Monday, October 13, 2014
This week's guest Researcher is Caleb, age 5, of Pomona. He first became interested in the Idyll-Beast during a visit to our community last year, and since then his home has been of a hot bed of theoretical speculation. He contributed this image of a bi-colored Beast this weekend, shortly before he had an encounter and conversation with a similar animal. I am not sure if this sighting did anything to quench Caleb's insatiable curiosity, but in my experience, the more you learn, the more questions you have.
Caleb was especially interested in the Animal's paws. The photograph he had seen seemed to highlight the man-like quality of its "hands." This lead to a discussion of the virtues of opposable thumbs, and the many other animals that use (and abuse) them.
The other Old World Apes of course have them. But some New World Monkeys eschew the "Fancy Thumb" as an unnecessary and fadish modern inconvenience in favor of the good old-fashioned prehensile tail. The Panda has a sort of pseudo-thumb. If you ever shake hands with one check it out, but don't be too obvious about it. They are a little sensitive about this. Some African Rats have them.
My personal favorite is the Polydactyl House Cat. These innovative creatures often have opposable thumbs and pinkies among their six or more digits on each paw, doing the monkeys one better and allowing them to perform a number of complex tasks. Cats are generally quiet about this, knowing that if the secret gets out humans will find more high-tech ways to secure household foodstuffs, or even begin asking cats to help them with complex tasks like word-processing. Yawn.
There are a number of Marsupials including Possums that make use of the opposable thumb. And don't forget the Dinosaurs; both flying and earthbound members of this group were early adopters of the opposable thumb.
So the Idyll-Beast may be related to Man, or even a kind of Man, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. Many respectable animals are. The thumb, however, is no "great divide" between Humans and the other Beasts. In my experience, looking for such a divide is a bit of tail-chasing, and maybe just a wee bit vain, but not wholly without educational value. And as any cat will tell you, chasing your own tail can be a perfectible healthy and delightful pass-time
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Provenance: This came to me directly from the artist, 9 year old Stella. Being director of a cryptozoological museum, people just give me masterpieces like this. Thank you Stella. The medium is restaurant child’s menu and crayon.
Analytical Notes: I believe Stella had some help, that her mother drew the brisk black outlines of the three children, which Stella then deftly colored in. The other children are her friends Olivia (left) and Ethan. Olivia’s hair isn’t really longer, she just wants it to be longer. And what are friends for?
The crayon has picked up some of the texture of the placemat under it, and this gives the work a ringed under-pattern, like a tree’s growth, like an indian basket, like energy radiating out from the center right of the page.
The figure that occupies the right-most bottom corner you will all recognize. The stance, the fur, even perhaps a bit of Mona Lisa-like half smile, in profile. The Beast fortuitously occupies the space indicated by the eyes of the children, giving force and narrative to an otherwise casual, snapshot-like composition. A tree in the middle suggests the forest. It seems to be undecided as to wether it should be conical or round, pine or oak, but we do live in a mixed forest. The large red, energetically scrawled inverted v or dart shape could be Taquitz, a space craft of some type, or something unlikely, a leaping porpoise or seal. The two horizontal lines that touch its upper tip could be a horizon, or clouds.
The hair of the Beast and that of two girls is the same color, a rich golden brown. Ethan’s is black, or rather the artist has not added any hair to the outline, perhaps she finds Ethan’s hair unremarkable. I certainly observed it to be closely cropped. But the clearly the girls are completely covered by luxurious golden fur. It suggests kinship.
Context: About two hours after I acquired this work, the Children (and the adults with them) had a sighting, an encounter with an Idyll-Beast on North Circle Drive, just south of the Research Center Museum and Gift Shoppe. So the encounter was imagined before it happened. The family saw Idy when they were driving. The animal cooperated in a photo op and even allowed the children to comb it.
Leaving aside arguments of causality vs Jungian synchronicity, to a primitive mind this might seem prophetic, and our minds are still in many ways primitive. If the “dart” shape is a space ship that could also be a symbol for transcendence, and the Beast one of our lost sense of wholeness, of connectedness, that shadow of individuation and the industrial world system, that seeks healing in the mountains, in nature. It isn’t of course necessary to choose an interpretation for the red dart, but its energy, its dynamism takes the place of the sun we would expect in this genre. So abstraction or Tahquitz? I vote Tahquitz.
I am a cryptozoologist, not an art critic, and a musician, not a semiologist or iconographer. But life imitates art, and imitation is certainly one sincere kind of compliment, if not always flattering. Keep up the good work, little animals.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
This extract from last week's Town Crier includes images taken by staff photographer Jay Pentrack, documenting the startling encounter between Town Hall recreation kids and a surprise guest. The top image depicts the Idyll-Beast distributing Beaster Eggs, those brightly colored fur covered harbingers of spring, to the the assembled children.
The second image has been identified as Hannah Johnson displaying her portrait of the "guest." A critical examination of the image shows parallels between the artist and the image; the coloration, the hair, the rosy cheeks and bright smile are all eerily similar. Whether this is a coincidence, conscious artistic device, or an expression of the beast's message of relatedness, it invites a re-examination of the portraits posted below. Perhaps they are all self portraits. In any case the artists and the Idyll-Besat represent the best of our local charismatic mega-fauna.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Outreach is a crucial part of our mission at the Idyll-Beast Research Center. We are always pleased to present our work to the scientific community or to any one who will listen. It was my privilege to address the little researchers attending the Town Hall after-school recreation program last Monday. Spring break week was apparently full of excitement; Smokey the Bear, the Easter Bunny, a real Fire Truck, and a lecture from a cryptozoologist.
I gave a slide show presentation similar to the one I have given to a number of scientific groups. I also handed out a useful "Idyll-Beast Do's and Don't's" page, helping the children prepare for a safe encounter.
Young people are full of curiosity, and this crew was brimming with curiosity. My Q and A session was unfortunately interrupted by an urgent text message informing me that an Idyll-Beast had been spotted Down Town. I hurried out of the building leaving the children a little bewildered. The call turned out to a be a false alarm (Mike Pearson again.)
During my absence it seems that the Idyll-Beast took up where I left off. Within minutes of my departure Idy was passing out "Beaster Eggs," and, after asking permission from Wendy, offered the kids a snack. Presented with the choice of "crickets" or "ice-cream," most votes were for ice-cream, which was lucky as the bag full of crickets had a hole in it and was now empty.
Apparently photos from this episode have made their way into the Town Crier, and I will have to evaluate that evidence separately. Fortunately, children are natural artists, and this group really came through. The following portraits display not only the talent of our young people but the variety of ways in which we witness the incredible.
This specimen exhibits attitude. The energy of the lines delineating his furry body, the determined half-smile or smirk, the sense of weight distributed mostly on one leg work, all together to give the viewer a sense of dynamism. I'm not sure what the "thumbs down" thing is about.
This Ursine (Bear-like) Idy seems content in his fur. The large feet are typical, but the ears are an unusual feature. The artist actually told me this was a bear. Maybe an anticipation of Smokey's appearance?
This last image in particular seems to capture the beast's soul. The artist was at first reluctant to allow it to be published. "It's not my best work," demurred the youngster. Given the limitation of the media available (two crayons and a paper place mat) and the elusive quality of the model ("he wouldn't stand still") I think you will agree it is both promising and provocative. The Beast seems to be thinking, or at least chewing on his paw. Extremely life-like.
Thank you Wendy, and thank you artists!
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
The recent sightings of an Idyll-Beast at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival were made possible by the reciprocal relationship between the Idyll-Beast Research Center and the Friends of the Idyllwild Nature Center. A bond has grown between our two organizations based on our shared mission of educating visitors about our animal friends and the forest we all live in.
As every animal behaviorist knows, social grooming is an excellent way to strengthen bonds, the “social cement of the primate world.” Grooming keeps our fur or feathers in good condition, removing loose hair, uninvited guests, sticks, leaves, birds nests, misplaced household items and other collectables.
The picture above shows a volunteer from the Friends of the Idyllwild Nature Center, “Sandy,” receiving a little attention from “Idy,” a volunteer with the Idyll-Beast Research Center. Social grooming helps build the trust essential to cooperative activities, like staffing Idyllwild’s booth at the Fair.
What would a fair be without games of chance? In this case Idy seems to have hit the jackpot, winning a salon treatment from the helpful staff of the nearby Navy Federal Credit Union booth. Here the two intrepid ladies give him a good comb-out and plenty of hair spray. Very neighborly indeed. The fair creates a wonderful sense of community among participants from all walks of life.
In our next piece of evidence, the neighbor on the left has been identified as fair-goer Javier Lara. Peace out, man.
Friday, December 20, 2013
I recently had the pleasure to encounter members of a film crew working on the hill on a project called "the Cabin." You may have seen the signs, the trucks, the high-power lights and the troop of stylish young people at work on Tahquitz Drive this last week. The premise of the film (I may have gotten it a little mixed up) is that a cryptozoologist inherits her grandmother's Idyllwild cabin and comes here to reconnect with childhood memories while investigating inexplicable happenings that have created a stir among the locals. When the peace and quiet (and strange noises) become unnerving she seeks a roommate, eventually settling on a particularly hirsute "Heidi." We hope the film will be ready in time for the 2015 Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema.
One member of the crew, Andrea, asked that I publish the lyrics of a song that has become something of a local anthem. It is traditionally sung each year at the Idyll-Beast Festival:
Every season you greet me.
Tall and furry, not to worry
You look happy to meet me!
Blossom of fur may you bloom and endure,
Bloom and endure forever.
Bless out hometown forever.
Speaking of the Film Festival, cinephiles are invited to check out these posts which document Idyll-Beast activity in and around the 2012 festival. The following posts dealt with what appears to be a "treatment" actually written by an Idyll-Beast, and the Beast's reaction to one film's "stereotypical depiction of fur-covered Americans."
Remember to report you sightings to:
Remember to report you sightings to:
Monday, September 9, 2013
This tasty bit of evidence has cropped up through an “Insta-gram” account linked to one of the curators at the Laguna Art Museum. Last week, the museum’s “Discussion With…” series of artist encounters featured local photographer Gina Genis. Her recently published book, “Everbody and their Mother: Idyllwild CA, vol 1,” was the subject of her presentation to the gathered art lovers. To make the evening more lively, Genis brought along several “specimens” to participate in a panel discussion, among them the Idyll-Beast.
The Idyll-Beast is known to be keenly interested in the arts, especially when they involve giant pastries. A quick thinking curator, upon meeting the Beast, decided to introduce him to one the “objets” of the museum’s collection, the lovely cupcake here, part of an exhibit titled “Faux-Real.”
The Beast found the confection delicious and their conversation “in-faux-mative.” In the ensuing photo-ops and general melee, the sprinkles that adorned the delightful frosting-covered masterpiece joined the furry conniseur’s collection “on loan” before the chagrined curator could politely usher Idy away from the gallery.
The Cupcake in question has since been identified by OC Weekly as “Amy Caterina's delicious mixed-media social commentary Doomsday Bunker …” What appear to be chocolate shavings on top are actually security cameras, and “[i]nside, the shelter's rations are wrapped in pink tea cozies amid shag carpeting, making the claustrophobic space resemble a little girl's playhouse refuge.” It goes to show: things are not always what they seem.