World’s Most Expensive Christmas Tree Is Worth $11 Million

An $11 million Christmas tree may seem incredible, but the simple fact  that it was put up in the lobby of a 7 star hotel  in United Arab Emirates makes it a little more believable. According to Hans Olbertz, general manager of the Emirates Palace Hotel, this is the world’s most expensive Christmas tree.

But what makes a Christmas tree worth $11 million. Well, it appears its immense value is given by the fact that instead of traditional ornaments, the tree is decorated with very expensive jewelry draping around it’s branches, along with a few gold and silver bows and some lights.

The artificial Christmas tree standing at over 13ft tall had an initial value of only $10,000, but the sum kept rising as gold, pearls, diamonds, sapphires and other precious stones provided by Style Gallery, were being added. There are now 181 jewels decorating the world’s most expensive Christmas tree.

Maybe the idea of an $ 11million Christmas tree wouldn’t seam that out of the ordinary if you knew that the Emirates Palace Hotel is offering a seven days package at the price of “just” $ 1million, which includes a luxurious car and a private plane at the disposal of the guest.

The owners of the luxurious Abu Dhabi hotel are planning to contact the Guinness Book of Records about their creation.

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Big Knit Café – Where Knitting Goes Well with Coffee

Knitting is mostly known as a favorite grannies all around the world, but at Bangkok’s Big Knit Café, it’s practiced by crafty young professionals trying to unwind.

Who would have thought knitting could be the recipe of a truly successful café business? Not many people, I’m sure, but that didn’t stop Khun Nice from starting Big Knit Café, a now internationally known venue where anyone can savor a cup of coffee or a tasty piece of cake, while knitting and learning new tips from local crafters. Even if you don’t know the first thing about knitting, all you need to do is buy a kit, and the staff at Big Knit Café will teach you everything there is to know.

Apart from all the cakes, pastry delicacies and drinks, Big Knit Café also offers a large colorful collection of yarn, from cotton and bamboo to alpaca and cashmere. The walls are practically lined with rows of yarn, and all customers have to do is decide on type and color.

Big Knit Café is far from being a knitting spot for grannies, as the place is visited by women of all ages, even college students and children, eager to discover the secrets of the art. Even some Thai celebrities stop by Big Knit Café, every once in a while, to relax in a nice, friendly atmosphere.

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Cyber Granny – World’s Oldest Facebooker

She’s two months away from her 104th birthday but age isn’t an impediment for Lillian Lowe, the world’s oldest Facebook user.

Lillian Lowe, from Tenby, Pembrokeshire, south Wales, may be a grandmother and great-grandmother at 103, but she is still young-at-heart and her online adventure on Facebook is proof of that. After 104-year-old Ivy Bean died in June, Lillian has become the oldest of over 500 million users of the popular social network.

Her grandson Steve is the one responsible with wetting her up with a Facebook account and he’s also the one who lent her his iPad, but she is planning to replace it with a newer version, seeing that she’s also up to date in terms of  gadgets, as she admits herself “At the moment I use my grandson’s iPad but I am very hopeful to get one of my own, there are some great new models out at the moment.”

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Dog Cinema Lets You Take Your Pooch to the Movies

Vienna’s Admiral Cinema has opened its doors to man’s best friend, through a once-a-month “Doggy Day Promotion” that lets dog owners take their pets with them, to the movies.

In order to lure people away from the Lugner City Kino multiplex that opened nearby, the 90-year-old Admiral Cinema decided to become more appealing to dog owners, by allowing them to bring their pets inside the cinema. That may seem a little extreme, but it might just pay off, considering many dog lovers don’t go anywhere without their pampered pooches.

Once a month, dogs get free admission inside the cinema, as well as soft seat blankets, fresh water and tasty treats, including popcorn and mince pies. As far as the actual movie presentation is concerned, the only real difference from a normal movie is that the volume is turned down a bit, as not to hurt animals’ ears. While all the dogs seem interested in the movie, it just takes one of them to bark and they all join in. That’s when the real show starts.

Brian Olsen’s Art in Action

By combining artistic talent with music and lots of energy, Brian Olsen puts on a memorable show called “Art in Action” where he transforms a blank canvas into a regular masterpiece, in a matter of minutes.

Brian Olsen is more than just a talented painter, he’s an entertainer. Unlike most painters who enjoy working in the comfort of their own art studios, in piece and quiet, Brian does it in front of an audience, using loud music as the source of his inspiration. Dressed in one of his paint-splattered outfits, he goes to work on a blank canvas, and in just ten minutes time turns it into the colorful portrait of a popular rockstar, and he does it all by using up to three brushes in each hand, as well as his fingers and palms. He brushes away to the beat coming from the speakers, jumps and kicks into the air, and splatters paint at his artwork from time to time, as if to release some of the energy that builds up inside of him. In the end, the audience gets a beautiful painting, as well as a unique display of creativity.

Having studied under Denny Dent, the painting sensation of the 1980s, Brian Olsen inherited his master’s secrets and is now on a mission to keep his legacy alive and take Art in Action to new heights.

Be sure to check the videos at the bottom, to see Brian also perform his adrenaline-filled Art in Action show.

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Chernobyl Nuclear Plant to Become Official Tourist Attraction

The Ukrainian government has announced the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site will be included in a full scale tourist program.

I know it sounds weird, but tourists have been visiting Chernobyl through unofficial tourism programs, for several years. Authorities are just trying to make things official, so they can actually cash out on the interest people have in the famous contaminated zone. Oddly enough, the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency will be in charge of operating tours, and although they guarantee every measure will be taken to insure tourists’ safety, Chernobyl isn’t really as safe as they’ll have you think.

On April 26, 1986, reactor number 4 of the local nuclear power station exploded, causing the greatest nuclear disaster in the history of mankind (not counting the ones caused by US nuclear bombs in Japan). A perimeter of 30 miles around the epicenter was closed up to the public, to prevent radioactive contamination, maintained by thousands of technicians, to reduce exposure to radiation. While the catastrophe happened almost a quarter of a century ago, the area around the power station is still very dangerous, especially since the remaining three nuclear reactors have not been shut down, and the shield placed over reactor 4 has been steadily deteriorating, under pressure from within. A new, improved “sarcophagus”, big enough to cover the Statue of Liberty and weighing 20,000 tons, will be ready in 2012.

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Dordoy – The Shipping Container Bazaar of Kyrgyzstan

One of Asia’s largest shopping centers, the Dordoy Bazaar consists of around 7,000 shipping containers, which makes it a monument to repurposing.

Located near the city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Dordoy Bazaar is one of the main entrepots through which Chinese goods make their way to markets in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It was inaugurated in 1992, and as wholesale markets across the country began to plummet, the bazaar’s popularity kept rising transforming it in the monument of raw commerce it is today.

Dordoy Bazaar stretches for about a kilometer, on the north-eastern outskirts of Bishkek, and features all kinds of goods, from Chinese and Turkish knock-offs to Russian music CDs, all off them stocked in the thousands of stacked shipping containers that serve as shops and storage space. Practically, the entire bazaar is built out of shipping containers organized in rows to form streets and plazas of sort. A 2005 newspaper report stated there were between 6,000 and 7,000 containers in Dordoy Bazaar, and their numbers probably went up considerably, since then.

The few buildings in Dordoy Bazaar that aren’t made of containers serve as administrative offices, hotels and toilets.

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Christmas Tree Lights Powered by a Bunch of Electric Eels

People are definitely becoming more and more concerned about the environment, also more inventive. Looking for ways to save up energy, the staff of the Helsinki Sea Life Center aquarium in Finland, discovered they had a  totally free energy source living right in their fish tanks – electric eels.

“Our electrician built a device that uses four plastic-encased steel probes to capture the eel’s electrical discharge and feed it to the lights. At feeding time though, it really powers up. You can hear the voltage increasing and the lights shine bright and steady.” explains Markus Dernjatin – from the Helsinki Sea Life Center in Finland.

These deadly deep sea creatures can produce an amount of electrical energy sufficient to light up more than one Christmas tree – around 650 volts. At the same time, the high voltage is enough to kill a grown man…

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Giant Frosty the Snowman Built in Poland

It has been snowing for quite some time in Poland and with all that “raw material” at hand ,three inhabitants of  Trzebnica city, Poland started building a snowman. The problem is they didn’t know when to stop.

The 31ft giant, named Milocinek, was finished after 6 days of work and is now the pride and joy of the city, which is pretty normal, if you believe the rumors that this is not just the largest snowman in Poland, but  also the largest in the world. I hate to break it to them, but this doesn’t even come close to beating the record for the world’s largest snowman.  Milocinek is so large they had to use a barrel for a hat and a traffic cone for his nose, instead of the usual carrot.

Although the three men who built Milocinek started of out of pure boredom, they became more and more enthusiastic as their work progressed., and didn’t stop until they realized their snowman was taller than pretty much all the surrounding houses. In fact, Milocinek is so large they had to use a barrel for a hat and a traffic cone for his nose, instead of the usual carrot.

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Need a Drinking Buddy? You Can Hire One!

With the holiday season fast approaching, if you haven’t yet found a drinking partner, your chances of actually finding one in time for the celebrations are getting very slim. But no need to worry, a Ukrainian firm has come up with the perfect solution – you can hire a drinking buddy.

The “employer” will definitely get his money’s worth, as this firm not only offers a swell drinking companion but someone with whom you can engage in conversations about all kinds of different subjects, like sports, politics, art, philosophy and even women.

The Kind Fairy used to be just another firm specialized in organizing weddings and birthday parties, but ever since they launched their “drinking buddy for hire” service, last December, business has really taken off. The fact that most of their drinkers have different talents, like singing, reciting poems or playing the guitar, offering a variety of choices that guarantee they will be able to liven-up employers’ evening, is considered partially responsible for the success.

But there is also a less obvious reason why people like this weird service – there are those who still consider therapy taboo and  would much rather discuss their problems with a stranger than seeing a psychologist.

Yulia Peyeva, head of the Kind Fairy, claims the services offered by her firm are nothing like dating or matchmaking,  nor do they encourage heavy drinking. Right, like Ukrainians need encouragement to drink heavily…


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Chinese Artist Paints on Water

Zhu Shenghi, a talented artist from Xi’an, China’s Shaanxi Province, has developed a unique way of painting on water.

While we can all take a brush and start stroking away on water, results won’t be nearly as spectacular as what Zhu Shenghi can do. Using a fine tool and naphta, he paints all kinds of detailed shapes on the surface of the water, but water isn’t actually the real canvas. After he’s finished the design, Zhu places a piece of paper that absorbs the paint from the surface of the water, thus becoming a regular painting without having been touched by any painting utensils.

UPDATE: Seeing the photos for the first time, I thought Zhu Shenghi’s art was unique, but it’s apparently been around since the 15th century, and used in East Asia and the Islamic World. It might not be as modern as other painting techniques, but it’s still pretty fascinating.

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Kobe Luminarie – Japan’s Festival of Light

Kobe Luminarie is an extraordinary light festival that takes place every December, in commemoration of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

The first edition Kobe Luminarie took place in December of 1995, as a memorial to the lives lost in the terrible earthquake of January 17. It was entitled “Dreams and Light” and was a message of hope that two and a half million people came to see, on the first day. Following the success of the first festival, Kobe Luminarie became a yearly event that celebrates Kobe’s remarkable recovery from disaster.

Various light decorations are created from millions of small light bulbs and LEDs, from bright arches to citadels and whatever else Italian designer Valerio Festi and his team decide on. Since the name of the festival comes from the plural of the Italian “luminaria” -which means light decoration – the decision of employing an Italian team must not have been incidental. Every year, the theme of Kobe Luminarie changes, and that has people from all over the world coming back year after year, to see the new light structures. Approximately five million people attend the Kobe Luminarie every year.

Apart from the beautiful light structures, another impressive aspect of Kobe Luminarie is that it relies on its audience to keep going. Visitors support the event by putting coins in the donation boxes set up around the brightly lit structures, and this assures the funding for next year’s festival. A great way to show appreciation, considering the entrance if free of charge…

Just to be clear, Kobe Luminarie has nothing to do with Christmas, despite the common colorful-lights theme. This year, the festival of light took place between December 2-13, and was named “Il cuore nella luce” (The heart in the light).

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The Incredible Map Collages of Matthew Cusick

Matthew Cusick, a talented collage artist from Dallas, Texas, creates incredible works of art with map cutouts. Using the most rudimentary tools, Cusick reconfigures entire networks of roads, rivers and municipal transit systems to create intricate artworks that look like paintings and drawings, if looked at from afar.

Originally from New York, Matthew Cusick graduated from Cooper Union in 1993, and had his first exhibition just two years later. Since then, his masterpieces have been showcased around the world. Inspired by topography, the artist states that he likes to “catalog, archive, and arrange information and then dismantle, manipulate, and reconfigure it.”

Have a look at these amazing map collages, and be sure to check out Matt’s official site for more of his beautiful artworks.

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24-Year-Old Blackie Is Britain’s Oldest Cat

The leading candidate for Britain’s oldest cat, Blackie is a cat who will turn 24 in January of next year, the equivalent of 118 in human years.

Quentin Shaw, 49, is the proud owner of Blackie and he’s had her since forever. He got her and her brother 24 years ago, and named them Tan and Blackie from the spots they each had on their heads – one was brown, the other one black . Unfortunately Tan died at the age of five, after being hit by a car.

Food and care were not the only ingredients that lead to Blackie’s longevity, but also the love of her owners., who believe love and care is definitely one of the main factors that help pets live a long life. Even though she’s no longer able to see in the dark, hunt mice and she hasn’t got stability in her paws, as she keeps falling over when brushed, Blackie  hasn’t given up on life. She’s been in and out of the vet clinic a few times, but she’s a real fighter, and always managed to get back to full health.

Blackie is now living with her owner, Mr. Shaw, and his family, fiancee Kim Lanham and children Scarlet and Tom, in Thurnby, Leicestershire. “I think that with animals, when they’re loved, they live longer. She’s part of the family. She’s got a lot of attitude still but she’s amazing with the kids and good natured (…)every time we go to the vet she bounces back. She’s certainly a fighter.” said Miss Lanham.

Blackie’s story has even caught the interest of Daniel Fileds of The Guinness Book Of Records, as there is no current record holder of the title for Britain’s Oldest Cat. Hestia, who died in September at the age of 21 years and 11 months, was the last oldest living cat.

Blakie’s age certainly is impressive, considering the average life expectancy for cats is 16 years.

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The House of the Beautiful Flowers – A Retirement Home for Prostitutes

Casa Xochiquetzal (The House of the Beautiful Flowers) is a retirement home for prostitutes, established in Mexico City’s  Tepito neighborhood, that got it’s name from the Aztec goddess of love and women.

The center was founded in 2007 by a former prostitute, Carmen Munoz, impressed by the old sex workers she saw sleeping in the streets. And it wasn’t easy at all. It took years of lobbying for her to get the support of the government and local media. Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador, mayor at the time,  gave her a dilapidated 18th century house, which she transformed into what is now home for 23 old prostitutes, with available accommodations for 45 women. They have to fulfill one condition, other than the obvious one, being a former sex worker, and that regards their age – women have to be at least 60 years old. Interestingly enough, even if they aren’t required to, many of the prostitutes choose to continue practicing their job.

In most cases, they have been sold as young girls or even as children and forced into prostitution, thereby no contact with their families has been kept. Although most of them can still work, the money is very little, compared to what younger women earn, and this makes it impossible for them to survive by themselves, so Casa Xochiquetzal comes as somewhat of a blessing.

Although they display a lot of joy and seem to have a lot of fun together, almost every one of the old prostitutes hides a trace of sadness, especially when it comes to their children who barely remember they exist, much less come to visit them at the House of the Beautiful Flowers.

This story is part of a documentary that CNN made for the launch of VICE magazine in Mexico. Bernardo Loyola, producer of this documentary, confesses he found this weird and quite “different”, but nevertheless, he was impressed by the power these women have to continue with their lives, no matter the difficulties. For him, the visit at the House of the Beautiful Flowers was a turning point that totally changed his perception of prostitution.

 

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