Of ‘extreme phone pinching’; teddy bear theme parks; and, Santa Claus running for office in North Pole…

October 7th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

It’s among the latest viral trends to sweep over social media and takes oddness to new heights. Called ‘extreme phone pinching’, it involves holding your mobile phone by pinching it between just a thumb and finger and dangling it over some perilous location whether that be a cliff, a drain, over the side of a tall building or even a toilet. The trend reportedly started back in July and apparently owes its origins to US musical duo Twenty One Pilots. But beware, taking part can come with a significant financial cost (iPhone’s aren’t cheap!)

We love a theme park with a difference on StrangeSights and this new theme park, which is scheduled to open in China soon, certainly fits the bill. The 400 hectare park is reportedly devoted to British-themed teddy bears and will feature a teddy bear museum at its heart as well as a “Beefeater bear” foodcourt serving British food and a “Shakespeare theatre” featuring a cast of teddy bears. The park, located near Beijing, is a joint venture between The Great British Teddy Bear Company and Tenio Architectural Design.

Santa Claus is running for office in North Pole (well, where else?) The man, whose name actually has been changed to Santa Claus, is one of two candidates for North Pole City Council, the News Miner reports. North Pole is a suburb of the city of Fairbanks in eastern Alaska. The outcome of the election, at this stage, remains unknown.

Of dull men; mail-eating monkeys; and, “celebrating” life in a post-apocalyptic world…

September 30th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Think you’re dull? Maybe this will make you feel better. Leland Carlson, the assistant vice-president of the UK-based Dull Men’s Club, has released a new book featuring what he believes is something of a who’s who of dull men in Britain (and that takes into account those who appeared in the club’s 2015 calendar!). Dull Men of Great Britain features 40 “boring Brits” including a train spotter, a collector of vacuum cleaners, a measurer of mountains and a photographer of plaques. Follow the link above to meet some of the men.

We’ve all heard the old excuse, “the dog ate my homework” but what “I never received the letter because a monkey ate the mail”? A pet monkey, known as Zeek, went on something of a rampage in the community of Sanford, in Florida, earlier this week, eating the contents of at least one mail box, swinging off traffic signs and pulling bits off the police car sent to apprehend him. He was eventually distracted by a bottle of water before being collected by his owner. You can check out the police department’s Facebook page for some pictures.

Some 2,500 Americans experienced life in a post-apocalyptic world last weekend in an event in California inspired by the dystopian world of film franchise Mad Max. Wasteland Weekend, held in the Mojave Desert over four days from last Thursday, features specially-made vehicles, activities including fire-spinning and bounty hunting games, and live bands and other performances - all with the aim, say organisers, of living “inside the movie”. It is the fifth year the weekend - said to be the largest festival of its kind in the world - has been run.

Huh? (in whatever language you like); ‘invisibility cloak’ a step closer; and, PETA sues over monkey selfies…

September 24th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

The discovery that an equivalent of the word ‘huh?’ exists in every language, a study of what parts of the body are most painful when stung by a bee, and research showing how acute appendicitus can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain a patient is in when driven over speed humps have all been honoured at this year’s Ig Nobel Awards. At what we presume was a glittering awards night on 17th September, the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony also saw awards handed to an Australian group of researchers who invented a chemical recipe to partially unboil an egg, a group of US and Taiwanese researchers who tested the principle that all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds no matter how big they may be, and an international group of scientists who found many business leaders had developed a fondness for risk-taking in childhood after experiencing a natural disaster like a earthquake that had no dire consequences for them personally. The Ig Nobels are awarded in a range of categories for achievements that “first make people laugh, then make them think”.

The quest for an invisibility cloak took a step forward recently with news that a team of researchers in the US have reportedly developed a ‘cloak’ which conforms to the shape of an object and makes it undetectable with visible light. The super-thin cloak - which has a thickness of just 80 nanometres - re-routs light waves to make it invisible to the eye. Those behind the research have suggested the technology could be used for a range of military applications - hiding a tank, for example - or even for masking facial blemishes or hiding one’s belly.

Remember the Indonesia monkey who took what appeared to be a grinning selfie when a British photographer left his camera unattended? Animal rights activists in the US have reportedly lodged a federal lawsuit in California in which they claim that Naruto, a six-year-old crested macaque who lives on the island of Sulawesi, should be given the copyright on that and a series of photos he took using the camera of British photographer David Slater. They’re also asking for the monkey to receive damages for copyright infringement after Slater used the images in a wildlife book. Slater has reportedly said he was “very saddened” by the lawsuit - filed by People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) - because he considers himself an advocate of animal rights.

Of God’s dress sense; a passion for tractors; and, tossing black puddings…

September 16th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

An Alabama-based city councillor has invoked God’s dress sense in his quest to ban sagging jeans which show off the wearer’s undergarments. Councillor Frank Goodman has reportedly told a council meeting that he prayed about the issue in preparing for the drafting of the new dress code, concluding that: “I know that God would not go around with pants down”. The council is also looking at banning short skirts.

It’s been his life’s passion but not one that he’s passed on to his children. Seventy-nine-year-old English farmer Paul Rackham is reportedly selling off his collection of more than 230 rare and old agricultural machines - worth an estimated £2 million - after saying his family didn’t share his passion for collecting tractors. The collection, which is stored in a giant grain shed in Norfolk, is being sold by auction.

Fancy your arm at throwing a black pudding (and not just because you’re not a fan of munching on a sausage made of congealed pig’s blood, fat and meat)? The annual World Black Pudding Throwing Championships - a contest which apparently traces its origins to an incident in the 15th century Wars of the Roses when the armies of the Houses of Lancaster and York threw food at each other - have recently concluded with a British builder reportedly taking out the honours. Contestants at the contest in Manchester tossed the black puddings in an attempt to knock as many Yorkshire puddings off a six metre high platform as they could.

A cat’s-eye street view; DNA testing tomatoes; and, the McWhopper proposal…

September 9th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

If you’ve ever wondered how a cat sees the world, you need do so no more. The city of Onomichi in Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture has created a new interactive map which provides a cat level view of the city in a manner similar to Google’s “street view”. The map - part of a tourism initiative - shows shops and local landmarks as well as the locations of 11 of the city’s cats. Meanwhile, while we’re talking about cats, a new study has shown that the stereotype as cats as being independent creatures seems to have some foundation. The research, by Daniel Mills, a veterinary behavioral medicine researcher at the University of Lincoln in the UK, apparently doesn’t show that cats don’t love their owners just that they don’t look to them as a “source of safety and security”.

A flower show in the UK is using DNA testing to ensure that a rogue variety of tomato doesn’t win its giant tomato competition. The Harrogate Autumn Flower Show is reportedly offering a £1,000 prize for the winner of its Gigantomo class tomato contest (and a further £5,000 if the fruit sets a new world record). Dutch experts will DNA test the fruit to ensure all is as it should be.

Burger King has proposed to bury the rivalry with McDonald’s for a day in honour of the UN’s International Day of Peace on 21st September. It has proposed, via a specially created website as well as full page newspaper ads in the US that the two companies create a combined burger known as the McWhopper which would feature the “tastiest bits” of a Big Mac and a Whopper. It would be available for that day only in Atlanta (a location halfway between Chicago, home of the McDonald’s HQ, and Miami, home of the Burger King HQ) with the proceeds donated to charity. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook has reportedly responded by saying the two companies could do something “bigger” and said he would be in touch. Stay tuned.

A toilet experience to remember; a new feline stationmaster; and, ‘mic drop’ makes the dictionary (picture us walking away)…

September 2nd, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

It may not have felt funny at the time. A woman attending the Newlyn Fish Festival in England was ‘teleported’ across the site when she entered a portable toilet on one side of the town’s harbour, only to find herself on the other side when she came out. But don’t worry, there was nothing otherworldly about her transportation, the move reportedly happened when a forklift picked the toilet up and transported her across the site while she was inside. “I think she was suffering from a bit of shock or she thought she had teleported across to the other side of the harbour,” the harbourmaster, Rob Parsons, told BBC radio.

Kishi railway station in Japan has a new stationmaster. And like the previous one, Nitama is a cat. Nitama reportedly had to wait 50 days - marking a period of mourning - after the death of previous stationmaster Tama in April at the ripe old age of 16 (about 80 in cat years) but late last month Nitama was able to take up its new position. Nitama, Tama’s former deputy, apparently beat several other cats for the job (graduating from Cat Stationmaster Training School probably helped).

‘Mic drop’, ‘awesomesauce’, and ‘manspreading’ are among new words and phrases added recently to OxfordDictionaries.com’s lexicon. Other new additions include ‘NBD’ (No big deal), ‘SJW’ (Social justice warrior), ‘Grexit’ (Greece plus exit in reference to the possibility of Greece leaving the eurozone), ‘pwned’ (being utterly defeated in video gaming, it apparently comes from mistyping ‘owned’), and the opposite of ‘awesomesauce’, ‘weak sauce’ (something of a disappointing standard). BTW, ‘mic drop’ is likely to mean “an exclamation to emphasize a particularly impressive point” while manspreading refers to “the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats”.

Have a boring time at Dismaland; an art gallery’s nightmare; and, if you ever happen to fall into a black hole…

August 26th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Described as a “dystopian theme park”, the Dismaland Bemusement Park has recently opened its doors in the UK seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare near Bristol. A pop-up art installation created in a derelict lido by world-renowned artist Banksy, Dismaland features a ruinous take on the Disneyland castle, a model village where there’s a riot in progress, a pool around which visitors can steer groups of asylum seekers, rather bored looking attendants, and even ticket problems (although these are reportedly not supposed to be part of the experience). The installations are commentaries on recent events so the fun, if there is any to be had at an attraction described as the UK’s “most disappointing new visitor attraction”, is in guessing which event they refer to. Open until late September.

A $2 million painting had a hole punched in it in Taiwan this week when a visiting 12-year-old boy tripped and fell. The 350-year-old work, Flowers, by Italian Paolo Porpora, was left with a fist-sized hole but the exhibition’s organisers reportedly said they will not ask his family to cover the cost of repairs.

Falling into a black hole doesn’t mean it’s necessarily curtains, according to world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. While it has been long assumed that the massive gravitational forces in a black hole would destroy all matter sucked inside, Hawking reportedly told scientists in Sweden that he believed matter could escape and may even pop up in another dimension (a story that gives greater credence to films like 2014’s Interstellar). “If you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up, there’s a way out,” he said in a speech at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Holiday like a king; Tolkein fans launch campaign to bring Minas Tirith to life…and another to destroy it; and, marking 419.9 (not 420) miles…

August 19th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

Spend a night living like a king (although watch your head if you stay there). France’s opulent Palace of Versailles - one of the most visited tourist sites in the country - is flinging open its doors in a bid to raise funds for its maintenance. The property’s management is reportedly calling for tenders for someone to run three 17th century mansions located a short distance from the main building as a hotel (already tentatively named the Hotel de l’Orangerie). A previous attempt to create a hotel on the palace was abandoned a couple of years ago. The last royal occupants, King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, were both executed in the French Revolution.

Ever dreamt of living in a city straight from the pages of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings? A crowd-funding effort is currently underway to raise £1.85 billion to build the capital of Gondor, Minas Tirith, spectacularly brought to life in Peter Jackson’s film adaptions of the books. The architects and engineers behind the effort - who had raised £81,000 by the time we went to print from more than 2,000 people - aim to create a full functioning city in line with that envisioned by Jackson with work proposed to begin next year. “We believe that, in realising Minas Tirith, we could create not only the most remarkable tourist attraction on the planet, but also a wonderfully unique place to live and work.” While it remains to be seen whether the project gets up, one group has already vowed to do all they can to destroy it. A rival crowd-funding project, spearheaded by fantasy author Tom Stacey, aims to raise a orc army to tear the city down should it be built. It has raised £22 of a £1 million goal when we looked.

Authorities in the US state of Idaho have reportedly replaced a 420 mile highway sign with one marking 419.9 miles, apparently to thwart collectors eager to take the sign for its association with marijuana. The number 420 has long had an association with the drug which has already led authorities in other US states to also remove 420 mile signs (although there are not said to be many given the length a road has to be to attract such a sign in the first place).

A ‘robot hotel’; NZ’s new flag choices; and, Perth artist to lend a listening ear…

August 12th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

The world’s first “robot hotel” - that is, a hotel run almost entirely by robots - has opened in Japan. The Henn na Hotel (which translates to ’strange’ or ‘weird’ hotel) in southern Japan opened to the public in mid-July and features a robotic dinosaur receptionist, an automated trolley in place of a porter to carry your bags and the use of facial recognition technology to open doors. The hotel is part of an amusement park but owner Hideo Sawada reportedly says it is a genuine attempt to use technology to achieve greater efficiencies and adds that robots can reduce labour costs by as much as 70 per cent. Rooms start at about $US80 a night.

• New Zealand has this week unveiled 40 designs for its new flag and there’s not a kiwi - or a sheep - in sight. The shortlist of 40 flags - taken from the more than 10,000 designs put forward - boast designs featuring the country’s famous silver fern, the Southern Cross and the Maori “koru”, a spiral shape based on an unfurling silver fern frond. One of the flags even features a modified “koru” version of a Union Jack. A “flag consideration panel” will now whittle the list down to four before a binding referendum will be held later this year. To see all the shortlisted designs (along with those that were rejected), head here.

An Australian artist has grown an ear on his arm which he plans to connect to the internet so people can hear him. The artist known as Stelarc (actually a Curtin University professor named Stelios Arcadiou) has told the ABC that he plans to use his own stem cells to make the ear more three dimensional so that a microchip can be installed inside, creating a wifi connection so that he can be heard anywhere in the world. He intends the connection to be 24/7.

The further adventures of hitchBOT; ‘ejector-bed’ promises to get sleepyheads out of bed; and, a new world skydiving record…

August 5th, 2015 by www.sightmagazine.com.au

hitchBOT may have taken a beating (it was apparently decapitated) but its cross-country hitchhiking expeditions may yet go on. Having successfully hitchhiked its way across several countries including Canada, Germany and The Netherlands (see our earlier post here), the robot was hitchhiking its way across the US when it was attacked in Philadelphia and damaged beyond repair. The attack came only two weeks after it had set out from Marblehead in Massachusetts with the aim of reaching the west coast of the US. The robot nonetheless lives on, commenting on its website, said that while its body was damaged “I live on back home”. The robot, which features a computerised brain as well as a torso made from a beer cooler bucket, foam swimming pool noodles for limbs, Wellington boots for feet and rubber gloves for hands, was created by a group of Canadian researchers exploring human-robot interaction and artificial intelligence technologies. With a bucket list of sites in the US still unseen, one can only hope it’ll one day look to complete its American adventure. “Sometimes bad things happen to good robots,” hitchBOT added.

Looking for that extra spring when you leap out of bed in the morning? A British man has created a “high voltage ejector bed” which may be the ideal solution for those people who repeatedly sleep through alarms. Colin Furze, who said he drew inspiration from those great inventors Wallace and Gromit, posted a video on YouTube showing how the bed works (it’s since had more than three million views!). Not sure if it will ever go to market (though it’s certainly been a good publicity move for coffee company Taylors of Harrogate who Furze says asked him to make a wake-up device to match their ‘High Voltage coffee’.)

A group of skydivers set a new world record as they joined together to form a giant flower - the largest ever vertical skydiving formation - and flew head down at speeds of up to 386kph. It took the group of 164 people - which reportedly included some Australians - 13 attempts to set the record over central Illinois. It was last set by a group of 138 in 2012.