Raisin Monday at St. Andrews University

Freshmen have always had it a little rough in college, but at the St. Andrews University, in Scotland, their plight at the hand of senior students has become a celebrated tradition called Raisin Monday.

The traditions of Raisin Monday date back to the early days of St. Andrews. New students (also known as “bejants” and “bejantines”) had to show their gratitude to seniors, for showing them the ropes around campus, and a pound of raising was considered an expensive and tasty enough sign of appreciation. With the passing of time, some freshmen started ignoring the custom, so senior students came up with of receipts written in Latin acknowledging the receipt of the pound of raisins. If one of the freshmen students didn’t have such a receipt, he would get doused in one of the local fountains. Another reason for a dousing was the challenge of the receipt, by a senior, for mistakes in written Latin.

Throughout the years since St. Andrews University opened its gates in 1410, the traditions of Raisin Monday have changed according to the times. Nowadays, new students have to buy seniors a bottle of wine as a token of gratitude, and the dousing in water fountains has been replaced by a general fight with shaving foam.

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The Ledger Paper Buildings of Jill Sylvia

Artist Jill Sylvia uses ledger paper sheets to create amazing replicas of famous buildings, like the US capitol or the White House. One thing is for sure, you don’t have to like accounting to fall in love with her art.

Usually used to compile accounting information, ledger sheets become a very original art medium, in the hands of Jill Sylvia. Using a drafting knife, she removes the spaces where numbers are supposed to be, by hand, leaving only the grid separating the boxes. She then uses the resulting lattice to create intricate artworks, including models of American structures. I’d say it’s a great way of reusing a now obsolete material to create timeless artworks.

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Chinese Stuntman Munches on Light Bulbs

Zhang Yujian, a Chinese stuntman from Mudanjiang City, Heilonjiang Province, has eaten two light bulbs during his performance, on Monday. XInhua reports the glass-eating master has a record of three light bulbs eaten in just 120 seconds. Now, I’m not sure if he eats the entire thing, but he certainly made short work of the sharp glass, without any serious cuts.

I knew the Chinese had some pretty bizarre foods, at least for my taste, but Zhang Yujian is taking things a little too far. I wonder if he’d be interested in meeting Russia’s sand-eating woman, I bet they’d hit it off.

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The All Saints Day Giant Kite Festival of Guatemala

Every November 1st, the people of Santiago Sacatepéquez , Guatemala celebrate the Day of the Dead by flying giant colorful kites, during the All Saints Day Kite Festival.

Known as “barilletas gigantes” in Spanish, the giant kites of Santiago Sacatepéquez are masterpieces that take great skill and patience to complete. Months before the Kite Festival, teams of people begin work on the colorful kites that will bring them great honor and the respect of their peers, on the big day. A giant kite is made of cloth and paper tied to a bamboo frame, and features a colorful design, usually with a religious or folkloric theme. In recent years, designs have been hinting at the ever-growing corruption of the Guatemala government.

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The Chewing Gum Portraits of Jason Kronenwald

Jason Kronenwald is an extraordinary artist who creates incredible celebrity portraits out of chewed pieces of bubblegum.

Gum Blondes” is a series of portraits of famous blondes, from Britney Spears to Madonna and even Hillary Clinton. Although I’m pretty sure he isn’t the first artist to do portraits of these stars, he is the first one to do it using only chewing gum. Jason Kronenwald executed his first chewing gum artwork in 1996, and over the years improved his technique to the point where you couldn’t guess the only medium is colored bubblegum. He recently opened a new exhibition of portraits, entitled “A Fresh Pack of Gum Blondes.”

While I’ll admit it’s hard to believe, Jason adds no dye to his chewing gum portraits. Colors and tones are obtained by simply chewing a variety of colored gum, regardless of their brand. He even has a team of chewers, so he doesn’t put any gum in his mouth, unless he absolutely has to. Each portrait is created on a plywood surface, which is then sealed with an epoxy resin that protects and preserves it for long periods of time.

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China Showcases the World’s Largest Luminous Pearl

A mystery to the western world, luminous pearls are legendary in China, and people go to great lengths for a chance to even touch one of them. The largest luminous pearl has just been placed on display, in China’s Hainan province.

Very little is known about the giant green pearls of China. The few who actually have heard of these remarkable jewels refer to them as “Yemengzhu” and praise them to be rarities that bring good luck. They have been a part of Chinese legends for centuries, and people there believe that just touching them can bring great fortune and prosperity. But this kind of myths are all to common in a traditional country like China, and what makes Yemengzhu special has little to do with local lore.

Luminous pearls are wonders of the mineral world that shine in the dark without the help of ultraviolet light. This kind of Fluorite is so rare that western geology don’t even recognize its existence, and the Chinese only discovered the first one in 1982, at a Tungsten mine, in Guangdong. Since then, bigger and bigger deposits were discovered, and the largest one yet weighs 6 tons and is 1.6 meters in diameter. When it was discovered, it had an irregular shape, but was ground in the form of a sphere. The process took three years to complete, because of its tough nature, comparable to the finest grade of diamonds.

The largest luminous pearl is currently exhibited in Wenchang, China’s Hainan province, and has been appraised at 2.2 billion yuan ($331 million).

 

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Japan’s Amazing Dekotora Trucks

Known as Dekotora, Decotora, or simply as Japanese art trucks, these incredible masterpieces on four wheels have become a symbol of Japan.

Dekotora is an abbreviation for “decoration truck”, and if you can say something about these trucks it’s that they are very decorated. That’s basically what defines the Dekotora art movement – adding as many decorations to your truck, as you possibly can, while keeping it operational. And making use of the ingenuity that defines the Japanese, they have been able to create some truly impressive rigs that blow your mind. Neon lights, flashy spoilers, manga and kabuki artworks are all part of a Dekotora artist’s arsenal, in his quest of creating the flashiest truck possible.

The Dekotora movement was born in 1975, when Toei released the first of its 10-movie series called “Trucker”, which featured a trucker who drove his overly-decorated truck all over Japan. The movie was a huge success, and people started tuning their own big rigs to resemble what they saw on screen. Dekotora truckers are very passionate about what they do, and money is no object when it comes to turning their vehicles into flashy masterpieces. They often form communities where they can show off their creations and interact with other art-truck enthusiasts. Most of them try to adorn the trucks with as many decorations as possible, while keeping them street legal, but there are those who go over the limit and create impressive Dekotora beasts that can only be admired in exhibitions.

There are three main Dekotora styles – Kansai, Kant and Retro, and starting with the late 1990s, the Gundam franchise has had a huge influence on the world of Dekotora. I guess the Japanese love robots and sci-fi,even when it comes to big flashy trucks.

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The Intricate Paper-Cut Maps of Karen O’leary

They may not be as helpful as conventional maps, when you need to find your way through a metropolis, but Karen O’leary’s hand-cut paper maps are simply stunning to look at.

Karen O’leary is definitely one of the most patient people on the planet. She spends most of her days cutting away at thick white watercolor sheets of paper, until she creates jaw-dropping replicas of conventional city maps. While you could easily mistake Karen’s hand-cut maps with laser-cut ones, the amount of time and patience she puts into every one of her works makes them unique masterpieces. For each one of her maps, the artist spends a great deal of time drawing it in detail, and only after begins the painstaking process of cutting.

If you’d like to own one of Karen O’leary’s intricate hand-cut paper maps, you can find a wide range of cities, from Madrid to Sydney, at her online Etsy shop. While the $1,100 price tag may seem a bit discouraging, judging by the amount of effort Karen puts into her art, you’ll find it’s a bargain.

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Khalid Nabi – Not Your Average Cemetery

The Khalid Nabi cemetery, in northern Iran has become a popular attraction for both locals and tourists, because of its strange tombstones shaped as male and female sexual organs.

Scientists say the bizarre cemetery is around 1,400 years old, and judging by the number of headstones, it’s the final resting place of at least 600 people, the most important of which is Khalid Nabi, a prophet born 40 years before Muhammad. You’d be inclined to be believe most people come to the cemetery as pilgrims to a prophet’s grave, but you couldn’t be more wrong; they actually come to see the penis and breast-shaped tombstones.

Nobody knows exactly what the 6-foot-tall columns shaped like phalluses and the smaller, cross like-headstones that resemble female breasts are meant to symbolize, but the mere fact that a wacky attraction like the Khalid Nabi cemetery gets this kind of attention, in a country like Iran, is weird enough. Some scientists say the weird tombstones could have been influenced by the phallic religion practiced in India and central Asia, but most of the visitors don’t even care, they just came here to see some funny penis-shaped rocks.

I’m just not sure who Iran is going to blame for this, but I’m sure they’ll somehow relate the phallus stones to some “capitalist pigs”.

 

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Real-Life Barbie Suite Is the Ultimate Girls’ Pad

If you’ve always wanted to be like Barbie and live in her pink dream-house, you’re about to get your wish. A hotel in the Italian Alps has opened a series of rooms decorated just like Barbie’s miniature pads.

The owners of the Grand Hotel Savoia, at the Cortina ski resort, thought they’d celebrate Barbie’s 50th anniversary by decorating some of their rooms with real-life furniture and decoration you’d normally only find in Matel’s play sets. That’s right girls, you’ll get the chance to live it up like Barbie for as long as you or your parents can afford it, surrounded by the popular dolls favorite clothes and accessories, including skirts, lace-up dresses, corsets, toy-like chairs and even a sunburst mirror made from Barbie dolls

Italian interior designer described the recently inaugurated Barbie rooms as “the ultimate girls’ pad with details celebrating Barbie’s love of pink.” Barbie fans can book their stay in one of these life-size Barbie homes until the end of next March.

Yesterday the news about a Hello Kitty theme park in Japan, now this…This just hasn’t been my week!

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Sharpie-Painted Car Looks Sharp

A Mazda Miata owner used a number of sharpies to give his favorite car some really cool-looking tattoos.

“Mighty” Mike Niemann of Team Miataka Racing spent 22 days and $100 in sharpies giving his 1992 Mazda Miata a radical new look. After carefully drawing the entire thing by hand, he added a clear coat so his impressive masterpiece doesn’t get ruined by the first falling rain drops.

Mike’s sharpie-painted Miata is definitely impressive, but it’s not the first sharpie-tattooed car. That probably goes to this gorgeous Lamborghini.

 

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Just What the World Needed – Hello Kitty Theme park Opens in Tokyo

As if the world didn’t have enough of their annoying icon, Hello Kitty, the Japanese thought they’d open a new theme park as well.

If you’re a regular visitor of Oddity Central, you probably already know I’m not the world’s biggest Hello Kitty fan. I’ve featured quite a few strange Hello Kitty stuff, from a pink assault rifle to a Hello Kitty-themed Ferrari. Now, it brings me great…honor to present to you Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise, a Hello Kitty theme park that just opened in Tokyo.

I guess the Japanese didn’t want to look bad, after their Chinese neighbors built a Hello Kitty castle, and a nice new pink theme park was just the thing. Located on Odaiba Island, Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise opened on October 22nd, and hopes to attract as many as 700,000 Hello Kitty fans in its first year. While the despicable icon has tons of fans in Japan’s capital, not many of them bothered to check out the theme park, probably because Odaiba is quite a long way from central Tokyo, and many of them don’t care to make the long trip. Let’s just hope the place stays empty and they’ll be forced to close it down soon, because unless you’re the Pink Lady, human eyesight just can’t handle all that pink.

In case you’re interested, the 10,000 square-foot park features a big Hello Kitty shop, where you can find all kinds of accessories, toys and other pink junk, a Hello Kitty pancake restaurant, a small theater, a big statue of Hello Kitty and a whole bunch of other pink, girly stuff fans go crazy about.

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Meet the “Smartest” Man in China

With nine educational diplomas under his belt, Zhou Baokuan can definitely claim the title of “smartest man in China.”

When it comes to education, we all want the best for our kids, but I think Zhou Baokuan’s parents might have pushed him a little to far, when he was a child. I mean, the man started studying and even though he is now 53 years old, he has no intention of stopping.

In recognition of his incredible desire to study, an organization known as China World Records Association decided to award Zhou the title of “man with most diplomas in the world.” Over the course of 35 years of intense studying (sometimes without sleep) the man earned a total of nine diplomas, including three doctoral diplomas and two masters degrees. Zhou, a resident of Shenyang City, admits it wasn’t easy getting this many diplomas, and reckons he spent around 126,500 hours studying for them

Believe it or not, Zhou Baokuan is currently studying to get his fourth doctoral degree, at Fudan University.

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Prince Saint Vladimir – The World’s First and Only Chapel Boat

The Prince Saint Vladimir is basically an old boat converted into a floating church that could make the sacred relics on board accessible to people in remote areas along the Volga River.

This isn’t the world’s first floating church, communities living on water have built plenty of them all around the world, but the Prince Saint Vladimir (named after the saint who baptized Russia) is the world’s first self-propelled chapel boat. Built back in 2004, the unique church was designed to reach even the shallowest waters, so that all the people of the Volvograd region could have access to a church and priest. There were two other similar churches built before, but because they were practically converted barges, they could only be moved by tugboats. The Prince Saint Vladimir is, however, a self-propelled craft.

On September 13, 2010, the great river voyage of the Prince Saint Vladimir began. The floating church will travel around 3,000 kilometers along the shores of the Volga, from the river mouth, all the way to Moscow. It will make stops in both cities and small communities along the shores, allowing people access to relics of eight great saints from the era of the Undivided Church. Its voyage will take the sacred ship to areas that have suffered from drought and terrible wildfires, and the Russian Church hopes it will bring comfort to locals.

Along with the captain and ship crew, a priest will be on board the Prince Saint Vladimir at all times, and he will celebrate the Sacred Liturgy at every stop.

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Bridget Polk – The Rock Lady of New York

Bridget Polk is a New York resident who came to be known as the “Rock Lady”, by fellow New Yorkers who saw her amazing balancing rocks, on the banks of the Hudson River.

Polk, a 50-year-old personal assistant from the upper West Side, began experimenting with rock balancing about a year ago. The idea had been planted in her head a while ago, when a friend showed her the works of a rock balancing artist in Sausalito, and added that she probably couldn’t do it herself. Competitive by nature, Bridget took the comment as a challenge and began practicing rock balancing, on her daily walks along the Hudson River.

She soon found that she had a natural talent for the art of rock balancing, and that it inspired her and people who laid eyes on her works. And that’s understandable, because Bridget Polk’s rock balancing skills are truly remarkable, enabling her to stack rocks in seemingly impossible positions, with their wide ends in the air, balancing on a tiny tip.

When she sees photographers and passers-by admiring her rock balancing masterpieces, Bridget admits she’s tempted to walk up to them and say something like “I did that!”, but she prefers to just stand back and observe people’s reaction. Some of them knock down the rocks, to convince themselves they aren’t glued together, but most of them just try to add to her work or build rock stacks of their own. Regardless of their reactions, Bridget Polk says she feels happy about making any kind of contribution to their daily lives.

The Rock Lady of New York will soon be leaving the Big Apple, to live with her partner, in Portland, Oregon, but she has made sure her rock balancing legacy will live on even after she’s gone. She has been teaching some of her admirers the secrets of the art, and she’s certain that with a bit of practice, they’ll soon follow in her footsteps.

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