The perils of youtube
As the hours go on and the footnote count rises, my aesthetic standards tend to crumble, and I succumb to simple nostalgia. Who'll know, at this hour, if I turn the sound down a little and revisit The Beastie Boys doing 'She's On It' in 1986, or that guy with the funny name doing 'Axel F' on the '80s Eddie Murphy film? And what was really so bad about 'Born in the USA', anyway? It sounded good when I was twelve, didn't it? Gaddamit, I've got a right to revisit cheesey '80s music - we're talking about my cultural heritage here!
My big mistake has been to succumb to the desire to revisit another part of my '80s cultural heritage - Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World. When I was twelve I was transfixed by Clarke's marvellously unexcited investigations into exciting semi-imaginary things like Bigfoot, Nessie, and UFOs.
At two o'clock in the morning, with one hundred and fifty footnotes to go and a supevisor waiting impatiently for that final draft, I was once again transfixed. And you can't listen to stuff like this:
That's 'Patty', the sasquatch a couple of dodgy Yanks caught on film way back in 1967. Clarke made the gal a star of his doco series, and when I was twelve I engaged in passionate arguments about her existence with family and schoolmates. Now I feel strangely ambivalent about the subject. On the one hand, I find the notion that a massive bipedal ape is roaming around North America almost too ridiculous to consider. Where did the critters come from, given that the Americas have no indigenous species of ape? How could they possibly evade capture? Why hasn't some redneck hunter ever ended up with a sasquatch rug on his cabin floor? Isn't it obvious that the 1967 film must be a hoax?
At the risk of inviting ridicule, though, I want to suggest that there are some aspects of the clip of Patty which are quite difficult to explain. Consider the length of Patty's arms relative to the length of her legs. Consider the muscle movement which can be observed in one of her legs:
Consider also the fact that decades of attempts by sceptics to recreate the 'hoax' have yielded embarrassing results. Here's a recent BBC effort:
Alright, I know what you're thinking: why should the BBC be able to do special effects? Haven't decades of Dr Who episodes shown us their limitations? All the same, one would expect the Beeb in the noughties to have a better chance at creating a convincing hoax than a couple of broke good ol' boys in the late '60s.
At this point, I'd like to ask all you highbrow literary types scoffing at the pedantry of cryptozoologists to take a look at this clip of a rare beast of modern American letters being analysed by a truly obsessive fan:
With guys like that on his trail it's no wonder Thomas Pynchon prefers to avoid the limelight. Here's a much better tribute to Pynchon, which puts a series of images from Gravity's Rainbow to the music of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, the world's first psychedelic band. Listen to that electric jug rockin' out behind the young Roky Erikson's spiralling voice:
OK, a couple of footnotes to go...