The Professor seems to want to make enemies in this episode. He shows that many things central to Irish culture and identity are actually British in origin -- St. Patrick, “the craic,” and “Danny Boy” come under his withering analytical gaze. But he may surprise you with the ultimate conclusions he reaches. Maybe he’s not that much of a buzzkill after all.
Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine some of the zillion myths surrounding Adolf Hitler and his early years. We discuss the myth of his brutal childhood and youthful poverty, the complicated story of his service in World War I (and the ways in which he wrote about it later in Mein Kampf), and the myths surrounding his early political career and political activism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!
The “Non-Smoker” as a category of persons seems obvious in the 21st century. But it wasn’t always this way. Professor Sarah Milov gives the history of the non-smoking movement, including the medical, legal, and political battles that eventually led to smoke-free public places. Hear about pressure groups like GASP, ASH, and the countless local movements that helped clear the air.
Huge numbers of listeners have flooded the Buzzkill Institute with emails, faxes, texts, and Tweets, asking about President Donald Trump’s Executive Orders. They’ve come so fast and furious! With a little help from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan, we explain the nature and operation of Executive Orders, as well as the history behind this fascinating aspect of American history and government.
20th century automobile travel was supposed to represent freedom, but what else did it represent? Professor Cotten Seiler from Dickinson College joins us to discuss the difficulties and hazards of traveling in the United States faced by African-American motorists in the 20th Century, especially during the height of segregation and Jim Crow. Specifically, we learn how important guides like the Negro Motorist Green Book and the popular Travelguide: Vacation and Recreation Without Humiliation were to the reality of “traveling while black.”
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis became known as the “savior of mothers” due to his pioneering work in antiseptic procedures during childbirth. His clinical and laboratory research proved that hand disinfection for doctors was essential in preventing infections and complications for mothers and newborn infants. Shunned and ridiculed by the medical establishment at the time, Semmelweis fought valiantly to have his new procedures adopted in delivery rooms and maternity wards. He was the pioneer of antiseptic treatment that Louis Pasteur and Thomas Lister later turned into standard medical practice.
Did women’s rights protesters go so far as to burn their bras in public in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the same way that anti-war protesters burned their draft cards? Well, no, Buzzkillers. They did throw them in “freedom trash cans,” along with girdles, high-heeled shoes, and cosmetics. Not as dramatic as burning them, but a whole more sensible, from a public safety point of view, wouldn’t you say?
Why was Hitler’s fascist party named the “National-Socialist German Workers' Party”? “Socialist” and “Fascist” usually have totally different, indeed opposite, meanings. How did they get combined and what did the “National Socialist” label mean in the 1930s and 1940s? And why are democratic socialists nowadays tarred with the “Nazi” brush by the talk radio circus clowns? Professor Nash helps us understand it all. Listen and learn!
The blackout of November 1965 was a big event in the north-east of the United States and in Ontario. But did it result in an increase in babies born nine months later? When deprived of other “entertainments,” did people divert themselves with love? Snuggle up with the Professor, Buzzkillers, and hear the full story.
Valentine’s Day is here again, Buzzkillers, and you can be certain that we’re depleting the Buzzkill bank account at a rapid clip so that we can give Lady Buzzkill all the best tokens of love and affection befitting her rank and station. And it’s always around this time of year that people ask me about St. Valentine. Did he really pass a heart-shaped note to an admirer and sign it “Your Valentine”? Was this the first Valentine’s Day card? Listen and learn!
Border walls have long been a feature in history. But why were they built? Was it for protection, as imposing symbols, to regulate trade and migration? Did they work, and for how long? Despite what you may hear in contemporary political debates, the answers from history are murky and complicated. But listen as the Professor explains it all for you.
Seeing a German soldier killing an infant in 1942 was a transformative moment for Irene Gut, a young Polish nurse. She dedicated the rest of her wartime life to rescuing and hiding Jews, despite the some of the most harrowing circumstances imaginable. Listen to Professor Nash explain the life of a woman who truly deserves to be called “Righteous Among the Nations.”
It’s a story that drives tour guides and historians of engineering crazy. A worker falls into a pool of wet concrete that’s being poured as part of a major construction project. Before he can be saved, his body slips beneath the surface and he drowns in the thick soup of the concrete. It’s too difficult to extract the body and the construction bosses don’t want to stop the “concrete pour,” so he gets entombed in the concrete pillars of the bridge, or the concrete walls of the dam, or whatever it is they’re building. Were bosses that cold? Was the march of progress so heartless? Find out, Buzzkillers.
Becoming a citizen by being born in a country is an topic that flares up whenever there are controversies about immigration and immigrants. This episode explains birthright citizenship and how it developed in the United States and the western hemisphere. And, of course, it explains the complicated history of the tradition, especially how it was applied to Native Americans and freed slaves. It wasn’t as simple as you might have thought. Listen and learn!
St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most popular saints in the Christian religion. He’s known as a lover of animals, the first eco-warrior, and a peace-negotiator during the crusades. How much of this is true, and how much is myth? “Make me the instrument of your buzzkilling!”
After the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, British America stretched from Hudson Bay to the Florida Keys, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and across new islands in the West Indies. To better rule these vast dominions, Britain set out to map its new territories with unprecedented rigor and precision. Max Edelson’s The New Map of Empire pictures the contested geography of the British Atlantic world and offers new explanations of the causes and consequences of Britain’s imperial ambitions in the generation before the American Revolution. Listen and learn!
Is Watergate the story of heroic journalists working against all odds and in great danger to get at the truth of presidential corruption? Is it more complicated than that? How accurate was All the President's Men? Who really brought the Nixon presidency down? Professor Buzzkill's new episode explains all!
Listen to the FIRST Man Crush Monday episode (encore performance of episode #233):
Professor Phil Nash joins us on our very first Man Crush Monday to tell us about the most important American Civil Rights leader that most people haven't heard of -- A. Philip Randolph, labor leader, and founder of the idea for a march on Washington. Randolph started his national career by organizing the first major African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. His pressured FDR to ban discrimination in defense industries in 1941, and Truman to end segregation in the armed forces in 1948. Perhaps most importantly, his plan for a March on Washington in 1941 set the precedent for the eventual 1963 March on Washington. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers.
Flashback Friday Episode!
From 1876, when the first effective dynamo/generator that produced a steady current of electricity was invented, Americans reacted to this new phenomenon of electricity in many different ways. Professor Jennifer Lieberman is one of the first academics to study that reaction, especially how it appeared in popular literature, both fiction and non-fiction. And in doing so, she raises a lot of very important questions about our relationships with technology and the natural world. We interview her about the cultural reactions to electricity as a new technology is the topic of this episode. Listen and be electrified!
Professor Sarah Milov explains the political and medical environments in which the 1964 US Surgeon General’s Report on dangers of smoking appeared in 1964. In addition to the medical and scientific concerns in producing the report, there were significant non-medical concerns and obstacles to overcome. One of the most significant of these was the political ways in which the Report was treated, both inside and outside the government. Listen and learn!
Should old acquaintance be forgot? What? Should we forget old friends? Should we sing about remembering them. What does Auld Lang Syne actually mean? Why do we sing it every New Year’s Eve? Join the Professor as he waxes lyrical and sentimentally about Auld Lang Syne, Scotland, and good auld Robert Burns!
How did New Year’s Day end up in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere (and the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere)? Wouldn’t a day in spring be more fitting? Find out how people celebrated New Years in past centuries and why things turned out the way they did.
Did George Washington have a vision one evening at Valley Forge? Did an angel descend and tell General George about the future of the country, and give him the emotional stamina to carry on and win the Revolutionary War? Or is this Revolutionary-era story really a product of the 1860s? Find out, Buzzkillers!
Was there special, secret meaning behind the lyrics in the famous Christmas song, The 12 Days of Christmas? Ten Lords a Leaping and Nine Ladies Dancing sounds like a pretty good party! But why wasn't Professor Buzzkill invited? We explain it all and wish all you Buzzkillers out there a happy holiday season!
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come and sit here by me,” is one of the best snarky-isms ever uttered. But who said it? Dorothy Parker? Joan Crawford? Lady Buzzkill? Hear the full story and learn what in the world Teddy Roosevelt, Nellie Taft, and Thomas Dewey have to do with it all? Listen and learn!