Devouring Gourds

It’s That Time of Year for Killer Gourds

A Book of Creatures

Variations: Devouring Pumpkin; Sala Fruit (possibly)

Swallowing Gourd final

Not all swallowing monsters are animals. In Bantu folklore, gourds and pumpkins have the potential to grow into vast, devouring creatures. Such plants usually grow where evil sorcerers or ogres were slain.

The devouring gourd of Usambara was discovered by a group of little boys at play. “Look at how big that gourd is getting!” said one of the boys. To their surprise, the gourd responded. “If you pluck me, I’ll pluck you!” it said. The boys ran home and told their mother, who refused to believe them. But their sisters insisted on seeing the large gourd, and when they were taken to it, they said as their brothers had, “Look at how big that gourd is getting!” This time the gourd did not respond, and the girls went home to complain about their brothers being liars.

As the gourd was not plucked, it…

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Chupacabra found in Paraguay and a bonus Sea Monster Photo!

Chupacabra found in Paraguay and a bonus Sea Monster Photo!

Well, a body of the mysterious chupacabra has finally been found in Paraguay. See the video here. However, it seems the chupacabra is a monkey with mange. Other “chupacabra” corpses have been those of dogs and coyotes with mange. What this shows is how baffling a common animal can appear in a distorted context, mange, or severe decay. The imagination reaches for the exotic, and an animal that exists in imagination is then confirmed in flesh. In the past, all sorts of mythical creatures were probably understood to be empirically real, based on misidentification. Not that the corpses inspired the beast, but it was explained in terms of a beast that exists only in the mind.

In related news, tourists off the coast of Greece took this photo of a mysterious animal that has some talking “sea monster.” Others suggest a species of beaked whale, which is a bit of a rarity and inspiration for other beached sea serpent discoveries. I’m betting on beaked whale too, the picture is hard to conclusively identify. I always recommend Occam’s Razor in these situations, which says the least complicated answer is most likely, and when choosing between a known whale that resembles the picture, and a hitherto unknown animal, the known animal requires less explanation.

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mystery animal                                                           beaked whale

Movie Time! My Review of Exodus: Gods and Kings

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Well, after a month and three viewings, I’ve made it through Riddley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. It was a chore, a dull and lifeless, action, blockbuster take on the Exodus myth. Scott definitely had Cecile DeMille on his mind when he made this, and in terms of spectacle, lush orientalist set and costume design, and CGI miracles, Riddley Scott’s Exodus is a worthy tribute. It is unfortunately ponderous and stiff. The attempt at social commentary is uninspired, consisting of Moses having doubts about the miraculous, and his early attempt and people’s war or guerrilla war to free the Hebrews. There is a nice moment when Moses tosses his sword to the sea as a symbol of his forgoing using his own force to fight Egypt and finally trusting in God.

The controversy around the casting is definitely understandable now that we live in a day-and-age where we are all familiar with what people from Israel and Egypt look like. Sure there are a lot of swarthy extras, but nearly all the principal characters are some sort of northern European. While I understand the business side, it definitely detracts from the artistry and it’s sad to see the Exodus reduced to a 3D popcorn muncher. Really, I have had my fill of Bible movies full of Anglo-Saxons. Can we have a peak at what this world really looked like?

And speaking of historical inaccuracy, while I understand that the Exodus is a fantasy in the vein of Hercules, Rameses the Great was a pharaoh of the bronze age, yet iron abounds. Would you make Excalibur with rifles instead of lances? I would love to see the bronze age tell its own stories and be brought to life on the big screen.

Regarding the presentation of the Exodus, the movie diverges quit a bit from the source- mostly for entertainment value, and I’m fine with that. The Bile account itself consists of a couple of divergent stories, so the ancient Hebrews had no problem changing the tale to suit the audience. I have researched the historical Exodus extensively, and maybe later will go into depth on how the movie compares with the source and the history. One of the main changes from the old Cecil DeMille version is how the miraculous is treated. While before, bizarre events spring out of the air like magic, Scott takes cues from fringe literature on the Exodus (much as he does ancient aliens in Prometheus), and naturalistic explanations for the plagues. The theories used to explain the miracles are often ingenious and plausible, but not likely to have been the case. While some critics thought the naturalistic explanations demonstrated an agnosticism about God, I think it is clear that here, as well as in the pop archeology Scott follows, the coincidence of the events is a sign of divine origin. And really, if God did intervene in history, I would expect it to occur in a perfectly natural way. The Crossing of the Red Sea, linked to an asteroid impact and resulting tsunami, is visually striking and a clever interpretation.