The Floating Man-Made Islands of Lake Titicaca

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The people of Uros, a small South American tribe in Peru, have made living arrangements for themselves that are so unique, they’re not found anywhere else in the world. These people live most of their lives on man-made floating islands? The islands were created on Lake Titicaca in Peru, for the protection against other stronger tribes. The lake is the largest by volume in South America, and provides ample protection by itself since it is completely isolated and located about 3000 m above sea level.

But the Uros people were apparently not satisfied with the protection of the lake alone. They went one step further to ensure their safety, making good use of the reeds that grow in abundance along the banks of the lake. The reeds proved to be a malleable material, so they were dried out, bundled and shaped into boats that float very well. This natural material also made it possible for the ancient Uros to create a system of floating domiciles that could be quickly moved away from the mainland in case of any emergency, called the tortora islands. Today, about half the population of the Uros about 500 individuals), still prefer to live in this age-old manner. Of course, they’ve renovated their floating islands to include some modern amenities as well.

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World’s First Official Barbie Cafe Is as Pink as You’d Expect

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As if Asians didn’t have enough pink in their lives, from all those crazy Hello-Kitty-themed venues, now there’s an official Barbie Cafe in Taipei, Taiwan. And yes, it has dolls, themed foods and more pink than most men can bare.

January 30th witnessed the inauguration of the world’s first official Barbie Cafe, in one of the busiest shopping districts in Taipei. The iconic doll’s maker, Mattel, licensed Taiwanese restaurant chain Sinlaku to open the themed cafe in hopes that it will promote Barbie as a fashion brand. Iggy Yip, senior manager of Mattel’s Greater China division, commented: ”We picked Taiwan because theme restaurants are very popular and successful here. We are very confident that the Barbie Cafe can promote our brand image.” Indeed, the island is home to a number of unique restaurants and cafes, including one modeled after an A380 airplane, a cardboard restaurant, and even a popular toilet restaurant. But there is a special relationship between Taiwan and Barbie, as this was where the popular doll was originally manufactured, before production lines were moved to mainland China and other parts, to lower costs. In 2009, another Barbie restaurant was opened in Shanghai, China, but it closed down two years later, after it proved unsuccessful.

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Kelvin Okafor’s Photo-Realistic Drawings Are Simply Mind-Blowing

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Look closely at the images below, and tell you don’t see artistic black and white photos? Well, they’re really just incredibly detailed pencil and charcoal drawings by talented British artist Kelvin Okafor. Mind blown, I know.

It’s safe to say some of the world’s most talented photographs couldn’t capture  all the details in Kevin Okafor’s portraits, and instead of high-resolution cameras, his only tools are a set of pencils, a piece of paper and sometimes a stick of charcoal. But then again, not many people have his amazing talent. Like other new-generation artists like 22-year-old Diego Fazo, or the incredible Dirk Dzimirsky, London-based Kelvin Okafor works wonders with his pencils. Too poor to leave the house and socialize, the gifted artist spent most of his childhood and teenage years improving his drawing skills. Instead of partying and clubbing like other kids his age, he found refuge in drawing, and is now reaping his rewards – he charges between £800 ($1,300) to £3,000 ($4,750) for commission works, and some of his best portraits are already being sold for as much £10,000 ($16,000). It might seem like a lot of money, but considering the quality of his work and the amount and time and patience that go into each piece, I’d say it’s worth even more.

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Beautiful Cyberpunk Collages Made with Discarded Computer Parts

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I’ve always been a big fan of steampunk and cyberpunk art, and the beautiful collages of Anna Dabrowska, a.k.a. Finnabair, are some of the most intriguing works I’ve ever seen. The mixed media artist hailing from Warsaw, Poland, uses all kinds of materials, from used computer components to old buttons and even dead moths.

“I love texture and believe in power of recycling and upcycling. I just adore flea market supplies,” Finnabair says on her official site, and it shows in her works. The Polish artist can take the boring household item and turn into the centerpiece of an engaging work of art. Whether it’s metal screws, artificial flowers, or even plain buttons, she manages to turn recycling and upcycling into exciting artistic processes that spark viewers’ imagination. Finnabair says her art is more than just a job or hobby: “It gives me moments when I forget about the world, working hard [in my] head, hands translate, paint, stick… I cannot stop.” Judging by the time and patience she needs to painstakingly place every single element in the right place and then paint the whole picture in vibrant colors, it’s obvious she pours her heart and soul into her art.

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Insanely Complicated Maze Is Probably Impossible to Solve

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It looks like the street map of a really complex city of the future, but this intricate drawing is really a 30-year-old maze drawn by a Japanese janitor. His daughter posted photos of the complicated work on Twitter, which went viral almost instantly.

Just last year, we posted an article about the efforts of Joe Wos, a Pittsburgh-based cartoonist who was working on the world’s largest most difficult hand-drawn maze. He worked on it from July until the end of September, and estimated that a person would need approximately 40 hours to solve it. His doodle-filled maze is truly something to behold, but I doubt it’s more challenging than the one created by Twitter user @Kya7y‘s father. Drawn on an A1 sheet of paper measuring 35 by 23.3 inches, this multi-layered masterpiece reportedly took the artist seven years and several months to complete. ”Won’t somebody make it to the goal?” @Kya7y tweeted after posting the pics. And, believe it or not, there were actually plenty of people willing to waste several days of their lives trying to find the exit… If there even is one.

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The Maeklong Railway Food Market – A Strange Wonder of Thailand

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Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory loves trains, but I’m not too sure if he’d like this particular one. The Maeklong market railway passes right through the middle of a tightly packed market – so tight, that passengers can probably grab a few vegetables as they pass through. The market’s stalls are actually set up on the train rails, but shopkeepers know the train’s schedule, so just before it passes through, they quickly drag their goods into the shops and pull the roofs down. After the train has passed through, it’s back to business as usual. This happens no less than 8 times a day.

The Maeklong market has become so popular with tourists that there might actually be more people visiting to see it rather than buy anything. Located 72 km or an hour’s drive south-west of Bangkok, Maeklong is the capital of the Samut Songkhram province. Most people compare the market to something like a movie set; it’s that surreal. It’s amazing how every inch of space available has been utilized. The small stalls on either side of the railway track are made from tarpaulins and sometimes just a bedspread. They consist of plastic trays filled with vegetables and vibrant Thai fruit like mangosteens and rambutans. You can also find fresh-cut flowers, fragrant spices, cuts of meat, fresh seafood and poultry. And it doesn’t just stop with food; there are other goods to be purchased as well, like clothes, lingerie, toys, and pirated DVDs. Sometimes there aren’t even stalls, just people sitting on the ground with trays of fruit at their feet.

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The Pain of Growing Up – Being Stung by Hundreds of Bullet Ants in the Amazon Rain-Forest

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Among the most bizarre coming-of-age rites we’ve ever featured is the one followed by the Satere-Mawe Tribe, an indigenous tribe from the Amazon rain forest, Brazil. What a boy has to do to become a man in this tribal community is painful, to say the least – he has to withstand being stung by not one, but a swarm of Bullet Ants. In case you’e not familiar with this exotic insect, here’s an interesting fact: the Bullet Ant claims the number one spot on the SSPI (Schmidt Sting Pain Index), a scale created by Justin Schmidt that rates the pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. Some say the ant’s sting is just as agonizing as being shot by a bullet.

In preparation for the initiation rite, the elders of the tribe collect the ants from the jungle. These ants are drugged and placed stinger- first into special gloves woven from leaves. As the drug wears off, the ants become increasingly agitated and are raring to sting. This is when the boy puts on the gloves and lets the bullet ants work their magic, for 10 whole minutes, no less. “It’s the same as having your hands on fire,” says one Satere man. But the real pain starts once the gloves come off, and the venom starts to take effect. As the pain continues to rise, the hands become paralyzed and look like stumps. But just one attempt is usually not enough to turn a Stare boy into a man. He must go through this ritual as many times as it takes for him not to cry during the process. The day he doesn’t shed a single tear, is when he becomes a real man. Sometimes, this can take up to 20 attempts.

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You Thought Reborn Babies Were Creepy? How About Vampire Reborn Babies?

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Reborn baby dolls have been around for a few years now, and while some people love them so much they actually treat them like real babies, their ultra-realistic look creep a lot of people out. But one artist has managed to make these thing even creepier by making vampire reborn babies.

After seeing Chucky the killer doll in those cheesy 90s horror movies, I’ve never looked at dolls the same way I used to. So it’s fair to say the first time I saw photos of reborn baby dolls, I freaked out a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the skill and patience of artists who spend hours on end sculpting these realistic newborns and applying several layers of paint just to make their skin look more natural, but i wouldn’t want to have one of them in my house. And just when I though reborn babies couldn’t get any creepier, I discovered artist Bean Shanine, who creates vampire and zombie reborn babies.

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Friends in Real Life – Man Opens Iconic Sitcom Cafe in Beijing

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If you were a fan of the hugely popular sitcom Friends, you surely remember their favorite meeting place, the Central Perk Cafe. Tired of just seeing the characters experience the coziness of that soft orange couch, one Chinese fan decided to create his own Friends cafe, in Beijing.

Like so many of us, Du Xin loved Friends. “I’m crazy about Friends. For me, it’s like a religion. It’s my life,” he told NPR. After watching the show, he started searching around Beijing for a place where he could actually sit on an orange couch just like the one his favorite heroes relaxed on in the sitcom. When he couldn’t find a Central Perk, he decided to create it himself. And he wasn’t going to settle for something similar, he wanted a place that looked exactly like what he’d seen on TV all those years, down to the tiniest details. Tucked away on the sixth-floor of the Chaowai Soho complex, this replica of Central Perk has the coveted couch, the same windows and doorway as the original, the brick interior and even the same hand written snack items featured on Friends. In order to nail all the things he wanted, Du studied thousands of photos of the show’s set and watched endless reruns, and five months later he had the cafe of his dreams.

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Artist Creates Incredible 25-Foot-Tall Castles from Icicles

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50-year-old Brent Christensen, an artist from Alpine, Utah, creates extraordinary structures that I thought only existed in my imagination and really cool fantasy stories. For the past four years, Christensen has spent his time perfecting the craft of making structures as tall as 20 to 25 ft, using nothing but intertwining icicles as building blocks. He developed an interest in the unique craft began way back in 2000, when he and his family moved from sunny California to chilly Utah, and he was looking for some fun outdoor activities.

“We started off doing winter stuff in the yard, playing around with the kids, making igloos, ice forts and slides and stuff,” he says. “And it just evolved. One year I stumbled upon the concept of doing icicles by spraying water. We made one with a big wooden frame under it, and when it melted in the spring it was a huge mess with a pile of soaking wood. The following year I didn’t use any wood so it would just cleanly melt away. During the course of that winter I stumbled upon the concept of fusing icicles together to make a lattice to spray water on and build upon.” It was then that Chirstensen began building his magnificent ice fortresses. Utah locals would often stop by his house to gawk at the castles. Once he got pretty good at making icicle castles, he approached a few resorts nearby and asked if they would be interested in displaying his work for their guests. It took a while before the manager of a small local spa and resort agreed, in 2009, but this small opening got him into the public eye and there was no looking back from there.

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The Stunningly Beautiful Porcelain Flowers of Vladimir Kanevsky

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Ukrainian-born artist Vladimir Kanevsky creates exquisitely handcrafted porcelain flowers that look perfectly natural, but never die.

From hyacinths and chrysanthemums to clematis and hollyhocks, Vladimir Kanevsky makes botanically-perfect flowers from porcelain. Inspired mostly by 17th- and 18th-century European botanical prints, but also by the glass flower collection at Harvard University’s Museum of Natural History, the talented artisan has managed to take this old craft to new heights. He not only models the delicate porcelain himself, but also does all the painstaking painting himself, often adding tiny imperfections like bent stems,spots or insect bites to make his creations look even more realistic. ”He’s one of the few people I know who can almost compete with Mother Nature,” longtime collector Caroline Roehm says about Kanevsky.

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Japanese Restaurant Uses Dirt as the Main Ingredient for Its Expensive Dishes

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While most chefs work hard to make sure no dirt winds up in their food, at French restaurant Ne Quittez Pas, in Tokyo, Japan, dirt is actually used as a key ingredient.

Mind you, this isn’t just any kind of dirt. It’s a special black soil from Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, that’s actually been tested for safety, but it’s still the thing most people use to grow plants in. So how did dirt wind up on the menu of this respectable venue? Apparently, Chef Toshio Tanabe once won a cooking competition with his signature dirt sauce, and from that point on he put together an entire menu based on the unusual ingredient. Now the restaurant is offering dishes priced as high as $110 with Kanuma dirt in them.

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Vernon Spicer’s Incredible Pasta Paintings

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Self-taught artist Vernon Spicer, from Alabama, uses pasta like spaghetti, macaroni, lasagna and noodles to create his detailed paintings.

I’ve seen some pretty unusual materials used in paintings, but pasta is definitely a first for me. 71-year-old Vernon Spicer, a Vietnam veteran and pastor at a church in Selma, Alabama, got the idea of using the brittle material from a dream he had one night. It woke me up one night,” he told the Montgomery Advertiser. “In it, I could see something that had a three-dimensional design, one that involved me using sticks to create.” Instead telling him to get over it, wife Audrey encouraged him to pursue the vision and suggested he replace the sticks with uncooked spaghetti. That’s how Vernon’s career as an amateur pasta artist began. Now, six years later, Spicer can create some pretty amazing works of art.

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Designer Covers $500,000 Gold Ring with a Piece of His Own Skin

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The Forget Me Knot gold ring created by Icelandic fashion designer Sruli Recht is not your usual piece of luxury jewelry. The artist had a strip of his own skin surgically removed and mounted on a 24-karat-gold band.

We’ve featured some pretty bizarre jewelry on Oddity Central in the past, like the human-bone accessories of Columbine Phoenix, the finger and toe nail-clipping jewels of Rachel Betty Case, or the human hair necklaces of Kerry Howley, but Sruli Recht has managed to one up them all with his human skin ring. The eccentric designer shocked everyone when he decided to undergo surgery and have a strip of skin removed from his abdomen, to use on his very unique Forget Me Knot ring. After the operation, the 110 by 10 millimeters piece of skin, with the hair still intact, was salted and tanned before being mounted on the gold piece of jewelry. You can own this little part of Sruli Recht for the “small” price of €350,000.

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Italian Artist Turns River Stones into Life-Like Works of Art

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River rocks may not seem very interesting to you, but once you see what Italian rock painter Ernestina Gallina can do with them, I’ll bet you’ll see them in a new light.

Ernestina Gallina, from Cenestino, Italy has had a thing for the arts ever since she was just a child. She loved painting, drawing and modelling, but because her family never encouraged her to develop her skills, she never attended art school and she only exercised her artistic talents as a hobby. In 1987, she and her family moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where she discovered a yet unknown world – that of nature and animals. Then, one day at the library, she stumbled upon a book on rock painting, and became intrigued about how simple river stones could be transformed into nature-inspired works of art. It gave her the chance to combine her passion for the arts with her love of wildlife, so she started rock painting and never looked back.

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