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?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Have you ever seen a baby pigeon? Well, neither have I. I got a hunch they exist.

Right let's get this out of the way before we start.

Two weeks ago we published a guest editorial by the one, the only, Rob Haines. Now Rob is a good guy. No scratch that. Rob is a great guy. He's a qualified Marine Biologist, a published science fiction and fantasy author, and in his spare time probably saves kittens from burning buildings while thinking up ways to make scooters run on orange juice or something. In short Rob is the kind of guy people like me really hate. Somehow though, largely because he is too nice to argue with, we're actually good friends.

So when Rob makes the case that Nessie is better than Bigfoot, it should be tough to disagree with him. I mean Nessie is all kinds of great with her flippers and her tartan and her cute little Scottish accent. Indeed if it wasn't for the fact that she was over seven decades old and, you know, a bloody great big monster then she might be in with a shout for "The Highland's Most Eligible Bacherlorette".

And Rob isn't wrong when he claims that Nessie is awesome. I don't think anyone here would disagree with him. But Robert has, in my opinion, treated our bipedal monkey-esque friend Bigfoot a wee bit harshly in his post. You see one may not like Bigfoot as much as one likes Nessie. But to outright claim that the secretive sasquatch sucks compared to Scotland's finest prehistoric creature is doing a disservice to the big hairy fella. In fact if we are going to compare the two, the truth is the one that is more prominent in the public's mind is indeed the furry beast who hangs out with The Hendersons.

For example, in his article Mr. Haines briefly alludes to the Georgia Bigfoot Hoax of 2008. What he fails to mention is how big a deal it was at the time. For those not familiar with the entire mess, back in the summer of that year two men named Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton decided they could make a quick buck or two by hosting "Bigfoot hunting trips". In order to kick off this money making goldmine with a bang, the dynamic duo purchased a fairly realistic Hollowe'en costume of Biggy to the Fizzle. They then stuffed it with road-kill entrails, bundled it in to a large freezer, and took a couple of blurry photographs. After that it was announced rather quietly that they had been moseying on through the woods one day when, oh my, they had a big surprise. For there in a clearing in front of them was the fabled Bigfoot, all kinds of lifeless and easily transportable.

Now I guess what was supposed to have happened from here is that Messrs Dyer and Whitton would've claimed that some no good evil doers (Gee Note: Probably wearing top hats and black moustaches) had somehow stolen the carcass right from under their noses. Not to worry though as the plucky pair would be able to remember the exact spot where they'd found the body, and would offer the general public a chance to tag along on one of their weekend trips there for only $50 a pop. Unfortunately for them a wannabe P.T. Barnum by the name of Tom Biscardi became interested in their tale and convinced Whitton and Dyer to let him act as a promoter of sorts in return for a slice of the pie.

Biscardi had made waves in the Bigfoot believing community before, but sadly those waves were like The Gulf of Mexico after BP had finished with it. Three years previously he had advertised a subscription service on his website where folks could pay $15 in advance to view a video feed of a captured Bigfoot. Of course when he didn't deliver a lot of people were very angry about it. Biscardi claimed he himself had been hoaxed and promoted the webcam footage in good faith, but the entire incident led most to believe that he was nothing more than a two-bit hustler.

Still one thing you can say about the man is that he can make a lot of noise. So with Tom's trumpet behind it the Georgia Rubber Gorilla Suit Bigfoot gathered steam. In fact everyone was interested. And because nobody in the modern media bothers to do any research these days, they all pretty much took Biscardi at face value. CNN, NBC, FOX, even the usually straight laced and sensible BBC. They all fell in to line like the rats and children of Hamelin. Headlines were printed around the globe, news anchors traded puns, while reporters filmed themselves pretending to run away from a yeti or something. The point is that almost every news organisation across the western world was talking about it.

Of course, it was soon revealed to be a hoax and the whole thing fell apart quicker than Lindsey Lohan in a nightclub. But the question remains why did it get so much coverage in the first place? Is it because Tom Biscardi is a master manipulator of men? Some kind of public relations guru rivalling Max "I look almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a badger" Clifford? Or is it because really, deep down, the media knew that if Bigfoot had indeed been discovered it would be the biggest story since a chap named Moses stumbled down a mountain carrying a BC version of a Kindle?

You see as Rob rightly points out, Nessie is everywhere. You can find her image on mugs, t-shirts, and mouse mats. She's shared the screen with Ted Danson and Emily Watson, had her own animated television series, even had a roller coaster named after her (Gee Note: It's the one that splashes in to a pond, stops, and then sits there not doing anything outside of slowly raising itself above water level every once in a while). Hell you can even get Nessie fridge magnets, which if you then put next to a He-Man fridge magnet makes it look like the two are locked in a deadly duel against each other (Gee Note: Not that I've done that you understand. I mean I… er… oh shut up).

Bigfoot however has less exposure. Oh sure there's still a million pieces of woefully naff memorabilia to be found featuring America's shaggiest superstar. But because there's no "official" stamping ground for Bigfoot, you avoid the tourist trap mentality that the wee aquatic beastie inspires in those around her. Nessie gets her scaly features splashed across numerous hokey logos, all of which are practically begging you to "come to Scotland and spend your money here dammit!". She is a manufactured, packaged product, designed specifically for you to throw your hard earned cash in to waiting hands of hoteliers and tour guides. In essence The Loch Ness Monster is cryptozoology's version of Ronald McDonald. By comparison Bigfoot is the guy working a hotdog stand somewhere in New York City.

Yet despite all her publicity, a sighting of Nessie is a very rare thing indeed. Last year generated the lowest number of "credible" reports of The Loch Ness Monster on record, a paltry single sighting. Worse, as of June this year not one person had spied the creature. Meanwhile across the pond, business has picked up for Bigfoot. In fact it seems that not a fortnight goes by without some random either filming ol' furry trying to steal a pic-a-nic basket, or someone claiming they saw themselves a sasquatch while on their way home from the bar some place where they don't serve alcohol at all. And yes most of these incidents are complete bobbins. But it should be remembered that the law of averages is on our boy's side here. Say, for instance, you have a hundred pieces of evidence supporting the existence of Bigfoot. Ninety-nine of those will have conventional explanations and can be easily dismissed. But there's always one that will offer no easy answers, and remains inexplicable enough to be intriguing.

And that's where Bigfoot thrashes Nessie like an enraged Elin Nordegen. The Loch Ness Monster has no mystery about her, despite being apparently more elusive than her American counterpart. Bigfoot on the other hand is positively nothing but enigmatic. For a start no one knows just what the hell it is. Is it a man? A monkey? A man-monkey? Does it speak? Does it eat meat? Does it vote? If so who for? I mean someone must have voted for George W. Bush twice right? Was it him? Well, no one knows for sure. While Nessie has been identified - correctly or not - as a prehistoric lizard fish that time forgot, Jam Master Large Toes has no real identity. It could be the last of a supposedly extinct species, such as Gigantopithecus. On the other hand it could just be a particularly large, smarter than average, bear. It's all part of the puzzle.

Now, the reason why I'm writing this it that this entire debate started as a joke between The Future Ex-Mrs. Davies and myself about how I didn't know what the term “Team Edward” meant (Gee Note: I'm still a bit vague if I'm honest. I think it's to do with a vampire wanting to pork a teenage girl or something. I don't know. I lost interest after I realised it was one of “those” stories. You know all about feelings and junk. Not one where the vampire goes bezerk, kills everyone in the room, and the reader rejoices because they were all a bunch of tedious mongs anyway) before somehow evolving in to Team Nessie vs Team Bigfoot. After three days the tone of the discussion had become rather serious, and so to stop it from getting out of hand I decided to ask Jenny's mum to settle it for us once and for all via the wall of her Facebook page. (Gee Note: By the way, Jenny is of course Rob's fiancĂ©e. Oooh. I know. Everything is connected. It's like an episode of LOST. Except without Matthew Fox looking off in to the distance with his "I'm being serious" look. Or a giant great big light in the middle of an island that does... er... something or other. Or a recurring character who can see in to the future for a bit and then all of a sudden can't and it's never mentioned again. So not really like an episode of LOST at all when you think about it).

“Who would you rather be? Bigfoot or The Loch Ness Monster?”

If I am to be truthful, I was on the side of Nessie. In fact until today I didn't really understand how anyone could think any differently. And then something strange happened. For some reason the idea struck me that I could do with using my iPod for something other than listening to Otis Redding records over and over again. So I decided to download an audiobook from the iTunes store. Having never really browsed that section of iTunes before and having no idea of what I was looking for I clicked on the “What's new!” button. This in turn brought up six book covers, the third of which had garishly bright red writing splashed across what appeared to be the groin of Neanderthal man. The title of said masterpiece?

I don't know why, but for some reason that alone has turned me around on the whole “Who is better?” debate. Maybe it was because the front cover of “Bigfoot is Real!” looked a bit like a really bad 1980's videogame. Maybe it was because I really don't understand why anyone would want to promote a book by showing me a full frontal of a sasquatch. Or maybe it's because the story of Bigfoot is at it's heart the story of an underdog. Bigfoot isn't about bells, or whistles, or novelty clothing items with the slogan “My boyfriend went to Loch Ness and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”. Instead Bigfoot is about grainy videos, dodgy photos, and splodgy plaster casts. More importantly it's about the people who believe. The people who continue to search for evidence of it's existence. Not because Bigfoot happens to hang around in a scenic location where a souvenir shop is ready to flog you “Authentic Bigfoot Taffy” for $99.99. But because a world where Bigfoot is alive and roaming the woods is a world that's just that little bit more special.

By the way, if you're curious, Jenny's mum did indeed reply to my question:

“Who would you rather be? Bigfoot or The Loch Ness Monster?”

“Bigfoot . Because he has feet so he can travel and see the scenery. Not stuck in the water.”

And you know what? I can't argue with that. Really I can't.