Weekly Wrap – June 24

Another week, another wrap:

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Open Culture explores cultural and educational media (podcasts, videos, online courses, etc.) that’s freely available on the web, and that makes learning dynamic, productive, and fun. We sift through all the media, highlight the good and jettison the bad, and centralize it in one place. Trust us, you’ll find engaging content here that will keep you learning and sharp. And you will find it much more efficiently than if you spend your time searching with Google, Yahoo or iTunes.

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Dan Colman, the lead editor, is the Director & Associate Dean of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program. Before that, he served as the Managing Director of AllLearn, an e-learning consortium owned by Stanford, Oxford and Yale, and as the Director of Business Development and Editorial Manager at About.com. He received his PhD and MA from Stanford, and his BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The common thread running through his career is his interest in bringing relevant, perspective-changing information to large audiences, often with the help of the internet.

Ed Finn, a regular contributor, is a graduate student in Stanford’s Department of English, where he studies the intersections of literature and technology, new media and media theory. Before coming to Stanford, he worked as an Assistant Editor at Slate and Popular Science and spent some time as a freelance journalist. He is also the author of The Legend of the O.K. Corral. You can check out his professional blog here.

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The Top 25 Educational Podcasts on iTunes – June 22

We haven't visited the list of iTunes' top educational podcasts since April. So it's time for another look...What we've got here is pretty much a case of "plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose." Or, put differently, even though two months have passed, it is still foreign language lesson podcasts that are ruling the day, particularly podcasts that will teach you Spanish, French and Italian. Also, the ever popular "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" is still holding strong. The one major new addition is a free audio book of Pride and Prejudice. Audio books have almost never appeared on this list, so the #2 position of this podcast testifies to the enduring popularity of this great Jane Austen work. Lastly, it's worth mentioning that no audio from universities has made it into the top 25. There is something just a little bit wrong with this picture, wouldn't you say?

#1. Coffee Break Spanish iTunes Feed Web Site

#2. Pride and Prejudice iTunes

#3. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing iTunes Feed Web Site

#4. The French Pod Class iTunes Feed Web Site

#5. LearnItalianPod.com iTunes Feed Web Site

#6. Insta Spanish Lessons iTunes Feed Web Site

#7. Learn Spanish Survival Guide iTunes Feed

#8. Learn French by Podcast iTunes Feed Web Site

#9. MyDailyPhrase Italian iTunes Web Site

#10. Let's Speak Italian iTunes Feed Web Site

#11. Spanish Success iTunes Web Site

#12. Chinesepod.com iTunes Feed Web Site

#13. JapanesePod101.com iTunes Feed Web Site

#14. French for Beginners iTunes Feed Web Site

#15. Learn French with Daily Podcasts iTunes Feed Web Site

#16. Just Vocabulary iTunes

#17. Finally Learn Spanish - Beyond the Basics iTunes Feed Web Site

#18. Digital Photography Tips from the Top Floor iTunes Feed Web Site

#19. Spanish Sense iTunes Feed Web Site

#20. Princeton Review Vocabulary Minute iTunes Feed Web Site

#21. Learn German with German-Podcast.de iTunes Feed Web Site

#22. Ma France iTunes Feed Web Site

#23. TEDTalks (Video) iTunes Feed Web Site

#24. Notes in Spanish (Advanced) iTunes Feed Web Site

#25. Notes in Spanish (Intermediate) iTunes Feed Web Site

The Trouble with Judas

The trouble with Judas is that if he was carrying out God's plan, was he really evil? The point has been made everywhere from seminaries to Jesus Christ, Superstar, but it suddenly became more urgent with the rediscovery of a putative Gospel of Judas in 2004. Religious scholars Elaine Pagels and Karen King have a new book out on the subject (reviewed this week in the New York Times). Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity seems to take a middle-of-the-road approach, arguing that the gospel (written in the third century AD, not by Judas himself) takes a critical position against the hegemony of the early Christian church. Whether that vindicates the most famous betrayal in narrative history is a tough one--Pagels and King argue that it all depends on how attached Jesus really felt to his body. To find out more, check out this podcast Pagels and King gave at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, or listen to their interview with Terry Gross on NPR.

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James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Free Podcast

This is a book that needs no introduction, but we will give it a short one anyway. Published in serial format between 1918 and 1920, James Joyce’s Ulysses was initially reviled by many and banned in the US and UK until the 1930s. Today, it’s widely considered a classic in modernist literature, and The Modern Library went so far as to call it the most important English-language novel published during the 20th century. Although chronicling one ordinary day in the life of Leopold Bloom in 1904 Dublin, Ulysses is no small work. It sprawls over 750 pages, using over 250,000 words, and takes over 32 hours to read aloud. Or, at least that’s how long it took the folks over at Librivox. In the Bloomsday tradition, a cast of readers participated in the project, offering creative readings with “pub-like background noise.” The audio files can be downloaded as many individual mp3 files here, or as one big zip file here.This is not the only free audio version of Ulysses. There is another not quite traditional version put out by “Paigerella” (iTunes - Feed). And, while you’re at it, you might as well check out a reading of “Araby” (iTunes - Feed), a short story from Joyce’s collection, Dubliners. It's provided courtesy of Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast. Next up, we hope is a nice reading of Finnegan’s Wake.For more free audio books, including many good ones from Librivox, see our Audio Book Podcast Collection.

Apple iTunes

University Podcasts: The New Video Wave on iTunes

When universities first started developing their podcast collections, a good number took their audio archives -- the many lectures and talks they had recorded over the years -- and uploaded them onto iTunes. Now, months later, some institutions are turning to their video archives. Most notably, MIT has given users access to video podcasts taken from its ambitious OpenCourseWare initiative. (Harvard has done something similar with its series, Harvard@Home, although the collection is considerably smaller.) Moving these videos onto iTunes makes perfect sense. While it's unlikely that many will watch these videos on their actual iPods, it seems safe to assume that new audiences will get exposed to these collections and be contented with watching these clips on their computers at least, or perhaps on Apple TV down the road. iTunes has become a dynamic marketing/distribution platform, with masses of users flocking to it and discovering new content along the way. For institutions like MIT, shifting content onto iTunes streamlines their efforts to get their content noticed, which makes the project a no-brainer with no downside. For more on the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, click here. For info on the recent integration of iTunes U with iTunes, click here.See our complete University Podcast Collection.

The Salman Rusdie Affair: Part II

Almost 20 years ago, Salman Rushdie published his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, never realizing how this literary event would change his life. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran’s religious and political revolution, saw in the book “blasphemous” depictions of the prophet Muhammad, and then handed down a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death. For the next decade, Rushdie was driven underground, making only infrequent appearances in public. And it wasn’t until the late 90s that things simmered down, the death threats subsided, and the writer returned to living a semi-normal life. Then came this past week …Buckingham Palace announced Queen Elizabeth’s plans to knight Rushdie, making him Sir Salman, and it all began again. Recalling the Danish cartoon controversy that swept the Muslim world in 2005, ranking political officials, from Iran to Pakistan, have revived the threats against the British-Indian novelist as well as Britain, taking the Queen’s knighting as an intentional slight against Islam. The mere fact that Rushdie is a splendid writer whose body of work goes well beyond The Satanic Verses never quite figures into the picture, however. (Try giving Midnight’s Children a read to see what I mean.) You can get more on Part II of the Rushdie Affair here and here, and you can also watch Rushdie reading from The Satanic Verses below. 

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