Rank #1: Terry Pratchett's Discworld
How does one map onto our world a fantasy world that rides around on the back of a turtle, where there is no London or England - or, to be more precise, where those places exist, but only in a magicless round world that’s kept in a glass sphere at Unseen University?
I went to the HisWorld exhibition at the Salisbury Museum to find out.
Oct 01 2017
Rank #2: Squanto
As an icon, Squanto is known, but he isn’t really known. What Santa is to Christmas and the Easter Bunny is to Easter, Squanto is to Thanksgiving. He is a sense memory from childhood. He’s more than a man, or really much less than a man, now. He is a symbol.
There he is smudged into the paint of the handprint turkey you made in kindergarten.
You don’t need to go visit Squanto – have kids and at some point when they’re in elementary school, he’ll come to you in the form of Timmy with the gap in his front teeth dressed in a fringe vest and a feather headband.
We’re going to spend the next few episodes of the podcast in Plymouth, thinking about the icons the Pilgrims have left behind leading up to their ultimate legacy, Thanksgiving and those handprint turkeys. As a first step, let’s exhume Squanto from the smudged paint, and restore to him not just some dignity but some agency.
Aug 15 2018
Rank #3: Robin Hood
It might surprise you how much Robin Hood has been transformed by the way we want to see history; and by how much the way we see history has been transformed by Robin Hood.
May 21 2017
Rank #4: Richard the Lionheart
This episode we consider the legacy of Richard the Lionheart - was he a disobedient son, a bad governor, a harbinger of death? This far out from the 1190s, does it matter anymore who he was, or does it matter who he's become?
Jun 11 2017
Rank #5: Ebenezer Scrooge
Every day of the holiday season, there is probably someone in your neighborhood watching or reading some version of A Christmas Carol. If you think about it, that means we probably see early Victorian England as often as any other time period. What has kept the story so vital? And how did a young Charles Dickens engender so much empathy for such a miserable man?
Dec 24 2016
Rank #6: John Smith, Admiral of New England
Jul 04 2018
Rank #7: Special Episode: Reaching Mars
Look up. This month, July 2018, Mars is as close as he'll get for another 17 years. On a recent trip to Houston and the Johnson Space Center, this struck as deeply moving, inspiring, and a bit sad. It also reminded me of the first episode of scripted audio I ever produced, about The Martian and Martians. I hope you enjoy this little interruption from our regularly scheduled programming, and it inspires you to do a bit of star/planet-gazing.
Jul 18 2018
Rank #8: Twelfth Night
What happens when an icon dies? It's not just people that pass away, or buildings that get demolished... ideas to can be weathered away by time. Twelfth Night, as it was celebrated in England for centuries - as Shakespeare knew it when he wrote a comedy named after it - is but a ghost of its former self. But that's the thing. If an idea is big enough (and lucky enough) it can find its way into the strangest places, sneaking into people's lives without anyone even realizing it's happening.
Jan 06 2017
Rank #9: Spice Girls (Part 1)
Mar 19 2017
Rank #10: Paddington
An episode dedicated to Michael Bond, and his little bear from Darkest Peru.
Jul 23 2017
Rank #11: Piccadilly Circus
The lights are out in Piccadilly Circus, just the latest change for an icon that's characterized by change. We look to a lot of icons to tell us about the past - Piccadilly Circus is that rare icon we want to look like the future, right down to the simplest of questions: what will I be buying tomorrow?
Feb 19 2017
Rank #12: The Witch Hunt
Can a witch hunt narrative be effective if it includes actual witches? In part one of a two part series on Salem and its Witch Trials, Iconography uses Hocus Pocus, Scooby Doo, and The Blair Witch Project to see how the bad witch stands in for the unknowable wilderness; then Sabrina, Bewitched, I Married a Witch, and Bell, Book, and Candle tell the story of how the witch was domesticated.
Oct 21 2018
Rank #13: The Crucible of Modern Salem
The Witchfinder General of Salem, Eric Dwinnells leads us on a Halloween journey to the heart of Salem, Massachusetts. Find it questionable that the Salem Witch Trials and The Crucible would be covered in a Halloween episode at all? That friction - the friction that defines Salem - is precisely the thing that this episode is about.
Oct 30 2018
Rank #14: The First Thanksgiving
Sarah Josepha Hale, editress of Godey's Lady's Book, dedicated years of her life to the crusade to make Thanksgiving a national holiday - she was successful. And yet, Reverend Alexander Young wrote one footnote about Thanksgiving, and he may have inadvertently done more to change the history of the holiday (and the history of the Pilgrims). This is the story of the "First" Thanksgiving.
Nov 22 2018
Rank #15: The Guy Fawkes Mask
This is the story of Guy Fawkes, but it's also the story of the comic book that forever gave him rosy cheeks and a smile that taunts authority.
Nov 16 2017