24 February 2024

The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders


If you go down to Koekohe beach in New Zealand you can be sure of a big surprise. In front of you, scattered like enormous marbles from some long abandoned game between giants, are hundreds of giant spherical rocks. Or are they the egg shells of sea-born dragons? The Moeraki boulders present us with a mystery – what are they and how on earth did they get here?
Image Credit Flickr User Geofftheref
Some are isolated but may occur in clusters. That they are here is the result of three things – erosion, concretion and time. First the waves, inexorable and patient, have pounded the local bedrock for countless millennia. The mudstone on the beach – rock which was originally mud and clay – is slowly but surely eroded. Underneath are the boulders that the mudstone – in its original wet form, helped to form. However, the boulders were not there to begin with – that came later.

Why the Panda is Black and White


This is a superbly created piece of animation which captures the imagination. The world is monochrome until an invisible hand starts to color it in.

Unfortunately, one animal is asleep and misses the chance to be painted...
Surprisingly, this is in fact an advert for French kid’s channel TiJi.

While we normally wouldn’t embed adverts like this in to Kuriositas, our French readers are such a small minority that this could not be mistaken for a plug for the channel, so we let it slip in.

It is such a lovely piece of work, how could we fail to allow it some space? The byline at the end translates as TV and the height of their imagination.

12 February 2024

The Maijishan Grottoes - Artistic Treasure of China’s Past

China has four major Buddhist cave complexes - by far the most visited being the Longmen caves. Less well known are the Maijishan Grottoes. Situated in Gansu Province in the northwest of China, this astonishing example of cave architecture hewn from rock consists of over 7,000 Buddhist sculptures not to mention almost 1000 square meters of murals.

Sweet and Sour


If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, then nothing will.  Sometimes life can be hard and our canine hero of Sweet and Sour is not having a good time of it.  All of that is about to change though when he stumbles across the gateway to Chinatown and the culinary delights it contains. As he passes by the restaurants he can hardly contain himself.

It isn’t long before he has tasted all the delights for himself and has fully immersed himself in the almost orgasmic aspects of Chinese cuisine.  He even buys the t-shirt.  Yet when he discovers an awful truth (much like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green) the dream quickly sours.

With his gruesome discovery, his heaven turns in to his own doggy hell.  Can he find salvation?  Only time will tell.

The film was conceived by Eddie White, such a fan of Chinese Culture that he (with a tongue firmly in cheek we suspect) named his animation studio the People’s Republic of Animation.  The idea quickly took root but White discovered he needed some help.  Enter the Shanghai Animation Studio.

Renowned the world over for their exquisite hand-drawn work, they created the amazing effects work you see in the movie.  Sweet and Sour has the claim, then, of being the very first Chinese-Australian animated co-production.

The Australian team took care of the 3D animation with the Shanghai studio contributing the hand-drawn traditional work.  The combination of the old and new is brought together with stunning effect.  The oldest Australian who worked on the project was, at the time, 26 years old: on the other hand, the youngest Chinese animator was 39.

The success of the collaboration is self evident in the astonishingly beautifully animated final project with the two styles seamless.  The Chinatown itself has something of a retro feel, being reminiscent of the Hollywood films of the thirties.   The character of the dog is familiar without being a repetition of all the Disney pooches we have seen in the past.

Since its premier in 2007 (in Hong Kong) the film has been given approval for mainland Chinese screenings and has been featured in more than a dozen animated film festivals worldwide.

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!

The Portonaccio Sarcophagus - Amazing Relic of Rome

It is strange to think that this sarcophagus is eighteen hundred years old, so vivid are the carvings on its sides.  Who was buried inside is unknown, but there are facts that can be gleaned from the study of the ornate sculpting.  Housed in the National Museum of Rome, the sarcophagus is displayed in a darkened room under spotlights which show its decorative figures beautifully.

It was discovered in 1931 near Via Tiburtina, in the eastern suburbs of Rome. Its front depicts a symbolic picture of a battle which is on two levels.  The carving remains to this day an incredible achievement – the dark and light contrast beautifully to produce a veritable chiaroscuro effect. This skill involved was superlative.

Writing Descriptive Paragraphs for GCSE English


What follows the opening lines of a story? Frequently, the writer shifts focus to describe the setting. This collection of ten picture prompts (tailored for GCSE English but adaptable for any level) serves as a visual cue for students.

Their task is to craft a setting description suitable for a second paragraph in a story, while also incorporating key elements that would enhance their chances of scoring well in an exam.  I have used these in class in a number of ways. I have found them very useful in persuading more relucatant writers to create something small but perfectly formed - they are not overwhelmed by the enormity of writing a complete text.

This exercise encourages students to consider the overall structure of a text. In many GCSE English paper 1 exams (AQA), the second paragraph often features descriptive language, allowing candidates to address the "language question." Moreover, vivid descriptions of the setting aid in immersive "world building."


These ten picture prompts could form the basis of a full lesson, though they were initially designed for use as starters—a "do now" activity. Given the demand for only a single paragraph, this could be completed in around ten minutes, with time allotted for some learners to share their work aloud. Alternatively, it could be adapted into an engaging activity on a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

It's great to hear what students come up with - and this can be incorporated at the end of the "do now". Not only that, I try to incorporate these finished pieces inside longer writing projects.

In a class, these prompts could be displayed on a smartboard sequentially, or students could be assigned a random picture to describe. The versatility of this set of picture prompts allows for various implementation methods—choose the one that best suits your teaching style!

28 January 2024

Villagers - That Golden Time - Watch the Stunning Official Video

 
This really is stunning. The latest single from Villagers, titled 'That Golden Time,' is a poignant and beautiful musical piece that explores the idea of living within a digital bubble, where the constant pursuit of unattainable desires is perpetuated. Lead singer Conor O’Brien provided a detailed brief for the project, including a visual treatment that conveys the essence of the video and explores the concept of "algorithm blues," a line from the track. 

Director Rok Predin of Trunk conceived the idea that, despite our expectations, technology holds a mesmerizing influence over us, akin to a moth being drawn to a flame. Humans, it seems, possess an inherent attraction to technology, from which we find it difficult to disengage, irrespective of the associated consequences, both positive and negative. 

In addition to these themes, the team drew inspiration from a captivating piece of slow-motion footage featuring a Dark Marathyssa moth, filmed by Dr Adrian Smith of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The footage, shot at 6000fps, beautifully captured the delicate nature, strength, and agility of the insect. However, what truly captivated the team were the golden shimmering scales and flecks that adorned the Dark Marathyssa's body and wings. This presented an irresistible opportunity for Director Rok Predin and producer Richard Barnett, who strongly believed that a simple yet meticulously crafted story about a moth could visually complement and poignantly reflect the lyrics of the song.

25 January 2024

An Introduction to Online Casino Bonuses – Everything You Need to Know


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Nowadays, playing casino games is more easily accessible than ever before. A plethora of online platforms offer large game libraries with table games and slot machines that can be played virtually on computers and mobile devices at any time. And by offering various special deals and promotions, providers help new players get started and reward existing customers. These promotions help providers reach a wider customer base and attract new players to their sites, while players can benefit from various perks. From free spins to loyalty programs, casino bonuses come in all shapes and sizes. Here’s everything you need to know.

Finding Casino Bonus Offers

There are many ways you can go about finding the best casino promotions on offer. If you already have your preferred casino platform that you enjoy playing on, make sure to check their promotions page regularly, as bonus offers and special deals tend to be updated and changed regularly. To help players stay in the know and find out about new deals when they arrive, the platform https://bonuses.com/ has been introduced. Users can create an account to receive notifications when new promotions and exclusive deals come in without having to scour the web and tediously search for deals themselves. Using services like that can make finding bonus offers much easier and more efficient.

The Most Common Type: Welcome Bonuses

Many types of online casino bonuses offer varying benefits to both new and existing players. The most common type, however, is the welcome bonus. These have become something of a staple in the industry. As players nowadays expect online casinos to offer welcome bonuses, you’ll find these on nearly every casino platform. They are geared specifically toward new players who haven’t played on a given platform yet. To help them get started, they receive a certain perk or discount after registering an account. For instance, new players might receive free spins with which they can play certain slots without placing a wager first. Similar to how gaming platforms such as https://store.playstation.com/en-us/category/95601a70-7564-4771-b305-0283fe3593e4/1 offer free demo versions of games, free spins allow new players to try out different games more easily. Besides free spins, welcome bonuses can include various benefits, discounts, and free credits depending on the specific promotion.

Deposit vs. No-Deposit Bonus

There are two main categories when it comes to bonus offers: deposit and no-deposit bonuses. This describes whether a specific promotion is tied to a deposit or not. As the name already suggests, players can claim a no-deposit bonus without having to pay a deposit into their account. These are usually connected to setting up a new account on a given website and can be used immediately. Deposit bonuses, on the other hand, require the player to pay a certain amount of money into their player’s account first. As an example, such a bonus offer could include additional credits that you receive on top of your deposit. However, note that these offers are always tied to certain terms and conditions, so make sure to always read those before claiming a bonus. There might be certain limits, a minimum deposit, or specific wagering requirements in place that you should know about. You will typically find the full terms for each offer on the promotion page.

Customer Loyalty Programs

While welcome bonuses are the most common, it’s not just new players who can benefit from promotions. Many online casinos also offer customer loyalty programs, VIP benefits, and high-roller bonuses for their most loyal customers. You are probably already familiar with various loyalty programs from retail and travel companies such as online shops and airlines, and those offered by online casinos tend to work in a similar way. Casinos reward their loyal customers with a bevy of benefits and perks to thank them for their business and to strengthen their loyalty. After all, receiving benefits if you stick to a certain platform will make shifting to another site less likely. A lot of times these loyalty programs feature several tiers with varying benefits attached to each level. The higher the tier, the more benefits it entails.

For shoppers around the globe, checking services such as https://www.groupon.com/ before making a purchase has become the go-to way to save and find a bargain. Similarly, players can benefit from a great variety of bonus offers they can find on a large selection of online casino platforms. Make sure to always keep an eye out for promotions before playing to make the most of your wager.

 

22 December 2023

Best 5 Ways to Overcome Procrastination and Boost Productivity in Studying

Procrastination is like a silent epidemic that hampers the productivity of students worldwide. Whether it's the allure of social media, the comfort of your bed, or simply the lack of motivation, procrastination can severely impact your study routine. However, there are effective strategies to combat this challenge and boost productivity. Here, we explore the five best ways to overcome procrastination and enhance your study sessions.

1. Set Realistic Goals

The journey to overcoming procrastination begins with setting achievable and clear goals. When your study objectives are vague and ambitious, you easily feel overwhelmed and put off starting. Break down your study material into smaller, manageable chunks. For instance, instead of aiming to complete an entire chapter in one sitting, focus on understanding a particular section or concept. This approach makes your goals more attainable and provides a sense of accomplishment as you tick off each small target. If you find it challenging to set these goals on your own, consider seeking help from a professional writer at GrabMyEssay, who can assist in helping with your academic tasks. Remember, success in small steps can fuel your motivation to tackle bigger challenges.

2. Eliminate Distractions

In our digitally-driven world, distractions are just a click away. The key to productive studying is creating an environment that minimizes these distractions. Start by identifying your main sources of distraction, whether it's your phone, social media, or a noisy environment. Once identified, take proactive steps to eliminate them. This might mean turning off your phone or using apps that block social media during study hours. If noise is an issue, consider using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. Remember, a distraction-free environment is conducive to better focus and higher efficiency in studying.

3. Create a Structured Schedule

A structured schedule is a cornerstone of productive studying. With a plan, it's easier to save time deciding what to study and avoid distractions. Allocate specific time slots for each subject or topic in your study plan. This method not only organizes your day but also helps in creating a routine. Additionally, you can enhance your understanding of complex topics by considering services where you can pay for a research paper. Using such a paper as an example can provide insights into structuring and formatting scholarly work, aiding your tasks. Ensure to include short breaks in your schedule to avoid burnout. For instance, after 45 minutes of focused study, take a 10-minute break to refresh yourself. This technique, known as the Pomodoro Technique, has proven to be highly effective in maintaining concentration and preventing fatigue.

4. Seek Active Learning Methods

Active learning is about engaging with the material, not just passively reading or listening. This approach helps in better retention of information and keeps procrastination at bay. Try techniques like summarizing what you’ve read in your own words, teaching the concept to someone else, or creating mind maps. These methods force you to process the information actively and make the learning experience more dynamic and less monotonous. Active learning not only combats boredom but also enhances your understanding of the subject, making your study sessions more productive.

5. Reward Yourself

Positive reinforcement can be a powerful tool in overcoming procrastination. Set up a reward system for yourself for each study goal you achieve. This could be something small like a snack, a short walk, or some time on social media after completing a study session. These rewards motivate and give you something to look forward to, making the task at hand less daunting. It’s important, however, to keep these rewards reasonable and not let them become a source of further procrastination.

Conclusion

Overcoming procrastination and boosting productivity in studying is achievable through practical and consistent strategies. You can transform your study habits by setting realistic goals, creating a structured schedule, eliminating distractions, engaging in active learning, and rewarding yourself. Remember, the key is to start small and stay consistent. With these strategies in hand, you’re well on your way to making your study sessions more effective and fulfilling.

Bio

Ammie Barger is a seasoned author and blogger with a focus on educational strategies and productivity techniques. She has garnered acclaim for her insightful articles that blend practical advice with an understanding of the challenges faced by students today. Ammie's work is characterized by her ability to translate complex educational concepts into easy-to-understand, actionable tips, helping readers enhance their learning efficiency and overcome common obstacles like procrastination.

Image Credit

17 December 2023

Viridian


A little girl owns a magical necklace. Knowing this you think she might take better care of it but she allows it to be stolen by an errant cat! The result is shown in this wordless animation by a group of students from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

I love the colors used in this animation - as well as the full attention given to both the way the characters look and move. It is pretty difficult to make a silhouette interesting, but these students pull it off with panache! The movie was directed by Doug B Horak and produced by Harshit Desai. The animation was supervised by Colin Byrd with a team of animator comprising of Kris Vaughan, Phyllis Zhu and Chris Cheresnowski. Music was provided by Doug Perry. Altogether this is an outstanding group project. It will be interesting to see what they come up in the future!

Snowdrifter


This is the story of an impossibly cute young snowman (snowbaby?) wandering the arctic wastes.  It has been shown at a number of festivals and won the TAIS Showcase 2012 Official Selection for Best Canadian Short Film.  Don’t get too cosy though – the little guy may not be quite what you think!

It was created by Mark Carruthers, a professional animator since 2007, who has worked on television productions such as Nickelodeon's Emmy Award winning 'The Backyardigans' and Disney Jr. Canada's 'Justin Time'.  He is currently pursuing a filmmaking career by creating independent animated short films specializing in character performances and comedy.  He has an eye to the future, and has directorial ambition which will allow his passion for the creative process to be fully unleashed (we think he’s done it here already!).

Snow Rollers: Nature’s Winter Treat

If you live in one of world’s colder, snowier regions you may have seen them – but even then the chances are remote.  A rare and seemingly mysterious treat of nature, the snow roller is a natural phenomenon created without human intervention.  They are known by other names too: snow donuts, snow cylinders or even snow bales. Whatever you prefer to call them, it seems that nature, at least, is trying to make the most of the snow and have a little fun.

Doctor Who Meets Disney: When Worlds Collide

A young girl, frightened and alone save for her small animal companions, comes across a strange blue box in a forest clearing.  She is wary of the this new addition to the woodland but senses that inside there could be something or someone wonderful: perhaps she will find more questions than answers but she is still drawn towards it....

Hang on... Snow White and the Tardis? Wait a second, Ariel, the Little Mermaid and the Tardis? What's going on here?

10 December 2023

Darth Vader's Christmas Wish List

More Stuff!


Want to know the true definition of Christmas?  Why, more stuff of course!  This joyous animation by Blue Zoo, a multi BAFTA award winning animation studio in central London takes us to Santa’s Sweatshop where the elves are just about to revolt in the most amusing way.  I’ve heard of people taking off their clothes for peace but never to dissuade people from being too greedy at Christmas. Nice.

The Pink Robin: The Gloriously Pink-breasted Bird

The robin, both European and American is famous for its red breast.  The subject of nursery rhymes and Christmas cards the male of the species is resplendent in red. Australia, too, has a robin.  One might, of course, expect this particular country to produce something a little different: it has form, after all.  So, step forward the pink robin, Australia’s passerine of pulchritudinous pinkness.  Our sibling site, the Ark in Space has the full story.

GCSE English Language at Christmas


GCSE English Language and Christmas? It allows teachers to approach the creative writing aspect of the course from a slightly different perspective. There is always a picture stimulus in the exams, but these images can be something of a chore to gather. These two sets of pictures, each containing 30 different Christmassy narrative or description writing prompts, can take the pain out the advent of numerous Google searches for them. 

Plus, they are all ethically sourced – all of the pictures have been made available by their creators, so there are no copyright issues to worry about either. 

Before I go on, you can find the links here:

If you are not in the know, in GCSE English students are given a picture and asked to create a narrative or descriptive response suggested by it. This comes right at the end of Paper 1 – Explorations in Creative Reading and Writing: this is where the writing comes in! They have around 45 minutes (if they have timed the exam properly) in order to do this question. This may sound easy peasy but there are twelve things that examiners look for in the responses – and I won’t list them here but they are classified firstly under “Content and Organisation” which is how the response is structured, the language used in it (and so on!). The second is “Technical Accuracy” which, very broadly speaking is spelling and grammar. 

I hope that these two packs of pictures will enable teachers to have a ready-made selection of Christmas-focused pictures to give a class a certain theme and to draw even the most reluctant learner into the story-making process. As such the pictures differ in tone and composition so the right picture can be chosen for the right student! 



Each question is formatted so that it includes the picture and the question on a single A4 sheet -  you can see an example above. In this way, learners can keep it next to them on their desk while working through their story – they don’t have to keep flapping back and forth. I have included PDFs of the sets and also a file with just the pictures (with each source credited) if picture-only is the preferred method – that is, without the question. 

I have used both sets with my students and they do like them!

Krampus: Santa's Sadistic Sidekick

The song lyrics have never been truer.  Oh You better watch out,  You better not cry,  You better not pout, I'm telling you why.  Yet it isn’t Santa Claus that you have to watch out for – it is his sinister and somewhat sadistic sidekick – Krampus. He has a whip – and he is going to use it.

What on earth has this creature of the night – more orc than elf – to do with Christmas?  If you have children you may well be aware of the mantra – if you don’t behave then Father Christmas won’t bring you anything.  The idea behind Krampus is similar – only the threat is not that Santa won’t bring them anything but that Krampus will whip them in to the New Year.

The Curious Copyright Case of It's A Wonderful Life


It’s A Wonderful Life did not make a major mark on the box office when it was released and won a single Oscar for its special effects.  However, when its copyright lapsed it became a massive Christmas favorite beloved of millions.  Yet this was not the end of the story – or really the beginning.  FilmmakerIQ here gives us the most comprehensive video account of the story of the movie – ever!

The Poor Little Match Boy


Once upon a Christmas time there was a poor little match boy.  To make his miserable life a little more bearable the poor boy began to light his remaining few matches. When they were lit he seemed to be able to hear the sounds of Christmas...

Sounds miserable?

Then take a look at this video by David Lea and it will give you, we hope, an alternative Christmas chuckle! But watch out for the snowm..... aaaarghh!