The Photographic Pencil-Drawn Portraits of Franco Clun

Italian artist Franco Clun uses only pencil and paper to create these incredibly realistic portraits that can easily be mistaken for photographs. Believe it or not, he’s a self-taught drawing master who has never studied art…

I’ve always found hyperrealism fascinating, and the collection of articles on this amazing art genre that I’ve posted on Oddity Central throughout the years is proof of that. I never get tired of looking at drawings and paintings so masterfully executed that they resemble high-resolution photos, and I consider myself lucky whenever I discover the works of truly gifted artists, like Franco Clun. The Italian-born master of the pencil says he has never taken art classes and that everything he knows he learned from experience and from reading some drawing manuals. I guess you can say he’s living proof that practice makes perfect, and that following your passions in life can truly lead to amazing things. Although he has had to take a long break from drawing to dedicate himself to other things, his love for graphite remained strong, and now he’s wielding his trusty pencils again to create marvelous works of art.

Franco-Clun-drawings

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Bizarre Dog-Spinning Ritual Believed to Ward off Rabies

When we were kids, we played this game where we would twist a pencil innumerable times into a loop of thread and then let it go, watching with fascination as it spun around at top speed. It was a fun game, but I never imagined that somewhere in the world, the same thing was being done to living creatures.

Brodilovo is a small, remote village in the South-Eastern part of Bulgaria. Here, villagers are so afraid of rabies that they have a centuries-old tradition to ward off the disease. The bizarre ritual involves the spinning of dogs, just like the pencil game, on a rope, hanging over a small stream. It is practiced once a year and is believed to help keep rabies at bay. The process that the dog is put through is quite enough to give animal rights activists nightmares. Dogs are twisted in a rope that is stretched out tautly over, and are then let go. The dogs spin out of control and then tumble into the water below. Since they reach very high speeds, they are often unable to swim when they hit the water. A net is held at the bottom for the animal to fall into, and then helped out of the water.

dog-spinning-Bulgaria

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Japan’s Lonely Youth Turns to Rent-a-Friend Services

Making friends is not as easy as most people think, but it seems that for young men and women in Japan it’s really, really hard. According to a recent article published in the country’s biggest newspaper, some people are finding it so difficult to make people like them that they prefer to pay for rent-a-friend services.

According to surveys cited by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, more and more young people have problems making friends in the real world and resort to actually paying for rented friends in order to avoid being seen alone and labeled as loners by their peers. Tokyo-based company Client Partners offers a variety of unique services like hiring someone to take photos of you at an event, or paying a person to wait in line for you on a gadget’s release day, but one of its most popular is the “rent-a-friend”. For a hefty fee, you can choose total strangers (men or women) to accompany you and act as your friends. It’s not exactly the perfect scenario for a fun night out, but clients say it beats having to face your loneliness, dealing with rejection all the time or being looked down at by your peers. According to representatives of the company, Client Partners has tens of rent-a-friend requests per month, most of which come from lonely young Japanese who have lost all confidence.

rent-a-friend-Japan

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Belarusian Woodcarver Makes Intricate Clocks Exclusively from Wood

In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine someone making accurate clock mechanisms without using a single piece of metal. And yet, Andrey Martyniuk, a woodcarver from Belarus, manages to create intricate clocks exclusively from wooden components.

As a child, Andrey Matyniuk loved to sketch. He then got an education as an engineer, and later in life developed a passion for wood carving. After a master carpenter told him that wooden clocks are the pinnacle of perfection, he decided to combine all his skills to create artistic yet functional mechanism exclusively from wood. Bit it was easier said than done, and the ambitious woodcarver spent three years working on his first wooden clock. He tried copying the mechanism of a metal clock, but although the principle is exactly the same, there are two important things to take into consideration to ensure the clock measures time accurately – the softness of the material and the humidity of the environment. After years of experimenting, the master learned he had to increase the size of the gear teeth and treat the wood with a special compound to make it resistant to humidity. He also found that wood had a big advantage over metal – it has a much lower coefficient of thermal expansion, so it is much less affected by temperature changes than metal.

Andrey-Martyniuk-clocks

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The Indian Coin Divers of Yamuna River

It sometimes amazes me how humans are able to find a source of livelihood in almost any type of environment, in accordance with their surroundings. Case-in-point, the coin divers of the Yamuna River, in Delhi, India’s capital city. This unique group of men works around the year, braving the bone-chilling cold waters even during winters, to dive into the river and retrieve coins from the bottom. The same coins that are thrown into the waters by passengers of boats crossing the river, as an offering to the River Goddess. Wondering what such an offbeat job pays? Well, sometimes as little as 100-200 rupees (US $ 2 to 3) a day, and sometimes as much as a diamond ring.

22-year-old Sartaj Ahmed has been in the profession of coin-diving for the past 6 years. The brave young man says he started diving when he was just a boy, but it was only when he turned 18 that he began hunting for coins. “Some days I get 100-200 rupees but on lucky days, I can find small trinkets. I have even found a gold ring once.” 34-year-old Sajad Ahmed has been at it for 20 long years. He says it gets harder and harder each other, but they really do not have any other choice. 21-year-old Amit Kumar, who’s been doing this for 10 years, says, “We dive into the river and collect coins, brass, copper, sometimes even silver and gold.” Diving for coins is the only source of his daily income. “What can be done, I have to do something for my living. We live here so we keep diving here.”  Vicky, another young diver, says, “I dive and normally take home money for my daily expenses.” Raju says that he prefers coin diving because he doesn’t like working for a boss.

coin-divers-india

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Pregnant Woman Lets Online Voters Choose Baby’s Name for $5,000

A 26-year-old pregnant woman from West Los Angeles, California, has agreed to allow online voters to chose the name of her child, in exchange for $5,000.

Natasha Hill, a young art teacher from LA, is expecting a baby in September, but she had already started thinking about his/her name. She considered naming her child Katorah or Winter, but since she couldn’t make up her mind, she decided to enter a competition organized by Belly Ballot, a Austin, Texas-based startup that lets parents-to-be crowdsource their babies names with friends and family. According to the online company, voter will be presented with a list of 10 names - five boy names and five girl names – chosen by Belly Ballot and sponsors of the contest. The one with the most votes by the time the ballot concludes will be the name Hill’s baby will legally have, at least until he or she turns 18. Belly Ballot founder Lacey Moler assured participants brand names or names that are “too crazy” won’t be included in the 10 options.

Natasha-Hill-Baby-Ballot

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Money Artist Makes Beautiful Collages from Thousands of Old Soviet Banknotes

Igor Arinich is known as the “Money Artist”in his home country of Belarus. He earned that nicknamed after he became famous for creating intricate collages made exclusively from old Soviet banknotes.

He is not the only artist in the world who uses money as his main medium. In fact, he started doing it himself after seeing the works of an American artist who made dollar collages, and he knows of another Russian artist who makes art from modern Rubles. But after trying to imitate them by using modern Belarusian currency, and euros, he realized none of today’s banknotes are as beautiful and colorful as old Soviet bills. So he began visiting flee markets in his city of Minsk, buying every Soviet banknote he could find, dating from 1961 to 1991. It all started as a hobby, but after people became interested in his craft, he decided to become a professional artist. Although he doesn’t want to reveal the number of money collages he has sold so far, Arinich says he charges between $700 and $2000 for his unique artworks, and many of them are sold abroad.

Igor-Arinich-money-collages

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Giethoorn – A Rural Venice in the Netherlands

The tiny Dutch village of Giethoorn, located right in the middle of the De Wieden nature reserve, is fondly known as the Venice of Netherlands. Quite an apt name for the place, since it has distinct features that are reminiscent of the romantic Italian city – 7.5 km of canals, about 50 little wooden bridges, boat rides, quaint houses, and more.

If there’s something that Giethoorn does not have in common with Venice, it’s history. The small village was first inhabited in the year 1230 by a group of fugitives from the Mediterranean regions. It is said that when they first arrived in the area, they noticed an unusually large number of goat horns that were left over after the big flood of St Elisabeth had ravaged the area in 1170. So they named their settlement Geytenhorn (horn of goats), but with dialect changes over the years the name gradually changed to Giethoorn. There’s a story about how all the lakes came to be as well. Early settlers took to peat mining; they dug for peat in the areas that suited them the most and left holes in the ground. These holes soon filled up and turned into lakes of varying sizes. So to carry the peat from one area to another, they would sail through navigable canals and ditches. The means of transportation that was once a necessity is now a huge tourist attraction.

Giethoorn-Venice

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Man Wears Empathy Suit for Nine Weeks to Experience Pregnancy

In a bizarre attempt to experience “the one thing unavailable to men as parents”, writer Benjamin Percy wore an empathy suit complete with a fake belly, for nine weeks. You’d think the efforts of a man trying to go through the hardships of pregnancy would be applauded by women, right? Well, no…

Although fully aware that he couldn’t go through all the stages of pregnancy or experience all the nasty symptoms, Percy thought that by wearing an empathy suit for a condensed pregnancy period of nine weeks would be “a way for me to alter my point of view, deepen my empathy, help me overcome my mouth-breathing-caveman deficiencies.” He may never be able to go through child birth, but he wanted to know what it felt like to carry carry one with him wherever he went. To aid him in this “pregnant man” project, the noted fiction and non-fiction writer used a special suit designed by the Japanese scientist Dr. Takayuki Kosaka of the Kanagawa Institute of Technology. It was made of thick nylon, had a fake belly and fake boobs, but instead of adjusting his wardrobe, Benjamin opted to wear the unusual accessory over his regular clothes. As the weeks passed, he added extra weight to the belly, to match the growth of his imaginary baby. It was a unique experience, but a lot of women aren’t exactly impressed with his stunt.

Benjamin-Percy-pregnancy

 

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Indian Sculptor Makes Creepy Bust of Favorite Politician from His Own Blood

An Indian man known only as Hussaini has recently unveiled a shocking work of art – a bust of J. Jayalalitha, Chief Minister of the Tamil Nadu state, made from 11 litres of frozen human blood, donated by him and 32 of his students.

Apparently, nothing shows admiration for a person like making a creepy sculpture of them from human blood. At least that’s what Hussaini, a sculptor and archery teacher from Chennai, must have thought when he got the idea to create a bust of Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha out of his own frozen blood, for her 65th birthday. The noted artist wanted to thank the politician for being the “most sports loving CM of India” and for her support to his archery association, and since he had a few liters of his own blood stored for special occasions, he decided to put it to good use. You see, Hussaini has had his blood drawn at three-month intervals, over the last eight years, waiting for an opportunity to use it as a medium for his sculpture. But he only had 6.5 liters of blood, and this special project required 11. Luckily, his 32 archery students were more than willing to donate the extra 4.5 liters needed to complete the project.

human-blood-sculpture

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Would You Pay $600 a Month to Live in a Human Locker Room?

It’s no secret that Tokyo is one of the most crowded cities n the world. It’s also got some of the smallest apartments in the world, but a recent news program showed this whole housing problem is getting ridiculous. People are paying huge rents to live in coffin-sized apartments.

Just looking at photos of these locker room apartments in the Tokyo’s Shibuya district is enough to make anyone feel claustrophobic. And yet there are people willing to pay as much as ¥55,000 a month ($586) a month to live in them. Granted, most of them are probably just young professionals who spend most of their time at work and outdoors, using these tiny accommodations just for sleeping, but still, the fact that someone would pay that high a rent for this kind of living conditions is baffling. Apart from the obvious lack of space, these so-called ”geki-sema share houses” are stacked on top of each other, and some don’t even have windows. The latest reactions to the video report show even Japanese people, who are used to small spaces, think these human locker rooms are insane.

Tokyo-small-apartment

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Guy Is Suing His Parents for Not Loving Him Enough, Wants $200,000

Bernard Bey, a homeless man from Brooklyn, New York, is suing his parents for not loving him and supporting him enough. He is actually asking for $200,000 in compensation. This is not a joke…

32-year-old Bernard Bey is an aspiring rapper from Brooklyn. He’s also homeless, and blames his parents for his current situation. In a recent interview, he says he ran away from home wen he was just 12 years old, because his family abused him both physically and verbally, and he’s been in and out of the shelter system for the last twelve years. He’s also spent time behind bars. And since he believes his parents are responsible for everything he’s been through, he’s just filed a lawsuit against them in Brooklyn Court, in which he accuses them of making him feel “unloved and beaten by the world”. In the self-written lawsuit, Bey is asking for $200,000 in damages and demands his family mortgage their brownstone in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, to help him open two franchises “like Domino’s Pizza”.

Bernard-Bey

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Steve Casino’s Celebrity Figurines Are Nuts, Literally!

Steve Casino, better known as the “Painter of Nuts” creates detailed celebrity figurines out of peanut shells and mixed media. His collection includes big names like James Brown, Andy Warhol or Elton John.

One day, Steve Casino was eating peanuts, when he noticed one was kind of looked like him. So he started painting a cartoon version of himself on the shell and showed it to his friend, Neil. He thought it was pretty funny, and this inspired Steve to pursue this idea further. He decided to try a celebrity next, so he picked out another peanut and did Joey Ramone, of punk rock band The Ramones. It turned out pretty good for a first attempts, but he got much better at it with each new peanut figurine he made. Trying o perfect the technique, looking for the right materials and painting detailed faces was a lot of fun, and Steve was hooked. Now he’s known as the Painter of Nuts and his work is starting to get some much-deserved publicity on the Internet.

peanut-James-Brown

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Woman Spends a Year Building Hogwarts Replica from 400,000 LEGO Pieces

LEGO master Alice Finch has spent over 12 months piecing together an impressive model of the Hogwarts school of magic, from the Harry Potter movies, complete with decorated and populated interiors.

LEGO makes its own official Harry Potter sets, but they weren’t enough for master builder Alice Finch. While the mother of two understands why the Danish toy company makes sets that are only finished on one side and accessible on the back, she wanted to build her own version that was architecturally accurate with 4 walls and a roof, minifigs scale, and also playable for big and little hands. She had been to many of the places in Oxford were some of the movie scenes were shot, so she already knew what it should look like. Still, Alice did plenty of research for her LEGO Hogwarts: she consulted J.K. Rowling’s books, watched the blockbuster Harry Potter movies and even went to the Harry Potter studio tour in London to see the sets in person. Many times, the details in the books and those in the films didn’t coincide, so she had to choose what worked best. But, after 12 months of piecing together her monumental model from around 400,000 LEGO pieces, she had created every Harry Potter fan‘s dream – her very own Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

LEGO-Hogwarts

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Finland’s Shouting Men’s Choir Will Make Your Ears Bleed

Shouting is what some men do best. And when a group of such men get together, you can hardly expect to hear something musical. But that’s what makes the Shouting Men’s Choir in Oulu, northern Finland, so special. The men shout, and it becomes music.

The choir consists of 30 men who generally dress in black suits for their performances. Most locals consider the choir to be a product of long nights in a town with little to do, the north-Finnish sense of humor that borders on the absurd, and of course, a steady supply of vodka. Mika Ronkainen, a local filmmaker, made a documentary film with the choir and its founder as the subject, called Mieskuoro Huutajat. That translates to Screaming Men. It was the first Finnish film to be accepted at the Sundance Festival, and also the first to get international distribution. I saw a short clip from the film on YouTube, in which Petri Sirvio, the founder and director of the Shouting Men’s choir says that the best part of the group’s performance is the element of surprise. “I trained them quite well,” he says rather unabashedly.

Shouting-Mens-Choir

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