We haven’t visited the list of iTunes’ top educational podcasts since April. So it’s time for another look…What we’ve got here is pretty much a case of “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Or, put differently, even though two months have passed, it is still foreign language lesson podcasts that are ruling the day, particularly podcasts that will teach you Spanish, French and Italian. Also, the ever popular “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” is still holding strong. The one major new addition is a free audio book of Pride and Prejudice. Audio books have almost never appeared on this list, so the #2 position of this podcast testifies to the enduring popularity of this great Jane Austen work. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that no audio from universities has made it into the top 25. There is something just a little bit wrong with this picture, wouldn’t you say?
The trouble with Judas is that if he was carrying out God’s plan, was he really evil? The point has been made everywhere from seminaries to Jesus Christ, Superstar, but it suddenly became more urgent with the rediscovery of a putative Gospel of Judas in 2004. Religious scholars Elaine Pagels and Karen King have a new book out on the subject (reviewed this week in the New York Times). Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity seems to take a middle-of-the-road approach, arguing that the gospel (written in the third century AD, not by Judas himself) takes a critical position against the hegemony of the early Christian church. Whether that vindicates the most famous betrayal in narrative history is a tough one–Pagels and King argue that it all depends on how attached Jesus really felt to his body. To find out more, check out this podcast Pagels and King gave at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, or listen to their interview with Terry Gross on NPR.
This is a book that needs no introduction, but we will give it a short one anyway. Published in serial format between 1918 and 1920, James Joyce’s Ulysses was initially reviled by many and banned in the US and UK until the 1930s. Today, it’s widely considered a classic in modernist literature, and The Modern Library went so far as to call it the most important English-language novel published during the 20th century. Although chronicling one ordinary day in the life of Leopold Bloom in 1904 Dublin, Ulysses is no small work. It sprawls over 750 pages, using over 250,000 words, and takes over 32 hours to read aloud. Or, at least that’s how long it took the folks over at Librivox. In the Bloomsday tradition, a cast of readers participated in the project, offering creative readings with “pub-like background noise.” The audio files can be downloaded as many individual mp3 files here, or as one big zip file here.This is not the only free audio version of Ulysses. There is another not quite traditional version put out by “Paigerella” (iTunes – Feed). And, while you’re at it, you might as well check out a reading of “Araby” (iTunes – Feed), a short story from Joyce’s collection, Dubliners. It’s provided courtesy of Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast. Next up, we hope is a nice reading of Finnegan’s Wake.For more free audio books, including many good ones from Librivox, see our Audio Book Podcast Collection.
When universities first started developing their podcast collections, a good number took their audio archives — the many lectures and talks they had recorded over the years — and uploaded them onto iTunes. Now, months later, some institutions are turning to their video archives. Most notably, MIT has given users access to video podcasts taken from its ambitious OpenCourseWare initiative. (Harvard has done something similar with its series, Harvard@Home, although the collection is considerably smaller.) Moving these videos onto iTunes makes perfect sense. While it’s unlikely that many will watch these videos on their actual iPods, it seems safe to assume that new audiences will get exposed to these collections and be contented with watching these clips on their computers at least, or perhaps on Apple TV down the road. iTunes has become a dynamic marketing/distribution platform, with masses of users flocking to it and discovering new content along the way. For institutions like MIT, shifting content onto iTunes streamlines their efforts to get their content noticed, which makes the project a no-brainer with no downside. For more on the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative, click here. For info on the recent integration of iTunes U with iTunes, click here.See our complete University Podcast Collection.
Almost 20 years ago, Salman Rushdie published his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, never realizing how this literary event would change his life. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran’s religious and political revolution, saw in the book “blasphemous” depictions of the prophet Muhammad, and then handed down a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death. For the next decade, Rushdie was driven underground, making only infrequent appearances in public. And it wasn’t until the late 90s that things simmered down, the death threats subsided, and the writer returned to living a semi-normal life. Then came this past week …Buckingham Palace announced Queen Elizabeth’s plans to knight Rushdie, making him Sir Salman, and it all began again. Recalling the Danish cartoon controversy that swept the Muslim world in 2005, ranking political officials, from Iran to Pakistan, have revived the threats against the British-Indian novelist as well as Britain, taking the Queen’s knighting as an intentional slight against Islam. The mere fact that Rushdie is a splendid writer whose body of work goes well beyond The Satanic Verses never quite figures into the picture, however. (Try giving Midnight’s Children a read to see what I mean.) You can get more on Part II of the Rushdie Affair here and here, and you can also watch Rushdie reading from The Satanic Verses below.
No, you came to the right site. We’ve simply moved to WordPress and we’ll be spending the coming day doing some last minute fix ups. If you see any big problems, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Thanks for your patience. And a big word of thanks goes out to Eric “Herr Doktor” Oberle for his help on making this switch happen, and to Emma Hipkens for her design work.
If you haven’t quite gotten the last episode of The Sopranos out of your head (clearly, I haven’t) … if you’re still mulling over what happened during those closing moments, then you may want to peruse a TV writer’s intriguing and informed take on whether Tony got whacked in the last episode. There’s a lot of good analysis and interpretation here. For an alternative view, you can also listen to this week’s podcast from TV Talk Machine. Here, Tim Goodman, who writes for The San Francisco Chronicle, and Joe Garofoli mull over which interpretations hold water, and which don’t. Plus, you can also read Goodman’s blog entry — “Sopranos” finale: What really happened” — and the many reader comments, reactions and theories at the bottom of the page.Now, with this chapter of television history closed, HBO is hoping to start another new and important one with John From Cincinnati. If you don’t have cable, you can watch the first episode here in its entirety. Good thinking HBO. Have they found another Sopranos? I’m not too optimistic. Have a look and see what you think.
New technologies often have unintended uses. Take the Ipod as a case in point. It was developed with the intention of playing music (and later videos), but its applications now go well beyond that. Here are 10 rather unforeseen, even surprising, uses:
1. Train Doctors to Save Lives: A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology indicates that iPods can double interns’ ability to identify heart sounds that are indicative of serious heart problems (i.e., aortic or mitral stenosis). By using the iPod to repeatedly listen to recordings of normal and abnormal heart beat patterns, interns can effectively hear when something is going awry.
Or how about this for another medical application: Will Gilbert, who heads up the bioinformatics group in the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies, stores the entire human genome on his iPod. As you can read in Wired, he has found that the iPod is a great way to store the gene sequence, all 3 billion chemical letters of it, and, compared to using a network, he can access data more quickly with the little Apple gadget. [Thanks to one of our readers for pointing this one out.]
2. Bring Criminals to Justice: On an experimental basis, a United States federal district court has started using iPods to hold copies of wiretap transmissions in a large drug-conspiracy case. Why? Because it’s easier than storing the recordings on cassette tapes or CDRoms; the defendants and attorneys can access and work through the recordings with ease; and it can all be done in a secure environment.
3. Get Yourself Into Serious Shape: Many joggers love how their iPods can provide entertainment that will spice up a monotonous routine. But probably few know that you can use the iPod to plan training routes for their runs. TrailRunner lets runners do precisely that. This free program helps you plan your route and then loads your iPod with maps, distances, and time goals.
4. Tour Around Great Cities: iSubwayMaps lets you download subway maps from 24 major cities across the globe. They range from New York City, Paris and Berlin to Moscow, Tokyo and Hong Kong. (Get the full list here.) To take advantage of these maps, your iPod will need to support photos, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most recent iPods.
We’ve also talked recently about a venture called Soundwalk that provides engaging, somewhat offbeat audio tours of New York and Paris (plus Varanasi in India). In New York, they offer individual tours of Little Italy, the Lower East Side, Times Square and the Meat Packing District, among other places. In Paris, they take you through the Marais, St. Germain, Pigalle, Belleville, and the Palais Royal. Each audio tour is narrated by a celebrity of sorts and can be downloaded for about $12.
5. Calculate the Right Tip: If you’re a little math challenged, you can use your iPod when you’re out to dinner to calculate the correct tip. TipKalc helps you figure out both the tip and the grand total on your bill, and it even lets you split your check up to five different ways.
6. Record Flight data: According to a report in Flight Global, a company called LoPresti Speed Merchants has announced plans to use iPods as flight data recorders in light aircraft. The little white box will serve as the “black box” within the airplanes and will have the ability to record over 500 hours of flight time data. Does this mean that iPods can survive plane crashes? Who would have thunk it.
7. Throw a Meaner Curveball: Jason Jennings, a pitcher for the Houston Astros, started using a video iPod last year to review his pitching frame by frame and to improve his overall technique. He also reviews video of all opposing batters before each game. Since incorporating the iPod into his training, he has since seen his ERA go down, and other teams — notably the Marlins and Mariners — have looked into using the iPod in similar ways.
8. Learn Foreign Languages: iPods are becoming more commonplace in university classrooms, with students using them to record lectures, take notes, and even create electronic flash cards. (See in depth article here.) The gadgets are also being used to help students formally study music and learn foreign languages. Now, if you’re a regular Open Culture reader, you’ll know that you don’t need to be a university student to learn foreign languages with the help of an iPod. With the help of our podcasts collection, you can pick up most any language on your own.
9. Learn to Love and Buy Wine: Here’s a novel way to get introduced to wine. For $35, you can download an audio file called Mark Phillips Wine Guide onto your iPod. This primer will, among other things, teach you how to describe, taste, and buy wine, and you’ll come away with a certain je ne sais quoi.
10. Test Cheating: Yes, unfortunately technology can be used for bad as well as good. It was widely reported just this past week that students are apparently using the iPod to cheat on exams. During tests, they’ll apparently sneak earbuds into their ears and tap into valuable formulas, class notes, voices recordings, etc. Others will even write out crib notes and enmesh them within song lyrics.
Bonus: The iPod as Flashlight: During the major blackout in 2003, many New Yorkers improvised after nightfall and used the light generated by their iPods to get around their apartments. It was a makeshift way of doing things. But now there is a more formal way of using your iPod to light your way. For about $13, you can purchase Griffin’s iBeam, an attachment that will quickly turn your iPod into a combo flashlight and laser pointer. As they say, be prepared.
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Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.
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