The Game of Gostra – Running Up a Greasy Wooden Pole in Malta

Every year, on the afternoon of the last Sunday in August, brave young men from all over Malta compete in the traditional game of “gostra”, trying to run all the way to the top of a long greasy pole and snatch one of the three prizes.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the game of gostra was practiced all through the festive summer months, in various locations around the islands of Malta and Gozo. A wooden pole measuring about 10 meters long was mounted on a coal barge and towed to harbor towns and seaside villages around the Maltese coast, where it was smeared with grease and animal fat. Brave local men would try to run up the pole and reach one of the symbolic flags at the top in order to claim a prize. Today, the traditional game is only held in the towns of Msida and Spinola Bay, in honor of St. Joseph and St. Julian. The pole stretches out into the water, and only half of it is covered in grease, but in order to have a higher chance of reaching the flags before slipping off the slippery wood, most competitors prefer to run up the pole, hoping they can maintain their balance long enough to snatch one of the coveted prizes. This sometimes causes them to fall awkwardly hitting the log on their way down into the sea, and injure themselves.

Gostra-game

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Man Builds 12,000 Square-Foot Castle in the Middle of a Florida Swamp

When he moved from New York to Florida over 40 years ago, Howard Solomon took the saying “A man’s home is his castle” quite literally. The artist once known as “The DaVinci of Debris” spent a total of 12 years building a three-storey castle by hand, in the middle of a swamp.

Solomon began working on his unique castle in the 70′s, after he and his family moved to Ona, Florida. The original plan was to build a nice house on the piece of land he had bought in Hardee County, but after realizing the place was actually a big swamp, he decided to construct something high enough to resist any potential floods. He had always been fascinated with medieval castles and this proved to be the perfect opportunity to build his very own 16-century fortress, complete with a bell tower, moat and drawbridge. Howard worked on his architectural masterpiece on and off ever since 1972, and reckons he has spent over 12 years erecting the structure and covering it in aluminum plating, and an additional 4 years building a Spanish galleon in the castle moat. When he first started building his dream home, people thought he was mad, and wouldn’t even let their kids play with his, but over the last 40 years they’ve accepted him into the community, and Solomon’s Castle is now the most popular attraction in the area.

Solomon-Castle

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Photo-Realistic Paintings of Landscapes Reflected in Sunglasses

Many of Simon Hennessey’s paintings look so lifelike that they are often mistaken for photos. To achieve this level of realism, the English artist spends anywhere from two weeks to seven months on a single piece using an airbrush and acrylic paint.

40-year-old Simon Hennessey started painting landscapes reflected in the sunglasses of tourists in 2008. He had just finished painting a model wearing sunglasses and suddenly realized the reflection on the lenses allowed him to explore the spatial and environmental surroundings in a unique distorted and miniature fashion. From that moment on the popular accessory has become a predominant them in his hyper-realistic art. Simon has spent the last five years traveling to big cities like London and New York, taking photos of iconic landmarks reflected in the lenses of sunglasses worn by human models, which he uses as an inspiration for his art. He doesn’t just copy an entire photograph, but combines elements from multiple reference pictures, adding or removing certain details, altering textures and depth to produce original works of art. This allows him to create an illusion of reality different from that of his photographic sources, making his realistic paintings appear clearer and more distinct than any photo.

Simon-Hennessey-art

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Knight Rider Fan Spends Three Years Building Perfect Replica of KITT

When Knight Rider came out during the 1980s, the nearly indestructible KITT, a heavily modified Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, blew everyone away. Even today, it remains one of the coolest cars ever, and fans spend valuable time and resources building their own real-life KITTs.

One such auto enthusiast from Detroit-area recently showcased his homemade perfect replica of the famous movie car, which he spent about three years working on, in a promotional video for a car insurance company . Chris Palmer says he needed five Pontiac Trans Ams, numerous custom parts and countless hours of work to create his four-wheeled masterpiece. He also had to rely on the generosity of his friends to finance his obsession of owning his own perfect KITT, but in the end “it was totally worth it – more than worth it”. He has been dreaming of sitting behind KITT’s steering wheel ever since he was a little kid, and his obsession stuck with him throughout the years. He has owned 15 or 16 Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams since he started driving, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that he decided to take on the challenge of building a perfect replica of the Knight Industries Two Thousand.

KITT-replica

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Closer to Heaven – A Temple Built on the Rooftop of a Chinese Skyscraper

Architectural wonders erected on the rooftops of skyscrapers seems to be the latest constructions trend in China. Just days after the scandal involving a mountain villa built on the roof of a Beijing apartment building, a microblogger from Shenzen discovered a traditional private temple located atop a similar residential building.

According to several Chinese media reports, the mysterious temple constructed on the roof of a 21-storey luxury apartment building in the Nanfang district of Shenzen has been around for at least three years, yet nobody, not even the tenants know who it belongs to. The rooftop structure is surrounded by foliage, has glazed golden tiles and features traditional upturned eaves decorated with carvings of dragons and phoenixes. A fingerprint scanner, security cameras and dogs barking on the other side of a locked door prevent access to the temple, but neighbors say it’s often used for traditional Chinese religious practices, as indicated by the ashes of burned offerings that float down from the roof. The private temple, suspected to be yet another illegal rooftop structure, jeopardizes the structural integrity of the entire building, but tenants say their complaints have so far landed on dead ears.

rooftop-temple

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Don’t Like Coffee? Absorb Caffeine through the Skin with Sprayable Energy

Sprayable Energy is a patent-pending invention that allows people to get all the energy benefits of caffeine without the dreaded coffee aftertaste. The spray is absorbed through the skin and distributed through the body over a period of several hours, giving the user a long-lasting caffeine buzz.

21-year-old Ben Yu and his partner Deven Soni have recently launched a campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo for an innovative product called Sprayable Energy. The small plastic can contains an unscented, colorless formula that gives users that much needed boost of energy without the jitters and sudden caffeine crash. ”Coffee didn’t work for me,” Yu told Inc.com. “When I ingest it, it’s like roller coaster ride of energy.” He decided to work on an alternative to the popular beverage in October 2012, while trying to get a degree in biochemistry. He started researching how nicotine patches worked, and like any young inventor, used himself as a test-subject for his experiments. His father, who holds a PhD in chemistry, also helped out, and after a lot of hard work, Ben came up with a special formula containing water, a derivative of the amino acid tyrosine, and caffeine that could be sprayed on the skin and offer the same energy buzz of coffee without the nasty taste and side-effects. Now all they needed was an extra $15,000 to develop the product line.

sprayable-energy

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Martial Arts Enthusiasts Practice Impossible “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” Kung Fu Moves at Chinese Resort

Remember those awesome action sequences from the movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, where kung fu masters would float through the air, skim on water and do battle through tall bamboo trees? A Chinese resort is now giving martial arts enthusiast the chance to perform these impossible feats themselves with the help of special effects equipment used on the big screen.

A martial arts theme-park in Kunming, China, has invested around $800,000 in high-tech special effects equipment that gives kung fu fans the chance to perform the impossible stunts of their favorite movie icons. From skywalking to skimming on water, anything is possible at the Wild Duck Lake Resort, thanks to a computer-controlled wire system almost identical to the ones used in blockbuster films. This is apparently the first time people outside the movie business get the chance to live their dreams of becoming legendary kung fu masters, even if it’s just for a few minutes. According to a theme-park spokesman, the computer controls how fast and how far visitors travel on the water and through the air, once they are connected to the wires. So all they have to do is strike a nice pose as their friends and family take photos. Fees for the realistic martial arts experience start as low as $15, so if you’ve always fantasized about starring in your own kung fu flick, this is one chance you don’t want to miss.

kung-fu-theme-park

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Georgio the Human Carpet Loves to Have People Walk All over Him, Literally

For the last 15 years, Georgio T. has been making a name for himself by playing a human carpet. Only it’s not an act, he genuinely enjoys covering himself in carpet and having people walk all over him.

Ever since he was a little boy growing up in Malta, Georgio knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. Some kids dream of becoming doctors or astronauts, but he just wanted to be a carpet. He used to love placing weights on his body and having his pet cats walk over him. When his mother would enter his room and saw him playing his unusual games, she used to tell him “Georgio, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble when you grow up”. But he didn’t let her warnings deter him from fulfilling his dream. These days, 52-year-old Georgio, a.k.a. the Human Carpet is a familiar sight on the New York party scene. He charges a modest fee and accepts tips for inviting revelers to stand and dance on him. His getup is an actual carpet wrapped around his body with a breathing hole cut around his mouth. Although he charges for his services, he claims playing a carpet is not a money-making stunt. He actually enjoys getting stepped on and the more people do it, the better he feels. They can dance or jump on him for hours, without getting a complaint from the Human Carpet. In fact, he says people pay him to have fun.

human-carpet

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Vietnamese Self-Taught Artist Paints with Chicken Feathers

Dinh Thong created his first chicken-feather painting right after finishing high-school, over three decades ago. He has dedicated his entire life to the unique art form, but has been unable to advertise his talents properly due to lack of funds.

Born and raised in the ancient city of Hoi An, Vietnamese artisan Dinh Thong has always been fascinated by folk art. He started using chicken feathers as an art medium during his middle school days, to make small souvenirs for his friends. During his mandatory military service, he decided to take his art to a whole new level by using the feathers to create large traditional paintings, and as soon as he returned home Dinh started scouring the local poultry markets for suitable material. At first, sellers let him pick whichever feathers he liked from their chickens, but after word spread that he was using them to create works of art, they assumed he was making a lot of money and began charging him. He was forced to cut his daily expenses so he could afford to buy the unusual art supplies, sometimes leaving his works unfinished for long periods of  time due to lack of feathers. To make matters worse, the bird flu epidemic that swept the planet a few years back kept his creations out of art galleries and forced the talented artisan to promote his works by word of mouth alone.

feather-paintings

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Meet Asha Mandela, the Black Rapunzel Who Has the World’s Longest Dreadlocks

50-year-old Asha Zulu Mandela started growing her lovely dreadlocks 25 years ago, after moving from Trinidad Tobago to New York. Today she is known as “the Black Rapunzel” and holds the record for the world’s longest locks, which measure 19 feet, 6 inches long.

Soon after she settled in Brooklyn, New York, Asha Mandela started working as a nanny, spending most of her time in parks and playgrounds. Perming and styling her hair just wasn’t working very well with her hectic schedule, so she decided to go for an easier, more natural alternative. After careful consideration she started growing “locks, which didn’t sit too well with her family, especially her mother, who though it made her head look like “a riff-raff mop”. Not even Asha herself was sure she had made the right decision because her short hair made them look spiky. But as they grew, she fell in love with her new hairdo and even started referring to her hair as “my baby”. The years passed and her dreadlocks grew past floor length, but she didn’t realized how unique her natural hairstyle had become until about 5 years ago when people started complimenting her and asking all kinds of questions, like how long she had been growing the locks for, how long it took to wash and if she was featured in the Guinness Book of Records. That last one sparked her interest, so she reached out to Guinness and Ripley’s to make her record official.

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Blind and Disabled Biker Sets New Motorcycle Speed Record

Eleven years ago, Scottish biker Stuart Gunn was involved in a horrific accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Seven years later, following a seizure caused by the same accident, he lost his sight. Last Saturday, he became the fastest blind man on a motorcycle, after after hitting 167.1mph.

In 2002, Stuart Gunn was heading to a hospital for a pre-op on his shoulder. To avoid parking troubles, he decided to ride his bike instead of taking a car. At a junction in Edinburgh, Scotland, a van jumped lanes and crashed into the experienced biker. “When the van hit me, the base of my back hit where the windscreen and roof join. My head and shoulders went through the sunroof and my legs went through the windscreen, literally snapping me in half backwards. He then braked, as you might, and I got lobbed back out of the van,” Gunn remembered in an interview with Suzuki Bulletin. He nearly died, and doctors told him he was never going to walk, let alone ride a motorcycle again. But Stuart had always hated being told what he could and could not do, so he worked hard during his recuperation sessions, and in two years time he was walking with a stick. Unfortunately, the accident had caused more damage than anyone had realized, and in 2008 he started having really bad seizures which eventually left him completely blind and paralyzed on his right side.

Stuart-Gunn

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Man Spends 50 Years Hand-Painting 2,000-Foot Map of Imaginary World

Fifty years ago, Jerry Gretzinger started painting a map of a world that existed only in his imagination. It began as a doodle, but since that first day, he has been adding a new hand-drawn panel to his map every day. Today the masterpiece known as Jerry’s Map numbers 2,600 different unique panels that cover 2,000 square feet. And it’s still growing…

“The map began as just a doodle. I just made little rectangles and cross-hatched them carefully. And I just kept adding more rectangles and I put a river in and some railroad stations,” Gretzinger explains in a short documentary about his work. ”But there was this moment when I came to the edge of that sheet of paper and got out another sheet of paper and I put the two together… That’s when I realized that it kind of had a life of its own.” He started out with a city that kept on growing, until he realized its imaginary population had to eat to survive, so he decided to throw in some farmland. He added rivers, forests, cemeteries, railroad stations, airports transforming small towns into cities as his universe evolved and keeping track of the population of each of his imaginary settlements on a computer spreadsheet. Even though it might seem like he is controlling everything that happens in Ukrainia, Plaeides and his other cities, Jerry has created a system that dictates almost everything that happens in his world.

Jerry-Gretzinger-map4

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Solo Per Due – World’s Smallest Restaurant Only Seats Two People at a Time

If you’re searching for the most private restaurant dining experience possible, look no further than Solo Per Due, a small ristorante in Vacone, Italy, that only features one table and two chairs.

Aptly named “Solo Per Due”, Italian for “just for two”, the world’s smallest restaurant only accepts two people at a time. This unique feature makes the Italian restaurant a popular destination for tourists from all over the world, but especially for lovers. There are no queues, no turns and no waiting, but booking this place for a romantic dinner, especially on holidays like Valentine’s Day can be a real challenge. Only around 1,500 people get a chance to enjoy the unparalleled privacy Solo Per Due has to offer, and it’s this exclusivity that best explains the set price of €250 ($335) per person (not including wine and champagne). The idea behind this unique eatery is that guests enjoy true intimacy and get the full attention of the cooking and waiting staff, which guarantees an extra special dining experience.

Solo-Per-Due-restaurant

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Bizarre Anti-Cheating Paper Hats Spark Controversy in Thailand

A photo showing students of a renowned Bangkok university wearing strange headgear complete with side flaps to thwart cheating during a midterm exam caused quite a stir after it was uploaded to Facebook as a joke.

Teachers at Kasetsart University in Thailand have recently come under fire for making their students wear horse blinder-like devices made of paper to prevent them from cheating on their exams. A photo showing around 100 students wearing the rudimentary anti-cheating hats was recently posted on Facebook by the KU student board, where it got so many negative reactions that it was eventually removed. Unfortunately for the Thai learning institution the photo had already been picked up by the media and the negative responses just kept on coming. However, it appears the students were not pressured into wearing the paper blinders, in fact they were the one who suggested it. ‘‘It was an agreement between us. No student was forced to wear a hat. Instead, all were happy to do so and thought it was fun. They felt more relaxed during the test,’’ Nattadon Rungruangkitkrai, a lecturer at Kasetsart University, said during in a press conference.

anti-cheating-blinders

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Talented Young Artist Paints with Used Coffee Grounds

21-year-old Vincent Francisco Navarro, from Baguio City, Philippines, is an emerging visual artist who uses ground coffee as the main medium of his art. He collects used coffee grounds and recycles them as paint, thus giving the waste product new value and purpose through aesthetics.

The city of Baguio produces around 300 tons of garbage every day, and authorities are still looking for environment-friendly ways of storing and disposing of the waste. Local artist and environmentalist Vincent Navarro decided to do his part by proving recycling can be of great help against the build-up of garbage in an ingenious way. After doing extensive research he started exploring the possibility of creating beautiful works of art with coffee grounds collected from a large gourmet coffee chain. He spent ten months creating portraits of coffee farmers from the Benguet region of the Philippines, using nothing but coffee and used grounds. Inspired by the months his spent as a volunteer aiding coffee farmers in Benguet and Cordillera, Navarro created his works as tributes to the “toil and sweat” these hard-working people put into growing “the best-tasting and rich coffee beans”.

Coffee Farmer 10

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