Aug 28 2018173 Roanoke

The disappearance of the Roanoke colony is one of America’s oldest mysteries. However, the story of the Roanoke colony was only a major pillar of American historiography after the 1830s, and later on in the 1800s Virginia Dare, the granddaughter of colonial governor and artist John White, became a symbol of the American South and white supremacy.

For more on the Roanoke colony check out Andrew Lawler’s excellent new book The Secret Token, which I heartily endorse.

Aug 20 2018172 Live at the Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, The Tempest and the New World

Shakespeare’s Tempest is a fantasy, but it’s backgrounded by European encounters with the New World. When the play was written in 1610 or 1611 European sailors had already been exploring the Americas for over a century. References to the New World show up in both the play’s text and themes, and scholars have often viewed the tempest through a colonial or postcolonial lens, though it still escapes easy allegory.

This episode was recorded live at The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, a Portland art space.

Aug 01 2018171 Live at Floyd’s, The Mythical Geography of the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest was one of the last areas to be accurately mapped by European and American cartographers. At various times mapmakers thought that it was near a Asian region called Ania, that California was an Island, or that a great inland sea took up much of the American west. When Lewis and Clark ventured westward, they had a clearer idea of the coastline, yet they were still taken by surprise when they encountered the Rocky anc Cascade mountain ranges.

Visuals to accompany this live event are here.

Jul 22 2018170 Phreak Out!

Hacking predated personal computers. From the 1960s until the 1990s early hackers known as “phreaks” learned how to hack into phone lines, make long-distance calls for free, set up secret conference calls, and explore the global telephone network.

Jul 08 2018169 The Telharmonium

In the first decade of the 20th century you could pick up a phone in New York City and listen to the world’s first ever electronic synthesizer. The Telharmonium was the invention of Thaddeus Cahill, and the 200 ton musical instrument used rotating cogs to produce electronic sounds, accessible to anyone who subscribed to what’s arguably the progenitor of all musical streaming services.

Jun 30 2018168 Dorothy and Friends

In the early 1980s the US Navy was determined to uncover a secret gay subculture at the Great Lakes Naval Base just outside of Chicago. All of the men they were looking for seemed to be friends of Dorothy. If the NIS could find, Dorothy, they thought, they could blow this whole thing wide open.

We’ve talked about The Wizard of Oz and monetary policy before. This is different.

Jun 23 2018167 North Korea Part Fifteen, How North Korea Ends

This week we close out our look at North Korea with three different scenarios for the future: War, reform, and reunification. None of the these futures are good. A war would kill millions. Reform could entrench a brutal dictatorship. Reunification could create an impoverished underclass in a new Korea for a generation.

Image via CNN.

Jun 04 2018166 North Korea Part Fourteen, How to Escape From North Korea

Escaping North Korea is difficult, but it can be done. Notable escapees include Choi Eun-Hee and Shin Sang-Ok, a South Korean actress and director who Kim Jong Il captured and forced to make movies, like the Godzilla knockoff Pulgasari, pictured below. Kenji Fujimoto is the pseudonym for Kim’s personal chef who escaped to Japan in 2001. But, the vast majority of North Koreans escape the country because of famine and desperation, and the trip is a long and arduous one through China and Southeast Asia.

May 23 2018165 Happy Defenestration Day!

Happy Defenestration Day! On May 23rd, 1618 a bunch of angry Bohemian nobles shoved some government officials out of a window. The Second Defenestration of Prague kicked off the Thirty Years’ War, but today we mark it as a sesquipedalian occasion to celebrate very large words.

May 21 2018164 North Korea Part Thirteen, How North Korea Got Nukes

Even as its citizens starved, Kim Jong Il was able to assure that North Korea was able to obtain nuclear weapons. He did this by raising revenue with criminal activity, prioritizing the military above all else, bribing a Pakistani nuclear scientist, and reverse-engineering Scud missiles.