North Korea’s Amazingly Choreographed Human Mosaics

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Take tens of thousands of children, place them in the largest stadium in the world, arm them with giant colored flip-books containing hundreds of colored panels, train them to move in perfect unison and you get the awe-inspiring human mosaics of the Arirang Mass Games, in North Korea.

The Arirang Festival Mass Games held in Pyongyang, are the largest and most impressive exercise of state propaganda in the world. The event runs from August to October, and offers an incredible spectacle of perfectly choreographed gymnastics, dancing, singing, and of course, praising the achievements of the communist nations’s eternal leader Kim Il-Sung.  The games aren’t held every year. They are suspended in case of national emergencies, like when flooding ravages the country and the Government decides the hundreds of thousands of performers are better put to use repairing the destroyed infrastructure. But when the trained human pixels get the chance to perform on Rungrado May Day Stadium, in front of a crowd of 150,000 people, they make the performers of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony look like a group of children staging a simple school play. Every 20 seconds for a period of two hours they switch the panels of their flip-books to create stunning mosaics honoring Korea’s cultural heritage and its political regime.

Arirang-Mass-Games

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FootGolf – Fun New Sport Combines Football and Golf

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FootGolf is an addictively fun sport that combines golf and football (soccer). It’s usually played on golf courses and players have to putt a football in 21-inch holes using as few kicks as possible.

The origins of footgolf are unclear, but its conversion into an official sport can be attributed to the Netherlands, where the ruleset was standardized in 2009. Its popularity has expanded around the world ever since, and every day more and more football and golf fans choose to replace the club stroke with a good healthy kick. In this new precision sport, players are required to kick a football into a cup in as few shots as possible. Most of the rules correspond to those of golf, and there is even a dress code. The first shot has to be played from the tee, and obstacles like bunkers, trees, water and hills have to be avoided for an easier game. In some countries, the game also features man-made obstacles that the players are not allowed to touch or move in order to get the ball in the hole. Players have to combine powerful kicks with strategic plays in order to complete the 9 or 18 hole course as fast as they can.

FootGolf

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Dutch Company Recruiting Mars Colonists for Original Reality Show

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Would you sign up for a one-way trip to Mars? So far over 10,000 people from all over the world have answered the call of Dutch company Mars One who plans to send volunteer colonists to Mars for a unique new reality TV show.

No human has walked the Moon since 1972, and no one has ever traveled as far as Mars. But Dutch company Mars One plans to change all that in just 10 years time, by sending groups of colonists to the Red Planet and leaving them there for the rest of their lives. The first group of four astronauts will leave Earth in 2022 and theoretically arrive on Mars the following year, when they will start growing their permanent colony. Every two years after that new groups will be making the seven-month journey never to return again. The project has been received with a lot of skepticism from the science world, with many experts expressing doubts about its success due to a series of major drawbacks, including the inability to return to Earth, the lack of food on the barren planet, the atmosphere that consists mainly of carbon dioxide, a temperature of -55 degrees Celsius, the radiation endured during the trip and the risky landing. But Mars One has the backing of renowned physicist and Nobel Prize winner Gerard’t Hooft, as well as the support of major aerospace companies around the world, who have agreed to supply all the equipment necessary for the mission.

Mars-One-project

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Hari Kuyo – Japan’s Unique Memorial Service for Broken Needles

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Hari Kuyo is a Japanese festival dedicated to old and broken needles. Celebrated every year on the 8th of February, this festival sees hundreds of women dressed in colorful kimonos, gathering at various Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples in and around Tokyo. This 400-year-old ritual involves sticking old and broken needles into soft chunks of tofu or jelly as a way of showing thanks for their hard work. I suppose this tradition springs from the Eastern system of displaying gratitude towards objects that are a source of livelihood. It also reflects on the animist belief that all beings and objects have a soul.

It’s not just about needles, several Japanese women consider Hari Kuyo as a time to value the small, everyday objects of daily life that are otherwise forgotten. Mottainai is the concept of not being wasteful about small things. Burying needles in tofu is said to symbolize rest for the needles, as they are wrapped with tenderness. It’s also about the many sorrows that women are believed to carry in their hearts, the burdens of which are passed on to the needles during many hours of sewing. So the needles do deserve a proper farewell and rest at the end of their service. According to Ryojo Shioiri, a Buddhist monk, “Sometimes there are painful things and secrets that women can’t tell men, and they put these secrets into the pins and ask the gods to get rid of them.”

Hari-Kuyo-custom

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The Peabody Hotel’s Celebrity Ducks and Their World Famous March

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The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is famous not just just for its exemplary service, but also for a truly unique attraction – the March of the Peabody Ducks, which involves a performing troupe of, you guessed it, ducks. The whimsical experience is enjoyed by guests both young and old alike, every day of the year.

The daily routine of the Peabody Ducks goes something like this – each morning, at exactly 11 a.m., five North American mallard ducks, four hens and one drake, come down from their $100,000 penthouse in the hotel in their very own private elevator. As the doors open, the ducks take their positions on a plush red carpet in front of their Duckmaster. Then they begin to march to a rousing rendition of John Philip Souza’s King Cotton March. When they reach the orchid-tipped marble fountain in the Grand Lobby, the birds ascend four red-carpeted steps and splash around in the fountain’s water. They stay there until 5 p.m., when the procession is reversed and they march back to their elevator, returning to the Royal Duck palace for a quiet evening.

Peabody-Duck-March

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Life without Fear – Russia’s Hands-On Approach to Conquering Your Fears

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Life without Fear is an increasingly popular hands-on course that helps people overcome their phobias and anxiety by putting them through a series of extreme trials, including walking on hot coals, sitting on broken glass, swimming in ice-cold water and even eating pieces of burning cotton.

There are people dealing with fears all around the world. In most western countries experts rely on psychology to help patients confront and beat their phobias. Acknowledging your fears, talking about your problems and visualizing yourself overcoming them are some of the most widely used methods, but in Russia, they have a more direct approach. Life without Fear is a two-day course during which participants go through all kind of extreme challenges and facing their greatest fears head on. Created by Valery Bochkarev, a life coach and fire interaction expert, and Alexander Blagov, a personal trainer and martial arts fighter, Life without Fear relies less on theory and lectures and more on direct contact in order to convince people that fear is just an illusion that can easily be overcome. The main idea is to push participants into doing things they never thought themselves able to, whether it be stopping falling knives with their stomach, dancing with balls of fire or breaking wooden poles with their neck.

Life-without-Fear6

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The Guinea Pig Festival of Huacho Has Rodents on the Menu

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It’s funny how a cute and furry pet in one part of the world can be considered a delicacy in another. But that’s exactly what guinea pigs are in the small town of Huacho in Peru. In fact, they have a whole festival dedicated to dressing up and cooking the hairy rodents – The Festival of the Guinea Pig, or as the Peruvians call it, the Cavies.

As a part of the festival that has been around since the mid-2000s, guinea pigs are dressed up as kings, miners, peasants, traditional folk singers and also in modern costume for fashion shows. There are prizes for best costume, so every effort is made to impress judges during the show. As cute as they may look in their little outfits, it’s disturbing to know that sometimes, in an effort to make the costumes stay on the guinea pigs, the people of Huacho do not hesitate to use staples. Prizes are handed out for the biggest, fastest, best-dressed and even the tastiest animal of all. Because once the parade is over, it’s time to eat the models! The guinea pigs are taken out of their costumes and cooked in various ways, like baking, frying, or roasting on an open flame. The locals love their cavies served whole on a plate – complete with the heads, guts, paws and even claws. Garnishes include tomatoes, cucumbers, Andean potatoes, and large Peruvian corn calledchoclo. And the best way to eat the animal, according to the Peruvian folk, is to pick up the entire guinea pig and simply suck the meat off the bones. A single dish of whole fried or baked guinea pig with all the garnishes costs approximately $7. According to festival visitor, Juan Rojas, “Guinea pig meat is very nourishing and contains lots of vitamins and other things.” Native to the high Andes, the meat of guinea pigs is considered to be low in fat and an important source of protein.

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The Sacred Antogo Fishing Ritual, or How to Catch All the Fish in a Lake in 15 Minutes

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Just beneath the village of Bamba, in the Northern part of Dogon country in Mali, lies a small, yet sacred lake, where fishing is permitted only once a year – during the unique ritual called Antogo.

In the past, Bamba is said to have been covered in lush green forests. The lake, which is considered to be sacred and populated with good spirits, used to offer tons of fish that contributed to local food requirements. But with changes in climate, desertification, and the passage of time, the region gradually became dry, infertile and inhospitable. The locals now face huge problems such as unavailability of water, but the lake still represents a precious resource to the local Dogons, but one which they exhaust every year during Antogo. The event is held on the 6th month of the dry season, generally in May, but the exact date is fixed each year by the council of wise men. Saturdays are market days in Bamba, and for the first three market days of the month wooden sticks are placed in the middle of the lake, acting as a signal, a warning that the ritual is getting closer. On the day that is finally designated as the day of Antogo, hundreds gather from all parts of Mali around Bamba’s lake. The 3 biggest groups are formed by the most respected and ancient families of various Dogon villages. The group from Bamba itself is usually the largest. These groups of people maintain a collective mystical silence, except for the wise who recite incantations and praise deities. When they are done speaking, the ritual itself – and all the magic associated with it – begins.

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Truly Curious Eats – The Annual Gala of the Explorers Club

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Members of New York’s exclusive Explorers Club get together once a year at the Waldorf Astoria hotel to enjoy some of the most unusual dishes ever conceived. From live tarantulas to juicy cow eyeballs, the menu of the Annual Gala of the Explorers Club features everything you’ve never wanted to put in your mouth. A fair warning – make sure you’re reading this and especially watching the video, on an empty stomach.

The annual gala dinner of the Explorers Club is no dainty affair.It’s a black tie event, but that’s about it as far as niceties are concerned. As you’re about to see for yourself, guests of this bizarre dinner gleefully sink their teeth into live tarantulas, tear the heads off exotic roaches, nib on succulent cow’s eyeballs and snack on battered monkey’s hands. Not really the kind of things ordinary people usually get dressed up for, but then again, Explorers aren’t exactly ordinary. These are people who have traversed the Earth in various expeditions of exploration, who love to discover new and fascinating things, even when it comes to food. This annual gala gives most of them a chance to try obscure dishes, even if they aren’t the most appetizing in the world.

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Sci-Fi Speed Dating – Because Geeks Need Love Too

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It’s hard out there for a geek, especially when it comes to finding a date, but thanks to events like Sci-Fi Speed Dating, comic-book and video game enthusiasts actually have a chance of finding a special someone who shares their interests.

Sci-Fi Speed Dating is an event that takes place at Comic Cons around the USA, giving geeks the chance to meet like-minded members of the opposite sex, and hopefully lay the foundation for a real relationship. Ryan Glitch, the man who came up with the idea for Sci-Fi Speed dating, actually met his girlfriend at one of these events and is now on a mission to help fellow geeks find their Princess Leia, Catwoman, or whatever other fictional character they might fancy. He travels the country attending Comic Con events looking for single male and female attendants willing to give his speed dating session a try. His idea was so popular that Sci-Fi Speed Dating actually got its on series on TLC, called “Geek Love”.

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Ghost Money – Currency of the Afterlife

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If there is indeed such a thing as afterlife, the Chinese and Vietnamese might just be the richest people there. And that’s because their living relatives make sure they are well provided for – by throwing money into flames. Well, not real money. Only fake notes. This fake money is commonly known as ghost money, “Joss paper” and as ‘pinyin’ (literally ‘shade’ or ‘dark’ money) in Chinese. The ghost money, along with other papier-mâché items (usually expensive stuff) are burned as a part of Chinese tradition – on holidays to venerate the deceased, and also at funerals, to make sure that the spirits have plenty of good things in the afterlife.

Traditionally, Joss paper is made from coarse bamboo paper or rice paper. The Joss is cut into squares or rectangles and has a thin piece of square foil glued in the center. Sometimes, it is even endorsed with a traditional Chinese red ink seal depending on the particular region. The paper is generally of a white color (symbolizing mourning) and the foil is either silver or gold (representing wealth), hence the name, ghost money. The three types of ghost money are copper (for newly deceased spirits and spirits of the unknown), gold (for the deceased and the higher gods), and silver (for ancestral spirits and local deities). Sometimes Joss paper is completely gold, engraved with towers or ingots. The burning of joss paper is not done casually, but with a certain reverence, placed respectfully in a loose bundle. Some other customs involve folding each sheet in a specific manner before burning. The burning is mostly done in an earthenware pot or a chimney built specifically for this purpose.

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Vietnam Festival Is Dedicated to Meeting Ex-Lovers

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Most people cannot stand the thought of their partners even talking to their exes, let alone socializing with them. But things are different in a small community of Vietnam. A yearly ‘love market’ of sorts is held in the hillside village of Khau Vai, 500km north of Hanoi, near the border with China. It takes place each year, on the 26th and the 27th of the third month of the lunar calendar. During these two days, hundreds of ex-lovers from various hill tribes like Nung, Tay, San Chi, Lo Lo, Dzao, Giay and Hmong are reunited. They trek in from various mountainous districts nearby to be able to spend two days with the ones they could not spend their lives with.

This concept might sound extremely unusual to us, and there might be every possibility of a cat-fight breaking out if this unique love festival was held anywhere else in the world. But the people of Khau Vai have a strong reason for the celebrating their love market. It has been a part of their tradition for centuries, originating from a local legend. The story is rather sad – an ethnic Giay girl from Ha Giang had fallen for a Nung boy from Cao Bang., but she is said to have been so beautiful that her tribe did not want her to marry a man from another community. What followed was a bloody war between the two tribes. As the lovers witnessed the tragedy that surrounded their lives, they decided to part ways in the greater interest of peace. But their love did not die there. A secret pact was made between the lovers to meet each other once a year in Khau Vai– on the 27th day of the third Lunar month. The tradition is still being carried on today. On the designated days of the festival, local artists decked up in colorful clothes reenact this tale of forbidden love.

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Macabre Rituals – The Annual Cleaning of the Dead at Pomuch Cemetery

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It’s fascinating how bizarre the rituals of the dead can get. The latest we’ve discovered is from Pomuch, Campeche, a small Mayan town in Mexico. In Campeche, the day of the dead, which is not unlike Spring Cleaning, is honored each year. On this particular day, families visit the cemetery to participate in the ritual cleaning of the bones of their loved ones. The squeaky-clean remains are then placed on display along with flowers and a new cloth for veneration.

The custom applies to anybody who dies in Campeche, ranging from young to old. Every corpse is buried for three years and then, on the Day of the Dead, the bones are dug up, cleaned and transferred to a wooden crate. The waiting period of 3 years is important because the bones need that time to dry out. The wooden crate is placed on permanent display in the cemetery. From then on, people go to the cemetery to pay their respects and clean the remains every year. Nov 1st is the day dedicated to dead children, known as the Dia de los Niños (Day of the Innocents), and Nov 2nd is for everyone else. The custom of cleaning the remains of dead relatives is said to date all the way back to Mayan practices – when the skulls of ancestors were retained and worshipped. The significance behind the ritual is to help people deal with the pain of losing a loved one. It is also believed to keep families together. The most important belief, however, is that a relative whose remains are poorly taken care of can become angry and wander through the streets.

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Lighting Up Christmas – The Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando

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The Philippines is home to a variety of Christmas traditions, but particularly famous is the Giant Lantern Festival of San Fernando, the capital of the province of Pampanga, a 1.5 hour ride from Manila. Locally, the festival is known as the Ligligan Parul. It showcases the most popular product of Pampanga – the ‘parol’, or lighted stars. The artisans of Pampanga are renowned for their ability to create the biggest and most elaborate parol in the country. Each year, the best parol makers of the region show off their creations at the Giant Lantern Festival, vying for the title of ‘winning parol’ and lighting up the night sky.

In the early days, parol had simple star shaped designs, but they have evolved a lot over the years. Today, the biggest ones are about 40 feet in diameter and shapes vary from floral patterns to religious symbols. They are generally made from materials like soft drink straws, crepe paper, glass, plastic, bamboo dowels, and some even contain assorted electronic parts. For the artists who make the parol, excelling at their work is a matter of pride and building a reputation. Several hours go into the making just one of these superb works of art, and the cost can rise to several thousand dollars. Of course, once the Holiday Season is over, their creations have little use.

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Party Like There’s No Tomorrow – Russian Revelers Pay $1,000 to Celebrate Apocalypse in Soviet Era Bunker

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A Cold War bunker in Moscow designed to protect Soviet leaders in case of nuclear attacks will host the ultimate doomsday party. Revelers willing to part with $1,000 will be able to celebrate the coming of the Apocalypse in a safe environment that can withstand nuclear catastrophes and earthquakes.

Sure, $1,000 isn’t cheap, but with the world coming to an end, you might as well spend your life savings partying, right? That’s what the administrators of Bunker 42, in Moscow, are hoping, anyway. The shelter located 65 meters underground has been decorated especially for this special end-of-the-world party, after receiving a large number of requests from Russians looking for a chance to survive the impending doom. According to senior bunker guide Alexei Pavlovsky, the idea behind the event is pretty simple:  : A lot of many people would feel much calmer if they could spend this critical day surrounded by maximum comfort and safety. And who are we to say no?” Can’t argue with that, now can you?

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