22 July 2017

Puzzlewood – Tolkien’s Inspiration for Middle-earth

Puzzlewood – even the name conjures up images of ancient ents, elves, wizards and hobbits.  

You could easily be forgiven for thinking that you were lost somewhere in Middle-earth.  

Indeed John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was fascinated by the place and it is said to be a major stimulus for the imagination of the man who brought us Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf.
You do not, however, have to be transported to another world to enjoy such Tolkien-esque landscapes for yourself.  Puzzlewood stretches over fourteen acres of the Forest of Dean in the English county of Gloucestershire (pronounced Gloss-ta-shire). Yes, it is even in a shire!

Mobile: Multi Award-Winning Animated Short you will Love

I think the moral of this particular animated short could be love will find a way or, at the risk of getting all Shakespearean on you, Love's Labour's Won.

Originally, I thought that I had stumbled upon a new Pixar short when I first started watching it, such is its quality, but soon realised that it was created by a group of students at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg.  It was written and directed by the very gifted Verena Fels, aided and abetted by a host of young talent (please go to the Facebook page for full credits).

The strapline for the short is at the edge of society, a cow tips the balance of destiny with quite some impact... and as you watch you will see just how true this is.  This is one of those rare animated films that three year olds will enjoy but grown-ups will adore.  Technically highly accomplished and with very clever action (it must have taken a math degree to figure out the weights and balances!), this animated short has a beating heart full of joie de vivre. Needless to say Mobile has won a raft of awards at film festivals across the world.

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17 July 2017

Even Back in Tom Baker’s Day, We Knew Time Lords Changed Gender

I’m going pop a toe – tentatively – in to the hottest debate that is going on at the moment. I want to be flippant about its importance but I am going to resist. Yet the new Doctor is a woman and the internet is smoking (whatever gender the internet may be!).

I’m old(ish).  I can just about remember Troughton first time round. The Doctor was always a man. However, rumours always did abound that new Doctors (post Tom Baker at least) might be a woman. In the new era of Doctor Who we have seen two time lords regenerate in to a different gender (if you are a fan, you know this – if you are a casual viewer, take my word for it).

So much for ‘New Who’.  Yet even in the classic era, there were indications that time lords could change gender when they regenerate.  My point in case is the scene above, where Tom Baker’s Doctor (I was a fan before the numbering system began so forgive me if I forget the shorthand) couldn’t quite see how he could possibly refer to his new companion by her full name, especially in emergencies.

Back in the day fans used to tape record the shows and listen to them time and time and wibbly wobbly time again.  I followed suit and that’s why a line from 1978’s The Ribos Operation came to mind when I heard the news that Jodie Whittaker was taking over the helm of the Tardis.  (I know: my family did not have a VCR in 1978 – how poor-quality and incompatible of format could we have been?).

The Doctor advised that instead of Romanadvoratrelundar he could call this new person in the Tardis ( the one deemed most suitable to help in in the quest for the six pieces of the Key to Time) Romana for short. It was either that or the distinctively masculine four-letter name Fred.  Romana immediately opted for Fred. Now, Romana had obviously done her homework on the Doctor before meeting him and would probably have picked up, from the ‘files’, the nuances of late twentieth-century gender-based naming systems in the English language.

She was that clever, right? As any Gallifreyan knows, gender-based regeneration is an irrelevance where the universe is concerned.

In my opinion, Romana would have picked up the fact that on the Doctor's favourite planet Fred was a name reserved mostly for men.  Furthermore, as a diminutive this alternative name was not exactly the most flattering insinuation of the Doctor's opinion of her current status aboard the Tardis. Yes, we do have the female form of Fred but the way that the Doctor spat out this alternative does seem to me to indicate he meant the male form of the word.  It's there we might not always be able to separate cannon from the time in which it was written...  Yet what could be going through the heads of both time lords at this time can only be guessed at.

In other words, I thoroughly and utterly believe that this was the first time that the fact that time lords can change gender was implicitly mentioned in the show.

My tongue is, of course, firmly placed in my cheek.  However…

Just a thought – what if the gender of the Time Lords is cyclical?  The glimpses we have had throughout the years, with male time lords massively outweighing the female in terms of number may not be a gender imbalance but simply the beginning of a shift from a patriarchy to a matriarchy – part of the natural cycle of things on Gallifrey?

As a final by the by, having loved the show for all of my 52 years on the planet I will undoubtedly do so for the rest of my time on Sol 3.  Although I loved Colin Baker's tweet, re-wording his own first words as the Doctor, I will leave you with words from my all-time favourite Doctor Who character (that's probably counting the Doctors too, if truth be told).  Go, Sarah Jane.

"The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it's a world, or a relationship... Everything has its time. And everything ends."

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Stromness: Abandoned Whaling Station of South Georgia

The island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic is remote, to say the least – they are 1,390 kilometers (864 mi) east-southeast of the Falkland Islands, considered the ends of the earth by many themselves.  There is no air strip and visitor must arrive on the island by boat.  On the northern coast of the island is the former whaling station of Stromness, named for a village in the Scottish Orkney isles.  The last time the place was used commercially was in the early 1960s.  Now it is left to decay, its only company the seals and penguins native to the islands.

The first whaling station on the island was built in the harbour in 1907 as a kind of floating factory.  Business must have been good as the permanent land station followed in 1912.  The place operated as a whaling station until 1931 when it was converted in to a ship repair yard.  Just thirty years later the entire place was abandoned.

The Frog that Turns Blue

The Moor Frog of Central Europe has a trick up its sleeve when it comes to getting a mate. The male turns blue for a week each year but it's perhaps not for the reason you think!  Pop over to the Ark in Space to discover the real reason (and it’s not to attract a mate!).

Image Credit Wikimedia
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Roller Coaster India

Visitors to India often describe their stay as something of a roller coaster ride so I guess it was only a matter of time before someone created a piece that gave the rest of the world the same impression. Yuribert Capetillo Hardy recently visited Kolkata and created this as a visualisation of his emotions as he experienced the real city and not the tourist traps.  This is a compelling snapshot of everyday life in one of the most vibrant cities on the planet.
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I Think I Love You

Love has no words – so they say – but if not is surely has music.  This animated short was created by Xiya Lan (with music by Karen Tanaka) and was her final film while studying at Calarts.  It shows all different types of love in various ways, how it can falter or thrive, shrivel or persist.  There is also a really cool ‘reveal’ at the end (you’ll have to watch it all to find out what that is!).
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Paris Movement | Nº12417

Paris at dawn can be a place of serene beauty.  In fact it can make people break in to dance simply by being… Paris.  Or perhaps it’s a chicken and the egg thing.  Who can say but this video created by international creative firm Magna Carta and featuring Jojo Prida dancing in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower is an exhilarating few minutes of awesome dance (made to look casual and easy) with some equally breath-taking camera angles.  What would Lautrec have made of this, I wonder!
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16 July 2017

The Monument to the Battle of Nations: The Biggest Monument in Europe

The shadow of a new war was already casting a long shadow in 1913. Yet it was the year when the people of the city of Leipzig in the German state of Saxony saw the completion of their monument to a battle which had taken place exactly a century before.

The Monument to the Battle of Nations commemorated the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig. However, for almost a century after its inauguration, this remembrance of a battle of the past would be used by one group or another for their own ideological purposes.

In 1813, the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden had fought against the French army which also contained Polish and Italian troops not to mention Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. Little wonder it also became known as the Battle of the Nations: involving over 600,000 soldiers, the battle was the largest in Europe preceding World War II. The monument certainly reflects the immensity of the conflict.

14 July 2017

How Syrian Child Refugees Return to Normality thanks to the ESSN

You may not have heard of the ESSN.  The four letters stand for the Emergency Social Safety Net and is a programme which helps the most vulnerable people who have sought refuge in Turkey through an ingenious method enabled by modern technology.  More about the illustrations you can see a little later...

Funded by the European Union and the UN World Food Programme, ESSN furnishes refugee families with a debit card.  Each month an allowance of 28 Euros per family member is placed on the card which means the family can then afford to get back on their feet.

8 July 2017

Petrified Life

If you have never had the opportunity to visit the Colorado River area of the US then sit back and soak in the sights as captured by the remarkably talented Anneliese Possberg and her team.

I thought my favorite part here was the run through the hauntingly beautiful Antelope Canyon and Zebra Slot but then I saw the incredible combination of time and hyperlapse throughout with spectacular dawn shots (not to mention the shooting stars) and realised that the entire piece is simply amazing. Watch and allow your jaw to hit the floor!
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The Flight

Two young women discover a city in the clouds.  Yet the more gregarious of the pair will discover that her friend is something more than she ever suspected.

This is a fine piece by Inbal Breda who created this as her graduation film from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel. It’s also great to see a fantasy animation with female protaganists!
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Ashes to Ashes

The Grim Reaper never had an easy time of it, what with his unrelenting schedule and punishing hours (that would be twenty four a day).  So, what happens if his latest ‘job’ turns out to be nothing less than a phoenix?  Find out what the ultimate bringer of death does with something which refuses to remain dead in this entertaining animated short by a group of six students at Georg-Simon-Ohm University in Nuremberg, Germany.
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Cosmovitral: Mexico’s Amazing Stained Glass Botanical Garden

Stained glass is invariably associated with place of worship.  Yet the lucky residents of the Mexican city of Toluca have a wonderful botanical garden replete with a host of incredibly stained glass windows.  As well as being a superb display of plants and art together, it is a tour de force in what to do with a building once it outlives its original purpose.

The Amazing Pygmy Seahorse: Now You See Me…

If I stay stock still maybe they’ll just swim past.... ah, shoot.  This pygmy seahorse, seemingly caught in the act, has a few evolutionary tricks up its sleeve which allowed it to remain unknown and hidden from science until the 1970s.  First its size – tiny tiny tiny: it’s about two centimeters in length all told.  Next, its amazing camouflage – it just blends in with the local gorgonians (related to corals) so well that you can blink and you will miss it – which is probably the idea, let’s face it (even though I am not sure how many denizens of the deep actually blink).  Over at the Ark in Space today is a fascinating glimpse, together with a great set of photographs, in to the life of these tiny masters of disguise.
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25 June 2017

Constantine: Algeria’s City of Bridges

Town planners today might not automatically choose a plateau 2,100 feet above sea level upon which to situate an urban development.  Times change, but over 2,000 years ago when Algeria’s third largest city, Constantine, was founded, this place, framed by a dizzying ravine, was ideal for defensive purposes.  Later, as the city prospered, it became known as the City of Bridges.

Deeper Underground

Guus and Tayfun, an award-winning creative team who make up In Return have a thing about tunnels, at the moment specifically those which connect the stations and platforms of the London Underground.  This may sound like an unremarkable subject on which to base a short film but start watching and you will find yourself swept down in to the awesome symmetry of this labyrinth beneath the city.
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What Are You Toxin About

How can water be safe enough to drink but the fish that live in it not safe enough to eat? It’s all down to bio-accumulation and bio-magnification which, fortunately, are explained in this animation by Montreal based animation studio E*D Films.  Fortunately we have a Canadian bear for company as these topics are described but that still doesn’t make them any the less alarming. That means that our friendly bear could end up sick…  but there are things that can be done.
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A Glass of Prague

Prague is known as the city of a hundred spires but perhaps it should be renamed – momentarily – to the city of a hundred beer glasses!  This timelapse, created and edited by Kirill Neiezhmakov (whose work has appeared on Kuriositas countless times) shows the city at its very best and is up to Neiezhmakov’s usual superlative standard.  Just how he kept his hand steady after all that  beer is, however, anyone’s guess!

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Articles of War

Articles of War is, I have to admit, one of the best animated short films not produced by a major studio I have ever seen (and as you know, here at the Old Kuriosiatas Shop, we are big fans, so that is saying something).

The story follows a young American fighter pilot in the Second World War who has the awful task of leading bomber missions over occupied Europe and in to the heart of Germany. There, with the flick of a switch, he rains death down to to the hapless German population.

He writes a letter home to his father - a veteran of the Great War - in which he voices his disquiet about his actions. It may turn out to be the last letter he ever writes.  Guaranteed, you will be drawn in to this from the start - it is engrossing, profound and heartfelt.  You can't say that of many live action films, let alone animations.

Beautifully made, this is directed and written by sel-confessed film fanatic Daniel Kanemoto who has been working with animation for over a decade (and has been featured before here at Kuriositas).  The music is composed by Ryan Shore whose work has included Prime starring Meryl Streep and the Bill Murray vehicle Scout's Honor. Edited by Jeff  Yorkes (who has a cool website) with storyboards by Robert Vargas.

The voice of the airman is provided by Clay Adams (left) who has a diverse acting portfolio of work but whose face is probably best known as that of Lloyd, the Lakeview bartender in As The World Turns.

You can read more about the making of Articles of War here.Please go and take a look if you want to see more about how this wonderful and engrossing animated short film was made.
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24 June 2017

Would You Clean These Windows?

It does have to be said, on occasion, that some things really should be left to the professionals. One such thing is cleaning windows: not necessarily the everyday ground floor type, of course. Rather those that are at a dizzying height. Yet even so, some people will still insist on cleaning windows themselves. This elderly lady, for example, just couldn’t leave her windows alone.

You might not think she is in that much danger, until you see the big picture…
Amung Feedjit
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