23 January 2016

Behind Minnehaha’s Frozen Falls

Minnehaha Creek in Minnesota would be just another creek, really, if it was not for the beautiful fifty foot waterfall that just happened to form there when the last glacial period ended about 10,000 years ago. In the winter the falls can freeze up completely, creating a magical motionless image of once liquid water frustrated by the elements. Yet there is more to it than meets the eye...

Woody


Have you ever wanted to be something but know it will never happen no matter how hard you try?  Well, spare a thought for Woody.  He has always wanted to be an acclaimed pianist.  There’s just one thing holding him back – he has wooden panels for hands. This makes him ideal for one certain job but it doesn’t stop him from dreaming. Unfortunately, as he discovers in this wonderful animated short by Stuart Bowen, dreams can quickly turn to nightmares.
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Craco - The Abandoned Town


Back in 1963 massive landslides made the inhabitants of the hilltop town of Craco in Italy shrug their shoulders one last time and move elsewhere.  As no one wished to (or could…) move in the place was left to nature.  Today although the local authorities have made attempts to rehabilitate the town as a tourist attraction it remains eerily abandoned.  If a town could have a beautiful corpse this is it, as amply demonstrated by Walter Molfese’s amazing film.
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Flawless


Flawless is a short film looking at the loving relationship between a father, Ansel and his gifted daughter, Iniko. One grey day a major incident causes a deep fracture that changes their lives forever, causing Iniko to long for a time when things were perfect. Created by Badshoes Film in February 2014 in Leicester and released on to the festival circuit in June 2014, Flawless was selected for 23 festivals over 18 months including Festival de Cine Lanzarote 2015, Cineglobe 2015 at CERN Institute, Cannes Short Film Corner, CineFiesta 2014, New York Independent Film Festival 2015, Aesthetica 2015 as well as a pretty good run at the BAFTA's too.
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Cooped


When you’re a house-dog you don’t get to go out much, perhaps not at all if your human is a workaholic who can’t keep his eyes open most of the time. So for this dog, the discovery that there is a world outside of his cooped-up four walls is a revelation which creates an insatiable thirst in him to travel.  This entertaining not to mention thought-provoking animation was written, animated and directed by Mike A Smith.

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17 January 2016

Montserrat: The Modern Pompeii

June 1995 is a month that those living on the idyllic Caribbean island of Montserrat will remember for the rest of their days. The island’s volcano, on the Soufrière Hills had been dormant for many hundreds of years. Yet in that fateful month it erupted – and it hasn’t stopped since.

Much of the island was devastated. A further eruption followed in 1997. In a short time the small island nation’s capital, Plymouth, founded in Georgian times, had been buried by almost 40 feet of mud and other debris. Much of the airport and the dock were destroyed and the entire southern part of the island, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, was rendered uninhabitable.

Latch: A Dance Short by Keone & Mari Madrid


If you like dance which also tells a story then I think you are going to really enjoy Latch. Created by Keone and Mariel Madrid (a husband and wife, VMA-nominated duo who tell stories through dance and choreography) this video shows a relationship in trouble in an episodic but connected form. The choreography is amazing matched only by the powerful and measured grace of the dancers.
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Obsolescence


Three ghosts, representing three different generations, keep a portrait of themselves as the unique sign left of their own identity after death. Two of the ghosts have an analogue portrait (a black and white photograph and a painting), while the third one has a digital portrait contained within a computer.

Soon they will experience the obsolescence of technology, which will challenge the preservation of memories and data through time. Written, directed and produced by Andrea Cristini with original music composed by Chiara Micci.
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The Boy with a Camera for a Face


This modern day parable says an awful lot about the way many of us live our lives today.  A boy is born but instead of a face he has a camera.  He inadvertently records every moment of his life and, as you will see, this has its ups and downs.  Written and directed by Spencer Brown and brilliantly narrated by Steven Berkoff this is both the story of a boy and a culture all at once.

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15 January 2016

What Games did People Play in Medieval Times?

Did the knights of old have a blackjack cardgame, pitting their wits against each other over the legendary round table?  We will never know if they did (or indeed if King Arthur’s knights ever really existed) but there is historical evidence of a lot of games from this period.  They may not be quite what we would be familiar with today but perhaps it’s time to revive one or two of them?

Even though we would not recognize any number of games which have fallen out of use over the centuries, there are a number of games that have persevered through the ages.  In the 1200s the King of Castile, Alfonso X, commissioned the ‘Book of Games’ which is now considered the pivotal historical record for games played in the thirteenth century.  Among the many gorgeous color illustrations in the book, a number show people playing a game we are all familiar with – chess.  There is a further insight – some of the illustrations show Muslims and Christians happily playing with each other.  So it wasn’t all El Cid battles at the time!


As the video above shows (rather comically!) things were often 'not much fun' in medieval times. There is scant evidence of card games from this period but before Gutenberg and his press got going they would have been incredibly expensive to produce, certainly in Europe.  So it is no surprise that their invention goes back to China in the ninth century, slowly going towards the west over the period of the next several hundred years.  Yet games could be dangerous as this article from the BBC History Magazine shows.

The Hazard dice game was also popular in medieval times – it is even mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  It was immensely popular throughout Europe but particularly in England where huge sums of money could be lost and won at the throw of a dice.  The game is no longer with us but its modern form is the American game of craps which keeps the historical continuity of the games going in a way.

So although times were hard in the Middle Ages people still found time to have fun which is a relief. Although we often think of it as a fairly miserable time in history, disease, pestilence and the Spanish Inquisition notwithstanding, people still found ways to enjoy themselves!
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10 January 2016

Torre Guinigi: The Tower with Oak Trees on the Top

The city of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy, is famous for its medieval architecture and intact city walls.  Yet among all of its exquisite buildings one stands out.  The Torre Guinigi or Guinigi Tower in English towers over the city.

At the top of the 44.5 meter high tower is something of a surprise – a garden containing, of all things, oak trees.

High above the city this small wood has provided a haven of peace for centuries.

The tower was built in the fourteenth century when there were over 250 in the city. Although that number has, over the centuries, dramatically decreased, this one has survived.  It was built by the Guinigi, then the most powerful and influential family in the city. The tower represented the prestige of the family and was the largest in the city even when the economic boom of the late fourteenth century meant that towers were springing up all over Lucca.

3 January 2016

What is a URL?


What is a URL? It is the ‘address’ to a resource somewhere on the internet, yes.  However there is more to a URL than meets the eye.  Did you know, for example, that a URL has two main components and – more often than not these days – a third? This video goes in to some detail about each and even explains what the letters behind the acronym URL really mean. Plus it’s very easy to understand so if you are new to all this – no problem!
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1 January 2016

Iconic Dance in Film


This will put a spring in to your step if all else fails… The students at AMDA (the American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in New York studied rigorously for their Fall Dance Concert of 2015. Named Iconic, it was a modern celebration of 20th Century dance on film re-imagined through live performance. Cain DeVore, an independent filmmaker and screenwriter, actor and teacher put this video together to inspire the students.

It is a whistle-stop tour of the best dance in movies from the 1920s up to the present day. Pop Dancin Fool by Barry Manilow over the clips and you get a truly exhilarating few minutes. As well as a reminder of what has been achieved in the past this video, in its own way, lays down the gauntlet for today’s filmmakers – get dance fully and properly back in to the movies now!

The full list is below if you want to see how many movies you spotted correctly.

31 December 2015

Unexpectedly Funny Things to do with Hamsters When You're Bored

The Ark in Space veers off its usual scientific agenda today by showing us some things to do with hamsters when you're bored. It sounds quite possibly a little scary for the hamsters involved (the one above certainly has a slightly worried look on his face!) but is actually a rather amusing post about a very sweet looking creature.  Plus there are plenty of interesting facts about the little tykes too!

Image by kind permission of Flickr User pyza*
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Rocketship


A young boy befriends an old man, much to his parents’ consternation.  However, the boy and the old man have a bond – a fascination with space travel. Together, they transform a vintage vacuum cleaner into a rocketship for a surprising journey. This heartwarming short film was written and directed by Alfred Thomas Catalfo and was   inspired by the rocketship sculptures of artist David Random. This may leave you with a lump in your throat…

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