23 July 2015

Pacifica


This amazing footage was shot by film maker Marlon Torres using new AF100 camera.  I can’t quite believe that what we see here is really just him testing out his new toy! So, sit back, relax and see the ocean in all its beauty.

The music, so it doesn’t annoy you if you cannot remember, is Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor.

22 July 2015

Here Be Dragons: Amazing Statues and Sculptures of Dragons Around the World

In the Middle Ages the words hic sunt dracones (here be dragons) appeared on a number of maps to indicate dangerous or unexplored territories.  Yet dragons are still among us, dotted all over the globe.  From Europe to Asia and over to the Americas, ferocious beasts (and some a little less so…) protect our cities and temples.  Here is a collection of amazing dragon statues and sculptures from around the world.

Sneinton, England
Image Credit

21 July 2015

Wojtek - The Polish Soldier Bear


During the Second World War a bear was adopted by a group of Polish soldiers and quickly became accustomed to the rigors of army life.  He spent years with the Polish Free Army and survived the war yet his ultimate fate was bitter-sweet to say the least.  Here is his story, animated by Marianna Rackin as graduation project from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design.

Palm Rot


Investigating a mysterious explosion in the Florida Everglades, a crop-duster named Bill discovers a lone crate that survived the wreckage. Curiosity gets the better of him and he pulls the crate unto his airboat. That's just the first in a series of decisions he learns to regret.  Written and directed by Ryan Gillis, Palm Rot is excellent – a slice of science fiction which doesn’t provide all the answers.

20 July 2015

50 Things a Teenager Should Do Before Hitting 20


What should teenagers do before they hit 20 and leave their teen years behind? Here are 50 quick suggestions. How many have you done – and how many are you yet to do? If you are over 19, then how many do you remember doing while you were still a teenager?

In my other life I am a teacher and so spend a lot of my time creating stuff like the video above. However, I hope that people enjoy watching the educational videos I make even if they are not students. This video, however, is ideal to present to a class to give them some ideas - stimulate some thinking! There is then a task at the end where students are asked to split in to groups and decide which five (not necessarily included here) things they think are definitely what they should do before their teenage years are ended!

This video could be used as a starting point for many different classes (indeed I hope many will enjoy watching it for its own sake!) but it is designed to meet the criteria for an informal discussion. Students could be encouraged to consider how and/or why they would choose to do certain things above others. As well as initiating small group discussions, it also enables students to feedback to the whole class towards the end of the session. I will be using it for one of my Functional Skills English Speaking and Listening activities.

19 July 2015

The Forgotten Battle: The Japanese Invasion of Alaska

In the early morning of 6 June 1942, 500 Japanese soldiers landed on Kiska, one of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. 

They took the only inhabitants of the island, a ten man (and six dog) US Navy Weather Detachment by complete surprise and quickly took control of American soil.

Today, the island is one of the USA’s National Historic Landmarks: the aftermath of the Japanese invasion can still be seen on the rolling hillsides of Kiska.

It is now known as The Forgotten Battle but the invasion caused widespread outrage in 1942.  Pearl Harbor was still a fresh memory, having been attacked on December 7 of the previous year.

Yet a Japanese military force had stepped foot on American soil – and the 500 had grown to over 5,000 men.  Although Kiska and neighboring Attu (which had been overrun two days previously) were part of the distant Aleutian Islands they were, nevertheless, American. Plans were immediately drawn up to retake the island, known as the Aleutian Campaign. The campaign would not succeed for over a year and would claim many American lives.

17 July 2015

Iron Mountain


When an iron mountain appears on the plains of your homeland then such a threat must be met with force.  So a vast army is gathered and the monstrous trespasser is confronted.  Yet what lies within?  A single warrior hold the future in her hand.  This interesting and entertaining science fiction short was created by students at ArtFX, Europe’s premier special effects and 3D animation school.

Back of the Head


I can’t quite believe that after so many years Kuriositas has never featured the vital work of back of the head actors.  Such an omission is almost unforgivable but at least now we are able to make up for it with this great documentary short about one of the best in the business.  Back of the Head was made by Ninian Doff for Pearl and Dean and shown in cinemas across the UK.

The Duck


If you are a duck then it’s not considered right and proper to fall in love with a rock.

However, this is exactly what happens here – but fortunately said duck has some understanding friends, one in particular, willing to help him out.

The Duck is a short film by Simon Cottee, based on a short story by Ben Loory.

16 July 2015

Drunk Squirrel Goes Nuts, Wrecks Pub: Exclusive Pictures of the Culprit

Down in sleepy Worcestershire (England) a squirrel managed to create several hundreds of pounds worth of damage when it managed to get in to the Honeybourne Railway Club after hours – after getting more than a little tipsy on the alcohol behind the bar.  Typically the internet has gone in to meltdown over this bewhiskered brute, this bushy blackguard – or in more vernacular English, this rat-arsed rodent.

What the fook you looking at? Hic.
However, we at Kuriositas have managed to track down the furry felon and thanks to our friends at id-iom, snap a picture (top) of the unrepentant vandal, the lanate libertine that he so undoubtedly is.  The squirrel community, of course, is up in arms, washing its hands of the piliferous pillager.  Yet Aloysius (for that, reader, is his name) can’t see what all the fuss is about.  “I can’t see what all the fuss is about,” he admitted to our reporter. “The world’s gone bananas if a squirrel can’t have a bit of fun. See what I did there? Now pass us the extra strong lager, will you, love?”

...and with that he was off. Kinda.
"Let me just have a lie down here for a second.  I'll be alright in a bit...."

When Blooms the Coffee

Forget roses or lilies…. for millions of people around the world these are, perhaps unknowingly, the most important flowers in their lives. Without them mornings would most likely be quite different.  The urge to sleep might not be foiled, the two-glasses-of-wine-too-many pounding at the temples would not be relieved and almost certainly the amount of work-based homicides would rise.  Some people might not manifest any discernible personality at all throughout the entire day.

This is the coffee flower and upon its gentle bloom civilization as we know it depends. Not only that, it’s gorgeous.

Image Chip and Andy

15 July 2015

The Violin


Circa late 1930s, Boat Quay, Singapore. A young boy receives an old violin as a gift out of kindness from a foreign trader. It becomes a treasured possession as he teaches himself to play the instrument over several years, until it was lost during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. After the war, the violin was found by a man working for the British Military Administration and given to his young daughter. The girl learns to play it and becomes a renowned violinist over the decades. She eventually passes the instrument on to her grandson, an accomplished violinist himself, who restores it and performs in a concert by the Singapore River, where the violin started its unexpected journey nearly 80 years ago.

Over the 16-minute film, the violin graces different stages of Singapore - both figuratively and literally – as we see a young country's landscape change from the bustling 1930s to the dark days of the Japanese Occupation, followed by the sweeping political changes in the 1960s that led to its independence and finally, present day.

Kid


When his mother has to work, William is sent to his grandparents’ house.  It’s boredom as living death for the young boy until his Uncle George turns up.  Together they make a break for freedom – in quite an unexpected manner.  This charming short film by Ron Pereira made the Official Selection at Sundance, received the Certificate of Merit from the Chicago International Film Festival and won the Heartland Crystal Heart Award.

The Embroidered Zoetrope


We have featured any number of zoetropes, those amazing devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion, on Kuriositas.  Now thanks to animator Elliot Schultz we can make good on that omission.  The zoetropes featured were made for Elliot’s degree project at the ANU School of Art in 2013.  I suspect he may have been awarded a high grade.

14 July 2015

The Garden of the Monsters

In sixteenth century Italy the nobility would often leave testimony of their greatness through the form of religious art.  Not so Pier Francesco Orsini.  He wanted to be remembered in an entirely different way – through his Park of the Monsters. He did not want his monuments to please – he wanted them to astonish.

Tucked away in Bomarzo almost seventy kilometers from Rome, the gardens are located in a section of woodland near to the bottom of the valley in which the Orsini family castle was built.  Here, after a career as a mercenary, the latest of the Orsini line settled in to a life of middle-aged Epicureanism.  The park is perhaps holds a mirror to his imagination (or even state of mind) after a lifetime of political and social turmoil.

The Last Bus


This is a short film which is doubly thought provoking at this moment in time.  As Europe faces a huge humanitarian disaster, Europeans must look straight into the eyes of refugees.  The Last Bus, by Martin Snopek and Ivana Laucikova (of Feel Me Films sees a group of lost souls, hunted through the forest as they take the last bus to their destination.  It has been awarded dozens of awards including the top prizes in a number of festivals.

About a Planet


We have featured the Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter together in all their shudderingly inconceivable horror but together they certainly explain away why we have never been contacted by intergalactic voyagers.  About a planet by Leonardo Cavaletti shows us this whole concept in a few minutes using through a short and stylised procedural animation.  Yet even if we must not expect a knock on our planetary doorstep, hope springs eternal!

The Largest Cave in the World: Hang Son Doong


Its name translates as mountain river cave from the Vietnamese and it is easy to see why. This immense cave – the largest in the world – only became properly known to the outside world in 2010. Now, thanks to filmmaker Ryan Deboodt we can take an otherworldly voyage by ground and air in to this magnificent subterranean world. It is an extraordinary spectacle.

11 July 2015

Every Star

Sometimes the simplest stories can be the most profound and this is the case with Every Star.  A mysterious boy, alone in nature, takes it upon himself to ensure that all city dwelling children get the see the magic of a star.  And that’s it.  Quite lovely.  Every Star was created by Yawen Zhang as her first year animation at USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, California.

Moving Athens


Moving Athens is the latest in the series of Moving Cities filmed pieces created by Jevan Chowdhury where the inhabitants of cities around the world engage with their urban environment through the medium of dance. It serves as a reminded that despite its troubles, Greece still has so much to offer the world. And if still aren’t convinced take a look at our feature What have the Greeks ever done for us?

Jantar Mantar – Immense Astronomical Instrument of the Maharajahs

These remarkable constructions appear to all intents and purposes as if they could have been built to create the set for a new science fiction blockbuster set on a planet light years away from Earth. Yet these are centuries old instruments, designed and used in Jaipur, India, to explore the heavens. Their production was ordered by a great Maharaja in the early decades of the 18th century and they have been in constant use ever since.

Jai Singh II was born in 1688 and at only eleven years old became the Maharaja. He was born in to a life of extreme privilege but inherited a kingdom which was on the brink of impoverishment. The Kingdom of Amber (what would eventually become Jaipur) was in dire straits with a cavalry of less than a thousand men. Yet by the time he was in his thirties he would have turned this around and built Jantar Mantra.

The Leap


In 2069, New Earth is declared open for civilian migration, a decade after its discovery. As tales of wonder and opportunity reach the Old World, taking ‘the leap’ becomes the dream of millions. Unable to afford the journey, many of the less fortunate risk their lives being smuggled aboard cargo ships. The inter-planetary Migration Administration, or IPMA, deals with human trafficking on a biblical scale.

Fifteen years later, Jacob Reiss, a disillusioned IPMA veteran, has a fateful encounter with a young cartel prostitute. A meeting that forces him to confront a dark chapter from his past in order to save them both from a bleak future in one final, violent shot at redemption.

The Leap was written, designed and directed by Karel van Bellingen.

5 July 2015

Online Services and Communication


Online services are used every time someone accesses the internet.  Whether it’s simply email or more contemporary facilities like instant messaging these are all services provided by one company or another. As already indicated, often these online services are used to communicate with other people – from a simple text to sharing documents to collaborative working. 

In my other life I teach IT to 16-18 year olds and shortly I will begin to deliver the BTEC Level 2 in Information Creative Technology.  One of the units I will be responsible for is The Online World which is exam-based.  The video I have created above is the first step in to that unit – a look at the services the internet offers.  It gets a bit more complicated than the information above, believe me! However, I do hope that this will prove a comfortable start to the unit for my students!

Of course, I had to share this with Kuriositas readers too!  Enjoy!

The Last Hours of the Inca Ice Maiden


Over 500 years ago a girl was sacrificed to the gods in Southern Peru.  Her body was preserved by the elements and discovered centuries later in a state of preservation which astonished the world.  Yet what happened to her in the days and hours leading up to her sacrifice? This animation, made by Plazma for the Mummies Alive series, imagines her last journey up the side of the mountain to her fate.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Vincent Van Gogh: Painted with Words


This drama-documentary starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role as Van Gogh is an irresistible treat if you are a fan of the actor, the painter or both. The film, written and directed by Andrew Hutton, won a Rockie for Best Arts Documentary at the Banff World Media Festival in 2011, receiving critical acclaim for its fascinating insight into the life of the artist and its unique approach to storytelling.

Cruise Ship Towel Animals take to the High Seas

No one knows for absolute certain where the concept of the towel animal came from. The idea seems to have arisen, like so many internet memes, spontaneously. There is no single individual who claims to be the originator of the towel animal. One thing is for sure – the creation and depiction of small animals by folding towels originated on the (not terribly) high seas. This phenomenon seems to be almost completely isolated to cruise ships.

Many maintain that it was started by cabin staff aboard the Carnival Cruise Line ships. The line, which specializes in short and less expensive cruises, is home to many of the ingenious creations you see here. Yet a number of other lines now give their passengers a nightly surprise too.

4 July 2015

Montmartre: The Quiet Hour


Montmarte is one of the busiest parts of Paris – you don’t really go there if you want to be on your own.  Or do you?  During the time just before and after dawn the place offers a certain tranquillity which belies the fact it is at the heart of one of the busiest, noisiest cities in the world.  Created by Emeric this is another side to Montmartre, one that you do not see unless you are willing to wake with the birds.

Just the One of Us


Have you ever tried one of the apps that shows you who you are supposed to look like.  Anticipation of your natural born doppleganger soon gives way to disappointment when you see that an algorithm thinks you look like Danny DeVito (his name was the first that came to my head, sorry Danny).  However, in this short by Paul Trillo, a lonely man decides to meet the guy that sort of looks like him through a doppelgänger search engine.

Reverie


Sometimes, on a balmy summer’s evening, the lines between reality and the imagination can become blurred.  In this charming short by Alex Thompson a young boy’s pictures come to life and once it does, there are no barriers.

Lizard fairies, fighting maidens and mother ships all come together to form his reverie become real.  And like any dream it is there just because it is.

Scientists In TV Shows You May Have Missed


There is often a stigma attached to scientists in that they are normally seen as being rather eccentric and not in touch with pop culture, but if the truth be told that is not always the case. Instead, a number of them have made special guest appearances on popular TV shows and the craziest part is that you might not even have been aware of it. Wonder what we mean? Well, how about these prime examples:

Richard Dawkins appearing in Doctor Who

The scientist Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, but a number of people will be completely unaware that he actually appeared in an episode of Doctor Who in the UK. The episode in question was “The Stolen Earth” where he played himself in a short clip. However, perhaps the most surprising part is that he admits that he is not even a fan of the show whereas there are so many people that would love to appear and are never given the chance.

Neil deGrasse Tyson in The Big Bang Theory

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most amazing astrophysicists in the world and he has certainly had an impressive career. However, he has tried to show that scientists do have a funny side to them and this is perhaps best seen in his appearance in The Big Bang Theory. The episode he appeared in was “The Apology Insufficiency” in which he stood in a corridor with Raj before he was then introduced to Sheldon. He was then ridiculed due to him having demoted Pluto to a dwarf planet (since Sheldon apparently loved Pluto) and this skit certainly helped people to see that he could at least laugh at himself.

Stephen Hawking playing poker with Newton and Einstein in TNG

Cast your mind back to season 6 of Star Trek: The Next Generation and in particular the episode entitled “Descent Part 1.” At the beginning of the episode, the British scientist Stephen Hawking is seen playing poker with Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as well as Data, but all in hologram form. Now, to be honest knowing the poker rules would help you to get the joke in this scene or else it could pass you by. This is not the only time that Hawking has appeared on TV as he has also shown up on The Big Bang Theory and even a skit with Jim Carey on The Conan O'Brian Show. Of course we also cannot forget that he has also appeared on The Simpsons and indeed Hawking was known to be extremely happy at appearing on the show.

Buzz Aldrin in The Big Bang Theory

Buzz Aldrin is of course known as an astronaut and for walking on the moon, but you also need to remember that he is also classed as being a scientist in order to become an astronaut in the first place. He is just one of several scientists that have appeared on The Big Bang Theory and in this instance he appears in season 6 when some kids come to his door on Halloween to trick-or-treat. In his part, he talks about walking on the moon. It might be a small part and you might have missed it if you are not paying attention, but it is rather cool that somebody that has walked on the moon is willing to then appear on a TV show such as this. If you knew that Buzz Aldrin lived there, would you not go trick-or-treat as well?

Bill Nye in Stargate Atlantis

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” has really helped to make science seem like fun to so many people across the United States. He has actually appeared in a number of different shows, but he is one of the few people that have managed to appear in Stargate Atlantis as themselves. He appears in the episode “Brain Storm” which is the 16th episode of the fifth season and he actually appears alongside Neil deGrasse Tyson where they are shown as being friends. In it, he is invited to a scientific presentation by Dr. Malcolm Tunney. The cameo is just a few minutes long, so blink and you might miss it.

As you can see, scientists are not all about just being in the laboratory or trying to come up with new theories, and famous scientists are working hard at changing how people view them. OK, some appear in science-based shows, but there are also comedies in there as well, so it just shows that you never know where they will show up next.
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