Tag Archives: Dudeletter

Planet Money – Episode 693: Unpayable

For those of you who don’t know, Planet Money is an amazing podcast on economics that is a spin-off of the juggernaut that is This American Life. For those of you who further don’t know, economists and historians don’t always get along. Generally, this boils down to two things quantification and motivation. In economics, with the possible exception of behavioral economics, people are thought of as homo-economicus. This means that people act via incentive and economic (financial) motivation or given knowledge people will act in their economic self-interest at all times. Historians (again, generalizing) acknowledge more passionate, social, and societal reasons for action. The second issue of quantification is more tricky, Historians like to find stories and movements, but often have to conflate impact. Economists deal in terms (especially in macroeconomics, but in micro as well) in trends and bigger spaces (more generalizations, but not in necessarily a negative way). Finally, historians look to the past and make linkages to the present, economists look at trends and try to predict the future.

I find that I use economics as a tool in my historical tool belt often, student seem to relate to it to an extent. However, I think it is interesting when current events take over. Planet Money is really good at linking past to present and in this case they are quite good. While Congress is waffling (at least upon writing this) and conservatives are digging in, this podcast does a good job explaining why Puerto Rico is in the financial crisis it is in and what comes next.

The Atomic Cafe (1982)

The Atomic Cafe is an amazing documentary like no other. Made by Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty and Pierce Rafferty, it takes footage from Defense Department propaganda, declassified military footage, news reports, and commercial entertainments/ads to show the scope and terror of the Atomic Age. At the moment, it is up in full on Vimeo. I have shown this to both High School and College Students. It is scary, funny, and overall enjoyable. Watch it while it is still free!


The Atomic Cafe from koba on Vimeo.

Donald Duck in Der Fuehrer’s Face

Like most humanities teachers know, when writing and designing lessons, it is best to relate to the *-shudder-* humanity. Therefore, it is often not a bad idea to introduce culture. While the 1960’s have been the center of such cultural education for years because of incredible music and graphic imagery. Other eras work well too. Having taught at both the high school and university level, I have found that cartoons, especially funny ones stick.

When teaching World War II, I come across a standard conundrum. On one hand, yes, thanks to movies, video games, and other culture (including a fairly consistent historical message from elementary through college of the horrors of the Holocaust) most people know how bad the Nazi’s are. However, like most history, this is myopic. I am not saying that the Nazi’s aren’t evil, they were, but this fails to address some of the complexities of the question.

For example, yes the Nazi’s and Hitler were in charge of Germany at the time, but why the branding of Nazis? Were the Germans on board? How does someone like Hitler come to power and stay there when Mussolini fell and was killed by Italians? A lot of this comes from post-War remembering and rewriting. At the time, though there was an attempt to recreate the War in terms of Race.

While the racial “inferiority” of the Japanese was understood to Americans and the “swarthiness” of Italians was untrustworthy, the Germans had been accepted into culture with the notable exception of World War I. Therefore, when World War II came, racial epithets about the Japanese can be seen in highly racialized cartoons like the Warner Brothers Looney Toons short Tokio Jokio or Tokio Woes. However, the Germans were more difficult. While Warner Brothers slotted a dopey German into an Elmer Fudd role in a Bugs Bunny cartoon in Hare Meets Herr, the real star is Der Fuhrer’s Face. While both play with the cult of personality around Hitler, Der Fuhrer’s Face has it in spades.

Originally called Donald in Nutziland, Donald Duck wakes up in Nazi Germany in this hilarious and Academy Award winning short in 1943. Leonard Maltin introduces Der Fuhrer’s Face.


The Dollop – Disco Demolition Night

For those of you who don’t know, The Dollop is an American History podcast wherein Dave Anthony (stand-up comedian, writer, and actor) tells a story about American History to Gareth Reynolds (also a stand-up and writer) and Gareth improvises, does impressions, and generally is shocked by his lack of knowledge of American History. I will do an full write up on the value of the Dollop in the future, but for the moment I want to share one of the funniest episodes in a long time, the history of Disco Demolition Night

Also if you liked that, you should listen to the episode on Cleveland’s Ten Cent Beer Night.