Fantastic BBC Footage of J.R.R. Tolkien in 1968

The high points of this doc­u­men­tary on the great J.R.R. Tolkien, from the BBC Series In Their Own Words: British Nov­el­ists, are the moments that ful­fill the promise of the series’ title. Skip over the dis­tract­ing “man on the street” inter­views and long pans of the land­scape, meant per­haps to invoke Mid­dle Earth. In fact, you can skip over every scene that isn’t just the author’s mag­nif­i­cent talk­ing head.

Start at minute 2:49, where he describes first writ­ing the immor­tal words “In a hole in the ground there lived a hob­bit.” The anec­dote should inspire belea­guered grad­u­ate stu­dents and teach­ers every­where: He came up with the line while grad­ing exams.

We also loved Tolkien’s con­fes­sion about trees, start­ing at the 7:00 minute mark: “I should have liked to make con­tact with a tree and find out how it feels about things.”

You can watch the doc­u­men­tary on YouTube in two parts. The first part is above, the sec­ond here. The mate­r­i­al also appears in our col­lec­tion of 250 Cul­tur­al Icons.

via Bib­liok­lept

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Talk­ing Lit­er­a­ture with Great British Nov­el­ists

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

Google App Enhances Museum Visits; Launched at the Getty

Ear­li­er this year, Google rolled out “Art Project,” a tool that lets you access 1,000 works of art appear­ing in 17 great muse­ums across the world, from the Met in New York City to the Uffizi Gallery in Flo­rence. (More on that here.) Now, as part of a broad­er effort to put art in your hands, the com­pa­ny has pro­duced a new smart­phone app (avail­able in Android and iPhone) that enrich­es the muse­um-going expe­ri­ence, and it’s being demoed at the Get­ty Muse­um in Los Ange­les.

The con­cept is pret­ty sim­ple. You’re wan­der­ing through the Get­ty. You spot a paint­ing that deeply touch­es you. To find out more about it, you open the Google Gog­gles app on your phone, snap a pho­to, and instant­ly down­load com­men­tary from artists, cura­tors, and con­ser­va­tors, or even a small image of the work itself. Sam­ple this, and you’ll see what we mean. And, for more on the sto­ry, turn to Jori Finkel, the ace arts reporter for the LA Times.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Art in “Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty” at The Get­ty Muse­um

A Vir­tu­al Tour of the Sis­tine Chapel

MoMA Puts Pol­lock, Rothko & de Koon­ing on Your iPad

Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” for Eight Pianos

This fan­tas­tic ren­di­tion of Wag­n­er’s “Ride of the Valkyries” was record­ed at the tenth anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the pres­ti­gious Ver­bier Fes­ti­val, and fea­tures eight of the world’s most respect­ed pianists — Evge­ny Kissin, Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove And­snes, Claude FrankMikhail Plet­nev, Staffan Sche­ja, and James Levine. It’s just one of many stel­lar per­for­mances avail­able on this very well-regard­ed con­cert dvd.

Give the piece a lis­ten, espe­cial­ly if you’ve ever con­sid­ered “Valkyries” too over­bear­ing. The all-piano arrange­ment does full jus­tice to the music’s pow­er, while also reliev­ing some of its bom­bast. A def­i­nite win­ner. H/T @brainpicker

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Clas­si­cal Music: A His­to­ry Accord­ing to YouTube

How a Bach Canon Works. Bril­liant!

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

Buddy Holly at Age 12: His First Recording

If you’re look­ing for­ward to this week’s release of the Bud­dy Hol­ly cov­er album Rave On (and you should be, if only for John Doe’s awe­some take on Peg­gy Sue Got Mar­ried), then you’ll def­i­nite­ly get a kick out of the croon­er’s first ever known record­ing. The song is from 1949, and the sound qual­i­ty isn’t great, but no amount of sta­t­ic can block out the kid’s famil­iar war­ble. His voice may not have changed yet, but he’s already Bud­dy Hol­ly.

We have added this Bud­dy Hol­ly clip to our col­lec­tion of 250 Cul­tur­al Icons. There you’ll find great writ­ers, daz­zling film­mak­ers and musi­cians, bril­liant philoso­phers and sci­en­tists pre­sent­ed in video and audio.

via Fla­vor­wire

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

The 25 Best Non-Fiction Books Ever: Readers’ Picks

Last week, we asked Open Cul­ture read­ers to write in with your favorite non-fic­tion titles of all time, and you did­n’t dis­ap­point. We had a hard time culling from the more than 100 sug­ges­tions, but we did have a few cri­te­ria to guide us:

1. Pri­or­i­ty went to repeat nom­i­nees (Bill Bryson, Hunter S. Thomp­son, and Richard Dawkins, to name a few).

2. We leaned toward books that are avail­able for free online.

3. When all else failed, we relied on our own pref­er­ences — or prej­u­dices.

Thanks again for all of your rec­om­men­da­tions, and may we con­grat­u­late you on your excel­lent taste in non-fic­tion, equalled by only your excel­lent taste in web­sites.

The List

Hunter S. Thomp­son — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Friedrich Niet­zsche — The Gay Sci­ence

Richard Dawkins - The Self­ish Gene

Wen­dell Berry — The Way of Igno­rance

Joseph Mitchell — Up in the Old Hotel

Bri­an Greene — The Ele­gant Uni­verse

Nor­man Lewis - Voic­es of the Old Sea

Joan Did­ion — The White Album

Ben­jamin Franklin - The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Ben­jamin Franklin

Tony Judt — Post­war: A His­to­ry of Europe Since 1945

Hen­ry David Thore­au — Walden

Mar­cus Aure­lius — Med­i­ta­tions

Bill Bryson — A Walk in the Woods

George Orwell — Homage to Cat­alo­nia

Han­nah Arendt — Eich­mann in Jerusalem

Book­er T. Wash­ing­ton — Up From Slav­ery

Jorge Luis Borges - Oth­er Inqui­si­tions (1937–1952)

Mar­cus Redik­er — Vil­lains of all Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Gold­en Age

Mihaly Csik­szent­mi­ha­lyi — Flow: The Psy­chol­o­gy of Opti­mal Expe­ri­ence

Lao Tzu, Stephen Mitchell, trans. Tao Te Ching

Vic­tor Klem­per­er — I Will Bear Wit­ness: A Diary of the Nazi Years (1933–1941)

Greil Mar­cus — Lip­stick Traces: A Secret His­to­ry of the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry

Philip Goure­vitch — We Wish to Inform You That Tomor­row We Will be Killed with Our Fam­i­lies

Win­ston Churchill — A His­to­ry of the Eng­lish Speak­ing Peo­ples

Last­ly, and only in part because we’ve been warned that we would be round­ly scold­ed for the omis­sion: The Ele­ments of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White

Thanks again, and hap­py read­ing!

Sheer­ly Avni is a San Fran­cis­co-based arts and cul­ture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Week­ly, Moth­er Jones, and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her on twit­ter at @sheerly.

8,000 Chinese Lanterns over Poland

Last Tues­day, the res­i­dents of Poz­nan, Poland set a world record when they released 8,000 Chi­nese lanterns into the sky to mark the short­est night of the year — or what’s oth­er­wise called Mid­sum­mer Night. The video above lets you see the lanterns in full flight. The image below offers a close-up view of a lantern before head­ing into the night sky…

via @pourmecoffee

Peter Falk (RIP) in Wings of Desire

Peter Falk made his career play­ing a quirky detec­tive in the 1960s and 70s tele­vi­sion show Colum­bo. But the art world will remem­ber a moment when Falk played him­self in Wim Wen­ders’ 1987 film, Wings of Desire. In the cred­its, he was list­ed sim­ply as ‘Der Film­star.’ This is our 1:46 trib­ute to Falk, who passed away Fri­day at age 83. H/T @SteveSilberman

Relat­ed:

Free Tarkovsky Films

Free Hitch­cock Films

Free John Wayne Films

Free Noir Films

Andy Warhol Eats a Burger King Whopper, and We Watch … and Watch

In 1982, Dan­ish film­mak­er Jør­gen Leth direct­ed 66 Scenes from Amer­i­ca, a film that stitched togeth­er a series of lengthy shots, each a visu­al post­card from a jour­ney across Amer­i­ca. And, tak­en togeth­er, you have a tableau of the Amer­i­can expe­ri­ence.

Along the way, the pop artist Andy Warhol makes his appear­ance. The man who coined the expres­sion “15 Min­utes of Fame” takes four min­utes to eat a ham­burg­er, most­ly with­out say­ing a word. And sim­ply because of his fame, we watch … and watch. About this scene Leth gives a few details:

[Warhol] is told that he has to say his name and that he should do so when he has fin­ished per­form­ing his action, but what hap­pens is that the action takes a very long time to per­form; it’s sim­ply ago­niz­ing. I have to admit that I per­son­al­ly adore that, because its a pure homage to Warhol. It could­n’t be more War­ho­lesque. That’s of course why he agreed to do it.

This was pre­sum­ably not a paid place­ment by Burg­er King.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Warhol’s Screen Tests: Lou Reed, Den­nis Hop­per, Nico, and More

Three “Anti-Films” by Andy Warhol: Sleep, Eat & Kiss

Andy Warhol’s ‘Screen Test’ of Bob Dylan: A Clas­sic Meet­ing of Egos

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.