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Conquer Your Fears in China’s Snake Village

Nestled in the heart of a vast farmland in East China’s Zhejiang province, the small village of Zisiqiao has a pretty common look, but it hides a scary secret. The aptly names “snake village” is home to thousands of the most feared snaked species on Earth.

Snakes are a vital ingredient in Chinese medicine, and are also widely used to make soup and wine believed to increase a person’s immunity. As the number one snake village in China, Zisiqiao breeds and sells over 3 million snakes per year, to satisfy the ever-increasing demand. The 160 snake-breeding families living here now boast an annual income of several thousands yuan, and in this Year of the Snake, a significant profit increase is expected. The once poor village of Zisiqiao is now the envy of similar rural communities, with some of the larger snake farms making tens of thousands of dollars from this lucrative business. Obviously, it’s not the easiest job in the world, and most breeders admit they have been bitten several time, even by deadly snakes, but the rewards are definitely worth the risk.

Zisiqiao-snake-village

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Only Allowed to Whistle When Walking: The Quirky Story of the Portland Whistler

Believe it or not, whistling can get you arrested. Robert Smith, better known as The Whistler, in the city of Portland, was actually thrown in jail for disturbing people with his constant whistling and has now been ordered by a judge to only whistle when walking, so he doesn’t annoy businesses and passers-by in any one area.

“It came from God — that’s where it came from,” Robert Smith says about the origins of his passion for whistling. “God is showing me what I’m doing is OK. He shows me every day with laughter.” He’s referring to the reactions of people who seem amused by his constant whistling. But, unfortunately for him, laughter is not the only reaction triggered by his almost daily habit. Businesses around Portland have been filing complaints about The Whistler’s behavior, and when they just kept piling up, the Police Department finally picked him up ant even took him to court for disorderly conduct for “loud whistling.” “It just got to the point last summer where the complaints just mounted,” said Trish McAllister, the city’s neighborhood prosecutor. “He’s so loud!” Apparently, Smith’s steady monotone notes are so strong they can be heard a block away.

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Who Needs a Paintbrush When You’ve Got Magic Fingers

You probably thought finger painting was just for kids, but Iris Scott is determined to prove you wrong. Wearing a pair of latex glove, the American artist dips her fingers in color paint and wiggles them on the canvas to create beautiful work of art.

“I see the world through ‘finger painted’ colored glasses,” Seattle-based Iris Scott says. “I paint what I see. Finger paintings are hiding everywhere, sometimes I catch them when I’m walking down the sidewalk, or lounging in a living room.  I search for color relationships, and intriguing forms.” The young artist discovered this ingenious painting technique while on a relaxing artistic retreat in Taiwan. She was exercising her painting techniques in an air-conditioned room, when she realized she needed to go clean her brushes before switching to bright colors. But that required leaving the room and facing the high temperatures outside, so Iris just put away her painting tools and started using her fingers. “I knew within 10 strokes that finger painting with oils was what I would spend the rest of my life doing,” the 28-year-old remembers about that very first finger-painting experience.

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Latest Fake in China – Concrete-Filled Walnuts

China has long had a reputation for making counterfeit goods, but the practice in recent years the practice has been getting really extreme. After news reports of fake eggs and fake beek made of pork, it seems concrete-filled walnuts are the latest invention of ingenious Chinese food counterfeiters.

There’s a set of photos making the rounds on the Internet these days, but even though they recently went viral, they were actually released a year ago. They show a bunch of normal-looking walnuts that when cracked open reveal a very hard filling – concrete pebbles. According to Ministry of Tofu, these fake walnuts were bought by a certain Mr. Li, last February, from a street vendor in Zhengzou, Henan province. When he got home and started cracking them, he noticed that instead of a meaty seed, many were actually filled with concrete pebbles wrapped in tissue. But Li’s case is not an isolated one. Apparently, many Chinese walnut vendors try to maximize their profits by carefully cracking open the hard shell, taking out the nutmeat, replacing it with concrete and tissue so it doesn’t make a strange noise, and gluing it shut. This way they can sell the nuts and the seeds separately.

fake-walnuts-China

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The Incredible Story of Tippi Degre, a Real Life Mowgli

Mowgli has always been one of the most-loved characters from children’s literature. I loved the Jungle Book cartoon movie when I was a kid and I must say it is a favorite even today. So when I heard about this real-life Mowgli character, I was fascinated.

Folklore and fairy-tales always mention that wild animals do not hurt the young ones of any species. But that theory hasn’t exactly been tested out in the real world, and there have been cases where babies were reportedly killed by man-eating lions or tigers. But that’s what makes Tippi Degre’s story that more special. Now 23 years old, Tippi is the only child of French wildlife photographer parents, Alain Degre and Sylvie Robert. Her parents’profession and their work in Africa made the young girl’s childhood unique, giving her the opportunity to interact with wild animals in incredible ways. She was named after actress Tippi Hedren, who is said to have kept fully-grown lions as pets in her home, and little Tippi was no different from her namesake, demonstrating early on the ability to form unusual bonds with the creatures of the wild.

Tippi-Degre

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Beautiful Word Paintings Are Made with Deconstructed Book Text

Jamie Poole works mainly as a landscape painter and art teacher, but today we’re going to look at his unique style of painting with words by using shredded poetry and book text to create   incredible works of art.

WE’ve featured some pretty unbelievable text artworks in the past, from John Sokol’s hand-written portraits of famous writers, to the detailed dog portraits of Florida-based artist Stephen Kline, but English artist Jamie Poole sets himself apart by using shredded pieces of text from poetry books and novels. His works are all large scale, meaning he has to use hundreds, sometimes thousands of deconstructed text pieces to achieve the effect he’s looking for. Despite the rigidity of the material he uses for his artistic pieces, compared to the commons paintbrush or pencil, Jamie Poole always manages to nail every detail he desires, from perfectly placed shadows, to little things like the glow in his subjects’ eyes, or rebel hair strands that make them look so much more realistic.

Jamie-Poole-text-self-portrait

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Coober Pedy – Australia’s Underground Town

Coober Pedy is a small town that’s one of a kind – for being down under in the Land Down Under. Yes, it’s the world’s only underground town, and it’s in Australia.

Located in South Australia, known for being the driest state on the driest continent on Earth, the town of Coober Pedy was established in 1915, when opal was first discovered in the region and miners started settling in. The temperature and weather conditions were so harsh that the miners began digging their homes into the hillsides. All they wanted was to find some respite from the scorching sun, but in the process they ended up creating a small town for themselves. To this day, the people of Coober Pedy prefer to build their houses under the ground. Summers are harsh around here, with temperatures easily rising over 40 degrees Celsius. Air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury, if you choose to live above ground. But the scenario is completely different in the underground homes of Coober Pedy. The temperature remains at a cool, constant 24 degrees and the humidity doesn’t go beyond 20%. Winters can be rather cold, but people are willing to make that kind of compromise.

Coober-Pedy-Australia

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Young Japanese Women Rent Out Their Bare Legs as Advertising Space

A good way to make sure your advertisement gets plenty of exposure is to place it where a lot of people are looking. With this important marketing rule in mind, one Japanese advertising service is offering brands a novel way to raise awareness to their business – placing advertising stickers on the bare thighs of young girls.

We’ve featured some pretty bizarre advertising techniques here, on Oddity Central. We’ve had people renting out their last names to the highest bidder, tattooing brand names on their faces, and even using animals as living billboards, But so far, women’s legs have been off limits. Well, not anymore; Japanese PR company Absolute Territory PR has begun paying young women to wear advertising stickers on their “absolute territory” – the part of their thighs between the edge of their miniskirts and their high socks. Apparently this area of the female thigh is very popular with Japanese men, as evidenced by the fact that it even has its own Facebook page. You’d think such a daring way of advertising would be frowned upon by most girls, but as of November of last year, over 1,300 girls had applied for the agency’s service, and their number is growing fast.
thigh-advertising-Japan

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Het Arresthuis – A Luxury Prison Hotel You Won’t Want to Escape from

After serving as one of the Netherlands most feared prisons for almost 150 years, Het Arresthuis, in Roermond, has been converted into a luxury hotel that no one wants to escape from anymore.

Het Arresthuis opened its doors in 1862, as a prison. Obviously, no one came here to stay by their own accord, during the 19th and 20th century, but things have changed a lot since then. The jail closed down for good in 2007, and now that the facility has been transformed into a luxurious hotel, guests actually pay big money to spend at least a night in one of the old holding cells. Although “cells” is not exactly the right word to describe the chic accommodations at Het Arresthuis. The 105 prisoner’s quarters have been converted into 40 spacious rooms,  including 24 standard rooms, 12 deluxe rooms, and four suites, all of which feature modern furnishings and chic interior design. They are all equipped with air conditioning, a flat screen TV, free WiFi, and even a personal coffee and tea machine, and the hotel’s include a sauna, a fitness center, a central patio with olive trees, and an organic herb garden. If you’re wondering about bars, this place has both kinds – the ones you can’t get past and the ones where you can get your drink on.

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Computer Programmer Spent Two Years Creating Awe-Inspiring World Map Mosaic from 330,000 Tiny Glass Shards

49-year-old Chris Chamberlain, an IT worker from London, England, spent the last two years of his life piecing together the “Jewel of the Universe”, a giant mosaic of Earth made with 330,000 hand-cut pieces of stained glass, each smaller than a fingernail. Now, he’s trying to sell his magnificent artwork for £250,000 ($380,000).

Chris Chamberlain has always had a thing for the arts, but he can’t paint or draw to save his life. But what he can do is cut glass into tiny little pieces, so he decided to use this skill to create his very own impressive work of art. The Jewel of the Universe project started over two years ago, in the artist’s garage. Using NASA photos of Earth, he set out to create a unique mosaic of our planet, from glass and precious stones. It took Chamberlain six months just to cut the glass into little pieces, and another 21 months to set them in just the right place on a 3.18m x 2.18m sheet of perspex, using a pair of tweezers. During this long painstaking process, the English computer programmer even had to train himself to become ambidextrous, in order to avoid repetitive strain injury. Practically every hour of his free time was spent on this incredible mosaic, and Chris admits his wife didn’t see very much of him during these last two years.

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Insect Body Snatchers – How the Jewel Wasp Turns Cockroaches into Zombies

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, I don’t need to tell you what the Imperius curse is. For the rest of you, it’s a spel used to control people’s minds. Now, if you thought something like this was possible only in J.K. Rowling’s world, well here’s some news for you. Nature’s obviously one step ahead. The Jewel Wasp or ‘Emerald Cockroach Wasp’ is actually able to control the mind of its prey, the cockroach, by injecting venom directly into its brain.

The secret to the Jewel Wasp’s ‘captivating’ abilities lies in a neurotransmitter called octopamine in the cockroach’s brain that contols its movements. The wasp’s venom blocks the octopamine, literally converting the cockroach into a zombie. This ‘zombie’ cockroach is completely unable to fight back as it is pulled by the wasp into its underground lair. If you’re wondering why the wasp would go through all this trouble to just eat a cockroach, here’s the really weird part – the cockroach is meant to unwillingly play the part of surrogate mother. The wasp lays an egg into the cockroach’s abdomen, and the larva later hatches and eats the live cockroach from inside out. It takes 3 or 4 days for the larva to hatch, after which it slowly feeds on the roach’s internal organs, keeping it alive the whole time. This process takes about 7-8 days, during which the meat needs to be fresh for the larva. And because a dead cockroach rots within a day, the wasp prefers the ‘stun’ method. Once the roach is eaten up completely and it dies, the larva forms a cocoon inside it. A fully-grown wasp emerges from the cockroach carcass a month later.

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Dangerous Hands – Ukrainian Hairdresser Cuts Hair Blindfolded

Oleg Maksakov, a hairdresser from Sevastopol, Ukraine, has a very unique way of cutting his clients’ hair – wearing a blindfold and masterfully wielding two pairs of scissors at the same time.

Most clients visiting a hairdresser are worried they might get a bad haircut, but Oleg Maksakov’s customers are more worried about getting one or both of their ears sliced off. That’s because the young Ukrainian likes to cut hair with both hands and wearing a blindfold. He has been a hairdresser for 10 years, but only recently took up the dangerous challenge of cutting hair blindfolded. “I wanted to test my skill level,” he told TSN. First he learned to cut hair with his left hand, than with both hands at the same time, and finally, while blindfolded. “It’s kind of like meditation,” Oleg says. “Each haircut for me is extreme. The structure of hair, different people, it all goes a different way every time.” According to local media, Maksakov has become very popular after word of his special skills spread in Sevastopol, but his very first client was the person that trusts him the most – his mother.

Oleg-Maksakov

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Meet the German Family Who Lives without (Almost) Any Money

29-year-old Rafael Fellmer and his family lead a very frugal lifestyle, one that requires them to spend almost no money at all. They get their food from organic supermarket dumpsters, “pay” their rent by doing all kinds of chores around the house and use a barter system to get the things they need. They only use money when they absolutely don’t have any other choice.

Rafael Fellmer was born in a good German family. His father is a successful architect and his mother an art therapist. He himself graduated in European Studies, in Hague, so there’s no question he could have gotten a good job, if he so wanted. But a few years back, Rafael realized there were things in this world much more important than money. He started gradually reducing his expenditures by doing things that didn’t require him paying anything. The economic crisis, the global food and water shortage, climate change, they all inspired him to live a frugal lifestyle, and made him realize that giving up money is a sure way to a more stable world order. Although there are those who consider him a “deadbeat” for not getting a proper job and providing for his family from supermarket dumpsters, Rafael Fellmer commands a lot of respect from those who share his views, and he is considered the leader of the life-without-money movement that is gaining a lot of popularity in Germany.

Rafael-Fellmer

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Meet Tommy Edison, the Blind Film Critic

Being blind doesn’t stop Tommy Edison from doing the things he really wants to do. Like working as a traffic reporter for a Connecticut radio station, taking photographs, or critiquing movies – things that normally require a reasonably good eye sight. He also runs a great website where he puts up his reviews and talks about being blind.

It’s confusing at first as to how a blind person could review movies – a very visual experience. But Tommy has managed to find a way to do that, and in a way that’s both engaging and entertaining. His approach is unique. He says, “I watch movies and pay attention to them in a different way that sighted people do. I’m not distracted by all the beautiful shots and attractive people. I watch a movie for the writing and acting.” And so he’s able to deliver a review that hits the nail right on the head. I watched his review of The Dark Knight Rises. It was short, crisp and to-the-point. Several comments on YouTube reveal that people watch his reviews first, to figure out what’s a good movie to watch. Sometimes Tommy jokes around, like when he reviewed Water for Elephants he said, “I didn’t think Robert Pattison was all that much to look at. I gotta be honest with you. I don’t know what all the kids see in him. Ha ha!” His rating system is unique too. For Scream 4, he said, “Sighted people, I think you will really enjoy this movie. Blind people stay at home. I’m going to give this 2 out of 4 eyes open.”

blind-film critic

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Amazing Fantasy Creatures Brought to Life by Talented Artist

It doesn’t happen every day, but I sometime get the chance to write about something truly special. This is definitely one of those rare occasions. Ever wondered what the creatures of your imagination would look like in real life? I’m sure you have, but just like me, you probably lack the talent and patience to actually take them out of your dreams and into reality. Luckily, artist Wood Splitter Lee is both incredibly talented and patient-enough to do it. Plus, her imagination is so much better than mine…

Do you know what a Tundra Stag looks like? How about a Moondust Wolf? Relax, you’re knowledge of zoology is probably not that bad. The only way you could have know about these fantastic creatures is if you lived inside Wood Splitter Lee’s head. The young Virginia-based artist breathes life into the figments of her imagination by sculpting them in clay and covering them with vividly-colored fur. Horned wolves, fire foxes, ice dragons, forest guardians, they’re all real in Lee’s astonishing art collection and she makes them all look so incredibly life-like you’re tempted to think these stills from an awesome fantasy film you somehow missed, and not just really good photos of hand-made sculptures. As a huge fan of mystical creatures, I am in awe!

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