Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Prince Of Whales
I never really thought about it before, but I think it's time I start considering a career change from child-rearing to wild-animal-wrestling. It doesn't sound very smart, but when I think about it, the two professions really aren't all that different. The thing about a wild bear is that, yes, it will bite your face off but it won't write with marker on my walls, put peanut butter in the toaster or ask you over and over and over and over and over again if it can bite your face off beforehand. The beauty of the wild bear is its inability to manipulate its vocal chords and tongue in order to form words. After that, teeth and claws and a thousand pounds of pure muscle are just details of a problem I'm willing to try and solve.

The best thing about wild-animal-wrestling is that it will guarantee you immortality. Well, OK, not actual immortality--quite the opposite in fact--but none of us are actually going to achieve that. The next best thing is to leave such an impression that they have to hold your funeral in a stadium and have it broadcast on every national television network. Will anyone forget Steve Irwin any time soon? I don't think so. I hear their planning to carve his face, Rushmore-like, into Ayers Rock. You might ask: but won't that profane something sacred to the aborigines? To which I must reply: Not any more than the existence on their continent of 30 million white people with in-born resistance to smallpox already does.

The funeral service for Steve Irwin included tributes from politicians and friends and family (including a robotic speech from his 8-year-old daughter which is either heartbreakingly apt or terrifying, I haven't decided which yet) and a compilation of grief-wishes and sad-face-making via videotape from lots of celebrities including Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner and Cameron Diaz.

Just in case I forget to mention it later, Kevin Costner is not allowed to speak at my funeral. Not even on video. Being dead will be indignity enough.

The voices of regret and mourning were totally unanimous... except one. Underwater nature dork and suspected Frenchman Jean-Michel Cousteau, while agreeing that people dying can be sad, pisses all over the idea of wild-animal-wrestling in general, like it's not something people should be doing.

First of all, let me point out that criticism of someone else's profession is coming from a guy whose job it is to take pictures of fish.

The full quote that's being bandied about the internets is that Cousteau says Irwin would "interfere with nature, jump on animals, grab them, hold them, and have this very, very spectacular, dramatic way of presenting things. Of course, it goes very well on television. It sells, it appeals to a lot people, but I think it's very misleading. You don't touch nature, you just look at it. And that's why I'm still alive. I've been diving over 61 years — a lot many more years that he's been alive — and I don't mess with nature."

English is not his first language, so to clarify, I can sum it up. Cousteau says to Irwin's children: "Your dad had it coming."

I would like to say that I'm not surprised by Cousteau's objection to Irwin's tactics. What we have to remember is that he--Mr. Cousteau--is a Frenchman. These are not the most aggressive people in the history of humankind. I can see why what Steve Irwin did would be somewhat off-putting. Muscular, interventionist, interactive, pro-active, short pants... Steve Irwin never gave off much of a brie-and-toast-points kind of a vibe.

History has shown us how some of the French react when faced with danger. Jean-Michel's father, Jacques Cousteau, had a standing policy to make a preliminary offer to surrender Paris immediately when confronted with anything larger than a porpoise.

Even less well known is that from about the 11th century, the entire region of Gascony has been ruled by descendents of a particularly pushy breed of North Atlantic seals. Legends say they came ashore one day and the entire populace, mistaking them for Spaniards, spontaneously offered fealty under feudal law. Noble inbreeding being what it is, no noticeable change in the quality of governance was observed. In fact, the quality of life noticeably improved for many citizens once they realized any request could be granted so long as it was made with a throwable mackerel in hand. I will admit that political marriages with surrounding nobles became slightly more awkward. But only slightly.

I guess my main point is that before today, I'd never heard of Jean-Michel Cousteau. Meanwhile, a bill has been introduced in the Australian Parliament to rename Melbourne "Crocodilehunteropolis". Partially, yes, it's a celebration of Steve Irwin's life and a tribute to the lasting impression he made as a guy who would wrestle wild animals and handle poisonous snakes in a non-religious context. Mostly though I think it's Melbourne seeing a chance to boost their profile and draw tourists. They're still very bitter that Sydney got an Olympics. Very competitive, those two cities. It'll be war soon. Crikey.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.4



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