Hard Currency – Italy’s Unique Cheese Banks

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Cash-for-cheese sounds more like a joke that a serious financial agreement, but in some regions of Italy it’s a reality. The famous Parmesan is so precious that some banks are willing to keep the cheese as collateral against loans to local producers.

The Credito Emiliano bank has hundreds of branches and thousands of employees around central and northern Italy. Its central offices look like those of any other banking institution, with cameras watching every angle, security doors to lock down the place and even a big vault in the back. Only you’re not going to find too many diamonds or hard cash stored in there. Instead, there are hundreds of thousands of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheels, neatly placed on giant shelves. The bank takes the Parmesan from local producers in exchange for a cheap loan, and charges a 3% interest as well as a fee for looking after the cheese and making sure it matures properly in the air-conditioned, humidified vault. It might seem strange, but Credito Emiliano treats Parmigiano-Reggiano like other banks do gold. And for good reason, as the mountains of cheese locked away in its secured vault are worth around $200 million.

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Fan Builds Awesome DIY Iron Man Suit

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A passionate Iron Man fan from the United Kingdom spent hundreds of hours creating a realistic-looking suit of the Marvel superhero from Eva foam, wood and other recycled items. Did I mention he’s only 17?

Reddit user Mafferick was so impressed with his 17-year-old friend’s home-made Iron Man costume that he decided to share it with the community. DIY fans obviously had a lot of questions about the materials he used and the time he spent working on it, so he gave the young creator the chance to reply via his account. It turns out the guy is a big fan or Iron Man, and he also likes making stuff, so this awesome wearable suit is a combination of two of his greatest passions. He used “lots and lots of foam, wood and various recycled bits and bobs (the boots are some old shoes with the cushions from some old roller blades to make them wearable)”, and spent “a few weeks if you add the hours together” sculpting all the various parts and making them look as realistic as possible. The rudimentary tools used to make this impressive piece of equipment include an industrial knife, a dremel, sandpaper and over 100 extra sharp blades for cutting the Eva foam. He painted the whole thing with automotive spray paint and now plans to give it a “damaged” effect. The price tag – around $540 worth of materials and a great deal of time.

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The Mysterious Shell Grotto of Kent

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The Shell Grotto is a unique 70-foot underground winding passageway in Margate, Kent, painstakingly decorated with around 4,6 million seashells. This English tourist attraction is as beautiful as it is mysterious, as no one seems to know who created it and why.

The story goes that the Shell Grotto was discovered in 1835, when local James Newlove lowered his son Joshua into a hole in the ground that appeared while they were digging a duck pond. When the boy came back out, he told his father about this wondrous underground tunnel covered entirely in seashell mosaics. As soon as he laid eyes on the accidental discovery, Newlove immediately saw its commercial potential. He installed gas lamps to illuminate the ornate passageway and three years later he opened the grotto to the public. The opening came as a big surprise to the inhabitants of Margate, as the place had never bee marked on any maps, and nobody knew about its existence. As soon as the first paying visitors walked into the shell–covered underground tunnel, the debate regarding its origins began. For every person who believed it was an ancient temple, there seemed to be another one convinced it was actually the secret meeting place of a secret sect. Everyone saw something different in the mosaic patterns, from altars to gods and goddesses or trees of life. But despite the multiple theories going around, no one has been able to solve the mystery of the Shell Grotto.

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Steampunk Locomotive Is One Smoking BBQ Grill

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Locomotive-shaped grills are not exactly unheard of, but a team of Russian metal workers have taken it upon themselves to set a new standard by building a unique and awesome-looking Steampunk locomotive barbecue grill.

This practical work of art was created by a group of metal workers from the village of Deulina, near the city of Ryazan, in Russia, who specialize in interior, exterior and landscape design. The one-of-a-kind Steampunk grill was apparently forged from scrap automobile, motorcycle and train parts, and is currently installed on a private property where very few have the privilege to see it in person. Luckily for the rest of us, the builders took a set of photos for a Moscow exhibition-competition, since their locomotive was too heavy to transport. The grill was apparently built in 2009, but the pics only recently surfaced on a series of Western sites and forums. The little information available on the Steampunk locomotive grill is in Russian, and although Google Translate does a decent job of revealing the essential, there are few paragraphs that don’t make much sense. Here is what I was able to make out: the locomotive has three work bays – two 60-cm-long grilling pits in the main body and a trailer that acts as a stove. The first compartment is designed for barbecuing kebabs and can accommodate up to twenty skewers, while the second one is equipped with a rotating spit for roasting chicken and large pieces of meat. Some of the locomotive parts are actually functional, like the large brass wheel in the cabin that rotates the spit.

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World’s Most Expensive Car Wax Costs More Than a Car

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Retailing at a jaw-dropping $97,060 the GRV goldRally Wax from luxurious car care products maker Mitchell & King has been described as “exceptionally exclusive” and is by far the most expensive car wax ever created.

You see, in the world of the rich and powerful, it’s not so much about making a car look shiny, but about spending ridiculous amounts of money to make a car look shiny. In order to satisfy the needs of its wealthy clientele, Scottish company Mitchell & King has launched a limited edition car wax in honor of the ultimate luxury lifestyle car race – the goldRush Rally. The GRV car wax boasts a gold shimmer and will apparently protect the vehicle for up to 4 months. That sounds great and all, but does it really justify the $97,060 price tag? Not really, but adding a stylish container milled from the finest grade Titanium, coated with 24ct Gold and encrusted with Swarovski crystals and 10 x 0.5-carat, F Colour, VS2, brilliant round cut diamonds definitely sweetens the deal. The goldRush Rally package also includes 2 24-carat gold rings, an expensive car shampoo, as well as the application of GRV wax by a Mitchell & King approved detailer. Oh, and the wax will be delivered personally by the company’s director. Now that’s more like it, right? No, I guess not…

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Meet Denis Hope, the Man Who Sells the Moon

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If someone tried to sell me the moon, I would dismiss them as con artists. So I was pretty surprised to learn about Denis Hope, a 65-year-old man from Gardnerville, Nevada, who runs a legit business selling land plots on the Moon, Mars, Venus, Io and Mercury. Of course, there’s no legal backing to all this, but there’s nobody stopping him either. As long as he’s able to make people smile, he says he can do anything he wants. He’s been in business since 1980.

Hope is a former-ventriloquist, now in the business of space real-estate. Some people view his work as the selling of ‘novelty items’ such as pet rocks and certificates. Others argue that he’s taking forth the age-old American tradition of land speculators selling plots of useless land. Hope admits that there are several others selling property in outer space, but the difference is that those people are criminal in their intent. He considers himself the legit owner of the Moon, so what he’s doing is all right. How come he is so confident, you ask? Well, he says this is as real as any other property you can buy on Earth, and that’s because he filed a declaration with the United Nations. Otherwise, Hope says he wouldn’t be selling at all.

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Spin Your Room Around at Holland’s Unique Crane Hotel

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If you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to spend the night in an industrial dockside crane, there’s a unique hotel in Harlingen, the Netherlands, that you absolutely have to visit. The 0ne -room Crane Hotel may not be very spacious, but it allows tourists to operate the giant crane and spin 360 degrees for incredible views of their surroundings.

Located in the seaside town of Harlingen, just an hour’s drive from Amsterdam, the Crane Hotel offers a luxurious getaway for two. The genuine dockside crane used to move containers around during the 1960s was converted into a unique hotel between 2001 and 2003. Although it retains its industrial look on the outside, the interior has been radically altered to provide the same degree of comfort that other high-class hotels do. They’ve added tasteful decorations, the latest audio-video technology, a comfy double bed, and a twin person shower cabin, but also kept some of the elements that make this place so unique, like the observation deck and original windows. Perched about 17 feet above Harlingen’s peer, the Crane hotel is no longer accessed via its old steel ladder, but by a modern internal lift. And as if just spending the night in a real dockside crane wasn’t cool enough, you can also satisfy the kid in you by playing actually driving the industrial equipment. The crane is still functional, and you can rotate it 360 degrees to catch some amazing views of the old Dutch fishing town.

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Ukrainian Spider-Man Performing Vertigo-Inducing Stunts Claims Fear Does Not Exist

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26-year-old Mustang Wanted (not his real name, obviously) got the nickname “real-life Spider-Man” after he spent the last decade climbing atop some of the highest structures in the former USSR, and taking unbelievable photos of himself dangling on one hand or tiptoeing on metal rails.

Ever since he was just a child, Mustang Wanted had a taste for extreme sports, and among his first hobbies were practicing the Brazilian art of Capoeira and “throwing battle axes”. Now, the former legal adviser from Kiev satisfies his adrenaline cravings by scaling sky-high structures, performing unbelievable stunts and sharing photos and videos of his achievements through social media. Some of his most famous exploits include doing push-ups on a metal tower at about 300 feet above ground, and dangling by one hand from a metal crane 150 meters up in the air. Just watching this stuff is enough to make most people’s hands sweat, but the young daredevil says for him fear does not exist: “Sometimes I think that I’m a robot. I do not feel anything.” His only real concern is getting caught by the police, who have on occasions disrupted his plans. Death is certainly not his biggest worry while balancing on metal beams and offering his fans a bird’s eye view of urban Ukraine and Russia, and even says he would rather die than suffer an injury that would end his “skywalking” career.

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Fire Facials – Setting Your Face on Fire in the Name of Beauty

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Women have always had to endure a certain amount of pain to make themselves beautiful. But how far is actually considered too far? Apparently, there isn’t a limit to what Chinese women would do to look good, even if it means setting themselves on fire.

The photograph below shows a woman with a thick yellow face-pack, a towel covering half her face and two balls of fire over her eyes. Yet she looks completely unperturbed. Taken by a Chinese girl when she accompanied her mother to the beauty parlor, the pic has been doing the rounds of several websites ever since it was posted on a Chinese message board last month. Along with the pic the girl posted this message: “My mom went to get her face done at the beauty salon so I went with her. What I saw… instantly shocked me… I couldn’t look.” Well, she did look long enough to get a nice shot of her mom’s eyes on fire.

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The Impossible-Looking Pencil Sculptures of Cerkahegyzo

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Cerkahegyzo is a Hungarian artist who transforms common pencils into seemingly digitally-altered works of art. In reality, the miniature sculptor uses just a few basic tools and mountains of patience to create these intricate masterpieces.

Believe it or not, Budapest-based artist Cerkahegyzo manages to produce all these unreal artworks out of a single pencil. Some of his works may give the impression that he somehow fuses together the elements of multiple pencils to achieve the desired effect, but it’s only an optical illusion. He uses razor blades and needles to painstakingly carve away at the lead base and wooden casing, as well as sandpaper, files, and polishing stones to shape his intricate designs. Taking inspiration from established miniature sculptors like Dalton Ghetti, Misuta Tasogare and Kato Jado, the Humgarian master creates all sorts of incredible patterns that leave the viewer wondering “how did he do it?”

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The Creepy Life-Like Giants of Ron Mueck

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Things are not as they seem, when it comes to the mind-blowing artworks of London-based sculptor Ron Mueck. Seeing his larger-than-life sculptures of the human body for the first time, you’d be tempted to think you are looking at real-life giants.

Australian-born Ron Mueck is the so of two toy makers, so it’s really not very surprising that he opted for a somewhat similar career, making his very own toys, only on an infinitely more detailed level. He worked as a model-maker and puppeteer on children’s television shows for 15 years, and went on to create special effects makeup for movies like the 1996 fantasy “Labyrinth”, featuring David Bowie. In the 1990s, he started his own company, making models to be photographed for advertisements. Back then, most of his works were only partially completed, as they were meant to be photographed from just one angle, leaving a lot of loose material lurking around the areas captured by the camera lens. Ultimately, he decided photography destroys the physical presence of the original object, so he turned his attention to fine art and sculpture. A wise decision, as his hyper-realistic works of art have now won him international acclaim.

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China’s MMO Video Game-Inspired Restaurants

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Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) video games are very popular in China. Combine that with the country’s culture of fakes and copycats and you get lots of unofficial merchandise and even venues  inspired by popular virtual reality universes. One such place was the World of Warcraft-themed restaurant on Chaoyang Road, in Beijing.

Opened in 2008, by a businessman who just happened to also be a huge fan of Blizzard’s fantasy universe, the unique World of Warcraft restaurant was designed entirely around the MMO and its original opening cinematic. Created as a “comfortable gathering place for fellow gamers”, this place had Warcraft-inspired decorations, dishes named after locations in the game and plasma screens showing live footage from the MMO world. The large banner above the entrance featured the game’s logo, an Alliance mage and a Horde warrior, as well as the crests of the two playable races. This would have probably been enough to attract the millions of Chinese fans who live and breathe World of Warcraft, but the entrepreneur really went all out trying to make the restaurant itself appeal to die-hard gamers.

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Bedazzle Your Food with the World’s First Edible Spray Paint

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I never would have imagined humans would one day be eating spray paint, and yet here we are…Food Finish is the world’s first edible spray paint, and according to its German manufacturer, it’s a great way to add some strange color to your food.

People have been eating strange things for a long time. There’s this woman in Ukraine who enjoys eating sand, another girl who savors soap bars, and even someone who likes to eat sponge, but spray paint is definitely something new. And apparently it doesn’t fall into the weird category because it was actually designed to be consumed and it’s totally safe. German-based producer The Deli Garage Food Cooperative says its ethanol-based edible spray paints are tasteless and odorless, and can be applied on any kind of food to make it look better. Food Finish is available in four different colors – gold, silver, blue and red – and has to be applied in layers in order to achieve that perfect effect. “I love it when it’s not only our cars which have a metallic finish but also our tomatoes,” Deli Garage project manager Kaya-Line Knust said. “It’s great when you see not only a steak on a plate, but a gold-plated one!” Yeah, who needs all those healthy-looking colors when you can go for gold, right?

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The Photographic Pencil-Drawn Portraits of Franco Clun

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Italian artist Franco Clun uses only pencil and paper to create these incredibly realistic portraits that can easily be mistaken for photographs. Believe it or not, he’s a self-taught drawing master who has never studied art…

I’ve always found hyperrealism fascinating, and the collection of articles on this amazing art genre that I’ve posted on Oddity Central throughout the years is proof of that. I never get tired of looking at drawings and paintings so masterfully executed that they resemble high-resolution photos, and I consider myself lucky whenever I discover the works of truly gifted artists, like Franco Clun. The Italian-born master of the pencil says he has never taken art classes and that everything he knows he learned from experience and from reading some drawing manuals. I guess you can say he’s living proof that practice makes perfect, and that following your passions in life can truly lead to amazing things. Although he has had to take a long break from drawing to dedicate himself to other things, his love for graphite remained strong, and now he’s wielding his trusty pencils again to create marvelous works of art.

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Belarusian Woodcarver Makes Intricate Clocks Exclusively from Wood

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In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine someone making accurate clock mechanisms without using a single piece of metal. And yet, Andrey Martyniuk, a woodcarver from Belarus, manages to create intricate clocks exclusively from wooden components.

As a child, Andrey Matyniuk loved to sketch. He then got an education as an engineer, and later in life developed a passion for wood carving. After a master carpenter told him that wooden clocks are the pinnacle of perfection, he decided to combine all his skills to create artistic yet functional mechanism exclusively from wood. Bit it was easier said than done, and the ambitious woodcarver spent three years working on his first wooden clock. He tried copying the mechanism of a metal clock, but although the principle is exactly the same, there are two important things to take into consideration to ensure the clock measures time accurately – the softness of the material and the humidity of the environment. After years of experimenting, the master learned he had to increase the size of the gear teeth and treat the wood with a special compound to make it resistant to humidity. He also found that wood had a big advantage over metal – it has a much lower coefficient of thermal expansion, so it is much less affected by temperature changes than metal.

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