Watercooler Stories

By United Press International  |  July 26, 2005 at 6:30 AM
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French arts festival 'hits new depths'

AVIGNON, France, July 26 (UPI) -- France's annual Avignon summer arts festival concludes this week with some of the worst reviews in its 59-year history.

One play by Gisele Vienne entitled "A Beautiful Blonde Child /I Apologize," features life-sized models of young girls placed in suggestive poses on coffins, and has been condemned as inciting pedophilia, The Telegraph said.

That was one event that drew booing and many leaving the theater, while members of the audience shouted abuse when subjected to a burst of electronic noise during a Christian Rizzo's production, "Either The Well Was Deep."

The right-wing daily Le Figaro slammed the $12 million publicly funded show, saying "You think you've reached the lowest point in mediocrity, pretentiousness and confusion. But no. There is always something worse."

Even at the other end of the political spectrum, the Communist daily L'Humanite complained about "a triumphant sense of masturbatory autism."

German feel-good book not so accurate

BERLIN, July 26 (UPI) -- A new German schoolbook that claims Germans invented just about everything has come under ridicule as inaccurate by the German media.

"German Stars: 50 Innovations Everyone Should Know About" is being shipped to schools and universities this week as part of a self-esteem building plan by the government and industry.

It claims Manfred von Ardenne invented the television in 1930, and not John Logie Baird, the Independent reported. It denies Thomas Edison invented light bulbs, and states Heinrich Gobel did in 1854.

"We're honestly not trying to claim the Germans invented everything", said Lars Heitmuller of Fischer Appelt, the Berlin-based PR agency that produced the book. "We thought it was a good idea to remind the Germans of that and let them know it's OK to feel good about it."

However, Der Spiegel magazine this week denounced the book as "outrageous nonsense," based on the claim Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.

"It is well documented that the Chinese invented this 300 years earlier," the magazine said.

Parrot mimics doorbell, sirens

OAK PARK, Ill., July 26 (UPI) -- A 10-year-old African grey parrot named Einstein is creating havoc for a Chicago-area woman by imitating doorbells, emergency sirens and even the phone ring.

Einstein, as the bird is called, could live another 50 or 60 years. The bird enjoys watching television and to fight boredom he has picked up other sounds including the beep of the microwave after a cooking cycle is done, the backup sound of a garbage trunk and the electronic screeching of a car alarm, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Apparently a fan of old television shows, Einstein also can whistle the themes to the "Andy Griffith Show" and the "Addams Family."

His owner, Emily Diorio, told the newspaper the parrot laughs, "Ha,ha,ha" when he confuses her with his mimicry.

Giant mice decimating rare Atlantic birds

LONDON, July 26 (UPI) -- Giant mice are decimating the population of endangered sea birds by eating the young in the British Tristan da Cunha group of islands.

Scientists say the mice have evolved to more than three times the size of normal mice, because there are no natural predators on Gough Island.

Geoff Hilton, a senior research biologist with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said more than 1 million albatross, shearwater and petrel chicks are being killed each year on the uninhabited island.

The bizarre thing is the disparity between predator and prey, The Times of London said.

An albatross chick weighs up to 22 pounds, some 250 times the weight of the rodents.

"It is like a tabby cat attacking a hippopotamus," Hilton said.

When the chicks are attacked, the scent of blood seems to be detected by other mice, which join in. Film footage has shown as many as 10 to 15 mice attacking a single bird, the report said.

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