Explore the Entire World–from the Comfort of Quarantine–with 4K Walking Tours

Many of us right now are sheltering in place, or in quarantine, dreaming of that day when we can once again travel the world. And that day will come, friends, that day will come.

But until then, there are already several YouTube channels set up to provide you with a chance to go on walking tours around the world, with only the sounds of the environment in your headphones.

I was alerted to this by good friend Phil Gyford, who found this via Sarah Pavis (via FaveJet), and provided several links to this large selection of virtual traveler. Your mileage my vary, as they say, but here’s some trips I found particularly relaxing in these anxious times.




Above, I started here with this walk through Pimmit View Park in Falls Church, Virginia. Despite an umbrella dipping into view, I found this a relaxing walking in the rain through a verdant wonderland, with occasional pauses to admire the flowing streams. Lovely.

From here I was feeling a bit peckish, so I bopped over to the Phatra Market in Bangkok to have a look at the various foods on offer. LazyTourist, the person who filmed this, never strays too long at any stall, but knows enough to linger.

A YouTuber called 4K Urban Life produces the occasional walking tour of European cities, and here they show us Tuscany, starting in a very non-descript sidestreet until venturing out into the heart of old Italy. This one is nearly four hours long, so bring a bottle of wine but skip the sunscreen. Enjoy the lack of social distancing, and pray for Italy.

Night has fallen and it’s time to venture out into the West End of London in this evocative video from Watched Walker. It’s rainy and wet, but no matter, the streets of London look lovely and this hour-plus takes us through “Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Soho.”

Now let’s drop in on one of New York City’s most popular tourist destinations, Times Square. Wind Walk Travel Videos has a lot of these short (30 mins or less) visits to American locations, and this is one of their most popular. Try not to think about how empty these spaces are now, and enjoy the ambience, sketchy Elmo and all.

Here’s Rambalac walking Shinjuku at night, checking out the side streets and testing out his binaural mic. This is a treat with headphones on, so make this full screen and order in some ramen.

A final thought: recently I’ve been focusing on 4K “remastering” (by way of AI) of turn of the (20th) century films, a look back to a different age. In these above videos, we can see the tradition continues, a fascination in watching life go on as we sit and look into our devices. Think on both those long since deceased folk in the 1900s and a record of our once-normal lives (only a month ago, as of this writing), and keep them both in your hearts.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Traditional Inuit Thoat Singing and the Modern World Collide in This Astonishing Video

Let’s just get this out of the way…

Musically speaking, Inuit throat singing—or katajjaqis not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

For all those who find this traditional form mesmerizing, there are others who get antsy with no lyrics or easily discernible melody on which to hang their hat, or who experience the bleak sound of the Arctic wind coupled with the singers’ preliminary breathing as a horror movie soundtrack.

If, as a member of one of the latter camps, you feel inclined to bail after a minute or so of Wapikoni Mobile’s Sundance-endorsed video above—you get it, it’s something akin to Mongolian or Tuvan throat-singing, it’s circular breathing, there’s a lot of picturesque snow up therewe beg you to reconsider, on two counts.




1) In an era of autotuned “everyone’s-a-star” perfection, Katajjaq is a hearty hold-out, a community-spirited singing game whose competitors seek neither stardom nor riches, but rather, to challenge themselves and amuse each other without screens throughout the long winter nights.

Practitioner Evie Mark breaks it down thusly:

One very typical example is when the husbands would go on hunting trips.  The women would gather together when they have nothing to do, no more sewing to do, no more cleaning to do, they would just have fun, and one of the ways of entertaining themselves is throat-singing.

It goes like this. Two women face each other very closely, and they would throat sing like this:

If I would be with my partner right now, I would say A, she would say A, I would say A, she would say A, I say C, she says C.  So she repeats after me.  It would be a sort of rolling of sounds.  And, once that happens, you create a rhythm.  And the only way the rhythm would be broken is when one of the two women starts laughing or if one of them stops because she is tired.  It’s a kind of game.  We always say the first person to laugh or the first person to stop is the one to lose.  It’s nothing serious.  Throat singing is way of having fun.  That’s the general idea, it’s to have fun during gatherings.  It is also a way to prove to your friends around you or your family that if you are a good throat-singer, you’re gonna win the game.

Throat-singing is a very accurate technique in a sense that when you are singing fast, the person who is following the leader has to go in every little gap the leader leaves for her to fill in.  For instance, if I was to say 1 + 1 + 1 + 1, the ones being what I sing and the pluses the gaps, she would go in-between the ones, singing on the pluses.  Then, if I change my rhythm, this woman has to follow that change of rhythm and fill in the gaps of that new rhythm.  She has to be very accurate.  She has to have a very good ear and she has to follow visually what I am doing.

Throat singing is not exactly easy on your diaphragm.  You are using a lot of your muscles in your diaphragm for breathing in and breathing out.  I have to find a space between sounds to breath in in order for me to throat-sing for 20 minutes or more.  20 minutes has been my maximum length of time to throat-sing.  You have to focus on your lungs or your diaphragm.  If you throat-sing using mainly breathing, you are gonna hyperventilate, you’re gonna get dizzy and damage your throat.

2) The video, starring Eva Kaukai and Manon Chamberland from Kangirsuk in northern Québec (population: 394), deflates conventional notions of traditional practices as the provenance of somewhere quaint, exotic, taxidermied…

Beginning around the 90-second mark, the singers are joined by a drone that surveys the surrounding area. Viewers get a glimpse of what their Arctic homeland looks like in the warm season, as well as some hunters flaying their kill prior to loading it into a late model pick up, presumably bound for a building in a wholly suburban seeming neighborhood, complete with telephone poles, satellite dishes, andgaspelectric light.

Via Aeon

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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 for the new season of her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday

 

Why Knights Fought Snails in Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts

The snail may leave a trail of slime behind him, but a little slime will do a man no harm… whilst if you dance with dragons, you must expect to burn.

– George R. R. Martin, The Mystery Knight

As any Game of Thrones fan knows, being a knight has its downsides. It isn’t all power, glory, advantageous marriages and gifts ranging from castles to bags of gold.

Sometimes you have to fight a truly formidable opponent.

We’re not talking about bunnies here, though there’s plenty of documentation to suggest medieval rabbits were tough customers.

As Vox Almanac’s Phil Edwards explains, above, the many snails littering the margins of 13th-century manuscripts were also fearsome foes.




Boars, lions, and bears we can understand, but … snails? Why?

Theories abound.

Detail from Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor

Edwards favors the one in medievalist Lilian M. C. Randall’s 1962 essay “The Snail in Gothic Marginal Warfare.”

Randall, who found some 70 instances of man-on-snail combat in 29 manuscripts dating from the late 1200s to early 1300s, believed that the tiny mollusks were stand ins for the Germanic Lombards who invaded Italy in the 8th century.

After Charlemagne trounced the Lombards in 772, declaring himself King of Lombardy, the vanquished turned to usury and pawnbroking, earning the enmity of the rest of the populace, even those who required their services.

Their profession conferred power of a sort, the kind that tends to get one labelled cowardly, greedy, malicious … and easy to put down.

Which rather begs the question why the knights going toe-to- …uh, facing off against them in the margins of these illuminated manuscripts look so damn intimidated.

(Conversely why was Rex Harrison’s Dr. Dolittle so unafraid of the Giant Pink Sea Snail?)

Detail from from MS. Royal 10 IV E (aka the Smithfield Decretals)

Let us remember that the doodles in medieval marginalia are editorial cartoons wrapped in enigmas, much as today’s memes would seem, 800 years from now. Whatever point—or joke—the scribe was making, it’s been obscured by the mists of time.

And these things have a way of evolving. The snail vs. knight motif disappeared in the 14th-century, only to resurface toward the end of the 15th, when any existing significance would very likely have been tailored to fit the times.

Detail from The Macclesfield Psalter

Other theories that scholars, art historians, bloggers, and armchair medievalists have floated with regard to the symbolism of these rough and ready snails haunting the margins:

The Resurrection

The high clergy, shrinking from problems of the church

The slowness of time

The insulation of the ruling class

The aristocracy’s oppression of the poor

A critique of social climbers

Female sexuality (isn’t everything?)

Virtuous humility, as opposed to knightly pride

The snail’s reign of terror in the garden (not so symbolic, perhaps…)

A practical-minded Reddit commenter offers the following commentary:

I like to imagine a monk drawing out his fantastical daydreams, the snail being his nemesis, leaving unsightly trails across the page and him building up in his head this great victory wherein he vanquishes them forever, never again to be plagued by the beastly buggers while creating his masterpieces.

Readers, any other ideas?

Detail from The Gorleston Psalter

Related Content:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City May 13 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Change Your Life! Learn the Japanese Art of Decluttering, Organizing & Tidying Things Up

Custom dictates that you should observe July 4th—America’s Independence Day—outdoors, eating hot dogs, drinking beer, waving tiny flags on Main Street, and viewing fireworks.

Why not liberate yourself from the tyranny of the traditional by spending a portion of the day indoors, communicating affection to your clothing, as organizational expert, Marie Kondo, author of the best selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, does in the instructional video, above?




Most of us who dwell in small New York City apartments are already familiar with her teachings. Hers is a take-no-prisoners approach to clutter control. Any item that doesn’t “spark joy”—be it a pair of stretched-out sweatpants, a long ago graduation present, a ream of children’s artwork, or a nearly full bottle of slightly funky-smelling conditioner—must be discarded immediately.

(Note to self: ask Mom whatever became of my Spirit of ’76 watercolor. She had it framed because it won a prize. Best Bicentennial Observance by a 4th Grader or some such. Things like that don’t just vanish into thin air, unless…)

The total makeover Kondo proposes is an arduous, oft-emotional, week-long task. Don’t blow your entire July 4th holiday trying to complete the job.

Instead, take an hour or two to refold your clothes. New Yorkers’ drawers are where Kondo’s influence is felt most deeply. Whether or not we subscribe to her practice of treating each garment like a treasured friend, our underwear definitely has more room to breathe, when not on active duty.

See below for a graphic demonstration of how to best fold shirts, pants, and several species of undies, using Kondo’s Kon-Marie method.

And don’t be tempted to decamp to the backyard barbecue when you run across challenges like overalls or baby onesies. Watch below as Kondo tackles a shirt with kimono sleeves, a pair of Edo-style mata hike pants, and a sweater with a marked resemblance to a Thneed.

If you’re beginning to feel like fireworks may be overrated, Kondo delivers a 45-minute overview of her philosophy as part of the Talks at Google program below. Or lose yourself to an entire playlist of Kondo folding videos here.

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Ayun Halliday, author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine, will be reading from her travel memoir, No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late at Indy Reads Books in downtown Indianapolis, Thursday, July 7. Follow her @AyunHalliday

An Animated Louis CK on How the Colonists Came to America and Screwed It All Up (NSFW)

I suspect parents of school-aged children will find much to relate to in the Lord’s frustration with mankind, above, whether or not they’re prone to venting in comedian Louis CK’s patented NSFW language.

Who among us has not turned our back for a few moments, only to discover upon our return the house in shambles, the nutritious snack we set out passed over in favor of junk.

(“Just eat the shit on the floor! I left shit all over the floor! Fuckin’ corn and wheat and shit, grind it up and make some bread—what are you doing!?”)

It’s no wonder animators are drawn to CK. His distinctive voice and impeccable timing have earned him a starring role as a talking dog in a CGI feature to be released in 2016. Prior to striking it big with the series Louie, he was a frequent visitor on “Dr” Jonathan Katz’s couch. His over-the-top standup spiels provide the unauthorized flash animator with an embarrassment of riches.

Canadian film student John Roney, whose YouTube channel boasts spoofs of Game of Thrones and the Magic Schoolbus, keeps his visuals understated, mining CK’s 2011 performance at New York City’s Beacon Theater for the 2-dimensional realm.

It could have been so much grosser.

Turn down the sound and Roney’s adaptation could be high quality children’s programming, the kind most of us godlike parents eventually accept as a necessary evil. Well, maybe not the part where those Aztec kids bowl Louis’ head down the pyramids (right above)…though they, like Roney’s other mildly observed human and animal characters, add to the funny. Here’s the original clip from the Beacon Theater show:

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

How Languages Evolve: Explained in a Winning TED-Ed Animation

Language. It’s as adaptable as Darwin’s finches.

It’d be interesting to know how the Internet changes the game. Seems like it would go a long way toward democratizing the process by which lingo gets mingled.

Alex Gendler’s TED-Ed lesson, winningly animated by Igor Coric, rolls back the clock to a time when communal groups would subdivide and strike out on their own, usually in order to beef up the food supply.




This sort of geographic and temporal separation was bound to take a toll, linguistically. Evolution is need-based. Vocabulary and pronunciation eventually betray the specifics of the speaker’s surroundings, their circumstances and needs.

It takes some forensics to figure out how, or, even if, various languages relate to each other. A cunning linguist (forgive me) will also have the power to fill in historical gaps, by identifying words that have been borrowed from neighboring cultures, as well as more transient acquaintances.

As a little experiment, look at the way you talk! Those of us without royal blood or a stick up our heinies tend to speak a mongrel patois custom tailored by our own experience. A little bit of regionalism, some professional jargon, a few colorful words gleaned from life’s characters, lines from long ago entertainments deployed as if the references were fresh.

I’ll bet a linguist would have a field day with you, Bub.

Even if you’re the most straightforward conversationalist on the planet, the people who can’t understand a word you say would greatly outnumber those who can.

Maybe we  should all “speak Mandarin,” as per the billboards I saw in Singapore on a post-collegiate trip. (As a Western backpacker in Birkenstocks and a wrap-around hippie skirt, I was exempt, leaving me plenty of time to worry about being caned for spitting gum on the sidewalk, a thing I’d never do, by the way.)

Back to the animated lesson, above. While I agree that political and national interests can be hugely influential with regard to language development, I’m not sure a pig is the wisest choice when depicting this linguistic phenomenon as an animal’s worth of re-zoned primal cuts, labelled a la the former Yugoslavia.

Pork is haraam, and treif, and  ‘pig,’ in and of itself, is hardly a flattering epithet, a situation that’s sort of insulting to a naturally intelligent and fastidious beast.

I digress.

As does language, which explains why there could be as many as 8000 of them in use. A more conservative estimate puts the number at 3000. Not to alarm you, but if the number of people who speak your language is what the foodie hipsters of Brooklyn would refer to as “small batch,” there are linguists who would downgrade your tongue to mere dialect.

In which case, this list of obscene gestures from around the world might well come in handy.

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Ayun Halliday’s highly idiosyncratic approach to language can be studied in seven books, a number of anthologies, and her long suffering zine, the East Village Inky. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Want to Know What Makes the Troops Laugh? Comedian Louis CK in Afghanistan (Quite NSFW)

The other day, a teenaged friend asked me if the war in Afghanistan is still going on. The answer is yes. Presumably, it won’t be when he reaches draft age.

In the meantime, here’s some extremely NSFW footage of Louis CK entertaining the troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan a few years back. Looking for a quick overview of what makes the troops laugh? Cinnabon, schlubby middle aged dudes comparing themselves unfavorably to the audience’s rock hard leanness, and the F word. The one whose non-slang definition is “a bundle of sticks.”

Given the make up of the crowd, it made me uneasy. This was most assuredly not a preaching-to-the-choir situation, though the young audience member who filmed the routine without the benefit of a tripod notes: ” I didn’t even know who he was before this set. He’s one of my top 3 favorites now. I just wanted other people to see him like I did. I wish I could have a conversation with him!”

Hopefully, by now, hero worship will have steered him to the second episode of CK’ s semiautobiographical show, in which extremely forthcoming gay comedian, Rick Crom, schools a tableful of straight poker buddies on various sexual practices. His matter-of-fact demeanor leads CK to ask how a queer crowd might react to his “faggot” routine. The fact that CK also produced and scripted this show is enough to convince me that his aim is true.

It’s worth noting that the presumably straight (watch his other videos) Youtuber who filmed and hosts this video liked ‘‘Louis CK – Laughing at Gay People” but also the Freddie Mercury Google Doodle.

Given CK’s mad respect for anyone serving in the military, perhaps this young man can convince him that it’s time to retire “retard” as a pejorative … even if he’s talking about his own kids.

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Ayun Halliday is also sick of epilepsy as punchline or shortcut. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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