A New Year’s Wish from Neil Gaiman

A few days ago, we gave you Neil Gaiman's dark animated Christmas poem. Now, it's time for his entirely upbeat New Year's Benediction, which has some perfect words for anyone with a creative urging. This short video was recorded in 2010 at Symphony Hall in Boston. Best wishes to all...

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The Best of Open Culture 2010

That's it. We're putting a wrap on 2010. We'll hit the ground running again on Monday. But, until then, we leave you with a handy list of our favorite and most popular posts from 2010, all ordered in a rather random way. If you crave a little more Open Culture goodies, you can always browse through our complete archive here, and follow us on TwitterFacebook, and RSS. Hope you have a safe, happy and prosperous New Year!

More to come Monday...

Stephen Hawking: Abandon Earth Or Face Extinction

As the year winds to a close, Big Think has pulled together a list of their Most Popular Videos of 2010. Perhaps the biggest thinker on the list is Stephen Hawking, the renowned theoretical physicist, who issues a stark warning. "Our only chance of long term survival, is not to remain inward looking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space." Population growth, limited resources, climate change – these pressures could drive the human race into extinction within two centuries, and possibly even one. That makes space – planets beyond our own – the next great frontier.

The Beauty of Pixar

Earlier this year, Leandro Copperfield spent days re-watching the films of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers. Then, using 500+ scenes from 17 movies, he developed a montage tribute called Tarantino vs Coen Brothers, which nicely complements his other short tribute, Kubrick vs Scorsese. Now comes something a little different – a montage celebrating the films of Pixar Animation Studios. This mashup brings together moments from 11 Pixar films made between 1995 and 2010, starting with Toy Story, moving to Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc and The Incredibles, and ending with Toy Story 3. The Young Turks, Louis Armstrong, Randy Newman and Peter Garbriel power the soundtrack...

Denis Dutton (RIP) Talks Beauty @ TED

Denis Dutton – the founder of Arts & Letters Daily and philosophy professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand – passed away today. He was 66 years old. In 2009, he wrote his most recent book, The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution. Above, we have Dutton speaking at TED, elaborating on these themes in a great little talk called "A Darwinian Theory of Beauty."

Orson Welles Narrates an Animated Parable Freedom River (1971)

More than 40 years (and seven presidential administrations) have passed since Orson Welles narrated Freedom River. And although the animation shows some age, the parable, a commentary on the role of wealth and race in America, still resonates today. Or, at least I suspect many viewers will think so.

The backstory behind the film deserves a little mention. According to Joseph Cavella, a writer for the film:

For several years, Bosustow Productions had asked Orson Welles, then living in Paris, to narrate one of their films. He never responded. When I finished the Freedom River script, we sent it to him together with a portable reel to reel tape recorder and a sizable check and crossed our fingers. He was either desperate for money or (I would rather believe) something in it touched him because two weeks later we got the reel back with the narration word for word and we were on our way.

And now another Orson Welles bonus. Tonight, we stumbled upon Welles' 1937 radio dramatization of Victor Hugo's classic novel, Les Misérables. You can stream/download recordings at the Internet Archive, or find it listed in our Free Audio Books collection. A previous Open Culture post points you to other vintage Welles radio recordings (including his famous 1938 "War of the Worlds" broadcast) right here.

For more free films, visit our mega list of Free Movies Online.

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Robot Masters Rubik’s Cube in 15 Seconds

Where was this when I needed it 30 years ago? Two students at Rowan University, Zachary Grady and Joe Ridgeway, have constructed a robotic arm that can solve the Rubik's Cube in 15 seconds. As The New Scientist explains, the "system uses a camera to capture how the cube is scrambled and sends the images to a computer. It determines the pattern on each face and algorithms are used to solve the cube. The solution is then translated to the arm's pneumatics and motors." For more brilliant robot tricks, you can watch robots shoot archery, lead the Detroit Symphony orchestra, and even make ethical decisions...

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