The 15 Most Popular Posts from Open Culture in 2013


In 2013, we pub­lished 1300+ posts on a wide range of cul­tur­al sub­jects. Look­ing back through our logs we were able to iden­ti­fy the 15 posts that res­onat­ed most wide­ly with our read­ers. We hope you enjoy this recap, and share some of the items with friends. And we look for­ward to see­ing you in 2014. Hap­py New Year to you all.

Noam Chom­sky Slams Žižek and Lacan: Emp­ty ‘Pos­tur­ing’: A lit­tle spat broke out between Chom­sky and Žižek this sum­mer. Chom­sky got the debate going after he accused Jacques Lacan of being a “total char­la­tan” and Slavoj Žižek of pos­tur­ing rather than offer­ing real intel­lec­tu­al sub­stance. Žižek replied sharply. Chom­sky rebutted. Žižek coun­tered again. Some scored it a draw.

The 10 Great­est Films of All Time Accord­ing to 846 Film Crit­ics: Through­out the year, our res­i­dent film schol­ar Col­in Mar­shall revis­it­ed the favorite films of some of the great­est film­mak­ers — Stan­ley KubrickMar­tin Scors­eseWoody Allen, and Quentin Taran­ti­no, to name a few. But it also made sense to take a more glob­al view of things, to sur­vey the films loved by 800+ direc­tors and film crit­ics. That’s what you can find here.

Lis­ten to Fred­die Mer­cury and David Bowie on the Iso­lat­ed Vocal Track for the Queen Hit ‘Under Pres­sure,’ 1981: In 2013, we fea­tured a series of iso­lat­ed tracks that offer unique insights into clas­sic songs. You might recall Kurt Cobain’s Vocals From ‘Smells Like Teen Spir­it,’ Eric Clapton’s Iso­lat­ed Gui­tar Track From ‘While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps’, and Mer­ry Clayton’s Haunt­ing Back­ground Vocals on the Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shel­ter’. But your favorite was Fred­die Mer­cury and David Bowie’s unfor­get­table per­for­mance on Queen’s Under Pres­sure. You have good taste. Bowie fans should also check his list of his Top 100 Books.

Read 18 Short Sto­ries From Nobel Prize-Win­ning Writer Alice Munro Free Online: When Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize on the strength of her many short sto­ries, Josh Jones gath­ered for you 18 free short sto­ries writ­ten by the now 82-year-old author. They’re all free to read online. Dur­ing the year, we also put togeth­er col­lec­tions of 10 Free Sto­ries by George Saun­ders10 Free Arti­cles by Hunter S. Thomp­sonFour Sto­ries by Jen­nifer Egan, and 30 Free Essays & Sto­ries by David Fos­ter Wal­lace. Be sure to enjoy them as well.

Free: The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and the Guggen­heim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online: Art cat­a­logues from muse­ums can be down­right expen­sive. That’s why we were excit­ed when The Met and the Guggen­heim put an archive of art cat­a­logues online for free. For no cost, you can read high­ly visu­al intro­duc­tions to the work of Alexan­der CalderEdvard MunchFran­cis BaconGus­tav Klimt & Egon Schiele, Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky, Geor­gia O’Ke­effeFrank Lloyd Wright and many oth­er influ­en­tial artists.

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Pub­lic Domain, Mak­ing Them Free to Reuse & Remix: Some of the world’s great libraries are also open­ing access to our cul­tur­al her­itage. Take for exam­ple the British Library, which announced this month that it has released over a mil­lion images onto Flickr Com­mons for any­one to use, remix and repur­pose. Culled from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th cen­tu­ry books, the images include a dizzy­ing array of “maps, geo­log­i­cal dia­grams, beau­ti­ful illus­tra­tions, com­i­cal satire, illu­mi­nat­ed and dec­o­ra­tive let­ters, col­or­ful illus­tra­tions, land­scapes, wall-paint­ings” and more.

John Coltrane’s Hand­writ­ten Out­line for His Mas­ter­piece A Love Supreme: To cel­e­brate Trane’s birth­day, we fea­tured a rare doc­u­ment from the Smithsonian’s Nation­al Muse­um of Amer­i­can His­to­ry: Coltrane’s hand­writ­ten out­line of his ground­break­ing jazz com­po­si­tion A Love Supreme. In terms of pop­u­lar­i­ty, this post was just about tied with anoth­er great (but very dif­fer­ent) jazz doc­u­ment: Thelo­nious Monk’s List of Tips for Play­ing a Gig.

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip: Bach wrote his “Crab Canon” in such a way that it could be played back­wards as well as for­wards. But pre­pare your­self for the mind-blow­ing coup de grâce when math­e­mat­i­cal image-mak­er Jos Ley lays the piece out on a Möbius strip.

Sev­en Tips From Ernest Hem­ing­way on How to Write Fic­tionHem­ing­way nev­er wrote a trea­tise on the art of writ­ing fic­tion. He did, how­ev­er, leave behind a great many pas­sages in let­ters, arti­cles and books with opin­ions and advice on writ­ing. Some of the best of those were assem­bled in 1984 by Lar­ry W. Phillips into a book, Ernest Hem­ing­way on Writ­ing. We’ve select­ed sev­en of our favorite quo­ta­tions from the book and placed them, along with our own com­men­tary, on this page. Read­ers will also want to peruse these relat­ed posts: 18 (Free) Books Ernest Hem­ing­way Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time and Hem­ing­way Cre­ates a Read­ing List for a Young Writer, 1934, plus F. Scott Fitzger­ald Cre­ates a List of 22 Essen­tial Books, 1936.

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour Sings Shakespeare’s Son­net 18: In the ear­ly 2000s, Pink Floyd gui­tarist and singer David Gilmour record­ed a musi­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of William Shakespeare’s “Son­net 18″ at his home stu­dio aboard the his­toric, 90-foot house­boat the Asto­ria. This video of Gilmour singing the son­net was released as an extra on the 2002 DVD David Gilmour in Con­cert, and it’s pret­ty sub­lime.

Learn to Code with Harvard’s Intro to Com­put­er Sci­ence Course And Oth­er Free Tech Class­es: These days, it could nev­er hurt to make sure you have some good tech chops. Many of you under­stand that, and that’s why you jumped on Har­vard’s free, intro­duc­to­ry com­put­er sci­ence course. Taught by David Malan, the intro­duc­to­ry course cov­ers “abstrac­tion, algo­rithms, encap­su­la­tion, data struc­tures, data­bas­es, mem­o­ry man­age­ment, secu­ri­ty, soft­ware devel­op­ment, vir­tu­al­iza­tion, and web­sites. Lan­guages include C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML.” You can always find the course list­ed in the Com­put­er Sci­ence sec­tion of our col­lec­tion of 800 Free Cours­es Online.

Michelangelo’s Illus­trat­ed 16th-Cen­tu­ry Gro­cery List: Very few of Michelan­gelo’s papers sur­vive today, but we do odd­ly have the gro­cery lists that he had his ser­vant bring to the food mar­ket. “Because the ser­vant he was send­ing to mar­ket was illit­er­ate,” writes the Oregonian‘s Steve Duin, “Michelan­ge­lo illus­trat­ed the shop­ping lists — a her­ring, tortel­li, two fen­nel soups, four anchovies and ‘a small quar­ter of a rough wine’ — with rushed … car­i­ca­tures in pen and ink.” It’s a unique his­tor­i­cal item, cer­tain­ly worth check­ing out.

Prize-Win­ning Ani­ma­tion Lets You Fly Through 17th Cen­tu­ry Lon­don: Six stu­dents from De Mont­fort Uni­ver­si­ty cre­at­ed a stel­lar 3D rep­re­sen­ta­tion of 17th cen­tu­ry Lon­don, as it exist­ed before The Great Fire of 1666. The three-minute video pro­vides a real­is­tic ani­ma­tion of Tudor Lon­don, and par­tic­u­lar­ly a sec­tion called Pud­ding Lane where the fire start­ed. Grab a small hand­ful of pop­corn, and sit back and enjoy.

Her­mann Rorschach’s Orig­i­nal Rorschach Test: What Do You See?: In hon­or of Her­mann Rorschach’s birth­day in Novem­ber, we high­light­ed the orig­i­nal images used in his famous psy­chol­o­gy test back in 1921. And we invit­ed you to say what you saw in these images. The answers were often amus­ing, some­times per­plex­ing.

Simone de Beau­voir Explains “Why I’m a Fem­i­nist” in a Rare TV Inter­view (1975): In a 1975 inter­view, Simone de Beau­voir picked up on ideas she explored in The Sec­ond Sex. This reveal­ing clip can be watched along­side oth­er 2013 posts fea­tur­ing de Beau­voir and her part­ner Jean-Paul Sartre. See Lovers and Philoso­phers — Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beau­voir Togeth­er in 1967 and Philosophy’s Pow­er Cou­ple, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beau­voir, Fea­tured in 1967 TV Inter­view.

BonusFill Your New Kin­dle, iPad, iPhone, eRead­er with Free eBooks, Movies, Audio Books, Online Cours­es & More: Just last week, we told you where to load up your new iPads, Kin­dles, and oth­er devices with free intel­li­gent media. If you missed it the first time around, it’s not too late to cir­cle back.

Don’t miss any­thing from Open Cul­ture in 2014. Sign up for our Dai­ly Email or RSS Feed. And we’ll send cul­tur­al curiosi­ties your way, every day.

Free Fun: Play Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Frogger & Other Golden Age Video Games In Your Web Browser


While I was grow­ing up in the 1990s, my par­ents’ refusal to pur­chase gam­ing con­soles gave me no choice but to nav­i­gate the age of Nin­ten­do 64 with a dod­der­ing, near­ly decade-old PC. As my friends were enthralled by the then-daz­zling graph­ics of Mario 64, I was using my lum­ber­ing mastodon of a 486/66 mhz com­put­er as a way to re-expe­ri­ence some of the best con­sole games of years past. Hav­ing down­loaded pro­grams that turned my com­put­er into a key­board-con­trolled Atari, Nin­ten­do, Super Nin­ten­do, or Sega Gen­e­sis, and hav­ing sought out the web­sites that host­ed the game files, I was mol­li­fied by play­ing Pac Man (1980), Castl­e­va­nia (1986), and Aster­oids (1979), amongst dozens of oth­ers.


Ear­li­er this year, the Inter­net Archive set aflame the hearts of nos­tal­gic gamers every­where by open­ing the His­tor­i­cal Soft­ware Col­lec­tion, mak­ing clas­sics such as Karate­ka (1984) and Akal­a­beth (1980) freely avail­able and remov­ing the need to down­load any addi­tion­al soft­ware com­po­nents. On Box­ing Day, the gen­er­ous souls at the Inter­net Archive announced a fol­low-up: the Con­sole Liv­ing Room. For those wish­ing to relive the joys of ear­ly con­soles, sourc­ing clas­sic titles and down­load­ing emu­la­tion pro­grams to turn your com­put­er into a vir­tu­al con­sole is no longer nec­es­sary. Using noth­ing more than their brows­er (Fire­fox is rec­om­mend­ed), users can enjoy the full (albeit tem­porar­i­ly sound­less) expe­ri­ence of ‘70s and ‘80s clas­sics and rar­i­ties on the Atari 2600, Atari 7800 ProSys­tem, Cole­co­V­i­sion, Mag­navox Odyssey², and Astro­cade con­soles. Quick ses­sions of Don­key Kong (1981), Aster­oids  (1987), and Mario Bros. (1988) have nev­er been eas­i­er.

For a full list of games, includ­ing Dig Dug (1984), Frog­ger (1982), and Pac Man (1983), head over to the Inter­net Archive’s Con­sole Liv­ing Room. For fur­ther infor­ma­tion, check out their ini­tial announce­ment.

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Run Vin­tage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Soft­ware in Your Web Brows­er, Thanks to

Tim­o­thy Leary Plans a Neu­ro­mancer Video Game, with Art by Kei­th Har­ing, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

Long Live Glitch! The Art & Code from the Game Now Released into the Pub­lic Domain

Google Puts Over 57,000 Works of Art on the Web

dali google art project

In its art preser­va­tion­ist wing, the Cul­tur­al Insti­tute, Google hous­es an enor­mous dig­i­tal col­lec­tion of art­work span­ning cen­turies and con­ti­nents in what it calls the Art Project. Google’s col­lec­tion, writes Drue Katao­ka at Wired, is part of a “big deal […] it sig­nals a broad­er, emerg­ing ‘open con­tent’ art move­ment.” “Besides the Get­ty,” Katao­ka notes, this move­ment to dig­i­tize fine art col­lec­tions includes efforts by “Los Ange­les’ LACMA… as well as D.C.’s Nation­al Gallery of Art, the Dal­las Muse­um of Art, Baltimore’s Wal­ters Art Muse­um, and the Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Art Gallery. And Google. Yes, Google.” Google is work­ing hard to defuse this “yes, Google” reac­tion, post­ing fre­quent updates to its col­lec­tion, already a mag­nif­i­cent phe­nom­e­non: “Imag­ine see­ing an image of the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Breuegel the Elder,” writes Katao­ka, “or Vin­cent van Gogh’s Iris­es, in high res­o­lu­tion.” Now, you can, thanks to Google’s aston­ish­ing­ly vast dig­i­tal archive.

In the Art Project, you can stroll on over to Por­tu­gal’s Museu do Cara­mu­lo, for exam­ple, which Google describes as “an unusu­al muse­um in a small town” off the beat­en path. There, you can see this macabre 1947 Picas­so still life or this 1954 Sal­vador Dali por­trait of a Roman horse­man in Iberia (above). Then head over to the oth­er side of the world, where the Adachi Muse­um of Art in Japan con­tains 165,000 square meters of Japan­ese gar­den: “The Dry Land­scape Gar­den, The White Grav­el and Pine Gar­den, the Moss Gar­den, and The Pond Gar­den.” It also fea­tures gor­geous paint­ings like Yokoya­ma Taikan’s 1931 Autumn Leaves and Hishi­da Shun­so’s adorable 1906 Cat and Plum Blos­soms. Dozens of small­er col­lec­tions like these sit com­fort­ably along­side such exten­sive and well-known col­lec­tions as New York’s MoMA and Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and Flo­rence’s Uffizi. See a tiny sam­pler of the Art Project in the video teas­er above.


Google’s col­lec­tion has great­ly expand­ed since its com­par­a­tive­ly mod­est 2011 roll-out. The com­pa­ny signed part­ner­ship agree­ments with 151 insti­tu­tions in 2012 and the Art Project has grown since then to include over 57,000 dig­i­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of famous and not-so-famous works of art. Most recent­ly, it has added work to the online col­lec­tions of 34 dif­fer­ent part­ner insti­tu­tions. Google’s announce­ment on its offi­cial blog takes a themed approach, pre­sent­ing ver­sions of sev­er­al trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) works that have just joined the Art Project. Trompe l’oeil is a gim­mick as old as antiq­ui­ty, and Google gives us sev­er­al exam­ples, begin­ning with the styl­ish, under­stat­ed Brazil­ian train sta­tion mur­al right above by Adri­ana Vare­jao. Below, see the ceil­ing of Italy’s Nation­al Archae­o­log­i­cal Muse­um of Fer­rara, a much more clas­si­cal (or Baroque) approach to trompe l’oeil that dis­plays some typ­i­cal ele­ments of the peri­od, includ­ing elab­o­rate geo­met­ric designs, lots of gold, and well-dressed fig­ures star­ing down at view­ers or float­ing off into the heav­ens. See more trompe l’oeil works on Google’s blog, and access their full dig­i­tal col­lec­tion here.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Pub­lic Domain, Mak­ing Them Free to Reuse & Remix

The Rijksmu­se­um Puts 125,000 Dutch Mas­ter­pieces Online, and Lets You Remix Its Art

The Get­ty Puts 4600 Art Images Into the Pub­lic Domain (and There’s More to Come)

Free: The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and the Guggen­heim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online

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

A Brief History of Hollywood Censorship and the Ratings System

Cen­sor­ship, as most seri­ous film­go­ers know, shaped the sen­si­bil­i­ty of all the pic­tures we know from the “Gold­en Age” of Hol­ly­wood. It did so in the form of 1930’s “Motion Pic­ture Pro­duc­tion Code (also known as the Hays Code),” which “set up a small jury to review films for con­tent,” at first “still with­out teeth and large­ly mocked by indus­try insid­ers.” But that changed in a big way when “the Amer­i­can Bish­ops of the Roman Catholic Church orga­nized The Legion of Decen­cy and, in 1934, with the sup­port of Protes­tant and Jew­ish Orga­ni­za­tions, began call­ing for boy­cotts of films deemed unac­cept­able. [ … ] The Hol­ly­wood stu­dios, still reel­ing from the loss­es of 1933 due in large part to the delayed effects of the Great Depres­sion, were forced to act.” That sum­ma­ry comes from “The His­to­ry of Hol­ly­wood Cen­sor­ship and the Rat­ings Sys­tem,” a brief but in-depth les­son pro­duced by Film­mak­er IQ. Its video ver­sion appears at the top. Below, you can watch 1941’s The Out­law, the bust size of whose star Jane Rus­sell had the cen­sors demand­ing “37 spe­cif­ic reshoots.”

The com­plete sto­ry of cen­sor­ship and rat­ings in Hol­ly­wood involves such ele­ments of Amer­i­can his­to­ry and cul­ture as not just the Great Depres­sion and the Roman Catholic Church, but the 1919 World Series Gam­bling scan­dal, the Chicago’s Women’s Munic­i­pal League, mighty sys­tems of pro­duc­tion, the sport of box­ing, Howard Hugh­es, and of course, the almighty dol­lar. Even­tu­al­ly, film­mak­ers began to sim­ply defy the Hays Code; you can watch Otto Pre­minger’s famous exam­ple of just that, the 1953 com­e­dy The Moon is Blue (pos­sessed, cen­sors said, of “an unac­cept­ably light atti­tude towards seduc­tion, illic­it sex, chasti­ty, and vir­gin­i­ty”). In 1968, the weak­ened Code’s replace­ment arrived: the Motion Pic­ture Asso­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­ca’s Rat­ings sys­tem and its still-famil­iar G, PG, R, and X (PG-13 was intro­duced in 1984; NC-17 replaced X in 1990). Quaint as these mea­sures may now seem, the les­son tells us that con­tro­ver­sy has remained. “Some may say that films were sex­i­er and scari­er under the cen­sor­ship of the pro­duc­tion code – for noth­ing that can be seen is as tan­ta­liz­ing and hor­ri­fy­ing as what the imag­i­na­tion and antic­i­pa­tion can con­jure. But giv­en the choice between free­dom and cen­sor­ship, free­dom is the only sus­tain­able option.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ear­ly Hol­ly­wood Cen­sored

Did Hol­ly­wood Movies Stu­dios “Col­lab­o­rate” with Hitler Dur­ing WW II? His­to­ri­an Makes the Case

Frank Zap­pa Debates Cen­sor­ship on CNN’s Cross­fire (1986)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, lit­er­a­ture, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Face­book page.

Albert Einstein Imposes on His First Wife a Cruel List of Marital Demands

Albert Ein­stein pas­sion­ate­ly wooed his first wife Mil­e­va Mar­ic, against his family’s wish­es, and the two had a tur­bu­lent but intel­lec­tu­al­ly rich rela­tion­ship that they record­ed for pos­ter­i­ty in their let­ters. Ein­stein and Maric’s love let­ters have inspired the short film above, My Lit­tle Witch (in Ser­bian, I believe, with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles) and sev­er­al crit­i­cal re-eval­u­a­tions of Einstein’s life and Mar­ic’s influ­ence on his ear­ly thought. Some his­to­ri­ans have even sug­gest­ed that Maric—who was also trained in physics—made con­tri­bu­tions to Einstein’s ear­ly work, a claim hot­ly dis­put­ed and, it seems, poor­ly sub­stan­ti­at­ed.

The letters—written between 1897 and 1903 and only dis­cov­ered in 1987—reveal a wealth of pre­vi­ous­ly unknown detail about Mar­ic and the mar­riage. While the con­tro­ver­sy over Mar­ic’s influ­ence on Ein­stein’s the­o­ries raged among aca­d­e­mics and view­ers of PBS’s con­tro­ver­sial doc­u­men­tary, Einstein’s Wife, a scan­dalous per­son­al item in the let­ters got much bet­ter press. As Ein­stein and Mileva’s rela­tion­ship dete­ri­o­rat­ed, and they attempt­ed to scotch tape it togeth­er for the sake of their chil­dren, the avun­cu­lar paci­fist wrote a chill­ing list of “con­di­tions,” in out­line form, that his wife must accept upon his return. Lists of Note tran­scribes them from Wal­ter Isaacson’s biog­ra­phy Ein­stein: His Life and Uni­verse:


A. You will make sure:

1. that my clothes and laun­dry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals reg­u­lar­ly in my room;
3. that my bed­room and study are kept neat, and espe­cial­ly that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will renounce all per­son­al rela­tions with me inso­far as they are not com­plete­ly nec­es­sary for social rea­sons. Specif­i­cal­ly, You will forego:

1. my sit­ting at home with you;
2. my going out or trav­el­ling with you.

C. You will obey the fol­low­ing points in your rela­tions with me:

1. you will not expect any inti­ma­cy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
2. you will stop talk­ing to me if I request it;
3. you will leave my bed­room or study imme­di­ate­ly with­out protest if I request it.

D. You will under­take not to belit­tle me in front of our chil­dren, either through words or behav­ior.

While it may be unfair to judge anyone’s total char­ac­ter by its most glar­ing defects, there’s no way to read this with­out shud­der­ing. Although Ein­stein tried to pre­serve the mar­riage, once they sep­a­rat­ed for good, he did not lament Mil­e­va’s loss for long. Man­jit Kumar tells us in Quan­tum: Ein­stein Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Real­i­ty that although “Mil­e­va agreed to his demands and Ein­stein returned”

[I]t could not last. At the end of July, after just three months in Berlin, Mil­e­va and the boys went back to Zurich. As he stood on the plat­form wav­ing good­bye, Ein­stein wept, if not for Mil­e­va and the mem­o­ries of what had been, then for his two depart­ing sons. But with­in a mat­ter of weeks he was hap­pi­ly enjoy­ing liv­ing alone “in my large apart­ment in undi­min­ished tran­quil­i­ty.”

Ein­stein prized his soli­tude great­ly. Anoth­er remark shows his dif­fi­cul­ty with per­son­al rela­tion­ships. While he even­tu­al­ly fell in love with his cousin Elsa and final­ly divorced Mav­ic to mar­ry her in 1919, that mar­riage too was trou­bled. Elsa died in 1936 soon after the cou­ple moved to the U.S. Not long after her death, Ein­stein would write, “I have got­ten used extreme­ly well to life here. I live like a bear in my den…. This bear­ish­ness has been fur­ther enhanced by the death of my woman com­rade, who was bet­ter with oth­er peo­ple than I am.”

Einstein’s per­son­al fail­ings might pass by with­out much com­ment if had not, like his hero Gand­hi, been ele­vat­ed to the sta­tus of a “sec­u­lar saint.” Yet, it is also the per­son­al incon­sis­ten­cies, the weak­ness­es and pet­ty, even incred­i­bly cal­lous moments, that make so many famous fig­ures’ lives com­pelling, if also con­fus­ing. As Ein­stein schol­ar John Stachel says, “Too much of an idol was made of Ein­stein. He’s not an idol—he’s a human, and that’s much more inter­est­ing.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten as Albert Ein­stein Reads ‘The Com­mon Lan­guage of Sci­ence’ (1941)

The Musi­cal Mind of Albert Ein­stein: Great Physi­cist, Ama­teur Vio­lin­ist and Devo­tee of Mozart

Ein­stein Doc­u­men­tary Offers A Reveal­ing Por­trait of the Great 20th Cen­tu­ry Sci­en­tist

Albert Ein­stein Express­es His Admi­ra­tion for Mahat­ma Gand­hi, in Let­ter and Audio

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

Norman Rockwell’s Typewritten Recipe for His Favorite Oatmeal Cookies


Nor­man Rock­well, pro­lif­ic painter and illus­tra­tor of 20th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­cana, often worked so sin­gle-mind­ed­ly that he missed his meals. In 1943, Rock­well exhaust­ed him­self to such a degree that, while com­plet­ing the Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt-inspired series of paint­ings enti­tled Four Free­doms, he lost 15 pounds over the course of sev­en months. This drop in weight is, per­haps, all the more shock­ing when giv­en some con­text: Rock­well was far from being a cor­pu­lent man. In fact, when the then 23-year-old artist attempt­ed to enlist as a ser­vice­man in the U. S. Navy dur­ing World War I, he was judged to be eight pounds under­weight, stand­ing at six feet and tip­ping the scales at 140 pounds. Rock­well, how­ev­er, was not to be deterred by some­thing so triv­ial as his bod­i­ly com­po­si­tion. He gorged him­self on bananas and dough­nuts when he came home that evening. The next day, Navy recruiters dul­ly wel­comed the suf­fi­cient­ly bloat­ed Rock­well to the fold.

When Rock­well did eat, we know that he had a pen­chant for oat­meal cook­ies. At least two of the artist’s let­ters detail­ing instruc­tions for mak­ing this choice snack are post­ed online. Although there is a 1966 iter­a­tion of the oat­meal cook­ie recipe avail­able on, we’ve pro­vid­ed a lat­er ver­sion, from the 1970s, found on The Sat­ur­day Evening Post web­site:



  • 1 stick but­ter
  • 1 cup light brown sug­ar
  • 1/2 cup gran­u­lat­ed sug­ar
  • 1 tea­spoon vanil­la
  • 1/4 cup water and 2 eggs well beat­en
  • 1 tea­spoon salt
  • 1 cup flour, sift­ed
  • 1/2 tea­spoon bak­ing soda
  • About 1 cup oat­meal
  • Chopped nuts (wal­nuts pre­ferred)


Mix in order and drop on bak­ing sheet. Bake 400° 7 to 8 min­utes. Then run under broil­er to brown.

via Sat­ur­day Evening Post

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Ham­burg­er Recipe

David Lynch Teach­es You to Cook His Quinoa Recipe in a Weird, Sur­re­al­ist Video

Pre­pare Mar­i­lyn Monroe’s Per­son­al, Hand­writ­ten Turkey-and-Stuff­ing Recipe on Thanks­giv­ing

Read an 18th-Century Eyewitness Account of 8‑Year-Old Mozart’s Extraordinary Musical Skills

‘Tis the very nature of par­ent­hood to view one’s chil­dren as excep­tion­al.

Anoth­er aspect of the con­di­tion is spend­ing time in the com­pa­ny of oth­er par­ents, some of whom have yet to mas­ter the art of self-restraint. Their babies are the most phys­i­cal­ly adroit, their tod­dlers the most gen­er­ous, their ele­men­tary school­ers the most culi­nar­i­ly dar­ing.

Pride in one’s chil­dren’s gifts is under­stand­able. A straight­for­ward brag or two is per­mis­si­ble. But after that, I’d real­ly like some cor­rob­o­rat­ing evi­dence, such as the Hon­ourable Daines Bar­ring­ton’s account of meet­ing a “very remark­able young musi­cian” whose father had been drag­ging him around the con­ti­nent on a 3‑and-a-half year con­cert tour.

Clear­ly, Johannes Chrysos­to­mus Wolf­gan­gus Theophilus Mozart (1756–1791) was a very accom­plished kid, but the term “prodi­gy” must have stuck in Friend of the Roy­al Soci­ety Bar­ring­ton’s craw, even after he’d attend­ed some of the boy’s pub­lic per­for­mances. Deter­mined to let sci­ence be the judge, he devised a series of on-the-spot chal­lenges designed to eval­u­ate the boy’s musi­cian­ship beyond the rig­or­ous prac­tice sched­ule imposed by his dis­ci­pli­nar­i­an father. (We all saw Amadeus, right?)

Bar­ring­ton’s detailed descrip­tion of these exper­i­ments would make a gim­crack Sci­ence Fair project for any lit­tle Ein­stein smart enough to get through 18th-cen­tu­ry typog­ra­phy with­out throw­ing a tantrum because the s’s all look like f’s (see the 18th cen­tu­ry text below). It might take a recre­ation­al math­e­mu­si­cian on the order of Vi Hart to tru­ly appre­ci­ate the com­plex­i­ty of the tasks that Bar­ring­ton assigned his young sub­ject (some­thing to do with hav­ing him play five con­tra­dic­to­ry lines simul­ta­ne­ous­ly…).

I can inter­pret the data with regard to some of Bar­ring­ton’s oth­er find­ings. Mozart, he wrote, not only looked like a young child, he ditched his harp­si­chord to chase around a cat and ran about the room “with a stick between his legs by way of a horse.” So it’s not the clas­si­cal peri­od equiv­a­lent of a stage mom lying about her kid’s age to bet­ter his chances at an audi­tion. Actu­al­ly, it’s always a relief to hear about these super-kids act­ing like… well, my kids.

Read Bar­ring­ton’s let­ter to the Roy­al Soci­ety — Account of a Very Remark­able Young Musi­cian — in its entire­ty here or below. And by all means share it with the worst offend­ers on your PTA.

via Rebec­ca Onion and her Slate blog, The Vault

Relat­ed Con­tent:

New­ly Dis­cov­ered Piece by Mozart Per­formed on His Own Fortepi­ano

Great Vio­lin­ists Play­ing as Kids: Itzhak Perl­man, Anne-Sophie Mut­ter, & More

The Musi­cal Mind of Albert Ein­stein: Great Physi­cist, Ama­teur Vio­lin­ist and Devo­tee of Mozart

Ayun Hal­l­i­day pro­vid­ed an hon­est account of home­school­ing her 12-year-old son in The East Vil­lage Inky #51 Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Every Appearance James Brown Ever Made On Soul Train. So Nice, So Nice!

Are you ready for some Super Broth­er Music for the Soul?

Yes? How for­tu­itous! We just hap­pen to have 45 min­utes worth of James Brown Soul Train appear­ances from the early-to-mid-’70s to share. Get down!

It’s worth not­ing that Brown’s band, the JBs, were the only ones in the his­to­ry of the show who host Don Cor­nelius trust­ed to play live. The God­fa­ther of Soul ran a tight ship, fin­ing band mem­bers for sour notes and untidy cos­tumes, and it shows. The dance show’s stage was tight, but the per­for­mances here are even tighter, as lean and mean as those funkadel­ic Cur­tis Gib­son ensem­bles!

If your New Year’s Eve plans pale in com­par­i­son with the playlist below, can­cel them and stay in. Feel good. So good. We got you.

Hot Pants

Get Up (I Feel Like A) Sex Machine 2:36

Get On The Good Foot 4:06

Soul Pow­er 6:51

Make It Funky 9:53

Cold Sweat 11:07

Try Me 14:22

Please Please, Please 17:21

Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud 17:57

Super Bad 23:53  (fea­tur­ing Soul Train Gang dancer Dami­ta Jo Free­man’s insane Robot)

Papa Don’t Take No Mess 26:18

My Thang 29:57

Hell 33:33 (the lit­tle girl shar­ing the stage is Brown’s daugh­ter, Dean­na)

The Pay­back 35:57

Damn Right, I Am Some­body 40:25 (with Fred Wes­ley & the JB’s)

via That Eric Alper

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

James Brown Gives You Danc­ing Lessons: From The Funky Chick­en to The Booga­loo

James Brown Saves Boston After MLK’s Assas­si­na­tion, Calls for Peace Across Amer­i­ca (1968)

James Brown Brings Down the House at the Paris Olympia, 1971

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the author of sev­en books, includ­ing No Touch Mon­key! And Oth­er Trav­el Lessons Learned Too Late  and the Zinester’s Guide to NYC. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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