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.

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


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


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?

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 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.
  • 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

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
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.