5 Ways To Get More Culture In 2012

You know that part in “There’s Something About Mary” where Matt Dillon’s character says he wants to “slow things down, read more books, see more movies”? I have that same thought a lot, usually when guilty pleasures have been hogging up my available brainspace. Where does all the time go? Will I ever finish that pile of books next to my bed? Why do I watch so many “Chelsea Lately” reruns instead? 

I don’t have the answers to these questions. But I do have a bunch of great suggestions of blogs and podcasts to check out to eke a little more culture into your life to balance all that “Jersey Shore” viewing. No, the half-an-episode the gang spent sight-seeing around Italy doesn’t count.

  1. Brain Pickings: Brain Pickings is what I would do all day if I didn’t, like, have a job. Curator Maria Popova posts tons of quirky info — mostly in the form of drawings, charts, and graphs — about her favorite topics, which include childrens’ books, maps, and animation. It’s intellectually stimulating, but at the same time visually interesting. I’m not doing it justice. Just go check Brain Pickings out.
  2. Open Culture: If PBS and NPR had a baby that just vomited on the Internet all day, that would be Open Culture. The culture blog posts randomness from around the web from Frank Zappa playing a bicycle to  Salman Rushdie’s limericks about Kim Kardashians divorce. Open Culture collects an insane list of free courses, free audio books, free movies, free text books, and free “smart” YouTube videos that you’ll wonder why you even bothered with all that college debt. 
  3. The Millions: Book nerds rejoice! We are not alone. The Millions is a site for “readers’ readers” devoted to book reviews, authors, and what everyone enjoys reading. Rather than just plugging the latest books that Barnes & Noble is trying to hawk, The Millions celebrates whatever books are bringing meaning to its contributers’ lives at any given time.  I find its Year In Reading series where writers recap their favorite books from the past year compulsively readable.  
  4. The Rumpus:  How to describe The Rumpus? Well, it’s an online magazine, but nobody who writes for it seems like a major douchebag, which  makes it unlike most every magazine I know. The author Stephen Elliot has curated a weird little publication with its own book club, comics, and the world’s best advice column, Dear Sugar. Sometimes it feels like The Rumpus is the most human thing you can find on the whole Internet.
  5. Open Courseware: Still paying off student loans from your last foray into academia? Never made it there in the first place? You can still have access to the professors and resources of your peers thanks to the open courseware movement. Lots of colleges, from MIT to NYU to Yale to Stanford, post courseware ranging from curricula to readings to audio and video online. I took one class of one UC-Berkeley course about “Nonviolence” before I remembered my favorite part of college was skipping classes to watch “Judge Judy.” Buh, uh, maybe you’ll have better stamina.

What are your favorite ways to get cultured and edu-ma-cated in a world of Real Housewives and Perez Hiltons? Let us know in the comments!

Contact the author of this post at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.