29 March 2011

Intelligence Test


Douglas Adams was right. More often than not we discover that we are not necessarily the brightest of animals on the planet. Here a scientist tries – somewhat vainly – to get a chimp to perform a few tests in order to measure his intelligence. He gets a little more than he bargained for. There is a moral to this story, somewhere!

This short but very funny animation was created by Lee Daniels, an independent Illustrator, animator, and all round graphic design professional with a sense of humor. It was created using the Adobe CS5 Master Collection, After Effects, Premiere, Illustrator, and our old friend Photoshop.

A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse


Ducked and Covered: A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse is an instructional public information film designed to assist the general population with surviving life in Australia after a nuclear war. Produced by the Australian Board of Civil Defence during the early 1980s, this previously unseen, dusty print was uncovered deep within a university film archive.

Broken into four chapters, the film guides wary survivors through the trials that will await them in the post apocalypse. From post-apocalyptic fashion and unique uses for surplus human skulls, to becoming a local warlord and avoiding radioactive mutants, there is something for all dwellers of the wastelands. With its dry methodical narration, brooding synthesizer, minimalist animation and erroneous guidance, Ducked and Covered is a dark humored parody/loving homage to the late cold war era, early 1980’s public information films, as well as a reminder… OF WHAT STILL COULD BE.

27 March 2011

Store in a Dry, Cool Place

The Girl & the Horse


A small girl is crying because there is a hole in her stomach, suddenly a mysterious horse appears and things begin to change…

This lovely animation was created by award winning director Rebecca Manley who was with Slinky Pictures from 2003-2010. She works in a variety of areas including TV, film and commercials and is also an experienced art director, animator, designer, and model-maker.

Her films have been screened at countless national and international festivals including The New York Children's Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Indie Lisboa Portugal, Sputnik Kino Berlin, The Big Cartoon festival Moscow, Rushes Soho Shorts and the Edinburgh festival.

The Girl & the Horse was also shown at the National Gallery London, in conjunction with the 'Stubbs and the Horse' Exhibition. The film was nominated for Best Music and the Public Choice Award at the British Animation Awards 2004. Her first commercial, for Carte Noire coffee, 'Steam' was long-listed for Best Craft and nominated in the Public Choice category at the British Animation Awards 2006.

Broken


This short animation represents a very personal project for its creator, Freek van Haagen, dealing with a subject matter that has been part of his life for a long time.  It represents an abstract dream – or perhaps memory – of a boy and his mother.

I think that perhaps of the multitude of expensive (and often tiresomely repetitive) road safety films that we see, a major channel should take this animation and show it at prime time.

I am almost certain it would have a huge impact.

26 March 2011

Leonard Nimoy is 80 so Let’s go Back to the Eighties!


Happy 80th birthday Leonard Nimoy!  To celebrate the entry of one of the planet’s most recognisable actors in to his eighties, we are happy to take you back a few years to show you an interview Leonard Nimoy had with the legendary Bobbie Wygant. 

We thought it would be a good idea, now that Nimoy is in his eighties, to take you back to the future, as it were - to 1982.  This interview was conducted on the release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  This was at the point when the whole is Spock dead debate was goint at full throttle.

It is quite an eye opener at some points - but what makes our eyes really open wide is the amazing suit and tie combo that Nimoy is wearing.  Super cool eighties guy!  The world may have been a mess but Mr Nimoy’s tailoring was perfect!

Mechanical Sympathy


When Tom McDermott was given a brief for his dissertation to create, using stop motion animation techniques, a short movie which would breathe new life in to an inanimate object. So, then he almost perversely chose to capture the last minutes of life of the inanimate object of his choice. The result is Mechanical Sympathy, created in five weeks and using 6,300 individual photographs.

Creating something like this is something of a knack – as it is difficult to judge whether or not the inanimate object will truly have a life of its own until it is almost too late to go back and start again. Fortunately, the risk pays off marvellously here with the use of an old reel to reel tape recorder a complete blinder. The story too is told with great pathos so that by the end you are almost ready to get the hankies out. Well, perhaps not but this is still a sterling piece of stop motion animation - and you just can't beat a soundtrack by the Electric Light Orchestra!

Skellig Michael – Mysterious Monastery in the Atlantic

Nine miles off the coast of County Kerry in the west of Ireland there are two small rocky islands peeking out of the Atlantic Ocean.  The larger of the two, Skellig Michael, is home to something quite extraordinary – a 1400 year old monastery which only a handful of people get to see each year.

As you approach the island there is little, seemingly, to notice.  Yet closer inspection reveals the tell tale criss-cross of manmade paths.   Who could possibly have wanted to live here – and when?

It is thought that the monastery of Skellig Michael was founded at some point in the seventh century and monastic life persisted there for over 600 years.  Why it was abandoned is lost in the sands of time but because of the sheer inaccessibility of the island what the monks left behind remained, through the centuries, remarkably intact.

The name of the island is taken from the Irish language and means Michael’s Rock.  It is some rock, too, rising to 230 meters at its summit.  Atop this the Gaelic Monastery has become well known globally but very few make the journey to visit the site – not many are allowed. This very fact has meant that because its remoteness necessarily discourages tourists that the monastery is, for its age, wonderfully preserved.

It is easy to imagine the early Irish Christian monks leading their extraordinarily spartan day to day existence here – to say that life would have been harsh for them is something of an understatement.  Their huts, in the shape of beehives and called clochans, indicate the bareness of life on the rock.  These monks would have shrugged off all of their earthly possessions before they came to live here. Although it is not by definition a hermitage it must surely have been a lonesome existence for the monks, despite the faith which initiated their decision to move there.

The monastery itself was terraced – a necessity because of the sheer sides of the rick.  Three flights of stairs (perhaps reflecting the Holy Trinity) lead up to Christ’s Valley which is the small depression between the peaks of Skellig Michael at 130 meters.  The visitor is not disappointed when greeted by the sight of six intact clochans.

Neither are they disappointed with the sight of the two oratories, graves and the monolithic cross which are to be discovered there.  There is more recent addition too – a church which was built as late as the thirteenth century.  The construction must have been a labor – the walls are almost two meters thick.

Although Skellig Michael was not intended as such there is a hermitage on the island, distinct from the monastery.   As if a rock in the Atlantic was not isolated enough this extreme form of retreat afforded those monks who wished to contemplate the divine in complete isolation the opportunity to do so.

Daily life and its demands also had to be taken in to account and there is a latrine on the island which is situated over an enormously yawning gap in the rock to ensure that waste matter was thoroughly disposed of.  There are also the remains of a garden which the monks would use to grow essential vegetables.

There is evidence that Skellig Michael suffered several Viking raids, though quite what the visitors from the north would have hoped to pillage is questionable.  However, these raids may have caused the monks to decamp to the mainland in the twelfth century even though the later chapel was built at around the same time. One can only attempt to imagine the dread that the isolated and virtually defenceless monks must have felt at the sight of an approaching Viking longship.

As a result of the deterioration of the monastery due to the tramp of tourists’ feet, the decision was taken to severely restrict the number of visitors to the island.  13 licenses are given to tour operators annually and each may only make a single trip to the rock.

It is thought that there were never more than a dozen or so monks on the island at any one time plus an abbot.  The mystery as to the abandonment of the rock is never likely to be satisfactorily solved but in many ways the monks did the rest of the world a favor.  It is unlikely that what we see now on the island would have remained intact if the island had continued to be populated.  Its very abandonment ensured its survival.

James Watt's Workshop


When asked who the most influential British inventor ever was a lot of people will answer with a single name – James Watt.  After all, his steam condenser did, effectively, kick start the Industrial Revolution. When he died in 1819 his workshop near Birmingham (the one in the United Kingdom) was preserved and this legendary magical retreat became a magnet for pilgrims.

However, the house in which his attic study was situated became due for demolition ninety years ago.  Fortunately the Science Museum stepped in and bought the workshop in its entirety – over 8,000 pieces.  Now they have restored it and it has taken pride of place in the museum. It is hoped that a new generation of inventors will be inspired by his visions – of a machine that could copy sculptures and another that could copy letters as well as by the sheer ambience of his workplace.

The exhibition, Head Room, opened on March 23 (more details here) but you may not, however, be able to get to London any time soon.  So, the Science Museum has enlisted the help of animator and artist Leo Bridle. Bridle was asked to take in the vast amount of artifacts left behind by Watt and to give an artist’s reaction to this amazing collection.  This glorious animation is what he made of the 8430 objects that make up the new exhibition.  Although you can see it in situ, the Science Museum has kindly released it on to the interweb so that those who cannot be there can enjoy the artist’s response to the inventor’s retreat.

A Tribute to René Magritte


If you are, like me, a fan of the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte then you will most probably find this very enjoyable.  I have always thought that many of his paintings would lend themselves very well to animation and was really pleased to discover this short animation which does it so wonderfully and with an obvious adoration of the original material.

You will find a number of Magritte’s well known works here, including Memory, Two Mysteries and one of my own personal favourites, Time Transfixed.  Enjoy!

21 March 2011

Even After All This Time...

The Hosts


Short and sweet and at under a minute long, The Hosts deals with what happens when eyes meet across a room and figure something out that probably the rest of the planet don’t know anything about.

So, a date is on the cards.  Sure, sometimes you just have to switch off and let yourself out of your shell! This animated short by Juan Correa says everything it needs to in less than sixty seconds.  And so be it!

Blinky™


Artificial Intelligence this ain’t.  A young boy longs for company, his parents are always rowing and he believe the hype that the new robot helper come play mate, Blinky, will help heal the rift between his parents and that his home life will return to the happy situation it once was.

Of course, things never go quite to plan and soon the boy tires of his new robot pal.  Yet, you should never misuse a robot – you never know quite what will happen when conflicting orders are given... Trust me, you are going to see a number of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics broken here.

This is a great short film, written & Directed by Ruairi Robinson.  It stars Max Records  who you may recognize from Where The Wild Things Are.  The cinematography is done by Macgregor and the music by Ólafur Arnalds, courtesy of Erased Tapes.

This may not be quite what you expect…

The Aurora Borealis - Spectacular Time Lapse Video


Terje Sorgjerd – a landscape photographer from Norway - spent several weeks shooting the phenomenon that is the aurora borealis.  Here, it is captured in all of its glory at Kirkenes and Pas National Park bordering Russia.  At 70 degree north and 30 degrees east and with temperatures around -25 Celsius Sorgjerd insists that it was all good fun. Rather him than me!

However, the results are amazing. This is quite a spectacular piece of time lapse video work and rivals anything that I have seen on various science programmes, even those produced by the hallowed British Broadcasting Corporation.  It captures the aurora in all of its breathtaking beauty and – a definite plus – puts them alongside one of my favourite movies soundtracks, Now We Are Free from Gladiator.

Short, but perfect.  Go full screen and take it all in.

20 March 2011

Mr and Mrs Vader

Just when you think that the universe is safe then one of the greatest arch villains of all time, Darth Vader – goes and gets himself hitched.  Now this is the second time he has been married, if you count that liaison with rather unfortunate consequences between a young Jedi known then as Anakin Skywalker and the beautiful Padmé Amidala.  Plus of course if twins run in the family then the universe may be in even greater peril than we had hitherto imagined.

Seriously – or not – this very cool photo was taken at DragonCon 2008. 

One World Trade Center - Time Lapse Preview


One World Trade Center is more often than not known as 1 WTC – even more colloquially as the Freedom Tower.  Following the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11 2001 there followed years of debate about what should – phoenix like – rise from its ashes.

So it was that the design you see here, by Daniel Libeskind, was eventually selected.  That is cutting a long story very short but One World Trade Center is due to become the tallest building in the USA once it is completed.  That is estimated to be at some point toward the middle or end of 2013.

While the world waits for its completion, Vimeo member 4B5PR1T20R has created this time-lapse preview of the One World Trade Center.  It has to be said, this building is going to be something remarkable.

What is Neocolonialism?


There is a war of words going on at the moment – between the supporters of General Gaddafi and (it seems) the rest of the world and one word is being bandied about a great deal – colonialism. Gaddafi and his cronies are accusing those countries now involved in the no fly zone of just that.

Yet they are not the only critics. Many people are suggesting that the only reason there is a no fly zone is because the nation has oil – a point which is difficult to disprove because, well, it has. One can only make the point that the humanitarian suffering is so great in Libya at the moment that something is needed. Yet is it colonialism, whichever side you are on?

Perhaps the best word Gaddafi could have used should have been neo-colonialism – a term which was traditionally used to describe the involvement of former colonial powers to keep control of their former colonies after independence. Whether you agree with his opinion is up to you but there is a new threat of neo-colonialism hanging over the African continent.  The term has now been extended somewhat to include nations which previously had no control over a country gaining influence over it: indeed it often gains that control with the collusion of the government of that very nation. The real danger for the African nations is quite possibly being sold down the river by their own governments.

Take the example of Ethiopia – and this is happening all over the continent. Vast swathes of land are being acquired for use by various Asian nations. You can argue what came first – the chicken or the egg – what coerced the African governments to agree to the leasing out of their land to foreign powers with little benefit to their own people? On the other hand the action of these countries (such as China and India) seems to fall short of what might be described as ethical. Africa is in danger of being leased out of existence.

19 March 2011

Slow Day at the Office


Times are tough and many of us are having to take on work that we would not ordinarily consider. Yet this cool cat seems to be ready for business, recession or no.  It could have been the opportunity he has been looking throughout his nine lives. Mind you, if his tip jar is anything to go by, trade has been rather slow of late.  Perhaps it’s time this guy reconsiders his future working prospects?

Meanwhile...

Space 1999 - Message From Moonbase Alpha


Those of you of a certain age (perhaps I should say vintage) will remember the science fiction TV show Space 1999 – the adventures of a group of people blasted out of earth’s orbit on Moonbase Alpha due to a massive nuclear explosion.  The show ran for two series and became, like Star Trek, more popular after its demise than during its original run.

One of my favorite characters was that of Sandra Benes, who was played by Zienia Merton.  She was a kind of barometer for what was happening and spent a deal of her time sobbing and screaming and looking generally bewildered but I thought that she was rather pretty!

Which brings us to this, essentially, fan made video.  Message from Moonbase Alpha was originally shown at a convention in Los Angeles – remarkably enough on the very day that the fictional moon was to break away from the earth’s orbit – 13 September 1999.

So, yes, it is quite old but when I came across it on YouTube I just had to share it.  It is a wonderful coda for a TV series that abruptly ended at the end of its second season.  Surprisingly, for what is ostensibly a fan made film, the short seven minute talking head features none other than Zienia Merton herself.  Not only that, it was written by Johnny Byrne, the original script writer for the show.

If you remember the TV series, go get a handkerchief.  You may need it. No, you will need it.

18 March 2011

Extreme Super-Moon

Saturday 19 March is one of those evenings that sky gazers have been anticipating for a long time. A rare lunar phenomenon is about to happen. You may not even notice it yourself if you are simply a casual observer but tomorrow night the moon will appear larger and brighter than normal.

The moon has not been this close to the Earth for eighteen years. Some astrologists refer to this as a super-moon but there are even those who are calling tomorrow night’s moon an extreme super-moon because the moon will also be at the fullest part of its sequence. The real name for the term is rather different – astrological purists refer to it as a lunar perigree.

For many this is the opportunity to gaze in awe at the beauty of our lonely satellite. However, there are the doomsayers too. They maintain that when the moon is at its closest to us then the increased gravitational pull of the moon does strange things to the Earth. Many are already pointing a finger towards Japan and blaming the perigree for the earthquake and tsunami disaster there.

A number of astrologers have also made dire predictions for tomorrow evening, from further earthquakes to huge storms and tides. Other historical weather anomalies and associated disasters (in human terms) have also been blamed on super-moons. Astrologers and astronomers are, however, quite different beats. The bulk of the scientific world is sceptical and says that there is one important thing missing before people assume the moon is causing these disasters: cold hard evidence.

As the moon’s orbit around the earth is elliptical the difference between its furthest and nearest points would, at first glance, be cause for concern (and if the distance between the two happened overnight it would most certainly be a time to, well, panic). 254,000 miles is the furthest the moon is ever away from the earth. At is closest it is still 220,000 miles away but that means that it is closer to us by 34,000 miles. That is some distance – and perhaps you can see why astrologers take the perigree as a time for disaster to occur.

While it is true that tidal forces increase by about fifteen percent during a lunar perigree that does not mean that tides will be higher by the same percentage. The average perigree tidal rise is around an inch – nothing much to throw your arms up in horror there, then! In fact the dire effects that the moon is said to have on the weather during its perigree are largely a creation of the blogosphere. Here at Kuriositas we are happy to stand up and be counted when it comes to debunking what amounts to lunatic lunar conspiracy theory!

Just in case you do believe the ‘theories’ and think that the recent Japanese earthquake was caused by the moon, consider this. When the earthquake happened the moon was at its furthest point away from us – at what is called the lunar apogee. Now, I’m not a rocket scientist (more of a space cadet in truth), but...

However, and there is some irony here – there is some evidence to suggest that in fact the Earth is responsible for earthquakes on the moon. There was research done by NASA in the 1970s and they came to that very conclusion. So, Commander John Koenig would have to choose the site for Moonbase Alpha very carefully.
So, myth debunked – but it does give us a great excuse to reproduce these marvellous pictures!

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