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?