31 May 2016

Fruity Stories: The Origins of Five Fruit Names

We take fruit for granted, even the fact that they may travel thousands of miles before they arrive in our stores.  Just as fruit must make a journey, so their names have also traveled a distance.  This, however, has been a journey across the centuries and from culture to culture. So just where did their names come from? Let’s take a look at five popular fruit and discover how their English names came to be.

Orange
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Like many words, orange entered the English language through Old French – orenge.  This came from Old Provencal, auranja, which had borrowed the word from the Arabic nāranj.  This in turn came from Sanskrit, where the word for orange tree was nāranga.

30 May 2016

Cave Diving in El Toh, Yucatan


I don’t mind admitting that if anyone told me I was going cave diving today they wouldn’t see me or my shadow for dust.  The thought of being in a cave, underwater is not something I can countenance personally – and I don’t care if you call me a weakling, milksop, namby-pamby, man-mouse at all.  I’m not going down there. Fortunately, there are people who will, so hats off to diver Christoffer Brenna, safety diver Sebastien Kister and underwater photographer Jonas Pedersen.  The latter shot this breath-taking short glimpse of El Toh in Yucatan, Mexico.  Watch this and discover the beauty of this underwater cave system but if you find that you are holding your breath while doing so, you can be forgiven!
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1500 Words


What would you say if you discovered you only had 1500 words to utter before you had to slip off your mortal coil and go the way of all things? When Stanley Franks is told just this, he faces a battle to keep both his marriage and himself alive using the fewest words possible.  Written by James Menzies and directed by Andrew Chaplin, 1500 Words has won a number of film festivals over the world.  Watch it and find out why.

Pirate Parts


Ah yes, we see what you did there. This cleverly titled animated short focuses on a somewhat blue buccaneer, seemingly at the end of his career – and missing the usual body parts associated with piratical misadventure.  However, these parts soon turn up to remind him who he is, not to mention create a little havoc of their own.

Pirate Parts was created by Shabnam Shams, Megan Robinson and Sara Chantland during their tenure at Ringling College of Arts.  And, no – I’m not going to ask something cheesy like ‘what’s the longest letter in the pirate alphabet?’ because you know the answer already.

29 May 2016

Secretive Supersize Squirrel on Steroids

The Indian Giant Squirrel is something else - it is far larger than the European and North American squirrels for a start - it makes them look like Oompa-Loompas for a start! However, if you are averse to squirrels you need not worry too much - they live in India and so they are unlikely to spring at you from the trees any time soon (plus they are vegetarians anyway!).

Nevertheless, their size is quite remarkable - one can only wonder how the trees take their weight as they leap up to twenty meters between the branches. You can get the low down on these amazing beasts over at our sibling site, The Ark In Space.

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The Man Who Put the Pee in Phosphorus


How do you become one of the first people to discover a chemical element? By hoarding urine, that’s how. Seriously?  Back in the 1660's, German alchemist Hennig Bran thought he could create gold by distilling the stuff – in his search for the philosopher’s stone.  That didn’t work out but this great animation by Great Big Story shows how he did something far more useful instead.  So, even if he didn’t discover the philosopher’s stone at least his work didn’t go entirely down the toilet…

Portrait of an Artist | Guido van Helten


Australian artist Guido van Helten recently concluded a residency in Iceland.  His major project was to go to Akureyri - a town on the north coast of Iceland, to produce a very unique work.  Film director Selina Miles traveled with him and made this record of this very cool project. It went down very well with the locals too! If you would like to see more of van Helten’s work on Kuriositas, here is his recent abandoned silo project in Australia.

The Counting Sheep


Have you ever counted sheep to fall asleep?  Believe me, it works – but have you ever spared a thought for the sheep at the back of the queue?  Of course, enumerating ovine athletes is fine for sheep one, two and three but what about sheep number 100?  This smart and enjoyable animation by Katelyn Hagen and Michale Warren centers on that specific sheep and his desire to get to jump the fence.  Does he get his desire? Watch and see!

28 May 2016

Onbashira: The Most Dangerous Festival in Japan

2016 is a special year in Japan. Every six years the men of the towns and villages around Lake Suwa in the Nagano Prefecture participate in the Onbashira festival (a matsuri in Japanese) and this year it comes round again.  It has been celebrated sexenially for over 1,200 years without interruption.

Translated as ‘the honored pillars’, Onbashira symbolically renews the Suwa Taisha shrine and is a dazzling display of the power of man over nature. It is also known as the most dangerous festival in Japan.  Broken limbs are inevitable during the festival and deaths have also, unfortunately, been recorded.

Onbashira 2016
This festival would never happen elsewhere, frankly.  Hordes of health and safety inspectors would ensure that the huge logs would become nothing more than twigs. As for riding atop them at a breath-taking speed – this would simply be banned, interdit, verboten.  However, this is Japan.  Have you ever seen any of the country’s game shows which make demands on the body which should make most people quail? You may have wondered where anyone could get the idea for such risky physicality.  Perhaps their roots lie in Onbashira.

Andante


This is very clever made doubly so by the fact it’s a very simple idea.  Place animated characters on the piano to visualize musical motion and there it is!  Of course marrying the two, done superbly here by the Tangible Media Group is easier said than done.  This is seamlessly done and will no doubt stimulate the imagination of any piano player (anyone really if truth be told).  Sit back, enjoy and don’t think too much about how it was done!

Rock Fish


Life is always hard if you’re a miner but if your quarry (as it were) is alive then things can get complicated very quickly.  One miner and his alien companion know the risks but even they are not prepared for what comes when they land the catch of their lives. Get ready for a high-speed ride across the rocky terrain of a mining planet which will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Rock Fish was written and directed by Tim Miller and created by Culver City based Blur Studio.

As an aside, although everyone has to make a living I have to admit to having some sympathy with the rock fish of the title.  There it was, deep underground, minding its own business when...

25 May 2016

3 Interesting Facts about Swimsuits


There are plenty of interesting facts about swimsuits that would leave you flabbergasted – check out our top three below:

  1. Did you know that thongs are illegal in Melbourne, Florida? Wearing one there will get you a fine of $500 or 60 days in prison! Also, while this small piece of clothing may have been popularized mostly by Brazilians in the 1970s, it’s actually believed to have been invented 75,000 years ago as a primitive protection for male genitals.
  2. The first chest-revealing suit for men dubbed the Topper, which appeared in 1932, had a detachable top that could be zipped away from its trunk bottom. Unfortunately, if a man chose to do so, he could be arrested for indecent exposure! 
  3. Back in 1921, American swimwear manufacturer Jantzen changed the name “bathing suit” to “swimming suit” to justify their much more revealing swimsuits as a form of athleticism.

Nowadays swimsuits are commonly accepted and be it JCPenney or Neiman Marcus, you can get them practically everywhere in a variety of styles that won't shock anymore!

22 May 2016

The Mortsafe: Or How to Protect Your Loved Ones from the Bodysnatchers

Medical students in the United Kingdom of the nineteenth century faced a quandary. They had been accustomed to using the corpses of executed criminals to study anatomy.

The use of the corpses of the convicted to discover the secrets of human anatomy dates back to the 4th century BC, when Herophilos and Erasistratus  of Alexandria were given permission to perform live vivisections.  The times, however, had changed and criminals were now only dissected after execution.  Yet there was a problem..

More lenient punishment for wrongdoings had meant that only around 50 people a year were now being executed. However, the annual demand for bodies to dissect by the growing medical profession surpassed ten times that number. A thriving and historically infamous bodysnatching trade arose. However, those mourning the loss of a loved one soon developed a weapon against this: the mortsafe.

The first mortsafe was made around 1816.  They came in a number of different designs but the one thing that they had in common was their weight, which would make exhumation of the recently deceased impossible.

The mortsafe was ingenious: a complex of iron rods and plates descending in to the ground and rising above it.

Above the ground they were weighted either with stone or iron.

21 May 2016

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Hong Kong, You Will After You Watch This

It’s rare when a few minutes of film footage manage to wholly capture a place, especially a place like Hong Kong which is full of so many contradictory elements.  Director, DP and editor Brandon Li pulls this off spectacularly with Hong Kong Strong.  This is a deep dive in to the many layers of this complex, enigmatic, impossible city.  This was shot in the days leading up to the Chinese New Year which only adds to the interest!

Road to Victory: Projection Mapping the Great Patriotic War


Sila Sveta, specialists in leading-edge 3D Projection Mapping, 3D stage designs, multimedia shows were asked last year to create a permanent installation in The Museum of Great Patriotic War in Moscow. This projection mapping show is dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory and covers all the major milestones of the war. This behind the scene glimpse shows the huge amount of work and creativity that went in to the project.

Deliveries Before Dawn


This short documentary by Ben Stevenson and Chris Goulder offers us an intimate glimpse in to the lives of the men who deliver milk to households across East London.  Their lives are often overlooked by the general population, their work being over before the majority of us even wake up.  Yet there is something a little different about this particular milk crew.  Their secret is about to be revealed –watch and dicsover!

19 May 2016

Thank You

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Giant Tea Monkey Invades London!


It’s not quite like a scene from Godzilla or Cloverfield – this monstrous beasty was on an altogether more benign mission. PG Tips wanted to send a message to Londoners and what better deliverer than their familiar monkey mascot in, albeit immediately recognisable, disguise. Instead of knitted socks, this incarnation of Monkey is made from over 100,000 tea leaves. Take a look at the video above for the reaction of some unsuspecting Londoners!

The Thames is no stranger to weird and peculiar objects. However, this time the message was one of overwhelming positivity. The folks at PG Tips Green Tea had the idea to put Monkey floating down the Thames to energise Londoners and to coincide with the publication of their latest ‘green paper’.

That may sound quite governmental but what this particular research has revealed is that British workers don’t take as many breaks as they should. While this might raise a wry eye-brow (or even two) the fact is that out of the 2,000 people surveyed for the ‘green paper’ less than half felt that they took a proper break over their working day.

I must say I echo that emotion, as it were – my lunchtime used to be a meal at the pub and a long chat with colleagues. Nowadays it’s a limp sandwich, a few desultory lettuce leaves if I’m lucky and a look through the sea of emails that have arrived over the last few hours.

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As well as encouraging people to take better (that is, proper!) breaks the ‘green paper’ also reveals PG Tips’ review of the power of green as a colour – the positive impact it can have on our well-being: a kind of ‘eco-therapy’ as it were. We all know the benefit of a brisk walk through a park or woodland but one thing the study has also revealed is that simply being around green helps. If an office is painted green then it creates feelings of energy and invigoration simply by association.

So, a monkey floating down the river Thames does, in fact, have a number of messages for the general population. Most important, of course, is this – take care of yourself! Have a break and have a cuppa to go with it. I would add some advice of my own. Find a secret place where you can enjoy your cup of tea (green, of course!) so that no-one can bother you. If it has to be a broom cupboard, so be it… You can always imagine you’re floating down the Thames watching the world go by as you sip the refreshing brew.

Check out PG Tips Green Tea here.

15 May 2016

Jellyfish Lake

Over at our sibling site all about the wonders of nature, Ark in Space, there is an article about one of the stranger places on earth – Jellyfish Lake. Every day millions of golden jellyfish migrate – no big surprise there you might say.  However, you might not expect them to migrate horizontally across a lake.  Still, a visit to Jellyfish Lake on Eil Malk, an island in Palau, in the Pacific Ocean, will confirm just that.  Yet just how on earth did these jellyfish get to the lake in the first place?

So, if you are not too squeamish, why not head over to Ark in Space and take a look at this weird quirk of Mother Nature?

Image Credit Flickr User Tobze

The Babson Boulders of Dogtown

Roger Babson had a problem. His family thought he was crazy or felonious or both.  He had started to carve mottoes in to the boulders which lay in the fields near the long abandoned settlement of Dogtown close to his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Babson was later to write in his autobiography: My family says that I am defacing the boulders and disgracing the family with these inscriptions, but the work gives me a lot of satisfaction, fresh air, exercise and sunshine. I am really trying to write a simple book with words carved in stone instead of printed paper. Besides, when on Dogtown common, I revert to a boyhood which I once enjoyed when driving cows there many years ago.

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


You had better sit back and strap in because I doubt you have seen Singapore like this before.  Photographer, Time Lapse, Hyperlapse and HyperZoom™ specialist Geoff Tompkinson has created this visually dazzling and dizzying flight around the island city-state off southern Malaysia.

You will no doubt wonder how Mr Tompkinson did this (it’s amazing) and you know something? I’m not going to tell you.  OK, that’s just because I have no idea..!  Watch and wonder…

Ain't No Fish


If you are a hungry arctic seal then these days you have to sing for your supper – but even then you may not have much luck.  As the background reveals, there ain’t no fish for a number of very good reasons.  Directed by Tom Gasek and Miki Cash this will get your toes tapping along while an eerie sense of dread about the future of our planet overtakes you. Fishfingers for lunch, anyone? Didn't think so...

Darth by Darthwest


If you have woken up this morning with an almost compulsive need to watch a George Lucas Alfred Hitchcock mashup then look no further.  Director, screenwriter, operator and editor Fabrice Mathieu has come up with this North by Northwest and Star Wars mashup which re-imagines the famous scene where Cary Grant gets fired on by a crop-duster – except it’s not a crop-duster anymore.  Enjoy!

12 May 2016

Curious Facts about Dating Sites

In the digital era dating online is quite commonplace. To put it mildly, many people can’t imagine how to make new acquaintances and potential partners in their real life. Indeed, free dating is convenient and gives us many opportunities that are not available in reality. For example, you can choose a person to suit your interests and hobbies. You can set an age interval you are OK with. Before deciding which person to date, it is possible to communicate with several candidates at the same time to realize which of them your match is.

Having become a normal practice online dating is still a social phenomenon with its laws and regularities. It would be curious to use a new broader angle on online dating. Keep on reading about interesting facts you have never guessed. Some of them are terrified, others are fun. Altogether they will help to enlarge your scope and better understand the role of online dating and its influence on our lives.
  • It is believed that women tend to hide their age by all means. However, as researches made by Statistics Brain, in a US virtual space these are men who reveal their true age hoping to attract more pursuers. Moreover, they are not honest about their income and even height.
  • Though, if they had known that older men were more popular with women than younger men, they would not have exaggerated their age. In the online dating space older men inspire trust, stability and maturity. Men from 20 to 30 years are rarely sought as a potential partner for long-lasting relationship followed by future marriage. The tendency with the women’s age is quite opposite.
  • Younger women are more successful in fining their love via online dating site than the older women. By this reason they as in a real life lie about their age. Besides, they are reluctant to reveal real weight and physical build. The reason why they do this is obvious. Women’s look is usually the first thing men focus on.
  • Nevertheless, the irony is that attractive women have a bunch more winks and stares then women of an ordinary look, but average men as a rule do not dare to ask them out. They prefer the average women to go on a date with.
  • Unfortunately, the virtual dating world as well as the real one is not lacking of dangers. Approximately 10% offenders manage to disguise themselves as single people looking for a match. 10% profiles are of scammers trying to humbug money from single people. This information is another reminder of necessity for caution.
  • Not only men and women benefit from online dating. It is a hide business. Chargeable services these sites offer produce great returns. $1 billion USD per year sounds impressive. And this business is not going to suffer from the world crisis and still attract more and more people cherishing the hope to rebuild their personal life.

9 May 2016

Sans-Souci – Carefree Palace of a Self-Made Monarch

The Haitian Revolution (1791 – 1804) had left Haiti independent from its old colonial master, France which itself had only recently felt the convulsions of civil insurgency itself. Yet it also left the country divided in to north and south. In the north, a remarkable yet despotic man came to be known as Henry I, King of Haiti (left) and held sway for a number of years. He decreed that a palace be constructed to be the centerpiece of his power. Sans-Souci, as it was named, was to be his Versailles.

This was a palace meant to display power, wealth and prestige – a slap in the face to the old colonial overlords. It was propaganda in the form of bricks and mortar. In modern day terms, you could even call it something of a spin palace.

8 May 2016

Once Upon a Blue Moon


If you were the only little blue creature on an asteroid, you would get lonely – yes? It is certainly the case for this little chap who resorts to making friends from the rubble scattered around him. So when a spaceship carrying a robot explorer lands it is determined to make friends from the outset. Will the unlikely friendship blossom? Find out in this uber cute animated short by Steve Boot.

The D in David


You’ve probably seen the movie Night at the Museum. Well, this is the side of that kids’ film, perhaps, that you don’t see. The poor old Statue of David is humiliated by the other artworks for being déshabillé and reacts by dashing from his podium to escape his detractors who don’t rate him highly on certain proportions.

Whether David can find solace is up to you to discover in this entertaining short by Michelle Yi and Farkash from the Ringling College of Art and Design.

4 May 2016

Star Wars Day – May the Fourth be with You

It may be a phrase so full of cheesy humor that it elicits an inevitable groan. Yet since the London Evening News published an advert which used the phrase “May the fourth Be with you” – ironically to congratulate Margaret Thatcher’s ascension to Prime Minister in 1979, the phrase took hold. It has stayed with us ever since and is used by countless people on the day after 3 May.

However, it wasn’t until 2011 that the first organized Star Wars Day celebration took place in Toronto, Canada. More of a convention than anything else, the event featured a showing of episodes V to VI, game shows, parodies and of course the inescapable costume competition.
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