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.

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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2 August 2020

The Incredible Dinosaur Wall of Bolivia

Some things appear where you least expect them.  Although dinosaur tracks have been discovered the world over, climbing up a near vertical wall in a Bolivian quarry? Bolivia – yes, fine. Zooming up hundreds of feet towards the skies? Hardly.  Yet here they are.  Spread across a limestone slab a mile long and almost 300 feet high, this great wall at Cal Orcko near the city of Suvre reveals more than 5,000 footsteps, with 462 discrete trails.

27 July 2020

Quarantine Favorites: The Best Things To Spend Your Money On

Although quarantine has made us spend more time inside with our families, it’s also allowed us to spend more time online. Particularly, shopping online. It’s so much quicker to add things to your online basket than to buy them in store. Also, shopping online means you can easily compare prices for similar items with just a click of your button. However, how many times have you bought something online and forgot to send it back? Or even, were too lazy to make a refund so you just ended up keeping the item? Don’t worry, this is more common than you think.

While you can save lots of money by online shopping, it’s also easy to lose money by being lazy with your returns. It’s important to consider just what you are putting in your basket online, and how much you will realistically use it at home. Remember, you’re not doing as many things as you usually would at home, so it’s unlikely that you need to buy as much! Here is a list of the best things to spend your money on in quarantine which will get used the most during your time at home:

1. Hair Dye

With most salons shut right now, dark roots are growing quicker than ever before. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait until they open again! Even if your salon is still open for business, why wait to get an appointment when you can just touch up your roots yourself? Head to your nearest drugstore to pick up some dye. There are some good drugstore hair color brands that will only leave you $10 to $15 out of pocket, rather than your usual $40 to $45 plus tip at a salon. Don’t forget to rub petroleum jelly around your ears and on your forehead so you don’t stain your skin! If you’re really nervous about doing it yourself, ask one of your friends or family (who live in the same home as you) to give you a hand. They’ll make sure to do a good job!

2. A Food Processor

Social distancing has meant that we’re spending more time with our families at home. One of the rooms that we’re spending our time in is the kitchen! Family meals are a great time for parents to be role models for healthy eating, while also encouraging meal time family bonding. This time at home has also given us a chance to learn to cook and try out new recipes. One cooking tool used a lot in these recipes is a food processor.

Unlike a blender that should be used for liquid based foods, a food processor is used to make dry ingredients like hummus and pesto. A food processor also slices veggies like tomatoes, shreds cheese, finely chops/grinds ingredients, and of course mixes! Many large processors can also make delicious butters like nutbutter or sunflower seed butter. Here are some other tasty ideas:

3. Arts and Crafts Materials

Creating arts and crafts is a great way to spend time with your kids and is one of the most popular pastimes during quarantine. Therefore, arts and crafts materials are a good thing to spend your money on. Try some handmade fourth of July crafts ahead of this year’s celebrations. From a DIY fourth of July wreath to painted lawn stars, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to celebrate Independence Day!

Another popular arts and crafts pastime is knitting. Of course! Who wouldn’t want to come out of quarantine with a homemade blanket, scarf, or even a sweater? There are plenty of free knitting patterns online, you just need to buy the wool!

4. A Study Course

An online study course is a great investment if you want to stay productive during lockdown and learn a new skill that you can take with you forever! As well as various college online programs, you can emerge from quarantine as a nurse with an online nursing degree for non nurses. The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Baylor University combines online courses, clinical and lab experiences, and hybrid interactive learning courses in an intensive full-time program. As well as access to teaching from a nationally recognized faculty, the program’s main coursework is online which means you can study from home! The program is currently designed for students residing in Texas, but outside the DFW metro area. The next start date is January 11, 2021 and Baylor are now accepting applications!

5. A Sewing Machine

There’s no doubt that a sewing machine is a big investment, especially if you’ve never sewn before, but it’s also an exciting one. With all this free time at hand, sewing is a great way to express your creativity and who knows, you could be a natural at it! From making your own clothes, to creating handmade gifts for birthdays and Christmas, there really is nothing you can’t do with a sewing machine. Why not start with learning how to make a cloth face mask to wear to slow down the spread of coronavirus? Once you’ve got the hang of it, you could make different ones with different fabric patterns for the whole family!

6. Exercise Equipment

Since many gyms have closed their doors, people have been trying to make the most of household items that double up as exercise equipment. However, if you want something a bit more professional, proper exercise equipment is a good thing to spend your money on. This means you can also eat your tinned cans as well! Basic equipment like yoga mats can mean that working out from home can be much more comfortable and enjoyable – you don’t just have to use them for yoga! Weighted resistance bands are also useful for stretching and add an extra level of weighted resistance to your workout. You can also increase the weight as you switch up the heaviness for different exercises. The best thing? Bands are not just affordable, but super easy to store in your garage and don’t take up much space!

What are some of the best things you have bought during quarantine?

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23 July 2020

Wish 143

A teenage boy is suffering with terminal cancer – not to mention adolescent growing pains – when he is approached by a wish-giving charity (if you don’t know you’re dying already you do when that happens to you…).  As a horny teenager who hasn’t yet lost you know what, then you can guess what his wish is. Wish 143 is an Oscar nominated short film directed and co-produced by Ian Barnes. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, look out for a familiar face.
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If legendary characters from Greek mythology had to live their lives and solve their problems in today´s world, how would they go about it?  That is the interesting starting point of Czech director and animator Alexandra Hetmerova’s graduation film (for her masters), Mythopolis.

Here, Medusa has some problems with her young son Mino (I think she must have stolen the child from Pasiphaë but wouldn’t you if you knew a child was to be consigned to life in a labyrinth?) not to mention her love life (or lack thereof).  Hugely entertaining, especially if you love Greek mythology.
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Astrolabe – Magnificent Computer of the Ancients

It is an ancient tool, created over two thousand years ago when people thought that the Earth was the center of the universe. They are often referred to as the first computer and however debatable that statement might be there is one thing for sure without a doubt.  Astrolabes are objects of immense mystery and beauty.

So what does an astrolabe do and how were they useful in the ancient world? Firstly they are problem solving instruments – they compute things such as the time of day according the position of the sun and the stars in the sky. Like a computer, you input information and then you receive output.  They were typically made of brass and had a 6 inch diameter, although as we will see much larger ones were made.
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