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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, March 16, 2010

Joseph and his technicolour dreamtoad, and other friends.

The following appeared in the Daily Express....

'A TECHNICOLOR frog has been found Down Under - 30 years after it was thought to have become extinct. The yellow-spotted tree frogs - all 100 of them - were found in New South Wales, proof that there is life after death.

'ONE of my favourite animals has been given a lifeline by British taxpayers. The Mountain Chicken - a giant frog which barks like a dog and raises its tadpoles - has won a grant from Britain's Darwin Initiative. I held one in the rainforest on the Caribbean island of Montserrat as a volcano erupted. The frog's skin secretes a chemical that burns any cuts on your skin, an incredible creature.'

Liz's Note: I don't know who the writer of this piece was but he knows how to live, if not how to punctuate his sentences....

FROM THE ENTOMOLOGICAL LIVESTOCK GROUP NEWSLETTER: Early UK Butterflies

AT LAST ! I couldn't believe my eyes yesterday morning - I glanced out of the window and there flying down our road was a male brimstone! (2nd March).

I couldn't believe it after all of the cold weather and snow we have had! It was sunny yesterday but still very chilly. I think this matches my previous record of the first year sighting of 2008 and it certainly made my day!

Keith Jefferies.



Dear Ed, Saw a Red Admiral in pristine condition sunning itself on ivy in the Grange in Leominster on Monday the 8th. of March. Surely not an immigrant! Leslie Wiles.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

Happy St Patrick’s day, especially if you are actually Irish and have a legitimate reason for participating in the internationally recognised Guinness marketing and green-plastic-hat-wearing day. (Me? Cynical about how a national day of celebration has been stolen by multi-national corporations in an excuse to sell their products? Why, what could possibly give you that idea….)

And now, the news:

Florida on guard against giant snails

Five bitten in spate of spider bites

HDTV reveals brainy octopus has no personality

Insect that fights Japanese knotweed to be released

Hmm, I’ve seen similar solutions where the introduced species becomes an even greater problem than what it was meant to be combating, swallowing a spider to catch a fly is ‘knot’ a good idea.

Dinosaurs of Poland

Richard Freeman writes...

Miroslav Fišmeister, a friend of mine from Czechoslovakia, recently sent me some information on dinosaur-like entities encountered in 19th-century Poland. I have never heard of these creatures before and I think this is the first time the account has seen the light of day in English.


Here are the Rabki dragons. I'll have a look into books of legends from here as soon as I can.

ARNOŠT VAŠÍČEK

Planeta záhad, I. díl: Tajemná minulost, Baronet, Praha, 1998, ISBN 80-7214-157-0

I. Nestvůry z temnot dávnověku

Příliš mnoho důkazů (str. 28 a 29)

Planet of Mysteries, Volume I: Enigmatic past, Baronet, Prague, 1998, ISBN 80-7214-157-0


I. Monsters from the darks of antiquity


'One of the latest reports of the presence of unknown animals comes from Poland. In the area of Novosady dolina between the promontory of Beskids and Gorce a pack of strange aggressors used to trouble the shepherds since time immemorial. They were roughly the size of a human, they looked like lizards and they were bipedal. Usually, albeit very seldom, they were seen in the forests on the hillsides which are full of many caves. They hunted the stray kettle or sheep on the little guarded remote pastures. As for wolves which were among the most feared animals of those areas, the could easily kill them. One priest from Rabki owned a fur of a giant wolf which, together with his female partner, was unwilling to give up his prey – a stray lamb. The pair of wolves had their throats bitten through and it was apparent that they faced a most powerful opponent.


'A human was attacked only once by the mysterious monsters. One shepherd wanted to protect his herd and was knocked down and terribly bitten by one of the lizards. The existence of an unknown animal is confirmed by records from a local monastery and village chronicles record the testimonies of eye-witnesses. As it seems, the herd was getting smaller and smaller as time went by, until only solitary specimens remained. The last time the lizard was seen was in 1897.


'The info on the dragons of Rabki was being collected by a well-known researcher Mieczyslaw Wojcieszyn at the end of the 1920s. Some of the witnesses tried to draw the animal. They were simple highlanders. None of them read books or even newspapers, let alone knowing anything about paleontology. Despite that, they all made similar pictures of creatures which looked like carnivorous dinosaurs. Their survival into modern times, if we admit that the reports are true, was enabled by the special microclimate conditions of the area. The lizards are said to have been inhabitants of caves and holes dug near the hot springs. They survived the cruel winters, probably in the same way as some other animals, by hibernating. That is, they were only observed since spring to autumn, and their tracks were never seen in the snow.'

FILM REVIEW (Oll Lewis) Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

OLL LEWIS'S FILM REVIEW: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland

Last Friday evening I was wasting time on Facebook when I noticed some exciting news on the Tron Legacy fanpage. A new and exclusive trailer for the film would be played in three glorious dimensions in cinemas before Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film.

Being already pathetically and childishly excited about the forthcoming sequel to one of my favourite films of all time I obviously would have to see this new trailer as soon as possible, so I made plans to get up at stupid o’clock the next day so I could feed all the animals before catching a bus for the lunchtime showing of the film. However, in their ‘wisdom’ the local cinema decided that rather than seeing the new and exclusive trailer for one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the last 10 years people would much rather see an outdated trailer for Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. I fully intend to write a letter not only to my local MP but also to the Queen about this, so great is my disappointment! But anyway, Tim Burton films are usually pretty fun to watch so my money would not be wasted, I thought.



How wrong I was.


I had been in two minds about seeing Alice in Wonderland before I was whipped into a light cycle-related frenzy because alarm bells had already been rung when I had found out that far from being a true adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland this would be an ‘original’ story set several years on. What transpired before my eyes was badly written fan-fiction that bore very little resemblance to Lewis Carroll’s stories. The plot is very much event- rather than character-driven, it feels as though some Disney executive decided that there should be a film where a Jabberwocky gets killed in the most anti-climactic way possible for no good reason, then came up with the idea of shoehorning a few more of Lewis Carroll’s creations into the film just in case the Jabberwocky didn’t get enough bums on seats.

The world of wonderland is poorly realised by Burton too; the English whimsy of the place has been lost, replaced by zanyness perhaps best typified by the Mad Hatter's cringe-worthy and anachronistic break-dancing near the end. Zanyness has its place in films and can be entertaining if used correctly, like in The Mask, but Alice in Wonderland is not that place and it just goes to show how poorly Burton and the scriptwriters understood the work they were trying to adapt. The only time I have seen a film miss the point more than this was when I saw a low-budget animated film of Titanic, released to cash in on Cameron’s Titanic film, that contained a song and dance number by a ‘gangsta’ rapping dog about it being ‘Party Time’ not long before the iceberg hit and hundreds of people drowned.

(No, honestly, I didn’t make that up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxHNztg0X3s ).


The characters are pancake-flat and impossible to care about as a result, and in some cases, like the dodo, are literally forgotten about halfway through the film. Some of the casting, however, was rather good. Barbara Windsor makes a good dormouse, Stephen Fry a ‘purr’-fect Cheshire cat and Matt Lucus was born to play the rather underused Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Good casting like that does highlight the bad casting decisions like Depp and HBC. Depp is a good actor but he can’t play true madness very well. You get the impression that he is not playing the Mad Hatter but rather Captain Jack Sparrow in disguise and without the charisma; in some scenes it’s almost as if he is straining at the leash not to say “Savvy?” or “Where’s the rum?”

Another problem I have with Depp’s performance is that whenever he wants to sound really mad/whacky he puts on a Scottish accent. Now, I know quite a few Scots and most of them are quite sane. I find this playing to untrue stereotypes quite lazy on Depp’s part and it shows he is either out of his depth in this part or honestly couldn’t give two figs about this role. HBC is another permanent fixture in Burton’s movies and is also badly cast as the Red Queen. I got the impression that almost every scene she was it was some kind of in-joke between her and Burton that the rest of us were not privy to and she was not particularly convincing in the role.


The visual effects of the film are a mixed bag. Some, like the Cheshire cat and Tweedledum and Tweedledee, are rather convincing and impossible to fault but others, like the red queen’s unconvincing over-sized head and the really unimpressive 3D, are lamentable. The lack-lustre 3D was in part due to the movie having been filmed in 2D and later converted into 3D in post-production. This was not Burton’s fault but rather that of the executives who thought that this would be a cheap way round the cost of renting 3D cameras. The trouble is this leaves things looking a bit flat. Upon hearing this, James Cameron, who had just finished filming Avatar, said "It doesn't make any sense to shoot in 2-D and convert to 3-D" and being a stereoscopic nerd myself, I agree with him.

Burton has used this method before for converting The Nightmare Before Christmas into 3D and as the film had been made before the resurgence of 3D brought about by IMEX cinemas and the shedload of money generated by the 3D version of The Polar Express for that film it was perfectly justifiable. However, if you run a 2D live-action film through the same process the effect on viewing is comparable to say watching the colourised version of a black and white film. For example, if you watch the colourised version of Laurel and Hardy’s Way Out West you enjoy it well enough but you are left with a sort of nagging feeling that something isn’t quite well with Stan and Ollie.


I could probably go on to write pages on what was wrong with Burton’s Alice in Wonderland including how Alice and the Mad Hatter become best of friends automatically to the extent where she risks her life to save him from the Red Queen about a day after meeting him, or how Burton clearly mistook the Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass for the Queen of Hearts in ‘Wonderland’ to the extent where rather than using chess pieces for her army, she uses cards and has somewhat of a decapitation fetish. Overall, the film doesn’t really work and even though I was able to suspend my sense of disbelief for the Wonderland (or ‘Underland’ as it’s called in Burton’s fanfic) scenes the ending in the real world seems rushed, lazy and senseless.

Perhaps it will be enough to entertain young children who care a lot less about plot than they do about something looking colourful and probably won’t pick up on the liberties Burton took with the source material, but as far as an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland goes, you’d be better off steering clear.

Rating: 2/10

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today

On this day in 1912 Captain Oats left the tent he was staying in during the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole with the words, “I’m going for a short walk, I may be some time…”

And now, the news:

St Paddy's Day Irish Setters in Tokyo

Silky Skills

Revealed: £1m bill to banish egg-stealing hedgehog...

Thai Elephant Day

Locals there held a race to celebrate elephant day last year; it was won by a ‘Thai’.