Friday, 31 December 2010

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking.

Hello. It's the start of a New Year. And so what better way to celebrate than by looking back at some of the stories that have intrigued us over the past 12 months? Well a better way would be to watch a bunch of Polar Bears playing soccer to the sound of "Eye Of Tiger" obviously. Except I'm not sure that's ever really happened and if it has I don't know where to find video footage of it. So this is what you get.

I Believe In Danny Dyer.

As a professional cockney and the man who single handedly keeps the low budget film industry alive, Danny Dyer is the sort of chap who often looks to broaden his horizons. As such he remarkably became the poster boy for British ufologists this January after his star turn on I Believe In UFOs. First aired on BBC 3 in January it showed Dyer turning his hand to a bit of investigative journalism. When that failed he joined a cult, got stoned off his box, and said the word "fackin'" a lot in what turned out to be the most bizarrely fascinating 45 minutes of television of the year.

If at first you don't succeed…

Towards the end of the year Mickey Rourke announced he was "committed" to portraying rugby legend Gareth "Alfie" Thomas on the big screen. Rourke believes that Thomas, the world's only openly gay active professional sportsman, and his story would be a perfect follow up to The Wrestler. The film for which failed to win an Oscar largely because he's Mickey Rourke and a bit of a mess.

Winston Churchill was a big fat liar. Or maybe not.

August arrived and duly brought with it a new batch of Government files that used to be classified but now, no, not so much. Amongst them was a report about how Winston Churchill ordered the cover up of a UFO sighting by the Royal Air Force so as to avoid "mass panic". The allegations involving Churchill were made by the grandson of one his personal bodyguards. Apparently the bodyguard overheard the ol' bulldog discussing how such a sighting could damage the British public's faith in religion, and told his family about it. Fifty years later his grandson wrote a letter to the MoD questioning the incident. In unrelated news, Brad Pitt is actually an overgrown toad who was taught to fit in amongst humans by a crazy scientist and a catholic nun. It's true. My friend's, aunt's, step daughter's, hair dresser's, boyfriend's, colleague's, mother once read about it in a Japanese newspaper. Of course it was all hushed up by the Illuminati but they can't keep us down forever. Some day the people will be set free from your oppression, you overgrown lizard bastards. 

U. F. Oh?

China is a strange place. For example, when a UFO rocked up in skies above Hangzhou in July, the authorities took it seriously and closed an entire airport, re-routing all incoming flights and grounding any planes about to take off. As opposed to what would have happened here in the West, where the authorities would have claimed it was a trick of the light, then a weather balloon, before finally settling on "What UFO? Man you crazy. You wanna lay off the sauce a little bit, don't you think? Hey Charlie, this dude here thinks he saw a flying saucer! No I'm not shtting you…". 

Tsk. China eh? What a weird country.


In February a chap named Kevin Horkin, who happens to be the Director of Parallel Management - a company that specialises in promoting psychics in what has to be the lowest rung on the ladder of showbiz - produced a photo which he claimed was a ghost he'd snapped at Gwrych Castle. Was it real? Was it fake? Would falsifying evidence of the existence of spirits somehow help Horkin's business, which lest we forget is a PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM FOR MEDIUMS? Enquiring minds demanded to know. Alas The Sun, who picked up the story and ran with it, didn't bother to answer any of those questions. Instead they put all their efforts in to thinking up a witty headline. The result? SCREAMY WINDOW. Well done lads! The drinks are on the house!

In Memoriam

2010 was a year when many great people passed away. Here are but a few.

Leslie Nielson – He who single handedly proved that subtlety was the true path to comedy.

Norman Wisdom – Rubber faced genius.

Blake Edwards – Cinema legend.

Lynn Redgrave -Theatrical Aristocracy

Corin Redgrave – Ditto

Tsutomu Yamaguchi – Survived two atomic bombs and yet 2010 bested him. Hell of a year.

Teddy Pendergrass – Classy soul singer who was caught “associating” with a transvestite and paralysed on the same night. Death was probably a walk in the park compared to that.

Jean Simmons – Classic English rose with thorns.

J. D. Salinger – Author of “The Catcher In The Rye”. Recluse. Bonkers. He'll be missed.

Alexander McQueen – Fashion designer responsible for Lady Gaga's wardrobe and therefore her reason for existence.

Dick Francis – Champion jockey whose wife wrote some books that my dad likes.

Corey Haim – Ah where to start? The Lost Boys. Where to end? The Lost Boys. God's speed Corey.

Peter Graves - “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”

Malcolm McLaren – Once managed The Sex Pistols. Was able to turn that in to a career long after they disbanded.

Gary Coleman – Really? I don't have to explain this right? It's Gary Coleman for chrissakes. It amazes me he doesn't have a national holiday already.

Dennis Hopper – Actor and director who kick started a revolution in Hollywood with Easy Rider.

Alex Higgins – Controversial snooker player who was blessed with such natural talent it didn't matter if he was sober or not.

Tony Curtis – Never won an Oscar. Proof that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gets it wrong more often than it gets it right.

That was the Sheik that was.

In April Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi announced that the recent wave of earthquakes suffered in the region was all the fault of women flashing their ankles in public. "Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes. There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes." he said. "Viva Las Vegas!" my friend Simon said, before spending a week in the gambling capital of the world, and then a further two weeks getting treated for a venereal disease. Still at least a building didn't fall on top of him.

Ringo wants to sing more.

The Soccer World Cup in the summer will be forever remembered for two things. One, Diego Maradona's reaction when a newspaper reporter asked him if he was gay. And secondly, Paul the Octopus. Using psychic powers in a way that would make Uri Geller go green with envy, Paul successfully predicted all of Germany's World Cup results as well as the outcome of the final. Which of course meant that Paul became a media sensation. Alas the fame went to Paul's head and after the final of the World Cup he spent the next three months partying with Slash from Guns And Roses and snorting cocaine off the back of crabs. In October Paul was found dead in a hotel room in Munich after an emergency call was placed from on of the seven prostitutes he had hired that night. Or he passed away peacefully in his tank. I forget which one. Anyway the moral of this story is "Just Say No Kids".

Blondes have more fun.

There were very few extraordinary cryptozoology stories this year. However one that fit the bill was the tale of Tim Peeler. As reported by WCNC, the North Carolina native was kicking around his home one day when he was disturbed by an unusual grunting noise. He went outside to investigate he was confronted by a creature that was "10 feet tall with beautiful hair, yellowish hair, and a yellow beard.". Peeler then proceeded to do what he does whenever he finds something "beautiful". He got a big stick and poked at it until it ran away. After that he called 911 and asked the all important question of "Would I get in to trouble if I shot and killed this beast?" to which the operator replied "Dude. It's a blonde bigfoot. How the f*** should I know?". Well OK, not really. Turns out NC's police department is a lot more professional than that. But, you know, their University mascot is a Dorset sheep with it's horns painted so I really wouldn't put anything past them. 

Dog-gone sad.

In March the very last episode of MonsterQuest aired, and to be fair it went out with a bang. While most of the show was pointless filler material following three half-baked crackpots wandering around in the woods for no real reason, the finale delivered a shocking twist. During an interview, conducted by werewolf historian Linda Godfrey, Steve Cook admitted that the “Gable Film” footage had been staged all along. Indeed that thing charging at the camera wasn't a werewolf, but instead a bearded fellow wearing a blanket named Mike.

The thing is, even though the Cook confession was one heck of a scoop, it's a shame that it was the most memorable moment of MonsterQuest's last ever episode. What should have been a huge celebration about hunting for cryptids, and a lasting memorial to those who toil in the field of cryptozoology, it instead turned in to a swell of anger at a radio host who, let's face it, came across as a complete dick.

By the way, during the fallout I ripped in to Cook on here after he'd tried to justify his actions online. Much to my surprise Linda Godfrey herself mentioned it on her own blog. And even more surprising, she was quite complimentary about it. On a personal level that mention alone remains one of the highlights of my year and her kind words were a wonderful thing. Although how she came across I Saw Elvis in the first place I have no idea. Seriously I know people who solely write post-it-notes who have more of an online presence than I have.

Speaking of which...

It's been a crazy old year as far as yours truly is concerned. I got engaged. Then I found out I'm about to become a father (Gee Note: Due February 4th folks. So be prepared for the gushy “isn't life AMAZING” post around that time. You have been warned). And I just want to say that to anyone who's enjoyed something they've read on here over the past twelve months, thank you. It means a Hell of a lot.

And to those of you who haven't, why not come back in 2011? It won't be any better but, hey, it can't get any worse can it?

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Man was in the forest.

Now I don't usually start out these posts in a bad mood but today is a special occasion.

F*** the snow.

Actually that's a bit unfair. Snow is great. No really it is. It's fun to walk in, you can build stuff like snowmen, and if you have a stick and nothing better to do you can write rude words in it. Snow's brilliant really.

But f*** the compacted snow on the pavements that turns in to ice and makes every sodding journey out of my house a hazardous trial.

You see, I'm a big guy. I'm 6'5'' and I weigh somewhere around 260lbs, most of that distributed firmly around my waistline (Gee Note: It's amazing my career as a male model never took off when you think about it). I'm also pretty rubbish when it comes to things most people take for granted. Like maintaining one's balance. Seriously I suck at that. I've never been able to ride a bike, Or rollerskate. And as far as surfing goes, forget about it. You might as well try getting a space hopper to ride the waves. Damn thing's got a better chance of staying on a board than I have.

So it's safe to say that I'm no good when it comes to mounds of ice on the roads. "But just how pathetic are you?" I hear you cry. Well you know that bit in Bambi where Thumper's on the frozen lake and is all "Hey Bam-bizzle! Why don't you get your deer ass out here and give us a triple axel homie?" (Gee Note: You'll be amazed to know I don't have a copy of "Bambi" to hand and so I'm quoting from memory here. I know. I'm like a mind wizard or something). And then Bambi heads out on the lake and ends up spread eagled, face down in some frozen water. Well that's me. I'm like a big, bearded, Bambi. Except I only have two legs. And I don't have a tail. And I'm not best friends with a hyperactive rabbit and a creepy skunk that will most likely grow up to be a sex offender. So not really like Bambi at all when you think about it.

What makes it worse is that I'm the only one who seems to struggle with this. Today alone I've seen many a teenager (Gee Note: Or as I like to call them, "Bastards") skidding along and laughing without a care in the world, showing off to impress their peers. Now if it was just them I would write it off as the follies of youth, and console myself with the knowledge that at some point one of them will fall over and break their jaw.

But it's not just them. Everybody, and I mean everybody, is managing to walk over this bloody death-trap apart from me. The elderly folks down at the Salvation Army Centre across the way are practically dancing a jig on it (Gee Note: Possibly proving that God really is on their side). Hell even The Future Ex-Mrs. Davies is doing fine. The. Future. Ex. Mrs. Davies. A woman who is, at the time of writing, 8 months pregnant (Gee Note: It should be noted that she looks amazing. And I am in no way saying that because her hormones are going bezerk at the moment, and I'm afraid that one day I'm going to wake up to find that all my shoes have been cut in to little bits). Yet despite that she's practically skipping around like a child.

Even now as I'm typing this I can see an old woman shuffle past our window uphill. I swear she's mocking me.

So it goes without saying that for the past three days I've been cooped up inside my house. And, I'll be honest with you, it's slowly driving me crazy (Gee Note: No outside and all day time television make Gareth a very miserable boy). It's not that I'm the most outdoorsy fellow around. In fact give me a choice between sitting down with a sandwich or climbing a hill to get a spectacular view, I'll inevitably choose the sandwich (Gee Note: Unless of course the view is of the finalists of the "Miss Bikini-A-Thon 2011" contest. And even then it depends on what’s in the sandwich. For example, if it's a watercress sandwich then I'm-a gonna climb that hill. On the other hand if it's bacon then a rocket ship wouldn't get me up there. Bacon always wins). And what's bothering me isn't the fact that I'm consigned to my sofa for the foreseeable future. Because, let's face it, that's probably what I'd be doing anyway. It's the uneasy sense that I can't go out even if I wanted to. I don't know why but it doesn't sit well with me.

So seeing that, as that great philosopher of our times Sammy Cahn once put it, "the weather outside is frightful", I've been trying to come up with things to occupy my time (Gee Note: Sammy Cahn was the guy who wrote "Let it snow" if you're curious. By the way Sammy had to change his name twice to avoid confusion with other people. First with comic Sammy Cohen and later with lyricist Gus Kahn. Which must have been annoying. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if he felt like this

Yes the entire paragraph was just an excuse to post that video. Merry Christmas)

Thankfully the Devil's Playground that is the World Wide Web has come to the rescue. You see over the past few weeks the information super-highway has been dominated by one subject. And strangely enough it has nothing to with a fat jolly man and his sweat shop of midgets.

Yes siree, the internetz have gone positively batty about aliens recently. It's to be expected I guess. Much like the summer months, the end of the year tends to be a wee bit slow as far as "proper" news goes and, unless someone goes mental and decides to hold the entire cast of Glee hostage at gunpoint until they promise to never again do what ever the Hell it is they do (Gee Note: I'm not condoning such an act you understand. Just saying it's an option), then we usually end up with an honest to goodness mini silly season.

As such media outlets try and find "alternative" stories to fill space with. Even the BBC has got in on the act, producing a remarkably open minded piece about extra terrestrial life and why we haven't made contact yet (Gee Note: Even more remarkable when you consider that four months ago they allowed Dragons Den presenter, and the walking embodiment of "Oh where do I know him from?",  Evan Davis publish an article online about how he doesn't believe in UFOs and how he got reeeaaaalllly bored looking in the woods for some once). Basically it presented the age old question of "Where the clucking ducks is everyone else?" and concluded the following.

Either A) We are in fact alone in the universe. Which is highly unlikely as, you know, space is a pretty big place. Or B) We are not alone in the universe, it's just Johnny Klingon isn't using radio waves as a form of communication. Or C) We aren't actually living creatures, instead we are a computer generated collection of conscious bots developed and run by our descendants for research purposes. In the simulation, of course, we are the subject and so therefore aliens do not exist in the programme (Gee Note: No really. That's a theory put forward by Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at Oxford University. Which just goes to prove my theory correct that you can be as mad as toast, but as long as you have a couple of degrees to back you up then people will listen to whatever you say. If, on the other hand, you're a manual labourer from Dudley with no teeth then the chances are everyone will ignore you. Which is why I've decided to go back to school and complete a PhD in, oh I don't know, knitting or something. That way when I tell people that I've taught a whale to play Bob Dylan songs on the banjo folks will listen. Shit, I'll be a millionaire by the time they work out it's not true).

Following this we had the release of New Zealand's UFO files. Now New Zealand is a beautiful country filled with crazy people, and has an air force that is the equivalent of me pretending to fly toy planes in the bath (Gee Note: What? All the cool people do that. I've heard Samuel L. Jackson has a little plastic submarine as well. Which he calls "Lil' Muthaf***a". Maybe. I don't know. Shut up.). So it's no surprise that they don't use their limited resources to investigate reports of flying saucers. Still they do make a record when ever someone calls them to complain that some people from the stars have landed their spaceship in their back garden, and as such the document weighs in at some 2000 pages. The contents of which range from the mundane (Gee Note: Lights far away. Could have been aliens. Could also have been a tractor on a hill) to the amazingly balmy (Gee Note: Giant extra terrestrials who spout wisdom such as telling us what happens to us when we die. Apparently upon snuffing it our souls ascend as hydrogen atoms. "You will remain in hydrogen form for 150 years", says Biggy McSpaceman "Then it will change to sodium". Then add some chlorine and, hey presto, you can be used as seasoning for someone's chicken dinner. That's science kids.) making sure that aliens were in the headlines for another day.

Proving that this seasonal Martian frenzy could also be topical, message boards and blogs almost exploded when WikiLeaks founder and professional government baiter Julian Assange was arrested in the UK after his… er… own Wiki leaked (Gee Note: Ba Boom Cha). It all started when, after the latest batch of classified cable communications were released, Assange was quoted as saying "It is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs". Now the fact that these "references" are more than likely going to be along the lines of "Dear Jim. I looked up in to the sky last night and thought I saw a UFO. But then I realised it was actually your mum. Because she's so fat. Your pal Mikhail" than anything else, it didn't stop believers going in to overdrive on their keyboards.  And before you could say "Wait. What?" the following story appeared online.

A new report circulating in the Kremlin today prepared for President Medvedev by Russian Space Forces (VKS) 45th Division of Space Control says that an upcoming WikiLeaks release of secret US cables details that the Americans have been “engaged” since 2004 in a “war” against UFO’s based on or near the Continent of Antarctica, particularly the Southern Ocean. According to this report, the United States went to its highest alert level on June 10, 2004 after a massive fleet of UFO’s “suddenly emerged” from the Southern Ocean and approached Guadalajara, Mexico barely 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from the American border. Prior to reaching the US border, however, this massive UFO fleet is said in this report to have “dimensionally returned” to their Southern Ocean “home base”.

The article was published by the relatively unknown EU Times, who claim to use reliable sources. But then I claim to be an astronaut who was thrown out of NASA for being too handsome when I'm in a bar I know I'll never go back to so, you know.

Another rumour doing the rounds was one about "Three Giant UFOs Heading Towards Earth" (Gee Note: Dun dun dun duuuuuuunnnnnnnn). The amazing thing about this is that it's actually a couple of months old. It first came to light in September, when copy and paste merchants the world over posted this on their web-ma-thingys.

Recent light has been shed on the reason that the SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project has been cancelled by the government. It seems that something was starting to happen. According to my sources the government black project boys have taken over some of the antennas and are now processing signals for the exclusive use of the United States Navy. The government seems to be highly upset that more than one very large object is fast approaching Earth.

Of course eagle eyed readers will notice that the SETI project wasn't cancelled by the government, largely because the government doesn't actually fund SETI in the first place. In fact you have to go all the way back to 1992 to find the last meaningful contribution the US made to SETI in an official capacity. The blurb goes on to explain that at the current rate these "large objects" will arrive here sometime in the middle of December 2012 and, adding all that together, what we have is an obvious attempt to hoodwink folks in to thinking all those Mayan Prophecy Doomsdayers might actually know what they are talking about. As opposed to just being a bunch of smelly hippies who should really know better at their age.

Somehow though the same piece of fluff managed to rear its ugly head again in late December, thanks to some clever engineering on the scribes part. Gone was the blatantly false information about SETI, replaced with… blatantly false information about SETI. Hoorah. Here's version two taken from The Examiner online.

E.T. does not need to phone home anymore, someone, or something is on it’s way to earth.

SETI Astrophysicist Craig Kasnov ( not to be confused with Craig Kasnoff ) has announced the approach to the Earth of 3 very large, very fast moving objects. The length of the “flying saucers” is in the range of tens of kilometers. Landing, according to calculations of scientists, should be in mid-December 2012. Date coincides with the end of the Mayan calendar.

Craig Kasnoff is not an astrophysicist, and is no longer associated with SETI, but at least he actually exists. Craig Kasnov, on the other hand, doesn't. At all. In any shape or form. Oh sure, there may be a couple of dudes here and there with the name "Craig Kasnov". But are any of them a top astrophysicist dedicating themselves to finding little green men? No. No they aren't. Honestly, you might as well have started the story with "Elusive super spy James Bond believes the Earth is pretty much boned because Harry Stamper told him he saw, like, 5 gazillion spaceships armed with death rays and dressed up to look like big sharks or something". I mean really if you are going to make stuff up, at least try and be responsible enough to use the tried and tested "a source close to SETI claims". Say what you will about the Jennifer Anniston Weekly The National Enquirer but they avoid getting sued on a weekly basis because of that very reason.

Speaking of Doomsday, Bugarach is the place to be when the four horseman come riding over the horizon. Or not if you believe Mayor Jean-Pierre Delord. You see Mr. Delord is a bit panicky at the thought of December 21st 2012. Not because he thinks that Armageddon will hit us like Hugh Jackman trying to make a dramatic stage entrance. But because a lot of New Agers are convinced that should the heavens open and rain down a monsoon of fire, then Bugarach is going to be just tickety boo.

The reason? Well according to the Daily Telegraph:

Bugarach, population 189, is a peaceful farming village in the Aude region, southwestern France and sits at the foot of the Pic de Bugarach, the highest mountain in the Corbières wine-growing area. But in the past few months, the quiet village has been inundated by groups of esoteric outsiders who believe the peak is an "alien garage". According to them, extraterrestrials are quietly waiting in a massive cavity beneath the rock for the world to end, at which point they will leave, taking, it is hoped, a lucky few humans with them.

Hence ol' Jean-Pierre is a wee bit concerned that should a throng of people holding signs saying “Take me with you. But leave the missus. She never really understood me anyway.” decide to descend upon Bugarach en masse then chaos would ensue. Although it's a bit difficult to nail down exactly why the Pic de Bugarach should generate so much interest in alien loving circles. There are, of course, rumours that the Nazis and Mossad have both conducted digs at the site. That and President François Mitterrand was once flown by helicopter to the summit of the mountain for reasons that were never disclosed. Oh and a chap who once lived there claimed to have heard a spacecraft humming from under the surface of the rock. But outside of those slim pickings there's not much more than conjecture and heresay.

Still this hasn't calmed Delord any. “This is no laughing matter,” he's quoted as saying. "If tomorrow 10,000 people turn up, as a village of 200 people we will not be able to cope. I have informed the regional authorities of our concerns and want the army to be at hand if necessary come December 2012."

Mind, maybe he'll get lucky and the army won't be needed to keep the David Icke wannabes away.

After all on December 21st 2012, there's a chance it might snow.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Mother always taught me: "Never eat singing food."

Evolution (Gee Note: If you believe in it that is. If you don't, well that's cool I guess. I don't believe in Ryan Seacrest. I'm still waiting for the day when he falls apart live on national television and reveals a puppeteer from Jim Henson's Creature Shop working him from underneath. One day my friends. One day. By the way Christmas is coming up, which means I get to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol again. Yes deep down I am still six years old.) doesn't always make sense.

Take, if you will, the Terrible Hairy Fly (Gee Note: Coincidentally "Terrible Hairy Fly" would also be my ring name if I ever achieve my life long dream of becoming a Mexican wrestler). Recently rediscovered after a 62 year gap it is, well, kinda rubbish. For a start it can't actually fly, having wings that are… not really wings. They're more like pointless limbs sprouting out of it's back than anything else. In addition our creepy crawly friend is practically blind, likes making love in bat faeces, and looks like Bernie Ecclestone after seven rounds with a mugger.

So the question is, at what point in the cycle of natural selection does a fly think "You know what? This flying thing is overrated. I mean sure it helps me find food and evade predators. But, really, nobody's ever been made happier by flying. So to hell with it. I'm going to stay right here by this flying rodent poo and watch the ladies go by."?  It's pretty crazy when you think about it.

Speaking of which, ever hear the one about the Mokele-Mbembe, the dinosaur in the Congo?

Meet Abbé Lievain Bonaventure. Abbé was a French missionary kicking around the Congo River in the mid 1700's, and in 1776 he published a book about his life there. Most of it consists of Bonaventure describing various plants found in the region, or how the natives were lovely/complete bastards. However in one passage Abbé describes wandering through the jungle one day only to stumble upon something quite remarkable. Namely (Gee Note: President Obama's birth certificate? GEDDIT?!?! Because he's in Africa. Ah ha ha ha. Ah ha ha. Ha. Man I should, like, write a sitcom or something) a set of giant footprints, unlike any he had ever seen before. According to our boy in black the animal that left them "must have been monstrous: the marks of the claws were noted on the ground, and these formed a print about three feet in circumference."

Fast forward 134 years and enter Carl Hagenbeck. Hagenbeck, born in Hamburg in 1844, was the son of a fishmonger. As a way of generating some extra cash his father would occasionally deal in exotic animals, and it was because of this Hagenbeck junior found himself in possession of a couple of seals and a polar bear at the age of 14 (Gee Note: No really. That was Papa's way of spoiling the kid. Now I can understand the seals. I mean they're kinda harmless and look a bit like a non threatening version of Ja Rule. But a f***ing Polar Bear?! That's not a responsible gift to give to a child surely? It would be like Saddam Hussein handing a nuclear warhead to Uday Hussein on his 12th birthday. "Your mother said I was spoiling you. But I saw it in the Argos catalogue and I couldn't resist. Nothing is too good for my boy! Now I've kept the receipt so if you don't like the colour we can change it". Madness I tell you).

This started a life long obsession with young Carl, who went on to collect various beasties like they were Pokemon (Gee Note: Pokemon's still a thing with the kids right? Huh? What the hell is a "Ben 10"?). In fact Hagenbeck became a real life Kraven The Hunter, capturing and transporting the world's craziest creatures for display in zoos all across Europe. He even managed to strike up a professional relationship with one P. T. Barnum, to whom he supplied many a strange and rare attraction for folks to view at a price.

Anyway to cut a long story short, in 1909 Hagenbeck published his autobiography "Beasts and Men". The book, guaranteed to be wildly popular to begin with, soon started making headlines around the world. Thanks in no small part to the claim that something rather large and unusual was stomping it's way through Zaire. According to Carl, various tribesmen and animal experts familiar with the area had told him of a creature there that was "half elephant, half dragon" (Gee Note: And we shall call it a "Dragant". Although it's not to be confused with Drag-Ant, a wildly popular stage act within the gay insect community). Indeed naturalist Joseph Menges reported to him that it was "some kind of dinosaur, seemingly akin to the brontosaurs."

And with that the legend of "Mokele-Mbembe", the Sauropod of the African jungle that time forgot, was born.

It became a bit of a media sensation, leading to stories printed all across North America and Europe in the daily newspapers. Which is remarkable considering that the only evidence for this monster was "some dude told another dude who then wrote it down". Still it ignited the imagination and passion of many a brave explorer, and off they trotted to the Congo to find themselves a rootin' tootin' dinosawwwwr.

These expeditions were met with varying degrees of success. In 1919 a 32 man expedition organised by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. ended in tragedy. A train carrying the team to supposedly diplodocus infested waters crashed, killing four outright and seriously wounding many more.  Conversely, legendary cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson claimed to have spotted the elusive target on a trip to Cameroon in 1932, describing the creature's head as nearly the size of a hippo itself. "I don't know what we saw, but the animal, the monster, burned itself into my retinas. It looked like something that ought to have been dead millions of years ago. As a scientist, I should have been happy, of course, but this encounter was so frightening, so nasty that I never want to see it again." When he asked his guides what in the blue hell had just happened they replied "m'koo m'bemboo".

However despite the numerous attempts to catch a glimpse of this notorious beast, hard facts were tough to come by. Indeed, outside of the tales told by locals and the occasional roar head off in the distance, "Mokey" left very little physical evidence in it's wake. (Gee Note: Which considering it's supposed to be the size of an armoured truck, is quite the accomplishment. I mean there are professional spies who leave more of a trail than this thing. Actually, thinking about it, that would make one hell of television series. "Dino-Spy: The Cold War Files". Throw in a brontosaurus wearing a dinner jacket and an evil Russian T-Rex with a monocle and you've got yourself a hit show. Seriously, I've got half a mind to pitch this to the BBC).

That was until 1987 and Dr. Roy P Mackel's book "A Living Dinosaur?" hit the shelves. Dr Mackal was a former Marine in WWII, who later became Professor of Zoology at the University of Chicago. (Gee Note: Which I can totally relate to because I am also a delicious mixture of brains and brawn). An avid advocate of cryptozoology, Mackal himself had journeyed to the Congo on two separate occasions. And while he never managed to spot the Mokele-Mbembe, he did collect numerous statements from first hand witnesses. These he collated and, with his own narration, transformed them in to "A Living Dinosaur?". The most striking thing was the similarity of these reports. As Mackal himself puts it:

The witnesses described animals that were 15 to 30 feet long, mostly head, neck and tail. The head was distinctly snake-like, a long thin tail, and a body approximating the size of an elephant, or at least that of a hippopotamus. The legs are short, with the hind legs possessing three claws. The animals are a reddish brown in color, and have a rooster-like frill running from the top of the head down the back of the neck.

About 300 pages in Roy mentions a letter he had received from someone named Atelier Yvan Ridel, before reprinting the letter in full.

A member, as you are yourself, of the J.N.E. (Writers-journalists for Nature and Ecology), I am a professional photographer and passionate amateur naturalist.  This explains why I photograph, as the occasions arise just about every animal (wild ones, especially), that I counter -- from the smallest to the largest.

(Gee Note: Man that sounds like good hobby. Better than mine anyway, which involves eating an entire tub of ice cream and watching reality television shows. That counts as a hobby right?).

Ridel helpfully supplied a photograph with the letter, this one to be precise.

This is how I happened to have taken the slide I have enclosed (a duplicate), showing the footprint of what I believed at the time (1966) to be a hippopotamus, without even realizing that the foot that had made it had only 3 toes.  But, not thinking that far, I didn't believe it could be anything else, so filed the negative and scarcely thought of it again.

I ought to mention that this photo was taken in August or September of 1966 in the Congo (Brazza) on a steep river bank and that the animal's tracks lead out of a mass of reeds, crossed a little beach area and descended into the water.

Now we're talking.

You see anecdotes of woovy bezerk monsters are all well good, but they're tough to believe without something else to back them up. For example, when I was growing up every kid in my class was convinced that if you went in to the bathroom at night, turned off all of the lights and said the words "Bloody Mary" three times in to a mirror, a ghost would turn up and rip your eyes out. But just because everyone said it would happen didn't make it true (Gee Note: Although I'll be buggered if I'm going to try it. I mean I really like my eyes. They help me see things. Like flowers. And mountains. And Monster Trucks on the telly. Eyes are pretty goddam awesome in that regard). It's the same in this case. Except "Bloody Mary" is a bloody great big lizard. And she doesn't rip your eyes out. And she might not be a "she". So it's not really the same at all when you think about it.

But it doesn't end there, oh no siree. In 1983 zoologist Marcellin Agnanga visited the area known as Lake Tele, a veritable hot spot for dino sightings. While there he claims to have seen the fabled creature from a stones throw away. According to Agnanga it had a small head, a long neck, and a large broad back (Gee Note: Sounds like my ex. Hey-oh.), and luckily Agnanga had his video camera with him. Unluckily Marcellin was to home movies what Rise Of The Robots was to videogames, and he either left the lens cap on or forgot to set the camera to record at a distance, depending on who you believe.

Leave it to the Japanese to go one better then. In 1992 a documentary crew from the land of the rising sun were filming some 2nd unit footage from a small plane flying over Lake Tele.  While in the air the camerman noticed a disturbance from the water below. He proceeded to record the following action.

Now this video has generated a great deal of debate. "It's a dinosaur!" say some. "Rubbish. It's a person in a row boat!" say others. "It's an elephant going for a swim!" yet more people cry. In the end it's just too grainy to truly decipher. It could be a be a Brontosaurus. It could also be a bird with a long neck. Like an emu. (Gee Note: Or Naomi Campbell, if one of the contestants on hit 80's tv gameshow Family Fortunes are to be believed. For those not in the know, FF eventually became notorious for the idiotic and often bizarre answers the players would blurt out. Such as - Q: Name something that makes you scream. A: A squirrel, and - Q: Name a number you have to memorise. A: Seven. In retrospect it really is no wonder that host Les Dennis had a breakdown on national television in 2002. I mean sure, the fact that his wife was being banged like a big bass drum by another guy may also have played some part in that. But considering what his working life consisted of it's amazing he managed to hold it together for as long as he did).

Since then there have been numerous visits to the region in search of "Denver" (Gee Note: Did you know that "Denver The Last Dinosaur" only had one series? It turns out that a guitar playing aptosaur who can, for reasons that are not entirely made clear, travel through time isn't all that bankable. Hmmm. I may have to rethink my Dino-Spy series. Maybe throw in something for the male 18-34 demographic. A stegosaurus in a bikini perhaps? Yes. That's it. She can be a professional surfer/kung fu expert who also happens to be a stegosaurus. This can't fail!). Alas all of them have come back pretty much empty handed, except for the usual stories from pygmies about a giant reptile splashing around in lakes, eating shrubs, and picking fights with hippos.

So I guess the question is, what are the chances that a living fossil is tearing around the dark continent? Well, honestly, it appears to be pretty slim.

Now before we start, some people reading this will have undoubtedly heard of the Coelacanth. If you haven't then I'll try and explain as briefly as possible, The Coelacanth is a fish that was thought to have been extinct for approximately 65 million years. That was until one was found swimming around quite happily off the coast of South Africa in 1938. It has become the poster child for misguided creationists all over the globe who have apparently taken on the "Dinosaur in the Congo" crusade as a way of proving that God really created the universe. Why they do this I have no idea. I mean even if it's true it doesn't really prove God exists. Just that one giant lizard is reeeaalllly good at hiding.

But people often point to the Coelacanth and go “See? Scientists schmientists. They don't know everything. Look at this primitive and, let's face it, really ugly fish. They thought it didn't exist. But it does. You can poke it if you don't believe me. Go on. Poke the fish. Poke it. Hmmm. I can't help but notice you're not poking the fish. Listen buddy, we didn't drive all the way to SeaWorld for you to just stare. So just poke the f***ing thing and we'll move on.”. Except that argument is all kinds of mental when you think about it.

For a start we know more about the surface of the Moon than we do about the sea floor, and Coelacanth can live some 700m beneath the surface. Also they're dark blue, hide in caves all day, and can only be found in waters which have a temperature between 14°c and 22°c. With the ocean covering two-thirds of the Earth trying to find a Coelacanth is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Except, and here's the key bit, nobody was actually looking for one. Until 1938 it hadn't entered anyone's head that a Coelacanth might actually still be swimming about somewhere. Now it is true that the Coelacanth disappeared from the fossil record since the Cretaceous period. But all that can tell you is that the fossil record is incomplete and should really be used as a rough guide.

Basically what it boils down to is this. Let's say, conservatively, that the Mokele-Mbembe is about the size of an elephant. And let's say, generously, the area it inhabits is about the size of Florida. In 90 years of searching, and with all the technological advances we've made in that time, we haven't come close to finding anything. Outside of eye witness reports, we've had the grand total of one photo of a footprint and one shaky video.

Of course the argument is that the Congo is ridiculously difficult to travel to and once there it's quite an ordeal to get from one spot to the next. But with hippos and elephants both on the endangered species list, and with numbers of each steadily dwindling, we can still find plenty of wildlife programmes capturing these animals in their native habitat. Not to be able to find a lizard of similar size even after 90 years of trying just doesn't make sense, especially after the first thing anyone on an expedition does is grill the pygmies as to where exactly this thing is.

But then, on the flip side of the coin, evolution doesn't always make sense. Just ask the Terrible Hairy Fly.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.

There's an advert on the box at the moment for Match.Com, an internet dating site. Basically it features two people, an impossibly good looking man and woman, knocking around in a music store. Then for reasons known only to himself the man picks up a guitar and starts to sing. In a butt clenchingly twee way the woman soon joins in.

Man: I like old movies.
Woman: Like Godfather 3.
Man: They say it's not the best one.
Woman: But that's just me.

They then smile knowingly and, thank Christ, the advert comes to a screeching halt before we are treated to the spectacle of them heading off to teddy bear land and wallowing in an overbearing sea of saccharine, dewy-eyed, nonsense.

Now this advert bothers me on a number of levels. For a start. The Godfather Part III is an unbelievably awful film with an indecipherable plot (Gee Note: Seriously. It's about corrupt monks or something. I don't know. If I'm honest I gave up caring halfway through), a collection of terrible performances, and a running time that would make Orson Welles cringe. It is the worst case of going to the well one too many times. and also happens to represent the official point where Francis Ford Coppola jumped the shark. After this cinematic monstrosity Frankie FC treated us to such wonders as Jack, The Rainmaker, and Youth Without Youth, all of which should be used as a form of torture on suspected terrorists.

So yeah, "Godfather 3" is a bad movie. Bad enough that no one with half a brain would take the time to sing a stupidly cheery song about it. Also, it isn't really that old. Metropolis is old. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is old. Nosferatu is old. The Godfather Part III was released in 1990 which means either Dullard McSingsong is confusing it with another movie entirely, or they have the attention span of a gnat. Which in turn means the message of this advert isn't "Come to Match.Com and meet your perfect partner". Instead it's "Come to Match.Com, and meet someone as stupid as you are". And that's not really a great sales technique, whatever anyone tells you.

Which is why when it comes to matters of the heart and other such important things, I don't leave it up to those chancers at Match.Com. No way Jose, I put my faith in Tara the online psychic.

You guys remember Tara right? No? You sure? She used to be a pretty regular feature on this 'ere web-ma-log. Well for those who don't, a while ago I signed up for an online tarot card reading, and since then Tara has been bombarding me with amazingly crazy emails designed to get me to send her my money. I reposted a couple here and then, thinking it had run it’s course, blocked her mails from arriving in my inbox.

Anyway at the back end of last week one of those blighters managed to sneak through and, rather than delete it straight away, I decided to read it for old time's sake. And then I laughed. And then I decided to repost it here. I know, I know. Really. There's no need to thank me.



Late last night I was stretched out peacefully on my couch, thinking of you (Gee Note: Really? Aw shucks. You'll make me blush) and a few other people (Gee Note: Wait. What? Other people? OTHER PEOPLE?!?!? You… you Jezebel, you. My mother warned me about women like you. And also that you shouldn't stick a fork in to a toaster no matter how much you think it deserves it. Sound advice really.)  who recently asked for my help, when suddenly something very strange happened.

I can’t explain why, but I felt an irresistible impulse to enter into telepathic contact with you as soon as possible, Gareth. (Gee Note: That's OK. I get irresistible impulses all the time. Although to be fair mine are more along the lines of "make bacon sandwich" or " wear hat". Not "mind rape someone". But then each to their own I guess).

I sat down at my worktable and did a psychic session for you. Contact was established almost immediately, and the visions I had about the way your life is unfolding were incredibly clear. (Gee Note: That's what you get when you upgrade to HD. That and an urge to watch boring sporting events on the telly just because you can now see them in crystal clear detail. Seriously the other day I ended up watching lawn bowling for seven straight hours. Lawn bowling. For seven hours. It's like I skipped middle age and went straight in to the "retired and really have nothing better to do" phase).

It was like watching a movie of your life! (Gee Note: Wow, what a belting movie that would be. I can see the promotional pitch now "It was a time of heroes. It was a time of war. It was a time when one man decided to sit on his fat ass all day long and watch old people roll balls on some grass for no good reason". Also do I get any input on casting? Because if I do I demand that Warwick Davis play me and that The Future-Ex Mrs. Davies is played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. The screen will simply fizzle with chemistry).

I could see all the difficulties you’ve been dealing with, all the bad news you’ve been getting, all the disappointments and delays you’ve had to face in the most important areas of your life. I clearly saw the bad choices you made, the errors you committed in the past that today are forcing you to deprive yourself of almost everything, and count every penny. (Gee Note: What the f*** lady? "Bad choices"? OK, admittedly investing the family fortune in a 5,000,000 pairs of clown shoes didn't exactly return a windfall straight away. But when Lady Gaga wears some to the VMA’s and they become a hot fashion item, we'll see who's laughing then). 

But I can say with great certainty that for you, Gareth, the end of the tunnel is near. This is an important moment in your life. You could obtain everything your heart desires. (Gee Note: Mmmm. Bacon).

I have to warn you, Gareth. The harmful environment you’re in now could still bring bad luck, and annihilate the enormous potential that is being offered to you now.  You have to get rid of the harmful presence blocking your Destiny once and for all. It’s been opposing your happiness for a long time now, and I’m sure you’ve noticed it.  (Gee Note: Oh noes. A harmful presence blocking my density. What would George McFly do? Well, he'd punch someone in the mouth obviously. So that's what I'm going to do. Punch the next person I see in the mouth. Problem solved).

A while ago you were on the verge of solving most of your problems, but despite your efforts things turned against you. I can tell you that it was your psychic enemy, trying to make things even worse for you.  (Gee Note: "A psychic enemy"? You do know I'm not a member of the X-Men right? Not that I haven't tried you understand. I even bought myself a full body spandex suit and a cape to wear while fighting crime. Alas the first time I wore it I caught my foot on my front doorstep, which caused me to fall over and scrape my knee. I decided to give up after that point. Super heroes who exclaim loudly "But it really realllllly hurts!" with tears in their eyes are less than impressive it turns out.).

Among the people you know, someone is very bitter towards you, and is sending you a lot of very negative thoughts, full of rancour and pessimism, jealousy and bad luck. (Gee Note: Sigh. I can't imagine why. I mean you wouldn't believe the number of times I've told people not to hate me because I'm beautiful).

A case like yours requires exceptional measures. I’m going to tell you about a secret that will enable you to put an end to your problems and turn things completely in your favor:

The Secret of the "Hand of Power" (Gee Note: Not to be confused with "The Foot of Danger". Which looks like a perfectly normal foot until you feed it after midnight. Then it becomes a right bastard).

I have decided, Gareth, to perform the Hand of Power Ritual for you. (Gee Note: You know the last time I paid a woman to do something with her hand for me was… er… nevermind).

The ceremony belongs to an ancient tradition, and its secret has been kept in my family for generations. The Ritual is transmitted only after long initiation and much effort. My grandfather taught it to me, and showed me many times, and in very concrete ways, how it could really transform the lives of people in trouble. (Gee Note: My grandfather taught me how to putt golf balls. Because, you know, he wasn't bonkers).

Those who have already benefited from the Hand of Power Ritual have all seen their most pressing problems resolved, even those they’d given up hope on. These people were often in very desperate situations. (Gee Note:  "Dear Tara. My name is John and I'm stuck on a raft in the middle of pacific ocean. All my shipmates have been eaten by sharks and I can see their fins circling me as we speak. Could you be a dear and perform a hand of thingy ritual for me. Or alternatively, ALERT THE F***ING COASTGUARD!!! Regards. John". Speaking of which did you know that Dick Van Dyke was once rescued at sea by a group of porpoises? No really. Just like Adam West's Batman. Except Van Dyke wasn't tied up with a young boy dressed in tights at the time. At least not according to the stern letter I got from his lawyers when I self published my book "Dick Van Dyke: What you didn't know". ).

Since my initiation I’ve helped many people, most of whom were in a more precarious and complex situation than you’re in now. I did it by performing the Hand of Power Ritual on their behalf. Almost all of them were surprised to see a "miracle" take place in their lives: in less than a month, their terrible problems had been transformed into incredible happiness. (Gee Note: Almost all of them huh? You mean there were some not surprised by a miracle happening in their life? Now as far as I can work out that means one of two things. Either a miracle didn't happen in the first place. Or it happened to someone for whom a miracle is no big thing. Which, unless you happen to be Jesus, is probably unlikely. Although thinking about it, it would be pretty great if Jesus and Tara had a Miracle-Off. Hell put them in a ring, throw in a couple of card carrying women, add some pyrotechnics, and I'd definitely buy that Pay Per View).

What you need to do now is very simple. When you finish reading, place your left hand on your computer screen to trigger the Hand of Power. 

Now we’re getting to the heart of the secret! (Gee Note: Shit just got REAL!) Here’s what’s going to happen: keeping your left hand flat against the computer screen, you’re going to ask that your three most cherished wishes be granted. (Gee Note: Wish number one. Can I take my hand off the screen now please? I'm in a library and guy sitting opposite is looking at me funny).

First Wish: Think hard about how much money you’d need to solve your immediate problems. Visualize what you’d do once you have it. (Gee Note: Hire a mariachi band to play music whenever I walk into a room.)

Second Wish: Concentrate on your love life. According to your situation (either as part of a couple or on your own) imagine yourself finding true love, or seeing your relationship drastically improve. Feel the happiness it brings you, and know that the skies over your future are clear. (Gee Note: Hmm. Now that I think about it, The Future-Ex Mrs. Davies could do with wearing less clothes around the house. I mean sure it's cold in the evenings now, but is that really an excuse not to wear a bikini to the dinner table? What do you mean you feel warmer in your jumper? Well la-di-dah your majesty.)

Third Wish: Concentrate on a flow of Luck entering your life. See yourself playing money games where you keep winning huge jackpots. Then visualize yourself spending your winnings on things that give you pleasure.  (Gee Note: If I was a recovering gambling addict, I'm pretty sure this advice wouldn't help).

Through the psychic connection between your hand and the computer screen, I’ll be able to pick up your personal vibrations, charged with all the things that are dearest to your heart.  Then, when I perform the Hand of Power Ritual on your behalf, your vibrations will enable me to have extremely precise "psychic flashes", revealing the crucial events in your future in startling detail.  (Gee Note: You know the last time I paid a woman to pick up my personal vibrations I was... er... nevermind).

Think what your life will be like when you’re able to attract Luck like honey attracts a bee, without even having to do anything special!  (Gee Note: Erm. Honey doesn't attract bees. Flowers do. Honey attracts Grizzly Bears. Easy mistake to make though. I've often put out a jam jar out on a warm summer's day to catch bees only to find a bloody great big deadly predator stuck in it).

Although it seems so simple, it will mark the beginning of your new life, and a lead to a180 degree turn in your fortunes. You’ll find the answers you’ve been seeking for so long in vain, and the things you have to do to finally become the person of your dreams: a person who is incredibly Lucky and profoundly happy. (Gee Note: And also a famous rapper. Because I've got great rhymes. No really. “Yo man I'm like a cyclone. I've got an internal skeleton made out of bone”. I'm just waiting for my big break. Simon Cowell should totally sign me up)

Don’t hesitate. Your happiness is there, waiting for you, and the sooner you answer me, the sooner you’ll taste it.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you, Gareth. (Gee Note: You know when you have one of those awkward first dates? Ones where you've had a horrible time and the other person goes “you're going to call me right?”, and you go “Oh yeah. Sure I will” when deep down you know that you'd rather call a baboon with a flatulence problem? Well... sure I'll be in touch Tara).




And there you have it. Now you may think that placing your hand on the screen and wishing for your life to turn around is crazy. And you're right. It is.

But, really, is it any crazier that trying to impress people by singing about rubbish films?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

What do you expect us to use man, harsh language?

There's a lot of things that annoy me. For example, when you dunk a biscuit in to a cup of tea and it breaks in half, leaving a gunky mess at the bottom of the mug. Or people who wear beanie hats indoors. Or that weather presenter on the Welsh national news who finishes his broadcasts by winking at the camera. Or Glenn Beck. Or pigeons. The list goes on and on.

But I honestly never thought I would get annoyed with Cryptomundo.

Now I'm not what you would call a "gamer". Oh sure, I play video games occasionally. And for the most part I enjoy it. But I would say that of all the things I do with my spare time, playing video games would come a distant fourth behind watching television, reading, and sitting down. (Gee Note: Actually it would come fifth if you count "scratching" as an activity).

Part of the problem is I'm not very good at them. There was a time that I was exceedingly competent with a joypad in my hands, around the time of the NES and the Master System in fact. Back then I was nowt but knee high to grasshopper and I, like most of my friends, would spend hours at a time devoted to the flickering images of Mario and Sonic stuttering from left to right. But then I hit my late teens, found other virtues to pursue (Gee Note: Namely girls and beer, neither of which was particularly successful) and by the time I started playing again in my early twenties the entire scene had moved on. For a start video games had become far more complex. Gone were the days of breezily running through a multicoloured landscape jumping on the heads of walking mushrooms. Instead the video game market had become dominated by grimy first person shooters. You'd assume the role of some gun totting bad ass and head off to take on evil Nazis, or blood thirsty aliens, or evil blood thirsty Nazi aliens. Games now revolved around being able to aim accurately, move stealthily, and pull the trigger at a seconds notice.

The thing is none of that has ever struck me as all that much fun. And it's not that I'm opposed to the idea of running around and shooting things. In fact one of my favourite games of the modern era, Mass Effect 2, is basically just that. In Mass Effect you go to a new planet, have a natter with some folks with blue skin, and before you know it your blasting your way through wave after wave of bad guys. Which is great. But Mass Effect differs from most games in that you don't have to treat the combat sections like they're a real life war. In contrast Halo, which has a similar premise to Mass Effect, leaves me cold despite it's universal acclaim amongst the gaming community. Partly because my experience of playing Halo is me running around desperately firing bullets left right and centre, only to find out some sneaky bastard has crept up behind me and is steadily unloading their ammunition in to the back of my neck.

This isn't to say that people who enjoy these video games are somehow misguided. They're not. In fact if I was any good at them I would probably love these games as much the next man. But because I'm pretty much useless when it comes to "circle strafing" and throwing grenades at moving targets, it means I end up looking for other things to occupy my console disk drives. Games like Civilization Revolutions where you have to build a city and stop other world renowned leaders (Gee Note: Including a strangely aggressive Gandhi. No really. A typical conversation with Gandhi in Civ Rev goes something like "Hey Gandhi. How's it going?" "Give me your gold!!!" "I'm sorry Gandhi. I have no gold to give you." "WHAT?!?!? F*** YOU BUDDY!! THIS MEANS WAR!!!!!") from taking it over. Or Heavy Rain, which is kind of a murder mystery with French voice actors pretending to be American and failing miserably (Gee Note: "But Scott don't you realize? Zis could 'elp us find ze killer!").

Or, more to the point, Red Dead Redemption.

Red Dead Redemption is,a cowboy action-adventure. Developed by Rockstar, the people responsible for the Grand Theft Auto games, RDR is set in a fictional Wild West where men are men, women are women, and animals are a good way of generating some cash by hunting them for their pelts. Anyone who has ever played a Grand Theft Auto game will instantly be comfortable with the mechanics. You jump on a horse, ride your way to a place marked out on your map, where upon a cut scene kicks in to move plot along. After that you complete the objective set out in front of you, which generally speaking is "ride over there and shoot those people", before moving on to the next thing. RDR differs from it's predecessors in one key aspect however. While the various incarnations of GTA were often juvenile and tawdry, RDR is a grown up and thoughtful game. Of course it still has a collection of buffoons to gawk at, a grave robber and an elderly work shy farm hand for example, but overall it tells a charming, tragic, and occasionally beautiful story.

Recently an add on for the game became available online. Coinciding with Halloween the developers released the "Undead Nightmare" downloadable pack, a separate mission from the main game in which zombies are unleashed on to the playing field causing havoc in the process. Designed to be a way to refresh the game for players who had already completed the original, "Undead Nightmare" brings with it a host of new features. You can catch and tame the four horses of the apocalypse, ride about on a unicorn, get attacked by a chupacabra, and fire a bullet at a demonic looking goat.

It also features a side mission which has upset some people. The reason? Well if you take a trip to the game area known as the tall trees you're given the chance to hunt some Sasquatch.
Learning of this Craig Woolheater of Cryptomundo published the following video found on Youtube,

Above it he added the following the following statement.

"I am not a gamer and find this somewhat offensive…"

This was then followed by a series of comments underneath from regular readers of Cryptomundo. These included…

"I find it HIGHLY offensive."

"I am a gamer. Have been for a long time. This is not only offensive, but pathetic."

"Disgraceful. Whatever happened to social responsibility and a respect for nature? This game will only appeal to violent morons. This is as bad as the rod and gun club in BC who use sasquatch targets for practice." (Gee Note: One. I've played this game I'm not violent. A moron maybe. But I have weak girl arms and don't really enjoy pain so I tend to avoid any kind of physical activity, fighting included. Two. There's a gun club that uses Sasquatch targets for practice? That's just… confusing.)

Finally some slightly saner voices joined the discussion, and the conversation degenerated in to a very dull debate about whether or not video games are evil. "YES!!!" shouted some people. "NO!!!!" cried others. And all the while everyone missed the point like English soccer players taking penalties.

You see this is what happens when something is taken out of context. It would be like watching one scene from "Aliens" where Sigourney Weaver is running away from a giant slathering extra terrestrial and saying "Oh my God. This movie totally presents women as feeble and spineless.". Well no, if you watch the rest of the rest of the movie it turns out the woman not only succeeds where a bunch of hardened male soldiers fail, but also kicks some serious ass in doing so. But if you only watch that one scene, you'll probably come to the conclusion that either Sigourney gets munched by the raging monster or she gets rescued by some handsome hunk in a tight t-shirt.

Red Dead Redemption is many things. In some ways, such as the use of the Wilhelm scream, it's an affectionate love letter to the Western genre. In others it's a fun action romp in which you get to test your skill by hitting moving targets. But the storyline of the game has one major thematic element that dwarfs everything else. Simply put it's the evil that men do. Even more simply put, people are generally dicks.

Take the game's protagonist, John Marston. Marston is a nice guy. A former gang member who used to kill people as soon as look at them, he fell in love, settled down, and started a family. Refreshingly for a story about a bad man made good, you never see him racked with guilt over his past deeds. In these times where the tortured hero struggling against personal demons has become a tired cliché, Marston is unique because he views his past almost philosophically. Running with a posse, killing innocent folk, robbing banks and stores, whatever he did Marston genuinely believes he is now a different person from the one who committed those crimes.

The problem is Marston is incredibly naïve. He left his life on the run to become a farmer, only to find out he wasn't very good at it. And after his family are kidnapped, Marston is forced by a corrupt law-man to hunt down his former comrades or risk losing his wife and son. This leads him on a quest where, time after time, his good nature is taken advantage of. Whether it be a down on his luck drunk trying to avoid his debts, a two bit hustler selling snake oil, or Mexican general trying to hold on to his lofty position, the universe of Red Dead Redemption is filled with back stabbing shysters.

Betrayal is the name of the game here. The first time we see Marston he gets shot by a friend and left for dead. By the time we leave him he's battling an entire army because he's been screwed yet again. Despite the odd ray of sunshine here and there not much changes for our man.

The reason I bring this up is that the controversial "Bigfoot murdering" fits in perfectly with this scenario. Marston isn't hunting the Sasquatch because he enjoys killing things. Marston is hunting the Sasquatch because he's been duped in to thinking it's a threat by another character desperate to acquire the animal's fur. In essence John is a tragic character, doomed to commit an act of violence against a harmless creature because he is trying to do the right thing.

And really, it amazes me how anyone could find that offensive. It's not even if Bigfoot is presented as a crazed beast prepared to tear humans limb from limb. All the Sasquatches featured run away as soon as you approach them, and the last one even explains calmly that his people are non threatening while bemoaning the loss of his kind. If anything the message here isn't "Hey! It's fun to kill Sasquatches!". Instead it's "Yeah it's fun to shoot things. No one is denying that. But really, don't blow away Bigfoot just because you can. It's kind of a douche move.". 

It wouldn't be so bad if the good people of Cryptomundo weren't used to being on the receiving end of this type of thing. By it's very nature people who are proponents of something like cryptozoology are often scoffed at, much in the same way that ufologists are. By simply saying "I believe there might be large undiscovered creatures in the world somewhere." or "I believe there might be aircraft in our skies that shouldn't be there" certain sections of the community will instantly disregard anything you say and label you a loony.

For example last night I watched an episode of "Solving History with Olly Steeds". Steeds, a British journalist and explorer, had decided to tackle the Nazca lines. According to the TV guide the episode would look at various theories including whether the lines were made for ceremonial purposes, whether they were used as an astrological guide, or whether they were made by aliens. "Awesome" thinks I. "A really good investigative piece about the pros and cons of the various theories sounds fascinating". Except it wasn't. In fact the part of the programme devoted to the extra terrestrial theory was given a measly thirty seconds, and was summed up by Steeds saying something along the lines of "I can see how some people would think that these lines look like runways for alien spacecraft. But that theory assumes the Nazca wouldn't have the intelligence to make the lines themselves. Which I find rather insulting.". For the rest of the show Steeds spent his time getting high (Gee Note: No really he did. On the premise that "this is what the Nazca would have done". I'm surprised he didn't go the whole hog and rent out a hotel room, fill it with prostitutes, and claim it was "what they did back in the day". When in Peru, Olly-boy. When in Peru.) and presenting an opinion that is not universally accepted as if it was stone cold fact.

And it made me furious because at no point have I ever read an "alternative" theory about the Nazca lines that starts with "Yo Nazca so dumb when they hear it's chilly outside they go get a bowl." Because nobody has ever brought up the question of if could they make the lines. I mean if they can build pyramids then I'm pretty sure they could draw in some dirt. The question has always been why would they? What purpose would it possibly serve? Why design a complex picture of a monkey or a shark if no one is ever going to see it? Now a lot of very intelligent people have come up with a lot of evidence to support the idea that they were designed by beings not of this world (Gee Note: Admittedly a few nutters have also joined in the "It was aliens!" chorus. You take the rough with the smooth I guess). To ignore their work just because you happen to think it's a load of codswallop is, well, just plain wrong when you're trying to "Solve History".

Put it this way. Anyone who has read this blog for more than three minutes will probably know that I hate conspiracy theories. Actually that's not true. I don't hate the ones that make sense. Have Western governments in the past lied about the existence of UFOs? Well yeah, they almost certainly have. Are those UFOs of alien origin? I… I don't know. I'd like to think they were. But considering the USA and Russia were looking at each other with twitching eyelids and beads of sweat  dripping from their foreheads for over four decades, I'm guessing most of the famous UFO reports from that era were military devices taken out for test runs.

But things like the 9/11 conspiracy I can't stand. However just because I can't stand them doesn't mean I haven't done my research. In fact it's looking up and debating the various questions about the legitimacy of the terrorists attacks that has formed the strength of my opinion.

Which is why it's frustrating that Cryptomundo should take a different stance. Rather than open up a valid conversation about whether Bigfoot's depiction in the game offsets any negative impact about encouraging players to hunt a sasquatch, or whether Rockstar the company has made a misstep when trying to present an obviously emotional story of a sentient being losing it's loved ones, we instead get “I know nothing about this. But I hate it”. It's amazingly closed minded.

And considering it's a website about animals mainstream science doesn't recognise as real, Cryptomundo is the last place you'd expect to find closed mindedness.

Friday, 22 October 2010

You'll never catch a monkey that way.

Following on from last week's post, friend of “I Saw Elvis” and fearless investigator Jayne Horswill sent me a link to wikiHow's “How to search for Bigfoot” guide. Thinking it might come in useful to anyone out there planning such an expedition, I've reprinted it here. I've also included snarky notes of my own. Why? Because I'm kind of a dick, that's why.


How to search for Bigfoot.

In early October 2010, Chinese scientists announced that they're looking to add new members to their special team searching for Bigfoot in the Hubei Province. The legend of Bigfoot continues to thrive and if you're fascinated with Bigfoot, maybe you've got what it takes to experience a Bigfoot sighting yourself.

Here are some suggestions for how you can search for this legendary creature.

1. Meet the requirements to be an intrepid researcher going where few others wish to tread. The requirements sought by the Chinese team give a solid guide on what's needed; following their suggestions, you'll need to be someone who:

Has patience (tracking the unknown is a slow and painful process); (Gee Note: Oh don't I know it. I once sat in my local park waiting for a unicorn to walk past. It never did. Most boring half hour of my life let me tell you). 

Is physically fit (Gee Note: Do you mean as in "my that guy is really good looking"? Or "my that guy just ran 20 miles before challenging The Son of Kong to an arm wrestle. Which he lost. But c'mon man, That's a 60 ft gorilla we're talking about here! I don't know. You people just want the moon on a stick sometimes"? Not that it matters mind you. I'm both handsome and athletic. Take note ladies).

Has a basic background in biology; (Gee Note: I successfully mated a rhino and a crocodile once. Does that count? I called it the Rhicodile, and it was awesome. Well it was until it got shot by a local farmer who thought it was a chupacabra. Then it just kinda bled a bit until it died. True story).

Is capable of taking photographs. (Gee Note: Right so… I aim with the button and press the lens… is that right?)

2.  Research reported sightings. There have been 2,000 – 6,000 reported sightings of Bigfoot in North America alone, with over 400 sightings in China's Shennongjia forest region. Before you set out, it pays to find a location that has already had multiple sightings. Some of the areas where Bigfoot (or Sasquatch) has been sighted include China, the USA, and Canada. (Gee Note: And Swansea! Once. By local character "Crazy" John Williams. Upon further investigation it turned out to be a large blanket covering an upstanding rake. Still, you can't win them all I guess).

Pay attention to the times, dates, and weather from these sightings to determine the best time to hold your search. (Gee Note: For example, try not to search for Bigfoot in the middle of a hurricane. It's a bit difficult to hunt for a sasquatch with a plank of wood lodged in your forehead). 

Consider whether this is a location that you're happy to head off to and spend time exploring. (Gee Note: Bigfoot's been spotted in a strip club in Vegas right?)

3. Assemble the right equipment. Most likely you're going back country, so you'll need all the gear required for back country hiking or skiing, depending on the time of year you're searching. (Gee Note: Skiing? That can't be practical surely? I mean, not unless your James Bond or something. You know, like in The Spy Who Loved Me when Roger Moore does that downhill escape and then opens up a parachute with the Union Flag on it. That's pretty awesome. See if searching for Bigfoot was like that a lot more people would do it. As opposed to sitting on a damp patch of grass while nothing happens for hours on end, you could be making death defying escapes from bad guys while navigating your way through trees at breakneck speed. I'm just sayin' if you want your "Bigfoot Hunting Expedition" to do a bit more business, try adding an element of danger. Although remember to be safe about it. Seriously injured customers are less willing to pay when the bill comes).

Have adequate warm clothing and layered clothing. Wear sturdy shoes and protect yourself against the elements by covering up adequately with clothes, hats, sunscreen, etc. Avoid wearing anything scented, as this might attract the Bigfoot, or wild animals. (Gee Note: Yeah because you wouldn't want to be wearing a perfume that actually brings the thing you were looking for to you. That would be insane. Wait. What?)

Bring insect repellent if you are searching in spring, summer, or early fall. Insect bites are distracting, and could cause an allergic reaction.

Take adequate sustenance in the form of food and drink to maintain your energy and ensure adequate hydration. (Gee Note: Although you can probably leave the suckling hog roast at home).

Ensure that you have somewhere to sleep, whether it's a cabin, a tent, or the local motel. (Gee Note: However if the local motel is owned by a chap named Bates you might want to travel a bit further down the road. Especially if he offers you a sandwich and complains about his mother within the first five seconds of meeting you.)

If camping or staying in cabins, take all your camping gear, cooking gear, etc. (Gee Note: Hmm. Well I was just going to go with a small plastic He-Man shield and a novelty lightsaber to protect myself against the elements. But I don't know, I think you may be on to something here with this "tent" thing).

Have first aid equipment, communications gear, compass or GPS navigation equipment. (Gee Note: And your back up sonar and radar devices should aliens choose that very day to enslave the human race. Forewarned is forearmed my friends).

Any suitable items to protect yourself from wild animals such as bear canisters, bear spray, etc., as you're more likely to encounter them than anything unusual. (Gee Note: Grenades are also pretty effective).

Take flashlights and headlamps. Bigfoot is said to be nocturnal and to have excellent night vision. In addition, you may like to consider bringing some type of spotlight in case you need to shine it at Bigfoot to confuse him and scare him off. (Gee Note: If, however, you want to make him dance bring a disco ball. Even Bigfoot is powerless to resist the might of pure, unadulterated funk).

Have at least one decent camera; you might like to consider a small camera and a larger camera, and maybe a video camera, depending on how convenient these items are. All should be of excellent quality, with telephoto capacity and fast shutter speeds. The quieter that they operate, the better. If you're searching at night, be sure the camera can manage night photography.

4. Set up a good base camp. Set up a location where you hope to have a Bigfoot sighting. This may include setting up a camera, or bait station. If you plan to stay there and catch a glimpse in person, consider setting up a base camp. (Gee Note: With a hammock. And a portable fridge filled with Um Bongo. You might as well be classy about it).

5. Know what you're looking for. Sightings of Bigfoot have built up various pictures of what to look for, as follows:

Taller than a human ranging between 6–10 feet (2–3 m) tall, covered in hair from head to toe. The hair ranges from black or dark brown, to grey or reddish. (Gee Note: You know somewhere in the great wide world there's bound to be a college band with the name "Ginger Yeti").

Walks upright.

Weighs a lot, anything in excess of 500 pounds (230 kg) (enough to hurtle heavy things at you if provoked). (Gee Note: Now I'm not entirely sure you can base a creature's strength on how much it weighs. For example, I'm a fat man but I struggle to open jam jar lids. Seriously, I could spend all day battling with one, straining so hard my face turns purple, and the little swines still won't budge. Jam jar lids. Complete bastards.)

Large eyes, pronounced brow ridge, and a large, low-set forehead. (Gee Note: Oooh. A looker you say?).

Malodorous, strong odor. (Gee Note: This is getting sexier by the minute).

Signs to watch for include very large footprints (up to 24" (60cm) long and 8" (20cm) wide), hair caught on bushes, excrement, and a sleeping nest. (Gee Note: Really? I have to look out for poo? And then what? Point at it? Go "Ooooh look. Poo. Well this trip has just become totally worth it."? Seriously, I don't get it.)

6. Wait patiently for your glimpse of Bigfoot. To pass the time, there are some things you might do:

Make notes about your location, preferably a video record, showing how it looked prior to your wait. (Gee Note: Hey guys. Thanks for joining us on our Bigfoot adventure! We should probably show you a bit more of the spot we picked out to camp in. Over there are some trees. And over here we have some trees. And behind us as you can see we have some trees…)

Read more about Bigfoot sightings and lore. (Gee Note: I did that in my chamber once. Well really I was trying to distract myself from the memory of a girl called Lenore. Of course me being an idiot I left the window open and a bloody great big raven flew in and sat above the door. No matter how much I shouted it wouldn't budge. Anyway in the end I grabbed a shotgun and blew away that pain in the ass bird. Mess with me when I'm feeling melancholy will you?)

Write your own theories about Bigfoot down, perhaps to be published later as a blog post, website, or journal article. (Gee Note: Dear Diary. I think Bigfoot is a classic Taurus. Stubborn. Strong-willed. An absolute f***ing nightmare in china shops…)

7.  Take photos. Know what to do if you do see Bigfoot. Try to remain unseen; this is the best possible position for an observer. However, it is thought that Bigfoot has an excellent sense of smell and will probably figure out you're about.

Remain calm and do not panic. (Gee Note: A top tip here would be to avoid screaming "HOLY SHIT!!!! IT'S BIGFOOT!!!!!!!!!”)

Remember to use your camera to record the sighting either by way of photos or film. (Gee Note: And remember to tag Bigfoot in later when you upload it to Facebook).

Make as little noise as possible. (Gee Note: I know sometimes the tuba can be a harsh mistress who demands you tame her that very instant. But just try and remember there's more appropriate times than when a giant animal is standing in front of you intent on eating your face).

8. Know how to respond if Bigfoot sees you. Treat Bigfoot with the same respect that you give to any wild animal able to attack and kill you (Gee Note: Try and buy it off with cigarettes and money?), as well as using your knowledge about the mannerisms and behavior of humans, apes, and monkeys. David Borgenicht and Trey Popp suggest the following:
Avert your gaze. Meeting the gaze may be misinterpreted as a challenge for territory or a fight. Use your peripheral vision to monitor its movements.

Keep quiet and move slowly, without any sudden gesticulations. (Gee Note: Unless of course you fall over because you're too busy trying not to look at something).

Restrain your dog if you brought one. (Gee Note: Also restrain your wife if you brought one. She may find the idea of a wild man of the woods somewhat romantic and before you know it your picture will be splashed all over the front of the National Enquirer as "The Guy Who Got Dumped For A Yeti!!!").

Make yourself appear as non-threatening as possible. Without turning your back to Bigfoot, sit down. Then make out (Gee Note: With Bigfoot? Ewww. Gross.) like you're grooming or eating something. (Gee Note: Oh. OK. I should've probably read the rest of that sentence before commenting).

Don't run. Bigfoot is thought to be able to run faster than humans. (Gee Note: But it's also thought he's a piss poor surfer. So feel free to bring your board and hope for a killer wave if you get in to trouble).

9. Record your memories of the events. Some things to think about include:

What he or she looked, sounded, or smelled like; (Gee Note: "My Bigfoot's got no nose". "How does it smell?" "Terrible". Awacka-wacka-wacka)

What you, and others, were doing at the time of the sighting; (Gee Note: See this is the thing. What if you were doing something really embarrassing when you saw Bigfoot? Like fellating a goat? Or watching Jersey Shore? If it was me I'd lie through my back teeth. "Me sir? Oh I was just… uhhh… sitting down counting how many blades of grass I could see."). 

And anything else noteworthy, such as how much you've been drinking. (Gee Note: Be warned, if you answer this question "LOADS!!!!!" then people might not take you seriously).

10.  Search the area and take samples. Report the incident to local park ranger, or conservation officer, or other authorities. Consider contacting the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization with your report.

Preserve the area as if it was a crime scene, to avoid losing or contaminating any evidence. Collect all physical evidence, such as hair, blood, faeces. (Gee Note: OK. But what do I do with it then? I mean I don't want to come off like a n00b or anything but I'm not really used to preserving those three things listed.).


And there it is. Your ten-step guide to searching for a Sasquatch. I hope it comes in useful. And if it doesn't then, well, don't blame me. I didn't write the bloody thing. Personally heading out to a forrest and vaguely walking around hoping to catch a glimpse of something doesn't sound like a fool proof plan to me. In fact I would just be done with it and set up a bunch of video camaras, picking up the recorded footage once a day. But if you are determined to venture out in to the woods, then I guess you might as well try and follow the above.

Just remember, don't run and always collect the faeces. I mean you'll want to look like a professional out there, right?