Writing in 2020

I managed to get web-published a number of times in 2020. Check it out:

The 18th Century and Social Networking on AdamSmithWorks – a discussion of networking with a particular focus on the Scottish Enlightenment.

Joseph Banks – A review of Patrick O’Brian’s biography of Joseph Banks: traveler, naturalist, botanist, courtier.

Review of Jesse Norman’s biography of Edmund Burke, Part 1 and Part 2 – Come for the life of Edmund Burke, stay for Norman’s strained defense post-Thatcher political Conservatism.

And while you are at AdamSmithWorks, please check out my wife’s discussion of fashion production in the Age of Smith.

Next Project – A Book

I’m not a Podcaster, I just write a lot. – What Big Pun would write if he were writing this blog post. Which he’s not. Because he’s dead.

With the end (for now) of the History You’ll Never Read podcast, I’m moving on to my next history project: writing a book.

I can honestly say I found the podcast process increasingly frustrating as it went on. Both the brevity and the style were not agreeable to me. In the future, I may turn to a more conversational style podcast with a partner, but while I’m still enthusiastic about history content, I believe it’s time to finally write a book.

It will be in the popular history style and be on the American Revolution as it took place outside the 13 colonies. Instead of the French being miraculous saviors that happen to show up at Yorktown and the Battle of the Chesapeake, we will look at their actions globally, from the Caribbean to India. The Spanish and the Dutch also have a role to play, from the Sieges of Pensacola and Gibraltar to the Battle of Dogger Bank. And I will certainly look at the role of the U.S.’s most accidental ally, the Sultan of Mysore.

There have been a couple of academic anthologies on this topic, but nothing that I have seen for the mass public. So often the Revolution is depicted as a hermetically sealed effort by the colonials to free themselves from Britain with a little reluctant help from the Ancien Régime. I hope to bring the global conflict to readers and show how much more indebted the United States is to other powers and how globally integrated the colonies were even before the war began.

I’m starting off with one of those anthologies: The American Revolution: A World War. This book appears to be filled with valuable information but it doesn’t have the narrative flow so vital to a popular history.

I’m also looking for a decently priced copy of: The American Revolution: A Global War. It appears to be out of print, so any leads I would appreciate.

This blog will be an ongoing record of research and documentation as well as particularly juicy bits I find interesting as I put it together. By following here, you’ll get a near real-time view into writing a history book. 

Comments, questions and recommendations should be sent to carl@carloberg.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Magazine survey

What magazines or websites should I read on the regular that are not news focused? I’m looking for weird, different, esoteric, varied, beautiful.

Here’s a short list of magazines and sites I am already aware of so we avoid duplicates:

  • Monocle
  • Gray’s Sporting Journal
  • Afar
  • Sun Magazine
  • Oxford Magazine
  • Cabinet
  • Esopus
  • Put A Egg On It
  • Lucky Peach

Chaotic Pho

Pho Dac Biet

I read these couple of paragraphs in Lucky Peach magazine just a few days ago and loved everything about it. Full credit to author Calvin Godfrey.

Pho purists often claim not to have a favorite spot in Ho Chi Minh City, and some refuse to eat pho there at all. These types delight in telling you that real pho only exists in Hanoi, or, worse, that the genuine article has vanished entirely, like the Javan tiger.

To those in that camp, every deviation from the Northern idea is an affront to good taste. The fresh herbs Saigonese tear into their bowls are stupid, and don’t get them started on the broth. Too much cinnamon. Too much sugar. Too many onions. Too much fat.

These poor bastards view themselves as starving in some sort of dry Platonic cave, watching shadow noodles devoured before a fire that burns behind them. How sad that they either cannot or will not recognize the hot, sexy swamp bubbling all around them — the throbbing anarchy in which the century-long evolution of pho continues in earnest.

It’s got everything: delicious pho, a rant against the whole idea of authenticity, love of evolved order, a Plato reference, and an implied rant against again so-called cultural appropriation. It’s amazing.



Larry King-style: An Experiment

Hummus should be everywhere …. What happened to Steve Guttenberg? …. I’m done with tapas unless someone else is paying …. I need to read Shelby Foote’s other books, whatever they are …. Trader Joe’s shopping is an expression of laziness for me …. I’m loving the show that @radiomori is putting on …. Did I change or did country music change? …. I’m disappointed that H. Harper Station is closing …. Glad to be camping this weekend because travel is a must …. The Amazon Fire TV game controller I bought was a waste …. Watch “Best of Enemies” on Netflix right now …. Is Simon Schama working on anything? …. Your dog can be enraging but you will both forget why very quickly.

Finally, does anyone remember the old Larry King USA Today columns?

Already learning


I am a terrible proofreader. That much is clear after only a week of this blogging experiment. I vomit my thoughts out on the screen, conduct a cursory overview, and then publish. And I inevitably miss spelling errors and many times, entire words. I am sure you have all noticed.

I am generally better than this at my paying job, so this strikes me as strange. Could it be an unconscious level of importance I place on blogging?

Christopher Hitchens: read him now

I re-started blog writing because every successful writer I know has told me, “Um, the only way you get better at writing is by writing.” It’s obvious, but it took me a while to hear it and act on it.

When I want to write, I turn to Christopher Hitchens for inspiration and guidance. I find every sentence well-crafted and the whole structure of almost everything he does just mesmerizing. He’s working above most opinion and reporting writers even when’s just tossing something off.


You may find some of Hitch’s work disagreeable. Indeed, the work I’m reading now is Letters to Young Contrarian and it is highly recommended. Within the first few pages he successfully steers you away from categorizing him as a mere naysayer, but rather someone with an awful lot to say, especially on topics that a lot of people don’t want to talk about. And it’s all done with light but deep prose that I don’t find anywhere else.

Part of the joy of Hitchens is his encyclopedic quote work, especially of people outside my normal range of familiarity. I’m less than halfway through but he’s already provided me with Harold Rosenberg referring to his friends as “the herd of intellectual minds.” How about a little Latin: Fiat justitia — ruat caelum. “Do justice, and let the skies fall.” And then a reminder that the cliche “miscarriage of justice” has the (perhaps intended) effect of pardoning all parties involved. Miscarriages happen. Most of the time what people mean is “abortions of justice,” but perhaps that’s a bit on the nose.

His brief but powerful examination of Emile Zola and the Dreyfus years in France also has me wondering what the hell happened to journalism in the United States. Hitchens would and did call them cowards. I’m fairly convinced.

Oh, and I read his Mortality while I was sick last year. It helped.

So read this book. Read Hitchens. Be delighted. Be enraged. Disagree with him and with me. He loves conflict and wants you to love it too. Because out of conflict comes truth and life. He quotes Aldous Huxley:

“Homer was wrong,” wrote Heracleitus of Ephesus. “Homer was wrong in saying: ‘Would that strife might perish from among the gods and men!’ He did not see that he praying for the destruction of the universe; for if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away.” These are the words on which the superhumanists should meditate. Aspiring toward a consistent perfection, they are aspiring toward annihilation. The Hindus had the wit to see and the courage to proclaim the fact; Nirvana, the goal of their striving, is nothingness. Wherever life exists, there also is inconsistency, division, strife.