30 December 2016

This Bird has a Grisly Secret

There he sits, looking innocent, like he wouldn't hurt a fly. Yet this harmless looking chap has a dark and grisly secret. By rights we should be calling him a Loggerhead Shrike but his gruesome habits are such that he is almost universally known as the butcher bird. To find out why, pop over to our sibling site, the Ark in Space.

Image Credit

19 December 2016

Redeem: The Beginning - Multi Award Winning Sci-fi Short

In another time, another place, a young woman is surplus to requirements and so subject to elimination by a death squad.   Yet she was given time till sundown to redeem herself – something gave her a second chance.  This multi-award winning short by Dennis Peterson is hopefully to be made in to a feature film, so catch the original while you can!

17 December 2016

15 Witty Grammar Jokes for You

There have been a lot of grammar memes over the last ten years and when you see them on social media they are beginning to look their age.  So, Teaching and Learning Resourcesfor Me on YouTube has decided to have a little fun (well, it’s Christmas, I guess) and has put 15 of the funniest in to a new video.  It may not completely satisfy your inner grammar nerd but it’s a start!  You can decide for yourself whether the title of this post is ironic, sarcastic, both or neither.

10 December 2016

The Supertrees of Singapore

They look like a set from a forthcoming science fiction movie but these supertrees in Singapore are very much of this world.  A collection of eighteen of these trees, varying in size from 80 to 160 feet (25 and 50 meters), creates an amazing backdrop for Singapore's central business district.  What is more, they actually mimic real trees.

Eleven of these immense structures are fitted with solar panels.  The sunlight caught by these energies is converted in to energy which helps to run this thriving business center.  They are part of an area known as Gardens by the Bay.  Yet it will be many years before the energy they create recoup their initial cost.  The entire garden, despite its energy-efficient and green credentials, not to mention its increasing reputation as a conservation area for rare plants, cost three quarters of a million US dollars to build.

When Were Slot Machines Invented?

Let’s face it, over the centuries people have created any number of ways to gamble.  It is even said that Keno, an ancient form of lottery invented by the Chinese helped to fund the building of the Great Wall of China.  Today we associate slot machines with online casino bonus software but their origin is not that much older (at least when we take the whole sweep of human history in to account!). Places like online real pokies aus only come a short while after in the big scheme of things!

Whenever you see a machine with three or more spinning reels operated by a single lever at the side then you are in the presence of a slot machine, variously known as fruit machine, the slots, or pokies depending where you are from in the English speaking world. The lever today is mostly gone from designs but a number of new machines keep it as a kind of homage to history.

The precursor of the slot machine was developed in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt in New York.  Although it proved very popular there was no direct payout mechanism – this was considered too complicated as it used five drums.  If you won you had to show the proprietor of the bar and a prize would be given from a pre-written list.  As the prizes depended on the proprietor they could vary enormously.  What was needed was a simpler payment mechanism.

This came about in 1895 when San Francisco based  Charles Fey invented a system based on three spinning reels and five symbols: the Liberty Bell plus horseshoes, diamonds, spades and hearts.  This simplified the complexity of reading a win which meant that payoffs could be made.  The biggest was set if you managed to get three bells appearing in a row – the princely sum of 50 cents would be yours.

Ironically, California banned what became known as the Liberty Bell but Fey found it hard to keep up with demand elsewhere!  This is generally seen as the beginning of the mechanical gaming device industry.  By the turn of the century Fey’s machines (and their copies) were all over the continental United States.

It would take until 1963 for Bally Manufacturing to develop the first fully elctromechanical slot machine.  Known as the Money Honey it was the precursor of all electronic games which followed.  The lever would become defunct (we could even say vestigial) with the advent of these machines.  Fast-forward to today and the online games we play still echo these first machines.  The internet would seem quite foreign to those people who played the Liberty Bell back in the 1890s but the overall concept remains the same.

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.

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.

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.

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.

25 October 2016

Wigan has the Plan

Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.  You are probably sick of the word let alone when it's repeated three times like some sort of magical incantation.  Of course we do have to consider the future and as far as most people are concerned, at the moment you may as well ask a fortune teller as much as a politician.

Why?  What happens next seems to be so up in the air then why not!  Yet there is a place in England which seems to have a plan (as well as a pier) and that is, perhaps surprisingly to some, Wigan. 

Zoltar the fortune teller’s lips are not moving which means that unlike politicians we cannot automatically tell whether he is lying.  He sounds fairly convinced, however, that Wigan has not just a but the plan and if you look a little further in to this then it is difficult to argue with him.

It’s all part of a rather clever marketing plan by Wigan Works, which was set up to attract investment and jobs to the borough, located in the Greater Manchester area of North West England.  There is a new detailed investment framework to support inward investment and encourage new businesses, a number of which have chosen Wigan as their new base in recent months.  Wigan certainly does have the plan.

It is something of a relief, to be honest, to see a borough with so much get up and go.  It seems that while the rest of the nation’s business leaders are looking on in slack-jawed bewilderment, Wigan is pushing itself forward: its jaw is most certainly not slack although there is a tongue poking firmly in to the borough’s metaphorical cheek in regards to the Zoltar method of disseminating their ambitions!

23 October 2016

Sea Lebrities: The Sea Lions of Pier 39

We often read about people taking over the natural habitat of other species but today the Ark in Space tells the story of a rare case when the animals came back and reclaimed their territory from us.  It happened in San Francisco - where admittedly stranger things may have happened over the years.

Local Californian Sea Lions have always been present in the city’s bay but had been pushed out to Seal Rocks, a small formation at the north end of the Ocean Beach.  Pier 39’s K Dock was developed and opened in 1978.  Little did we know that the sea lions also had their eyes on this particular piece of seaside real estate.

The Ark in Space has a great feature, packed with pictures, telling the history of these unusual squatters!

First Image Credit Flickr User WallyG

18 October 2016

HyperNormalisation: A new film by Adam Curtis available on BBC iPlayer

Is the world that we know it changed, quietly, forever – and are we complicit in that change simply because of our inactivity? This question and many others is raised by the new film by Adam Curtis, available on BBC iPlayer.  It is causing something of a stir on social networks and for good reason as it asks a number of long overdue questions.

First and foremost is this: do we live in a world where the truth is no longer valued – to the extent that the term post-truth has been coined?

There is another word in the mix too, one which I have not come across before – and that is HyperNormalisation (excuse the capitals, not quite sure what to do with them!).  The teaser above is just that – it is the process of how we got to where we are now – the point at which the truth, at least politically, is no longer a prerequisite in terms of what we demand from our politicians.

The simplified and frankly fake version of the world that many of us now see is where the term hypernormalisation comes in and this riveting film has a cast of characters from over forty years.  Has the chaos of those years culminated in a kind of paralysis where those who are supposed to lead us find that they do not know what to do?

Take a look at this film – you can then judge for yourself how this perceived retreat from the reality of the world has taken on an authenticity all of its own.

16 October 2016

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Tommy SpaSe And The Alchemists are a seven piece band from Los Angeles (well, this is the earth bound city they call home, at least) and they have a little Halloween treat for you. And it's a blast.

Producing what they refer to as WhimZicaL, HigHEneRgY, TheAtRicaL, KoZmiC, VauDeVilliaN Rock, I find it very hard to disagree with that description - in fact it is a way perfect to describe their sound. To find out more about the band, head for their website.

I have to admit that I had not heard of the band before I had seen this promo and to be honest, I love them!  I will be checking out the rest of their catalogue.  In the meantime, this video certainly demands more than one view - as Tommy and the band navigate the netherworld, spirits stir, the forest churns and if you blink you feel that you have missed something.

This awesome video is directed by the extremely talented Micah Chambers-Goldberg, otherwise known as MicahMonkey.  As well as directing music videos he is gaining a reputation for himself as an illustrator and painter.

The combination of Tommy SpaSe And The Alchemists' music with the directorial flair of MicahMonkey lead to quite a ghoulish music video for Halloween!

10 October 2016

Coulrophobia – Are You Afraid of Clowns?

Did you find Heath Ledger as The Joker scary? Then perhaps you suffer from coulrophobia, the abnormal fear of clowns. Join a self-confessed coulrophobic for a look at these guys and see if you are too- as if you don’t already know!

8 October 2016

The Human Towers of the Castellers

No one is quite sure but at some point in the 18th century someone in the Valls, near the Catalonian city of Tarragona dreamed of a tower of a castle (castell in Catalonian).  Yet he may not have been an architect or an engineer: his tower was made of people.

It was an idea that took off.  It developed throughout Catalonia – even spreading as far as Majorca – and has for the last few decades been enjoying something of a renaissance after many years of prohibition under General Franco.  Although it is popular throughout many parts of Spain, you have to go to its birthplace to find the most skilled castellers.

2 October 2016

Are These the Cutest Kittens on the Internet?

Over at the Ark in Space they are having a break from creepy crawlies, endangered species and ferocious beasties and instead have presented the world with an awesome gallery of uber cute kittens.  This sort of thing may have been done before but the big difference here is that all the fantastic pictures are licensed through Creative Commons, which means the photographers have given their permission for their work to be shared.  In other words, the pictures are not ripped off, like so many kitten and cat pictures on the net. It is proof too, that you can put together a marvelous gallery of images without breaking copyright. So, why not pop over and take a look at possibly the cutest kittens on the internet?

Image Credit Flickr User Josh Kesner

1 October 2016

The Good Mother

A Mexcian mother receives a strange request from her son, one which may be difficult to discharge. What lengths will she go to fulfil her son’s wish to have a Donald Trump piñata at his birthday party?  Will she allow ‘the devil’ in to her house and even if she does, how will she go about getting the piñata of choice?  This topical comedy- drama was written and directed by Sarah Clift.

Raiders of the Lost Dark: When Indy Meets Star Wars

As his own tribute to the 35th anniversary of the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark, director and screenwriter Fabrice Mathieu has put together this glorious mashup of the original film, interspersed with elements from the original Star Wars movies.  It is so well stitched together that I had to keep reminding myself which film was which. Oh, and this needs to be watched until the very last frame.

24 September 2016

The Gharial – Good News for the Critically Endangered Indian Crocodile?

Unlike much of what you see on Kuriositas, there was no CGI used in the creation of the photograph above.  This exquisite creature is a gharial and Ark in Space has an interesting feature today about this critically endangered species of crocodile found in India. It is the only living example in its animal family: there is no set figure but it is thought only a few hundred viable breeding pairs exist in the wild. It has had its numbers decreased by a massive 98% since 1950 and likewise its habitat.

Things don’t look very good for the gharial – only recently a hundred specimens (a good percentage of the entire population) were discovered dead, their demise brought about, so it is believed, by metal poisoning. Yet there is some good news on the horizon for the gharial.   Head over to the Ark in Space to find out.

Image Credit Wikimedia

Rocket Rider

This just goes to show that exciting CGI footage can be created on a shoestring budget.  The cockpit set was built in the single garage of director Ross Bradley’s parents - out of plywood, the panels created with a laser printer, electric switches and bottle tops.  The result is exhilarating.  An RAF Test Pilot is trapped in a stricken jet descending rapidly to Earth. Will he be able to eject in time? And what was the experiment for?

The Living Root Bridges of India

India has a population of over a billion and our ideas about the country are often informed by that statistic.  Yet there are places on the sub-continent which are still almost inaccessible.  Meghalaya in the north east of the country is home to mountainous subtropical forests.  In order to get around, local people have come up with an ingenious form of natural engineering – the living root bridge.

It always seems to rain here – the rivers are often very dangerous to ford.  This is one of the wettest places on the planet. The steady precipitation combined with the rugged terrain, steep hillsides and thick foliage of the forests would make many parts of the Meghalayan jungles unreachable.  Yet the inventive and resourceful people who live here have found a way – but they had to be very patient, at least to begin with.

5 Sports Stars Who Make a Difference

Sports stars command a fair amount of influence in the modern world, so it should hardly come as a surprise that a lot of them are using it to make a real difference. Sometimes, they do so by pouring their time, their effort, and their earnings into charitable organisations supporting causes nearest and dearest to them. Other times, they have been known to set up charitable initiatives of their own, which often bear their names. However, they choose to use their influence, said individuals should be lauded for striving to make the world a better place.

Here are 5 sports stars who are making a real difference to the lives of people across the globe:

LeBron James
LeBron James came from humble beginnings but nonetheless managed to set his feet on the path of success, which is why the champion basketball player has been so interested in helping others in similar situations to manage the same. For example, he is known to have donated an amazing $42 million to his hometown of Akron, Ohio in order to send a 1,000 underprivileged children to college, which is something that has catapulted him to the list of the most charitable sports stars ever.

Maria Ho
Maria Ho is a member of the Queen of Hearts, a group of female poker players who have been making a powerful reputation for themselves through poker as well as their support for charitable causes. In her case, she has been known to support the WPT Foundation, which is a non-profit set up by the World Poker Tour for the purpose of encouraging beneficial change on a global scale by supporting deserving charities found in countries all around the world.

Lionel Messi
Football is a popular sport, so much so that it has seen people placing hundreds of thousands of dollars on single bets. As a result, it is no coincidence that football players have so much influence, as shown by their salaries as well as their endorsements. Lionel Messi is a great example of a football player who has chosen to use that influence for the benefits of others, whether by donating half a million dollars to UNICEF or by donating the winnings from a libel case to other charities. In particular, it is interesting to note that Messi is particularly committed to helping charities that help children, which could be because of his strong attachment to his own family.

Cristiano Ronaldo
However, it is important to note that Messi is not the most charitable football player. Instead, that particular honor belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo, who is known to have donated millions and millions to charitable causes over the course of his career so far. In fact, what makes Ronaldo particularly impressive besides his remarkable feats on the football field is the fact that he was acknowledged as the single most charitable sports star of any sport, beating out a number of other great names including some of those included on this very list.

Serena Williams
Serena Williams is best known for her amazing number of championship titles on the tennis court, which is something that she shares with her sister. However, she is also well-known for her support for a wide range of charitable causes, including but not limited to fighting cancer, helping children, and encouraging education in developing countries. Something that has seen her earn a number of award and other acknowledgements of her continuing efforts from numerous prestigious non-profit organizations.

Of course, there are also other amazing men and women who have done great things for both sports and charitable causes, with examples ranging from John Cena to Dan Carter. The said individuals encompass every sport at every level of achievement, thus showing that sports stars can indeed change the world for the better.

The Highway of Florida and All the Beauty Within

The Florida Keys is a series of islands, which runs way back to Cuba. Spectacular bridge road also called as Florida overseas highway connects all islands. In fact, it is so majestic that in 1991 it won the prestigious assessment from All American Road Association.

Florida Highway is undoubtedly a legendary route in one of the most interesting and beautiful places in the country.

In order to get up quickly and easily reach it or drive through it, you need a car and good thing is that Hotwire currently has ongoing 60% off promotion on most car rentals via coupon site ChameleonJohn.com, so get it now and hit the road right away.

At the beginning of a road – divers’ dream

Key Largo is one of the world's most recognized diving sites. Cozy coastline and colorful reef full of fishes are perfect for snorkeling, and those who want to dive deeper here can rent a boat. In 2002, a marine fleet exhibit called Spiegel Grove was purposely sunk in Key Largo, so divers can now explore it underwater too.
Underwater statue of Christ in the abyss is also attention worthy. While Jule's Undersea Lodge - underwater hotel located here as well can be a perfect place to start your road trip.

Islamorada: a charming village of six islands
Throughout the year Islamorada is waiting for all professional and amateur angling fans. For those who can resist this hobby, there is a whole string of restaurants located in the village, where you can enjoy delicious and fresh seafood dishes.

Another attraction - great History of Diving Museum, which exotic exhibits dates back to the seventeenth century. If you decide to take a rest and relax, dip your feet in the crystal-clear waters of Anna beach and get ready for further adventures waiting for you on the road.

Marathon: a monument for a hard work
Historical sources say that the west part of railway branch, which became a highway, was one of the most difficult to construct for engineers who built it. The job was usually referred as a real marathon, due to its length and strong stamina needed to do it right. And that gave the name of this range.

Just half an hour's drive away from Islamorada achieved Marathon is the best place for breathtaking photos. From here a beautiful seven-mile bridge and azure water duet open up, and it is unquestionably worth taking pictures of it. Moreover, in Marathon, you can find a sea crayfish clinic, where patients have names and don't get bothered by touching. Nearby you can say “hi” to dolphins and sea lions too.

West Point - the dose of history and the inspiration for Hemingway
In 1928-1939 West Point was a home and a workplace for Ernest Hemingway. His house now is turned into a museum featuring all of the writer's furniture brought from Paris. It is worth mentioning that the West Point was also a winter residence of President Harry Truman and writer Tennessee Williams who was catching his muses here as well.

While in Casa Marina resort, you can see the World War II relics and pictures, immortalized the island which back in time was only reachable by trains and ships.

It took some time to make a railway line built in 1912 to become a more impressive motorway. During many years here settlements were created, ships were sinking, recession reigned, the government was changing, and communication got improved. But to traveling throughout this famous highway is not only enjoying the artists painted landscapes and discovering objects that are annually visited by 3 million curious visitors. It is also a place to get inspired and maybe even find the meaning of life.

18 September 2016

How to Pass GCSE English Language Grade 9-1 Course

From June 2017 the English Language GCSE exams are undergoing some major changes.  The old system of 40% controlled assessments has gone out of one window like the proverbial baby and bathwater.

In through the other, like a cold blast of winter air, comes a new system of two exams, which scrutinises the reading and writing skills of students studying towards the qualification. In my other life I am a college lecturer and one of the subjects I teach is… you guessed it.

So, as an IT person, I have started to put together a series of videos to enable two things.  First I want to answer the question “how do I pass GCSE English Language?” the answer to which is more often than not demanded by students the evening before their exam (make that plural now).  I guess the first thing is to allow those doing it an opportunity to understand the new system of grading – hence the first video in this series.  Next it’s on to the exams and the Assessment Objectives (handily known as AOs) which they cover.  Know thine enemy is vital and although I wouldn’t advise rote-learning here it’s hugely important that learners know what’s coming at them in the examinations.

A Walk in Ulyanovsk - Birthplace of Lenin

If you have never heard of Ulyanovsk then know it’s a rather pleasant-looking city on the Volga, just over 500 miles east of Moscow.  Directed by Ruslan Makhmud-Akhunov, this lovely combination of time and hyperlapse allows you to take a walk (ok, a very quick one) through the major landmarks of this historic city.  Although it was originally called Simbirsk it was renamed after its most famous son in 1924 -  Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, also known as Lenin.

Taking Flight

Taking Flight is a short film by Moonbot Studios inspired by the life and heritage of Antonio Pasin, inventor of the Radio Flyer wagon. In this fictional tribute to Pasin’s legacy, what begins as a small boy’s over-scheduled, over supervised, boring day with Grandpa turns into a larger-than-life journey, narrowly escaping wild monkeys and battling aliens to save the universe.

Through the power of imagination and epic adventure, a boy learns to be a kid, a father learns to be a dad, and a grandfather reminds us all what childhood is about.

17 September 2016

The Doll’s Eyes Plant – The Woods Have Eyes Too

Have you ever taken a stroll through a wood and felt that you were being watched? Yet when you turn around, no-one is there. You carry on with your walk but that feeling of disquiet lingers. Perhaps you were being watched by something almost as disquieting as that galloping, mad axe murderer you were dreading. The Doll’s Eyes Plant could be eyeing you up as you innocently ramble. In North America, not just the hill have eyes.

12 September 2016

Barcelona’s Abidal Takes a Shot for Beko

If you have always wanted to be a footballer but know that the Champions’ League is probably never going to beckon then I am not sure that this video is going to make you feel much better on that score.  However, if you, like me, love to see a smart shot at the goal I expect you’re going to like this – and the goal isn’t quite what you expect either.

In fact, it’s tiny.  The goal mouth is the tub of the new Beko Washing Machine.  To celebrate their partnership with FC Barcelona (not to mention FC Barcelona’s branded product range at IFA 2016) Eric Abidal was asked to do something a little outside of his usual remit – and that was to take a shot directly in to the washing machine.

If you are a fan of Abidal’s then you will know he has overcome a number of challenges in his life – but will the one involving a Beko washing machine be the one which will prove to be too much for him?

To see whether the defender took to it like a proverbial duck to water, then you had better watch the video above.  Abidal also goes head to head with the general public and a number of football freestylers at the BEKO IFA stand.

28 August 2016

The Floating Piers Hyperlapse

Take a Hyperlapse trip down The Floating Piers Art Installation on Lake Iseo, Italy by artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Over 8,900 still images, photographed every second for nearly 2 miles, were combined together to create this moving piece of art. Film produced by Dorian Iriabrren owner of Motion Filmworks.  However, don’t rush off to Lake Iseo – the installation has now finished its run and you will need a boat instead!

24 August 2016

Selfie Cat

Let’s combine the internet’s two main obsessions, cats and selfies.  This animated short features a cat lover who is in a competition for the most likes of a selfie with her moggy.  Unfortunately her rival is getting lots more likes so she has to make sure she gets the selfie of the century with her rather reluctant cat.  Chaos obviously ensues in this enjoyable animated short by a group of talented ArtFx students.

Mars Globe: How to Make Your Favorite Nerd Happy this Christmas

What exactly do you get the nerd who already has everything? That’s definitely something to start thinking about now for Christmas and this amazing globe of the planet Mars by Planetenkugel-Manufaktur (the website is thankfully simply marsglobes.com) may well do the trick.  It is based on the famous map of Mars by astronomer Percival Lowell (1905). This lovely film gives a glimpse into the world of Dr Michael M Plichta, the Mars globemaker.

He also gives an insight in to the process of making a Mars globe and like any expert makes it look very easy.  I can’t even put up wallpaper without making a complete mess of it so I can assure you that when he says it needs a lot of training he isn’t exaggerating.

As an aside, I wonder just how many people in the world have globemaker as their profession on their passport.

22 August 2016

Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses

Nine miles outside the small northern Lithuanian city of Siauliai, the countryside is suddenly interrupted by something quite astonishing.  Thousands upon thousands of crosses have been placed upon this low rise of land.

As well as symbolizing the deep Christian devotion of many Lithuanians they are also a testament to the Baltic nation’s struggle against oppression.

It is thought that crosses first began to appear at this spot in the thirteenth century, shortly after the city was founded.  Since then there have been varying numbers of crosses at the site.  It was in the 1831 uprising against Russia that the Hill of Crosses became political as well as purely religious.  Crosses were placed here to commemorate the dead and missing rebels of this period and by the beginning of the twentieth century there were 150 crosses. By 1940 there were 400. Today there are over 100,000.