Monday, January 28, 2013

Late-ish one night i caught myself watching Animal Planet on TV and the last half of a programme called Finding Bigfoot.

Not sure why this was on Animal Planet. Not sure where you'd put it on TV unless there was a Slightly Silly but Terribly Sincere channel. Cryptozoology has never been my favourite pseudo-science and sasquatches have never been my favourite cryptid. But this programme was funny as hell.

i missed the bit where the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Organization) held a town meeting in Kentucky and everybody there seemed to have seen a 'Squatch. But next thing the BFRO guys were out in the field for real, interviewing those who had experienced sightings and attempting reconstructions in the best scientific spirit. These involved Bobo, the big guy who most resembles a 'Squatch, posing as one. Bobo wanders along the treeline with his arms in the air gesticulating and trying to show the dimensions of a Bigfoot. This high? Yeah? About 8 feet? Wow, dude, I think you really saw one! says Matt, the narrator of the show, brimming with zeal. These guys are cool. Imagine Mormon elders except somewhat older and overweight in plaid shirts and caps that say 'Gone Squatchin' '. It's that sort of shiny sincerity and it's very sweet. Sasquatches are real and you saw one, Matt assures some bewildered woman who saw one while standing on her doorstep. It's Ok to talk about it.

That night in the area bordering the Daniel Boone forest the BFRO attempt sightings. They know a helluva lot about 'Squatches given that they've never actually seen one. Squatches howl at each other, and knock on trees. They travel down roads, because they like roads. They are attracted to the sounds of babies crying because they like babies. Matt conjectures thoughtfully that the cry of a baby reminds them of the sounds of their own babies - or it reminds them of fawns, which they eat.
Matt has a lot of ideas about Squatches. And so here they are in the forest, lit by high tech night vision equipment, with their baby doll in its cradle and the sound of crying played on a loop. Then they divide themselves into two pairs - Matt and Ranae (the token sceptic and an actual biologist) go one way and Bobo and Cliff go over the other side of the ravine where there are power lines. 'Squatches like power lines. All of them want to get away from the sound of the baby crying because it's creepy as hell. So there they are in the woods at night and they knock on the trees and howl and wait and wait .... and hear coyotes a lot. There is a poignant moment where Cliff says to Bobo how he would just like to put an arm chair out here in the forest and sit here all night. He pauses, and muses: 'I guess that's why I'm not married'. Bobo can only concur. I suspect he's not married either. 'Squatchin' is a high and lonely destiny.

Seems everybody in Kentucky has seen a Bigfoot except these guys. There is a whole programme about people not seeing Bigfoots. Never had i spent so much TV time watching people not seeing things. Then i discovered there is a whole series. They miss out on seeing Bigfoots all over the USA and even Australia. However, the Kentucky scenery in Fall is spectacular and perhaps the real star of the show.

Also worth a look is the BFRO website. It's really comprehensive. i am impressed with how much they know about Sasquatches given the paucity of actual sightings. It's a whole world out there with a bunch of people who really give a damn. Heaps better than reptilian shapeshifter enthusiasts that's for sure. And there's merchandise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

For Steve and his next crop of tomatoes

i discovered this season the plants that looked like deadly nightshade were actually potatoes. So i dug them up. Most of them were small but perfectly formed, as they say. Except this one. In the style of Stephen King via Brian de Palma as written for Beyond the Darklands* i give you....

Evil Potato.
Evil Potato never had a chance. Planted on 31 October by Halloween Jack, the Gothic Gardener, he came from a bad seed. Trapped in an underground hell, he waited, grew in his own sad stunted fashion, and nurtured his misery and loathing. He never got on with his fellows. They teased him for his looks, fat white things they were, conventional potatoes who could never understand his twisted genius. Finally it seemed that his moment had come. He felt the tug on the vine, the other potatoes swung up and out and away, and he was torn up after them. Struck by light, he was by no means enlightened. He was still unable to shine as befitted a potato of his extraordinary mind, but instead he was crowded in a basin, jostled, unnoticed. Then the worst trauma of all, as he watched his fellows boiled alive in front of him. All idealism, all hope for the warmth and nourishment of potatokind, died, in that kitchen, on that day.

And there he languishes. Saved from the chopping board, but to what end? He dare not go back to the garden. He cannot go back. He sits on the window sill, face caught for ever with that ghastly rictus of a grin, the Joker of potatoes. He watches, in fact he does more than watch, he presides over the kitchen and its inhabitants. One day, one momentous day, he will wash away the horrors with a new rain of tap water, and down the drain he will go, back to the darkness that nurtured him, and the bad seed will grow again.

* Beyond the Darklands is a TV series by psychologist Nigel Latta about psychologically damaged criminals. This post also has a hint of Taxi Driver, if you like.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The totara bides its time, and stars go nova

A short walk in Peel Forest, which is a remnant of original forest left over from nineteenth century milling, reveals a totara or rakau taonga. i love how the roots snake around the base, like the Moreton fig trees of Norfolk Island. i am glad it survived. It is a thousand years old. It bided its time as the Maori and the Pakeha came and went and burned and milled.

But this totara is a baby compared with the oldest living thing in the world. King Clone is a creosote bush in California dated at 11,700 years old. It isn't pretty or majestic. It is just a wide circular smear of scrub on the desert. It has been dated by carbon dating and by measurement of growth. There are few pictures of it online and nobody seems to care about it enough to protect it. It lives on a dirt bike area and people drive over it not knowing it is there. It has seen the same as the totara, the coming and going of peoples and the changing of its environment, but over a much, much longer time.

People talk about how insignificant they feel when they look up at the stars. i like stars a lot, and with a bit of help i can find my way around the night sky. When my daughter was little we went to an open night with the local astronomical society. There was a long queue for the telescopes and for entertainment i started an 'I spy' game. People in the queue even joined in. There is not much to spy in a queue in the dark. 'I spy with my little eye something beginning with G'. 'God' said my daughter, one of nature's pantheists.* i actually was going for 'galaxy' but God was a good try. We all looked through the telescopes and marvelled and felt insignificant and grateful and wondered what would happen if that thing in Eta Carina really did go nova.

i don't feel small under the stars. i feel i am a part of it and even my little and uncertain knowledge gives me grounding and connection. i have a place here.

King Clone the creosote bush makes me feel that sense of insignificance i think others get with the night sky. The thing is so old, inconceivably old when you look at how ordinary it is. It is a living lesson in humility, a virtue i have always struggled with. All it does is live and grow, and its growth is so slow. There are some lichens that take a hundred years to grow as big as a dinner plate. That is humility. It asks nothing, takes nothing, just is.

* At the age of four she told me God was in her pocket. There was nothing in her pocket, she said. Only God was in her pocket.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Deconstructing Tolkien (sort of)

To mark the release of the new movie The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings movie trilogy is playing on free ot air TV week by week. Last week it was the second movie, The Two Towers, and i developed a truly savage and very post modernist critique, if i say so myself.

Clearly, Rohan is a land bereft of hair condiitoner. All those lovely blond locks, all frizzy and flyaway and in dire need of hair products. It is a sign of their decline as a civilisation. Although Eowyn, probably because she is the daughter of kings and a shieldmaiden, seems to have access to some sort of primitive crimper. Then there is the Battle of Helms Deep where the future of Middle Earth is at stake yada yada yada and the Elves turn up. Not only do the Elves have hair condiitoner, but being a wise and ancient race they also have perfected the hair straightener. Elves are such self centred bloody hipsters. And at the end of it all, still no sign of improvement for the poor folks of Rohan. They might have been safe from the Uruk Hai, but it seems that even shampoo eluded them.

Presumably the last movie witll play this weekend, The Return of the King, during which Aragorn gets to brush his hair and about time too, and get married and stuff. However he also gets to show what a truly abysmal tactician he is when he lines up with his troops to fight the hordes of Mordor. i mean, i know one does not simply walk into Mordor, but this is ridiculous. First, he somehow loses all his horses. i don't know how the hell this happens but my astute daughter has pointed out that if you watch it frame by frame first they are all on horseback, then only Aragorn is on horseback, and then nobody is on horseback. This is all before the battle, mind. Perhaps the horses think bugger this for a game of soldiers and take to their heels. Anyway, before Aragorn is mysteriously unhorsed even before the battle begins, he manages to allow his army to be totally surrounded. At this point i am grinding my teeth with frustration. He might be the direct heir of Isildur and able to cure scrofula for all i know but you - do - not - let - your - army - get - surrounded. Even i know that and i am only an expert on hair products.

i was once told that because i am short and - er - stocky, i obviously come from a long line of peasants. Well, i own that. And my long line of peasants intuition tells me never trust the guy with the expensive armour and the ancient lineage and the magic sword that turns blue in the presence of lawyers, and the hair conditioner. Especially if he is the only one on a horse.  When i am standing in the front line with my rusty pike and my battered wooden shield, and the guy on the horse is making an inspiring speech, which basically boils down to it is Not This Day that he gets to die but he can't really vouch for anyone else, i am only grimly sceptical. Oh well, in the words of Motorhead 'If you think that Jesus saves, Get back in line', and off we go to fight for Gondor, or Winterfell, or the Free World, whatever that is.