Overweening Generalist

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bigfoot: Impressions On Charles Fort's 139th Birthday

Bigfoot (Sasquatch, Yeti), has been included in the set of beings called Cryptids, and some cryptids have turned out to be "real." I have no idea if Bigfoot (about 1/3 of all "sightings" in the Pacific Northwest, the rest scattered all over the globe, except for Antarctica), "is" real, but, like Jane Goodall, I hope they're real. Around 10 years ago she told NPR's Ira Flatow she was "sure" Bigfeet were real; recently she admits there's no evidence, but still has hopes. (Video, bad sound, but skip ahead to 7:20)

In the last 24 months, Dr. Melba S. Ketchum of Texas, a veterinarian turned animal geneticist, has asserted she saw Bigfoot, obtained DNA that shows Bigfeet are a separate species that arose when males of some previous hominids (unnamed) had sex with female homo sapiens around 15,000 years ago, somewhere in or near Europe, then crossed the Bering Sea land bridge before the last Ice Age thawed ("they're very fast"), and are a sensitive, inquisitive but very shy species. And they need legal protection from Man.

                                                    Dr. Melba Ketchum

HERE's how Live Science reported on it.

One thing that struck me in following up this story: there is no end of articles from two groups on Ketchum: 1.) the True Believers, but even moreso; 2.) the sarcastic group Robert Anton Wilson called "fundamentalist materialists," or "skeptics," who knew her data must have been contaminated, or she was some nut, an attention hound, delusional, naive, a fraud out to cash in. I thought the Live Science article was fair. But HERE seems the fairest article I've seen, in my present state of ignorance.

Ketchum took her evidence to a forensic scientists, and note why Timmer sees this as a problem, a big one. Forensic scientists are very good at finding what they want to find, and presenting it in court. Also, I learned about how DNA breaks down over time. But the idea that Ketchum's team was coming up with human DNA that looks like it had coupled with something far more remote genetically from the Neanderthals and the Denisovans - primates we homo sapiens probably did/could have mated with...gave me pause. And yet Timmer thinks Ketchum's sincere in her beliefs that Bigfeet are human.

On the other hand, Bigfootologist Dr. Brian Sykes will release his study of DNA evidence collected from European sources in the Fall. So...Six or Eight weeks from now, we may get a Big New Wrinkle in the Bigfoot Story. Or maybe a wart or a zit...

                                              Charles Fort, proto-phenomenologist,
                                               surrealist, data-collector

A Procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
-Charles Fort, at the beginning of Ch.1 of his The Book of the Damned. A book that you may find works magick on your nervous system, simply by taking up and reading randomly: The Complete Books of Charles Fort: over 1100 pages of data he'd culled from newspapers or High Weirdness, and an overweening sense that the Scientists were too too enamored of, and blind to, the metaphors they were systematically sifting through to eliminate what Can't Be from What Is.

For (Robert Anton) Wilsonologists, it's indispensible, especially if you want to mine his stances on epistemology, his poetic humanism, his style in The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science, which seems fed heavily by Fort and Swift. (His epistemology was also, of course!, heavily influenced by quantum mechanics, Hume, Korzybski, Nietzsche, Husserlian phenomenology, the most current neuroscience in perception, and literary modernists. And Charles Fort! Etc.)

                                         Our Man in the Pacific Northwest

Vico's Bestioni
Noah's sons, according to Vico who died in 1744, neglected their dad's one true God after The Floodwaters receded. They then scattered and wandered "like brutes through the earth's great forest." Where did Ham go? Through Southern Asia, into Egypt and the rest of Africa. What about Japheth? Through Northern Asia, into Europe. Shem? Central Asia to the Near East. (Vico is writing in Naples, Italy.) It's nice that the brothers, while "brutes," could divide the known world up so strategically.

To be fair, once they went their separate ways, within this great Vast Forest, they were pushed further away from each other by "wild beasts which abounded." And in seeking pasture and water, they were further separated. Vico also tells us the brothers "pursued women who in that state were wild, timid and intractable." (These must have been women who survived The Flood and were just wandering around the Great Forest in packs. Those are the best kind, I've found. So I have something in common with Noah's brutish sons. I also dig the vast forests. What's left of 'em, anyway.)

Here's Vico, in the section of The New Science, on "Poetic Wisdom":

(It's after the Flood):

Since mothers abandoned their children, they grew up without hearing any human speech, or learning any human behavior, and sank to an utterly bestial and brutish state. In this case, mothers merely nursed their infants and let them wallow naked in their own feces, abandoning them forever once they were weaned. Wallowing in their feces (whose nitrous salts wonderfully enriched the soil), these children struggled to make their way through the great forest, now grown dense after the recent flood. And as their muscles expanded and contracted in this struggle, the children absorbed more and more nitrous salts. At the same time, these children lacked that fear of gods, fathers, and teachers which tempers the most exuberant phase of childhood. As a result, their flesh and bones must have grown inordinately large, and they became so vigorous and robust that they turned out to be giants.

...Vico then goes on to elaborate his theory of giants by citing Caesar, Tacitus, Procopius, Jean Chassagnon's treatise On Giants, archaeology (such as it was in Vico's 18th century), Greek and Latin myths...and he's sure most accounts are exaggerations! People tend to go on and on and let their poetic ingenium go wild. Let's be more sober-minded about giants. Clearly though, they interbred and covered the Earth. (I'm drawing from 369-371 from the Marsh translation.)

The Jews - Noah's clan - were taught cleanliness and fear of fathers and so they remained of normal stature.

Okay: so, for Vico, after the Flood, Noah's sons forgot all about the Jewishness, caroused about the Forests of the Earth, shitting everywhere, fucking any Wild Women they could find, and behaving like Freshmen from State on Summer Break, for a long, long time. They were, after all, hopped up and fortified by nitrous salts from all the shit in the soil, which, we all know, makes you huge like Andre the Giant. Or Lou Ferrigno. (Or Barry Bonds?)

The "poetic wisdom" here, as I glean it, not being descended from Jews myself, is this: I am descended from Bigfeet. It's a long story and Vico and tell you a lot more about it - or ask me about my ancestors, according to Vico! -  but right now I'm hungry for something nitrous, a timid and intractable woman, and maybe a Pop-Tart and some wrestling on the telly.

So: The Bigfoot Q: I don't know. Let's see what Prof. Sykes comes up with?


Eric Wagner said...

Terrific piece. I remember Bob Wilson said he originally tried to write The New Inquisition with using Fort as source, but eventually he gave in and used Fort's books.

Eric Wagner said...

Oops, I meant "without using Fort as a source."

michael said...

I think it makes it stronger, stranger, weirder book that he uses Fort's style so effectively. The rhetoric in that book employs an alienation technique that I think has been overlooked by most commenters.

The Amazon link to The New Inq that I have here still shows the same cover art for the one I own. Why hasn't The Real One True Tue-iest New Falcon employed Bobby Campbell for a new cover? (Or did I miss it?)

Eric Wagner said...

I don't quite know what you mean by "an alienation technique."

Interestingly, two TV shows I like have characters who believe in bigfoot: How I Met Your Mother and The Newsroom.

michael said...

Any technique associated with wrenching the viewer/reader/listener out of their ordinary habits of perception. Picasso/Braque/Gris and their Cubism.

Eisenstein and Griffith's montages.

Brecht used the terms "defamiliarization" and "alienation," the most famous being busting the "wall" between audience and performers.

Similar ideas about these Modernist aesthetics have been applied by the Russian Formalists, George Sorel, TE Hulme, EzPound, and Kenneth Burke's "perspective by incongruity."

When one of RAW's friends in the Physics-Consciousness Research Group in Berkeley appended the term "guerrilla ontology" to his writings, I think this idea seemed cognate with all these others, even if the specific aims of each artist or group of artists was somewhat different. They all wanted to make people see things in some new way, or question what they thought they had known.

Sue Howard said...

Great piece. Reminded me of this: http://subgenius.wikia.com/wiki/Yeti

That use of term "alienation" new to me also - interesting.

michael said...

I felt pedantic when doing that little explication of "alienation technique" above, because you all knew that stuff well already, only under different names. It's practically sine qua non of the Modernist movement, or "20th century Western arts and letters."

I think the reason I used that term in the blogpost was I had recently re-read Brecht on his theory of what he called the "alienation" techniques, and their purposes.

I also thought it MIGHT be of use to someone if the collection of techniques to get the audience to see things in a new way had an earlier term in which to place subsequent techniques, if only for some sort of taxonomical purpose.

If we look at RAW talking about his influences and "model agnosticism" or "guerrilla ontology" he will name books, artists, antecedents, but it seems to me that each artist who seems to feature an alienation technique uses it in their own way, with their own flavor.

EX: Reading RAW does not feel like reading Garfinkel to me, but Garfinkel influenced him.

Similarly: Pound's interpretation of Fenollosa's interpretation of what Chinese ideograms were all about, and how Pound ended up using this as an alienation technique: it FEELS quite different reading Pound than reading Fenollosa, or Kung fu Tse.

I currently view satire as the oldest and maybe the most effective alienation technique.