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Professor Buzzkill

Professor Buzzkill is an exciting new blog & podcast that explores history myths in an illuminating, entertaining, and humorous way
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Professor Buzzkill
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Sep 29, 2016

The White House is called the “White House” because it was painted white to cover up the fire damage from its burning by the British army in 1814, right? Well, no. But that’s the myth that has been flying around the internet for years. Unfortunately, the story is less dramatic, but the history of the White House name is interesting. Listen up, Buzzkillers!

Sep 27, 2016

Super Buzzkiller Prof Philip Nash joins us to examine the many myths surrounding Adolf Hitler’s rise from Chancellor to the outbreak of World War II. These include: how Nazi Germany functioned; the myth of purely tyrannical dictatorship; and the myth of an efficient, orderly dictatorship. We also explore Hitler’s genuine popularity, and explain the successes of Hitler’s diplomacy and expansionism. It’s very deep and complicated, Buzzkillers!

Sep 22, 2016

Was Civil War Union General Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker’s last name the origin of the slang term for prostitute? He had a perhaps undeserved reputation as a party animal, but did that reputation actually add a new word to the language? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Sep 20, 2016

So you think you know all about Genghis Khan, the 13th century Mongol who built an enormous empire by slaughtering millions? but much of what you know is either exaggerated or just plain untrue. He was unmistakably brutal, but not as brutal as you may think. Listen to our interview with Professor John Giebfried, an expert on this period!

Sep 15, 2016

Hello again, fellow Buzzkillers. In this week’s mini-myth, we tackle Isaac Newton’s famous apple – an object we all heard about in grade school that allegedly hit Isaac Newton on the head some time in 1666, causing him to have a sudden epiphany about the universal law of gravitation. So, did Sir Isaac really discover the secrets of the heavens because of a sudden, concussive insight under an apple tree, or is this just a fruity story, embellished over time by overzealous Newtonians?

Sep 13, 2016

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!

Sep 8, 2016

The painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze is one of most iconic images in the American cultural consciousness. But how accurate a depiction is it? By standing up in the boat, did George risk tipping over and falling into the icy river? Would his soldiers have laughed or panicked? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Sep 6, 2016

Everybody knows that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, but how did he do it? Did he really paint the entire ceiling from atop a scaffold while reclining on his back? Well, not really. In some cases, the truth is even more amazing than the myth, and this is one of those cases, Buzzkillers. Not only did Michelangelo paint one of the most famous masterpieces in the history of art, he did so under great duress. Listen to find out why the painting of the Sistine Chapel is even more awesome than you thought..

Sep 1, 2016

“Ring Around the Rosie” has been a popular nursery rhyme for a very long time. Many of us learned it when we were children. But we often hear people claim that the rhyme is traceable to the time of the Black Plague, and that each line is a morbid reminder of the horrors of Bubonic disease. But was it?

Aug 30, 2016

In the Academy Award-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Colonel Nicholson is portrayed as a man who willingly betrays his country and his men for an easier ride as prisoner of war. He collaborates with his captors in order to build a railway bridge that is key to Japan's war efforts in Burma and Thailand. While the men under his command are initially intent on sabotaging the bridge, Nicholson convinces them otherwise, ostensibly in order to maintain troop morale, and to show that British engineering is superior to that of the Japanese. The only problem, Dear Buzzkillers, is that the real commanding British Colonel on the River Kwai was was nothing like the character portrayed in the movie.

Aug 25, 2016

The silk top hat was common headwear in high society from the middle of the 18th century all the way to at least the beginning of the 20th. By the middle of the 20th century, however, the top hat was in rapid decline – and many blame President John F. Kennedy for its demise. Did Kennedy break with tradition by not wearing a top hat during his inauguration – and if he did, how much did that really contribute to changing fashions? Read on and find out, Buzzkillers!

Aug 23, 2016

Who built the ancient monument, Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in England. Merlin and King Arthur? The Devil? The Druids? And what was it used for? Religious rituals? As a solar or seasonal calendar? A burial site? Or as site of ancient healing? Find out, Buzzkillers. The Professor tells all, along with help from Spinal Tap.

Aug 18, 2016

Like most Americans, I suppose I assumed that Jesse Owens was the only African-American athlete at the 1936 Olympic Games. A new documentary, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice not only shows that there were 18 African-American athletes on the US team in Berlin, but that they were remarkably successful in winning medals and representing their country. Listen and learn, Buzzkillers!

Aug 16, 2016

The idea that the “original” Olympics in ancient Greece (which ran from 776 BC to AD 393) were only open to amateurs, void of cheating and corruption, free from commercialism, and a time of peace across Greece is just a myth. It didn’t exist in Greek mythology, though. The myth of an amateur Olympics is entirely a product of the late 19th century, when the idea of organized, regularly-scheduled games with international participation was conceived.

Aug 11, 2016

Enigma, the German World War II message encoding machine, was famously cracked by British codebreakers led by Alan Turing. But were there more people involved? Buzzkillers in Dayton, Ohio, will be very proud to hear that one of their native sons, Joseph Desch, was an Enigma hero. And Buzzkillers in Poland will welcome the fact that we’re gonna remind everyone that Polish cryptanalysts were the first to crack Enigma.

Aug 9, 2016

It’s election time, Buzzkillers! Should we pillory Hillary? Throw the Trumpster in the dumpster? Distinguished historians join me to discuss "fringe" candidates from the glorious American past. Listen in and cast your vote!

Aug 4, 2016

It’s the classic image from Hollywood movies about ancient Egypt -- slaves (usually Israelites) building the pyramids under the harsh lash of their masters. While Egyptian pyramid builders might have been harsh, relationships with their workers were much more complicated than master-slave. Recent archaeological evidence has put this old myth to rest.

Aug 2, 2016

George Washington has every political ideal in the country ascribed to him at one time or another. Big government. Limited government. Freedom of religion. Freedom from religion. What did he really think? What were his political principles and beliefs? Where did they come from? Find out in this episode, Buzzkillers.

Jul 28, 2016

This week’s MiniMyth takes on the Iron Maiden! No, not the heavy metal band, the “medieval torture device.” We also look at the Pear of Anguish and the Spanish Chair. Take extra pain medication, Buzzkillers, this episode rips apart a big historical myth. And the blood flows everywhere!

Jul 26, 2016

Hitler storming out of the stadium after Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the 1936 Berlin Olympics is one of most enduring images we have of the tumultuous history of Nazi Germany. Hitler famously “snubbed” Jesse Owens and all African-American athletes because of his ideas of Aryan racial superiority. But did it actually happen? And did it happen the way we usually think? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Jul 22, 2016

The Venus de Milo is considered one of the most beautiful representations of ancient Greek sculpture. But she is probably more famous for her missing arms. Were they really broken off in a fight over her by zealous archaeologists? And what would she look like if her arms weren’t missing? Find out, Buzzkillers!

Jul 19, 2016

Was Amelia Earhart really an important aviation pioneer? Did she deserve all the attention she got? Hell yes, Buzzkillers! She was an aviation rock star! What she did was amazing, and an important part of her contribution to the 20th century was promoting female aviation. So the hype was worth it. But the myths and conspiracy theories about her disappearance have tended to swamp the history of her actual accomplishments and those of other early female aviators.

Jul 14, 2016

In 2010, Time magazine called the traditional school year calendar a “legacy of the farm economy.” And a few years later, National Public Radio referred to summer vacation as having its origins in an “agrarian calendar that dates back to farm cycles and harvests.” It’s always been that way, precisely so school children can be freed up to work on the farm back home. Right, Buzzkillers? Find out in today’s episode!

Jul 12, 2016

“Molly Pitcher” was the legendary water carrier who kept American soldiers hydrated and poured cool water on cannon barrels during the crucial Battle of Monmouth in 1778. But was she a real person? If so, who was she? As you’ll find out, Buzzkillers, she was more a product of the American Revolutionary Centennial celebrations in 1876 than the Revolutionary War itself.

Jul 7, 2016

Was the Liberty Bell used to announce the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776? Did get its crack from zealous and patriotic bell-ringing? Those are the standard stories, Buzzkillers. But, like the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, there’s more myth and mis-understanding in that story than actual historical fact. And most of the symbolic history of the Liberty Bell comes from the 19th century, rather than the 18th century. Proclaim Buzzkilling throughout the land!

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