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The Cove: Song of the Jolly Dolphin Hunters

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It’s off to work we go…”

Sing the jolly dolphin-hunters as they prepare their nets and put on their wet-suits, filing onto their boats in their white butcher boots.

Okay, so they probably are not exactly as jolly as I imagine them, but I find myself trying very hard not to de-humanize people who actually kill and catch dolphins for a living.

They claim that the hunt is part of their cultural tradition — a tradition that dates back to 1969?! This is officially the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. But then, it is human nature to try to justify our actions no matter how inane or immoral they are.

Yep, it seems the dolphin hunters are all too human after all.

What’s really at stake here is arrogance and pride. The Japanese government doesn’t like Westerners telling them what to do. So they build up barricades to hide their work from prying eyes, and refuse to back down in the face of activists. The Japanese government spends millions of dollars on increased security for the fishermen of the cove.

dolphin-demonstrationThe majority of Japanese people are not at all party to dolphin killings. In fact, Taiji is an anomaly being currently the only dolphin-hunting village in Japan. Also, it seems most Japanese citizens are unaware of what is happening in Taiji, but thanks to the efforts of conservationists, word is now leaking out.

It takes a lot of guts for a Japanese citizen to stand up for dolphins. Anytime that an anti-dolphin-hunting demonstration occurs in Japan, nationalists go to that location and stage another demonstration, protesting their protest. They call the activists “hypocrites” and “unpatriotic.”

Meanwhile, in my swashbuckling headquarters, I am looking at daily reports from Ric O’Barry and his team who are monitoring the cove.

“The boats have returned with no dolphins,” reads the report from Taiji. I breathe a sigh of relief.

On other days, the report states, “Dolphins were slaughtered in the cove today.”

The dolphin hunting season usually begins in September or October and goes on until April. (“It’s dolphin hunting season… again!” sing the jolly dolphin-hunters in a show-tune-esque way as they twirl their top hats.)

Seriously, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through so many months. It’s the first time I’ve been following these reports on the hunt.  There is some hope in the fact that more and more people are finding out about the hunt and about the dangers of eating dolphin meat, which is contaminated with mercury.

“It’s the capture of the dolphins that’s the economic underpinning of the dolphin slaughter,” dolphin activist Ric O’Barry said in a recent interview, “The dolphin slaughter is not economically viable any longer. They’re only getting about $400 to $500 for a dead dolphin’s meat. I know they’re getting at least $154,000 for a live dolphin.”

O’Barry, who began his career working as a dolphin trainer, says that the best way to prevent the slaughter and capture of dolphins is to boycott dolphin shows and dolphinariums.

Cute Animal Encounters in the Wild

Last summer, I went on a swimming with dolphins experience in Cuba. From what I’ve seen there, the dolphins did not seem abused. The dolphin enclosures were spacious and located out in the middle of the ocean. There was no blaring music, no noisy crowds, and our experience with the dolphins was quite sedate. However, these dolphins were still confined and depended on the trainers for their meals.

It’s hard to tell what really goes on behind closed doors. In many dolphinariums the dolphins are starved to keep them tractable and willing to perform for their daily allowance of fish. Also, unlike the dolphins I saw in Cuba, many dolphins are kept in small, dirty, chlorinated tanks.

For those who are really into dolphins and would like to see these creatures in real life, I recommend swimming with wild dolphins adventures such as Wild Quest. Even these encounters in the wild could be problematic as sometimes dolphins are harassed too much by noisy boats, and I would recommend tours that use sail boats rather than motor boats.

So, as hard as it is for me to say this, knowing that cute animals are kind of like cocaine for me — not that I snort them, but well, you know what I mean… I pledge to only see whales and dolphins in the wild. I hope you will join me!

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Meghan Burnside and the Art of Dryad

dryad-cover-art-meghan-burnsideToday’s post features a bio of Meghan Burnside, the talented artist who depicted the dryad and her world of time travel on the novel’s cover. Meghan came up with a unique and meaningful design: the dryad in the middle, and her two love interests on opposite corners of the page, representing the human world and the dryad world. As the wheels of time are turning, the dryad is faced with choosing her destiny and the man she loves.  

Bio: Meghan Burnside

My name is Meghan Burnside, I was born with Autism. Art, I found, was a way to communicate my feelings and ideas to others. It has been my way of touching the world outside of Autism.

The challenge of discovering new techniques that will further my abilities as an artist is what I enjoy most along my creative path. I particularly enjoy painting images that have a quality of light and colour, the kind you would see in a stain glass window. The depth, luminosity, and richness that can be created with acrylic paint triggers my creativity unlike any other medium. It truly speaks to my soul.

 I started painting in 2003. My work has been exhibited in a variety of different venues in Edmonton, Alberta including the Jubilee Auditorium, the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton City Hall, Snap Gallery, the APEGA Art Show at their annual summit, and various churches throughout the city. My first solo exhibition was held at The Flat Gallery in Stony Plain, Alberta in support of the Society of Autism. I won first place in the Freezing Point 2012 Art Competition. My artwork has been discussed in Profile Magazine, the Western Catholic Reporter, and various news publications online. I have sold several of my pieces privately, completed illustrations for the covers of two novels, and am currently working on illustrating a children’s book named The Adventures of Sarah The Mouse. Most recently a Giclee of my painting The Sacred Heart (winner of the Freezing Point 2012 Art Competition) has been seen in person by Pope Francis, in Rome and I have received his personal correspondence in response to the image.

 To contact me for further information: MegBurnsideArt@outlook.com

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Book Review: Ranger Martin and The Zombie Apocalypse

jacketHis focus fell on the trailer’s opening, on three of the undead rocking from side-to-side. Only their heads and shoulders were visible. Grabbing the golf club he found earlier along the side of the trailer, he rose with one intention: play golf.

– Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse by Jack Flacco

Ranger Martin doesn’t just kill zombies. He kills them with a flair for comedy, and he thoroughly enjoys his adventures. With amazing good humour for someone living in the midst of an apocalypse, Ranger Martin somewhat resembles Indiana Jones in his inventive ways of getting out of tight spots. His only companion is a teenager whom he nicknames Wildside. But as the story opens, Ranger stumbles upon two more youngsters, a ten-year-old kid named Jon and his teenage sister Matty.

When Jon marvels at his “Batcave” dwelling, this slayer of the undead says that he prefers Spiderman to Batman, and it’s easy to see why. Unlike the grim caped crusader, Ranger Martin is a warm, humorous person who doesn’t suffer from troubling psychological issues. Altogether, he’s a pretty cool dude.

Ranger is up against some big challenges, the biggest of which is getting the teenagers in his charge to get along. Indeed, the most interesting thing for me was seeing how the characters’ personal issues from before the apocalypse haunted them, and how they worked on resolving their differences between bouts of fighting undead creatures. As the characters’ back story is revealed, the zombie attacks pale in comparison to the suffering caused by “normal” society.

jack flaccoAs they try to solve the riddle of the zombies’ origin and go on a quest to destroy the zombies for good, Ranger and his crew face quite a few undead opponents. Jack Flacco excels at bringing the zombie-fighting action to life with his own brand of dynamic comic-book flavored violence. Speaking of flavor, he also injects much humour by describing gooey zombie brains as food items, everything from avocado to mint jelly, as in “Ranger then crashed his boot into its skull, spraying mint jelly everywhere.”

It’s a harsh and dangerous world, but Jack Flacco illuminates it with his heroes’ quirky personalities and camaraderie. The perfect mix of human drama and zombie thrills, Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse is a very lively (haha) tale of the undead.

Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse is due to be released on October 22, 2013.

To find out more about Jack Flacco, check out his highly entertaining site http://jackflacco.com/.

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Dryad Prologue

 This is how the Dryad novel originally began, but my writerly instincts told me to cut this part. I removed it from the novel, but I still think it’s a good intro. So I’ll add it here as a sort of optional prologue….

tipuana tipu

Reading on the balcony was one of Natalie’s favourite things to do despite some mysterious pranksters — she supposed it was the neighbourhood kids — stealing her books and magazines if she left them out for any amount of time. Little did she know that a dryad had been stalking her house.

Rosewood trees sprawled in a long canopy all down the quiet street. From where Natalie sat, she could see their greenish tops, slightly grey with city dust, rippling in the breeze. Being the wife of an English diplomat in Colombia, she spent many hours alone on her wide balcony, lounging in a deck chair and reading Narcissism Carnival, to which she subscribed every year religiously.

Then something disquieting happened: she realized that her tall cocktail glass was nearly empty, so she got up with a sigh and went into the apartment to make a new mojito, leaving the magazine to be leafed through by the wind.

The dryad saw her opportunity. It was only about a ten foot drop, and she leaped straight down from the roof, landing almost soundlessly on the rug-covered balcony. She snatched up the magazine, stuck it into a messenger back that was slung across her shoulder and took a few ripe mango fruits out of the bag. The skin of the fruit was dark yellow tinged with red on one side. She put them down on the table where the magazine had been — for dryads never steal. If they take something, they must replace it with something of equal value.

The dryad did not know how much the mango was worth in human currency, but she thought the woman would find it very appropriate. She had been watching that woman for the last year, and thought that she could use much more fresh fruit and exercise. Also, the dryad thought, realizing that she was being a touch hypocritical, what’s the use of sitting around reading junk magazines all day?

With a quick look around, she began climbing down via the mock columns of the facade. Fortunately, the columns were filigreed with images of plants and leaves, which provided plenty of hand and foot holds. The street was deserted at this siesta hour, and nobody saw her descend. She leaped the last few feet and walked down the shady street with complete nonchalance, just a young, fit Argentinian woman wearing shorts and a tank top, taking a leisurely walk. The streets were lined with tipuana tipu, a rosewood tree whose winged seeds spun like helicopter blades in the breeze, and she walked through a rain of twirling wings.

She soon picked up the pace to a run, and when she reached the outskirts of the city, which blended into dense jungle, she changed into her dryad form: the green eyes expanded until they were round  and luminous like a cat’s. But that was not the only point in which they differed from human eyes: her eyes seemed to have a life of their own, as if one could see green leaves stirring gently in the breeze within them. Her skin took on a pale green hue, and her hair changed from dark brown to bright orange. She ran on through the thick jungle.

Three more days, and she would be back in her forest.