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…

18 June 2017

Erronkari - Pyrenean Paradise


On maps it is called the Roncal Valley – located in the Pyrenees of north Navarre near the border of France.  Yet the local Basque people call it Erronkari which is altogether a more beautiful name. And beautiful it certainly is.. Photgrapher Iñaki Tejerina created this homage to this mystical and superlatively gorgeous place, calling it without a hint of hyperbole a Pyrenean paradise.
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Amazing Cancelled Advert for Chinese Short-term Rent Online Service


In China there is a short-term rent online service called Xiao Zhu (Small Pig) – think of it as the equivalent of Airbnb.  Commercial director Matthias Zentner (of Velvet) landed the advertising project for the company but – and after you watch this video you will scratch your head too – at the last minute, once everything was complete the client decided not to use this as their campaign.

The premise is promising as we have all stayed in hotels that have turned in to a nightmare.  Here, a guest decides to defenestrate himself in order to escape the horrors within – and we are shown them all as we enter different rooms and climb up the floors of this dramatic hotel from hell setting.  The guests and staff are frozen in a moment but certain elements still move.  Dante would probably add this to his circles of hell if he was still around.

Throw in a rather unique version of Time to Say Goodbye (fortunately, with translation) and you have something bizarre, perhaps grotesque but utterly riveting.  Admit it, you watched it to the end, didn’t you?
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Fish Hammer: Smashie the Goldfish Gets His Revenge


Let’s face it, we’ve been wrecking the oceans for centuries.  Now, however, it is time for a little payback thanks to ‘maker of stuff’ Neil Mendoza at least one fish (and he’s called Smashie) can give us a taste of our own medicine. Mendoza designed Smashie’s aquarium so that his movements is tracked with a webcam.  The hammer follows Smashie around the tank and when the rotation of the cam slows the hammer head is brought down on some miniature human furniture. Payback.  At the time of the publication of this post, Smashie was unavailable for comment.

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The Surreal Appeal of the Falkirk Wheel

Or how a remarkable piece of engineering bridges the eight story gap between two waterways. The only rotating boat lift of this type in the world, the Falkirk Wheel must be seen to be believed.

17 June 2017

Sydney Timelapse


For reasons unknown we don’t seem to feature Australia a great deal on Kuriositas so it was great to come across this timelapse of Sydney, one of Australia’s greatest cities, by Sebastien Serville.

It focuses on four parts of the city - Circular Quay, Martin Place, Darling Harbour and Chatswood – and was created during this year’s Festival of Lights.  Sydney, you look glorious!

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How To Time Travel To a Star


Museum astrophysicists are searching through early photographs of the night sky and, with the help of high school students, helping to digitize them along the way.

This short documentary forms part of the Shelf Life series by the American Museum of Natural History and is a great insight in to how the stars above us can be tracked using both old and new technologies together..
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The Song of Wandering Aengus


Based on the WB Yeats poem, this animation has won a stack of prizes, including Best Animated Short Film at 2016 London Independent Film Festival.  It tells the story of a young man who, in search of his supper, gets rather more than he bargained for.  Animated by Matthew Lawes, The Song of Wandering Aengus is narrated by BAFTA Award Winner Liam Cunningham.

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14 June 2017

The Museum of Failure


Did you know that Sweden has just opened a Museum of Failure? I don’t know why I used the indefinite article there as I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that has one.  Take a look at some of the prize pieces in this collection of interesting innovation failures.  Located in Helsinborg, this museum prides itself in providing a unique insight in to why products fail.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t close down next week!

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13 June 2017

The Fiberglass Statue Graveyard of Sparta

Sparta, Wisconsin is known as the bicycling capital of America.  Yet it has another, more surreal claim to fame. If you live in the States and have ever wondered where the fiberglass sculptures that ornament your malls and amusement parks come from then the answer is likely to be Sparta.  The city is the home of the FAST factory which produces thousands of pieces each year and has done since 1983.  Yet once the finished items are shipped, where do the molds go?

Jane Zhang - Dust My Shoulders Off


I hadn’t come across Jane Zhang before watching this excellent music video for her song Dust My Shoulders Off.  Known in her home country as Zhang Liangying she won a TV talent contest in 2005 and hasn’t looked back since.  This is a very catchy song but it’s the video that really caught my eye – 13 works of art are used in the video with Zhang at the center of each.  See how many you can spot (you can see them all below but no peeking!).

1. Edward Hopper – Nighthawks
2. Vincent Willem van Gogh
3. Jean-François Millet- Des glaneuses
4. Johannes Vermeer-Het meisje met de parel
5.Andrew Nowell Wyeth-Christina's World
6.Georges-Pierre Seurat-Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte
7. Edvard Munch-Skrik
8.alvador Dali-A Tentação de Santo Antônio
9. The marches of summer
10. Maurits Cornelis Escher-Ascending and descending
11. Maurits Cornelis Escher- Gallery
12. Magritte Rene-The Son of Man
13. Salvador Dali
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Martin


Animator Sholto Crow claims that this is semi-autobiographical and I expect that once you have watched Martin you will want to know – as I do – which part exactly!  The story is fairly straightforward: a metal detectorist accidentally unleashes Armageddon on a quite English seaside town.  If you live in Cromer you get to see your home town destroyed: or perhaps that’s the ‘semi’ bit and it has been already (but no one noticed the difference).
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Sunnylands: A Garden Like No Other


The Annenbergs were very influential people. Leonore – government official, philanthropist and businesswoman: her husband Walter was a diplomat, publisher and, like his wife, a philanthropist. Although both are now dead and gone their California estate lives on and Nowness recently took their cameras to film the desert garden. It is quite something to behold with plants selected based on their colour and structure. The result is startlingly architectural and daringly impressionistic.
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11 June 2017

How to Plan, Write and End a Short Story


When you are planning a story there are certain things that you should take in to consideration before you put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard).  Characters, setting, plot, language, structure – they are all vital elements to the success of your story.

These videos take you through how to plan a story in a particular circumstance – and that is the new GCSE English Language in the UK where students may be asked to write a story in one of their exams (Paper 1 to be exact).  However, these videos are useful if you are approaching writing a story for any purpose.  So, work past the parts to do with this qualification and you will find a lot of rewarding information.

The secret is in the planning.  The first video above guides you through some important steps.  Yes, of course the plot is important but what these videos truly show is that just as important is the way that the piece is structured (and this is focused on in the first video).


The second video looks more at the way that language can be used in order to keep the reader interested in reading your story to the end.


Then there is the end – did you know that there are ten ways (at least) to end a short story?  This entertaining video takes the story that has been planned in the first two videos and plans the kind of ending it could have.  You can decide for yourself which ending you prefer!


However, if you would like to see the finished piece, then try this video.  It is rather cheeky – it takes the finished story and imagines it as the text which students must respond to in an exam (a kind of neat, circular idea in some ways).

This series of videos was created by the YouTube channel Teaching and Learning Resources for Me.

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The Wonderful Barn: Ireland's Spiralling Storehouse

The Irish are often the first to admit they have an inclination to exaggerate. So, when a corkscrew-shaped barn built was built on an estate in County Kildare near the town of Leixlip in 1743 the locals quickly called this extraordinary structure The Wonderful Barn – note the use of the definite article. Yet in this instance their hyperbole was not unwarranted. This is indeed the most remarkable of barns.

The Ant-Mimicking Treehopper

This is not a photograph of a pair of ants attacking some harmless bugs.  They are, in fact, the ant-mimicking treehopper (Cyphonia clavata) which keeps itself safe from predators by mimicking an ant.  What looks like an ant here are actually extension growths on its body.  Fascinating enough you might think, but these appendages only developed due to a freak of evolution which is incredibly rare in the insect world.  Read more about it over at the Ark in Space.

Image Credit Andreas Kay
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