Another Godfather “What If”

What if The Godfather had been shot without Marlon Brando? (It almost happened.) Or without Al Pacino? (It almost happened too .) Or without Francis Ford Coppola? (Yup, even that almost happened as well.) Then, what if Robert De Niro had played the role of Sonny, which eventually went to James Caan? Here’s what it would have looked like (and, by the way, we’ve added this clip to our list of YouTube favorites):

The New Yorker Knocks The Kindle

It’s not often that The New Yorker does the gadget review. But here we have one — Nicholson Baker breaking down the Kindle. The upshot? He’s not a big fan. Why? Let me give you some of the money quotes. And also note the iPhone/iPod Touch recommendations at the end (where I added some useful links):

“The problem was not that the screen was in black-and-white; if it had really been black-and-white, that would have been fine. The problem was that the screen was gray. And it wasn’t just gray; it was a greenish, sickly gray. A postmortem gray. The resizable typeface, Monotype Caecilia, appeared as a darker gray. Dark gray on paler greenish gray was the palette of the Amazon Kindle [DC note: This is why I returned my Kindle].”

“Despite its smoother design, the Kindle 2 is, some say, harder to read than the Kindle 1. “I immediately noticed that the contrast was worse on the K2 than on my K1,” a reviewer named T. Ford wrote. One Kindler, Elizabeth Glass, began an online petition, asking Amazon to fix the contrast. “Like reading a wet newspaper,” according to petition-signer Louise Potter.”

“Amazon, with its listmania lists and its sometimes inspired recommendations and its innumerable fascinating reviews, is very good at selling things. It isn’t so good, to date anyway, at making things. But, fortunately, if you want to read electronic books there’s another way to go. Here’s what you do. Buy an iPod Touch (it costs seventy dollars less than the Kindle 2, even after the Kindle’s price was recently cut), or buy an iPhone, and load the free “Kindle for iPod” application onto it.”

“There are other ways to read books on the iPod, too. My favorite is the Eucalyptus application, by a Scottish software developer named James Montgomerie: for $9.99, you get more than twenty thousand public-domain books whose pages turn with a voluptuous grace. There’s also the Iceberg Reader, by ScrollMotion, with fixed page numbers, and a very popular app called Stanza. In Stanza, you can choose the colors of the words and of the page, and you can adjust the brightness with a vertical thumb swipe as you read… Forty million iPod Touches and iPhones are in circulation, and most people aren’t reading books on them. But some are. The nice thing about this machine is (a) it’s beautiful, and (b) it’s not imitating anything. It’s not trying to be ink on paper. It serves a night-reading need, which the lightless Kindle doesn’t.”

Dylan & Cash Together

Vintage video…

Solving Stonehenge?

Is Wally Wallington onto something?

Thanks Jillian for sending this one along…

Ira Glass, Host of This American Life, Explains 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. It takes effort, years of it. And he revisits some of his early radio work in order to prove it.  A good reminder for anyone with serious artistic or creative ambitions.

Yale Open Courses Now on iTunesU

Over the past two years, Yale has released fifteen free “open courses.” Initially, these courses were only available through Yale’s web site and later YouTube. Now, they’re also accessible through iTunesU — which means that you can put these courses on your iPod with relative ease. Just click here and scroll down, and you’ll find well-produced courses that cover economics, history, literature, physics, medicine and more. Thanks to this integration with iTunes, we’ll soon be able to include these courses in the Open Culture iPhone app. If you haven’t played with it, give it a try. In the meantime, all Yale courses appear in our collection of Free Courses, featuring online classes from top universities.

Ideas to Die For

Here we have philosopher Daniel Dennett applying Darwinian thought to human thinking, all of which gets him into the intriguing concept of “memes,” infectious ideas that can subvert our survival instincts and threaten whole cultures. It’s another good bit of thinking from TED Talks.

Mark Linsenmayer is a writer and musician who hosts the podcast The Partially Examined Life and has just released this sleazy version of a Michael Jackson tune.

Never Mind Amazon, Get Your Free Orwell Here

The whole mini-controversy surrounding Amazon’s deletion of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from Kindle accounts reminded me of something. Over at the Internet Archive, you can find 1984 available as a free audio book. And, nicely, the recording is professionally done. You can download the full zip file here. Or alternatively you can get the individual mp3 files, or stream them, from this page. On a more permanent basis, you can find Orwell’s 1949 work housed in our Free Audio Book Collection along with lots of other free texts.

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