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The Daily Bite, June 2011

Gordon Ramsay / Twitter

This month, we look forward to the birth of new celebrity babies, and learn of the sad passing of New Zealand's much loved Shrek.

The Daily Bite, June 2011

29.06.11

Size, it seems, isn’t everything. Or that’s what Nancy, a tiny Chihuahua weighing just 2.5 lbs is setting out to prove.

Usually the remit of border collies, Nancy is becoming something of an internet sensation following the release of a video showing the daring doggie herding sheep.

Once a mangy pup suffering a skin condition so severe she needed to be hand raised, Nancy is shown chasing sheep around a small enclosure in her native England. Released by the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in an effort “to prove that rescue dogs really can do anything”, Nancy’s owner Ali is keen to point out not all dogs should be let loose around sheep.

“I wouldn’t encourage anyone to try sheepherding with their dog unless it is under proper supervision from an expert,” she says. “Some dogs could react very badly, and you could end up harming your dog and the sheep.”

27.06.11

As two thousand hump back whales make their way north to the warmer waters of Hervey Bay, the cliffs and coastal walks that line the east coast of Australia fill with tourists and locals, camera in hand, waiting for that awe-inspiring breach.

Although many go one step closer and pay hundreds of dollars to get as close to the breaching whales as possible, one boy is acting as a warning to us all to keep a safe distance until the migration season is over.

Fishing with his parents just north of Brooms Head, Drew Hall was struck in the head by a whale’s tail – or flukes – as it rose out of the water and crashed back down on top of the boat.

In an interview with ABC local radio, Drew’s mother Karen said everything happened in seconds. “We just looked at each other and I said, ‘We’ve lost him, he’s gone.’

Fortunately, however, Drew has survived to tell the “tail”, but is suffering from a badly broken collarbone and a number of scratches.

24.06.11

It’s hard to have escaped the news this week that George Clooney is once again a single man. The screams of excitement from leggy brunettes booking flights to Lake Como can be heard from miles around, as can their disappointment as the ash cloud hinders their progress. But what seems to have confused the media is the reason Clooney – who is quite frankly not at all bad looking, some would say successful, and probably quite well off – is so unlucky in love.

The minimalistic press release issued by Clooney and his ex, Elisabetta Canalis, didn’t go far to help matters. “We are not together any more” it read. “It’s very difficult and very personal and we hope everyone can respect our privacy.” Clearly, no one has, and the Internet is now awash with suggestions, mostly revolving around Clooney’s reluctance to wed.

Unfortunately for Canalis, who told an Italian newspaper just this month “I am a firm believer in marriage”, with comments such as “If I need to surround myself with children and feel like I have this big extended family, I can always call Brad and Angie [Pitt and Jolie] and ask them to stay with me, just to remind me why I’m so happy,” coming from Clooney, the demise was somewhat inevitable.

23.06.11

Should you ever discover a new animal, vegetable or mineral that has previously remained undiscovered by science, it is your privilege to name that species. You can imagine the responsibility – not to mention the vast array of possibilities.

By and large, newly discovered species are labelled with appropriate names, although some are not so lucky – the Agathidium Bushi (which is a slime eating beetle), for example, was named by Quentin Wheeler and Kelly Miller after former US President George W. Bush (Wheeler named a similar beetle after his wife).

But it’s not political figures or family members that inspired researchers at San Francisco State University when it came to naming a new species of fungus, found in the forests of Borneo. Now and forever known as Spongiforma squarepantsii, the mushroom owes its name to SpongeBob SquarePants, the television cartoon character who, along with his home Bikini Bottom, swam onto our screens in 1999.

Although you may be forgiven for presuming the mushroom was christened in jest, the researchers insist there is scientific reasoning to the name. As well as its resemblance to a sea sponge, when viewed under a microscope, the BBC reports that the spore-producing area of S. squarepantsii looks like a seafloor carpeted in tube sponges (if you’re still unconvinced, details can be found in the journal Mycologia). 

Disappointingly, no mention has yet been made of the discovery of SpongeBob’s friends, Patrick Star, Mr Krabs and Squidward Tentacles.

22.06.11

Planking is dead. Or at least it is according to the UK’s Daily Mail who, reporting on photos shown on Twitter of Gordon Ramsay ‘planking’ on a fishing trip in California, sounded the death knell for the cyber craze.

Ramsay, however, has not been put off, and is clearly enjoying the activity. Since posting the original photo of himself planking at 17 knots on the back of a fishing vessel at the weekend, Ramsay has gone on to post another photo to Twitter. The latest photo, posted just six hours ago, shows the award winning chef planking on top of an aeroplane’s jet engine. Ramsay accompanied the photo with the comment “#Planking on a G4!!”

Although the origins of planking are not confirmed – two groups, one in South Australia and one in the south of England, both claim to have invented the past time – the phenomenon has experienced significant media attention of late following the death of an Australian participant who fell from a balcony whilst planking.

Given the number of people who have fallen victim to Ramsay’s foul-mouthed tirades on television, it’s perhaps not surprising that The Sun has been quick to label Ramsay “a silly planker.”

21.06.11

Stunt men and women, it seems, just don’t have what it takes to walk away with an Oscar. Try as they might (and by golly they try hard, throwing themselves out of burning buildings and falling off horses), the organisers of the Academy Awards will not allow stunt performers their own Oscar category, bringing to a temporary end a long campaign for elevated recognition led by Jack Gill and Conrad Palmisano.

John Cann, who works as a stunt man, stunt coordinator and actor, told the ABC why he believes stunt men and women deserve to be recognised by the film industry’s most revered awards ceremony. “The level of illusion that we’ve been able to come up with over the years and the techniques and technology that we’ve developed has been some of the most prolific in film history,” he said.

Reports suggest, however, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) who organise the Oscars, feel differently, arguing that there is not enough time in the four-hour schedule to add any additional categories.

Jack Gill, who along with Palmisano has been leading the stunt performer’s twenty-year campaign for recognition, will not take no for an answer, however, telling The Hollywood Reporter he will “try again next year and gather more and more support.”

After two decades spent campaigning, it seems this is one stunt even the best in the business are struggling to pull off.

16.06.11

As coincidences go, having your runaway bride appear on the cover of your magazine, which goes on sale just a week after she’s left you, is one of the more unfortunate. But that’s the reality facing Playboy founder Hugh Heffner whose ex-bride-to-be Crystal Harris “had a change of heart” before their planned nuptials last weekend.

But it seems Heffner has not been wallowing in self pity since the weekend, and has, in fact, moved quickly to correct to cover. Due to hit the news stand this Friday, along with the cover line “America’s Princess… Introducing Mrs Crystal Heffner”, Heffner took to Twitter to announce his plans.

“Recent events call for a special sticker on the July cover. Look for it on newsstands,” Hefner said on Twitter

Although it’s yet to be confirmed what the sticker says, or where it’s been positioned, Reuters reports a big red sticker announcing “Runaway Bride in This Issue!” has been slung across the lower half of Crystal Harris.

14.06.11

For Jack White and Karen Elson, it seems anything can be used as an excuse for a party. Even their divorce.

White, whose unique vocal talent brought success to his former grammy-award winning band The White Stripes, announced his divorce from model wife Elson and the couple’s party plans at the end of last week.

An invitation to the party was posted online, revealing the plan to celebrate White and Elson’s “6th anniversary and their upcoming divorce with a positive swing bang hum dinger”.

“The party will include dancing, photos, memories and drinks with alcohol in them. This is only for close personal friends and family so please no plus ones or dead beats,” the invitation said.

Although White and Elson, who married in 2005 and have two children together, did not reveal the reason behind the divorce, the grounds for the party were clear. “We feel so fortunate for the time we have shared and the time we will continue to spend both separately and together watching our children grow,” the couple announced in a statement.

The only question remains what guests will choose to take to the party.

08.06.11

Although all are mourned, few animals command the luxury of a funeral when they move on to greener pastures. For one much loved sheep, however, hundreds of mourners are expected to come together at a service being held at the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo later this week.

Known to New Zealanders as Shrek, the celebrity merino sheep passed away aged 17, following a three-week illness.

Thousands of people have already flocked online to express their sadness at the passing, and the Facebook page RIP Shrek the Sheep has published hundreds of messages of condolence, some from as far away as the Philippines. 

Shrek shot to fame in 2004 when he was discovered in a cave, cowering under the weight of a 27kg fleece, drawing comparisons to his animated namesake. Having been in hiding for six years, Shrek was returned to his owner, John Perriam, and went on to tour the country, even meeting Helen Clark, the then Prime Minister.

Since 2004, Shrek has continued to travel both at home and internationally, commanding a high fee for his appearances, and did much to raise both money for charity and the profile of New Zealand wool.

06.06.11

Moving in with your brother is not the ideal way to start married life, so it’s unsurprising that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced they will be moving out of the apartment they currently share with Prince Harry at Clarence House.

Returning to the home he once lived in with his mother, William and Kate are set to move into an apartment at Kensington Palace later this month.

Described by sources speaking to the UK’s Daily Mail as a ‘modest starter home’, officials from St James’ Palace confirmed “They will move in at some point in June or July.”

Modest it may be, but with a salary reported to be in the region of 37,000 pounds, Prince William will be able to put away some pennies for a rainy day: being second in line to the throne, he is not required to pay rent on the property. Something that costs his next door neighbours, the Duke and Duchess of Kent 120,000 pounds per year.

01.06.11

When a child is born, one of the first questions always asked is whether the baby is a boy or a girl. Not least because it means the difference between a blue and a pink jumpsuit, bib or hat. And, thanks to biology, it’s an easy question to answer. One couple, however, are reportedly hoping to defy biology and keep the sex of their son or daughter a secret, in an effort to raise a “genderless” child.

Named “Storm”, the four-month old baby was born to Canadian couple, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, who told The Toronto Star their decision was driven by the desire to spare the child the pressures of gender stereotypes.

It seems to be a decision taken only recently, however, as Storm has two siblings, both of whom are known to be boys. Both sons, however, are free to wear their hair long and select clothes from the female side of the shop, with the Star reporting the eldest son, Jazz, as having chosen a pink dress at a thrift store because “it really poofs out at the bottom. It feels so nice.”

Presumably fearing psychological gender confusion, the world has been quick to take to the Internet to comment on the couple’s controversial decision. Whereas the Toronto Star, who broke the story, fuelled comments in support of the couple with one reader commenting “Bravo to Kathy Witterick and David Stocker … It’s always a difficult choice to live outside of the mainstream, but I understand their motivation”, other media outlets such as the UK’s Daily Mail have witnessed a torrent of abuse.

Whether or not the hostile public outcry has affected the couple’s decision to keep the child’s gender under a fiercely guarded layer of nappies, however, nobody knows. Kathy Witterick has declined all interviews since hitting the headlines.

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