Robert Altman

Robert Altman has died at 81, leaving behind a legacy of ambitious films. After making his mark with MASH in 1970, Altman’s career moved along in fits and starts. He would give us The Long Goodbye in 1973, Nashville in 1975, unfortunately Popeye in 1980 (and nothing else too remarkable during the 1980s), then two career-reviving films, The Player and Short Cuts, in 1992 & 1993, and Gosford Park in 2001. Despite being a five-time Academy Award nominee for best director, Altman never received an Oscar until this past year, when he received a lifetime achievement award, recognizing his distinctive film-making style. Glimpses into discrete slices of American life (Hollywood, the country music scene, the fashion world, etc.), large casts, long improvised scenes, complex mosaics of characters — these were all trademarks of Altman’s filmmaking, and what his legacy will call to mind.

Altman’s complete filmography

A.O. Scott’s Look Back

Variety Obit

New Yorker Review of Nashville (1975)

Here, Altman talks about the difficulties of making MASH

Free University Podcasts, Videos, and Online Courses: The Central Collection

There’s a lot of free, high quality educational materials floating around the ether. It’s just a question of knowing where to find them, and what’s wheat and what’s chaff. On the left hand side of this page, you will find carefully-selected collections of free university podcasts, free online courses and media, and free educational web resources. These pages will stay under active development. So bookmark them, watch them grow, and profit well from them.

The Pynchon Reviews Roll Out

And it’s not looking too pretty. The New York Times review begins:

Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, “Against the Day,” reads like the sort of imitation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that a dogged but ungainly fan of this author’s might have written on quaaludes. It is a humongous, bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex.

You can read the rest here.

Also see the New Yorker review.

Milton Friedman Remembered

Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winner, architect and leading advocate of free markets, and one of the most important economists of the 20th century, died this past week at 94.

The University of Chicago, where Friedman taught since 1946, has collected a series of articles reviewing his life and accomplishments. Along similar lines, Stanford’s Hoover Institution, with which Friedman was affiliated from 1977 until his death, has posted a page that includes links to videos featuring the economist. (Look for the videos under the area called "Publications.")

Finally, from the Youtube archives, you can see a short clip from 1980, where we find a younger Milton Friedman and Don Rumsfeld in conversation.

Plato To Go (The Republic Now on iTunes)

If you have some time on your hands, you can download and listen to a complete audio version of Plato’s Republic on your iPod. Divided into 12 installments, this monument of political theory is written in dialogue form. And it certainly helps that these dialogues are read by an actor. This nice touch helps hold your attention, while also giving you a good feel for the aesthetics of Platonic dialogues. (They were meant to be spoken, rather than read, after all.) If you have iTunes, click here to enter. If you don’t, you can download it here from Apple for free. Enjoy.

Yale Takes the Podcast Plunge

Yale announced yesterday that it’s joining the podcast revolution, and they’re doing it with a little bit of ooomph. (If you have iTunes, click here to enter Yale’s collection. If you don’t, you can download it here from Apple for free.) What you’ll find on Yale iTunes are free lectures by Yale’s big hitters. You’ll find Vincent Scully talking about Philip Johnson’s architecture, John Gaddis giving us his spiel on the future of the Bush Administration, Madeline Albright praising the virtues of public service, and Tian Xu giving us the lowdown on the state of the human genome. As a parting thought, I guess this means that Harvard should be launching something some time soon. Days? weeks? months? It’s only a matter of time. We’ll keep an eye on it. In the meantime, load Yale’s finest on to your iPod and prosper.

Google Presents the Classics (for Free)

There’s more to Google Book Search than a good lawsuit.
These days, they’re serving up the classics — all in the public domain
— for free. Literary folks can now read and search the complete
collection of Shakespeare’s works. And, in some cases, you can even
download PDF versions to your computer. (Check out Exploring Shakespeare with Google.) Beyond the Bard, you can also get The Iliad and The Odyssey, from the original bard, Homer. A little Dante’s Inferno in Italian, plus Machiavelli’s The Prince in translation. And Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I think you get the picture. If it’s old and classic, you can nab it at Google Book Search.


  • Google’s Scary Stories – For Halloween, Google put together a nice page where you can read or download some spooky classics on the cheap. Here, you’ll find Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Henry Jame’s Turn of the Screw, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, and more. For more info, see Google’s Blog entry.

Stanford on Your iPod: The Literature of Crisis

Day after day, on campuses across the country, professors impart invaluable knowledge to students. And, somewhat unfortunately, this knowledge has been traditionally disseminated only so far — which is to say not beyond the classroom walls.

We’re perhaps at the early stages of seeing this change. Stanford University has recently teamed up with Apple to pilot iTunes U — a variation on the iTunes software package that exploded into consumer consciousness with the iPod revolution.

Until recently, Stanford has used iTunes U to make available a series of one-off lectures, many of them extremely worthwhile. (If you have iTunes, click here to enter Stanford iTunes. If you don’t, you can download it from Apple for free.) But what’s new is the university’s decision to make full-fledged courses available to the public. This quarter we’re starting to see that decision bear some fruit. In iTunes, you’ll now find weekly installments of a course called The Literature of Crisis. Taught by Marsh McCall and Martin Evans, two senior faculty members, the course explores how crisis — dramatic personal crisis and larger societal crisis — have shaped the lives and writings of major intellectuals, from Plato, to Shakespeare, to Voltaire. Whether you live in Palo Alto, New York, or Bangalore, you can subscribe to this course as a podcast by clicking here, and, each week your iPod should automatically download the latest installment. (If you don’t have an iPod, you can simply listen to the course on your computer.)

Click to access:

Stanford on iTunes

Literature and Crisis

The Quick Start Guide to Stanford on iTunes

If you want to subscribe to the individual RSS feeds rolling into Stanford on iTunes, just click here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.