Smart Links

Here are some links that our kind read­ers sent our way this week. Enjoy:

  • Be Jack­son Pol­lock: A fun lit­tle site. Start with a blank can­vas, swirl your mouse around, click to change col­ors, and see if can paint like Pol­lock.
  • Sundry Pod­casts Worth Check­ing Out:
    • Ask the Techies  iTunes  Feed  Web Site
      • A week­ly tech video pod­cast explain­ing the lat­est in cool tech­nol­o­gy from iPods to Pho­to­shop. You can now find it in our list of Tech­nol­o­gy Pod­casts.
    • Clas­si­cal Greek Mythol­o­gy  Feed  Site
      • A pod­cast that will teach you all about Greek mythol­o­gy. Just as an fyi, more mate­r­i­al will be added this sum­mer. So watch it grow.
    • iino­vate: iTunes  Feed  Web Site
      • Fea­tures
        Stan­ford stu­dents lead­ing inter­views with entre­pre­neurs, ven­ture
        cap­i­tal­ists, and inno­va­tors. The lat­est clip includes a talk with Car­ly
        Fio­r­i­na, the for­mer head of HP. For more relat­ed pod­casts, see our
        col­lec­tion of col­lec­tion of b‑school pod­casts.
    • Slack­er Astron­o­myiTunes  Feed  Web Site

A Little Lifehacker Love

Our for­eign lan­guage les­son pod­casts got a lit­tle love yes­ter­day from the great Life­hack­er site. Many thanks to them. For any vis­i­tors who aren’t famil­iar with our oth­er pod­cast col­lec­tions, here’s a list that you’ll want to peruse.

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

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The Skinny on Second Life


Ever won­dered what Sec­ond Life is and if you should care about it? Imag­ine a 3‑D immer­sive game where you con­trol an avatar and trav­el through con­struct­ed environments–and now take away the game part. What’s left is a fair­ly wide-open cre­ative space where users can cre­ate and sell in-game stuff–houses, objects, cloth­ing, etc–or engage in group activ­i­ties rang­ing from con­certs to polit­i­cal activism to pros­ti­tu­tion. It’s free to join but to own land (and receive a larg­er stipend of in-game cash) you have to sign up for a month­ly sub­scrip­tion.

The online com­mu­ni­ty has been grow­ing fair­ly rapid­ly over the past year or two, now boast­ing over one mil­lion users who logged in dur­ing the past month. Big busi­ness has tak­en notice of the trend, and com­pa­nies from Toy­ota, Microsoft and Sony BMG have all launched vir­tu­al pres­ences in SL.

The ser­vice has been receiv­ing some of its most enthu­si­as­tic press from edu­ca­tors who hope to take advan­tage of the free-for-all 3D spaces as tools for ped­a­gogy. You can find a lot of engi­neer­ing schools, med­ical insti­tu­tions and, of course, the Star Trek Muse­um of Sci­ence on this list of sci­ence places in SL. The world’s cre­ators active­ly encour­age edu­ca­tion­al par­tic­i­pa­tion and teach­ers from many uni­ver­si­ties (includ­ing Har­vard, Colum­bia and more) have tried run­ning cours­es or train­ing ses­sions in the sim­u­la­tion. There is at least one skep­tic out there, though: Clark Aldrich, a con­sul­tant for an e‑learning com­pa­ny, offers up ten things he sees miss­ing from SL as an edu­ca­tion­al tool.

Whether or not Sec­ond Life becomes a per­ma­nent fix­ture of the Inter­net land­scape, it’s cer­tain­ly cap­tured a lot of peo­ples’ atten­tion. To learn more about it check out the pletho­ra of pod­casts avail­able on iTunes. At the very least this world does offer some zany oppor­tu­ni­ties for mul­ti­ple lay­ers of sim­u­la­tion. Check out this video of a U2 “vir­tu­al trib­ute band” per­form­ing a con­cert with lov­ing­ly ren­dered trib­ute avatars:

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Climate Crisis, the Happiness Conundrum & the Evolution of Religions: TED Talks on YouTube

Once upon a time we told you about TED Talks, the annu­al con­fer­ence that brings togeth­er the world’s “thought-lead­ers, movers and shak­ers.” These talks have been avail­able on iTunes in both audio (iTunesFeed) and video (iTunesFeed). And now you can appar­ent­ly find some on YouTube. Below we high­light a few.

First up, Dan Gilbert, a Har­vard psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor who recent­ly wrote Stum­bling On Hap­pi­ness, a book that uses psy­chol­o­gy, cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science, phi­los­o­phy and behav­ioral eco­nom­ics to show how our imag­i­na­tion — our unique abil­i­ty to pre­dict the future — usu­al­ly inter­feres with our basic abil­i­ty to be hap­py. Here you get some ker­nels of thought from the best­selling book, and some insights into why a para­plegic is often as hap­py as a lot­tery win­ner. Good stuff here.

Next, we give you Al Gore doing a lit­tle stand-up com­e­dy (no kid­ding) and speak­ing on glob­al warm­ing, much as he does in An Incon­ve­nient Truth. No oth­er intro­duc­tion is need­ed.

Last­ly, we give you Dan Den­nett, Direc­tor
of the Cen­ter for Cog­ni­tive Stud­ies at Tufts Uni­ver­si­ty
and the author
of Break­ing the Spell: Reli­gion as a Nat­ur­al Phe­nom­e­non. With this clip, Den­nett takes on Rick War­ren, author of The Pur­pose-Dri­ven Life, and makes the clever argu­ment that while the the­o­ry of intel­li­gent design may hold no water, reli­gions have them­selves been intel­li­gent­ly designed. More on that here:

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Serving Up 25 Music Blogs

Next up a series of music blogs, all of which fig­ure into our grow­ing col­lec­tion of Cul­ture Blogs. As always, these lists are a work in progress, and if you feel that we’ve missed some­thing great, please feel free to email us and let us know.

  • Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise: A blog by the music crit­ic of the one and only New York­er mag­a­zine.
  • All About Jazz Bloglist: What you get here is not so much a blog, but, even bet­ter, a meta-list of jazz blogs. This should keep jazz afi­ciona­dos busy for some time.
  • Arjan Writes: A well-reviewed blog that looks at pop-alter­na­tive music. Fea­tures album reviews, inter­views and free down­loads of demo tracks and new releas­es, plus videos from new bands.
  • Arts­Beat: A blog put out by reporters and crit­ics from The New York Times. Includes report­ing from arts events from around the world, includ­ing recent reports from the fes­ti­val at Coachel­la and the New Orleans Jazz and Her­itage Fes­ti­val.
  • Blog­crit­ics Music: A com­mu­ni­ty of writ­ers and read­ers from around the globe mus­ing about music.
  • Brook­lyn Veg­an: An “NYC-cen­tric most­ly-music blog that focus­es on report­ing inter­na­tion­al
    news, live show reviews, pic­tures, tour dates, gos­sip, tips, MP3’s,
    videos, and just about any­thing else a music fan could want.”
  • Chica­go Clas­si­cal Music: A Chica­go-focused blog for clas­si­cal music enthu­si­asts.
  • Coolfer: A blog that “focus­es more on the music
    indus­try than on spe­cif­ic bands.” Want to know about music sto­ries in the news? Then look here.
  • David Gilmour: You know him from Pink Floyd. Check out his per­son­al blog.
  • David’s Jour­nal: Along sim­i­lar lines, this blog is put out by David Byrne, heady head of the Talk­ing Heads.
  • Feast of Music: A jour­ney through the music of New York (and occa­sion­al­ly oth­er places). Empha­sis is on clas­si­cal music.
  • Glo­ri­ous Noise: An online music mag­a­zine fea­tur­ing essays and sto­ries about how rock and roll can change your life.
  • Goril­la vs. Bear: Rec­om­mend­ed by Noth­ing But Green Lights. See below.
  • Guardian Music Blog: An eclec­tic blog put togeth­er by The Guardian in the UK.
  • I Guess I’m Float­ing: Music and music news of the rock ‘n roll vari­ety.
  • Ionarts: A DC-based arts blog with a marked focus on clas­si­cal music.
  • Large­heart­ed Boy: A “music blog fea­tur­ing dai­ly free and legal music down­loads as well as news from the worlds of music, lit­er­a­ture, and pop cul­ture.”
  • Live Music Blog: Noth­ing like a title that pret­ty much sum­ma­rizes it all. Yes, this is a blog about live music.
  • Marathon Packs: Writes about and lets you lis­ten to inter­est­ing songs.
  • Moby’s Jour­nal: Here again anoth­er not-entire­ly-musi­cal blog by a music celeb — Moby.
  • Motel De Moka: A dai­ly blog post­ing eclec­tic playlists, includ­ing indie rock, acoustics and ambi­ent.
  • Music for Robots: An acclaimed mp3 blog that fea­tures diverse music. All music
    is post­ed with the per­mis­sion of the artist and/or label.
  • My Old Ken­tucky Blog: What’s new and hot in indie rock, pop, folk and hip-hop.
  • Noth­ing But Green Lights: A UK-based mp3 blog that keeps track of indie, elec­tro, folk & pop, all from the UK. The site only posts tracks that the inter­net is giv­ing away for free, or ones that have been grant­ed per­mis­sion.
  • NYC Opera Fanat­ic:  A blog for the opera lover (a term, how­ev­er unfor­tu­nate­ly, that does­n’t apply to me).
  • Ryan’s Smash­ing Life: A New Eng­land music blog com­ing out of Boston.
  • Sandow: “Is clas­si­cal music dying? That’s a big top­ic, and a blog seems like a per­fect way to attack it.” That’s how crit­ic, Greg Sandow, describes his blog.
  • Stere­ogum: A pop­u­lar gos­sipy blog about the indie music scene. The site often posts mp3s of new music, plus offers record reviews, announces tour dates, and cov­ers music fes­ti­vals.
  • The Mod­ern Age: A high­ly tout­ed blog about “about music, pop cul­ture, the Strokes, pup­pies, Jack White, and cute boys.” Brought to you by Miss Mod­er­nage.
  • Twangville: Cov­er­ing “twang-infused music with an alter­na­tive slant.” Alt-Coun­try, Amer­i­cana, Indie, Rock, Folk & Blues.
  • Your Home For Soul: As you can tell, it’s a blog for soul fans.

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America’s Perception Problem in the Middle East

Cartoon_2 Amer­i­ca’s mis­ad­ven­ture in Iraq has had mul­ti­ple costs for the US, with just one being the decline of Amer­i­can moral lead­er­ship on the inter­na­tion­al stage, and par­tic­u­lar­ly with­in the Mid­dle East. Intel­lec­tu­al­ly, we know that Amer­i­ca’s pres­tige is momen­tar­i­ly shot. But to get a feel for what this means in prac­tice, it’s worth lis­ten­ing to this inter­view (iTunesMP3) with Lawrence Pin­tak, who directs the Adham Cen­ter for Elec­tron­ic Jour­nal­ism at The Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in Cairo. A long­time observ­er of the Mid­dle East, Pin­tak sees the evo­lu­tion of Amer­i­ca’s image going some­thing like this: Before 9/11, the prover­bial Mid­dle East­ern cab dri­ver expressed deep admi­ra­tion for Amer­i­ca and Amer­i­cans, even while dis­agree­ing with Amer­i­can lead­ers and poli­cies. When the Twin Tow­ers fell, sym­pa­thy for Amer­i­ca was nev­er greater. Now, six years lat­er, it’s all gone awry. The men­tal line that sep­a­rat­ed Amer­i­cans and Amer­i­can pol­i­cy is gone, and the antipa­thy toward Amer­i­ca is fair­ly com­plete.

What part­ly explains this shift is how the war has been refract­ed through the Mid­dle East­ern media. Ever since Al Jazeera start­ed air­ing in 1996 (you can watch it here in Eng­lish), the Mid­dle East has had its own free media and seen events through its own lens. And, in the case of the Iraq war, it has meant see­ing what we don’t see — the unsan­i­tized war, the bod­ies, the lev­eled build­ings, etc. — but also much more mun­dane things that shape over­all impres­sions. It means see­ing, for exam­ple, how tone-deaf US spokes­men in Bagh­dad show up at jour­nal­ist con­fer­ences in Abu Dhabi (a com­plete­ly non-mil­i­tary event out­side of Iraq) in army fatigues, leav­ing essen­tial­ly the impres­sion that the US sees the larg­er Mid­dle East as a mil­i­tary stage.

Pin­tak knows the region well, and he artic­u­lates Amer­i­ca’s per­cep­tion prob­lem in a bal­anced and thought­ful way. Check it out here: (iTunesMP3) Also, on a relat­ed note, any­one who wants to digg more deeply into Mid­dle East­ern per­spec­tives may want to explore Mosa­ic: World News from the Mid­dle East (iTunes  Feed). This Peabody award-win­ning pod­cast pro­vides a dai­ly com­pi­la­tion of tele­vi­sion news reports from across the Mid­dle East. The news comes from inde­pen­dent and state-run news ser­vices, and it is all trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish.

The Portable University

Over the past six months, we have cre­at­ed a series of resources that let you access uni­ver­si­ty resources for free and on-the-fly. Below, we have cen­tral­ized these mate­ri­als in one place to give you quick access:

Tell a Friend About Open Cul­ture   - Sub­scribe to Our Feed

Free Classical Music Podcasts

Smart music at no cost. Hard to beat.

  • An Inti­mate Tour Through the Music of Yo-Yo Ma iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Each episode of this pod­cast delves into the his­to­ry of his career, and what led him to record each of the tracks of his cur­rent release Appas­sion­a­to.
  • Bach Pod­cast from iTunes Feed Web Site
    • 60 free min­utes of Bach.
  • Bach Fes­ti­val of Philadel­phia Feed Web Site
    • Live per­for­mances of J.S. Bach works per­formed by var­i­ous artists for The Bach Fes­ti­val of Philadel­phia.
  • Boston Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra Con­ser­va­to­ry iTunes Feed Web Site
    • This edu­ca­tion­al pod­cast gives you an inside look at the sym­pho­ny. Cur­rent­ly you will find a two sea­son overview and record­ings of Beethoven and Arnold Schoen­berg.
  • Clas­si­cal Per­for­mance iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Clas­si­cal music per­for­mances from WGB­H’s Stu­dio One in Boston.
  • Dan­marks Radio — Mozart Sym­phonies Feed Web Site
    • For the cel­e­bra­tion of Mozart’s 250th anniver­sary, Den­mark radio offered pod­casts of nine Mozart sym­phonies by the Dan­ish Radio Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra. Since the web site is in Dan­ish, your best bet is to access these high qual­i­ty MP3’s through the feed.
  • Deutsche Welle
    • Beethoven­fest iTunes Feed Web Site
      • Beethoven’s most famous sym­phonies per­formed by excel­lent young orches­tras and new com­po­si­tions by award-win­ning com­posers.
    • Clas­si­cal Mas­ter­pieces iTunes Feed Web Site
      • Six mas­ter com­posers, six sym­phonies, a star con­duc­tor and a lead­ing orches­tra are the main ingre­di­ents of this remark­able musi­cal feast.
  • Gramo­phone Pod­cast Feed Web Site
    • A month­ly win­dow into the world’s most author­i­ta­tive clas­si­cal music mag­a­zine, fea­tur­ing an overview of the best releas­es, news, exclu­sive inter­views with lead­ing fig­ures from the music world, and lots of great­mu­sic.
  • NPR Music iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Reviews, musi­cian inter­views, live record­ings from Morn­ing Edi­tion, All Things Con­sid­ered, and oth­er NPR pro­grams.
  • Radio Swe­den: Mozart iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Swedish Radio has launched a Mozart Pod­cast to cel­e­brate Mozart’s 250th birth­day. They’ve been pod­cast­ing their own record­ings from the 1940–1950s of Mozart’s operas.
  • The Con­cert iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and more from the Isabel­la Stew­art Gard­ner muse­um in Boston.
  • Wag­n­er Operas Pod­cast iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Fea­tures, among oth­er things, per­for­mances from the Bayreuth Fes­ti­val.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.