As we look forward to labor day we decided to think a bit deeper about the popular holiday we might take for granted. As we talked about it with friends and colleagues, we kept coming back to the idea of "the Protestant Work Ethic" and Max Weber. While it might sound high falutin', talking about a sociological connection between Protestantism and work in America. While we certainly do not think that protestants have cornered the market on a good work ethic, or that American prosperity is due to a set of theological beliefs, it is interesting to talk about the genesis of a peculiar socio-economic system that grew up side by side with the Protestant Reformation and English Puritans in the New World.
We talk history, politics, and ideas about work and puritanism. Dan tells a story about who really cut off Van Gogh's ear and his ill fated interview with the History channel. Jeff explains the connection between an economic system, swiss watches, and the Reformation.
Like most shows, we circle around the big ideas surrounding labor (that we celebrate in early September every year) and the sanctity of working hard for its own sake.
From Queen Elizabeth to the Puritans, Weber to Tawney, and Wealth and Capitalism join us as we dig a little bit deeper into a day that we tend to mostly mark as the end of summer (and the last day to wear white linen trousers).
"It is frequently objected to relations of particular lives, that they are not distinguished by any striking or wonderful vicissitudes. The scholar who passed his life among his books, the merchant who conducted only his own affairs, the priest whose sphere of action was not extended beyond that of his duty, are considered as no proper objects of public regard, however they might have excelled in their several stations, whatever might have been their learning, integrity, and piety. But this notion arises from false measures of excellence and dignity, and must be eradicated by considering that, in the esteem of uncorrupted reason, what is of most use is of most value."- Dr. Samuel Johnson
As we are back in our semester-ly rhythm we get the opportunity to sit down in the studio from time to time with people that are quietly, fascinatingly, and often courageously doing "everyday" work. We sat down with David Atkinson, a civil engineer whose journey, in his own words, took him "from heaven to earth". Dave began studying for the ministry, and after a "dark night of the soul" at his second seminary, decided that a "holy" calling was not for him. He went from dealing with things heavenly to things earthly. Literally. Like soil samples. Dave has a remarkable story about a career we might think rather unremarkable on the face of it. Full disclosure: Dave is our boss. But we could have easily skirted around interviewing him if we didn't think there was a great story and some really good stuff to chew on regarding practical job talk, vocation, and how he ended up partially responsible for building Orange County (and keeping us all safe from dysentery!)
You'll have to excuse us this week for sounding a bit like the odd couple. Stemming from a conversation that began some time ago, Dan truly believes that we live in the greatest time period in human history (yeah, yeah, there are caveats of course) and Jeff is pretty sure that we aren't. Dan is very unfashionable in some circles for his love of the Enlightenment, and Jeff is sometimes cautious when he talks about why he can dig the postmodernists. Nevertheless, this show discusses just how good (or bad) we have it right now from a historical and philosophical perspective.
And if that seems a little too heavy, while we were recording, our favorite classicist CJ Armstrong strolled by the studio and we had him sit in and join the conversation and add a bit of levity (you might not get the Flinstone's reference, but Dan is still laughing about it). Enjoy! Click here
for a direct download.
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We promised we'd wait at least one year... we didn't want to break out the Hitler stick until we had established ourselves as serious academics doing a brisk and edited podcast that could be consumed in 10 minutes. We wanted to perfect our NPR nasal news voices. Well, that didn't happen, and we got antsy and perturbed by some of the bad analogies floating in the political realm regarding Hitler (Putin, Obama, etc...).
Putting "Hitler" in the title of a show seems like pandering, fear mongering, perhaps a cheap attempt to get hits? Ok. But it's also an annoying cultural phenomenon we wanted to discuss
There's an actual term for this- it's Godwin's law. Godwin's law was an internet "law" (old-timey usenet discussion board style) that suggested that any contracted argument would lead to a Hitler comparison. "Godwin's Law" entered the Oxford English Dictionary a few years back and the bad analogies keep rolling.
Hitler isn't the only bad analogy we use- we discuss the martyr's complex and the use of the "Fall of Rome" as a lazy shorthand that sometimes confuses both the past and the present.
We may not have the NPR voices yet, and this "Hitler show" moniker might seem cheap, but the fact that using his name generates hits (and ratings, ask the History channel) is part of our point this week.
(This show will be available for download on iTunes and here on Aug 17th at 5am PST
On the show today we welcome back Dr. Adam Francisco (he earned his doctoral degree at Oxford University in Middle East studies and is currently a professor of History and Political Thought at Concordia University, Irvine). Adam came on the show as a result of a number of us (Jeff, Dan and colleagues) sitting around talking about the recent events in Israel and the Gaza Strip. We found that we knew some things, but there were basic questions we didn't know the answers to, and maybe were afraid to ask. Thus, we invited our pal Adam back to the show to explain what is going on, to give us some historical background, and suggest a few ways of thinking about the ongoing conflict. On the show we talked a little about the geography of the area- you can check out a good map here
. Adam also recommend a book, Eric Greitens The Heart and the Fist
As always, join the conversation here, on Facebook
, or by emailing us at email@example.com.
We look back at the first full year+ of our podcast+. We ponder what we might have done differently, what we enjoyed most, and where we are heading in year two. We didn't miss a single week release and don't intend to in the next year. Thanks for listening and engaging with us through facebook, the website virtueinthewasteland.com, and through our Twitter and Instagram presence. Thanks especially for listening and spreading the word. Dan just returned from the mountains and Jeff from Key West. We are gearing up for the academic year. So, if you write a comment and we don't respond, we will get to it after a short burst of bustle and the hustle. Click here
for a direct download, access via iTunes or Stitcher, or stream directly using the button below. Remember that shows are not available for streaming before their Sunday 5AM Pacific release.
What is a cult? How do we balance tolerance and critical thinking when it comes to new religious movements? Are their authoritarian personalties in my own, established religious community? How are multilevel marketing and pyramid schemes like cults? Is cult a bad word or is it a concept we need to preserve for the good of a safe and healthy society? We wrestle with these questions and more. We mention Jim Jones, Swedenborgianism, the Guru Maharaji, Amway, Scientology, and the FLDS. We love everyone. Please don't sue us; we have no money and few assets, so it wouldn't be worth it. Moreover, we are critical of ourselves and our own communities, various states that never really done nobody wrong, and the entire Inland Empire on occasion. So it's all in good fun. If we talk about your group, and you don't think we've represented it properly, feel free to explain where we were mistaken in the comment section. Or, better, stage a press conference explaining why you think Virtue in the Wasteland is bad, making sure to get coverage from the major media outlets, and making sure to wear your sect's most distinctive clothing and strange hairdos, if applicable. For the rest of you good listeners: avoid prophets with free Kool-Aid. Click here for a direct download
, subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, your favorite podcast service, or simply stream from the tool below.
Are books always
better than movies based on those books? Can mythology have the same effect on a big screen that it has when passed on through oral tradition.
We discuss the promises and perils of making books into movies. We focus on Steinbeck's East of Eden
and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
, but we also mention and/or discuss the following: Ian Flemming's James Bond stories, Michael Crighton and Jurassic Park
, Steven King's Shawshank Redemption
, Nick Hornby and High Fidelity
, Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
, Cormack McCarthy's The Road,
that the Cohen Brothers would be the best filmmakers to redo Huckleberry Finn
, whether we should like musicals, The Last Temptation of Christ
, Jungian archetypes, the value of mythology, and the importance of fairy tales.
After recording the show, we found out that Alan Dean Foster made novelizations of several popular films, including Star Wars: A New Hope. Click here for a direct download,
subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or stream using the button below, after 5AM after the Sunday on which it is released.
We freestyle chat about the nature of the good life and the ways in which we measure life's success. This is about vocational questions for young people looking to the future or folks who want to redirect their lives later in the game. We mention Daoism, LeBron James and The Decision, Stoicism, and whether you might want to rethink your current path. Click here for direct download.
This week’s show is a Wasteland Companion episode- that is, a show where we take a book and walk through its themes, history, big ideas, etc… You need not have ANY prior knowledge of the book to listen. If you do, hopefully this can jog some memories. We chose to talk about the brothers Karamazov because we both believe it to contain some of the more gut wrenching and savage attacks on human nature and God. It also contains some of the most sincere people of faith in modern literature. The Brothers Karamazov has been a major template for books and stories about brothers and families for over a century. We discuss a bit of the history, a bit of the plot, a fair amount on the section you might know as the “Grand Inquisitor”, and we end up talking about the best arguments for the absence of a God, good and evil, freedom, slavery, and totalitarianism. Last week we were all parties and barbecues for the fourth of July. This week, it’s back in the wasteland as we discuss the big questions with a little help from our 19th century Russian pal, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.” - The Grand Inquisitor
for the translation of the book we recommended on the show
On the show, Jeff mentions his favorite Orthodox friend, Tryphon, of All Merciful Savior Monastery
, who Jeff says is the embodiment of Zosima. Trypon blogs
too. Here's an interview with him by someone else: