

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.

The SMDS Listening List: History Podcasts

INTRODUCTION

This is almost exactly what I looked like when I figured out how to play podcasts on my  newfangled iPhone. Click to see the website the image came from.

This is almost exactly what I looked like when I figured out how to play podcasts on my newfangled iPhone. Click to see the website the image came from.

In a recent post I mentioned that I almost never watch TV anymore. What I didn’t mention is that podcasts have more than filled the television-shaped void in my schedule. I’m something of a Luddite, so it took me a long time to fully understand what a podcast was, and still longer to decide that they were worthwhile additions to the universe. I finally gave in and tried them a little over a year ago; at the time I was walking two to five miles a day, and getting increasingly tired of listening to music.

These days I tend to listen to audiobooks when working out, but that’s because audiobooks represent a break from the ordinary. Podcasts have become the soundtrack to my life. I listen to them in the morning walking to school, in the afternoon walking home, while cooking, while cleaning, even while trying to fall asleep. Thanks to this new habit of mine, I have party-friendly nuggets of information a plenty! (I guess that depends on the kinds of parties you go to.)

Over the next couple of days, I want to introduce you to three of the podcasts in my rotation. All three focus on history, but do so for very different perspectives, and with wildly different results. Not only do I consider myself a better historian for the time I spend listening to these podcasts, their very existence is a reminder that there is indeed a place in our culture for public history. Makes me feel relevant… nay, hip!

So get excited, and get your various and sundry podcast-listening-enabled technological platform devices set to “GO.”

“The Six Million Dollar Scholar” is the personal blog of Andrea Milne, a Ph.D. candidate in modern U.S. History at the University of California, Irvine. To get the story behind the blog’s name, click here.