Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

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. We never have to worry what's on--no matter where we are- what to have as background, 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 with a dog and khakis, like the hilarious Independence Day-Twizzlers tie-in, 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 may be on the way down, but we can cultivate detachment instead of fury as our watch as our massive dominance stripped down by bite rip fractions 'til there's naught but string and bone. We learned that during the Col War, from our dads who laid out the nuclear fall-out plan -- go up on the roof with lawn chair and a cooler of beer, and watch the show...

That never happened but the graveyard whistle is still 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' lurks the valley) 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!

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 attention. 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, 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!

Shark Week: It has such a great name one loves to say it, to think it, to feel it to see it, to reflect of the surface so all shoals can sea flitting fins of flying fish. Shark Week. 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 suspended from the air, over and over, which is bound to be aggravating for the shark, wasting much energy. But the whole week has been getting better every year, with shit aimed so close to me and my people (the stoners of a certain age group) that it's like Discovery Channel has been reading our mail or admiring the numbers on SHARKNADO. Every year there's more cool shit aimed so precisely at my demographic that I feel like I'm getting high with the people who made them. Now Eli Roth hosts shark talk shows; Andy Samberg does weird trickster post-modern count-downs; SHARK CITY chronicles the daily food chain in and around a sunken freighter, and--my 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. It's like 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 made all these invasive tests--I swear!"), and constant surveillance from the shark's equivalent of the sky, the surface. None of that, mate - these sevengill sharks are killers and this is New Zealand, where official government conservation teams are two cool Kiwis with dreads and a cute girl with a North American accent, not a sprawling team of squares. Man, I love these guys!!

Knowing at least one government is 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 longer, and longer and always it winds back around to my personal issues, the various dead ends of middle age, the realization of being part f 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 and the Bull shark still think they're King frickin' Apex Kong. Time to fuck 'em up.

SHARK WEEK. I hate summer in general -- too disgusting in the city, too buggy in the country. I'm 50% Swedish, so I've never loved summer except for the air conditioning and occasional body surfing. But I do like to 'visit' other realms and far off shores, via the transdimensional consciousness that is HD TV these days. TCM often fritters away the 5-7 PM slots of the week with saccharine musicals from the post-code era, so white and bland you can feel the PBSD (Post-Boredom Stress Disorder) of a generation of captive Sullivans and children dragged to triple features of it by churchmarms who just love that couple of nonthreatening squeaky kids MGM musicalzzzz, the type so white and fascist innocent they make Judy and Mickey putting on a show seem like CABARET.

So 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 for you either of two different channels in the Discovery package and BOOM - you're out of the city, out on the ocean, swimming with the big boys and don't have to smell any chum or brine or get sea sick or bored and feeling trapped -- waiting for your drunk friends to be ready to head back, finally - when you're climbing out of your skin and half-asleep and green.

Take a trick I learned from JK Huysmans--if you fool the sense of smell then the other senses fall in line to sustain any illusion. So what I do is put a dab of cocoanut suntan lotion on my nose and cheeks, sit where I can catch some rays of 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, for your protection, 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 rage like a blast of Swedish night.

Blake Lively, coaxing my demographic off our recliners and into the theater to see THE SHALLOWS.

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