What a Hurricane Looks Like From Outer Space

In antic­i­pa­tion of Gus­tav.… Here’s what Hur­ri­cane Dean looked like for the crew fly­ing in a NASA space shut­tle last August. You can check out more NASA videos on YouTube here. It’s also added to our YouTube playlist. Thanks to Bill for point­ing this out. (Read­ers: If you see good pieces of cul­tur­al media, feel free to send them our way.)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Genius Looks Like at Zero Grav­i­ty

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On the Lighter Side: Re-Thinking Classic Films

End­ing the week on a lighter note …

A backer of indie film fes­ti­vals, Volk­swa­gen presents “See Film Dif­fer­ent­ly” — a series of videos that fea­ture amus­ing re-inter­pre­ta­tions of clas­sic movies. Here, you’ll find new takes on Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Die Hard, and Mary Pop­pins. Below, we’ve fea­tured anoth­er (some­what racy) bit and added it to our YouTube Playlist.

via Slash­film

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Knock $100 Off Amazon’s Kindle

Nice find by Kottke.org. If you’re will­ing to sign up for an Ama­zon cred­it card (with no annu­al fee), you can get a $100 rebate on the Kin­dle, Ama­zon’s fast-sell­ing e‑book read­er. This brings the price down to $259. And, as Kot­tke warns, you should always read the fine print. You can get more info here, and buy the Kin­dle here.

Teach Your Children Mandarin … They’re Going to Need It

Thomas Fried­man’s lat­est opin­ion piece in the New York Times starts like this:

After attend­ing the spec­tac­u­lar clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny at the Bei­jing Olympics and feel­ing the vibra­tions from hun­dreds of Chi­nese drum­mers pul­sat­ing in my own chest, I was tempt­ed to con­clude two things: “Holy mack­er­el, the ener­gy com­ing out of this coun­try is unri­valed.” And, two: “We are so cooked. Start teach­ing your kids Man­darin.”

There’s prob­a­bly a good deal of truth to his last point. So to keep your kids (or your­self) com­pet­i­tive in the glob­al mar­ket­place, we’re high­light­ing a series of free Man­darin pod­casts, all of which can be per­ma­nent­ly found in our For­eign Lan­guage Les­son Pod­cast Col­lec­tion. And, as a quick aside, I should note that Roset­ta Stone is cur­rent­ly run­ning a sale (through the end of August) that will let you get 10% off their audio prod­ucts, which includes instruc­tion in Man­darin and many oth­er lan­guages. (Click here for more info)

  • Chi­nese Lessons with Serge Mel­nyk iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Week­ly lessons in Man­darin that get very strong reviews from iTunes users..
  • Chinesepod.com iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A series of well-reviewed lessons that will let you learn Man­darin on your own terms.
  • Sur­vival Chi­nese iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Learn the phras­es you need to get by while trav­el­ing in Chi­na.
  • Chi­nese Learn Online iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A dia­logue-based intro­duc­tion to Man­darin Chi­nese. Load them on your iPod and get up the Chi­nese curve.
  • iMandarinPod.com iTunes Feed Web Site
    • A more advanced pod­cast, this series of lessons teach­es Chi­nese by talk­ing about Chi­nese cul­ture or what is hap­pen­ing today in Chi­na.
  • Man­darin Chi­nese Con­ver­sa­tion iTunes Web Site
    • A lan­guage series put togeth­er by TimesOn­line.
  • Man­darin Chi­nese Feed Web Site
    • 10 Lessons by the US Peace Corps. Make sure you vis­it the site and down­load the PDF that accom­pa­nies the lessons.
  • World Learn­er Chi­nese iTunes Feed Web Site
    • Anoth­er in the mix of pos­si­bil­i­ties.

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Learning Spanish with Free Audio Lessons: The Lay of the Land

Today we have the plea­sure of wel­com­ing a guest con­tri­bu­tion by Eleena de Liss­er, who runs Voic­es en Español, a bilin­gual blog and con­ver­sa­tion­al Span­ish pod­cast (iTunesRSS Feed). In this post, Eleena draws on her expe­ri­ence and offers an overview of the best free audio lessons that will teach you Span­ish (which hap­pens to be the num­ber one sec­ond lan­guage stud­ied in the Unit­ed States). Oth­er Span­ish lessons can be found in our larg­er col­lec­tion How to Learn Lan­guages for Free: Span­ish, Eng­lish, Chi­nese & 37 Oth­er Lan­guages. Many thanks Eleena, and take it away…


Learn­ing Span­ish today is as easy as sit­ting in front of your com­put­er and down­load­ing online audio to your MP3 play­er. If you’re moti­vat­ed, you can learn a great deal of Span­ish at lit­tle to no cost with­out ever leav­ing the com­fort of home. A tremen­dous range of instruc­tion­al Span­ish lan­guage pod­casts, from the begin­ner lev­el to advanced, are wide­ly avail­able on the inter­net and many of them are free. (Some charge for accom­pa­ny­ing tran­scripts and writ­ten prac­tice exer­cis­es.)  So whether you are a raw begin­ner or a sea­soned lan­guage study vet­er­an, there is a pod­cast out there to suit you. Here are the details on a hand­ful of edu­ca­tion­al Span­ish lan­guage pod­casts that are worth a clos­er look:

Cof­fee Break Span­ish (iTunesFeedWeb Site), whose slo­gan is “lan­guage learn­ing with your lat­te,” is undoubt­ed­ly king of the instruc­tion­al pod­cast hill, with a large and loy­al fan­base. It is ide­al­ly suit­ed for begin­ners and oth­er stu­dents seek­ing a review of basic Span­ish gram­mar and phras­es. Mark Pentle­ton, the pro­duc­er and instruc­tor, and Kara, his stu­dent, are Scot­tish, so while you won’t be hear­ing a native Span­ish speaker’s pro­nun­ci­a­tion in the ini­tial episodes, that seems to add to the charm of the pro­gram for some lis­ten­ers.

Anoth­er pop­u­lar instruc­tion­al series is Notes in Span­ish (iTunesFeedWeb Site), pro­duced by Ben Cur­tis and Mari­na Diez, a hus­band-and-wife team out of Madrid, Spain. Ben is British and Mari­na is Span­ish, and they too have built quite a large fol­low­ing for their con­ver­sa­tion­al Span­ish pod­casts (for begin­ners, inter­me­di­ates and advanced stu­dents), which promise to teach lis­ten­ers “real Span­ish” the way it is actu­al­ly spo­ken every day in Spain.

Lin­gusTV (iTunesFeedWeb Site) is a unique entry into the instruc­tion­al lan­guage pod­casts are­na. It’s an edu­ca­tion­al video pod­cast done in the form of a tele­vi­sion sit-com (sit­u­a­tion com­e­dy), laugh track includ­ed. While the actors speak sole­ly in Span­ish, sub­ti­tles are pro­vid­ed and expla­na­tions of vocab­u­lary and gram­mar points are pro­vid­ed on the web site.

SpanishPod101 (iTunesFeedWeb Site) dis­tin­guish­es itself from oth­er cur­rent­ly avail­able instruc­tion­al pod­casts by pro­vid­ing lessons that fea­ture dif­fer­ent accents from around the Span­ish-speak­ing world. Dia­logues are repeat­ed mul­ti­ple times and an Eng­lish trans­la­tion is pro­vid­ed, to fur­ther aid learn­ing.

For advanced lan­guage stu­dents seek­ing a change of pace and a break from gram­mar drills, there are my two pod­casts: Voic­es en Español (iTunesFeedWeb Site), which con­tains inter­views and lit­er­a­ture read­ings with native Span­ish speak­ers from all walks of life, and Cody’s Cuen­tos (iTunesFeedWeb Site), a Span­ish-lan­guage pod­cast of clas­sic fairy tales and leg­ends. While Cody’s Cuen­tos isn’t a con­ven­tion­al instruc­tion­al pod­cast, the fact that you prob­a­bly already know the sto­ry in Eng­lish will aid your com­pre­hen­sion of under­stand­ing the tale in Span­ish. Tran­scripts for the sto­ries are avail­able on the Cody’s Cuen­tos blog so that you can read and fol­low along in the text while lis­ten­ing to the audio.

This is just a small sam­ple of the kind of  Span­ish lan­guage pro­gram­ming cur­rent­ly avail­able online. Sev­er­al more Span­ish learn­ing pod­casts are list­ed here in our col­lec­tion of Free Lan­guage Lessons.

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An Animated History of Evil

This ani­mat­ed mock­u­men­tary traces the his­to­ry of evil from Ancient Greece until today. While I would­n’t make the video part of a stan­dard high school cur­ricu­lum, I give it points for cre­ativ­i­ty. We’ve added it to our YouTube Playlist.

The Story of Stuff in 20 Animated Minutes

Here’s anoth­er good sub­mis­sion (many thanks) that came out of last week’s book give­away…

It’s an ani­mat­ed film called The Sto­ry of Stuff, which offers “a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the under­side of our pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion pat­terns. The Sto­ry of Stuff expos­es the con­nec­tions between a huge num­ber of envi­ron­men­tal and social issues, and calls us togeth­er to cre­ate a more sus­tain­able and just world. It’ll teach you some­thing .… and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life for­ev­er.”

The film, nar­rat­ed by Annie Leonard, an expert in inter­na­tion­al sus­tain­abil­i­ty and envi­ron­men­tal health issues, can be viewed on The Sto­ry of Stuff web site, or it can be down­loaded here for free. Below, we have post­ed a quick teas­er that will give you a feel for what this film is all about.

Photography in Motion: 360-Degree View of Beijing’s Olympic Stadium

Finnish pho­tog­ra­ph­er Kari Kuuk­ka has post­ed a panoram­ic view of Bei­jing’s Olympics Sta­di­um, cap­tur­ing the mood about 30 min­utes before the men’s 100m final, when Usain Bolt blew away the field. Give the page a few sec­onds to load and the pic­ture will go in motion. Hat tip to Metafil­ter, and adieu to Bei­jing.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.