Saturday, August 30, 2008

MONSTERQUEST: Bigfoot in New York

History Channel - Original Air Date: 8/20/08

For over 100 years, eyewitnesses have reported bigfoot-like sightings in Upstate New York.  Whitehall (right next to where my friend John Hebert lives - Hi, John!) NY is the location of recent sightings.  Though one local expert says sightings are most likely bear, a police officer (and his partner) say otherwise; they know it wasn't a bear they saw from their squad car. A bigfoot researcher claims there are several sightings every year, but a local scientist believes the sightings are a near-universal projection of the human psyche; he points out there is no physical proof of such a beast existing today.  Dr. Bindernagel, wildlife expert and bigfoot researcher, points out that just because a creature appears in myth doesn't make it not real.

MonsterQuest puts several witnesses to polygraph tests and sets up the usual expedition to try and catch proof of the creature.  There are casts of tracks as well, and the show suggests that for those to be fakes, hoaxers would have to have the same knowledge of bigfoot physiology.  (Though it seems to me that they could either: 1) be basing their fake tracks on others they've seen or, 2) making the same anatomical mistakes that amateur artists might make in sculpting a foot.)  Trackers look for bigfoot signs, not only footprints but also branches broken off too high up for a bear or buck to reach.  They also set up camera tracks and do howling "calls."  Unfortunately, two "responding" howl are not caught on tape -- nor is the creature that snaps a young tree in half.  One local researcher believes that Whitehall is in the sasquatches 'migration pattern.  Unfortunately, the camera traps - as usual - catch no monsters.

This show, another in a series of MQ bigfoot shows, covers more ground than some of the others -- and includes interesting speculation on migration and tracking.  The police-officer witnesses are also compelling, as is the woman who saw a stone-throwing bigfoot as a child.  Additionally, the researchers seem more scientifically grounded than many others in this series.  Polygraphs confirm that the witnesses believe what they said they saw.  Other scientists make compelling statements about bigfoot being part of the universal human psyche, and needing a breeding population and food supply -- both of which would mitigate against the creature being real.  Overall, this is one of the stronger bigfoot episodes in this series, though there is still very little actual evidence the monster exists.

Oh, and for what it's worth, my friend John says that the Whitehall sightings have taken place just off a local golf course.  The "secret location" is revealed!

MONSTERQUEST - Vampires in America

History Channel - Original Air Date: 8/7/08

Did vampires once live in America?  Are they living today?  MonsterQuest has it's usual blend of history and interviews, focusing on the vampire "epidemic" in New England in the 1800s.  It recounts vampire legends through the ages, including Elizabeth Bathory and Vlad "Dracula."  The historical theory focuses on the idea that tuberculosis, or "consumption" was the disease at the root of the New England legends.  One out of every four deaths at the time (!) was attributed to consumption.  Modern vampire killers have usually proved to be mentally ill.  The show's scientists test some modern vampires to see if they have medical abnormalities.  The show points out that many of the vampire legends we know come directly from Stoker's Dracula and Murneau's Nosferatu -- including the sleep in coffins and destroyed by sunlight.

Digging up some of the NE vampires proves that some, or perhaps all, of them suffered from TB.  Other "vampire" traits can be explained by the the- little-understood process of decay after death.  The modern vampire, on the other hand, shows no medical reason to "need" to drink blood.  Thermal and other tests prove another woman normal as well, though she does manage to spike an EMF meter.  Despite the lack of evidence, the show points out that there are people who still believe in vampires today.

Much of this story info is covered by the Is It Real show on vampires -- a pattern which seems to be developing on MQ.  IIR, though, tends to emphasize a less sensational, highly rational approach to the same subjects.  Though there is little new in this show, it's worth seeing for those who want a primer on "real" vampires and can't catch Is It Real.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hey, look! I'm on MySpace!

Occasionally, people ask me if I'm on MySpace.  I always say, "Yes," and then they say, "I can't find you."

Well, tonight, now that TOD is finished, I decided to make sure and -- Yes, I am on MySpace.  I now even have a start of a blog, and a design that reflects my main site.  My MySpace URL is:

So, cut in paste that into your browser or whatever, or use the active links in this message.  You can even check my Twitter "tweets" on the MySpace page.

Now, if that still won't allow you to be my friend, drop me a line and I'll figure out what's still not working.  Obviously, I need to add some friends, too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

TOD Final Stage - New Polls: Who Lives? Who dies?

Stage Two is over and the Tournament of Death now enters its final phase! This is a great time to start reading if you haven't already.

Also, since all the characters for the finals are set, there are two new polls up on the TOD blog.

Who should DIE?
Who should LIVE?

There's still time for readers to affect the final outcome of the story, so vote now!

And feel free to leave comments, suggestions, and feedback about the whole tournament as well.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

MONSTERQUEST: Boneless Horror

History Channel - Original Air Date: 8/13/08

Do titanic octopi live in the deep waters around the world -- monsters with an armspan of 100-200 feet?  The show investigates reports from the Bahamas to Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest.  Was a blob that washed up on Nova Scotia the remains of such a beast?  Initial observations seemed to say so, but later revealed the blob to be whale blubber.  Similar blobs have washed up since, but scientific examination seems rare.  Divers and even an Remotely Operated Vehicle operator report scary encounter with very large octopi.  If a giant does exist, it could be an intelligent and formidable enemy: octopi will eat anything they can catch.  The MQ team takes cameras into the deep to look for giant octopi (octopuses is also correct, and now the preferred plural of octopus according to Webster) and poke probes into suspected dens.  A kindof silly (scientifically pointless) crush test speculates that a monster octopus could generate 1500 pounds of bite, more than enough to crush a human skull. (Scary, isn't it?)  Sending unprotected divers into the supposed lair of the titanic beasts suggests how likely the producers really think finding such a monster is.  While this show features some well-known research divers and features some very good underwater photography, there are no monsters here.  Camera traps have some nice shots, but reveal only normal creatures, like big starfish (seastars).  The investigators do see a mysterious shape that might be an octopus in one frame -- but the evidence, both for the creature and its size, are far from conclusive.  Expedition leaders describe this as a good first step, but say "I'd like to leave it (the camera) down there for a year."  Not a bad idea for a real scientific investigation.  All in all, this program would have been better as a nature special than as a MonserQuest.

MONSTERQUEST: Legend of the Hairy Beast

History Channel - Original Air Date: 7/31/2008

According to Native American legends, a creature known as "hairy man" lives in the Pacific Northwest.  The creature is supposedly peaceful if left alone.  Is there archaeological evidence that this creature exists?  Ancient pictographs seem to show the mythical creature.  Could these be creatures they actually saw, instead of mere myths?  One woman encountered a creature while camping; though the meeting seems like a dream, she claims her dogs began barking at the thing's presence.  A big game vet heard primate-like whooping in 2007 near Seattle, where there are no known primates.  Naturally, investigating this leads to setting up bait and game traps.  Researchers also go to remote areas and try using calls to lure the beast.  In 2001, similar "call blasting" seemed to generate a response.  Sadly, the researchers had no cameras to take a picture of the creature they believe they saw.  A Native American hunter believes he shot at a creature, but when he and his uncle checked later, they find unfired cartridges -- not spent ones.  Another hunter says he was too scared to pick up his gun in a similar encounter.  He found some huge, mop-like wet tracks, packed up, and went home.

The call researchers are using is believed to be a sasquatch call, though the call's origin is unknown.  (It sounds to me something like a call in a 1970s "true" bigfoot film.)  In 1995, a fisherman was pelted by large rocks, thrown by an unknown animal.  (We remember from other MQ shows that rock throwing is supposed to indicate the beast.)  Primates are known to throw rocks at their enemies.  Researchers find some big tracks, but they prove to be melted out boots prints.  (Prints expand as they melt in snow.)  They set up camera traps near skunk cabbage (food) and by the river (water).  Embarrassingly, another investigative group call blasting on the river runs their boat aground.  As usual, the camera traps turn up the usual, familiar animal suspects, like bear and puma.  Noise analysis of supposed bigfoot sounds from various areas reveal similarities in pitch, but most are of known animals: elk, coyote -- though one is not from a known wild creature.  (Though no one asks if it could be human made.)

Watching this show, it occurs to me that bigfoot hunters/researchers might gain more credibility for their eyewitness evidence by creating a standardized scientific set of background questions for their interviews, such as: 1) How long had you been awake when you had your encounter? or 2) When was the last time you'd had an alcoholic drink? or 3) When was the last time you ate?  Standardizing pre-testimony questions would help determine whether there is some similarity of circumstance for witnesses.  Perhaps some of the more serious researchers could work on a such a set of standardized questions -- similar to the screening tests psychologists use.

This show is another in a series of bigfoot-by-any-other-name shows on MonsterQuest, and it demonstrates a basic problem with the show: not enough monsters.  Once you've done the standard crypto beasts, what choice to you have but to start doing them again?  The MQ people clearly feel that bigfoot is the well that they can go to most often.  I'm losing track of how many BF shows they've done; it's at least a half dozen.  And aside from the "nail trap for bigfoot" episode, most of the others are essentially the same: recounting of legends and eyewitness reports, with little or no testable evidence.  Perhaps it is time for MQ to give bigfoot a rest and move on to other, newer subjects.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brief TOD notes

Some brief notes on Tournament of Death, now that the competition has actually started.

I've got live updates of my work on the project going on at Twitter – a cool site that  allows you to get glimpses of the lives of your friends and interesting folks/projects — and am posting under the moniker "sdsullivan."  Sign up, add me to your watch list, and check it out.  You can see what part of the Olympics I'm watching and maybe deduce how it's working into my writing.

I'm having a great time creating characters for the tournament and using them to reveal information about the setting and world of TOD.  The story is set in the Blue Kingdoms, BTW, which some of you may be familiar with.  ;-)

To that end, I decided to label each character in the story when they have their own section or chapter — such as "Human Knight" or "Al Qiist Magician."  An easy and fun way to learn about the world, I hope.

And now is a great time to suggest characters you'd like to see created (or killed).  I hope to get another poll up on the TOD site today, too.  Did you vote in the one that's up now?

More soon.

Friday, August 8, 2008

TOD about to go Live!

The image

I'm about to publish the first installment of Tournament of Death (the Prologue), after spending the day updating the site, adding new features, creating a separate blog for the fans to participate in, and joining Twitter, so people can keep up with this (and my other projects) more easily.

Now I just have to give today's episode one last read through (though I'm sure some egregious error will slip through), and then up on the site it goes for all the world to see.

A reminder to everyone to turn your friends on to this project -- you can even subscribe to the updates on the blog. It will be a lot more fun if I have ongoing interaction with the fans.

Cross your fingers, here goes nothing!  (Right after the torch lighting.)