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.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Photographic evidence of a baby pigeon (eggs) at