31 May 2010

Barbershop


This is one for all of you men out there who just cannot ever quite decide what to do with your hair (of course that is if you have any!).

A robot with a bad hair day is teleported down to earth and as luck might have it, he appears close to Hair Cut Town.  So ensue many moments of indecision before, well, that would be giving the story away now wouldn't it?

This is a clever and colourful animated short comes from Singapore based SIDM animation, who have been around since 1998.  And we like it.  Anything that makes us laugh is fine by us!

Tax Refund

Rainbow Rose - a Truly WTF Flower

These are not artificial roses! The Rainbow Rose is now available in the UK for the first time and although you may think that these weird and wonderful blooms are painted or artificial they are one hundred percent natural. Almost. Well, ninety nine percent. Well, OK, they have been messed with, but not, as you may expect, on a genetic level.

It seems that there is a little science involved in this rather expensive rose - a single one will set you back over thiry US dollars. They are also known as the happy rose and their rainbow colours come about when plant extracts are injected in to their stem. A sort of botox for roses in a way.

The extracts travel up to the rose where they act as a type of dye. The petals of the rose turn from their natural colour to what you can see here. Although the result is certainly, well, different, it seems like an expensive gimmick to us here at Kuriositas. Don't they know there are starving children in Peckham?

1,425 Superheroes Congregate to Create New World Record

The rest of the world may be a little miffed when a country with as small a population as Australia goes around winning lots of gold medals at the Olympics, not to mention excelling in other areas.  Well, they have done it again – this time smashing the world record on May 29 for the number of people simultaneously dressed up as superheroes.





Even though the day was not without its tiring elements, you could at least rest assured that you were in good Superhero company even if there were a few yawnerama moments while the grownups did their thing on the stage.

The event took place on in Melbourne’s Federation Square when a grand total of 1,245 people turned up dressed as their comic book idols.  The event was part of the ongoing celebrations by DC comics which is celebrating its seventy fifth anniversary this year.  No doubt much to the chagrin of the Brits the Australians grabbed the world record only a week after a new one had been set in Twickenham, England. Sometimes life is just a little ironic.

Although the aim was to be Superhero costume only, the attempt at the world record was bound to attract one or two jokers.  Plus isn't that one of the alien controlled scarecrows from a Doctor Who story?  Some people, huh? Well, never mind - Australians don't need much of an excuse to join in the party.

The event attracted many onlookers too, but was generally it was a family affair with slightly bemused parents taking their Batmen, Supermen, and Green Lanterns out to the park en masse.  However, quite a number of parents put themselves in to costumes too. After all, even Spidey needs a helping hand with his shoe laces every now and again.  It does make you wonder, though, who really wanted to come - Dad or son?

As we pointed out earlier, some families though joined in the fun together.  This amazing looking familial quintet won a trip to Movie World.  This photograph will probably have pride of place in their home for decades to come. Other people preferred to remain anonymous under their masks, despite the fact that the occasional tattoo would probably give them away.
Of course, this occasion - and the creation of a new world record - was aim enough in itself.  However, it may have had another effect too.  How often do Superheroes get to let their hair down and just relax and catch up with friends from long ago?

Some of those who turned up had obviously spent a great deal of time and effort on their costumes.  This Catwoman for example certainly looks the part. For others it was the occasion, their natural exuberance and simply being there that was the priority.

Hayaku: A time lapse journey through Japan.


Hayaku means Hurry Up in Japanese but we suspect that once you take a look at this stunning time lapse film of Japan you will want to go, make yourself a cup of tea and soak this in again and again.

Created by film-maker Brad Kremer this works on so many levels but is in essence a homage to the country.

It was shot around many locations through Japan during the summer of 2009 and as well as taking in the more typical subjects of Japanese time lapse, the bustling cities and their throngs he takes us to the majestic countryside to watch the sun rise and set. See for yourself whether you agree that it captures the country in its duality of tranquility and inexorable momentum.

If you are Japanese or know the country you will spot Tokyo, Matsuyama, Imabari, Nagano, Gifu, and Ishizushisan among other places.  In essence the film is a declaration of love to Japan. 

This seven minutes of filmic heaven captures the essence of the many faces of Japan.  The film is the beginning of a much larger project planned by Kremer, who directs, shoots and edits his films.  This is a preview of what is to come, as it were.  All we can say is... Wow! What a preview!

30 May 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird – America’s National Novel – Turns 50

In July 1960 a novel about the collision between childhood innocence and the sometime harshness of life in the American Deep South was published, to little fanfare.  Quickly, however, it became a hit, first domestically and then internationally.  Translated in to over forty languages and still selling at least a million copies each year, To Kill A Mockingbird has become to many the singular American National Novel.

Sorry, Messrs Twain, Capote, Salinger and Hawthorne – you were pipped at the post by an unassuming girl from Alabama - Nelle Harper Lee.

Expect documentaries, readings, discussions, reruns of the (albeit marvellous) eponymous 1962 Gregory Peck film (left with actor Brock Peters as Tom Robinson) and school productions ad infinitum.  Don’t expect one thing though – and that is to catch sight of the Harper Lee, the author of the novel.  She is a lady not for talking.  A lesson that many novelists should perhaps take to heart – that they should be not seen and not heard is epitomised by Lee and seconded only by Salinger.

Harper Lee has effectively vanished.  She never published another novel and is most certainly not to be seen reminiscing about her struggle with whatever on Oprah.  To all intents and purposes she has disappeared off the face of the earth.  However, she is still alive and well.  Now 84 she lives in the town in which she was born, Monroeville, Alabama.

One of the few almost contemporary pictures you will find of her is when she accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the chap who ran the country at the time.  She hasn’t given an interview to anyone for 46 years and isn’t likely to do so now if her past record is anything to go by – despite no doubt the pleas of any number of TV networks, newspapers and magazines.

Perhaps the closest we may get to the real Harper Lee is within the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird itself as it is widely acknowledged to be a least partly autobiographical.

The father, Atticus Finch is modelled on her own, AC Lee and the narrator of the novel – the young and impressionable Scout is thought to be based on Harper Lee (or Nelle, her first name and as she is known to friends) herself.

As interesting is the character Dill in the novel who – in real life – grew up to be none other than Truman Capote (pictured left as a child).  Amazing that two such world renowned authors – and so different both in their writing and their lives – could have been best friends as children.

Capote helped Lee to edit M’bird and unforgivably (and no doubt in a fit of pique at the novel’s success while his own, In Cold Blood, remained partly written) never put people right when they suggested to him that he was the novel’s co-author.

It can only be hoped that in a retirement home in Monroeville, Alabama, there is a quietly satisfied old lady, happy that her one and only novel is still spreading its message of tolerance and humanity to readers the world over.



Additional Image Credits
Gregory Peck and Brock Peters
Truman Capote as a boy

The Lions of Bath – Pride in the City

The City of Bath, the historic city situated in the south west of England, is popular with tourists from all over the world.  However the good citizens of this two thousand year old city woke up this week to be greeted by visitors of a completely different type – a different species altogether in fact.

The biggest outdoor art event the city (which in its entirety is a World Heritage Site) has ever hosted sees a pride of one hundred lions take to the streets.  You have surmised already though that these lions are not flesh and blood – they are life size individually decorated sculptures.  The contemporary wives of Bath (and indeed their husbands) are safe on the streets.

Over thirty of the pride has been installed and the lions will be situated at sites across the city until October.  But why these leonine lovelies?  Why not some other animal?  For a start, the lion has been the symbol of royal England for almost a thousand years.

Richard the Lionheart, the missing king in the Robin Hood films, more often than not played by Sean Connery (or at least that’s how it feels) for those of you who like your history Hollywood style was the first to create the three lions symbol of which you may be aware from soccer tournaments at least.  Both of his parents had lions to represent their houses and he added a third.  The rest is history as they say.

So far so symbolic.  Additionally, this huge art installation is an attempt to build on the ‘pride’ that many Bathonians already feel (and incidentally, the bathonian is a period during the Jurassic, names after the city).  Local communities, businesses and people have sponsored each lion and they have then been decorated and people by craftspeople and artists.

You name the art genre and you will probably find a lion which can claim it as its own.  From fine artists to ceramicists, mosaic artists to those whose works cannot be easily pigeonholed there will be a host of styles in the city this summer.

The installation will culminate, in October, with a congregation of all of the one hundred members of the pride in front of Bath’s famous Royal Crescent, in a ceremony which is to be known as the Lions Roar Goodbye – that should certainly be an event to remember and a site to see.

The lions will then be auctioned off and the proceeds will go to a number of local charities with some of the proceeds being used to fund art projects in the city in the future.  For the near future however, this gigantic pride of lions will add to the already 500 plus leonine symbols throughout the city.

If you ever needed an excuse to put Bath on your itinerary, this is a good one.  Go on, take a dip in Bath and have a roaring time!

Thanks especially to Flickr user Fortaguaga and Gazza of Bath who have kindly given permission for their copyrighted pictures to be used here.

29 May 2010

Dennis Hopper, Iconic American Film Actor Dies After Long Battle with Cancer


Dennis Hopper, one of the more remarkable movies stars of the past few decades, died today of pancreatic cancer.  Never one to be pigeon holded, Hopper appeared in many roles which other actors probably would not have touched.  He was also well known for a life style which would have felled many other men!

His last major film role was with Sir Ben Kingsley in Elegy.  Appropriately enough, perhaps.

Here is our own short tribute to Dennis Hopper. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times narrates a look at the career of Dennis Hopper.

The Colossal K Cooling Tower Crashes

May 24 was no ordinary day for the Savannah River Site.  SRS as it is known locally in the US state of South Carolina was the scene of an enormous demolition using over one thousand pounds of explosive.  The demolition of the colossal K Cooling Tower was considered so potentially dangerous that members of the public – or the media -were not allowed near the scene.

The demolition was funded by the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and was part of a project to reduce the ecological footprint of the site.  SRS is a nuclear materials processing centre which was built during the 1950s to refine nuclear materials which could then be used in nuclear weapons.  Perhaps this is the American way of giving the Iranian government a hint.  A massive hint.

Or perhaps not.  Nevertheless this was the second largest cooling tower to be consigned to oblivion by controlled destruction in the world, ever.  The pictures do only little justice to the huge size of K Cooling Tower – it was 450 feet tall and 345 wide.  As such it posed what you might call an exceptional challenge to SRS managers. As such many experts were also called in to advise on the obliteration of the tower.

The neighboring South Carolina Highway 125 was closed for half an hour at the time of the demolition.  The coordination of the demise of K Cooling Tower was done by the American Demolition and Nuclear Decommissioning Inc.  However, they also worked very closely with Controlled Demolition Inc – an organization with a long history of managing large implosive flattening of manmade objects no longer wanted.

The tower was built in 1992 and its function was to support nuclear production at the K Reactor at SRS.  Ironically, 1991 – the year before it was built – is now widely regarded as the year the Cold War ended and so there wasn’t much use for the new reactor or tower.  All the motorized equipment and control rooms were removed in 2003 and the unloved concrete structure has been standing redundant ever since.

If you want to know the mechanics of the destruction of the tower, then think of how a lumberjack would approach the felling of a tree – but add dynamite.  Explosives were placed in almost four thousand places over the first 250 feet of the tower.  Strategic placement of the explosives took out a notch of the tower and determined how it fell.  The rest of the explosives break up the structure allowing it to tumble earthward.

The explosives are little more than a catalyst.  Gravity will do the bulk of the work.  You might think that when this huge structure hit the ground that there must have been the feeling of an earthquake.  However, Highway 125 for example only felt a force equivalent to a truck passing through – quite remarkable really but a testament to the skills of the teams that brought about its downfall.

Image Credit NNSANews
OK, ok, we know that you want to see it on film too.  Here, Dewitt L Beaver of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions explains and then you get to sit the whole thing on film.  So, sit back and enjoy!
 

Dalek Vs Imperial Stormtroopers


Although we all know full well it is never going to happen there is a time (or many times) in a fan person's life when the imagination goes awry and various science fiction universes get, well, mixed up.  It is always fun to wonder who would win - would the Klingons win out over the Predator?  Would the Goa'uld get on with the Trill? What would win the day, the Cylon or the Cybermen?

Well, when it comes to one particular inter-franchise fracas, we already knew the result, didn't we?  When it came to a battle between the Daleks and Imperial Stormtroopers there was only ever going to be one winner.  Sons of Skaro 1, Clones Disunited 0.

Image Credit Pasukaro76

28 May 2010

My Dad the Evil Genius


What do you do if your Dad is an evil genius determined to take over the world with an army of marauding robots?  Possibly not a question you ask yourself every day but the young boy in this excellent animation by Benjamin Wigmore has to ask himself that every day.  What's more as well as his evil father the poor kid has to confront mass slaughter, the memory of a dead mother and an electrified monkey.

Oh and the robots turn out to be ailurophobic, just to complicate matters even further. Yet, can the love of a young boy for his admittedly megalomaniac father save the day, especially when he might not be the only evil genius on the block?  Watch this ruddy brilliant animated short and find out!  Oh - and there is a great soundtrack provided by the very talented Patrick Ytting (which is an interesting last name if ever there was one).

The Last Secret of the Moai

The impassive monoliths of Easter Island have for many years flummoxed and baffled archaeologists. The theory had for many years gone that out of all these magnificent moai, those inland had simply been abandoned by the tracks.

Some suggested they were possibly too heavy to cart to the perimeter of the island. Thor Heyerdhal (left) the famous adventurer explorer suggested that they had no spiritual meaning whatsoever and were most likely the ones that were simply left to lie at the side of the road because for whatever reason they did not make it to the coast.
A new team of academics from the United Kingdom have come up with an alternative suggestion – and perhaps the moai are finally to give up their last secret. The monoliths, it is now argued, played a pivotal role in the island’s road system and were left in their places much more specifically than the old consensus ever suggested. Contrary to the Norwegian explorer’s hypothesis the new evidence suggests that they had a religious, possibly mystic raison d'être.

Legend has it that the statues arrived at their final resting places when the king of the island called upon the gods and ordered the statues to walk to their destinations. He would have had to have had an incredibly long reign as the statues were sculpted over a period of three hundred years from 1200 to 1500CE. It was more likely then that the islanders took the monoliths to their end point by an elaborate system of rollers and A frames made from the island’s soon to be decimated tree population.

The above picture shows just how big a moai can be - and that is big. However, the inland effigies are now considered to have been placed not with the assumed randomness because the islanders were not able to move them any further but with a deliberate intent. The new team have discovered that each has its own plinth (just like the ones on the coast) now buried and this would very much suggest that they were not simply left to their own devices but that there was design to their placement.

These platforms were discovered by the use of state of the art imaging equipment and the teams from University College London and Manchester University now believe that Heyerdahl was in fact mistaken. These giants, some of them weighing up to eighty six tons were placed there for a reason – and that reason was the very quarry from which they were extracted.

The academic team believes that the monoliths formed part of a complex religious avenue, criss crossing the island but eventually ending up at the quarry where the moai were born. Although the vast majority of the inland maoi of the archipelago are overturned they now think that this is simply the result of standing up for too long – some of them up to eight hundred years – rather than abandonment ab origine.

They have worked out that all of them would have looked inward on to the roads and that as the traveller nears the quarry (known as Rabo Raraku) their incidence becomes much more frequent. So, as the religious pilgrims got closer to the volcano cones of the quarry, thought by Polynesian cultures to be openings to the underworld, more and more of the statues would appear, creating an entrancing stone culmination to the pilgrimage and heralding the entry of the ancient islanders to a sacred place, indeed their most sacred of places.

Now it has been explained – perhaps not finally nevertheless – it does all seem rather obvious. Have the inscrutable statues really given up their last secret? Even though it's not a holy grail like garcinia, there is a review to say otherwise.

Amung Feedjit
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