Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Now we can all become experts in things no one else cares about

I was kind of late to the podcast game.

I have friends and co-workers who have been regular podcast listeners for years, but my indulgence in the medium really only started about 12 months ago.

For whatever reason, I had always ignored that little Podcasts app on my iPhone. But then I started messing around with it and discovered "Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend," a hilarious podcast in which Conan interviews famous people and makes jokes. I loved it, and for a time I listened to every episode.

Later I added "Literally with Rob Lowe," which I also enjoyed, largely because Rob is a fascinating 80s figure to me.

But I didn't fall in love with a podcast until I discoveredand you're going to laugh at this if you don't know me wellthe "Battles of the First World War Podcast."

This podcast, which is nearly five years old and still regularly cranking out new material, was conceived and is hosted by a guy named Mike, a social studies teacher in Massachusetts. Like me, Mike has a fascination with World War I (I've written about my intense interest in this conflict several times, including this post and this post, both from 2012).

The BFWWP, as Mike himself calls it, is exactly what you think it is. It's an in-depth look at the battles of the Great War. Like, really in-depth in some cases. I'm 26 episodes in and we still have yet to wrap up the Battle of the Somme. Next is Verdun.

Mike has a dry sense of humor and takes an intensely passionate approach to his narration, which I think is why I love listening to him describe this battalion's attack on a German redoubt or the intricacies of trench warfare or the technological details of the earliest tanks (Mike himself was a tanker when he served in the military).

I have no use at all for this knowledge, you understand, nor will I ever, unless I manage to weasel my way onto a third game show. I listen because I'm enthralled by the war and the men who fought it. I listen because I care about the tactical details that determined its outcome.

I listen because I'm a 51-year-old white male, and that's what many of us do.

That is one of the quirks of the Internet: You can become an authority on almost anything, even if it won't benefit you in any way. Maybe because it won't benefit you in any way.

It is the ultimate proving ground for the idea that a thing worth learning is worth learning well, whether you're talking about beer, crocheting, medieval cooking techniques, or World War I.

I like that.

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