Saturday, September 09, 2006

Heroes, Villains, and the Animal Planet

It may be old news to everyone, but... I just wanted to write this. It's a little piece about Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Steve Irwin, as if you didn't know, was the popular conservationist who wrestled alligators and danced with snakes on Animal Planet. He died last Monday in a freak accident when a stingray stabbed him in the chest. Even though I was never a huge fan, news of his death saddened me immensely. He was a hero, no matter what that idiot Germaine Greer says.

Animal Planet had a Steve Irwin marathon today (and I'm sure, I hope, for weeks to come) and I was watching a few of his old shows like Wildest Home Videos and The Crocodile Hunter. If you have Animal Planet on your cable tv, do yourself a favor and tune in for a few minutes. Maybe stay for a few hours, like Aila and I did, and watch the man. He's just amazing. More than his fearlessness, his passion for what he did was genuine and highly motivating. In the short tribute commercials that Animal Planet showed, you could see how much love and admiration Steve Irwin had for his father. He said that was his one ambition, to become like his father. A deep part of all of us, I'm sure, can relate to that. Maybe he was a little intrusive of animal spaces in his methodology, sure. That can be argued. But there can be no doubt to the man's immensely infuential love for those very animals he wrangled and wrestled with. It's that kind of passion that moves people. Aila and I were watching him, and we just asked ourselves, how can you not like Steve Irwin? He was just... very NICE. With that goofy smile, how can you not smile back? We did smile back, and those short clips of him talking with so much passion about life, animals, and his father brought tears to our eyes.

Germaine Greer, on the other hand, is another manner of creature altogether. Why didn't this bitch feminist writer say any
of the nasty, insensitive, moronic things she said while Steve Irwin was alive? It's simple. Because she's exactly the kind of sensationalist creature she accuses Steve Irwin of being. It's good press. Feed on it. While the world mourns, she says something so distressingly inhuman (yes, you stupid woman, your insensitivity has marked you as the worst kind of wildlife) that it attracts the press. Her comments -- you really should click on my links, you know; I put them there for a reason -- weren't a neutral assessment on "that kind" of nature program... they were a personal attack on Irwin. And that, my friends, is the kind of human behavior that exemplifies one of Irwin's most valuable lessons: humans are the most dangerous animals on earth. It's not the black mamba, or the great white shark, even Steve Irwin's favorite crocodiles that are the nastiest creatures on earth. It's us. Our capacity for such venom, such ferocity, such... inhumanity is what makes this world a dangerous place.

Discovery Channel is one of my favorite channels. And it's not just because of 5 Takes, either. Anyone who knows me knows I love Discovery, National Geographic (my late grandmother gave me a subscription to National Geographic as a present. It was one of the best gifts ever.), etc. and Steve Irwin, I suppose, and people like him -- Ian Wright, Jamie Oliver, Samantha Brown -- not just animal conservationists but travel documentary hosts, are a huge part of that. They show us how wonderful our world is. I think, more than anything, that's what I want to do. I want to show how absolutely beautiful our world is. The Crocodile Hunter did that in spades. No matter how dangerous the creatures he showcased were, he always managed to drive home the point that this, our world and the creatures that inhabit it, is a mind-blowingly fantastic place. I'll always be thankful for that.

As we travel life, in everything we do, one of our duties as human beings, I think, is to show others how great our world is. It's our duty and our gift. To be our own Steve Irwins. My father recently compiled all his travel articles in his blog. In a strange, circumnavigatory way, I see everything coming to place. Stories. Travel. Heroes. Fathers. Everything is as it should be.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Sigh of Relief

It's done. After a grueling two days in Singapore, I had the good fortune of landing one of the five spots in 5 Takes. It's a real dream job, and for 8 weeks, I can be like Anthony Bourdain, Ian Wright, or Jamie Oliver. The casting process was intense. There were over 4,000 submissions of short 150-word essays, and from those, the Discovery Travel & Living people asked about 3,000 to submit their video logs (VLOGs). About half of that were able to submit, and from those submissions, they asked 40 people to fly to Singapore for the Closed Door Auditions. About 36 of us made it, and the non-Singaporeans were booked at the lovely Gallery Hotel. We had cocktails with the other candidates and the judges on our first night; the following day, we had closed-door panel interviews where we had about 5 minutes to sell ourselves to the judges. It was just so much fun. After lunch, they announced 12 finalists which would eventually be whittled down to five.

Even though I got the job, I want to say that every single one of those who attended the auditions were equally qualified for it. You would've enjoyed watching any of them. I just hope to do them and all the people who supported me some justice by not being totally boring. Anyway, I'll be posting my thanks to all my mind-blowingly cool new friends in my next entry, but for now I just want to breathe a sigh of relief that it's all over. Thank you to everyone who believed in me. It's going to be one amazing ride.