Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey! Is This Advert Still Funny?

Well, I think it is, but I'm sicker than most. It's certainly more nuanced, I'll give you that.

At the beach this recent vacation, I had a devil of a time convincing the kiddies that the flat fish they saw wallowing around in the shallows weren't Deadly Poisonous Stingrays. They'd come squealing out of the water like a Great White was on their tails, and I'd try to calm them down by pointing out (with all the confident, casual authority of a Dad Lying His Head Off) that there was a huge variety of rays and skates in these waters, and that the Deadly P.S. was only to be found much farther south -- the Caribbean, perhaps, or Tierra del Fuego -- and that they'd probably been scared by a completely harmless Cow-Nosed Ray or something.

Later, back at the house, I poked around in a book on Atlantic Seaboard marine life we'd brought, and was quite nonplussed to find that in fact Deadly P.S.'s were actually quite common there, and that the object we'd seen in the water may very well have been one. I retreated to the next redoubt, that the Stingray is a meek creature, and that getting pricked is near to impossible as long as you don't bring your clodhopper down on one. The old parental reliable "they're much more scared of you than you are of them" came into play, and we practiced shuffling our feet in the surf, as the book recommended, so as not to go hopping around on stingrays' backs.

Somehow, at any rate, we all survived the Surf Experience, despite one nasty jellyfsh sting suffered by Freddie, and that, I thought, was that.

Now arrives the dreadful news that poor Steve Irwin has departed this vale of crocodile tears, victim of a freak accident -- pierced in the chest by one of those very stingrays I' d been scoffing at for the benefit of the kids in my charge. According to the account linked above, Irwin unwittingly boxed the creature in: ""It stopped and twisted and threw up its tail with the spike, and it caught him in the chest," said [wildlife documentary maker Ben] Cropp. "It's a defensive thing. It's like being stabbed with a dirty dagger."

It's tempting to shake your head sadly and intone, "Live by the dirty dagger, die by the dirty dagger," but Irwin wasn't actually performing his customary schtick when he met his demise -- he taking a break from shooting "The Ocean's Deadliest" and was filming for a children's show.

I do remember a particularly thrilling example of his act from some years ago. On a savannah in southern Africa, we saw footage of saner people evacuating their village, pointing out to the cameras that a black mamba -- truly "the myst dyngerous snyke in the weeeeerld!" -- had been spotted in one of their houses. Irwin, sensing a great bit, went charging into the village, jabbering excitedly. He found the snake, a full-grown beast of truly awful proportion, and began his usual routine: gulling it, calming it, trying to grab its tail in order to lift it up for the camera.

I'd watched quite a bit of "The Crocodile Hunter" show -- the kids were young then, and we watched a lot of that kind of stuff together -- and I'll tell you: I'd never seen Irwin quite this obviously scared. His breathing was shallow, his concentration was absolutely intense, and his voice shook as he swallowed spit. If this was acting -- and quite a lot of Irwin's schtick was acting -- it was damned convincing. The dude was quite plainly, in the parlance, shitting bricks.

It was a good thing, then, that FedEx's services weren't needed during this segment. He and the snake ended up parting ways, if not exactly friends, then at least not in a biter-bit relationship.

We'll miss him and his corny but ultimately beneficial act. Sorry to see you go, Steve, but at least you kicked it doing something you loved.

Now: How am I going to talk those kids back into the water?


Ronzoni Rigatoni said...

Aw, Neddie, having "kicked it" doing something you love is no good excuse to end up dead. For e.g., I love to fuck but if it meant dying (a la praying mantises, e.g.), I would rather sing all praises to the beloved St. Paul and enter a relatively celibate monastery chanting Gregoriums. As the great Woody sagely noted, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying."

blue girl said...

Yeah, but I think there's something to be said about living your life the way you want to, doing what you want to. So many of us march off to cubicle hell everyday -- some may enjoy that, I suppose, but I'm assuming many don't.

I guess the right way to think about it is -- It was great that he lived the life he wanted to, too bad he couldn't have gone on doing it longer.

Goes to show you...you never know.

Guess maybe that should make some of us think about starting to live the lives we really want to. Cuz you never know when you're gonna get a barb in the heart.

On a less philosophical note -- I read today that he pulled that barb out. Not supposed to do that. Wonder if that was the *final blow.*

Who knows. So sad.

MichaelBains said...

It is a big kind o' bummer, but I'm with the happy he went how he lived crowd.

Dude was fun to watch cuz he did seem so real and intense but like he loved every minute of it. He'll be missed.

Neddie said...

Ronzo: Remember that Steve died in a freak accident -- there was no inevitability to it, like getting your head bitten off by your wife after your honeymoon night. It wasn't like Steve could have avoided it by behaving differently. It was his refusal to moderate his behavior to be safe that I admire.

BG: According to my (admittedly absolutely rudimentary) research for this post, the Stingray does in fact inject venom of a sort into its victims. What did for Steve (I say absolutely without benefit of a coroner's report) was the effect on his heart of having this venom injected straight into his chest. Pulling the barb out was the least of his worries. He was already a dead man when he did that. If he'd taken the barb in his leg or something, I have no doubt he'd be with us today with a great story to tell.

MB: I heard on the radio today, somebody said, "The guy left absolutely nothing on the field," and I can think of no better tribute.

fgfdsg said...

I'm really in two minds over this whole thing. This is hard to explain. You'll either think i'm hugely unfeeling, or a complete prick, or both.

On one hand there's the whole small human level where a father and husband has died, which hurts and makes me empthasise and worry for them and their future. Death and mourning should be kept dignified and private within the family, but the media will never let that happen.

On the other hand, there's the incredible over-the-top weeping and wailing i'm seeing going on in our media and from our government here that's just confusing me.

He was just a TV Personality. His death is no more special than anyone elses.

They're talking Public Funded State Funeral, which I find hugely offensive, when they government regularly refuses asylum to children who have escaped oppressive regimes and sends them back to certain punishment, and especially when Howard's following Bush's whims on environmental policy, (ie, fuck the environment), is leading to the widespread extinction of the type of wildlife Steve was trying to protect as our climate changes.

And now he's 'Australia's Favourite Son?' I know he was playing a 'character', but by acting with all the 'ockerisms' he's done more to reinforce the Cultural Cringeworthy Stereotype of Australians as a barely-civilised nation of Monthy Pythonesque 'Bruces' than 1000 Yahoo Serious / Paul Hogan movies could ever do.

Why does the world have to always react to events with either callous indifference (ie. Hurricane Katrina Victims), or wildly over-the-top hysteria, (Princess Di, Paris Hilton unenthusiastically sucking dick). Why is there no middle, rational ground?

I always thought it was apt Princess Di's death greatly overshadowed Mother Theresa's.

Kevin Wolf said...

The peculiar charms of this man and his show were entirely lost on me so, while I can feel for his family, I can't work up a lot of sympathy for Steve. Wouldn't have wished harm on him, but not surprised something deadly did eventually happen.

Since he had a family, he might have wanted to temper his behavior a tad.

The heat's off ya, Simon. I'll be the prick about this, if needed.

blue girl said...

The guy left absolutely nothing on the field

Inspiring words.

Maybe I should get out of my pj's and go out and start doing something real.

But, I don't like to wrestle alligators. And snakes freak me out. And now I have stingray phobia.

So, obviously I'm not going the "scary animal" route.

I think I need to go to Starbucks, order a Grande White Chocolate Latte and ponder this some more.


Bobby Lightfoot said...

If there's any grand tragedy to this it's that Donald Rumsfeld continues to walk this earth. It's Shakespearean. It's Eurypidian.

There are a lot of types of rays out there, to be sure. I got stung on the big toe once by a Davies Ray in Coronado and I had these weird compulsions to chase purse snatchers, fuck Chrissie Hynde and write songs about everyday English life.

About which I know very little.

I'll leave the stumblings and wall-bumpings and heroin cravings that resulted from my run-in with a Charles Ray for another time entirely, wot?