New Stanford Online Writing Courses

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.)

William Gibson, Father of Cyberpunk, Reads New Novel in Second Life

William Gib­son, who launched the cyber­punk genre with the 1984 clas­sic Neu­ro­mancer, has­n’t lost any steam. Pat­tern Recog­ni­tion, pub­lished a good 20+ years lat­er, won wide praise in 2005. Now, he’s come out with Spook Coun­try, and it’s cur­rent­ly #66 on the Ama­zon best­seller list. Below, you can catch Gib­son read­ing from his new work in Sec­ond Life. What can be more fitting?Also, you may want to check out Boing­Bo­ing’s “nerdgas­mic” inter­view with Gib­son (iTunesFeedMP3 Stream), plus Cory Doc­tor­row’s rev­er­en­tial review of the new work. And final­ly, if you need more, you can watch Gib­son give a book talk at Cody’s in Berke­ley CA, cour­tesy of Fora.Tv.For your dai­ly dose of dig­i­tal cul­ture, sub­scribe to our feed.

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OnClassical Relaunches

Here’s a quick fyi for clas­si­cal music lovers… has just relaunched its web­site, and you may want to give a look. If you don’t already know about it, OnClas­si­cal is an inde­pen­dent clas­si­cal music label based in Italy that fea­tures inter­na­tion­al­ly-acclaimed artists. They offer a “mani­a­cal­ly high sound lev­el” and pro­duce their record­ings with­out shar­ing prof­its with inter­me­di­aries … which stands to ben­e­fit artists and con­sumers. Their audio is DRM-free and, what is more, their albums can be entire­ly pre­viewed for free under a Cre­ative Com­mons license (read more here).

For clas­si­cal music (free Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc.) feel free to peruse our Music Pod­cast Col­lec­tion.

The New Grammar Podcast on the Block

grammargirl.jpgIt did­n’t seem like an obvi­ous block­buster at first at least not to me but The Gram­mar Girl (iTunesFeedWeb Site) has remained one of the most down­loaded edu­ca­tion­al pod­casts on iTunes. To be pre­cise, each week, about 100,000 peo­ple down­load these short pod­casts that offer “quick and dirty tips” for clean­ing up your writ­ing. And thanks to the endur­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of her free audio lessons, plus an appear­ance on Oprah, Mignon Fog­a­r­ty, the cre­ator of the Gram­mar Girl, has also man­aged to spin-off an audio­book ($9.95) that has dri­ven strong sales. Plus she’s got a good, old-fash­ioned pulp book some­where still in the pipeline.

It was per­haps, then, only a mat­ter of time before Fog­a­r­ty faced some friend­ly com­pe­ti­tion. The Gram­mar Grater (iTunesFeedWeb Site) is a new pod­cast that approach­es lan­guage issues from a slight­ly dif­fer­ent angle. It focus­es on “Eng­lish words, gram­mar and usage for the Infor­ma­tion Age,” which is to say that it deals with gram­mar issues that often arise when we write emails, blog posts, instant mes­sages and beyond. Luke Tay­lor is the host, and, with him, you get a well-pro­duced, often enter­tain­ing, pod­cast that touch­es on gram­mar issues that you’re bound to encounter in your dai­ly elec­tron­ic writ­ing. Give the Girl and the Grater both a lis­ten and you’ll almost cer­tain­ly learn small bits that’ll make a big dif­fer­ence.

For your dai­ly dose of dig­i­tal cul­ture, sub­scribe to our feed.

Also check out these oth­er fine items:

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Life-Changing Books: Your Picks

Image by George Red­grave, via Flickr Com­mons

We asked our read­ers what books made the biggest dif­fer­ence in their lives, and here’s what they had to say. The list below tells you what books shaped their lives and why.

1984 — George Orwell

1984 “was the first book I actu­al­ly enjoyed read­ing. It com­plete­ly blew my mind at the time (I was 16) and it opened my eyes to the pow­er of ideas and to the joy of read­ing a good book.” Tim

A Short His­to­ry of Near­ly Every­thing — Bill Bryson

“Wow this book is incred­i­ble. At close to 500 pages Bryson cov­ers every­thing from the moment the uni­verse expand­ed from the intense­ly dense mat­ter that was (aka the big bang) to man’s ori­gin. Read­ing this book has impact­ed the way I look at every­thing from bac­te­ria to aster­oids.” Alex

Ariel — Sylvia Plath

“After read­ing through these sug­ges­tions, I real­ized there’s a big hole: Poet­ry! So much poet­ry has affect­ed my life: Sylvia Plath’s _Ariel_; Camp­bell McGrath’s _Road Atlas_; James Wright’s _Above the River_; Bren­da Hillman’s _Cascadia_…Walt Whit­man, Emi­ly Dick­in­son, Robert Bly… Poet­ry may not be the “win­ning pick” here, but it def­i­nite­ly should be cel­e­brat­ed! And not just in April.” Aman­da


Cat’s Cra­dle — Kurt Von­negut

“This book reignit­ed the pilot light of my imag­i­na­tion like no oth­er book had done in quite awhile. The whim­sy of its nar­ra­tive, which end­ed with the utter destruc­tion of our world thanks to mankind, was stark, shock­ing, yet refresh­ing when it seemed every oth­er book I read was just an exer­cise towards get­ting to a hap­py end­ing. Great book!” Spam­boy

Crooked Cucum­ber — The Life and Zen Teach­ing of Shun­ryu Suzu­ki

“Although I am not prac­tic­ing Zen (yet), this book is like my Bible in that I plan to always read over it and reflect upon the mes­sages there­in. Suzu­ki had a hum­ble vision that in order to change this world, we need to change the way peo­ple think and live, not just to change the symp­toms of what is wrong. Not just to get rid of pop-prej­u­dice and hatred, but to get rid of labels entire­ly, to ‘fight’ war and injus­tice with peace and under­stand­ing instead of anger.… That’s just some of the stuff that is shap­ing the way I think right now.” Luel­la

Dis­turb­ing the Peace — Vaclav Hav­el

“I read it as a junior in high school, picked up on the bar­gain pile at a B. Dal­tons. It impact­ed me because it illus­trat­ed the con­cept of learn­ing through­out life and how peo­ple can live with dig­ni­ty. I’ve loaned it out sev­er­al times and re-bought it at least three times.” Emmett

Extreme­ly Loud and Incred­i­bly Close — Jonathan Safran Foer

“…It’s as though that book has tak­en so much life from the past and made it all tan­gi­ble to us here in the present. I love the emo­tion­al com­plex­i­ty that’s repli­cat­ed in the grandmother’s and grandfather’s man­u­script and let­ters, how they show how mem­o­ry is frag­ment­ed, over­whelm­ing, and some­times incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Seri­ous­ly, I could go on and on. And I can think of hun­dreds of oth­er books that have changed me just as much. It’s just this one has been at the fore­front of my mind ever since I read it a cou­ple of months ago.” Aman­da

Great Expec­ta­tions — Charles Dick­ens

“I think it was the first time I had felt such a bond with a char­ac­ter. I tri­umphed with [Pip’s] suc­cess­es, felt the blow of fail­ure in his defeats, and felt sor­row when he broke his own prin­ci­ples. I saw val­ues in Pip that I want­ed to emu­late in my own life — a ded­i­ca­tion to pur­su­ing my dreams, over­com­ing my weak­ness­es, and treat­ing oth­ers respect­ful­ly regard­less of what frus­tra­tions I may have in my own life…” Jamie

Heal­ing Invis­i­ble Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recov­ery in a Vio­lent World — Richard F. Mol­li­ca

“A stel­lar book released last year that I believe will qui­et­ly grow to clas­sic sta­tus on par with Vic­tor Fran­kl and Elie Wiesel… Mollica’s the­sis, rad­i­cal for a pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine, is that humans have the tools to heal them­selves from even the worst imag­in­able trau­mas. He gen­tly shows the recipe for self-recov­ery, and reveals that the sur­vivor is, in fact, the great­est hero for us all.” Megan

Hiroshi­ma — John Hersey

“Hersey retells what hap­pens when an atom­ic bomb falls on your city. Culled from inter­views with sur­vivors of the atom­ic bomb attack, this nar­ra­tive was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished as an entire issue of The New York­er mag­a­zine. Haunt­ing.” Mor­gan

How to Read a Book — Mor­timer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

“Quite sim­ply it has enabled me to get more out of the books that I’ve read.” Greg

In Cold Blood — Tru­man Capote

It was the first “adult book that I read upon grad­u­at­ing to the adult sec­tion of the Munic­i­pal Library in Krakow. Hav­ing read all the clas­sic sci­ence fic­tion on the shelves, Capote’s mat­ter of fact prose was as dis­turb­ing to me as it was new. No aliens here among far away stars but a world almost ordi­nary and with­in reach, tan­gi­ble and so total­ly fright­en­ing. Read­ing it felt like being caged with a wild ani­mal, a quick fear fol­lowed repeat­ed­ly by the mind’s pangs of pride to sub­due the brute. This was no fic­tion yet it read stranger than any­thing else up till then.”

Lan­guage in Thought and Action — S.I. Hayakawa

A book that “pro­vides a whole ratio­nale for read­ing fic­tion that I have nev­er for­got­ten. I grew up in a time and a house­hold where read­ing fic­tion was analagous to wast­ing your time. Hayakawa writes of fic­tion as a tool to increase your expe­ri­ence of life, to increase the num­ber and vari­ety of expe­ri­ences in your life, your appre­ci­a­tion of those expe­ri­ences, to under­stand oth­ers and so much more!” Ter­ry

Love in the Time of Cholera — Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez

–“It’s for me ‘life imi­tates art’ because an old lover appeared in my life after 31 years. And if I hadn’t read that book I think I would have refused him.” Regi­na

–“Epic. Beau­ti­ful. My inspi­ra­tion to become a writer.” Valenti­na

Man’s Search for Mean­ing — Vic­tor Fran­kl

“[It] is one of the best books I have read. The book describes the author’s impris­on­ment in sev­er­al con­cen­tra­tion camps. Faced with ter­ri­ble suf­fer­ing and loss he sur­vives by find­ing mean­ing in the midst of this. He dis­cov­ers that all of our free­doms can be tak­en from us….except one….the free­dom to choose how we think and act under the very worst of cir­cum­stances.” Andrea

Med­i­ta­tions — Mar­cus Aure­lius

“A how-to man­u­al of human behav­iour, one that should be required read­ing for all aspir­ing politi­cians and lead­ers.” Car­ol

Nar­row Road to a Far Province — Basho

“A quar­ter cen­tu­ry ago, I set out on a bicy­cle trip across North Amer­i­ca, and a friend stuck a paper­back copy of Basho’s ‘Nar­row Road to a Far Province’ in one of my pan­niers. ‘Nar­row Road’ … is a diary kept by the Japan­ese poet Basho in 1689 as he made a jour­ney into the north­ern provinces of Japan. When I was in the Sier­ras, delayed by snow, I read through ‘Nar­row Road’ two or three times. I don’t know whether the book affect­ed me more great­ly because I was trav­el­ing or my trav­el­ing affect­ed my per­cep­tion of the book (one of those zen­ny ques­tions), but I came away with a much bet­ter sense of the jour­ney that we all make through life, both the phys­i­cal and philo­soph­i­cal jour­ney, and a more hum­ble sense of my place among the sojourn­ers.” Char­lie

Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direc­tion — Lau­ra Berman Fort­gang

“I’ve read this book 3 times over the past 2 years and it’s allowed me to over­come my fears, real­ize my dreams and start work­ing toward new goals in my career, rela­tion­ships, etc. It’s giv­en me the courage to leave the things (mar­riage, career, etc.) that weren’t work­ing for me and to face the fear of the unknown to start work­ing toward a new future.” Mer­lene

Slaugh­ter­house 5 — Kurt Von­negut

“Read at 12 or 13 this book cer­tain­ly opened my eyes to a whole new world.” Jason

Teach­ing as a Sub­ver­sive Activ­i­ty — Neil Post­man

“One title that has had a big impact on me through­out my teach­ing career has been Neil Postman’s Teach­ing as a Sub­ver­sive Activ­i­ty. His con­cepts of help­ing kids devel­op their instincts for eval­u­at­ing and ana­lyz­ing all the mes­sages tossed at them dur­ing their lives (he called it their crap detec­tor) are more valid today than when he wrote the book in the 70’s.” Tim

The Broth­ers Kara­ma­zov — Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky

“As a teenag­er I was mys­ti­fied by the audac­i­ty of the grand inquisi­tor. I’d nev­er read such a suc­cint indict­ment of faith. As I got to my twen­ties I read the whole book, but in my late twen­ties I began to appre­ci­ate it. I’ve nev­er read a more pow­er­ful and real­is­tic tes­ta­ment to faith in my life, and as I’ve grown, my read­ing of the book has grown with me.” Don

The Can­dles of Your Eyes – James Pur­dy

“If the dev­il were alive he would be writ­ing the works of James Pur­dy. ‘The Can­dles of Your Eyes’ changed my out­look on lit­er­a­ture for­ev­er.” John

The Catch­er in the Rye — J. D. Salinger

–“This nov­el touched my heart deeply.” Ellen

–“I’m going to go back to high school and say that Catch­er in the Rye had a big impact on my life. While the con­tent of the book in terms of char­ac­ter and sto­ry were acces­si­ble to me at 16, that isn’t real­ly what made the dif­fer­ence. It was only after read­ing some crit­i­cism and talk­ing with oth­ers in school and out that I began to see all that was going on in a nov­el beyond the plot: sym­bol­ism, irony, lan­guage and the rest. When I saw how much could go on in a book, how many things were going on simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, I became very impressed with the com­plex­i­ty of lit­er­a­ture as art. From then on I was pret­ty well hooked on books.” Jack

The Chaneysville Inci­dent — David Bradley

This book “arrived in my library, as part of our rental col­lec­tion, in the mid-70s. Since then, I have giv­en away at least half a dozen copies, bought it for oth­er libraries I’ve worked at, and had a brief cor­re­spon­dence with David Bradley, the author. It’s about time for me to reread it…. If only one of you, read­ing this, gets the book, I’ll be sat­is­fied. Even if you don’t get past the dis­ser­ta­tion on long dis­tance pub­lic trans­porta­tion.” Paper­maven

The Cho­sen — Chaim Potok

“I read this book as a teenag­er. I remem­ber being com­plete­ly fas­ci­nat­ed with the Jew­ish cul­ture por­trayed in the nov­el, but the main impact came in the way Potok empha­sized the val­ues of intel­li­gence, intel­lec­tu­al achieve­ment, and com­pas­sion for oth­ers. I was incred­i­bly moved by the con­flict between these val­ues, and find myself re-read­ing this nov­el and the sequel “The Promise” almost year­ly for over 20 years.” Judy

The Com­plete Sto­ries of Edgar Allan Poe

“Short and punchy, his macabre tales pack a visu­al whol­lop that mod­ern longer sto­ries lack. He can cre­ate mood and tone in less than a page. When I need a break from stu­dent nar­ra­tives, I read a short sto­ry by Poe. There is a rea­son the guy’s writ­ing has sur­vived.” Chris

The Grapes of Wrath — John Stein­beck

“I read The Grapes of Wrath in the 7th grade. That was 43 years ago. Steinbeck’s ten­der and lov­ing prose and voice have nev­er left me. I don’t think it’s too much to say that I actu­al­ly, fac­tu­al­ly, love that book, and its author, very, very much.” Fuz­zo

The His­to­ry of Sex­u­al­i­ty & Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish — Michel Fou­cault

“Both of these books philo­soph­i­cal­ly ush­ered me into the mod­ern world, chang­ing the way I saw pow­er, sex, sex­u­al­i­ty, school, and noth­ing less than the Mod­ern Self.” Drag­on Man­age­ment

The Jour­ney to the East — Her­mann Hesse

“For a young read­er, this became a por­tal for enjoy­ing books.” Bob

The Lord of the Rings — J.R.R. Tolkien

“The book that most influ­enced my life was “The Lord of the Rings” that I read when I was 15 years old. That book intro­duced me to the world of fan­ta­sy books. Ever since I keep read­ing this genre of books (plus a lot oth­ers of course), both in Eng­lish and in Ital­ian.” Francesco

The Illu­mi­na­tus! Tril­o­gy - Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wil­son

– “It’s chock full of free-think­ing anar­chism and did a lot to push me towards my cur­rent semi-lib­er­tar­i­an view point.” Dave

–“I would imag­ine this book had a sim­i­lar effect on a lot of peo­ple who read it. This book real­ly changed the way I think and intro­duced me to a lot of real­ly great infor­ma­tion. I went on to read almost all of Robert Anton Wilson’s books. He was a great philoso­pher who wasn’t afraid to state his mind. He recent­ly passed away and I know a lot of peo­ple will and are miss­ing him. His great­est effect on me was the intro­duc­tion of ‘maybe log­ic.’” Cyen

The Plea­sure of Find­ing Things Out — Richard Feyn­man

“A col­lec­tion of assort­ed writ­ings by a great sci­en­tist shows the full palette of a sharp intel­li­gence ani­mat­ed by all-around curios­i­ty.” Davide

The Secret Gar­den — Frances Hodg­son Bur­nett

“I have two books that impact­ed my life; one from child­hood and one from ear­ly adult­hood. In the sixth grade, our teacher read The Secret Gar­den to us every day. I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the imag­i­na­tion, com­pas­sion, and touch of fan­ta­sy that this book awak­ened in me.” Jan

The Stranger — Albert Camus

“I love it so much. This book is for me pure phi­los­o­phy.” Ellen

Ways of See­ing — John Berg­er

“A book that first opened up my eyes to the fact that there are many ways that one can exam­ine things.” Dar­cy

Zen and the Art of Motor­cy­cle Main­te­nance: An Inquiry into Val­ues — Robert M. Pir­sig

–“Although I am not too much into phi­los­o­phy, this book real­ly made me see a lot of things dif­fer­ent­ly!” Har­ish

–“After 18 years explor­ing philoso­phies I still return to Pir­sig for clar­i­ty. Although I see many par­al­lels now with more “respectable” philoso­phers, such as Hume, there is also a very human dimen­sion to these books which man­ages always to move me. There is a sen­sa­tion for many who read Pir­sig of re-con­nect­ing with some long-for­got­ten well­spring of wis­dom long lost to the reduc­tion­ism of our dai­ly exis­tences.” David

100 Days That Changed Music

“Sub­tract the fol­low­ing 2,400 hours from his­to­ry and you’d have no mp3s, no LSD, no hip–hop, no soul–sucking cor­po­rate rock — actu­al­ly, can we erase that last one? Blender presents the most earth–shakingly impor­tant days in music, ever.”

Here are the top 10. Make sure you see the full list.

10.) April 26, 1977 — Stu­dio 54 opens

9.) May 6, 1965 — Kei­th Richards writes the “(I Can’t Get No) Sat­is­fac­tion” riff

8.) Decem­ber 21, 1960 — Bob Dylan leaves Min­neso­ta

7.) March 2, 1983 — MTV airs “Bil­lie Jean” video

6.) Octo­ber 25, 1997 — Dr. Dre hears Eminem freestyling on KPWR’s “Wake Up Show” in L.A.

5.) August 1, 1981 — MTV debuts

4.) March 30, 1994 — Kurt Cobain buys a Rem­ing­ton M–11 20–gauge shot­gun and a box of ammu­ni­tion

3.) June 1, 1999 — Nap­ster released

2.) August 11, 1973 — Kool DJ Herc invents hip–hop

1.) Feb­ru­ary 9, 1964 — The Bea­t­les on Ed Sul­li­van

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Jon Stewart on 1994 and 2003 Dick Cheney

Strange cul­ture we live in these days. It’s the come­di­ans that ask the hard ques­tions. See John Stew­art below and the ref­er­enced Dick Cheney video below that.

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The Science Behind the Bible

The lat­est pod­cast put out by The Chron­i­cle of High­er Edu­ca­tion (iTunesStreamWeb Site) does­n’t shy away from hot-but­ton issues. Below, we’ve past­ed the sum­ma­ry that accom­pa­nies the pod­cast on The Chron­i­cle’s web site. Read it and then give the audio some time and thought.

“Uni­ver­si­ty-trained archae­ol­o­gists and his­to­ri­ans are scared to take on the Bible, says Eric H. Cline, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of clas­sics at George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. He talks about his new book, From Eden to Exile: Unrav­el­ing Mys­ter­ies of the Bible, in which he argues that Bible stud­ies have become dom­i­nat­ed by ‘junk sci­ence’ (Noah’s ark found in Turkey!) because aca­d­e­mics have yield­ed the field.”

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