Saturday, 9 January 2010

You're alive, stupid. And you're lucky to be here. Now get on with it.

Have you ever read Terry Prachett’s "Hogfather"? For those of you who haven't (Gee Note: Hi Dad), basically it's the story of one man's attempt to assassinate Father Christmas. No really, that's it in a nutshell. A very intelligent yet wildly unstable person sets about trying to do in everyone's favourite jolly fat man. Now think about this for a second. Santa is just a device to entertain children. A fable employed by parents to make kids feel like something magical happens at the end of every year. In effect good ol' St. Nick is nothing more than an idea. So how do you kill an idea?

Well here's what the chap in the Hogfather does. He simply convinces children the world over that Father Christmas doesn't exist. That's it. No travelling to Lapland. No drugging reindeer. No lacing mince pies with arsenic. No fitting a bomb underneath a sleigh that eventually gets intercepted by Mel Gibson who sweats a lot as he tries to choose between cutting the red wire or the blue wire. Make the children around the globe firmly believe that there is no Santa Claus, no matter how many times they are told otherwise, and POOF no more Coke adverts and Ho Ho Hoing.

The reason I bring this up is that, amazingly, Pratchett may be a lot smarter than any of us gave him credit for. For example I was reading “Dawn of the Dumb” last night, a collection of Charlie Brooker's columns for the Guardian newspaper between 2005 and 2007, when I came across an entry regarding Robbie Williams. Williams is one of the worst pop stars ever produced by Britain. Which of course means that, for a time, he was exceedingly popular and loved by folk across the country. Then in December 2005 Robbie went to court after the People newspaper claimed that the former Take That member was gay. It was settled out of court, with the People paying the singer an undisclosed amount of damages. Still it didn’t stop Mr. Williams’ lawyer crowing that he “is not, and has never been, homosexual”.

In an article dated 9th December 2005 Brooker states that “I’m worried this legal action might lead to a reduction in the number of gossipy articles written about him”. Well stone the crows (Gee Note: By the way where does that saying come from? I mean why crows? They're not even the most offensive of birds. There are surely much more deserving targets for a stoning. Like Paris Hilton for example), if that's not exactly what happened. Williams stock in the tabloid press immediately dropped, and his career went off the end of a cliff with it. At first it was poor reviews for his album, then steadily decreasing sales for his singles, before eventually he disappeared from sight all together. Oh sure he'd occasionally pop up now and again trying to garner some sort of publicity, like the time he told a reporter he believed in UFOs. But sadly it would earn him little more than a side bar a couple of lines long at best, while the rest of the page was dominated by what shoes Russell Crowe was hitting the paparazzi with that week. In between these rare half hearted bursts of notoriety were long periods of silence, during which the public pretty much forgot about Robbie Williams all together. The press stopped talking about him and he, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist.

There is some good news though. Robbie recently made a comeback and is now back in the news again (Gee Note: Although considering his comeback consisted of two performances on The X Factor, the first so erratic people thought he was high, and the second where he screwed up his entrance so badly that he had to be bailed out by the amateur singer, it's a wonder he survived). Also Robbie Williams is not the Loch Ness Monster.

You see dear old Nessie has had a similar problem in recent times. And it all started with a chap named Robert Rines.

Rines passed away last year on November 1st. Last week I posted a quick review of 2009 here and listed some noteworthy people who had shuffled off this mortal coil in the past twelve months. I debated for a long time whether to include him on that list. In the end I decided against it. The reason being that Robert Rines really deserves more than just a one line obituary.

Robert Rines was something of a phenomenon. He was a lawyer, an inventor, and a composer. He lectured at Harvard University, invented devices that helped radar technology in the Gulf War, developed sonar mapping contraptions, and was the founder of the Franklin Pierce Law Centre. Somehow he also found time to compose music for various Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, as well as playing a violin duet at the age of eleven with Albert Einstein. Oh and he won an Emmy. Seriously the only way this guy could be more awesome is if he saved kittens from a burning building every morning before breakfast while simultaneously teaching a Basset Hound how to solve crimes.

Best of all though Rines was fascinated by Cryptozoology and one elusive, possibly non existent beast in particular. After attending a tea party  (Gee Note: Holy shit this guy went to tea parties as well? Where did he find the time? You know what I’ve done today? I woke up. Had some toast. That’s it. In the same time Rines would have probably learnt how to paint water colours and brew his own Champagne) with his wife on the banks of Loch Ness on June 23 1972, he saw what he described as “a large, darkish hump, covered... with rough, mottled skin, like the back of an elephant” moving through the water. From his view point, he estimated that the creature was about 45 feet long and was moving at a fair speed. This one moment inspired Rines to spend the next 36 years trying to find and document the creature known as Nessie.

Of course this being good ol’ Robert, he succeeded somewhat. Later that same year he captured a picture from and underwater camera showing what appeared to be a large flipper. In 1974 another showed a close up of the head and neck of an unknown creature. Yet another in 1975 displayed what looked to be an animal with a long neck, small head, and large body. In 1997 Rines returned to the Loch and made two sonar contacts with objects the size of small whales, before filming a 40 ft long v-shaped wake on the surface of the water in 2001.

And then in 2008 Robert Rines announced to the world that he was abandoning his search for a f***ing great big plesiosaur splashing around in Scotland’s waters. The reason? Well he believed that the Loch Ness Monster was, erm, dead. Rines speculated that diminishing returns from his most recent trips to the Loch pointed towards the wee beastie’s extinction, and that it was possible globing warming played a part in wiping her out. This made headlines around the world, and was published in news rags such as The Sun, The Daily Star, and The Mirror to name a few. Then, earlier last year, the History channel’s  MonsterQuest program featured Rines expanding on his theory that the monster really was no more.

The reason I mention all this is because last week The Daily Torygraph Telegraph published a story featuring an interview with Gary Campbell, president of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club. Now while Mr. Campbell was keen to maintain that there isn’t any hard evidence to prove Nessie’s demise (Gee Note: Although to be fair there isn’t a huge amount of evidence to prove Nessie’s real to begin with), he was forced to admit that in the past year there had only been one “credible” report of a monster sighting. "Ten years ago we had a lot of good sightings,” he said,  “But in the last two or three years, they have tailed off.". Regarding the rumours that the monster had ceased to be, he added "If people start to believe this, it might start to affect tourist numbers. Whether you believe in Nessie or not, the Loch Ness Monster is one of the most important tourist attractions we have".

Which might be true. However if both Robbie Williams and Terry Pratchett have taught us anything, it’s that if people start believing that there’s no such thing as a living, breathing, fish eating, monster in them there waters then it will simply disappear in to thin air. Like Mandrake the Magician. Except with a longer neck. And living in a really large lake. And not wearing a top hat and cape. So not really like Mandrake the Magician at all when you think about it.

And I don’t know about you, but that kind of bothers me a bit. I mean, I like living in a world where in an un-remarkable part of Scotland there’s a small chance that an impossible creature might be splashing around willy nilly. I have no idea why, but an  alive and kicking Nessie brings a warmth to my heart. A dead Nessie makes the world that little bit darker.

So here it is. The start of an official campaign here on I Saw Elvis. If you agree with me that the bloated carcass of the Loch Ness Monster at the bottom of the lake is a lot less fun than a live one scaring the bejesus out of Scotland’s finest on a daily basis, then I ask you to join me in saving this noble beast. You don’t have to visit the Loch. You don’t have to find proof it exists. You don’t have to physically do anything at all.

You just have to believe.

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