World’s First Official Barbie Cafe Is as Pink as You’d Expect

As if Asians didn’t have enough pink in their lives, from all those crazy Hello-Kitty-themed venues, now there’s an official Barbie Cafe in Taipei, Taiwan. And yes, it has dolls, themed foods and more pink than most men can bare.

January 30th witnessed the inauguration of the world’s first official Barbie Cafe, in one of the busiest shopping districts in Taipei. The iconic doll’s maker, Mattel, licensed Taiwanese restaurant chain Sinlaku to open the themed cafe in hopes that it will promote Barbie as a fashion brand. Iggy Yip, senior manager of Mattel’s Greater China division, commented: “We picked Taiwan because theme restaurants are very popular and successful here. We are very confident that the Barbie Cafe can promote our brand image.” Indeed, the island is home to a number of unique restaurants and cafes, including one modeled after an A380 airplane, a cardboard restaurant, and even a popular toilet restaurant. But there is a special relationship between Taiwan and Barbie, as this was where the popular doll was originally manufactured, before production lines were moved to mainland China and other parts, to lower costs. In 2009, another Barbie restaurant was opened in Shanghai, China, but it closed down two years later, after it proved unsuccessful.

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Kelvin Okafor’s Photo-Realistic Drawings Are Simply Mind-Blowing

Look closely at the images below, and tell you don’t see artistic black and white photos? Well, they’re really just incredibly detailed pencil and charcoal drawings by talented British artist Kelvin Okafor. Mind blown, I know.

It’s safe to say some of the world’s most talented photographs couldn’t capture  all the details in Kevin Okafor’s portraits, and instead of high-resolution cameras, his only tools are a set of pencils, a piece of paper and sometimes a stick of charcoal. But then again, not many people have his amazing talent. Like other new-generation artists like 22-year-old Diego Fazo, or the incredible Dirk Dzimirsky, London-based Kelvin Okafor works wonders with his pencils. Too poor to leave the house and socialize, the gifted artist spent most of his childhood and teenage years improving his drawing skills. Instead of partying and clubbing like other kids his age, he found refuge in drawing, and is now reaping his rewards – he charges between £800 ($1,300) to £3,000 ($4,750) for commission works, and some of his best portraits are already being sold for as much £10,000 ($16,000). It might seem like a lot of money, but considering the quality of his work and the amount and time and patience that go into each piece, I’d say it’s worth even more.

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Artist Hides $12,600 Check in Art Gallery to Raise Public Interest

Tomas Georgeson, an artist from Buckinghamshire, England, has come up with an ingenious way of getting people to visit the local Milton Keynes Gallery – he placed an advert in the local paper informing town folk that he has hidden a blank check for £8,000 ($12,600) somewhere in the gallery and that they are invited to claim it by March 1.

There are a number of ways to get people interested in art galleries. Some people bury themselves in a tiny hole for a whole week, others give birth in front of a live audience, but probably the most effective way is to actually offer visitors financial incentives. That’s what English artist Tomas Georgeson decided to do, in a desperate attempt to raise local interest in Milton Keynes’ gallery. He has apparently hidden a blank check for £8,000 somewhere inside the small venue, which visitors are invited to look for and claim as their own. Although the bold artist says it’s pretty much all the money he has, treasure hunters can be sure it won’t bounce. He describes his unusual gesture as a statement of support for the galley, and a way to”get people through the door and change the mood of the place.”

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A Gap in Style – Front Teeth Removal Is Trendy among South African Youth

It’s rare for fashion trends to last as long as 60 years. But this one tradition has never gone out of style among generations of youth in Cape Town and other regions of South Africa – dental modification. It sounds odd, but the South African youngsters actually like to sport toothless smiles, after getting their front teeth removed. Dressed mostly in baggy sweaters and caps drawn low over shiny sunglasses, the gummy smile is unique to these young South Africans who like to strike gangster poses. According to 21-year-old Yazeed Adams, “It is fashion, everyone has it.” The trend is often referred to as the ‘Cape Flats Smile’. The name comes from a populous neighborhood where this bizarre body modification is done by a large number of teens. But Jacqui Friedling of the University of Cape Town’s human biology department, who studied the phenomenon in 2003, says that she found fashion and peer pressure to be the main reasons for removing teeth, followed closely by medical reasons and gangsterisms. “It is the ‘in’ thing to do,” she says. “It went through a wave, it was fashionable in my parents’ time.” True enough, the practice has been around for at least 60 years now. Traditionally, dental modification such as filling of teeth and ornamentation was found only in tribal people. In modern Cape Town, it is seen as a rite of passage for teenagers, most often from the poorer families. Some stories say that the tradition started from the fisherman, who couldn’t communicate with each other on boats. So they created the ‘gap whistle’ as an effective means of communication. The men today feel their ‘gaps’ attract women, and vice versa.

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Beautiful Cyberpunk Collages Made with Discarded Computer Parts

I’ve always been a big fan of steampunk and cyberpunk art, and the beautiful collages of Anna Dabrowska, a.k.a. Finnabair, are some of the most intriguing works I’ve ever seen. The mixed media artist hailing from Warsaw, Poland, uses all kinds of materials, from used computer components to old buttons and even dead moths.

“I love texture and believe in power of recycling and upcycling. I just adore flea market supplies,” Finnabair says on her official site, and it shows in her works. The Polish artist can take the boring household item and turn into the centerpiece of an engaging work of art. Whether it’s metal screws, artificial flowers, or even plain buttons, she manages to turn recycling and upcycling into exciting artistic processes that spark viewers’ imagination. Finnabair says her art is more than just a job or hobby: “It gives me moments when I forget about the world, working hard [in my] head, hands translate, paint, stick… I cannot stop.” Judging by the time and patience she needs to painstakingly place every single element in the right place and then paint the whole picture in vibrant colors, it’s obvious she pours her heart and soul into her art.

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Meet Jon Gnarr, By Far the Coolest Mayor in the World

The coolest mayor in the world never went to university, is an ex-taxi driver and used to be in a local punk rock band called ‘Runny Nose’ before he became a comedian and actor. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as Jon Gnarr is concerned, a man whose achievements in life are so bizarre that it is truly a wonder how he became the mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city and home to over half of the nation’s population.

You’d think that a goofy guy has the chance to be President for the day only in the movies, but it seems in Reykjavik anything’s possible. Jon Gnarr, who was diagnosed with severe mental retardation and ADHD as a child, started his own political party in 2010 after refusing to join up with any of the existing parties. Funny enough, he named his party ‘The Best Party’. Simple, yet brilliant, isn’t it? It had to be, because he won his very first election to the office of mayor with 34.7% of the popular vote. According to what Gnarr told the media, his first real challenge as a politician was deciding between the names ‘The Best Party’ and ‘The Cool Party’. He ultimately settled for the first because it sounds dorkier, which was the vibe he was looking for. Called ‘Besti Flokkurin’ in the local language, the party is a motley group of artists, comedians and punk rockers, none of whom have had any prior experience in city-planning or politics. The only thing they did do well before the elections was record an Icelandic take on the Tina Turner song ‘Simply the Best’ and use it as their official campaign song. With lines like “We want a city that’s cuddly and clean and cool,” and “Tell the squatters in-charge that it’s time to leave,” the song was both silly and attention-grabbing at the same time. If the goofy mayor is to be believed, the city was being run by ‘blathering loons’ and it’s no surprise at all that the Best Party won.

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Homemade Dialysis Machine Keeps Man Alive for 13 Years

A man from Nanjing, China, has recently made headlines after it was discovered he built his own dialysis machine, and managed to keep himself alive for 13 years, after he couldn’t afford to receive proper hospital care.

A research fro 2008, shows only one in ten Chinese people can afford regular dialysis treatment, but one man refused to give in to his illness simply because he couldn’t pay the high hospital costs. Hu Songwen was studying to become a meteorologist when he was diagnosed with renal failure, in 1993. From that point on, he was forced to visit the hospital every six days to have his blood cleaned through dialysis, a treatment that cost him around $80 per visit. He hand his family managed to support the costs for six years, until all their savings were exhausted. That’s when he decided to build his own dialysis machine, using only a textbook, kitchen equipment and medical supplies. “When I told the doctors what I was doing, they said I was crazy,” he said, but his homemade contraption has kept him alive for the last 13 years, at a fraction of the hospital costs. He spent an initial $800 on a pump, after failed attempts to make his own, and now each dialysis session costs him around $10 in filters and chemicals. “The most important part of the machine is the filter, and I can use each one eight times. A new filter costs $16, while a proper medical machine can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds” Hu said.

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Insanely Complicated Maze Is Probably Impossible to Solve

It looks like the street map of a really complex city of the future, but this intricate drawing is really a 30-year-old maze drawn by a Japanese janitor. His daughter posted photos of the complicated work on Twitter, which went viral almost instantly.

Just last year, we posted an article about the efforts of Joe Wos, a Pittsburgh-based cartoonist who was working on the world’s largest most difficult hand-drawn maze. He worked on it from July until the end of September, and estimated that a person would need approximately 40 hours to solve it. His doodle-filled maze is truly something to behold, but I doubt it’s more challenging than the one created by Twitter user @Kya7y‘s father. Drawn on an A1 sheet of paper measuring 35 by 23.3 inches, this multi-layered masterpiece reportedly took the artist seven years and several months to complete. “Won’t somebody make it to the goal?” @Kya7y tweeted after posting the pics. And, believe it or not, there were actually plenty of people willing to waste several days of their lives trying to find the exit… If there even is one.

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Education Anywhere – Underprivileged Indian Children Attend Outdoor School under a Bridge

40-year-old Rajesh Kumar Sharma, from New Delhi, started a makeshift school under a metro bridge, where he teaches children from the city’s slums too poor to attend regular schools. He believes education is the most important weapon for India’s youth, and if they don’t have it, they are doomed for life.

Mr. Sharma is not a real teacher. He runs a general store in the city, but for two hours a day he leaves his brother in charge of the business and rushes to his improvised outdoor school, under one of Delhi’s metro bridges. If it wasn’t for Rajesh and the dozens of children who go here daily, you would never guess this is a place for education. There are no walls or desks, just the bridge acting as a protecting roof in case of rain, and three squares painted black and used as blackboards. The teacher doesn’t only provide his knowledge for free, but also all the reading and writing materials, and the rugs his students sit on during classes. The kids, aged 4 to 12, learn math and basic reading and writing, in preparation for future admission into Government schools. In fact, out of the 140 children he started the school with a little over a year ago, 70 are already attending public schools. “They still come here everyday. I manage to keep them ahead of the school curriculum,” Sharma told India Express.

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The Maeklong Railway Food Market – A Strange Wonder of Thailand

Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory loves trains, but I’m not too sure if he’d like this particular one. The Maeklong market railway passes right through the middle of a tightly packed market – so tight, that passengers can probably grab a few vegetables as they pass through. The market’s stalls are actually set up on the train rails, but shopkeepers know the train’s schedule, so just before it passes through, they quickly drag their goods into the shops and pull the roofs down. After the train has passed through, it’s back to business as usual. This happens no less than 8 times a day.

The Maeklong market has become so popular with tourists that there might actually be more people visiting to see it rather than buy anything. Located 72 km or an hour’s drive south-west of Bangkok, Maeklong is the capital of the Samut Songkhram province. Most people compare the market to something like a movie set; it’s that surreal. It’s amazing how every inch of space available has been utilized. The small stalls on either side of the railway track are made from tarpaulins and sometimes just a bedspread. They consist of plastic trays filled with vegetables and vibrant Thai fruit like mangosteens and rambutans. You can also find fresh-cut flowers, fragrant spices, cuts of meat, fresh seafood and poultry. And it doesn’t just stop with food; there are other goods to be purchased as well, like clothes, lingerie, toys, and pirated DVDs. Sometimes there aren’t even stalls, just people sitting on the ground with trays of fruit at their feet.

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Sound of Silence CD Sold by Church Proves Big Hit

St Peter’s Church, in East Sussex, England, has found a novel way to found its repairs – selling CDs with the sound of silence recorded inside the 800-year-old house of worship.

Believe it or not, the 30-minute recording featuring only dull sounds like squeaking pews, soft footsteps and the hum of distant traffic proved a hit not only with local parishioners eager to contribute to the repair fund, but also peace and quiet lovers from countries like Germany, Austria and even Ghana. It seems that in this day and age, chill-out music like Buddha Bar just doesn’t cut it anymore. People have such busy and noisy lives they often feel the need for simple silence.  “There are a few noises here and there – if it was total silence people might get bored,” said one East Sussex churchgoer. “Those who have bought it have enjoyed it.”

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The Pain of Growing Up – Being Stung by Hundreds of Bullet Ants in the Amazon Rain-Forest

Among the most bizarre coming-of-age rites we’ve ever featured is the one followed by the Satere-Mawe Tribe, an indigenous tribe from the Amazon rain forest, Brazil. What a boy has to do to become a man in this tribal community is painful, to say the least – he has to withstand being stung by not one, but a swarm of Bullet Ants. In case you’e not familiar with this exotic insect, here’s an interesting fact: the Bullet Ant claims the number one spot on the SSPI (Schmidt Sting Pain Index), a scale created by Justin Schmidt that rates the pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. Some say the ant’s sting is just as agonizing as being shot by a bullet.

In preparation for the initiation rite, the elders of the tribe collect the ants from the jungle. These ants are drugged and placed stinger- first into special gloves woven from leaves. As the drug wears off, the ants become increasingly agitated and are raring to sting. This is when the boy puts on the gloves and lets the bullet ants work their magic, for 10 whole minutes, no less. “It’s the same as having your hands on fire,” says one Satere man. But the real pain starts once the gloves come off, and the venom starts to take effect. As the pain continues to rise, the hands become paralyzed and look like stumps. But just one attempt is usually not enough to turn a Stare boy into a man. He must go through this ritual as many times as it takes for him not to cry during the process. The day he doesn’t shed a single tear, is when he becomes a real man. Sometimes, this can take up to 20 attempts.

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You Thought Reborn Babies Were Creepy? How About Vampire Reborn Babies?

Reborn baby dolls have been around for a few years now, and while some people love them so much they actually treat them like real babies, their ultra-realistic look creep a lot of people out. But one artist has managed to make these thing even creepier by making vampire reborn babies.

After seeing Chucky the killer doll in those cheesy 90s horror movies, I’ve never looked at dolls the same way I used to. So it’s fair to say the first time I saw photos of reborn baby dolls, I freaked out a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the skill and patience of artists who spend hours on end sculpting these realistic newborns and applying several layers of paint just to make their skin look more natural, but i wouldn’t want to have one of them in my house. And just when I though reborn babies couldn’t get any creepier, I discovered artist Bean Shanine, who creates vampire and zombie reborn babies.

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Friends in Real Life – Man Opens Iconic Sitcom Cafe in Beijing

If you were a fan of the hugely popular sitcom Friends, you surely remember their favorite meeting place, the Central Perk Cafe. Tired of just seeing the characters experience the coziness of that soft orange couch, one Chinese fan decided to create his own Friends cafe, in Beijing.

Like so many of us, Du Xin loved Friends. “I’m crazy about Friends. For me, it’s like a religion. It’s my life,” he told NPR. After watching the show, he started searching around Beijing for a place where he could actually sit on an orange couch just like the one his favorite heroes relaxed on in the sitcom. When he couldn’t find a Central Perk, he decided to create it himself. And he wasn’t going to settle for something similar, he wanted a place that looked exactly like what he’d seen on TV all those years, down to the tiniest details. Tucked away on the sixth-floor of the Chaowai Soho complex, this replica of Central Perk has the coveted couch, the same windows and doorway as the original, the brick interior and even the same hand written snack items featured on Friends. In order to nail all the things he wanted, Du studied thousands of photos of the show’s set and watched endless reruns, and five months later he had the cafe of his dreams.

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Artist Creates Incredible 25-Foot-Tall Castles from Icicles

50-year-old Brent Christensen, an artist from Alpine, Utah, creates extraordinary structures that I thought only existed in my imagination and really cool fantasy stories. For the past four years, Christensen has spent his time perfecting the craft of making structures as tall as 20 to 25 ft, using nothing but intertwining icicles as building blocks. He developed an interest in the unique craft began way back in 2000, when he and his family moved from sunny California to chilly Utah, and he was looking for some fun outdoor activities.

“We started off doing winter stuff in the yard, playing around with the kids, making igloos, ice forts and slides and stuff,” he says. “And it just evolved. One year I stumbled upon the concept of doing icicles by spraying water. We made one with a big wooden frame under it, and when it melted in the spring it was a huge mess with a pile of soaking wood. The following year I didn’t use any wood so it would just cleanly melt away. During the course of that winter I stumbled upon the concept of fusing icicles together to make a lattice to spray water on and build upon.” It was then that Chirstensen began building his magnificent ice fortresses. Utah locals would often stop by his house to gawk at the castles. Once he got pretty good at making icicle castles, he approached a few resorts nearby and asked if they would be interested in displaying his work for their guests. It took a while before the manager of a small local spa and resort agreed, in 2009, but this small opening got him into the public eye and there was no looking back from there.

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