Canada’s Goldstream River Turns Green for the Holidays

The winter holidays are now behind us, but it seems I missed one of the biggest pranks of 2010 – the green river of Goldstream Park.

It happened on December 29, 2010, in Victoria’s peaceful Goldstream Park. The waters of the river suddenly became neon green, and everyone passing by it rubbed their eyes to make sure what they were seeing wasn’t just an illusion. It was very real, but was it that made Goldstream River look so alien-like? After an hour or so, the fluorescent coloring vanished, but the questions about the bizarre phenomenon remained unanswered.

After analyzing the neon-green water, the local Environment Ministry said it was the result of a chemical called “fluorescein”. Neither the substance itself nor its products of degradation are toxic, and experts believe that fish and their habitat were not affected, judging by the concentration and flow rate of the river.

Authorities haven’t yet identified the culprits, but believed the dumping of fluorescein in the Goldstream River was just a holiday season prank.

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Diamond Encrusted Baby Skull Sparks Controversy

Damien Hirst‘s latest artwork, a baby’s skull cast in platinum and encrusted with 8,000 diamonds, has caused quite an outrage among parenting groups who think it’s offensive and deeply disturbing.

Hirst has made quite a name for himself, as a controversial artist who has previously dissected sheep and pickled a shark and showed them off as artworks. As disgusting as this sounds, it earned him an international reputation and a multi-million dollar fortune. But some say the bad boy of the art world has gone a little to far with his latest creation, “For Heaven’s Sake”.

He took a baby skull from a 19th century pathology collection he acquired, made a platinum cast and encrusted it with 8,000 diamonds. The piece is the centerpiece of a new exhibition scheduled to open later this month, in Hong Kong, but it has already made headlines, after parenting groups labeled it as troubling. “Mr Hirst may not have intended to be insensitive with his new work, but the fact is it will have a profound effect on many people who will find the subject deeply disturbing.” said Sally Russell, founder of the Netmums parenting group.

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The Mechanical Animals of Chris Cole

American artist Chris Cole uses scrap metal parts to explore the border between nature and industry, by creating unique mechanical creatures.

As a young boy, Chris grew up in the American Northwest, surrounded by an abundance of wildlife that later influenced his art. At the same time, he always had a passion for all things mechanical, and would often take stuff apart, only to put them back together in a radical new way. Nowadays, he creates moving creatures, especially from the avian and aquatic reigns, from various scrap metal parts, connected by heavy bolts and operated by bicycle chains and small motors.

While he is still fascinated by machinery, and was greatly influenced by the visionaries of the industrial revolution, Chris Cole is very concerned with man’s “disconnection with the natural world”, and his work represents a “regression  from mechanism back to organism.”

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The Incredible Story of Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is a 40-acre park full of plazas, waterfalls and thousands of unique creatures made from recycled materials. It’s a truly impressive sight, but even more so is the story of how Nek Chand spent four decades creating it and how he kept it a secret, for years.

In 1958, Nek Chand was a road inspector for the Public Works Department, and was making rafts and boats to be sail upon the recently created Sukhna Lake, but peddle boats were soon made available for rent by authorities, and his craft was banned. This allowed Nek to devote more time to his passion for rocks and stones, and he began gathering them from the nearby Shivalik Hills, and the Sukhna Cho, Patiala Rao and Ghaggar rivers. It was around this time that the Swiss architect Le Corbusier was asked to design the city of Chandigarh, the first planned city of India, and the small villages around the area were demolished. This provided Nek Chand with plenty of material for his increasing collection of rocks.

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The Bullet Hole Paintings of Viktor Mitic

One of the most controversial artist of our time, Viktor Mitic paints his artworks with semi-automatic rifles, hand-guns and shotguns.

Although he was acquainted with firearms from the time he spent in the National Service for the Serbian Army, in the former Yugoslavia, Viktor Mitic first got the idea of using guns in his art, after an art critic said his art needs to be more penetrating. Then, just before the war in Afghanistan started, he saw a report on a military group who destroyed 2,000-year-old statues of Buddha. ‘I wanted to use similar energy. The weapons had been around for a number of years, but no one has used them to paint with yet. I wanted to use it as a tool of creation, rather than of destruction’ Mitic says.

His bullet hole paintings include a replica of Picasso’s Gurnica, as well as portraits of popular figures the likes of JFK, Marylin Monroe, John Wayne, John Lennon and many others.

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BMW Made of Bricks Costs More than the Real Thing

A BMW Z4 model made from hundreds of bricks is now being sold for $125,000.

Chinese artist Dai Geng spent more than a year cementing bricks together and then carving the massive block into an impressive replica of the 155 mhp BMW Z4. Except for the windows, everything is made from brick, even the hinges that allow the door to open and close just like metal ones. The car was unveiled in January 2010, and has been on display, in Shenzheng City, for the last year. Now the artist wants to sell it and make a nice profit.

Although this brick BMW Z4 is definitely an impressive replica, down to the interior trimmings, the price tag of $125,000 seems prohibitive. But Dai Geng is confident that one of China’s rich businessmen will want to buy it as and ornament for their gardens…

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Woman Gets Full-Back Twilight Tattoo

Cathy Ward, a 49-year-old die-hard fan of the Twilight franchise,  got a full-back tattoo of the main characters, to show appreciation for helping her lose weight.

That’s right, Twilight actually helped someone lose weight, which is kind of ironic, because watching movies and reading books doesn’t exactly strike me as an active lifestyle. But in Cathy’s case, the interest in the vampire saga kept her away from stuffing her face all the time and helped her shed 14 dress sizes in just six months. All it took was for her to watch the first movie in the series, and she was hooked. She went out and bought all the books and DVDs, and dedicated most of her spare time to Twilight.

After losing the weight, Cathy wanted a permanent reminder that it was all thanks to the Twilight saga, so she got a small tattoo, which eventually turned into a full-back artwork. She spent 22 hours in the tattoo artist’s chair and paid over $3,000 for the custom Twilight work of art. But money was never an issue for Cathy Ward, because, as she sees it, she could have spent her money eating and drinking, instead she chose to do it on something she’s passionate about.

While many people would say she has more than enough ink covering her body, this Twilight fan says she’s not about to stop here. Cathy plans to cover her entire torso and arms with Twilight-inspired tattoos, hopefully before she celebrates her 50th birthday. A big fan of Robert Pattinson, she wants to get a tattoo of his character, Edward Cullen, on her abdomen.

Cathy Ward hopes to, one day, meet the cast of Twilight, so she can show them her impressive body art.

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Fashionable Rubber Band Dresses by Margarita Mileva

Margarita Mileva, an architect working in New York City, is taking the fashion world by storm with her unique dresses made from thousands of rubber bands.

Margarita first captured the attention of the fashion world with her line of rubber band accessories – M2, an offshoot of Milev Architects. The daughter of two artists took things to a whole new level, back in September 2010, when she showcased her first rubber band dress, a beautiful cocktail frock, made entirely from differently colored rubber bands.

Her latest creation, the “RB Dress“, was originally created for “Wear Is Art”, a design competition in Berlin, but it continued to attract attention even after the contest ended. Milev constructed the dress by hand, painstakingly weaving an astounding 14, 235 rubber bands into an haute-couture gown. That’s approximately 4 kilograms of rubber bands.

The practicing architect/fashion designer says she was inspired by the works of German-Swiss painter Klee and the early Bauhaus pioneers: “I was intrigued by the pastel colors used together with the black, darker ones; the black outlines and texture-like “fabric” of his (Klee’s) works. For me also of utmost importance is color theory, which he developed and taught to Bauhaus students.”

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Ultimate Children’s Playhouse Costs $230,000

Built for the children of a Swiss millionaire, the world’s most expensive playhouse cost $230,000 and took over 2,000 man hours to complete.

The Wendy playhouse was built by a small British firm, in North Lynn, Norfolk, and then transported to Gstaad, Switzerland. It was ordered by an extravagant millionaire who wanted to surprise his children for Christmas, by giving them a miniature replica of the chalet he owns in the foothills of the Alps. But this isn’t your average playhouse; this thing has double glazing, underfloor heating, four rooms, including a large living room with a chimney illuminated by LED lights, fully fitted kitchen, and pretty much anything else you’d expect to find in a high-end home.

Before starting construction, Russell Bowlby, head of the Flights of Fantasy playhouse building firm, went to Switzerland to study the building style, and weather conditions the commissioned playhouse had to withstand. With temperatures under -20 degrees Celsius, during the Winter, it had to be thoroughly insulated and heated, so the kids could play comfortably. A team of ten craftsman spent 2,000 manhours building the world’s most expensive playhouse, and an extra 10 days to fit the interior.

Around $155,000 covered the cost of the materials and construction, while the shipping of the house from Norfolk to Gstaad was another $95,000. Bowlby says “you won’t find anything like this playhouse in the world – its is as expensive as it gets.”

While I’m sure this will make an ideal playground for the millionaire’s children, I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t spoiling them just a bit, with presents like this. After all, he could have bought several normal houses in some parts of the world, for that amount of cash.

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The Recycled Collage Art of Derek Gores

Florida based graphic-designer Derek Gores takes old magazines, labels and other materials and recycles them into impressive collage artworks. The artist hand rips the magazines, maps or schematics and puts them together randomly to create impressive collages focused mostly on women and female fashion.

Here’s what Derek Gores has to say about his collage art: ‘I like my pictures to barely come together with teasing little details. Sort of like how the mind can’t help but wander, even when trying to focus on one thing. In the collages, some of the little bits I use are deliberate, but in most I’m trusting randomness to help build an end result more interesting than I could have planned. One friend calls it a Zen Narrative’.

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Super Grandmother and Super Grandfather Contest Held in Georgia

A a charity house in Tbilisi, Georgia organizes an annual “Super Grandmother and Super Grandfather” contest, to allow the elderly to fulfill their childhood dreams.

Every year, people aged over 70, from all over Georgia, come to Tbilisi to compete in the Super Grandmother and Super Grandfather contest, an event that allows them to display their artistic talents. Some play the piano, others dance, sing,and perform plays, but whether they win the coveted title of Super Grandmother and Super Grandfather or not, all contestants leave happy they were able to fulfill their dream of performing on stage.

Local and national television crews and reporters often attend the contest organized by the Ktharisis charity house, as some of the elderly contestants really are talented, and they want to speak to them, or write stories about them. Some contestants even make appearances on TV shows where they perform along established Georgian artists.

The 2011 edition of the super grandparents contest took place on January 5th.

I think there should be a “Super Grandmother and Super Grandfather” contest held in every contest around the world, to make the elderly feel like they have something nice to look forward to, every year. Well done, Georgia!

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Africa’s Most Dangerous Animal Is Man’s Best Friend

The hippo is regarded as he most dangerous animal in Africa, but that hasn’t stopped a South African animal lover from making friends with one.

40-year-old Marius Els breeds around 20 different animal species, on his wildlife ranch, near Petrus Steynlakes, South Africa, but he has a real soft spot for Humphrey, a 6-year-old hippo that’s like a son to him. While all of his friends are too scared to go near the animal, and his wife told him not to get too close, Marius climbs on Humhprey’s back  as he swims across a 200-meter-wide lake.

Marius has raised Humphrey since he was just five months old, and over the years, the two have developed a special relationship that people just don’t understand. Most of the world may look upon hippos with fear, but he considers Humphrey to be like a son, although the 1,200 ton creature could chew through him with ease. But, apart from occasionally throwing Marius off his back in the water, Humphrey acts very friendly around his owner, especially after Marius offers him a feats of his favorite treat, apples.

Despite the special friendship with Marius, Humphrey feels very lonely at this point in his life. He had another good friend, a goat, but she got eaten by a jackal, so now he’s all by himself. Marius says he’s been trying to get a tamed female companion for Humphrey, but there’s no such thing in Africa right now, and bringing in a wild one would be too dangerous. If the untamed female isn’t younger than he is, they would just kill each other. On the other hand, he can’t release Humphrey in the wild, because the other male hippos would almost definitely kill him in a fight. At least Humphrey will also have Marius to keep him company

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Young Entrepreneur Makes Shoes from Recycled Billboards

Jimmy Tomczak, a young entrepreneur from Michigan, is taking the footwear world by storm, with his original line of shoes made from recycled billboards, Paper Feet.

Jimmy says he’s an outdoors guy who likes to walk barefoot as much as possible, but he always felt like he needed something to protect his soles from the hot asphalt. So, one day, he decided to create some sort of revolutionary footwear that had to be tear resistant, waterproof and light enough to make people feel like they were actually barefoot.

The first thing he tried was Tyvek, a material mostly used on FedEx envelopes, but even though it was puncture-proof and waterproof, it was way too thin for footwear. But when someone suggested he use an old billboard as tarp for his leaky roof, Mr. Tomczak knew he had found the material he was looking for. Billboards are five times as thick as shower curtains, and just light enough for his revolutionary “foot condoms”

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The Edible Masterpieces of Confectioner Jean Zaun

They might look like common oil paintings, to the untrained eye, but these are actually edible masterpieces created with chocolate and food coloring, by artist Jean Zaun.

57-year-old Jean Zaun has always had a passion for oil painting, but working in her family’s chocolate shop, in downtown Lebanon, Pensylvania, she started getting bored and started experimenting with chocolate as an art medium. “I was literally ‘stuck’ in a puddle of chocolate eight hours a day. This was a coping mechanism to alleviate the boredom of being a candy coater and also remind myself that I was an artist” Jean says about her beginnings as a chocolate painter.

After 22 years of working in a chocolate shop, Jean Zaun has now dedicated herself completely to painting in oil, pastels and chocolate. Using white, dark and milk chocolate, food coloring, sugars and confectionery glaze, she is able to reproduce famous paintings like Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait, or Edvard Munch’s The Scream, as well as create her own original works. Mrs  Zaun works up to five days on a single painting, after which she encases it in a chocolate frame and covers it with a special glaze.

Although they are made from the world’s most popular sweet, Jean Zaun says her chocolate paintings are to be consumed by the eye, not the stomach. “They are works of art in their own right and are to be kept and cherished as keepsakes”, she adds. That’s easier said than done, especially when you have a sweet tooth and a chocolate painting is the only sugary delight in the house.

Her works have sold for up to $1,440, and they can be found in the private collections of people like Sharon Osbourne or Al Roker, as well as in museums across America.

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A Farewell to the Nevada Shoe Tree

One of Nevada’s most popular roadside attractions, the Old Shoe Tree, near Middlegate has been cut down by vandals.

The Old Shoe Tree on highway 50 (known as the loneliest road in America) was one of the quirkiest tourist spots in Nevada, featuring hundreds of old shoes hanging from its branches. Its origins aren’t exactly clear, but locals say people started throwing their shoes in it, in the early 1990s.

According to a local legend, the first people ti throw their shoes in the Nevada Shoe Tree were a couple of newlyweds passing through the desert on their way to California. They began to argue, so the groom pulled over near a big cottontree and left his wife there to cool down, and he went to the Middlegate Station Bar, to get a beer. When he came back, his bride was still in a fighting mood, so he took her shoes and tossed them into the tree, than left t get another beer. This time, when he returned, they were able to patch things up, but the shoes remained stuck in the tree, so they just left them there.  Over time, people who stopped to cool off under the cotton tree saw the shoes and threw their own, thus transforming it into a roadside tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, no one will have the opportunity to throw shoes in the Nevada Shoe Tree, or even take photos of it, as it was cut down by vandals, right on New Year’s Eve 2011. Locals are outraged, since the 70-foot cottonwood wasn’t just a symbol of the area, but a big help for local businesses which relied on the tourists it brought in.

The Churchill County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the matter, but sadly, nothing is going to bring back the Old Shoe Tree of Nevada. Check out the photos below, if you’ve never seen it before.

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