Hmm... crop circles, eh? They were something I never bothered pursuing. Certainly they were curious but nothing I saw or read about them ever gave me pause. Maybe they were real, maybe they were fake - who knew? Thus I'd filed them under the category 'things about which I have no opinion'. And then QI lobbed up.
I hereby confess to being an absolute QI tragic. I've downloaded every single ep (nine seasons' worth) and have watched them all at least twice. For those who don't know, QI stands for Quite Interesting and is an English post-modernist quiz show hosted by Stephen Fry. It's post modernist insofar as: no one gives a bugger if you get the right answer; the scoring system is by way of I Ching; and the only thing that counts is being funny. With Fry at the helm, it's all very English Public school, which is to say lots of classical references to Pliny the Elder, Euclid, Linnaeus etc. and all of it interspersed with more lavatory humour than you could poke a toilet brush at. I don't know about proper intellectuals but for smutty-minded pseudo-intellectuals like yours truly it is the only show worth watching.
But adoration aside, this is the BBC we're talking about and what with QI's insane popularity there's no way it was ever going to be left alone as a mechanism for propaganda. Thankfully they keep it to a minimum but every now and then it goes into overdrive, and its Hoax episode in season eight was a perfect case in point. I'll skip their flings at Apollo loonies apart from saying that between footprints and flapping flags, and the fact that NASA lost: all the plans of Saturn V; all the telemetry records; all the astronauts' biofeedback records; as well as all the original footage, we got the f-words. I'd have thought that the absurd and otherwise impossible loss of all historical data from mankind's single greatest moment was Quite Interesting. But at Auntie's animal farm some animals are more Quite Interesting than others it seems.
But never mind, hardly surprising really. Somewhat more curious was their treatment of crop circles, or more specifically the three blokes who allegedly make them all. What with having been commissioned to make a crop circle of the QI logo they were brought in so that Stephen Fry could ask them to enlighten us all.
Fry - Can you tell me how you did yours? Without giving away too many trade secrets. What's the most technological item you need?That may not seem too radical but I thought the use of the words 'trade secrets' curious, particularly in light of the obviousness of the answer. But we'll let it pass and likewise the idea of 'simple techniques and simple tools'. I'll be breaking this up into several pieces and come back at it later. They go on:
Bloke - We need something called a stalk stomper, which is a plank of wood and a loop of rope that you put under your foot to flatten the crop. And to actually mark out the design you use a surveyors' tape so it's very, very, kind of simple techniques and very simple tools.
Fry - So how many do you do a year, in the season?...as the panel takes it sideways into inanity with Fry finally bringing it back to the topic of thanking the blokes for coming, with the audience giving them a big round of applause. Hurray.
Bloke - We don't say how many we make but we've made hundreds over the years that we've been doing it.
Fry - And do people, are there still people who believe, who refuse to believe that it's all hoaxers like you?
Bloke - Absolutely...
Nowhere in amongst this was the obvious question, why? Why, do these blokes do this? What's the point? Week after week, year after year (!), these three go and spend all night crashing about in complete darkness to make an endless series of what are essentially glorified geometric doodles.
And there's Sean Lock on the panel, who's funny in spite of being a nasty piece of work, and for whom 'get a life' is never far from the tip of his tongue, and he just sits there schtum. Hmm... okay, so why don't I write his lines for him?
"Yeah, boys, you ever heard of Spirograph? Yeah? I had one when I was ten but somewhere along the line I'm not sure what happened but... I got over it. But not you blokes! You're the only guys I ever heard of who embraced it all the way through to adulthood. Have you ever thought of, I don't know... getting a life?"But seriously though, huh?! Me, I'm speechless. As far as I'm concerned the three of them may as well have just stood up and declared, 'We don't make a lick of sense'. In Urdu! Morris dancing makes more sense than this. And you'd get laid more often. Okay so, seriously - who are these guys?
Bear with me for a second here as I take a detour with the wrong blokes. This came about by way of me missing the spokes-bloke's name during the show and instead looking it up at the episode's wikipedia entry. There, (and you can't blame me for being confused) our three chaps aren't mentioned but two others are, they being Doug Bower and Dave Chorley. So off I go to hunt down the wrong people. But, as luck would have it the legendary Doug and Dave were exactly the chaps I was looking for - I just didn't know it yet.
This is a longish piece and so I'm going to split it into several parts. Next up, Doug and Dave and another truckload of 'Huh?' And following that, don't worry - I'll be coming back to the right bloke as it were, Doug and Dave's annointed successor, one John Lundberg, next. I swear it just gets weirder.