22 October 2020

Deutsche Welle's Great New Video Exposes the Worries of a Dictator

 

This is great. I don’t know about you but my eyes often roll and my shoulders seem to be permanently shrugging when it comes to how biased the news seems to be. Fortunately, there are still some broadcasters who have the guts (some would say temerity!) to show us what is really going on out there in the wider world.

The international broadcaster Deutsche Welle is responsible for the short film above – which has already had millions of hits worldwide. In it an unknown dictator suffers a bout of somnambulistic paranoia. What causes it? He is worried that freedom of speech is being upheld by broadcasters which are showing the truth about what he is really up to in a measured an unbiased way.


As such it’s a breath of fresh air - Deutsche Welle has been broadcasting for over 50 years and although based in Germany has massive international reach. That’s just as well – it’s easy to assume that the press everywhere is as free as in one’s own country. However, that simply isn’t the case – which makes initiatives like this which promote free speech all the more important. The fact that it comes from a broadcaster is also reassuring – we are reminded that at least one has not forgotten the importance of free speech and all the complex issues around that which make unbiased broadcasting so important for healthy democratic lifestyles to exist. 

If you would like to access more information about DW’s mission to provide unbiased information and the steps they are taking to promote freedom of speech, please go to https://freespeech.dw.com

You can see more about Deutsche Welle’s mission to give the world unbiased information at their English language website. Also of interest might be “The 77 percent”, Deutsche Welle’s online magazine for young Africans. It is so named because currently 77 percent of Africans are under the age of 35 and have little political power. All to often the only information they get are from the likes of the dictator in the video at the top of the page! So this magazine aims to share the stories, dreams and challenges faced by young people in Africa. It is well worth a look as it takes on controversial subjects, trending topics and is not afraid of breaking a few taboos!

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18 October 2020

Arrival: A Short and Very Sweet Coming Out Film


It’s 2020 and so, surely, no one needs to fear coming out as LGBTQ anymore?

If that’s the case then no one told the Chechen authorities who seem, currently, to be paving the way towards a new dark-age for those who do not identify as hetero.

Rare was the person, ever, who was able to spring blithely and fully-formed from the metaphorical closet but in many countries it is still almost impossible to do so without some form of repudiation, denunciation or reprobation.

So this short film, for me, was something of a breath of fresh air. Arrival tells the story of a young man who has a close bond with his mother.  Yet when he moves to the big city and not only discovers himself but also the love of his life, he is unable to share this amazing happening with his mother.  To see how this is resolved you will have to watch this beautifully made animated short film, written, directed and animated by Alex Myung.
Even today, in the most liberal of societies with the most liberal of parents, people still struggle to share their true nature with their loved ones leading to a ripple effect which makes everyone unhappy.  You could see this short two ways: first it is super-contemporary and very political. It is, after all, societal structure and its dictat that to be ‘normal’ is to fit in which makes so many young LGBTQ people unhappy and as such this is a plea for change and for enlightenment.

At the same time this is also (and predominantly) a very, very sweet story about the relationship between a mother and son and how, ultimately, their bond overcomes the obstacles that the social order puts in its way.
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Downward Dog


A dog becomes increasingly lonely but nevertheless philosophical as his owner loses interest in him.  It doesn’t sound like a very good premise but this is put together so beautifully that you will come to accept that a dog is cataloguing life’s sad ironies to you.  It’s also very funny! Created by Michael Killen and Samm Hodges, and produced by the team at Animal (animalstudio.com), “Downward Dog” is the original web series that provided the inspiration for the upcoming ABC comedy of the same name.

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Crystalapse: Frozen in Timelapse


Iceland never ceases to cause wonder and this beautiful footage, captured in March 2014 is no exception.  You will witness both the Northern lights and the phenomenon of the ice caves in their surreal beauty thanks to brothers Patrick and Henrick Shyu who make up Blue Eden.  Plus if you are something of a hopeless romantic then hang around till the end for something that may not make the ice melt, but almost certainly your heart.
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The Pont du Gard Aqueduct Bridge – Masterpiece of Ancient Building

The question what have the Romans ever done for us? Was famously asked in the Monty Python film Life of Brian and certainly you might think that a few thousand years later that question is potentially redundant.  However, a one look at the Pont du Gard aqueduct bridge may put paid to that idea.

They certainly made things to last.  Although the Pont du Gard is no longer a functioning aqueduct bridge, the very fact that it isclose to two thousand years old and still standing is testament to the skills of its builders (although of course it has had renovations over time).  The fact that it has gone from being useful to simply decorative is neither here nor there.

3 October 2020

Very Little Stars

Jaw, meet floor. This is one of the most astonishingly good timelapse films you will see for a long time.  Created by Timelapse Inc, the short was photographed and edited by Ben Wiggins with the accompanying music being The Alley by DeVotchKa. Very Little Stars showcases the newest development in timelapse the adopted name for which at the moment is hyperlapse.

What is a hyperlapse? You may well ask.  Essentially it involves moving the camera while still shooting at a speed normally associated with timelapse.  It’s a new technique and one that has been evolving recently – what Wiggins does here is move it on to the next level by making these movements huge.  Sit back, go full screen and if your machine will take it, switch to HD. Remember to hold your chin in your hand to avoid the jaw/floor moment.
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A Very Brief History of Humankind


For the first time in a number of years ordinary Europeans have been talking about the possibility of imminent nuclear war.  As Belarus continues to tear itself apart and no one offering  any kind of real solution people are increasingly worried that the conflict (putative civil-war, essentially) will escalate over the borders of this beleaguered country and travel west.  When that happens who knows what will come next. A hundred years ago a little known archduke was assassinated and the rest, as they say, is history.
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The Grand Circle

The Grand Circle is a stunning, immense expanse of land located in the South-western United States. It encompasses parts of five states – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Not surprisingly it also holds the largest concentration of national parks and monuments in the country. It takes in Arches National Park, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Antelope Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Mesa Verde, Natural Bridges, Canyonlands, and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

If the description is attractive enough, wait to you see this mesmerizing piece of timelapse film by Blue Eden (collaborative project by Patrick Shyu and Henrick Shyu). Shot with the Nikon D800 and Sony a99 there were moments where I had to halt the film and play it back – and I still can’t quite fathom how they managed to capture the shots. Amazing.
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Moving Through Saint Petersburg


Take a whistlestop tour through the streets of St Petersburg. From 1732 to 1918 the city was the Imperial Capital of Russia and its many famous landmarks are testament to its history.  This timelapse was created by Geoff Tompkinson with an original soundtrack by with original music score by Vincent Jacq.

The video shows some of the best examples I have seen of hyperlapse techniques.  involves moving the camera while still shooting at a speed normally associated with time-lapse.  It’s a new technique and one that has been evolving recently - Tompkinson and his ilk are comfortably taking it to the next level with some huge, sweeping shots that make you wonder exactly how they were done.
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A Rift Runs Through It: Iceland’s Divergence of the Plates

Thingvellir, Iceland: the landscape is wild and desolate but hauntingly beautiful.  Yet the serene magnificence of the surroundings belies an astonishing fact.  It is here as a result of massive, geological trauma.

Image Credit Flickr User Andrew Gibson
This is one of the few places above sea level where you can see with your own eyes what happens when two major tectonic plates drift away from each other.  In fact, Iceland owes its very existence to the tectonic processes which have played out along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge for millions of years.  It was born of the ridge, which runs right through it.

Love in the Time of Advertising


An animated musical love story about a young man who lives inside a billboard and is charged with updating the advertisements. When he falls in love with a beautiful lady living across the highway, he has to use the only method he knows to get his message across - advertising.

Love in the Time of Advertising was co-written, co-directed by David and Matt Berenty
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The Frogs that Carry Their Tadpoles on Their Backs

You might not automatically put frogs on your list of good parents.  After all, they just seem to take to the water, spawn and leave.  Not these frogs, however. There are a number of species who go against this amphibious grain and look after their tadpoles with something approaching devotion (not that I want to anthropomorphize too much).  These species actually carry their tadpoles around on their backs.  Find out what they do this over at the Ark in Space today, replete with a great selection of photographs of tadpole carrying frogsters.

Image Credit Flickr User Pasha Kirillov
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20 September 2020

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.

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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.

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Lost, Missing and Found Posters - The Funny Side

You have all seen them – you may have even appeared on one yourself – posters proclaiming the loss of a dear pet or relative.  Although some disapprove of them for their intrusion on public space most would not dream of removing them in the hope that whatever was lost will be found. And then there are those who embrace them as a form of alternative art.  Their alternative lost posters amuse and irritate with, quite possible, equal measure. We prefer to see the funny side – and so here are some of the best on the net.

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


It is difficult to catch the spirit of a city on film especially one as enigmatic as the capital of Italy, Rome.  However, cinematographer Alex Soloviev achieves just that in this short portrait of this most energetic of cities.  If you like to people watch as much as sight-see then you should thoroughly enjoy this as Soloviev not only captures the places but that which brings them alive - the people.

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31 August 2020

Avalanche Fences Exposed!

For months of the year they lie beneath deep snow, trapping it so that avalanches can be circumvented.  But when the snow melts, what is beneath is exposed to the world.  In the summer months many visitors scratch their heads at the sight of avalanche fences and wonder what form of sheep or goat they might be designed to contain.

Image Credit
Their real purpose is often lost to the casual observer: to help keep roads, railways and towns – not to mention the people therein - safe from a sudden, often deadly avalanche.  In places like the Swiss and French Alps, where locals have had to live alongside the threat of avalanches for thousands of years, intricate systems of artificial structures have mitigated the risk of avalanches for almost as long.

23 August 2020

The Banana Slug – Nature’s Giant Recycler

Slugs and snails and puppy dog’s tails? Well, just slugs in this case – and one species in particular. This is the Banana Slug, featured today on the Ark in Space. It is the second largest slug in the world and found on the western seaboard of North America. It gets its name for obvious reasons (even though the ones in this picture are not nearly as yellow as they can get).

You may think that slugs in general are no good garden invaders, born only to wreak havoc on your carefully cultivated plants. Yet the banana slug is a detritivore and is interested only in dead foliage. In fact it contributes to its ecosystem massively. Read more about this fascinating slug over at the Ark in Space.

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Image Credit Jurveston
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Daisy Chain, Narrated by Kate Winslet


A little girl named Buttercup Bree falls victim to a gang of shadowy bullies... until she discovers that her love of daisy chains unlocks a power that will bring life to the darkness of the playground. This animated film, voiced by Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet takes us into a Tim Burton-like world.  It was produced by Protein One, and written and directed by Calvin Scott Davis.

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


North Wales (or Gogledd Cymru as it is locally known) is well known in the UK as a place of outstanding natural beauty but the rest of the world seems to only be half aware that this little piece of very wet paradise exists. Well, obviously, we have got to help put that right! Howard Litherland has created this wonderful homage to North Wales which showcases the spectacular beauty of this wonderful land.

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The Roof of Africa: The Spectacular Beauty of the Ethiopian Highlands

Do not be uncomfortable if the first words that come to mind when Ethiopia is mentioned have negative connotations. If you live in the developed world then you may easily connect the country to its well documented recent history of insurgency, civil war and famine. Yet although Ethiopia’s troubles are far from over there is much more to the country than this. Its Highlands contain the largest continuous area of high altitude land in the whole of the continent. Little wonder then that the Ethiopian Highlands are often called The Roof of Africa. They are also, without exaggeration, simply spectacular.

The Highlands are enormous and are divided by the Ethiopian Rift. All of the pictures you will see here are from the northwestern side of the highlands. Designated a National Park in 1969 (the first of ten in the country), this portion contains Simien Mountain and Ras Dashan which is the highest peak in Ethiopia.

15 August 2020

Gargoyles – Glorious Gruesome Grotesques

Gargoyles – they are strange, bizarre, unpleasant or just plain ugly. They have been hovering around our towns and cities for centuries, for so long that it can be forgotten that they have meaning and purpose. Take a tour of the weird world of the gargoyle.

A gargoyle is a carved stone grotesque statue, and they were designed to convey water away from the roof and the sides of large buildings. We associate them mostly with medieval times thanks to a certain hunchback but they have been around much longer than that. They are more than just scary statues as if they were not there then the mortar between the stones of their buildings would, in time, erode away and the building would fall over. Many gargoyles take the shape of animals and – lost to our modern minds – these creatures were chosen for a purpose. This is why...

Atomic Ruin: The Abandoned Satsop Nuclear Power Station


Motion control shot specialist Andrew Walker and friends recently had something of an experience – a visit to a Satsop nuclear power station in Western Washington, a place abandoned before it was even completed.

The place is like some giant movie set of an eerie alien city – quite extraordinary.  The power plant was the second largest municipal bond default in U.S. history too – you don’t abandon something like this without it leaving some lasting financial sting.

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