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.

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

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.