National Film Board of Canada Launches Free iPad App

A quick heads up: Today the National Film Board of Canada released a free iPad app (download it here), providing users free access to thousands of documentaries, animated films and trailers. All films (including some in 3-D) can be streamed over Wi-Fi and 3G wireless networks. And you can even download and watch a film offline for up to 48 hours. If you don’t have an iPad, never fear.  The NFB also makes these films available via a free iPhone app and, of course, its web site too.

For more free films, see our collection of Free Movies Online

Animated Aurora Borealis from Orbit

While working on the International Space Station, Astronaut Don Pettit created this remarkable video of the aurora borealis (otherwise known as The Northern Lights). How? By stitching together a large sequence of still images that he took from space. It makes for some good viewing…

Leon Levinstein: Photography Reveals How Little We See

In the 1960s, while now-iconic photographers like Robert Frank and Diane Arbus were busy becoming iconic — applying for grants, entering award shows, hustling for high-profile magazine assignments — Leon Levinstein was blending into crowds, unnoticed, documenting street life and the era’s hipsters: beach bums, downtown derrieres, street hustlers. An unsung photography hero of the 20th century, Levinstein crafted and inhabited a lonely, hermit-like world behind his lens, yet managed to capture the richness of the world in front of it with remarkable elegance and vigor.

In fantastic 1988 interview recently featured on NPR, the lone photographer shares his creative ethos and his ultimate approach to his art: “You gotta be alone and work alone. It’s a lonely occupation, if you wanna call it that.”

Image © Howard Greenberg Gallery

Image © Howard Greenberg Gallery

What makes Levinstein a particularly unlikely master of street photography — or, perhaps, precisely what makes him a master — is that he never received any formal training in photography. Instead, he exited the army, bought himself a used camera, and quietly set to shooting.

“A good photograph will prove to the viewer how little our eyes permit us to see. Most people only see what they have always seen and what they expect to see. Where a photographer, if he’s good, will see everything.”

Image © Howard Greenberg Gallery

Image © Howard Greenberg Gallery

This month, a new exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art pays homage to the obscure photographer. Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players: Leon Levinstein’s New York Photographs, 1950–1980 is as much a retrospective of Levinstein’s work as it is a unique time capsule of the era’s everyday culture-makers. You can view the collection of photographs on the museum’s website and catch the exhibition at the Met until October 17.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness and indiscriminate curiosity. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, BigThink and Huffington Post, and spends a disturbing amount of time on Twitter.

Clay Shirky: How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World?

Clay Shirky’s book tour collided with the TED conference in Cannes earlier this month, and what you get is a crisp, 13-minute precis of the arguments in Shirky’s new book, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. The big question after watching Shirky’s piece: How can Open Culture draw on the collective “cognitive surplus” of our readers and deliver a more powerful site to learners worldwide? A lot of it comes down to design/architecture. But what would a re-architected Open Culture site look like? If you have some thoughts, please take a few minutes to send them our way. Who knows, your thinking might inspire a whole new approach here.

To delve further into Shirky’s thinking, you can listen to his extended interview last week on KQED’s Forum, my favorite morning talk show in San Francisco. Download here, or stream below.

5,000 Years in 90 Seconds

Great empires rise and fall, mostly in the Middle East. Watch history play itself out on dynamic maps and timeline.

Thanks Bob. (Got a great find for readers? Send it our way.)

Document the World’s Story on 10.10.10.

Aspiring (or even casual) filmmakers, get ready for One Day on Earth. On October 10th, 2010, thousands of people worldwide will shoot film and produce a crowdsourced documentary showcasing “the diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that can occur in one 24-hour period on Earth.” You’re invited to take part in potentially the largest global media event ever. The video above spells out the concept, and you can learn how to take part here.

Early Films of New York City

In 1900, New York City was heading into a century of unimaginable transformation. And, thanks to The Library of Congress (LOC), you can now revisit 43 videos showing the city laying the foundations for their burgeoning metropolis. The clips, all black & white and silent, appear on iTunesUYouTube and the LOC web site. And I list iTunesU first because it offers the easiest way to navigate through the full collection. Above, we feature a scene showing New Yorkers building the city’s first skyscrapers. The more you watch, the more of the perils you see. The collection also includes scenes showing the Flatiron Building, the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge, skating on a lake in Central Park, and the excavation of the tunnel that would eventually enter Penn Station.

Hitchens Cancels Speaking Engagements

Having recently turned 60, Christopher Hitchens decided it was time to write a memoir. Hence Hitch-22, his new book published earlier this month. For a moment, the publicity machine got rolling. (Above, we have him talking with Anthony Layser in a short video called “Drinking with Hitchens.” Watch Part 2 here.) But, for whatever reason, things have now come to a halt.  Multiple speaking engagements on the West coast (my neck of the woods) have suddenly been canceled, as True/Slant notes. And, rightly or wrongly, there’s now speculation about Hitchens’s health. Neither Hitchens nor his representatives have offered any official explanation. will inevitably keep monitoring the situation.

Note: You can download Hitch-22 (narrated by Hitchens himself) for free via Read more about their no-strings attached promotion here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.