21 June 2020

Dignity: The Statue America Needs Right Now

Ask anyone to name a famous American statue and the chances are they will reply with the Statue of Liberty.  A symbol of global enlightenment representing the freedom to live a life unhampered by oppression there was and still is irony there for those peoples who did not fall in to the innate and historical Euro-centricity of Lady Liberty’s promise.  So perhaps this monument in South Dakota will do something to redress this balance, at least in terms of statuary.

Image Credit
Dignity – for that is her name – stands on a bluff near the Missouri River, arms outstretched and holding a star-quilted blanket, offering shelter to one and all who might seek her protection.  She is 50-feet high and is made from stainless steel – supported by a huge steel rod in her interior to protect her from the high winds which often whistle across the plains.

4 June 2020

Made in Britain: Superb Time-lapse


The chances are if you have seen a time-lapse recently on UK TV that it could well have been made by Chad Gordon Higgins.  This is a collection of some of the work he has done in and around Great Britain and it is quite stunning.  I have to say the Stonehenge section stands out but the shot of the artist completing her painting is probably my favorite part of this collection of sights that were all Made in Britain.

The Dandelion - Whimsical World-Wide Weed

The humble dandelion. From your garden to almost the ends of the earth this small but conspicuous plant flourishes. Gardeners do not appreciate its presence, considering it a weed, even though its flowering usually indicates the beginning of the honey bee season and could be seen as a welcome sign. Its simplistic looking structure hides a few surprising secrets and its cultural resonance, especially in Europe is strong. Here is a short but sincere homage to one of the small wonders of our botanical world.

Let’s start with the names, both common and scientific. In English, dandelion is a corruption of the French. Originally it was called ‘dent de lion’ and the name came over in 1066 with a certain William and his Conquerors. It means ‘lion’s tooth’ and many people mistakenly believe it refers to the orange colored flower head, confusing the words beard and tooth.

3 June 2020

The King of the Island

Get your hankies out now, because this will quite probably bring a tear to your eye. I know it brought several to my own.

This beautifully made animated short tells the story of Gioannin, a small boy living in the Italian port of Genoa at the beginning of the twentieth century.

His father was lost at sea several years before and Gioannin is pitied by the men of the port and somewhat bullied by the children because he has no father.

The boy, having no concept of death, imagines his father washed up on some exotic island where, because of his size, strength and cunning he soon becomes king.

One day his mother receives news that her husband is returning and Gioannin’s expectations of his father reach a peak. Yet when they are finally reintroduced, his father is nothing like he expected or imagined. He is something even better.

The King of the Island was made by Italian animation company artFive. They produce everything from computer graphics and animations for commercials, visual effects, videogames, web, to events, TV series, books and magazines. Take a look at their excellent demoreel here.

The Nictitating Membrane: The Third Eyelid

From the picture above you could easily imagine that the animal kingdom had suddenly been enveloped in its own zombie apocalypse.  Yet this is not a still from a forthcoming episode of The Squawking Dead. Thanks to high speed photography, these photographs capture the nictitating membrane in action. It is also known as the third eyelid, haw and the inner eyelid. It is drawn across the eye to protect and moisturize it while retaining visibility. The Ark in Space today has a feature on this extraordinary structure of the eye.

Image Credit Flickr User Simon

Jan Chodkiewicz – The World’s Greatest Swordsman


Jan Chodkiewicz is often referred to as the world’s greatest swordsman – and perhaps it is in his blood.  The Gdansk based swordsman and sword maker is descended from the great knights, including Poland's most famous commander Jan Karol Chodkiewicz (1560-1621).  Yet even though the years of Communism in Poland saw the interruption of the family’s historic strings, Chodkiewicz continues in the traditions of his kinsfolk.

He also cuts quite a dash - the Polish film industry should take note - they have a ready-made action hero here: movie star looks and a world expert in sword fighting skills.

This short documentary was created by Michał Rytel-Przełomiec.

Space Shuttle Concept Art of the 1960s and 1970s

The idea of a spacecraft returning from space to a horizontal landing had been around for decades before the first operational space shuttle flight in 1982. A proposal had been submitted to NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA’s predecessor) in 1954, just eight years after the Second World War. That proposal would ultimately become the X-15 aircraft but classified studies in to the next generation of space transportation systems continued.

An important part of these studies was the production of concept art which could help senior military and political figures (as well as, later, the general public) to visualize the potential shape of things to come. Some of the concept art is remarkably prescient while others are more than a little off the mark. Now historical documents, the drawings for the space shuttle, created before the age of computer aided design, offer a fascinating insight in to how things may have been – as well as how they actually turned out.
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