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Book Review: Oceana, by Ted Danson

Cheers

“Sam Writes a Book”

FADE IN:

INT. BAR – HAPPY HOUR

IT’S AN AVERAGE NIGHT. USUAL CUSTOMERS PLUS REGULARS. SAM IS POURING A BEER FROM THE TAP AND CARLA AND COACH ARE TIDYING UP THE ROOM. FRASIER SITS AT THE BAR AND SAM PUTS THE BEER DOWN IN FRONT OF HIM.

 FRASIER

Well, I hear congratulations are in order, Sam. You, an author. Will wonders never cease?

 SAM

Thank you, Frasier. Coming from you, that’s quite a compliment.

 CARLA

A book? Your life in the Red Sox?

CLIFF

Your life as a drunk?

SAM

PICKS UP A GLASS AND STARTS CLEANING IT

Neither. It’s about how to save the oceans. I didn’t want to become a vain jerk who just thought about myself. So I started thinking about the sea.

 FRASIER

That’s commendable, Sam. There’s nothing worse than a vain jerk.

 COACH AND SAM ROLL THEIR EYES

 CARLA

Commendable? The only thing Sam could find bigger than himself was the sea? Isn’t that the thing that covers 75% of the world? What an ego!

 COACH

Leave him alone, Carla. It’s not easy being Sam Malone. What’s your book called, Sammy?

 SAM

Oceana. And for your information Carla, for modesty’s sake I use a pseudo.. pseudo ..

 FRASIER

Nym. Pseudonym.

SAM

Yeah, that’s right. As far as the world is concerned, I’m Ted Danson. Michael D’Orso wrote it with me, and the good folks at Rodale Press published it, and you know they don’t do any trash.

 FRASIER

I’ll be the judge of that.

 CARLA

Oh come on, snooty pants. Give him a chance. Tell us what it’s about, boss! Are there pirates and sea monsters?

 NORM

Is there seafood?

 WOODY

What about boats and surfing? I used to surf when I was a kid. I hit my head on rocks a lot.

 THEY ALL GIVE ONE ANOTHER A KNOWING LOOK

 SAM

It’s about all those things and more. It’s about what we’re doing to the oceans, with oil spills, climate change, plastic trash, acidification, over-fishing…

DIANE

COMES IN FROM THE KITCHEN AND SETS DOWN A PLATE OF FRIED SARDINES.

Sam says that until we can find a responsible supplier for wild caught shrimp, it’s sardines for Happy Hour. Bon appetit.

EVERYONE AT THE BAR STARES AT THE PLATE

SAM

Did you know that for every pound of shrimp that’s harvested, ten pounds of other fish is caught and discarded? Discarded means dead. Many of them are sea turtles and sea mammals. That’s in my book. Here, have a look.

NORM TAKES OCEANA AND PAGES THROUGH IT

NORM

Oh no! Look at that poor turtle. And the dolphin strangled in a fishing net … the horror!

SLAMS BOOK DOWN ON BAR AND SOBS WITH HIS HEAD IN HIS ARMS

FRASIER

Give me that! Simple minds will react emotionally to maudlin photos of animals. I prefer the facts myself.

OPENS BOOK

Dear God! A baby seal wrapped as tightly as a sausage in fishing net. Look at that unhappy little face!

EVERYONE PEERS OVER HIS SHOULDER AS HE PAGES THROUGH OCEANA, MAKING COMMENTS ON THE CHARTS AND PHOTOS

CLIFF

That’s some beautiful coral. My mother has earrings like that.

FRASIER

What sort of coral is this whitish-gray one over here, Sam?

SAM

That’s dead coral, Frasier. The oceans are 50% more acidic than they were before the Industrial Revolution. Acid kills coral, so do industrial fishing trawlers who damage a seabed area twice the size of the United States every year. The problem is, coral reefs provide shelter and food to a quarter of all species in the ocean. It’s horrifying, there’s no better word for it.

CLIFF

I like that you separate super tankers pillaging the oceans from local family fishermen making a living. But do you have to call them artisanal, like a loaf of bread? My buddies in Gloucester would fall off their bar stools laughing if someone called them artisanal.

SAM

What can I say? We wanted to use a word that would make people understand the difference, like the difference between agribusiness and the family farm. An industrial trawl net is big enough for a 747 jet to fit through.

WOODY

Wow. If they’re fishing with 747’s there’s really is no hope.

CARLA

LEANING ACROSS FRASIER TO TURN THE PAGES OF OCEANA

I like all these charts. Even my kid could understand this one about the dangers of fish farming. I thought fish farming was a good thing. Guess I was wrong, huh, Sam?

SAM

Don’t get me started. Overcrowding in fish pens cause disease that require huge amounts of antibiotics tossed into our waters, and we wonder why we’ve become resistant. Wild fish get too close to the cages and get sick by the toxic stew. On top of that, we feed farmed fish with fish that people around the world rely on for their daily diets, like anchovies. It takes three to five pounds of feed to make one pound of salmon.

CLIFF

That’s a lot of pizza topping.

SAM

I want you to remember these words the next time you cut into a piece of farmed salmon: Sea Lice. Not to mention Frankenfish, genetically modified fish with unknown health risks that could contaminate the worldwide salmon gene pool. Consumers have power. Tell your suppliers what you want.

NORM

I want another beer.

WOODY

You got it.

WOODY GIVES NORM A REFILL

Why do you look so sad, Mr. Peterson?

NORM

What’s the use? It’s all so hopeless.

SAM

The subtitle of Oceana is Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them, and I mean it. Every chapter ends with a list of things you can do, from how to slow down acidification from carbon emissions to putting an end to government subsidies which feeds the greed of the industrial fleet. If we can’t stop it, we’ll have no more fish. Instead of chowder, we’ll have to serve jellyfish soup.

EVERYONE MAKES NOISES OF DISGUST

DIANE

Who knew a day would come when there really weren’t any other fish in the sea.

GIVES SAM A SIGNIFICANT LOOK

SAM

I’m serious. Eighty percent of the fish in the oceans are in trouble. Go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium web site to get a Seafood Watch card so you know what fish are sustainable.

CLIFF

Sustainable?

SAM

Yeah. Meaning what types of fish we can eat without eating them all to death. That’s a start. Calling your elected officials, now that’s real important.

CARLA SNORTS

Right. Like they’ll do anything.

SAM

Governments will act if they think the people are behind them. Even better, get elected yourself.

WOODY’S EYEBROWS GO UP

FRASIER

READING FROM OCEANA

“Tell the president to invest in offshore wind, not offshore oil. Take mass transit. Support the end of high seas bottom trawling. Buy petroleum-free cosmetics.”

DIANE

TOUCHES HER FACE

Petroleum, on my face?

CARLA

Ha! Time to change the oil, miss high and mighty!

SAM

Speaking of which, you should only change your oil every 50,000 miles rather than 30,000.

DIANE

Sam, you mean to say change your oil at 5000 miles, not 50,000. If you waited that long to change your oil, the engine would have seized long before it reached 10,000.

SAM

Oh, yeah? Well, we all make mistakes. The point is, as humans and caretakers of the ocean, we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but we have to start undoing them. No one’s too dumb to learn about what’s going on with the oceans. Not even me.

COACH

Good job, Sam. I’m proud of you. Almost as proud as that time in the ninth evening of the Blue Jays game when you threw a no-hitter and won the game.

FRASIER

PUTS THE BOOK DOWN ON THE COUNTER

I guess I’ll have to eat my words, Sam. It’s an excellent book. Informative without being academic, with technology explained in simple language and with visuals. Not everyone has my education after all.

DIANE

Or mine.

CARLA

Or mine! If Sam can understand these things and do something about them, so can we. I’ll gladly eat sardines instead of farmed shrimp.

NORM

Beats jellyfish soup.

LAST SHOT, THEY ALL TAKE A SARDINE AND TOAST ONE ANOTHER

DIANE

To this Ted Danson fellow for writing a full service book on protecting the oceans, whoever he is!

Ted Danson

JoeAnn Hart
JoeAnn Hart is the author of the novel Float, which swirls around conceptual art, bankruptcy, and plastics in the ocean.
JoeAnn Hart

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One thought on “Book Review: Oceana, by Ted Danson

  1. Excellent review! Love it!

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