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Shark Tale

April 3rd, 2005

Due respect to Chris Rock (less to Deniro) but no, that is not what this is about.

Did anybody besides me watch the brief 90’s Next Generation coattail-rider SeaQuest DSV? Stands for Deep-Sea Vehicle, or some such acronymical nonsense. It was a near-future, lower-tech, politically somewhat more realistic Trek set on a big submarine, featuring special effects roughly on the (low) level of the Kevin Sorbo Hercules, and, not surprisingly, an obnoxious boy genius and a grizzled sea captain. Produced by Spielberg, apparently, of which I had not known before looking it up just now. Lasted two seasons.

It is the seaQuest‘s oceanographic boy genius, Lucas Wolenczak, with whom I am concerned here–played by Jonathan Brandis of Neverending Story II fame (don’t follow that link unless you’re prepared to be depressed, especially since I’m about to make fun of him). More accurately, young Lucas is a teen heartthrob boy genius, a credit to the tried and true teen heartthrob boy genius character blueprint, more than capable of filling then Lt. Wesley Crusher’s red stretch-fabric slippers. He was way cuter, for one thing, and his best friend was a talking dolphin (a genius as well, we were to assume).

In concert with said ichthyoid, young Lucas had developed a super high tech submarine shaped like a fish. Super high tech. The show devoted more than one episode to establishing its jawdroppingly awesome water speeds. No sub could catch it, because it worked on principles perfected by nature. He used it at great risk to life and hairstyle to chase down deep sea poachers, cavort boyishly with his dolphin pals, and fend off giant prehistoric alligators and the like. It seemed to make sense at the time.

Now then.

The youthful and really ridiculously good-looking Fabien “Fabio” Cousteau has recently made his way into the news as a result of certain accomplishments in oceanographic exploration. Accomplishments, frankly, that have given me cause to wonder as to young Fabien’s fictionality.

He drives a sub that looks like a shark.

No, not just a big metal tube with teeth and a face and a naked chick painted on it like a WWII fighter. Not even a metal casing shaped like a shark with a propeller and a periscope sticking out at either end a la that of Tintin.

He drives a sub that looks like a shark to sharks.

It flaps its tail. It swims. Somehow it doesn’t even breathe bubbles out of its gills. This allows the oceanographer in the wetsuit inside it to get ‘chummy’ with the sharks (little pun), look mean, practice his geezer stare, and presumably learn something about their behavior or something.

What the hell? Is it 2018 already? How did this massive leap in technology sneak past me? Are you telling me we got FISH SUBS 13 years ahead of schedule, but I STILL don’t have my CYBORG IMPLANTS? Fabien Cousteau’s got ocean superiority! Why the hell aren’t the Russians and the CIA trying to infiltrate that shit so THEY can get ocean superiority! Why isn’t he out busting up international underwater smuggling rings, fighting the loch-ness monster hand to hand? Those don’t exist? Oh, you’re right.

What am I to expect of this youngest Cousteau? To drown in his pool, as the joke goes. Beyond that I’m not really sure. I was too young to remember the career of the eldest Cousteau, though I have the impression he is a legend in his field. What does that mean about his descendants? Are they Sean Lennon, or are they Christopher Tolkien?

Jean-Michel Cousteau, younger son of Jacques and father of Fabien, is criticized by at least some in the diving community as an industry sell-out. I figure getting called that by divers has a little less credibility than being called it by skaters, boats and diving equipment costing a hell of a lot more than skateboards and the front steps of public buildings. ON the other hand, he’s done pretty well for himself. I might have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, if I hadn’t come across this on Amazon.

It’s a review of Jean-Michel’s critically acclaimed, bestselling, inverse nepotistically-titled Cousteau’s Great White Shark. I’m just going to transcribe it here. It’s short, and it’s worth it.

“For surviving for 400 million years. For refusing to submit yourself to mankind’s aquariums and corporate SeaWorlds. For never allowing your secrets of mating or birth to become known to the prying eyes of man. For not even leaving a skeleton for science to attempt to examine. For being the Master of the Seas, without even using mechanical aids to assist you, like we, the Humans, the Wimps, the Know-Nothings, the Arrogant Pestilence of the World must resort to to even attempt to conquer you. Keep fighting, Terrible, Beautiful Lordly Ones. We offer you humble, unworthy obeisance in the form of this book, under the aegis of your most dutiful admirer, Jacques Cousteau, Poseidon rest his soul. Never has your grace nor your fearful symmetry appeared to such great advantage. Keep cruising. May your fins glide through the oceans long after the peasants have ceased to crawl upon the earth–or dared to trawl upon the waters!”

–“I hail thee, Great White Shark!”, October 5, 1999, by an anonymous reviewer.

“Hello! I am a crazy crazy psycho Gozer/Lamnidae/Azathoth cultist! You, the ‘Peasants’, obviously should care deeply about and be influenced by my sociopathic opinions on the quality of books. Though of course I would rather see you all reduced to chum in the belly of this inhuman eating machine that I worship than read anything at all ever, ever again. Ahem. Read this book! Thank you.”

(That second paragraph is me.)

Research reveals Jean-Michel’s current career to consist of the facilitating of really ridiculously expensive diving expeditions open to anybody with thousands of dollars lying around where they “take you out to feed, pet, touch, ride and otherwise bother and disturb marine wildlife” (CDNN, not exactly an unbiased source).

So it appears Fabien’s genes aren’t doing him any huge favors.

It turns out Fabien Cousteau didn’t actually build the fish sub himself. He commissioned it from a guy who makes concept cars for hollywood. That’s a little bit more realistic. It’s still a damn cool piece of technology, and one on which I am still unclear as to exactly how it works (some kind of pressure manipulation of the gases expelled by Cousteau’s breathing apparatus). But it makes me doubt whether this fiberglass fish can really be the most advanced sub ever made. Alas.

What? It’s not like I really wanted a fish sub anyway.

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