James Earl Jones Reads Othello at White House Poetry Jam

Not long after taking office, President Obama hosted the first White House poetry jam – an evening dedicated to the spoken word and bringing verses to life. Esperanza Spalding's performance was a high point. And later came James Earl Jones, arguably the best special effect in Star Wars, who recited lines from Shakespeare instead of Dr. Seuss (since Jesse Jackson already covered that literary territory back in 1991). The reading comes from Othello. Specifically, we're witnessing Othello’s address to the Venetian senators.

You can read Othello, along with the rest of Shakespeare's complete works, at MIT's website for free. Or you can download the works as a free ebook via iTunesU. We have more on that here...

via DIY Scholar

Passages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: The Film

Due to its stylistic and linguistic complexity, James Joyce's Finnegans Wake ranks among the most difficult works of fiction. And that is why virtually no filmmaker has ever tried to adapt Joyce's final work for the screen. But after Mary Manning Howe adapted passages from the book for the stage (listen to her reading from Finnegans Wake here), American animator Mary Ellen Bute accepted the challenge and turned Manning's play into a film.

Sadly, Mary Ellen Bute's short films are almost forgotten today, but from the 1930s to 1950s her abstract musical shorts were known to a wide audience. Don't miss her first color film from 1938.

Between 1965 and 1967, Bute created her last film, and only feature film, Passages from Finnegans Wake. The movie was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and named Best Debut of the Year (1965). The video above shows only the opening sequence, but the whole film can be enjoyed online courtesy of UbuWeb.

Bonus: You can read Roger Ebert's 1968 review of Bute's film here. He admits that he didn't enjoy it too much, but concedes this may have been because he hadn't actually read the book.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

Steve Martin Writes Song for Hymn-Deprived Atheists

Brilliant comedian. Playwright. Contributor to The New Yorker. And now songwriter for hymn-deprived atheists. Steve Martin – who comes into focus within 10 seconds – performs here with the Steep Canyon Rangers at Merlefest 2010...

You can find an alternate/more polished version recorded on the David Letterman Show here...

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Biology That Makes Us Tick: Free Stanford Course by Robert Sapolsky

First thing you need to know: Before doing anything else, you should simply click "play" and start watching the video above. It doesn't take long for Robert Sapolsky, one of Stanford's finest teachers, to pull you right into his course. Better to watch him than listen to me.

Second thing to know: Sapolsky is a MacArthur Fellow, a world renowned neurobiologist, and an adept science writer best known for his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Much of his research focuses on the interplay between the mind and body (how biology affects the mind, and the mind, the body), and that relationship lies at the heart of this course called "Human Behavioral Biology."

Now the third: Human Behavioral Biology is available on YouTube and iTunes for free. The course, consisting of 25 videos spanning 36 hours, is otherwise listed in the Biology section of our big list of Free Online courses (now 1,300 courses in total).

Related Content:

Robert Sapolsky Breaks Down Depression

Dopamine Jackpot! Robert Sapolsky on the Science of Pleasure

Free Grateful Dead Concert Archive

"One More Saturday Night" for your Saturday night.

If this vintage clip filmed in Copenhagen in 1972 reawakens your inner Dead Head, then you can always wade your way into the Internet Archive's Grateful Dead collection, which hosts dozens of Dead shows from the 1970s through the 1990s. Some concerts (usually recorded by members of the audience) can be downloaded. Other audio (usually taken from the soundboard) can be streamed. All together, you will find hundreds of hours of free concert recordings.

A few items worth sampling include: Live at the Boston Garden (May 7, 1977); Live at the RFK Stadium (June 10, 1973); or Live at Madison Square Garden (September 4, 1979).

David Lynch “Directs” Duran Duran Concert in L.A.

This past Wednesday, YouTube streamed a webcast of the latest installment of the Unstaged concert series. Arcade Fire kicked off the series last August in New York City. Now we cut to the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles, where Duran Duran took the stage. The 80s band is still around, still making music. And they're smartly collaborating with David Lynch, who created visuals that were double-exposed over the live performance. HuffPo interviewed Lynch about the collaboration (and more) here, and you can always head to YouTube to find videos of individual songs played during the show.

Blinky™: A Touching Short Film About A Killer Robot

That's right, touching.

From Blade Runner to Terminator to at least 30 percent of what made Battlestar Galactica great, violent robot revolt is nothing new. But 27-year old Irish filmmaker Ruairi Robinson, who was nominated for an Oscar for his animated short Fifty Percent Grey, tweaks the formula by shrinking the arena: This battlefield isn't a galaxy, a solar system or even a planet; it's just the lonely suburban home of a boy whose parents fight all day.

Max Record (Where the Wild Things Are) is fine as the angry son who hopes a new toy will solve all of his problems, but this movie belongs to the robot: More WALL-E than cylon, more R2-D2 than ED-209, and priced at just $999.99, Blinky is a machine the whole family can love. He catches, he cleans, he plays hide and seek, he'll wait for you in the rain, and he just wants to be your friend....Until he doesn't.

A warning here: Even though at its best Blinky speaks directly to the bloody-minded fifth-grader in all of us, we suggest watching the whole thing before showing it to children, or even squeamish adults.

(Visit the always excellent io9 for more free science fiction film recommendations.)

Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.

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