ON THE ISLE
On the verdant 55-acre campus of the private Stony Brook
School, Lars Brownworth is a history teacher with dozens of students.
In the vast cyberworld of the Internet, Brownworth is a history teacher,
too, with tens of thousands of devoted listeners.
Brownworth's very specialized podcast series, "12 Byzantine Rulers" - 12
lectures so far, and he's only on the 8th emperor - is a big hit, with a 5 (out
of 5) star rating from listeners at iTunes, where his lectures often top the
Higher Educational list as most popular. (The podcast has more than 175,000
downloads per month, according to Brownworth's brother, Anders.) Wired magazine
wrote that Brownworth exhibits "an infectious passion for his subject."
For the uninitiated: A podcast is a recorded program that can be listened
to on a computer or downloaded to an MP3 player such as an iPod. The most
popular distribution site is Apple's iTunes. Most podcasts, including
Brownworth's, are free.
"I was always interested in history, always reading books about the Roman
Empire," says Brownworth, 30, who grew up at the private high school where he
now teaches. His father, Thom, who still works there, teaches math. Brownworth
heads one of the boys' dorms, where he also lives. He majored in history at
Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y.
"In school, we were taught that the Roman Empire ended in 476. . . . I
always wondered what would have happened if the Roman Empire had continued,"
Brownworth says. "Then I discovered that, in the East, it hadn't fallen."
It became what we call the Byzantine Empire, an era often filled with chaos
and bloody coups that had a tremendous impact on world history until it ended
in 1453. Its citizens considered themselves Romans, Brownworth says, though
they no longer controlled Rome.
Diocletian, the first emperor Brownworth profiles, divided the empire into
East and West before retiring to become a cabbage farmer. Next up is
Constantine, who founded Constantinople, also known as Byzantium and now
Istanbul. If it weren't for Constantinople's sturdy walls, which stopped Muslim
armies in the 7th century, Brownworth says, Europe would almost certainly have
"The consequences are too many to calculate," he says. "We owe this
incredible debt to Constantinople, and we sort of ignore it." His favorite
emperor, he says, is Justinian, who built the Hagia Sofia church, "the most
beautiful building in the world," Brownworth says, where "you can see the spot
where emperors were crowned . . . and get a glimpse of what Byzantium was."
During a 2001 visit, he says, he "fell in love" with the era he had already
been reading a lot about.
In 2004, he says, he was "yakking" to his brother Anders about Byzantine
history, and Anders suggested he record a summary. In June 2005, when Apple
began its podcast directory - and Lars was in Jordan - Anders posted the
"I had completely forgotten about it," Lars says. "As soon as I got back
home, we recorded another, and it took off from there." Anders, an officer of
North Carolina-based tech company bandwidth.com, does the recording and posting
when they're together, Lars says. They plan to complete two more during the
Christmas break. He'd like to collect the lectures into a book, Lars Brownworth
says. "I'm in the dreaming phase."
Though most listeners go through iTunes, "12 Byzantine Rulers" is also
posted, with additional commentary, at anders.com/lectures/lars
Robert Rickenbacker, a Freeport resident, is making his presence felt on
the Internet as host of "The What's Hot Radio Show," on which he plays songs by
independent and unsigned hip-hop and R&B artists, imparts entertainment news
and occasionally chats with guests, such as Brooklyn's Live Wire, who recently
"This is the amazing thing about it: I do it from my house, in my
basement," says Rickenbacker, 38, an actor who has appeared on TV's "Law &
Order: Trial by Jury" and "Third Watch" and in the film "Freedomland." He's
been cast as Brooks in "Brooks and Brenner," an upcoming Internet TV show about
two hapless police detectives who try to solve cases "and never come up with
anything." It's to start at itsa shoot.net in January.
But with only a microphone and a computer, he's been able to enter what he
calls the Internet entertainment revolution.
About six months ago, Rickenbacker says, he answered a Craigslist ad from
TribecaRad io.net and proposed his hour-long show. He used to be a hip-hop
artist himself, he says, as Kool Rob-O: "I was a star in my own neighborhood."
He got out, he says, because violence and profanity dominated the field. He
insists that songs he plays - which people e-mail him - be clean. Through his
own company, First Team Entertainment, he also manages musicians.
Rickenbacker switched his moniker to Mr. R, he says, to honor his father,
who died in 1996. He had owned his own Freeport plumbing business and was
called Mr. R by Rickenbacker's friends.
Two months ago, he answered another ad, and now his show, in a two-hour
version with 32 songs, is also on ivnet.tv, where he says he has 325,000
listeners: "It's a great opportunity. You can reach the masses all over the
"The What's Hot Radio Show" on TribecaRadio.netat 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday
and Friday or anytime as a podcast; on ivnet.tv only Sunday nights, 9-11 p.m.
Chelsea Mansion, a historic 40-room residence on the 550-acre Muttontown
Preserve, is lavishly decorated for Christmas and open for tours this weekend,
Thursday through Saturday and Dec. 28-30, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The last tour starts
at 4 p.m. Highlights include 16 decorated trees, an antique toy display and an
exhibit about Clement Clark Moore, author of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"
and great-great grandfather of Benjamin Moore, who built the mansion in 1924.
The Moore exhibit presents different printed versions of the poem and
depictions of Santa from 1849 to the present, says Michael Butkewicz, site
director and tour leader. Also look for a gallery with framed photos of
Chelsea and other sites for sale, he says. The preserve is off Route 25A just
west of Route 106; $12 adults, $8 seniors, $5 ages 8-17, free younger than 8.
For information, 516-571-8551 or nassaucountyny.gov/parks.
Kenny Rogers, left, brings his 25th annual Christmas show to North Fork
Theatre, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury, at 8 p.m. Wednesday. He�ll sing
Christmas classics, old hits ("The Gambler") and new ones, including "I Can�t
Unlove You" from his latest album, "�Water & Bridges." Joining him will be
country star Linda Davis, a local choir and children. Tickets, $61.50 and
$51.50, at box office, Ticketmaster, 631-888-9000, 212-307-7171 and
livenation.com . For information, 516-334-0800
. For information, 516-334-0800.
E-mail Aileen Jacobson at firstname.lastname@example.org