Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NY Times Discovers BBC Radio Four Podcasts

We've been listening to BBC Radio Four podcasts for years (NOT the dreadful, politically correct, BBC World News paid for by the Foreign Office), so were delighted to see that they have finally been noticed by the NY Times. Today's editorial column by Adam Cohen mentioned a particularly interesting Melvyn Bragg In Our Time program about the siege of Muenster--the moral of which appeared to be that one way to convert fanatical militant religious terrorists into lovable pacifists is through a crushing military defeat (something Mr. Cohen failed to notice):
“In Our Time,” a program on “the history of ideas,” is in a class of its own. Each week the host, Melvyn Bragg — a BBC veteran, whose Life Peerage makes him Lord Bragg of Wigton — offers a panel of academic experts, with Oxford and Cambridge heavily represented. The guests have titles like “associate professor in philosophy and senior fellow in the public understanding of philosophy at the University of Warwick.” They talk about arcane topics from history, literature, science and philosophy, throwing off casual asides on subjects like Sigmund Freud’s theory of “gain through illness” — the idea that people become neurotic because it is useful to them.

Mr. Bragg doesn’t spare the stage directions: Would you please tell us about this? And We’ll Get to That Later. But his careful questioning and quick wit underlie the brilliance of “In Our Time” — its ability to draw in listeners on subjects that they would not expect themselves to care much about, or perhaps even to be able to tolerate.

I convinced a friend to start downloading the program when I mentioned an interesting discussion of logical positivism. The next time I saw her, she told me that she was hooked and that a new episode on the Siege of Munster — which had popped up on my iPhone, but which I had not rushed to hear — was surprisingly fascinating.
BTW, we also like Broadcasting House with Paddy O'Connell...