The Best of Open Culture 2012: Free Music, Film, Books, Life Advice & More

Another year gone by. Another 1200+ cultural blog posts in the books. Which ones did you like best? We let the data decide. Below, you’ll find the 17 that struck a chord with you.
Free Art Books from The Guggenheim and The Met: Way back in January, the Guggenheim made 65 art catalogues available online, all free of charge. The catalogues offer an intellectual and visual introduction to the work of Calder, Munch, Bacon, and Kandinsky, among others. Then, months later, The Met followed suit and launched MetPublications, a portal that now makes available 370 out-of-print art titles, including works on Vermeer, da Vinci, Degas and more.

The Best Animated Films of All Time, According to Terry Gilliam: Terry Gilliam knows something about animation. For years, he produced wonderful animations for Monty Python (watch his cutout animation primer here), creating the opening credits and distinctive buffers that linked together the offbeat comedy sketches. Given these bona fides, you don’t want to miss Gilliam’s list, The 10 Best Animated Films of All Time.

The Higgs Boson, AKA the God Particle, Explained with Animation: Hands down, it was the biggest scientific discovery of the year. But what is the Higgs Boson exactly? Are you still not sure? Phd Comics explains the concept with animation.

Here Comes The Sun: The Lost Guitar Solo by George Harrison: Here’s another great discovery — the long lost guitar solo by George Harrison from my favorite Beatles’ song, “Here Comes the Sun.” In this clip, George Martin (Beatles’ producer) and Dhani Harrison (the guitarist’s son) bring the forgotten solo back to life. When you’re done taking this sentimental journey, also see another favorite of mine: guitarist Randy Bachman demystifying the opening chord of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.

18 Animations of Classic Literary Works: From Plato and Shakespeare, to Kafka, Hemingway and Calvino: Over the years we have featured literary works that have been wonderfully re-imagined by animators. Rather than leaving these wondrous works buried in the archives, we brought them back and put them all on display. And what better place to start than with a foundational text — Plato’s Republic.

Ray Bradbury Offers 12 Essential Writing Tips and Explains Why Literature Saves Civilization: In June, we lost Ray Bradbury, who now joins Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and Philip K. Dick in the pantheon of science fiction. In this post, we revisit two moments when Bradbury offered his personal thoughts on the art and purpose of writing — something he contemplated during the 74 years that separated his first story from the last.

Free Science Fiction Classics on the Web: Speaking of science fiction, we brought you a roundup of some of the great Science Fiction, Fantasy and Dystopian classics available on the web in audio, video and text formats. They include Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, many stories by Philip K. Dick and Neil Gaiman, and much more. Find more great works in our collections of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

This is Your Brain in Love: Scenes from the Stanford Love Competition: Can one person experience love more deeply than another? That’s what Stanford researchers and filmmaker Brent Hoff set out to understand when they hosted the 1st Annual Love Competition. Seven contestants, ranging from 10 to 75 years of age, took part. And they each spent five minutes in an fMRI machine. It’s to hard watch this short film and not shed a happy tear.

Rare 1959 Audio: Flannery O’Connor Reads ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’: In April of 1959–five years before her death at the age of 39 from lupus–Flannery O’Connor ventured away from her secluded family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, to give a reading at Vanderbilt University. She read one of her most famous and unsettling stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The audio is one of two known recordings of the author reading that story.

33 Free Oscar Winning Films Available on the Web: On the eve of the 2012 Academy Awards, we scouted around the web and found 33 Oscar-winning (or nominated) films from previous years. The list includes many short films, but also some long ones, like Sergei Bondarchuk’s epic version of War & Peace. Sit back, enjoy, and don’t forget our collection of 500 Free Movies Online, where you’ll find many great noir films, westerns, classics, documentaries and more.

The Story Of Menstruation: Walt Disney’s Sex Ed Film from 1946: Staying with movies for a second, we also showed you a very different mid-1940s Disney production – The Story of Menstruation. Made in the 1940s, an estimated 105 million students watched the film in sex ed classes across the US.

30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace on the WebWe spent some time tracking down 23 free stories and essays published by David Foster Wallace between 1989 and 2011, mostly in major U.S. publications like The New YorkerHarper’sThe Atlantic, and The Paris Review. Enjoy, and don’t miss our other collections of free writings by Philip K. Dick and Neil Gaiman.

Everything I Know: 42 Hours of Buckminster Fuller’s Visionary Lectures Free Online (1975)In January 1975, Buckminster Fuller sat down to deliver the twelve lectures that make up Everything I Know, all captured on video and enhanced with the most exciting bluescreen technology of the day. The lecture series is now online and free to enjoy, so please do so.

10 Great Performances From 10 Legendary Jazz Artists: Django, Miles, Monk, Coltrane & More: It’s pretty much what the title says. Great performances by some of our greatest jazz artists. It starts with Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit.”

Sigmund Freud Speaks: The Only Known Recording of His Voice, 1938On December 7, 1938, a British radio crew visited Sigmund Freud at his newhome at Hampstead, North London. He was 81 years old and suffering from incurable jaw cancer. Every word was an agony to speak. The recording is the only known audio recording of Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and one of the towering intellectual figures of the 20th century. Also see: Sigmund Freud’s Home Movies: A Rare Glimpse of His Private Life.

Serial Entrepreneur Damon Horowitz Says “Quit Your Tech Job and Get a Ph.D. in the Humanities”: Philosophy professor and “serial entrepreneur” Damon Horowitz explains why he left a highly-paid tech career, in which he sought the keys to artificial intelligence, to pursue a Ph.D. in Philosophy at Stanford. Readers will also enjoy The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.

Leonard Bernstein’s Masterful Lectures on Music (11+ Hours of Video Recorded in 1973)Delivered at Harvard in ’73, Leonard Bernstein’s lecture series, “The Unanswered Question,” covered a lot of terrain, touching on poetry, linguistics, philosophy and physics. But the focus inevitably comes back to music — to how music works, or to the underlying grammar of music. The masterful lectures run over 11 hours. They’re added to our collection of 650 Free Online Courses. You can also find Borges’ lectures at Harvard here.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Tips on How to Write a Good Short Story:  When it came to giving advice to writers, Kurt Vonnegut was never dull. He once tried to warn people away from using semicolons by characterizing them as “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing.” In this brief video, Vonnegut offers eight tips on how to write a short story.

Free Online Certificate Courses & MOOCs from Great Universities: A Complete List:  We gathered a list of 200 free massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by leading universities. Most of these free courses offer “certificates” or “statements of completion.” Many new courses start in January 2013. So be sure to check it out. Also don’t miss our other new resource collection: 200 Free Kids Educational Resources: Video Lessons, Apps, Books, Websites & Beyond.



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  1. Shelley says . . . | January 1, 2013 / 8:45 am

    I’m thinking of having my students read Dandelion Wine, so thanks for the Bradbury.

    More tapes of old old voices, please!

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