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Between the years



Where I live, the time between Christmas and New Year – or “between the years” as we call it – is a quiet time. Business has slowed down in many areas and the frantic activity of Christmas preparations is over. The old year is still ruling but there is not much left to do and although once in a while thoughts are wandering ahead to new plans and challenges we are not willing to face them yet. This is a time to lean back and enjoy the lights and warmth sheltered from a grey and hostile environment outside, the company of family and friends, the purring cat, films and books, longer than usual Twitter conversations and a stroll through the vasts of the internet.

From the latter, there is a small choice of pieces which I would like to share with you.

Making Manuscripts

Have you ever had the opportunity to look at some of the precious ancient books produced by monks in the Middle Ages? There is a wonderful video from the Getty Museum channel which shows how they were made:

“An illuminated manuscript is a book written and decorated completely by hand. Illuminated manuscripts were among the most precious objects produced in the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance, primarily in monasteries and courts. Society’s rulers–emperors, kings, dukes, cardinals, and bishops–commissioned the most splendid manuscripts.”

How Ballerinas Are Preparing Their Pointe Shoes

Did you watch a Christmas ballet this year admiring the seeming weightlessness of the ballerinas? And did you possibly think to yourself what dancers are doing to their feet when going on pointe? In a fascinating article, Olga Khazan from The Atlantic is presenting YouTube videos of ballet dancers preparing their pointe shoes. She writes:

“Don’t get me wrong, I like the actual ballet well enough. But there’s something so uniquely soothing and satisfying about seeing these women (it’s mostly women—male dancers are usually too heavy to go on pointe) ready the tools of their trade.

There’s the slipping of the original, light-pink shoe out of its bag, and then the hours spent scraping, ripping, crushing, sewing, and burning (!!), only to end up with a shoe that looks identical to the layman but is uniquely tailored to the ballerina.”

In one video from the Australian Ballet, for example, dancer Jessica Fyfe explains how she has six to eight pairs of shoes going at once, including “a pair that’s good for jumping in, a pair that’s stage-perfect…“

In another video, Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Arantxa Ochoa says she goes through 60 pairs per season. To make them last slightly longer, she glues the tips. Like many other dancers, she also cuts off the material around the toes to keep herself from slipping.

Citing Olga Khazan again: “It’s almost like the dance’s most distinctive qualities—exterior perfection, inner struggle, insane physicality—get concentrated in the shoes. Even early retirement: After one or two stage performances, the shoes begin to “die.””

See for yourself! Here is the article and this is one of the videos:

Astronaut’s-Eye View of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Re-entry

Extraordinary things happened in the last weeks of the year. Did you find the time among deadlines at work and Christmas preparations to follow NASA’s Orion project in December? There is an awesome video presenting the last 10 minutes of the Orion’s test flight which gives a glance of what an astronaut could see from a spacecraft while rushing down through our planet’s atmosphere:

“The video begins 10 minutes before Orion’s 11:29 a.m. EST splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, just as the spacecraft was beginning to experience Earth’s atmosphere. Peak heating from the friction caused by the atmosphere rubbing against Orion’s heat shield comes less than two minutes later, and the footage shows the plasma created by the interaction change from white to yellow to lavender to magenta as the temperature increases. The video goes on to show the deployment of Orion’s parachutes and the final splash as it touches down.”

Here you may see how the spacecraft was brought home afterwards. I liked the photo showing how it almost vanished in this huge ship.

Ambition the film

Another even more exciting project was Rosetta, the mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Tomek Bagiński made a short film to advertise the Rosetta project. The film, titled “Ambition”, makes clear, that “it is the essence of what it means to be human, to attempt difficult things, to reach for seemingly impossible goals, to learn, adapt and evolve.

And at the heart of this film is Rosetta, ESA’s real mission to rendezvous with, escort and land on a comet. A mission that began as a dream, but that after decades of planning, construction and flight through the Solar System, has arrived at its goal.

Its aim? To unlock the secrets hidden within the icy treasure chest for 4.6 billion years. To study its make-up and its history. To search for clues as to our own origins.

From 100 km distance, to 50, 30 and then, defying all expectations, to just 10 km, Rosetta continues to captivate and intrigue with every image and every data packet returned.

It will rewrite the textbooks of cometary science.

But there is more, an even greater challenge, another ambitious first: to land on the comet.

The stage is set. The date: 12 November 2014.”

Read more

This is the film:

There is even a Making Of:

The making of ‘Ambition’

“The making of the short film Ambition, a collaboration between Platige Image and ESA. Directed by Tomek Bagiński and starring Aidan Gillen and Aisling Franciosi, Ambition was shot on location in Iceland, produced in Poland, and screened on 24 October 2014 during the British Film Institute’s celebration of Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, at the Southbank, London.”

I enjoyed the film, but also thought about what Lukasz Sobisz (Simulation TD, Platiga Image) said in the Making Of:

“The actual campaign idea is certainly well targeted. But, shooting myself in the foot a bit, I’m very surprised that you need something like this at all now. Mankind sends a probe into space to catch a comet and land on it. And we need a great director, film and actors to convince people this is interesting.”

209 Seconds That Will Make You Question Your Entire Existence

The following is a nice video about the observable universe and your place in it. Unfortunately, I did not manage to embed it without the advertisement. Don’t get irritated. Simply klick, it’s very much worth watching:

A Year in the Life of Ise Shrine

From the silence in space to the silence on Earth: In a series of stunning images photographer Nakano Haruo documented the beauty of the four seasons at the Ise shrine, one of Japan’s most important sacred spaces. He writes:

“In Japan, it is traditional to begin the New Year by visiting a shrine to pray for good fortune in the 12 months to come. Ise Shrine will be a particularly popular choice this year. What better way to mark the New Year than by walking along the gravel paths leading to the ancient-but-always-new shrine at Ise?

I grew up in Ise, where my family ran a small business providing fish for the ceremonial offerings at the shrine. Growing up near the shrine, I got to know at close hand the many faces of the sacred precincts throughout the year. In spring, I used to follow the mejiro (Japanese white-eye) birds that played in the branches of the cherry trees; in summer, I could sense the trees and plants luxuriating in a sudden evening downpour; in autumn, I would enjoy the light streaming through the foliage; and in winter, I would occasionally wake to the wonderful surprise of a rare covering of snow. The sacred grounds of the shrine were home to more pleasures than I could count.”

Watch the photos here

In addition, you may like this video which gives a vivid, more worldly impression of the shrine during New Year visits:

Xmas Unwrapped by Toby Smith and Unknown Fields

Christmas has many facets. Beckett Mufson describes in the creatorsproject‘s blog how Holiday Doc Unwraps the Less-Than-Festive Factories Behind Christmas.

Read more

See the video which explores those factories where holiday baubles are made:

Toby Smith explains:

“In August I travelled East with the Unknown Fields Division, to Vietnam, China and beyond. We traced the supply chain of the world’s consumer products across the South China Sea down cargo routes and inland to their production.

Yiwu in China is not only home to the world’s largest wholesale commodity market but also many of the “Just in Time” factories that produce seasonal or trending products. Christmas consumables are produced in summer ready for wholesale, packaging and shipping to principally western markets….”

How Cats See Christmas…

Christmas can be a challenging time, in particular for pet owners. Under the fresh impression of this year’s efforts to defend tree and decorations you may enjoy the following attempt to bridge the culture gap between you and your cat:

If this doesn’t help you may find many Christmas Greetings on the internet to cheer you up. The following one is starting with a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, Scene 1:

Epic Chuck Norris Greetings – Merry Christmas with epic split

There is more:

From Brown Bag Films comes

Granny O’Grimm’s Christmas Greeting

Space Station Crew Members Offer Christmas Greetings to the World

“Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA offered their thoughts and best wishes to the world for the Christmas holiday during downlink messages from the orbital complex on Dec. 17. Wilmore has been aboard the research lab since late September and will remain in orbit until mid-March 2015. Virts arrived at the station in late November and will stay until mid-May 2015.”

And German football players, too, send their greetings:

FC Bayern wishes you a merry Christmas

Furthermore, there are the songs. Like this one:

Eva Celia – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas @ Mostly Jazz 21/12/13 [HD]

There is so much more. Maybe, you find time “between the years” to enjoy some of this admittedly haphazard selection. I’m sending season’s greetings to all of you and wish you peaceful days and a merry Christmas.


From → In between

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