Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The curious tale of the bare bears

This week I've been pondering several topics. Firstly, why is it, dear reader, that we no longer seem to get quite so many spectacular new photos of things like UFOs, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster ... despite the fact that almost everyone now has a decent camera on their phone or owns a digital camera or camcorder? The arrival of affordable camera technology should surely have led to a plethora of new sightings? But it hasn't has it? Odd that.

I used to watch programmes like The Mysterious Word of Arthur C Clarke through skeptical eyes because most of the 'unexplained' items featured - even to a modestly intelligent person like me - were so obviously complete arse-gravy. While I'm more than happy to believe that the universe is teeming with life - it would be far more extraordinary if we were its sole inhabitants - the reality of time and distance precludes the reality of little grey men flying all the way here just to buzz some hick farmer in Pigsknuckle, Arkansas and stick technology up his bottom. And even if they did somehow break the speed of light barrier and sort out the whole time-dilation/relativity thing, they wouldn't be little grey men. The fact that we look like we do is the culmination of an almost infinite number of tiny genetic mutations over four billion years. As discussed in previous blogs (here and here just for starters), we cannot possibly predict what they'd look like. I'm sorry people but UFOs are just that - unidentified flying objects. But the fact that we cannot readily identify them doesn't automatically mean that they're spaceships.

Nessie seems to have been laid to rest this year too. Back in April, the BBC arranged for satellite navigation technology to aim 600 separate sonar beams through Loch Ness in an effort to find the Scottish beastie. Not one part of the loch was missed ... but Nessie was. The research team hoped their instruments would pick up the air in Nessie’s lungs as it reflected a distorted signal back to the sonar sensors. The only signal they got was from their test buoy moored several metres below the surface. 'We went from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom on this one, we have covered everything in this loch and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch,' said Ian Florence, one of the specialists who carried out the survey for the BBC. Oh dear.

Bigfoot is the one chap who might possibly have some chance of being real. Sightings are scattered but numerous. It still seems strange though that in 2009, when I can use Google Earth or Streetview to see what flowers people have in their gardens, that there is still no good photographic evidence for tribes of enormous apemen. Mind you, Brian Blessed has pledged to find him so maybe Bigfoot is hiding deep in a cave system somewhere with Bin Laden.

I have also been pondering the strange world of cartoon nudity. Have you ever noticed how many animated characters are semi-naked? No, nor had I. But once I did, it all became very odd indeed.

Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie is traditionally held up as the granddaddy of modern animation. Made in 1928, it wasn't the first ever cartoon (it was Mickey Mouse's third for a start) ... but it was the first with a fully realised plot and synchronised sound. The star, as you can see, was partially clothed. I've often wondered why. Was it the prudishness of the 'Roaring' Twenties that insisted on Mickey covering his genitals? Was it because, by anthropomorphising their stars, Disney felt that they should share the same views on public nudity as people? If so ... why does Donald Duck only wear a hat and sailor smock but no trousers? Ironically, the duck is one of the few species of bird that actually has a functional and visible penis (in fact the Argentine Blue Bill has the longest penis of any vertebrate in relation to body size. True. Read this.)

Disney usually clothed its animal characters but Warner Brothers was quite happy to have Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety-Pie running around in the nip. Porky Pig occasionally wears clothes but, again, he is usually naked from the waist down. Sense a theme developing here? Now look at Hanna Barbera's output. Yogi Bear wears a hat, collar and tie but no trousers (and, bizarrely, no shirt). Huckleberry Hound dresses similarly except it's a bow-tie. Pixie and Dixie and Mr Jinx the cat wear bow-ties and waistcoats but that's all. Snagglepuss even went so far as to wear the cuffs and collars of a non-existent shirt ... but still no trousers. What I don't get is why, if you're going to bother clothing a character at all, why only cover the non-naughty parts? Even Paddington Bear and the Clangers wander around with their arses out. It's all very strange.

Or maybe it's just me.


Andrew Kerr said...

Why did Donald Duck, after a shower, place towel round his waist but was more than happy to go around the rest of time with no trousers.

Stevyn Colgan said...

Hmmm ... and as someone pointed out to me on Twitter, how come baby mice and woodpecker chicks in 'Tom and Jerry' wear nappies but ducklings, kittens and puppies don't? Are they more continent?

What is a baby mouse called? Is it like a rabbit - a kitten?

Anonymous said...


never met you before. a SKYWHALES facebook thread pushed me here.


yeah, read all those fringe books too as a kid from 1970-80.

kinda sad that as age hit, the magic and wonder of those x- creatures and ideas became replaced with the actual knowledge of the folks that wrote and sell those books...

but then again, the actual folks who created and wrote those half naked animal cartoons, and their ethics, give me some relief.:)


Stevyn Colgan said...


Pleasure to meet you.