Chinese imitators copy Hong Kong’s giant duck

Updated 02 June 2013
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Chinese imitators copy Hong Kong’s giant duck

BEIJING: The popularity of a giant inflatable duck afloat in Hong Kong harbor has not gone unnoticed in mainland China, where two copies have been launched in as many days, according to reports yesterday. Thousands of visitors have flocked to view the 16.5-meter blow-up, conceived by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, since it was towed to the Hong Kong waterfront on May 2, with duck mania gripping the city.
But China has now seen the launch of two of its own ducks, albeit smaller versions. The first was in the northern city of Tianjin on Friday and was funded by a property developer, the daily Global Times reported. The second took to the water Saturday in the central city of Wuhan, according to a blog from the Yangtze daily. Since 2007 Hofman’s duck has traveled to 13 different cities in nine countries ranging from Brazil to Australia in its journey around the world.
The artist said he hopes the duck, which is due to stay in Hong Kong until June 9, will act as a “catalyst” to connect people to public art.


Google pays homage to Jordan’s Ain Ghazal statues in latest Doodle

Updated 30 September 2023
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Google pays homage to Jordan’s Ain Ghazal statues in latest Doodle

DUBAI: Google on Saturday paid homage to the prehistoric Ain Ghazal statues first unearth in Jordan in the latest addition to its homepage.

Google’s handcrafted Doodles are intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures.

Two caches of the statues — roughly 9,000 years old and considered one of the earliest large-scale representations of the human form — were unearthed, the first on this day in 1983, at the Neolithic site of Ain Ghazal, near Amman. The second group of sculptures were discovered in 1985.

The Ain Ghazal figures depict men, women, and children with intricate human features such as almond-shaped eyes, prominent noses, and realistic legs, toes and toenails. Experts still have no concrete answers why these sculptures were created by unknown craftsmen, although it is known that after the statues served their purpose, their prehistoric creators strategically buried the sculptures, aligning them east to west.

Neolithic peoples gave these statues definitive use-lives; they were created, fulfilled a purpose, presumably in some sort of religious or cultic ceremony, and then were destroyed and buried, one study noted.

Both caches of statues where brought to the US to undergo radiocarbon dating: the first was found to be older at 80 years before or after 6750 BC while the second cache’s statues’ creation seemed to lie within 80 years of 6710 BC.

The statues have gained global interest and can be viewed today at galleries such as the Jordan Museum, Jordan Archaeological Museum, British Museum and Louvre Abu Dhabi, where people can go to ponder the mysteries of the past, Google explained in its description of the Doodle.


Paw patrol: Philippine security guards adopt stray cats

Updated 30 September 2023
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Paw patrol: Philippine security guards adopt stray cats

  • Conan, a six-month-old stray, joined the security team of the Worldwide Corporate Center several months ago
  • Despite living his best life, Conan shows little interest in helping his human colleagues perform their security duties

MANILA: A cat wearing a black-and-yellow security vest strolls nonchalantly past security guards lined outside a Philippine office building waiting to receive instructions for their shift.
Conan, a six-month-old stray, joined the security team of the Worldwide Corporate Center in the capital Manila several months ago.
He is one of the lucky moggies unofficially adopted by security guards across the city, where thousands of cats live on the street.
While the cats lack the security skills of dogs – and have a tendency to sleep on the job – their cuteness and company have endeared them to bored security guards working 12-hour shifts.
Conan was rescued when he was a few weeks old by a housekeeper who found him wailing in the building’s car park.
He accidentally landed the role of security cat after his predecessor, Mingming, died – reportedly from gum disease, not in the line of duty.
Grieving guards wanting another furry friend to liven up their shifts decided to appoint Conan as Mingming’s replacement.
“If Conan isn’t around then I’m not motivated,” security guard Aljon Aquino, 30, said.
“He takes away my stress.”
Photos of Conan wearing his vest emblazoned with “security” and lying on a desk next to a life-size cardboard picture of Mingming have been shared thousands of times on Facebook.
He is among more than a dozen strays living in the commercial and corporate building, where they are allowed to roam.
Employees pitch in to buy food for them.
Despite living his best life, Conan shows little interest in helping his human colleagues perform their security duties, such as searching bags of shoppers and workers as they enter the building.
Instead, he prefers to sleep, laze in front of the nearby Starbucks or chase balls across the tiled floor, much to the delight of passers-by.
“Sometimes people will just randomly carry him because he’s really friendly,” said Aquino, playfully poking Conan with his baton.
“He enjoys the work.”


The Cat Garden in Alkhobar: A purrfect place for feline lovers

Updated 30 September 2023
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The Cat Garden in Alkhobar: A purrfect place for feline lovers

ALKHOBAR: If you ever find yourself in Villaggio Village in Alkhobar and fancy chilling out with some really cool felines, then pop into The Cat Garden.

While many pet-centric cafes have opened in recent years across the Kingdom, this one is a bit different.

A first for Eastern Province, this is not a hybrid eatery and veterinary space or shop, but rather a place for doing nothing other than playing with cats.

You go in, you pay for the amount of time you want, you play, you leave. It is as simple as that.

Visitors are asked to fill in a form to make sure they are aware of all the do’s and don’ts, while staff will check to make sure you do not have any allergies and answer any questions you might have. All visitors are also required to wear plastic coverings over their shoes and use the hand sanitizer provided.

With the formalities over you are now free to play with your furry friends to your heart’s content.

There are lots of cats to play with, each with its own personality. Some like to lounge around and be stroked, while others are full of energy and bounce around.

All of the animals live on the premises, but the operators rotate the ones in the public area to ensure they are not put under too much stress.

The Cat Garden opens Monday to Saturday from 1-10 p.m. The cost is SR25 ($6) for 15 minutes or SR35 for half an hour. For an extra charge you can buy some treats to give to your feline friends.

For more pictures of the venue visit instagram @CatGarden_KSA.


Michael Gambon, veteran actor who played Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter’ films, dies at age 82

Updated 28 September 2023
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Michael Gambon, veteran actor who played Dumbledore in ‘Harry Potter’ films, dies at age 82

  • While the Potter role raised Gambon’s international profile, he had long been celebrated as one of Britain’s leading actors
  • Irish president paid tribute to Gambon’s “exceptional talent,” praising him as “one of the finest actors of his generation.”

LONDON: Michael Gambon, the Irish-born actor knighted for his illustrious career on the stage and screen and who went on to gain admiration from a new generation of moviegoers with his portrayal of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in six of the eight “Harry Potter” films, has died. He was 82.

The actor died on Wednesday following “a bout of pneumonia,” his publicist, Clair Dobbs, said Thursday.
“We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon. Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus at his bedside,” his family said in a statement.
While the Potter role raised Gambon’s international profile and found him a huge audience, he had long been celebrated as one of Britain’s leading actors. His work spanned TV, theater, film and radio, and over the decades he starred in dozens of movies from “Gosford Park” and “The King’s Speech” to the animated family film “Paddington.” He recently appeared in the Judy Garland biopic “Judy,” released in 2019.
Gambon was knighted for his contribution to the entertainment industry in 1998.
The role of the much loved Professor Dumbledore was initially played by another Irish-born actor, Richard Harris. When Harris died in 2002, after two of the films in the franchise had been made, Gambon took over and played the part from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” through to “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2.”
He once acknowledged not having read any of J. K Rowling’s best-selling books, arguing that it was safer to follow the script rather than be too influenced by the books. That didn’t prevent him from embodying the spirit of the powerful wizard who fought against evil to protect his students.
Co-stars often described Gambon as a mischievous, funny man who was self-deprecating about his talent. Actress Helen Mirren fondly remembered his “natural Irish sense of humor — naughty but very, very funny.”
Fiona Shaw, who played Petunia Dursley in the “Harry Potter” series, recalled Gambon telling her how central acting was to his life.
“He did once say to me in a car ‘I know I go on a lot about this and that, but actually, in the end, there is only acting’,” Shaw told the BBC on Thursday. “I think he was always pretending that he didn’t take it seriously, but he took it profoundly seriously.”
Irish President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute to Gambon’s “exceptional talent,” praising him as “one of the finest actors of his generation.”
Born in Dublin on Oct. 19, 1940, Gambon was raised in London and originally trained as an engineer, following in the footsteps of his father. He did not have formal drama training, and was said to have started work in the theater as a set builder. He made his theater debut in a production of “Othello” in Dublin.
In 1963 he got his first big break with a minor role in “Hamlet,” the National Theatre Company’s opening production, under the directorship of the legendary Laurence Olivier.
Gambon soon became a distinguished stage actor and received critical acclaim for his leading performance in “Life of Galileo,” directed by John Dexter. He was frequently nominated for awards and won the Laurence Olivier Award 3 times and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards twice.
A multi-talented actor, Gambon was also the recipient of four coveted British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for his television work.
He became a household name in Britain after his lead role in the 1986 BBC TV series “The Singing Detective,” written by Dennis Potter and considered a classic of British television drama. Gambon won the BAFTA for best actor for the role.
Gambon also won Emmy nominations for more recent television work — as Mr. Woodhouse in a 2010 adaption of Jane Austen’s “Emma,” and as former US President Lyndon B. Johnson in 2002’s “Path to War.”
Gambon was versatile as an actor but once told the BBC he preferred to play “villainous characters.” He played gangster Eddie Temple in the British crime thriller “Layer Cake” — a review of the film by the New York Times referred to Gambon as “reliably excellent” — and a Satanic crime boss in Peter Greenaway’s “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.”
He also had a part as King George V in the 2010 drama film “The King’s Speech.” In 2015 he returned to the works of J.K. Rowling, taking a leading role in the TV adaptation of her non-Potter book “The Casual Vacancy.”
“I absolutely loved working with him,” Rowling posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The first time I ever laid eyes on him was in ‘King Lear’, in 1982, and if you’d told me then that brilliant actor would appear in anything I’d written, I’d have thought you were insane.”
Gambon retired from the stage in 2015 after struggling to remember his lines in front of an audience due to his advancing age. He once told the Sunday Times Magazine: “It’s a horrible thing to admit, but I can’t do it. It breaks my heart.”
Gambon was always protective when it came to his private life. He married Anne Miller and they had one son, Fergus. He later had two sons with set designer Philippa Hart.


Brazil’s banana spider aids erectile dysfunction treatment

Updated 28 September 2023
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Brazil’s banana spider aids erectile dysfunction treatment

  • A molecule from the spider's venom triggers the release of nitric oxide, which is essential for an erection
  • Scientist says the research could be especially useful in the fight against cancer

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil: Three decades ago, Brazilian researchers began studying a curious side effect from banana spider bites: the toxin left victims with priapism, a painful and persistent erection.
The scientists were inspired to develop a synthetic molecule using some properties of the spider’s poison to create a gel to treat erectile dysfunction, which is now undergoing promising clinical trials.
Covered in thick brown hair, and with a maximum size of up to 15 centimeters (six inches), the arachnid is one of the most poisonous in the world.
It is found in several South American countries, and was nicknamed for its common presence in banana plantations, but it is also called the “wandering spider” or “armed spider.”
In the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, it is found in rural areas as well as urban centers.
At the Ezequiel Dias Foundation (FUNED), a medical research center in the state’s capital Belo Horizonte, a biologist delicately grabs one of the spiders with a pair of tweezers and stimulates its fangs to get a few drops of venom.
FUNED then sends the venom to the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) which has been researching which component could be replicated to treat erectile dysfunction, which affects tens of millions of men around the world.
“The venom is only used to learn the properties of the molecule” which causes the priapism in bite victims, said Maria Elena de Lima, a UFMG researcher.
Brazilian biotech company Biozeus has bought the patent for the molecule.
The company wants to sell it in an ointment, which would be rubbed on the male organ when required, resulting in an erection in a few minutes, said de Lima.
The molecule triggers the release of nitric oxide, which is essential for an erection as it increases blood circulation and allows blood vessels to widen.
De Lima said the research could be especially useful in the fight against cancer, as men suffering prostate cancer often refuse a procedure to remove the prostate because it can damage nerves and lead to erectile dysfunction.
After the first phase of clinical trials was approved by Brazil’s Anvisa regulatory agency, the medication has now moved into the second of three phases prior to being approved for sale.
De Lima said the discovery of a potential erectile dysfunction treatment was a message “not to destroy animals, even poisonous ones, because there is a real library of molecules that are still unknown.”