Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Cove

I just finished watching the documentary 'The Cove,' a tale about the slaughtering of 23,000 bottle-nosed dolphins each year in the town of Taiji, Japan, the toxic levels of mercury in the ocean, and the multi-billion dollar industry of capturing and selling dolphins.

If there was ever a film to nudge me to make a difference, then this is it. Everyone has the moment in their lives when they snap into action; get that spark of anger and compassion towards a cause they never knew they cared so deeply about. This was mine.

The film begins with a back story on the world's obsession with dolphins. Ric O'Barry, dolphin trainer and activist, accepts responsibility for his role in consumerizing dolphins during his time as the dolphin trainer for the 80's hit series Flipper. He was the man who caught the five female bottle-nosed mammals who would play the role of the title character, Flipper. Eventually, O'Barry came to realize that the harm he was causing in their captivity. Their sensitivity to sound, he realized, was what was causing premature deaths in aquariums, and what would eventually becmoe their greatness weakness in Taiji.

"You have to see them in the wild to understand why captivity doesn't work. In the wild, they're traveling up to 40 miles a day. They could be surfing in one area in the morning, next hour, they could be 25 miles away," says O'Barry. "Dolphins are acoustic creatures. That's their primary sense. The best sonar that man has is a toy compared to the dolphin's sonar. When you're in the water, the dolphins can see right through you. They can see your heart beating, they can see your bones. They can see if you're pregnant. They get a lot of information with their sound. The dolphins captured are put in a concrete tank, surround by a stadium of screaming the stress that kills them. They're very sensitive to sound. That's their primary sense. And that's their downfall in Taiji."

During a point in the show's production, O'Barry reports that one of the dolphins, Kathy, committed suicide after showing signs of depression for awhile.

Since then, O'Barry has committed his life to ending the tragic fate dolphins encounter in Taiji, where fishermen lure dolphins into their cove and use metal poles and hammers to create a wall of sound, frightening and trapping the dolphins from escape. They then pick out the "good candidates" to sell to zoo's. aquariums, and "swim-with-dolphin" programs throughout the world. The remaining dolphins await their fate in the Killing Cove, where they are brutally murdered for their meat.

There is a scene where the activists set up hidden cameras to film the fishermen stabbing the dolphins with such vengeance and conviction, it made me vomit.

If the fishermen of Taijii were not causing enough harm with their masacuric actions, they openly facilitated the spread of mercury poisening throughtout the countryside. When their dolphin meat was not selling, they 'donated' the meat to local school lunch programs.

After the Minamata disease crisis in Minamata, Japan- mercury poisoning became wide spread as a result of the Chisso Corporation secretly dumping their toxic waste into the bay- you would think that Japan would try and prevent re-poisoning their children to the point they could not see, hear, talk, or perform basic dexterous movements. Thankfully, the meat has since been removed from the school systems.

In today's morally bankrupt world where global climate change is seemingly "non-existant" and humans kill helpless animals without a second thought, dolphins remain good-hearted mammals who selflessly prove to defend humans. They deserve the same respect from us. If the fishermen in Taiji continue to wipe out the dolphin population at their current rate, they may become extinct within 40 years.

To make a difference and to donate, visit
Save Japan Dolphins or The Cove. A $100 donation gets you a free copy of the award winning 'The Cove,' and with a $250 gift you also receive a campaign t-shirt.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mardi Gras- New Orleans, LA

"They have a saying here in Cajun Country- 'My family is my business, and my business is my family'" - Norman Marmillion, owner of the Laura Plantation that resides along the Mississippi River in New Orleans

My best friend and I, along with our mothers, arrived in New Orleans just past midnight and were promptly brought to our hotel that was located right smack in the middle of the drunken Mardi Gras festivities. Five seconds after exiting the airport shuttle, a young girl collapsed and hit her head on a pole, followed by the four of us being stuck in a room with 1 King sized bed, and finally, a drunken boy who would not leave us alone, requesting to stay in our room with us. My friend and I were worried- what had we brought our mom's to? This trip? Not destined to be great. However, we were wrong!

Day 1- Sightseeing Tours
After about 3 hours of sleep, we all rose to the silent city on our plantation tour. It was bright and sunny and the only people about were the crazy parade fans who were already claiming seats for the spectacle that would come in about....four more hours...

Our first stop was the Oak Alley Plantation, a gorgeous property set amongst a traditional southern landscape. Quiet chirping and a cool sunshine that you swear is whispering a lullaby in your ear. The tour consisted of a small and grand two-story home of the original occupants Jacques and Celina Roman. This land has been featured in a number of films, including Interview with the Vampire and Beyonce's 'Deja Vu' music video. It was also the subject of an episode of Ghost Hunters.



Next up, we shuffled over to the Laura Plantation, a tradition creole household that was the location of the successful Duparc family. It was carried on by four generations of women, until Laura, the farm's namesake, 'quit' the family to live her own life, and wrote a book entitled 'Memories of the Old Plantation Home' to tell her grandchildren about her family's plantation past. We were lucky and had the owner of the plantation, Norman Marmillion, give our tour. He was very captivating and entertaining.



"Rollin....rollin....rollin on a river. Listen to the story now!"

We ended our day with a Riverboat Cruise aboard the Natchez Steamboat. The 1 1/2 hour sail traveled up and down the Mississippi River while a New Jersey accent droned on over the loudspeaker about the history of the oil refineries and boat docks. Needless to say, but a tour with jazzy music would have been a tad more enjoyable.



Days 2 & 3- French Quarter Exploring
Mardi Gras traffic prevented us from taking the famous St Charles Street Car down to the garden district, so we spent the remainder of our two days exploring the French Quarter and watching parades. And of course, celebrating Fat Tuesday with the traditional 'spirited' festivity. The highlights included:

Bourbon Street- the bar capitol! We were all too scared to come here after dark, so we daredevils hit up this street for a little sightseeing in the mornings. The main event were the people on balconies throwing beads to the pedestrians. They were easy to come by on Monday, but come Fat Tuesday, they were sticking to their guns about flashing for merchandise.

Cafe du Monde- but of course we stopped (more than once) at the greatest beignet (french doughnut) shop in the world! There are no worlds to describe how awesomely delicious these powdered pieces of heaven are.


Central Grocery- mmm muffelettas! A little specialty grocery shop located on DeCanter Street makes the city's best muffelettas. The line is long, but goes quick, as you choose either a half size or full size sandwich. You'll be drooling over the olive salad in no time.

Pat O'Briens- we spent an afternoon at this piano bar near Bourbon Street. It was filled to the bring with drunken patrons. Everyone had to sit in any seat they could find, but that's how you met new people! The pianists, sick of playing Piano Man, I'm sure, were entertaining, the drinks were strong (really strong), and it was a fun way to relax.

Parades. Ahh, the parades. What is there to say about the parades? There are endless parades for six weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, and the days we were there, they were all filled with massive crowds and massive piles of trash. They were awesome! Tons of beads and cheap crappy plastic merchandise you really have no use or want for, but you bet you'll be pushing, shoving, and playing tug-o-war to get some. Note of advice- bring gloves!!! When your hands are partially frozen and numb, strings of beads flinging through the air hurt!!!




New Orleans remains my favorite city to visit in the US (so far!). This trip was a success!