Talks from The New Yorker Festival Available as Video Podcasts

newyorkercoverold.jpgIn ear­ly Octo­ber, The New York­er mag­a­zine held its eighth annu­al fes­ti­val in NYC. (Yikes! As I am typ­ing I’m feel­ing my first earth­quake here in Cal­i­for­nia. Appar­ent­ly 5.7 on Richter scale. Details here.) Any­way, the fes­ti­val brings to the stage an impres­sive list of writ­ers & artists (see the full sched­ule here). And while the aver­age New York­er had to pay some­where between $16 and $100 to attend the var­i­ous events, you can now watch a select num­ber of them for free. The free videos fea­ture New York­er edi­tor David Rem­nick speak­ing with Sey­mour Hersh about his inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism and Amer­i­ca’s involve­ment in Iraq and Iran; Nobel Prize win­ner Orhan Pamuk and Salman Rushdie dis­cussing how they approach writ­ing about their respec­tive home­lands, Turkey and India; and Mar­tin Amis and Ian Buru­ma mak­ing sense of his­tor­i­cal “mon­sters” and the psy­chol­o­gy that dri­ves evil. Also Philip Goure­vitch leads a quite thought-pro­vok­ing con­ver­sa­tion with Errol Mor­ris about Abu Ghraib and what did and did not hap­pen there. (Abu Ghraib is the sub­ject of Morris’s next film.) Then, on the lighter side, come­di­an Steve Mar­tin amus­es the crowd by show­ing clips of his stand-up per­for­mances, and film­mak­er Judd Apa­tow talks with film crit­ic David Den­by about his new com­e­dy “Knocked Up.”

You can access these video talks in one of three ways. Watch them online right on The New York­er web site; head over to Itunes where you can down­load them as video pod­casts; or work with the video rss feed.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

100 Top Jazz CDs

If you’re look­ing to build your jazz col­lec­tion, this site offers some sound guid­ance. It fea­tures 100 top jazz CDs. Although inher­ent­ly sub­jec­tive, the list includes many indis­putable clas­sics that belong in any respectable jazz col­lec­tion. (Note: if you click on the link for each album, you’ll find some back­ground infor­ma­tion that’s often worth read­ing.)

For more jazz, check out our col­lec­tion of Music Pod­casts which includes a decent selec­tion of, yes, jazz pod­casts.

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Reading Great Books with The New York Times (Starting with War & Peace)

tolstoy.jpgEar­li­er this month, The New York Times Book Review launched an online Read­ing Room that lets read­ers tack­le great books with the help of “an all-star cast of pan­elists from var­i­ous backgrounds—authors, review­ers, schol­ars and jour­nal­ists.” The first read­ing starts with Leo Tol­stoy’s 1200+ page epic, War and Peace (1865–69), and it’s led by book review edi­tor Sam Tanen­haus and a sup­port­ing crew con­sist­ing of Bill Keller (exec­u­tive edi­tor of The Times), Stephen Kotkin (a Russ­ian his­to­ry pro­fes­sor at Prince­ton), Francine Prose (author of Read­ing Like a Writer), and Liesl Schillinger (a reg­u­lar review­er for the Book Review).

At the out­set, Sam Tanen­haus’ intro­duc­tion leaves the impres­sion that the “Read­ing Room” will offer a fair­ly struc­tured read­ing of Tol­stoy’s text. But that’s not exact­ly how things turn out. Often quite frag­men­tary, the con­ver­sa­tion most­ly oper­ates out­side the text itself and veers in many dif­fer­ent, though often intrigu­ing, direc­tions. At one moment, Francine Prose tells us that Tol­stoy’s account of the Napoleon­ic wars reminds her of today’s war in Iraq. For Bill Keller, it evokes the wan­ing days of the Sovi­et Union. And, for Liesl Schillinger, it’s her youth in 1970s Amer­i­ca. (You can get a feel for the flow and focus of the dis­cus­sion here.) Ulti­mate­ly, what you think of this new project depends on what you want to get out of the expe­ri­ence. If it’s a more struc­tured read­ing (as we were hop­ing), then you may not be com­plete­ly engaged. But if it’s a more free-flow­ing con­ver­sa­tion that moves in and around great works, then you’ll want to join the con­ver­sa­tion. And, yes, there’s a role there for the every­day read­er too. Take a look at the Read­ing Room and let us know what you think.

Relat­ed Posts:

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Open Culture Turns One: The State of the Blog Address

This sneaked up on us. Today marks the one year anniver­sary of our site. All in all, it’s been a decent maid­en voy­age. Last Octo­ber, we start­ed with the con­cept that the web abounds with great cultural/educational media, but no one’s real­ly focus­ing on these smart podcasts/videos and pro­vid­ing users with a free and easy way to con­tin­ue expand­ing their cul­tur­al hori­zons. So that’s what we start­ed to do.

The num­bers sug­gest that we’re sat­is­fy­ing some kind of need. We racked up a cou­ple mil­lion page views this year (not bad for a fledg­ling site), with users com­ing from across the globe. Along the way, we got some nice men­tions in the press — Smart Mon­ey (by the Wall Street Jour­nal), The Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor, Der Spiegel (Ger­many), and El Pais (Spain). And there were oth­er men­tions on the big blogs — Life­hack­er, Boing Boing, The Unof­fi­cial Apple Weblog, etc. — and a cou­ple of inter­views on pub­lic radio (here and here).

By far, users most often fre­quent­ed our pod­cast col­lec­tions (full library here) and par­tic­u­lar­ly our col­lec­tions of for­eign lan­guage lessons, audio books and uni­ver­si­ty lec­tures and com­plete cours­es. When it comes to our dai­ly fea­tures, the five most pop­u­lar pieces were the fol­low­ing:

As for our per­son­al favorites, we would include:

We’re look­ing for­ward to Year 2, when we’ll hope­ful­ly get more writ­ers and guest blog­gers in the mix and launch a pod­cast of our own. (We’ll see if time per­mits.) If you have thoughts on how we could improve, please feel free to con­tact us and give us your thoughts. We’d gen­uine­ly like to get your feed­back and find new ways to do things bet­ter. We hope that you’ll con­tin­ue to vis­it dur­ing this upcom­ing year. Ciao.

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Weekly Wrap — October 28

At the end of anoth­er week, it’s time for anoth­er recap of the ground we cov­ered:

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Human Species May Split into Two: Life Imitates Art Again?

Here’s a zinger to mull over: The BBC has post­ed an arti­cle about a the­o­ry advanced by Oliv­er Cur­ry, an “evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­rist” work­ing out of The Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, who sug­gests that human­i­ty may split into two sub-species about 100,000 years down the road. And what we’d be left with is “a genet­ic upper class” rul­ing over “a dim-wit­ted under­class.” This is a sce­nario, of course, that HG Wells laid out in his 1895 clas­sic, The Time Machine (lis­ten to free audio­book on iTunes here). And, if Cur­ry’s the­o­ry holds water, Welles may offer the most extreme exam­ple of sci­ence fic­tion antic­i­pat­ing the shape of the future. Does Cur­ry’s the­o­ry have any­thing to it? We haven’t the fog­gi­est. But does it make for strange­ly com­pelling yet dis­turb­ing read­ing? It sure does.

See our Sci­ence Pod­cast Col­lec­tion as well as our col­lec­tion of Audio­book Pod­casts.

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Timely Talk About Fire

fireline.jpegIt’s been an unspeak­ably bad week through­out much of fire-rav­aged South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. As of Thurs­day, the toll looked liked this: 500,000 acres burned; 1,800 homes destroyed; 57 peo­ple injured and at least six killed. As all of this tran­spires, a new book has come out that gives you an inside look at fire­fight­ers who make their liv­ing bat­tling nat­ur­al wild­fires. On the Fire­line: Liv­ing and Dying with Wild­land Fire­fight­ers is writ­ten by Matthew Desmond, who spent four years tack­ling these blazes. And, in this lengthy free excerpt you get graph­i­cal­ly exposed to the risks and loss­es that they expe­ri­ence pro­fes­sion­al­ly and per­son­al­ly. It cer­tain­ly makes you feel for the fire­fight­ers on the front­lines this week, and we wish them and our fel­low Cal­i­for­ni­ans the best.

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Essential Books for the Critic’s Library

The Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle has a blog and they’ve asked some of the coun­try’s best lit­er­ary crit­ics to list the “five books a crit­ic believes review­ers should have in their libraries.” The series pro­vides a new list every week, and so far the choic­es are inter­est­ing not just for the books picked (and some of the over­laps in picks), but also for the expla­na­tions that the crit­ics offer for their choic­es. Here’s John Updike on Eric Auer­bach’s Mime­sis:

a stun­ning­ly large-mind­ed sur­vey from Homer and the Old Tes­ta­ment up to Woolf and Joyce. Quot­ing a lengthy para­graph or two from each clas­sic, Auer­bach gives us an essen­tial his­to­ry of, as his sub­ti­tle has it, “the Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Real­i­ty in West­ern Lit­er­a­ture.”

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.