Below I have copied the third in a series of four vignettes written by Sloan Schang for the online literary publication, McSweeney's, titled Circumstances Under Which I Would I Enjoy Whale Watching.  This was brought to my attention by a friend, Katie Zeitler, and struck a chord with me because (a) I was a whale-watching guide for one wonderful summer, (b) I have long followed McSweeney's, which consistently churns out quality writing, often from lesser-known writers, and also often of a humorous persuasion, and is worth checking out if you have minute, (c) Who can argue the greatness (and undiminishing relevance) of Tom Selleck?  To view the piece in its' entirety click here http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2010/11/5schang.html.

Taken for Granite

"These mountains are stunning," uttered Croozels, as they wound through the Great Smoky Mountains.  "I wonder what kind of rock they are made of."

"This is just a guess," responded Shump, who fancied himself a rockhound, "but I'd say they're comprised of metamorphosed sedimentary rock."

Croozels made a disappointed face.

"What's the matter?" Shump asked.

"Nothing," Croozels trailed off, "I guess I just took them for granite."


The Cove

I just finished watching the documentary The Cove, and . . . wow.  If you have not seen it yet, I urge you to watch it as soon as possible.  It will make you shudder, shiver, seethe, and cry; feel pity, anger, and disbelief.  In just an hour and a half it deftly and passionately portrays the atrocities committed against tens of thousands of coastal dolphins in Taiji, Japan, each year, while also explaining the negative impact of this egregious practice on the local community and beyond.

To quickly summarize, here's what's going on in Taiji:
- dolphins are herded toward the shore in huge numbers by offshore boats that use harmful underwater noise to throw off the animals' innate sonar (navigational aid).
- once guided toward shore, they are trapped in an inlet by fishing nets, and local dolphin trainers are given a chance to sift through the dolphins and find the "most promising" or "most talented" dolphins, which are then shipped to all parts of the world to live out their lives in captivity in dolphinariums and tourist sites such as Seaworld.
- the dolphins that are not deemed worthy enough are tied up and dragged around to a cove that is shielded--and in fact heavily guarded--from the public eye, where they are brutally murdered.
- the resultant dolphin carcasses are taken by fisherman and cut up into dolphin meat that is then sold at markets and groceries throughout Japan, and very often incorrectly labeled as whale meat.  The reason for this is that dolphin meat, due to their diets, has been scientifically proven to contain large quantities of mercury, which can lead to toxic poisoning when consumed with regularity (most often noticeable in physical impairments and deficiencies in future children), so the government sidesteps potential lawsuits or negative media attention by labeling the dolphin meat as whale meat.
- the government is in cahoots with the media so that no reporting of any of this information comes out of Taiji, to the point where civilians on the streets in Japanese metropolises such as Kyoto and Tokyo, when interviewed, have absolutely no clue about what the film crew is talking about when asked about the dolphin slaughters in Taiji. 

The goal of the key players behind The Cove is to make sure that everyone realizes what is going on here, and most importantly, to quit being a passive audience and become motivated toward action and positive change.  I know I mentioned the main goings-on that the documentary focuses on, but you should definitely see it if you have not already.  The emotional impact is intense.  I understand not everyone can move to Japan and become an activist, and the people behind the documentary understand that as well.  But we can still help in our own way.  Below I have posted a link sponsored by people associated with The Cove.  You can sign a petition, write letters to governmental heads, and donate money to continued research and preservation initiatives.  It's a small thing, but a meaningful thing.