I’ve noticed something kind cool recently. I mean, its not exactly a new concept and I’m hardly the first person to notice it. And I’m not even sure how to articulate it. I’ll do my best.
So have you noticed those moments when you learn a new word and suddenly you notice it everywhere? The most recent example for me was charcuterie (a type of meat/savory plate that often accompanies cheese plates). I learned the word from Binging with Babish’s video about charcuterie and cheese plates which I watched before heading to work. That day I was actually at a Christmas craft show helping advertise the company I work for. I ended up buying food there, specifically a charcuterie box.
It’s kind of like magic. You weren’t aware of something and then suddenly you are and you find it everywhere.
What I noticed recently is something similar though not as pervasive. It only really hits me in the right circumstances.
I’m talking about those moments and times when I’m reading something (usually history though sometimes popular fiction) and can remember bits and pieces. Not magically out of no where, of course. I mean I’ve heard about this subject and am now learning even more about it.
I don’t think I’m being very clear about this so I think I’ll try to clarify through the most common way that this occurs. It’s the Extra History channel (part of Extra Credits) that does this to me the most.
You see, on Extra History, the narrator will discuss a historical event or historical person in a single or, more common, series of five or six animated videos. I find them very interesting to both watch (the animation style can vary depending on the artist) or just listen to. They are very informative but they are necessarily going to be the basic information. Due to the set up of the series which maxes out a series at 6 videos (though sometimes they will do a second series on the same character or multiple series on big historical event like WWII). It’s all about taking really broad concepts or events and consolidating it down into an informative but not cluttered series of videos.
I find these videos fantastic for precisely that. The way they use animation style, the type of narrative, the use of humour in both visual and audio senses. Extra History makes history both interesting and education without being utterly overwhelming.
What’s even better is the fact that they follow each series up with an episode of “[Such and Such]: Lies”. This is a video where they admit to any mistakes they have made. This is so cool because it denotes the fact that these people are willing to admit they are experts in these subjects. They have done their own research and sometimes they misunderstand, don’t know all the details, or sometimes outright just make mistakes and don’t catch them (flags and their colouring through history is a big one here). The Lies video allows them to learn from their own audience and pass that information on.
But the Lies videos have other uses too. If the series has been written by a visiting writer who is an expert in the subject you get introduced to them here. You also get introduced to the sources where the information has been drawn from. And they take time to point out interesting information that didn’t fit in the video due to length or subject matter. Or interesting anecdotes that they haven’t necessarily been able to confirm across multiple sources.
They are a fantastic starting place. And that’s the effect I’ve noticed recently. I did not realize how much these videos have been a starting point for me. The fact that they’ve had to trim down what they can talk about on a subject due to video length they serve as an excellent overview. And then from there you can go nuts.
You can dig into their sources, you can dig into different sources, you can dig into semi-related events or specific people and so much more. They are a starting point that will get you interested and not teach you everything. You have to decide to learn more after that point.
And sometimes you won’t, at least not right away. I haven’t been able to do that in a really long time, to get interested in a specific topic and go crazy (I blame having to do something similar with my thesis meaning I didn’t really want to do it in my down time).
But sometimes you learn something and it sticks with you without realizing. Recently I’ve been reading on the events leading up to the First Crusade, “Infidel Kings & Unholy Warriors” by Brian A. Catlos specifically. And, as I finally arrived at the First Crusade, I found the people sounded familiar and that I recognized certain events that were happening. I was remembering Extra History’s video series on the First Crusade. It was helping even though I hadn’t watched it recently; it was making the topics more recognizable and familiar.
And this doesn’t just happen with Extra History, though that series is very prone to it. But this happens with other texts too. Documentaries, biographies, history texts. They all can start crossing over and reaching out to touch on each other. This is because no event or person can be cut off from society and history in general. You cannot understand Churchill without WWII nor can you consider the Second World War without men like Churchill. Topics bump up against each other all the time.
That’s the hard part for texts about history, philosophy, politics, or even texts about texts. Sometimes people really know where to start but not where to end. Or sometimes they don’t know where to start either because both start and end are actually kind of arbitrary. If you’re writing about Harry Potter then you have to narrow your topic. I looked at the virtues of the Houses as compared to Aristotle. Narrow topic. Except there was so much more I could have said because thoughts and topics connect to each other. At some point you just have to decided: that is not connected ENOUGH to be considered here. And that can effect your beginning too. Say you want to talk about WWII. Well, how much about WWI do you discuss. Because the road to WWII can be followed back to WWI, especially in places like Germany, but you’re not going to have a text of manageable length if you include both WWI and WWII and you can’t necessarily say your text is about WWII if it also considers WWI to any significant degree. People will say its misleading.
Instead you need to pick somewhere to start, somewhere to stop, and what information stays in the main series and what gets delegated to the Lies video, or what doesn’t even get mentioned there and is left to the viewer to dig further on their own.
But when you have the moment where two subjects or mediums connect to each other you can appreciate everything that had to come together to get to that point. It’s someone reaching out and taking your hand, teaching you, showing you something new. It’s fantastic and I hope you get to experience it often!