Thanks to the internet!

Open Culture is one of the great doorways to courses and information! For example:


When you dive into our collection of 1,300 Free Online Courses, you can begin an intellectual journey that can last for many months, if not years. The collection lets you drop into the classrooms of leading universities (like Stanford, Harvard, MIT and Oxford) and essentially audit their courses for free. You get to be a fly on the wall and soak up whatever knowledge you want. All you need is an internet connection and some free time on your hands.

Today, we’re featuring two courses taught by Professor Richard Bulliet at Columbia University, which will teach you the history of the world in 46 lectures. The first course, History of the World to 1500 CE (available on YouTube and iTunes Video, or fully streamable below) takes you from prehistoric times to 1500, the cusp of early modernity. The origins of agriculture; the Greek, Roman and Persian empires; the rise of Islam and Christian medieval kingdoms; transformations in Asia; and the Maritime revolution — they’re all covered here.

In the second course, History of the World Since 1500 CE (find it on YouTube, iTunes or embedded below), Bulliet focuses on the rise of colonialism in the Americas and India; historical developments in China, Japan and Korea; the Industrial Revolution; the Ottoman Empire; the emergence of Social Darwinism; and various key moments in 20th century history.

Bulliet helped write the popular textbook The Earth and its Peoples: A Global History, and it serves as the main textbook for the course. Above, we’re starting you off with Lecture 2, which moves from the Origins of Agriculture to the First River – Valley Civilizations, circa 8000-1500 B.C.E. The first lecture deals with methodological issues that underpin the course. All of the remaining lectures are available below.

Once you get the big picture with Professor Bulliet, don’t forget to visit our collection of Free Online History Courses, a subset of our big collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.


Interview with Bob

Robert D. Lane was interviewed by Laureano Ralón.

Robert D. Lane is an emeritus professor of philosophy from Vancouver Island University in Canada, where he taught literature and philosophy for 31 years. Lane was the founder of the Philosophy department at VIU (then Malaspina College). As the institution grew, he became the founding director of VIU’s Institute of Practical Philosophy, which is still an active player today in community issues and contemporary moral issues. Since retiring in 2000, Lane has served on the Nanaimo Parks, Recreation and CultureBoard. He also authored a book entitled Reading the Bible: Intention, Text, Interpretation, and founded the philosophy blog Episyllogism.

Read the interview here.

Richard Ford podcast

A good suggestion from another SOB! Thanks to Colin Whyte.


It’s free. And also awesome. Best booky thing I’ve listened to in ages, esp the stuff about frank bascombe, one of the best characters in fiction ever. (Yeah, ever.)
Charming, honest, hilarious, insightful.

Listen to Richard Ford discuss his family memoir – books podcast from The Guardian Books podcast in Podcasts.


Review: Buddhist Enlightenment

What Is Buddhist Enlightenment?Review – What Is Buddhist Enlightenment?
by Dale S. Wright
Oxford University Press, 2016
Review by Bob Lane
Jan 24th 2017 (Volume 21, Issue 4)

King Lear is a play as profound as it is puzzling. It seems to be uncompromising in its attitude to the nature of things. Either its last scene is a powerful continuation of the theme of self delusion or it is an intimation of immortality.

Read the review.




18th-century depiction of King Lear mourning o...

18th-century depiction of King Lear mourning over his daughter Cordelia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the arts: Theatre


Several years ago now I was in Ashland, Oregon at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to see Richard III. That is where I met a blind man who was sitting on an aisle seat with his seeing eye dog curled up next to him.

The man said that he came to Ashland every year to “see” the Shakespeare plays in the outdoor theatre. He said that he had not always been blind, and that he had always been interested in theatre.

Shakespeare, he said, had not been a favourite of his until after he lost his sight.Once he could no longer see, he said, he began to understand what Shakespeare’s plays were about. He had to listen to the language now, and he found it rich and fascinating. He recreated his own sets and costumes in his mind while his ears were tuned to the nuance of pitch and emotion that performers shared when delivering their lines.

He did not feel cheated, but said that his experience of the plays had deepened since his loss of sight. This puzzled me. Was he over-compensating? Being brave? Or was he onto something that has to do with the nature of a Shakespeare script?

I watched Julius Caesar again – the BBC production with the financial assistance of Time-Warner – one of the 37 plays produced for television. A solid production with good actors, the sort of professionalism expected from the BBC, and intelligent direction. Antony stirred me with his funeral speech, Cassius looks properly lean and hungry, and Caesar arrogant and worthy of his death.

And yet something was wrong. The crowd scenes did not work. Some scenes were destroyed by the camera angle which disrupted the spacing of the actors.  The camera itself which its particular set of technical possibilities – close-ups, pans, and angles shots effects the play. While the camera is doing what it does so well what do you do with that Shakespearean language?

His language was his camera. When you add a second camera you lose focus.


The BBC Television Shakespeare is a series of British television adaptations of the plays of William Shakespeare, created by Cedric Messina and broadcast by BBC Television. Transmitted in the UK from 3 December 1978 to 27 April 1985, the series spanned seven seasons and thirty-seven episodes.

Also known as The Shakespeare Collection (UK)
The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare (US)

Nobel in Literature

Embed from Getty Images

This year’s Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to French author Patrick Modiano “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

NB –  “life-world”

Alternate title: Lebenswelt

life-world, German Lebenswelt,  in Phenomenology, the world as immediately or directly experienced in the subjectivity of everyday life, as sharply distinguished from the objective “worlds” of the sciences, which employ the methods of the mathematical sciences of nature; although these sciences originate in the life-world, they are not those of everyday life. The life-world includes individual, social, perceptual, and practical experiences. The objectivism of science obscures both its origin in the subjective perceptions of the life-world and the life-world itself. In analyzing and describing the life-world, Phenomenology attempts to show how the world of theory and science originates from the life-world, strives to discover the mundane phenomena of the life-world itself, and attempts to show how the experience of the life-world is possible by analyzing time, space, body, and the very givenness or presentation of experience.