I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am for modern portable sound technology, because I don’t think I’d have been able to do all this walking and running without some audio distraction in my ears. I need something to keep my mind off the tedium of step after step after step, and it really does make the time go by faster, even if it doesn’t make the exertion any less. First it was music — mostly heroic movie scores to push me along — but then I got into podcasts, and before long The Dice Tower and Pop Culture Happy Hour were coming along for the long sweaty ride.
A few weeks ago the search for some variety and a timely use of the “recommended podcasts” feature on my app led me to Mike Duncan’s Revolutions. He was currently diving into the French Revolution, but he’d just recently wrapped up the American Revolution, and with it being Fourth of July weekend, it seemed too serendipitous not to dive into that series. I knew a good bit of the history thanks to innumerable A&E marathons (back when A&E actually cared about history), but this, this was revelatory. Duncan started off with a quick overview of the thirteen colonies that was instantly addicting and by the time I got to the midpoint of the series, I found myself going on longer walks because I didn’t want to stop listening. I finished his American Revolution episodes and immediately went back in time and am currently burning through the English Revolution and looking forward to getting the Bastille good and stormed in a few days.
Now nobody is going to confuse Duncan for James Earl Jones. If anything, he comes across as your nerdy uncle regaling you with his arcane knowledge of history. But he’s the nerdy uncle you like. He’s got a knack for knowing when to be concise — skipping interesting but tangential events or reserving them for supplemental episodes in favor of maintaining big picture momentum — but also knowing when some detail would be useful, such as backtracking to provide biographical info on key figures so you understand how they came to take the stage. And he’s got a great wry sense of humor, especially when it comes to humorously referring to previous events and information in ways that give you both the “aha” of recognition and the “ha ha” of getting the joke. It’s all compulsively listenable and endlessly fascinating.
And the good news is we human beings have a knack for revolting, so Duncan has plenty of material to get through before he’s done. He’s moving on to the Haitian Revolution next, something I know next to nothing about, and I’m sure we’ll get to Mexico and Russia and China and maybe even Cuba in due time. Looks like I’ve got a hell of a lot of walking ahead of me.