Chinese Millionaire Builds Six European-Style Castles in China, Plans to Make it 100

59-year-old Liu Chonghua is the latest to join a string of wealthy Chinese businessmen with eccentric hobbies. Liu is spending millions of dollars building fake European castles in the megacity of Chongqing. And get this – he copies the designs out of a book of castle pictures he keeps in his office.

One of the castles Liu built is a gray stone structure resembling Britain’s Windsor Castle. The only difference – the Chinese version is surrounded by lush green paddy fields. Another one is a red brick fairytale structure with soaring spires, inspired by the Disney movie, Aladdin. He also has a white castle with candy-colored towers, similar to 19th century Bavarian ‘Mad’ King Ludwig’s hilltop fantasy – Neuschwanstein.

Recreating foreign designs on Chinese soil might involve architectural challenges, but Liu’s team has dismissed them. Ma Wenneng, former soldier and now a construction worker, says, “Actually, European castles are really easy to build.”

Chongqing-castles

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Mas Provencal – The Perfect Restaurant for Flower Enthusiasts

When you first step into Mas Provencal on the outskirts of Eze Village, you’re likely to mistake it for a greenhouse. Located close to the city of Nice in southeastern France, this restaurant has way more flowers than tables.

Mas Provencal’s interior décor is pretty special, perhaps even one-of-a-kind. Almost every square inch is covered with fresh flowers – roses, orchids, ivy, glads and more. There are plants everywhere and it takes some squinting to even spot the sign board. The large amount of flora either enthralls diners, or leaves them a bit overwhelmed. One tourist called the decorations “fabulously gaudy.” I don’t think I could have put it any better.

Inside the restaurant, each table is done up with elaborate center pieces made of flowers. Exotic trees adorn the passageways and you can spot a few carnivorous plants in the crowd. Antique knick-knacks are scattered everywhere. A large glass enclosed waterfall containing ferns is also part of the décor. The best part – diners can munch on grapes and cherry tomatoes hanging from the ceiling at arm’s reach.

Mas-Provencal-restaurant

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Ever Seen an Urban Road ERUPT Before? Well, You Have Now

Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, is in the news for a very unusual reason – its roads are exploding!

A dashboard camera captured this video on the 21st of November. You can clearly see the road erupt into three large pieces, just as an SUV speeds up to a red light. The car with the camera slows down to stop and the SUV driver overtakes on the outside, only to be abruptly stopped by the road.

The video has been viewed over 40,000 times online. It has become a bit of a joke, considering how the SUV driver was deftly prevented from jumping the signal. One user on Live Leak commented: “In Russia cops don’t stop you for running a light, the road does.” Another said: “Car driver wanted to run the red light, red light did stop him immediately.”

Some viewers are having trouble believing the video: “Is this a new movie of Godzilla?” I do agree with that comment. The footage looks surreal, like it’s straight out of the next ‘end-of-the-world’ type disaster movie.

road-eruption

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Keep Away from Fire: Belarusian Artist Paints with Petroleum

A true artist can create outstanding art from almost anything, even ugly, greasy oil. Who would have ever imagined that petroleum could be used to paint breathtaking images? Belarussian artist Ludmila Zhizhenko, that’s who.

Ludmila was a designer at a petroleum company for years before she invented this new technique of painting in 2009. She would use watercolors earlier, but petroleum is now her material of choice. Ludmila’s paintings have are elegant, with an old-world charm. They resemble vintage, yellowed photographs from the last century. Photo artist Sergei Kholodilin says, “This is a synthesis of photography and painting.”

For her paintings, Ludmila uses petroleum produced in the Gomel region. To make one ‘heavy oil’ painting, she needs about 10 grams of the stuff. And there are only two types of petroleum she can make use of. Ludmila lets us in on a few of her trade secrets: “It is important not to stop putting stroke after stroke. Otherwise, if the oil dries out,  it will be very difficult to fix something,” she says. Due to the chemical composition of petroleum, she mostly paints outdoors.

petroleum-paintings8

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Australian Family Set New Guinness Record with 502,165 Christmas Light Installation

We love it when the holidays are around the corner; there are just so many odd stories to talk about! Our first Christmas story this season is here: an Australian family who put up over half a million Christmas lights in their Canberra home and set a new Guinness World Record.

This isn’t the first time father-of-three David Richards and his family have done this. In 2011 they set the record after putting up 331,038 lights. Last year a New-York family beat them with a whopping 346,283. The Richards wanted their title back so badly that this year they’ve installed 502,165 lights – that’s 31 miles of wire. They also have a glowing reindeer and loud music to boot.

Some of the Richards’ neighbours are very upset and haven’t spoken to the family since 2011. But most of them love the dazzle and come to visit from several miles away. David says, “I have always loved Christmas. Having the Christmas lights with the community coming in and sharing it is a time when you get to know people you probably should know better, I guess.”

most-Christmas-lights

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China’s Best Mao Zedong Impersonator Is Actually a Woman

57-year-old Chen Yan used to be an average, run-of-the-mill homemaker. The only noticeable thing about her: her striking resemblance to Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong. Chen was teased mercilessly for this as a child, reducing her to tears. But in 2006 she made a decision that would completely change her life –  to embrace herself and her appearance. Chen is now a full time Mao impersonator, an extremely popular one.

Impersonating Chairman Mao isn’t exactly a piece of cake. It’s a demanding and controversial job, because female impersonators of Mao aren’t very common in China. To look the part, Chen has to touch up her face, wear a Zhongshan suit and arrange her hair like Mao’s trademark style. She has to walk on specially made 26cm stilts, camouflaged to look like a larger shoe size. A typical performance is about 40 minutes long – Chen waves to the crowds, smokes and stares solemnly into the distance. I must say, she does a damn good job of it. It’s almost impossible to tell there’s a woman behind the costume.

Mao-Zedong-impersonator

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New Scented Candles Will Make Your Home Smell Like KFC

Isn’t it wonderful when the delicious aroma of fried chicken wafts through your home? Fires up those hunger pangs? Leads you by the nose right to the kitchen, where you expect to sit down to a sizzling snack? But what if there was none?

With the new range of KFC-scented candles from Kentucky for Kentucky, you can experience a delectable aroma without the chicken, without the calories. The candles are meant to celebrate the fact that Kentucky is the first state to have ever fried chicken.

The Kentucky by Kentucky website proudly declares: “Our mission is to engage and inform the world by promoting Kentucky people, places and products.” The candles are a latest addition to this mission, available in three scents – Fried Chicken Actual, Ale 8 (Kentucky’s official soft drink) and Derby Actual (inspired by the famous Kentucky Derby).

Kentucky-by-Kentucky-candles

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Concussion Turns Ordinary Man into Musical Genius, Overnight

If getting hit on the head means that I’d get to be a kickass musician for the rest of my life, I think I would seriously consider it. It sounds impossible, but something of the sort happened to 41-year-old Derek Amato. He really didn’t have a choice about it, though.

Derek had no idea his life was about to change forever when he dove into the shallow end of a pool to catch a football at a party. He hit his head and had a concussion, resulting in Acquired Savant Syndrome – a rare condition where people display profound abilities (called savant skills) after suffering head trauma, abilities that they didn’t have at birth. In Derek’s case, the acquired ability is music.

Derek is one of only 30 people in the world with this rare condition and the only one to have acquired music as a savant skill. Before the fall, he just dabbled in guitar and had no idea how to read or write music. And now he can play eight different instruments with the ease of a professional musician. Watching him play on video, it’s pretty hard to believe this man has had no formal training in music at all.

derek-amato

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The Cotton Ball Diet – A Dangerous Weight-Loss Trend

I thought the Tapeworm diet was as bad as weight loss fads could get, but I was mistaken. Desperate dieters keep coming up with new, innovative methods to shed pounds. The latest trend is to eat cotton balls soaked in orange juice, lemonade or smoothies.

It’s all over the internet. Chat rooms, YouTube videos and blogs are describing to young women how the cotton ball diet is done. The trend is said to have caught on after model Bria Murphy (Eddie Murphy’s daughter) admitted to seeing models subjecting themselves to this diet. “I’ve heard of people eating the cotton balls with the orange juice. They dip it in the orange juice and then they eat the cotton balls to help them feel full,” Murphy told her interviewer on Good Morning America.

The idea behind the cotton ball diet is to feel full without having to gain weight. Some practitioners stick to just eating cotton all day. Others chow down on these fillers before a meal, so they can eat less. Dieters are able to swallow as many as five juice-dipped balls in one sitting, before they feel completely full.

Cotton-ball-diet

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Polish Designer Turns Cane Toads into Fashion Accessories

In a fairy-tale world, you could kiss a frog and turn it into Prince Charming. No such luck in the real world. If it’s any consolation though, a Polish designer is converting thousands of toads into highly desirable fashion accessories. I mean, who wants men when you can have designer purses, right?

The highly poisonous cane toads live in the South Sea Islands in Australia. They are considered an invasive species, which means they are a serious threat to the native biodiversity of the continent. Introduced to Australia from Hawaii in 1935, their main purpose was to control the native cattle beetle. The mission failed and cane toads began to multiply at an alarming rate – there are now over 200 million of them. The Australian army was deployed to get rid of them by the thousands.

Putting the two stories (of Prince Charming and the Unwanted Toads) together is Polish designer Monika Jarosz. It all started when a friend gifted Monika a stuffed frog from New Zealand. “It disgusted me, but ended up fascinating me,” she says. The more she stroked it, the more she liked the idea of creating something from similar material. Soon the concept was born – leather purses and bags with the toad skin intact, head included.

frog-skin-purse

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Innocent People Getting Punched for no Reason in Dangerous Knockout Game

The Knockout Game is a disturbing trend emerging among teens in the US. A group of teens, get together and punch random passersby on streets. Their aim is to knock people out cold in a single punch. The singular move is termed the ‘one-hitter-quitter’.

Incidents of the Knockout Game have been reported throughout the US, mostly from the New York metro area and Washington. Media reports suggest that the elderly and women with children are not exempt from this brutal game. Some reporters think that the crimes have a motive; almost all the victims seem to be white, Asian, Jews, homosexuals, and sometimes even vegan. Earlier this month, CBS covered the Knockout Game in detail. One teen told reporters, “You just knock them out. You hit them with a blow and you take their belongings.” While some say that they participate simply for the fun of it, others are wannabe tough guys who want to test their strength.

One of the most recent victims of the game was Phoebe Connolly from Washington D.C. As she was riding her bike in the Columbia Heights section, a teen rushed up to her and punched her face with brute force. “My whole head went flying to the side,” she said. “One kid came from the side and pretty much cut me off. He threw a hook with his left hand and got me right in the face and he said, ‘Wapow!’”

knockout-game

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Woman Gets Platinum Jewel Implanted in Her Eye to Make Herself Unique

Lucy Luckayanko is perhaps the only New Yorker to have an eye-stud. She spent $3,000 on a one-minute procedure to have a heart-shaped piece of platinum inserted into the white of her right eyeball.

Harvard and NYU-trained Dr. Chynn performed the procedure. Interestingly, he has been featured here on OC before. He made news last August as a love-crazed doctor desperate to find his soul-mate. He spent thousands of dollars on high-end matchmaking services and charity donations in exchange for dates. When nothing worked out, he began to offer free cosmetic procedures to anyone who would introduce him to the girl of his dreams. Going by this, we don’t know if Lucy has had to pay for her treatment or got it free in exchange for setting up Dr. Chynn on a date. In any case, she went ahead with it and now she looks like she has a piece of dirt stuck in her eye forever.

It seems doctors have done this procedure several times in Europe and Los Angeles, but this was New York’s first. To perform it, Dr. Chynn first injected an anesthetic into Lucy’s eye. Then he made a tiny incision to “try to divide a pocket in between the sclera (the white part) and the conjunctiva (the clear part)” of her eye. Using forceps, he placed the 3.5mm platinum stud in a drop of water on Lucy’s eye membrane. Since the stud is so small, it had to be floated into position. It was all over in a matter of minutes and Lucy went home with her new bejeweled eye soon after.

eye-implant

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David Foster’s Amazing Hammered-Nail Portraits

Who would have ever thought that fine art could be created out of something as crude as a hammer and a bunch of nails? I’ve seen several art forms made using Pointillism before, but former architect David Foster’s work is quite unique. At first glance, it’s hard to believe that his breathtaking portraits were once a plain box of nails.

David’s art covers a range of subjects: celebrities, animals, flowers and get this – even a hammer and nail! The level of precision and realism in his art is a result of years of practicing and perfecting his technique. On his website he says, “I have always been fascinated with how little information the brain needs to interpret a picture.” He loves the simplicity of a picture just made out of dots.

When he started making portraits, David worked only with ink. He began experimenting with nails only in the past couple of years. He starts with a photograph of the subject, which he painstakingly reproduces by stippling with an ink pen. He enlarges the inked drawing to mark out where the nails go. Then the nailing begins, and many thousands of nails later, the piece is complete. On an average, his smaller drawings number about 5,000 nails, while larger ones can have as many as 30,000. David’s prize winning piece made from 16,000 nails is called Lashes and Nails.

David-Foster-art

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A Truly Dirty Job: Guy Predicts the Future by Analyzing Poop

Harry and Ron hated their divination lessons. Hermione stormed out of one, never to return again. Professor Trelawney was a real nut-job. I could feel the pain of these characters as I read the Harry Potter books; divination always seemed like such a farce. But now I think that maybe they didn’t have it so bad after all. I mean, all they had to do was make up a bunch of dreams and detect patterns in tea-leaves. It’s not like they had to do what S.S. Singh does in real life to predict the future – analyze human poop.

Believe it or not, poop-analysis is a real branch of divination study. It even has a name – Scatomancy. Singh is one of the few practitioners of this long-lost art and he is being featured in a documentary called ‘Journey to Planet Sanity’, releasing Dec 6th. I just watched a video clip of Singh analyzing some poop and… oh well, what can I say? It’s as disgusting as it sounds.

“It’s a lost art,” says Singh. “You’d be surprised how accurate it actually is.” What really surprise me are the events in the video clip. This is what happens: In the film, skeptic Blake Freeman is travelling around the United States with his friend, Leroy Tessina. Leroy is paranoid about aliens and paranormal activity, and has spent his life savings on protecting himself from such things. Freeman needs to convince Leroy to go on this trip with him, and so he takes Leroy to see Singh.

Scatomancer

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Slum-Like African Resort Gives Rich Tourists a Taste of Hard Life

A Shanty is a small hut made out of old corrugated iron sheets or other waterproof material. It is a place of dwelling for the poor, often lacking in basic amenities like electricity or running water. To be living in one, you’d have to be going through an extremely rough patch in life.

Except of course, when your shanty is located in Shanty Town, and you’re just playing ‘poor’. Yes, as bizarre as it sounds, there are people in this world who think playing poor is a fun sport. And resorts like Shanty Town exist to help them achieve the experience.

Shanty Town is a part of Emoya Estate, a South African five-star luxury game reserve and spa. It comes equipped with corrugated metal huts that can accommodate up to 52 guests. Over here, the rich get to live like the poor. But no, not entirely like the poor. The environment is safe and the shanties are equipped with conveniences like running water, electricity and Wi-Fi. The interiors aren’t too bad either – the beds look clean and comfortable, there are refrigerators, televisions, tables, chairs and cabinets. Oh, and did I mention under-floor heating? Yes, they have that too.

ShantyTown

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