Ting Mong – Cambodia’s Creepy Scarecrows

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If you ask me, common scarecrows are creepy enough, but the Cambodian Ting Mong carry real firearms and instead of birds they scare off evil spirits.

Scarecrows usually belong in  the fields, protecting villagers’ crops, but in some Cambodian villages you’ll see them in front of houses, by the gate, or on garden paths, and you can bet they’re not there to scare some man-eating birds. Ting Mong are a part of old Khmer culture, and even though Budhism came to Cambodia thousands of years ago, there are still some rural areas where people believe in spirits and their power over the living. These creepy “scarecrows” are actually guardians who ward off evil spirits and protect against disease and death.

Many Khmers believe a powerful force is embodied in the Ting Mong, which will keep spirits from coming inside, and to make them even more effective, they equip the life-size dolls with real or sculpted weapons. Some carry machetes and swords, while other carry modern weaponry like revolvers, AK47s and even sculpted bazookas. Even a bad-ass spirit wouldn’t dare approach a Ting Mong carrying this kind of firepower.

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Chefchaouen – The Blue City of Morocco

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One of Morocco’s most popular tourist destinations, Chefchaouen is most known for its blue-rinsed buildings and alleys, an old tradition leftover from the city’s Jewish population.

Chefchaouen was founded by Moorish exiles from Spain, in 1471, as a small fortress to fend off the attacks of invading Portuguese forcess in northern Morocco. After the Spanish Reconquista, the small mountain town became one of the largest Moriscos and Jews  refuge sites, and during their stay they managed to leave their mark on it, one that makes the modern city so special.

The name Chefchaouen comes from “chauen”, which is Spanish for horns, and refers to the shape of the two mountains overlooking the settlement. But it’s not its strange name, the beautiful and unique handicrafts sold by local craftsman, or the delicious goat cheese that attracts the majority of tourists to Chefchaouen. It’s the blue-painted houses and buildings of the city, a tradition inherited from the former Jewish inhabitants. In the Bible, Israelites are commanded to dye one of the threads in their tallit (prayer shawl) blue, with tekhelel. This was an old natural dye, processed from a species of shellfish, but in time its production collapsed and the Jewish people eventually forgot how to make it. But, in honor of the sacred commandment, the color blue was still woven into the cloth of their tallit. When they look at the dye, they will think of the blue sky, and the God above them in Heaven.

While the Jewish population of Chefchoauen isn’t as numerous as it one was, practically everyone in the city still follows this old tradition and frequently renew the paint job on their homes.

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Tony Orrico – The Human Spirograph

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American artist Tony Orrico uses his entire body as an instrument to create massive artworks that are both highly precise and organic, at the same time.

Orrico manages to blend his background in dance and choreography with a passion for drawing in a unique process that starts off with dance-like movements and ends with an abstract illustration. Holding a pencil in each hand, the young artist approaches a massive paper canvas, and using the symmetry of the human body to create various abstract shapes. Whether he’s spinning his entire body or just his wrists, Tony Orrico sets a specific motion that is repeated throughout the performance, until his work is completed.

The abstract images Tony creates can be quite stunning, but to fully appreciate and understand his talent, one must witness the creative process. Seeing him lying face downward on the paper, rotating his torso in full circles, with his arms outstretched drawing a variety of shapes really is a unique sight. Tony Orrico spends between 15 minutes to as long as 7 hours to complete one of his artworks.

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The Written Portraits of Anatol Knotek

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Anatol Knotek is a talented young Austrian artist whose  visual poetry artworks revolve around the written character.

Knotek’s interest in visual poetry arose around a decade ago, after a meeting with an Austrian poet. Until that time he had only been interested in painting and the classic fine arts, but after his first contact with visual poetry, he realized how fascinated he was by it, and started working primarily in this field. Since then, Anatol Knotek has become one of the world’s most celebrated artists and has had his works displayed in many art galleries around the world.

The purpose of his “written images” is to express ideas strongly bound to the written, spoken and visual language. Out of all of his works, the written portraits stand out with their complexity and level of detail.

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Azerbaijan Clinic Uses Crude Oil Baths as Therapeutic Treatments

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A clinic in the town of Naftalan, 160 miles noth-west of Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku, has found a therapeutic use for its abundant quantities of crude oil.

Azerbaijan is one of the world’s leading oil exporters, and in the country’s western plains “black gold” has been seeping out of the ground for centuries. In fact, they have so much of the stuff, that in the town of Naftalan, they use the excess crude oil as a cure for various illnesses. It all goes down at the famous Naftalan Clinic, where people from all over the former Soviet Union and even from the Emirates and Europe come to treat various skin diseases, rheumatism, arthritis and even their nerves with crude oil. Doctors here say their miraculous oil therapy is used to trat up to 100 different conditions.

The most popular treatment at Naftalan is the crude oil bath. Patients lower their bodies into 35 gallons of crude oil, at a temperature of 40 degrees. Many of them say the warm oil relaxes their joints and they’d love to spend more than 10 minutes soaked in black oil, but since it contains almost 50% naphthalene, a hydrocarbon deemed potentially carcinogenic by EU regulations, longer sessions could be hazardous to their health. The clinic’s doctors claim millions of people have been treated at Naftalan over the years, and none of them have suffered any complications, as a result. Still, to be on the safe side they limit the sessions to 10 minutes, and no more than a bath per day, during a 10-day treatment.

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Sandy Sanderson’s Beer Can Automobiles

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Sandy Sanderson is a resourceful New Zealand artist who uses empty soda and beer cans to create detailed models of famous automobiles.

England-born Sandy was trained as a draughtsman, but later became a Technology teacher and emigrated to far away New Zealand. Here he pursued his interest in building airplane, car and bike models, until the age of 40, when he joined a local band and started playing bass guitar. This made him change from building models to making electric string instruments.

Unfortunately, a bike accident shattered one of his wrists and his dream of retiring as a luthier. After surgery, he was still able to use his hand, ride a bike, but the sensitivity and fine control needed to play bass and follow his dream were gone. But it was during his recovery period that he discovered a new hobby – looking at some Coruba and Coke cans he remembered seeing some beautiful aircraft models made from aluminum cans, only they had the plain silvery side on the outside. This didn’t make any sense to him, as the whole point of using such a resource would be to show it to the world and celebrate it instead of hiding it.

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Unbelievably Realistic Starcraft 2 Papercraft Models

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Korean Starcraft 2 fan “Constable” has created a series of paper models inspired by units in the video game that will probably blow your mind.

The fact that the dude who made these is from South Korea really doesn’t come as a surprise, since the Starcraft franchise is really popular there, but the level of detail in Constable’s work is pretty unbelievable. Looking at the photos, I had a rough time convincing myself these were anything more than 3D computer generated images, but that was only until I visited Constable’s blog and saw what he can do with a few paper slices.

I’ve posted some awesome paper models on Oddity Central, like the unique papercraft castle Wataru Itou spent 4 years creating, or the paper masterpieces of Taras Lesko, and Constable’s models are right up there with the best I’ve ever seen. If you’re not convinced they’re real, check out his blog and put your mind at ease.

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Card-Throwing Master Slices through Cucumbers

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Bai Dengchun is a 23-year-old card-throwing artist whose lightning-fast plastic cards can slice through fruits, vegetables and eggs. The young master doesn’t look very strong, but then again, neither do most of the Chinese martial arts experts, yet they kick ass in every cheesy kung-fu movie I’ve ever seen. Okay, so that wasn’t the best comparison, but the point is despite his skinny appearance, Bai Dengchun is able to throw a plastic card through a cucumber from two meters away.

Bai has been practicing his throwing card technique since he was just six years old, constantly improving his skills, and he is now able to slice through cucumbers, watermelons and eggs. His unique talents earned him a spot on China’s Got Talent, and even though he didn’t win, he got some well-deserved exposure.

While some say a plastic playing card turns into a lethal weapon in the hands of a master like Bai Dengchun, I doubt even he could actually kill a person with it. Maybe it would pierce the skin, but the structure of the human body doesn’t exactly resemble  that of a cucumber.

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Designer Turns Garbage into Green Couture Garments

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Designer Nancy Judd uses recycled trash to create various clothing items for her Recycle Runway collection, which she showcases in airports, class rooms and other media outlets around America.

“I love taking garbage—something that people want to push away from and not think about—and transform it into something elegant,” Nancy Judd recently told CNN. She started the environmental education entity known as Recycle Runway in 2007, and began creating beautiful fashion garments from recycled stuff, thus capturing the attention of millions of people. Each of her works is a unique piece of wearable art that takes between 100 to 450 hours to complete, but lasts at least 100 years and inspires the public to reduce their impact on the environment.

Ms. Judd grew up in Portland, Oregon, and although she’s been sewing and designing clothes and jewelry ever since she was a child, she doesn’t feel attracted to the fashion industry, as “it creates a tremendous amount of waste, and there are a lot of social justice issues.” In fact, she turned down a spot on Project Runway because she is perfectly happy with her own project, Recycle Runway. Nancy has worked in the recycling field for a long time, but it was fashion that helped her attract attention and deliver important environmental messages to the world.

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Disabled Artist Creates Detailed Artworks Using Only His Mouth and Right Foot

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41-year-old Huang Guofu, from Chongqing, China, has learned to master the paintbrush with his mouth and right foot, after he lost both his hands in a childhood accident.

Huang Guofu lost his arms in terrible electric shock accident, at the tender age of four, but that didn’t stop him from following his dreams, and at age 12 he began painting with his feet. The talented artist remembers that in the beginning, his artworks didn’t look at all like what he intended to paint, but as the years went by his skills improved considerably. Huang quit his studies when he was 18, as his father was very ill and he needed to make money for his treatments. He started travelling to other Chinese cities, creating beautiful paintings on the side of streets and selling them to passers-by.

It was during his art travels that he began using his mouth to paint, after hearing some comments that painting with one’s leg isn’t very elegant. He put a brush in his mouth and started painting. During a trip to a city in China’s Sichuan Province, Huang Guofu met Hu Guoui, a woman who quickly fell in love with his strong will and artistic talents, and the two got married in 2000. Since then, she has become his assistant, carrying his canvas and tools, whenever he needs to paint a scene on location.

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Polish Woodcarver Makes Functional Bicycles Exclusively from Wood

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Slawomir Weremkowicz, a 59-year-old former plumber from Poland, creates functional bicycles using only wooden components.

The talented woodcarver from Biala Podlaska says he had always wanted to be an artist, and since God gave him the talent of carving wood, he he thought he should do something amazing with it. So he decided to go greener than green and create a series of wooden bikes for which he didn’t use a single gram of metal or plastic. Simply looking at a piece of wood, Slawomir can already envision how he’s going to turn it into one of his bicycle parts, and using simple woodcarving tools like chisels and saws he does just that.

The seat, steering, even the pedals and chain are made only from a variety of wood (oak, ash, beech and plywood) and if you’re looking for screws holding them together, don’t bother, as Slawomir Weremkowicz only uses wooden pegs. Carving an entire wood bicycle is a lengthy process which takes about a year, but when he looks at his completed “wooden dinosaurs”, as he likes to call them”, Slawomir doesn’t regret the time he puts into his work.

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The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of the Cats

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The Monastery of Saint Nicholas of the Cats is regarded as a sacred cat haven in Cyprus, as it’s name has been linked to felines for almost 2,000 years.

The original monastery was built in 327 AD, by Kalokeros, the first Byzantine governor of Cyprus, and patronised by Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. At that time, a terrible drought affected the whole of Cypus, and the entire island was overrun with poisonous snakes which made building the monastery a dangerous affair. Many of the inhabitants left their homes and moved off the island, for fear of the snakes, but Saint Helena came up with a solution to the plague – she ordered 1,000 cats to be shipped in from Egypt and Palestine to fight the reptiles.

In the following years, the cats did their duty, hunting and killing most of the snakes in the Akrotiri Peninsula, which soon came to be known as the “Cat Peninsula”. The monks would use a bell to call the cats to the monastery at meal time, and then the felines were dispatched to their snake-hunting duties. Pilgrims from all around Europe traveled to the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas to see its feline guardians, and the discovered documents of a Venetian monk describe them as scarred, missing various body parts, some completely blind as a result of their relentless battle against the snakes.

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Chinese Pavilion Made Entirely from 668 Abacuses

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Showcased during an abacus-themed exhibition held in the Chinese city of Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, this large pavilion model is made from 668 different-size abacuses. Used as a calculating tool centuries before the adoption of the written numeral system, the abacus is a big part of Asian culture, and is still widely use by merchants and clerks around Asia and Africa. Apart from the impressive abacus pavilion, visitors at the exhibition could admire over 100 abacuses, from the simplest to more complex versions.

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Embroidered Eggs – The Coolest Thing This Easter

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Just when you think you’ve seen everything, along comes another mind-boggling art form that you didn’t think existed and probably never even imagined. This time it’s embroidered eggs.

I can say I’ve seen my share of wonderful Easter egg artworks, including intricate eggshell sculptures, colorful Easter Egg mosaics, an Easter Egg Tree and even an Easter Egg theme park, but I had never seen something as beautiful and original as these embroidered eggs. It’s something I know I will never be able to do, but like Mary Corbett says, it’s amazing to know someone out there did do it.

I know they look pretty unbelievable, and at first glance you’d be tempted to think the embroidered motifs are done separately and glued on the eggs, but after taking a closer look you notice the holes, and realize these are real embroidered eggs. I don’t know who invented this incredible technique, but I’m pretty sure they require years of practice and a lot of patience to create. So, even though Easter 2011 is behind us, you can start practicing now, and you might just have something to brag about to your friends, next year.

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Indian Sadhu Has Kept His Right Hand Up for the Last 38 Years

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Sadhu Amar Bharati is an Indian holy man who claims he has kept his right hand raised in the air since 1973. Now, 38 years later, his hand is just a useless piece of skin and bone, but has become a symbol for Shiva worshipers around India.

Until 1970, Amar Bharati was an average middle-class man who lived a normal life. He had a job, a home, a wife and three children, but none of that mattered when he woke up one morning and decided to leave everything behind and dedicate his life to serving the Hindu god Shiva. He began wandering the roads of India dressed in his simple Sadhu clothes and carrying only his trusty Trishula (a metal trident). After three years, in 1973, Amar realized he was still too connected to the fading luxury and pleasures of mortal life, and decided to separate himself from them by raising his right arm and keeping it raised. 38 years later, his arm is still up and he couldn’t use it, even if he wanted to.

Other sources claim Amar Bharati felt disillusioned by all the fighting going on in the world, and decided to raise his right arm for peace. A respected Sadhu at the Kumbh Mela, in Haridwar, Amar has inspired other Sadhus to raise their arms for peace and harmony, and some of them have kept them raised for the last seven, thirteen, even 25 years. But doing something like this doesn’t just mean giving up the functionality of an important body part, it also implies dealing with a lot of pain. Bharati himself says he went through excruciating pain for a long time, but not anymore. That’s because his arm is completely atrophied and stuck in a bizarre, semi-vertical position, a useless bony structure ending in thick, twisted nails that he never clips.

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