Tag: History

Fry your brain

Great Leap Years review

Rating –

Great leap years logo

As someone who has literally grown up as a Stephen Fry fan, from A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, to Jeeves And Wooster, to QI. This review may seem somewhat biased. If Mr Fry puts his name to something then you can rest assured it will be quality. Having said that, I don’t think he did a podcast before this one. So is this another notch on his tally of greatness, or is it an uncharacteristic fail? Read on and see.

So what’s it about?

This series covers the history of human invention. That may sound like a lot, and indeed it is, but thankfully Stephen skips through the first 10,000 years or so rather quickly so we can get down to more “recent” technological achievement, starting in the middle ages.

Each episode follows along in a somewhat chronological order. Starting in earnest with the invention of the Gutenberg Press, and ending with the invention of computers, maybe even glimpses of the real bleeding edge of advancement.

I guarantee you there will be lots of facts here that you will have never heard before, even if you know about the actual inventions. The way that the most revolutionary things get invented, either by accident or as a “plan b” is truly mind-blowing, and goes to show that these guys are (usually) just ordinary people.

I think my favourite episode here was the reason I found this podcast (after hearing Penn Jillette mention it on his Sunday School podcast) about Fritz Haber, who was responsible for saving more people than anyone else in history, then killing more people than anyone else, and then saving people again. That one is as heartbreaking as it is fascinating, and goes to show the duality of technological advancement, especially during war time.

Is it any good?

If you like learning new things in a fun and interesting way then you’ll love this series. If that previous sentence doesn’t apply to you, I suggest you go back to Joe Rogan. Seeing as an awful lot of people know Stephen Fry from QI, then a series about obscure fact on well known subjects won’t be anything new.

Stephen Fry has a real talent for making things interesting. I suspect this is because he is genuinely interested in the subject matter too. I think this is why there are so many bad teachers in the world. They just aren’t really interested in their own subject matter, but I digress.

Final thoughts

Imagine, if you will, the chapters on recent earth history in The Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy, and you’ll be somewhat close to this show. Yes, I know that Mr. Fry narrated that particular work of genius for the audiobook. That’s why I said it. He has now become as inexoravbly linked to that, as he has to the works of P.G. Wodehouse. Which is no bad thing.

The only thing that stops this being the best podcast I’ve ever heard is the fact that there is so much information that my brain does start to fry after a few episodes. If you’re not as greedy as I am, and you listen to one or two episodes a day then I’m sure you’ll agree that this is practically perfect in every way.

You can get Stephen Fry’s Great Leap Years here:


Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Terror never sounded so good

Uncanny Japan review

Rating –

Uncanny Japan logo

I love folklore, and (as I have said before) living in Wales there is plenty on offer. Because of this, I am often drawn to the more mysterious style podcasts. Whether actual folklore or fiction inspired by folklore, I just can’t get enough. Maybe it’s because of my love of J-Horror or Anime, but Japanese folklore has captivated me for years. When I stumbled across Uncanny Japan I immediately subscribed and pressed play with baited breath.

So what’s it about?

Each episode, the host, Thersa Matsuura explores a different aspect of Japanese Folklore. Don’t expect to yawn through well trodden tales of the Kappa, Urei and Yokai so beloved of western audiences. This series also covers the lesser known traditions, festivals, and mythical beings said to lurk in the shady corners of the country. These episodes are what you could call “bitesize”. Most podcasts on folklore tend to run at one hour plus, so these 20 minute gems are very short in comparison. I think there have been a few even shorter!

The episode starts out with a brief introduction with the beautiful binaural recordings, and then Thersa starts telling the stories. Not all of these are discovered from ancient sources, although many are. There are some modern day cases that crop up too, and in the later episodes there are similar tales from all over the world. While this does technically leave the Japanese side of the stories, I don’t mind. All stories have a shared source, and drawing these parallels are great fun.

Is it any good?

Definitely. Thersa expertly covers so much ground in each relatively short episode, yet it never feels rushed. The fact that a 20 minute episode can feel much longer could be used as an insult for a review of a lesser show, but here it is absolutely a compliment. This is partly due to her amazing calm voice and the use of atmospheric recordings of her surroundings. The incessant piping of frogs or chirping of cicadas could be somewhat Lovecraftian in the bleak heaths of New England. Here though, it really brings her stories to life.

These sound effects coupled with Thersa’s soporific voice would lend itself to be the perfect sleep aid, although I can’t guarantee a peaceful night’s sleep from some of the content here! There are some very creepy tales indeed, and the thought of having some of these dark denizens of the Japanese countryside invade my dreams isn’t something I’d relish.

Final thoughts

This is one of those shows that you don’t have to be interested in the subject to enjoy. Thersa is a joy to listen to and her knowledge of her subject matter is immense. She has also published books of fiction based on Japanese folklore as well (we are occasionally treated to some excerpts of these on the show).

Where other folklore shows have fallen by the wayside, either through the podcast coming to an end, or me getting bored, this one has got real staying power and is always great to listen to. Do yourselves a favour and give this series a go. You can thank me later.

This is also one of two podcasts on Japanese folklore that I had subscribed to, and the only one I am still subscribed to. Truth be told, I only ever listened to two episodes of the other one and gave up on it. Thersa has set the benchmark for Japanese culture!

You can listen to Uncanny Japan here:


Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Heeeeeeello Folks

Podcast Title – Hypnogoria

Rating –

Hypnogoria logo

Thankfully, I don’t have to review podcasts on an episode by episode basis or I’d be here a loooooong time with this Hypnogoria review. When I listen to a podcast series, most of the time I don’t listen right from when it first airs, maybe I’ll be a series or two behind (occasionally it’ll be a really old one that has long finished by the time I discover it). With Hypnogoria I joined it about nine years after it started NINE YEARS! This the longest running British Podcast on horror and suchlike. Hell it might be the longest running British podcast full stop. It’s also one of my favourites, which is why I’m waxing lyrical about it here.

So what’s it all about then?

Hypnogoria is a true labour of love by Mr. Jim Moon, a literal oracle of all things horror, folklore and geek culture. I do not use that term lightly. He really is a font of knowledge on pretty much any subject you care to mention. He has a lovely jovial tone, mixing great humour with a deep understanding of his chosen subjects that will at once remind of that nice English teacher or favourite Uncle. I first heard about him after he had done a reading of a classic horror story on a different podcast. Once I heard him read, I had to find out more about his show and I wasn’t disappointed with what I found.

The episodes vary greatly in content, and as such the show has diversified over the years into:

  • Hypnogoria – The main show that covers various pop culture and folklore topics (books, films, comics etc.)
  • Microgoria – Short, off the cuff shows that don’t always warrant full episodes. Despite the name and Jim’s best intentions, these have the habit of sometimes running longer than actual Hypnogoria episodes!
  • Tomegoria – Book review episodes, where a new book is discussed every episode
  • The Commentary Club – Where Jim and his wife watch a film and discauss all manner of trivia and interesting tidbits.
  • The Great Library Of Dreams – In which Jim reads a classic horror story.

That sounds like a lot of stuff…

The main Hypnogoria episodes will either be a one off episode, maybe a review of a film or TV show or a whole series of episodes covering a single topic (some of the earlier ones covered the 2000AD comics, the history of Batman, Zombie films, Christmas folklore and classic Universal monster movies) and I really  think that’s what makes this show stand out. You may not be entirely interested in 1970s British kids TV shows or Vincent Price, but that’s ok. Just skip to the next episode and I guarantee you there’ll be something to enjoy.

But is it any good?

Now having said all that, it may sound like Jim may be spreading himself a bit thin by covering such diverse topics. However, that’s not the case at all. Each episode has an incredible amount of research involved, and the facts that get uncovered can be very obscure indeed. I always get caught out when he doesn’t include some obscure fact that I know, and I have that moment of glory before he mentions that exact thing and expands on it. I guarantee that even if you’re a massive fan of H.P. Lovecraft, or even Father Christmas (yes really), Jim will dig up some remarkable nugget of knowledge that’ll blow your mind. The fact that each episode has so much work involved shows that he really does have a deep love for all that he does, and he wants to share it all with us.

Final thoughts

A decade’s worth of shows looks a bit daunting when you first hit “subscribe”, but don’t be discouraged by the quantity. You don’t have to listen to them all in day long binge sessions (like I did), just find something you like and dive in. I suspect you’ll even find some new areas of interest to follow (like, I don’t know, 1970s Spanish zombie movies *ahem*). Since first discovering this podcast, I have found an appreciation of comedy series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (in fact, all of Matt Holness’ work), the Father Brown mystery stories, the novels of Adam Nevill, and the aforementioned Spanish zombie films.

I must confess that I haven’t listened to every single episode. I have listened to over 95% of them though, even ones on subjects I already know about. As I said, he’ll uncover some amazing bit of trivia, or debunk some well held belief, and make your world all the better for it.

Hypnogoria is a podcast that easily joins the more traditional folklore type podcasts with pop culture shows like some podcast colossus (allow me the hyperbole here).

Everyday’s a school day with uncle Jim!

You can listen to Hypnogoria here


Or on your podcatcher of choice.


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