Wednesday, May 30, 2007

iTunes U

This is the best: check out the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) and in the upper left hand nav box you'll see a link for iTunes U at the bottom. This takes you to the iTunes U central area where a dozen or so universities have started putting college courses, lectures, and other podcasts online for the public to download for free.

Psychology, business, technology, art history, quantum physics, social sciences, language, literature, stuff on how-to like teach and write - there's months and months worth of stuff to listen to and learn. Pretty cool!

Some of the universities are a little on the slim side as far as content goes. Stanford and Berkeley were my two favorite spots for downloads, having not only the most total but also the most in liberal arts and social studies, though there are some goodies in some other places (Seattle Pacific, which seems to be Christian, has some interesting stuff on the Lord of the Rings as a Defence of Western Civilization). Stanford has a few lectures by the Dali Lama in both the Philosophy and Spirituality sections. Berkeley had a neat section for the study of sex and sexuality in history.

And most of these are pretty hefty - many weighing in close to two hours apiece. I downloaded a whole bunch to pick through while I'm at work. I've got a lot of spare mental time on my hands doing thoughtless work and these are perfect for keeping my brain busy instead of drifting off into thoughts that can often lead in a depressing direction. ;)

Anyway, thought I'd spread the fun news. For those of you still in college this may be depressing news but for me, I miss the charge my brain would get after a good day's learning at school. ;)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What the Bleep Do We Know?

I tried watching this once before but it's such a deep documentary/movie you really have to concentrate on it - if you're not into it, you'll fall asleep. And this time I was able to and I think I got a lot out of it.

The beginning is a bit too broad, I think, so it takes a little while before it starts to get specific enough to pull you in. It starts on the universal level, talking about quantum physics and how matter works and then eventually gets to how that relates to us as humans and how quantum physics shows how we as ENERGY and MATTER can affect everything around us, even with thoughts. And very importantly, how we affect OURSELVES with our thoughts. Very heavy stuff but it really hit home there at the end with all this re-wiring of my brain I've been going through and gave me new ways of doing that.

"Down the Rabbit Hole" is the extended version (not sure what they added) and it comes on 3 or 4 DVD's, double sided so that you can watch the whole thing as-is, you can watch JUST the scientific interviews, JUST the story elements that paralell what the scientists are talking about, etc. You can also watch it in a random order each time if you like. Kind of cool. Also fun for me is that nearly the entire thing is filmed in Portland, Oregon: tons of shots on or near the MAX, the zoo tunnel, Goose Hollow, Pioneer Square, and just various points throughout the city that I don't know the streets to but recognize it all and have been there. :D Fun!

Since I watched this, I've been finding books and talks and podcasts galore that all connect over the same things - the quantum physics of how everything is energy and anything is thus possible... It has all helped to change my thoughts toward positive thinking for the better. Amazing.

Monday, May 7, 2007

American Doll Posse

I've listened to this album once and 2/3rds through so far. For me, Tori's music can be chopped into three sections: Early: LE, UTP, BFP; Transition: FTCH, TV&B, SLGs; and Modern/Epic: SW, Beekeeper, and now ADP. Although, "classic" Tori for me includes the first FOUR albums. Before I get going, let it be known that I prefer oldschool Tori, those first four albums. But I've found things to be liked in her later stuff, too - I just don't find nearly as much of it as moving as her earlier stuff.

Folks on said that if you liked The Beekeeper, which was pretty mellow, organ-inspired, that you'd maybe not like ADP. Good thing I really disliked The Beekeeper (I only listened to it once, sorta kinda). ADP is definitely still "Modern" Tori, as it were - her vocals still aren't as pretty or coherent as anything from her earlier stuff and still not near as angry as anything from BFP (which I think is her angriest as it seems the most true from her heart of all her albums for me). But this album definetly comes from an angry place. What's so different about it is that it's so heavily political. Odd that I FIND it odd, coming from Tori. R.E.M. or Indigo Girls, sure, but Tori? It *should* be expected of her, really, so I am unsure why I find it odd.

Whenever I listen to anything of hers (ever since "To Venus & Back") I try to pretend I've never heard anything from her before TV&B. It makes it easier. For "Modern" Tori, the album is pretty good, albeit very long at 23 songs. On first listen, if I am patient, there is something interesting and dynamic about nearly all of the songs so I do look forward to getting to know them better. I kind of wish she'd enunciate better - I mean, Tori has never been one to really enunciate lyrics but most fans kind of get the hang of her off-kilter pronunciations of things. But I think even the most talented Tori-translator will be put to the test with this album. Good thing it comes with lyrics in the liner notes. :D

Definitely an aggressive album - she's seriously using the whole band and it's fun to hear her do that, to let everybody really rock out. She's channeling the Beatles White Album and other '68 era artists in rolling style rock and she's not pulling punches in her political accusations while doing it, too. Oddly, some of my favorite bits from this album so far are the little "intermission" songs, the little 1-minute ditties. They're not the bubbly oddities of "Mr.Zebra" but they allow for little bursts of "we don't quite fit in like a normal song" that are delicious enough to make you wish they WERE longer, much like good ol' "Mr.Zebra". My favorite song off ADP so far is in fact one of these songs, "Devils and Gods", which is a mandolin piece - another oddity, Tori singing to a solo instrument that is not played with keys. A beautiful song with VERY poignant lyrics:

Devils and Gods, now that's an idea
But if we believe that it's They who decide
That's the ultimate detractor of crimes
'Cause devils and gods
They are you and I
Devils and gods,
They are you and I.
Devils and gods,
Safe and inside.

So I'll be giving this album a good, heavy listen and we'll see how it holds up later on.