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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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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