The Beatles Talk Before the Fall

Flashback to 1966. The Beatles hold a press conference in LA, on the eve of their very last live concert. As you’ll see, the questions range from the frivolous (“What do you think of American women’s legs?”) to the more serious (“Do you really think you’re more popular than God?” Or, “What would happen if you came to an event without an armored truck and without police?”). A brief glimpse into a day in the life of a Beatle. Part 1 is above. Part 2 is here. And Part 3, here.

Will Sony Beat Amazon Where It Counts?

sonyreaderIf you haven’t heard the news… Sony is releasing a new e-book reader, its answer to Amazon’s Kindle. Retailing at $399, the Sony reader will feature a touch screen (something the Kindle doesn’t have) and the ability to download books wirelessly (something the Kindle does have). It will also provide access to thousands of free (public domain) books & documents provided by Google Book Search. A nice touch.

But I’m wondering whether the Sony reader will beat the Kindle in the one category that really counts? Will it have a truly readable screen? The Sony and Amazon screens each use “e-ink” technology, which doesn’t cut the mustard. As Nicholson Baker recently wrote in The New Yorker, “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.”

Hopefully Sony figures this piece out. If not, Apple may. According to The Wall Street Journal, Steve Jobs is back at Apple, just months after his liver transplant, working hard and raising the blood pressure of Apple employees, as they prepare to roll out a multimedia tablet that’s rumored to include, yes, an e-book reader.

Google Knol Prediction Revisited

Back in December 2007, I made a bet against Google Knol, the search giant’s answer to Wikipedia. In a fairly involved piece, I listed three reasons why Knol wouldn’t upend Wikipedia. Now fast forward 18+ months: Tech Crunch has reported that Knol’s traffic is trending down. It peaked in February at around 320,000 visitors per month, according to Quantcast estimates. Now it’s at around 174,000. (See the graph here.) The bottom line? You can’t win at everything. But fortunately there’s some good new things coming out of Google, and we’ll be mentioning them in the coming days.

PS In case you didn’t hear, Wikipedia is starting to put editorial restrictions on certain entries. The laissez-faire days are coming to an end.

We Are as Gods

Between 1968 and 1972, Stewart Brand published The Whole Earth Catalog. For Steve Jobs, it was a “Bible” of his generation, a kind of Google 35 years before Google came along (see the excellent commencement speech where Jobs makes these comments.) More recently, Brand founded The Long Now Foundation, which is all about cultivating “slower/better” thinking instead of the “faster/cheaper” mindset that dominates our day. (You can get The Long Now podcast here: iTunesFeed – Web Site.  It’s also in our Ideas & Culture Audio Collection.) Brand is good at looking thoughtfully into the future, and above he takes a long-range view on our global climate problems. The upshot is that “we are as gods” and we had better get good at it. If you watch, you’ll see what I’m talking about. This video originally comes from the

Related Content:

The Whole Earth Catalog Now Online

Better Thinking Through Podcasts

Is OpenCourseWare Hitting the Mainstream?

A quick news break: has released today a new list, “The 50 Best Web Sites of 2009,” and right alongside some well known brands, you’ll find Academic Earth, a new venture that aggregates high quality university video. Essentially, Academic Earth pulls together videos from top-notch universities and lets users watch them with a very user-friendly interface. And that’s why we’ve previously featured them in our popular collection: Intelligent Video: The Top Cultural & Educational Video Sites. Is open courseware finally hitting the mainstream? It seems so. Congrats, Richard!

For more university courseware, check out our large collection, Free Lectures & Courses from Great Universities. Or get this university content via our free iPhone app.

David Sedaris Guest DJ’s

These days, David Sedaris is the thinking person’s favorite funny man. In the past, we have featured his live readings of comic material from When You are Engulfed in Flames. (See “Related Content” below.) Today, we’re highlighting something a little different. On August 19th, Sedaris appeared as a guest DJ on KCRW, a radio station in Los Angeles, and spun his favorite old records. You can listen with the player below or here. Meanwhile, if you want to hear more of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project (which has featured David Lynch, Jimmy Wales, and other cultural icons), you can get the podcast here:  iTunesFeedWeb Site.

Related Content:

Sedaris Reads “Solution to Saturday’s Puzzle”

David Sedaris Reads “Of Mice and Men”

Helen Keller Captured on Video

You’ve all heard about Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. Now, thanks to this vintage footage from the 1930s, you can see Keller in the flesh and discover how she learned to talk (then  eventually became an author, lecturer, and champion of many progressive causes). It’s worth watching, particularly through the stirring finish. We’ve added this clip to our YouTube Favorites.

via Boing Boing

Good “Reads” On Audible (with Freebie Possibilities)

paul_austerA quick note: Audible has recently launched a series called the Audible Modern Vanguard (more details here) that brings groundbreaking works and authors into unabridged audio for the first time. Here, you’ll find works by Paul Auster (one of my faves), Saul Bellow, John Cheever, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, and William Kennedy.

There are some good “reads” here, and, unless I’m mistaken, there’s a way that you can download one for free. I’ve created a page where you can get information on Audible’s (no strings attached) 14 day trial here, which gives you a completely free download of any audio book you choose.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.