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.

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The Best of Open Culture 2010

That’s it. We’re putting a wrap on 2010. We’ll hit the ground running again on Monday. But, until then, we leave you with a handy list of our favorite and most popular posts from 2010, all ordered in a rather random way. If you crave a little more Open Culture goodies, you can always browse through our complete archive here, and follow us on TwitterFacebook, and RSS. Hope you have a safe, happy and prosperous New Year!

More to come Monday…

My Blackberry Is Not Working!

Classic… This fruity sketch just aired on the BBC program The One Ronnie. Great work by Ronnie Corbett and Harry Enfield.

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Conan O’Brien @ Google
The Monty Python Philosophy Football Match Revisited
Father Guido Sarducci’s Five Minute University

45 Great Cultural Icons Revisited

It’s no secret. We love to highlight vintage video of cultural icons. This weekend, we showed you the last days of Leo Tolstoy to commemorate the centennial of the great writer’s death, and you expressed your appreciation. And it led us to think: why not dig through our archive, and revive some of the great treasures previously featured on Open Culture? And so here it goes: Below, you will find 45+ video & audio clips that record the words and actions of major figures from a bygone era. Artists, architects, filmmakers, actors, poets, novelists, composers, musicians, world-changing leaders, and those not easily categorized – they’re all here. So close, you can almost touch them. Enjoy the list, and if we’re missing some good clips, don’t hesitate to send them our way


  1. Salvador Dali (and Other VIPs) on “What’s My Line?”
  2. Arthur Conan Doyle Recounts the Backstory to Sherlock Holmes
  3. Orson Welles’ Final Moments
  4. William S. Burroughs Shoots Shakespeare
  5. Borges: The Task of Art
  6. Jack Kerouac Meets William F. Buckley (1968)
  7. Ingmar Bergman Visits Dick Cavett, 1971
  8. Picasso Painting on Glass
  9. Leonard Bernstein Breaks Down Beethoven
  10. Record Making With Duke Ellington (1937)
  11. Bertrand Russell on God
  12. Mark Twain Captured on Film by Thomas Edison (1909)
  13. A Young Glenn Gould Plays Bach
  14. Rod Serling: Where Do Ideas Come From?
  15. Richard Feynman: Fun to Imagine
  16. Rare Interview with Alfred Hitchcock Now Online
  17. Miles and Coltrane on YouTube: The Jazz Greats
  18. Footage of Nietzsche’s Final Days (May be bogus)
  19. Samuel Beckett Speaks
  20. Jimi Hendrix Plays Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  21. Django Reinhardt at 100
  22. When Pavarotti Met James Brown, the Godfather of Soul
  23. James Dean and Ronald Reagan Clash in Newly Discovered Video
  24. The Last Czar (1896)
  25. Leon Trotsky: Love, Death and Exile in Mexico
  26. Revisiting JFK on YouTube
  27. Mahatma Gandhi Talks (in First Recorded Video)
  28. Malcolm X at Oxford, 1964
  29. Helen Keller Captured on Video
  30. Anne Frank: The Only Existing Video Now Online
  31. Mike Wallace Interviews 1950s Celebrities (Frank Lloyd Wright, Pearl Buck, Salvador Dali, Reinhold Niebuhr, Aldous Huxley, Erich Fromm, etc.)


  1. Tchaikovsky’s Voice Captured on an Edison Cylinder (1890)
  2. Aldous Huxley Narrates Brave New World
  3. Truman Capote Reads from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  4. Kurt Vonnegut Reads from Slaughterhouse-Five
  5. William Faulkner Audio Archive Goes Online
  6. The John Lennon Interviews
  7. Rare Recording of Walt Whitman Reading
  8. Virginia Woolf: Her Voice Recaptured
  9. T.S. Eliot Reads The Waste Land
  10. Ernest Hemingway Reads “In Harry’s Bar in Venice”
  11. F. Scott Fitzgerald Reads Shakespeare
  12. James Joyce Reading from Finnegans Wake
  13. Rare Ezra Pound Recordings Now Online
  14. William Carlos Williams Reads His Poetry (1954)
  15. Interviews with Schoenberg and Bartók

74 Free Banned Books (for Banned Books Week)

To commemorate Banned Books Week, the always great Internet Archive has opened up access to 74 banned books. The collection features some serious pieces of literature (James Joyce’s Ulysses, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Huxley’s Brave New World, etc.); some traditional children’s classics (Winnie the Pooh); and some sinister books of unquestionable historical importance (Mein Kampf). These books can be downloaded in multiple digital formats, including sometimes ePub and Kindle formats. This gives you the ability to read the the works on the KindleiPad, Nook and other mainstream ebook readers. (See note below.) But the old fashioned computer will also do the job.

Censorship remains a serious problem in the US and beyond. The American Library Association recorded 460 attempts in 2009 to restrict books in US schools and libraries. But they estimate that this represents only 20-25% of actual attempts to censor. All of this censorship is neatly (and rather specifically) tracked on Google Maps.

NOTE: Please see our previous post describing how to add files to the Kindle. Meanwhile this page describes how to transfer ePub files to the iPad.

The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D.

Matthew Might, a computer science professor at the University of Utah, writes: “Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is. It’s hard to describe it in words. So, I use pictures.” Here it goes. Matt’s Illustrated Guide:

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty:

A master’s degree deepens that specialty:

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now:

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:

Keep pushing.

You can find Matt’s Illustrated Guide hosted on his web site. This guide/reality check is published under a Creative Commons License. You can also buy a print version for $6.50. (The money goes to charity.) Matt offers more insights for Ph.D. students here.

Watch Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films Free Online: Stalker, The Mirror & Andrei Rublev

The stench of Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine shouldn’t taint everything Russian, especially some of its finest cinema. So we’ll give you this heads up: Mosfilm, the largest and oldest film studio in Russia, has posted several major films by Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986), on its official YouTube channel. Above, you can watch Stalker, which we’ve covered amply here on Open Culture. Below, stream The Mirror, Andrei Rublev, and Ivan’s Childhood.

The Mirror

Andrei Rublev

Ivan’s Childhood

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Related Content:

The Masterful Polaroid Pictures Taken by Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky’s Advice to Young Filmmakers: Sacrifice Yourself for Cinema

Andrei Tarkovsky Calls Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a “Phony” Film “With Only Pretensions to Truth

Slavoj Žižek Explains the Artistry of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Films: Solaris, Stalker & More

Watch Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mind-Bending Masterpiece Free Online

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Masterpiece Stalker Gets Adapted into a Video Game


The Best of Open Culture 2009

Couldn’t let you down. Couldn’t let the year end without giving you a “best of” list. So here it goes. A purely subjective list. 25 items. Some educational; some a little more entertaining; some popular, etc. I hope you enjoy, and you can always search through our complete archive here. Thanks all, and best wishes in ’10.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.