A Surprising Animation Revisits the Miracle on the Hudson & the Cause of US Airways Flight 1549’s Crash

Nearly 15 years ago, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, bound for Seattle by way of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft plowed into a flock of migrating birds, and its engines failed.

In less than four minutes, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger guided the vessel down to the frigid Hudson River.

Office workers on Manhattan’s west side were riveted by the spectacle of passengers standing on the wings, awaiting rescue by two NY Waterway ferries and other local boats.

Everyone on board survived, and few of their injuries were serious.

The incident was quickly framed as “the Miracle on the Hudson” and Captain Sullenberger was hailed as a hero.

Captain Sullenberger credited his successful maneuver to his 42 years as a pilot:

I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.

Such modesty only emphasized his heroism in the eyes of the public.

Such narratives preoccupy animator Bernardo Britto, whose 2020 short Hudson Geese comes at this historic event from another angle:

Narratives become our way of explaining and understanding the world. They are a part of how we build our identities and the stories we tell about ourselves. And stories by definition are exclusionary. Because you can’t fit it all in a story. They’re reductive. They’re simplified, easily digestible versions of a chain of events that’s way too complex for us to wrap our heads around.

(His interest in looking beyond established narrative boundaries carries over to the land acknowledgment in his short’s final credits: ”Before Chesley, before airplanes, before the apartment in which this short was conceived, “New York City” was the home of the Lenape, Canarsie, and Wappinger people.”)

Revisiting the Miracle on the Hudson in the thrall of the Rashomon effect may mute your rageful impulses the next time a flock of Canada geese toilets its way across your favorite green space.

Even though Hudson Geese clocks in at a tight five, we get enough time with its nameless lead to become invested in his travels, his dedication to his life partner, Sharona, his migration history, and his connection to his animal essence:

As we take to the air, I feel a familiar emotion, a deep sense that this is where I really belong, more so than the lake in Shawinigan, much more so than the golf course on the Potomac, I belong here, in the air, flying safely over all the noise, high above the city, that unintelligible mess of spires and skyscrapers, that island that became for reasons unknown to a simple goose like me, the very center of all the world.

Captain Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles receive animated cameos in Hudson Geese, as do Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood, leaving our anti-hero to wonder who will immortalize Sharona and who will remember the day’s “fallen fowl.”

(With regard to the last question, possibly, Tom Haueter, the National Transportation Safety Board‘s former head of major accident investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration failed to implement many of his proposed safety measures following the crash.)

The human media’s hot take was that “thankfully no one was hurt.

The goose can only conceive of the Miracle on the Hudson as a “complete and utter massacre.”

Watch more of Bernardo Britto’s animations on his Vimeo channel.

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Behold the Bridges in India Made of Living Tree Roots

Living green walls and upcycled building materials are welcome environmentally-conscious design trends, but when it comes to sustainable architecture, the living root bridges made by indigenous Khasi and Jaintia people in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya have them beat by centuries.

These traditional plant-based suspension bridges make it much easier for villagers to travel to neighboring communities, markets and outlying farms by spanning the dense tropical rainforest’s many gorges and rivers.

Their construction requires patience, as builders train the aerial roots of well-situated, mature rubber fig trees into position using bamboo, old tree trunks, and wire for support, weaving more roots in as they become available.

This multi-generational construction project can take up to 30 years to complete. The carefully-tended bridges become sturdier with age, as the roots that form the deck and handrails thicken.

The village of Nongriat has one bridge that has been in place for 200-some years. An upper bridge, suspended directly overhead, is a hundred years younger.

As village head and lifelong resident Wiston Miwa told Great Big Story, above, when he was a child, people were leery of using the newer bridge, worried that it was not yet strong enough to be safe. Six decades later, villagers (and tourists) traverse it regularly.

Architect Sanjeev Shankar, in a study of 11 living root bridges, learned that new structures are loaded with stones, planks, and soil to test their weight bearing capacity. Some of the oldest can handle 50 pedestrians at once.

Humans are not the only creatures making the crossing. Bark deer and clouded leopards are also known travelers. Squirrels, birds, and insects settle in for permanent stays.

The Khasi people follow an oral tradition, and have little written documentation regarding their history and customs, including the construction of living root bridges.

Architect Ferdinand Ludwig, a champion of Baubotanik – or living plant construction – notes that there is no set design being followed. Both nature and the villagers tending to the growing structures can be considered the architects here:

When we construct a bridge or a building, we have a plan – we know what it’s going to look like. But this isn’t possible with living architecture. Khasi people know this; they are extremely clever in how they constantly analyze and interact with tree growth, and accordingly adapt to the conditions…How these roots are pulled, tied and woven together differ from builder to builder. None of the bridges looks similar.

The bridges, while remote, are becoming a bucket list destination for adventurers and ecotourists, Nongriat’s double bridge in particular.

The BBC’s Zinara Rathnayake reports that such outside interest has provided villagers with an additional source of income, as well as some predictable headaches – litter, inappropriate behavior, and overcrowding:

Some root bridges see crowds of hundreds at a time as tourists clamber for selfies, potentially overburdening the trees.

The Living Bridge Foundation, which works to preserve the living root bridges while promoting responsible ecotourism is seeking to have the area designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Discover Edo, the Historic Green/Sustainable City of Japan

When you picture modern day Tokyo, what comes to mind?

The electronic billboards of Shibuya and Shinjuku?

The teeming streets?

The maid cafes?

The robot hotel?

A 97 square foot micro apartment?

Bernard Guerrini‘s documentary Naturopolis – Tokyo, from megalopolis to garden-city describes Tokyo as “a giant city, a city which never stops growing:”

It has destroyed its natural spaces. It has created its own weather. It’s too big for its own good. They say Tokyo is like an amoeba that absorbs everything in its path.

It’s a far cry from the urban space Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, intended when planting the seeds for Edo, as Tokyo was originally called.

As the above excerpt from Naturopolis explains, the 16th-century city was innovative in its incorporation of green space.

The daimyō, or military lords, were required by the shogunate to keep residences in Edo. Each of these homes was furnished with a gardener and a landscaper to maintain the beauty of its al fresco areas.

Meanwhile, crops were cultivated in all communal outdoor open spaces, with irrigation canals supplying the necessary water for growing rice.

These plant-rich settings provided a hospitable environment for animals both wild and domestic. The carefully curated natural zones invited quiet contemplation of flora and fauna, giving rise to the seasonal celebrations and rites that are still observed throughout Japan.

Whether admiring blossoms and fireflies in spring and summer or autumn leaves and snowy winter scenes in the colder months, Edo’s citizens revered the natural world outside their doorsteps.

Bashō did the same in his haiku; Utagawa Hiroshige in his series of ukiyo-e prints, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.

Somewhat less poetically celebrated was the importance of night soil to this biodynamic, pre-industrial shogunate capital. As environmental writer Eisuke Ishikawa delicately notes in Japan in the Edo Period – An Ecologically-Conscious Society:

A long time ago, when excrement was a precious fertilizer, it naturally belonged to the person who produced it. Farmers used to buy excrement for cash or trade it for a comparable amount of vegetables. Fertilizer shortages were a chronic problem during the Edo period. As the standard of living in cities improved, surrounding villages needed an increasing amount of fertilizer…

(Anyone who’s shouldered the surprisingly heavy interactive–not THAT interactive–night soil buckets on display in Tokyo’s Edo Museum will have a feel for just how much of this necessary element each block of the capital city generated on a daily basis.)

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 brought many changes – a new government, a new name for Edo, and a race toward Western-style industrialization. Many parks and gardens were destroyed as Tokyo rapidly expanded beyond Edo’s original footprint.

But now, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is looking to its past in an effort to combat the effects of climate change with a push toward environmental sustainability.

The goal is net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, with 2030 serving as a benchmark.

In addition to holding the business, financial, and energy sectors to environmentally responsible standard, the zero emission plan seeks to address the average citizen’s quality of life, with a literal return to more green spaces:

Accelerating climate change measures is important to preserve biodiversity and continue to reap its bounty. In recent years, the idea of green infrastructure that utilizes the functions of the natural environment has attracted attention. It is one of the most important considerations for the future: achieving both biodiversity conservation and climate change measures.

A United Nation report* pointed out that COVID-19 is potentially a zoonotic disease derived from wildlife, such infectious diseases will increase in the future, and one of the reasons is the destruction of nature by humans.

Read Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Zero Transmission Strategy and Update here.

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Behold an Astonishing Near-Nightly Spectacle in the Lightning Capital of the World

Extreme weather conditions have become a topic of grave concern. Are floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and catastrophic storms the new normal?

Just for a moment, let’s travel to a place where extreme weather has always been the norm: Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela.

According to NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission‘s lightning image sensor, it is the lightning capital of the world.

Chalk it up to the unique geography and climate conditions near the confluence of the lake and the Catatumbo River. At night, the moist warm air above the water collides with cool breezes rolling down from the Andes, creating an average of 297 thunderstorms a year.

Watching photographer Jonas Piontek‘s short film documenting the phenomenon, above, it’s not surprising that chief among his tips for shooting lightning at night is a pointed warning to always keep a safe distance from the storm. While viewable from as far as 400 kilometers away, the area nearest the lightning activity can average 28 strikes per minute.

More than 400 years before Piontek shared his impressions with the world, Spanish poet Lope de Vega tapped Catatumbo lightning in his epic 1597 poem La Dragontea, crediting it, erroneously, with having  thwarted Sir Francis Drake‘s plans to conquer the city of Maracaibo under cover of night. His poetic license was persuasive enough that it’s still an accepted part of the myth.

The “eternal storm” did however give Venezuelan naval forces a genuine natural assist, by illuminating a squadron of Spanish ships on Lake Maracaibo, which they defeated on July 24, 1823, clearing the way to independence.

Once upon a time, large numbers of local fishermen took advantage of their prime position to fish by night, although with recent deforestation, political conflict, and economic decline decimating the villages where they live in traditional stilted houses, their livelihood is in decline.

Meanwhile the Eternal Storm has itself been affected by forces of extreme weather. In 2010, a drought occasioned by a particularly strong El Niño, caused lightning activity to cease for 6 weeks, its longest disappearance in 104 years.

Environmentalist Erik Quiroga, who is campaigning for the Catatumbo lightning to be designated as the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Weather Phenomenon warns, “This is a unique gift and we are at risk of losing it.”

See more of Jonas Piontek’s Catatumbo lightning photographs here.

– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Ian McKellen Read Epic Letters Written by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut is one of those writers whose wit, humanism and lack of sentimentality leave you hankering for more.

Fortunately, the prolific novelist was an equally prolific letter writer.

His published correspondence includes a description of the firebombing of Dresden penned upon his release from the Slaughterhouse Five POW camp, an admission to daughter Nanette that most parental missives “contain a parent’s own lost dreams disguised as good advice,” and some unvarnished exchanges with many of familiar literary names. (“I am cuter than you are,” he taunted Cape Cod neighbor Norman Mailer.)

No wonder these letters are catnip to performers with the pedigree to recognize good writing when they see it.

Having interpreted Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Ionesco, book lover Benedict Cumberbatch obviously relishes the straightforward ire of Vonnegut’s 1973 response to a North Dakota school board chairman who ordered a school janitor to burn all copies of Slaughterhouse-Five assigned by Bruce Severy, a recently hired, young English teacher.

In addition to Slaughterhouse-Five, the board also consigned two other volumes on the syllabus – James Dickey’s Deliverance and an anthology containing short stories by Faulkner, Hemingway and Steinbeck – to the fire.

Revisiting the event, the Bismarck Tribune reports that “the objection to (Slaughterhouse-Five) had to do with profanity, (Deliverance) with some homosexual material and the (anthology) because the first two rendered all of Severy’s choices suspect.”

A decade later, Vonnegut also revisited the school board’s “insulting” objections in the pages of  the New York Times:

Even by the standards of Queen Victoria, the only offensive line in the entire novel is this: ”Get out of the road, you dumb m(———–).” This is spoken by an American antitank gunner to an unarmed American chaplain’s assistant during the Battle of the Bulge in Europe in December 1944, the largest single defeat of American arms (the Confederacy excluded) in history. The chaplain’s assistant had attracted enemy fire.

Word is Vonnegut’s letter never received the courtesy of a reply.

One wonders if the recipient burned it, too.

If that 50 year old letter feels germane, check out Vonnegut’s 1988 letter to people living 100 years in the future, a little more than 50 years from where we are now.

In many ways, its commonsense advice surpasses the evergreen words of those it namechecks – Shakespeare’s Polonius, St. John the Divine, and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. The threat of environmental collapse it seeks to stave off has become even more dire in the ensuing years.

Vonnegut’s advice (listed below) clearly resonates with Cumberbatch, a vegan who leveraged his celebrity to bring attention to the climate crisis when he participated in the Extinction Rebellion Protests in London.

1. Reduce and stabilize your population.

2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.

3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.

4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.

5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.

6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean, and stupid.

7. And so on. Or else.

Vonnegut, who died in 2007 at the age of 84, never lost his touch with young readers. Who better to recite his 2006 letter to his fans in New York City’s Xavier High School’s student body than the ever youthful, ever curious actor and activist, Sir Ian McKellen?

Cumberbatch is a wonderful reader, but he’d require a bit more seasoning to pull these lines off without the aid of major prosthetics:

You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana. 

Now if only these gents would attempt a Hoosier accent…

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Its current issue celebrates Kurt Vonnegut’s centennial. Her most recent books are Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Why Dutch & Japanese Cities Are Insanely Well Designed (and American Cities Are Terribly Designed)

Pity the United States of America: despite its economic, cultural, and military dominance of so much of the world, it struggles to build cities that measure up with the capitals of Europe and Asia. The likes of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago offer abundant urban life to enjoy, but also equally abundant problems. Apart from the crime rates for which American cities have become fairly or unfairly notorious, there’s also the matter of urban design. Simply put, they don’t feel as if they were built very well, which any American will feel after returning from a trip to Amsterdam or Tokyo — or after watching the videos on those cities by Danish Youtuber OBF.

In Amsterdam, OBF says, “commuters will use their bikes to get to and enter transit stations, where they simply park their bikes in these enormous bike-parking garages. Then they’ll travel on either a bus, tram, or train to their final destination, but most of the time, the fastest and most convenient option is simply taking the bike to the final destination.”

Near-impossible to imagine in the United States, this prevalence of cycling is a reality in not just the Dutch capital but also in other cities across the country, which boasts 32,000 kilometers of bike lanes in total. And those count as only one of the infrastructural glories covered in OBF’s video “Why the Netherlands Is Insanely Well Designed.”

Tokyo, too, has its fair share of cyclists. Whenever I’m over there, I take note of all the well-dressed moms biking their young children to school in the morning, who cut figures in the starkest possible contrast to their American equivalents. But what really underlies the Japanese capital’s distinctively intense urbanism, literally as well as figuratively, is its network of subway trains. OBF takes the precision-engineered efficiency and the impeccable maintenance of this system as his main subject in “Why Tokyo Is Insanely Well Designed.” But enough about good city design; what accounts for bad city design, especially in a rich country like the U.S.?

OMF has an answer in one word: parking. Philadelphia, for example, supplies its 1.6 million people with 2.2 million parking spaces. The consequent deformation of the city’s built environment, clearly visible in aerial footage, both symbolizes and perpetuates the hegemony of the automobile. That same condition once afflicted the European and Asian cities that have since designed their way out of it and then some. While “some people might think it’s nearly impossible to implement these methods into other countries,” says OBF, they “can be replicated any place in the world if the people and leadership are willing to collaborate and listen to one another, and invest in infrastructure that is people-, environment-, and future-centered.” As an American living in a non-American city, I hereby invite him to come have a ride on the Seoul Metro.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, 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.

How Radical Gardeners Took Back New York City

New Yorkers’ relationship to New York City community gardens is largely informed by how long we’ve lived here.

Do you remember the 60s, when a fiscal crisis and white flight resulted in thousands of vacant lots and abandoned buildings in low income neighborhoods?

Activists like Hattie Carthan and Liz Christy sprung from such soil, creating youth programs, hauling away debris, and putting constant pressure on elected officials to transform those urban wastelands into green oases.

Verdant sites like the Bowery Houston Community Farm and Garden (now known as the Liz Christy Garden) improved air quality, lowered temperatures, and offered a pleasant gathering place for neighbors of all ages.

In the ‘80s, the city boasted 1000 community gardens, mostly in neighborhoods considered blighted. School aged children learned how to plant, tend, and harvest vegetables. Immigrant members introduced seeds new to American-born gardeners, to help combat both homesickness and food insecurity. On site arts programs flourished. There were al fresco birthday parties, concerts, movie screenings, holiday celebrations, permaculture classes, community meetings…. Gardens became focal points for community engagement. Participants were understandably proud, and invested in what they’d built.

As Yonnette Fleming, founder of the community-led market at the Hattie Carthan Community Garden and Farmer’s Market, says in the above episode of Vox’s Missing Chapter: “Community gardens grow communities, for the people, to be run by the people, for the benefit of the people.”

In the mid-90s, newly elected Mayor Rudy Giuliani sided with developers over citizens. More than half of the city’s gardens were bulldozed to make way for luxury residences.

Traditionally low-rise neighborhoods like the East Village and Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuyvesant would become increasingly fashionable during the early days of the new millennium. New arrivals with little interest in neighborhood history might assume that the sidewalks had always been lined with cute cafes and hipster bars, not to mention trees. (In reality, Carthan was 64 when she began her successful campaign to line Bed-Stuy with trees, and landmark a venerable Magnolia that was at risk of being torn down.)

Perhaps hoping to command younger viewers’ attention, Vox’s Missing Chapter opens not with the rich history of New York City’s community gardens, but rather the many recipes for seed bombs on TikTok. The glass half full perspective on our 500-strong surviving gardens can ring a bit empty to those who lost the fight to preserve a number of East Harlem gardens just a few short years ago.

Don’t forget your roots! Christy’s typewritten, hand illustrated Green Guerillas recipe for seed bombs is below. (If you want to try it at home, please use seeds native to your area.)

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

The Cicadas Return After 17 Years: Stunning Footage of the Brood X Cicadas

Sing, fly, mate, die.

The periodical cicadas in Brood X are emerging from underground, where they have spent the last 17 years as nymphs. They are making the final climb of their lives, intent on escaping their carapaces in order to make more cicadas. And as always they are doing it en masse.

Once free, they must quickly get the hang of their brand new wings, and make for the trees, where the males will sing (some say scream) in a bid for females with whom to mate.

The pregnant females drill cavities into narrow branches to receive their eggs.

By the time the larva emerge, some six weeks later, their mothers and fathers are long dead.

Instinct propels these babies to drop to the ground and burrow in, thus beginning another 17 year cycle, a process Samuel Orr, a time lapse photographer and filmmaker specializing in nature documentary, documents in macro close up in Return of the Cicadas, above.

His adventures with Brood X date to their last emergence in 2004, when he was a student at Indiana University, working in a lab with a professor whose area of expertise was cicadas.

While waiting around for Brood X’s next appearance, he traveled around the country and as far as Australia, gathering over 200 hours of footage of other periodical cicadas for an hour long, Kickstarter-funded film that aired on PBS in 2012.

Brood X has a way of ensuring that we humans will also observe a 17 year cycle, at least those of us who live in the states the Great Eastern Brood calls home.

Some celebrate with commemorative merch. This year, that means face masks as well as an ever burgeoning assortment of t-shirts, mugs, and other paraphernalia.

Also new this year, Cicada Safari, entomologist Dr. Gene Kritsky’s smartphone app for citizen scientists eager to help map the 2021 emergence with photos and location.

There are some among us who complain about the males’ lusty chorus, which can rival garbage disposals, lawn mowers, and jackhammers in terms of decibels.

Those concerned with the planet’s health can use the data from this and past emergences to discuss the impact of climate change and deforestation. Brood X is listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.

Some of us are moved to write poetry and songs, though we don’t always get the species right — witness Ogden Nash’s Locust-Lovers, Attention! (1936) and Bob Dylan’s Day of the Locusts (1970).

Inevitably, there will be articles about eating them. It’s true that they’re a hyperlocal source of sustainable protein, albeit one that’s rarely on the menu. (The Onondaga Nation celebrates — and ceremonially samples — Brood VII every 17 years, crediting the insects with saving their ancestors from starvation after the Continental Army destroyed their villages and food sources in 1779.)

Human nature is such that we can’t help but reflect on the twists and turns our lives have taken over the last 17 years.

A woman in Maryland planned a cicada themed wedding to coincide with Brood X’s 1987 emergence, having been born two emergences before, and graduated from Bryn Mawr during the 1970 emergence, as 50 miles away, Bob Dylan was having his fateful encounter on the campus of Princeton.

Most of us will find that our milestones have been a bit more accidental in nature.

Brood X’s emergence also serves as a lens through which to view 17 years in the life of our country. The Onion took this to the edge several years ago with an article from the point of view of Brood II, but it’ll be hard to top the 17-year chunk of recent history Brood X and the humans who have been living atop them since 2004 will have to digest.

Speaking of history, Brood X Mania has been around much longer than any of us have been alive, and probably predates a Philadelphia pastor’s description of the 1715 emergence in his journal (though we’ll give him FIRST!!! since no earlier accounts have surfaced).

Prior to the Internet, entomologist Charles L. Marlatt’s The Periodical Cicada: An Account of Cicada Septendecim, Its Natural Enemies and the Means of Preventing Its Injury (1907) was the go to source for all things cicada related, and it remains a fascinating read.

In addition to lots of nitty gritty on the insects’ anatomy, habits, diet, and habitat, he quotes liberally from other cicada experts, from both his own era and before. The anecdotal evidence suggests our obsession is far from new.

These days, anyone armed with a smartphone can make a recording of Brood X’s cacophony, but back then, experts in the field were tasked with trying to capture it in print.

Professor Charles Valentine Riley compared the sound early in the season, when the first males were emerging to the “whistling of a train passing through a short tunnel” and also, “the croaking of certain frogs.” (For those needing help with pronunciation, he rendered it phonetically as “Pha-r-r-r-aoh.”)

Professor Asa Fitch’s described high season in New York state, when a maximum of males sing simultaneously:

tsh-e-e-E-E-E-E-e-ou, uttered continuously and prolonged to a quarter or half minute in length, the middle note deafeningly shrill, loud and piercing to the ear

Marlatt himself worried, prematurely but not without reason, that the march of civilization would bring about extinction by over-clearing the densely wooded areas that are essential to the cicadas’ reproductive rituals while offering a bit of protection from predators.

Dr. Samuel P. Hildreth of Marietta, Ohio noted in 1830 that “hogs eat them in preference to any other food” and that birds were such fans “that very few birds were seen around our gardens during their continuance and our cherries, etc, remained unmolested.”

Dr. Leland Ossian Howard was erroneously credited with conducting “the first experiments of cicada as an article of human food” in early summer 1885. Marlatt reproduces the account of an eyewitness who seemed to fancy themselves a bit of a restaurant critic:

With the aid of the Doctor’s cook, he had prepared a plain stew, a milk stew, and a broil. The Cicadae were collected just as they emerged from pupae and were thrown into cold water, in which they remained overnight. They were cooked the next morning, and served at breakfast time. They imparted a distinct and not unpleasant flavor to the stew, but they were not at all palatable themselves, as they were reduced to nothing but bits of flabby skin. The broil lacked substance. The most palatable method of cooking is to fry in batter, when they remind one of shrimps. They will never prove a delicacy.

We leave you with the thoughts of Dr Gideon B. Smith of Baltimore, whose attempt to capture a mercurial month turns bittersweet, and all too relatable:

The music or song produced by the myriads of these insects in a warm day from about the 25th of May to the middle of June is wonderful. It is not deafening, as many describe it; even at its height it does not interrupt conversation. It seems like an atmosphere of wild, monotonous sound, in which all other sounds float with perfect distinctness. After a day or two this music becomes tiresome and doleful, and to many very disagreeable. To me, it was otherwise, and when I heard the last note on the 25th of June the melancholy reflection occurred. Shall I live to hear it yet again?

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Welcome back, Brood X Overlords! Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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