26 November 2016

Fungtopus? The Incredible Fungus that Looks Like an Octopus

This is Clathrus archeri.  Looking every inch the result of a GM experiment gone wrong, it resembles a strange cross between a toadstool and an octopus.

Yet this is not the result of some subterranean gene-splicing enterprise to bring the world a spore-bearing cellaphod (for whatever reason that might be).  This is exactly how nature intended the Octopus Stinkhorn.  The shape and form you see here is an integral but short-lived part of its life-cycle.

A Drone through Africa

This short film was three years in the making and was created by Cape Town based Cinematographer and Photographer Naudewashere.  It is, simply put, visually stunning and an absolute joy to watch.

If like me you are forced to do most of your traveling from the comfort of your armchair then this is an opportunity to experience Africa in a new way.

Nine to Five Ned

I think this may have happened to me more than once.  Ned is just a normal guy with one of those jobs that does not involve much imagination.

However, that is not going to hold Ned back and one day something extraordinary happens to him.  Perhaps.

Directed and animated by Lisa and Brandon Ray, you may find a little bit of Ned in yourself.

Breakdance in Lederhosen

Some things simply make the eyebrows rise in an almost Vulcanesque involuntariness.  Mr Spock would possibly have a few ironic words to say here but for simple joie de vivre there isn’t much that could beat this.  German dance group DDD (Dancefloor Destruction Crew) go baths to their roots (at least costume wise) and perform a spectacular routine which may have your jaw on the floor as often as these young men have their legs in the air.

20 November 2016

Fly Geyser – Not Quite of this World

They look as if they were taken on another planet, or at least on the set of a new and very expensive science fiction movie. Yet these pictures are of the Fly Geyser which is very much of planet earth (Nevada, US to be exact). However – and herein lies the surprise – it is effectively man made.

Watch this Beautifully Choreographed Dance to Adele’s All I Ask

There are times when you just have to sit back and watch as things come together.  This is one of them.  Take one amazing track – All I Ask by Adele and add two superlative dancers in to the mix (in this case, Dj Smart and Zola Williams.  Then sprinkle choreographer Will B Bell lightly and mix it with the talents of film-maker and editor Jose Omar Hernandez.  You have the perfect recipe for just under four minutes of perfection.

If You Have Never Wanted to Visit Madrid, You Will after You Watch This

Truth be told I have always felt sorry for Madrid – what with Valencia and Barcelona also in Spain it is almost like being a woman with two younger, more beautiful sisters always around to remind you… My own personal opinion aside, we have featured a number of hyperlapse and timelapse videos by Kirill Neiezhmakov on Kuriositas in the past – and for one very good reason: his work is always superlative. So, older sister Madrid, step out of the shadows in to the light!

Water Hunters

In 2034 there is a global water shortage and things are getting a little Darwinian to say the least.  People are constantly thirsty and many go to extremes to ensure their survival. A young man and woman, lonesome water scavengers are forced, through circumstance, to work together.  Yet is their coming together something more than pure accident?  This dystopic animated short was created by Italian animation studio IBRIDO, written and directed by Salvatore Centoducati and Massimo Ottoni.

16 November 2016

Leviathan's Blood: Modern Fantasy Writing at its Best

Australia doesn’t have a reputation for producing fine novelists which is nonsense really. Even if you place just two in the frame, Peter Carey (author of the sublime Oscar and Lucinda) and Markus Zusak (who wrote The Book Thief, the last novel to reduce me to tears) then there is ample proof that the country punches above its weight when it comes to literary masters.

As such it’s great to introduce you to another Australian author - Ben Peek whose new novel, Leviathan’s Blood, has just been published. It is part of a trilogy so there is plenty to explore in this new world. And what a world! Peek takes you to a place where the gods have died: their bodies have become the foundations of mountains.

Among the corpses men and women live their lives but something is stirring in some. What made the gods divine is trickling in to the earth and infecting people. A curse or a gift, this has given them immense powers: some can see the dead, others are able to walk through fire. The earth itself can be shattered by their power.

A new god arises and resolves to reclaim that which once belonged to her progenitors. Add a former mercenary, a cartographer’s apprentice and a saboteur in to the mix, together with an ancient man who can communicate with the dead and you have what is arguably one of the best modern fantasies to come out in years.

So if you want something epic and unputdownable (if that wasn’t a real word then it is now), take a peak at the teaser above or click here for more information. A new world awaits.

12 November 2016

Fishing with Cormorants

It is partnership between man and animal which has lasted over a millennia. A fisherman needs to catch enough fish to sell and feed himself and his family. Sometimes that means that he needs an assistant.  The Ark in Space takes a look at the fascinating relationship between the cormorant and the fishermen of China's inland rivers.

Image Credit Pathos Photos

Leh Palace: Abandoned Bastion of the Himalayas

In the early years of the seventeenth century the Lion King of Ladakh, Sengge Namgyal ordered the construction of a great palace.  Situated atop the Himalayan city of Leh, now in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was the home of his dynastic descendants until their overthrow and exile in 1834.  Once the world’s highest building, Leh Palace has been abandoned since then.  Yet it remains a majestic presence in this area of India often referred to as Little Tibet.

If it seems familiar that is because it is thought to be modelled on the more famous Potala Palace in neighboring Tibet which was the home of the Dalai Lama until his flight from the country in 1959.   Some say that it is the other way around but the similarities are remarkable. It is smaller than Potala but nevertheless Leh Palace is hugely impressive in its own right.  Towering nine storeys high, its upper floors once echoed to the sounds of Namgyal royalty and their throngs of courtiers.  The lower floors were used for storage and to accommodate the precious horses of the army.

If You Want It

Si tu le veux translates as if you want it – and this remarkable short piece directed and edited by Grégoire Thiry, screenplay written by Lou Bruston and starring Nathan Cohen shows that you should not let things get in your way either particularly when it comes to self-expression.  You may be surprised by the moves that Nathan is able to produce but their message is more profound that simply look what I can do – it’s a signal to us too to go out and excel at what we enjoy.  As the end title says – if you want to dance, then dance.

Dear Mr Shakespeare

If you haven’t heard of Phoebe Boswell now is perhaps time to take note of this remarkable visual artist.  In this piece created by director Shola Amoo for The Guardian, she explores Shakespeare's intentions when writing Othello, analysing through poetry the play's racial themes in a historical and contemporary setting and drawing wider parallels between immigration and blackness in the UK today - with Ashley Thomas as Othello for good measure.

8 November 2016

Five small Steps for Big Change

It is rare these days, when so much information is thrust under our noses, that a simple statistic can stagger. This is one of those: over the next year over three million children will die from infectious diseases. That is over eight thousand a day – or 300 an hour. If it took you a minute to read this paragraph, then during that time five children will have died from disease. The greatest shame of it all is that often these diseases could have been prevented.

The Global Hygiene Council wants to change that – and the good news is that to reduce these appalling numbers is quite straightforward. The answer lies – as it invariably and inevitably does with most things – in education. Poor personal hygiene and home hygiene practices are widely recognised as the main causes of infection transmission for colds, influenza and diarrhoea. If people can be taught a few basics of hygiene then the Global Hygiene Council predicts that death can be avoided for many of those three million children.

As such the council has released the video above which outline five ways that people can help to reduce disease. Although you might take each and every one of them for granted many people in the world are still unaware that these simple steps can help reduce child mortality. Please take a look and help pass the message on - #FiveStepsForBigChange.

6 November 2016

Shirley Colllins: Pretty Polly

There have been any number of cases, over the centuries, of women donning male attire to join the armed forces.  This song dates back to the 1840s and is sung here by Shirley Collins.  The animation by Trunk is not quite what it seems to be – in as much as it’s not an animation!  It was actually filmed in camera on real film with no edits. At times it involved 18 people moving sets and operating puppets, lights, clouds, hills and other elements in real time.

5 November 2016

The Shattered Remains of Afghanistan’s Versailles

The ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule has been recorded down the centuries, from Alexander the Great to our own modern times.  Yet it is not only outsiders who have been the focus of the ire of the Afghan people.

The first Afghan ruler who endeavored to modernize Afghanistan on a western model, Amanullah Khan (left), was eventually forced to flee his own country.

His once opulent palaces are now testimony to the conflict and violence which have dogged this complex country for more than a century.

Amanullah Khan became the Emir of Afghanistan in 1919, shortly afterwards declaring himself King.  He instigated the Third Anglo-Afghan War in the same year which was, ostensibly, a minor tactical victory for the British Empire.  However, it effectively ended direct British influence in the country. Afghanistan was able to recommence the right to conduct its own foreign affairs as an entirely independent nation.  Amanullah Khan immediately ordered the construction of the Darul Aman Palace and grounds.

3 November 2016

Houses of the Hobbit Diaspora

If you think that Hobbits are fictional, do not be fooled a second longer.  Middle-earth once existed, as did all of its various species.  Yet the hobbits found themselves obliged to leave their original home of The Shire. Rescued by the ancestors of a mild-mannered English writer, they have spread across the world.  A spell cast by the Gandalf the White means that the sons of men cannot see them but if you look close enough, there is evidence to be found.  A hobbit has to live somewhere, after all.  Here are just some of the houses of the Hobbit diaspora.

The first evidence of hobbits goes back hundreds of years.  Sites in Scotland and Finland, to name but two, have shown that hobbits have been living among us for longer than anyone imagined.  In exchange for our hospitality, the Hobbits have sworn to help us thrive.  While you might argue that, globally, they cannot be doing too good a job of that, there are few hobbits to many millions of humans - so the scale of their assistance is not huge.

2 November 2016

Unusual Chinese Dishes That are Worth Trying

Chinese food is one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in the UK and the US. This popularity is fairly easy to explain.

Both countries have relatively large Chinese populations (about 5% of the non-white population in the UK, and 1.5% of the total US population). Chinese food is remarkably healthy, as has been shown by many studies, and it is among the more inexpensive types of restaurant fare.  Chinese food is also remarkably easy to prepare at home.

If you check the menus of the Chinese restaurants in your neighbourhood on Urban Spoon (Zomato) or Hungry House, you are likely to find some dishes, such as duck and quail and some fish dishes, which are not common in other restaurants, but in most cases those restaurants are serving westernised versions of the recipes.

Part of the appeal of Chinese food is the unique combination of ingredients that complement one another and which often offer very pleasant contrasts.  Traditional Chinese cooking also makes full use of the ingredients. This has resulted in some unusual preparations and cooking techniques, at least by western standards.
With that in mind, here are some traditional Chinese dishes and cooking techniques.

Chinese chefs believe that the meat near the bone is the best tasting. Therefore meat is often cut so that the bones shatter and end up in the dish; this is especially true if the meat is duck, chicken, or pork. This not only ensures that the best meat is in the dish, but also has the side benefit of releasing the marrow into the dish, which significantly adds to the taste.  Finding a bit of bone in your dish is a mark of a traditional Chinese chef, not a sign of careless preparation.

The “raw food” movement is one of the latest fads in the western world. Raw vegetables are an oddity in Chinas, where many foods westerners eat raw, such as lettuce and cucumber, are served pickled, fried, or boiled.

Lotus roots and bamboo shoots are becoming fairly common in UK Chinese kitchens. With proper preparation both have a similar texture and taste to common lettuce.

Chinese markets frequently have bitter melon, also called winter melon. Bitter melon rarely finds its way onto mainstream Chinese restaurant menus due to its exceedingly bitter taste which can be overpowering. However, bitter melon does have its fans, most of whom have developed a taste for it over a period of time. One advantage of adding bitter melon to your diet is that it may have significant health advantages as it has been show to lower the blood glucose levels of diabetics and some researchers feel it may be an effective cancer fighter.

Meat and Fish
Chinese cooking has a long history of preparing dishes that are totally foreign to the western way of thinking, however most are never found outside of mainland China. However, it is not uncommon to find heads, feet, and beaks on your plate in more traditional restaurants outside of China.

That said, there are a few that are sometimes available and well worth sampling.

Fried chicken feet are one example of how nothing goes to waste in Chinese cooking.  Often served as starters, fried chicken feet are quite crisp and tasty.

Many scientists have stated that one of the best ways to address the issue of world hunger and sustainability is by consuming insects, something the Chinese have practiced for centuries.  Scorpions, ants, and cicadas are among the insects that can frequently be found at Chinese markets and Chinese food festivals.  Most are served deep-fried and have an unique but pleasant taste. Scorpions are served deep fried and all and are perfectly safe to eat as any poison is killed during the cooking process. Most insects have a sort of nutty taste, with the exception of ants, which surprisingly taste like limes.

Practically everything found in the ocean has made its way onto the dinner plate in China. In all honesty the decision on whether to try them depends on your personal taste in seafood. One item that can be easily avoided is sea cucumbers, which are frequently sold in Chinese herb and medicine shops. Despite their unusual appearance, their taste is very bland.

Thousand-year-old eggs are another item which can frequently be found in Chinese markets. Thousand-year-old eggs are actually only about 100 days old and are preserved duck eggs that have been coated with ash and salt that turn the whites a dark colour.  Preserved eggs can be frequently found in soups or other dishes. They are a bit of an acquired taste and have a strong salty flavour.

Exploring some of the more traditional Chinese foods is a great way to expand your culinary horizon, and many of the items (with the exception of preserved eggs) are amazingly easy to prepare at home.
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