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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

RECORDS OF THE YEAR

Well it's that time of the year again; the time of year when everyone makes seasonal lists, and the best that I can do is my favourite albums of the year. Guaranteed to annoy Nick Redfern (who doesn't like ow't but noise `77esque punk), and my Wife and younger stepdaughter (who are metalheads of various types), or Graham (if is isn't Hawkwind or Rupie Edwards it doesn't count) or Gothboy, my tastes have their closest neighbour in the intended of my elder stepdaughter, who has startlingly similar tastes to me.

1 Brian Wilson That Lucky Old Sun

This - with no arguments is my album of the year. It is so much better than it has any right to be, and disproves all the arguments that the poor old bugger is being manipulated by The Wondermints. Ofcourse he's mad. I'm mad, you're mad, we're all mad....but the spirit that wrote
Heros and Villains is still alive and kicking. Roll on the next one.

2 Brett Anderson Wilderness

Last year's debut was lush and glorious and was my record of the year. This year's model is stripped down and intimate, sounding like Brett is just sitting around your living room with a cellist and a piano player. There are even microphone pops and studio chattery things. Still magnificent, though possibly not quite as good as the debut

3 British Sea Power Do You Like Rock Music?

Fantastic band which get better and better with each succesive album as they plough their own initable furrow. This is possibly slightly less conventional than their second album, but still absolutely magnificent. Songs about floods and great skuas. How can you miss them?

4 Al Stewart Sparks of Ancient Light

Just what one expected but no less the entertaining for that. Al has produced just another Al Stewart album, but so what? If you like what he does, and I do... It is wonderful. There isn't a duff track on there, and although there isn't anything quite as good as Royal Courtship from his last album, or The Night that the band had the Wine from Down in the Cellar, who cares? Masterful

5 Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip Angles

Nope, Thou shalt always kill was not a one off. This record can't make up its mind whether its perpetrators are a novelty act or the 21st Century analogue of one of the 60s beat poets, and is all the better for it. I for one can't wait to see what happens next.

6 Dengue Fever Venus on Earth

Psychedelically twinged Cambodian rock/pop music with weird twiddly bits. The previous album Escape from Dragon was perhaps slightly better, but this is masterful. Great fun for all the family (especially the stoned ones)

7 The Last Shadow Puppets The Age of the Understatement

I am mildly embarrassed putting this up as one of my favourite albums, because so has every other reviewer on the planet. However I don't care if it is a side project of whathisname from the Arctic Monkeys because I have never been impressed by them. However this has the vibe of some of the lesser songs from Scott 2 and is well worth a listen if in retro mode...

8 Goldfrapp 7th Tree

Electrovixen goes folky! So read all the reviews backalong when the album first came out. They missed the point. Goldfrapp's songs have always had a traditional folky structure, which is probably why I like them. This is good, tho perhaps not quite as good as everyone (including the band) like to think.

9 Laura Marling Alas I cannot Swim

These are the days of the sassy and intelligent female singer-songwriter, and Laura Marling is perhaps the best of the bunch. Highly recommended if you like that sort of thing, and in certain moods I do.

10 Bon Iver For Emma forever Ago

Everyone and his dog has lauded this album as a masterpeice, and I have to admit that I didn't get it at all. Then I listened to it one cold winter's day when I was feeling sorry for myself and found it a perfect soundtrack. It is too resolutely lo-fi for my tastes, but it does press the right buttons.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

OVER TO RICHARD FREEMAN FOR A BRIEF SEASONAL PLUG-OH

OCCASIONAL MONSTERS 2008 Donside Pictures
Directed by and written by Sam Addison and Michael Cox

The other day, quite out of the blue a DVD landed on the CFZ’s doormat.’ Occasional Monsters’ is a full length, and very low budget film about two inept monster hunters from darkest Aberdeen. I’ve always been quite a fan of films like this. As a lad I was a member of a film club and enjoyed watching hand made films that were sent in by viewers to programmes such as Screentest. Despite lack of funds, such films are unrestricted by studio pressures and can be a breath of fresh air after the painting by numbers junk Hollywood churns out.

Jon and I sat and watched Occasional Monsters and we both laughed like drains on account of both the humour and the fact we recognized real life analogues of all the characters.

The story revolves around an unseen film crew that are making a documentary about two monster hunters Wolfgang Markus (a huge gun wielding psychopath with a hatred of cats, no it’s not me, I don’t have a gun) and Duane Craig (bespectacled nerd). The pair’s nerve centre is a run down flat peppered with CFZ books and a world map of monster sightings. Imagine Blair Witch Project crossed with The League of Gentlemen and you will get an idea of what this film is all about.

At one point, acting on a tip off that a werewolf is lurking down by the river, the duo tranquillise a hairy, humanoid under a bridge and transport it back to the flat only to find out they have captured a tramp.

They also attempt to turn their hobby into a business by visiting a business seminar. The only other attendee is interested in manufacturing cardboard (he has some cardboard and can get more cardboard but he doesn’t know how to make cardboard). Our heroes start distributing badly-drawn leaflets offering their services as monster hunters and are eventually asked back to the house of the man who was running the business seminar. He claims to be a werewolf and after the guys ask for proof he brings out a dossier of his reign of terror clipped from local papers. These include things like ‘POLICE INVESTIGATE ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR’ and ‘LOCAL SCHOOL VANDALIZED’.

As it turns out, he really is a werewolf, and later when Wolfgang tries to sell his skeleton to the museum he gets into a heated debate with the curator about the existence or otherwise of matamata turtles.

Whilst investigating reports of a report of a panther from Duane’s girlfriend’s aunt Wolfgang wastes her pet cat with a heavy-duty machine gun.

The other hero of the story is the unbalanced van driver Ben who talks in inarticulate mumbles, has unexplained cadavers in the back of his van, claims to be a ‘specialist’ and is prone to fits of violent madness with hammers and pick-axes.

Some of this is frightengly close to stuff that has happened at the CFZ over the years!

Occasional Monsters shows what can be achieved on a tiny budget and restricted time (it is 83 minuets long but was filmed in one week). The film as the feel of a pilot for a series. I hope this comes to fruition because Wolfgang and Duane are such great characters and are funnier than anything in any new sitcom for years. These guys really need some airtime.

Occasional Monsters is available for £9 from Donside Picture’s website at http://www.donsidepictures.co.uk/shop.html Unmissable 10/10

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sad News - CFZ Supporter and donor is dead

Our friend and colleague Tim Matthews has asked us to distribute this news item:

ERIC MORRIS - CFZ SUPPORTER AND DONOR PASSES AWAY

Please send the following out to those who you think might be interested."It is with great sadness that I must tell you about the death last week of Eric Morris, who many of you will know as a prominent Ufologist on the scene over the last 25 years.

Eric died in Gibraltar last week and was discovered by his wife, Linda. Initial reports suggest a ruptured spleen as the cause of death. Eric Morris was a colourful figure on Britain's UFO scene and first began his involvement with the quest back in the 1970s whilst serving in the Royal Navy (he joined in 1970).

Eric served as a combat medic in the Falkland Islands conflict of 1982 tending the injured on board ship as well as in the field. After 15 years service he left to follow a long career in nursing, a profession he enjoyed and which he continued to follow after leaving England for Gibraltar in early 2008. Not content to work the long hours his chosen profession required, he studied hard, and was awarded a specialist Nursing Degree in 2000. He worked as a Supervisor and Team Leader in a number of Cheshire hospitals and nursing homes as a result.

One of his passions was Ufology and he attended numerous events, appeared on TV programmes and wrote articles for a number of "X-Files" spin-off publications in the 1990s. I first met him in 1996 at the Staffordshire UFO Conference in Rugeley. At the time, his British UFO Studies Centre, run from Winsford then Northwich, was well-known on the scene and Eric knew all the major players. He would drive hundreds of miles to investigate a case. Initially, he focussed on claims of Close Encounters and "alien abductions" but became very skeptical about these in later years. We hit it off from the start and we regularly travelled to Conferences, meetings and events. Eric acted as a sort of "security man" for me on occasions, his boxing abilities being of use on more than one occasion in 1998-1999!

From the mid 1990s onwards Eric, myself and up to a dozen others regularly visited Wiltshire during the Summer to investigate crop circles and associated phenomena. In 1998, we staked out the UK Headquarters of the CDCN near RAF Rudloe Manor and subsequently located the government's new emergency bolt hole at a nearby quarry, much to the interest of Channel 4 news and the chagrin of their full-time reporters. Who said Ufological investigations can't be fun?!

In 2004 Eric appeared in a TV documentary made by Jon Lundberg titled "The Mythologist" that investigated his early dealings with Henry Azadehdel, aka Armen Victorian, whom he met on a number of occasions in the late 1980s. From 2000, I was lucky to work with Eric organising a number of small but successful Paranormal Conferences in Runcorn that raised hundreds of pounds for the Cat's Protection League. This was Eric's other main passion, evidenced by a houseful of rescue cats that ruled the roost!

This part of his life was little-known to UFO enthusiasts but he donated thousands to Cat's Protection over the years. Eric was a caring man, despite his somewhat brusque deportment and non-nonsense "in public" attitude. He was a very kind man and was always extremely generous with presents for my daughters Alexandra and Freya. With this in mind, Eric also nursed our good friend David Kelly, another BUFOSC member, at the time of his death from Cancer in 2000.

Similarly little known was Eric's passion for the music of Jimi Hendrix and The Who. He was a huge fan of Britain's 1960s trend-setting rock band and went to see them in concert every time they played within driving or flying distance! He was known to members of the band and the band's fan club and collected a great deal of rare merchandise and memorabilia over the years.More recently, whilst organising his long-planned emigration to Gibraltar, a place he came to know and love during his Navy days and which he visited on many occasions subsequently, Eric started to re-investigate some older UFO cases he'd been involved in including the Rendlesham Forest ferrago.

He came to some interesting conclusions about possible hoaxing in relation to this and it is to be hoped that we can recover this material for subsequent publication. Eric maintained his passion for Ufology until the end. He will be greatly missed by those of us who were privileged to know him. I understand that Eric's body will be flown from Gibraltar to Winsford where a funeral will be held as soon as arrangements have been made.

If you're interested in attending, please feel free to contact me as shown above or on 07515 151597.

Tim Matthews, December 13th 2008"

I would like to add, that although I never met Eric, he was immensely kind to me back in 1997/8 when Nigel Wright and I were researching and writing `The Rising of the Moon`, and he made small, but welcome donations to CFZ funds on a number of occasions between 199-2002. I would like to extend my personal condolences, those of my wife, and those of the Centre for Fortean Zoology to his family and friends.

Jon Downes

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ooooops

It seems that YouTube have replaced the old Director's Account with something called a Partner Account. Even nicer, it seems that the older Director Accounts like mine are not affected by the new rules. It also turns out that the old-style Director's Accounts were stopped purely because people were abusing them, and the terribly nice bloke on the forums who came to my aid, told me that the ten minute cut-off point was to stop people posting whole episodes of TV shows instead of bit-torrenting them like gentlemen.

And, the assumption that so many people in authority seem to make about the attentiuon spans of the current younger generation, apparently has nothing to do with it.

So I barged in, guns blazing, for nothing on this occasion, and I apologise.

However, the battles continue....................

YouTube a-go-go

This is the time of year when most people are looking forward to what is euphemistically described as the `festive season`, and spending the long winter nights in the pub, or watching chestnuts roasting on an imaginary fire.... or something like that.

However, I am back on my soap-box again. Whilst trying to upload the latest episode of On The Track - our monthly webTV show, I discovered to my shock that YouTube had changed the guidelines of how "Director's Accounts" operate. Now it seems that nobody can upload films longer than 10 minutes. I personally think that this is shocking.

It actually looks as if - due to a loophole - I will be able to have YouTube still hosting `On The Track`, and if not they will be posted on Google Video, but I think that this is a very disturbing trend, and so I joined the YouTube Users Forum http://help.youtube.com/group/youtube-help and posted the following message:

"Whilst being very grateful to YouTube for providing a free platform whereby film-makers like ourselves can broadcast to the world, we believe that the recent decision to change the terms of service for people like us with Director's Accounts was a bad idea.

We are the only organisation in the world who produce high quality original films about cryptozoology and allied disciplines. Some of our films have been very succesful indeed - `Lair of the Red Worm` which we released on YouTube last year has now been seen by over 45,000 people.

From a purely aesthetic point of view having to cut our films into ten minute segments just feels wrong, but we believe that there is a more important political issue at stake here. By only allowing films in short, bitesized chunks we believe that YouTube is perpetuating the fallacy that young people today are so stupid, and suffer from some social analogue of Attention Deficit Disorder that they can only watch things that are under ten minutes in length, otherwise they will get bored.

We believe this to be totally false - young people are as clever, and as dumb, as they have ever been, and should be given the chance to benefit from the information revolution, rather than be stifled by it.

Come on guys, reconsider..

Yours,

Jon Downes,
CFZtv


I don't usually ask for help on this blog, but I am going to start. If you agree with what I have written, please go and join the YouTube User's Forum, and add your weight to what I have said. Don't be rude, don't rant, just make your point in a calm and reasoned manner. Let's see if a little bit of democratic reason can change things back....

My original posting can be found:

HERE