Tying up the loose ends
Before this week gets old, and July is over, I must inform you that this is my last week blogging for True/Slant. Numerous other T/S’ers are saying their farewells these days.
Once the sale of T/S to Forbes went through, back in May, everyone here wondered what that meant. Ultimately, it means that some T/S’ers have been or might still be snagged for Forbes work, while others received a letter dated June 22 telling us that our services were no longer required 30 days hence, and I was one of those (Forbes wasn’t about to take on all of us, and all those “unique hits” count for something). Not long after that letter arrived, I learned through direct contact with T/S staff that blogging was to continue as “normal” until August 1, and so I shall.
Here we are now, July 27, Tuesday, a day that in the past I used as “Off-Topic Tuesday” to take a break from the outdoors-related interests I usually pursued to discuss other matters of relevance.
This Tuesday is time to tie up a few loose ends — topics I jumped on that intrigued me, and so far don’t appear to have any conclusion.
1. The Aussie Super Shark: In October of 2009, reports out of Australia described a dead 9-foot great white shark that had been bitten nearly in half by another “super” great white off Deadman’s Beach.
I has my suspicions that this photo in the Daily Telegraph on-line had been Photoshopped because of a strange discoloration along a nearly straight line at the shark’s gills. I thought perhaps a shark head had been grafted onto a smaller shark body. I was wrong, however, as other reports with better details made clear that a very big great white did, indeed, bite this smaller great white.
Any further reports of a “6-meter” monster are scant. While Aussie fishermen set out more drum lines to try to catch the huge fish, the big great white shark never made headlines again. Yet. . .
2. The 700-Pound House-Crashing Black Bear of Incline Village, NV: Last autumn and early winter, Big Bubba, a 700-pound black bear, continued his habit of smashing his way into garages, houses, and sheds in rural Incline Village, NV, looking for edibles as he fattened himself for the cold months (700 pounds is a lot of black bear, about top-end size for this species). One home-owner who encountered Bubba in his living room fired a .44 Magnum bullet at Bubba’s head, but the bear’s heavy skull absorbed the round. Bubba later broke into a church and ate a bunch of food meant for a charity, prompting the pastor to ask his congregation to pray for the bear’s departure.
No word of Bubba surfaced this spring, when I wondered if he might reappear, looking for more easy pickings. Did he head off for new territory, or did he fall to that old Western aphorism, “Shoot, shovel, shut up”?
3. The Naked Runner of Waxhaw NC: Almost a year ago, a report surfaced via FOX News in Charlotte, NC, and that was picked up by Runner’ s World on-line, about a naked night-time jogger in the small town of Waxhaw. A number of reports said witnesses claimed to see a woman, while others thought the naked jogger might have been a man. In any case, the subject was exercising nude.
No other stories about this individual have since appeared. Some of the original posts are still intact on some sites, while other links are dead. So, did this story report on an actual person looking to rile his or her town, or find a little midnight nudist freedom, or might the whole thing have been a hoax? Did the actual naked runner get a little freaked out by the attention from a few national media outfits and give the running shoes a rest, or did people simply stop looking?
I’m sure the weather in NC is warm enough for another midnight streak.
4. The Python Invasion of Florida: No mystery here — Florida’s Everglades and other swampy-woodsy sections are now the playground for Burmese pythons, African rock pythons, green anacondas, and Nile monitor lizards. These species got a foothold due, in part, to animals that escaped pet stores after Hurricane Andrew, while others are the progeny escapees or exotic pets that people released after the reptile became a tad too large for pleasant interaction with guests, children, and small dogs.
The questions here are: How large a population of these exotic species will arise; i.e., what is the environmental “carrying capacity”? How badly will they impact indigenous species? And, finally, how far north might they travel? As I once suggested, when monitors are lounging in the cherry trees of Washington, DC, then increasingly serious attention might be paid to this problem.
Truth be told, however, these reptiles are here to stay. We can keep their numbers in check, but that’s about it. They are now American animals. Their lesson is for our future ability to police more effectively against others.
5. Buying Ronald Reagan Gold Through the New York Times: Back during the winter Olympics I was reading a hockey story in the NY Times on-line when I saw — I swear — an advertisement for a Ronald Reagan gold medallion. I was clicking for the next page of the story, but my mind froze. Gipper Gold? I clicked back and the ad was gone.
Further research was fruitless, but I know what I saw. So, now you know what I want for Christmas — no, not the medallion itself, just proof that it exists and that the NY Times actually carried this digital ad. (The NY Times endorsed Carter in 1980.)
6. The Big Hairy: Did I go on a group expedition to upstate New York on a search for bigfoot last October? Yes. Did I hear strange sounds at night on more than one occasion while there? Yes. Do I know what made those sounds? No.
The trip was exceedingly interesting, however, and I met a group of very fine people from a number of walks of life and professions who were as intrigued as I by this phenomenon that, as I point out in my series of posts about this expedition, might ultimately say more about human beings than zoology. That is, whether this primate species exists or not, something very interesting has occurred in human nature in regard to this — people are either seeing something real and hugely amazing, or they’re seeing something that isn’t there, but many many different people claim consistently to see the same thing, and that is very interesting, too. A recent CNN story suggested a “need” to see such a creature as a “safe way of experiencing fear.”
In an interview with Loren Coleman that I wrote up on T/S, he pointed out that 80% of such sightings are misidentifications of known wildlife in which the viewer fills in the gaps with bigfoot-ish details, and roughly 1% of sightings are caused by hoaxes. It’s that 19% to 20% of eyewitness reports that Coleman says are interesting, original in detail, credible, and worth true scientific study using numerous state-of-the-art methods.
My main interest is in the deep intrigue of the story as a whole, and in the narrative nature of individual eyewitness accounts, an interest that began as a kid when I was stunned by the notion that a large, hairy hominid-type species might live beyond known science in North American and Asia. That fires the imagination of any five-year-old who is being primed for his reading of various American legends, Native-American tales, Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and then J.R.R. Tolkien.
So, sasquatch gets to be the biggest loose end. If they don’t exist, however, we’ve already invented them: