Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Cove - A Movie Review

The Cove” is an intense documentary exposing the horrendous practice of bottlenose dolphin slaughter taking place in Taiji, Japan. It is an Oscar award winning film for best documentary released in 2009. Every September, in accordance with dolphin migration, an estimated 23,000 dolphins are brutally killed in a hidden away, well guarded cove. These animals are then served as meat (often mislabeled) in markets all over Japan. A secondary issue mentioned in the movie is the ridiculously high mercury levels found in the meat; 0.4 ppm is considered safe for human consumption, and the tissue samples from these dolphins are at 2,000 ppm. But, that is an entirely different problem in the ocean food web.

I appreciate the topic of the movie, but most importantly am pleased to see the passionate, yet professional approach to the issues at hand. This is not another Michael Moore edition of “the Ranting Swede” that is simply anti-Japanese. It is a well constructed piece, with climactic events and strong characters – just like any other movie should be. However, it does not have the same positive bolster at the end that the documentary Sharkwater surprisingly delivered. But I understand the inherent challenges that come with tackling such tragic subject matter while avoiding a depressing conclusion.

A side note to the main message of the film is the very interesting insight into Ric O’Barry, the original star of the Flipper show. I would seriously watch a biography specifically on that man. He went from a man who helped chaperone dolphin captivity into a worldwide multi-million dollar industry to a “Free Dolphins” zealot with PETA-esque fervor. I was moved by his story all on its own. To learn more about his organization, check out:

RATING: ~ ~ ~ 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 waves) There are some extremely brutal scenes in the film, so I do not suggest sharing this with young children, and make sure you are mentally prepared before watching as well.

I actually learned of the film from a friend on Facebook, and joined the cause… and I don’t play Mafia Wars or have a Zoo or play Farmville; but this is a serious issue that should be addressed. The film was officially released in 2009, but primarily on the independent film circuit. It is now available on DVD for rental or purchase, and it is currently hitting censorship roadblocks in Japan. Big surprise. For information on the Ocean Preservation Society (OPS) - they produced the film- check out:

In addition, the IWC (International Whaling Commission), a “toothless” organization that is meant to mitigate all activity concerning whales, generally dismisses issues about dolphins because they are the smallest cetaceans and not on the endangered species list. Consider this- dolphins may not be endangered, but most species found throughout the world are not actually found everywhere. An animal may be abundant in only a few small areas, but since they can be readily found there, the dangers to the population are often overlooked.

Also, as devil’s advocate: What exactly IS the problem with killing and eating dolphins? Should we stop ALL meat consumption? Should somebody make a film about farms and beef slaughterhouses? Personally, I feel (based on our teeth and other physiological traits) humans were meant to be omnivores. Some humans have the fortitude, or even just a natural inclination, NOT to eat meat. That is fine, as long as they take care to get all the proper nutrients in order to remain healthy. I do NOT, however, believe we are the only intelligent beings on this planet. It is widely accepted that cannibalism is wrong, and it makes sense to include all creatures that are self-aware under that umbrella. Okay, this hot debate will be a battleground for vegans and self-proclaimed carnivores that will never end. But there is a reason why we feel for certain animal species; it is possible to connect with another creature. If you have never experienced it, then I suggest you spend more time outside… some animal will connect with you in a way you never expected. I will never knowingly eat dog or wolf, whale or sea turtle; I don’t eat veal and like to buy eggs that come from happy chickens (i.e. free range, veggie-fed). I’m not a vegetarian, but I understand why many people choose that lifestyle and I respect it.

Spend some time this week making choices that are bigger than just one person. Think about the food you eat (I don’t mean stress about it, just try to appreciate it) and where it came from. Show respect while driving through a parking lot or waiting in the checkout line. These little changes make us a better species, so it is always worth your time.

-Callie Sharkey

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jacques Cousteau: Reflection & Review

The 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau's birth was June 11, and I am reminded of how much individuals shape the universe by inspiring those around them. As a role model, yes, the man made mistakes, but we must also consider the era in which his career developed and find it in our hearts to forgive those transgressions. The adventures on Calypso impacted, and still are affecting, the attitudes regarding the sea and its wonders. He was a filmmaker who even won an Oscar for the short film "The Golden Fish" back in 1960. This man developed the aqua-lung into the true predecessor of modern SCUBA (nitrox, etc. is excluded, of course). While many of the early practices, for instance, the keeping of multiple sea lion pups on deck in cages to compensate for mortality while filming, would be unacceptable now, in the end Jacques Yves Cousteau was a remarkable individual who managed to bring the ocean to a land-locked world. He eventually became a champion for the message of protection and education about our oceans. He is still inspiring new generations with his work, and I will always be thankful for the motivation his example provided for me as well. I do have the DVD collection of his films, which I will happily share in the future.

As for the book review... I found an old hardback copy of The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea written by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Philippe Cousteau. It was published in 1970, and Jaws didn't come out until 1975, so I was really interested to check this book out... plus, the extensive alliteration used in the title was amusing as well. Essentially, it is a compilation of shark encounters experienced along with details of how they filmed sharks and other underwater challenges. Both Phillipe and Jacques give narratives, and I found Philippe to be the more scientific and less charismatic of the two authors. There are some cool anecdotal stories, but if you get hung up on factual details matching the descriptive language- well, I would stick to the Philippe narratives.
The photos are almost laughable considering both basic photoshop and the capabilities of digital photography these days. But, hey, for the time this was really amazing stuff. I did find it interesting to compare some of my own photos taken with disposable underwater cameras to the high-tech images found in this book. Made me feel pretty good as a photographer, actually. My favorite part of the book is the Appendix B. Yeah, I know, sounds corny... but it is "Drawings of Ships, Sharks, and Sea-Going Equipment" and I think that stuff is really neat from a historical perspective. I wouldn't be surprised to find the illustration of a shark's eye still in modern textbooks- as our knowledge of sharks has grown, but still remains far short of where it could be.

If you are a marine-history buff, or a big Cousteau fan, it is totally worth the effort to check out this book at a local library. I wouldn't use it for a scientific paper, but if writing a biography on either Cousteau, then it is an interesting and useful work. I found my copy at a garage sale, so really have no suggestions on where to find it... so I looked it up on for fun. At this time there are 4 new copies for $13 and 40 used ones starting for less than $1. I was disappointed to see the 7 reviews for the book gave it an average of 4.5 stars. As for me...

RATING: ~~1/2 (2.5 Waves out of 5) Just because I have mad respect for the authors doesn't mean I've fallen off my rocker when it comes to writing, research, and accuracy. If it's out of date, and this one IS, I can't in good conscience highly recommend it.

Remember your heroes, even when they let you down. Know that we are all human and therefore fallible, but we are also capable of amazing -and positive- actions.
Go inspire somebody!
-Callie Sharkey

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Abyss: Review

So, as a reprieve from the Oil Spill Crisis (but not for long, I have new information to share on that soon) I have returned to the fun of doing ocean related reviews. My husband was shocked to find I had NEVER seen the film in its entirety. After actually watching the special edition, start to finish, I was shocked to realize I had never seen it either, and knew I had to recommend to all that would hear this film MUST be watched by all oceanic and science fiction enthusiasts.

It was originally released in August of 1989, and when you think of the scope and nature of James Cameron films in general, this was a spectacular predecessor to Titanic and Avatar (Terminator came prior, back in 1984). The settings are amazing, and the story is exceptional. Having a background as an aviation mechanic and having worked on and around the bubble-domed submersibles at HBOI really gave me an intense perspective on the film. I was constantly analyzing the machinery and running the physics through my head, checking plausibility. Cameron has always made films I have enjoyed, but honestly, The Abyss changed my perception of his work like nothing else. If you can set your brain back to the theatrical technology of the late 80's/early 90's, you will realize this film, as always for Cameron's work, was WAY ahead of its time.

So, even if you've seen it, watch it again. Reminisce and enjoy the heart-pounding moments of tragedy and discovery all over again. Let's remember why we are so keen in the first place to both love and want to save this precious ocean surrounding our planet.

RATING: ~~~~~ (5 out of 5 waves) you, like me, really have no excuse NOT to own or at least watch this film again... and again

Take care, and more reviews - books and otherwise- are on their way soon,