A Chinese Farmer’s Epic Rickshaw Journey to the London Olympic Games

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Chen Guanming, a 57-year-old farmer from China, spent over two years travelling about 60,000 kilometers, through 16 countries, enduring floods, war zones and extreme temperatures,  to reach London in time for the games and “spread Olympic spirit”.

The 2012 London Olympic Games may have ended, but remarkable stories related to the monumental event are still popping up. One such story is that of Chen Guanming, a simple farmer from a village in China’s Jiangsu province, who traveled all the way to London the only way he could afford to, by rickshaw. The daring traveler said he was inspired to go on this epic journey when he watched the English Prime-Minister accept the Olympic flag, in 2008, and the media invited those watching the live broadcast to the next edition of the games. Chen took that invitation quite seriously, and in 2009, he started putting all his papers in order and preparing for an unforgettable adventure. His long rickshaw ride began on May 23, 2010, in the village where he grows rice and other crops, and took him through 16 different countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan or Italy.

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The Heat-Painted Wonders of Dino Muradian

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I discovered pyrography, the art of painting with heat, six month ago, after seeing the wonderful artworks of Julie Bender, but after I got an email from renown pyrography master Dino Muradian, I just had to write about it once again.

Dino Muradian, or Dumitru Muradian, as he is known in his native country of Romania, has made pyrographic history with his innovative tools and painting techniques. The 60-year-old self-taught artist started experimenting with this awe-inspiring art in 1965, but for approximately 20 years it remained nothing but just a fun hobby. It was only after he left Romaina, to escape Ceausescu’s communist regime, and achieved his dream of living in America that he truly discovered his potential as a pyrography artist. He dedicated a lot of time to developing a new heat-painting technique he had imagined and building custom tools needed to create the shading and effects he desired. He had felt for some time that he could take pyrography beyond its known limits and began doing so. After years of work Dino invented a new technique that burns the wood with shading, rather than lines, at a very high temperature. His great precision and control insures the shading is embedded deeply in the wood, but at the same time the “canvas”remains as smooth as glass.

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High on Art – Brazilian Artist Paints with Marijuana Smoke

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For his latest series, aptly entitled “Blow Job – Work of Blowing”, Brazilian artist Fernando de la Rocque has created images of political and religious icons using marijuana smoke. Needless to say that has sparked a great deal of controversy in the art world.

We’ve seen some pretty unique works of art created with smoke, like the ghost paintings of Rob Tarbell or the smoke-painted bottles of Jim Dingilian, but none as controversial as Fernando de la Rocque’s. The daring artist using a unique technique to paint images onto a white canvas – he blows marijuana smoke on pre-cut stencils laid down on the canvas to dye paint and shade the desired areas. The results are pretty impressive, but it’s the bizarre technique that attracted the most attention, with many wondering how he must feel after completing one of his smoky artworks.

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San Pedro Prison – Bolivia’s Most Bizarre Tourist Attraction

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San Pedro Prison is the largest in La Paz, Bolivia, housing around 1,500 inmates,  but that’s not what makes it special. Unlike most penitentiaries around the world, this place is a self-organized community with its own market stalls, restaurants, hairdressers and even a hotel. Oh, and no guards.

You’ve probably heard of or seen special prisons before. A few months ago we wrote an article on Norway’s Bastoy Island, where prisoners have hotel-like accommodations, are allowed to walk around freely and engage in a variety of relaxing activities. Today we take you on a tour of San Pedro, in La Paz, Bolivia, a sort of jail town where prisoners are free to live with their families and buy whatever they want without fearing repercussions from the guards. In fact there are no guards inside the large prison, or bars on the cell windows, so inmates have the relative freedom of going wherever they please. The police don’t interfere with the affairs of the inmates, who are expected to resolve their own issues with the help of representatives elected democratically.

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Y Lan – The Lady Playing with Sand

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Y Lan, real name Tran Thi Hoang Lan, is a famous Vietnamese artist who uses multicolored sand to create beautiful paintings. Her works are famous all over Asia, as well as in Europe and North America.

Y Lan has no formal arts training and discovered her unique talent for making sand paintings purely by mistake. In 2001, while visiting her husband’s home town in Phan Thiet she saw the coastal sands in the area and was mesmerized by their beauty and took three differently-colored varieties in a transparent flower vase. After she came home she was just obsessed with the exotic beauty of the sands, so she went back and took more sand samples of different colors. Then she started thinking about what to do with this wonderful colored sand she had gathered, and the idea for her grainy sand paintings was born. Now, Y Lan is internationally recognized as the inventor of sand painting and has established her own company selling these masterpieces all around the globe.

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Children Work Together to Build 1.8 Million LEGO Map of Future Japan

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of LEGO blocks being introduced in Japan, the Danish company organized a cross-country workshop called “Build Up Japan” in which over 5,000 children created their visions of future Japanese buildings. The assembled pieces were all brought to Tokyo and assembled as a giant white map.

As Johnny from Spoon&Tamago noticed, the Internet is full of all kinds of massive LEGO works. We ourselves featured an impressive LEGO map of Middle-Earth, a LEGO football stadium model and even a full-size LEGO Ford Explorer. But the “Build Up Japan” event was special in more ways than one and definitely worth covering. While most large-scale works of art are usually created by experienced LEGO masters who spend years working on their pieces, this giant map was created piece by piece by around 5,000 Japanese children from six different regions of the island country. And, instead of having the kids just reproduce some of their country’s iconic buildings, organizers encouraged them to set free their imaginations and create imaginary structures of a futuristic Japan. The future of the country was literally in their hands and they made sure it was a bright one. When the assembled LEGO structures were completed, they were sent to Tokyo to be a part of a massive 1.8 million LEGO map that left the audience speechless.

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Chinese IKEA Customers Make Themselves a Little Too Much at Home

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If you’ve ever walked through an IKEA store thinking about how cool it would be if you could just lay down on one of them soft beds, cover yourself with a fluffy blankets and nap, then you need to move to China, because that’s what IKEA visitors do over there.

The Chinese simply love IKEA! Millions visit the company’s mainland stores every year, but only a few of them actually end up buying something, as many just come to enjoy the air-conditioning on a hot summer day and take a nap on the comfy furniture on display. “Some of them even come in once the store opens in the morning, and won’t leave until the store closes in the evening,” a security staff from the IKEA store in Shanghai told Morning Star, but although this sometimes bothers employees, the company hasn’t taken any measures against people making themselves a little too much at home, because it sees it as a future investment. They believe when these people have more consumption power they’ll come back and buy something, but until then they’re free to loiter around.

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Thames Town – A Little Piece of England in China

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It’s no secret the Chinese wrote the book on knock-offs, but did you know they copy whole towns these days? Thames Town, in Shanghai, is a replica of small English town complete with everything you might expect, except the people.

“I wanted the properties to look exactly the same as those in the United Kingdom. I think English properties are very special. When we decide to learn from others, we should not make any improvements or changes.” That’s what James Ho, the head of Shanghai Hengde Real Estate, the company in charge of building Thames Town, told Reuters back in 2006, when the weird settlement was inaugurated. The buildings of Thames Town copy the real ones in England so closely that complaints have been filed by English pub owners, and this genuine British look was exactly what was supposed to draw people to this place. Only, like many other ambitious and expensive Chinese projects, Thames Town failed to impress a lot of people and is now virtually a ghost town in Shanghai, the city that drive’s China’s economy.

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The Intriguing Skull Illusions of Istvan Orosz

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Famous Hungarian artist Istvan Orosz creates intricate optical illusions that always hide a human skull. The presence of the eerie element is more obvious in some of his works than in others, but they are all equally impressive.

If you like optical illusions, you’ll love Orosz’s anamorphosis. The meticulously executed works of art will trick you into thinking you’re eyes are looking at Medieval-themed drawings before you spot the cleverly disguised skulls. I don’t know why the Hungarian graphic designer, poster artist and film director chose a skull as the main element of his works, but his talent or optical illusions is unquestionable.

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Tang Du Zoology – Dining in China’s Indoor Natural Habitat

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There are plenty of cool places to eat at in China, but one of the most amazing has to be the Tang Dousheng State Park, also known as Tang Du Zoology. This unique venue spreads over 1,600 square feet and features over 1,500 exotic plants and various animals.

I don’t know about you but I haven’t yet had the chance to dine in a place larger than three NFL football fields, so the Tang Dousheng State Park in Taiyuan, an industrial city about 400km from Beijing, sounds pretty special to me. But it’s not just the size that makes this place stand out from other food joints in China. Inaugurated in 2005, Tang Du Zoology was meant to be an indoor “natural habitat” full of exotic plants, rugged rockery and rare animals, where people could experience fine Chinese cuisine in a wild-like environment. Usually you have to go outside for a breath of fresh air, but in Taiyuan, you have to step inside this amazing restaurant to let your lungs know what they’ve been missing out on. The place also serves wide range of Chinese food styles (Guangdong, Shandong, Sichuan, Anhui) but the food is not the first reason to dine at Tang Dousheng State Park.

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Esplendor Buenos Aires Hotel – An Art Gallery You Can Sleep In

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Usually, we only feature hotels on Oddity Central if they’re built on an old oil rig or if they look like a hamster cage, but the Esplendor Hotel in Buenos Aires isn’t weird like that. The only reason we decide to write about is because of incredible collection of portraits made from unusual materials located inside.

Although it’s known as one of the best hotels in the Argentinian capital, the Esplendor Buenos Aires Hotel is worth visiting just for the impressive portraits displayed around the hotel, including in the lobby, restaurant or all over the corridors. And while many hotels do their best to treat their clients to some fine art, what the Esplendor offers is truly special – portraits of various South American celebrities, from football legend Diego Armando Maradona to revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, made from all kinds of unusual materials.

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Japanese Photographer Tries to Keep Love Fresh Forever by Wrapping It in Vacuumed Plastic Bags

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Some couple try all kinds of romantic tricks to keep love alive for longer, but Japanese photographer Haruhiko Kawaguchi takes a more literal approach – he wraps people in plastic wrap, sucks out the air and takes photos of their distorted bodies.

The bizarre images of people huddled together in weird positions, in vacuumed plastic wrap may look like stills from a a sado-masochistic practice, but they are Haruhiko Kawaguchi way of showing and preserving the love between two people. His project, “Flesh Love”, is pretty straightforward. Two people, usually couples, are “packaged” in a 100 by 150 by 74 centimeters plastic bag the artist buys from the Internet. After carefully arranging their body parts so he can get the best shot, Kawaguchi uses an old vacuum cleaner to suck out all the air and make the subjects look like a pack of packaged meat you buy at the supermarket. It takes about 10 to 20 seconds for hit to take the photographs, during which time the shrinkwrapped couple has to endure the pressure and lack of air. But it’s all in the name of love.

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Jim Power – The Mosaic Man of New York City

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For the past 26 years, Jim Power, known by most as The Mosaic Man, has been decorating the light posts of New York’s East Village with intricate tile and mirror mosaics. And the homeless 64-year-old is still at it.

“When I got into this, I was immortal all a sudden,” Power says about how he felt when he first started creating his art, in the late 1980s. The Vietnam veteran set out to make East Village a known arts destination by creating a trail of 80 mosaic-decorated light posts, each with its own theme and design inspired by local history and culture. At the height of his career as a street artist, The Mosaic Man was up to 70 light posts, but in the later part of the 80s and into the 90s, mayor Rudy Giulianni started a clean-up-the-city anti-graffiti campaign and took down 50 of his beautifully-adorned artworks. It was pretty hard to bear, but Jim never gave up on his dream of completing the trail, and managed to rebuild every one of them.

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Vinyl Portraits of Famous Musicians Created with Thousands of White Dots

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Daniel Edlen, from Phoenix, Arizona, is probably one of the world’s most patient artists. Using just white acrylic paint, he dabs thousands of tiny white spots on black vinyls to create amazingly-detailed portraits of famous musicians.

But why would an artist go through a painstaking process of dabbing white spots on records, instead of painting them the old-fashioned way, with a brush? Well, Daniel told My Modern Metropolis that  “it’s challenging painting on raw records because the paint streaks if I stroke it. Dabbing is the only way it works, but consistency is hard because I don’t use any black and I can’t remove paint easily once it’s dried.” That means the talented artist doesn’t afford to make any mistakes during the creative process, and that’s probably why he can take up to a whole month to complete a single piece.

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Mind-Blowing 3D Sketchbook Artworks by Nagai Hideyuki

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21-year-old Japanese artist Nagai Hideyuki creates amazing sketchbook drawings which viewed from the right angle create a realistic 3D illusion.

We’ve featured some pretty impressive three-dimensional art in the past, and young Hideyuki’s works are right up there with the best. Using a technique known as anamorphosis, the talented Japanese is able to create mind-boggling masterpieces that seem to come to life right out of his sketchbook. At 17, Nagai dreamed of becoming a cartoonist, but soon realized drawing comics wasn’t the thing for him. Then, three years later, he stumbled upon Julian Beever’s street art, and instantly fell in love with the idea of creating 3D artworks. Unfortunately, he discovered drawing on the streets of Japan was illegal, so he started looking for another way to exercise his talents. That’s how his intriguing sketchbook art was born.

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