Man Completes 5,000 Km Trek Dressed as Stormtrooper

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21-year-old Jacob French hates walking, and yet he completed a 5,000 km trek last year dressed in a stormtrooper costume. The 9-month trek was for the benefit of Starlight Children’s Foundation which works for sick children in Australian hospitals. Jacob’s journey was all the way from Perth to Sydney, and in the process he went through 7 pairs of shoes and lost 12kg in body weight. He also managed to raise $100,000.

Jacob was the one who came up with the idea in the first place. He had donned the stormtrooper costume for the first time during a half marathon in Oct 2010. The experience wasn’t very comfortable for him. “The suit was restrictive and got hot while I was running, but the seed was planted for the Troopertrek idea.” Since that marathon, Jacob started training more regularly and also acquired a lighter and much more flexible set of armor. Last summer, he made the announcement about his charitable walk, once again dressed like a stormtrooper in order to get attention to the cause. The arduous trek began in July 2011. Jacob walked over 10 hours a day, Monday to Friday, along with a wooden cart around with him containing all his clothes and carrying equipment. The stormtrooper attracted a lot of attention and even received support from passing motorists. The Trooptrek Facebook page has become very popular, with thousands of likes and comments. People find his initiative inspiring and motivational.

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Tough Mudder – Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet

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“The Tough Mudder is not a race, it’s a challenge,” say the organizers. And it most certainly is, given the grueling nature of what is perhaps the toughest event in the world. Consisting of 10 to 12 mile ‘hardcore’ obstacle courses, the event designed by British Special Forces is meant to test stamina, strength, grit, and camaraderie. Tough Mudder is the brainchild of former counter-terrorism agent Will Dean. During his MBA course at Harvard, he was frustrated with the monotony of marathons, triathlons and mud runs. Wanting to participate in an event that truly challenged the core of his personality, he came up with the idea of Tough Mudder.

According to their official website, Tough Mudder is much more than just a race because it gives participants the opportunity to a personal challenge. Simply completing the course is an achievement in itself. The participants are not timed, and there are no winners as this is no contest. In fact, one of the rules of the event is to help your fellow mudders whenever they seem to be struggling with themselves. Men and women are strongly encouraged to participate, but the event is open only to those above 18 years of age. So far, over half a million people have participated worldwide. And 25% of them have been women. The events are currently being held in USA, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

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Famadihana – Dancing with the Dead in Madagascar

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The people of Madagascar have a unique ritual to celebrate family ties called Famadihana, also known as ‘turning of the bones’. It is a festival celebrated every 7 years or so, during which family crypts are opened up and the remains of dead ancestors are brought out to be wrapped in a new cloth. The Malagasy then dance with the corpses in great joy. Live music is played, animals are sacrificed and the meat is distributed to various guests and members of the family. The elders explain to their children the importance of the dead who are lying before them. Famadihana is viewed as a day to show your family just how much you love them. Extended families get together and celebrate kinship.

According to Malagasy belief, people are not made from mud, but from the bodies of the ancestors. Hence they hold their forefathers in high regard. They also believe that unless the bodies decompose completely, the dead do not leave permanently and are able to communicate with the living. So until they are gone forever, love and affection is showered on them through the Famadihana festival. It is interesting to note that the festival is not an ancient practice of Madagascar. Its origins cannot be traced beyond the seventeenth century.

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Woman Marries Herself to Prove She Doesn’t Need a Husband to Be Happy

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36-year-old Nadine Schweigert from Fargo, North Dakota, got married last month. She had a beautiful wedding. Nadine was dressed in a peacock blue satin dress and carried a bouquet of white roses. There was also a lovely white wedding cake covered in peacock blue fondant. So far, there seems to be nothing unusual about this affair; it’s not different from any other run-of-the-mill wedding in the US. But if you paid attention, you probably noticed there was no mention of a groom. It’s not that he didn’t show up, it’s just that there wasn’t a groom to begin with. Nadine just happened to marry herself.

Self-marriage can be a confusing concept to those who don’t know what it’s all about. Nadine isn’t alone, however, many others have done it before. It was even portrayed on the popular TV show Glee, where ‘Sue Sylvester’ ties the knot with herself. These ceremonies are considered secular and purely symbolic. New Age websites such as Encouraging Priestess even share ideas on how to perform self-marriage ceremonies. The idea behind these marriages is to help a person realize that they do not need anybody else to feel complete.

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Lunch Beat – Sweden’s Unusual Lunch Break Dance Parties

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The time just after lunch hour is perhaps the sleepiest in a typical workday. Over the years, people have come up with very creative solutions to keep themselves awake and in a working mood, but nothing can beat Sweden’s Lunch Beat, a truly original way to spend lunch hour.

Dancing in a club, at noon probably doesn’t seem like the perfect way to spend your lunch break, but it’s exactly what more and more Swedes are doing to re-energize themselves. They just groove to the music for about an hour and then get back to work. The first Lunch Beat was organized in an underground parking lot in Stockholm, in June 2010. Only 14 people attended that first event, but it was so much fun that the word spread pretty quickly. Today, hundreds attend the monthly Lunch Beats organized in the Swedish capital. The phenomenon is slowly spreading to other Swedish and European cities as well.

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Zombie Shopping Mall – A Real-Life “Dawn of the Dead” Experience

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If you’ve always wondered it must be like to actually experience a zombie apocalypse, then Zombie Shopping Mall is just the thing for you. You’ll be briefed and armed by a special police unit and pitted against a horde of zombies in a creepy condemned mall. Sounds awesome, yes?

Remember the Zombie Boot Camp we featured a while ago? It was a very popular event organized by the guys at Wish.co.uk, an English website offering people the chance to fulfill their wildest dreams. The unusual training course allowed zombie fans to acquire all the necessary skills to survive a living-dead epidemic and test them in a specially designed environment, located in Droitwich, Britain. Following the success of the Zombie Boot Camp, the people at Wish have taken things one step further and created the Zombie Shopping Mall, a bone-chilling experience that takes place in a condemned mall filled with brain-eating zombies.

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Chinese Artist Lives on a Scale to Lose Weight in Public

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Chinese artist Wang Jun is going to be spending a whole month at the Yitel and Yi Hotel in Beijing. Not in any of the luxury rooms, but as a display piece in an art project called “Keep Fit Deal – 15”.  He’s going to be spending the whole time on an electronic weighing scale, not even leaving to eat, drink or use the restroom. A live video stream will be tracking his every move, broadcasting it online. Wondering why in the world he would do such a thing? Well, I found it kind of confusing myself, but it appears that he’s trying to accomplish several things at once. The most important, of course, being weight loss.

Wang Jun says he’s 15 jin (that’s about 7.5kg) overweight and he’d like to lose it all in the public eye. So people can always see on the scale how much he’s lost (or gained). Well, the lack of movement alone will make it hard for him to lose weight, but maybe he’s also planning to do some exercise right on the scale. Apart from shedding the extra pounds, he is also interested in using his body as a media outlet. He wants to experience the physical and psychological limits of connecting with a public space. Jun calls his experiment ‘artistic’. Now, that just makes me laugh, how people can call sitting put for a whole month, art. But according to Jun, his project is of an ascetic nature, intended to highlight the social realities of greed and pleasure-seeking, while criticizing the craze in society for the ‘so called-popular’ things.

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Zombie Woman Climbs from Casket Six Days after She Died

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A 95-year-old Chinese woman, thought to be dead and placed in a coffin, terrified her family and neighbors by climbing right out after six long days. Must have scared the living daylights out of her neighbor Mr. Qingwang, who was the first to discover the empty coffin.

Ms. Xiufeng lives alone in her home in China’s Guangxi Province. She had recently suffered a head injury,  and Mr. Qingwang found her motionless one morning when he went to give her breakfast. “No matter how hard I pushed her and caller her name, she had no reactions,” he said. “I felt something was wrong, so I tried her breath, and she has gone but her body was still warm.” So believing her to be dead, Mr. Qingwang and his son made funeral preparations, placing the old woman’s body in a coffin. Fortunately, in Chinese tradition the coffin is retained for several days, until family and friends pay their respects. Also, he chose not to nail the box shut until the day of burial.

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Rules Are Simple at Atherstone Ball Game – Just Don’t Kill Anyone

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Festival games are really fun to watch, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be in one like the Atherstone Ball Game. I’ve always followed the Spanish La Tomatina with interest, so when I heard about the Atherstone Ball Game, I had to find out more. Considered to be one of the oldest traditions of England, it is played in Atherstone, Warwickshire, as a part of Mardi Gras celebrations each year. For over 800 years, hundreds of men have gathered on the streets of the town to fight for a giant ball. The man who emerges in possession of the ball at the end of two hours of pushing, shoving and punching, is the winner.

The various traditions followed as a part of the festive day are quite interesting. The preparations for the game start early in the morning, with shop owners boarding up windows for protection. At 2.30pm, children start gathering under Barclays Bank. Pennies and sweets are showered on them from the balcony. Later, at around 3pm, the men start to assemble in anticipation of the ball game. A selected dignitary finally throws the ball into the crowd from a window above, and then all hell breaks loose.

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Dwarf Bullfighters – Human Exploitation Meets Animal Cruelty

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It sounds cruel when I write about it, but watching a bunch of dwarfs running around with calves that match their size could invoke quite a bit of laughter. There’s nothing cute about this however, the fighting is quite real and dangerous. Thankfully, the calves and the men are usually unharmed.

Wondering what I’m talking about? Meet the bullfighting dwarfs of Mexico, a group of short entertainers who are by no means ashamed of what they do. The sport, for obvious reasons, has earned the title of being one of the most controversial in the world. Animal lovers say it’s cruel. Human rights activists agree. Critics worry about stereotyping. But there’s no denying the fact that it provides a steady means of income for those who otherwise would find it very difficult to get a job. Since employment discrimination is pretty widespread in Mexico, the dwarf community has actually benefited from the bullfighting shows. More often than not, the bullfighters are laughed at, and although this is the main purpose of their act, they would also like to be respected for what they do.

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Man Proposes to Girlfriend with Dress Made from 9,999 Red Roses

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This is just the stuff that fairytales are made of. The beautiful princess walks off into the sunset with her prince charming, dressed in a gown made from thousands of roses. You’d never think it could happen in real life, but it has. In an incredibly romantic gesture, this guy in China had a dress out of 9,999 deep red roses made for his girlfriend. After she put on the dress, he proposed.

Initially Xiao Fan considered proposing with only the roses, but realizing his girlfriend’s love for fashion, he decided to go a step further and get them sewn onto a dress. So the flowers were stitched together carefully to make a sweeping floral gown, fit for a bride. Several dressmakers worked round the clock on the project to get it completed on time. I think it’s pretty amazing how they managed it, keeping the flowers so fresh and lovely.

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Spikeball – Volleyball’s Brilliant Distant Cousin

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Intense, competitive, trash talk – are the three terms used by the founders of Spikeball to describe the game. After watching a short video of how the sport is played on their website, I’m finding it very hard to disagree. It’s really quite exciting just to watch, so playing it should guarantee an absolute whale of a time.

Spikeball is probably best described as volleyball’s distant cousin, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. The net used for Spikeball is small and circular – probably the size of a Hula Hoop, and it sits on the ground at ankle level. The ball is pretty small too, just about palm-size. Two teams play against each other with only two players on each team. The objective of the game is to smack the ball across to your opponents, just like in volleyball. However, with spikeball, you need to bounce the ball on the net first, so it ricochets upwards at an opposing player. They in turn have to be able to bounce it back to your team, within three hits, or you score. You score points every time they miss, and a score of 21 is needed to win the game.

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Calcio Fiorentino – The Ultimate Manly Sport

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Imagine a sport that’s a mix between soccer and rugby, with absolutely no rules whatsoever. Man, that’s got to be brutal! And that’s exactly what Calcio Fiorentino is. It’s the ultimate sport to prove your strength, power and courage.

The game originated in Italy during the 16th century in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, Florence. The words Calcio Fiorentino can be loosely translated as the Florence Kick. True to its name, the game was devised by four of Florence’s most prominent noble families. Their intention was simple, to be able to show off their physical prowess to their enemies. In those days, spectators of the game were limited only to the ruling class.

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Maramadi – The Famous Bull Race of Kerala

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The most famous traditional game involving bulls is Spanish bullfighting, but the people of Kerala, India, have come up with a way celebration that doesn’t involve torturing and killing poor animals. It’s called Maramadi, and it’s held every year, in the post-harvest season.

Maramadi is essentially a bull racing event, only instead of a track, it takes place in flooded rice fields, which makes it infinitely more entertaining for the crowds watching from the sidelines. In preparation for the event, the freshly ploughed fields are filled with water, thus ensuring that every competing team makes a big splash for the audience. Although bulls are the main competitors in Maramadi, their human masters have the important role of guiding them during the race, making sure they don’t stray off the course before reaching the finish line. Each team consists of two bull and three guides, who have to keep up with the animals if they want a shot at wining. That of course takes good speed perfect balance.

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A Cathedral Made from 55,000 LED Lights at Ghent Light Festival

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Created by Cagna Illumiations, the light cathedral made from 55,000 LEDs, for the 2012 Ghent Light Festival is one of the most beautiful light displays you’ll ever see.

Designed as a symbolic entrance to the Ghent Light Festival, the colorful cathedral imagined by Italian company Luminarie De Cagna stole the show at this year’s event. The gigantic colonnade was adorned with around 55,000 colorful LED bulbs that shine so bright you’d think they consume enough electricity to power a small town, but in reality, the entire installation consumes only 20 Kwatt/h. Inspired by Romanesque and Renaissance architecture, the LED cathedral towered 28 meters high.

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