July, 2010

Penguin Turns 75 & Two Bestsellers to Give Away

in Books | July 30th, 2010

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Penguin Books. And to celebrate this milestone, they’re driving a Mini Cooper adorned with the Penguin logo across the US this summer, donating books to local libraries and literacy groups. Then, in September, the festivities will culminate with a fundraising party at the New York Public Library. The folks at Penguin were kind enough to include us in their celebration. So today, we have two free books to give away. One is a copy of Elizabeth Gibert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love; the other is a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. They’re just two among Penguin’s 4,000 books in print.

So how does this work?: The two copies will go to the first readers who send us a compelling piece of open/intelligent media that we choose to post on the site. (If you’re looking for more guidance on what we have in mind, please read the tips on this page.) You can submit your media picks here. And when you do, please indicate which book you want. We will select two winners (one per book) and announce the names when we post the media picks on Open Culture next week. Thanks for your suggestions, and have a great weekend.

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Elvis Costello Sings “Penny Lane” for Sir Paul

in Music | July 29th, 2010

Last month, President Obama awarded Paul McCartney the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. And then the concert (aired last night on PBS) began. Among the highlights was Elvis Costello singing “Penny Lane” with a member of the President’s United States Marine band playing the piccolo trumpet. It’s a downright wonderful version. You can watch the entire program online here.

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The New Science of Morality (in Video)

in Psychology, Science | July 29th, 2010

Earlier this year, Sam Harris argued at TED that we’re on the verge of a scientific revolution. We’ll see the day when science (particularly neuroscience) can rigorously address moral questions, providing definitive/universal answers to questions of right and wrong. The pursuit of a “moral science” is nothing new. Enlightenment thinkers began this project long ago. But Harris has dusted it off, modernized it a bit, and created some controversy along the way. Just last week, he took part in a conference presented by Edge.org: The New Science of Morality. Over the next month, Edge will be making available 10 hours of video from the two-day conference, rolling it out in a serialized fashion. It all kicks off with a talk by Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, known for his book The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. You can start watching here

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The Math of Rock Climbing

in Math | July 29th, 2010

Heights, I hate them. But Skip Garibaldi, a professor of mathematics at Emory University, doesn’t mind them much, and here he describes how math figures into his passion for rock climbing – how it makes the difference between a safe climb and a potentially dangerous one. Includes a quick trip to El Capitan, a 3000 foot vertical climb in Yosemite National Park…

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“The Best Magazine Articles Ever”

in Literature, Media | July 28th, 2010

“The Best Magazine Articles Ever” – Sure the list is subjective. It’s all in English, and heavily slanted toward male writers. But you can’t quibble with this. This curated collection features pieces by some of the finest American writers of the past generation. We’ve highlighted 10 notables ones from a much longer list available here.

1 ) John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” The New Yorker, October 22, 1960.

2) Norman Mailer, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” Esquire, November 1960.

3) Tom Wolfe, “The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!” Esquire, March 1965.

4) Hunter Thompson, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1970.

5) Stewart Brand, “Space War: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Dearth Among Computer Bums. Rolling Stone, December 7, 1972.

6) David Foster Wallace, “The String Theory.” Esquire, July 1996.

7) Jon Krakauer, “Into Thin Air.” Outside Magazine, September 1996.

8) Susan Orlean, “Orchid Fever.” The New Yorker, January 23, 1995.

9) Malcolm Gladwell, “The Pitchman.” The New Yorker, October 30, 2000. (Yup, he’s Canadian, I know.)

10) Katie Hafner, “The Epic Saga of The Well.” Wired, May 1997.

via @caitlinroper

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Nelson Mandela’s First-Ever TV Interview (1961)

in History, Politics, Television, Video - Politics/Society | July 28th, 2010

Note: This post was originally featured on our site in 2010. In light of the news that Nelson Mandela has passed away at age 95, we’re bringing this vintage clip back to the fore. Here you can see a young Mandela making history, and without perhaps realizing it, building the remarkable legacy that remains with us today.

In 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested on allegations of sabotage and other charges and sentenced to life in prison, where he spent 27 years before becoming South Africa’s first president elected in a fully democratic election. His story, among modern history’s most profoundly inspirational, is beautifully and poetically captured in Clint Eastwood’s 2009 gem, Invictus. But what Eastwood’s account leaves out are the events that preceded and led to Mandela’s arrest.

In May of 1961, a 42-year-old Mandela gave his first-ever interview to ITN reporter Brian Widlake as part of a longer ITN Roving Report program about Apartheid. At that point, the police are already hunting for Mandela, but Widlake pulls some strings and arranges to meet him in his hideout. When the reporter asks Mandela what Africans want, he promptly responds:

“The Africans require, want the franchise, the basis of One Man One Vote – they want political independence.”

But perhaps more interesting is the dialogue towards the end of the interview, where Mandela explores the complex relationship between peace and violence as protest and negotiation tactics. We’re left wondering whether his seemingly sudden shift from a completely peaceful campaign strategy up to that point towards considering violence as a possibility may be the product of South African police going after him with full force that week. Violence, it seems, does breed violence even in the best and noblest of us.

Related Content:

Nelson Mandela Archive Goes Online (With Help From Google)

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Goes Online

U2 Releases a Nelson Mandela-Inspired Song, “Ordinary Love”

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness and indiscriminate curiosity. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, BigThink and Huffington Post, and spends a disturbing amount of time curating interestingness on Twitter.

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Powers of Ten: 1977 Short Film by Designers Ray & Charles Eames Gives Brilliant Tour of Universe

in Math, Science | July 27th, 2010

In 1977, Ray and Charles Eames, the famous LA designers, produced the short film Powers of Ten. The movie starts with a fixed point in Chicago, then zooms out into the universe by factors of ten. And, before too long, you find yourself 100 million light years away. Based on Kees Boeke’s 1957 book, Cosmic View, the 10-minute film offers what amounts to a breathtaking tour of the universe. This clip was sent our way by Helena, who will get a free copy of the new Rolling Stones documentary, Stones in Exile.

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Mike Wallace and Bennett Cerf (Founder of Random House) Talk Censorship

in Books, Television | July 27th, 2010

Long before 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace hosted his own talk show, The Mike Wallace Interview (1957 – 1960), where he asked probing questions to celebrities of the day. The complete archive – now available via the University of Texas (access it here) – features interviews with Frank Lloyd WrightEleanor RooseveltSalvador DaliReinhold NiebuhrAldous Huxley, and Henry Kissinger, to name a few. In another notable interview, Wallace talked with Bennett Cerf (watch here), co-founder of the publishing giant Random House, and eventually the conversation turned to censorship. Cerf’s comments date back more than 50 years, but the issue never really goes away. File under: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

WALLACE: Well, yet you say, one of the greatest threats facing book publishing and the entire country is censorship.

CERF: That’s right.

WALLACE: What is the… Who does the censoring, and what is the motive of those who censor?

CERF: Well, now that would take a lot of exploration Mike. I think there are an awful lot of people in this country, who are not satisfied to govern themselves and their own families. Or the people who belong to the same cult that they do, but who have taken upon themselves, to tell everybody else what they should read, what they should see, and what they should think.

WALLACE: For what reason do they do it?

CERF: I guess, they think it will make them more sure of getting to heaven. I don’t know why they do it. I think they’re selling short, the good taste of the American public.

WALLACE: Who are these people, who would like to inflict this kind of censorship upon the American public? What are the groups?

CERF: Self-appointed snoop hounds.

WALLACE: Such as… such as…

CERF: They come from all… walks of life, er… in all the way back to colonial days, and in times of the Puritans. There were people who were telling others, what they most think, how they must behave, and what their morals must be. These people cannot resist butting in.

via Richard S.

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US Government Opens Tech/Culture

in iPhone, Media, Technology | July 26th, 2010

Today’s ruling is bound to get a lot of buzz, but probably for the wrong reasons. According to new rules set forth by The Library of Congress (which oversees the Copyright Office), iPhone owners can now legally “jailbreak” their device and download software that Apple/AT&T disapproves of. That will get the headlines. But we shouldn’t lose sight of this: This far-reaching ruling goes well beyond the iPhone itself and also allows (among other things) “college professors, film students and documentary filmmakers to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism, commentary and noncommercial videos.” (The quoted material comes from the AP, not the ruling itself). In short, these new guidelines give consumers greater latitude to decide how they want to use computers, gadgets and media they’ve purchased.  And they clear up some legal murkiness that has surrounded these issues, particularly within universities, for some time. A good day for government … and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which pushed for these protections.

PS Does this still mean that Apple can void your warranty if you jailbreak your iPhone? I’m not sure whether that goes away or not…

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