British Library Wants Your Help Decoding Text on Ancient Sword

British Library Wants Your Help Decoding Text on Ancient Sword
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The British Library is asking the internet for aid in deciphering a mysterious inscription on an 800-year-old sword. Discovered in 1825 on the river Withal in Lincolnshire, the sword is currently on view at an exhibition at the Library entitled Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy. As of this posting, Library researchers have yet to decipher the code. Comments are now closed on the original blog post, however those still curious are invited to share their thoughts on Twitter.

The ancient sword dates back to around the year 1200, a time when it was considered a status symbol for a knight to wield a sword with an inscription. This is according to Utrecht University professor Marc van Hasselt, who has provided some context for the sword’s origins on the British Library’s blog. According to van Hasselt, it is possible that a certain medieval workshop began making inscribed swords and selling them to the elite, perhaps with the pitch that these inscriptions imbued the weapons with mystical power. The blade of the sword appears to be made from German steel, while the hilt is English in origin.

The mystery inscription appears to read as a series of capitalized letters:  +NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI+. Researchers thus far tend to believe that the words are an acronym for a religious prayer or invocation. Because Latin was the international language of the area at the time, it is highly likely that the letters represent Latin words or phrases.

BM-Sword-c-trustees-of-the-British-Museum-2If a conclusion is reached, this won’t be the first time that internet users have successfully translated mysterious writing on ancient artifacts. In 2014 the University of Chicago Library held an online contest to see if internet users could help experts decode the unusual marginalia in one 500-year-old copy of Homer’s Odyssey. The text was eventually decoded by an ltalian computer engineer, with the help of google books and various online databases. As it turned out, the text was simply a rough French translation of the original Greek.

By Dallas Jeffs

The Gift: The Thriller That Isn’t

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The Gift is a strange beast indeed. Directed by Joel Edgerton and starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Joel Edgerton himself, The Gift stands among the surprise sleeper hits of the year as one of the more surprising and unconventional films to come out.

If you were to watch any trailer for it, you’d think it’s just another run of the mill horror/thriller. This is by no means the case. The Gift is in essence about a man from a couple’s past trying desperately to reconnect with them by any means necessary.

The Gift’s first act primarily sticks to the conventions of thriller movies like this, but as it moves into it’s second and third acts the three main characters become measured and ultimately flawed people, haunted by mistakes and tragedies from their past. It becomes less about the cheap scares and more about the characters themselves. The Gift functions far better as a character study than it does a thriller.

The characters are what the audience are drawn to, and it is in no small part due to the acting of the three main leads, particularly Joel Edgerton as Gordo and Jason Bateman as Simon. Joel Edgerton could have very easily oversold his performance, and the role would have allowed for him to do that, but he kept it subdued and nuanced, with just enough menace to keep the audience on their feet.


The cinematography and lighting in The Gift are also incredibly admirable, especially some of the dark scenes with car lights illuminating the characters faces and the warm yellow glow of the house at night. Very slow tracking and wide shots draw us in, ramping up the tension and keeping the audiences eyes exactly where Joel Edgerton wants them.

All of these elements add up to the sum of their parts into a fantastic character study and examination as to how the past can affect the future, and small actions, no matter how insignificant we think they are can have wide-reaching impacts. There’s a whole world of pain behind Gordo’s eyes, making him not just the cut and paste antagonist of many other thriller, but one who is measured, realistic and utterly terrifying.


Unfortunately, with a character study film like this, it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that some audience members will become bored. Several scenes around the middle seem to simply fill time, and the pace becomes that of a slow meander through the cinematic beats, but for those that are invested in the characters, the pace shouldn’t prove to be too much of a problem.

All the small conversations, subtle clues and foreshadowing culminates in a climax that is heavily reminiscent of Oldboy (2003), and as the final credits role, you feel just as dirty as you did then. The Gift lets the audience think for themselves, but even now as I write this I feel like I need to take a shower. It’s a memorable and well-earned outcome.


Review by Alex Reid

The Face Of A Holocaust Ghetto: Vancover Photography Exhibit

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It is difficult to imagine, even for a second, what people had to go through when they were taken out of their homes by force and thrown into small confines, with little food, no running water or electricity, for extended periods of time, all under the tyranny of the Nazi SS squadron. Yet this was the norm inside Nazi Germany’s system of ghettos in Eastern Europe.

Although to fathom such circumstances is hard, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Center has made it possible by putting on an exhibit of photographs, drawing from a collection of 12,000 photos that depict what life looked like in one such ghetto: Litzmannstadt.

Litzmannstadt was set up in the city of Lodz after the Nazis invaded Poland, and was used for war factory slave labor to produce armaments for the Eastern Front. Between 1940 and 1944, about 18,000 Jews, as well as 5,000 Roma and Sinti lived and worked in extremely horrifying conditions. Many of them died in the Chelmno death camp.

The Jewish Council — the Judenrat — which was the Jewish leadership that was assigned control over the ghetto — commissioned a few Jewish photographers to capture the hardships of life in the ghetto. A great deal of the photographs were secretly taken right under the noses of the Nazis, and eventually amounted to a collection of magnificent, yet also harrowing, moments between families, as well as photos of children trying to survive under complete terror.

The exhibit is not solely composed of photos, as the Topography of Foundation made it clear that “the presentation, designed as a traveling exhibition, is accompanied by statements from former residents of the ghetto and entries from the ghetto chronicle.”

The main purpose of the exhibit is to put on display the hopeless conditions that people were forced to live in, but also to bring to light that they also maintained their self-respect as human beings, regardless of the circumstances that surrounded them.

The exhibition is supported by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, and it is an extension of a larger exhibition from the famous Topography of Terror Foundation in Berlin. The exhibit is scheduled to end this December.

By Milad Doroudian

Photo by Schlif, German Federal Archives.

Ronda Rousey Campaigns For Captain Marvel Role

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Ronda Rousey, the undefeated MMA fighter, has been campaigning via social media, primarily Instagram, to try to nab the role of Captain Marvel in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is one of the first times crowd requests could push an actor through to playing a specific role in the cinematic universe.

The campaign came after a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) where Rousey said that she would love to play the titular character of the upcoming Marvel film. Soon after she received fan art of her in the iconic suit. Taking to Instagram she said,

“Since the Reddit AMA I’ve received so many bad-ass Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel edits! There were so many cool ones I couldn’t pick just one to share – here’s 1 series of 2 Big thank you to contributing artists: @bosslogix (two on right) and @salman.artworks (left).”

She then went on to share two more pictures, writing, “Big thank you to the contributing artists: @alexmurilloart (right) and Hugo Dourado (left).”


The character Rousey would play, Ms. Marvel a.k.a Carol Denvers, was a member of the United States Airforce who gained super-human powers — not too dissimilar to those of Superman — after an accident in which her DNA mixed with that of Captain Marvel.

By Alex Reid

Okko Kamu To Leave Budding Finnish Orchestra

Dima Slobodeniouk
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Dima Slobodeniouk has been named the next Principal Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, to succeed Okko Kamu in autumn 2016.

Slobodeniouk will also head the annual Sibelius Festival. “We are looking forward to our time with Slobodeniouk with great enthusiasm,” the Orchestra’s General Manager, Teemu Kirjonen, has said.
Born in Russia in 1975, Slobodeniouk studied in Finland and has strong ties to the country and its musical culture. He has conducted the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia since 2013 and will continue to spend some of his time there while Principal Conductor at Lahti.

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra specialises in Finnish composers, most of all Jean Sibelius, the namesake of the Festival, the orchestra’s home venue and Finland’s greatest conservatoire. Kalevi Aho was Composer-in-Residence from 1992 to 2011, and the orchestra also has strong ties to Joonas Kokkonen, Sebastian Fagerlund and Einojuhani Rautavaara. The LSO has performed at the BBC Proms, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and Vienna’s Musikverein. Its many records on the independent Scandinavian label BIS have won great critical acclaim.

By Robbie Carney

D23 Holds Heaps Of Info For Avid Film Fans

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The annual Disney conference has been held over the past two days, and seeing how Disney possesses an ever-expanding reach over entertainment, from Pixar to Marvel to Star Wars, heaps of news has been seeping out over the past 48 hours.

For Star Wars fans, a brand new poster designed by Dru Strutzan, the original artist for the art of the first three Star Wars films, has debuted. The poster shows characters both new and old, our heroes Finn, Rey and Han Solo as well as the villainous Kylo Ren. Most notably, Finn is seen holding a light sabre, something that was heavily rumoured for months but never confirmed until this poster was released. Speculation is also avid that the main female lead Rey, played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, will be a character stuck between both the light and dark side.

Significantly, the director of the recently released Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow has been confirmed to helm and direct Star Wars Episode 9, the final film in the new trilogy. Fan reactions are mixed to the announcement due to Colin Trevorrow’s lack of a large filmography and so far proving to direct films that have been critically mediocre.

D23 also had tonnes of new for Pixar fans, with footage for The Good Dinosaur as well as the official posters dropping for The Incredibles 2, Cars 3, Toy Story 4 and Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo. This marks a shift in Pixar’s mission statement, returning to old properties to expand on their worlds and  characters, a tactic not yet tested on such a wide scale in Pixar’s history


For the Marvel fans, D23 showed the first footage of the upcoming, “Captain America: Civil War.” Civil War chronicles a split in the main Avengers as they face the direct repercussions of previous excursions. One one side, Tony Stark, on the other, Captain America. The footage shown was a quick sizzle reel of tightly choreographed action sequences, fighting between the Avengers and our very first look at the Black Panther. The film is set to come out in early 2016.

The final piece of note-worthy news to come out of D23 is the Jungle Book footage, directed by Jon Favreau, which has been universally praised for its astounding depiction of the animals through technology similar to that used in the Life of Pi. The full cast was also announced, Bill Murray as Baloo, Scarlett Johnasson as Kaa, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera and Christopher Walken as King Louie. Remarks have also been made about newcomer Neel Sethi, who is playing Mowgli, and his incredibly acting skill for a complete newcomer.


D23 has begun to wrap up, but if any significant news surfaces as the conference draws to a close you can be sure I’ll be back to report on it.

By Alex Reid

Kurt Cobain New “Solo Album” Of Unreleased Tracks

Kurt Cobain New "Solo Album"
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Over 100 cassettes of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, discovered by the director of the recent documentary film “Montage of Heck,” will be the basis for an upcoming Kurt Cobain “solo album.”

Or so it has been dubbed by anticipating fans.

Montage of Heck director Brett Morgen said the upcoming album “feels like you’re in Kurt’s house, watching him create over the course of an afternoon.” The album is meant by the director as a companion work to his documentary, and will be released along with the home-video version of the film in early November.

Morgen said he immersed himself in over 200 hours of recordings made on 107 unmarked cassette tapes made by Cobain.

Morgen will not have the last word in the tracks that will appear on the album — that privilege belongs to Universal Music Group, which is releasing it.

The album will though, according to Morgen, show many sides of the personality and work of the Nirvana singer, and include ragtime and thrash, as well as audio of Cobain talking between tracks.

Among the non-music offerings will be a “comedy sketch routine” performed by Cobain, who voices all the characters.

Morgen said that the album may be different from what many people familiar with the most popular songs of Nirvana might expect. It is lighter — for example, listeners will know when Cobain is smiling at his own playful lyrics, he said.

All the tracks on the album are just Cobain by himself with a guitar.

“These aren’t multi-track, finished songs or work-ups, but they’re extraordinary, and I think they provide a tremendous insight into his [creative] process,” Morgan said. “I think they further our understanding of Kurt, both as a musician and as a man.”

By Andy Stern

Inside Out Is An Emotional Rollercoaster

Inside Out
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In my mind, Pixar is a total bastion of creativity and originality in the film industry, which many are saying is becoming less and less creative as the days go on. Every year Pixar release a project that is endlessly creative and inventive when it comes to the settings of the film. However, with the recent announcement at last year’s Disney Conference that Pixar will be releasing a whole host of sequels over the next few years, fears were, and to an extent still are, quite high that their originality is being stamped out in favour of a more business friendly cash cow.

It’s my absolute pleasure then to write that Inside Out is, undoubtedly, one of the most unique projects Pixar have developed in the last few years, perhaps since Wall-E. Our main character is Riley, and eleven year old girl who is going through life changing events in her life. Rather than watch the action play out from her perspective though, we instead see it from the wholly unique perspective of her five chief emotions, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, Fear and the main emotion, Joy.

Inside Out can be seen as one large extended metaphor, but its core message is heartfelt and relatable. Inside Out is a great romp through the mind of an eleven year old girl, cracking wise about concepts like Déjà vu and the imagination, but in the end, the overarching theme is more mature than what I personally could have ever expected from a Pixar movie. It’s a change from form, and a greatly heartfelt one at that.

Joy (Amy Poehler) is our guide through the world of the mind, and it’s through her that we understand the world which has been set up. One of the main stumbling blocks Inside Out could have tripped up on could have been the complex way the world has set up. Save for a large exposition dump near the start of the film, director Pete Docter lets the audience learn about this world through the experiences of our characters. Concepts like long and short term memory, personality and the sub conscious are all creatively manipulated to make it more than accessible to all audiences, both young and old.

It’s more than worth mentioning then that the voice actors are absolutely vivacious and full of life. I won’t spoil anything, but is a character introduced in the second act that absolutely steals the show. The voices breathe life into these potentially one note characters, and contrary to what trailers may have you believe, each of the emotions do experience other emotions that aren’t their own name-sake.

Unfortunately, as much as the setting of Inside Out is very creative and intuitive, the plot is not. If you’ve seen any conventional blockbuster in the last year, you know how the plot of Inside out is going to turn out. The Three-Act Structure is adhered to with frightening strictness making the plot anything but unexpected. In fact, many have pointed out that the story of Inside Out is one that follows almost the exact same beats the Pixar classics such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up. Of course this won’t be an issue, nor a concern for children or in fact most adults who watch this film, it’s just a troubling feature in many of Pixar’s films that is worth pointing out.

That being said though, the resolution to the plot is one that I honestly wasn’t expecting, and the overall theme wasn’t something akin to, “Happiness is the best and you should always be happy,” but something far more emotionally complex and in the end, emotionally rewarding.

Inside Out is a pleasant film, one that defies the convention of the normal themes that are employed by animated kid’s movies, but strictly adheres to the predictable and ultimately inconsequential plot points. If you’re looking for something in the cinema this weekend that is fun and accessible, then Inside Out will have you covered.

By Alex Reid

The Cultivist Opens Exclusive Doors To The Art World

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Want become an art world insider but not sure where to start? Marlies Verhoeven and Daisy Peat might be able to help you. The duo are the co-founders of The Cultivist, a web-based members-only club that promises exclusive, expertly moderated access to museums, art fairs, and the inner workings of the art world – though some critics question the service’s ability to replace years of education and experience.

The concierge service turned private club is accepting 1,000 members in its first year  of business. For Americans, the annual fee is $2,500; for residents of the U.K., £1,900 and for the rest of Europe, €2,700. For this price, you’ll enjoy free, front-of-the-line access to museums and galleries, VIP access to art fairs and private events, and even access to the CEOs’ personal network of art insiders who are ready to “deepen your relationship with art.”

While business seems to be going well for the duo, critics of the service wonder how it will affect an industry that is built on years of education, personal experience and subjective understanding. As one reporter at Hyperallergic notes, “contemporary art in particular is often rewarding in almost direct proportion to the effort exerted to unpack its various and serried meanings.” The Cultivist promises easy, instant access to crucial art fairs and a curated selection of well-known international museums. The argument here is that there is more enjoyment to be gleaned from spending years waiting to get into museums, visiting art fairs with the tourist crowd, and acquiring an individual sense of what art is and what it means, than there is in simply paying to have someone else explain it to you.

The company states that there are no restrictions on who can become a member, however the prohibitive fees and questionnaire required to apply may be interpreted as contrary to that assertion.  What is true is that the Cultivist is funded on membership alone, meaning it receives no payouts from institutions in exchange for favoring them in its services. Applicants can rest assured that they will be privy to an unbiased, experienced view of the art world – even if it is someone else’s.

The Not So Fantastic Four, What Caused It, And Can It Be Stopped?

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The new Fantastic Four movie arriving by way of 20th Century Fox has hit our cinema screens to a fair amount of vitriol from fans and critics alike. An Inexplicable plot, blatantly obvious reshoots and trouble behind the camera all seem to have contributed to what has now become the prime example of the superhero movie gone bad. But the question remains, why has Fantastic Four ended up this way, and more importantly, can it be prevented in the future?

Fantastic Four had a troubled development, and as it was being filmed whatever information leaked out was met by fan backlash. At one point it was outed that the main antagonist Dr. Doom was going to be a blogger instead of a scientist, igniting the collective fuses of every comic fan on earth. This was changed in the final cut of the film, but that’s not the only thing that seemed to be different from the original vision. It’s been pointed out by many keen eyed observers that a whole host of shots from the trailers never made it into the film, and Sue Storm’s (Kate Mara) blonde hair changing shades dramatically throughout the film has become an infamous way to tell which scenes were reshot.

Reports also leaked about director Josh Trank’s behaviour and mannerisms on set. Stories of how he trashed residential areas on shooting and being in a generally foul mood the entire time hasn’t curried any favour among the film fan crowd. However, it seems that even Josh Trank himself didn’t want to have anything to do with the final film, saying that, “We had a great cut of this film a year ago” on twitter near the release of the film.

This raises the question, why did the film change. The internet and the movie industry seems to have placed the blame solely on studio interference with the final film. The theory goes that Josh Trank had a more unique, and perhaps more horror Cronenberg-esque film cooked up before the studio interfered with re shoots to try and build a universe so they could emulate the success of comic book movie juggernaut Marvel.

Although this is a theory that has legs, it is nothing more than a theory. The studio is an easy target, and in the end, we’ll never really know what happened behind the scenes of the Fantastic Four. If it does come to light studio interference was the reason the abomination that is out in cinemas now exists, then that will be a cow that will be milked by creatives for years and years to come. Studio interference seems like an inherently troubling practice, but unfortunately, we’ll never know what in the final cut was the stamp of Josh Trank, and what was the stamp of the studio.

By Alex Reid

Matt Parker’s New Electronic Music Uses Sounds of Computing

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A new project by British sound artist Matt Parker uses an archive of historic computers as instruments. Using computers on display at the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park, U.K., Parker has created a full-length album of ambient electronic music titled The Imitation Archive.

The National Museum of Computing is devoted to the history of modern computers and their uses, with physical examples dating all the way back to 1939. While the computers in the museum remain largely functional, they are not in use while the museum is open to visitors. Bletchley Park is best known as the historic location of the Government Code and Cypher School, where the Enigma cypher of WWII was broken.

Parker’s album is a ghostly homage to the sounds of computing, something surprisingly far removed from the gentle hum of the desktops and laptops that most people have in their homes today. The opening song WITCH is an eerie, ambient track that creates a building tension – equal parts movie score and haunted house sound-effect. The track relies in part on the clicking, shuffling and creaking noises made by the 1951 Harwell Dekatron WITCH computer, the world’s oldest functioning digital computer. The computer was restored by a team of volunteers between 2009 and 2012 and was rebooted on November 20th, 2012, in front of two of its original designers.

Each of the 10 tracks on the album are constructed from combinations of the 126 separate recordings that Parker made during one night spent running the computers in the museum. The name of the album is a reference to the recent film The Imitation Game, about computing pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing.

The Imitation Archive is available for download by donation on, and more of Parker’s sound works can be found on his Bandcamp page or on his personal website.

Gay days on the streets of Amsterdam

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AMSTERDAM — This week rainbows and glitter decorated the streets of Amsterdam, commemorating the 2015 Gay Pride festival. Over 350,000 people swarmed the streets to celebrate the right to be openly gay in the iconic liberal city. The party-goers were from all walks of life, including flamboyantly dressed drag queens, openly gay couples, and straight tourists looking to be a part of the spectacle. Even the sun showed up, bringing temperatures up to 28°C.

The festival was officially on all week, but the real party began on Friday. It all kicked off with ‘The Drag Olympics,’ where you could find the fabulous contestants in their extravagantly fashioned drag costumes. The games began with a cat walk, where the girls could strut their stuff on the stage in front of a 400-strong applauding audience. The show continued with a few of the more provocative contestants performing and lip-syncing a song of their choice.

Followed by the final contest and inarguably the most entertaining; ‘the twerk off.’ The rowdy crowd were amused to watch the contestants get viciously competitive on stage between each other, doing their best twerking along to the thumping music, while blatantly trying to shove each other off stage whenever they got the chance.

However, all of the catty behaviour was amended with a final dance as the audience joined in commending the winners of each competition.

Saturday’s canal parade is what made Amsterdam’s Gay Pride festival unique. The lavishly decorated boats of all sizes and shapes cruised by, as the on looking admirers enjoyed wine and cheese platters along the edge of the canals. Queen and many more gay anthems filled the atmosphere, as people danced and even dived into the water, cooling off under the hot summer sun. Smiles gleamed everywhere as the gay and straight all enjoyed the amazing day together. However, it wasn’t all butterflies and cupcakes, as some intoxicated sailors forgot to duck as the boats drove under the bridges and men over board became frequent. Pandemonium arose as boats began to bounce off each other when order was lost. To the on-lookers amusement, it was quite the spectacle. Though it wasn’t long before the police were on the water and the parade eventually resumed.

The narrow streets surrounding the red-light district are where the party was all going off in the evening. It was so densely packed with people, and although walking became an arduous task, everyone embraced the chaos and the atmosphere remained positively wild, enjoying live music, alcohol and drugs that Amsterdam is renowned for.

The upbeat music pumped late through the night, as stumbling half-dressed men and woman partied on the streets of Amsterdam, but eventually deserted the street at the early hours of the morning.

When the sun rose, the empty streets were littered with colourful decorations, clothes and rubbish. The city was lifeless, other than the poor street cleaners who certainly had a strenuous task ahead of them.

At the end of the day, the 2015 Gay Pride Festival was a huge success, and the evidence was upon the thousands of gratified yet hung over faces.

By Dylan Botha