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.
If 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.
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.
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: iTunes – Feed – 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 EDGE.org.
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: iTunes – Feed – Web Site.
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.
A 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.
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