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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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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Never underestimate the power of Human Stupidity

For some reason, it seems that whenever I put my head above the parapet, some idiot in the cryptozoological community seems to take delight in taking pot shots at me. I always thought that it was probably my fault, because Idon’t really make any great effort to hide my light under a bushel, and although I have been doing my best to foster good relations between everyone in the cryptozoological community for nearly twenty years now, I am afraid that I am not particularly well known for suffering fools gladly.

It is only recently, however, that I realised some very sad truisms about life in general, and the cryptozoological community in particular. I don’t know whether it is because so much of what we do is fundementally absurd, but the cryptozoological community, as well as attracting some of the finest people that I have ever known, also - sadly - attracts some of the most inane, superficial, and irritating.

Let me tell you the story of Jordan Warner.

I am very nearly fifty years old, and it is a sad trait of men of my age, that we tend to look down our noses at the younger generation. We complain about their taste in music, their clothes, their social mores, and their sexual habits, conveniently forgetting that it was only a few short decades ago that the generation now in their dotage said much the same thing about us.

However, in the last year or so I have met a string of young people, who have become involved with the CFZ, and far from being a gang of unpleasant little oiks they are some of the nicest, and most exceptional people that I have ever met. It gives me great pleasure to be able to help these kids who are at the start of their fortean journey through life, and - when I can - give a few words of guidance or advice, which they are sweet enough to accept without making me feel like a pointless old git.

A few months ago I was contacted by an American lad called Jordan. He was, or so he said, making a webTV series on cryptozoology. I made polite noises, but was convinced that I would never hear from him again. However, I was proved wrong when, a month or so later he posted a trailer for his new show, called `Cryptid Hunt`, and at Samhein (Hallowe’en to you, laddy), he posted the first installment. Well I have to say that I was really impressed. To produce an hour long show is no mean achievement, but to post an hour long show when you are fifteen, and presumably still at school, and furthermore a show which is done on a low budget and with relatively primitive equipment, but which still manages to get production values which are considerably better than films I was making well into my forties, let alone anything that I could have concieved at the age of fifteen..

So why, I have to ask, has this talented young lad been treated so badly by members of a cryptozoological community who really should know better. One pundit, who shall remain nameless, but whom I hope will feel jolly well ashamed of himself when he reads this article (which he surely well), greeted Jordan’s requests for help with sarcasm and derision.

On the YouTube community Jordan had an early champion in the person of a bloke with the handle of Methadone4Life. I, like him, went through drug problems earlier on in life, and whilst I dealt with my opiate addictions in another way, I have the greatest respect for anyone who is honest about their weaknesses and how they came to terms with them.

`Methadone4Life` has proselytised wildly on Jordan’s behalf, believing - as I do - that he is not only a talented young man who should be encouraged, but that he is a single minded, ambitious and driven young man, at an age when so many of his peers are obsessed with far less impressive pursuits than film-making and cryptozoology. `Methadone4Life`, like me, believes that this is laudable, and should be nurtured at all costs.

He went on to cryptozoology.com - one of the more well known cryptozoological websites, to post a news item that he had written about Jordan’s new show. He did this without Jordan’s knowledge, and when Jordan went on the same forums - as he had every right to do - a few days later, he was, as far as I can gather, booted off on suspicion of `spamming`.

Well, guys, let me tell you: 150 unsolicited e-mails trying to flog you viagra or softcore porno vids is spamming. Two, differently worded news postings about a webTV series which was completely on topic for the readers of that particular message board is not, by any stretch of the imagination, anything of the sort.

And then it got worse.

Whereas most of the people on cryptozoology.com were, quite rightly, supportive and complimentary about Jordan’s undeniably impressive achievement, others just belittled him, and were rude and unpleasant to the extent of being bullies. And bullying is one of the nastiest and most vile characteristics of human nature.

Then somebody, and as far as I know it wasn’t Jordan or Methadone4Life, and I know it wasn’t me, wrote an article on Jordan and the series for Wikipedia. Now, call me dumb (and I know that quite a lot of people do), but I would have thought that the simple fact that a young man of such tender years had written, filmed, and produced a multi-part webTV series that was of such quality to have attracted the attention of a seasoned cryptozoological professional like myself, was quite a significant and notable achievement. Certainly one worth including in an online encyclopaedia like Wikipedia.

But no.

21:25, 26 November 2008 Thehelpfulone (Talk | contribs) deleted "Cryptid hunt" ? (Speedy deleted per CSD A7, was an article about a real person, group of people, band, club, company, or web content that didn't assert the importance or significance of its subject. using Twinkle)

Well, `HelpfulOne` whoever the hell you are, congratulations. You have just sent out the message to a young man of relatively tender years who is already quite significantly upset after his online bullying experiences, that to make a multi-part webTV show at the age of 15 is not as notable an achievement is being a scatwhore - because, and you can look it up if you don’t believe me, there is a whole series of articles on this most morally dubious of subjects.

I am very proud of what we have achieved with the CFZ over the past two decades, but I am nearly fifty years old and in the mostb appaling ill health. I very much doubt whether I will still be alive in another twenty years, and this is a sobering prospect. Not because I am afraid of death - I am not. I am not actually looking forward to the process of dying, because it is usually either painful or undignified, or both, but I will cross that bridge (as we all must do) when I come to it.

No, I am worried because there is a disturbing paradigm amongst fortean organisations. With two notable exceptions - the SPR (founded 1888), and the Ghost Club (founded 1862), every other fortean organisation has not managed to survive the death of its founder by more than a few months.

I think that if this were to happen to the CFZ it would be a crying shame, because as well as continuing to push back the boundaries of human knowledge, we do something which I think is even more important. We enthuse a whole new generation of young people whose schools teach them how to pass exams and not a lot else, that knowledge for knowledge’s sake is a wonderful thing.

So watch out world. As we enter our fifteenth year of publication, our 50th book, our 50th issue of this magazine, and my 50th Birthday, the CFZ are launching a series of outreach projects. Some of them are educational in nature, others more political, but they all have the same aim: To help propogate the two most important facets of what we do. For we are the Centre for Fortean Zoology - there are two strands to what we do, although they often become intertwined.

Zoology is the study of the animals who share this planet with us. For 100 years from the mid 19th Century, Natural History was the most widespread hobby of people of all ages in the western world. Now it is almost forgotten in favour of television, video games and fast food. We aim to redress this.

Forteanism, although Fort himself hated the term, is a mindset which encourages people to test the intellectual boundaries which constrict us all. To dare to stand up and say `I don’t believe that`, and in an increasingly constricted and beaurocratic world that HAS to be a good thing.

In our own little way we are trying to change the world, and help forge a society where boys like Jordan are lauded and appreciated for their efforts, rather than bullied and ignored. Because boys like Jordan are the future, and without them the future looks very bleak indeed.