Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Welcome To Weirdsville Celebration

As part of my wonderful Welcome To Weirdsville sale, here's a fan-favorite piece from the book.  Enjoy!

So far you lucky readers -- if that’s really what you are -- have been treated to lost nuclear hardware, misplaced biological weapons, an18th century spiritualist and his clockwork ‘God,’ and recently, creatures great and small (mostly small) that can kill you faster than you can read this sentence -- even if you’re a slow reader.

But there’s an even more terrifying, creepy, freaky, disturbing subject we haven’t talked about yet: one that can make even the heartiest, stone-stomached of you clutch your tail-wagging doggies and purring kitties while rocking back and forth mumbling “nature is good, nature is good, nature is good …”

As you’ll soon read, however, even your loving pets can save you from the nightmare that is, more than likely, with you already.

Or, to be precise, living inside you already: parasites.

YouTube has far too many clips of botflies, tapeworms, or pinworms in all their disgusting glory: squirming and writhing from puss-glistening holes in their victims, squirming in the bellies of those unfortunate enough to have become part of their life cycle. But that’s not the worst.

We like to think we’re the masters of our destiny, that “I think I shall do (fill in the blank)” comes only from our minds and wills. But in some cases that’s just not true -- or, perhaps, that’s what the creature living inside me is telling me to say.

Welcome to the wonderful world of not just parasites, but parasites that directly influence or flat-out control their hosts.

Beginning big or at least not microscopic, the emerald cockroach wasp has a very unique, and rather frightening, method of supplying its pupal young with a meal. Like some other insects, the wasp feeds its young living prey: paralyzing the snack and then laying an egg on its still-living body. But the emerald isn’t a very big bug, unlike the monstrous tarantula wasp, so it can’t drag its prey back to its burrow. Instead, the emerald performs a type of on-the-go brain surgery, carefully stinging a roach in a few selected parts of its brain, disabling its escape reflex. The wasp then chews off the roach’s antenna, effectively blinding it. Hijacking the roach’s remaining stub of an antenna, it then leads the still-living and -- if roaches have a form of consciousness -- aware bug back to its burrow where it will be a still-living dinner for its offspring.

Yes, you may shudder. But it gets worse.

You’re just lucky you’re not a snail, especially one that happens to become part of a leucochloridium paradoxum ’s elaborate lifecycle. Beginning as eggs in bird droppings, leucochloridium enters the snail’s body and then proceeds into its digestive tract. After a bit of time there, it develops into a larva – and then things get interesting.

How, you might ask, does leucochloridium go from snails to birds? Well, we know how -- but you might not want to know the answer.

What leucochloridium does is make its way from the snail’s gut to one of its eyestalks. There it causes the stalk to become red and inflamed. But that’s not all. The parasite also distorts the snail’s light perception so that it doesn’t hide from light anymore. So, out in the broad daylight, one eyestalk brightly colored, it becomes a something very much like a grub or caterpillar -- which birds love to eat. So the whole cycle begins again.

Then there’s sacculina, a type of barnacle. It loves crabs, but not in a healthy kind of way. What sacculina does, while in the barnacle’s larval phase, is find a nice, juicy crab and land on it. Then it walks around the unlucky crustacean until it finds an unarmored joint, and injects itself into the crab’s tasty meat. But sacculina doesn’t eat the crab. Oh, no – it’s not as simple as that. After a time in the crab’s body, the barnacle reproduces and reproduces and reproduces some more until it emerges as something a lot like a female’s egg sac.

That’s important, because it’s not just the female crab this happens to. If you should happen to be a male crab then transvestitism is in your future. Sacculina messes with the hormones in the male crab, making it basically a female -- especially appealing to other male crabs. It even goes as far as adjust the male’s behavior so it actually begins to act like a female crab, all to attract a male crab that may or may not have other sacculina parasites to fertilize and keep the cycle going. Once sacculina has you, if you’re a crab that is, then you belong to it. Sterilized, you become nothing but a mother to its eggs. Until you die.

We’re not finished yet -- far from it. Just be lucky you’re not a grasshopper or a cricket. Spinochordodes tellinii (the hairworm) larva finds its way into an unlucky hoppity by being eaten. Once in the bug it grows -- but don’t think the worm just gets bigger. It gets so big that when the adult worm comes out of the cricket it can be four times longer than the bug. It’s how it comes out that’s going to give you the shivers. When it simply has had enough of the bug, having pretty much eaten all of it from the inside, the worm takes possession of the insect’s brain, causing it to single-mindedly hunt out water. When it does, the bug jumps in -- and that’s when the worm erupts out of the host and swims away.

Okay, so it’s not fun to be a snail, or a crab, or a cricket. But what about poor homo sapiens? Please don’t tell me you think we don’t have our own, completely unwelcome passengers. I’ve already mentioned botflies, pinworms and tapeworms. But they are just freeloaders. They aren’t driving the bus that is us like these other manipulative parasites do.

Hold that puppy close, cuddle that kitten -- but maybe not that close. Ever heard of toxoplasma gondii? No? Well you might have but it’s certainly heard of you. In fact I’ll bet dollars to donuts that it’s paying a lot of attention to these words right now. Feel like doing something else? Anything else but reading this?

Maybe that isn’t you. Maybe it’s toxoplasma gondii.

I love kitties. But after reading about toxoplasma gondii I think I’m going to become a dog person. Primarily a cat parasite, gondii’s a protozoa that enters the feline system when the animal eats an infected animal. Once in the system, the protozoa can then reproduce asexually, making life pretty damned easy for itself.

But not for its hosts. Although the protozoa is mostly a cat fancier, it also can infect rats and mice. When it does, it does something rather creepy: it directly screws with the infected animal’s brain, taking out Mickey’s fear of cats. Think about that for a second: not open spaces, not water, not something big and general. Gondii only takes out a mouse’s fear of cats -- making sure it’ll get eaten by one, its host of preference.

Like I said, I really like kitties. But is that really ‘me’ who likes cats? Rats and mice and other warm-blooded creatures can carry gondii. You and I and every other homo sapien are also warm-blooded. I think you see where this is going.

Here’s a number for you: 25%. That’s a rather benign amount until you think of 25% of humans. Especially when I add that it’s been theorized that 25% of human beings may be infected by gondii – a parasite that affects the behavior of its hosts.

Some researchers have suggested that men who have gondii in their systems have lower IQs, are more prone to ‘novelty seek,’ and more masculine. Weirdly, infected women come out with higher IQs.

Then there’s reproduction. Not only do some think gondii changes what we are personality-wise, but its also been suggested that women who are infected have a tendency to give birth to more sons -- and males are more likely to spread the infection.

We’ve lost nuclear weapons, contaminated whole islands with biological devices, created mechanical Gods, and have been killed by very small critters with very nasty venoms. But when you think about parasites, especially certain kinds of parasites, the question then becomes:

Who are ‘we’? And who are you?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

M.Christian Reads His Science Fiction Story "Some Assembly Required" from LOVE WITHOUT GUN CONTROL

(from M.Christian's Technorotica)

It might be a tad rough around-the-edges but here's my first - and rather fun, if I do say so myself, reading "Some Assembly Required" from my collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories Love Without Gun Control (out in ebook and a special paper edition) from the great Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Amazingly Enough: Lost And Found – The Town That Doesn’t Exist

Check it out: a brand new Amazingly Enough: Lost And Found column just went live at Amazing Stories ... about a town that may, nor may not, exist!

Amazingly Enough: 
Lost And Found – The Town That Doesn’t Exist

Our battle against the forces of the Illuminati must never cease! Their hands … er, ‘claws’ are everywhere: politics, entertainment, science, soft drinks, there’s nothing they won’t corrupt for their own nefarious ends.
For example, one of their branches – a despicable agency revealed, at no doubt great personal cost to those seeking to expose the TRUTH, as T.H.E.M. – was fairly recently been exposed as having perpetrated a nightmarish deception that has shaken the very fabric of humanity.
Especially for those in Germany.
Thankfully, this horrible illusion has been revealed, the shadowy curtain pulled aside, and we now have a glimpse at the true horror that T.H.E.M. has commit to.
The daring of those who have made this brave discovery is only eclipsed by their genius: beginning with a post made to the German newsgroup on May 16, 1994, the covert forces for TRUTH began to assemble the pieces that would prove the scope of this hideous deception.
What makes the discovery of this deception so ingenuous is the simplicity of the tools used to expose it. Achim Held, one of the key investigators, began by merely asking a few basic questions about the so-called city of Bielefeld:
1. Do you know anybody from Bielefeld?
2. Have you ever been to Bielefeld?
3. Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?
With a shuddering revelation, these intrepid battlers against the forces of darkness came to the conclusion that the answers to these three straightforward queries were no: not a single person they knew was from Bielefeld, no one had ever been to Bielefeld, and – the most chilling revelation of all – that they also weren’t aware of anyone, ever, who had been to this supposed town!
Word of their discovery spread like wildfire: soon the nascent internet was lit up with the exposure of this dark secret. Oh, sure, the authorities attempted to keep the deception intact but their motivation was transparent; no matter what ‘expert’ on, or ‘resident’ of, Bielefeld they trotted out they were obviously either agents of the Illuminati themselves or in their employ.
Even more damning is the fact that there is a common German phrase, the root of which points another damming finger at the illusion that is Bielefeld: Am Arsch der Welt in Bielefeld means, basically, “at the end of the world in Bielefeld” evidence that there was – almost unconsciously – a feeling for quite a long time that the town of Bielefeld was nothing but an illusion.
Still further verification of the Bielefeld deception came from one of the illuminati’s own political puppets! Though there was a massive campaign to dismiss this revealing slip as a ‘joke’ it is damming proof of this massive ruse. In November, 2012, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that she had actually visited the place but then added, with a sinister and chilling laugh, “…if it exists at all.”
Finally, out of pure – and completely transparent – desperation, these forces of fiendish manipulation resorted to what they, no doubt, thought of as a clever means of reinforce the illusion of ‘Bielefeld’.
But, thankfully for free minds everywhere, this attempt was thwarted by two clear indicators of illuminati’s arrogance: the first was in their assumption that the medium of their message was one that would carry weight – when it was one that had long ago been exposed as a final resort of the desperate and the deceptive: the press release.
In 1999, this document was released – supposedly by the ‘City Council’ of the ‘town’ of ‘Bielefeld’ – to many of the conspiracy’s ‘official’ ‘channels’. Headlined Bielefeld gibt es doch! this pathetic attempt to bolster the myth of the town that doesn’t exist was received – naturally – as ‘truth’ by the puppets of the Illuminati while “Bielefeld does exist” was viewed by dedicated opponents of these cruel reptilian would-be overlords as further evidence of their desperation in preserving this facet of their mind-controlling operations.
But the second flaw in this attempt by the Illuminati to defeat the forces of truth and liberty was one that brought much needed mirth as well as uplifting satisfaction at the failure of these nightmarish manipulators.
For, in their false superiority, they had revealed themselves not just in the medium their message was delivered in but the very date it was transmitted: April 1st!
While the deception that is Bielefeld has become pretty much common knowledge, seen by the forces of freedom and decency as overwhelming evidence not just of the illuminati’s existence but – far better for those fighting for the liberation of humanity – that they can actually be exposed and brought to light, there persists an almost cruel humor around the illusion of Bielefeld: a mocking final act by these lurkers in the shadows.
Just last year, on the supposed 800th anniversary of the Town That Doesn’t Exist, the Illuminati made one final cruel attempt to ridicule those who had risked so much to bring out of the shadows the actions of this vile conspiracy.
Via all of their insidiously corrupt means of media manipulation, these despicable reptilian would-be overlords scorned the never-ending fight to preserve the precious freedom of thought and action by claiming the mythical town of Bielefeld’s anniversary celebration’s motto was Das gibt’s doch gar nicht.
Or, translated it into English: “This does not actually exist!”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amazingly Enough: Lost And Found – Glub, Glub, Glub…

Cool! Check out this brand new installment of my on-going series for Amazing Stories - this time on the tragic submergence of Mologa:

The tale of Mologa is singularly odd … as well as tragic … even in the always odd and periodically tragic domain of the lost.

Things, as you are more than aware – especially if you’ve been following this little series – go missing.  Paintings, books, films, people … just a little bit of research brings up a remarkable catalog of lost treasures.  Some, like the legendary Amber Room, make a twisted kind of sense in their absence: an entire room covered in priceless amber and gold?  Surprised it didn’t vanish long before World War 2.
Meanwhile those three novels by Philip K. Dick, King Kong Appears In Edo … and too many others like them … probably just got misplaced somewhere.  While things, like Lake Peigneur in Louisiana, may have vanished but then reappeared totally transformed.
Then there’s Mologa.  What makes this Russian city odd even among all these oddities is that it still exists: we know exactly where it is … in fact you can even visit it … but that doesn’t mean it’s actually there.
But first, a bit of background: founded sometime in the 12th century in Yaroslavl Oblast, Russia, after a few hundred years – and a history as twisted and convoluted as only a Russian city can have – Mologa, eventually became a key destination on the all-important Asian trade routes.
Even after the – and here’s an understatement – “Time of Troubles” (1598 to 1613) Mologa kept it’s trade importance and, by the 19th century, it had graduated to a valuable link between the Baltic and the Volga River.
Then came Stalin.  Uncle Joe had big plans for that region – including the creation of what would become the massive Rybinsk reservoir.  How massive?  Well, at the time of its creation in 1935 – with it being finally completed filling in 1947 – the Rybinsk reservoir was the largest artificial lake anywhere on Earth.  That big.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Amazingly Enough: Lost And Found – Absence Makes The Heart…

Check it out: a new kick-ass (if I say so myself) installment of my Amazing Stories column, Amazingly Enough, just went live!

LOST: Many novels, lots of paintings, quite a few films … and even a few cities…


Heartbreaking cat or dog stories get to some, others get teary when they think about passed loved ones … oh, sure, a sad lost kitten tale will get to me and there are far too many people who are no longer in my life (and are sorely missed) but what gets the waterworks really flowing is thinking about the movies, books, places, paintings, and music that are just … gone.

It’s becoming harder and harder to fathom the idea of anything really being totally missing: this is, after all, the age of the Internet and we are all far-too familiar with the maxim “the web never forgets.” But even a cursory glance at history will bring tears to the eyes of even the most cold-hearted.

For instance, you’ll never watch Lucien Hubbard’s The Mysterious Island; visit Itjtawy, an ancient Egyptian capital; or experience the legendary Amber Room…

Oh, sure, there’s still a chance that some of these treasures – and the thousands of others – might someday reappear, but for now they’ve just disappeared, vanished … gone.

Even cutting down the sob-story list of the missing to just films and a few special books – because, let’s face it, the catalog of paintings and music that can’t be found is simply staggering – leaves a pretty depressing catalog of absent features and tomes.

A few are not just absent but also damned alluring. Sure, more than few of the missing films were very small budget affairs (like some of Andy Warhol and Kenneth Anger’s) but more than a few of them were pretty lavish affairs.

And one is just plain weird. Most of you know kaiju (Japanese big monster movies, for the nerd-impaired). True aficionados of the genre gloat in knowing not just the first kaiji is the legendary Gojira but that it was made in 1954.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Amazingly Enough: Lost And Found – The Triumph Of Mr. Monck Mason’s Flying Machine!

Check it out: a brand new column by yers truly just went up on the amazing (ahem) Amazing Stories site. Here's a tease:

“This is unquestionably the most stupendous, the most interesting, and the most important undertaking, ever accomplished or even attempted by man…”

The 1800’s — especially the middle to latter half — were a time when it seemed like everything either was happening or could happen any day: the photograph was coming into common use, the telegraph meant communication at the speed of light, anesthesia promised (for the first time) painless surgery, Babbage began work on his analytical engine, and the possibility of conquering the bounds of earth seemed just around the corner.

However, according to a series of articles published by The Sun in 1944, that aforesaid conquering wasn’t a matter of years but had actually been phenomenally achieved by one Mr. Monck Mason.

First appearing in April 13, 1844, a New York paper proclaimed – in LOUD and DRAMATIC type: ASTOUNDING NEWS! BY EXPRESS VIA NORFOLK: THE ATLANTIC CROSSED IN THREE DAYS!

That initial article went on to announce that the machine in question was a STEERING BALLOON named VICTORIA, and that the trans-Atlantic voyage took an amazing SEVENTY-FIVE HOURS FROM LAND TO LAND.

Okay, weird and wild claims were somewhat common back then – just take a look at the very fanciful “Great Moon Hoax” published only ten years before — but who could doubt the authenticity of such a detailed report? Each article was packed with immaculate details of how this incredible voyage was achieved.

Take for instance, that the trip began on Saturday, April the 6th, 1844, at 11:00AM from Penstruthal, in North Wales. The participants being “Sir Everard Bringhurst; Mr. Osborne, a nephew of Lord Bentinck’s; Mr. Monck Mason and Mr. Robert Holland, the well-known aeronauts; Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, author of ‘Jack Sheppard,’ etc; and Mr. Henson, the projector of the late unsuccessful flying machine — with two seamen from Woolwich — in all, eight persons.”


Friday, October 3, 2014

Amazingly Enough: Lost And Found – Down The Drain

This is very cool - my newest column for the wonderful Amazing Stories site just went live: the tale of a lake that vanished and came back ... changed.  Here's a tease, for the rest click here.

Amazingly Enough:
 Lost And Found – Down The Drain

Sunglasses, wallets, phone chargers … stuff goes missing all the time. But misplacing a set of car keys is one thing but it’s quite another to lose a body of water … and even stranger when it comes back, and yet doesn’t.

It’s not like vanishing lakes are rare – it actually happens more often than you might expect. Sometimes their going bye-bye is just a fact of life for their kind: feeding rivers or streams dry up, leading to the same for the poor lake. In other situations the opposite is the case: a river gets so frisky that it overwhelms and then completely swallows one.

Then there are the bodies of water that disappear, sucked straight down into the earth. Lake Beloye, in Russia, for example, back in 2005: here one day, gone quite literally the next. The leading theory being that the lake drained into a underground natural lake or cave system.

But what happened to Lake Peigneur, in Iberia Parish, Louisiana, is far from natural – but also incredibly, wonderfully, bizarre.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Terrance Aldon Shaw Likes Love Wthout Gun Control

(from M.Christian's Technorotica)

This is just plain wonderful: check out this kick-ass review of my sf/f/h collection, Love Without Gun Control by the very-great Terrance Aldon Shaw on the book's amazon page.

Btw, Love Without Gun Control is currently FREE for a limited time!

Is there any style or genre that M. Christian can’t (or won’t) write in? After reading this very fine short story collection from one of today’s most prolific professionals, I’m leaning heavily towards “no”. The ‘m’ in M. Christian seems to stand for “multi-faceted”, or possibly “mega-multi-tasker”. The guy certainly is versatile, as well as daring, imaginative, often funny, and seldom—if ever—unentertaining, one of those writers who seems to be everywhere at once, though if he has, in fact, cracked the saintly secret of bi-location, he’s not talking.

Readers get a broad sense of Christian’s incredible range in “Love Without Gun Control”, the author’s 2009 self-compiled and –published collection of short fiction, most of which originally appeared in genre anthologies, now-defunct niche-specific literary magazines and long-since cached or dead-linked websites. These fourteen stories run a dizzying—and impressive—gamut of mood and style, each with its own carefully measured ratio of light to shadow, buoyancy to seriousness, horror to humor, and hope to despair.

Christian has clearly learned from, and distilled the essence of the best examples of twentieth-century American fiction, everything from Ray Bradbury and Jack Kerouac to Cormac McCarthy and Stephen King. He does not shy away from his influences, but has wisely allowed them to sing through him as he delves the deep, sometimes silly recesses of the American psyche. The title story is a broad, campy social satire in addition to being a pitch-perfect sendup of old Western movies and TV shows, while “Wanderlust” and “Orphans” pay dark homage to the uniquely American mythos of “the road”—think Steinbeck’s musings on Route 66 in “The Grapes of Wrath”, or the arid, windswept, dread-haunted vistas of Stephen King’s “The Gunslinger” and “The Stand”.

In “Needle Taste”, Christian shows that he is no less adept at horror of the decidedly psychological variety. Techno-thriller melds seamlessly with High Fantasy in “The Rich Man’s Ghost”; political satire meets The Zombie Apocalypse in “Buried with the Dead”, while knotty existential drama and the classic Post-Apocalyptic narrative come together in “1,000”, and “Nothing So Dangerous”, a story of love and betrayal in a time of revolution. Perhaps my favorite stories in this collection are the beautiful, elegiac, Bradbury-esque “Some Assembly Required,” a narrative at once clever and poignant, and the brilliantly breezy “Constantine in Love”:

“It was called The Love Shack, and it sold all kinds of obvious things: candy, flowers, poetry books, jewelry, balloons, perfume, lingerie, and many other sweet, frilly, and heart-shaped items. It stood alone, bracketed by two vacant lots. Its busiest days were just before Valentine’s and Christmas. It was described by many newspapers and tourist guides as “. . . the place to go when love is on your mind.”

The night was dark, the place was closed. The streets were quiet.

Then the Love Shack exploded—with a fantastic shower of fragmented chotchkes, and flaming brick-a-brack, it went from a shop dedicated to amore to a skyrocket of saccharine merchandise. Flaming unmentionables drifted down to land in smoking heaps in the middle of the street, lava flows of melted and burning chocolate crawled out for the front door, teddy bears burned like napalm victims, and cubic zirconia mixed with cheap window glass—both showering down the empty, smoldering hole that used to be the store . . .”

I do have a few complaints as well. In several of these stories, I found myself wishing for a stronger editorial hand. The text needs a good, personally-detached copyedit. Several otherwise excellent stories (“Hush, Hush”; “1,000”; “Friday”) are simply too long to effectively maintain the emotional impact for which the author aims. I found them overly repetitive and rather dull, with the narrative lines collapsing into nebulous incoherency. After all, the “short” in short fiction should be a clue to the essence of the form; all unnecessary baggage and ballast summarily jettisoned to achieve an economy of language, and, with it, maximum expression. Christian is an established and well-respected editor in his own right, but no matter how skillful or perceptive an author may be as an editor of other people’s work, when it comes to self-editing, even the best and brightest have their blind spots.

Still, there’s far more to like and admire in this collection than to kvetch about or pan. Readers will be well-rewarded for what is, in the end, a ridiculously modest price of admission.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Welcome To Weirdsville Celebration

As part of my wonderful Welcome To Weirdsville sale, here's a fan-favorite piece from the book.  Enjoy!

Things That Shouldn't - But Still Do - Go Boom!

There are rules about such things ... or so we think. After all, apples don't fall up, lions don't have feathers, and lakes don't explode.

Sure enough, Macintoshes don't fall skyward, and panthera leo doesn't have beautiful plumage.

But if you happened to be living in Cameroon you'd know all too well that lakes can, and do, explode.

Take for example the Lake Nyos in the Northwest Province of Cameroon. Part of the inactive Oku volcano chain, it's an extremely deep, extremely high and, most importantly, very calm, very still, lake.

But it hasn't always been so calm or still. In 1986 something very weird happened to Lake Nyos, a weirdness that unfortunately killed 3,500 head of livestock ... and 1,700 people.

No jokes this time. No clumsy 50's horror movie metaphors. What happened to the people in the three villages near that lake isn't funny. Most of them luckily died in the sleep, but the 4,000 others who escaped the region suffered from sores, repertory problems and even paralysis.

All because Lake Nyos exploded.

Before the why, here's some more: what happened to the villages of Cha, Nyos, and Subum that time isn't unique. The same thing happened to lake Monoun, also in Cameroon, in 1984. That time 37 people died, again not very pleasantly. What does sound like a scene from some only horror flick is the story of a truck that had been driving near the scene. Mysteriously, the truck's engine died, and then so did the ten people who got out: suffocating within minutes of stepping down. Only two people of the dozen survived, all because they happened to be sitting on top of the truck.

The technical term for what happened to Lake Nyos and Monoun is a limnic eruption. To get one you need a few basic elements: one, a very deep volcanic lake; two, said lake has to be over a slow source of volcanic gas; and three, it has to be very, very still.

What happens is that volcanic gas, mostly carbon dioxide but nasty carbon monoxide as well, super saturates the lake. A clumsy way of thinking about it is a can of soda: shake it up like crazy and the fluid in the can, held back by pressure, doesn't do anything.

But pull the top, or in the case of Nyos and Monoun, a small landslide or low magnitude earthquake, and all that trapped gas rushes out in an immense explosion. That's bad enough, as there are even some theories suggesting that the subsequent lake-tsunami from the gassy blast has wiped out still more villages, but what's worse is that those gasses trapped in the lake water are absolutely deadly.

Heavier than air, the carbon dioxide flows down from the mountain lake, suffocating anything and anyone in it's path – which explains how those two lucky passengers managed to escape: they were simply above the toxic cloud.

Fortunately scientists and engineers are working on ways to stop limnic blasts. Controlled taping of the gasses, bubbling pipes to keep the water from becoming super saturated, it's beginning to look like they might be able to keep what happened to the 1700 people of Nyos from happening again.

But what keeps other scientists awake at night is that there are more than likely lots of other lakes ready to explode, the question being ... when?

Okay, so lakes can explode. But fruit doesn't drop to the sky and feline African predators aren't born with fluffy down, and frogs don't pop ... right?

Not if you happened to live in Germany a few years ago: for awhile there toads were doing just that. And we're not talking a few here and there. Over 1,000 frogs were found burst and blasted in a lake that was soon stuck with the pleasant name "the death pool."

Theories flew like parts of an exploding frog: a virus? A crazy who had a thing for dynamite and toads? A detonating mass suicide? What the hell (bang) was going (boom) on (kablam)?

The cops checked out the area and the local nut-houses but there wasn't anyone with that very weird and very specific MO. Scientists check out the exploded remains but found no suspicious viruses, parasites, or bacteria.

They one veterinarian came up with the most likely answer: crows.

As anyone who has ever watched a crow knows they do not fit the label bird brain. Extremely clever and resourceful, crows are not only fast learners but they study, and learn from, other crows. What Frank Mutschmann, one clever vet, hypothesized was that it was happening was the meeting of smart crows and a frog's natural defenses – plus the allure of livers.

Wanting that tasty part of the toads, the crows had learned how to neatly extract it from their prey with a quick stab of their very sharp bills. In response, the toads did what they always go: puff themselves up. The problem – for the amphibians that is – is that because they now had a hole where their livers were that defense then became an explosive problem. Weasels might not literally go pop in that old kid's song but that seems to be just what was happening to that lake of German toads in 2005.

But that still doesn't change that Pipins don't fall up, and lions don't have tails like a peacock's, right? And what about ants? They don't explode, do they?

But they do. Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to present camponotus saundersi. Native to Malaysia, this average looking ant has a unique structure giving it an even more unique behavior when threatened.

Running the length of its little body are two mandibular glands full of toxins. That's bad enough, as any critter that decides to try a bite will get a mouthful of foul-tasting, maybe even deadly, venom, but what sets this ant aside from others is what happens when it gets pushed into a corner.

By clamping down on a special set of muscles these ants can commit violent and, yes, explosive suicide: taking out any nearby threat with a hail of nasty poisons. It's certainly a dramatic way to go but you can bet anything threatening it's colony will get a shock it won't soon forget.

Sure apples do not fall up and lions don't have feathers – but what with exploding lakes, bursting toads, and suicide-bombing ants it you might want to check that your grandmother's homemade pie doesn't float away or that lions aren't about to swoop down from the sky and carry you off.