Saturday, October 29, 2016

Modern Parisian Apartment's Hardwood Floor Seamlessly Doubles as a Kitchen Table

Creative duo Mathurin Hardel and Cyril Le Bihan comprise Hardel + Lebihan Architects—a Paris-based architectural team that dabbles in the design of offices, hotels, educational facilities, and unique and modern homes, like Maison DDD. 
The 250-square-meter private flat is located in Paris' 20th arrondissement. Though its aesthetic is classically minimalist, it features a unique and imaginative twist: a cantilever table that seamlessly emerges from the boards of hardwood floors. At first, this design may sound impossible, but the apartment's layout is perfectly suited for such an inventive accent.
While the open-plan kitchen and living room are adjacent to one another, the former is slightly lower than the latter. Situated in a cozy nook, the kitchen is accessible via a tiny flight of stairs. Once inside the alcove, the floor of the living room is at perfect tabletop height—so Hardel + Lebihan simply extended it! The result is a one-of-a-kind, site-specific dinner table that is as avant-garde as it is practical.

Mark Twain Has a Historic Haunted Mansion That Offers Spooky Ghost Tours

Iconic American author Mark Twain, best known for his stories about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, has more than just books as a claim to fame. A lesser-known aspect of Twain—whose real name is Samuel Clemens—is that his former residence is haunted.
Between the years 1874 and 1891, Twain lived in a 25-room Gothic-style mansion in Hartford, Connecticut. (It’s here that he penned classics The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.) The author commissioned New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design the house but did the actual building himself. Louis C. Tiffany & Co. decorated the walls and ceilings of the building’s public spaces.
Twain and family initially left the house to go on a speaking tour in Europe. While away, his daughter, Susy, died of meningitis, and he never returned to his mansion—it was too emotionally painful. The home was subsequently sold in 1903 and was converted into a boarding school and library before becoming a museum about the author. It’s then that the paranormal activity started. As far back as the 1960s, staff members reported “presences” looming, as well as things that couldn’t be explained—like the smell of cigar smoke in the billiards room/office and visions of a woman in a white Victorian nightgown—said to be Susy.
For those interested in finding apparitions, the mansion offers the opportunity to do so. Visitors can tour the house during the Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours all during October, the spookiest month of the year.

Trip Advisor Discontinues Ticket Sales to Anywhere with Attractions That Hurt Animals

If your next vacation's itinerary includes swimming with dolphins, riding an elephant, or feeding a tiger cub, you might want to rethink your plans. The behind-the-scenes cruel treatment of these animals has been under pressure recently, especially by Trip Advisor. On October 11 of this year, the world's largest travel site announced in a press release that "hundreds of animal attractions where tourists come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species will no longer be bookable on TripAdvisor or Viator." While some attractions will cease association with TripAdvisor immediately, the company's complete policy revision is planned to be fully implemented in early 2017.
Of course, a change this great doesn't happen by simply eliminating attractions from a site. Change happens through education and the process of learning. That's why TripAdvisor is also launching a new educational portal which will provide links and information on animal welfare practices at each approved attraction. The goal, according to the press release, is to "help travelers to write more informed reviews about their experience, and to be aware of opinions that exist on the conservation implications and benefits of some tourism attractions. In turn, TripAdvisor believes that better reviews will enable travelers to make more informed booking decisions and improve the standards of animal care in tourism worldwide." Through the educational portal, travelers will find responsible ways to engage the whole family with animals, such as horseback riding, petting zoos with domestic animals, and aquarium touch pools with the supervision of wildlife officials.
TripAdvisor's policy and educational reform isn't possible without its partnerships with organizations already leading in animal welfare and conservation, such as Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Global Wildlife Conservation, Asian Elephant Support, Think Elephants International, Sustainable Travel International, PETA, and World Animal Protection. Together, they believe that they can make a big difference in the treatment of animals, and the future of global tourism. Wes Sechrest, CEO of Global Wildlife Conservation, commends TripAdvisor for their actions, saying, "We want people to connect with wildlife and feel inspired by wild places, and this will help provide a guide for how to do so without further endangering our planet's biodiversity."
TripAdvisor has taken the first step. Now it's our turn to do our research and book responsibly.
Above image via @gemasatria
Image via @koisblessed

A Virtual Reality Sky Opens Up the Ceiling of a Gothic Church in Paris

The soaring French Gothic architecture of Paris' Sant-Eustace church is impressive in its own right, but it has been taken to new heights thanks to Miguel Chevalier's newest installation. As part of the annual Nuit Blanche, an all night arts and culture festival, the celebrated artist, whose work focuses exclusively on computers as an artistic means of expression, used the church's ceiling vaults as his canvas for an array of mapping projections. The work is titled Voûtes Célestes, or Celestial Vaults, and throughout the course of one evening, more than 10,000 visitors watched as the naves and transepts of the church morphed into changing skies.
This generative and interactive virtual reality artwork functions in real time, as the imaginary sky charts change shape following visitors' movements—its dynamic choreography dancing along the vaults. Visitors were encouraged to look up toward the heavens in order to enjoy the experience, a symbolic gesture in this religious space. As they did so, they discovered a multitude of colored networks of light that spread out in the form of sinuous webs. The 35 colorful universes took form and then lost their shape, dissolving into each other.
The entire experience was enhanced with music—musical improvisations played by Baptiste-Florian Marle-Ouvrard and repertoires performed by Les Chanteurs de Saint-Eustache. Chevalier, who is no stranger to installations in Gothic interiors, highlights the impressive architecture, while at the same time creating a mesmerizing, immersive experience. The final effect is a virtual stained glass that merges nature, technology, and architecture.

“Pizzeria Pronto” Turns Any Gas Stove Into a Portable Pizza Oven in Just 15 Minutes

Pizza is one of life’s greatest treats, but for the best slices, you’ve often got to trek to a restaurant. Luckily, that’s not the case anymore—Pizzacraft is thinking outside the box with their ingenious Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven. Give it 15 minutes, and this portable kiln—which reaches 600 degrees Fahrenheit— turns any gas range into a pizza oven that’ll cook your favorite cheesy pie in just a few minutes. It’s the perfect excuse to have a pizza party.
To create the ideal homemade pie, the Pizzeria Pronto is comprised of dual cordierite stones that absorb heat from the gas flame and distribute the energy throughout. This ensures that the pizza will cook evenly and that every slice will be the same temperature. The oven also features a built-in thermometer to let you know that it’s time to cook, and a moisture vent at the top to prevent the pie from becoming soggy.
If you’ve got a gas stove and a hankering for pizza, pick up the Pizzeria Pronto on Amazon.

Awe-Inspiring Winning Images from the 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016 competition recently announced its prestigious winners. Hosted by London’s Natural History Museum, the annual event showcases the beautiful diversity of our world, exploring large and small creatures on the ground, in the sky, and underwater. This year, a judging panel of international experts sifted through nearly 50,000 entries that were submitted by photographers spanning 95 countries.
Photographer Tim Laman took the top prize for his image titled Entwined Lives. It features a critically endangered Bornean orangutan as it ascends high above the Indonesian rain forest. The photo is stunning in its visual depth and conveys an intimate solitude that’s rarely witnessed in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. To capture it, Laman spent three days rope-climbing an almost 100-foot-tall tree to place a series of GoPro cameras that were triggered remotely. One of these devices caught the triumphant composition.
There were 100 winners selected in the 52nd annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest. These images will be on display at the Natural History Museum starting October 21, 2016 and will later tour the world. Check out ten of them, with captions from the competition, below.
Above: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016: Entwined Lives by Tim Laman / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“High in the canopy, a young male orang-utan returns to feast on a crop of figs. Tim knew he would be back. After three days of climbing up and down himself, he hid several GoPro cameras in the canopy, triggering them remotely from the forest floor when he saw the orang-utan climbing. He had long visualized this shot, looking down on the orang-utan within its forest home.”

Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2016: The Moon and the Crow by Gideon Knight / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“Catching sight of a crow in the park, Gideon thought the spindly twigs of the sycamore tree ‘made it feel almost supernatural, like something out of a fairy-tale’. But the bird kept moving, making it difficult to keep it silhouetted against the Moon. Finally, just as the light was failing, Gideon turned an ordinary moment into something magical.”

Winner, Impressions: Star Player by Luis Javier Sandoval / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“As Luis slipped into the water, curious young sea lions came over for a better look. Grabbing a starfish, one of the pups started throwing it to him. ‘I love the way sea lions interact with divers,’ says Luis. Shooting towards the dawn light he created an artistic impression of their playful nature.”

Winner, Details: The Sand Canvas by Rudi Sebastian / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“Pristine, white sand is blown into vast crescent-shaped dunes along Brazil’s Atlantic coast. During the rainy season, an impermeable layer below the sand causes thousands of lagoons to form. Algae and cyanobacteria tint the water with countless shades of green and blue, while streams carrying sediment from the distant rainforests run across in rusty veins.”

Winner, Birds: Eviction Attempt by Ganesh H Shankar / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“The parakeets were not impressed. They had returned to their nest to find a Bengal monitor lizard had settled in. The birds immediately set about trying to evict the squatter: biting and hanging off its tail. This went on for two days, giving Ganesh several chances to capture the fast-moving action.”

Winner, Single Image: The Pangolin Pit by Paul Hilton / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“Nothing prepared Paul for what he saw, or smelled. Some 4,000 defrosting pangolins hidden in a shipping container behind a fa├žade of frozen fish. This was one of the largest seizures of the animals on record. ‘Wildlife crime is big business,’ says Paul. ‘It will stop only when the demand stops.’”

Winner, Urban: The Alley Cat by Nayan Khanolkar / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“With growing human-leopard conflict grabbing the headlines, Nayan was determined to show things could be different. Positioning his camera trap so a passing cat would not dominate the frame, the wait began. After four months, he finally captured this unique human-leopard co-existence as this big cat weaves its way silently through the alley.”

Winner, Invertebrates: The Dying of the Light by Angel Fitor / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“Struck by their uniqueness, ‘like a living island,’ Angel waited three years for a lone jelly on a calm night, when the sunset was at its best. A bubble of trapped air under the umbrella of this one, from being flipped in the wind, meant it couldn’t dive and so wouldn’t survive for long.”

Winner, Plants and Fungi: Wind Composition by Valter Binotto / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“Using a long exposure to capture the drifts of pollen and a reflector to highlight the catkins, Valter took many shots of this hazel tree before the wind finally delivered his desired composition. ‘The hardest part was capturing the female flowers motionless while the catkins were moving,’ explains Valter.”

Winner, Underwater: Snapper Party by Tony Wu / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“Tony was surprised there weren’t many photos of the two-spot snapper mass spawning – until he hit the water. The currents were strong and unrelenting and his first attempt failed. But by positioning himself so the action came to him, Tony captured this dynamic arc of spawning fish in the oblique morning light.”

Winner, Black and White: Requiem for an Owl by Mats Andersson / Wildlife Photographer of the Year
“In the first light of dawn, Mats used black-and-white to capture the melancholy moment following the death of this pygmy owl’s partner. The pair had accompanied Mats on his daily walks through the forest during the early spring. He recalls how ‘the owl’s resting posture reflected my sadness for its lost companion’. Soon after he found this owl dead too.”

1980s New York City Captured Through the Eyes of a Teenager

In 1982 and 1983, native New Yorker Ken Stein worked as a staff reporter for a community newspaper in the Bronx. Just 17 years old, he hit the gritty streets of 1980s New York to document the world around him. Through his work he managed to capture the spirit of a New York quite different than the one we currently know, one with an undertone of danger and edge that has transformed over the past few decades. Stein shares, "The city was different back then. I think it was quieter, the street lights were darker, there was more room to walk and more places to wander—often everything seemed new and the different areas of the city were just that; different."
Shot on slide film, Stein recently began scanning his work, allowing us a glimpse inside the pulse of the city. Images range from candid snaps to engaging portraits. "Taking pictures was always thrilling and I loved the way it made me feel," Stein recalls. "It felt at times I was the only one taking pictures—I think that's why people let me take their photos. It was a rare occurrence and I was bold as f**k back then."
With rampant crime on the subway and a lack of police presence, Stein's teenage confidence gave him an adventurous spirit beyond the risks. His images represent a time capsule, allowing us to reflect on what was. See more of Stein's images on Flickr.