[book] Close to Shore
Selachophobia—fear of sharks—is one of the most irrational fears one can harbor. The stats come nowhere near supporting that sense you get once you pass the shore break, the one that makes you think your fate rests within the gullet of Galeocerdo cuvier. This, apparently, is a result of sensationalistic media. Jaws author Peter Benchley laments the viral fear that the blockbuster film of the same name spurred as well as the way news outlets turn a few shark attacks into a nationwide panic. Capuzzo’s Close to Shore depicts the terrifying events that transpired during the summer of 1912, when a string of shark attacks on the Jersey Shore captured the imagination of practically the entire population. He goes beyond news reports in recreating key events—when depicting one attack he describes how, as it neared its victim, the shark’s jaw unhinged and its eyes glazed over with a protective coating. Yet while the book dramatizes the attacks, the author also makes an effort to note how exponentially unlikely such a string of attacks is, and how the media, not sharks, are what made the phenomenon so remarkable.
[film] Deep Blue Sea
If this film is the Jaws of the late ‘90s, then the late ‘90s are the Deep Blue Sea of human progress. The premise involves a bio-engineered super shark that gets loose in a futuristic undersea lab and terrorizes some unlucky humans. And that’s basically it. Although I have to confess that viewing this movie brought me to an important insight regarding character development in mainstream film: if a character lights up a cigarette within the first 20 minutes of a flick, said character is probably going to die. This is a recent phenomenon, of course, given that tobacco consumption has only been maligned on a broad scale for the past two decades or so. Rather than recommend that readers watch this film (I would never make you endure that), I’ll reveal the scenario herein: pudgy old lab dude paces cavalierly near confined shark, if my memory serves, and lights up. Shark gets free and annihilates pudgy lab dude by way of steely jaw. Everyone wins. So try not to get attached the next time someone sparks a smoke in a big budget movie made after 1995.
[web site] The International Shark Attack File
You may notice that pretty much every news story written in the wake of a shark attack features quotes from the same expert. That expert would be University of Florida researcher George Burgess, under whose auspices the International Shark Attack File is compiled. The file provides lay people with the straight dope concerning the frequency of (unprovoked) shark attacks worldwide. In any given summer, news outlets may claim that shark attacks are on the rise, but the ISAF will dispel such sensationalistic claims. On this site you can compare the rate of squirrel bites, tornadoes and lightning strikes to that of shark attacks. You can learn about how Americans have a one in five chance of dying of heart disease, a one in 79,746 chance of biting the dust by way of lightning and a one in 3,748,467 chance of fatally falling victim to a shark. Of course odds are greater for a run-in with a shark in the isles, but nowhere near as likely as some make it seem. MTW