Indie films for Your Apple TV

Here’s a tip cour­tesy of The Unof­fi­cial Apple Weblog.

Apple TV just hit the mar­ket, as we men­tioned last week. And while the prod­uct has a lot of promise, the imme­di­ate down­side is that there’s a dearth of con­tent ready for you to watch. But here’s a promis­ing option: Hun­gryFlix lets you down­load inde­pen­dent films that are specif­i­cal­ly for­mat­ted for Apple TV. You prob­a­bly won’t rec­og­nize too many of the titles — they are inde­pen­dent films after all — but the price for the down­loads is cer­tain­ly right. For more video pod­casts, click here.

The War of the Worlds on Podcast: How H.G. Wells and Orson Welles Riveted A Nation

Waroftheworld_1 Since we’re already talk­ing today about Orson Welles (see imme­di­ate­ly below), it seems worth doing a reprise of anoth­er arti­cle that looks at Welles’ famous radio broad­cast. It’s per­haps our most pop­u­lar entry to date. Enjoy.

Over the past year, we’ve seen tech-savvy book lovers start record­ing and issu­ing their own home­grown audio books and aggre­gat­ing them on sites like Lib­rivox. The audio texts most­ly come from the pub­lic domain for obvi­ous copy­right rea­sons (though you can find some excep­tions), and, yes, they’re some­times of uneven qual­i­ty. Among the first releas­es, you’d expect to find a lot of the great clas­si­cal works the major plays of Shake­speare, the foun­da­tion­al philo­soph­i­cal works by Pla­to, etc. and you do get some of those. But what you find more often are texts by more mod­ern writ­ers work­ing in the thriller, adven­ture, and sci fi gen­res: Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing, Robert Louis Steven­son, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and H.G. Wells. (Find these pod­casts here.) It seems entire­ly fit­ting (and, when you think about it, unsur­pris­ing) that Wells, the father of sci­ence fic­tion, would be among the first to find his writ­ings dig­i­tal­ly record­ed and dis­trib­uted. Nowa­days, you can down­load, sync and lis­ten to his major works The New Accel­er­a­tor (mp3), The Invis­i­ble Man (iTunesfeed), The Time Machine (iTunesfeed), and The War of the Worlds  (iTunes).

But what’s even bet­ter and cool­er than all of this, at least in our minds, is that you can now also down­load the ver­sion of The War of the Worlds that Orson Welles famous­ly adapt­ed and aired on nation­al radio in Octo­ber 1938. Pre­sent­ed so that it sound­ed like an actu­al news broad­cast, the Orson Welles ver­sion was mis­tak­en for truth by many lis­ten­ers who caught the pro­gram mid­stream (more info here), and, soon enough, they found them­selves cow­er­ing in base­ments or flee­ing in cars with guns cocked and loaded, all in a des­per­ate attempt to avoid an unfold­ing Mar­t­ian inva­sion. You can catch the mp3 ver­sion of the famous Welles’ record­ing here. Or here is an alter­na­tive in case the orig­i­nal file gets over­ly traf­ficked. Enjoy.

See our com­plete Audio Book Pod­cast Col­lec­tion and oth­er pod­cast col­lec­tions.

The Lost Orson Welles Film Likely Coming to a Theatre Near You

There’s an intrigu­ing report appear­ing in The New York Sun that will undoubt­ed­ly please Orson Welles fans every­where:

Orsonwelles_2‘One of Amer­i­can cin­e­ma’s lost mas­ter­pieces could final­ly reach the­aters next year after a deal nears com­ple­tion to edit and release Orson Welles’s final, uncom­plet­ed film, “The Oth­er Side of the Wind,” accord­ing to the direc­tor and actor Peter Bog­danovich. “The deal is 99.9% fin­ished,” Mr. Bog­danovich, a friend and biog­ra­ph­er of Welles, said in an inter­view last month… The unedit­ed neg­a­tives of the film have sat in a Paris vault for more than 30 years, unseen by any­one oth­er than Welles, who died in 1985… But the neg­a­tives were entombed in France against Welles’s wish­es after
he accept­ed fund­ing for the movie from an Iran­ian financier, Meh­di
Boush­eri, the broth­er-in-law of the for­mer Shah.… Welles man­aged to smug­gle a work­ing copy of his film out of Paris, but
was denied access to the orig­i­nal neg­a­tives for the last 10 years of
his life…  Mr. Bog­danovich said that the new deal, which will be com­plet­ed with­in the next two months, sat­is­fies all par­ties.’

For more on this poten­tial­ly land­mark deal, you’ll want to read the arti­cle in full.

The Sucking Sound at The Wall Street Journal

Wall_street_journalDavid Wes­sel, the deputy Wash­ing­ton bureau chief of The Wall Street Jour­nal, recent­ly gave a talk

at the Yale School of Man­age­ment, which he titled “Can News­pa­per Jour­nal­ism Sur­vive Blogs, Fox News and Karl Rove?” (Lis­ten here on iTunes.)  Speak­ing can­did­ly, Wes­sel read­i­ly acknowl­edged that the print news­pa­per busi­ness is in trou­ble, and even hint­ed that some of our major news­pa­pers, the Jour­nal per­haps includ­ed, may not ulti­mate­ly be long for the world. The prob­lem, as he describes it, is twofold: First, read­ers and adver­tis­ers con­tin­ue to move from print to the inter­net, a medi­um that old school papers can’t mon­e­tize very well. Sec­ond — and this is the crux of his argu­ment — he sees the major papers also suf­fer­ing because they face com­pe­ti­tion from more overt­ly politi­cized media play­ers, such as Fox, Drudge and var­i­ous blogs that don’t adhere to tra­di­tion­al stan­dards of jour­nal­ism. While The Wall Street Jour­nal strives to be “fair and bal­anced,” Fox News (rather iron­i­cal­ly) and many right and left-wing blogs read­i­ly embrace bias and man­age to cap­i­tal­ize on it fair­ly well. This leaves the mid­dle of the road media in trou­ble.

Now, there is sure­ly some mer­it to this argu­ment. But it real­ly does­n’t seem to get to the root of the prob­lem. Wes­sel paints the WSJ’s woes as being essen­tial­ly polit­i­cal when they real­ly are not. It’s more about busi­ness and cul­ture than any­thing else. When the inter­net took off in the late 90s, we heard about how it low­ered bar­ri­ers to entry and allowed play­ers with lit­tle cap­i­tal to get online and com­pete. Now, ten years lat­er, we’re see­ing the results. Estab­lished con­tent play­ers have found them­selves com­pet­ing with an infi­nite num­ber of spe­cial­ized con­tent providers, some of which are damn good, and some not. (Per­haps we can lump the unabashed­ly polit­i­cal blogs in the lat­ter group.) Put sim­ply, the infor­ma­tion world is being splin­tered much like the tele­vi­sion world was with the advent of cable, except even more so, and this leaves read­ers with many viable choic­es. For bet­ter or worse, the gen­er­al­ist press seems almost doomed to give way to spe­cial­ized blogs and web sites that read­ers can aggre­gate into an organ­ic whole with the help of book­marks and new­fan­gled “feed read­ers.” (See, for exam­ple, Google Read­er, MyYa­hoo, or Blog­lines.) This prob­a­bly includes The Wall Street Jour­nal. And would David Wes­sel be sur­prised to see Amer­i­ca’s lead­ing finan­cial paper even­tu­al­ly sup­plant­ed by a chang­ing con­stel­la­tion of alter­na­tives? Prob­a­bly not. You can already hear the doubt in his voice … and very faint­ly the suck­ing sound in the halls of Dow Jones.

Nietzsche, Melville, Jane Austen & More: The Latest Audio Book Classics Released by Librivox

Nietzsche_4Through­out March, the folks at Lib­rivox were putting on the full court

press. Stag­ing their own ver­sion of March Mad­ness, Lib­rivox and its army of vol­un­teers com­plet­ed 70 audio record­ings of pub­lic domain texts. Among them, you’ll find some essen­tial clas­sics in lit­er­a­ture and phi­los­o­phy. The list of new addi­tions starts with Jane Austen’s Sense and Sen­si­bil­i­ty (full zip fileindi­vid­ual mp3 files) and Her­man Melville’s Moby Dick (full zip fileindi­vid­ual mp3 files), but it also extends to oth­er time-test­ed clas­sics. Let’s list them quick­ly:

See Open Cul­ture’s Pod­cast Col­lec­tions:

Arts & Cul­tureAudio BooksFor­eign Lan­guage LessonsNews & Infor­ma­tionSci­enceTech­nol­o­gyUni­ver­si­ty (Gen­er­al)Uni­ver­si­ty (B‑School)Pod­cast Primer


Shakespeare and the Uses of Political Power

Stephen Green­blatt, a Har­vard pro­fes­sor, lead­ing Shake­speare schol­ar, and author of the 2005 best­seller Will in the World, penned a piece in the lat­est New York Review of Books that sur­veys Shake­speare’s pol­i­tics — his take on the uses and abus­es of polit­i­cal pow­er. The piece starts in a won­der­ful way, so for­give us for quot­ing it a lit­tle at length:

In 1998, a friend of mine, Robert Pin­sky, who at the time was serv­ing as the poet lau­re­ate of the Unit­ed States, invit­ed me to a poet­ry evening at the Clin­ton White House, one of a series of black-tie events orga­nized to mark the com­ing mil­len­ni­um. On this occa­sion the Pres­i­dent gave an amus­ing intro­duc­to­ry speech in which he recalled that his first encounter with poet­ry came in junior high school when his teacher made him mem­o­rize cer­tain pas­sages from Mac­beth. This was, Clin­ton remarked wry­ly, not the most aus­pi­cious begin­ning for a life in pol­i­tics.

After the speech­es, I joined the line of peo­ple wait­ing to shake the Pres­i­den­t’s hand. When my turn came, a strange impulse came over me. This was a moment when rumors of the Lewin­sky affair were cir­cu­lat­ing, but before the whole thing had blown up into the grotesque nation­al cir­cus that it soon became. “Mr. Pres­i­dent,” I said, stick­ing out my hand, “don’t you think that Mac­beth is a great play about an immense­ly ambi­tious man who feels com­pelled to do things that he knows are polit­i­cal­ly and moral­ly dis­as­trous?” Clin­ton looked at me for a moment, still hold­ing my hand, and said, “I think Mac­beth is a great play about some­one whose immense ambi­tion has an eth­i­cal­ly inad­e­quate object.”

I was aston­ished by the apt­ness, as well as the quick­ness, of this com­ment, so per­cep­tive­ly in touch with Mac­beth’s anguished brood­ing about the impuls­es that are dri­ving him to seize pow­er by mur­der­ing Scot­land’s legit­i­mate ruler. When I recov­ered my equi­lib­ri­um, I asked the Pres­i­dent if he still remem­bered the lines he had mem­o­rized years before. Of course, he replied, and then, with the rest of the guests still patient­ly wait­ing to shake his hand, he began to recite one of Mac­beth’s great solil­o­quies:

    If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
    It were done quick­ly. If th’ assas­si­na­tion
    Could tram­mel up the con­se­quence, and catch
    With his surcease suc­cess: that but this blow
    Might be the be-all and the end-all, here,
    But here upon this bank and shoal of time,
    We’d jump the life to come. But in these cas­es
    We still have judge­ment here, that we but teach
    Bloody instruc­tions which, being taught, return
    To plague th’in­ven­tor.


There the most pow­er­ful man in the world—as we are fond of call­ing our leader—broke off with a laugh, leav­ing me to con­jure up the rest of the speech that ends with Mac­beth’s own baf­fle­ment over the fact that his immense ambi­tion has “an eth­i­cal­ly inad­e­quate object”:

       I have no spur
    To prick the sides of my intent, but only
    Vault­ing ambi­tion, which o’er­leaps itself
    And falls on th’other.…


I left the White House that evening with the thought that Bill Clin­ton had missed his true voca­tion, which was, of course, to be an Eng­lish pro­fes­sor. But the pro­fes­sion he actu­al­ly chose makes it all the more appro­pri­ate to con­sid­er whether it is pos­si­ble to dis­cov­er in Shake­speare an “eth­i­cal­ly ade­quate object” for human ambi­tion.

The arti­cle goes on to explore just this ques­tion, and it’s well worth the read. (And, oh how do I miss Clin­ton in some ways.) The piece also sets the stage for a radio pro­gram that aired last week on one of our favorite shows, PRI’s Open Souce (FeedMp3). Speak­ing with Stephen Green­blatt and two oth­er schol­ars — Oliv­er Arnold (Prince­ton) and Jim Fitz­mor­ris (Tulane) — the host Christo­pher Lydon sorts through Shake­speare’s out­look on pow­er and lead­er­ship (with­in both monar­chies and republics), and then they cir­cle back to view Amer­i­ca’s polit­i­cal land­scape through the Bard’s eyes. Shake­speare made his polit­i­cal com­men­tary often by look­ing back over 1500 years to Ancient Rome. So is it too far fetched to project his think­ing for­ward 400 years, to Amer­i­ca 2007? Have a lis­ten and you decide.

See our com­plete list of Arts & Cul­ture Pod­casts.

BMW in the Audio Book Business?

Well, kind of, sort of. Here’s what you’ll find over at

“Put on your seat­belt and pre­pare for highs, lows and plen­ty of twists and turns. BMW, in con­junc­tion with Ran­dom House, brings you BMW Audio Books, a unique series of spe­cial­ly- com­mis­sioned short sto­ries show­cas­ing the work of some of the finest con­tem­po­rary writ­ing tal­ent. Each grip­ping audio book is yours to down­load for free. Lis­ten to them on your MP3 play­er, your lap­top or ide­al­ly, in the car. So sit back, hit play and enjoy the ride.”

Sto­ries include:

See our com­plete lists of Audio Book Pod­casts.


Best of Open Culture — March

Here’s a quick recap of March’s favorites in case you missed them:

« Go Back
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.