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.


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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.


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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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Golden Baba – Indian Holy Man Tells Followers to Live Frugally But Drapes Himself in Gold

His real name is Bittu Bhagat, but his fascination with gold earned him the nickname “Golden Baba”. Claiming to be a living saint, this Indian holy man tells his followers to live in poverty, while he covers himself in gold clothes and accessories worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Golden Baba has apparently been in the sights of Indian tax officials for some time, but he also attracted the attention of the press when he made an appearance at the sacred Kumbh Mela pilgrimage with two young European beauties hanging on his arms and wearing dozens of solid gold accessories around his neck and on his hands. He looked more like a middle-aged playboy than a holy man preaching about the rewards of a simple life free of worldly possessions. But reports claim Bittu Bhagat tells his disciples they mush shun their material wealth, even their clothes, if they want to follow him, and investigators say he only accepts donations in solid gold. Formerly a simple tailor, this Golden Baba now allegedly has a fortune of several millions of dollars and travels around in a fleet of chauffeur-driven Mercedes, Bentleys and BMWs.


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Sleep as a Hobo at Sweden’s Homeless Experience Hotel

It costs money to be homeless in Sweden. Well, only for a night though, at the Faktum Hotels. Located in Gothenburg, the hotel has no rooms but instead offers the complete homeless experience. Once you make a booking online, the hotel will lead you to a pre-determined place where the real homeless might spend their nights, one of 10 extraordinary locations they’ve handpicked for their guests.

A ‘room’ at the Faktum Hotels costs $10 a night and customers are free to choose their location from 10 options, including a spot under a bridge, in a derelict factory, a park bench, in forests, or even under seats at a football stadium. High quality images of all these places are available on the hotel website that actually make the experience look tempting. The descriptions accompanying the images are quite enticing and entertaining to read as well. Where else would you find an underpass described as: “Feel the city’s pulse from dawn to dusk at Gullbergsvass. This delightful dwelling is just a stroll from the romantic Dreamer’s Quay: a source of inspiration to musicians and artists alike. And all under the noble eye of the Skansen Lion from his centuries old fortress.”



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Artist Turns Adorable Teddy Bears into Creepy Zombies

Nothing seems to escape the zombie epidemic sweeping the planet; not even fluffy teddy-bears. English artist Phillip Blackman uses zombie-flick special effects makeup to turn the lovable toys into creepy undead that will keep you awake at night.

45-year-old Phillip Blackman, from Suffolk, England, says the idea for his zombified teddy-bears was born from a silly joke between him and his partner. “She had a terrible cold at the time and we’d been talking about a gift for a friend’s baby. With a very stuffy nose ‘teddy-bear’ kept coming out as ‘deady-bear’, and we joked about zombie teddies that creep from under your bed at night to feast on your brains while you sleep,” the artist remembers. He eventually became quite intrigued by the idea of making undead toys, so he bought a bunch of teddy-bears from eBay. But it was during that time that his girlfriend became pregnant, and in the chaos of moving to a new house and starting a family, Phillip forgot all about his creepy projects. Years later, while sorting his son’s soft toys, he came across the teddy-bears he had bought, and decided to put the his old idea into practice. And that’s how the wonderfully-creepy Undead Teds came to be. Read More »

Ultimate Freedom – The Unlikely Story of a Man Who Chooses to Be Homeless

It’s not the first time we’re hearing about someone who is homeless by choice. A while ago, we wrote about a man who lives with only 15 possessions and a college student who chooses not to live in a house. Minimalism is a concept that several people around the world are embracing, and Richard from England is one of them. What makes Richard’s story unique is how happy his homelessness has made him, in a world that sees it as a pitiable condition.

I found out about Richard from a video on Vimeo. Although it’s only about 4 minutes long, the video tells quite a powerful story, depicting Richard’s life in his own words. The young piano tuner says he used to live in an apartment with all the modern comforts, and yet that didn’t really make him happy. He had student loans and other debts that he hadn’t been able to clear for several years. And then one day, he realized how pointless it all was. “I remember specifically one afternoon I looked around my flat, looked at my LCD TV and I thought, ‘When was the last time I had time to watch that?’ And then I looked at my Playstation I had never even played. I still had this mountain of student debt, of bank loan debt which I was still scratching the surface of. And in the end, I just thought that the only thing I really value in the flat is the hot shower. Everything else, I can do without.”



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Portland Dog Kissing Contest Will Leave a Bad Taste in Your Mouth

They say a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s but is that any reason to actually kiss your canine, even if it’s on Valentine’s Day? The answer is “YES”, at least according to participants at a dog kissing contest in Portland, Maine.

The 9th Annual Valentine’s Day Dog Kissing Contest took place yesterday, at the Planet Dog Company Store in Portland, and yes, there was a lot of face licking going on. The rules of the adorable/disgusting competition are pretty simple. Owners let their canine pets lick their faces – yes, that includes their lips – and the longest cross-species kiss is declared the winner. The big prize for first place? A $75 gift certificate to the Planet Dog store. So it’s safe to say people who enter the dog kissing contest don’t do it for the money, considering everyone actually has to pay a $5 entrance fee. It’s probably just a great opportunity to show off their dog’s affection or maybe it’s to be part of a charity event (all the proceeds go to the Planet Dog Foundation). If you’re easily grossed out about mouth-to-snout smooching, I recommend you don’t watch the video at the bottom.

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Star Wars Fan Turns Living Room into Large Scale Battle of Hoth Diorama

What would you do if you had 140 feet available in your living room? You’d probably do something lame, like get a couple of armchairs, a sofa and a coffee table right? But then again you’re not an awesome Star Wars fan like Barry “Zipidi Doodah”. He turned his living room into an awe-inspiring diorama of the Battle of Hoth, from the Empire Strikes Back.

Looking at the photos below, you’re probably thinking something like “wow, this guy has sick Photoshop skills”, but the truth is none of the pics are altered in any way. The special effects you see exist in real life and were built by hand, by Barry himself. It’s unbelievable, I know, and I’m not even that big a Star Wars fan. This guy somehow got his wife to agree to let him use the 140-feet living room space, and went on to recreate the iconic Battle of Hoth with almost perfect detail. Giant AT-ATs, Imperial Probe Droids, tauntauns, gun turrets, stormtroopers, gliding starfighters, he has them all right there in his living room. Sure it’s a bit difficult to maneuver around, especially when you’re in a hurry to get to the bathroom, and there are wires hanging from the ceilings to support some of the decor, but like Barry himself admits, nothing attracts the ladies like having a big Star Wars diorama in your living room.

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The Guinea Pig Festival of Huacho Has Rodents on the Menu

It’s funny how a cute and furry pet in one part of the world can be considered a delicacy in another. But that’s exactly what guinea pigs are in the small town of Huacho in Peru. In fact, they have a whole festival dedicated to dressing up and cooking the hairy rodents – The Festival of the Guinea Pig, or as the Peruvians call it, the Cavies.

As a part of the festival that has been around since the mid-2000s, guinea pigs are dressed up as kings, miners, peasants, traditional folk singers and also in modern costume for fashion shows. There are prizes for best costume, so every effort is made to impress judges during the show. As cute as they may look in their little outfits, it’s disturbing to know that sometimes, in an effort to make the costumes stay on the guinea pigs, the people of Huacho do not hesitate to use staples. Prizes are handed out for the biggest, fastest, best-dressed and even the tastiest animal of all. Because once the parade is over, it’s time to eat the models! The guinea pigs are taken out of their costumes and cooked in various ways, like baking, frying, or roasting on an open flame. The locals love their cavies served whole on a plate – complete with the heads, guts, paws and even claws. Garnishes include tomatoes, cucumbers, Andean potatoes, and large Peruvian corn calledchoclo. And the best way to eat the animal, according to the Peruvian folk, is to pick up the entire guinea pig and simply suck the meat off the bones. A single dish of whole fried or baked guinea pig with all the garnishes costs approximately $7. According to festival visitor, Juan Rojas, “Guinea pig meat is very nourishing and contains lots of vitamins and other things.” Native to the high Andes, the meat of guinea pigs is considered to be low in fat and an important source of protein.

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Homeless Man Has Been Living in a Grave for the Last 15 Years

Bratislav Stojanovic, a 43-year-old homeless man from Serbia, has been living with the dead in a cemetery in Nis. He has made a grave his home and says he is more scared of starving and of the living than of his dead neighbors.

A former construction worker, Stojanovic has never had a regular job, and lost his home many years ago, after running up debts. For the last 15 years he has been sharing a tomb with the ashes of a family who died over 100 years ago, in Nis. He tried to make the place as cozy as possible, and claims he feels at home in it. “It is dry and it is warm,” Bratislav says. It isn’t a palace but it is more comfortable than the street.” He admits life in the cemetery was hard in the beginning, but now he’s more afraid of the living than he is of the dead. Most of Bratislav’s time is spent foraging for candles and cigarette buts around the cemetery grounds, but things have been pretty tough since the burial place went out of use and hardly anyone goes there anymore.

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Young Artist Creates Portraits from Thousands of Chewed Pieces of Gum

Anna Sophia Matveeva, from Makiivka, Ukraine creates sticky portraits of celebrities from a very unusual material – used chewing gum. Every one of her artworks numbers over 1,000 pieces of chewed gum.

22-year-old Anna Sophia Mateeva says she came up with the idea of making art with chewing gum by accident. She was traveling with a friend in a car and they were both chewing on the rubbery treat when she realized the elastic texture of the gum made it an ideal art medium. She found a few brands of colored bubble gum and decided to give it a go, only it wasn’t as easy as she thought. Instead of chewing on every piece of gum, Anna tried soaking them in water and then modelling them with her hands, but she noticed the material became crumpled and would not stick to the canvas. The artist later learned it’s an enzyme in our saliva that makes the gum such a great material to work with, so she started chewing away at her provisions, until she realized it was impossible for her to chew all the gum she needed, by herself. And this is where it gets disgusting…

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Eat My Face – 3D Printed Face in Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

Nothing says “I love you” like your detailed mug rendered in delicious chocolate. At least that’s what the Japanese at 3D-printing firm KS Design Lab and FabCafe, in Tokyo, are hoping you’ll think, as they offer patrons the chance to “chocolatize” their faces as gifts for Valentine’s Day.

Valenntine’s is big business in Japan. As we previously reported, a lot of Japanese chocolate companies record half their annual sales in the days before the romantic holiday. In the Land of the Rising Sun, only women offer gifts to men, usually in the form of chocolate sweets. Trying to stand out from the competition, 3D-printing firm KS Design Lab and Tokyo’s FabCafe, in the Shibuya district, have teamed up to offer a very original service to a group of women attending their workshop – 3D printed models of their faces in chocolate, to be given as presents on Valentine’s Day. Some of you may find them oishii (delicious), but I think they qualify more as kimoi (creepy). “We were brainstorming together about how the 3D-printing technology could appeal to consumers, when we hit on the idea of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” PR rep. Kazue Nakata explained.

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