Monday, 27 September 2010

When we escape, it'll be together.

(Gee Note: Howdy. At some point during the middle of last week, my dear friend Rob Haines of Generation Minus One emailed me to tell me he was working on a guest post for this 'ere web log. And then yesterday he sent it to me.

My, that was a good story wasn't it? Be sure to tune in next time for my tale about looking in the fridge for some butter. Until then however go check out Gen-1, buy one of their prints, and marvel at how lovely it all looks. Or, you know, don't. I can't force you to or anything. I mean, sure it would be the classy thing to do. And it would instantly make you a thousand times better looking and charming somehow. But if you don't want to better yourself then so be it. Anyway back to Rob's guest post. Here it is.)
 
Two weeks ago, Gee wrote on my prospective mother-in-law’s Facebook wall. The post set up a hue and cry across our combined social circles, sparking vicious debates, backbiting, intensely choreographed knife-fights up – and down – fire escapes, culminating in a giant robot beating the crap out of a butterfly while the Burj Dubai burns in the background to the tune of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. The contents of said post, you ask?
 
Who would you rather be: Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster?

Battle-lines were drawn, t-shirts were made (I believe Gee’s still loudly trumpeting his Team Nessie credentials); but come now, ladies please don’t fight! Let’s examine the issue like civilised folk. “That’s all well and good you claiming to be an impartial mediator,” I hear you say. “But aren’t you I Saw Elvis’s token marine biologist? How’re we expected to believe that you won’t intrinsically support semi-saline loch-based fauna over some lunk in a monkey suit lumbering around some trees?” In the face of such criticism, I present two crucial pieces of evidence; first, that my post as embedded marine biologist to this fine blog comes from having once dissected a crab, and second, that Bigfoot sucks.

Look at the facts: Nessie is a beloved symbol of her home nation, star of mugs, t-shirts, stuffed toys, and numerous tv shows; Bigfoot is a shunned mini-kaiju, whose only chance of real fame is either: a) to run for President – he’s certainly old enough, and no-one could dispute his claim of residency; it’d be fought all the way down to the Supreme Court as to whether he’d be considered a citizen – or b) to become embroiled in a winner-takes-all tournament with such regional hopefuls as the Jersey Devil, Idaho’s Bear Lake Monster and North Carolina’s Beast of Bladenboro. I suspect Bigfoot would go out in the playoffs after a nail-biting penalty shoot-out. Needless to say, whoever’s leveraging name and likeness rights for the big B needs to have a good hard look at the quality of their merchandise.

 
 
It doesn’t help that when someone goes looking for Nessie they swan up to Loch Ness with eight squillion quid’s worth of submarine and fancy-schmancy sonar equipment, do an interview or two, vanish beneath the depths, then reappear a week later with a wry shrug and a press release saying ‘Nope. She must’ve swum away when she saw us coming.’ Bigfoot sightings, on the other hand, are more apt to be reported by some trailblazing pioneer with crazy eyes and a blurry video camera (do they even make video cameras with such lack of resolution these days?) or glory-hunters proudly displaying a chest-freezer stuffed full of gorilla-suit and providing DNA samples which test 98% human, 2% opossum. Now either Bigfoot is some form of crazy human-opossum hybrid (A husum? An opoman? How would that even work?) or we’re rapidly approaching Barking Redneck County.
 
Bigfoot doesn’t even have location going for him. You can be a mysterious, alluring, potentially ancient underwater beast of massive size splashing around in the scenic waterways of bonnie Scotland, or you can be a peculiarly large ginger gorilla wandering round the Mid-West trying not to get in the line of fire between Dick Cheney and his latest attorney. Frankly, if I had to go down the lumbering uber-gorilla route, stick me down for a brief spell as Monsieur Yeti. Great views, a distinct lack of firestick-toting Republicans, and a cool wrestling-style nickname: The Abominable Snowman! (It is a truth universally acknowledged that people with names in the form ‘The [adjective] [proper noun]’ are always cool; c.f. ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ and... um... yeah... Damn you, flagrant disregard for pop culture reference!).

As to whether either of them really exist? Who knows. Nessie certainly does in the hearts and minds of thousands, Bigfoot a little less so, but the evidence for either is pretty thin on the ground. As a televised cryptid deathmatch would undoubtedly reveal, there have always been tales of odd creatures hiding in unexplored reaches, and as humanity overruns ever more of the surface of this planet, paradoxically the unexplored places become ever more remote as we shine a light into the dark and realise that the monsters under the bed were never there at all. Or at least, weren’t there.

Perhaps someday we’ll have the technology to know for sure, to state once and for all whether there are unknown creatures hiding beneath the waters of Loch Ness and the Appalachian wilderness. On that day I hope Nessie and Bigfoot make a run for it, and maybe we’ll meet their like again, as shadows and memories in all the dark places where humankind will tread.

P.S. Go Team Nessie! Woooooooo! Ahem.

Friday, 24 September 2010

How do you get people to protect themselves from something they don't believe in?

Misleading headlines are pretty common in the tabloids these days. In fact flicking through an edition of the Jennifer Aniston Weekly National Enquirer you're unlikely to find anything but (Gee Note: Like if you ever see the headline "Brittany's drug HELL" you can pretty much guarantee it's not about the delightful Ms. Spears snorting lines of coke on the floor of a truck stop toilet, but instead about how the not-crazy-anymore pop princess is maybe possibly thinking about taking a trip to a region in South America which is close to a place where people allegedly sell narcotics ). So I guess you become desensitized to them. Still now and then one will catch you out, leaving you feeling a slight sense of exhilaration before becoming rather miffed.

Take the breathless headline recently found on the BBC website, for example:

Urgent call on EU to stop billion-euro 'alien invasion'.

Which, of course, got me all kinds of excited. In fact I pretty much came up with the rest of the article in my head right there and then...

Spanish farming official Juan DosBonkers has called for urgent action from the EU to prevent UFOs creating Crop Circles. "It's about time this madness came to end" says DosBonkers. "Year upon year local farmers are losing money hand over fist, their crops being wasted because some extra terrestrial bastard decides to do an intergalactic Etch-A-Sketch. For no reason either. I mean it would be one thing if it was a picture of a lovely big cow or something. But it's all squiggles and shit. And Europe is, like, really big. So if you add up all those wasted crops it comes to quite a bit of money. My point is it's about time those no good bureaucrats in Brussels stopped worrying about fiddling their expenses and did something about it."

So you can imagine my disappointment when about five lines in it became clear it was nothing of the sort. Instead the story was all about some environmentalists getting in to a flap about a gang of ruthless ducks taking over a pond that didn't belong to them. Or something. To be honest I gave up reading it about half way through and started to have a daydream about being an astronaut.

Thankfully however birds with webbed feet aren't the only alien invaders we should be wary of. Just ask Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Ilyumzhinov is the President of Kalmykia. Fighting out of the red corner Kalmykia hails from South East Russia, weighs in at 29,400 square miles, and borders Dagestan, Rostov Oblast, and the Caspian Sea to name but a few. More importantly Kalmykia is Europe's only Buddhist Republic, and earns it's dosh mainly from agriculture and the fact it's sat on a massive oil reserve.

Now Kirsan is, by all accounts, a bit of a character. Born in Elista on April 5 1962 he came from a relatively poor background, and started off his working life as a mechanic in a factory. After a compulsory stint in the Soviet army he bounced around a bit before making a huge wad of cash in the private sector after the fall of the USSR. He then turned his attention to his first two loves (Gee Note: His pet pig named "Ted" and making miniature furniture for dolls who enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. Well OK. Not really). Firstly he ran for President of Kalmykia in 1993 using such crowd pleasing slogans as Yes We Can! “A wealthy President is a safeguard against corruption”. No really. That's what he ran with. Outstanding isn't it? It's like saying “A man who's already drunk is an ideal candidate to look after your open bottle of vodka” or “If you're looking for a guard for your picnic basket you can't get much better than a fat bear wearing a tie and a hat”. Amazingly the voting public were obviously swayed by this faultless logic and he was elected to office, going on to repeat victories in 1995 and 2002.

Ilyumzhinov's other love is the game of chess. At the age of 14 he won the Kalmykian national chess championship, and throughout his career as a politician Kirsan has made the promotion of the strategic sport his number one priority. He has made chess lessons mandatory for all school children in Kalmykia and even built a “Chess City”, which is a bit like Disneyland except with a lot less cartoon animals and a lot more chess, in his home town of Elista. Such dedication impressed various members of the Chessing (Gee Note: “Chessing” is not really a word is it?) community and Ilyumzhinov was elected president of the game's governing body “FIDE” in 1995.



So at this point Kirsan was riding on a high. President of Kalmykia. President of FIDE. Building resorts. Making money. No wonder he attracted the attention of some exotic visitors.

One night in 1997 “Easy Ily” was kicking back in the palatial grounds of his homestead when, according to him, quite unexpectedly a spaceship landed on his balcony. Showing the same level headedness as that man in “The Blob” who tries to kill the monster with a shotgun (Gee Note: Dude. It's a gelatinous ooze that travels at 0.6 miles an hour. If you stand perfectly still firing bullets at it then of course it's going to eat you. If on the other hand you break in to a brisk stroll you'll out run it in about 30 seconds, at which point it'll get bored of chasing you and head off to bother Steve McQueen. It's not rocket science is what I'm saying) rather than making his way to door at a rate of knots, Kirsan decided to go and meet these strange beings. Where upon they promptly kidnapped him and took him aboard their flying saucer.

"They put a spacesuit on me, told me many things and showed me around. They wanted to demonstrate that UFOs do exist", he said in an interview on a Russian talk show. "I am often asked which language I used to talk to them. Perhaps it was on a level of the exchange of the ideas."

(Gee Note: Bloody illegal immigrants eh? They come to this planet, use all our resources, and they can't even be bothered to learn the language. I'm sure the BNP would have something to say about this).

In an article this past week in The Independent newspaper Ilyumzhinov elaborated on the story. It wasn't just the spaceship that the aliens wanted to show off. No siree, they also wanted to make it clear that they were responsible for the “cosmic” game of Chess.

Oh and sweetcorn. The aliens also gave us sweetcorn. For some reason.

This isn't just the chaotic rambling of a broken mind you understand. Kirsan has evidence on his side. After all proof of chess being played the world over centuries ago with similar rules has been unearthed by archaeologists. "There was no internet before, so how did it get across the world? It means that it was brought from somewhere."

“I'm not ill. I'm psychologically normal,” continues Ilyumzhinov, adding that he didn't try and hide his contact with ET and his buddies. “Even though I knew that people would laugh at me and say I was crazy. Maybe it was a form of self-sacrifice.”

So, for those of you keeping score, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the President of Kalmykia, which is packed full of natural fuel. He believes that he once had a rather pleasant chat with a gaggle of little green men with his mind powers, where they told him that they gave the Earth chess and sweetcorn as a gift. And by revealing this information to the world he now thinks he has become a martyr.

You see, people like Ilyumzhinov exist all over the world. However most of the time these people (Gee Note: Such as tracksuit wearing David Icke with his overblown Messiah complex and off the wall ideas about reptilian shape shifters) get made fun off. Not put in charge of a large economy and one of the world's leading leisure activities.




Next week the members of FIDE will meet up to decide the future of Ilyumzhinov as head of the esteemed organisation. He faces stiff competition in the form of  multi-time World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov and possibly the world's most famous chess player Gary Kasporov, vying for the positions of President and Vice-President respectively. Attendees at the conference will get to vote on whether they want globally respected players running their sport, or a guy who claims he once met with aliens on his balcony.

But Ilyumzhinov isn't going down without a fight. You know that pesky plot of land near “Ground Zero” in New York that caused a spot of bother recently? The one where they wanted to build a Mosque which caused Fox News to pitch a fit and some tosser in Florida to decide to organise a Qur'an burning day?

(Gee Note: Seriously though. What's the big deal about building a Mosque two blocks from where the World Trade Centre once stood? The people who hijacked those planes on 9/11 didn't do it because they were Muslims. Sure OK, the terrorists were all Muslim, much in the same way the people responsible for the Omagh bombings were all Christian. And yet I'm pretty sure if you built a Church next door to where that car bomb went off no one would bat an eyelid. Thinking about it all the 9/11 terrorists were men as well, so why not just be done with it and blame penises? Just castrate any male with a five mile radius of “Ground Zero”. It's one way to ensure you'll sleep safe at night.

Actually I was thinking about this other day. When I was a kid, probably about nine or ten, I remember asking my dad who his hero was.

“John Lennon”, he replied. Now Lennon had died two years before I was born and, despite my father playing music constantly in the car on every family trip, I was a bit fuzzy on who this lad from Liverpool was. So I sat down next to my father as he told me all about The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper, Yoko, and everything else in between.

“What's John Lennon doing now?” I asked when he'd finished.

“Oh he died a while back.” replied my father

“Really? How?”

“He got shot by a man named Mark David Chapman.”

“Why did he shoot him?” I asked, fully expecting my dad to tell a tale of financial skulduggery, or musical jealousy, or some illicit love affair.

Instead my father looked me straight in the eye and let out a resigned sigh. “Because Mark Chapman is an asshole,” he said.

And that was that. No more explanation needed. For some reason whenever I hear all the talk of building a Mosque near Ground Zero being “offensive” that conversation with my dad pops in to my head.)

Well Kirsan has the answer. Forget about the Mosque. How about using that prime space for something quite special? Specifically, a 24 storey high World Chess Centre built in the shape of a King chess piece. Complete with a bank of high powered computers, an observatory to stare at night time stars, and of course plenty of opportunities to whip out your chessboard. Convinced that this is a prospect no one could resist, Ilyumzhinov has written to New York's mayor offering a rather tasty $10 million for the project's development.

Of course some might find this a bit over the top. I mean after all more popular sports than chess don't have such grand settings dedicated to them. But Ilyumzhinov believes it's not just for chess, but also for mankind's continued survival.

 "Above us, they are looking at us, and maybe they will get tired of us. How can we save ourselves from them? Only though intellect, concentration and spiritual energy. If a billion people are in these chess centres, playing chess, the world will have positive energy."

You know, there was an episode of Lie To Me that aired recently which contained the following quote: "Good chess players think five moves ahead. Great chess players only think one move ahead. But it's always the right move.".  Now don't get me wrong, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is obviously barking mad. And I seriously doubt that any alien being would go to the hassle of travelling entire star systems just to show off their ship and promote the virtues of a complicated strategy game rather than, you know, shooting at us with death lasers or teaching us the secret of hauling ass faster than the speed of light.

But I don't know. I like the idea that for once someone who claims to have contacted "them upstairs" isn't talking about dark conspiracies, or transcending our physical forms and rising to the seventh level of understanding. Instead all they think we need to do to avoid a catastrophy is play more games with each other. In a bizarre way, it's kind of refreshing.

And really, if playing chess is the way to do it, I can think of worse ways of saving the human race.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Running would be a good idea.

Hey. Remember the guy who said that Lady Gaga was part of the Illuminati, used to submit subliminal messages to the world for, er, no real reason? Well here's a follow up. By now you've undoubtedly heard about Gaga turning up to the MTV Video Music Awards wearing a dress made out of meat. (Gee Note: I know! It's, like, sooo shocking right? I was all kinds of "OMG!!1!!!!1!! Wat iz she doin????". But then I remembered it's Lady Gaga and I don't care all that much, and made myself a sandwich instead). Well this is a transcript of Lady Gaga describing the meaning of the dress to Ellen DeGeneres.

"It's certainly no disrespect to anyone that's vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth. It has many interpretations, but for me this evening, it's 'If we don't stand up for what we believe in, we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're gonna have as much rights as the meat on our bones'. And I am not a piece of meat."

Yeah. That's the evil genius right there. I mean it's so sneaky how she pretends to have absolutely no idea what the dress means, fumbles around like a koala bear wearing boxing gloves for the answer, and weakly comes up with "fighting for rights". If I didn't know any better I would think that Lady Gaga was wearing the dress simply as a way of generating publicity to promote her new album, and not trying to bend our tiny little minds in to buying more Coca-Cola and voting for the Republican party. Well played Gaga. Well played.




Moving on, the other week I was sitting on the sofa reading an article about a penguin's life in Antarctica (Gee Note: Turns out it's very cold) when for some unknown reason a burning question popped in to my head. Immediately I turned to the Future Ex-Mrs. Davies.

"Darling," I said "If you were a ghost, who would you haunt?"

"No one" she replied, looking up from her copy of Style Magazine.

"Really?" I said.

"Yes," she said. "It's a bit of silly question actually."

"Is it?"

"Sure. Think about it. The only reason you would haunt someone is if you didn't like them. You'd never intentionally want to scare someone you liked. And if you don't like someone, why would you want to spend any more time with them than you actually had to."

"I'm not sure it really works like that…"

"So, if I was a ghost I'd be drifting around Barbados stealing margaritas when no one was looking." Confident that the issue had been laid to rest she returned to reading about this season's must have footwear.

"Does that headline use the phrase "It" shoe?" I asked.

"Yes it does" she replied.

"Isn't that what you say when you sneeze?"

"Shut up dear."

That day I learnt two important lessons. Number one, I'm not very good at puns. Number two, ghosts make no sense.

For example, take Blue Bell Hill (Gee Note: Please. I take my Blue Bell Hill everywhere but it always finds it's way back. Awacka-wacka-wacka). Blue Bell Hill, or more accurately the A229 in Kent, is a stretch of road said to be haunted by a devilish ghoul. It appears to motorists as a young woman and, for reasons only known to itself, will often fling itself at moving cars like Jennifer Aniston and the front page of The National Enquirer.





Meet Maurice Goodenough. Mr Goodenough (Gee Note: Who sounds like he's a character from a 1970's animated childrens tv show about the dangers of not doing a job thoroughly) was a 35 year old brick layer who was on his way home from a hard days labour on July 13 1974, when he passed through Blue Bell Hill in the early hours. Tootling along in his automobile, he was startled when a girl suddenly appeared in his headlights. He broke hard, but could not avoid running in to her. In fact Goodenough would later state that colldiding with the figure caused "a hell of a bang". Shaken by the incident, Maurice leapt out of car and rushed over to tend to the girl, who had lacerations on her forhead and her knees. Attempting to flag down some passing cars proved futile, as none of them stopped to lend assistence. Unsure what to do, and with no telephone box nearby, Maurice covered the girl with a blanket he had in the boot of his car and raced to the nearest police station.

There he reported to the officers that he had knocked down a girl "roughly about ten years old" with shoulder length brown hair, wearing a white blouse. Maurice told the attending seargent that the "girl just walked out in front of me from the edge of the road". Obviously convinced by Goodenough's disturbed state, the seargent ordered a group of officers return to the scene with Maurice to ensure the poor lass received proper medical care. Arriving back at Blue Bell Hill approximately half an hour after the initial incident the party were surprised to discover no sign of a young girl. No trail of blood. No track or foot marks leading to or from the area. In fact with the exception of the disguarded blanket, itself left without a mark, it's as if the girl had simply vanished. Even stranger, further inspection of Goodenough's car revealed no damage to the part where the impact was supposed to have taken place. And as the following days arrived with no missing person's reports or anyone admitted to the local hospitals matching the girl's description, the authorities wrote it off as simply a late night driver having had one too many sherries before setting off on their journey. Maurice protested this however. "I'm not going mad," he said. "But where did she vanish? I'm still shaking from the experience."

That same night on the same stretch of road, husband and wife Allen and Gladys Painter were travelling back from visiting their daughter in Maidstone. Suddenly Mrs Painter spotted a girl in the road and alerted her husband. Her husband grumbled that he couldn't see anything and she should stop being silly (Gee Note: Tsk. Women eh? Always wanting you to drive responsibly and avoid running people over). Concerned at her husband's flippant attitude and convinced they were heading in to an accident, Gladys yanked on the steering wheel to avoid the person in the road, causing all types of chaos in the process. Coming to a stop Gladys saw that the girl had gone, while her still confused husband politely inquired just the hell she thought she was doing.

Fast forward to November 8 1992. 54 year old coach driver Ian Sharp was, much like Maurice Goodenough, travelling through Blue Bell Hill in the wee hours of the night. Having just lit a cigarette to accompany him on the last part of his journey, he was gently crusing through the Kent countryside when a woman apeared before him off in the distance. Think she would move he continued heading straight forward only for the woman to run straight towards him, stare him dead in the eyes, and disappear under his bonnet with a thud. Screeching to a halt Sharp bolted from the drivers seat and apprehensively inspected the underneath of his car. Where he found…

Nothing.

Not a bean. Not a sausage. Certainly not the badly damaged body of a woman who'd just tried to take on two tons of motor vehicle and lost. A tad freaked out (Gee Note: And let's face it who wouldn't be? I lose the plot if the toaster unexpectedly pops) Ian scrambled around the surrounding bushes hoping to find something, anything, that would indicate what happened to woman he swore he'd just mowed down. But in the end he left without a clue.

Sharp headed towards his local police station in Maidestone, not far from the scene of the accident. Now 90's British coppers were a different breed to their 70's counterparts (Gee Note: Most noteably in that they no longer said things like "Cor blimey gov he's got a shooter", and "You! Put your clothes on and makes us a cup of tea. And tell loverboy there he's nicked!". Actually now that I think about it, I'm not sure anyone actually ever talked like that outisde of The Sweeney anyway). And so they didn't take this tale of a disappearing lady all that seriously. Sharp did manage to convince a couple of them to go back to the scene with him, but it was to no avail. There was nothing to be found, not even a dent on his car. The police declined to follow up with an investigation, and outside of a couple of stories in the local press, no one really gave it much thought.






Then exactly two weeks later, it happened again.

Christopher Dawkins was driving through Blue Bell Hill village, only a stones throw from where Sharp had encountered the phantom lady, at around 10.50 pm November 22. The 19 year old was on his way home to Maidstone when out of nowhere a woman wearing a red scarf ran in to the path of his vehicle. With no time to swerve Dawkins ploughed in to the figure, with the woman seemingly being dragged underneath.

"She ran in front of the car. She stopped and looked at me. There was no expression on her face. Then I hit her and it was as if the ground moved apart and she went under the car. I thought I had killed her because it wasn't as if she were see through or anything. She was solid - as real as you are."

Panicked, and unable to bring himself to look under the car, he got out and ran to the closest public telephone box and called his father. His father soon arrived, and Dawkins tearfully broke down. Doing what all good father's do, Daddy Dawkins put his arm around his son and managed to find a local resident willing to help them. Seeing the state of young Christopher, Marian Warburton offered to phone the police. When the boys in blue showed up they found Christopher obviously in a state of shock being tended to by his father and Warburton, the latter of whom was in no doubt that the boy had indeed been involved in a traffic accident.

But guess what happened next?

Well if you said Godzilla attacked Kent and Matthew Broderick turned up to fight him off then, ummm, no. That didn't happen. That didn't happen at all. If you said "The Police found no sign of a woman, an accident, or any damage to the car" then congratulations. You win our grand prize of a holiday to Jamaica (Gee Note: Not really).

Since then reports of the Ghost of Blue Bell Hill have leaked in to the media occasionally. The most common is a sighting of a woman at the side of the road who vanishes in to this air. But none have been quite so dramatic as the Sharp and Dawkins accounts. So, as always, we're left with the question of what the deuce was going on in November 1992 at Blue Bell Hill? Was it a gas leak causing people to hallucinate when driving along an unremarkable road? Two different people having psychotic breaks in the same area two weeks apart while operating heavy machinery? Leprechauns playing tricks?

Or was it a honest to goodness, white sheet over the head, moaning "Ooooooooo" in a spooky voice, ghost? If so why the hell is running at cars, scaring the bejesus out of innocent folks? Why does it's sole purpose of existence appear to be getting obliterated by moving vehicles? Why is it haunting Blue Bell Hill as opposed to floating around Las Vegas playing blackjack with Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Mel Gibson's career? I mean when you think about it like that there can only be one logical answer.

Ghosts. They really make no sense.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Affirmative. Yes. Yo. Right on... my man.

It's been a bit quiet on the old cryptozoology front recently. Too quiet in fact. Monsters eh? Never around scaring the bejesus out of people when you need them.

It's to be expected I guess. The so-called silly season is well and truly over. The time of the year when newspapers become desperate to fill their pages with anything even remotely resembling news has passed. Parliament's back in session. Television is about to drag itself out of it's summer slump. And as far as the tabloids are concerned, the new football season has begun giving them ample opportunity to pen stories about how some guy who kicks a ball for a living is brilliant/rubbish/having sex with prostitutes or Paris Hilton or both. As such, the stories about how Jimmy Insane from Batshitcrazysville got attacked by a giant bird with the head of a horse and Stephen Fry's legs are no longer required. A couple of months ago they'd have been solid page five material. However in this current climate they're unlikely to make it to print. Even if they do it's in a side column alongside "Man makes world's biggest doughnut" and "Woman, 87, learns to skateboard".

In fact right now we're left with scraps. Just bit and bobs. For example my personal friend (Gee Note: On, er, Facebook. What? That counts! Yes it does! Shut up.) Dr. Karl Shuker has found a photo of "Trunko" which he has posted on his blog. I would re-post it here but Karl mentions something about copy write laws and, I'll be honest, I have no idea what I would have to do to avoid infringing them. Long and the short of it though, there's a silhouette of somebody poking a bloody great big sea monster with stick. I don't know why, but I like that. It seems like something I would do. (Gee Note: "Holy nutballs!!! What the hell is that??? Seriously guys, keep your distance. It could be dangerous. Yeah. It's better to be safe than sorry. Although it's not moving. And it's not like it's got claws or big teeth or anything. And… it is covered with fur. Like a big teddy bear. Say, does anyone here have a stick? Let's poke it and see what happens!")

Sadly though outside of that the world of woovy bezerk creatures is as quiet as a compilation CD of Marcel Marceau's Greatest Hits. In fact if you want to talk strange animal sightings (Gee Note: Which I'm hoping you do. Otherwise this post is going to be rather disappointing I guess) one has to go all the way back to July for the last decent story.

Meet Graham Oxley. On July 27 Mr Oxley decided to take his dog for a walk on the beach in his home town of Paignton (Gee Note: So nice then named it… er… after a piece of art. GEDDIT?!? Paignton. Painting. I know. I'm a freakin' genius) in Devon. While there he did the things most people with dogs on a beach do. He wandered about, threw some sticks, and shouted a bit when it looked like his dog was heading in to the water to chase some seagulls. At some point during this tomfoolery Graham looked out in to the sea and, gosh darnit, caught a glimpse of something rather peculiar.

"I saw what I thought was a turtle." he said, "I saw a black dome which was more rounded than a turtle's shell and its head kept popping out of the water every five minutes. It seemed to lurk over some weeds in about four foot of water for around half an hour."

Now Mr Oxley is obviously a man who gets excited over turtles (Gee Note: Never saw "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of The Ooze" obviously. Seriously try watching that again 18 years after the fact. It's like sawing your eyeballs in half with a rusty chainsaw. Why doesn't Shredder die after falling in to a trash compactor? Why doesn't the over amplified sound make everyone's ears bleed rather than throwing one dude out of the room? Also, who the hell thought a Vanilla Ice cameo would be a good idea? I swear when I saw that chump faced weasel singing Ninja Rap half way through I came very close to setting the TV on fire. In fact if I wasn't already sitting down and convinced it would have been impossible to explain to the Future Ex Mrs. Davies, then Vanilla's goofy ass would have gone up in flames), and as such he rushed home to grab his camera. Alas by the time he came back the critter was already heading out to the open water. It was at that point Graham realised it wasn't a turtle at all.

"That was when I realised it wasn't a turtle at all" he said.

Hmmm. Well G-Ozzle (Gee Note: Is that right? I'm not really sure I have this Snoop speak thing down if I'm honest) what was it then?

"What I thought was the shell was actually the creature's back and it seemed to change colour like a chameleon. When it was in the shade it was a black colour and then when it swam off it changed to a greeny-brown. It seemed to camouflage itself. That's probably why not many people have spotted them. It was standing feeding on the weeds and had its back arched. My eyesight is perfect, I don't drink and I'm not on drugs."

I'm not sure why "My eyesight is perfect. I don't drink and I'm not on drugs." is an excuse to take him seriously. For a start I don't take drugs (Gee Note: I'm the child of a million "Just Say No" posters from the 1980's), but I do enjoy the occasional glass of wine, and without my specs I'm as blind as a white jury in a Rodney King trial. And I've never seen anything remotely close to what Mr. Oxley describes. I saw a swan that I thought looked a bit like Abraham Lincoln once. But a bizarre turtle-faced-chameleon-hippo thing? Never spied me one of them Jack. Secondly, is it just me or does justifying yourself like that scream "insecure"? It's like the guy who turns up to work in the office wearing a bright yellow shirt, a novelty tie, and says "Oh I see your looking at my shirt? I know. I'm just sooo crazy". No. No you're not. The guy sitting at his computer desk all day not talking to anyone before going home, stripping bollock naked, and feeding his cat whiskey while shouting "You’re the one for me Mrs. Tiddles!" over and over again. That sumbitch crazy. You? You just want people to think your fun, but haven't quite worked out how do it. My point is Graham, no one thinks you're a blind alcoholic spun out on crystal meth twenty four seven. Some people might think you're nuts, sure. But a junkie? Probably not.

Anyway it's tough to call you insane when you weren't the only person to see it.

Step forward Mrs Gill Pearce. Gill was chilling out max and relaxing all cool when she caught sight of the strange beastie having a rare old time in the waves. Again thinking it was a turtle she watched it chase a shoal of fish to the shore, before reporting the sighting to the Marine Conservation Society.

The MCS got rather excited about all this. In fact MCS's biodiversity programme manager Peter Richardson was quoted as saying

"At the moment it's an unidentified mystery creature and we don't know what it is. Two people have reported seeing a creature about three metres long with a small head on a two-and-a-half foot neck. It would be great to find out what it is so we are asking people in the area to look out for it."

The reason the MCS got in to such a flap was that not only were there now two separate sightings of what sounds remarkably like a small Plesiosaur, but also that Mrs Pearce had supplied a...

Wait for it…

A photo of the animal.

This one to be precise.





Yeah. OK. Not sure I'm going to join you in popping open those champagne bottles just yet.

I mean go back and look at the photo on Dr. Karl's blog for a bit. Now that may very well be the rotting corpse of a basking shark or some sort of whale (Gee Note: No really. The sea does very odd things to dead animals. Basically large ocean faring creatures get all kinds of mangled up when they pop off. The results are distorted, sometimes boneless chunks of skin and flesh called globsters which look a bit like a giant octopus drawn by someone who has never seen an octopus before and instead had a child describe one to them). But I can tell you what it isn't. It isn't a misidentified sperm whale, or a capsized boat, or an elephant wearing a Muppet skin coat. And I can tell you this because I can, you know, actually make out what's in the picture.

But the Pearce photo? I have no idea what that is. I mean it could be a log, or a crocodile, or that kid on the lilo who gets munched by the shark in Jaws. Look I know we all love things that are bit mysterious. The reason why the Gable Film became so popular is that you could just kinda maybe make out that the thing charging towards the camera was a werewolf.

But that thing? I'll be honest with you, I'd love to be able to look at that and go “Yes. It's obviously a Plesiosaur that has survived the extinction of the dinosaurs and the last ice age.” But I can't. Because all you have there is blobs. Blobs in some water.

So in conclusion it comes down to this. In 1925 someone managed to take a picture of sea monster that, while hindered by the technology of the era, manages to be fascinating and thought provoking even now. And then in 2010 someone else took a picture of a sea monster that looked, well, like a bad ink smudge viewed through a motorcycle helmet.

And it's frustrating because, for all our modern technology, we still don't have any conclusive photographic evidence that anything unusual exists out there. Nobody has yet to snap the Jersey Devil, or the Loch Ness Monster, or a UFO with enough clarity to make people stop and think. Hell the best evidence that Bigfoot exists, if you do believe it's authentic, is a home movie made in 1967 by Messrs Patterson and Gimlin. At a time when more and more of us are carrying around cameras where ever we go, whether they be digital or as part of a cell phone, then the fact that there's still no more hard evidence of cryptids roaming amongst us is pretty disheartening.

So to all you potential monster hunters out there. If you ever see Bigfoot or Nessie waddling down your street then grab your camera and start clicking away like you were paparazzi.

Because if that happens then maybe, just maybe, I'll have something interesting to read when I open up tomorrow's newspaper.