Hit & Run: A star is spawned
Thursday 07 May 2009
Will it replace the giant panda? Perhaps not quite. But thanks to the Prince of Wales, the Argentinian horned frog has a fair chance of becoming a new worldwide symbol of conservation.
The South American amphibian has been chosen by Prince Charles as an emblem of his campaign to save the rainforests, and plays a prominent part in a new public awareness film he has made, now being shown online (go to tinyurl.com/db26o7 to watch it).
Brilliant green as befits a rainforest creature, the frog (actually a digital version of one, recorded in action at London Zoo then added to the clip later) appears in the film, occasionally croaking, alongside the Prince and his sons William and Harry. An array of celebrities including Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams and the Dalai Lama, also make a appearance, as do a group of schoolchildren from around the world, all of whom are pledging their support for halting deforestation (and saving our emerald friend in the process).
The campaign's aim is to create a worldwide digital community in support of the forests, and a new piece of software will enable supporters to create their own version of the film in which they can appear alongside the celebrities – and the frog.
It's quite a frog. Found in the rainforests of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, Ceratophrys ornata is as a big as decent-sized pork pie, and more tellingly, seems to be nearly all mouth, so much so that it is referred to in the pet trade as the Pacman frog, after the 1980s video game character which was similarly endowed: the mouth of the Argentinian horned frog actually accounts for about half of the animal's overall dimensions.
And that mouth is not there just for show. The frog is such a voracious eater that it will attempt to swallow anything that moves within range, from insects and lizards to small birds and mammals, and indeed other frogs, even if it might choke in the process. Furthermore, it is a frog without fear: it will advance aggressively towards a potential attacker and can deliver a sharp bite as it has sharp teeth along its lower jaw.
But in the Prince's film the frog is as good as gold. As HRH points out that climate change is the greatest threat to mankind, and that every year destruction of the earth's rainforests releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all of the world's cars planes and ships put together, and that we must act now, and future generations are depending upon us, the frog sits sedately on the back of an elegant royal sofa, merely plopping down, like a deflated football, onto a cushion when the Prince has finished.
Being tongue-tied in the presence of royalty is clearly a condition also found in the forest, but it's unlikely that the pandas have anything to worry about from their new, slimy rival. michael mccarthy
Don't mess with Victoria Principal
In 1980, the civilised world spent an entire summer perched on the edge of its faux-leather sofas, hoping to discover an answer to perhaps the greatest mystery in the history of television: who shot J.R.?
In a few weeks time, a Los Angeles court will consider a different, yet equally gripping question: what made actress Victoria Principal, who played JR's sister-in-law, Pamela Barnes Ewing, pull a gun on her Mexican housekeeper? Ms Principal, who starred in Dallas from 1978 to 1987, has prompted a flurry of disbelieving headlines after it emerged that she is being sued by former employee Maribel Banegas over an argument that occurred at her Malibu home on Boxing Day.
A lawsuit filed by Banegas, who Principal had hired two days earlier, alleges that she was fired after taking too long to walk her high-maintenance employer's dog, a Shih-Tzu called Mae Ling. When Banegas asked for her back wages, the lawsuit claims that Principal disappeared upstairs. But instead of coming back with a chequebook, she emerged brandishing a pistol, and threatened to kill her. Banegas is suing for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault.
Remarkably, Ms Principal does not deny pulling a gun during the dispute. However, in a counter-suit, she claims to have used the weapon in self defence after Banegas "engaged in outrageous, threatening, violent conduct." The actress's complaint, lodged this week, accuses Banegas of assault, trespass, civil extortion, animal cruelty and negligence. It also adds that she caused "emotional distress" to Mae Ling, alleging that she injured the pooch's vertebrae by walking her too vigorously.
Neither party has yet specified what damages they seek. However, Principal will no doubt be able to afford the swankier legal team. The well-preserved soap star (who formally claims to be 59) has in recent years become a successful entrepreneur, thanks to her range of luxury skin-care creams: Principal Secret.
It's hip to be square, declares Mr Dyson
James Dyson has never been one to play it straight. Yet, after decades as a pioneer of fluid, curvaceous design – he's the creator of two appliances that boast a ball as a key component, as well as the Airblade, a sleek, serpentine device that makes hand-drying sexy – the inventive Brit has suddenly become a bit square.
In a bid to expand his empire, Dyson has filed a US patent application for what is described as "a cunning way to save space on crowded kitchen worktops". The key to avoiding cramped surfaces, he says, is all in the angles. Dyson plans to launch a range of products, from kettles to toasters, all in the shape of tall cuboids, which can be pushed together in one compact unit. A neat idea, but how exactly would it work?
Dyson's not telling. "We are working on a number of new technologies," says his spokesperson, "but can't reveal any more". Intriguing. Even more tantalising is whether the design will actually take off. A one-size-fits-all solution isn't new, but don't write it off; Dyson is adept at silencing his critics.
In 1983, after years of development and 5,127 prototypes, his G-Force bagless vacuum cleaner was rejected by a string of manufacturers. More fool them. Dyson is now the king of cleaning equipment, with an estimated net worth of $2b. While this new idea may have come as a bit of a curveball, it's likely that Dyson is once again on the home straight.
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