Thursday, June 30, 2016


It comes every year, with the same self-aware post-macho summertime cachet that James Bond week used to carry in the late 90s on TNT (even getting a name check in American Beauty). We never have to worry what's on--no matter where we are- during this precious time. We have a resource (presuming we have cable and get the Discovery Channel) what will chill us out before going off to a date or put us in the mood while canoodling at the Ramada, or cooling our stressed brain and body after work or a workout or a beat-down or a fascist rally or a night on the town. Whatever we disenfranchised Straight White Men aged 20-50 need to recover from (I mention my demographic because most of the commercials during shark week feature 20-something white males with beard stubble, a dog, and khakis. The Independence Day-Twizzlers tie-in, for example, or the smug endomorph talking about how car buying was always supposed to be [this is Tru-Car]). We straight white males age 20-50 can still cultivate detachment instead of fury as our watch as the dominance we never knew we had is suddenly pointed out to us so compoletely that we know we'll never get an invite to the Eyes Wide Shut masquerade. Luckily, as some of us learned from our dads in the 60s-70s, when the bombs come there's no point in hiding. Just go up on the roof with lawn chair and a cooler of beer, and watch the show...

World War Three never happened, but the graveyard whistle is still up there and for now we're still number one on the top ten most-dangerous, biggest bite-radius countdown!

Heil yeah, boyy! We Flava Flav 90s catch phrase co-opting white dudes are worse than lionfish, or sargassum. Say, anyone still listen to Kid Rock? I've noticed ZZ Top have sashayed their way out of the valley of oblivion (between the 'new charts' and the 'retro-cool') so can Bob Segar be far behind? Speaking of which, that Blake Lively is a real honey and supposedly rocks it in THE SHALLOWS at a theater in a mall in a town near you! Hell yeah, man! I am reeled in. 

Do you have a time to fill out a small response card based on your reaction to my previous paragraph? Don't try to escape me, dear reader! Millions of years of evolution have made my fins react with lightning speed to the tiniest glimmer of consumer dissatisfaction. Aus Kommen der Hai Woche!

Shark week: Now that we all have giant HD TVs of the sort our ancestors only dreamed about, the deep blues like a 3D aquarium, Shark Week is the best next thing to being there, on some gorgeous remote Australian beach, pink sand and waves lapping from clear aquamarine slowly into deep indigo and purple--wait, purple? Where is all the red coming from to mix with the.... Oh right, your leg's missing. Shark week! And with at least two channels (DISC and NGEO) running two different sets of shark-related programming (on Nat-Geo it's "Sharkfest".... not as cool, Burger King!). I like to pretend my TV is a window into the pool behind my James Bond villain lair; the camera man in the water with the sharks was dropped in there through a secret door because the one thing SPECTRE will not tolerate is failure!

It used to be just a hodgepodge of dull oceanographers tagging and mapping trans-oceanic migrations, puncture-aided by AIR JAWS, which was three or four great "strikes" of a whale-sized Great White breaching up and clomping down on a stack of seal-shaped tires, over and over, which is bound to be aggravating for the shark, wasting much energy (I always feel bad - were the sharks compensated for their effort? Were substantial fish subsidies paid from the stern?). But the whole week has been getting better every year, with shit aimed so close to me and stoners of a certain age group that it's like Discovery Channel has been reading our dinosaur minds or admiring the numbers on SHARKNADO. Every year there's more cool shit--including endless tie-in advertisements and cross-channel synergy-- aimed so precisely at my demographic that I feel like I'm getting high with all of America. Eli Roth hosts shark talk shows. Andy Samberg does weird trickster post-modern count-downs. SHARK CITY chronicles dishy encounters between a few residents of the local food chain in and around a sunken freighter. Mmy favorite so far: SHARKS OF THE SHADOWLAND and its trio of badass New Zealand government conservationist divers subjecting themselves to the ceaseless group attacks by weird-looking sharks called sevengills, all in the name of battling sea weed plagues! 

Finally there's a sense of a real danger, of something's at stake other than the usual marine biology-cloaked quest for samples and footage, tagging and abducting sharks and releasing them back into the water to deal with their cover memories, nightmares, disbelieving friends ("they pulled me up on a big craft and  poked me with an implant rod, I swear!") and constant surveillance beeps screwing with their ampules of Lorenzini. None of that, bro! These sevengill sharks are killers and this is New Zealand, where official government conservation teams consist solely of two cool Kiwis with dreads and a cute girl with a North American accent. Man, I love these guys!!

Knowing at least one government in the world is so chill and keeping itself pristine really cheers me up, because I've been suffering from too much excess empathy for our imprisoned creatures and the natural world, which seems now to be almost as trashed as I am. I've been writing lots of stuff that I can't seem to finish. I just keep making it longer, and longer and always it winds back around to my personal issues, the various dead ends of middle age, the realization of everything that's holding the world back from utopia, The Great White... Straight... American... Male. I'm the Ahab of the future Waterworld, the broken consul passing out under the super volcano. I only know of one place that hasn't heard of my kind of empathy-plagued freak, the deep ocean, where the great white, the sevengill, the tiger and the bull still think they're King frickin' Apex Kong. Time to fuck 'em up.... without hurting them.... from the safety of our A/C couches.

I hate summer in general -- too disgusting in the city, too buggy in the country. If I go somewhere like a cookout or camping, either I'll be totally miserable or have such a good time that coming back to my apartment afterwards fills me with antsy despair. I've never loved summer except for the air conditioning. I love it and I'll seize any chance to use it. I'm too big to enjoy flying coach, legs crushed in a torturous pen for six hours just to go through sweaty customs, all to relax on a beach. The best I can do is either drink myself into a tizzy or, if sober, take a long AC-nap in the hotel as soon as I arrive, just to get me back to par, to get the stress of the plane ride and airports out of my system so I'm as relaxed as I would be if I never left in the first place. If I do achieve some kind of deep relaxing on the trip, it's gone by the time I've arrived home, after flights and shitty airports all over again. It's sisyphusian! 

 But I do like to travel from the safety of the AC at home, to 'visit' other realms and far-off shores via the transdimensional consciousness that is HD TV these days. Old movies are a solace, but alas TCM often fritters away the 5-7 PM slots of the week with saccharine musicals from the post-code era --movies so white and bland you can feel the PBSD (Post-Boredom Stress Disorder) of a generation of captive Sullivans and children dragged to their seats by churchy matrons who just love nonthreatening squeaky kids MGM musicalzzzz, the type so white and fascist innocent they freeze the blood. Yikes, TCM, this week thou art losing me to the sharks! 

If you're a gloomy Swede with a dark sense of humor, no Faro to call your own, and you need something else, to cool down from der werkaus and are too tired to surf, and you want to find something with some bite that's not going to trojan horse in bad vibes (like the news), something you can detox to and soak up a kind of sense memory vacation via, then scroll your way to the sharks. Boom, you're out of the city, out on the ocean, swimming with photographer Andy Casagrande and a bunch of sharkologists. You don't have to smell any chum or brine or get sea sick or bored and ansty with that kind of trapped feeling one may get when they can't just escape to their car the moment things get too iffy. You don't have to stay, you don't have to go, the footage is reusable, the biological tidbits imparted throughout cross the boundaries of the shows, no need to wonder. 

Take a trick I learned from JK Huysmans-- put a dab of cocoanut suntan lotion on your nose and cheeks, sit where you can catch some rays of setting sun through the window, and put on the sharks. Seeing the HD deep-blue water, smelling the cocoanut oil, you might suddenly feel the ocean beneath you or around you, that bobbing and dragging forward and back through the waves as you lay back on the couch and let yourself drift into a nap. The sharks are there.... they are eating anyone who tries to remind you you're not Australian, or that it's trash night... and dishes... and commercials showing us starving kids in Africa one minute and factory farming atrocities the next, not getting the realization that the two cancel each other out - you can't save both. That's what we need the sharks for, chum!

Oops, see I went there again, urban socialist environmental angst boiling over, all this excess projected empathy for the suffering - I can't get the suffering of "Sophia in the shoe" out of my brain, useless empathy suffocating me, the exhaust fumes of my futile rage weakening the senses of my Zen coordination, so once again it's time to paddle back ceaselessy against the tide, to the Shallows, to the Deep Blue Sea, to the Shark Week.. The next red you see won't be my anger.... because if they're showing endangered shark eco-atrocities one one channel, the other one's gotta have Eli Roth showing shark attack re-enactments, and the thought of anything eating us back cools my misanthropic rage like a blast of endless Swedish night.

Blake Lively, coaxing my demographic off our recliners and into THE SHALLOWS.

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