31 March 2016

Rapid City: The City of Presidents

Visitors to the historic downtown of South Dakota’s Rapid City are in for something of a surprise. Turn a corner and you come face to face with a life size bronze statue of the USA’s first ever President, George Washington (above, who was in office from 1789 – 1797).  Turn another and you come across his successor, George Adams. In fact there is a statue of each US President in the city (bar the current incumbent).  As well as being a remarkable tribute to the leaders of America, it's a great way to memorize the presidents. Take a look at each, in order of his time as POTUS.

John Adams - 1797 - 1801
The project began in 2000 with the pattern of placement throughout the Downtown district specifically chosen to give those doing the ‘tour’ a rational structure while avoiding any favouritism to a particular president or party.

Orbital: The Box, Starring Tilda Swinton


It must be close to 20 years since I’ve seen this music video for the Orbital track The Box so I was really glad to rediscover it on one of my regular rummages through Vimeo.  Starring Tilda Swinton and directed by Jes Benstock and Luke Losey it is still a tour de force in what makes a great music video.

Tilda Swinton is marvelously enigmatic as the alien who comes from a different time-frame - a much slower place so that when she moves around in our world, it feels terrifyingly fast.

Phone Booth of the Dead


If you found yourself alone as the zombie apocalypse started you might well mistake the walking dead for a bunch of drug addicts out to mug you and so try and phone the police from the nearest phone booth.  Being as apocalypse-savvy as we are, that probably wouldn’t happen but Patrick hasn’t got The Complete Walking Dead box-set so that’s exactly what he does.

Written and directed by Vincent Templement, Cabine of the Dead (apologies but the title of this post says phone booth for translation purposes!) this is a knowing comedy-horror short which keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek (but possibly not for long knowing the nature of our zombie chums).  It stars the rather dashing Richard Keep as Patrick whose character is a lesson to us all: make a note of who you are going to call when the apocalypse inevitably happens – it could just save your life!

451°


If you are familiar with Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451 then you will love this.  Even if you’re not I think you will appreciate the message about a dystopia where books are banned and firemen are tasked to eliminate them. The title refers to the temperature at which paper will auto-iginite (although this has been debated, er, hotly).  This is a student film, created by Anastasia Chernova at the All-Russian State University of Cinematography : I think you will agree that it shows immense promise.

The Brim Silo Project


If you ever had any doubts about the ability of art and artists to enhance the lives of those around them, then watch this short documentary about a little town in Australia and called Brim.  Artist Guido Van Helton created this magnificent set of images on the side of huge silos just outside the town.

Understandably the project quickly became a destination and drew a spotlight on many issues which affect small towns and not just in Australia.  Melbourne based production studio Round 3 Creative were there to record it.

30 March 2016

Slow Wave


If you are a light sleeper – or it is easily disturbed for one reason or another then you will totally get this animated short created by Brooklyn based filmmaker, animator and musician Andy Kennedy.

Disturbances from outside and within are given life and the bedroom – what should be our ultimate safe refuge- becomes a place of surreal dream-state imaginings.

Puzzle: Genuinely Creepy Short Film


A woman. An old apartment. Pictures. That’s all it takes to create a genuinely creepy short film from which, frankly, some Hollywood directors could learn.  I may have become inured to frights in film over the years but this made me jump three times and it’s only five minutes long.  Written and directed by Vincent Templement and Adrien Pallatier and starring Flavie Péan this eerie short will suitably unnerve you. Don’t have nightmares!

Anima


Scottish-American naturalist John Muir once said that the clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

In Anima, a Native American warrior tracks his prey – a magnificent stag through such a place.  Yet perhaps all is not quite as it seems in this remarkable animation, created by a group of students of the ESMA animation university in France.

29 March 2016

Fun and Interesting Periodic Table Spin-Offs

For many, the periodic table has been that complicated chart you had to memorize in high school or something only scientists deal with in daily life.  While the periodic table we are all familiar with was formulated by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, the ideas behind it began formulating 200 years earlier and almost another 150 years later, the template it created is used in various designs from artistic visions to organizing candy.

(Image Source: sciencegeek.net)

The periodic table is a chart that organizes chemical elements based upon their electron configurations, atomic numbers and recurring chemical properties.  What does this mean to the average layman?  Basically, the table groups elements together based on similar and increasing/decreasing properties or characteristics and allows scientists to predict where the elements we have not yet discovered will fit in once we do.
While many elements have been known since ancient times, such as gold, silver, zinc, platinum and tin, many have only been discovered in the last 100 years, and we keep discovering new ones.  The table makes it easy to place them with elements that share identical periods (same number of atomic orbitals) or in groups (same number of electrons).

There are currently 118 elements on the periodic table. If that sounds like a lot more than you thought, it’s probably because elements get added all the time. In fact, it was only in December of 2015 that the four latest elements were accepted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry – numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118. Their names? Ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium. I kid you not. All each one of the current names means is its number in the Latin language – they are nothing but temporary placeholders, until proper names have been devised for these elements. It’s usually, names inspired by scientists or science institutes. Like Einsteinium ( Es ), named after Albert Einstein, or Californium ( Cf ), with atomic number 98, which was named after the State where it was first created – the University of California Radiation Laboratory, in Berkley, 1950. Up to the year 1500, only nine elements were known, eight of which had been known since ancient times.

The human body is mostly made of 10 out of these 118 elements, with tiny traces of another 10. The rest of them are altogether different stories. Some cannot even be found in nature, although it’s been proven that they once existed.  It all gets very complicated, but it is the format and creation of this table has led many much more fun periodic tables, from alternative arrangements of the original, to periodic-table inspired miscellany. Which was only to be expected: After all, such a useful and iconic tool can only breed imitations, spin-offs and parodies.

Drinks are on the House!
While it may sound amusing, Best Colleges Online commissioned the Periodic Table of Alcohol as a learning tool for anyone who’s new to drinking. While a lot of people may enjoy the odd drink or the weekend party, many have no idea what exactly they are imbibing.  So it is actually meant to promote responsible drinking.

(Image Source: businessinsider.com)
The chart was created to group alcohols together by base: cider, mixed beer, wine, tequila, brandy, whiskey, rum and gin.  The ABV is also given for bases and cocktail so as to educate on each drink’s effect on blood alcohol level and enable anyone to calculate their consumption and make sure they don’t overdrink.
Created by wine connoisseurs De Long, the Wine Grape Varietal Table lends a little more class to the world of imbibing decadence.  It groups varietals of grapes with fermenting processes.

(Image Source: amazon.com)

Reds, white, roses, sparkling, sweet and other families and types of wine are grouped in rows while stainless steel tank versus barrel-aging are given columns.  Even the type of barrel wood or temperature range in the stainless tank is considered.  The poster also makes a lovely piece of art for the wine lover.

Let’s Hit the Buffet
Periodic tables of food can be found online and at many restaurants, bakeries or gourmet food shops.  The Periodic Table of Desserts contains rows and groups similar to the periodic table of elements, only referencing everyone’s favorite part of the meal.  The groupings are based on thermal spectrum and structure, which sounds a little specialized, but even the layperson can tell what the column of sweeteners (sugar, maple syrup, honey and molasses) or row of nuts (pecan, almond, pistachio and so on) represents.

Image Source: instructables.com)

The periodic table of condiments is helpful in that, based on ingredients; it gives information on the life expectancy of any sauce, spice, vinegar or seasoning.  The periodic table of sandwiches organizes by meats, breads and condiments.  The table for herbs and spices or fruits and vegetables often groups in Latin categories just to look more interesting.  Just about any food group can be found on one or another various periodic table of food.

The Language and Strategies of Games
The arena of gaming is another popular place for periodic tables. The Periodic Table of Poker was created by online poker room PokerStars to help newer players become more comfortable with the terms, language and strategies of the often-daunting game of poker.

Each column breaks popular poker terms into categories so it becomes easier to use and understand the terms.  Some of the techniques can be useful if you want to advance your game, or you’re just wondering what your poker-loving friend could have meant by “open-ended straight draw”. In any case, just like all of these, a great visual representation.

Image Source: visually.net)

The Periodic Table of Game Controllers is educational in its groupings as well.  There are handheld and console groups.  There are columns or rows with brand names and Bluetooth versus hardwire, going back all the way to 1976. It contains quite a bit of info for the average online video gamer.  In fact, there are several periodic tables created for video games: characters, console manufacturers, game developers and more.  Some are created at the level of an elementary student learning about oxygen and some are more for the genius needing a laugh.

Writers Block
One of the more popular periodic tables seen on posters in many office supply stores is the Periodic Table of Typefaces, created by graphic designer Cam Wilde.  The table lists the 100 most popular, influential and notorious typefaces of all time.

(Image Source: geeknaut.com)

Like traditional periodic tables, families and classes of typefaces are grouped: script, sans-serif, realist, blackletter and more.  They are also given a ranking depending on the number of lists the typeface appeared on.  Interestingly, the creators favorites receive a special ranking on the table.

The Art of the Table
It seems that, for the most part, the parodies of the Periodic Table of Elements have all been created to combine a little education with a specific presentation.  Many have been made into lovely works of art, almost as beautiful as the elements themselves.  Posters, paintings and pictures of various periodic tables can be found online or at quaint boutiques on the wall.  The table has become art itself, which of course means alongside the multitudes of tables to be found, there must also be a Periodic Table of Art!

28 March 2016

Meenakshi Amman Temple – India’s Dazzling Shrine Saturated with Statues

The city of Madurai in the South Eastern Indian state of Tamil Nadu is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and has been a functioning metropolis for over two thousand years.

At its heart lies something extraordinary – a temple to the Hindu Goddess Parvati and her husband consort, Shiva. 

The Assassin Bug – Malaysia’s Macabre Miniscule Murderer

I do hope you have had your lunch, in which case you might be ready for a short afternoon horror story. This is a member of the assassin bug family found in Malaysia. It has a particularly cunning plan when it comes to avoid being eaten.  Once it’s had its own lunch (by sucking out the liquefied insides of its victims) it hoists their empty exoskeletons on its back – tens of them all held together by a sticky secretion. The Ark in Space tells the rest of this macabre tale!

Image Credit

27 March 2016

The Old New World


Take a trip to times past in a steampunk time machine.  This amazing animation has been created with Camera projection based on photos.  The result is something wonderful – if eerie – as the past comes to life in front of your eyes.

A number of the large cities of the New World are included here, including New York, Washington and Boston.  Just wonderful!

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Lake Baikal, You Will After You Watch This


Stas Tolstnev is a Russian photographer who recently visited Lake Baikal in southern Siberia.  Baikal is the deepest and purest lake in the world and it is under ice for over four months each year.

Tolstnev captures both its immensity and incredible beauty in this painstakingly made film. You have to wonder how he managed to get some of the shots but not for long: you will find yourself adrift with the elements on the shores of Baikal for a few minutes without a care in the world.

Yikes!


Imagine what you would do if you could see it to the future.  Of course, that would never happen but it does to hapless young actor Ian Eagle (uh huh). Whether this enables Ian to change his luck you will have to discover for yourself.

Yikes was written and directed by Michael Fodera of Lunarcy Pictures and stars Alex Malcolm Mills and Dan Berkey.

Newton in Space


If you need to know how Newton’s three laws of motion work then look no further. This educational animation, made at Beakus, for the Royal Observatory Greenwich, explains the three laws in words and terms that most people can understand.

Newton in Space was directed and designed by Amaël Isnard.  OK, it's for kids but guess what?  Yes indeed.

20 March 2016

The Cannonball Tree

It is the case with a number of plants that they are given popular names which reflect how they look or what they do.  So it is with the Cannonball Tree whose fruit is so large that they look like cannonballs.  Not only that, when they fall to the ground a large noise is created similar to... you guessed it.

The fruit will of course fall when it is good and ready.  So you will not find a Cannonball Tree near a public pathway or a road.  One of these fruit, weighing in at several pounds and often up to ten inches in diameter could kill you.   So, you really want to avoid standing directly under them when they are in fruit.

The Uses of Envy


Were you ever told off as a child for being envious of someone else? Whether you coveted their wealth, good looks or animal magnetism, envy is something that is generally frowned upon.  In fact a certain book places it in the top seven of sins which might prove fatal.  Yet Alan de Botton has a little something to add to the debate and together with great animation from Lara Lee and Hannah Jacobs and narration from Anna Martine you have to admit one thing – he has a point.

The Firefall – Horsetail Falls 2016


If you are a regular reader of Kuriositas then you will probably have read our feature on Horsetail Falls in Yosemite.  For a few days every February, Horsetail Fall comes to life. A seasonal waterfall which flows only in the late winter and early spring, those short February days bring about a transformation. The waterfall is lit up by the setting sun and ignites in to a fiery spectacle. Destination visual artist Shawn Reeder captured this spectacle this year – and what a sight it is!

16 March 2016

The End of the Chinese Miracle


Have you ever heard of the Lewis Turning Point? Neither had I until I watched this fascinating short documentary by the Financial Times, part of their ongoing End of the Chinese Miracle series.  The Lewis Turning Point is the point at which surplus rural labour reaches a financial zero.

Although this is hard to take in, at least on this massive Chines scale. Essentially, it means that there have been so many Chinese people going to live in cities that rural labour is suffering a shortage, which pushes up wages.

In fact, migrant wages have more than doubled over the last seven years.  Before you rush off to China, however, there are a few things you might want to take in to account.  First and foremost, the Chinese population (much like most industrialised nations) is aging rapidly.  When you take this is in to account then the rise in migrant workers’ wages means that we might not be able to rely on this vast and ancient culture to do what it has been doing over the last decade – providing the rest of the world with a deluge of cheap goods.

Plus there’s a dilemma for older workers – of course!  However, if you like truly staggering facts and figures (such as the population equivalent of the shift from country to city in China represents 88 Londons) then this really is the video for you.

Watching this I was really struck at how difficult it was for me to take in these figures – that a single country has this amount of people (despite the fact I was well aware of the enormity of the Chinese population!).  It is, hwever, a fact of twenty first century life that what happens in China will inevitable have a knock on effect on the rest of the world – it truly is their century.  It’s not so much the butterfly effect but perhaps the great big enormous panda effect instead!

13 March 2016

The Statues of Dublin and their Notorious Nicknames

Dublin is littered with statues.  It seems close to a national obsession in Ireland to erect them.  Perhaps not far behind is the predilection of the inhabitants of this fair city to give them nicknames.  A stroll near the Ha’penny Bridge will bring you to these two charming ladies, having a rest after shopping for their families.   They were placed there as part of a project to celebrate the millennium of the city in 1988 and represent the ordinary women of the city.

Charmingly (or not) one of the bags was snatched a little while after the statue was placed there.  What statement the unknown thief was making is unknown but the bag was made of bronze and it was very, very heavy.  Fortunately it was returned, but what of the local nickname for this amiable salute to the womenfolk of Dublin.  Why, the ‘Hags with the Bags’ of course.

6 March 2016

Alberobello – Hobbiton on the Mediterranean

One glance at the Italian village of Alberobello and you know that you have stumbled across something unique.

Neat rows of whitewashed dwellings like something out of a fairy-tale.

It is almost as if the Hobbits of Middle-earth had set up a Mediterranean colony.

These strange but charming dwellings are known as trulli.  They are built without using mortar, part of a drywall culture of construction which predates written history in this part of Italy.  Many of the trulli pictured here are around six hundred years ago – the large slabs of limestone from which they are built was gathered from fields in the area.

5 March 2016

Elwood's Ark


Water is something that everyone can relate to. Yet we rarely think about where it comes from, and how far its ancient molecular cocktail has travelled, to be here with us in this small moment - or how it will exist long after we're gone. For Elwood's Ark, Tilt wanted to create a short film that would approach the subject of water’s journey, and our fragile relationship with it, putting into perspective human existence in the vastness of time and space.
Amung Feedjit
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