Concussion Turns Ordinary Man into Musical Genius, Overnight

If getting hit on the head means that I’d get to be a kickass musician for the rest of my life, I think I would seriously consider it. It sounds impossible, but something of the sort happened to 41-year-old Derek Amato. He really didn’t have a choice about it, though.

Derek had no idea his life was about to change forever when he dove into the shallow end of a pool to catch a football at a party. He hit his head and had a concussion, resulting in Acquired Savant Syndrome – a rare condition where people display profound abilities (called savant skills) after suffering head trauma, abilities that they didn’t have at birth. In Derek’s case, the acquired ability is music.

Derek is one of only 30 people in the world with this rare condition and the only one to have acquired music as a savant skill. Before the fall, he just dabbled in guitar and had no idea how to read or write music. And now he can play eight different instruments with the ease of a professional musician. Watching him play on video, it’s pretty hard to believe this man has had no formal training in music at all.

derek-amato

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The Cotton Ball Diet – A Dangerous Weight-Loss Trend

I thought the Tapeworm diet was as bad as weight loss fads could get, but I was mistaken. Desperate dieters keep coming up with new, innovative methods to shed pounds. The latest trend is to eat cotton balls soaked in orange juice, lemonade or smoothies.

It’s all over the internet. Chat rooms, YouTube videos and blogs are describing to young women how the cotton ball diet is done. The trend is said to have caught on after model Bria Murphy (Eddie Murphy’s daughter) admitted to seeing models subjecting themselves to this diet. “I’ve heard of people eating the cotton balls with the orange juice. They dip it in the orange juice and then they eat the cotton balls to help them feel full,” Murphy told her interviewer on Good Morning America.

The idea behind the cotton ball diet is to feel full without having to gain weight. Some practitioners stick to just eating cotton all day. Others chow down on these fillers before a meal, so they can eat less. Dieters are able to swallow as many as five juice-dipped balls in one sitting, before they feel completely full.

Cotton-ball-diet

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Polish Designer Turns Cane Toads into Fashion Accessories

In a fairy-tale world, you could kiss a frog and turn it into Prince Charming. No such luck in the real world. If it’s any consolation though, a Polish designer is converting thousands of toads into highly desirable fashion accessories. I mean, who wants men when you can have designer purses, right?

The highly poisonous cane toads live in the South Sea Islands in Australia. They are considered an invasive species, which means they are a serious threat to the native biodiversity of the continent. Introduced to Australia from Hawaii in 1935, their main purpose was to control the native cattle beetle. The mission failed and cane toads began to multiply at an alarming rate – there are now over 200 million of them. The Australian army was deployed to get rid of them by the thousands.

Putting the two stories (of Prince Charming and the Unwanted Toads) together is Polish designer Monika Jarosz. It all started when a friend gifted Monika a stuffed frog from New Zealand. “It disgusted me, but ended up fascinating me,” she says. The more she stroked it, the more she liked the idea of creating something from similar material. Soon the concept was born – leather purses and bags with the toad skin intact, head included.

frog-skin-purse

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Innocent People Getting Punched for no Reason in Dangerous Knockout Game

The Knockout Game is a disturbing trend emerging among teens in the US. A group of teens, get together and punch random passersby on streets. Their aim is to knock people out cold in a single punch. The singular move is termed the ‘one-hitter-quitter’.

Incidents of the Knockout Game have been reported throughout the US, mostly from the New York metro area and Washington. Media reports suggest that the elderly and women with children are not exempt from this brutal game. Some reporters think that the crimes have a motive; almost all the victims seem to be white, Asian, Jews, homosexuals, and sometimes even vegan. Earlier this month, CBS covered the Knockout Game in detail. One teen told reporters, “You just knock them out. You hit them with a blow and you take their belongings.” While some say that they participate simply for the fun of it, others are wannabe tough guys who want to test their strength.

One of the most recent victims of the game was Phoebe Connolly from Washington D.C. As she was riding her bike in the Columbia Heights section, a teen rushed up to her and punched her face with brute force. “My whole head went flying to the side,” she said. “One kid came from the side and pretty much cut me off. He threw a hook with his left hand and got me right in the face and he said, ‘Wapow!’”

knockout-game

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Woman Gets Platinum Jewel Implanted in Her Eye to Make Herself Unique

Lucy Luckayanko is perhaps the only New Yorker to have an eye-stud. She spent $3,000 on a one-minute procedure to have a heart-shaped piece of platinum inserted into the white of her right eyeball.

Harvard and NYU-trained Dr. Chynn performed the procedure. Interestingly, he has been featured here on OC before. He made news last August as a love-crazed doctor desperate to find his soul-mate. He spent thousands of dollars on high-end matchmaking services and charity donations in exchange for dates. When nothing worked out, he began to offer free cosmetic procedures to anyone who would introduce him to the girl of his dreams. Going by this, we don’t know if Lucy has had to pay for her treatment or got it free in exchange for setting up Dr. Chynn on a date. In any case, she went ahead with it and now she looks like she has a piece of dirt stuck in her eye forever.

It seems doctors have done this procedure several times in Europe and Los Angeles, but this was New York’s first. To perform it, Dr. Chynn first injected an anesthetic into Lucy’s eye. Then he made a tiny incision to “try to divide a pocket in between the sclera (the white part) and the conjunctiva (the clear part)” of her eye. Using forceps, he placed the 3.5mm platinum stud in a drop of water on Lucy’s eye membrane. Since the stud is so small, it had to be floated into position. It was all over in a matter of minutes and Lucy went home with her new bejeweled eye soon after.

eye-implant

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David Foster’s Amazing Hammered-Nail Portraits

Who would have ever thought that fine art could be created out of something as crude as a hammer and a bunch of nails? I’ve seen several art forms made using Pointillism before, but former architect David Foster’s work is quite unique. At first glance, it’s hard to believe that his breathtaking portraits were once a plain box of nails.

David’s art covers a range of subjects: celebrities, animals, flowers and get this – even a hammer and nail! The level of precision and realism in his art is a result of years of practicing and perfecting his technique. On his website he says, “I have always been fascinated with how little information the brain needs to interpret a picture.” He loves the simplicity of a picture just made out of dots.

When he started making portraits, David worked only with ink. He began experimenting with nails only in the past couple of years. He starts with a photograph of the subject, which he painstakingly reproduces by stippling with an ink pen. He enlarges the inked drawing to mark out where the nails go. Then the nailing begins, and many thousands of nails later, the piece is complete. On an average, his smaller drawings number about 5,000 nails, while larger ones can have as many as 30,000. David’s prize winning piece made from 16,000 nails is called Lashes and Nails.

David-Foster-art

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A Truly Dirty Job: Guy Predicts the Future by Analyzing Poop

Harry and Ron hated their divination lessons. Hermione stormed out of one, never to return again. Professor Trelawney was a real nut-job. I could feel the pain of these characters as I read the Harry Potter books; divination always seemed like such a farce. But now I think that maybe they didn’t have it so bad after all. I mean, all they had to do was make up a bunch of dreams and detect patterns in tea-leaves. It’s not like they had to do what S.S. Singh does in real life to predict the future – analyze human poop.

Believe it or not, poop-analysis is a real branch of divination study. It even has a name – Scatomancy. Singh is one of the few practitioners of this long-lost art and he is being featured in a documentary called ‘Journey to Planet Sanity’, releasing Dec 6th. I just watched a video clip of Singh analyzing some poop and… oh well, what can I say? It’s as disgusting as it sounds.

“It’s a lost art,” says Singh. “You’d be surprised how accurate it actually is.” What really surprise me are the events in the video clip. This is what happens: In the film, skeptic Blake Freeman is travelling around the United States with his friend, Leroy Tessina. Leroy is paranoid about aliens and paranormal activity, and has spent his life savings on protecting himself from such things. Freeman needs to convince Leroy to go on this trip with him, and so he takes Leroy to see Singh.

Scatomancer

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Slum-Like African Resort Gives Rich Tourists a Taste of Hard Life

A Shanty is a small hut made out of old corrugated iron sheets or other waterproof material. It is a place of dwelling for the poor, often lacking in basic amenities like electricity or running water. To be living in one, you’d have to be going through an extremely rough patch in life.

Except of course, when your shanty is located in Shanty Town, and you’re just playing ‘poor’. Yes, as bizarre as it sounds, there are people in this world who think playing poor is a fun sport. And resorts like Shanty Town exist to help them achieve the experience.

Shanty Town is a part of Emoya Estate, a South African five-star luxury game reserve and spa. It comes equipped with corrugated metal huts that can accommodate up to 52 guests. Over here, the rich get to live like the poor. But no, not entirely like the poor. The environment is safe and the shanties are equipped with conveniences like running water, electricity and Wi-Fi. The interiors aren’t too bad either – the beds look clean and comfortable, there are refrigerators, televisions, tables, chairs and cabinets. Oh, and did I mention under-floor heating? Yes, they have that too.

ShantyTown

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They Say You Can’t Put a Price on Great Socks. How About $1,200?

German hosiery specialist FALKE recently launched the most expensive socks in the world as a part of their fall/winter collection. These socks will set you back $1,200, but they might just be worth all that moolah. Not only are these socks part of a very limited series of 10 pars, but they are made from the rarest and most expensive wool in the world – Vicuna wool.

The Vicuna – the national animal of Peru – are distant cousins of the Llama and ancestors of the Alpaca. These unique creatures are endangered and live high up in the Andes, making it very difficult to obtain their wool. They cannot be domesticated, so all the wool is taken from wild animals that are caught and sheared once every two years. Each animal only produces about one pound of wool, making the fabric extremely rare.

most-expensive-socks

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Rooftop Agriculture – Chinese Farmer Turns House Roof into Fertile Farmland

The curious case of the Chinese Rooftop strikes again!

First, there was the eccentric businessman who built a mountain-villa on the roof of a Beijing apartment building. Then there was that mysterious temple built on a Chinese skyscraper. Now we have the story of farmer Peng Quigen and his one-of-a-kind ‘sky-farm’. For several years, he has been growing rice, fruits and vegetables on the roof of his four-storey home in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, 40 feet above the ground.

Peng’s sky-farm is no hobby. What he has done with just 120-square-meters of rooftop is pretty remarkable. He’s actually managing to yield large quantities of produce from this small, yet fertile, patch. Just last year, Peng harvested nearly 400 kilograms of watermelon, which is a whopping 30 percent higher than ground-level yield. This year he’s trying out rice – he says that in spite of the negative impact of typhoon ‘Fitow’, he’s expecting to harvest enough rice to feed one adult for one whole year.

rooftop-agriculture

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Woman Marries Ferris Wheel She Has Loved for Decades

Love knows no limits for, a woman from Florida who married Bruce the Skydiver, an amusement park ride similar to a Ferris-wheel. Although the state of Florida doesn’t even allow same-sex marriages between humans, Linda married the steel ride last year. At the beginning of this year, the two renewed their vows during a ceremony conducted by a non-denominational preacher, who tied them “flesh to steel”. As expected, Bruce had nothing to object.

The woman has a condition called “objectum sexuality”, meaning that she considers certain objects as potential lovers. In fact, before Bruce, Linda was romantically involved with a train and a helicopter, which determined her to choose jobs that allowed her to be closer to her beloved objects. Consequently, she was both a pilot and a train conductor. Unfortunately, her affection for the locomotive wasn’t appreciated, so she lost her job. As she says, “I was seen in a romantic embrace with a train and subsequently, I was fired”. The first encounter with the park ride, back in 1982, was very special for Linda. As she remembers, “I got this weird feeling I can’t explain. My heart was pounding as we went up the platform and got on the ride. I felt like I was being taken by this ride.” Just like in any great love story, the mother didn’t agree with her daughter’s relationship. “My mother’s reaction was completely off the wall; she was a very religious person. To her, I was an abomination to God and she wanted to change that … she really thought I was demon possessed.” Linda cared more about Bruce than about her mother’s opinion, so she ran away and joined the carnival, where she would cuddle the ride at night. Unfortunately, 3 years later, a storm damaged Bruce, who was taken for repairs in Wichita, Kansas.

Linda-Ducharme

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The Pacific Barreleye Fish and Its Weird See-Through Head

The Pacific Barreleye fish gets its name from large eyes that are literally shaped like barrels, topped with beautiful green lenses. Also known as the Macropinna microstoma, its head is completely transparent, filled with fluid. This unique creature lives at depths of around 2000 to 2,600 ft. The Pacific Barreleye’s see-through head may seem weird, but it has a very clear purpose –  to help it see better in the dark waters that it inhabits.

The Barreleye’s eyes have been found to be incredibly sensitive, snapping up any stream of light available. Unlike most other fish, both the eyes are in the front of the head and point in the same direction, which gives it amazing binocular vision. So the Barreleye is able to spot faint objects that other fish cannot, making it a feared predator. It’s extremely fascinating, how it searches for prey. It starts off by staying still, eyes pointed upward in search of prey. Sometimes the eyes are rotated to face forwards, or the eyes are still and the body is rotated so that the mouth is pointing in the same direction as the eyes. When tiny silhouettes of prey are spotted, the Barreleye moves in exactly the same direction to catch them. Its flat, horizontal fins help it to swim very precisely. This method is so efficient that it is sometimes able to even snatch food away from the stinging tentacles of other deep sea creatures. Its mouth is really tiny so that’s of great help as well, and the transparent shield makes it immune to stings.

Pacific-Barreleye-fish

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Singaporean Man is Crazy About Dolls, Has 9,000 of Them

Jian Yang, a 33-year-old man from Singapore, has enough dolls to open a museum or at least a super awesome girls’ playhouse. The “toy nerd”, as Yang describes himself, has no less than 9,ooo dolls: 6000 of them are Barbie dolls, and the 0ther 3,000 are other types of girly dolls, such as Bratz Girls and Monster High. His huge collection is valued at about $500,000.

Yang’s passion for dolls began in his childhood days, when he wanted a doll but wasn’t allowed to have one. As he recalls, “before I knew anything about social norms, I was a boy that watched this on TV, liked it and wasn’t allowed to have one. As I grew older, got my own allowance, that’s where I started getting the freedom to buy whatever I wanted”. Step by step, a simple wish became a “crazy obsession”. His friends support him, his family have understood and learned to accept his passion, but his love life is affected, since his girlfriends see the the doll collection as the competition. As Yang confesses, “I’ve also got the ex-girlfriends who get insecure about this kind of stuff … They look at dolls and go ‘OK, that’s the competition’, which is quite troubling but it’s a reality”.

Jian-Yang-Barbie2

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How Do You Stop a 400-lb Running Back? You Don’t!

At 6’4”, (190 centimeters) and 400 lb (181 kilograms), Tony Picard, a senior at the White Swan High School in Yakima, Washington, is not only the biggest running back in high-school football, but probably the biggest in the history of pro football, as well.

Just like the famous William “Refrigerator” Perry, who played for the Chicago Bears during the 80′s and 90′s and is known as one of the biggest players to ever play pro football (6’2” and 335 lbs.), Tony “The Tone” Picard started out as an offensive lineman, but after his coach noticed his unusual speed, he was reinvented as an unlikely running back. His qualities for the position became evident at a football camp a couple of years ago, during a game of basketball. “He was so agile and making shots from way out there,” White Swans coach, Andrew Bush, recalls. “I said ‘I’ve got to use this somehow.’” He gave Picard just two instructions: average 4 yards per carry and don’t fumble. In the first 10 games of this season, the Tone has averaged 5 yards per carry. “Most teams will sacrifice five guys to stop him: four linemen and a middle linebacker. That leaves three guys on each side to stop the rest of our team,” the coach says. “Everything else opens up: our outside running, our play action, and our entire passing game. We average about 450 yards as a team offensively.”

Tony-Picard

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Tree Shaping – The Art of Turning Young Trees into Living Works of Art

Who said you need to chop the wood off trees to make sculptures? Tree shaping is an art form that makes use of living trees to make wonderful creations. Also known as Biotecture, Grown Furniture or simply tree sculpting, the technique involves growing and shaping the trunks of trees and other woody plants by grafting or pruning. The trunks or branches are grown into ornamental or useful shapes.

Tree branches and trunks have the unique ability to unite together by grafting. The new shapes are retained when fresh layers of wood grow over the older ones. So a tree sculptor winds two or more parts of a tree together by cutting off the bark and then binds the wounded parts together so that the contact is secure. This promotes the tree parts to grow together. These stems and branches need to be wound together for at least a year depending on the amount of resistance they need to overcome. Additional layers of wood grow during this time, acting as a natural cast and retaining the new desired shape. Once the shape is able to hold itself, the bracing is removed. The techniques used by artists vary between Instant Tree Shaping, also known as Arborsculpture (mature trees bent into the desired shape and held until cast), Aeroponic Culture (the use of living, air-suspended roots to make bridges) and Gradual Tree Shaping (trees are grown from saplings for the specific purpose of creating a design).

Arborsculpture

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