Thursday, December 31, 2009
I know I've written about this subject before, but I thought this video was particularly interesting. I've always been fascinated by Japanese giant salamanders. Perhaps it's because North America's only giant salamanders can be found in the mountains where I lived as a kid. The Appalachian Mountain salamanders are called hellbenders, which has to be the greatest name ever given to a creature. Sadly, thanks to pollution, they may not be around much longer.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Allow me to introduce you to the Namahage. Three hundred and sixty-four days a year, these knife-wielding demons with a penchant for straw coats wander the wilderness on the peninsula of Oga in Japan. But every New Year's Eve, they leave their mountain lairs and go looking for a little human company.
The Namahage visit nearby villages, bursting into homes in search of lazy children. The head of each household must then negotiate with the demons (the negotiations apparently involve lots of sake) and attempt to convince them that the children of the house have been both hard-working and obedient.
If the Namahage remain unconvinced, the little boys and girls are dragged back to the mountains and forced to lead a life of drudgery.
Okay, now to my main point. The twenty-first century is a good time to be young. A kid today might squeal a bit at the sight of a Namahage or Krampus, but few would ever take them seriously. But go back a hundred years or so, and I'd bet that these demons were pretty good at scaring the snot out of children.
Imagine it. It's 1909. You're a kid in Oga, and your parents warn you that there are terrifying creatures called Namahage living deep in the woods. (And you can't go online to see if it's true.) Then on New Year's Eve, a hideous demon bursts through your door . . .
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Want to know what your grandparents did for fun? According to the Wikipedia entry, Octopus wrestling was all the rage in the 1960s. (Really?) Divers would plunge into the ocean, grab an octopus and attempt to drag it to the surface. Anyone who took the sport seriously accomplished this feat without the help of an artificial breathing apparatus.
It wasn't easy. The octopus is stronger and smarter than one might imagine. (How smart? Click here. Thanks, Cailey!) Octopuses have been known to grab divers and hold them underwater until they drown. Still, I think one octopus wrestler took it a bit far when he declared:
I realize it all sounds like a loathsome sport but it’s really more fun than hunting some poor harmless creature. When you wrestle and kill an octopus, you’re ridding the marine world of a treacherous enemy. And you’d better watch your step, too. For there’s no such thing as a reckless octopus hunter. You’re either careful or dead.
A treacherous enemy? I find them rather cuddly!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
This may come as a surprise to some people (including you, dear Anonymous), but posting on my blog doesn't stop me from writing books. I am capable of doing both. Just like you are probably capable of showering AND finishing your homework. Or eating your Wheaties AND getting to class on time. Or writing testy notes AND flossing your teeth before bed.
In fact, in the course of writing this blog, I often come across interesting ideas, events, or images that later make their way into my books. Take, for example, the photo above. It's not the product of Photoshop. This is what people all over Norway saw a few nights ago.
Was it a Russian rocket spiraling out of control (as some have suggested)? An alien encounter? A sign from a higher power? Who knows . . . maybe the answer will be found in my next book!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I could spend days and days blogging about Hello Kitty craziness. She pops up in some pretty amazing places these days. Like Hello Kitty sausages. Mmmm. Delicious.
But this afternoon I received an email from an associate (thanks JA) which directed me to this article.
Apparently police chiefs in Bangkok are now punishing police officers who break the rules by forcing them to wear Hello Kitty armbands. (Photo below.)
I'm conflicted. I find it amusing, of course, but I'm also just a little offended. Why is it so shameful to wear a cute pink armband?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
(Art by Andrew Bell.)
This post is going to make lab-grown pork seem appetizing by comparison. Brace your stomachs.
Here's the first paragraph of an article published in today's USA Today:
In the past three years, the government has provided the nation's schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn't meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants.
What does that mean? Here are a couple of the article's many revelations:
1. US schools are often supplied with meat from chickens so old that they would otherwise only be suitable for compost or pet food.
2. Schools can serve ground beef that contains high levels of bacteria that often indicate the presence of fecal contamination. (Yes, that is what you think it is. And it's not a good thing. At all.)
This is serious! Read more here.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Each December, blogs all over the world seem to hone in on the very same subject. Krampus. This year, I've decided to join the fun.
So what's Krampus, you ask? Krampus is a hideous demon-like creature that originated in the deep, dark, desolate forests of Northern Europe. He's said to accompany St. Nicholas on the jolly man's gift-giving journeys (shown above). But while St. Nick hands out presents to good little children, Krampus gives bad kids a good kick in the pants (or much, much worse).
According to Wikipedia:
Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly in the evening of December 5, and roam the streets frightening children and women with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas the tradition also includes birching by Krampus, especially of young females.
Sounds like fun, right? (I never have to worry since I'm always very, very good.) It's hard to understand the allure . . . until you see a Krampus costume or two. A selection can be viewed here. Enjoy! (Actually, I find the old postcards a lot creepier.)
Monday, December 7, 2009
I love tomatoes. But I've never really trusted them since I discovered (in the fourth grade) that they're members of the deadly nightshade family. Now, new scientific research has uncovered another terrifying truth about everyone's favorite salad ingredient.
TOMATOES ARE CARNIVOROUS!
That's right. Tomatoes eat insects. How? According to an article in The Telegraph . . .
Botanists have discovered for the first time that [tomatoes] are carnivorous predators who kill insects in order to "self-fertilise" themselves.
New research shows that they capture and kill small insects with sticky hairs on their stems and then absorb nutrients through their roots when the animals decay and fall to the ground.
It is thought that the technique was developed in the wild in order to supplement the nutrients in poor quality soil – but even domestic varieties grown in your vegetable patch retain the ability.
And they're not the only ones. Potatoes are also insect killers! In fact, according to researchers, "We may be surrounded by many more murderous plants than we think."
RELATED NEWS: Giant rat-eating plant found.
Friday, December 4, 2009
(Yes, I'm a big fan of alliteration.) Enormous rabbits wearing well-tailored suits have been reported throughout Manhattan today. And according to eyewitnesses, they're all as creepy as the one shown above. What's the meaning of this? Are they advertising a TV show as many have suggested? Or are the evil bunnies finally taking over--just as I have predicted they would lo these many years?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
(Photos by Victoria Belanger.)
Little Edie is riding a subway model made for the trial of a subway bomber. (Her owner is an evidence photographer from the Manhattan DA's office.)
Elsewhere in the animal kingdom . . . a real, living ouroboros!