“Finding Bigfoot” is My “Jersey Shore”

I had an epiphany of sorts last night.

I’m battling the flu and so a lot of my time lately has been spent in front of the TV taking it easy. I hate the lack of activity, but I need to rest. As I’ve been resting, I’ve been watching “Finding Bigfoot” on the Animal Planet network. I discovered this show last year, and I think it’s probably one of the dumbest shows around.

But I love it.

Cryptozoology has always been a closet passion of mine. When I was a young kid, I got into Loch Ness and the Yeti and Bigfoot so much that I had drawers set aside in my room for my “research.” My research largely consisted of drawings I’d made and any newspaper clippings I could find. I was devoted to watching In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy and imagined one day setting off on my own quests to find long-lost beasts of legend.

So when Finding Bigfoot debuted last year, I was all over it. I’d already been raving about how great Destination Truth was and hoped that Finding Bigfoot would be in the same vein as that show.

It’s not at all like Destination Truth. It’s more like Jersey Shore.

Finding Bigfoot has a cast of four: Matt Moneymaker who is the head of the BFRO (Bigfoot Research Organization), Cliff, his trusty sidekick, Bobo, who actually looks more like a Bigfoot than anything they’ve found to-date on the show, and Renee, the skeptical biologist who is along to try to debunk the things the group hears in the woods, any footage they come across that sort of thing.

Episodes usually begin with the team in a certain part of the country to investigate a recent sighting. Enroute, a conversation occurs whereby the three guys all talk about the likelihood that there will be a “squatch” in the area, while Renee sits there and attempts to inject some semblance of rational thought into the mix. She always fails.

And therein lies the problem with the show, the boys have already decided that pretty much every area they visit has Sasquatches living in it. Every sound in the forest during their night investigations is a “squatch.” Every locale is “squatchy,” and so on and so on. These guys want so badly to believe that Sasquatch exists that they have really compromised all of their supposed journalistic integrity in the hopes that their gee whiz charm turns viewers into believers. Renee’s perspective is brushed aside and the guys don’t seem to like her very much. In their defense, she has about as much charisma as a paper bag, but then again, none of the team really has much in the way of charisma, either.

On every episode, after the team has stood up in front of the locals and plotted their sightings on a map, they go out into the woods. At night. Because, ya know, night is scary. And everything seen through night vision looks cooler, apparently. The team always breaks up into two squads and then they plod through the woods. At a predetermined point, Matt Moneymaker will do his best Bigfoot howl. Bobo will then usually answer in return. Then they wait to hear any other sounds. Sometimes the coyotes complain. Sometimes they get a “knock,” which is apparently how sasquatches communicate by knocking branch lengths against tree trunks. (How they’ve determined these behavioral characteristics is anyone’s guess, but they claim that their field research proves it.) I’m still waiting for the episode when they do these insipid howls and some camper shouts back, “Shut the fuck up! I’m trying to sleep!” That would be gold.

One of my favorite parts of the show is when the team comes up with a supposedly revolutionary method for tracking any squatches they suspect to be in the area. On the most recent episode, this method involved baiting several tree trunks with glazed donuts and then sprinkling ultraviolet powder in the area. That way, when the sasquatches had their coffee break and came over for the free donuts, they’d step in the powder and then the team would be able to track them with special flashlights.


Naturally, instead of sasquatch tracks, all they got were raccoon and possum tracks. I wondered why they were bothering with UV powder when they could have just as easily set up motion controlled cameras used on other nature shows. If any squatches came trooping through, the camera would snap their picture.

But pictures aren’t as cool as UV powder.

Another thing: the team is always looking for squatches in the night. But most of the eyewitness reports have encounters during the day.

In any event, the show is actually a comedy about three bumbling idiots and the one sane individual who tries to keep them grounded. And I watch it every damned week. Because, you never know, one time they might actually get lucky and stumble over a squatch.

I can’t claim to learn anything from watching this other than perhaps how NOT to go bigfoot hunting. But I still have to tune in. I imagine it’s the same for viewers of Jersey Shore who tune in each week to see if Snooki can ever get through a night without shacking up with the crew of whatever aircraft carrier happens to be in dock that particular week. It probably most definitely WON’T happen.

But it COULD.

So, my thanks to Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Renee for making my television viewing just a bit more comedic and addictive.

Until next week. 🙂

The Easy Way or The Right Way?

Today’s been a great day so far: I have a brand new nephew, Dylan James, who entered this world earlier this morning. I received a fantastic piece of fan mail from a Delta flight attendant who absolutely loves the Lawson series, which is always gratifying to get. And I also got an email from someone within the Ninjutsu organization asking me to come out and teach a seminar for them.

I was both honored and humbled by this request. It’s nice to get an email from someone who appreciates my perspective on this art to the point that they’d like me to come and put on a weekend seminar for them.

But I turned the request down.

And here’s why: if someone wants to hire me for a seminar, they shouldn’t: they should hire my teacher Mr. Mark Davis of the Boston Martial Arts Center. This is the man who has taught me virtually everything I know about this art; this is the man whose wisdom, experience, and guidance have enabled me to survive some horrifying encounters and emerge unscathed. It’s because of Mark that I am as far along the path as I am.

I enjoy teaching people and I’ve done it for a number of years now. I’m always honored to be asked to be a presenter at the annual New England Warrior Camp, I’ve taught many classes at Mark’s dojo, and I run my own informal training group most Sunday nights in my town. In the past, I’ve conducted training events for the State Department, Bureau of Prisons, Department of Justice, and other interesting places like that.

But I’m not studying this art to become recognized as a teacher or a guru or what have you. My motivation has always been to study what I consider to be one of the finest methods of self-protection available to anyone – and then be able to pass my knowledge down to my children so they, too, have the means and mindset to be able to survive any encounter they might find themselves in.

That’s it.

I know of people who would jump at any opportunity to teach a seminar – to try to prove that they have some sort of great insight into this art, or to earn a quick buck. But why would hire a student, when you can just as easily hire the teacher of that student? As I explained to the person who emailed me, I’m still learning to find my way in this art – even after more than two decades. This material isn’t easy; it’s complex stuff that demands constant study. And at advanced levels, this material gets even more challenging. It’s not about “put your foot here and do this” – it’s about a whole other realm of technique. And stuff that advanced can’t be taught over the phone or via the Internet or via Skype or by churning out silly notebooks filled with A+B=C type notes. People who do that are simply misleading others for the sake of ego or to make a quick dollar.

So as I wrote back to the sender, it’s important to get with my teacher and not me. Hire my teacher to come and show you this stuff – not me. If you hire me, you’re getting material that is removed from the source and therefore not likely to be as accurate and fulfilling as it could be. By hiring my teacher, you get to experience what I experience on a weekly basis. It’s better for everyone involved.

I’ve seen too many charlatans attempt to lead folks astray in some vain attempt to set themselves up as a “guru du jour” – people who think they can break things down into stupid catchphrases and marketing gimmicks. But the essence of this art – the essence of any real martial lineage – isn’t techniques written down in a notebook (or xeroxed and covertly handed out for that matter) – it’s experience.

Each student has their own experience. That’s the truth to this training that no one can ever take away from you.

But in order to get that experience, you need to get with someone as high up and experienced within this art as possible. That’s why I refused to teach this seminar and why I suggested hiring my teacher instead. He’s got oodles of more years in this art and his comprehension of the material dwarfs my own. How could I in good conscience pretend that I could be a better guide to this tradition than him? How could I claim to be an honorable representative of this art (knowing full well that my own comprehension of this material is far less than my teacher’s) by agreeing to teach?

I couldn’t.

It would have been easy to say yes. It would have been easy to go out-of-state and put on a show down south and then pretend that I’m some elevated teacher of this material. After all, I’ve got the license from Japan to do so, so it’s all good, right?


I’m fond of saying that ego is the number one killer of decent ninjutsu practitioners. It’s easy to drink the Kool Aid when people sing your praises. It’s easy to believe that you’re a gifted practitioner capable of leading others.

It’s easy.

But that’s the warning sign.

I’m not in this art for it to be easy. Come to think of it, I’m not in life for it to be easy. The warrior’s path is hard – and the difficulties we face are for a reason. It takes effort to see yourself objectively and to understand that you have so much to work on, that you have your own inner demons to cleanse, that you have many more steps to go even after walking so many already.

Too many get lost along the way. They believe their own hype. They pose and posture and pretend and they end up irresponsibly hurting the lives of others by depriving them of their own experiences and their own opportunities to discover the joys of this martial tradition.

They opt for the easy way out.

I made a vow a long time ago that I would never take the easy way out of anything. So as tough as it was to turn down the rather hefty paycheck, it was the right thing to do. And the people who end up hiring my teacher will have a better time and better experiences because of it.

I believe that’s what it means to be an asset to this art, instead of just another joke.

Why Barnes & Noble Just Made a Big Mistake…

So, the latest news in the publishing world is that Barnes & Noble will not stock Amazon-published titles in its stores. (Amazon recently signed a distribution agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s new imprint for just this purpose.) Social media is all abuzz right now with the majority of publishing people stating something along the lines of it’s great to see B&N standing up to the bullying ways of Amazon, and all the rest of the assorted statements about Amazon being the Big Bad Wolf, evil corporate empire, etc. etc. blah blah blah.

Me? I happen to think B&N just made a critical error. As admirable a job a William Lynch has done as the head of Barnes & Noble, he’s made a potentially disastrous mistake with this decision and here’s why:

He’s put Amazon on notice that B&N will not play with them in the sandbox.

There’s an old strategy that states you keep your friend close and your enemies closer. B&N would have done well to heed this advice – even if they simply faked it. Barnes & Noble is the only real major national retailer left after the Borders implosion. And indie booksellers only account for 10% of sales. Obviously, if Amazon is intent on market dominance, then that road takes them right through B&N. If B&N was truly interested in its survival – rather than appeasing the publishing world, which is itself a tired anachronism being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century – then they would have agreed to carry Amazon’s titles.

One reason B&N might have wanted to take this approach is to buy time while they strengthen their own shaky foundations. B&N had a strong fourth quarter, but overall, it pales in comparison to Amazon. B&N’s stock closed yesterday around $12 bucks with a market cap of $700 million. Some experts have recently valued the company at around $8 billion, but I think that’s being extremely kind.

Amazon, by comparison, has at least $6 billion in CASH. That’s not the valuation of the company and all its assets – that’s CASH. Jeff Bezos could easily stomp B&N into the ground and not lose a single night’s sleep over it.

So the question becomes: do you rush to war with such an incredibly powerful enemy as Amazon? Do you charge into battle knowing you have far less resources than your opponent?

Or do you bide your time, strengthen your own position, and search for other unorthodox ways to level the battlefield?

Barnes & Noble currently has something that Amazon does not: real estate. Even with the massive number of bookstores closing, B&N still has about 700 stores around the country. Amazon has no real retail presence. Perhaps they don’t want one, but what if they do? By agreeing to carry Amazon titles, B&N could then open up further talks with Amazon – what about a joint venture where the two companies partner and open up new retail fronts in the old Borders locations? Such a move would increase value for both companies, enabling B&N to better right its own ship during these turbulent economic times and potentially entice better buyout offers from interested parties. (Biding time would allow B&N to roll out that newer version of its Nook device that might help it capture more ebook market share than it currently has…)

If Amazon and B&N teamed up, they could then actually create real and lasting change in the publishing world. B&N has a very good relationship with the Big 6 publishers – again, something that Amazon does not have. B&N and Amazon could sit down with the publishers and suggest ways they could all benefit from making changes. This is a long-shot, of course. Knowing what a stubborn bunch the Big 6 are – and given the fact that they refuse to admit their own failings but instead seek to blame outside influences (like Amazon) for their faltering steps towards the future – it’s unlikely anything would come of that.

But instead, B&N has opted to draw a line in the sand.

“Hooray!” shout the masses of publishers and booksellers. “We’re not going to let Amazon bully us anymore!”

Except, they’ve all forgotten one thing: their customers.

Most customers don’t really care about this stuff. They know they can go to Amazon and get what they’re looking for at a cheap price and have it in-hand as quickly as tomorrow. Yes, there are bookstore aficionados – but the masses that make up the bottom line for B&N simply don’t care. And if B&N isn’t doing its best to service its customers, then what the hell are they doing in business in the first place?

Amazon has perfected customer service. My own experiences have never once been bad. When the UPS guy left my expensive hardcover out in the rain and I sent an email – I didn’t call, mind you, but sent an email – Amazon had the UPS driver return the next day with a brand new book and take back the old ruined one without it costing me a single penny. Amazon services its customers and treats them like gold. And that’s why customers love them.

So when B&N draws its line in the sand – they haven’t really done much except angered a juggernaut and told their customers they’re not interested in providing them with exceptional service.

That’s not smart.

Amazon now knows exactly where B&N stands and can take its next steps accordingly. Such steps might be drastic, or they might not. Either way, Amazon wins again. With $6 BILLION in CASH, Bezos can open up tons of retail storefronts and drive B&N right out of business.

Here’s the thing: ever since the Kindle appeared, the publishing world has only been reacting to Amazon’s moves. Not one publishing world entity has taken that initiative away from Amazon because all they can do is react and try to deal with it. In a fight, if you spend all your time reacting to your attacker, you will eventually (sometimes quicker than others) lose. At some point during the fight, you have absolutely got to take the initiative and win. Whether you do this by launching a sudden blitz counter-attack, or by setting a trap that your attacker falls into, or by some other technique, it doesn’t matter. What matters is you stop reacting and start doing something.

B&N’s move here might be seen by some as taking the initiative, but it’s not. It’s reaction. And the wrong reaction at that. As Amazon jabs and jabs and the publishing world tries to slip and bob and weave out of the way of each successive jab – thinking they’re doing great for avoiding those – they fail to see that Amazon – just as a good prize fighter does – is merely lulling them into a rhythm, ranging them, and getting ready to deliver a final knockout blow so severe that the publishing world won’t see it coming until it’s far too late. Bezos has already demonstrated his far-reaching view, putting things into motion now that will bear fruit in later years.

I have no doubt that Bezos knows exactly how to take down B&N now, thanks to the poor decision B&N has made in refusing to stock their titles.