Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Book Review

Cryptozoology A To Z by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark. Another excellent book about cryptozoology, but this one isn't a good read from the library. It's a great read, yes, but it's the kind of book you want on your shelf at home to use as a reference. Better yet, this book is the perfect kind of publication that ought to be on the web, using the clickable interface to link articles and the ability to update frequently to full advantage.

As a "for instance", there was an entry about Dan Scott Taylor in the book that referred to a project to take a submarine into Loch Ness. I went to the website indicated, and did a Google search for "Nessa Project", only to learn that Taylor died in 2005 and never made it back to the Loch. The book was published in 1999. Other recent discoveries in cryptozoology also aren't in the book, but I've been following the whole field closely enough that I think I'm up-to-date with most of the latest finds. But I digress... this book would work great as a website. At the very least, a website for updates would be wonderfully useful.

My other complaint, if you can call it that, is the lack of pictures for some of the entries. There were lots of pictures, yes, but what the heck does a zeuglodon look like? The description doesn't bring any clear image to my mind.

On the plus side, there are LOTS of entries of creatures I'd never heard of. The entries were generally clear and precise, and in addition to cryptids, there were entries on the main personalities in the field of Cryptozoology. I came away from the book feeling like I knew a lot more about the topic than I did when I started, and that's what you really want from something like this anyway. I may have to get a copy to add to my own personal library sometime, and I can recommend this book to anyone who is interested in hidden animals. I also recommend it highly to young folk, as this kind of book could easily spark a lifelong interest in discovery. 4 starfish

On the same topic, I feel like I've been slowly developing more of a sense of what I believe and don't believe about Fortean subjects over the last few years. I've always felt that the best stance is an open-minded skepticism... where you allow that such things are possible but insist on proof. This is the attitude the members of TAPS have with their Ghost Hunters show (well, most of the members). While they, personally, believe in ghosts due to their own personal experiences, they also recognize that without scientific evidence there is no reason to expect other people to believe. They also have said, many times, that 90% of the things that people think are ghosts can be easily explained by other things (bad wiring, faulty plumbing). It's that 10% that defies easy answers that makes you sit back and say "Hmmmm". There seems to be a whole class of phenomena that fits into this category of "might be real, but proof is hard, if not impossible, to obtain".

The incident with the mouse clarified some of my thoughts on cryptids, at least. I've been living in this house for years now. This is the first time I've ever seen a mouse. In fact, it's the first time I ever even suspected we might have mice. In the same vein, the only reason I ever saw the possum was because we accidently trapped it in the crawlspace. If we hadn't trapped it, I never would have seen it, although there was evidence it was there. Same with the raccoons. I'm certain we have raccoons. I've seen something that might have been a raccoon outside late one night. I'm not completely certain that's what it was, but I think so (it might have been a member of the neighborhood catwatch, but if that's so it was HUGE for a housecat). If this one plot of land can hold countless squirrels and birds, raccoons and possums, and even mice... what's to say those vast unexplored forests just a little east of here don't have some unknown primate? And with sightings going back generations, from the first nations that lived here on to the white settlers right up to today, there's a lot more evidence that they do exist than that they don't.

This is not a Cryptid

I think that's what being Fortean is about. Accepting that there are things outside science, that science can't prove or disprove, but are real.