The rise and rise of McMansions

Article by CNN

Between 2006 and 2012, Swedish photographer Martin Adolfsson set-out to capture the rise of gated, suburban communities in emerging nations around the world.

Intrigued by the rising middle class in these fast-expanding economies, Adolfsson visited 44 model homes in eight different countries. All displayed strikingly similar characteristics and seemed to be taking their lead from architectural and structural ideas popularized across the U.S over the last century.

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The houses featured in this image for instance would not seem out of place in Florida or Arizona. In actual fact, they are part of the Millennium Park development situated on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia.

But why does the great American suburban dream (and the imaginatively named “McMansion” style house) hold such appeal outside of the U.S.?

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A model of the Vintage Sao Paulo suburban community in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Adolfsson said he believes people in emerging nations are drawn towards projects such as these because they believe they evoke an image of success, wealth and affluence.

“What I think we’re seeing is an upper middle class that has been growing fairly rapidly over the last two decades accompanying the economic expansion in these countries,” he said.

“In many of these countries they haven’t had an established upper middle class before. They’ve had a ruling class but not perhaps a professional upper middle class.”

“I think (these homes) are a way for them to indicate that they have achieved a certain standing in society.”

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Building work nears completion at the Saint Andrew’s Manor complex in Shanghai, China.

“What we are seeing is essentially the American suburban dream,” Adolfsson said. “This has been brought to people through movies, through soap operas, through magazines for decades. That’s really what people see as something desirable.”

“These trends are a result of decades of American dominance when it comes to pop culture … and the export of pop culture which is predominantly American.”

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“The picture on the nightstand was something that was reoccuring in every country,” Adolfsson said.

“In Cairo, for instance, the pictures had more of a Middle Eastern feel. In Mexico City they looked more Latin so they appeared similar to the people who would be buying the homes.”

These pictures were taken in Brazil (left), Russia (center top), South Africa (center bottom), Egypt (right top) and China (right bottom).

But not everywhere adapted to meet the profile of the local population…

“China was the country that took the (bedside pictures) to a whole new level,” Adolfsson continued.

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In these images taken in a show home at Saint Andrews Manor in Shanghai, China, pictures of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry adorn two different bedside spaces. “In one home there was even a photo of (film director) Michael Moore,” Adolfsson added.
“I’m not 100% sure whether they thought John Kerry just looked like a successful businessman or even knew who he was.”

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Strikingly similar furniture and sculpture at separate suburban show homes in the Sheshaun Yinhu Noble Villa in Shanghai, China (left), and the Southridge complex in Bangalore, India (right).

“It was interesting in that the homes themselves were very similar but the surrounding cultural community (outside of the gates) was very different,” Adolfsson said.

“The people living in these enclaves seem to have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens living outside the gated community.”

“I think that’s really what’s interesting. It’s almost like you have these small isolated islands of prosperity. They seem to strive for the same things as other people in these enclaves in other emerging countries.”

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“I think the majority of people simply go with what they see in different outlets in terms of media or what the neighbors are purchasing or buying. I mean, we do this to some extent after all,” Adolfsson said.

Nevertheless, “it’s really impossible to tell if you’re in Shanghai or Sao Paulo or if you’re in Bangalore or Mexico City,” when you visit these communities, he added.

“Suburbia Gone Wild” – book by Adolfsson- took Adolfsson to India, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, Thailand and China. He said he wanted to create a “project that could talk about these trends on a global rather than just a regional scale.”

While welcomed with curious bemusement in some places, Adolfsson was viewed with suspicion in others. This led to him occasionally taking the delicate approach of posing alongside various fixers as a husband and wife couple to gain access to the show homes.

“In Egypt, people were very concerned about me taking photographs so I had to hide the camera and make sure I didn’t get caught. In other places like India or Mexico City they didn’t really care that much,” he said.

Innovations for a better world

1. Drinkable Book

Article by Kristina Barvo. She is a Los Angeles–based writer and a fellow at TakePart.

In the age of e-readers, print books have a certain old-time charm, but there’s more to this tome than meets the eye. The souped-up hardback holds the latest in a lifesaving technology that could help millions of people around the world—and you don’t have to press a single button.

WaterisLife teamed up with scientists and engineers from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia to produce the Drinkable Book, a tome that has a water filter for pages. The card stock, which is coated with silver nanoparticles, works like a “scientific coffee filter.” It reduces bacteria by 99.9 percent, a level comparable to tap water in the United States. This new application can be of especial aid in developing countries, where more than 3 million people die every year from waterborne diseases such as cholera, E. coli, and typhoid.

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But a book wouldn’t be a book if it didn’t impart some wisdom. According to WaterisLife, teaching proper hygiene is just as critical as distributing clean water. So each page not only filters enough water for 30 days but also relays information about safe drinking practices through text printed with food-grade ink.

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The first run, printed in English and Swahili, will make its way to Kenya. WaterisLife plans to expand distribution to 33 countries and to work out production so that each page will cost pennies to make. Sustainable and toxin-free, an entire book can produce four years’ worth of safe drinking water.

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2. Creating light using Plastic Bottle

Article by Liz Klimas from The Blaze

Alfred Moser, a Brazilian mechanic, had a simple idea in 2002 that helped light his home during blackouts. Now this idea is being spread to poor communities without electricity — or those who can’t afford electricity — to provide light like that of up to a 60-watt bulb using only a plastic bottle, water and the power of the sun.

BBC reported that Moser’s idea is expected to help light one million homes by next year. When he thinks of how many people his idea is benefiting, BBC described him as “shaking with emotion.”

“I’d have never imagined it, no,” Moser said. ”It gives you goose-bumps to think about it.”

Moser came up with the idea to drill a hole in his roof and stick a clear bottle filled with water and a little bleach (to keep algae at bay) when there were widespread power outages in Uberaba a decade ago.

The bottle sticking out of the roof — the hole sealed to prevent any leaks in wet weather — refracts the light downward into a dwelling, improving the inhabitants’ the ability to see as they to perform tasks during the day.

“It’s a divine light. God gave the sun to everyone, and light is for everyone,” Moser told BBC. “Whoever wants it saves money. You can’t get an electric shock from it, and it doesn’t cost a penny.”

BBC explained that in some countries, it’s not a lack of available electricity that’s the problem, it’s the cost. Moser’s lighting system helped a family in his community save enough to pay for essential items for their soon-to-be-born child.

“Can you imagine?” he said to BBC of the impact.

In the Philippines, the MyShelter Foundation received plastic bottle donations, which they started using to build walls and windows. Then BBC reported the foundation’s Executive Director Angelo Diaz recalling someone saying, “‘Hey, somebody has also done that in Brazil. Alfredo Moser is putting them on roofs.’”

The idea has spread throughout Manila and in about 15 other countries, according to BBC:

“Alfredo Moser has changed the lives of a tremendous number of people, I think forever,” [Diaz] says.

“Whether or not he gets the Nobel Prize, we want him to know that there are a great number of people who admire what he is doing.”

Diaz included that some people have been using the lights even to help them grow food from hydroponic plants.

BBC reported that people in some communities are being trained to make the lights as a profession.

Through the MyShelter Foundation, the plastic bottle light has taken on the formal name of “A Liter of Light.”

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Happy in Harajuku

Harajuku, Tokyo is known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. Shopping and dining options include many small, youth oriented, independent boutiques and cafés, but the neighborhood also attracts many larger international chain stores with high-end luxury merchandisers extensively represented along Omotesando – Wikipaedia

You will find youth dressed up in different styles and times.

Here are examples:

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Had been there and really, who can’t help being happy there?

Following is a video with music from Pharell Williams.

Paper Phone, anyone?

This article is dated 2011. Not sure if this invention is still a prototype or getting ready for launch…

From UK’s Daily Mail

The PaperPhone’s flexible display makes it more portable that any current mobile computer

In an industry where unbreakable and smaller are best, the world’s first interactive paper computer looks set to dominate for years to come.

The PaperPhone has a flexible electronic display that is set to herald a new generation of computers.

Extremely lightweight and made out of a thin-film, the prototype device can do everything a smartphone currently does.

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Prototype: The PaperPhone has a flexible electronic display, is extremely lightweight, made out of a thin-film, and can do everything a smartphone currently does

It can store books, play music, send text messages – and, of course, make phone calls.

Most impressively, the PaperPhone uses no power when nobody is interacting with it.

Inventor Roel Vertegaal, the director of Queen’s University Human Media Lab in Kingston, Ontario, said: ‘This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years.

‘This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper, meaning that when users are reading they don’t feel like they are holding a sheet of glass or metal.

‘You interact with it by bending it into a cell phone, flipping the corner to turn pages, or writing on it with a pen.’

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Arm-band: The device uses no power when nobody is interacting with it

Its display consists of a 9.5cm diagonal, thin-film flexible E Ink display.
The flexible form of the display makes it much more portable that any current mobile computer – it will shape with your pocket.

Being able to store and interact with documents on larger versions of these light, flexible computers means offices will no longer require paper or printers.

‘The paperless office is here,’ said Dr Vertegaal. ‘Everything can be stored digitally and you can place these computers on top of each other just like a stack of paper, or throw them around the desk.’

Dr Vertegaal will officially unveil his paper computer on Tuesday at the Association of Computing Machinery’s Computer Human Interaction 2011 conference in Vancouver.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1383903/PaperPhone-The-smartphone-paper-shape-pocket.html#ixzz319EVTFON

Eyelid Art – would you do It?

Article and artwork by Tal Peleg From: Good Morning America

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They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but now, it’s actually on the eyelid. Israeli makeup artist, Tal Peleg, uses eyeliner and eye shadow to create elaborate makeup masterpieces on eyelids, featuring iconic characters and films such as “The Sound of Music” and “Phantom of the Opera.” The whimsical artist lists the products she uses for each eyelid canvas on her Facebook page for her followers. Take a look at the eye-popping portraits. Would you attempt to recreate her makeup magic?

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Rencontres Internationales de Cerfs-Volants – International Kite Meeting

This is one of the biggest gatherings of kites in the world and one of the major events held in the Opal Coast and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.



The wide sandy beach of Berck-sur-Mer is the ideal setting for this annual immersion for kids and adults in the magic of flying objects of all colours and shapes.


In its 28th edition this year from 12 – 21 April , it is host to international kite teams such as

Cream Tea, the all-female Les Mademoiz’ailes from France, Air Rex from Japan,Team Silat from Malaysia, The Dealers from Lithuania, Red Alert from Russia (sounds a bit threatening); Evidence and Air Zone Flight Team from the US; Win Sky Shanghai from China;Bogota 2 600 and Team Atemoc from Colombia and Team Flame and The Scratch Bunnies (currently the world champion holders) from England.

There are also demonstrations on the beaches, exhibitions, a kid’s village, and entertainment on the piers.  There’s Rokkaku kite fighting, developed by the Japanese 250 years ago, and the Jardins du Vent, the sweet sounds of the wind playing through the flowers buried in the sand, miniature windmills, straw cats and scarecrows made from recycled material. There’s kite flying by night and wonderful fireworks.

And the best thing is that the whole thing is free and lasts daily from 10am to 6pm, then at night.

–adapted from

http://gofrance.about.com/b/2014/03/04/the-28th-international-kite-meeting-in-berck-sur-mer-april-12-to-21-2014.htm

— All photos by Ludovic Parmentier from: http://www.cerf-volant-berck.com/photos2014.php

– Click on image below for video

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Songkran Festival 2014 – Thailand

For the Buddhist New Year (Songkran in Thai), the Thais show their respect by pouring a little water on the hands of the elders and on any Buddhist representations. The festival of three days (April 13-15 2014) is also transformed into fun-filled water fight.

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Armed with water guns and water containers, travelers and natives including children throw water upon others, which symbolizes cleansing and rejuvenating of their bodies. There is no exception in this festival but obviously everyone understands the real meaning of this event.

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All pictures above are taken from google images