A sizeable gift for a patriarch; deliveries on wheels; and organising pedestrians…

September 17th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church was reportedly given a gift with a difference following a tour of a Russian factory this week - a fighter jet. Patriarch Kirill was reportedly presented with the Sukhoi SU-35 after he presented workers with religious icons. Certainly beats the ‘pope mobile’.

We’re used to delivery people and posties using vans or motorbikes but UK-based delivery company Whistl, formerly known as TNT Post, has launched a new way for its staff to get around - motorised unicycles.The ecofriendly AirWheel unicycles have been “rolled out” in a number of UK cities as the company trials the electric transporters which come with an in-built stabiliser, a top speed of 12mph and which recharge when they go downhill.

The world’s first pedestrian lane for smart phone users has been unveiled in China. Authorities in Chongqing City divided the pedestrian lane in two - designating sections for phone users and non-users - following frustrations about people walking slowly as they used their mobiles. The 50 metre long lane has already brought some new traffic problems as tourists stop to take photos. Meanwhile, walkers in the US city of Fort Lauderdale have been told to wave an orange flag when using a pedestrian crossing. Buckets containing flags have been placed at Las Olas Boulevard in the safety trial to be carried by walkers as they cross the road. Similar trials have reportedly previously been conducted in other US cities but the trend doesn’t seem to have taken off yet.

It’s records time and the world’s longest tongue is just the start; Willy Wonka’s extra room; and, of bridge runaways and narrow houses…

September 10th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

A 24-year-old American has been officially credited as the human with the world’s longest tongue - all 10.1 centimetres of it. Nick Stoebel’s amazing tongue - which beats the previous record of 9.8 centimetres - is one of the latest records featured in the Guinness World Records 2015 book, the 60th edition of the famous tome. Other recent records featured in the book include the world’s biggest collection of James Bond memorabilia (Nick Bennett from Lancashire in the UK with 12,463 items), the world’s longest usable golf club (owned by Dane Karsten Maas, it measures 4.37 metres in length), and the world’s fastest dog on two hind legs over 10 metres and front legs over five metres (Jiff, a Pomeranian from LA who can do the first in 6.56 seconds and the second in 7.76 seconds - well done, Jiff!). For more, see www.guinnessworldrecords.com.

A hitherto largely unknown part of Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory has come to light with publication late last month of a ‘lost’ fifth chapter of Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The chapter features Charlie Bucket and his tour companions being shown by Wonka into a ‘Vanilla Fudge Room’ where, of course, two boys, Timmy Troutbeck and Wilbur Rice, decide to ignore Wonka’s warnings and end up disappearing into a hole headed for the ‘Pounding and Cutting Room’. The chapter was apparently deemed unsuitable for children and was cut from the book when it was published in the US in 1964 and the UK in 1967. Contained in earlier drafts, the chapter was found among Dahl’s papers after his death. To read the chapter (and see the accompanying illustration by Sir Quentin Blake), head here.

We’ve seen traffic come to a halt on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge thanks to rampaging apes in the 2011 release Rise of the Planet of the Apes. But now comes the real life version - except this time it’s deer and they weren’t rampaging, just using the bridge to get to the other side. Police were called but didn’t get to the scene before the deer had cleared the bridge.

One of the narrowest houses in the UK has reportedly gone on the market in London. The two bedroom terrace home in Harringay measures slightly more than two metres wide and is believed to have been built on what was originally a driveway between two neighbouring homes. As well as the two bedrooms, it comes with a reception room, kitchen and bathroom as well as a roof-top terrace. It goes up for auction on 1st October with expectations of a price of £235,000.

Buried treasure in the UK; Hello Kitty not a cat; and the ‘Ginger Discount Card’…

September 3rd, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Crowds have been flocking to a beach near the UK town of Folkestone, Kent, after an artist said he has hidden 30 pieces of 24 carat gold under the sand. Berlin-based Michael Sailstorfer said people can keep any gold that they find with the pieces, about the size of a dog tag, worth £500 each (and a combined total of £10,000). The project is part of the Folkestone Triennial arts festival.

Japan’s Hello Kitty is not a cat but a little girl, according to the creators of the global icon. A US-based academic, Dr Christine Yano, was fact-checking captions for an upcoming exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of Hello Kitty when she was reportedly told “very firmly” by Japanese company Sanrio that Kitty was not a cat but a “little girl” and a friend who is never depicted walking on all fours. A Sanrio spokesperson said Kitty (full name: Kitty White) was born in southern England on 1st November, 1974, and lives in London with her parents and twin sister.

• A red-haired Scotsman reckons he’s saved a couple of hundred pounds over the years using his ‘Ginger Discount Card’. Richard Macrae from Aberdeen said he received the card for his birthday four years ago and has reportedly since used it successfully in restaurants, cinemas and for paying taxi fares.

Talking statues; roadworks gone wrong; and, burning down the White House…

August 27th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Would you like to talk to a statue of Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln or Dick Whittington’s cat? A new project, Talking Statues, launched across London and Manchester earlier this month sees up to 35 statues across the two cities talk to passers by keen to have a chat. Simply scan a tag near the statue with your smart phone and you’ll receive a call back from the statue in question. The project is the initiative of a group called Sing London which asked some leading writers, media personalities and actors, including Patrick Stewart, to take part in the project.

‘Bus’ isn’t the hardest word to spell but workers in Bristol in the UK were clearly having a bad day when they wrote the word ‘BUP STOP’ in large yellow letters at an inner city bus stop. A spokesman for the local council reportedly said that while the sign did become something of a “temporary tourist attraction”, the contractor has since corrected the sign at no additional cost. Meanwhile, still talking about roads let’s head across the Atlantic to the US where a series of wobbly lines painted on Interstate 66 in Virginia apparently created traffic havoc as cars tried to follow them. The lines were apparently a temporary stick-on fix which had peeled off the road and moved. The lines were quickly replaced and an investigation into why the lines had moved launched.

Officials at the UK embassy in Washington, DC, had to issue an apology earlier this week after tweeting a picture of a cake marking the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House by British troops. The photo, posted on the embassy’s official Twitter account, came with the caption, “Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time!” It reportedly provoked a sharp reaction among some readers with one saying the tweet was in extremely poor taste and others questioning why it was posted. The subsequent apology said the tweet was issued “to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today”. British troops set fire to the White House on 24th August, 1814, during what is known as the War of 1812.

A robot hitch-hiker; ‘air punch’ and ‘bingewatch’ added to dictionary - WDYT?; and, getting cold for a cause…

August 20th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

A robot has hitch-hiked its way across Canada in a 6,000 kilometre experiment exploring human-robot interaction and artificial intelligence technologies. HitchBOT is the creation of a group of Toronto researchers and features a torso made from a beer cooler bucket with foam swimming pool noodles for limbs, Wellington boots for feet and rubber gloves for hands. It has a computerised brain, solar panels for power and uses GPS technology to send its creators details of its location. The robot left Halifax in Nova Scotia on 27th July and reached Victoria on the west coast on 16th August. For more on the robot’s journey, see www.hitchbot.me.

Air punch (thrusting a clenched fist into the air in triumph), binge-watch (watching multiple episodes of a TV series in succession) and amazeballs (impressive) are among the host of words added to the Oxford Dictionaries’ online dictionary in its latest quarterly update. Other words added include humblebrag (what appears a modest statement but actually has the purpose of drawing attention to something the speaker is proud of), coach (to spend time relaxing or stay/sleep somewhere temporarily), and
acronyms like SMH (”shaking my head”), YOLO (”you only live once”) and WDYT (”what do you think?”). For more words, see http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/08/oxford-dictionaries-update-august-2014/

It’s the latest bizarre celebrity trend - tip a bucket of icy water over oneself and then post the results to social media, all in a bid to raise money for charity. The Ice Bucket Challenge was launched in the US to raise money for research into neurodegenerative disease ALS but has since expanded to other countries (including Australia) and other charities. Those who have taken part include Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, actor Chris Pratt and Oprah take the challenge before nominating others to do so within 24 hours or make a donation to charity instead. Chills.

Of finger wrestling; FootGolf; and, beached Lego…

August 13th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Strong fingers anyone? The 55th German Finger Wrestling Championships were reportedly recently held in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Different from thumb-wrestling (and there is a world championship for that), competitors in these championships sit across a table from each other, each with a finger hooked through one end of a short leather strap. The winner is the person who successfully pulls the other over the table. The sports, which has apparently be around since the 17th century, has events in a range of different weight categories and the German event is one of several held annually.

Speaking of competitions, the first international open for the emerging sport of ‘FootGolf’ has just wrapped up at Prestwich near Manchester in the UK. The tournament reportedly attracted players from across Europe. A combination of soccer and golf (football and golf, hence ‘FootGolf’), there are more than 40 courses dedicated to the sport in the UK alone with others in Europe and more than 200 in the US. Most of the rules follow those of golf with players kicking a soccer ball into a hole in as few kicks as possible around a nine or 18 hole course. Governance is in the hands of the Federation for International FootGolf (FIFG) which oversaw the hosting of a World Cup in Budapest in 2012 with Béla Lengyel crowned world champion.

For the past 17 years, nautical-themed Lego has been washing up on the beaches of Cornwall. The BBC reported recently that a container which fell off a ship during a storm in 1997 had some 4.8 million plastic Lego pieces inside. They’ve since been found on beaches across the north and south coasts of Cornwall. The container holding the Lego was one of 62 washed off the container ship about 20 miles off the end of Land’s End (the UK’s southernmost point). No-one knows what was in the other containers.

Toaster selfies; a spybase on the moon; and, touring London’s loos…

July 23rd, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Like to look at yourself as you eat? US-based company - the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation - has produced a Selfie Toaster that allows users to imprint a picture of themselves on their toast. Simply supply them with a picture of yourself their “toast engineers” will create a toaster than puts your imprint on each piece of bread you toast. Of course, you can also also order toasters which come up with your logo or note or an image of a famous person - even Jesus. Selfie Toasters are priced at $US75. For more, see www.burntimpressions.com.

News that the US once planned to build a spy base on the moon probably won’t come as a surprise in this age of seemingly ubiquitous NSA monitoring. A declassified US Government report reportedly released on Sunday - the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon - contains details of Project Horizon, which talks about plans to put an earth surveillance system on the moon and a weapons system from which attacks could be launched targeting locations on earth or into space.

You’ll never be caught short in London again. Frustrated at not being able to find places to go to the toilet for free, American Rachel Erickson has started a London Loo Tour which takes in some of the city’s smallest establishments under the slogan of “Not the ‘bog standard’ London experience”. The tour starts at the aptly named Waterloo Station and apparently includes historical facts about toilets in the city, including some information on the delightfully named toilet innovator Thomas Crapper.

Worm charming champions; the Yeti (still) not found; and, the world’s longest name…

July 3rd, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

A UK family was last month crowned World Worm Charming champions. Held for the 35th time, the event in Cheshire saw hundreds of people compete to find as many worms as they could within a metre square plot in half an hour. Techniques varied from vibrating a garden fork (a process known as ‘twanging’, to playing a musical instrument with the winning family, the Bowdens, finding as many as 394 worms in their plot. For more on worm charming, see www.wormcharming.com.

A scientific examination of hair samples said to come from a Yeti (also known as the Abominable Snowman) has found most come from less mysterious beasts. In the first published peer-reviewed scientific paper of its kind, the hairs were reportedly shown to have been matched with bears, cows, horses, sheep, deer, dogs, a porcupine and even a human. Two of the samples were found to belong to a long extinct polar bear, another to a goat-like animal known as a serow and another to a Malaysian tapir. The geneticist who conducted the study, Oxford-based Brian Sykes, said enthusiasts shouldn’t give up yet. “(T)he yeti may still be out there,” he told The Guardian. The study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

A Swedish man has put in a bid for the world’s longest name by changing his legal name to one comprised of 63 words. Formerly known as Alexander Ek, the 25-year-old man from near Stockholm reportedly changed his name several times before settling on the moniker that starts off with “Kim-Jong”, includes words like Gilgamesh and Charlies (as well as a couple we can’t mention) and ends with Ek.

Hungry? Just press print; a swimming pool for dogs; and, excavators under London…

June 11th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Fancy some fruit? Just print it out. A UK-based company, Dovetailed, says it has created a 3D printer which can make edible fruit. The mechanism, using a technique called “spherification”, combines liquid droplets with different flavors and presses them into a desired shape, allowing the creation of a range of different shaped and flavoured “fruit”. The 3D fruit printer was unveiled at an event in Cambridge in late May which brought together foodies, hackers and designers. Dr Vaiva Kalnikait, creative director and founder of Dovetailed, says the printers will open up new possibilities in the kitchen. “We have re-invented the concept of fresh fruit on demand.”

A swimming pool just for dogs has opened at a Spanish resort near Barcelona. Said to be the world’s first dogs only pool, the Resort Canino Con Jane facility comes complete with slides and fountains - all designed for dogs. Federico Cano, the pool’s creator, reportedly said he came up with the idea so dogs could cool off in the Spanish heat. While fur did create some initial filtering problems, these have all now been resolved.

Up to 1,000 small excavators, worth as much as $US10 million, lay entombed beneath London’s streets after being abandoned there by developers. Used to create new basements in large properties, in the past the excavators have apparently been retrieved using a large crane but given the cost of this process, property sources have reportedly told the New Statesman that many developers have instead simply abandoned them underground. They’re now being discovered as workmen return to some of the former building sites to install sub-basements below the existing sub-floor rooms.

Of tractor orchestras; Godzilla; and hotel guest complaints…

May 18th, 2014 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Love the rumble a big engine makes? Then you’ll love the newest orchestra to come out of Spain - its instruments are tractor engines! The 12 tractors performed for half an hour at a festival of contemporary music in the city of Valencia under the watchful eye of their Swedish conductor. The orchestra, which comes complete with a soloist, didn’t win universal acclaim with some audience members reportedly describing it as the “worst thing” they’d ever heard.

For those who haven’t seen the latest Godzilla movie, we’re issuing a spoiler alert (look away now!). Those who have (and probably most of those who haven’t) will know that much of San Francisco is laid waste in the film - a fact a hacker played upon when he reportedly changed a roadworks sign in the city’s famous Van Ness Avenue so that it warned of ‘Godzilla Attack’ and asked people to turn back. Meanwhile, in other strange Godzilla-related news, the US Airforce reckons it could take out the monster if it had to. See some interviews conducted by the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine. Meanwhile the UK’s Telegraph newspaper has published a list of six things the movie got wrong. You can read it here.

We love lists at StrangeSights and travel website Skyscanner have duly obliged by providing a list of 10 of the oddest requests from hotel guests and another of 10 of the strangest hotel complaints. The first list - compiled from interviews with 400 hotel staff - includes demands for a bath of honey (they obviously didn’t have asses’ milk), a bowl of crocodile soup and the toilet in the room to be filled with mineral water while the complaints include the sheets being too white, the sky being too blue, the waiter being too handsome and the fact there was no steak on a vegetarian menu. Check out the graphic on our Pinterest site