Sony World Photography Awards 2015 Shortlist

Summer in China means crazy-crowded pools, which somehow means fun for some easy-going swimmers

CP 1

RocketNews 24:

 

Some people don’t seem to mind the crazy crowds that pack into China’s public pools each summer.

Japan’s been having a pretty mild summer so far, but as we pull out of the rainy season, things are sure to be getting more crowded at the beach and pool. China, on the other hand, is well into a sweltering heat wave. Highs in the 35-40 degrees Celsius (95-104 degrees Fahrenheit) range, plus surface concrete temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit), have sent the country’s population running for the nearest body of chilled chlorinated water.

Unfortunately, China’s number of pools isn’t nearly as large as its number of people, and when 1.3 billion people have to share, sometimes this is the result.

 

CP 2

CP 3

CP 4

 

Public pools are, by definition, open to everyone, which for some of these pools seems to also be the proper way to describe who’s showed up.

 

CP 5

 

▼ The “Welcome to the Dead Sea” banners are confusing, but still not nearly effective enough in distracting us from the sheer number of people.

 

CP 6

CP 7

 

Even by the standards of Japan, a country where even tombstones are crowded together in cemeteries, these are some shocking images, prompting the following comments from Internet users.

“Wow.”
“I think I’d get people sick in there.”
“Forget swimming, you’re lucky if you can fit a single part of your body into the water.”
“All this is doing is turning the pool into one huge public restroom.”
“Don’t they ever cap attendance?”

 

CP 8

CP 9

 

If you’re wondering what goes through the mind of someone willing to jump into these pools, you’re not the only one. Local news crews interviewed a few young women, with one happy “swimmer” replying, “It’s exciting!

 

CP 10

CP 11

Isn’t it kind of scary being in the pool with so many people?” reporters pressed. “No way!” came the reply. “The more the merrier!

 

▼ Merriment?

CP 12

 

20 crazy facts about North Korea

nkflag

There are many fascinating countries around the world–in fact, we’d wager that there aren’t any truly boring places. But one of the most bizarrely “can’t look away from the train wreck” places in the world is North Korea. Now, there’s a lot of information (and misinformation) out there about the country, and sometimes it can be hard to separate the fact from fiction. Still, we like to try, right?

So, you can imagine how excited we were when we found a series of twenty photos and facts about North Korea have been making the Internet rounds! But we wanted to knowmore! Click below to see the 20 facts and some of the background information we dug up.

 

north_korea_facts_01

This fact is absolutely, horrifyingly true, and you can read about what it was like being in the second generation in this gripping book Escape from Camp 14. We won’t say that it will reduce you to a sobbing mess of a human being–but if you can read it without going “Holy crap, I can’t even…” at least once, you might be an android. If you’re wondering what might get a North Korean sent to one of these prison labor camps, the answer is political crimes, such as criticizing the government or trying to escape.

 

north_korea_facts_02

This fact appeared in various places around the Internet, but we weren’t able to find an original source for it. However, we were able to learn a little bit about how jobs are assigned in North Korea. It seems that everyone is automatically given a job by the government after high school–and stuck with that job for life. However, the system is breaking down, and North Koreans now have to earn money on their own–by bribing their factory bosses, for example, to let them go to work in markets. There are other jobs in state-run “companies” that earn foreign currency–but they also require bribery to get into.

 

north_korea_facts_03

As surprising as this might be to many people around the world, this is true–and there’s actually a bit more going on. Cannabis isn’t the only drug that’s essentially legal in North Korea–the government also encourages people to grow opium on unused land to be resold abroad. As for marijuana plants growing freely by roadsides, the report we’ve linked to suggest that marijuana is often planted next to railroad tracks to help support the rails with their deep roots. Meth, on the other hand, is strictly prohibited–and users will “face a firing squad if caught.” Walter White, stay out of North Korea!

 

north_korea_facts_04

These facts were reported widely even by the western media after Kim Jong-Il’s death in 2011. While it’s impossible to verify how many holes-in-one the Dear Leader ever made, we’re guessing it’s safe to assume the real number is slightly lower than what the official records claim. But it wasn’t just Kim who took sports seriously–allegedly the North Korean soccer team was publicly derided for their loss at the 2010 FIFA World Cup for six hours. Jeez, that’s almost as bad as having to play soccer.

 

north_korea_facts_05

Partly because of how it’s worded, this fact is a bit difficult to pin down. However, it’s worth remembering that in 2012, the reclusive country successfully launched a satellite into orbit. Fortunately, it seems that they lack any missiles capable of carrying a payload large enough to actually move any of their warheads. So, this is basically true–but they could probably land a really loud party-popper in North America if they had a few spares.

 

norkor-rocket

This is a kind of strange statistic to deal with, since it’s not clear what a success would be. We think this graphic is referring to satellite launches, though–and, yes, of the five launches made by North Korea, only one has made it to a successful orbit in space. However, the North Korean government claims that there is actually another satellite that made orbit in 1998 and is currently sending patriotic songs into space. For science! Or…something?

 

north_korea_facts_07

The number cited here seems to come for an Amnesty International report in the 1990s. One ex-guard who defected from North Korea guessed that about 2,000 people die of malnutrition each year in Hoeryong concentration camp–but that the number of inmates stays constant at 50,000 thanks to an equal number of incoming prisoners. The same guard estimated that 30% of prisoners have physical deformities such as missing limbs. You can read more about the camp conditions on Wikipedia, but we’re not sure we’d recommend it, especially if you’re eating.

 

north_korea_facts_08

This research was widely reported around the world when it was revealed in 2011, so you’ve probably heard about it before. What you might not have heard was the happiness ranking of the USA: Dead last. Hmm…we always suspected that Americans were all secretly depressed–just look at the TV shows! Only depressed people would watch a show called “Glee,” right?

 

north_korea_facts_09

This fact seems to have come from the 2009 book Nothing to Envy, which described the lives of six North Koreans over 15 years, including one school teacher. Apparently her accordion test was postponed due to the death of Kim Il-Sung, though she was still able to find work as a kindergarten teacher until she could take her test. 

 

north_korea_facts_10

As much as people might complain about wasteful government spending, we can’t think of anything that holds a pork barrel to this, um, unique use of funds. In addition to the empty buildings, North Korea also had loudspeakers that would blare propaganda at its southern neighbor–who responded in kind. Fortunately for everyone in earshot, both countries agreed to cease their noisemaking in 2004, after which the loudspeakers were dismantled.

 

north_korea_facts_11

This was another fact that we weren’t able to verify. A number of websites report it, but it’s not clear what the actual source is. However, it’s important to note that there are frequent power outages in North Korea, so even if this were true, we imagine that a lack of electricity would render the radios silent. Bet you never thought someone would hope for their electricity to go out!

 

north_korea_facts_12

This fact seems to come from the Daily NK website, which includes a bit more information on statutes in North Korea. It turns out that all statues are produced in one place, the Mansudae Art Institute, and are actually guarded en route and “presented with a military saluted” as if real people. Sheesh, and we can’t even get our cats to treat us like fake people!

 

north_korea_facts_13

So, what about stuff that happened before Kim Il-sung was born? Apparently it’s standard practice to simply use the Gregorian calendar that western (and most other) nations use. We’re kind of disappointed. We were hoping for B.K. years–Burger King! Or, wait, would that be Before Kim…?

 

north_korea_facts_14

This fact is another one that we weren’t able to verify. It may be true, and would explain how North Korea claims a literacy rate of 99 percent–which would put it among the highest in the world. Obviously, almost no one seems to believe this statistic (remember the 1998  satellite?). On the other, the North Korean education system apparently includes 11 years of compulsory education, so it’s possible that the average North Korean really can read and write.

 

Unexploded ordinance left behind by Al Shabaab lay on the ground ahead of being destroyed by controlled detonation carried out by a combat engineering team serving with the Kenyan Contingent of the AMISOM in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo

Whoa! That is one hell of a way to go, isn’t it? And, yes, execution by mortar shell is a thing in North Korea, but it doesn’t seem to be particularly common. Apparently, it was used on a top ranking government official who didn’t wait long enough to have a party after the death of Kim Jong-il and was executed for lack of proper mourning. Kim Jong-un was reported as saying that the official, who was vice minister of the army when he still had all his cells in one piece, was to be completely obliterated, demanding that there be “no trace of him behind, down to his hair.”

 

north_korea_facts_16

This is certainly true, and you can even read the North Korean constitution if you feel like it. If you’re thinking this flies in the face of reality, you’re note entirely wrong, but the document also states some stuff that might not sound so familiar to foreigners. For example: “Citizens shall firmly safeguard the political and ideological unity and solidarity of the people,” and “Work is the noble duty and honour of a citizen.

 

north_korea_facts_17

North Korea’s economy is obviously little more than a shadow of its former self. In 2011, the estimated GDP per person was about US$1,800 per year, which is just a little bit less than, say, South Korea where the GDP person is about $30,800 or the US where the number is about $51,000. On the other hand, we guess there’s not much worth buying in North Korea…

 

north_korea_facts_18

This fact hardly seems surprising, though we should note that while there is only one candidate for any position on the ballot, voters can, technically, veto a candidate. This means, that they can vote against someone by crossing their name out–but to do so, a voter would have to enter a special booth without any privacy. We’re not sure why, but we have this crazy idea that someone might be keeping track of anyone who feels like casting a veto vote.

 

A North Korean woman uses a computer in

We haven’t been able to find up-to-date numbers for this fact, but we suspect that it might be a bit out of date. The use of computers and the Internet seems to be growing in the country, though mostly limited to upper class professionals and students. For example, North Korea recently debuted its own operating system, called Red Star, based on Linux. Additionally, some are even saying that North Korea is going through a digital revolution–though on such a small scale that we think “hiccup” might be a better word than “revolution.” However, it’s even been claimed that North Koreans have a hand in developing software for everyone from Middle Eastern banks to…Nintendo and Sony? Uhhh…let’s just say we’re a bit…skeptical.

 

north_korea_facts_20

There’s really not much you can add to this, except to note that the wood is apparently being sold to a British company and is used in the “particleboard furniture you’ve got all over your house.”

Link

China tries to make artificial lake, fails and creates desert instead

 

China tries to make artificial lake, fails and creates desert instead

Sploid:

Officials in Zhengzhou, China wanted to build an artificial lake on the outskirts of the city but everything went wrong. The source of water they intended to use dried up and the hundreds of thousands of tons of sand destined for the artificial beach began to spread, covering an area the size of four football fields.

Well done, China. Well done.

Check out this link:

China tries to make artificial lake, fails and creates desert instead

China tries to make artificial lake, fails and creates desert instead

China tries to make artificial lake, fails and creates desert instead

China tries to make artificial lake, fails and creates desert instead

 

Link

Photo Essay: India’s holy men in powerful portraits by New York-Based photographer Joey L

 

Bored Panda:

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-13

Sunken temple in Varanasi, India

 

Our technologically-obsessed society often finds it hard to grasp the reasons behind asceticism: for what reason should one forsake all of one’s earthly possessions and live excluded from society? This stunning set of portraits by Brooklyn-based photographer Joey L puts us face to face with religious ascetics who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of spiritual liberation.

Starting in Northern Ethiopia, Joey has traveled the world searching for wandering monks and spiritualists. The latest installment of his Holy Men series features holy men, or sadhus, living in Varanasi, India. All of the world’s faiths have their own forms of ascetics, but the ascetics of the Hindu faith are known for sometimes extreme acts of self-denial, such as keeping a single arm aloft for months or even years.

Most of the portraits focuses on aghori, a sect known for engaging in postmortem rituals such as covering themselves in human ashes, meditating on corpses or crafting jewelry from human bones. “The Aghori have a profound connection with the dead. Death is not a fearsome concept, but a passing from the world of illusion,” says the photographer. Joey’s travel companion, filmmaker Cale Glendening, also managed to capture enough behind-the-scenes footage to turn it into a beautiful documentary film called “Beyond,” which you can see below.

Source: joeyl.com

 

Check out this link:

Photo Essay: India’s holy men in powerful portraits by New York-Based photographer Joey L

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-3

Left: The Aghori have a profound connection with the dead. Death is not a fearsome concept, but a passing from the world of illusion. Varanasi, India  Right: When he was young, Lal Baba’s parents arranged a marriage for him. Uncertain about his future, he ran away from home in Bihar Siwan and took up the lifelong task of becoming a sadhu. Varanasi, India
 

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-2

Aghori sadhus cover themselves with human ash, which is the last rite of the material body. Varanasi, India

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-4

Lal Baba has dreadlocks (jatas) several meters long, which have been growing for over 40 years. To sadhus, dreadlocks are a sign of renunciation and a life dedicated to spirituality. Varanasi, India

 

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-1

Vijay Nund performing morning rituals in the Ganges River, the most sacred river in Hinduism. Varanasi, India

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-23

Batuk Students, Varanasi, India

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-22

Batuk Students, Varanasi, India

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-5

Right: Baba Mooni conducting Aghori Puja in Varanasi, India 

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-11

Baba Vijay Nund on the steps of Chet Singh Ghat on the banks of the Ganges River. Varanasi, India 

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-6

Right: Magesh left a well paid job as an IT computer consultant to pursue to path of Aghora. After years of practice, he finds no temptation to return to his old life. Varanasi, India

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-7

Ram Das beside boat wreckage in Varanasi, India.

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-8

Left: Baba Mooni conducting Aghori Puja in Varanasi, India Right:

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-15

Aba Yohannis monastery – 74 years old  ”I came from my village, from the countryside to learn. I didn’t go home. I preferred to stay here. I’ve been here for 43 years.”

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-9

Right: “Perhaps I will live even longer than 101, maybe 101 years more. I know a monk who is 80 years old, but he acts very old. He is not like me.” 

 

hinduism-ascetics-portraits-india-holy-men-joey-l-21

Ascetic priest Baba Vijay Nund rows a boat along the Ganges River. Varanasi, India

 

 

Link

Photo Essay: Stunning images of the ancient traditional honey hunters of Nepal

Bored Panda:

 

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-1

 

Andrew Newey, an award-winning UK-based travel photographer, has captured gripping photographs of central Nepalese Gurung tribe members engaged in a dangerous and ancient tradition – honey hunting.

Twice a year, the Gurung honey hunters ascend to the base of cliffs in central Nepal and ascend them to collect honey. They use the same tools that their ancestors did – hand-woven rope ladders and tangos, the long sharp bamboo poles that they use to cut the honey-filled hives off of the face of the cliff and drop them into baskets waiting below. After lighting smoke fires at the base of the cliff to smoke out the bees, they climb their ladders and collect their honey.

Besides the danger of falling, they also happen to be harvesting the honey of the largest honeybee in the world. The Himalayan honey bee can grow to be up to 3 cm (1.2 in) in length. Due to grayanotoxins from the white rhododendrons they feed on in the spring, their spring honey can be intoxicating, and fetches high prices in Japan, Korea and China. The open cliff-face hives help protect the bees from predators and keeps them warm by exposing them to sunlight.

Honey hunting is among the oldest known human activities. There is an 8,000-year-old cave painting in Spain that portrays a man climbing vines to collect honey. One can imagine that these brave honey hunters’ occupation probably stretches back just as far, if not further.

Website: andrewnewey.com (via theguardian)

 

Check out this link:

 

Photo Essay: Stunning images of the ancient traditional honey hunters of Nepal

 

Twice a year, the Gurung honey hunters ascend to the base of cliffs in central Nepal and ascend them to collect honey.

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-6

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-2

 

They use the same tools that their ancestors did – hand-woven rope ladders and tangos, the long sharp bamboo poles that they use to cut the honey-filled hives off of the face of the cliff.

 

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-8

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-3

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-4

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-5

 

Honey hunting is among the oldest known human activities. There is an 8,000-year-old cave painting in Spain that portrays a man climbing vines to collect honey.

 

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-7

 

Besides the danger of falling, they also happen to be harvesting the honey of the largest honeybee in the world. The Himalayan honey bee can grow to be up to 3 cm (1.2 in) in length.

 

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-9

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-13

 

Due to grayanotoxins from the white rhododendrons they feed on in the spring, their spring honey can be intoxicating, and fetches high prices in Japan, Korea and China.

 

honey-hunters-andrew-newey-14

Link

Freezing Puppies Gather Around Stove On A Cold Winter Day And Bark Non-Stop For Chef To Light It

Bored Panda:

 

cute-puppies-barking-cold-stove-1

 

Some adorable pictures have surfaced of a bunch of chubby puppies in China who have been pictured huddling around a staff canteen stove to keep warm. According to the chefs that work the stove, the pups won’t stop barking until the stove is lit. They all live in Jiulongjiang Forest Park in Rucheng county in southern China.

 

cute-puppies-barking-cold-stove-2

cute-puppies-barking-cold-stove-3

cute-puppies-barking-cold-stove-4

cute-puppies-barking-cold-stove-5

Image credits: Quirky China News

 

Check out this link:

Freezing Puppies Gather Around Stove On A Cold Winter Day And Bark Non-Stop For Chef To Light It