Who Needs Privacy: 5 People Live in Paris Subway Station Apartment

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Here’s another example of a bizarre business promotional strategy. This time it’s by IKEA and they actually took over a Paris subway station.

In a bid to prove that with IKEA furnishing you can make any living space comfortable, the company erected an apartment right in the middle of the Auber station in Paris. It was only 581 sq ft. in size and five people lived in it for five days (Jan 9th to 14th). The company tried a similar event around two years back when they decked subway platforms with IKEA furnishings, but this took things a step forward. Or maybe a giant leap. The apartment mainly consisted of IKEA storage products, clearly aiming at space management. Plain to view through huge clear-glass windows for the hundreds of thousands of people who use the subway, their publicity stunt sure didn’t miss any eyeballs. Time-lapse videos have been made of the construction of the apartment. Videos documenting the experiences of the five people living there have also been put up by the company.

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The Berezka Ensemble – Russia’s Floating Dance Group

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Trade secrets are common in many areas of life, but dancing? I wondered how it could be possible for a dancer to have a secret step, when their art is plain for all to see. Turns out there is a particular dancing group from Russia that has a secret technique – the floating step – that no one can really see.

The Berezka Ensemble was set up in 1948, by choreographer Nadezhda Nadezhdina. Since then, it has become a symbol of sorts, something that Russia has been identified with. Having traveled to over 80 countries for performances, the troupe has recently made the news for something other than their famous floating step. The dancers have covered over 47,000 dancing kilometers, through their signature step. That’s longer than the diameter of the Earth!

Photo © Berezkadance.ru ..

Chinese Women Train Hard to Become Professional Bodyguards

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While many men may find it odd to have a woman protect them, the Chinese have no such qualms. How else could you explain the huge demand for female bodyguards? In fact, they are paid much higher than their male counterparts.

Tianjiao Special Guard Consultant Ltd is perhaps the first firm to provide open group training in China for female bodyguards. Each trainee is put through 10 months of rigorous instruction during which time they gain skills in martial arts, anti-terrorism training, reconnaissance and business etiquette. The best student could be invited to study further at the International Security Academy in Israel.A four-week training program at the beach forms a part of the 10-month curriculum.

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The Focara of Novoli – A Truly Epic Bonfire

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Imagine a giant bonfire, 25 meters high, 20 meters in diameter, and viewed by over 60,000 people. This is exactly the spectacle that will meet your eyes if you happen to be in the town of Novoli, in south-eastern Italy, during this time of the year.

This ‘festival of fire’ is known as the Focara, held every year between the 7th and 18th of January. The actual Focara, or bonfire is lit on the 16th, when the festival reaches its crescendo. The tradition has its origins in the pre-Christian era, when it was celebrated to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Today, however, it is dedicated to the memory of St. Anthony, who is the Patron Saint and protector of Novoli. The preparations for the Focara begin as early as mid December. On the 7th of January, the construction of the fuel assembled for the bonfire commences. It consists of bundles of vines that have been set aside by farmers after cutting back vineyards, once the grape harvesting is done the previous autumn. About 90,000 bundles are used, each one consisting of 200 vines. The construction of the structure is supported by wooden beams, and it is erected in Novoli’s Piazza Tito Schipa.

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Blind Tennis – Yet Another Amazing Sport from Japan

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The Japanese really do seem to invent a lot of sports, especially for the disabled. Not long ago, we told you about Doglegs, a wrestling sport for the handicapped. Now, we’re going to introduce you to Blind Tennis, which is of course, tennis played by the blind.

The creation of the sport is largely credited to Miyoshi Takei, who in spite of his blindness, started to play tennis as a kid with the encouragement of his high school teacher. His only aim at the time was to hit a ball that was flying through the air as hard as he could, even though he couldn’t see it. After several trials, he finally invented a special kind of tennis ball that is spongy and light in weight. The ball rattles, so that blind players can track its movement with their ears. Miyoshi’s endeavors met with success and the first national blind tennis championships were held in Japan in the year 1990. Today, hundreds of Japanese players take part every year and a few from other countries too, such as China, Korea, Taiwan, Britain and the United States.

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Bamboo Drift Racing – A Combination of Speed and Balance

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I couldn’t stand still on a cane of bamboo even if it was on land. To think that there are people who can balance themselves on a bamboo pole floating in water! It’s probably the world’s thinnest boat.

Bamboo Drift Racing is actually a sport in Southwest China’s Guizhou province. Competitors stand on a bamboo pole and paddle using a thin stick of bamboo. Considered an exotic minority sport in China, the rules have changed over the years. In fact, although the tradition is to use bamboo, competitors now use a similar-looking strip made from green fiberglass. This offers better buoyancy and makes the boat more durable . The fiberglass sticks also help increase speed, and can be taken apart with ease later on. Still wondering how in the world it’s possible to row while standing on a stick? The trick, apparently, lies in the waist. All the balancing is done by controlling the bamboo using your waistline.

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Top 10 Most Unusual Christmas Trees of 2011

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Every December, we hear reports of bizarre Christmas trees in the making, and on display. We bring you a roundup of 10 of the most unusual trees that caught our attention in the Christmas season of 2011.

The Japanese Gold Tree

We’ve previously featured this tree made completely of pure Gold, here on OC. A creation of Japanese jeweler Ginza Tanaka, the tree is worth $2 million and unusual enough to make it to our top 10. It weighs 12 kg, is 2.4 m high, and is decorated with plates, ornaments and ribbons – all made of gold. Talk about a golden Christmas!

Mysterious Female Superhero Helps Beijing’s Poor

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Ever fancied meeting up with a superhero? Well you could have, had you been in Beijing this past Christmas Eve. For that was the day a real-life superhero walked the streets of the city, helping out the poor. She calls herself the ‘Chinese Redbud Woman’.

Dressed in low-cut black tights and wearing a blue mask, her pictures leave us wondering if she attracted attention for more than just her generosity. Jokes aside, she did do a pretty good job of helping out – handing out food, warm clothing and gifts to beggars and homeless people. Why she didn’t put on some of the warm clothing herself on a cool December night, is something we don’t have an answer to. The appearance of this mysterious woman did cause a stir of sorts among the residents of Beijing. People started talking about her on the internet and in local media. Pictures of her acts of kindness at public places such as the Xidan subway station and in front of the Wangfujing bookstore have been doing the rounds ever since the night of Christmas Eve. The superlady herself communicates with the world through a microblog, written in Chinese. She currently has over 7,000 fans online.

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Bavarian Villagers Build Church Entirely Out of Snow

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A church built entirely out of snow and ice – sounds magical, and looks pretty too. It was built this year in the Bavarian forest by the villagers of Mitterfirmiansreut, Germany. Located close to the Czech border, the church is bathed in a beautiful blue light. It was opened to public on Wednesday evening, blessed by Dean Kajetan Steinbeisser. Although the villagers had hoped to have it open before Christmas, the lack of sufficient snow caused a delay in their project.

The snow church was constructed in commemoration of a similar church built in 1911, exactly 100 years ago. The older one was actually a sign of protest. In those days, the nearest church was in Mauth, a 90-minute hike away, which wasn’t always easy to complete. The residents of the secluded Mitterfirmiansreut village then came up with the idea to build the snow church, in the hope that it would draw attention to their plight. The winter of 1910/1911 was rich in snow, and the construction of the church began in Feb, 1911. Both men and women worked hard to place blocks of solid snow bricks, building a strong and sturdy church. The final structure was 14m long , 7m wide and 4m high. The first worship was held on the 28th of March, 1911.

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Szopka Making – A Colorful Polish Tradition

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The beginning of December each year sees the transformation of Rynek Główny (Main Market Square)  in the Polish city of Krakow, into a beautiful Christmas market. Arts and crafts, ceramics, sweets and more are put up for sale. Excellent food in the form of grilled oscypek cheese and Polish wine are available too.The szopka, a crèche competition, is of course the major event.

On the first Thursday of December, crèche masters from around Poland and other parts of the world display their szopki at the history museum in the Krzysztofory Palace. The winning models are placed on display throughout the Christmas season. The szopka is a traditional Polish folk art that has its origins in the Middle Ages. The tradition is a rich and colorful one, having evolved over the ages. The szopki depict the Wawel Cathedral, which is a part of Krakow’s Wawel Castle with a Nativity scene set inside its doors. Some of the models are as small as 6 inches while others are around 6 feet high.

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Buffalo Body-Painting at Unique Traditional Festival

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What started as a means to ward off intruders, is now a full-blown festival. The people of Jiangcheng County, China’s Yunnan Province, have their bulls painted and decorated by artists for a major event every year. The bulls are displayed in a riot of colors, painted with a variety of themes.

Traditionally, the bulls were painted by the Hani people of China in the belief that the practice would protect their village, mainly by preventing tigers from wandering into their homes. Of course, the threat of tigers and other man-eaters has reduced drastically in modern times, but the festival continues to be celebrated with much enthusiasm. The China-Laos-Vietnam Bull Painting Festival, as it is called, had 48 participating teams this year. The paraded bulls were hardly recognizable, covered in colors like bright blue, gold, yellow and red. But the paintings were far from abstract. The bulls served as a canvas for some real artistic talent, landscapes, portraits, and intricate patterns adorned their otherwise brown or white skin. Even the horns were covered with paint.

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The Miniature World of the Holiday Train Show, in New York

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The New York Botanical Garden has put up a new  Holiday Train Show, which has been attracting several visitors. Held in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the show isn’t very far from the entrance to the garden. The display does feature some trains, but the real attractions are the models of famous buildings made entirely from plants.

The miniature trains weave around the lush plants and flowers, and replicas of the Empire State Building, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, TWA Terminal at JFK and a few other buildings that are made entirely of plant parts. What’s special about these models is that they aren’t exact replicas of the structures themselves. Rather, artists have tried to capture the defining characteristics of these buildings. Creator Paul Busse, along with his team of artists gathers the material from woodlands around their studio situated in Kentucky, making an effort not to disturb the natural environment. The 100% natural models are created from plant material, with acorn chimney tops and magnolia leaf roofs. The reproduction of Washington Irving’s home has pink orchids surrounding it, one of the branches wrapped like a vine around the entrance. Small plants and flowers are used to depict trees and bushes on a perfectly manicured front lawn.

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Finally, a Watching Paint Dry Championship

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Contests and competitions have been used for a very long time now as a marketing tool. Some of these competitions have been quite unusual. But it doesn’t get more unusual than this – a championship for paint-watchers!

The paint-watching championship is being organized by Localtraders.com, an online resource for finding reliable local tradespeople in the UK. Normally, the website works by having people submit details of a job they need done, and several tradespeople bid over the project. Now, they’ve come up with this innovative idea to attract new customers. The “Watching Paint Dry Championships”  is truly a test of patience, mental strength and physical endurance. The way it works is that interested participants should send in a photograph of themselves watching paint dry, along with the longest time they’ve stared at the wall of paint without looking away. They’re also asking for a short write-up about your favorite paint color and why you like it.

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Doglegs – Japanese Pro-Wrestling for the Disabled

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Physical disabilities have never stopped the resilient from pursuing their passion for sports. And wrestlers are not to be left behind. The Doglegs wrestling group founded in Japan gives the disabled an opportunity to fight, although it has been called a ‘freak show’ by some critics.

Unlike other sports for the disabled, Doglegs seems more oriented towards the entertainment value provided to audiences, rather than an actual skill or sportsmanship. Co-founder Yukinori Kitajima says that anyone can become a wrestler, provided they interest the spectators. For this, a special individuality is required out of each of them. ET, for instance, one of the popular wrestlers of the group, makes a scary face, which is his special attack. He suffers from cerebral palsy. The names adopted by the members of Doglegs are just as entertaining as their antics. Hard Rock, No Sympathy and Welfare Power are just a few of the wrestler’s names. No Sympathy, perhaps being the most apt of them all, since the fights are brutally real. It’s quite common that the wrestlers suffer injuries, spilling blood, splitting their eye, and more.

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Bossaball – Volleyball Meets Football on a Trampoline

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There is no dearth of bizarre sports in this world, new ones are probably being invented everyday. One of the latest additions to the series is Bossaball. Sounds like baseball? Well, it’s nothing like that. Bossaball is in fact, a cross between volleyball, football and Brazilian capoeira, and it’s played on a trampoline.

Bossaball is a sport fast gaining popularity on the beaches of Andalusia. The concept of the game was first developed between 2002 and 2004, by Filip Eyckmans, a Belgian living in Andalusia. It was first introduced in Belgium and then Netherlands, before it was brought to Spain. Bossaball consists of two teams of three to five people, who toss the ball across a net, similar to volleyball. However, the players are all on trampolines. This lets them jump at least 12 ft into the air, allowing them better access to spike the ball. The ball can be touched with any part of the body. You can even double-touch a ball with your hands or your head. Only one player of a team is allowed on the trampoline at once. The others play on the ground.

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