Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daikaiju Attack!

I've just started a new, free, serialized online novel:


Daikaiju means "Giant Monster," and the story will contain all the action and adventure of a classic Godzilla feature written in my usual breezy modern style.

Get your giant monster fix today!  Then tune in every weekend for the next exciting chapter!


WEIRD OR WHAT: End of the World

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/28/13

The show starts by positing that some people (Nostradamus in particular) have been able to predict the future.  At this point, I'll cry "Bullshit!" but they continue anyway, starting with "secret" Mayan predictions of the end of the world, in 2012. (Maybe this show was supposed to be released earlier, 'cause we're still here in 2013.)  This "astronomer" believes that a supervolcano, Yellowstone Perhaps, will erupt (last year), bringing cataclysm.  One survivalist plans to build underground shelters around the country and the world, and has recruited people to live in them.  (He refers to the show date being 2011.)  Are we nuts yet?  An anthropologist says it's happened before; we should be worried. But Jake Lowenstern of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory isn't worried.  He points out the worriers are exaggerating statistics, and even those stats are based on too small a sample to forecast accurately.  He also points out that most Yellowstone eruptions have been on the scale of a Hawaiian volcano -- and Yellowstone has numerous minor eruptions that may relieve the pressure for even that.

In a commercial break, the show points out that the first doomsday prediction was that the world would end in AD 666.  How did that work out?  Ready to stop listening to kooks yet?  I am, but the show continues -- and, as a public service, so do I.

Next up is the idea that solar flares may kill us all.  Do low sunspots portend an impending "big one" of solar flares.  One "scientist" even believes that alien ships are causing flares.  An actual scientist, though, believes that the changes are caused by changes in the sun's magnetic fields (and perhaps poles).  No problem for us, he insists.  Yet, a journalist believes that a big solar flare would wipe out our technological society -- blacking out everything.  Proof, please.

Finally, futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that in 20 years, computers will be operating at human levels.  He also believes man and machine will merge by the mid 21st century, and he doesn't find that scary.  He thinks we will keep our humanity, but transcend the limitations of our biology.  One philosopher fears that computers may become aware enough to do things we don't want -- like Skynet.  Robitics maker Noel Sharkey thinks humanoid robots are a long way from taking over the world -- because there's no evidence that might happen, and robots are just not smart.  "They're not bright enough to be called stupid," he says.  They can't even feed themselves.  They're incapable of exceeding their programming.  The real problem, he says, will be the misuse of robots as weapons by humans -- not danger from evil or rogue robots.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT? Ancient Mysteries

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/28/13

Is there a star child? Did dinosaurs live with humans? Did Ancient Egyptians have airplanes?  Let's see what the show says...

A strange 900-year-old skeleton found in Mexico is believed by some to be a human-alien hybrid, or outright alien - based on its weird appearance.  This has been suggested by UFO "experts" who've seen the skull.  But neurologist Steven Novella believes it is merely a deformed human with hydrocephalus.  Other scientists suggest that cradle-boarding may have changed the shape of the child's skull.  The owner of the skull claims to have a 2003 DNA test showing the father of the "starchild" was not human.  A 2011 test makes him believe that neither of the child's parents are human.  Apparently, there has been no peer review of this "evidence."

An ancient Peruvian stone seems to show an long-extinct fish.  Digging up more stones, the doctor who owns the stone believes that many show scenes of creatures long dead -- including dinosaurs, which might even be alive today.  Acheologist Ken Feder believes that the Peruvian stones show all the signs of a classic archaeological hoax -- created when it became clear there was a market for them.  The show gets an art student to re-create the stones using simple techniques.  Is it easier to believe that known archaeology must be completely overturned, or that some folks wanted to make a fast buck?  One author thinks the stones are indeed, old, but not first-hand experience.  Instead, he believes the Peruvians got information about the dinos from a more knowledgeable civilization: Atlantis.  Ri-i-ight.

In Sakara, Egypt, archaeologists turn up something that looks like a model of a bird -- though some think it resembles an airplane.  Did the Egyptians have planes?  It's a theory that appeals to people who believe the ancient astronauts hoax.  But Egyptologist Katya Goebs scoffs, noting bird symbolism was very important in Egypt, and bird objects in tombs were common -- perhaps it was a toy for a child's tomb.  The suggestion of launching gliders from the tops of pyramids seems, at best, absurd.  But one "expert" claims that the ancients had _all_ the technology we have, including flight, balloons, and electricity -- despite the fact that _no_ ancient reporters have ever mentioned any of this.  A model builder on the show builds a model of the bird, and even with a suggested tail, the plane still doesn't fly.  The model builder suggests the object may have been a wind vane (weather vane).  And that seems to work better.

Again, the show doesn't make any conclusions, but, to me, at least, the science seems much more compelling than the speculation.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT - Paranormal Mysteries

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/14/13

A woman in San Pedro, CA, calls paranormal investigators in to investigate strange events, including apparitions and even physical attacks.  She believes that an evil entity is in her attic.  One investigator reports being strangled during the investigation (and there's a fuzzy photo), and a strange oozing substance from the walls is identified as human blood plasma.  One investigator believes the trouble all started with a Ouija board seance.  Loyd Auerbach, former president of the Psychic Entertainers Assoc., believes that the woman herself was a poltergeist agent -- a "haunted" person, similar to an epileptic seizure, affecting the world subconsciously when repressed rage builds up.  (He also believes in psychokinesis.)  He notes that the events followed her when she moved -- though subsequent tenants also experienced strange things.  John Huntington, professor, believes that infrasound, low frequencies inaudible to humans, may have built pressure waves causing residents physical and psychological distress.  (As someone who has trouble sleeping when car engines are running outside, I can attest to low frequency noise making life difficult.)

A Connecticut housewife heard voices in 1992 and believed herself to be possessed.  Bruises appeared on her body, with no apparent medical explanation.  The Catholic church decided she was possessed and preformed an exorcism.  After 16 exorcisms, she died of cancer, which some believe was caused by demons.  Psychologist Christoper Rosik believes she had dissociative identity disorder (split personality).  He believes that religious ritual can repress such symptoms ... at least, for a time.  Reverend Bob Larson, self-proclaimed exorcist, disagrees.  He thinks demonic possession is real -- and common.  He believes that (supposed) speaking in languages foreign to the "possessed" is proof.

Teenager Fae Jackson believes that ghosts talk to her, and have since she was 10.  She sometimes sees up to 5 at a time, and they only come when she's alone.  When the family seeks advice from local mediums, they convince the family that Fae has a gift, and she works to "master" it.  Author Karen Good believes that children can see ghosts, but adults lose this "ability."  She believes that everyone has this ability and its root lies in the pineal gland.  Jack Rourke believes that parents can (perhaps unknowingly) encourage this fantasy in children, through positive reinforcement.  The child gains the reward of extra closeness with their parent(s), and the parent gains more control over the child through their shared experience.  One paranormal researcher believes that people who see ghosts have different eyes that can see more infrared than the rest of us -- and ghosts show up in the infra red.  (No explanation of why IR cameras aren't overflowing with ghost images.  And no evidence that children see further into the infrared than adults.)

Another decent episode of this series, which is distinguished by having rational explanations along with paranormal mythology.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT? Freaks of Nature

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/14/2013

In 1978, a weird glowing ball of light appeared to a boy in Bell Island, Newfoundland, before vanishing.  Other people on Bell Island reported strange electromagnetic effects from the light, including shock waves and exploding fuses and TVs, and  3 holes "drilled" in the ground.  It was like a bomb had gone off, without a bomb.  The RCMP concluded it was lightning, but some people claim that three men from Los Alamos Lab (in the US) came and questioned witnesses.  Journalist Brian Dunning believes it was part of a series of booms at the time and was likely caused by overflight by the Concorde Super-Sonic Transport passenger plane -- a new phenomenon at the time.  Engineering professor Karl Stephan thinks it might have been caused by a super lightning bolt - a positive-charged freak of nature.  (Most lightning is negatively charged.)  Superbolts usually occur in the upper atmosphere over oceans, but can cause severe damage on the ground.  He thinks it could also have caused ball lighting (seen by the boy), which is so incredibly rare it can't effectively be studied.  One researcher, though, believes the effect was caused by accidental EMF build up caused by a Soviet early warning system called the "Woodpecker Signal."

Does a deadly time-bending fog haunt Lake Michigan?  One woman reports a series of disorienting events, including a boat spinning around and "losing" two hours.  One man calls it "electronic fog," and believes it can magnetically attach to a vessel and disorient both people and instruments.  He thinks it may be associated with freak lighting storms.  But Dr. Donadrian Rice believes the explanation is much simpler: hallucinations caused by disorientation, and the time loss is merely a result of that and normal human perception of time flowing at different rates.  He's conducted experiments in sensory deprivation where subjects report strange visions and believe the experiment lasted 5 minutes, though it actually lasted 20.  It's caused, he says, by the human brain trying to make sense out of situations where the senses have been deprived.  One paranormal author believes that the effect is caused by "ley lines" -- lines of paranormal force -- encircling the earth.  Where the lines cross in "powerful areas," vortex hyperspace spots/portals are formed.  (Too bad he has no actual proof of this.)

In 1979, two blinding flashes of light (seen by satellite) lit up a remote area of the southern Indian Ocean and sent world powers into high alert against possible nuclear war.  But planes and inspectors checking for radiation found nothing, so the event remains a mystery.  One nuclear weapons designer, Thomas Reed, believes it was a nuclear test, and satellite data seems to confirm the signature "double flash" of energy.  He thinks that the test was conducted over the ocean and when weather (a typhoon) would wash the radiation away; he thinks it was an Israeli test (with support from South Africa).  Physicist Richard Muller, who investigated the incident for the government, came to a different conclusion.  The two satellite meter readings don't match, and Muller believes that a micrometeorite knocked dust in front of the two satellite sensors -- and a dim flash close up was mistaken for a bright flash thousands of miles away on the Earth's surface.  Muller dismisses conspiracy theories, saying these things  "...were pretty much settled by people who understood the arguments at the time."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT - Monsters

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/7/2013

First up this episode: Mothman.  Many people have reported seeing it and being chased by it, and it's even connected with a famous bridge disaster.  Joe Nichol (PSICOP) believes that people merely misinterpreted other things, especially the bard owl (a large bird).  James Houran believes that mothman is a case of MPI - Mass Psychogenic Illness, basically mass hysteria.  He takes people to a regular forest at night and suggests it's haunted.  Very quickly people start having 'strange" sensations, proving people can be spooked easily and spread their fear among a group.  A monster hunter thinks the beast is real, and he sets audio lures and camera traps to catch mothman on film.  He catches nothing, but believes mothman to be a cursed supernatural being, a premonition of doom and destruction.  (So much for science.)

A strange thing washes up on Newfoundland and scientist and fisheries expert Garry Stenson is called in to investigate.  It seemed to have neither head nor tail, neither bones nor cartilage, so they cut some samples.  Mathew Wedel, anatomist, believes such "globsters" are dead whales, their armor-tough skin, all that remains after the "good bits" are scavenged, floating around the sea, slowly decomposing.  Dr. Hans Larsson, paleontologist, thinks in most cases, that is true.  But, there's some chance that megalodons (giant white sharks) still live in the very deep oceans, and some globsters may be their remains.  (Again, no proof.)

In India's capital, Delhi, a man-beast with lights on its head and steel claws attacks 800 people, causing a panic.  Is the monkey man science gone wrong or a plot by neighboring Pakistan?   One journalist believes so. Jay Lahkani, on the other hand, believes that the explanation lies in Indian culture and myths, accentuated by a few pranksters.  A cryptozoologist believes it may be a human-ape hybrid, an experiment  unleashed on the public.  Of course, he has no proof (because this is a crazy conspiracy theory).

Sadly, we never find out if the globster's DNA was tested.

WEIRD OR WHAT - Parallel Worlds

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/7/2013

The show starts with William Shatner (the host) positing that our universe is merely a "bubble," and in 2010 some scientists suggested that our universe has been "bruised" four times by smashing into the bubbles of other universes.  (Did I miss that science news?)  Some people believe we've already encountered beings from those other universes.

Author Rosemary Guiley believes that she's encountered "shadow people" from another dimension while hiking in the woods.  Other people claim to have seen the shadow people as well.  Psychologist Christopher French believes that the shadow people are merely shadows given "life" by pareidolia, the human tendency to see human shapes in random patterns.  He believes this is an evolutionary adaptation to protect us from potential danger.  Another believer suggests that gravity is diffused as it passes to earth by passing through the shadow people's dimensions.  He claims that the Earth should be ripped apart by the sun's gravity, thus supporting his theory.  (I must have missed that in science class.)  The shadow people use gravity to open doors to our dimension as a prelude to invasion.  Right.

Next is a man who claims to have been teleported through another dimension when he was a boy, while visiting his father's aerospace company.  He and his father teleported 2000 miles to the state capital of New Mexico.  He claims the secret has been suppressed by the US military.  Dr. Raymond Laflamme, physicist, thinks teleportation of humans is mere fantasy, though he has teleported a few bits of information using quantum entanglement.  Hypnotherapist Bruce Goldberg believes that the first man moved into a parallel universe, and some people do that and actually meet copies of themselves.  He thinks you can switch universes to escape past mistakes and make your life better.  How these people return to where they originally were, or if they do, the show doesn't say.

Are (the infamous) crystal skulls gateways to another world?  One believer thinks so, and has a lot of pseudoscience reasons for it.  Jane Walsh of the Smithsonian believes that the skulls are merely cleverly marketed fakes.  Claims they are ancient are hokum, as scanning with an electron microscope shows modern tooling.  She believes, with evidence, that the skulls not much older than whenever they were "discovered."  Josh Shapiro believes the skulls are gifts from parallel world intelligences.  He believes the quartz crystal vibrates across all dimensions, allowing communication and the learning of ancient knowledge.  Dr. Paul Stevenson thinks portals to other worlds are possible, but he doesn't say he believes crystal skulls can access them -- he's far more interested in real science.

Again, another good show, with both stories and science.  Though it's pretty sensational, you can learn a thing or two every episode.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WEIRD OR WHAT - Life After Death

SyFy - Original Air Date: 4/30/13

The first story is of a man who has strange emotions while visiting the battlefield of Antietam (US Civil War).  Later, a palm reader told him he had those feelings because he was the reincarnation of a soldier that died there.  Intriguingly, the man discovers that he resembles General John B. Gordon, and believes there are other parallels in their lives as well.  Dr. Cynthia Meyersburg (Harvard) believes that reincarnation is a phenomena of the way we deal with memories (and create false memories).  Lab tests have shown that past life believers have increased vulnerability to creating false memories.  A hypnotist specializing in Past Life Regression believes reincarnation is true, and he takes people to them hypnotically.  One scientist believes that our memories/souls are contained in quantum level energy and can return into a human embryo.  But of all these stories, only Dr. Meyersburg's hypothesis seems testable.

In 1993 researchers in Scole, England, held a series of seances to "prove" there is life after death.  The so-called "Scole Experiment" participants witnessed events the show describes as "baffling to science" and held in an "impenetrable" cellar room.  The experimenters claimed to see spirit lights, hear spirit voices, and be "touched" by spirit people.  (Where's the video?)  There were materialization of things falling out of the air, and spirit photographs "appeared" on a roll of film in a security box.  (Me, I'd be more impressed with IR video of these supposed events).  Supposedly the resulting photos show the afterlife -- and a mysterious "woman."  (Are you crying "Bullshit!" yet?  I am.)  Scientist Brian Dunning thinks the events of Scole are merely an illusion, based on a series of 200-year old magic tricks -- in essence  performance art.  Naturally, all this took place in the pitch dark.

Re-creating the seance with a professional magician and an IR camera easily fools the test subjects.  As Dunning points out, at Scole "no controls were applied."  (Too bad Houdini isn't still around debunking this shit.)  A photographic expert believes most of the effects can be explained by developing process distortion.  He also believes the faces are from a previous exposure of the film, which was then wound back and represented as "new."

A Haitian man dies of a mysterious illness, only to return 18 years later.  Was he a zombie? Scientists theorize that certain injuries or illnesses to the brain might give a zombie-like demeanor.  Puffer fish toxin can also make people appear dead, only to be "revived" later.  Meanwhile, the show looks at a cryogenic facility, and ponders whether it can really work, to be frozen and then revived later.

"Is life after death really life at all?" Shatner ponders, wondering about zombies and frozen people.  The show can't say for sure, but at least there's some science here -- and pretty good science at that -- along with the usual supernatural hokum.

WEIRD OF WHAT: Alien Encounters

SyFy - Original Air Date: 4/30/13

This new series features William (Star Trek, Boston Legal) Shatner as the host looking into strange phenomena.  This episode starts with cattle mutilations, and people worrying that it's being done by aliens.  Expert researchers, though, have shown that such effects occur by natural processes -- including carrion-eating flies.  Rather than (sensibly) stopping there, the show then presents a man who believes the cows are being mutilated in a government conspiracy to cover up (or control) mad cow disease, and another who actually believes aliens are taking them.

Next up: Alien abductions, people who believe they are being taken by aliens (often in the middle of the night) for experiments.  But Dr. Susan Clancy believes that these episodes are easily explained by backfiring sleep paralysis (which affects 1 in 5 Americans), linked to dream-fantasies when the brain wakes up before the body.  Essentially, the body is still dreaming while the brain believes itself to be awake; dreams and waking overlap.  Neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger believes the phenomenon can be explained by the brain reacting to electromagnetic pulses (from natural and other sources), and experiments with a special helmet he's designed seem to produce the same results.  Despite all this, though, a researcher at Temple University believes that so many people believe they've been abducted, that it must be real.  (A logical fallacy  BTW.)  He also believes that aliens are breeding alien-human hybrids from these experiments.  (Yeah, right.)

Finally, the show looks at the "Wow!" signal where, once several decades ago, a radio telescope seemed to pick up an alien transmission from outer space -- but only once.  Two theories explain this: one is that the instrument could have picked up a "sideways" signal from Earth (or a satellite passing overhead -- which the radio-telescope team denies).  The second is that it was a "burp" (radio energy burst) from a black hole.

I hadn't intended to do a full review of this show (or series), but the combination of irrational theories and rational explanations made it intriguing, and a cut above the other supernatural "reality" shows on SyFy and other channels.  This, at least, explains the rational side.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Heart of Squatchness

Animal Planet - Original Air Date 3/31/2013

The team goes to Vietnam to look for small squatches (5'-7' tall) and do their usual routine - though they skip the bad "real" video and go straight to local experts.  Then they do night investigations, a local "town hall" meeting, and investigate stories -- as usual.  Cliff does a camp out, and they find nothing in their second night investigation.

And, since this seems to be either a season break, or a mid-season break, I have to wonder whether it's worthwhile to continue these reviews.  After all, the videos (and such) they've been investigating have gotten steadily more bogus looking, and the show follows the same formula every week -- and like the Ghost Hunters, they never actually find anything.

So, while I like the crew, especially Ranae, I'm not sure this is worth my while to write about, or your time to read.  Maybe, if they have a great breakthrough, I'll review it.  Until then, just figure it's "more of the same."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Untold Stories: Behind the Squatch

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 3/31/2013

Once again, Keith Hoffman -- FB's Executive Producer -- rounds up the cast for interviews and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at Finding Bigfoot.  Asked about the most valuable asset each of them brings to the team, Matt says "experience," Ranae says "counterbalance" (skepticism), Bobo says "man of the people," Cliff says "data analysis."  They travel to a town hall meeting, so Keith can see the process first-hand.  They then show how they block out a witness interview in the woods for an episode.  Then they move to showing how they film night investigations -- IR cameras, etc.  They then visit Bobo at his home "bachelor pad" in Humboldt County, CA.  They then go crabbing, which was Bobo's previous job (before becoming a TV bigfoot hunter).  Keith may be the worst crabber ever.  (City kids!)  A nice change-of-pace, this is a good show and features a lot of information about how they make the series.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 3/24/2013

The team travels to southern Illinois to check out ongoing local reports of bigfoots in the Land of Lincoln.  They hook up with Stan Courtney, a bigfoot audio specialist -- whom Cliff describes as a leader in his field (and a model scientist).  Listening to the recordings, the group hears a lot of coyotes, and Ranae doesn't hear anything that she doesn't think are local animals: coyotes, dogs, cows.  Stan believes that some of the sounds are bigfoots trying to imitate other animasl; Ranae and Bobo are skeptical.  (It seems like little evidence for a microphone running 24/7.)  The show then settles into its normal format: night investigation, camp out (Ranae), town hall meeting, witness interviews, and final night investigation.

Ranae ends up camping out in the woods near a (haunted) cemetery near where witnesses thought a tree had been snapped by a bigfoot.  In the morning, she looks at the snapped tree, and concludes that the break looks natural.  She then uses a glider to scout the countryside to try and find the best bigfoot habitat in the area.  To lure the bigfoots out in the team's second night investigation, Cliff plays electric guitar.  (Really?  Is this science?  They're doing more of this stuff lately, and I have to ask: Would this work for luring out gorillas?)  They hear knocks, which to some of the team always means sasquatch are near by.  But to me, it means another show with no finding of bigfoot.

FINDING BIGFOOT: Virgin Sasquatch

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 3/17/2013

The team goes to small-town Oregon to look into a recent casting of over 100 bigfoot footprints.  Cliff was one of the investigators casting these prints near Cottage Grove, where sightings date back to the '70s.  The prints were discovered by dog walkers on the muddy shoreline of a drained reservoir, 122 tracks total.  Ranae wants to make sure they weren't hoaxed, perhaps placed deliberately for hikers to find.  Though she trusts Cliff's work, she thinks the find is awfully convenient.  Matt is frustrated by her skepticism.  Night investigation, town hall, camp out (Bobo), interviews, and final night investigation follow -- like clockwork.  Bobo's solo investigation is enhanced by his dog "Monkey," a veteran squatch hunter.

Later, they go into what they hope is "virgin squatch" territory -- that is, a place where bigfoots won't have heard hunters trying to lure them in before.  I'm amazed by the cast's ability to talk bout "virgin bigfoots" with a straight face, though at one point it looks as though Cliff may crack up.  In the final investigation, Cliff sets up in the top of a tree to gain a better vantage point.  (Sadly, much of the forest has been clearcut.)  But, aside from the usual dubious "wood knocks," the investigation turns up little.  Really, they might have been better off just studying Cliff's plaster casts.

FINDING BIGFOOT: Bigfoot Loves a Barbecue

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 3/10/2013

The crew goes to Connecticut to check out a bigfoot film made by a mother while watching her children.  A recreation with Bobo doesn't convince Ranae that it's not a bear, though she agrees it's not a person.  (A stabilized version of this video would really help, FB editors!)  Night investigation, camp out (Cliff), town hall, more witnesses, and final night investigation follow (as usual).  While camping, Cliff runs into a bear -- and we hear it roar, though the camera can't catch it as it retreats into the woods.  (Validating Ranae's supposition?)  After talking to some dodgy witnesses (some of whom the team doesn't believe), they decide to hold a cookout in the woods to try to lure in sasquatch.  But nothing shows; skunked again!

FINDING BIGFOOT: Bigfoot and the Redhead

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 3/3/2013

The team heads to Pennsylvania to check out a film made by teenage go-karters.  The show follows the usual format: interview witnesses, night investigation, camp out (Bobo), town hall, more witnesses, and final night investigation.  The footage, from 2012, shows a shadowy figure striding through the forest with a gait similar to the Patterson film.  It reminds Ranae of similar footage from Indiana, which she believes to be a hoax.  In a re-creation, Bobo looks bigger than the supposed bigfoot; hoax seems likely to all the team -- and they suspect one of the teens talking to them of being the guy in the "suit."  They then go to a remote island area (near where the famous Jacobs trail cam "juvenile bigfoot" photos were taken) for their night investigation.  They see eye-shine, and Bobo is convinced enough that he and Cliff heard a bigfoot, that Bobo stays behind to camp out and investigate.  (Though he only finds other howling 'Squatchers.)

The rest meet a kid who has very compelling bigfoot testimony, and spend a lot of time talking to him.  Even Ranae is impressed, though she wonders if his imagination as gotten hthe better of him.  In their final investigation, the crew decides to play whale songs in an attempt to lure in curious bigfoots.  Despite hearing the usual sounds and false starts in the dark, they come away with no firm evidence.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 2/24/2013

Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Ranae go to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee to investigate fuzzy game-cam photos by a veteran bigfoot hunter.  "Trail cam blob-squatch," Ranae says "A text book case of pareidolia."  (Like seeing Jesus in a toasted cheese sandwich.)  After a recreation with Bobo, even Matt agrees with Ranae (And I do, too; better chance of Russian car-cams catching bigfoot than Bigfoot Believers.)  Night investigation, town hall, camp out (Matt), and second night investigations follow -- as usual.

On both nights, they think they hear trees being pushed down (by a squatch) in response to a call by Ranae and a pig caller, but I'm starting to think this is all like the Ghost Hunter shtick: just noises in the dark -- like audio pareidolia.  I like witness stories as much as anyone (well, maybe not as much as Believers), but at some point, you have to get some concrete proof.  So far, this show has come up empty.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: More Untold Stories

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 2/17/2013

Another behind-the-scenes show with Matt, Cliff, Ranae, and Bobo, in which their producer, Keith Hoffman, talks with them about making the series.  They spend quite a bit of time talking about this season's overseas adventures (Indonesia, Australia) and various mishaps.  Ranae reveals that the "solo" camp-outs are actually two people -- a host and a camera person --which we probably all figured (though it could have been more crew), and that all of the team forced the show to include the camp outs: to have fewer people tromping around the wilderness (trying to attract shy animals).  The team all express their dislike of hoaxers. ("Death sentence" declares Bobo.)  They also talk about firing a producer who tried to lure Bobo into the woods by knocking on a tree (which resulted in Bobo hurting his knee, falling down steps in the dark).  They also talk about all of them being skeptical (though obviously Ranae moreso).  Matt talks quite a bit about how to tell fake videos from real -- though, personally, I think they could do a whole show on this.  Cliff talks about his bigfoot print collection.  They also talk with Professor of Folklore Dr. Lynne S. McNeill from Utah State University, who gives some historical context of the sasquatch legends and stories.  (The stories are old and cross cultural.)  Overall, this is an interesting outing, and it's nice to see the group talk candidly about their adventures.  In fact, I wish the series had more of this kind of candor, and less formula bigfoot hunting.

FINDING BIGFOOT: Indonesia's Little Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 2/17/2013

Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Ranae head to Indonesia to track down the "orang pendek" -- a shorter (4' tall) version of sasquatch.  Ranae, the scientist, says that the existence of a four-foot-tall primate in food-filled rainforests seems much more likely than finding a giant ape in the Pacific Northwest.  They meet Adam Davies, a world-traveling cryptozoologist to help them look for the creature.  All of them then go to meet a local potato farmer who had an encounter with the creature two months ago.  They then proceed with their first night investigation (the whole jungle is hot on the thermal cam), and from there to the usual town (village) hall meeting, camp out (Cliff), witness interviews, and end with a second night investigation.  Despite Cliff finding some hairs (never explained), and the team hanging fruit as bait (literally low-hanging fruit), no orang pendek venture out of the forest to see us.  Again, lots of stories -- many credible-seeming -- but no real evidence or proof.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Badlands Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 2/10/2013

Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Ranae head into the badlands of South Dakota (near Mt. Rushmore) to check out local Sioux sasquatch legends and the Pine Ridge Indian reservation.  (This is a lovely and otherworldly area that my family went to two summers ago, but we saw no bigfoots.)  Ranae is from SD, but the eastern, rolling country, not the west where the badlands are.  They talk to a police chief who saw a figure on his thermal imager that he believes was larger than Bobo -- which everyone but Ranae thinks was probably bigfoot.  (Again, we don't have an actual image they're investigating -- though a witness turns up with footprint photos later.)  The team breaks into two groups (Ranae-Bobo & Matt-Cliff) and does their first night investigation.  (They find only local animals.)  The show then proceeds as usual, with town-hall meeting (with local Sioux), witness interviews/recreations, camp out (Cliff), and a second night investigation.  But, aside from the traditional night noises and false alarms, they come back with the usual: good-sounding stories, and no real proof.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Bigfoot Hoedown

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 1/27/2013

The team heads to West Virginia to investigate some (need I say "blurry") photos of a supposed bigfoot in the treeline behind someone's back yard.  (What the team calls blob-squatchy.)  The photo was taken 7 years a go by a kid (then 10), who leads the group to their first night investigation.  After that, the show follows the usual format with Ranae staying out for solo camping while the rest collect town-hall interviews and talk to witnesses -- one of whom has some hair samples they found on a fence after a sighting.  On their second night hunt, the team decides to use animal guts as bait -- which makes Cliff and Bobo squeamish, but not Ranae, who's been a vet tech and "seen far worse."  That night, they hear strange screams and something takes their bait.  Sadly, their bait cameras malfunctioned, and the hair sample proved inconclusive - both of which are mentioned in captions after the show's end, rather than in the show itself.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Bigfoot Merit Badge

Animal Planet - 1/20/12

The team goes to Colorado to investigate a 1962 bigfoot film.  Ranae hopes that, while they're there, recent wildfires in the area may have driven sasquatch out into the open.  The film in question seems to show a dark figure jumping from rock to rock in a snow field in the Rockies.  Frankly, it looks to me (and Ranae) like a human trying to stay out of deep snow.  The son of the original filmographer says the film was taken on a scout camping trip by his father, who said it was a "big animal."  Bobo's recreation seems to indicate the rock jumping could be done by a human.  Cliff is still leaning toward it being a bigfoot, though even Matt disagrees.  (Everybody but Ranae usually errs on the side of bigfoot.)  The usual night investigation, town hall, camp out (Matt), witness talks, and second night investigation follows.  As "bait" for the second night hunt, the group decides to use a troop of Girl Scouts.  Despite the inherent cuteness, no sasquatch are lured into the open.

(Edited to correct date & filmographer.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Bacon for Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 1/13/2013

Wild hog deaths lure Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Ranae to the swamps of Louisiana near the Toledo Bend Reservoir.  This show starts with the town-hall meeting (in this case a Southern cookout), but otherwise runs to form: talk to initial witnesses, night hunt, single camp out (Bobo), talk to witnesses, second night hunt.  A local bow-hunter and his wife saw bigfoot on his property, and they're good enough witnesses that Ranae professes to being stumped as to what they saw. "It wasn't a person, and it wasn't a bear."  Two Justices of the Peace are also credible witnesses.  To attract sasquatch, the team puts up a pig pen in the woods, on the theory that bigfoots like bacon -- but none take the bait, and, at show's end, we get the usual platitudes about bigfoots being in this place, without any actual additional evidence.


Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 1/6/2013

The group returns to Washington's Olympic Peninsula to investigate recent "sasquatch calls."  This show follows the familiar formula: talk to initial witnesses, night hunt, town hall meeting/single camp out, talk to witnesses, second night hunt.  I note that the show has recently switched to investigating calls (audio recordings), which may mean that they've run out of even vaguely plausible videos.  The witnesses in this case are members of the local Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), with whom Matt, Bobo, and Cliff (at least, if not Ranae) are already familiar.  The believer members of the team are optimistic about getting thermal or other evidence here.  Because there are so many witnesses in the area, the ones in this "town hall" have been pre-screened by the local BFRO -- and one has several really clear pictures of footprints "a lot bigger than a person" -- two different size tracks.  (Too bad they didn't have casts.)  Matt speculates that it was a mother and young, 13 1/2" long for the longest track and 2" smaller for the other.

In the second night investigation, they get the use of a FLIR (thermal imaging) truck with a huge mast that can scan for miles around the vehicle.  They also have an electric ATV-like chase vehicle.  But despite the best equipment they've ever had, they come up with even less than usual.  Bobo notes that this is the first time he's been "shut out" when searching on the Olympic Peninsula.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Australian Yowie

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 12/30/2012

The team -- Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Ranae -- go Down Under to look for the Yowie, the bigfoot of Oz, recently seen in the tropical forests of Australia's Gold Coast near Sydney.  Once on the other side of the world, the investigation follows the show's usual format: talk to a witness, night investigation, town hall & camp out, more witnesses, and a second night investigation.  The first person they talk to is Gary Opit, professional field biologist. He is an impressive witness (even to Ranae) and knows the local wilds.  He saw a possible Yowie in the forest, but found no physical evidence.  On one of their night investigations, Ranae, Bobo, and Cliff hear claps, knocks, snapping trees, and a strange growling howl -- but nothing definitive.  This is their best evidence, though on their final night investigation, Bobo thinks he hears someone (or something) talking in an unknown language.  He believes it to be a Yowie, and the believers in the group declare the beast to be real.  We don't get Ranae's opinion (as the show often ends on an up-note for believers).  Basically, this two-hour episode is just a super-sized regular show with an exotic location.

Monday, January 7, 2013

FINDING BIGFOOT: Bobo Marks His Turf

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 12/23/2012

The team goes to the northern New Mexican mountains for the usual tromping around, town hall meeting, talking to witnesses, and talking among themselves in the dark.  You know the drill, so here's the things worth noting....  The "evidence" is a thermal image of a figure in the forest that some say might be bigfoot.  I think it's more likely a human (as does Ranae), but the team hopes to recreate the situation to determine the figure's height.  The believers believe that the recreation shows a bigfoot, Ranae remains skeptical (and so do I).  Later, Matt (often the noisiest of the group), jumps down Bobo's throat when the big man uses the radio after a call-blast and "steps on" a "return call."  When camping, Bobo decides to drink a lot of water and mark his turf by urinating -- I guess in hopes of pissing off (so to speak) the local bigfoots.  None show up.  Later, part of the group goes ballooning to look for sasquatch (and nearly crashes).  And a "figure" separate from the treeline on the team's thermal imager turns out to be ... a tree.  So, more stories & looking, but no more evidence -- par for the bigfoot course.