Friday, February 12, 2010

Aghast me hearties!

Being absent from Oz for the better part of three decades means that one has been largely spared the prattlings of tossers like Jesse Martin, juvenile Captain Queeg of the South Pacific.

Last week I watched the documentary Five Lost at Sea about his AUS$2m voyage around the world with his brother, a friend and 'two girls', whose presence appears to have been sponsor-driven.

The intrepid team gets as far as Darwin before 'the girls' mutiny. The lack of bonding appears to centre around their distaste for shooting things and their inability to read the mind of their brooding skipper. One of 'the girls', an articulate and formerly self-assured American accuses Martin of 'dehumanising' her. The expression on his face betrays a sense that he has never heard a female voice before.

They run aground on a coral reef, seemingly without much climactic provocation and respond by staging a group panic. No one seems to know where they are, either individually or nautically. The American gallantly strikes out in the dark to rescue an adrift dinghy and is lambasted for stupidity. One can't help thinking that if the friend or brother had done the same, he would have been hailed a hero.

After 'the girls' walk the plank in Darwin. A 'friendly' Scandinavian back-packer called Maria joins the crew. She appears to have been recruited in much the same spirit as any other part-time pirate, in a bar and presumably after having her gut filled with rum & diet cokes and her head with treasure maps and brandished scabbards.

They sail on to Bali where Maria adventure-hops again, something to do with meeting her brother. It's a bit difficult to tell what's going on at this stage as everyone is weeping uncontrollably over the Bali bombings which have just occurred. All that is except Jesse who seems more gripped with consternation that terrorism has encroached on his Gauguinian idyll.

On to Thailand where Martin mellows visibly at the arrival of his girlfriend Maya, for whom it now appears he has been pining. That explains a lot. All is fine for five minutes until he reveals his next port of call is to be Maya (no relation) Beach on Koh Phi Phi Leh Island, the location of the 2000 film adaptation of the Alex Garland book "The Beach". Hey Jesse, doesn't everyone get massacred in that one?

Life provides a poor imitation of art. No gun battles, no Tilda Swinton, just Martin's brother calling him a dickhead and heading for the airport. One of his items of checked baggage is a skateboard. No wonder it all went the way of the pear.

Jesse Martin first found fame as the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world. Earlier in the week I'd caught a little of his smug, whining interview on Talking Heads. Entirely unrepentant several years later, he assumes a politician's detachment. 'Things went wrong,' he insists. All he'd wanted was an adventure. Like the most naive of politicians, he had a goal but no plan. 'The girls' on this great adventure had been begging for the establishment of some routines and rules yet their pleadings for common sense had been perceived as a fun-sapping drag.

At the end of Five Lost at Sea, Martin is to be seen petulantly tossing all of his expensive toys out of his luxurious pram and defiantly refusing to honour any of the obligations that made his whim possible in the first place.

I can't help thinking he's a product of his age. Indulged and infantilised by endlessly met desires, he has become a physical titan but an emotional imbecile. On a sea voyage where he was not only the captain but the only experienced sailor, he was solely responsible for the safety of others. Yet he was completely unable to devise and issue 'orders', as I believe they're called in this situation.

As a 'young person' I too was involved in several enterprises that were adventurous and risky and didn't have anyone over thirty within sniffing distance. It's not new. What is new is the absurd preciousness that youth activity has acquired to compensate for its complete failure to impart life lessons. Oh and there wasn't any 'girl germ' adolescent sexism in my youthful jaunts either.

PS Toshie still in shop and the ladies at the library getting a little tetchy.