Pianist Plays Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Ravel & Debussy for Blind Elephants in Thailand

Romsai the elephant wore a red rope around his neck to warn approaching humans that he was a danger to both them and elephants. A dark patch on his head from a temporin secretion indicated that he was in the musth cycle, which only heightened his aggression. His mahouts at the ElephantsWorld sanctuary in Kanchanaburi, Thailand observed that the old, blind elephant was growing more dangerous with age.

And yet, he is the personification of sweetness, as pianist Paul Barton serenades him with a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique, repeating the melody section several times “as he seems to like it.”




In lieu of applause, Romsai places his trunk over the top of Barton’s upright piano again and again, in no way aggressive, more the gesture of a grateful audience member.

As Barton, a Yorkshireman who went to Thailand over twenty years ago for what he thought would be a short piano teaching stint only to wind up marrying a local artist and animal rights activist, said in an interview with YourStory:

All animals like music. Dogs, cats, etc. But elephants are the closest to human beings in the sense that they have the same neurons in the brains as us. Also they have a very good memory. If you are treated badly as a child, you are going to remember that all your life. It’s the same with elephants. The elephant shares that part of the brain with us which has flashbacks. They can never forget the terrible things they have seen and suffered… If you play classical music to an elephant, something soft and beautiful, something that human beings have been listening to for hundreds for hundreds of years, something that is timeless—and you play that to an elephant that is blind and they've never heard music before—the reaction is priceless. There is a special bond between you and the elephant. You are communicating with them in a different language. That language is neither ours nor theirs. There is something infinitesimally wonderful in a piece of Beethoven that connects me to that elephant and that feeling is otherworldly.

The impulse to play live concerts for Romsai and other blind sanctuary dwellers was partly born from seeing the positive effect music had on some blind children with whom Barton worked.

He also wanted to make amends for the deforestation of the elephant’s homeland, and the way the teak industry exploited their labor. It was while thus employed that many of them suffered scratched corneas and other eye injuries that blinded them, rendering them doubly vulnerable when the Thai government enacted a ban on commercial timber logging in 1989:

The elephant has worked for humans for too long. It was used in wars, it was used to deforest its own home. What is the little thing I can do as a human to say sorry, for my species for what we have done to them? I'll carry this heavy thing myself and play some music for the elephant while it is having some breakfast.

Removed from the plush seats of a concert hall, Ravel feels right at home. A rooster crows, a nearby child pipes up, and Romsai wanders in and out of the frame, at times appearing to keep time with his trunk.

Cicadas underscore Schubert’s Serenade.

Another ElephantsWorld resident, Lam Duan's (aka “Tree with Yellow Flowers”) stillness as she listens to Bach is reminiscent of Barton’s first musical outing with the elephants:

Elephants eat a lot of food. A lot. It is exhausting trying to procure that much food for so many elephants. When an elephant gets to eat, it’s a bit like a dog. A dog will eat its food so quickly because it’s not sure if it will ever eat again. And elephants are the same. Once they get their hands on some juicy leaves, they will eat and eat and nothing can tear them away from their food. That morning I brought the piano in early to the sanctuary. Pla-Ra was taken to a field full of juicy bamboo shoots and she began eating with a single minded dedication. I started to play Beethoven and she stopped eating. There was this half eaten bamboo shoot sticking out of her trunk while she stared at me. That was a reaction never seen before. An elephant stopped eating because of music.

Barton’s latest recording features 80-year-old Ampan, blind in one eye and near blind in the other, enjoying Debussy’s Clair de Lune.

Support Paul Barton’s Patreon here. Learn about volunteer opportunities or make a donation to ElephantsWorld here

via Laughing Squid

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

French Bookstore Blends Real People’s Faces with Book Cover Art

You can lead the I-generation to a bookstore, but can you make them read?

Perhaps, especially if the volume has an eye-catching cover image that bleeds off the edge.

If nothing else, they can be enlisted to provide some stunning free publicity for the titles that appeal to their highly visual sense of creative play. (An author’s dream!)

France's first indie bookstore, Bordeaux’s Librairie Mollat, is reeling ‘em in with Book Face, an irresistible selfie challenge that harkens back to DJ Carl MorrisSleeveface project, in which one or more people are photographed “obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s), causing an illusion.”




The results are proliferating on the store’s Instagram, as fetching young things (and others) apply themselves to finding the best angles and costumes for their lit-based Trompe-l’œil masterstrokes.

…even the ones that don’t quite pass the forced perspective test have the capacity to charm.

…and not every shot requires intense pre-production and precision placement.

Hopefully, we’ll see more kids getting into the act soon. In fact, if some youngsters of your acquaintance are expressing a bit of boredom with their vacances d’été, try turning them loose in your local bookstore to identify a likely candidate for a Book Face of their own.

(Remember to support the bookseller with a purchase!)

Back stateside, some librarians shared their pro tips for achieving Book Face success in this 2015 New York Times article. The New York Public Library’s Morgan Holzer also cites Sleeveface as the inspiration behind #BookfaceFriday, the hashtag she coined in hopes that other libraries would follow suit.

With over 50,000 tagged posts on Instagram, looks like it’s caught on!

See Librairie Mollats patrons’ gallery of Book Faces here.

Readers, if you’ve Book Faced anywhere in the world, please share the link to your efforts in the comments section.

via This is Colossal/Hyperallergic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. In honor of her son’s 18th birthday, she invites you to Book Face your baby using The Big Rumpus, her first book, for which he served as cover model. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Anthony Bourdain’s Free Show, Raw Craft Where He Visits Craftsmen Making Guitars, Tattoos, Motorcycles & More (RIP)

Why has food become such an object of interest in recent years? One possible explanation is that it represents one of the last pursuits still essentially untouchable by digital culture: for all you can write about and photograph food for the internet, you can't actually experience it there. Food, in other words, means physicality, dexterity, sensibility, and hand-craftsmanship in a concrete, visceral way that, in the 21st, century, has come to seem increasingly scarce. But another, shorter explanation sums the phenomenon up, just as plausibly, in two words: Anthony Bourdain.

Ever since he first entered the public eye at the end of the 1990s, late chef-writer-traveler-television host taught a reading, and later viewing public to appreciate not just food but all that goes into food: the ingredients, sure, the intense training and labor, of course, but most of all the many and varied cultural factors that converge on a meal. Bourdain found robust cultures everywhere, those that developed cart-filled streets of cities across the world to the kitchens of the most unassuming-looking restaurants and everywhere in between. He deeply respected not just those dedicated to the making and serving of food, but those dedicated to crafts of all kinds.




Bourdain's natural kinship with all craftsmen and craftswomen made him a natural choice to carry Raw Craft, a web series sponsored by the Balvenie, a popular-premium brand of Scotch whisky. In its fourteen episodes (each of which finds a way to feature a bottle of the Balvenie), Bourdain goes characteristically far and wide to visit the studios and workshops of real people making real suits, shoessaxophones, drums, guitarshandprinted books, furniture, motorcycles, and "traditionally feminine objects." That last may break somewhat from Bourdain's swaggering, masculine-if-not-macho image, but as the series' host he displays a good deal of enthusiasm for the subject of each episode, including the trip to the sponsor's own distillery in Dufftown, Scotland.

Naturally, Bourdain can engage on a whole other level in the episodes about food and food-related objects, such as pastries and hot chocolatekitchen knives, and, in the video at the top of the post, cast-iron skillets. Ever the participatory observer, he finishes that last by preparing steak au poivre with one of the workshop's own skillets on the flame of its own skillet-forging furnace. He takes it a step further, or several, in the episode with Japanese tattoo artist Takashi where, despite "running out of room" on his own much-tattooed skin, he commissions one more: a magnificent blue chrysanthemum on his shoulder, drawn and inked with only the most time-honored tools and techniques.

We even, during one of Bourdain's ink-receiving sessions with Takashi, glimpse a true craftsman-to-craftsman conversational exchange. Bourdain asks Takashi about something he's seen all of the many times he's been on the tattooing table: a junior artist will approach to watch and learn from the way a senior one works. Takashi, who had to go through a minor ordeal just to convince his own master to take him on as an apprentice, confirms both the universality and the importance of the practice: "If you stop learning, you are pretty much done, you know?" Bourdain, who could only have agreed with the sentiment, lived it to the very end. "I'd like it to last as long as I do," he says of his Takashi tattoo — "Which ain't that long," he adds, "but long enough, I hope." But surely no amount of time could ever satisfy a culinary, cultural, and intellectual appetite as prodigious as his.

You can watch the complete series of Raw Craft videos here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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 or on Facebook.

You Can Now Airbnb the Home of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Where the Author Wrote Tender Is the Night

Photo by George F. Landegger, via Wikimedia Commons

F. Scott Fitzgerald started writing in earnest at Princeton University, several of whose literary and cultural societies he joined after enrolling in 1913. So much of his time did he devote to what would become his vocation that he eventually found himself on academic probation. Still, he kept on writing novels even after dropping out and joining the Army in 1917. He wrote hurriedly, with the prospect of being shipped out to the trenches hanging over his head, but that grim fate never arrived. Instead the Army transferred him to Camp Sheridan outside Montgomery, Alabama, at one of whose country clubs young Scott met a certain Zelda Sayre, the "golden girl" of Montgomery society.

With his sights set on marriage, Scott spent several years after the war trying to earn enough money to make a credible proposal. Only the publication of This Side of Paradise, his debut novel about a literarily minded student at Princeton in wartime, convinced Zelda that he could maintain the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. Between 1921, when they married, and 1948, by which time both had died, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived an occasionally productive, often miserable, and always intensely compelling life together. The story of this early cultural "power couple" has an important place in American literary history, and Fitzgerald enthusiasts can now use Airbnb to spend the night in the home where one of its chapters played out.




The rentable apartment occupies part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, an operation run out of the house in which the Fitzgeralds lived in 1931 and 1932. For the increasingly troubled Zelda, those years constituted time in between hospitalizations. She had come from the Swiss sanatorium that diagnosed her with schizophrenia. She would afterward go to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she would write an early version of her only novel Save Me the Waltz, a roman à clef about the Fitzgerald marriage. For Scott's part, the Montgomery years came in the middle of his work on Tender is the Night, the follow-up to The Great Gatsby for which critics had been waiting since that book's publication in 1925.

"The house dates to 1910," writes the Chicago Tribune's Beth J. Harpaz. "The apartment is furnished in casual 20th century style: sofa, armchairs, decorative lamps, Oriental rug, and pillows embroidered with quotes from Zelda like this one: 'Those men think I'm purely decorative and they're fools for not knowing better.'" Evocative features include "a record player and jazz albums, a balcony, and flowering magnolia trees in the yard." It may not offer the kind of space needed to throw a Gatsby-style bacchanal — to the endless relief, no doubt, of the museum staff — but at $150 per night as of this writing, travelers looking to get a little closer to these defining literary icons of the Jazz Age might still consider it a bargain. It also comes with certain modern touches that the Fitzgeralds could hardly have imagined, like wi-fi. But then, given the well-documented tendency toward distraction they already suffered, surely they were better off without it.

You can book your room at Airbnb here.

via Mental Floss

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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 or on Facebook.

Explore Meticulous 3D Models of Endangered Historical Sites in Google’s “Open Heritage” Project

One brisk thumping by a natural disaster, totalitarian regime, or terrorist group is more than enough to reduce an awe-inspiring heritage site to rubble.

With that sad fact in mind, Google Arts & Culture has paired with CyArk, a non profit whose mission is using the latest technologies to digitally document and preserve the world's significant cultural heritage in an easily shareable format.




The resulting project, Open Heritage, is a massive browsable collection of 3D heritage data, already the largest of its kind, and certain to increase as its creators race against the clock.

As of this writing, visitors can explore 3D models of 27 heritage sites from 18 countries.

Even those of us who’ve had the good fortune to visit these sites in person have much to gain from the drone’s eye view of the Caracol observatory that’s part of Mexico’s ancient Mayan metropolis Chichén Itzá or Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Each model is accompanied by an expedition overview that details the site’s history and significance, as well as its location on a map. Time lapse photos help give a sense of the site’s human traffic during the time it was being documented, as well as the nature of the work CyArk does on location. Significant details are highlighted, and their symbolism discussed.

CyArk will share project data with viewers who request it, using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Equally important is the role these comprehensive 3D scans can play in current and future restoration efforts, by identifying areas of damage and documenting existing color and texture with down-to-the-millimeter precision.

Begin your virtual explorations of such Open Heritage sites as Greece’s Ancient Corinth, Lebanon’s Temple of Echoun, and Ayutthaya, Thailand’s Wat Si Sanphet, here.

Learn more about aerial photogrammetry, 3D laser scanning, stereoscopic 360 imagery, and other tools of the digital preservation trade here.

And stay abreast of CyArk’s work by subscribing to their free monthly newsletter here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Interactive Map Shows Just How Many Roads Actually Lead to Rome

...he went away, and passing through what was called the house of Tiberius, went down into the forum, to where a gilded column stood, at which all the roads that intersect Italy terminate."

- Plutarch, Life of Galba (XXIV.4)

No one can give you exact directions to Milliarium Aureum (aka the Golden Milestone). Just a few carved marble fragments of the gilded column’s base remain in the Roman Forum, where its original location is somewhat difficult to pinpoint.

But as the image above, from interactive map Roads to Rome, shows (view it here), the motto Emperor Caesar Augustus' mighty mile marker inspired still holds true.

All roads lead to Rome.

To illustrate, designers Benedikt Groß and Philipp Schmitt worked with digital geographer Raphael Reimann to select 486,713 starting points on a 26,503,452 km² grid of Europe.




From there, they created an algorithm to calculate the best route from each point to Rome.

(It beats typing a street address into Google Maps 486,713 times.)

From afar, the resulting map looks like a delicate piece of sea lettuce or an early exploration in neuroanatomy.

Zoom in as tight as you can and things become more traditionally cartographic in appearance, names and spatial relations of cities asserting themselves. A bold line indicates a busy route.

In a nod to map lovers outside of Europe, the mobility-obsessed team came up with another map, this one geared to stateside users.

Do you know which of the United States’ nine Romes you are closest to?

Now you do, from 312,719 distinct starting points.

To help them in their labor, the creative team made good use of the GraphHopper route optimization tool and the Open Street Map wiki. In their own estimation, the project’s outcome is “somewhere between information visualization and data art, unveiling mobility on a very large scale."

Buy a poster of the All Roads Lead to Rome map here. Or view the interactive map here.

via Arch Daily

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Wednesday, May 16 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Studio Ghibli Releases Tantalizing Concept Art for Its New Theme Park, Opening in Japan in 2022

When you watch an animated film, you visit a world. That holds true, to an extent, for live-action movies as well, but much more so for those cinematic experiences whose audiovisual details all come, of necessity, crafted from scratch. Walt Disney understood that better than anyone else in the motion-picture industry, and none could argue that he didn't capitalize on it. When they founded Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki and the late Isao Takahata — in the fine 20th-century Japanese tradition of borrowing Western ideas and then refining them nearly beyond recognition — took Disney's deliberate world-building a step further, painstakingly crafting a look and feel for their productions that amounts to a separate reality: rich, coherent, and, for the millions of die-hard Ghibli fans all around the world, immensely appealing.

In a few years, those fans will get the chance to enter Ghibli's world in a much more concrete sense. Disney's insight that his audience would beat a path to an amusement park based on his studio's movies led to Disneyland, Disney World, and their global successors, two of which, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, now rank among the five most visited theme parks in the world.




The area of the Japanese capital already offers an acclaimed Ghibli experience in the form of the Ghibli Museum, but in just a few years the city of Nagakute, a suburb of Nagoya, will see the opening of Ghibli's own version of Disneyland, a theme park filled with attractions based on the studios beloved films.

Scheduled to open in 2022 on the same plot of land used for the 2005 World's Fair (where the house from My Neighbor Totoro was then built and still stands today), Ghibli's theme park will greet visitors with a main gate reminiscent, writes Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft, of "19th-century structures out of Howl’s Moving Castle as well as a recreation of Whisper of the Heart’s antique shop."

It also includes "the Big Ghibli Warehouse, which is filled with all sorts of Ghibli themed play areas as well as exhibition areas and small cinemas," a Princess Mononoke village, a combined area for Howl's Moving Castle and Kiki's Delivery Service called Witch Valley, and the Totoro-themed Dondoko Forest. Will Studio Ghibli's theme park rise into the ranks of the world's most visited? Nobody who has yet visited their world, in any of its manifestations thus far, would put it past them.

Studio Ghibli has released some basic concept for the new theme park. You can get a few glimpses of what they have in mind on this page.

 

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include 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 or on Facebook.

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