Hear 11-Year-Old Björk Sing “I Love to Love”: Her First Recorded Song (1976)

Several years back, we featured an eleven-year-old Björk reading a nativity story in her native Icelandic, backed by unsmiling older kids from the Children’s Music School in Reykjavík. In this new find, also dating from 1976, you can hear that same eleven-year-old Björk singing in English, in what marks her first recording. Above, she sings the Tina Charles song “I Love to Love” for a school recital. According to Laughing Squid, the “teachers were so impressed with her voice, they sent the recording to the national radio station where it received a great deal of play.” Soon thereafter (in 1977) came her first album, featuring cover art provided by her mom. We’ve previously explored that here on OC.

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The Great Courses Offers Every Course for $40 Until Midnight Tonight

Here’s a holiday season deal worth mentioning. The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company) is offering every course for $40 in digital format (or $60 in DVD format). The deal lasts through midnight on Black Friday.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Great Courses provides a very nice service. They travel across the U.S., recording great professors lecturing on great topics that will appeal to any lifelong learner. They then make the courses available to customers in different formats (DVD, CD, Video & Audio Downloads, etc.). The courses are very polished and complete, and they can be quite reasonably priced, especially when they’re on sale, as they are today. Click here to explore the offer.

Separately, it’s also worth mentioning that the Great Courses Plus–which makes courses available in streaming format as part of a monthly subscription service–is running a Black Friday deal where you can get a free trial for the service, plus 20% of popular plans.

Note: The Great Courses is a partner with Open Culture. So if you purchase a course, it benefits not just you and Great Courses. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

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With 9,036 Pieces, the Roman Colosseum Is the Largest Lego Set Ever

“For a normal person back in the day,” says LEGO designer/architect Rok Kobe about the Colosseum in Rome, “You had never seen a building that was over a story high. And to be confronted with such an amazing piece of engineering that’s almost 200-meters wide and 50 meters tall, it was unprecedented.”

Similarly, any LEGO fan might feel this awe while greeting this month’s debut of the LEGO Colosseum. At 9036 pieces it has broken the record as the biggest LEGO set in existence, beating out the Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon (7,541 pieces) and the Taj Mahal (5,923 pieces). Every few years LEGO steps up its game, which might possibly end with a neighborhood-devouring replica of the Great Wall of China. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The Colosseum’s facade has been faithfully recreated on all three levels, with the Doric columns at the bottom, the Ionic columns in the middle, and the Corinthian columns on top. And it also adds the contemporary part of the arena that has been rebuilt to show the original level of the arena in Roman times.

The original Colosseum was built over eight years between year 72 AD and 80 AD and between two emperors, Vespasian and Titus. And though we know it as a sandstone-colored structure these days, archeologists have determined it was also colored red, black, and azure. The LEGO version may not be so dramatic, but it does contain a bit more color than the real-life model.

Rok Kobe knows of what he speaks and models. Growing up in Ljubljana, capitol of Slovenia, he would play on the Roman ruins in the city center, especially the Roman Wall. “The five year old would be proud of the adult that got to design this LEGO set,” he says.

At $549.99, this is not a frivolous purchase. But it will bring an adult hours of fun and keep them occupied.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Toni Morrison’s 1,200 Volume Personal Library is Going on Sale: Get a Glimpse of the Books on Her Tribeca Condo Shelves

Images by Brown Harris Stevens

I will tell you how I began to be a writer.

I was a reader.

Toni Morrison

Those of us who might have grown up harboring literary ambitions may have been humbled and inspired when we first read Toni Morrison. She proves over and again, in novels, essays, and otherwise, the courage and dedication that serious writing requires. She has also shown us the courage it takes to be a serious reader. “Delving into literature is not escape,” she said in a 2002 interview. It is “always a provocative engagement with the contemporary, the modern world. The issues of the society we live in.”

In her seminal text on reading, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Morrison showed us how to read as she does. “As a reader (before becoming a writer),” she wrote, “I read as I had been taught to do. But books revealed themselves rather differently to me as a writer,” in the space of imaginative empathy. “I have to place enormous trust in my ability to imagine others and my willingness to project consciously into the danger zones such others may represent for me.”

Critical readers risk vulnerability, open themselves to shock and surprise: “I want to draw a map… to open as much space for discovery… without the mandate for conquest.” This attitude makes criticism an act of “delight, not disappointment,” Morrison wrote, despite the different, and unequal, positions we come from as readers. “It’s that being open,” she said in 2009, “not scratching for it, not digging for it, not constructing something but being open to the situation and trusting that what you don’t know will be available to you.”

Want to learn to read like that? You can. And you can also, if you have the cash, own and read the books in Morrison’s personal library, the books she thumbed over and read in that same spirit of critical empathy. The over 1,200 books collected at her Tribeca condo can be purchased in their entirety for a price negotiated with her family. In the photos here from realtor Brown Harris Stevens, who currently list her five million dollar, 3 bedroom apartment in a separate sale, certain titles leap out from the spines:

Biographies of Paul Robeson and Charles Dickens, Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, Eric J. Sundquist’s To Wake the Nations, Angela Davis’ An Autobiography, Cornel West’s Democracy Matters. (Her library seems to be enviably alphabetized, something I’ve meant to get around to for a couple decades now….)

Michelle Sinclair Colman at Galerie lists several more titles in the library, including The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, “books about and by the Obamas and the Clintons, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Gayl Jones, Henry Dumas, James Baldwin, and Mark Twain.” On her nightstand, undisturbed, sit Robert A. Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, David Maraniss’s Barack Obama: The Story, and Stephen King’s Revival.

Some other points of interest:

  • She owned a beautiful gold illustrated copy of Song of Solomon with the bookmark on Chapter Four.
  • She displayed multiple-framed Dewey Decimal catalog library cards of her novels.
  • She edited as she read.


  • She had a few never-returned library books. The most interesting was a copy of her own book, The Bluest Eye, from the Burnaby Public Library with copious notes, underlines, cross-outs on every single page.

Were these her own notes, underlines, and cross-outs? It isn’t clear, but should you purchase the library, which cannot be pieced out but only owned as a whole, you can find out for yourself. We hope this historic collection will one day end up in a library, maybe digitized for everyone to see. But for now, those of us who can’t afford the purchase price can be content with this rare glimpse into Morrison’s sanctuary, where she did so much writing, thinking, and maybe most importantly for her, so much reading. Images on this page come from Brown Harris Stevens.

Related Content: 

Toni Morrison Deconstructs White Supremacy in America

Toni Morrisson: Forget Writing About What You Know; Write About What You Don’t Know

Toni Morrison Dispenses Sound Writing Advice: Tips You Can Apply to Your Own Work

Hear Toni Morrison (RIP) Present Her Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech on the Radical Power of Language (1993)

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

A Free 700-Page Chess Manual Explains 1,000 Chess Tactics in Straightforward English

Image by Michael Maggs, via Wikimedia Commons

FYI: In 2011, Ward Farnsworth published a two-volume collection called Predator at The Chessboard: A Field Guide To Chess Tactics (Volume 1Volume 2where he explains countless chess tactics in plain English. In this 700-page collection, “there are 20 chapters, about 200 topics within them, and over 1,000 [chess] positions discussed.” Now for the even better part: Farnsworth has also made these volumes available free online. Just visit chesstactics.org and scroll down the page. There you will find the content that’s otherwise available in Farnsworth’s books. With this free resource, you can start making yourself a better chess player whenever you have the urge, or especially as you watch The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Masterclass Is Running a “Buy One, Give One Free” Deal (Until November 30)

FYI: Masterclass is running a Buy One, Share One Free until November 30.

Here’s the gist: If you buy an All-Access pass to their 90+ courses, you will receive another All-Access Pass to give to someone else at no additional charge. An All-Access pass costs $180 (or $15 per month), and lasts one year. For that fee, you–and a family member or friend–can watch courses created by Annie Leibovitz, Neil Gaiman, Malcolm Gladwell, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese, David Mamet, Jane Goodall, Margaret Atwood, Helen Mirren, Herbie Hancock, Alice Waters, Billy Collins and so many more. If you’re thinking this sounds like a pretty good way to get through quarantine, we’d have to agree. The deal is available now.

Note: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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