Joni Mitchell on “When Free is Not Enough”

A faithful reader sent in lyrics that seemed quite apropos to Ed’s piece yesterday on free music in the subway. Let’s post them. (Thanks John.)

Real Good for Free
©1974 by Joni Mitchell

I slept last night in the Fairmont Hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
Wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools

I was standing on the noisy corner
I was waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood and he played real good
On his clarinet for free

Now me, I play for fortune
And those velvet curtain calls
I got a black limousine and sixteen gentlemen
Escorting me to these halls

And I play if you have the money
Or if you’re some kind of friend to me
But the one man band by the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good for free

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he’d never been on their TV
So they passed his good music by

I meant to go over to him and ask for a song
Maybe put on some kind of harmony
I heard his refrain as that signal changed
He was playing real good, for free.

Joshua Bell Plays Multimillion Dollar Fiddle in D.C. Metro

Recently a Washington Post staff writer, Gene Weingarten, decided to conduct an usual experiment about high culture. He talked one of the world’s finest violinists, Joshua Bell, into taking his multimillion dollar fiddle to the Washington D.C. metro and playing incognito for commuters during the morning rush hour. The result? Hardly anyone slowed down, let alone stopped to listen. Weingarten’s article explores what happened in fascinating detail and raises troubling questions about how we experience free culture. Does art only matter when we enjoy it in the right context? After a few minutes in the subway, Bell said his own expectations were radically lowered, to the point that he was sickeningly grateful when someone dropped a dollar instead of a quarter into his (multimillion dollar) violin case. Check out his amazing performance (apparently the acoustics were pretty good in the metro station):

You can listen to the full version of Bell’s impromptu concert on the Washington Post website here. Incidentally, he went on to win the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize this week. Meanwhile Garten, the Washington Post writer who masterminded the stunt, discussed the experience on On the Media last Friday (iTunesFeedSite).

Pop!Tech Pop!Casts (and Some New TED Talks)

PoptechEach October, Pop!Tech brings together 550+ leaders in science, technology, business, social
entrepreneurship, the arts, culture and media to "explore the social impact of innovative technologies, breakthrough scientific discoveries and original approaches to tackling humanity’s toughest challenges."  And quite nicely some of the major talks are captured and made available to you via video podcasts (iTunesFeedWeb Site). Among the downloadable recordings, you’ll find talks by Thomas Friedman (New York Times writer and author of The World is Flat), Carolyn Porco (who leads the Imaging Science Team on the Cassini mission to Saturn), Richard Dawkins (where doesn’t this guy speak these days?), Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail and ubiquitous speaker), and Martin Marty (a leading commentator on religion and culture).

Just to give you a little more context, the latest conference was organized around the following agenda:

What is a “dangerous” idea? It’s one that upends conventions, challenges assumptions and breaks taboos, reordering our sense of the world and our place within it. It’s an idea, as Victor Hugo said, whose time has come…. Here’s just some of what we’ll be discussing:

  • The nature of risk in the connected age
  • Bright green possibilities
  • Globalization’s great surprises
  • The role of faith and fundamentalism
  • Pandemics and their prevention
  • New approaches to education
  • The creative imperative
  • New frontiers of exploration
  • What technology wants from us
  • Our constructed selves
  • Conflict, resolution and the possibility of peace

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that TED Talks, a rather similar conference that brings together the cognoscenti, has just re-launched its web site and also released videos from its April conference. Though they’re not yet accessible on iTunes, you can grab these talks from the web site and feed. Tune in and give a listen to Bill Clinton, E.O. Wilson, Thomas Dolby, Jeff Bezos and more.

How Einstein Became Einstein

      Einstein_3The narrative of Albert Einstein’s life provides hope to every underachiever out there. Einstein was slow to start speaking. His teachers predicted early on that he’d never amount to much. When he completed his graduate work, he was the only student in his cohort who couldn’t land a university position. And so he wound up working at a patent office in Switzerland. The young Einstein was apparently “no Einstein.” 

But it was at the patent office that young Albert fleshed out his theories on relativity, and he’d eventually win a Nobel Prize. Later, when he traveled to the United States, he was welcomed as a rock star. All of this is recounted in Walter Isaacson’s new biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe, which John Updike reviewed in a recent New Yorker. The former managing editor at Time magazine and head of CNN, Isaacson writes biographies that are rich but approachable. To get a feel for his style, you can listen to him talk about Einstein during an appearance on Fresh Air (iTunesFeed). And, just as an interesting aside, you can download Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory as a free audio book from Librivox (full zip fileindividual mp3 files).

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Jazz Podcasts – A New Collection Begins

TraneWe’ve previously put you in touch with great classical music podcasts (here and here). Now it’s time to
focus on jazz. Today, we’re highlighting 16 podcasts that will keep you current on today’s jazz scene. You’ll know what’s happening in Chicago, Detroit, New York and beyond. You’ll also find some podcasts that explore some jazz greats — namely, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. This list will grow as we encounter more quality material. If you see that we’re missing a good one, drop us a line. In the future, you’ll be able to find these podcasts in our larger collection of Arts & Culture Podcasts. For all of our podcasts, click here.

  • Bending Corners  Feed  Web Site
    • BendingCorners explores the groove within: acid jazz, afro-beat, bop, cool jazz, cosmic jazz, dub, downtempo, electro-jazz, fusion, future jazz, groove jazz, jazzatronic, jazz dance, jazz-funk, jazz-rock, kozmigroov, modal, phusion, progressive, modern, nu-jazz, soul-jazz, spiritual, and world. (If you don’t know how to work with feeds, see our Podcast Primer.)
  • Brooklyn Jazz Underground  iTunes  Web Site  Blog
    • A podcast looking at the Brooklyn jazz scene. Part music, part interview.
  • Christian McBride Podcasts  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Talks with and peformances by bassist Christian McBride. Includes some video clips.
  • Detroit Jazz Stage  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • A monthly podcast featuring the best in the Detroit jazz scene.
  • In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • From Jazz masters of past and present to emerging new artists performing hard-bop jazz and fusion. Featuring Independent Jazz artists from around the world. A popular podcast.
  • Jazz Corner Innerviews   Feed  Web Site
    • innerviews are vignettes with insightful commentary, interesting sound bites and lots of great music with great jazz masters and up and coming musicians. Each podcast ranges in time from 4 minutes to more than an hour.
  • Jazz in Chicago  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Interviews and information about the jazz scene in Chicago.
  • Jazz Podcast from Magnatune  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • 60 minutes of straight, high quality jazz.
  • NPR Piano Jazz Shorts  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • For more than twenty-five years, pianist Marian McPartland has welcomed
      a stellar line-up of jazz artists for conversation and improvisation on
      her Peabody Award-winning program. Piano Jazz showcases both acclaimed artists and up-and-coming performers.
  • Pat Metheny – The Song X Podumentary  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Guitarist Pat Metheny explores his influences, recordings, music and more on this intimate podcast series.
  • Portland Jazz Jams Podshow  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • Live jazz jams, interviews with great players, and instructional materials, all coming out of the Portland jazz scene.
  • Sonny Rollins Podcast  iTunes  Web Site
    • A 12-part video podcast series to be released in monthly installments. It introduces Sonny Rollins, a major American jazz figure, to new
  • Swing is in the Air  iTunes  Web Site
    • Although swing is something of a focus here, this podcast coming out of Canada also looks at other jazz forms.
  • The Jazz Suite  Feed  Web Site
    • This is a podcast dedicated to Jazz played by independent and indie artists that the major music labels have missed.
  • The Night Passage Jazz Podcast  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • An English-language podcast coming out of Rome, Italy.
  • The Traneumentary  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
    • A series of podcasts featuring the work of the jazz great, John Coltrane.

Houdini Photo Retrospective

The Smithsonian

has come out with a nice photo essay looking back on the legendary escape artist Harry Houdini. It begins:

Houdini_jump_2Harry Houdini freed himself from chains after jumping off a pier into Boston’s Charles River, wiggled out of a strait jacket while hanging upside down in Times Square and appeared alive and well after being submerged in his Water Torture Cell. The great escape artist defied belief and entertained hundreds of thousands of people throughout the early 20th century until he died on Halloween in 1926, at age 52. His death certificate blames a ruptured appendix, but rumors circulated that he may have been murdered.

A new biography, The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, has caused many people, including the magician’s great-nephew, to reconsider these rumors. Houdini, they believe, may have been poisoned by Spiritualists, a group who claimed to speak to the dead through séances. Houdini went to great lengths to debunk their practices, often exposing their tricks on the stage. In late March, forensic pathologists announced that they will exhume Houdini’s body to determine once and for all what happened to the escape artist.

In this photo essay, explore the extraordinary life of Harry Houdini: BEGIN SLIDESHOW>

The Top 25 Educational Podcasts on iTunes – April 13

Ituneslogo It’s been more than a month since we last updated our iTunes list of top educational podcasts. A quick glance reveals that language-focused podcasts continue to dominate. Almost all of the top podcasts are dedicated to helping folks learn Spanish, French, German and Italian, and also some Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Meanwhile, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing continues to make a strong showing. And we’re otherwise seeing podcasts from universities drop off the list, but that’s perhaps partly because there’s recently been a shortage of interesting material coming out of these collections. Or at least that’s been our impression. Lastly, you’ll note that there’s only one new podcast on this list (see it highlighted in red). So it seems that folks are returning to their favorites again and again.

If you want more enriching podcasts like these, check out our Podcast Library.

#1. Coffee Break Spanish  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

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

#3. French for Beginners  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#4. The French Pod Class  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#5. MyDailyPhrase Italian  iTunes  Web Site

#6. Learn Spanish Survival Guide  iTunes  Feed

#7. Let’s Speak Italian  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#8.  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#9. MyDailyPhrase German  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#10.  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#11. Finally Learn Spanish – Beyond the Basics iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#12. Legal Lad’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

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

Twelve Byzantine Rulers: The History of the Byzantine Empire  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#15. Learn Mandarin Chinese with  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

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

#17. Learn French by Podcast  iTunes  Feed  Web Site 

#18. Princeton Review Vocabulary Minute  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#19.  Insta Spanish Lessons iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#20.  Learn German with  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#21. NPR: Satire from the Unger Report  iTunes  Feed  Web Site  

#22. LSAT Logic in Everyday Life  iTunes  Feed  Web Site 

#23. TEDTalks (Video)  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#24.  iTunes  Feed  Web Site

#25. Plato’s Republic  iTunes  Web Site

See Open Culture’s Podcast Collections:

Arts & CultureAudio BooksForeign Language LessonsNews & InformationTechnologyUniversity (General)University (B-School)


Steve Jobs on Life

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple Computer, delivered this speech at Stanford’s commencement ceremony in June 2005. I’ve watched it a couple times now, with about 6 months in between viewings, and each time it has struck me as worth watching every so often to keep focused on what matters.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.