The Biodiversity Heritage Library Makes 150,000 High-Res Illustrations of the Natural World Free to Download

You may have heard of "plant blindness," a condition defined about 20 years ago that has started to get more press in recent years. As its name suggests, it refers to an inability to identify or even notice the many plant species around us in our everyday lives. Some have connected it to a potentially more widespread affliction they call "nature deficit disorder," which is also just what it sounds like: a set of impairments brought on by insufficient exposure to the natural world. One might also draw a line from these concepts to our attitudes about climate change, or to our ever-less-interrupted immersion in the digital world. But if any part of that digital world can open our eyes to nature once again, it's the Biodiversity Heritage Library (present also on Flickr and Instagram.)

Previously featured here on Open Culture for its vast archive of two million illustrations of the natural world, the BHL has received more coverage this year for the more than 150,000 it's made available for copyright-free download. Hyperallergic's Hakim Bishara quotes Henry David Thoreau — "We need the tonic of wildness. We can never get enough of nature" — before writing of how thrilled Thoreau would have been by the existence of such a resource for images of nature.




These images include "animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries across the world," some dating to the 15th century. He highlights "Joseph Wolf’s 19th-century book Zoological Sketches, containing about 100 lithographs depicting wild animals in London’s Regent’s Park" and "watercolors depicting flowers indigenous to the Hawaiian islands" as well as "an 1833 DIY Taxidermist’s Manual."

As Smithsonian.com's Theresa Machemer notes, "The practice of creating detailed illustrations of flora and fauna, whether to document an expedition or a medical practice, gained popularity well before photography was up to the task." Hence such ambitious projects as the United States government's commissioning, in 1866, of watercolor paintings depicting every fruit known to man. But even today, "an illustration can offer more clarity than a photograph," as you'll find when you zoom in on any of the BHL's high-resolution illustrations. According to the BHL, "a worldwide consortium of natural history, botanical, research, and national libraries," its mission is to provide "access to the world’s collective knowledge about biodiversity," in order to help researchers "document Earth’s species and understand the complexities of swiftly-changing ecosystems in the midst of a major extinction crisis and widespread climate change." But by revealing how our predecessors saw nature, it can also help all of us see nature again. Access the illustrations here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

Jules Verne’s Most Famous Books Were Part of a 54-Volume Masterpiece, Featuring 4,000 Illustrations: See Them Online

Not many readers of the 21st century seek out the work of popular writers of the 19th century, but when they do, they often seek out the work of Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days: fair to say that we all know the titles of these fantastical French tales from the 1860s and 70s, and more than a few of us have actually read them. But how many of us know that they all belong to a single series, the 54-volume Voyages Extraordinaires, that Verne published from 1863 until the end of his life? Verne described the project's goal to an interviewer thus: "to conclude in story form my whole survey of the world’s surface and the heavens."

Verne intended to educate, but at the same time to entertain and even artistically impress: "My object has been to depict the earth, and not the earth alone, but the universe," he said. "And I have tried at the same time to realize a very high ideal of beauty of style." This he accomplished with great success in a time and place without even what we would now consider a fully literate public.




As philosopher Marc Soriano writes of the 1860s when Verne began publishing, "The drive for literacy in France has been underway since the Guizot Law of 1833, but there is still much to do. Any well-advised editor must aid his readers who have not yet achieved a good reading proficiency."

Hence the need for illustrations: beautiful illustrations, scientifically and narratively faithful illustrations, and above all a great many illustrations: over 4,000 of them, by the count of Arthur B. Evans in his essay on the series' artists, "an average of 60+ illustrations per novel, one for every 6-8 pages of text." Still today, "most modern French reprints of the Voyages Extraordinaires continue to feature their original illustrations — recapturing the 'feel' of Verne’s socio-historical milieu and evoking that sense of faraway exoticism and futuristic awe which the original readers once experienced from these texts. And yet, to date, the bulk of Vernian criticism has virtually ignored the crucial role played by these illustrations in Verne’s oeuvre."

Evans identifies four different types of illustrations in the series: "renderings of the protagonists of the story — e.g., portraits like the one of Impey Barbicane in De la terre à la lune"; "panoramic and postcard-like" views of the "exotic locales, unusual sights, and flora and fauna which the heroes encounter during their journey, like the one from Vingt mille lieues sous les mers depicting divers walking on the ocean floor"; "documentational" illustrations like "the map of the Polar regions (hand-drawn by Verne himself) for his 1864 novel Les Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras"; and portayals of "a specific moment of action in the narrative—e.g., the one from Voyage au centre de la terre where Prof. Lidenbrock, Axel, and Hans are suddenly caught in a lightning storm on a subterranean ocean."

Verne and his editor Pierre-Jules Hetzel commissioned these illustrations from no fewer than eight artists, a group including Edouard Riou, Alphonse de Neuville, Emile-Antoine Bayard (previously featured here on Open Culture), and Léon Benett — all well-known artists in late 19th-century France, and made even more so by their work in the Voyages Extraordinaires. You can browse a complete gallery of the series' original illustrations here, and if you like, enrich the experience with this extensive essay by Terry Harpold on "reading" these images in context.

Together with the stories themselves, on the back of which Verne remains the most translated science-fiction author of all time, they allow Harpold to make the credible claim that "the textual-graphic domain constituted by these objects is unmatched in its breadth and variety; no other corpus associated with a single author is comparable." Human knowledge of the universe has widened and deepened since Verne's day, but for sheer intellectual and adventurous wonder about what that universe might contain, has any writer, from any era or land, outdone him since?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

Chick Corea’s 16 Pieces of “Cheap But Good Advice for Playing Music in a Group” (1985)

Jazz instrumentalists who “play the changes” have learned to make improvisation look easy. In live performance, the audience shouldn’t see the years of study and practice behind what Willie Thomas calls at Jazz Everyone, “a system that combines the basic jazz language with the important music theory concepts” and at the same time “allows a player to focus on how the music fits the tune and not the chord symbols and scales that often incumber performance.”

That may seem like a wordy explanation, but Thomas is careful to explicate the cliché “play the changes” for maximum meaning, drawing on over forty years of experience himself learning the principle as a “useful tool for self expression through jazz music.” The idea of playing to the tune may seem fundamentally obvious, but the more one develops as a student, the farther away one can get from lived experience.




How might musicians apply ideals about ensemble playing to actual ensemble playing? For answers to this question, we might turn to jazz legend Chick Corea, member of Miles Davis’s band during the pathbreaking In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew sessions; player in and leader of more Grammy-winning ensembles than perhaps anyone else (he’s collected 23 awards so far); and “one of the jazz world’s most thoughtful and lucid champions.”

This description comes from a Christian Science Monitor write-up of Corea’s appearance in a two-hour Q&A session at Berklee College of Music in 1985, where the pianist and jazz fusion keyboard master had students pick up the typed handout above at the door. He begins with the simplest, but most important advice, “Play only what you hear,” then elaborates in 16 rules which you can read in full below.

Corea’s primary metaphor is architectural—performance, he says, is about creating spaces and tastefully filling them. Doing this well requires serious study and practice. Then it requires remembering some basic rules, or Chick Corea’s “Cheap But Good Advice for Playing Music in a Group.” My favorite: "always release whatever tension you create." Like much of you we find here, it's good all-around advice for every endeavor.

  1. Play only what you hear.
  2. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
  3. Don’t let your fingers and limbs just wander—place these intentionally.
  4. Don’t improvise on endlessly—play something with intention, develop it or not, but then end off, take a break.
  5. Leave space—create space—intentionally create places where you don’t play.
  6. Make your sound blend. Listen to your sound and adjust it to the rest of the band and the room.
  7. If you play more than one instrument at a time—like a drum kit or multiple keyboards—make sure that they are balanced with one another.
  8. Don’t make any of your music mechanically or just through patterns of habit. Create each sound, phrase, and piece with choice—deliberately.
  9. Guide your choice of what to play by what you like—not by what someone else will think.
  10. Use contrast and balance the elements: high/low, fast/slow, loud/soft, tense/relaxed, dense/sparse.
  11. Play to make the other musicians sound good. Play things that will make the overall music sound good.
  12. Play with a relaxed body. Always release whatever tension you create.
  13. Create space—begin, develop, and end phrases with intention.
  14. Never beat or pound your instrument—play it easily and gracefully.
  15. Create space—then place something in it.
  16. Use mimicry sparsely—mostly create phrases that contrast with and develop the phrases of the other players.

via Nate Chinen

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

The Woman Who Invented Rock n’ Roll: An Introduction to Sister Rosetta Tharpe

When people would ask her about her music, she would say, “Oh, these kids and rock and roll — this is just sped up rhythm and blues. I've been doing that forever.”

- Gayle Wald, author of Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe

What do rock and roll pioneers Elvis PresleyChuck Berry, and Little Richard have in common, besides belonging to the inaugural (and all male) class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees?

They were all deeply influenced by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Godmother of Rock and Roll, and the subject of the collage-happy Polyphonic video essay, above.




(I’d rethink the essayist's choice to obscure Tharpe’s right hand with an unnecessary cut out of a floating guitar superimposed over archival concert footage. Here’s an unobstructed view.)

Berry described his career as “one long Rosetta Tharpe impersonation.”

Presley was captivated by her unique guitar-picking style, recording several songs that had been hits for the church-reared Tharpe, including "Up Above My Head," "Just A Closer Walk With Thee," "This Train and Down By The Riverside."

And Little Richard's first big break at 14 came compliments of Tharpe, who overheard him singing some of her gospel tunes, and spontaneously invited him to open for her at the Macon City Auditorium.

She was the trailblazers’ trail blazer in ways that go beyond rock and roll:

She was one of the few African-American female performers to appear on a V-Disc, a joint effort on the part of the government and the record industry to ship morale-boosting 78RPM records to overseas troops during World War II.

Her personalized—and self-designed—tour bus was a music industry first, ensuring that she and her tourmate (and alleged lover), Marie Knight, would be able to dine and sleep in comfort as African-Americans traveling during segregation.

She hired the all-white, all-male Grand Old Opry stars the Jordanaires to back her up, a bold move for an artist of color in 1938.

Her style, and likely personal mettle, owed a lot to her mother, the singing, mandolin-playing evangelist Katie Bell Nubin, who relocated from Arkansas to Chicago, to join a Pentecostal congregation where women were allowed to preach and six-year-old “Rosie” was placed atop the piano, so people in the back could see her as she performed.

After a brief marriage to a preacher, Tharpe hit New York City, where she embarked on a secular career, performing in nightclubs with the likes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.

The flip side of adulation by soon-to-be rock and roll greats was rejection by many of the devout Christians who had celebrated her gifts when they were offered up in a purely gospel context.

Her fame was eclipsed by the rise of those she’d influenced.

The public may have forgotten her for a time, but the starry names in her debt did not.

Johnny Cash singled her out as one of his heroes in his 1992 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech.

And three years ago, the Godmother of Rock and Roll was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame herself.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Free Coloring Books from World-Class Libraries & Museums: Download & Color Hundreds of Free Images

There are many roads to wellness. Meditation, yoga, exercise, and healthy diet are all effective therapies for bringing down stress levels. But we shouldn’t discount an activity we once used to while hours away as children, and that adults by the millions have taken to in recent years. Coloring takes us out of ourselves, say experts like Doctor of Psychiatry Scott M. Bea, “it's very much like a meditative exercise.” It relaxes our brain by focusing our attention and pushing distracting and disturbing thoughts to the margins. The low stakes make the activity easy and pleasurable, qualities grown-ups don’t get to ascribe to most of what they spend their time doing.

Reducing anxiety is all well and good, but some art and history lovers can’t accept just any old mass-market coloring book. Luckily, a consortium of over a hundred museums and libraries has given these special customers a reason to stick with it. Since 2016, the annual #ColorOurCollections campaign, led by the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), has made available, for free, adult coloring books. The range of images offers something for everyone, from early modern illustrations like the cat at the top, from Edward Topsell’s Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (1607)—courtesy of Trinity Hall Cambridge; to the poignant cover of The Suffragist, below, from July 1919, a month after U.S. women won the right to the vote (from the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

There are, unsurprisingly, copious illustrations of medical procedures and anatomy, like that below from the Library at the University of Barcelona. There are vintage advertisements, “canoe-heavy content” from a Canadian museum, as Katherine Wu reports at Smithsonian, and war posters like that further down of Admiral Chester Nimitz asking for “the stuff” to hit “the spot,” i.e. Tokyo –from the Pritzker Military Museum. “The only commonality shared by the thousands of prints and drawings available on the NYAM website is their black-and-white appearance: The pages otherwise span just about every taste and illustrative predilection a coloring connoisseur could conjure.”

One Twitter fan pointed out that the initiative provides “a great way to get to know some of the collections held in libraries around the world.” Their enthusiasm is catching. But note that few of the institutions (see full collection here) have uploaded a large quantity of colorable images. Most of the “coloring books” consist of only a handful of pages, some only one or two. Taken altogether, however, the combined strength of one hundred institutions, over four years (see previous years at the links below), adds up to many hundreds of pages of coloring fun and relaxation. If that’s your thing, start here. If you don’t know if it’s your thing, #ColorOurCollections is a free (minus the cost of printer ink and paper), educational way to find out. Grab those crayons, oil pastels, colored pencils, etc. and calm down again the way you did when you were six years old.

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

Daphne Oram Created the BBC’s First-Ever Piece of Electronic Music (1957)

To the question of who created electronic music, there can be no one answer. The form's emergence took decades, beginning with the earliest electronic instruments in the late 19th century, developing toward the first music produced solely from electronic sources in the early 1950s, and arriving at such artistic destinations as Wendy Carlos' 1968 album Switched-On Bach. Driving this evolutionary process were artists of a variety of nationalities and musical sensibilities, a group including several especially unignorable figures. Take, for instance, Daphne Oram, the composer and co-founder of BBC's storied Radiophonic Workshop who created the very first piece of electronic music ever commissioned by the network.

Oram composed that music in 1957, the year before the establishment of the Radiophonic Workshop. She did it to score a BBC production of Jean Giraudoux's play Amphitryon 38, using an electronic sine wave oscillator, a tape recorder, and a few filters — a synthesizer, in other words, of her own creation.




Experience had positioned her well to design and compose with such a device and the processes it demanded: she grew up studying the piano, organ, and composition, and as a teenager she'd taken a job as a studio engineer at the BBC, an environment that gave her access to all the latest technologies for creating and recording sound. Despite having rejected Still Point, an acoustic-electronic piece she composed for turntables, five microphones, and a "double orchestra," the BBC aired Amphitryon 38 with her score full of "sounds unlike any ever heard before."

That's how Oram's music is described in the 1950s television clip above, a visit to the "country studio in Kent" where, "unlike the traditional composer, she uses no musical instruments and no musicians." And indeed, "she needs no concert hall or opera house to put on a performance: she can do it on a tape recorder." As outlandish as Oram's setup might have looked to BBC viewers at home back then, the narrator informs them that "already, electronic music is being used in films, television, and the theater," and that some people even think her collages of unnatural sounds will be "the music of the future." Vindicating that notion is the odd familiarity every electronic musician today will feel when they watch Oram at work among the devices of her studio, surrounded as they themselves happily are by those devices' technological descendants.

via reaktorplayer

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

Iconic Film from 1896 Restored with Artificial Intelligence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Version of the Lumière Brothers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station

Machine learning keeps, well, learning in leaps and bounds, and at Open Culture we have watched developments with a fascinated, sometime wary eye. This latest advance checks off a lot of Open Culture boxes: traveling back in time through the power of film; homegrown ingenuity; and film history.

YouTuber Denis Shiryaev took the latest advances in AI tech and turned them onto one of the earliest works of film: The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, shot by the Lumière Brothers in 1896. There are plenty of urban legends around this 50 second short: that it was the first ever Lumière film (it wasn’t, they had a selection of previous shorts); and that audiences were terrified, thinking the train would hit them (they were amazed, no doubt, but they weren't that naive).




You might want to watch the original below before watching Shiryaev’s 4K upscaling and AI “smoothed” version to get a sense of the marvel at the top of the post.

What we are seeing is not a traditional “restoration,” however. Instead, Shiryaev is using a commercial image-editing software called Gigapixel AI. (If you have the processing power, you can try it out). The original film was not shot at 60-frames-per-second. Instead, neural networks are looking at the original frames and “filling in” the data in between, creating what you can see is a more naturalistic effect. People on and off the train move like they do in real life. It looks like it was shot yesterday.

Now, this isn’t perfect. There are a lot of artifacts, squooshy, morphing moments where the neural network can’t figure things out. But hey, this is just one guy on his computer. It’s an experiment. The computer code will get better.

The Gigapixel AI was developed by Topaz Labs originally to help photographers upscale their pics by 600 percent without losing detail. It didn’t take long to apply this to video, but be warned, it can take hours of processing power to render a couple of seconds. Still it hasn’t stopped people from experimenting, even with similar neural network programs:

Here’s a clip from Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” video upscaled to 4K with Gigapixel AI:

User AkN upscaled A-Bomb footage from the 1950s:

Some clips from Home Alone:

You get the idea. As with any technology, there are also some horrific examples out there too where it just does not work. But I have a feeling that Shiryaev’s first dive into film history is not going to his, or the internet’s, last.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

An Artist Tricks Google Maps Into Creating a Virtual Traffic Jam, Using a Little Red Wagon & 99 Smartphones

Sometimes the miraculous time-saving conveniences we’ve come to depend on can have the opposite effect, as artist Simon Wickert recently demonstrated, ambling about the streets of Berlin at a Huck Finn-ish pace, towing a squeaky-wheeled red wagon loaded with 99 secondhand smartphones.

Each phone had a SIM card, and all were running the Google Maps app.

The result?




A near-instantaneous "virtual traffic jam” on Google Maps, even though bicyclists seem to vastly outnumber motorists along Wickert's route.

As a Google spokesperson told 9to5 Google’s Ben Schoon shortly after news of Wickert’s stunt began to spread:

Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to information from a variety of sources, including aggregated anonymized data from people who have location services turned on and contributions from the Google Maps community.

In other words, had you checked your phone before heading out to the Baumhaus an der Mauer (Treehouse on the Wall), the Urban Art Clash GalleryOMA’s Café, or some other spot close to Wickert’s little red wagon’s trail of terror—like Google’s Berlin office—you might have thought twice about your intended path, or even going at all, seeing bridges and streets change from a free and easy green to an ostensibly gridlocked red.

As long as Wickert kept moving, he was able to continue fooling the algorithm into thinking 99 humans were all using their phone's Maps app for navigational purposes in a small, congested area.

Obviously, a couple of buses could easily be responsible for carrying 99 smartphones in active use, but it’s unlikely those phones owners would be consulting the map app in the passenger seats, when they could be scrolling through Instagram or playing Candy Crush.

Wickert also discovered that his virtual traffic jam disappeared whenever a car passed his wagonload.

The spokesperson who engaged with Schoon put a good-natured face on Google’s response to Wickert’s hack, saying, “We’ve launched the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t quite cracked traveling by wagon. We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time.”

Meanwhile, the artist’s puckish stunt, which he describes as a “performance and installation,” seems anchored by sincere philosophical questions, as evidenced by the inclusion on his website of the below excerpt from "The Power of Virtual Maps," urban researcher Moritz Ahlert’s recent essay in the Hamburger Journal für Kulturanthropologie, :

The advent of Google’s Geo Tools began in 2005 with Maps and Earth, followed by Street View in 2007. They have since become enormously more technologically advanced. Google’s virtual maps have little in common with classical analog maps. The most significant difference is that Google’s maps are interactive  – scrollable, searchable and zoomable. Google’s map service has fundamentally changed our understanding of what a map is, how we interact with maps, their technological limitations, and how they look aesthetically.

In this fashion, Google Maps makes virtual changes to the real city. Applications such as Airbnb and Carsharing have an immense impact on cities: on their housing market and mobility culture, for instance. There is also a major impact on how we find a romantic partner, thanks to dating platforms such as Tinder, and on our self-quantifying behavior, thanks to the nike jogging app. Or map-based food delivery apps like deliveroo or foodora. All of these apps function via interfaces with Google Maps and create new forms of digital capitalism and commodification. Without these maps, car sharing systems, new taxi apps, bike rental systems and online transport agency services such as Uber would be unthinkable. An additional mapping market is provided by self-driving cars; again, Google has already established a position for itself.

With its Geo Tools, Google has created a platform that allows users and businesses to interact with maps in a novel way. This means that questions relating to power in the discourse of cartography have to be reformulated. But what is the relationship between the art of enabling and techniques of supervision, control and regulation in Google’s maps? Do these maps function as dispositive nets that determine the behavior, opinions and images of living beings, exercising power and controlling knowledge? Maps, which themselves are the product of a combination of states of knowledge and states of power, have an inscribed power dispositive. Google’s simulation-based map and world models determine the actuality and perception of physical spaces and the development of action models.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Graphic Novel Adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Coming Out This Year

Since its publication just over half a century ago, Slaughterhouse-Five has seen bans and burnings, gone through various adaptations, and all the while held its place in the American literary canon. Something about Kurt Vonnegut's story of the involuntarily time-traveling optometrist Billy Pilgrim, who like his creator survived the firebombing of Dresden in the Second World War, continues to resonate with readers even as that war (and so very many novels about it) pass out of living memory. Vonnegut himself loved George Roy Hill's 1972 film of the novel, but alas, having died in 2007, he didn't stick around long enough to see Slaughterhouse-Five — or, to use its full title, Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death — turned into a graphic novel.

"Indie graphic novel house BOOM! Studios announced plans to publish a graphic version of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic sci-fi/antiwar novel," reports Publishers Weekly's Calvin Reid, naming the adaptors as writer Ryan North, artist Albert Monteys, and colorist Ricard Zaplana. Nerdist's Matthew Hart writes that it's "unclear at this point what’s been included and what’s been dropped for BOOM!’s Slaughterhouse-Five graphic novel adaptation, it seems like the story is in good hands."




The images released so far "showcase a world painted with appropriately muted colors, and populated by some of the most iconic moments from the novel. The graphic novel’s interpretation of Billy Pilgrim will possibly ignite some disagreement amongst readers, however, as his face can be juxtaposed with Vonnegut’s."

For a novel considered a "classic" longer than readers who discover it today have been alive, Slaughterhouse-Five has its own unconventional way with reality. Not only does Vonnegut make its protagonist "unstuck in time," he also works into its cast real characters from his own life. Take Bernard O'Hare, shown here in panels from the graphic novel. As Vonnegut's officially designated "buddy" in the the 106th Infantry Division, O'Hare was taken prisoner along with him in Dresden and held captive in a meatpacking plant known as Schlachthof Fuenf. When Vonnegut completed the manuscript he let O'Hare and his wife Mary read it, and the latter urged the author to write about how "all the men who fought in the Second World War were just babies." Hence the novel's subtitle, which befits the plainspoken sensibility of Kurt Vonnegut, a man who believed in calling things what they were — and thus would surely have rejected the label "graphic novel" in favor of "comic book."

via Publishers Weekly

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, 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.

42 Hours of Ambient Sounds from Blade Runner, Alien, Star Trek and Doctor Who Will Help You Relax & Sleep

Back in 2009, the musician who goes by the name "Cheesy Nirvosa" began experimenting with ambient music, before eventually launching a YouTube channel where he "composes longform space and scifi ambience." Or what he otherwise calls "ambient geek sleep aids." Click on the video above, and you can get lulled to sleep listening to the ambient droning sound--get ready Blade Runner fans!-- heard in Rich Deckard's apartment. It runs a good continuous 12 hours.

You're more a Star Trek fan? Ok, try nodding off to the idling engine noise of a ship featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. Nirvosa cleaned up a sample from the show and then looped it for 24 hours. That makes for one long sleep.

Or how about 12 hours of ambient engine noise generated by the USCSS Nostromo in Alien?

Finally, and perhaps my favorite, Cheesy created a 12 hour clip of the ambient sounds made by the Tardis, the time machine made famous by the British sci-fi TV show, Doctor Who. But watch out. You might wake up living in a different time and place.

For lots more ambient sci-fi sounds (Star Wars, The Matrix, Battlestar Galactica, etc. ) check out this super long playlist here.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in March 2017.

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