Bernstein Breaks Down Beethoven

In the mid-1950s, the American composer Leonard Bernstein made several appearances on Omnibus, a television show dedicated to covering the sciences, arts and humanities. During his visits, Bernstein walked audiences through the art of making music. Take for example the clip above where he breaks down the making of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Just how did Beethoven craft it? And what decisions did he need to make along the way? What parts to include? And not to include? (You can see the full program here: Part 1Part 2Part 3, & Part 4). Other episodes focus on the work of Bach, and also the worlds of Jazz, OperaAmerican Musicals, and the conductor's craft. Happily, all seven of Bernstein's appearances have been collected in a newly released DVD collection, which you can find on Amazon. Hat tip to Mike.

via The New York Times

Kindle Experiment Falls Flat at Princeton

Last fall, Princeton launched a small experiment, replacing traditional textbooks with the Kindle DX, Amazon's large e-book reader. Almost from the beginning, the 50 students participating in the pilot program expressed dissatisfaction with the devices. Yesterday, a university report offered some more definitive findings. On the upside, students using the Kindle DX ended up using far less paper. (Paper consumption was generally reduced by 54%.) On the downside, students complained that the Kindle was fundamentally "ill-suited for class readings." As one student put it:

I expected it to be a really useful tool that would enhance my experience, but it has hindered my studies in a lot of different ways... I wasn’t able to absorb the material as well as if I had hard copies of the readings, and I had to deal with a lot of technical inconveniences just from the design of the Kindle.

For more, give the Daily Princetonian a read.

via @jryoung

Jonathan Safran Foer on Eating

Note: You should be able to download Safran Foer’s new book for free (in audio format) through Audible.com’s no strings attached offer. Details here.

MIT LED Helicopters: The Early Smart Pixels

Imagine a TV display that contains millions of "smart pixels" that can move into different places and reliably create 3D images? That's what researchers at an MIT research lab are currently doing. But, in the absence of real smart pixels, they're using "remotely controlled micro-helicopters that can be choreographed electronically to display shapes and images." (Read more about this in Wired.) The clip above offers a two minute demo of the "Flyfire" project, showing the micro-helicopters in action...

The Remixable Textbook

This morning, Macmillan announced a new kind of textbook -- a remixable electronic textbook that will give professors, according the New York Times, the ability "to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations or illustrations." Essentially, Macmillan provides the core text, and then professors get to customize the book to their liking. This remixing is a definite plus. But what's even better? This new line of textbook, dubbed DynamicBooks, will reduce costs for students, bringing a book traditionally priced at $150 down to a much saner $47. Perfect for the lean years. For more details, read this longer piece in Publishers Weekly.

See our young and growing collection of Free Textbooks.

Stanford Online Writing Courses – The Spring Lineup

A quick fyi: Starting this morning, Stanford Continuing Studies opened registration for its spring lineup of online writing courses. Offered in partnership with the Stanford Creative Writing Program (one of the most distinguished writing programs in the country), these online courses give beginning and advanced writers, no matter where they live, the chance to refine their craft with gifted writing instructors. As you will see, there are a couple of courses offered in conjunction with The New York Times. The idea here is that you'll learn writing from a Stanford writing instructor and then get your work reviewed by a New York Times book critic/writer. Quite a perk. And the courses sell out quickly. For more information, click here, or separately check out the FAQ and the testimonials.

Caveat emptor: These classes are not free, and I helped set them up. So while I wholeheartedly believe in these courses, you can take my views with a grain of salt.

Loudon Wainwright III Sings “The Krugman Blues”

Loudon Wainwright III has released a new album, Songs for the New Depression, that fittingly features “The Krugman Blues,” an homage to the Princeton, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, who has documented America's economic spiral in The New York Times. You can watch the Krugman Blues above, and get the full album at Wainwright's web site.

via The New Yorker

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