Studio Ghibli Makes 1,178 Images Free to Download from My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away & Other Beloved Animated Films

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li make lush and cap­ti­vat­ing ani­mat­ed films. So, on occa­sion, do oth­er stu­dios, but of how many of their pic­tures can we say that each and every still frame con­sti­tutes a work of art in itself? As a test, try putting on a Ghi­b­li movie and paus­ing at ran­dom, then doing the same for any oth­er major ani­mat­ed fea­ture of sim­i­lar vin­tage: chances are, the for­mer will far more often pro­duce an image you’d like to cap­ture in high res­o­lu­tion and use for your desk­top back­ground, or per­haps even print out and hang on your wall.

Now, Stu­dio Ghi­b­li have pro­vid­ed such images them­selves, in an online col­lec­tion (click here and scroll down the page) that offers more than 1,100 stills from their films, all free for the down­load. This trove has grown con­sid­er­ably since we first fea­tured it this past fall here at Open Cul­ture.

In that post, Ted Mills quotes Ghi­b­li pro­duc­er Toshio Suzu­ki as instruct­ing vis­i­tors to use the images “freely with­in the scope of com­mon sense.” It was Suzu­ki, you may recall, who once taught us to draw the epony­mous feline-ursine star of My Neigh­bor Totoro, the most beloved of the stu­dio’s works — down­load­able frames from which Ghi­b­li put up only in Novem­ber.

Along with Totoro came images from the acclaimed (and high­ly suc­cess­ful) likes of Spir­it­ed Away and Por­co Rosso, as well as its less­er known roman­tic dra­ma Ocean Waves, made for tele­vi­sion by the stu­dio’s younger ani­ma­tors in the ear­ly 1990s. The most recent update, made ear­li­er this month, includes images from 1984’s Nau­si­caä of the Val­ley of the Wind, which is now con­sid­ered Ghi­b­li’s hon­orary first pic­ture, hav­ing been direct­ed by co-founder Hayao Miyaza­ki before the stu­dio’s foun­da­tion. There are also stills from 2016’s The Red Tur­tle, the stark, word­less fea­ture pro­duced by Suzu­ki but direct­ed by Dutch ani­ma­tor Michaël Dudok de Wit.

Though the site is only in Japan­ese, any­one who’s seen at least a few Ghi­b­li movies should have no prob­lem find­ing their favorites, from the afore­men­tioned res­i­dents of great­est-ani­mat­ed-films-of-all-time lists to high­ly respect­ed but low­er-pro­file works like Only Yes­ter­day by Miyaza­k­i’s Ghi­b­li-found­ing parter, the late Isao Taka­ha­ta. There’s also plen­ty to delight Ghi­b­li fans of a more die-hard per­sua­sion: take, for exam­ple, the visu­al mate­ri­als from “On Your Mark,” the futur­is­tic, non­lin­ear ani­mat­ed music video made for rock duo Chage & Aska. What­ev­er your own lev­el of invest­ment in the work of Stu­dio Ghi­b­li, you’d do well to assume that they’ve only just got start­ed putting up their archives.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hayao Miyazaki’s Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Releas­es Free Back­grounds for Vir­tu­al Meet­ings: Princess Mononoke, Spir­it­ed Away & More

Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Pro­duc­er Toshio Suzu­ki Teach­es You How to Draw Totoro in Two Min­utes

Hayao Miyazaki’s Sketch­es Show­ing How to Draw Char­ac­ters Run­ning: From 1980 Edi­tion of Ani­ma­tion Mag­a­zine

Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Char­ac­ters Reimag­ined in the Style of 19th-Cen­tu­ry Wood­block Prints

Build Your Own Minia­ture Sets from Hayao Miyazaki’s Beloved Films: My Neigh­bor Totoro, Kiki’s Deliv­ery Ser­vice & More

Soft­ware Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Ani­ma­tion Stu­dio Becomes Open Source & Free to Down­load

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Technology Arbitrage: Amazon is Selling Airpods Pro Headphones for $50 Less Than Apple

Psst. Ama­zon cur­rent­ly has Air­Pods Pro head­phones for $199, while Apple has them list­ed for $249. It’s the deal of the day for any­one look­ing for wire­less Blue­tooth ear­buds, with noise-can­celling, immer­sive sound.

H/T Rolling Stone

When Queen’s Freddie Mercury Teamed Up with Opera Superstar Montserrat Caballé in 1988: A Meeting of Two Powerful Voices

Com­bin­ing pop music with opera was always the height of pre­ten­sion. But where would we be with­out the pre­ten­tious? As Bri­an Eno observed in his 1995 diary, “My assump­tions about cul­ture as a place where you can take psy­cho­log­i­cal risks with­out incur­ring phys­i­cal penal­ties make me think that pre­tend­ing is the most impor­tant thing we do. It’s the way we make our thought exper­i­ments, find out what it would be like to be oth­er­wise.” And with Fred­die Mer­cury and Queen, if it wasn’t for pre­tense we wouldn’t have “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody.” Hell, we wouldn’t have Queen, peri­od.

But in 1988 the gam­ble didn’t exact­ly pay off. To the British music press, Mer­cury was coast­ing on Live Aid fumes and the shad­ow of his unsuc­cess­ful solo album. And then to hear that he’d teamed up with opera singer Montser­rat Cabal­lé? Despite what any hagio­graph­ic tale of Mer­cury might say, this passed your aver­age rock fan by.

Out­side the whims of the charts, how­ev­er, Mercury’s team up with Cabal­lé was the ful­fill­ment of a goal he’d had since 1981. The singer had fall­en in love with Cabellé’s voice in 1981 when he’d seen her per­form along­side Luciano Pavarot­ti.

Then began a dance between the two artists. Mer­cury was wor­ried that Cabal­lé would not take this rock star seri­ous­ly. Cabal­lé, on the oth­er hand, was a rock music fan just like so many peo­ple. They owned each oth­ers’ albums. Final­ly, in ear­ly 1986, the two met: Caballé’s broth­er was the music direc­tor of the upcom­ing 1992 Barcelona Olympics and ‘Who bet­ter to do a theme song with than Fred­die Mer­cury?’ said the singer.

Accord­ing to Peter Free­stone, Mercury’s per­son­al assis­tant and long­time friend, meet­ing Cabal­lé was the most ner­vous he’d ever been. Mer­cury was wor­ried the opera singer would be aloof and dis­tant. But she was as down to earth as Mer­cury in their off­stage moments.

As Free­stone recount­ed, “Fred­die assumed they’d only make one song togeth­er. Then Montser­rat said: ‘How many songs do you put on a rock album?’ When Fred­die told her eight or 10, she said: ‘Fine – we will do an album.’”

Mer­cury had two dead­lines: one based around Caballé’s sched­ule, and the oth­er based around his recent AIDS virus diag­no­sis. Though he had com­posed the open­ing song “Barcelona” to sing along­side Cabal­lé at the 1992 open­ing cer­e­monies, he told her that he prob­a­bly wouldn’t be around for that to hap­pen. (Cabal­lé instead sang “Ami­gos para siem­pre (Friends for­ev­er)” with Span­ish tenor José Car­reras.) They did man­age to per­form togeth­er, singing “Barcelona” at a pro­mo­tion­al event at Ku night­club in Ibiza in May, 1987.

Mer­cury wrote the eight songs on the Barcelona album with Mike Moran, the song­writer who’d also worked with Mer­cury on his pre­vi­ous solo album and whose “Exer­cis­es in Free Love” was adapt­ed into “Ensueño” for the album, with Cabal­lé help­ing in the rewrite.

Accord­ing to Free­stone, watch­ing Cabal­lé was the most emo­tion­al he’d seen the usu­al­ly reserved singer: “When Montser­rat sang ‘Barcelona’, after her first take was the near­est I ever saw Fred­die to tears. Fred­die was emo­tion­al, but he was always in con­trol of his emo­tions, because he could let them out in per­form­ing or writ­ing songs. He grabbed my hand and said: ‘I have the great­est voice in the world, singing my music!’ He was so elat­ed.”

In time, the album has gained in rep­u­ta­tion, but is crit­i­cized that the label spent most of its mon­ey on the title track—full orches­tra­tion, the works, as ben­e­fits a meet­ing of two oper­at­ic minds—and relied on synths for the remain­ing songs. Fans are ask­ing for a rere­cord­ing that brings the full orches­tra to all the tracks. We’ve cer­tain­ly seen odd­er requests grant­ed in the last few years, like the remix of what many con­sid­er Bowie’s worst album. So who indeed can tell? Watch this space.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Made Fred­die Mer­cury the Great­est Vocal­ist in Rock His­to­ry? The Secrets Revealed in a Short Video Essay

Mar­i­onette Fred­die Mer­cury Per­forms on the Streets of Madrid

Hear a Pre­vi­ous­ly Unheard Fred­die Mer­cury Song, “Time Waits for No One,” Unearthed After 33 Years
Meet Fred­die Mer­cury and His Faith­ful Feline Friends

Fred­die Mer­cury Reimag­ined as Com­ic Book Heroes

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

The Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants: Discover the 1977 Illustrated Guide Created by Harvard’s Groundbreaking Ethnobotanist Richard Evan Schultes

I mean, the idea that you would give a psychedelic—in this case, mag­ic mush­rooms or the chem­i­cal called psilo­cy­bin that’s derived from mag­ic mushrooms—to peo­ple dying of can­cer, peo­ple with ter­mi­nal diag­noses, to help them deal with their — what’s called exis­ten­tial dis­tress. And this seemed like such a crazy idea that I began look­ing into it. Why should a drug from a mush­room help peo­ple deal with their mor­tal­i­ty?

–Michael Pol­lan in an inter­view with Ter­ry Gross, “‘Reluc­tant Psy­cho­naut’ Michael Pol­lan Embraces ‘New Sci­ence’ Of Psy­che­delics”

Around the same time Albert Hoff­man syn­the­sized LSD in the ear­ly 1940s, a pio­neer­ing eth­nob­otanist, writer, and pho­tog­ra­ph­er named Richard Evan Schultes set out “on a mis­sion to study how indige­nous peo­ples” in the Ama­zon rain­for­est “used plants for med­i­c­i­nal, rit­u­al and prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es,” as an exten­sive his­to­ry of Schultes’ trav­els notes. “He went on to spend over a decade immersed in near-con­tin­u­ous field­work, col­lect­ing more than 24,000 species of plants includ­ing some 300 species new to sci­ence.”

Described by Jonathan Kan­dell as “swash­buck­ling” in a 2001 New York Times obit­u­ary, Schultes was “the last of the great plant explor­ers in the Vic­to­ri­an tra­di­tion.” Or so his stu­dent Wade Davis called him in his 1995 best­seller The Ser­pent and the Rain­bow. He was also “a pio­neer­ing con­ser­va­tion­ist,” writes Kan­dell, “who raised alarms in the 1960’s—long before envi­ron­men­tal­ism became a world­wide con­cern.” Schultes defied the stereo­type of the colo­nial adven­tur­er, once say­ing, “I do not believe in hos­tile Indi­ans. All that is required to bring out their gen­tle­man­li­ness is rec­i­p­ro­cal gen­tle­man­li­ness.”

Schultes returned to teach at Har­vard, where he remind­ed his stu­dents “that more than 90 tribes had become extinct in Brazil alone over the first three-quar­ters of the 20th cen­tu­ry.” While his research would have sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence on fig­ures like Aldous Hux­ley, William Bur­roughs, and Car­los Cas­tane­da, “writ­ers who con­sid­ered hal­lu­cino­gens as the gate­ways to self-dis­cov­ery,” Schultes was dis­mis­sive of the coun­ter­cul­ture and “dis­dained these self-appoint­ed prophets of an inner real­i­ty.”

Rather than pro­mot­ing recre­ation­al use, Schultes became known as “the father of a new branch of sci­ence called ‘eth­nob­otany,’ the field that explores the rela­tion­ship between indige­nous peo­ple and their use of plants,” writes Luis Sequeira in a bio­graph­i­cal note. One of Schultes’ pub­li­ca­tions, the Gold­en Guide to Hal­lu­cino­genic Plants, has sad­ly fall­en out of print, but you can find it online, in full, at the Vaults of Erowid. Pricey out-of-print copies can still be pur­chased.

Described on Ama­zon as “a non­tech­ni­cal exam­i­na­tion of the phys­i­o­log­i­cal effects and cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance of hal­lu­cino­genic plants used in ancient and mod­ern soci­eties,” the book cov­ers pey­ote, ayahuas­ca, cannabis, var­i­ous psy­choac­tive mush­rooms and oth­er fun­gi, and much more. In his intro­duc­tion, Schultes is care­ful to sep­a­rate his research from its appro­pri­a­tion, dis­miss­ing the term “psy­che­del­ic” as ety­mo­log­i­cal­ly incor­rect and “bio­log­i­cal­ly unsound.” Fur­ther­more, he writes, it “has acquired pop­u­lar mean­ings beyond the drugs or their effects.”

Schultes’ inter­ests are sci­en­tif­icand anthro­po­log­i­cal. “In the his­to­ry of mankind,” he writes, “hal­lu­cino­gens have prob­a­bly been the most impor­tant of all the nar­cotics. Their fan­tas­tic effects made them sacred to prim­i­tive man and may even have been respon­si­ble for sug­gest­ing to him the idea of deity.” He does not exag­ger­ate. Schultes’ research into the reli­gious and med­i­c­i­nal uses of nat­ur­al hal­lu­cino­gens led him to dub them “plants of the gods” in a book he wrote with Albert Hoff­man, dis­cov­er­er of LSD.

Nei­ther sci­en­tist sought to start a psy­che­del­ic rev­o­lu­tion, but it hap­pened nonethe­less. Now, anoth­er rev­o­lu­tion is under­wayone that is final­ly revis­it­ing the sci­ence of eth­nob­otany and tak­ing seri­ous­ly the heal­ing pow­ers of hal­lu­cino­genic plants. It is hard­ly a new sci­ence among schol­ars in the West, but the renewed legit­i­ma­cy of research into hal­lu­cino­gens has giv­en Schultes’ research new author­i­ty. Learn from him in his Gold­en Guide to Hal­lu­cino­genic Plants online here.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How to Use Psy­che­del­ic Drugs to Improve Men­tal Health: Michael Pollan’s New Book, How to Change Your Mind, Makes the Case

New LSD Research Pro­vides the First Images of the Brain on Acid, and Hints at Its Poten­tial to Pro­mote Cre­ativ­i­ty

Artist Draws 9 Por­traits While on LSD: Inside the 1950s Exper­i­ments to Turn LSD into a “Cre­ativ­i­ty Pill”

Hofmann’s Potion: 2002 Doc­u­men­tary Revis­its the His­to­ry of LSD

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

The Essential Bradbury: The 25 Finest Stories by the Beloved Writer

The late Ray Brad­bury wrote a dizzy­ing num­ber of short sto­ries over a career that spanned nine decades. Autho­rized Brad­bury biog­ra­ph­er Sam Weller, author of the best­selling The Brad­bury Chron­i­cles: The Life of Ray Brad­bury and the indis­pens­able com­pan­ion book, Lis­ten to the Echoes: The Ray Brad­bury Inter­views makes sense of Bradbury’s volu­mi­nous short sto­ry out­put by select­ing “The Essen­tial Brad­bury,” the 25 finest tales by the beloved writer.

Brad­bury wrote defi­ant­ly across gen­res: goth­ic hor­ror, social sci­ence fic­tion, weird tales, fan­ta­sy, and con­tem­po­rary lit­er­ary fic­tion. He is, per­haps, best known for his 1953 chef d’oeuvre, Fahren­heit 451, but Weller (and Bradbury’s late wife of 56 years, Mar­guerite for that mat­ter) argue that Bradbury’s finest work came in the form of the short sto­ry.

Weller’s “Essen­tial Brad­bury” includes some cool, nev­er-before-seen ephemera, culled from the biographer’s per­son­al archives. Sam Weller worked with Ray Brad­bury for 12 years. You can read his “Essen­tial Brad­bury” here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ray Brad­bury Wrote the First Draft of Fahren­heit 451 on Coin-Oper­at­ed Type­writ­ers, for a Total of $9.80

Ray Brad­bury Reveals the True Mean­ing of Fahren­heit 451: It’s Not About Cen­sor­ship, But Peo­ple “Being Turned Into Morons by TV”

An Ani­mat­ed Ray Brad­bury Explains Why It Takes Being a “Ded­i­cat­ed Mad­man” to Be a Writer

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

Archaeologists Discover an Ancient Roman Snack Bar in the Ruins of Pompeii

Have you ever won­dered what gen­er­a­tions hun­dreds or thou­sands of years hence will make of our strip malls, office parks, and sports are­nas? Prob­a­bly not much, since there prob­a­bly won’t be much left. How much medi­um-den­si­ty fibre­board is like­ly to remain? The col­or­ful struc­tures that make the mod­ern world seem sol­id, the gro­cery shelves, fast food coun­ters, and shiny prod­uct dis­plays, will return to the saw­dust from which they came.

Back in antiq­ui­ty, on the oth­er hand, things were built to last, even through the fires and dev­as­ta­tion of the erup­tion of Mount Vesu­vius in 79 AD. Archae­ol­o­gists will be dis­cov­er­ing for many more years every­day fea­tures of Pom­peii that sur­vived a his­toric dis­as­ter and the ordi­nary rav­ages of time. In 2019, a team ful­ly unearthed what is known as a ther­mopoli­um, a fan­cy Greek word for a snack bar that “would have served hot food and drinks to locals in the city,” the BBC reports. The find was only unveiled this past Sat­ur­day.

Images from PompeiiSites.org

You can see the exca­va­tion in a sub­ti­tled vir­tu­al tour at the top con­duct­ed by Mas­si­mo Osan­na, Pompeii’s gen­er­al direc­tor and the “mas­ter­mind,” Smith­son­ian writes, behind the Great Pom­peii Project, a “$140 mil­lion con­ser­va­tion and restora­tion pro­gram launched in 2012.”

Rich­ly dec­o­rat­ed with bright­ly-col­ored paint­ings, pre­served by ash, the Ther­mopoli­um of Regio V, as it’s known, fea­tures a scene of a nereid rid­ing a sea-horse. Sur­round­ing her on all sides of the counter are illus­tra­tions of the food for sale, includ­ing “two mal­lard ducks shown upside down, ready to be cooked and eat­en,” notes the offi­cial Pom­peii site, “a roost­er,” and “a dog on a lead, the lat­ter serv­ing as a warn­ing in the man­ner of the famed Cave Canem.”

Unde­terred and spurred on by the Romans’ famed love of graf­fi­ti, some­one scratched a “mock­ing inscrip­tion” into the frame around the dog: “NICIA CINAEDE CACATOR—literally ‘Nicias (prob­a­bly a freed­man from Greece) Shame­less Shit­ter!’” The mes­sage may have been left by a dis­grun­tled work­er, “who sought to poke fun at the own­er.” Also found at the site were bone frag­ments in con­tain­ers belong­ing to the ani­mals pic­tured, as well as human bones and “var­i­ous pantry and trans­port mate­ri­als” such as amphorae, flasks, and oth­er typ­i­cal Roman con­tain­ers.

Despite its elab­o­rate design and the excite­ment of its dis­cov­er­ers, the ther­mopoli­um was noth­ing spe­cial in its day. Such coun­ters were like Star­bucks, “wide­spread in the Roman world, where it was typ­i­cal to con­sume the prandi­um (the meal) out­side the house. In Pom­peii alone there are eighty of them.” Will future archae­ol­o­gists thrill over the dis­cov­ery of a Cinnabon in a thou­sand years’ time? We’ll nev­er know, but some­how I doubt it. Learn much more about this dis­cov­ery at the offi­cial site for Pom­peii, which hopes to reopen to vis­i­tors in the Spring of 2021. All images come via Pompeiisites.org.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch the Destruc­tion of Pom­peii by Mount Vesu­vius, Re-Cre­at­ed with Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion (79 AD)

See the Expan­sive Ruins of Pom­peii Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Them Before: Through the Eyes of a Drone

High-Res­o­lu­tion Walk­ing Tours of Italy’s Most His­toric Places: The Colos­se­um, Pom­peii, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca & More

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

How Martin Luther King Jr. Got C’s in Public Speaking–Before Becoming a Straight‑A Student and a World Class Orator

How many Amer­i­cans have nev­er heard the name of Mar­tin Luther King Jr.? And indeed, gone more than half a cen­tu­ry though he may be, how many Amer­i­cans have nev­er heard his voice, or can’t quote his words? Long though King will doubt­less stand as an exam­ple of the Eng­lish lan­guage’s great­est 20th-cen­tu­ry ora­tors, he once showed scant aca­d­e­m­ic promise in that depart­ment. Tweet­ing out an image of his tran­script from Croz­er The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, where King earned his Bach­e­lor of Divin­i­ty, Har­vard’s Sarah Eliz­a­beth Lewis notes that King “received two Cs in pub­lic speak­ing,” and “actu­al­ly went from a C+ to a C the next term.”

Still, that beat the marks King had pre­vi­ous­ly received at More­house Col­lege. In an arti­cle for The Jour­nal of Blacks in High­er Edu­ca­tion, Stan­ford’s Clay­borne Car­son quotes reli­gion pro­fes­sor George D. Kelsey as describ­ing King’s record there as “short of what may be called ‘good,’ ” but also adding that King came “to real­ize the val­ue of schol­ar­ship late in his col­lege career.” This ear­ly under­achieve­ment may have been a con­se­quence of King’s entrance into col­lege at the young age of fif­teen, which was made pos­si­ble by More­house­’s offer­ing its entrance exam to junior high school­ers, its stu­dent body hav­ing been deplet­ed by enlist­ment in the Sec­ond World War.

But King “prob­a­bly real­ized that he would have to become more dili­gent in his stud­ies if he were to suc­ceed at the small Bap­tist insti­tu­tion in Chester, Penn­syl­va­nia, a small town south­west of Philadel­phia,” writes Car­son. “Evi­dent­ly wish­ing to break with the relaxed atti­tude he had had toward his More­house stud­ies,” he “quick­ly immersed him­self in Croz­er’s intel­lec­tu­al envi­ron­ment” and adopt­ed a mien of high seri­ous­ness. “If I were a minute late to class, I was almost mor­bid­ly con­scious of it,” King lat­er recalled. “I had a ten­den­cy to over­dress, to keep my room spot­less, my shoes per­fect­ly shined, and my clothes immac­u­late­ly pressed.”

The young King even­tu­al­ly rose to the role in which he’d cast him­self, thanks in part to the rig­or of cer­tain pro­fes­sors who knew what to expect from him. Apart from the sole minus blem­ish­ing his grade in “Chris­tian­i­ty and Soci­ety,”  his tran­script for 1950–51 shows straight As. “By the time of his grad­u­a­tion,” Car­son writes, “King’s intel­lec­tu­al con­fi­dence was rein­forced by the expe­ri­ence of hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly com­pet­ed with white stu­dents dur­ing his Croz­er years.” Named stu­dent body pres­i­dent and class vale­dic­to­ri­an, “he was also accept­ed for doc­tor­al study at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty’s School of The­ol­o­gy, where he would be able to work direct­ly with the per­son­al­ist the­olo­gians he had come to admire.” Even then, one sus­pects, King knew the real work lay ahead of him — and well out­side the acad­e­my, at that.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Used Niet­zsche, Hegel & Kant to Over­turn Seg­re­ga­tion in Amer­i­ca

Mar­tin Luther King, Jr.’s Hand­writ­ten Syl­labus & Final Exam for the Phi­los­o­phy Course He Taught at More­house Col­lege (1962)

Mar­tin Luther King Jr. Explains the Impor­tance of Jazz: Hear the Speech He Gave at the First Berlin Jazz Fes­ti­val (1964)

Albert Einstein’s Grades: A Fas­ci­nat­ing Look at His Report Cards

Famous Writ­ers’ Report Cards: Ernest Hem­ing­way, William Faulkn­er, Nor­man Mail­er, E.E. Cum­mings & Anne Sex­ton

John Lennon’s Report Card at Age 15: “He Has Too Many Wrong Ambi­tions and His Ener­gy Is Too Often Mis­placed”

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Your 15 Favorite Posts on Open Culture This Year–and What a Year It Has Been


So, it’s been a year. For those of us in parts of the world where the pan­dem­ic still rages uncon­tained, it’s going to be an even longer win­ter. It may be utter­ly triv­i­al­iz­ing to speak of sil­ver lin­ings when it comes to clouds this size, but there’s no rea­son not to use our time wise­ly in quar­an­tine, lock­down, cocoon­ing, or what­ev­er we’re call­ing it these days. For all of the enor­mous chal­lenges, out­rages, sor­rows, and hor­rors of 2020, nat­ur­al and man­made, we can be grate­ful for so many oppor­tu­ni­ties for per­son­al growth.

“Those of us who are not sick, are not front­line work­ers, and are not deal­ing with oth­er eco­nom­ic or hous­ing dif­fi­cul­ties” Rebec­ca Sol­nit writes, are giv­en the task “to under­stand this moment, what it might require of us, and what it might make pos­si­ble.” It is a moment, she says (echo­ing Hei­deg­ger’s rumi­na­tions on life after the drop­ping of the atom­ic bombs), in which “the impos­si­ble has already hap­pened.”

Impos­si­bles can be cat­a­stroph­ic and world chang­ing dis­as­ters that “begin sud­den­ly and nev­er real­ly end.” They can also be rad­i­cal respons­es to dis­as­ter that open up pos­si­bil­i­ties we nev­er imag­ined:

A dis­as­ter (which orig­i­nal­ly meant “ill-starred”, or “under a bad star”) changes the world and our view of it. Our focus shifts, and what mat­ters shifts. What is weak breaks under new pres­sure, what is strong holds, and what was hid­den emerges. Change is not only pos­si­ble, we are swept away by it. We our­selves change as our pri­or­i­ties shift, as inten­si­fied aware­ness of mor­tal­i­ty makes us wake up to our own lives and the pre­cious­ness of life. Even our def­i­n­i­tion of “we” might change as we are sep­a­rat­ed from school­mates or co-work­ers, shar­ing this new real­i­ty with strangers. Our sense of self gen­er­al­ly comes from the world around us, and right now, we are find­ing anoth­er ver­sion of who we are.

It is no exag­ger­a­tion to say we have col­lec­tive­ly wit­nessed the world change in a mat­ter of a few months. Since Sol­nit wrote in April, we’ve had many more oppor­tu­ni­ties to meet cir­cum­stances wild­ly beyond our con­trol. We are shaped by events, but how we respond, indi­vid­u­al­ly and togeth­er, also deter­mines the kind of peo­ple we become.

We at Open Cul­ture like to think we’ve con­tributed in some small way to our read­ers’ per­son­al growth in the time of coro­n­avirus, to their view of the world and their sense of who “we” are. Our read­ers respond­ed most to mes­sages of hope, resources for self-improve­ment and self-under­stand­ing, and cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­na that have become sources of delight and inspi­ra­tion no mat­ter what’s going on. See our 15 top posts of 2020 below.

  1. Quar­an­tined Ital­ians Send a Mes­sage to Them­selves 10 Days Ago: What They Wish They Knew Then
  2. Down­load Free Col­or­ing Books from 113 Muse­ums
  3. Use Your Time in Iso­la­tion to Learn Every­thing You’ve Always Want­ed To: Free Online Cours­es, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Col­or­ing Books & More
  4. Exquis­ite 2300-Year-Old Scythi­an Woman’s Boot Pre­served in the Frozen Ground of the Altai Moun­tains
  5. Hayao Miyazaki’s Stu­dio Ghi­b­li Releas­es Free Back­grounds for Vir­tu­al Meet­ings: Princess Mononoke, Spir­it­ed Away & More
  6. Google Intro­duces 6‑Month Career Cer­tifi­cates, Threat­en­ing to Dis­rupt High­er Edu­ca­tion with “the Equiv­a­lent of a Four-Year Degree”
  7. Janis Joplin & Tom Jones Bring the House Down in an Unlike­ly Duet of “Raise Your Hand” (1969)
  8. The Names of 1.8 Mil­lion Eman­ci­pat­ed Slaves Are Now Search­able in the World’s Largest Genealog­i­cal Data­base, Help­ing African Amer­i­cans Find Lost Ances­tors
  9. Why “The Girl from Ipane­ma”‘ Is a Rich­er & Weird­er Song Than You Ever Real­ized
  10. Watch the Rolling Stones Play “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” While Social Dis­tanc­ing in Quar­an­tine
  11. Bill Mur­ray Explains How He Was Saved by John Prine
  12. The Sto­ry Behind the Icon­ic Pho­to­graph of 11 Con­struc­tion Work­ers Lunch­ing 840 Feet Above New York City (1932)
  13. The Grate­ful Dead’s “Rip­ple” Played By Musi­cians Around the World (with Cameos by David Cros­by, Jim­my Buf­fett & Bill Kreutz­mann)
  14. Watch Joni Mitchell Sing an Immac­u­late Ver­sion of Her Song “Coy­ote,” with Bob Dylan, Roger McGuinn & Gor­don Light­foot (1975)
  15. The 150 Best Pod­casts to Enrich Your Mind

Let us know in the com­ments what oth­er posts that did­n’t make the list res­onat­ed with you in this time of sweep­ing change, and why. Per­haps it’s one more cos­mic irony that the night­mar­ish year of 2020 also hap­pens to be the num­ber we use to sym­bol­ize per­fect hind­sight. But also tell us, read­ers, what did you learn this year, and how did you grow and change in ways you might have thought impos­si­ble a year ago?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 150 Best Pod­casts to Enrich Your Mind 

1,500 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties 

Sign Up for Open Culture’s Free Dai­ly Email 

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

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.