My resignation from the NAWAC

Earlier this year, after a great deal of thought, I decided to resign from the North American Wood Ape Conservancy. It was not an action I took lightly and the circumstances that led me to that choice cause me pain every day.

We are at a point in our history where I believe it is existentially critical for people of good faith and conscience to set aside loyalty to political brands and defend the core principles upon which the United States was founded. All of us have a responsibility to use our voices to denounce authoritarian, corrupt, and anti-democratic actions by leaders of our country. These are issues that rise above partisanship and “politics.” And the future will judge each of us for how we behave now, at this critical time.

There are people within the NAWAC who I love like brothers. Truly, family. And it’s because of that love that my decision to leave the organization is so painful. But not as painful as my disappointment in those who know better than to accept what the current president is doing to this country and who have chosen to remain silent. Men with whom I have had spirited conversions about the ideals that make our country great. Ideals that used to rise above party and labels but that ultimately they refuse to defend as leaders among their peers.

There have been actions threatened and taken by the president and his enablers that are fundamentally counter to our founding principles. They are gross abuses of power and attempts to maintain a grip on authority and power at the expense of our most basic freedoms and rights. Opposition to these actions should not be controversial. They should not be “political.” All Americans with even a rudimentary understanding of our history and the precepts of our democratic institutions should easily denounce this man and what he says, does, and stands for. Indeed, I believe it is our responsibility as Americans to do so, loudly and often.

But they do not. They remain silent. They do not exercise their rights and step up as the leaders they are to call wrong wrong. Identify evil as evil. They prevaricate and obfuscate and rationalize while one man does everything he can to divide and enrage and shred the emotional and philosophical foundations of our Union.

Their silence is equivalent to complicity. I find it to be profoundly, deeply disappointing. And it makes me fear for my country in a way I never have in my life.

Beyond all that, the leadership of NAWAC allows members who follow bizarre and dangerous conspiracy theories to remain in the group. Beliefs that have been identified by the FBI as a leading domestic terror threat. And they do so for two reasons. One, I believe it highly likely there are those within the leadership of that group who believe these outrageous things themselves. And two, they hide behind the fig leaf of not judging the “politics” of their members. They choose the easy path of non-confrontation.

Hate and intolerance are not “political.” Racism is not “political.” Celebrating and even advocating for violence against Americans is not “political.”

Allowing adherence to unfounded and shocking conspiracy theories within an organization supposedly dedicated to scientific inquiry is itself an indictment against that organization. Demonstrating an inability to deploy critical thinking skills in one aspect of life should cause deep concern when considering an ability to do so in all aspects of life. There should be no place for weird conspiracy beliefs within the NAWAC by definition.

I do not believe the NAWAC is a racist, hateful, intolerant, or violent organization. But I believe those things are tolerated and rationalized within it since those who think that way are thought to be useful in satisfying the objectives of the organization. And as someone who has devoted untold hours and energy and resources to help advance those objectives, it leaves me almost indescribably saddened and disappointed.

I cannot place the objectives of that organization, as much as I believe and support them, above the very existence of our nation and Union. I cannot associate with intolerant, hateful people even incidentally. I cannot place my love of my dear friends in that group above the threat the current president and his supporters and enablers represent to all of us.

All I can do is use my voice and whatever leadership I have earned to try and help them see the error of their decisions and inaction. All I can do is to decline my continued participation, association, and fellowship with them and their organization.

Posted in Other stuff

Jacobs Photo: Case closed

Remember the Jacobs Photo? Of the supposed sasquatch captured by a game cam in Pennsylvania cavorting near a bait station at which bears were also photographed? The one that inspired millions of words to be fired hither and yon across the internets, both in support and derision? That one? Good times.

Here, for those who have forgotten, is what that image looked like.

 

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Image source: BFRO

 

Some said it looked like a chimp. Others said it looked like a scrawny bear. It ended up being one of those bigfoot things that separates enthusiasts like the Memorial Day Footage, the Skookum Cast, and even the Patterson-Gimlin Film. Well…

The other day, Crypromundo posted from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan an image with a nearly identical provenance to the Jacobs Photo. Bait station, game cam, etc. (Cryptomundo said it was originally submitted to Bigfoot Evidence but I can’t find it there.)

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Image source: Cryptomundo

Wow! Another little bigfoot showing a game cam its butt! How thrilling. Except you can actually see the bear’s tail in this one. Otherwise, it looks a lot like the Jacobs Photo. But still, there was some debate on the internet because that’s what happens on the internet.

Two days ago, Cryptomundo posted a follow-up.

miupbf2

Image source: Cryptomundo

Well hey there, Boo-boo! Of course, the Muggle media has picked up the original story and not the subsequent one. I’ve seen it posted to friend’s timelines on Facebook by usually (but not always) well-meaning friends.

Bottom line, the Jacobs Photo looks nearly identical to the first Michigan photo. They’re both of bears. Really and truly. You can go back to fighting over the Skookum Cast now if you want, but those are bears.

Posted in Miscellaneous sasquatchery

Review: Minerva Monster

885970_438541579631806_8867080763515852905_oBack on Episode 64, I had Seth Breedlove on to talk about the documentary he was working on, Minerva Monster. If you haven’t already, you should check out that show. It was a lot of fun and gives a great background to the events Seth’s film chronicles.

In short, it’s about a family and some other people who lived near them who, over the course of several years, experienced and saw things many people associate with bigfoot behavior. The movie is mostly about those experiences but it’s also about Minerva and the impact the resulting media attention had on the town itself.

I’ll say right up front here that I have a huge man crush on Seth. I’m a big fan of his podcast SasWhat and just really dig his whole vibe. But, that’s not to say I’ll sit here and say nice things about his movie just because. But I will say nice things about his movie.

On the BFS, we often complained about the lack of “serious” work being done on the subject of wood apes for the screen. Most of the time, these productions are driven by the personality of those on the show rather than the subject matter. In perhaps a demonstration of his own frustrations in that regard, Minerva Monster is totally without any outside personality. All you see on the screen, the only words you hear, are those who experienced the events being retold. That’s a bold move and sets the production apart from its peers in a way that is somewhat refreshing. It can also be limiting in that the entire story and its continuity must be said by those who lived it in a way that allows the viewer to follow along. This does not always happen in Minerva Monster, but I rarely found myself sitting there wondering who the person was talking or why they were on the screen. It works more than it doesn’t.

The copy I saw was not entirely finished, but it was done enough for me to see that it also sets itself apart from contemporary bigfoot work in that it has zero spooky music or anyone in a hairy costume “Boboing” a sighting recreation for the camera. The production values are not as slick as you’d find on cable TV and it never sets up a bullshit cliffhanger before the commercial break because there is no commercial break. It also doesn’t attempt to answer the question of what those involved experienced. There’s no “believer” offset by any “skeptic” debating and rolling their eyes at each other. The movie seems to say, “Here’s what they say happened, decide for yourself.” Refreshing.

I wholeheartedly recommend Minerva Monster to anyone interested in the bigfoot phenomenon. It’s a lovely little labor of love crafted by people wholly interested in telling a story they find fascinating. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Minerva Monster is available for pre-order and ships in June 2015. It premieres this Saturday at Salt Fork State Park as part of the Ohio Bigfoot Conference.

Posted in Miscellaneous sasquatchery

Everything ends

After a long, hard think I’ve decided to stop producing The Bigfoot Show.

I say “I” though there are four of us, I get that, but this a personal decision on my part to end the show. I’ve been making them now for more than seven years and my interest in the subject has evolved quite a bit in that time. My activities and objectives are very different now. I have gone from being an enthusiastic sideline observer of sasquatchery to being an active participant in an attempt to resolve the bigfoot question definitively. And, as a result, the way I find I can best focus my energy has changed. I don’t have the energy or feel motivated to make the BFS any longer.

It’s been pointed out to me that the BFS doesn’t take a lot of time to make. Sure, we’re recording for a few hours and then there’s maybe another hour of futzing around getting the show up. We make at best a show a month (usually a lot less), so exactly how much energy is being expended? That’s a good point, but the BFS is nothing but commentary and pontificating. It’s us telling you what we think about the crazy, usually f’ed up world of bigfoot and to be able to do that in a way that makes a show I’d want to listen to requires a lot of attention be paid to a world I don’t really care about anymore. I could give a rats about whatever the latest squatchploitation TV show is. I find Melba Ketchum to be a sad, sad person, no longer a source of entertainment. I can’t find the energy to even peruse bigfoot blogs for show fodder. That leads to us being repetitive and overly self-referential. Continuing to make that show would be nothing more than an exercise in ego self-flagellation.

I can hear it when we’re making the show but I don’t have the urge to fix it. Because that takes a lot of energy. That requires a level of dedication and engagement I simply cannot muster. It doesn’t get me excited. If anything, it fills me with dread. It feels like work. The Bigfoot Show should always be something I’m anxious to do. For too long, it hasn’t been. So, the time has come to move on to other endeavors, though this blog and our Facebook page will stick around for the foreseeable future. Old shows will be available indefinitely.

I know a lot of people are going to be very disappointed at this news. I know I speak for Scott, Paul, and Sam when I say the enthusiastic support you’ve shown for our little show is deeply appreciated. Thank you for all the comments and likes and questions and love you’ve thrown at us over the years. Thank you so much.

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Posted in Show news

Episode 64: Monster show

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Episode 64 — Monster show — has crept onto the internet like a shadowy forest beast sneaking up on a mobile home park. On  the show this time, Brian talks to Seth Breedlove, producer of the great SasWhat podcast, Ancillary Characters podcast, and director of the forthcoming documentary Minerva Monster.

Get a jump on the show via iTunes, Stitcher, etc., or by using this direct download link.

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Posted in Episodes

Episode 63: Bitchin’ about bigfoot

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Episode 63 — Bitchin’ about bigfoot — has sulked onto the internet like a surly teenage malcontent. On the show this time, Scott, Sam, and Brian display an inordinately negative attitude about all things bigfoot while musing over Todd Standing’s desire for $900,000 and his coziness with Jeff Meldrum, Melba Ketchum and her hat passing for alien baby heads, mysterious horse braids, whether or not bigfoot have mystical superpowers, giving witnesses the benefit of the doubt, losing faith in the entire mad world of bigfoot, drones and science fiction, the massive government coverup that permeates the world of sasquatchery, and of course, Donald the donkey.

Take or leave the show via iTunes, Stitcher, etc., or by using this direct download link.

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Posted in Episodes

Episode 62: Refugium X

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Episode 62 — Refugium X — has hidden itself away on the internet like a population of relic megafauna. On the show this time, Brian interviews several members of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy regarding their recently concluded long-term field effort, Operation Tenacity.

Discover the show via iTunes, Stitcher, etc., or by using this direct download link.

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Posted in Episodes

My dinner with Cliff

What's all over my glasses?!

The other day, I had the chance to hang out with Cliff Barackman as he passed through town after producing a new Minnesota episode of Finding Bigfoot. I’ve only ever been with Cliff out in the woods: Twice near Skookum Meadows and once in Northern California very near the Oregon border.

As I’ve said on the show many times, it’s hard not to like Cliff. He’s enthusiastic and earnest and eager to share his thoughts and knowledge regarding bigfoot. But I haven’t seen Cliff since he became a big TV star and I stepped up my association with those trying to collect a wood ape specimen. Theoretically, this could have been a prickly conversation. For all I knew, he wanted to meet so he could take me to task.

But no. Cliff Barackman is just a great guy. Period. And while we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, I respect him and his positions. 

Cliff related to me that he doesn’t think people should bother bigfoot. They should be left alone. He then quickly follows that up by acknowledging he, himself, can’t follow his own advice, so why should anyone else? He also thinks they’re doing just fine by themselves and don’t need official recognition or protection. He actually thinks recognition would be bad for them (but I never got to the bottom as to why). Obviously, he doesn’t think one should be turned into a type specimen. Most important to me, he does not think they’re “human.”

Regarding how their population is doing, he may be right. Or, he may be wrong. We just can’t say (and I don’t think we should take their population’s health for granted). On pretty much every other thing mentioned above, I’m on the opposite side of the fence (including his take on the Jacobs Photos and the Oklahoma Prairie Photos, for what that’s worth). 

But our conversation never became contentious. Quite the opposite. We talked well past midnight and I would have happily stayed longer except I had to get to work in the morning. As my experiences have accumulated while looking for hairy bipeds in the woods, my appreciation of those who have had similar experiences has also increased. I really enjoyed picking his brain and comparing notes and speculating about things. And, of course, gossiping about the show and the weird world of bigfooting in general.

Our evening left me with three lingering thoughts. One, you should be a fan of Cliff even if you don’t like Finding Bigfoot and even if you don’t agree with all his positions. I am and I don’t. Two, life is generally better when we’re not dicks to one another and it’s so much harder to be a dick to someone when you’re sitting in front of them with a couple of beers between you. I recommend it. Three, I hope to be able to take him up on his invitation to spend time in the woods near his home, sooner rather than later. Sounds like a grand time. 

Regarding the fact that he had just shot a new FB in Minnesota and the rumor (discussed on our show) that FB has been cancelled, Cliff said those rumors were always overblown. While the show is renewed on a year-to-year basis and, as far as I know, hasn’t been renewed yet for a new season, it’s more popular now than it’s ever been.

Oh, and I learned there’s another Bigfoot Roadtrip in the works with Craig Flipy. If you haven’t seen the first one, you should check it out. It’s a bucket of fun. 

 

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Posted in Miscellaneous sasquatchery

Minority report

Bigfoot isn’t very diverse. And when I say “diverse,” I mean racially. And no, I’m not writing about various ethnicities within the population of bigfoot.

Cliff Barackman attending to his adoring public

Cliff Barackman attending to his adoring (all-white) public

I’ve heard it remarked on more than one occasion that, “black people never see bigfoot.” And, anecdotally, that seems pretty true. I can’t recall ever meeting an African American interested in bigfoot. Or, come to think of it, someone of Asian descent. I know a few Hispanics who are into it. (And, off course, now that I’ve written and published these words, I’ll remember some guy who is either black or Asian…or both.)

In a New Republic article I just found yesterday (though it was written last September), we have a probable explanation:

The Outdoor Industry Associationthe top outdoor-recreation lobby in America (and based in Boulder, naturally)insists that outdoor enthusiasts “are all genders, ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities and income levels,” but research by their own nonprofit organization, The Outdoor Foundation, shows underwhelming diversity. Its 2013 outdoor participation report notes that last year, 70 percent of participants were white. “As minority groups make up a larger share of the population and are predicted to become the majority by 2040, engaging diverse populations in outdoor recreation has never been more critical,” the report reads. “Unfortunately, minorities still lag behind in outdoor participation.”

In a front-page story today, The New York Times details these very problems facing the National Park Serviceonly one in five visitors to NPS sites are nonwhite, according to a 2011 study cited in the articleand the “multipronged effort to turn the Park Service’s demographic battleship around.” Clumsy metaphors aside, the article does a respectable job at detailing the various effortsnamely outreach, all-expenses-paid trips, and creating more national monuments recognizing minority figures in U.S. historyto increase minority participation.

The article posits that minorities tend not to go into the woods to camp and hike for several reasons:

  • They tend to live in more urban areas and don’t have easy access to forests, either as young people or adults
  • The hobby can be expensive and they under-index in average income
  • Culturally, sleeping on the ground in a tent could be viewed as “going backward” among those focused on upward mobility

This seems to me very similar to the hypothesis that the majority of bigfoot enthusiasts seem to be politically conservative because they over-index among those who live in rural environments and spend time in the woods either working or hunting. Minorities are likely underrepresented because they don’t generally get out into the forests and wild places of our country.

This seems logical. If you aren’t in the woods, for whatever reason, you’re unlikely to appreciate them, have experiences there, or even express much interest in things that happen in them. If you are and do and have, then the opposite result would be expected.

Is this a problem that needs to be addressed? I dunno. Seems above my pay grade. But if the National Park Service is successful in getting minorities into our forests over time, then I’d expect their representative percentage of bigfoot enthusiasts to increase accordingly. And all of us have reasons to make as many people as possible more appreciative of what’s left of our wilderness. 

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Posted in Miscellaneous sasquatchery

O, the humanity!

Watch this:

The bear appears to rescue the raven from an ice-cold death in frigid water (the video says it’s a crow, but it looks like a raven to me — according to the Budapest Zoo’s website, the bear’s a Syrian brown bear). What’s going on here? Is the bear demonstrating compassion? You’d think the bear would look at the hapless raven as an easy hot meal, but instead it seems to take pity on the bird (even after getting pecked in the snout as a reward for fishing it out of the drink). The first comment on this video is, “One of the most beautiful videos I have ever seen, is this how ‘humanity’ should be?” And it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment.

The bear appears to do something we don’t normally associate with animals. If it’s showing compassion then that means it’s able to feel empathy for the bird and its condition and, without any obvious benefit to itself, is willing to go out of its way to help. Is this “humanity?” No, of course not. It is empathy and compassion, but it’s not humanity. It’s a trait found in humans (at least the good ones), but it’s not the thing that defines us.

I bring this up because I see a lot of people interested in the bigfoot/wood ape phenomenon who want them to be human (or almost human). They draw conclusions based on presumed behavior that, to them, displays humanity. But they, like the bear, don’t have any of the concrete things that set us apart from other animals: Technology, religion, art, writing, etc.

Compassionate bears are compassionate, not human. Bigfoot who walk on two legs are waking on two legs, not human. Ravens who fall into icy-cold water are just clumsy.

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Posted in Miscellaneous sasquatchery

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