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!