The 15 Most Popular Posts from Open Culture in 2013

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In 2013, we published 1300+ posts on a wide range of cultural subjects. Looking back through our logs we were able to identify the 15 posts that resonated most widely with our readers. We hope you enjoy this recap, and share some of the items with friends. And we look forward to seeing you in 2014. Happy New Year to you all.

Noam Chomsky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Empty ‘Posturing’: A little spat broke out between Chomsky and Žižek this summer. Chomsky got the debate going after he accused Jacques Lacan of being a "total charlatan" and Slavoj Žižek of posturing rather than offering real intellectual substance. Žižek replied sharply. Chomsky rebutted. Žižek countered again. Some scored it a draw.

The 10 Greatest Films of All Time According to 846 Film Critics: Throughout the year, our resident film scholar Colin Marshall revisited the favorite films of some of the greatest filmmakers -- Stanley KubrickMartin ScorseseWoody Allen, and Quentin Tarantino, to name a few. But it also made sense to take a more global view of things, to survey the films loved by 800+ directors and film critics. That's what you can find here.

Listen to Freddie Mercury and David Bowie on the Isolated Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pressure,’ 1981: In 2013, we featured a series of isolated tracks that offer unique insights into classic songs. You might recall Kurt Cobain’s Vocals From ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ Eric Clapton’s Isolated Guitar Track From ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, and Merry Clayton’s Haunting Background Vocals on the Rolling Stones' 'Gimme Shelter'. But your favorite was Freddie Mercury and David Bowie's unforgettable performance on Queen's Under Pressure. You have good taste. Bowie fans should also check his list of his Top 100 Books.

Read 18 Short Stories From Nobel Prize-Winning Writer Alice Munro Free Online: When Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize on the strength of her many short stories, Josh Jones gathered for you 18 free short stories written by the now 82-year-old author. They're all free to read online. During the year, we also put together collections of 10 Free Stories by George Saunders10 Free Articles by Hunter S. ThompsonFour Stories by Jennifer Egan, and 30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace. Be sure to enjoy them as well.

Free: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online: Art catalogues from museums can be downright expensive. That's why we were excited when The Met and the Guggenheim put an archive of art catalogues online for free. For no cost, you can read highly visual introductions to the work of Alexander CalderEdvard MunchFrancis BaconGustav Klimt & Egon Schiele, Wassily Kandinsky, Georgia O'KeeffeFrank Lloyd Wright and many other influential artists.

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Public Domain, Making Them Free to Reuse & Remix: Some of the world's great libraries are also opening access to our cultural heritage. Take for example the British Library, which announced this month that it has released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. Culled from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books, the images include a dizzying array of "maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colorful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings" and more.

John Coltrane’s Handwritten Outline for His Masterpiece A Love Supreme: To celebrate Trane's birthday, we featured a rare document from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History: Coltrane’s handwritten outline of his groundbreaking jazz composition A Love Supreme. In terms of popularity, this post was just about tied with another great (but very different) jazz document: Thelonious Monk's List of Tips for Playing a Gig.

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visualized on a Möbius Strip: Bach wrote his "Crab Canon" in such a way that it could be played backwards as well as forwards. But prepare yourself for the mind-blowing coup de grâce when mathematical image-maker Jos Ley lays the piece out on a Möbius strip.

Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write FictionHemingway never wrote a treatise on the art of writing fiction. He did, however, leave behind a great many passages in letters, articles and books with opinions and advice on writing. Some of the best of those were assembled in 1984 by Larry W. Phillips into a book, Ernest Hemingway on Writing. We’ve selected seven of our favorite quotations from the book and placed them, along with our own commentary, on this page. Readers will also want to peruse these related posts: 18 (Free) Books Ernest Hemingway Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time and Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934, plus F. Scott Fitzgerald Creates a List of 22 Essential Books, 1936.

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: In the early 2000s, Pink Floyd guitarist and singer David Gilmour recorded a musical interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18″ at his home studio aboard the historic, 90-foot houseboat the Astoria. This video of Gilmour singing the sonnet was released as an extra on the 2002 DVD David Gilmour in Concert, and it's pretty sublime.

Learn to Code with Harvard’s Intro to Computer Science Course And Other Free Tech Classes: These days, it could never hurt to make sure you have some good tech chops. Many of you understand that, and that's why you jumped on Harvard's free, introductory computer science course. Taught by David Malan, the introductory course covers "abstraction, algorithms, encapsulation, data structures, databases, memory management, security, software development, virtualization, and websites. Languages include C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML." You can always find the course listed in the Computer Science section of our collection of 800 Free Courses Online.

Michelangelo’s Illustrated 16th-Century Grocery List: Very few of Michelangelo's papers survive today, but we do oddly have the grocery lists that he had his servant bring to the food market. “Because the servant he was sending to market was illiterate,” writes the Oregonian‘s Steve Duin, “Michelangelo illustrated the shopping lists — a herring, tortelli, two fennel soups, four anchovies and ‘a small quarter of a rough wine’ — with rushed ... caricatures in pen and ink.” It's a unique historical item, certainly worth checking out.

Prize-Winning Animation Lets You Fly Through 17th Century London: Six students from De Montfort University created a stellar 3D representation of 17th century London, as it existed before The Great Fire of 1666. The three-minute video provides a realistic animation of Tudor London, and particularly a section called Pudding Lane where the fire started. Grab a small handful of popcorn, and sit back and enjoy.

Hermann Rorschach’s Original Rorschach Test: What Do You See?: In honor of Hermann Rorschach’s birthday in November, we highlighted the original images used in his famous psychology test back in 1921. And we invited you to say what you saw in these images. The answers were often amusing, sometimes perplexing.

Simone de Beauvoir Explains “Why I’m a Feminist” in a Rare TV Interview (1975): In a 1975 interview, Simone de Beauvoir picked up on ideas she explored in The Second Sex. This revealing clip can be watched alongside other 2013 posts featuring de Beauvoir and her partner Jean-Paul Sartre. See Lovers and Philosophers — Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir Together in 1967 and Philosophy’s Power Couple, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Featured in 1967 TV Interview.

BonusFill Your New Kindle, iPad, iPhone, eReader with Free eBooks, Movies, Audio Books, Online Courses & More: Just last week, we told you where to load up your new iPads, Kindles, and other devices with free intelligent media. If you missed it the first time around, it's not too late to circle back.

Don’t miss anything from Open Culture in 2014. Sign up for our Daily Email or RSS Feed. And we’ll send cultural curiosities your way, every day.

Free Fun: Play Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Frogger & Other Golden Age Video Games In Your Web Browser

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While I was growing up in the 1990s, my parents' refusal to purchase gaming consoles gave me no choice but to navigate the age of Nintendo 64 with a doddering, nearly decade-old PC. As my friends were enthralled by the then-dazzling graphics of Mario 64, I was using my lumbering mastodon of a 486/66 mhz computer as a way to re-experience some of the best console games of years past. Having downloaded programs that turned my computer into a keyboard-controlled Atari, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, or Sega Genesis, and having sought out the websites that hosted the game files, I was mollified by playing Pac Man (1980), Castlevania (1986), and Asteroids (1979), amongst dozens of others.

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Earlier this year, the Internet Archive set aflame the hearts of nostalgic gamers everywhere by opening the Historical Software Collection, making classics such as Karateka (1984) and Akalabeth (1980) freely available and removing the need to download any additional software components. On Boxing Day, the generous souls at the Internet Archive announced a follow-up: the Console Living Room. For those wishing to relive the joys of early consoles, sourcing classic titles and downloading emulation programs to turn your computer into a virtual console is no longer necessary. Using nothing more than their browser (Firefox is recommended), users can enjoy the full (albeit temporarily soundless) experience of ‘70s and ‘80s classics and rarities on the Atari 2600, Atari 7800 ProSystem, ColecoVision, Magnavox Odyssey², and Astrocade consoles. Quick sessions of Donkey Kong (1981), Asteroids  (1987), and Mario Bros. (1988) have never been easier.

For a full list of games, including Dig Dug (1984), Frogger (1982), and Pac Man (1983), head over to the Internet Archive’s Console Living Room. For further information, check out their initial announcement.

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

Related Content:

Run Vintage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Software in Your Web Browser, Thanks to Archive.org

Timothy Leary Plans a Neuromancer Video Game, with Art by Keith Haring, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

Long Live Glitch! The Art & Code from the Game Now Released into the Public Domain

Google Puts Over 57,000 Works of Art on the Web

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In its art preservationist wing, the Cultural Institute, Google houses an enormous digital collection of artwork spanning centuries and continents in what it calls the Art Project. Google’s collection, writes Drue Kataoka at Wired, is part of a “big deal […] it signals a broader, emerging ‘open content’ art movement.” “Besides the Getty,” Kataoka notes, this movement to digitize fine art collections includes efforts by “Los Angeles’ LACMA… as well as D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery. And Google. Yes, Google.” Google is working hard to defuse this “yes, Google” reaction, posting frequent updates to its collection, already a magnificent phenomenon: “Imagine seeing an image of the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Breuegel the Elder," writes Kataoka, "or Vincent van Gogh’s Irises, in high resolution.” Now, you can, thanks to Google's astonishingly vast digital archive.

In the Art Project, you can stroll on over to Portugal's Museu do Caramulo, for example, which Google describes as "an unusual museum in a small town" off the beaten path. There, you can see this macabre 1947 Picasso still life or this 1954 Salvador Dali portrait of a Roman horseman in Iberia (above). Then head over to the other side of the world, where the Adachi Museum of Art in Japan contains 165,000 square meters of Japanese garden: "The Dry Landscape Garden, The White Gravel and Pine Garden, the Moss Garden, and The Pond Garden." It also features gorgeous paintings like Yokoyama Taikan's 1931 Autumn Leaves and Hishida Shunso's adorable 1906 Cat and Plum Blossoms. Dozens of smaller collections like these sit comfortably alongside such extensive and well-known collections as New York's MoMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art and Florence's Uffizi. See a tiny sampler of the Art Project in the video teaser above.

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Google's collection has greatly expanded since its comparatively modest 2011 roll-out. The company signed partnership agreements with 151 institutions in 2012 and the Art Project has grown since then to include over 57,000 digital representations of famous and not-so-famous works of art. Most recently, it has added work to the online collections of 34 different partner institutions. Google's announcement on its official blog takes a themed approach, presenting versions of several trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) works that have just joined the Art Project. Trompe l'oeil is a gimmick as old as antiquity, and Google gives us several examples, beginning with the stylish, understated Brazilian train station mural right above by Adriana Varejao. Below, see the ceiling of Italy’s National Archaeological Museum of Ferrara, a much more classical (or Baroque) approach to trompe l’oeil that displays some typical elements of the period, including elaborate geometric designs, lots of gold, and well-dressed figures staring down at viewers or floating off into the heavens. See more trompe l’oeil works on Google’s blog, and access their full digital collection here.

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Related Content:

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Public Domain, Making Them Free to Reuse & Remix

The Rijksmuseum Puts 125,000 Dutch Masterpieces Online, and Lets You Remix Its Art

The Getty Puts 4600 Art Images Into the Public Domain (and There’s More to Come)

Free: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Brief History of Hollywood Censorship and the Ratings System

Censorship, as most serious filmgoers know, shaped the sensibility of all the pictures we know from the "Golden Age" of Hollywood. It did so in the form of 1930's "Motion Picture Production Code (also known as the Hays Code)," which "set up a small jury to review films for content," at first "still without teeth and largely mocked by industry insiders." But that changed in a big way when "the American Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church organized The Legion of Decency and, in 1934, with the support of Protestant and Jewish Organizations, began calling for boycotts of films deemed unacceptable. [ … ] The Hollywood studios, still reeling from the losses of 1933 due in large part to the delayed effects of the Great Depression, were forced to act." That summary comes from "The History of Hollywood Censorship and the Ratings System," a brief but in-depth lesson produced by Filmmaker IQ. Its video version appears at the top. Below, you can watch 1941's The Outlaw, the bust size of whose star Jane Russell had the censors demanding "37 specific reshoots."

The complete story of censorship and ratings in Hollywood involves such elements of American history and culture as not just the Great Depression and the Roman Catholic Church, but the 1919 World Series Gambling scandal, the Chicago's Women’s Municipal League, mighty systems of production, the sport of boxing, Howard Hughes, and of course, the almighty dollar. Eventually, filmmakers began to simply defy the Hays Code; you can watch Otto Preminger's famous example of just that, the 1953 comedy The Moon is Blue (possessed, censors said, of "an unacceptably light attitude towards seduction, illicit sex, chastity, and virginity"). In 1968, the weakened Code's replacement arrived: the Motion Picture Association of America's Ratings system and its still-familiar G, PG, R, and X (PG-13 was introduced in 1984; NC-17 replaced X in 1990). Quaint as these measures may now seem, the lesson tells us that controversy has remained. "Some may say that films were sexier and scarier under the censorship of the production code – for nothing that can be seen is as tantalizing and horrifying as what the imagination and anticipation can conjure. But given the choice between freedom and censorship, freedom is the only sustainable option."

Related Content:

Early Hollywood Censored

Did Hollywood Movies Studios “Collaborate” with Hitler During WW II? Historian Makes the Case

Frank Zappa Debates Censorship on CNN’s Crossfire (1986)

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, literature, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Facebook page.

Albert Einstein Imposes on His First Wife a Cruel List of Marital Demands

Albert Einstein passionately wooed his first wife Mileva Maric, against his family’s wishes, and the two had a turbulent but intellectually rich relationship that they recorded for posterity in their letters. Einstein and Maric’s love letters have inspired the short film above, My Little Witch (in Serbian, I believe, with English subtitles) and several critical re-evaluations of Einstein’s life and Maric's influence on his early thought. Some historians have even suggested that Maric---who was also trained in physics---made contributions to Einstein’s early work, a claim hotly disputed and, it seems, poorly substantiated.




The letters---written between 1897 and 1903 and only discovered in 1987---reveal a wealth of previously unknown detail about Maric and the marriage. While the controversy over Maric's influence on Einstein's theories raged among academics and viewers of PBS’s controversial documentary, Einstein’s Wife, a scandalous personal item in the letters got much better press. As Einstein and Mileva’s relationship deteriorated, and they attempted to scotch tape it together for the sake of their children, the avuncular pacifist wrote a chilling list of “conditions,” in outline form, that his wife must accept upon his return. Lists of Note transcribes them from Walter Isaacson’s biography Einstein: His Life and Universe:

CONDITIONS

A. You will make sure:

1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:

1. my sitting at home with you;
2. my going out or travelling with you.

C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:

1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.

D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.

While it may be unfair to judge anyone’s total character by its most glaring defects, there’s no way to read this without shuddering. Although Einstein tried to preserve the marriage, once they separated for good, he did not lament Mileva's loss for long. Manjit Kumar tells us in Quantum: Einstein Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality that although “Mileva agreed to his demands and Einstein returned”

[I]t could not last. At the end of July, after just three months in Berlin, Mileva and the boys went back to Zurich. As he stood on the platform waving goodbye, Einstein wept, if not for Mileva and the memories of what had been, then for his two departing sons. But within a matter of weeks he was happily enjoying living alone “in my large apartment in undiminished tranquility.”

Einstein prized his solitude greatly. Another remark shows his difficulty with personal relationships. While he eventually fell in love with his cousin Elsa and finally divorced Mavic to marry her in 1919, that marriage too was troubled. Elsa died in 1936 soon after the couple moved to the U.S. Not long after her death, Einstein would write, “I have gotten used extremely well to life here. I live like a bear in my den…. This bearishness has been further enhanced by the death of my woman comrade, who was better with other people than I am."

Einstein’s personal failings might pass by without much comment if had not, like his hero Gandhi, been elevated to the status of a “secular saint." Yet, it is also the personal inconsistencies, the weaknesses and petty, even incredibly callous moments, that make so many famous figures' lives compelling, if also confusing. As Einstein scholar John Stachel says, “Too much of an idol was made of Einstein. He’s not an idol—he’s a human, and that’s much more interesting.”

Related Content:

Listen as Albert Einstein Reads ‘The Common Language of Science’ (1941)

The Musical Mind of Albert Einstein: Great Physicist, Amateur Violinist and Devotee of Mozart

Einstein Documentary Offers A Revealing Portrait of the Great 20th Century Scientist

Albert Einstein Expresses His Admiration for Mahatma Gandhi, in Letter and Audio

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Norman Rockwell’s Typewritten Recipe for His Favorite Oatmeal Cookies

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Norman Rockwell, prolific painter and illustrator of 20th century Americana, often worked so single-mindedly that he missed his meals. In 1943, Rockwell exhausted himself to such a degree that, while completing the Franklin Delano Roosevelt-inspired series of paintings entitled Four Freedoms, he lost 15 pounds over the course of seven months. This drop in weight is, perhaps, all the more shocking when given some context: Rockwell was far from being a corpulent man. In fact, when the then 23-year-old artist attempted to enlist as a serviceman in the U. S. Navy during World War I, he was judged to be eight pounds underweight, standing at six feet and tipping the scales at 140 pounds. Rockwell, however, was not to be deterred by something so trivial as his bodily composition. He gorged himself on bananas and doughnuts when he came home that evening. The next day, Navy recruiters dully welcomed the sufficiently bloated Rockwell to the fold.

When Rockwell did eat, we know that he had a penchant for oatmeal cookies. At least two of the artist’s letters detailing instructions for making this choice snack are posted online. Although there is a 1966 iteration of the oatmeal cookie recipe available on Biblioklept.org, we’ve provided a later version, from the 1970s, found on The Saturday Evening Post website:

 

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water and 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • About 1 cup oatmeal
  • Chopped nuts (walnuts preferred)

Directions

Mix in order and drop on baking sheet. Bake 400° 7 to 8 minutes. Then run under broiler to brown.

via Saturday Evening Post

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Prepare Marilyn Monroe’s Personal, Handwritten Turkey-and-Stuffing Recipe on Thanksgiving

Read an 18th-Century Eyewitness Account of 8-Year-Old Mozart’s Extraordinary Musical Skills

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'Tis the very nature of parenthood to view one's children as exceptional.

Another aspect of the condition is spending time in the company of other parents, some of whom have yet to master the art of self-restraint. Their babies are the most physically adroit, their toddlers the most generous, their elementary schoolers the most culinarily daring.

Pride in one's children's gifts is understandable. A straightforward brag or two is permissible. But after that, I'd really like some corroborating evidence, such as the Honourable Daines Barrington's account of meeting a "very remarkable young musician" whose father had been dragging him around the continent on a 3-and-a-half year concert tour.

Clearly, Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (1756-1791) was a very accomplished kid, but the term "prodigy" must have stuck in Friend of the Royal Society Barrington's craw, even after he'd attended some of the boy's public performances. Determined to let science be the judge, he devised a series of on-the-spot challenges designed to evaluate the boy's musicianship beyond the rigorous practice schedule imposed by his disciplinarian father. (We all saw Amadeus, right?)

Barrington's detailed description of these experiments would make a gimcrack Science Fair project for any little Einstein smart enough to get through 18th-century typography without throwing a tantrum because the s's all look like f's (see the 18th century text below). It might take a recreational mathemusician on the order of Vi Hart to truly appreciate the complexity of the tasks that Barrington assigned his young subject (something to do with having him play five contradictory lines simultaneously…).

I can interpret the data with regard to some of Barrington's other findings. Mozart, he wrote, not only looked like a young child, he ditched his harpsichord to chase around a cat and ran about the room "with a stick between his legs by way of a horse." So it's not the classical period equivalent of a stage mom lying about her kid's age to better his chances at an audition. Actually, it's always a relief to hear about these super-kids acting like… well, my kids.

Read Barrington's letter to the Royal Society -- Account of a Very Remarkable Young Musician -- in its entirety here or below. And by all means share it with the worst offenders on your PTA.

via Rebecca Onion and her Slate blog, The Vault

Related Content:

Newly Discovered Piece by Mozart Performed on His Own Fortepiano

Great Violinists Playing as Kids: Itzhak Perlman, Anne-Sophie Mutter, & More

The Musical Mind of Albert Einstein: Great Physicist, Amateur Violinist and Devotee of Mozart

Ayun Halliday provided an honest account of homeschooling her 12-year-old son in The East Village Inky #51 Follow her @AyunHalliday

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