Stream 72 Hours of Ambient Sounds from Blade Runner: Relax, Go to Sleep in a Dystopian Future

As reflexively as we may now describe the 2019 Los Angeles of Blade Runner as "dystopian" — and indeed, as vivid a modern dystopia as cinema has yet produced — who among us wouldn't want to spend at least a few hours there? Much of the surface appeal is, of course, visual: the rainy neon-lined streets, the industrial fearsomeness, those tower-side video geisha. But no film truly succeeds, at creating a world or anything else, without the right sound. We may not consciously realize it when we watch the movie, no matter how many times we've seen it before, but the sonic elements, all carefully crafted, do more than their fair share to make Blade Runner feel like Blade Runner.

And so the best way to put yourself into Blade Runner's world may be to surround yourself with its sounds, a task made much easier by "ambient geek" Crysknife007, whose Youtube channel offers a playlist of ambient noise from Blade Runner places. These include Deckard's apartment, the Tyrell Building, the Bradbury Hotel, and others, each of which loops for a continuous twelve hours. (The complete playlist above runs for 72 hours.) Some of the locations even die-hard fans of the movie might not recognize, because they come from another extension of Blade Runner's reality: the 1997 PC adventure game that has a new cast of characters play out a different story in the proto-cyberpunk urban setting with the same necessity for just the right sound to create just the right atmosphere

Crysknife007, who as an ambient musician goes under the name "Cheesy Nervosa," seems to have a side line in this sort of thing: last month we featured other sci-fi-inspired selections from the same Youtube channel like the sounds of the ship's engine from Star Trek: the Next Generation and the TARDIS from Doctor Who. But it's Blade Runner, as Thom Andersen says in his documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, that "continues to fascinate. Perhaps it expresses a nostalgia for a dystopian vision of the future that has become outdated. This vision offered some consolation because it was at least sublime. Now the future looks brighter, hotter, and blander." But even as the real 2019 draws near, whatever the future actually ends up looking like, we at least know we can keep it sounding interesting.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The M.C. Escher Mirror Puzzle: Test Your Imagination & Concentration with an Artistic Brain Teaser

The art of M.C. Escher apparently makes for some good puzzles. Head over to Amazon and you'll find a number of ornate Escher works of art turned into traditional 1,000-piece puzzles. They'll keep you busy for hours on end. But will they challenge you as much as the M.C. Escher Mirror Puzzle featured above? This puzzle takes things to another level. The directions read like this: "Use the slanted mirror inside each cube to reflect the image on the side of an adjacent cube. Once you place all nine cubes in the right pattern, a complete Escher image will appear." Finish the first puzzle, and then start on the next one. There are five puzzles in this set.

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A Human Chess Match Gets Played in Leningrad, 1924

Let's time travel back to Leningrad (aka St. Petersburg) in 1924. That's when an unconventional chess match was played by Peter Romanovsky and Ilya Rabinovich, two chess masters of the day.

Apparently, they called in their moves over the telephone. And then real-life chess pieces--in the form of human beings and horses--were moved across a huge chessboard covering Palace Square. Members of the Soviet Union's Red Army served as the black pieces; members of the Soviet navy were the white pieces. They're all on display above, or shown in a larger format here.

According to this online forum for chess enthusiasts, the 5-hour match "was an annual event, designed to promote chess in the USSR." The first such match was held in Smolensk in 1921. We're not sure who won the St. Petersburg contest.

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via Reality Carnival

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Are We Living Inside a Computer Simulation?: An Introduction to the Mind-Boggling “Simulation Argument”

The idea that we are living in a vast computer simulation as hyper-sophisticated simulated characters with limited self-awareness sounds like the kind of thing that issues forth from stoned philosophy majors in late night dorm room sessions. And no doubt it has, thousands of times over, especially after 1999, when The Matrix debuted and turned an amalgam of Plato, Descartes, Berkeley, and other metaphysicians into a then-cutting-edge sci-fi kung fu flick.

But is it a ridiculous idea? The obvious objection that first arises is: how could we possibly ever know? Computer simulated characters, after all, have no ability to step beyond the confines of the worlds designed for them by programmers, a limitation illustrated when one reaches a dead-end in a game and finds that, while there may be the image of a forest or a field, the game designers have seen no need to actually create the environment. Our character bumps up against the game's edge stupidly, until we toggle the controls and move it back into the prescribed field of play.

But (fire up your bongs), does the character know it’s reached a dead end? And if the universe is a simulation, who’s running the damned thing? And why? Welcome to “the simulation argument,” a theory endorsed by philosopher and futurologist Nick Bostrom, Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk, and quite a few other non-dorm-dwelling thinkers. “Many people have imagined this scenario over the years,” writes Joshua Rothman at The New Yorker, “usually while high. But recently, a number of philosophers, futurists, science-fiction writers, and technologists—people who share a near-religious faith in technological progress—have come to believe that the simulation argument is not just plausible, but inescapable.”

Given their quasi-religious bent, are these technologists and futurists simply replacing a creator-god with a creator-coder to flatter themselves? Judge for yourself, firstly perhaps by listening to Musk explain the concept in brief at a Recode Conference above. (If you find yourself comforted by his answer, you may just be a game designer.) Then, for a more sprawling, pop-cultural dive into the simulation argument, spend an hour with The Simulation Hypothesis at the top of the post, a documentary that—depending on the laws of your current place of residence—may or may not be enhanced by an edible.

We might also reference Bostrom’s 2003 article---or watch him describe his position in the video below. Bostrom speculates that we might be living in an “ancestor simulation” run by an incredibly advanced civilization thousands of years in our future. Like Musk, writes Rothman, he concludes that “we are far more likely to be living inside a simulation right now than to be living outside of one.” The possibility raises all sorts of disturbing questions about the reality of choice, the moral meaning of our actions, and the nature of human identity. These are questions philosophers (and Philip K. Dick) have always asked, but until recently, they had little recourse to independent confirmation of their hypotheses. Now, as you'll discover in The Simulation Hypothesis, physicists have begun to discover that "our universe isn't an objective reality."

It is indeed perfectly plausible, given the exponential speed with which technology advances, that we will be able to run simulations with the same level of sophistication as our reality in a matter of a few generations or less… provided we don't destroy ourselves first or completely lose interest. Which answers the question of who might be running the program. As with the higher beings in Interstellar who reach back to give the dying human species a hand, “there is,” writes Rothman, “no sanctity or holiness in the simulation argument. The people outside the simulation aren’t gods," or even aliens, "they’re us.” Or some sufficiently evolved version, that is, whose technological achievements would likely seem to us like magic.

The Simulation Hypothesis will be added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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

The Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Board Game, Inspired by Hunter S. Thompson’s Rollicking Novel

There was a time, fair children of the late 20th century, when every movie and television show had itself a board game. Most were bad. But we bought them, and then tried our best to make it work. You can see a collection here. Few ever recreated the spirit of the original work, but instead coasted by on a cynic's heart hoping to harvest your pop culture memories.

However, the board game version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, created by designer, programmer, and artist J.R. Baldwin, is very much in the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson’s book and well-loved film adaptation by Terry Gilliam. It is also very dangerous to play, and is probably not survivable unless you are Hunter S. Thompson and you have traveled in time to 2009. That’s the year of our clip above, when Alana Joy interviewed Baldwin for a web channel called Life on Blast.


The game comes in a briefcase modeled after Thompson’s traveling apothecary, and uses a board, game pieces, and cards. The board is designed to look like a psychedelic trip, with the spaces and indeed the whole board modeled after peyote buttons, which were also part of Thompson’s Gonzo logo. The starting space quotes the famous first lines of the book (“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold”) and the goal space uses the quote “All energy flows according to the whims of the great magnet” written around a brain.


But it's the other contents of the case that make the game special: drugs and alcohol, to be taken depending on what circle you land on the game board. Three different card groups dictate actions to take during the game. Yellow cards mean the player must measure out an amount of drugs (including stimulants, inhalants, or hallucinogens) or a shot of booze or absinthe and ingest. (The game helpfully comes with a scale.) Blue cards send the player on an adventure or activity. Red cards are challenges to be taken while under the influence of the substances.


So, okay, Baldwin’s game is not to be taken seriously…or taken orally. It’s actually a one-of-its-kind piece of art that can be purchased for $3,500. Drugs, like batteries, are not included. You must supply your own, possibly through your attorney.

“You could, theoretically, survive the entire game, on all these different substances” Baldwin says. “So why not?”

You can get a sense of the game from the images above. They come from Baldwin's website, where you can see yet more visuals.

via Dangerous Minds

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Man Ray Designs a Supremely Elegant, Geometric Chess Set in 1920–and It Now Gets Re-Issued

Yesterday, Colin Marshall featured Man Ray's "Surrealist Chessboard" from 1934, which paid homage to the leaders of the Surrealist movement. Though artistically significant, the chessboard had some practical limitations. Made up of only 20 squares (as compared to the traditional 64), the "Surrealist Chessboard" wouldn't let you play an actual game of chess.

For that, we need to turn to Man Ray's chess set fashioned in 1924. Made of abstract geometric forms, this set (on display above, jump to the 3:30 mark to really see it) featured some unconventional chess pieces: the king is a pyramid; the queen, a cone; the castle, a cube; the bishop, a bottle; the knight, the head scroll of a violin; and the pawn, an elegant sphere.

We said you could actually play chess on this board. And indeed you can. In 2012, the Man Ray Trust authorized a new edition of this set, making it available to chess enthusiasts looking for a handsome set. Crafted in Germany, it's made of solid beech wood.

This chessboard you can obtain.

As for the other modern chessboard Man Ray designed in 1945, it may be out of your league. David Bowie owned one of the few existing copies of that 1945 board, and, earlier this month, it sold for $1.3 million at a Sotheby's auction in London.

For more information on Man Ray's chessboards, read this short article from Chess Collectors International (see page 18). Or see The Imagery of Chess Revisited, which covers Man Ray's boards and beyond.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please 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.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Periodic Table Battleship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Elements





Aw, you sunk my battleship!

Milton Bradley’s classic board game, Battleship, can now be added to the roster of fun, creative ways to commit the Periodic Table of Elements to memory.

Karyn Tripp, a homeschooling mother of four, was inspired by her eldest’s love of science to create Periodic Table Battleship. I might suggest that the game is of even greater value to those who don’t naturally gravitate toward the subject.

Faced with the option of learning the elements via shower curtain or coffee mug osmosis, I think I’d prefer to take out an opponent’s submarine.

Rules of engagement are very similar to the original. Rather than calling out positions on a grid, players set their torpedoes for specific element names, abbreviations or coordinates. Advanced players might go for the atomic number. the lingo is the same: “hit,” “miss” and---say it with me---“you sunk my battleship!

The winner is the player who wipes out the other’s fleet, though I might toss the loser a couple of reinforcement vessels, should he or she demonstrate passing familiarity with various metals, halogens, and noble gases.

To make your own Periodic Table Battleship set you will need:

4 copies of the Periodic Table (laminate them for reuse)

2 file folders

paper clips, tape or glue

2 markers (dry erase markers if playing with laminated tables

To Assemble and Play:

As you know, the Periodic Table is already numbered along the top. Label each of the four tables'  vertical rows alphabetically (to help younger players and those inclined to fruitless searching for the elements designated by their opponent)

Fasten two Periodic Tables to each folder, facing the same direction.

Uses markers to circle the position of your ships on the lower Table:

5 consecutive spaces: aircraft carrier

4 consecutive spaces: battleship

3 consecutive spaces: destroyer or submarine

2 consecutive spaces: patrol boat

Prop the folders up with books or some other method to prevent opponents from sneaking peeks at your maritime strategy.

Take turns calling out coordinates, element names, abbreviations or atomic numbers:

When a turn results in a miss, put an X on the corresponding spot on the upper table.

When a turn results in a hit, circle the corresponding spot on the upper table.

Continue play until the battle is won.

Repeat until the Table of Elements is mastered.

Supplement liberally with Tom Lehrer’s Elements song.

Those not inclined toward arts and crafts can purchase a pre-made  Periodic Table Battleship set from Tripp’s Etsy shop.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker, secular homeschooler and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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