Idiot cell phone junkies killed a baby dolphin on a beach -- passing it around for hours of selfies.
© Copyright 2015-2020, John Hessburg & The DICTION AERIE.™ All rights reserved.
If only we could show it. The photo is so sad, so terrible it rips at your soul like a claw hammer. I’m feeling ragged now... raw, amigos del mar. The pic is more than I can bear to post.
CNN and World Animal News reported this weekend that a milling mob of beachgoers in La Plata Argentina, about 50 km SE of Buenos Aires, snatched a rare dolphin from the ocean and passed it around for so long on the beach – while scores of people pushed and shoved to take “selfies” with the baby dolphin -- that it died right there in front of grown men, women and yes -- even children. Nobody did a thing to help the newborn critter.
La Vida Silvestre, a wildlife foundation in Argentina, confirmed this shameful report. What’s more, Sky News revealed another video of so-called humans removing a dolphin from the water in Santa Teresita, a coastal town about 350 km SE of Buenos Aires. Those folks took photos of a dolphin that appears to have been left to die in the sand; then they simply went on their ways, according to CNN. This proves that outbreaks of microcephaly in Latin America are not confined to mosquito-plagued sectors of Brazil, nor only to infants.
The Argentine wildlife organization urged people to return all dolphins to the sea, immediately, if they ever find one washed ashore. "It is vital that people help to rescue these animals, because every (one) counts," they wrote. The LaPlata breed is a sea mammal that normally shies away from humans. It thrives in the chilly waters of the Rio de La Plata, near Buenos Aires; and the Atlantic coasts between Argentina and Uruguay. It also sometimes cruises shorelines of SE Brazil. Now, back to basics...
What happened to that baby dolphin is murder by negligence. Pure and simple. These people are knuckle-draggers and deserve to be prosecuted. Class C felony charges for all the adults, all of them. A week in juvie for the youngsters. Their parents deserve this fitting penalty: picking up highway litter in the cold and driving rain all day, while wearing sandwich boards that read, “I'm an utter idiot. I killed a baby dolphin – for a selfie.”
Steaming shame on the parents for not teaching their children better compassion and concern for vulnerable life forms. These aquatic mammals, among the most intelligent and communicative on our planet, are fragile for the first several months of their lives and need to be in sea water all day long. Period.
As a matter of principle, never compromised in 25 years of service to thousands of tropical vacation clients, the agents of U.S. Dive Travel Network – a company I founded and still manage – never, I repeat never knowingly gave business to any resorts, anywhere, any time that offer “swim with dolphins” or “pet the dolphin” programs. Many of these so-called “cetacean research centers” are pure bull-feathers and geared only for profit, under the slippery veneer of "eco-tourism". Shameless commercial hype.
Dolphin-petting operations are abusers, exploitative hucksters. They disgust me for one key reason – in a mob, often people do things they'd never do alone, things that defy their innermost moral codes. Group-think can make normally thoughtful people act like witless wonders who cause serious harm to trusting creatures. And the worst of it is: the hapless dolphins never know what hit them. No, even worse: people profit from this thinly-lacquered "gray slavery."
I have free dived and scuba dived with countless wild and unconfined dolphins at islands across the Pacific since the early 1990s. Every time they swam up to me, out of the blue literally, and began cavorting like caffeinated kids -- of their own volition. One morning just a mile offshore from 'Eua iki, a small sister isle to Tongatapu, main island of Tonga, I was scuba diving with a young fisherman named Nonga Vea, maybe 65-70 feet down in clear current-free water, just tooling happily along the crater rim of a long-dead volcano, cruising huge beds of soft corals and colorful sponges, when suddenly we sensed odd movement and looked up. Now get this: ocean waves when viewed from below sometimes look like sculpted glass, impossibly smooth convex surfaces -- almost like cosmic blue jello scooped out by some enormous spoon. And there amid the royal-aqua jello bulges were five gray dolphins, showing off like stoned teenagers on a summer boardwalk, regaling us with an act right out of Cirque du Soleil. They danced around our bubble streams, darting in and out of the jello bumps, cleaving those astonishing blue scoops with their own bubbling "vapor trails" -- easily in bursts of 20 knots. We were so thrilled, we must have been breathing like race horses, because we drained 3,000 p.s.i. air tanks in half the normal time.
And here's the point, amigos del mar. We never bribed them with food or lures. They just showed up because they were curious; and they felt like it. Maybe we looked like fun to them. And never once did we try to grab or bump them. That's because never, as we counsel all clients whose trips we guide, have I reached and touched a dolphin, ray or shark with even a passing fingertip, unless that critter brushed past my shoulder when I turned the other way. That's darn near scripture in our sport, folks. We preach it with steel-eyed stares. Look but never touch. No exceptions any time.
Here’s the rub, literally. Dolphins have a delicate jelly-like oil on their skin, that when scraped or cut in waters rife with bacteria, can cause painful sores, or worse –- debilitating infections. Many sharks, rays, reef fish, squid and octopi are the same... They are at risk of getting infections that sometimes cripple or kill them over time.
So what kind of people would take such risks with a sentient, soul-bearing being -- and a baby yet -- just for the sake of a social media selfie? It beggars the imagination. This is the moral equivalent of ripping a newborn human from its mother's breast on day 3 of life, then passing that terrified hungry baby around, naked and crying, lashed by chilly winter winds in some parking lot outside. So why suddenly is this negligence acceptable when another specie, just as helpless, is involved? Have we as humans, prodded by the hollow vanity of cell-phones, devolved to such a point of emotional insentience that we're becoming spiritual cripples? Really?
I cannot comprehend how something this obvious, distress heaped on a small living creature did not pique at least some compassion in one human?! Not even one person? They let the infant dolphin die with no more regard than that afforded an insect crushed underfoot on a gum-flecked inner city sidewalk.
I know there will be e-mails, calls, letters. So what? Bring it, baby. I feel some selfie-addicts -- like these dolphin abusers -- are so self-centered they cannot see beyond the vanity of their own noses. Face it, folks; that dolphin pod from which the mouth-breathers stole that baby is far more human than those vapid biped perps. Now what?
Time to yammer, clamor, howl 'n shout, amigos del mar. OK, now smile, if you feel like slapping a few of these dimwits into the middle of next week. Then go ahead and do it; on this side of the law, however. Make it matter. Be uncommonly clever and relentless. Even cruel if need be. Make sure they remember you like that first tart smack on the cheek in the back seat at the junior prom.
Let’s e-nundate those two seaside communities in Argentina. Write respectful but molten letters to managers of that beach's lifeguard team, or to resort directors, whomever is in charge. Give 'em hell and don't let up. Make 'em think...
Right now my pulse is racing, the BP's soaring and I need to chill... It’s not often that anything related to the oceans I love so deeply, which have been my passion and my livelihood for more than a quarter century, can spur me to feel like actually socking someone squarely in the mouth. Forgive me Lord, because this planet is sicker than my own capacity to forgive -- at least for this evening. But tomorrow is another day….
© Copyright 2015-2020, John Hessburg & The DICTION AERIE.™ All rights reserved.
Mom always said you'll win a lot more butterflies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel of vinegar. Sure, but doesn’t vinegar taste much sweeter at the dispensing end, when served to a critic from Britain who uses colonialist logic to defend a muddled bit of grammar, while taking us to task for correcting her gaffe on American social media? See what you think; it’s a free country; and we're all rockin' in the Free World…
A while back on one of the Tarpit Social Media Forums that trap us all at some point, I noticed a gal – who BTW is a genuinely smart and gracious person -- had posted this question alongside a beautiful aerial photo of a tropical atoll: “So what exactly is the difference between an atoll, a fringing reef and a barrier reef?” As if possessed by the long-gone spirit of William Safire, immediately I felt my skin crawl and militant mites of ire burrowed under my fingernails… all from her careless use of a single word – between. Now this woman is no slouch. She’s an exec with a major multi-national firm. So here's the rub, the reason I took an extra half-hour break at noon...
You see, I love the English language so much, and often feel so despondent about the daily flogging it suffers at the hands of hurried yuppies -- dulled and dazed by the boozy bosom of the Internet -- that when grammar glitches like this arise, I’m prone to over-reacting. Then, fueled by lye and irony the lectures flow, tussles start and feathers fly. It’s such a dirty job – defending ol’ Mama English – but somebody’s got to do it.
So in a heartbeat I posted this riposte: “The word you need here is among. Not between. When using only two items in comparison or listing, proper grammar calls for the word between, while the word among works best with lists of three or more items.”
To which she re-posted in a blink: “Not quite. Between works fine in modern usage; just check your Oxford English Dictionary.” Well, the OED was spawned in the UK shortly after the Earth cooled; and this social medium we were using is quintessentially American and as hyper-modern as a one-terabyte thumb drive. So the matter quickly escalated.
“Au contraire, ma chère,” I chided, again defending the AP and New York Times rules. The battle was joined. Soon thereafter I received this thoughtfully worded note (one nice thing about our British friends, they've mastered the art of polite discourse when vexed...) My gadfly with the good soul wrote, “Thought I’d drop over a quick reply to your last comment on our post via email instead, since a debate on word choices and soup probably won’t interest our followers too much ;-) ... As the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) states, ‘In all senses, between has been, from its earliest appearance, extended to more than two’" and "What’s the difference between soup, consommé, and broth?" or "What’s the difference among soup, consommé, and broth?"
"These questions have the same meaning," she argued, "but it’s better to use between and not among to talk about difference... Now here's another working example in a title written by Grammar Girl..... If you Google both phrases “What’s the difference between” and “What’s the difference among”, you’ll find more examples. The suggestion is that “between is only to be used for two items” is a more traditional view; perhaps it’s more upheld in American English than British English, or it’s just a case of traditional vs. modern language preference. Either way we’re still confident our word choice is valid. Have a great week, whatever words may come."
Gloves off, foils in hand, the fencing had begun – what fun!
And so I pressed on, “You seem to be a cheerful person, and decent too. It's refreshing to see other folks, rare as they are, who care about preservation of the Mother Tongue. Our poor dear Mama has been biffed and battered so wantonly by the Internet since the mid-1990s. So thank you for taking the time to contest this nuance further. However, as the Borg commander says in Star Trek, "Resistance is futile."
Sorry to report that your reasoning -- though elegant and elaborately construed -- is culturally skewed and flat-out wrong. Allow me show you why...
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists denotations and grammar elements that are traditionally specific to English speakers IN THE U.K. At no time in the last century of American journalism, has the OED been used as a top-tier grammar standard in USA publishing circles. Not by many credible publications. And I have been deeply embedded as a published professional in that culture since the mid-1970s -- for 40% of that timeframe, my friend.
Happy to report that most American publishers still care about, and assiduously cultivate sharply accurate grammar -- and have not yet been seduced, co-opted or lobotomized by the slovenly norms of the Worldwide Web. However, sadly we report that more and more each passing month, we see folks falling by the wayside -- among glib neo-hipster blogs for example, whose authors seldom research any queries further than Wikipedia. There's a weary kind of letting go, a shrug-the-shoulders-and-what-the-hell sort of giving in, to the new lazier standards of pseudo-grammar and pretzel syntax.
Still, the good news prevails... our hardcore corps still rules the world of American publishing. These are editors who will not budge nor fudge -- who always, always rely on the go-to Grammar Gospels. And they are not the OED, nor Websters Unabridged, nor the Scrabble Dictionary. America's Grammar Gospels are the AP Stylebook and the New York Times Stylebook. Period. Only these quasi-biblical stylebooks -- stark, streamlined and universally respected -- alongside the Columbia Journalism Review's withering and hyper-accurate grammar narcs. These are THE final authorities on any point of grammar extant -- certainly on this subcontinent. And just as certainly they are a quantum leap beyond the credibility of random web-based blatherskates such as, say what? -- “Grammar Girl!” Who the hell is she?
At this juncture, 240 years after 1776, conscientious American writers need not fret a fig over what our Brit friends have to say about these points of grammar. After all the Brits still call their trucks "lorries," their baby strollers "prams" and they answer "oh tickety-boo" when asked "How are you today?" If the British had their way, the word "lackadaisical" would mean "showing a shortage of funeral flowers." I blame the muddled colonialist progenitors of our language for the odd fact that, to this day a "fat chance" and a "slim chance" mean exactly the same thing. And, by Jove old chap, we still park our cars on the driveway, yet drive our cars along the parkway.
Back to the gnarly business at hand... American editors for a century have been in solid agreement that the only time between may be properly used, when referring to a list of 3 or more items, is in one narrowly-constrained instance -- when "one half" of two items being compared or contrasted is a list or a multi-part entity. Please check the quote below for a reasonable example. 'Fess up now, friend; your usage of between was NOT set up in that manner -- with the left hand holding one solo item and the right hand holding a tri-partite list. You simply used between to refer to a straight-up list of 3 items. So guess what...
That is incorrect grammar. End of story. Any bid to exonerate this is pure and simple balderdash. Poppycock. Claptrap. Flummery, twaddle or malarky (all Briticisms from the jolly olde UK.) Here is a summary of how this all shakes out among the consummate pros, the soldiers in the trenches who serve as grammar gurus for a sorely hounded publishing profession, here in the United Snakes of America, as our Euro critics sometimes label us...
The Associated Press Stylebook says, “The maxim that between introduces two items and among introduces more than two covers most questions about how to use these words; for example: The funds were divided among Ford, Carter and McCarthy. However, between is the correct word when expressing the relationships of three or more items considered one contiguous unit at a time, as in: Negotiations on a debate format are under way between the network and the Ford, Carter and McCarthy committees.”
Many people, though, just read that first part: “between introduces two items and among introduces more than two.”
This, from The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, is a bit clearer. “In general, between applies to two things, and among to more than two. But between is correct in reference to more than two when the items are related individually as well as severally -- as in: Trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico has grown under NAFTA. This holds because each country trades with each of the others, rather than with all of them simultaneously. When more than two things are related in a purely collective and vague way, always use among.”
And that is nearly all the time.
While I dispute your opinion, I am sincerely delighted to see that strong thinkers, who care about "the small stuff that's sorta big," still run a publication that I have admired and respected since its founding days, when I used to work closely as a contributor, and friend, of Messrs T and L. You folks run a superb publication, still the best in your field by a long shot, and it's an honor to duel with a gentlewoman who cares about the finer points of good clean grammar. Guess we all still love the same Mama just as much.
Now, since you good Brits are adept at rules of order, isn't it cricket after you receive a coup de grace while fencing, to doff your visor and simply say, "Touche' ?"
Jousting and jesting aside, I remain, tongue in cheek and thumb jammed firmly into the AP Stylebook as a marker...
Then lo, the next morning at the office this e-mail zipped in from the British Isles...
Thank you so much for taking the time to send over such an interesting and well-worded response to my email. It did indeed bring a smile to my face this morning!
Of course, as a Brit and English speaker/writer from the U.K, I’d naturally lean towards the guidance of our local British references than that of the AP Stylebook. I’d conclude from (your text) that in the discussion British English vs. American English, it’s just a matter of perspective and which side of The Pond one might sit upon.
That being said, I’m always keen to learn more about how we can use our language, and I’ve certainly learnt something new today -- so Touché ;)
To which I replied at lunch break...
Thank you for your gracious and sweet-spirited note. I am sure your colleagues find you fun to work with and laugh with.
Oh, there I go again. We Yanks love to fly in the face of tradition, thus we often finish sentences with prepositions -- cheeky rebel monkeys that we are. Though good British grammar dons at Oxford might lash us, saying, "This is something up with which we shall not put."
Just for fun, did a bit o' research today to verify, to the Nth degree, just how many folks speak English across the entire UK, as compared to the USA and Canada combined (since NorthAm web, TV and movie media have melded our two nations' vocabularies and speech inflections to nearly seamless congruence in recent years). With the comical exceptions of back-country Newfies in Canada and back-woods hicks in Mississippi USA.
As of noon EST-USA today, according to continuously updated UN computer systems, the UK has a total population of nearly 65 million, while the USA has 323 million, and Canada some 36 million souls. Ergo, the UK's 65 million only comprise a tad more than 15% of the world's primary-language English speakers, while North American speakers comprise nearly 85% of the English pie.
Now, since one of many virtues we most admire about our friends and allies in the UK is your love and respect for democracy -- and since democracy is rule of the majority -- it follows that it's both healthy and modern to have 85% of any language's primary speakers set the grammar rules that shape its current usage. Fair is fair, right?
Now I anticipate you'll soon set upon me with this fact: that several hundred million souls in former British colonies around the world -- especially India -- also speak proper English. To which I say, "No way, sistah." Have you listened recently? After years of enduring Bollywood productions, and Indian menu-speak from Assam to Bangalore, to hear that classic English is spoken all across India -- where Hindi, Urdu and Marathi are the main indigenous dialects -- is like hearing someone say a fine masala curry is the "ketchup of Southern India."
Though Yanks have captured and raptured the King's English, our urban populations still are smitten by the crisp, intelligent, mellifluous tones of a good Mid-Towne London accent.
Oh how the Yanks love listening to educated Brits.
In fact, as far as my experience holds in countless observations as a journalist and foreign traveler -- any sleek British accent will nearly always give you a firm leg up in a job interview, a cocktail party at the embassy or in a posh nightclub for young professionals -- anywhere from New York to San Fran, Vancouver to Toronto. Except in Quebec, where in the wrong bar it might earn you a righteous beating on a Saturday night, North Americans are suckers for a refined British accent. And our provincially innocent middle class immediately assumes a British accent -- Elizabethan, as in the Queen not Hurley -- confers superior intelligence upon the speaker.
With exceptions, of course -- ie. Mr. Bean or Tony Blair.
And so, the time draws nigh, my friend, and duty calls. I bid you a cheerful.... ta'.
You rock, good sistah. Best wishes for a stellar weekend, there across The Pond.
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