Ira Glass on Why Creative Excellence Takes Time

Ira Glass, host of the beloved radio show This American Life, offers a helpful reminder that excellence doesn’t come automatically. (See video below.) It takes work, years of it. And he revisits some of his early radio work in order to prove it.

The Glass video has been added to our YouTube playlist.

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Art by Committee: The Story Behind the Writing of “Shake Girl”

Here at Stanford, a couple of our teachers (Tom Kealey and Adam Johnson) took a novel approach to running a writing class. They wanted to see what happens when 14 students collectively write, edit and illustrate a graphic novel. (A graphic novel is a type of comic book that features a lengthy and complex storyline.) Fast forward a few weeks, and you can see what the class produced. Their novel, “a wildly ambitious, emotionally searing story,” based on a series of true events, is called Shake Girl, and you can start reading it here. Should you want to learn more about the writing of this collaborative novel, you can listen to this podcast that gives you the backstory and also read this section of the Shake Girl website.

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Robot Conducts The Detroit Symphony Orchestra

File this under “Random” …

Contribute to The Power of Dreams Music Education Fund at and click on Education or go here.

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Maps Explaining Why Americans Know Less About the World

Speaking at the TED Conference, Alisa Miller (CEO of Public Radio International) explains why Americans know less and less about the rest of the world. Along the way, she uses some eye-popping graphs to put things in perspective. Watch the video below or find it on our YouTube playlist

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India’s Answer to M.I.T. Presents Free Courses on YouTube (in English)

Lots of newsprint has been dedicated to MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative. And, of course, it’s understandable. MIT’s project offers free access to materials from 1800 MIT courses, many on the cutting edge of technology and engineering. It is all great. But suddenly MIT is not the only tech powerhouse getting into the business of providing free educational resources.

In India, there are seven institutes dedicated to training some of the world’s top scientists and engineers and making the country an up and coming world power. They are collectively known as the IITs, or the Indian Institutes of Technology. And now some of the IIT courses are being made available in English on YouTube for free. (The main page is here; the courses are actually here.) Some of the titles featured here include: Introduction to Computer Graphics, Core Science Mathematics, Computer Networks, Introduction To Problem Solving & Programming, Fluid Mechanics, and Environmental Air Pollution.

You can access the full list of IIT courses here. And note that we have integrated many of these courses into our collection: Free Online Courses from Great Universities, which now features more than 225 free courses.

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Ninja Fast Dictionary

Long ago, I got in the habit of using Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. And I’ve suffered through the painfully slow page loads for the better part of a decade. But then I stumbled upon a better alternative. NinjaWords is “a really fast dictionary … fast like a Ninja.” Give it a try. You’ll enjoy the speed.

PS Another cool option is, which is fast and features a handy auto-complete function. Thanks to a reader for flagging that one for us.

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1001 Books to Read Before You Die

As I write, the most emailed article on The New York Times offers a few reflections on Peter Boxall’s book, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. The Times piece makes a couple of logical points: First, there’s no time to waste if you hope to read every book on the list. Reading a book per month, you’ll get through 1000 books in a mere 83 years. So you had better get started now. Second, this “best of” list is bound to be controversial. (Do you really need to read Anne Rice’s “Interview With the Vampire” before it’s lights out?) The 1001 books on Boxall’s list can be previewed here. The book itself, which runs 960 pages, is obviously more than a raw list. Each entry is accompanied by an “authoritative yet opinionated critical essay describing the importance and influence of the work in question.” And also there’s apparently some nice illustrations. If you’re a bibliophile, it’s worth a look.

For more great books, see the collection of Life Changing Books created by our readers.

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HBO Revisits 2000 Election with “Recount”

On Sunday night, HBO aired its new film “Recount,” which delved back into the controversial Florida recount that determined the outcome of America’s 2000 presidential election. Days before the film (watch the trailer here) hit the airwaves, Charlie Rose conducted an interview with Kevin Spacey (actor in the film), Jeffrey Toobin (Senior Legal Analyst at CNN) and David Boies (who argued Bush v. Gore on behalf of Al Gore). In watching the film and interview, my first reaction was to think: yes, it’s been eight long years, but it’s perhaps not been long enough. Perhaps another eight years is what it takes before political trauma can be transformed into pure entertainment. Or maybe it will never quite get there. But that says nothing about the merits of the film or the interview below. If you missed “Recount,” it re-airs tonight on HBO.

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