23 June 2018

The Windcatchers of Persia

They appear throughout the Middle East: Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan have these antique Persian designs dotted around their towns and cities. They are windcatchers, known in the area as Bâdgir. Serving as ventilation systems they have given the people of the Middle East air conditioning for thousands of years. Yet despite their antediluvian origin, windcatchers may even provide a solution for some very modern architectural problems.

Windcatchers come in a vast array of sizes and a number of different styles. They function in one of three ways. Some direct the airflow downwards and use direct wind entry. Others direct airflow up either using a temperature gradient assisted either by the sun or the wind.

21 June 2018

Unicorns Must Exist

Written tongue-in-cheek by Dragoș

Visiting Harrods for the first time has definitely changed my perspective on so many things.

To list only a few ...

I sure didn't know - or even expected - that there are bed sizes bigger than King size.

I didn’t know because nobody told me. Also because I never thought to ask; I mean, King size is already big - and frankly quite enough slumber area, even for a couple - so I don’t imagine anyone would spend time contemplating sleep improvements and coming up with bigger bed sizes as THE solution.

19 June 2018

Do You Remember Alan Kurdi?


In September 2015 the world was riveted by a photograph of a dead toddler, a Syrian refugee washed up on a Turkish shore, a tragic consequence of the war in his homeland and his family’s decision to seek refuge abroad.  The search for a safe life ended in tragedy for the Kurdi family and his image was and remains a wake-up call to the world.

The 18th - 24th June is Refugee week and lest we forget, the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) have released four new films.  The one I have chosen to include on Kuriositas is an interview with little Alan’s aunt, Tima.  I think we have to remind ourselves, sometimes, of what happened to Alan and to many, many like him.  It’s very easy to turn a blind eye to something that is happening such a long way away.

I’m not going to pretend that this will not upset you.  It probably will resonate because we have all lost loved ones and talking about them can often provoke tears (representing many different sometimes conflicting emotions).  Yet Tima Kurdi is a lady who has chosen to talk about a member of her family who will never experience the joy of learning to read and write, will never experience the first day at high school, the first kiss, the first driving lesson  – the nevers are endless.  This is going to produce an emotional response in you and for that I cannot make any apologies.

As the beginning of the film implies – we can simply turn off the footage.  Yet this is happening to families all over the world on a daily basis and it will have a crushing, lifelong impact on them.  Tima believes that the millions of refugees the world over have been let down by countries, many of which have a direct responsibility for fuelling the war in Syria.

She has a point.  The IOHR hope that focusing on the situations that refugees find themselves in as well as paying tribute to those, like Alan, who have lost their lives, this interview will help us regain the sense of the personal when we reflect on the awful crisis facing these people.

If you would like to watch the other three videos in this series, then please visit the IOHR YouTube channel. You may find them revelatory.  Please also follow #BeARefugeeSponsor and #RefugeeWeek2018 if you would like to support.

17 June 2018

The Incredible Glasswing Butterfly

It never ceases to stagger me what nature can come up with and the glasswing butterfly is just that – staggering.  The name speaks for itself – the glasswing’s claim to fame is that its wings, spanning up to six centimeters, are almost completely transparent. That’s right, you can see just about right through them.  The Ark in Space, our sibling site, has a feature today on this extraordinary creature.

Image Credit Naz Dore

Turkmenistan: In Isolation


Take a few glimpses at Turkmenistan. This Central Asian state is rarely featured in western media so much of the architecture of its capital Ashgabat – grandiose and glittering – will seem almost like something from a science-fiction movie.  Plus its terrain is unforgiving and unwelcoming, and includes the Darvaza crater – otherwise known as the gateway to hell.   Digital nomad Pete R created this cinematic piece which will stay with you a while.

Under the Apple Tree


Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me… so goes the old song but this particular apple tree is one which you may wish to give a wide berth.  It is home to a little worm who soon finds himself homeless.  Never mind, the shenanigans between the owner of the orchard and his priest brother will soon create an opportunity. An animated stop motion horror comedy (not for the littluns!) about worms, apples and death, this is also about families and the troubles they bring!  Under the Apple Tree was produced and directed by Erik van Schaaik.

Alientologists


Earth has gone – destroyed in some unnamed but by the looks of it fairly terminal cataclysm.  As the remnants of our civilization wheel around the planet they attract the attention of a curious blue-skinned race of aliens. One of them finds it difficult to fit in with the others but could his discovery lead to a greater understanding of our disappeared culture and forge a closer bond between him and his colleagues?

Directed and written by Tyler Rabinowitz, Alientologists isn’t half (or a quarter or an eighth) as serious as it sounds – in fact it gets deliriously silly about the five minute mark and doesn’t stop being resplendently daft till the end - but is not without poignancy either.  If you don’t have a smile on your face at its conclusion this then I expect you are, like the Earth imagined in the short film, quite dead, definitely deceased or at least something slightly to the left of alive.

16 June 2018

The Bristlecone Pine: Twisted Contortions of the Ancients

They have lived through millennia. Dispersed in sub-alpine groves in the Western United States some of these ancient trees are over 5,000 years old.  They contain in their ranks the oldest known individuals of any species on Earth. Their twisted branches, formed over innumerable years stretch towards the sky, sublimely if anthropomorphically expressive. What might these immovable ancients have pondered as epochs passed?

10 June 2018

The Astonishing Eggs of Alien Nations

They may look like they come straight out of a science fiction film, but these eggs are real - they come from the stink bug. It’s life, but most certainly not as we know it. Our sibling site, Ark in Space has a new feature today about the eggs of insects.  It doesn't sound thrilling exactly until you see them - then your jaw slackens. Take a look at the astonishing eggs of the alien nations all around us.

Image Credit

Would You Like to Write for Kuriositas?

We are looking for a number of writers who wish to improve their online portfolio by publishing on a well-established site with a good reputation for featuring high quality articles on a number of arts, science and travel-related subjects.

If that sounds like you, then we would like to hear from you.  

What can you write about?  We would like to broaden our remit by including reviews – film, television, theater, books – you name it, we will consider it.  If you wish to write about somewhere interesting and unusual, that also ticks the right box.  Science stuff? This is also the right site.  Our sphere of interest and activity is broad – anything that you think curious minds would enjoy.

All we ask is that your work is original and anything that is published on Kuriositas will not be published anywhere else online.  Obviously, too, the standard of your written English must be high – we will not have the time to proof and edit anything that comes our way.  Finally it must not be, in any way, shape or form an advertisement for you, your products, services or those of others.  So, for example if you do a theater review we would not link to the theater’s site – and so on.  We’ve been doing this internet writing malarkey for a while now, so we’ll spot you a mile off if a link is all you want!

What do you get in return? No money, we’re afraid.  However, you do get the kudos of seeing your work published on a high quality website which will broaden the range of your online portfolio.  We will give you full credit for your writing at the top of the post with your name linked to your own site if you have one (and maybe even a small picture of you if you would like). We can also include contact details if you so choose (maybe at the end of the article).

So, what are you waiting for? Write telling us why you would like to write for Kuriositas, including an example of your work to taliesyn30@aol.com (what can we say, we’re old school) and let’s start a conversation.

Best regards

Robert-John

What we are not looking for
As mentioned above, we are not seeking attention from those whose sole aim is to publish articles with a link to either their business site or one owned by others.  As this effectively is marketing, please make your way here instead.  We do accept advertising posts but with some conditions attached.

Mythos


An excellent alternative name for this fantastic animation would surely be Minimalist Myths.  Here we are presented with the legends of Midas, Persephone and Icarus among others but in a way in which you have (probably not) seen them before.  Interpreted for the age of the pixel and the gif these stories still have great resonance today. Direction and design is by Stephen Kelleher, with modelling and animation by Chris Guyot and sound design by John Poon.

Rebooted


Owl Guy is old hat.  His adventures are consigned to the very back of the local comic shop.  Yet one day he discovers a portal in to a mysterious new edition and – kapow! – the realisation suddenly dawns on him that he has been… rebooted.  This affectionate but comically incisive animated short was created by Sagar Arun and Rachel Kral as part of their programme at Ringling College of Art and Design.

9 June 2018

Surfing in the City: Munich’s Eisbach

If you live in a large town or city and it isn’t situated anywhere near an ocean then probably one of the last things you might expect to see is the sight of someone in full wetsuit sporting a surfboard walking nonchalantly down the street.  For the residents of Munich in Germany, which is about 500km from the sea, it’s nothing strange. Thanks to the Eisbach (or ice brook in English) you can go surfing in the city.

A Brief History of Bingo

Bingo is a game beloved by million the world over.  Whereas today it is fairly straightforward to find the best bingo sites to win on at the click of a mouse, in earlier times it wasn’t so easy.  For many years the game seems to have been restricted to traveling carnivals so only played at certain times of the year – when the carnival came to town, effectively. So, where did the game originate, what led to its massive popularity today and what is the secret of its success?

The game probably began in Italy during the renaissance.  So Da Vinci and Michelangelo may well have played this game – known then - and today - as Il Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia.  It has been going on ever since and is vital to the country’s economy.  It may well be the longest ongoing game in the world!

From there the game went to France, also under the name of Le Lotto but becoming something which might be familiar to our modern eyes – it consisted of three horizontal and nine vertical rows with 5 random number arranged on blank squared.  Numbers would be pulled from a bag and read out and the first person to cover a horizontal row would win the prize.  Sound familiar?

Of course, like many ancient games, Bingo found a new lease of life in the USA where it was first known as Beano in the 1920s.  Rules were created and standardized, with a book published in 1933 which led to the mass popularity of the game across the USA – and it soon spread over to the UK too.  By the 1940s the game was widespread across both countries.

We’re not quite sure where the modern name bingo comes from.  The most popular legend is that a player, excited at being the winner, called out bingo instead of the traditional beano.  It stuck.  One can imagine the second, then the third, then the fourth winner using the new, funnier word and before long the original name had been lost to history.  Bingo halls popped up everywhere and groups of friends would enjoy nights out, chatting and playing.  The carnival had come to town but this time it was staying...

Then came the internet and everything changed, even if it wasn’t exactly in the blink of an eye.  The very first online bingo site was launched in 1996.  The regular balls have gone and in their place numbers are randomly generated.  Apart from that the game remains effectively the same.  Even the social aspect is retained – virtually!  Most online games have a chat feature so you can talk to friends as you play and share the excitement.

And the secret of its success today?  In the UK, for example, it is defined by law as “a lottery played as a game”.  As people are given a random set of numbers it means that each participant has an equal chance of winning.  So bingo has been able to sidestep some of the more punitive laws around online games of chance, allowing it to thrive.  So, the chances are that somewhere in the world, someone is shouting “bingo!” at the top of their voice at this very moment.

5 June 2018

Joud - An Unconventional Meditation on the Cycle of Life


It’s sometimes amazing how profound a single word can be.  Take the Arabic word joud for example – such a short word but it translates to ‘generosity in the face of adversity’: something that could have so many inferences that it is almost difficult to believe that such a small world can contain such breadth of meaning.

Beautifully shot in stunning Saudi Arabian landscapes, Joud is a film and a meditation at the same time.  It reflects on the cycle of life but it does it in reverse and doing so it dares the audience to do something.  Take your everyday experiences and look beneath the surface; what seems to have little depth or meaning may be just the opposite.  The little things in life may also have a profundity which belies their seemingly superficial nature. You can also find out more about the movie at its website - www.joudmovie.com.

Yet what also makes the film unique and rather special from my perspective is the way that it structures its story.  To modern eyes it looks experimental but it is in fact drawing on an ancient form of poetry, one which even predates Islam.  It is called Qasida and what makes it very different is that each and every line rhymes on the same sound.  If you think that sounds like something difficult to achieve and still have poem that makes sense this particular art form was extended to such a degree that the poems often extended to over a hundred lines.

Take a look at these two trailers for the film Joud and I am sure you will be entranced by them.  The film dubs itself ‘an ancient poem for modern times’ and this may seem at first to be a simplification.  But then, you must reflect and perhaps see yourself in its depths…

JOUD is produced by Abdullah Aleyaf and Todd Albert Nims for Ithra in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (www.ithra.com), in association with UK’s The Edge Picture Company’s production team.



3 June 2018

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


Present-day Slovakia only became an independent state in 1993 but it has over 1500 years of Slavic cultural history behind it not to mention some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.  Dominika Martincova hails from this small but incredibly vibrant country and created this marvelous time-lapse of her homeland (called Time for Slovakia) on returning to it after almost three years of globe-trotting.

How Will You Die?


This is a question that, if you have a Facebook account, you may be confronted with every day thanks to your news feed and depending on the general silliness of your friends and acquaintances.  However, this animation by Steve Cutts (created for NPR originally) is not a daft quiz, gets to the point within seconds and – with great comedic bluntness – tells you how you will really die.

The Runt


When the runt of a litter of rabbits is to be disposed of, a young boy’s please result in a stay of execution but with a proviso: he must look after the runt but after a year he must kill it himself.

Yet when the year is up will the boy be able to go through with his promise? This animated short has script, design and direction by Andreas Hykade of Film Bilder.  Please don't expect a happy ending - this animation is European.

The Saguaro Cactus And Its Greedy Guests

The Saguaro cactus, found in Mexico, Arizona and some parts of California is a giant among its type, growing to the size of a tree. It also gets a number of greedy house guests during its life time.

The desert isn’t a place that you might normally associate with teeming life, but our planet is full of surprises. The saguaro manages to survive in extremely harsh climates and, wherever it lives animals are to be found. Some even manage to make the enormous cactus their home. This Gila Woodpecker, for example, seems completely at ease among the spines.

The Poitou - The Donkey with Dreadlocks

This is the Poitou Donkey. Only thirty years ago, less than thirty of these beautiful and friendly animals were left. Now, thanks to a conservation programme, it looks as if the dreadlocked donkey is set to stay awhile on Planet Earth.  Our sibling site, the Ark in Space, has its story.

2 June 2018

GCSE English Language - Student Example Answers for Question 5 Paper 1


Are you wondering how to pass GCSE English 9-1? Then look towards the end of the exam papers. For example, question 5 of Paper 1 of the AQA GCSE is worth half the marks for that paper.  So it’s one of the questions that you seriously cannot afford to get wrong.  Sometimes it is good not only to practice writing stories or descriptions yourself but to take a close look at what others have written too.   In fact you can do a million GCSE English past papers and still get everything wrong if you do not look at exemplars - these are good examples of what the answer could look like.  Markers know this as indicative content and use it to measure the quality of your responses, so even they use this method! So in this video we take a look at narratives – that is short stories.

This video contains two stories written by real students.  They were written in exam conditions and took 45 minutes from start to finish.  This video takes you through both the vital planning stage and shows you what the students actually wrote afterward.

There is also a commentary from world-famous exam marker Lavinia Shufflebottom (OK, she is fictional but what she says is worth listening to!).  The key to this question, really, is planning – ensuring that you include everything that the examiner wants to see.  Take a read of these and see what you think.  Why not give them a mark yourself?

The two stories are also available - free - on the TES website.

For those of you who are wondering what this is doing on Kuriositas, I am a teacher in the ‘real world’ and make the occasional video to help my students along.  I hope that by putting it up on the site it will help a few more too!

Amung Feedjit
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