It’s No Joke – Man Charges $15 to Sharpen Your Pencil by Hand

David Rees, a cartoonist, humor writer and self-proclaimed pencil sharpening artisan runs a truly unique business. He charges customers $15 to sharpen their pencils to perfections, using a variety of tools, from pocket knives to sandpaper.

I know what you’re thinking – is this a joke? The 39-year-old entrepreneur gets asked that question a lot, so to clarify everything he even created a special section on his Artisanal Pencil Sharpening website telling everyone that he’s actually providing a real service: “If you start a pencil-sharpening business, you can expect to hear this question a lot. The short answer? No, this is not a joke. You pay David Rees money and he sharpens your pencils. It actually happens.” You can supply your own pencil or you can have Rees sharpen his one of his favorite #2 pencils and ship it to you in a in a display tube with the shavings in a separate bag along with a certificate of authenticity that just happens to mention the pencil is so sharp it is considered a dangerous object. To achieve the desired result, the master sharpener uses all kinds of tools, including general sandpaper, pocket knives and even a special $450 sharpening machine. “It depends on what the client wants to use their pencil for,’’ he says. “That determines the most appropriate pencil technique. Some buy them as inspirational tokens, and others for nostalgic memories of classic No. 2 pencils. There also are journalists who prefer my pencils to pens especially in really cold weather because a pen will freeze up, whereas a pencil won’t.’’

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Eyeball Scraping – The Vanishing Trade Practiced by Sichuan Barbers

Barbers in China’s Sichuan Province have practiced the art of eye-cleaning with a sharp blade for centuries. Like many other ancient traditions, this dangerous trade is slowly vanishing, but you can still find a few barbers willing to scrape your eyeballs with a knife for as little as RMB5 ($0.80).

According to an old Sichuan saying, cleaning the eyes makes the beauty of life more visible, and some people are prepared to go under the knife to make sure they don’t miss a thing. Nicknamed “knife-blade eye cleaning”, the practice of scraping a person’s eyeballs and eyelids with sharp utensils has been a part of Chinese culture ever since ancient times. The craft was supposedly popularized by brothers Zhou Chengfu and Zhou Chengyin, who followed their father’s footsteps and excelled in the technique of servicing the eyeballs, ears and necks of clients, but in recent years it has almost died out. Still, if you look hard enough, you can still find eye-cleaning stands even in modern cities like Sichuan’s capital, Chengdu. 53-year-old Liu Deyuan has been successfully running his small eye-cleaning business for 7 years, offering a head shave and an eye scrape for just RMB5. With many long-term clients lining up to get their eyes cleaned every month, the skilled barber says business is still pretty good.

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The Fake Christian Priests of Japan – A Booming Business

Christians make up only 1.4% of Japan’s 127 million population, but Western “white weddings” now account for around three quarters of all bridal ceremonies, which means Christian priests are in high demand. To meet their clients’ expectations bridal companies have given up on trying to find ordained ministers and have kept requirements to a minimal – men looking foreign-enough to pass as Christians who can speak a little Japanese and perform the ceremony in 20 minutes.

Japan’s love affair with Christian wedding is believed to have started in the 1980s with the televised weddings of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and was fueled by the nuptials of Japanese pop star Momoe Yamaguchi. People, women especially, were attracted by the idea of celebrating their marriage through a ritual that revolved around love and that elevates the bride to the status of princess even for a short while. Traditional Shinto weddings, on the other hand, encase women in a wig and kimono, and are focused more on the merger of two families. The Japanese simply  fell in love with the sharp dress code, the kiss and the overall image of Western weddings over their centuries-old traditions. But in order to have a genuine-looking ceremony, they wanted Christian priests, which were pretty hard to find. That started the now famous “foreign fake pastors” trend that saw companies and hotels hiring average foreign gentlemen with minimal knowledge of the Japanese language to perform Christian weddings.

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Keng Lye’s Three-Dimensional Resin Paintings Look Incredibly Life-Like

Singapore-based artist Keng Lye uses his phenomenal sense of perspective to create incredibly realistic animals by painting in layers of epoxy resin and acrylic paint. His series, called Alive Without Breath, features stunning works that blur the line between what is real and what is not.

The time-consuming process used by Keng Lye to create his stunningly-realistic artworks involves filling bowls, buckets, and boxes with numerous layers of lye, and painting the detailed creatures with acrylics and epoxy resin. Each piece consists of several layers, and just one little mistake can compromise weeks, even months-worth of work. This laborious technique requires the utmost patience and attention to detail, but executed to perfection it gives the artwork great depth and an overall life-like look. The art of painting/sculpting in layers of lye was made famous by Japanese artist Riusuke Fukahori, whose exceptional masterpieces we featured on Oddity Central in the past, but Keng Lye added his own unique touch by incorporating physical elements into his art pieces to make them look even more real. For his mind-blowing octopus he used a small pebble, and to make the turtle’s shell he made great use of an egg shell extruding from the resin. But even without these accessories, his fish and crustaceans look ready to jump out of the water.

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Frog Whisperer Helps Keep Hawaii’s Coqui Population Under Control

The tiny coqui frog may seem harmless, but as night falls over the islands of Hawaii, thousands of these coin-sized critters start terrorizing the local population with their unrelenting mating calls that can reach up to 90 decibels. Luckily, frog whisperer Keevin Meenami speaks their language and can draw the females out when they become to much to bear.

“ko-KEE-ko-KEE-ko-KEE” – that’s the sound that has disrupted countless hours of sleep and scared away both potential home buyers and tourists from several parts of the Hawaiian archipelago, including the Big Island. Originally from Puerto Rico, the tiny coqui frogs have been arriving to Hawaii as cargo-ship stowaways ever since the late 1980s. With no natural predators to trouble them, they have been multiplying rapidly, eluding eradication crews by camouflaging themselves with a brown or yellow coloring that blends into Hawaiian vegetation.  In 2004, authorities declared war on the coqui and came up with several plans to wipe them out them from the Big island, which had become their headquarters of sorts, and from where they constantly escaped to neighboring islands. They tried just about everything, but in 2010 they announced nothing could be done to get rid of or even contain the coqui population. These days county, state and private groups are doing everything in their power to prevent the invasive frogs from taking over Oahu, Hawaii’s most populated island. Every time there’s a report of coqui chirping anywhere on the island, intervention teams are deployed to localize and neutralize the threat. Most times the frogs are whacked on the spot, but one man has come up with a non-violent way of dealing with the frogs – he just talks to them.

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Man Wraps Himself in Plastic Bag to Protect Religious Purity Aboard Plane

A photo of an Ultra Orthodox Jewish man wrapped in a life-size plastic bag aboard an airplane recently went viral on news-sharing site Reddit, sparking an intense debate concerning his motives.

At first it was believed that the man had donned the bizarre see-through garb to distance himself from women, as some Ultra-Orthodox Jews obey strict rules of gender segregation in public. Now, however, it is believed the man dressed entirely in black and wearing a Jewish skullcap or “kippah” may be a member of the Kohanim, who believe they are descended from the priests of ancient Israel and cannot come in close contact with dead in order to protect their higher-than-average kedushah (holiness). Apparently, the strict religious code prohibits visiting cemeteries except for the funerals of close relatives, and even flying over burial grounds. However, the Haaretz newspaper reports that Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, leader of the Lithuanian Haredi community in Israel, has recently ”found a solution to this issue, ruling that wrapping oneself in thick plastic bags while the plane crossed over the cemetery is permissible”, which would explain the man’s bizarre protective travel gear.

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Picture-Perfect Pencil Drawn Portraits by Olga Larionova

In this digital era, it’s amazing to see artists like Olga “Melamory” Larionova using a primitive tool like the graphite pencil to create stunning portraits that rival high-resolution black-and-white photographs.

I’ve always been fascinated by hyperrealist art, but the level of detail in Olga Larionova’s pencil artworks just blew me away. Getting every little feature and reflection just right with glossy paint is impressive enough, but doing it with a simple graphite pencil seems borderline impossible. Yet this young artist from Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod proves it can be done. The uber-talented Melamory has been drawing ever since she can remember. She started by coloring the drawings her mother used to create for her, and as the years went by she began drawing the shapes herself. You’d never guess by looking at her incredible creations, but Olga never went to art school. She did read some books on academic drawing and that helped her develop some basic techniques, but she thinks being a self-taught artist and not having to follow a strict set of rules has actually helped her develop her own unique style. Having graduated from the University of Architecture, Melamory now works as an interior designer, but hyperrealist art remains her greatest passion.

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The Great Stalacpipe Organ Plays Real Rock Music

The Great Stalacpipe Organ is a unique musical instrument that produces tones of symphonic quality by tapping stalactites in Virginia’s Luray Caverns with electronically-operated rubber mallets.

Recognized as the world’s largest musical instrument, the Great Stalacpipe Organ was created by Leland W. Sprinkle, a mathematician and electronics scientist at the Pentagon. After visiting Luray Caverns with his son and experiencing the organ like sounds of ancient stalactites being tapped, Sprinkle felt inspired to build a one-of-a-kind contraption that could turn these natural tones into playable music. After doing extensive research, he came up with a complex plan for a stalactite tapping instrument, and spent three years just examining each of the caverns’s thousands of hanging limestone columns, looking for the ones that produced specific notes. Only two stalactites were found to be in tune naturally, so he needed to carefully shave thirty-five others to precisely match the musical scale. He then wired a rubber-tipped mallet to each of the selected stalactites and linked them to a four-keyboard console built by the Klann Organ Supply Company of Waynesboro, Virginia, to meet the peculiar needs of this subterranean installation. The music-playing stalactites are spread over 3.5 acres (14,000 m2) of the caverns, so Sprinkle used over five miles of wiring to connect them to the organ console.

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Man Has Been Wearing a Deer Head Mask Every Day for Four Years

Luo Dan, a painter and designer from Chonqing, China has been wearing a big deer mask over his head every day since 2009. He claims the bizarre accessory has helped him find inner peace and release the deer within.

Finding artistic inspiration can be pretty tough for an artist, but for 32-year-old Luo Dan it’s as easy as putting on a mask, literally. The young painter says he started wearing his weird deer head in 2009, and quickly got used to putting it on while working and in his spare time. “The deer is a tame animal,” he explained. “Wearing its mask, I could find a long-missing inner peace. When I wear the mask, I feel I am a deer from within.” The fake animal head has also influenced his art, taking a center role in most of his works. Dan doesn’t know exactly how long he’ll keep wearing the deer head, but considering the therapeutic powers he attributes to the mask it’s unlikely he will be taking it off anytime soon. I can understand keeping it on in the privacy of his home, but this guy seems to take the head with him everywhere he goes. I wonder how people react when he comes up to them wearing the ridiculous disguise? It must be really difficult to take a guy wearing an animal mask seriously…I always knew artists were a little cooky, but this is too much.

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Wacky Croatian Artist Draws Landscapes with an Industrial Angle Grinder

You could say Albert Krtalic is a cut above other artists. The Croatian creator uses an industrial angle grinder to engrave beautiful landscapes on ceramic canvases. He recently showcased his original works during a exhibition in his home town of Makarska.

The industrial angle grinder isn’t exactly what you would call an artistic tool, but self-taught artist Albert Krtalic has been using it to engrave detailed landscapes inspired by the beauty and culture of his home country on to fragile ceramic surfaces. Asked how he came up with such an unusual engraving method, Krtalic said that the fact that he is a self-taught artist makes him more open to experimenting with different tools and mediums, hence the industrial angle grinder technique. He says mastering the industrial equipment wasn’t easy, and thathe had a lot of “casualties” in the early days, but working with a power tool has paid off in the end, as it gives his artworks an “edgy, industrial look”. Local collectors think he’s on to something and are snapping up his creations while they’re still cheap ($75 each) convinced they’ll one day be worth a small fortune.

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Bathing in Pepto-Bismol – Australia’s Pink Lake

Would you believe it if someone told you Pepto Bismal isn’t manufactured from chemicals, but sourced from the water of a natural lake? It isn’t true, but you certainly might you certainly might be tempted to believe it after seeing pictures of the Lake Hillier, a bright, bubble gum pink body of water located on the edge of Recherche Archipelago’s largest island, in Australia. The salt water lake is so striking that airplane passengers passing over Middle Island often get out of their seats just to get a glimpse of it.

The earliest records mentioning the existence of Lake Hillier are the journals of Matthew Flinders, a British navigator and hydrographer. In 1802, Flinders had to climb Middle Island’s highest peak to survey the surrounding waters and came across the remarkable pink lake. Hillier has been pretty much untouched by human hand for a long time, except for a few years when a salt extraction operation was set up in the area. The pink lake isn’t just stunningly beautiful, but a also a natural mystery scientists have been unable to unravel. So far, no explanation has ever been found for its unique hue. Some theories state that the color could result from a dye created by the organisms living in the lake – Dunaliella salina and Halobacteria. Another speculation is that the pink color might be  attributed to the presence of red halophilic bacteria in the salt crusts. No one knows for sure, but that bright pink definitely is definitely no illusion. When the water is collected in a container, it retains its pinkish tinge. Although the waters are shallow and have been deemed safe to swim in, most tourists are reluctant to go in for a dip in what looks like a delicious strawberry milk shake.

 

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World’s Most Expensive Car Wax Costs More Than a Car

Retailing at a jaw-dropping $97,060 the GRV goldRally Wax from luxurious car care products maker Mitchell & King has been described as “exceptionally exclusive” and is by far the most expensive car wax ever created.

You see, in the world of the rich and powerful, it’s not so much about making a car look shiny, but about spending ridiculous amounts of money to make a car look shiny. In order to satisfy the needs of its wealthy clientele, Scottish company Mitchell & King has launched a limited edition car wax in honor of the ultimate luxury lifestyle car race – the goldRush Rally. The GRV car wax boasts a gold shimmer and will apparently protect the vehicle for up to 4 months. That sounds great and all, but does it really justify the $97,060 price tag? Not really, but adding a stylish container milled from the finest grade Titanium, coated with 24ct Gold and encrusted with Swarovski crystals and 10 x 0.5-carat, F Colour, VS2, brilliant round cut diamonds definitely sweetens the deal. The goldRush Rally package also includes 2 24-carat gold rings, an expensive car shampoo, as well as the application of GRV wax by a Mitchell & King approved detailer. Oh, and the wax will be delivered personally by the company’s director. Now that’s more like it, right? No, I guess not…

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Talented Artist Paints on Butterfly Wings

Inspired by the beauty and history of his home town of Istanbul, Turkish artist Hasan Kale paints stunning miniature portraits on all kinds of unusual canvases, from butterfly wings to coffee beans and even tiny pepper seeds.

No surface is to small for 53-year-old Hasan Kale. Ever since the 1980s, this Turkish micro art master has been painting his miniature marvels on things as small as cactus thorns and rice grains. Most of his works are detailed scenes of Istanbul, with its beautiful mosques and towering minarets, men rowing their boats through the Bosphorus Strait and seagulls flying in the distance. Thew level of detail in Kale’s artworks is simply unbelievable, despite the tiny canvases they’re painted on. With surgical precision, the artist guides a fine-tipped brush across butterfly wings, snail shells and fruit seeds, using his finger as a palette for mixing colors. Confronted with the skepticism of viewers who didn’t believe such wonderful works of art could be done exclusively by hand, without any digital touch-ups, Hasan Kale has recorded a series of making-of videos.

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The Exchange Bar & Grill Where Prices Fluctuate Like Stocks

You don’t have to be an experienced stock trader to make a killing at the Exchange Bar & Grill in New York City, where prices of food and drink fluctuate according to the law of supply and demand.

The way it works is quite simple. According to the Exchange website, “The prices for your favorite drinks fluctuate depending on supply and demand. Watch a while when no one is ordering your favorite drink and snag it when the cost falls to unbelievable lows – or use your leverage to jack up the price of any cocktail, drink or shot for the whole bar.” Unlike the real stock market, insider trading isn’t illegal. You are welcome to make use of the tactic to catch the ‘market crash’, when every drink in the bar hits rock bottom. At times like this, beers are sold for as low as $2 to $4. Exchange can seat up to 60 people and atmosphere is like a nice lounge with dim lighting, HD screens and leather couches. The ‘ticker tape’ flashes the fluctuating menu prices in red lettering according to an algorithm, the secret to which even Steven Yee, an operating partner at Exchange, claims he doesn’t know. “The algorithm was created by the person who wrote the software, and the guy won’t even share it with me.” Yee also says that the ticker is just a fun feature, and that they are more about good food, fantastic staff, a bar and a great atmosphere.

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Teenage Girl Has Been on a Noodle-Only Diet for 11 Years

Georgi Readman, an 18-year-old teenager from the Island of Wight, England survives only on cheap instant noodles, because she is afraid to eat other foods. The young hairdressing student goes through about 30 miles of noodles every year.

Georgi Readman got hooked on instant noodles when she was just five years old, after watching her older brother eat them, but they became her only source of nutrition after suffering a case of severe food poisoning at age eight. From that point on she couldn’t bring herself to eat any fruits or vegetables, and only occasionally diversified her diet with small bits of potatoes and chicken. Whenever she goes out shopping, Georgi’s mom always stocks up on 11p (¢16) packs of M Savers chicken noodles, because that’s the only brand she’s sure her daughter will eat. Any other kind of noodles might have green bits in them, so she would have to sieve them first. ”I always fancy noodles and could easily eat two packets at once. I’ve even eaten them dry and uncooked before,” Readman says. She has always been a fussy eater, but ever since her food poisoning as a child, Georgi claims she goes into a panic, sweats and starts heaving whenever she tries to swallow any fruits or vegetables.

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