Monday, April 25, 2005

A Sign Of The Apocalypse

Back in my day, this was a euphemism for passing gas. Personally, I blame Bush. Why not.

Exploding toads baffle German experts
Sat Apr 23,12:16 PM ET

BERLIN (AFP) - Hundreds of toads have met a bizarre and sinister end in Germany in recent days, it was reported: they exploded.

According to reports from animal welfare workers and veterinarians as many as a thousand of the amphibians have perished after their bodies swelled to bursting point and their entrails were propelled for up to a metre (three feet).

It is like "a science fiction film", according to Werner Smolnik of a nature protection society in the northern city of Hamburg, where the phenomenon of the exploding toad has been observed.

"You see the animals crawling on the ground, swelling and then exploding."

He said the bodies of the toads expanded to three and a half times their normal size.

"I have never seen such a thing," said veterinarian Otto Horst. So bad has the death toll been that the lake in the Altona district of Hamburg has been dubbed "the pond of death."

Access to it has been sealed off and every night a biologist visits it between 2:00 and 3:00 am, which appears to be peak time for batrachians to go bang.

Explanations include an unknown virus, a fungus that has infected the water, or crows, which in an echo of the Alfred Hitchcock movie "The Birds", attack the toads, literally scaring them to death.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Apparently even Snow White isn't pure

It's been awhile, I know. Suffice to say I've been busy with film reviews and pilots. This, though, sent me running from my hobbit hole, frothing at the mouth. As if the decency police weren't enough, now we have to attack the classics.

Fairy tales linked to violent relationships
Fri Apr 22,11:55 AM ET

LONDON (AFP) - Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says.

A study of both parents of primary school children and women who have been involved in domestic abuse claims than those who grew up reading fairy tales are likely to be more submissive as adults.

Susan Darker-Smith, a graduate student who wrote the academic paper, said she found many abuse victims identified with characters in famous children's literature and claimed the stories provide "templates" of dominated women.

A more senior academic at the University of Derby said the topic was sure to spark debate but merited further research.

"They believe if their love is strong enough they can change their partner's behaviour," Darker-Smith said. "Girls who have listened to such stories as children tend to become more submissive in their future relationships."

The research, conducted in Leicester in the east of England, is to be presented to the International Congress of Cognitive Therapy in Gothenburg, Sweden, next month.

Her study, entitled "The Tales We Tell Our Children: Overconditioning of Girls to Expect Partners to Change", will be discussed by many of the world's most influential therapists.

Darker-Smith said she believed younger generations exposed to television and other entertainment media may react differently and be less submissive than those weaned solely on literature.

Her work found the most popular bedtime stories for girls were "Cinderella" and "Rapunzel", while boys were more likely to hanker for "Paddington Bear" or "Thomas the Tank Engine".

Darker-Smith, a masters student in cognitive behavioural psychotherapy at the University of Derby, will also submit other abstracts to the conference, examining ideas about anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Michael Townend, senior lecturer in psychotherapy at the university said: "We know that storytelling is an important way that children form beliefs about themselves and relationships."

"Susan's work is an interesting study which is sure to spark debate, but further research is required in this area."

Now if this were a fairy tale, someone named "Darker-Smiith" would clearly be the evil sorceress. I'm just saying.