Onbashira – Japan’s Riskiest Celebration

Held every six years, in the Nagano area of Japan, Onbashira Festival is believed to have continued uninterruptedly, for the last 1200 years.

Onbashira, literally translated as “the sacred pillars”, is a Japanese tradition that symbolizes the renewal of Suwa Grand Shrine. It consists of two phases: Yamadashi and Satobiki, the first held in April, and the second in May. Before Onbashira begins, 16 tree trunks, cut form 200-year-old Japanese fir trees are cut down. Each tree can be up to 1 meter across, 16 meters tall and weigh up to 12 tons.

Yamadashi is translated as “coming out of the mountains” and is the most popular part of the festival. Teams of men have to drag the logs down the mountain, to Suwa Shrine. At some points they encounter steep slopes where they must slide the tree trunks. In a ceremony called Ki-otoshi, brave young men risk their lives by climbing on the trunks and riding the all the way down the muddy slopes. It takes 3 days to move the sacred tree trunks, over 10 kilometers, to the shrine.

Satobiki involves placing the logs at the four corners of the four buildings that make up Suwa Grand Shrine. Using ropes, teams have to pull up the giant tree trunks in a vertical position, with young men sitting on them. Those still on the logs after they are positioned, perform all sort of feats.

On Sunday, during the 2010 edition of Onbashira Festival, a man was crushed to death by a tree trunk, during Satobiki. One of the ropes came loose and hit the 38-year-old man in the head. Several others were injured in the accident.

Photos via Daylife

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Bacon AT-AT Looks Better than the Star-Wars Original

The guys at This Is Freakin Ridiculous have come up with an original way to celebrate Bacon Day: create a 3 feet-tall Bacon AT-AT.

For bacon-munching Star-Wars fans out there, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Last year TIFR celebrated Bacon day with the BA-K-47 and decided to follow up with something even cooler. And what’s cooler than 40 lbs of bacon slapped on a foam model of the AT-AT?

This baby took 21 hours of non-stop work to complete, and the guys who made it strongly recommend you never cook 40 lbs of bacon in one sitting. It’s just too dangerous. But the result is so awesome, I can say it’s the best bacon sculpture I’ve seen so far.

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German Designer Builds House Out of Beer Coasters

21-year-old Sven Goebel set a new Guinness World Record for the biggest house made of regular beer coasters.

The five-room flat Goebel had been working on, since January, was presented to the media, on Sunday, April 11, in Volgeslang, near the German town of Schleiden. The beer coaster house, which was partially furnished with armchairs, a table and a fireplace, was made up of around 300,000 individual beer coasters.

The young German designer spent 6-8 hours every day, seven days a week, adding up to 1,000 beer coasters, daily, to complete his delicate masterpiece. But, on Sunday, he sent his own work tumbling down,with just one quick flick of the wrist, and a few kicks.

Why would anyone do that, after so much work, you ask. Well, apparently, young Sven Goebel wanted to prove to everyone that his beer coaster house wasn’t held together by glue, or anything else.

Photos by REUTERS via Daylife

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Bolivia’s Day of the Skulls

Dia de los Natitas (Day of the Skulls) is an ancient Bolivian ritual where skulls are decorated with flowers and pampered with cigarettes, coca leaves and other treats.

Every November 9, the central cemetery, in La Paz, Bolivia, becomes the scene of a bizarre pre-Columbian tradition, known as Dia de los Natitas.  Women carrying skulls, in decorated wooden or cardboard boxes, fancy glass cases and even in plastic bags, gather outside the cemetery to show off their skulls. They are usually decorated with flower petals (hydrangeas and roses) and covered with knitted colorful caps.

Some Bolivians believe a person has seven souls, and one of them remains in the skeleton, after they’ve been buried. Once the other souls have left for heaven, the remains are dug up and the skull taken home and cared for. If they’re not respected, skulls can bring bad luck to a household, ruin the harvest and even break up a family. But if they’re properly taken care of, you can ask the skull for favors.

A big part of caring for the skull is represented by the Dia de Las Natitas celebration. Skulls are offered cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol and are even serenaded by street musicians.

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Jabuticaba – The Grape Tree That Fruits on Its Trunk

I remember seeing a tree that had flowers on most of its trunk, but I’ve never even heard of a tree that laid fruit directly on its trunk. Have you?

Jabuticaba, also known as the Grape Tree, is a unique tree found around South-American countries like Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Unlike other trees, its fruit can be plucked and eaten right off the trunk. In order to survive, Jabuticaba has evolved in order to make its fruit more accessible to animals who can’t climb. This way they can reach the fruit, eat it and expel the seeds far away from the parent tree.

Jabuticaba fruits are purple, juicy, and can be either eaten fresh, used in jellies, or left to ferment and made into wine and strong liquor. Dried Jabuticaba fruit peels can be used to treat asthma and diarrhea, and scientists hope it will prove useful in the fight against cancer, as several anti-cancer compounds have been identified in the fruit.

It may look like these tree have been infected by some sort of plant disease, but it’s just evolution at work.

via Kuriositas

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Orangutan Boxing Matches Held in Thailand

A Thai theme-park, outside Bangkok has become a popular tourist attraction by organizing orangutan boxing matches.

Huge crowds of tourists and “sport” enthusiasts gather at Safari World to watch orangutans duke it out in 30 minute-boxing matches. Forced to wear boxing gloves and shorts, the two primates have been trained to hit each other for the entertainment of man. Although organizers claim the orangutans have been trained to simulate being knocked-down, animal activists say it’s a clear case of animal cruelty.

It’s sad to see thousands of tourists cheer as two 250-pound primates pummel each other, or hear them whistling when a female orangutan, wearing a bikini, displays the round number, but it’s the world we’re living in. These peaceful creatures don’t fight because they like to, but because they’ve been trained to do so, an because they would be beaten if they didn’t.

The Thai government shut down the monkey boxing matches, in 2004, and it’s yet unclear how this bizarre and cruel show is still allowed.

Photos by Barcroft India

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Russians Blow Up Their Own Weapons

Russia’s blow-up weapons might seem funny, but they play a crucial role in the country’s strategy to keep their real arsenal hidden from prying eyes.

The inflatable decoys were commissioned by the Russian government, to protect their real military capabilities from surveillance satellites. The company making them, Rusbal, says they imitate the heat signature of real military vehicles and look so realistic that’s it’s easy to mistake them for the real thing, even from short distances.

These blow-up weapons are only around 100 kg heavy and can be easily transported and set up by small teams, in a matter of minutes. They’ll also stay intact in case of gunfire or small explosions.

Even though this type of inflatable decoys have been very popular in World War II and the Cold War, they are just as important and useful now as they were then. Rusbal says they are now creating inflatable decoys for Russia and several other Western countries.

Photos via CCTV

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Saimir Strati – The Master of Mosaics

One of the world’s best known mosaic artists, Saimir Strati, from Albania, has created some of the most original and impressive mosaics in history. For his creations he has been rewarded with four Guinness Records and international fame. From nails to paintbrushes, Strati can almost any kind of material to create amazing mosaic masterpieces. Let’s have a look at his four most memorable achievements:

The photos used in this post are copyright of Saimir Strati and mosaicart-sast.

Nail Leonardo Da Vinci mosaic

In 2006, Saimir Strati would shock the art world with his giant mosaic of Leonardo Da Vinci, made entirely from nails. It was 6 1/2 x 13 feet and held over 800 lbs of nails. Each nail acted as a pixel, rising and falling to depict every detail of Da Vinci’s face.

It took 500,000 nails and 24 days to complete, but this nail mosaic won Saimir Strati his first Guinness Record, for the World’s Biggest Nail Mosaic.


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Who Knew Snails Could Grow This Big

Giant African Snails are the largest species of snails on the planet, with a shell that can grow up to 30 cm long and 15 cm in diameter.

Native to the tropical forests of Ghana, Africa, Giant African Snails live in tropical conditions, with no natural enemies. That, combined with the fact each snail can lay up to twelve hundred eggs per year, makes their large population, a problem. wherever a colony of these giant snails settles down, all other species of tree snails go extinct. Their insatiable appetite for any kind of plants and fruits, makes Giant African Snails pests, in their homeland. Just so you can get an idea, these things eat even the stucco and paint, buildings.

Like all snails, GAS are hermaphrodite and very prolific. Just one pair of snails can turn into an 8 to 10 billion colony, in their 5-7 year life span. Another half cycle like this, and we’re looking at 16 quadrillion giant crawlers. It’s a scary image, especially since they can bury themselves for up to 6 months, if the climate isn’t right for them

While they’re regarded as parasites, in Africa, in the Western World, Giant African Snails are some of the most coveted pets on the market, because of their intelligence and ability to reproduce sounds. Actually, I’m pulling your leg, people just like them because their huge, slimy and hard to come by.

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The Cyborg Plant of Gilberto Espaza

Nomadic Plants is a quirky project of Mexican artist, Gilberto Espaza, that possible symbiosis between vegetation and technology.

This is not Gilberto Espaza’s first such project. Last year, he unleashed his Urban Parasites on Mexico City. The small machines, made from recycled consumer goods, roamed the urban area in search of power sources they could feed on.

This year, the Mexican artist has an even more interesting project prepared. His Nomadic Plants installation focuses on the symbiosis between plants, micro-organisms and technology. A few river plants and bacteria live inside the Nomadic Plants robot, and whenever the life-forms inside it need nourishment, the machine searches the nearest polluted water-source and “drinks” from it.

A microbial fuel cell process decomposes the water’s elements and turns them into energy for the robot, and the rest is used to feed the plants and organisms inside. Gilberto Espaza said he was inspired to create this cyborg plant after reading about the microbial fuel cell that inspired him to take on the theme of environment pollution.

The Nomadic Plants installation is on display at Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Center, in Gijon, Spain, until June 2010.

via We Make Money Not Art

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102-Year-Old Student Proves You’re Never to Old to Learn

Ma Xiuxian never had the opportunity to attend school, as a child, but she is making up for that in her later years.

The 102-year old Chinese woman, from Jinan, Shandong province, began working at a cotton mill, at the age of 13, and married when she was only 18. She gave birth to nine children, seven of which attended universities. Her children remember Ma Xiuxian and her husband made great sacrifices, in order to support their studies, but never got the chance to fulfill her own dream, of going to school, for the first time.

After being interviewed by a local newspaper, and revealing her dream, on March 31, Ma Xiuxian was invited to the Weishan Road Elementary School, to attend her first class. Equipped with a schoolbag and a large magnifying glass (for reading), Ma entered the class in the applause of her primary school classmates. The 102-year-old student commented she was very proud to be able to go to school, and that she will study hard to bring her contribution to the motherland.

Photos by QUIRKY CHINA NEWS/REX FEATURES

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The Cool Robotic Sculptures of Andrea Petrachi

Italian artist, Andrea Petrachi uses things most other people throw away, to create amazing robotic sculptures.

Milan-based Andrea Petrachi was born in 1975, in the Italian city of Lecce, and quickly began taking things apart. Nobody suspected such a seemingly destructive activity would eventually stand at the base of his artistic genius. He takes old stuff like broken electronics, used toys and recycled materials, breaks them into pieces, and reassembles them as cool robotic sculptures.

Known also as “Himatic” Andrea Petrachi currently works as a video editor for RAI television. Feel free to check out his entire portfolio of unique robotic figurines, on his official site.

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Indian Students Write World’s Longest Letter to God

A group of students from an Indian university celebrated their silver jubilee year, by setting a new world record for the longest letter.

The Brahmakumaris youth wing of Gujarat University found an original way to celebrate their silver jubilee year, the university’s diamond jubilee year and 600 years since the establishment of Ahmedabad city. They decided to organize an event where people could write their own letter to God.

In just 3 hours time, 2,800 people wrote down their feelings of gratitude for their happy lives and also asked the removal of poverty and protection from terrorism, corruption and other evils. The letter ended up being 2,841 feet long.

Participants were grateful for such an occasion to thank God for everything He helped them achieve in life, and organizers say this kind of event is perfect for people who want to learn how to write letters to God.

The previous record for the World’s Longest Letter was established by 2,000 of my Romanian countrymen who wrote a 1,358 feet-long letter for Santa Claus.

via WorldAmazingRecords

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Chinese Seamstress Works with Her Feet

Born without arms, Liu Jianming has learned to sew using her feet, ever since she was a teenager. and still creates beautifully embroidered works of art.

The old seamstress could never afford to rent or buy a shop, to work in, so she spends her days working on a street corner, in the Chinese city of Kunming, Yunnan province. What other seamstresses struggle to do with their hands, she accomplishes with only her feet, and while there are those who doubt her abilities, they become believers, once they see her at work.

But as she’s getting older, her job becomes more and more difficult. Her feet are just as nimble as they’ve always been, but her eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Still, Liu Jianming continues to sew, as it’s her only way of supporting herself.

Photos by europics via austriantimes

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Chinese Cooking Robot Cooks Over 600 Dishes

It’s official, China is trying to get this cooking thing completely automated. A week after a retired engineer presented his DIY robot cook, another springs up .

The students of Yangzhou University, in Yangzhou, China partnered up with an enterprise from Shenzen, to create a fully automated robotic cook. Their result is nothing short of impressive, considering the machine can cook over 600 dishes from Chinese cuisine. All anyone has to do is put in the necessary ingredints, program the robot and weight for the dish to be served.

Bad news for Liu Changfa, the retired engineer who presented his own patented robot cook. Iguess hi dream of selling one to every restaurant in China, won’t be coming true, after all.

Photos by Zhao Jun/Xinhua

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