New Books on Mp3 (For Free)

While our col­lec­tion of for­eign lan­guage lessons pod­casts has been get­ting a fair amount of love and atten­tion late­ly, we’ve been spruc­ing up our direc­to­ry of audio book pod­casts.

To this list of Eng­lish-lan­guage clas­sics, we’ve added three new clas­sics by Jane Austen — Per­sua­sion, Mans­field Park, and Northang­er Abbey — all of which are byprod­ucts of the new tele­vi­sion series, The Jane Austen Sea­son. You’ll also find some new audio files from the great Lib­rivox col­lec­tion, includ­ing E. M. Forster’s Howards End, Char­lotte Bron­te’s Jayne Eyre, and F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s This Side of Par­adise. And final­ly we’ve added some select­ed poet­ry and prose by Walt Whit­man and Hen­ry David Thore­au. To review the longer list of clas­sics, click here.

More Pod­casts:

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

YouTube’s Impact on the 2008 Election: The Hype and the Fact

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YouTube is a lit­tle more than two years old. It’s a mere tod­dler. But, it’s now owned by an over­grown, ful­ly-beard­ed nine year old. Yes, that would be Google, and that means that YouTube is ready to storm its way into the media main­stream, pam­pers and all.

You can be sure that GooTube has already cooked up sev­er­al strate­gies that will lead the video unit to media dom­i­na­tion. But, even to the untrained media observ­er, it’s fair­ly clear that Google’s video unit has cho­sen the 2008 elec­tion as an are­na in which it intends to com­pete with oth­er major media out­fits for eye­balls.

In April, YouTube launched its polit­i­cal chan­nel Cit­i­zen­Tube (get more info here) and, along with it, its first major line of video pro­gram­ming called You Choose ’08. The con­cept here is sim­ple and promis­ing: Cit­i­zens ask ques­tions to the ’08 can­di­dates, and the can­di­dates respond. The results, how­ev­er, have been large­ly dis­ap­point­ing. When you strip every­thing away, what you get are politi­cians speak­ing the same plat­i­tudes that we’ve seen for decades on TV. (See a sam­ple reply here.) The only dif­fer­ence is that the video qual­i­ty is worse, and they’re man­ag­ing to get their plat­i­tudes in front of a young demo­graph­ic, which is no small feat. For bet­ter or for worse, YouTube is to the ’08 elec­tion what MTV (remem­ber Bill play­ing the sax?) was to the ’92 elec­tion.

While nei­ther Cit­i­zen­Tube nor the polit­i­cal cam­paigns are using the video plat­form in rev­o­lu­tion­ary ways, the mil­lions of aver­age users who make YouTube what it is are doing a bet­ter job of it.

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est is the way in which videos are emerg­ing on YouTube that counter images being care­ful­ly pro­ject­ed by can­di­dates and their cam­paigns. Here are two quick exam­ples.

GOP can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney has been pre­dictably work­ing to cast him­self as a social con­ser­v­a­tive. Twice in recent months, he has shown up at Pat Robert­son’s Regent Uni­ver­si­ty to deliv­er lines like this:

“We’re shocked by the evil of the Vir­ginia Tech shoot­ing…” “I opened my Bible short­ly after I heard of the tragedy. Only a

few vers­es, it seems, after the Fall, we read that Adam and Eve’s

old­est son killed his younger broth­er. From the begin­ning, there has

been evil in the world.”

…“Pornog­ra­phy and vio­lence

poi­son our music and movies and TV and video games. The Vir­ginia Tech

shoot­er, like the Columbine shoot­ers before him, had drunk from this

cesspool.”

But then, how­ev­er incon­ve­nient­ly, videos from Mitt Rom­ney’s past polit­i­cal cam­paigns show up on YouTube, ones which should make evan­gel­i­cals think twice, and there is not much Rom­ney can do about it. The past hurts, but it does­n’t lie:

Then there is Hillary Clin­ton. She’s got the mon­ey, the par­ty machine is back­ing her, try­ing to wrap up the nom­i­na­tion with a bow. But then a damn­ing attack ad crops up on YouTube. This pitch for Barack Oba­ma remix­es the “1984” TV ad that famous­ly intro­duced Apple com­put­ers to Amer­i­ca, and it casts Hillary as a polit­i­cal automa­ton, an image that rings true for many. (The Oba­ma cam­paign denies hav­ing any­thing do with the video, and its cre­ator remains unknown.)

It is with videos like these that YouTube gets polit­i­cal­ly inter­est­ing. Just as quick­ly as a polit­i­cal cam­paign projects an image for Rom­ney or Clin­ton, your aver­age web user can scrounge up footage that calls that image into ques­tion. A retort is always pos­si­ble, which was nev­er the case on TV. And the cost of delivering/countering a mes­sage runs next to noth­ing. Again a first. YouTube equal­izes, and it isn’t a ter­rain on which the rich can instant­ly claim vic­to­ry. Just ask Rom­ney and his over $200 mil­lion in per­son­al wealth. What good has it done him in YouTube land?

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Art Blogs — A New Addition to the Culture Blogs Family


      We now serve you 25 art/visual art blogs, all of which have also been fold­ed into a larg­er list of 100+ cul­ture blogs. We’re now call­ing it The Big List of Cul­ture Blogs (pret­ty cre­ative, eh), and we’ll add to it over time.

As always, please email us and let us know if we’re miss­ing some­thing essen­tial.

  • Absolute Arts.com Art Blog: A sta­ble of versed blog­gers who look at a spec­trum of art-relat­ed themes.
  • Alec Soth: Pho­to­graph­i­ca, mis­cel­lanea, et cetera.
  • Art.Blogging.La: An art blog start­ed by Caryn Cole­man that dis­cuss­es and pro­motes the vital art scene in LA.
  • Art­ByUs.com: An eclec­tic and inter­na­tion­al art news site.
  • Art Forum: A good look at the art event and social scene. Some­what for insid­ers.
  • Art Law Blog: Title kind of sums it up.
  • Art News Blog: The blog digs up new sto­ries, reviews, guides, and arti­cles found online and shares them each day. Sto­ries have an inter­na­tion­al focus with an empha­sis on the visu­al arts.
  • Art World Salon: Looks at the fast-paced trans­for­ma­tions tak­ing place in the glob­al art world. Fre­quent­ly looks at the eco­nom­ic side of things.
  • Con­sci­en­tious: A weblog about fine-art pho­tog­ra­phy (and more).
  • Con­tem­po­rary Pulitzer: An art blog put togeth­er joint­ly by the Con­tem­po­rary Art Muse­um St. Louis and The Pulitzer Foun­da­tion for the Arts.
  • Cronaca: A com­pi­la­tion of news con­cern­ing art, arche­ol­o­gy, his­to­ry, and what­ev­er else catch­es the chronicler’s eye, with the odd bit of opin­ion and com­men­tary thrown in.
  • Edward Win­kle­man: Art, pol­i­tics, gos­sip and tough love from a NYC arts deal­er. You’ll find this site list­ed on many-a-blogroll.
  • Eye Lev­el: A blog pro­duced by the Smith­son­ian Amer­i­can Art Muse­um, it uses the museum’s col­lec­tion as a touch­stone and is ded­i­cat­ed to Amer­i­can art and the ways in which the nation’s art reflects its his­to­ry and cul­ture. Sur­pris­ing­ly, one of the few blogs to come out of the muse­um world.
  • Fal­lon and Rosof’s Art­blog: Art reviews, deep thoughts, and gos­sip from Philadel­phia and beyond.
  • Gallery Hop­per: A guide to the best of fine art pho­tog­ra­phy, gal­leries and events in New York City and beyond.
  • Gram­mar Police: A well-regard art blog that Won­kette sum­ma­rizes as “local art fag par excel­lence.
  • Gravest­mor: A wide­ly-cit­ed archi­tec­ture blog com­ing out of Aus­tralia.
  • Guardian Art & Archi­tec­ture Blog: A British take on the arts world. One of the few blogs cit­ed here from the main­stream press.
  • Life With­out Build­ings: News and notes from an archi­tec­ture weblog with a pen­chant for giant stat­ues and post­mod­ern cul­ture.
  • Look­ing Around: A blog by Richard Lacayo, who writes about books, art and archi­tec­ture at TIME Mag­a­zine.
  • Mag­num Pho­tos: A mul­ti-author, aes­thet­i­cal­ly well designed pho­tog­ra­phy blog.
  • Mod­ern Art Notes: Voila, Tyler Green’s blog about mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art. The Wall Street Jour­nal has called MAN “the most influ­en­tial of all visu­al-arts blogs.”
  • Pleiady — Thoughts for a New Gen­er­a­tion: A blog on the Art of Now
  • smARThis­to­ry: Gen­er­al Mus­ings about using tech­nol­o­gy to teach with images by two art his­to­ri­ans, Beth Har­ris and Steven Zuck­er. Often fea­tures links to worth­while art his­to­ry pod­casts.
  • The Art His­to­ry Newslet­ter: If there are aca­d­e­mics among us, this is for you.
  • The Art Life: Fea­tures a lengthy art site blogroll. Look down the right hand side and you’ll see what I mean.

Relate Fea­ture: See our relat­ed arti­cle on Art Muse­um Pod­casts.

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Who Killed JFK? Two New Studies

Jfkimage_2
Whether you think John F. Kennedy was a great pres­i­dent or just a guy
who enjoyed sul­try birth­day
ser­e­nades (see clip below), you have to admit
his hold on America’s cul­tur­al imag­i­na­tion is still pow­er­ful four
decades after his assas­si­na­tion. Two major new works of his­to­ry tack­le
the ques­tion and, pre­dictably, come down on oppo­site sides of it. David
Talbot’s Broth­ers: The Hid­den His­to­ry of the Kennedy Years offers new evi­dence fur­ther­ing the great con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, while Vin­cent Bugliosi’s Reclaim­ing His­to­ry: The Assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy agrees with offi­cial his­to­ry and the War­ren Com­mis­sion.

Per­haps the most inter­est­ing thing about these lat­est prod­ucts of the
Kennedy indus­try is the fact that both books are tak­ing advan­tage of
new media for­mats to com­bat the tra­di­tion­al prob­lem with Big His­to­ry
texts–weight. Bugliosi’s tome comes in at a back-wrench­ing 1,612
pages, so be thank­ful that his pub­lish­ers includ­ed the many end­notes on
an accom­pa­ny­ing CD. (You would be well-advised to save a few months and
read the New York Times review here.) Talbot’s Broth­ers is only a third as long, but that’s still almost 500 pages–so why not enjoy it as an eBook instead, or just check out the excerpt on Salon? Or take in its New York Times review here. If your eyes are tired already, rest assured that both authors also appeared on the Leonard Lopate show (Bugliosi mp3; Tal­bot mp3 ). And if you hap­pen to live in the Bay area, you can go see Tal­bot will be in San Fran­cis­co pro­mot­ing the book tomor­row, May 22.

New Online Writing Courses from Stanford

Just a quick heads up: Start­ing today, you can sign up for online writ­ing cours­es from Stan­ford. Offered by Stan­ford Con­tin­u­ing
Stud­ies
and the Stan­ford Cre­ative Writ­ing Pro­gram (which is 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 and smart peers. Reg­is­tra­tion starts today, and cours­es will go from June 25 to August 17. You can find the list of cours­es below. For more infor­ma­tion, click here, or sep­a­rate­ly check out the FAQ.
(Full dis­clo­sure: I helped set up these cours­es and think they’re a
great edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty. But nonethe­less take my opin­ion with a
grain of salt.)


U2 Plays @ The Cannes Film Festival


The 60th Cannes Film Fes­ti­val is in full swing. It’s all film for ten plus days. But last night, music or real­ly U2 took cen­ter stage. Before the mid­night screen­ing of their new rock­u­men­tary, U23D, the Irish band played a two song set (Ver­ti­go and Where the Streets Have No Name) on the red car­pet. It was short and sweet. You can watch it below. Cheers.

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Weekly Wrap — May 19


Here’s a quick recap of fea­tures from the past two weeks:

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The Book World Goes Sensibly Digital

There are some ear­ly signs that pub­lish­ers and book­sellers may be see­ing the light.

Until recent­ly, the book world applied an irra­tional log­ic to down­load­able audio­books and pod­casts. As we not­ed back in Feb­ru­ary, the paper ver­sion of the best­selling busi­ness book, The Long Tail, ran con­sumers $16.47 on Ama­zon. And yet the cheap­er-to-pro­duce audio ver­sion implau­si­bly amount­ed to $31.95 on iTunes and $27.99 on Audi­ble. Did it make sense? Hard­ly.

Since Feb­ru­ary, a lit­tle bit of rea­son has been inject­ed into the mar­ket. As the The New York Times recent­ly not­ed, the pub­lish­er Hen­ry Holt made a smart move. They took the pop­u­lar pod­cast, The Gram­mar Girl (iTunes Feed Web Site), and with­in days spun off an hour­long audio­book priced at a sane $4.95. The next thing you know, it became the best­selling audio­book on iTunes. Here, the audio­book for­mat let pub­lish­ers respond to a mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ty — and far more quick­ly than they ever could have with a tra­di­tion­al book. (A tra­di­tion­al Gram­mar Girl book won’t come out until next year.)

Ratio­nal act #2: Some pub­lish­ers are now releas­ing audio ver­sions of new books before issu­ing the actu­al hard copies. Why? Because, they’ve found that dig­i­tal copies can gen­er­ate buzz and greater sales for paper copies. And yes, in these sit­u­a­tions, the dig­i­tal and paper ver­sions are com­pa­ra­bly priced.

Final­ly, book­sellers are now using audio to inform con­sumers and moti­vate them to click “Add to Shop­ping Cart” a lit­tle more often. Take for exam­ple the new line of pod­casts from Ama­zon. Cre­at­ed by in-house edi­tors, Ama­zon Wire (iTunesFeed ) offers inter­views and exclu­sives with authors of new books. Ama­zon Book­Clips (iTunesFeed ) puts a spot­light on up-and-com­ing and best­selling authors. And with Sig­nif­i­cant Sev­en (iTunesFeed), Ama­zon points you to new must-read titles. How well inte­grat­ed into Ama­zon’s sales efforts, and how effec­tive these pod­casts will be at gen­er­at­ing sales, all remains to be seen. But it at least points to a more sen­si­ble way of bring­ing the dig­i­tal and paper worlds togeth­er.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.