Shark Weak

shark-0The last time Shark Week passed I found myself musing over the things people find fascinating enough to turn into week-long events or — in at least one case — the actual unnamed theme of an entire cable channel. Let me be clear that I do not intend at all to diminish most such interests. Glass houses! I devote a good chunk of the six months of summer to baseball, so I can’t fling stones (or baseballs).

It’s not the sharks, actually. There’s nothing wrong with sharks. In fact, they’re really tasty, especially grilled. They’re sort of like grilled swordfish, which is also delicious. It’s just that Shark Week got me thinking about fads and fascinations.

There are some that I just can’t fathom!

snuffy-1I will say the commercials for Shark Week can be very creative. I especially liked the one this year that purports to be a news story about Snuffy the injured seal. After being cared for, a healed Snuffy is being returned to the ocean. In the background, on the dock, we see him, in a crane sling, being lowered towards the water.

Suddenly a big shark leaps from the water, chomps Snuffy and takes off with him [much hubbub on the dock]. The “reporter” turns her head to the commotion, which momentarily blocks sight of the shark actually chomping Snuffy. We see the shark leap, and we see the aftermath, the empty crane.

I do enjoy humor that depends on turning gooey sentiment on its ear! (Really not a fan of gooey sentiment, although I like gooey caramel.) Most love scenes could use a good punchline!


Snuffy? Or snack?

It was the clever commercial that caused me to consider how consumed some get with these ocean carnivores. I can wrap my head around the fascination some have. Sharks are living creatures, which is already interesting. They’re ancient creatures, which is really interesting. On top of that they have some very interesting characteristics: the need to keep always moving (or die); all those rows of constantly replenished teeth; skin that’s a taste organ.

[I petted a (securely held, very small) Nurse shark once. The guide told us that, while we petted the shark, it was tasting us. He also got mad at the woman who broke his rule about walking behind him. Her breasts passed inches from the shark’s mouth. The guide said she’d just risked serious (and extremely embarrassing) injury!]

Sharks also have that “elemental force” thing going for them. Fearsome predators, for sure. Very close to the top of the food chain (killer whales, dolphins and humans can be a problem for them). Tornadoes, hurricanes, even lions can present a similar fascination. Life and death, particularly death, is a primary human concern.


Who’s a good shark?! Yes, he is a good shark!! (Could I have my fingers back now?)

Sharks are real. And semi-deadly. Yes, “semi.” I’ve scuba-dived and seen sharks. Generally speaking if you leave them alone they leave you alone. There are some rules: don’t act like a wounded fish (don’t thrash about); don’t let blood in the water (!!); and in some cases avoid shiny jewelry, the flashing of which can resemble the small bait fish they normally eat. (That last one might actually be more about barracuda, come to think of it.)

Frankly, there are much, much scarier things in the sea! The sting of the larger cone snail kills you in minutes. The sting of the box jellyfish isn’t far behind (some people have actually survived those, though). The deadliest snakes are all sea snakes. The ocean has some really scary stuff in it!

So while I’d probably prefer to eat one than watch TV shows about them, I can understand why people might find them fascinating. I would be interested in the correlation (if any) between the fascination and the level of experience. Do confirmed “land lubbers” find them more interesting for also being so unknown?

If you find one of these on a beach, handle with extreme care. Or not at all!

Cone Snail! If you find one of these on a beach, handle with extreme care. Or not at all!

But then we get to vampires and zombies, both of which are very trendy these days. Zombies, in particular, seem endlessly fascinating to many, and it’s not at all restricted to science fiction fans. Zombies are entirely mainstream these days.

So are vampires, but given Bram Stoker and a lot of movies, vampires have been in the public consciousness for a while. There’s a whole sexual metaphor going on with vampires. The primary image is of willing ravishment in the boudoir, biting necks, bodily fluids… oh, yeah, very sexual! [I’ll mention yet again Chelsea Quinn Yarbro‘s wonderfully sexy Count St. Germain series as the vastly superior sexy vampire series!]

But zombies? The walking undead? Eating brains?

I loved Shaun of the Dead, but as Simon Pegg will be the first to tell you, it’s a comedy. That happens to have zombies in it. (It’s my favorite zombie movie by a stretch, although that’s not really saying anything.  I have a lot of respect and regard for the Romero series, but it’s never really lit my fire.)

Jaun of the DeadIf you’ve seen and enjoyed Shaun of the Dead, you should seek out and watch the Cuban version: Juan of the Dead.  (I’m not making that up. It’s almost as good. Way worth seeing.)

I imagine there are people who wonder how I find baseball (or science fiction) so fascinating, so I can translate that to a love of zombies and to my own bemusement about it.  I don’t quite understand how some people become obsessed with a thing, be it a baseball team, fictional genre or wild critter. I’m talking about the kind of people who’d have zombie clocks in every room, shark curtains in every window or sports memorabilia on every shelf.

[But then I think of all my shelves of books and DVDs… maybe it’s not so different. Maybe it’s just a matter of degree.]

What I really don’t get — and what kind of bothers me a bit — is the fascination that some have for Nazis (this is the one any only time I’ll use that word; nor will any tags mention them). And I don’t mean the scary types with a garage full of flags and war souvenirs. I’m talking about ordinary people. A couple of my friends were urging me to check out some cartoon involving those fuckers being on the moon.

Hyenas are legit members of the animal kingdom.

Hyenas are legit members of the animal kingdom.

Pass. Most definitely, absolutely pass.

To me, those fuckers were a huge embarrassment in human history (one of several). We demonstrated, on multiple levels, what pathetic little shits we can be. We showed how low we can go, how animal-like we can be. And not just any animal, but vicious pack animals.

The fascination seems wrong to me; morbid and macabre at the least, downright scary in the extreme. Certainly there are those that seem to take it all a bit too seriously.

My vote is that the proper response here is along the lines of, “Wow! That was really fucked up!! Let’s vow to never, ever do that again!”  And then forget them. Consign them to the forgotten pages of history where we keep those damaged awful family members we have to own but wish we didn’t.

As are vultures.

As are vultures.

They’re not worth remembering; they don’t deserve it. They’re not worth talking about. They sure as hell don’t deserve their own cable channel. (Perhaps it’s changed, but for a long time, the History channel was obsessed with the topic to the point of it becoming a comic meme.) I don’t buy the assertion that we need to keep studying them to make sure we don’t (what, accidentally?) do that again.

Maybe it’s my penchant for looking forward rather than backward. History can be instructive, the only reason it repeats itself is because we don’t learn from it. But at the same time, learn the lesson and move on!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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