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March 30, 2006

Stanford on iTunes: Plath and Hughes

Recently I listened to an incredible literary discussion made available through Stanford's Books & Authors program on iTunes. The latest update to this section is entitled "Her Husband: Plath and Hughes" and is comprised of an interview and discussion with Diane Middlebrook, author of a recently published Plath-Hughes biography by the same name. If you are a fan of modern literature and poetry in particular, than you owe it to yourself to hear this.

Everyone that has read Sylvia Plath will find it hard to divide her life, marriage, and death from her work. That said, much of the discussion in this program deals with how aspects of her life informed what she wrote. The factors talked about include turbulent mental health, a volatile yet mutually beneficial marriage and how motherhood may have amplified Plath's talent beyond that of previous female authors. This is all interesting to be sure, but what really struck me was the attention given to Ted Hughes. I had never really thought about him before aside from the fact that he was married to Plath and probably contributed in part to the downward spiral that ultimately led to her suicide. Middlebrook provides him more dimension by making Plath's death the primary moment in his creative evolution. For the rest of his life, the centerpiece of Hughes' work lied in how he processed the pain of losing his creative soulmate. Middlebrook ends the session with a poem written by Hughes to Plath just before his 1998 death. What is read here sums up the loss of a loved one so poignantly that even Middlebrook herself sounds as though she's been brought to tears while reading it. This is an incredibly valuable discussion about what tore apart, fueled and ultimately re-connected two highly creative people.


March 30, 2006

Free Audio Documentaries

AmericanPublicMediaProduct.jpgIf you're looking for some high-quality, stimulating audio documentaries, American Public Media has has produced over 140 hour-long documentaries with their documentary unit American RadioWorks. They now refer to themselves as APM Reports and offer numerous podcasts on iTunes. The APM Reports Documentaries Podcast features over 140 of their audio documentaries spanning back two decades. These documentaries cover a wide range of topics including politics, history, social issues, and other current events. We've added many of these audio documentaries as titles on our American Public Media Publisher Page, but they're now all conveniently available for download on one podcast feed:

140 Free Audio Documentaries on the APM Reports Documentaries Podcast

To give you a sampling of some of these audio documentaries, here are some that we've featured in the past:

Say It Plain: A Century of Great African-American Speeches

This hour-long audio documentary from American RadioWorks celebrates the great African American speakers of the last century. In chronological order it covers speeches all the way back to Booker T. Washington's address at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition up to Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention. The hour-long documentary features excerpts of the speeches with interviews and commentary on their significance.

Unmasking Stalin: A Speech That Changed the World

How did Russia, after 30 years of Stalin's propoganda and cult of personality, come to see Joseph Stalin as the repressive and brutal leader that he was? This hour-long documentary from American RadioWorks shows how it began with a speech delivered by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956 which denounced the crimes of Stalin. The documentary also displays how, despite after Stalin's "unmasking", many Russians still believe Stalin to be a hero.

Korea: The Unfinished War

In this audio documentary from American Radio Works, listeners can hear a chronological history of the Korean War. Soldiers, historians and military leaders explain how this "forgotten war" was an essential event that defined global politics for the next 40 years. With Korea still very present in current headlines, this documentary is an essential way for anyone to learn more about why this area of the world is so important.

My Name is Iran

1979 marks the year that Iran became the world's premiere theocracy. Decades later, this government, steeped in Islamic law, has shown no sign of loosening its grip on Iranian civil rights. In My Name is Iran, released by American Audio RadioWorks on streaming audio, we hear from modern Iranian voices as they speak on their current experience under this controversial government, how it has developed from what was once a paragon of Middle East democracy, and what a few courageous people are doing to counter the status quo. This is a great primer in Iranian history and a wonderful way to learn more about what has recently become one of the world's top geo-political hotspots.

Fast Food and Animal Rights: McDonald's New Farm

In this insightful audio documentary, American Radioworks examines how McDonald's, the world's leading food provider has presided over a sea change in how animals are treated in the fast food industry. Here we listen to how the Animal Rights Group PETA forced McDonalds and similar companies to recognize the inhumane practices that were being utilized to provide the average Big Mac. Though farmers admit the changes imposed have been expensive, this is a telling example of how one major international company has used it's worldwide clout to bring about positive change.

Walking Out of History

This audio documentary put out by American Public Media recounts the incredible true-life tale of how 28 Men survived a ship-wreck in Antarctica for 2 years. Sir Ernest Shackelton and the crew of the Endurance set out exploring on a Trans-Antarctic expedition in 1914. They encountered ice and soon became trapped in it, and their ship the Endurance came apart due to the incredible force of multi-ton ice plates. Left to survive on bare ice with nothing but seals and penguins for food, this audio document trails how Shackelton's unerring determination led an entire crew through obstacle after obstacle until finally securing rescue on the outer coast of South America.

Is Wal-Mart Good for America?

This brief audio documentary from American Public Media explores the effect of Wal-Mart on U.S. manufacturing, and how a retailer has surpassed in profit every other major manufacturer in the country. Reporter Hedrick Smith looks at manufacturing in China which produces imports of over $15 billion per year for Wal-Mart. This audio documentary is available on streaming audio from American Public Media.

Intelligent Designs on Evolution

In this streaming audio documentary produced by American Public Media, the controversy over intelligent design is examined from all sides of the debate. The argument over human origins has now found a new venue in America's public schools, where parents and teachers war against each other over what students are taught. This thought provoking work doesn't promise answers to the question, but does give listeners a nuanced overview of why this debate is raging and to what lengths each side is going in order to make their argument.

Bankrupt: Maxed Out in America

This audio documentary from American Public Media examines the record number of bankruptcy filings in recent years in the United States. Documentarians Chris Farrell and Sasha Aslanian travel to Memphis, a city with one of the highest rates of bankruptcy in the country. They interview many people who are declaring bankruptcy and the people who are assisting them in filing for bankruptcy. They also examine the history of bankruptcy and how it has changed over the years from a social stigma to a calculated risk that some feel is worth taking.


March 28, 2006

Audio Round-up


I don't post nearly enough about what I'm listening to. So I've resolved to change that and to share with all of you what I've been putting in my ears in the hopes that you find it useful. So, without further ado, here's is my latest playlist:

The Search by John Battelle - Polished this one off over the last 10 days. It was the best longish audiobook I've listened to since Friedman's The World is Flat. This history of search is fascinating and the intimate look at Google even more so. I'd highly recommend this one.

Mosaic - I've been looking around lately for a cool church here in LA. I was stoked to see that a church I had heard a lot about called Mosaic was podcasting. I listened to a couple of their sermons tonight and really dug them. I'm looking forward to checking them out in person...and what a great way to sample a church before you attend?

Brian Tracy - I've been all about the Brian Tracy stuff lately. It's perfect stuff to put on when you're tasks around the house because you can pick it up for ten minutes and regardless of where you're at you don't need that much context. I'll fire up his CDs when I'm doing dishes, laundry, etc. A perfect way to squeeze some more audio learning into the day.

Kosmic Consciousness by Ken Wilber - I'm a disc into a half into Wilber's 12+ hour dialogue and I'll admit it that it's pretty weighty. Having said that it's one of the more compelling listens I've had in a while. For anyone interested in the cutting edge of philosophy I'm not sure there's anything I could recommend more than Wilber's stuff. I've been a big fan of (and subscriber to) Integral Naked for a while and if you dig that you'll dig this one and vice versa.

OK, that's enough for now. Since I'm finally done with The Search I'm going to be cruising around looking for a new audiobook to listen to. Any recommendations?


March 22, 2006

Audio Learning is Cheating!

I had a good friend from Minneapolis in town last night. We had a great time catching up and got on the subject of audio books when he was telling me how the parents of a kid who he coaches (he's a tennis pro) but audiobooks for their kid to listen to instead of reading the printed version. He considered it cheating and thinks the parents should have the kid read instead.

I guess I kind of agree with him.

I don't think audio learning should ever be a complete substitute for reading. In today's age it's more important than ever to read and honestly everyone would do themselves a favor by learning to read faster so they could process information quicker. A great program to help with that is EyeQ which is a piece of software that can up your reading spead dramatically. But I digress...

The point is not to look at audio learning, audiobooks and podcasts as a means of replacing reading. Instead it's a great compliment and a tremendous opportunity to crank through books and other stuff you're interested in during times when you can't read.

I love to read. But with my reading time I find myself gravitating increasingly to material that I can't listen to. For example, blogs (I love my Bloglines!), magazines and books that haven't been made into audio. Every time a new book comes out the first thing I do is check to see if an audio version is available. If it is I'll usually go that route. I've done this recently with titles such as The World is Flat and My Life. Books that previously I would have spent many hours over several months reading are now completed in a few weeks during my drive and exercise time, while I'm washing the dishes, etc.

The best part is that I didn't take any additional time out of my day to "read" these books.

What does that equate to? A major time savings. In my case, it's time to work on the business, time to relax a bit and of course time to read.

We live in a society in which, for most people, time is more scarce than money. That's why I love audio learning is that it literally adds time to my life. If I'm committed to lifelong learning and know that there will be books each month that I want to (and perhaps need to) read then I know now that I can listen to them, still get the full impact of and benefit from the material and yet not take up any additional time in my day by doing so.

I've been doing this for so long now that it's ingrained in me that I forget that this idea probably hasn't occured to many people. It hadn't really occured to my buddy but I think by the end of the night I sold him. And if I didn't I'm going to dropping an audiobook or two in the mail for him to seal the deal. :)


March 20, 2006

Audio Learning at the LA Marathon


I completed marathon #4 yesterday here in LA and for the first time I tried listening to an audio book while I've ran. I've listened to music in the past and listened to audio books and podcasts while training but I've never tried listening to audio books during a race before. It actually went pretty well.

I listened to the first half of John Battelle's book The Search. It's an interesting look at the history of search engines with a more specific focus on Google. It's one of the multitudes that I always tell myself I should read or want to read but never seem to get around to. Knocking out the first half of it while doing something I knew I was going to do anyway was kind of cool.

I'm such a big fan of listening to audio books and podcasts during exercise. Not only is it a great way to crank through a lot of stuff that you normally wouldn't have time for but it's also a great way to come up with new ideas. I think there's something about the extra blood flow to the brain coupled with exposing your mind to some new knowledge that can trigger a hell of a lot of creativity. I've had some of my best ideas over the last year when I've been out for runs while listening to podcasts like The Gillmor Gang or Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders.

If you've never tried listening to an audio book or podcast during your workout I'd highly recommend it. It's a great way to "kill two birds with one stone" and the ideas you'll come up with will make it time very well spent.


March 17, 2006

Why Just Audio and Video?

One of the common questions we get here at LearnOutLoud is "Why do you just have audio and video on the site?" We'll get asked why we don't have book, e-books or other printed material. I guess what it boils down to is this.

We want to be the central place that you come to when you want to learn and you don't want to (or can't) read.

Let me explain that a little more fully. There's obviously a ton of stuff you can read out there to learn just about anything you want to . With all of the blogs, wikis, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. most of us find ourselves overwhelmed with more stuff to read than time in the day. Just think about how many unread books and magazines you have at home. How many unread e-mails sit in your Inbox (and if you've got a lot of those you really should try ). Or if you're reading blog through a blog reader you've likely got a backlog there too. It just seems like there will always be a surplus of printed material to read in relation to the amount of time in the day in which to consume this stuff.

And that's where my attention turns to audio and video.

You see there are a lot of times during the day in which we can't read or don't want to. Here are just a few of the ones that occur to me off the top of my head:

1. While driving - Please don't read while doing this...
2. While exercising - Again, usually not very conducive to reading.
3. While doing the dishes or cleaning up around the house - Ditto.
4. When your eyes are tired - Lots of time on a computer usually leads to eye fatigue. While you might not be up for reading you can definitely listen or watch something.

Audio and video comes in handy for all of these. You can listen to stuff while you're doing #1-#3 and when you want to take a break from reading (such as with #4) you can watch something.

Now here's what I get fired up about audio and video education.

For the last several decades if someone was going to listen to something while driving, exercising, etc. it was usually the radio and if they were going to watch something it was the television. Now, I'm not one to see that all commercial radio or broadcast television is crap. Just that most of it is...at least if you're interested in actually learning something.

That's where this whole learning out loud thing comes into play. Shift from listening to the radio while commuting to some high-quality educational/inspirational material and see what a difference it makes. Sure you can start your day listening to the news (a.k.a. stories about war and crime) but what kind of a change would happen in the world if we instead started listening to speeches by Gandhi or MLK, immersed ourselves in some Plato or biographies of Presidents or spent a little time learning a foreign language? Maybe I'm a dreamer but I do think it would make a HUGE difference. (And as far as being a dreamer...while I know I'm not the only one.)

And video? Well it seems every day we draw closer to the end of broadcast television and the increasingly garish commercial upon which the entire industry is based. Innovations like IPTV and sites like YouTube (probably the fastest-growing site on the Net right now) are going to change the way people watch stuff. Here again, is a golden opportunity for an educational revolution. A chance for us to slide our viewing habits from the trivial and inane to the substantial and potentially life-changing. To switch away from the dumbed-down soap opera or sitcom and towards stuff like Teaching Company courses, MIT lectures and wisdom from places like Integral Naked and WIE Unbound. Can you imagine the change that would happen if people curled up on their couch to this sort of stuff every night?

The fact of the matter is that there's a time and place for everything. Yes, there are times when we just need to turn the brain totally off. But I'd love nothing less than to see that become the exception for our listening and viewing habits rather than the norm.

Just as we wouldn't expect to consume a steady diet of junk food and the occasional salad and expect to be physically healthy we shouldn't expect to consume a steady diet of mind-numbing radio and TV and expect to be in tip-top shape intellectually. Make a move to shift the balance. If 90% of the stuff you watch and listen to is pure entertainment and 10% is educational see if you can't get to 50/50.
Your brain will thank you for it.

And so that's what we're all about here at LearnOutLoud. We want to give you a bunch of stuff so that when you do decide to get your learn on and want some audio or video you'll have plenty of options (10,000+ at last count) with which to do so. Just keep telling us how we can better do that and we'll do our darnedest to make sure we're serving your needs.

Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for checking out the blog and visiting the site!


March 17, 2006

Shownotes for Audio Learning Revolution Episode #016

Audio Learning Revolution Podcast for March 17th, 2006

  • Intro Music - "Scare de Cat" by Randall Cousins from The Podsafe Music Network
  • Introduction
    - Direct Link to the show
    - Link to Feeds for Audio Learning Revolution podcasts
    - Link Free Audio & Video Directory
    - Comments or Questions about the Free Audio & Video Directory E-mail

  • The Free Audio and Video Directory Part 3
    - Link to WGBH.
    - Link to C-SPAN.
    - Link to Free Culture.
    - Link to The Mercury Theatre on the Air.
    - Link to Voices in the Dark.
    - Link to Spoken Alexandria Project.
    - Link to Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
    - Link to Berklee Shares

  • Outro Music - "Voltage Clamp" by Rubber Band Banjo from The Podsafe Music Network


    March 16, 2006

    Our Highest-Rated Podcast


    I cruised into our podcast directory tonight and noticed that the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast is now our highest-rated podcast based on your ratings. I can't think of a more deserving podcast as I've learned a ton from just about every episode and some of them (like the one with Trilogy Founder Joe Liemandt) have been downright amazing.

    I just got down listening to the latest episode and it's excellent. It's a presentation by John Roos, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and it's packed full of great advice for entrepreneurs. If you're running a company or thinking of starting one in the future I'd highly recommend this podcast. It's tough to get this type of insight into entrepreneurship anywhere else.

    Oh, and before I forget, in other podcasting news, PaidContent.org reports that Podtech.net has received $5.5 million in funding. This is pretty significant news as it means that there will be a lot more cool stuff coming from John Furrier, the creator of the excellent Media InfoTalk Podcast. Kudos to John of closing this funding and we'll be looking forward to (and reporting on!) what comes of the Podtech Network in the future.


    March 15, 2006

    Reading aloud for a living

    Good article from the LA Times about audiobook narrators:

    Reading aloud for a living

    A couple of good passages:

    A survey done by the trade association found the average listener earns 25 percent more than nonlisteners, has a higher level of education and is more likely to hold a professional or managerial position.

    I've always known that audiobook listeners were smarter than the average folk.

    With iTunes, Audible.com, Mediabay.com, Jiggerbug.com and other Web sites sending downloadable audiobooks through cyberspace, prices will inevitably go down.

    What?! Where's LearnOutLoud? :) I guess I need to drop Mimi an e-mail...


    March 13, 2006

    French look to open iTunes to other music players

    France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker's popular iPod player.

    Read more

    The reason that stuff like this is important is that closed systems almost always stifle innovation. Currently you can only listen to songs (and audiobooks, podcasts, etc.) that you've put in iTunes if you have an iPod. By opening up iTunes to other devices there would likely be increased competition in the device player market which would lead to technological advances and drops in pricing.

    Apple no doubt feels that by controlling both the software (iTunes) and the hardware (the iPod) that they can provide a superior user experience. To a certain extent that's been true to date. If you've had a chance to compare the iPod/iTunes/Fairplay DRM package to the alternatives you'll likely agree.

    But to move forward these systems must become more open. I had a chance to watch a great presentation a week ago on the subject of the future of media and a great quote from Rob Lord was included:

    “What if Internet Explorer only went to Microsoft’s site?”

    If that was the case we would be back in the dark ages in terms of web development. Fortunately Microsoft allowed users of Internet Explorer to go other places besides microsoft.com. Let's hope that Apple does something similar and opens up iTunes and the iPod to competing music and spoken word services and players. That's something that would be in the best interest of everyone.