Reflections, observations, random thoughts and bon mots, relating to the literary and geographic landscapes of American history. And book reviews too.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Even though I did not own an iPod or other MP3 player until just recently, I have amassed a vast library of free podcasts—mainly of various radio programs—that I thought might be nice to listen to during long walks or drives, or while outside doing solitary work.
Of course in real life, long walks are hard to come by, long drives feature a live soundtrack of boys fighting in the backseat, and I try to do as little work outside as possible. But still, I love the technology, and the mobility of podcasts, and I continue to collect them just in case.
Lately, I started downloading some interesting-sounding lectures from various universities, on all manner of topics. There are some fairly amazing repositories for college-level presentations—usually introductory—on everything from astronomy to the history of Rome. If you have iTunes installed, a good starting place is here (click on the link to iTunes U to save you navigating it from scratch). You can also go straight to the university websites, and usually find an iTunes U icon (or search the site with keywords "itunes" or "podcasts"). This web page has a handy list of podcasts by university, with links.
[click on the images at top and bottom of this entry to get a larger view, if necessary]
There's some Civil War stuff there, if you look for it. At UC Berkeley, Jennifer Burns has a long list of lectures on U.S. history starting with the Civil War—I listened to part of the first one, and took issue with a couple statements, but thought it very listen-able, all in all. That's a tough lecture, any way you shake it.
I see from her biography that she's moving on to the University of Virginia soon. Her apparent interest in Ayn Rand probably informs her interpretations of the Civil War. She does ask the question, "who freed the slaves" (a question we see Kevin Levin took up in his classroom recently). Professor Burns' answer is, the slaves did.
Over at Princeton's website, Dimitri's favorite professor holds forth on "Abraham Lincoln's Invention of Presidential War Powers." For some of the reasons I mentioned in the 2nd paragraph above, I am very much enamored of the 60-second Lecture series at the University of Pennsylvania. Now that is a cool idea: get over-educated people in various fields to summarize their subjects in one minute. The first thing you'll notice is that many of them run long. "Intracellular landfills" runs over two minutes! My favorite: "What Makes a Poem a Poem," by Charles Bernstein. One minute, twenty-two seconds. And it's really all you budding poets need to know.
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