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

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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…

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.