Day 157 11/29/13: Sea Shepherd’s Shark-Saving New Film

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s true. Sharks could be extinct in 30 years.

Some populations may disappear within a decade.

For the last three years, Sea Shepherd has been working on a documentary in collaboration with the union of environmental lawyers in Latin America to help educate the environmental legal community. This film is the first of its kind designed to educate and inspire environmental prosecutors.We need to not only to create tougher shark finning laws, but to make sure that they’re enforced. We need to keep marine sanctuaries safe from illegal finning and get tougher convictions for ocean-related crimes.

This is is such a good cause, and you can be a part of it for as little as $1.00!

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Day 155 11/27/13: Winter Meditation

Meditation is a strange thing. It can take you to some surprising places. There are the meditations when I “go deep” like David Lynch talks about in his book on creativity and meditation “Catching the Big Fish.” Then there are the meditations in which I keep thinking, but more in pictures than in words. Still thoughts. Still coming and going. But pictures–fading like slide shows or lingering like living dreams–actual places I can travel to.

I was listening to some music that is supposed to open the heart. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between healing and shutting down. Both involve a certain kind of closing. So tonight I thought I had better think about opening whatever it was in me that might have closed.

As I sat with my eyes shut, listening to this wordless music, head lolling like the helpless subject of an B-movie hypnotist, I began to smell evergreen trees. A very old and specific scent of Christmas branches wrapped in white paper. My sister Janet was sentimental, a record keeper. When we found a particularly beautiful tree, a full, robust tree, she always clipped a branch from it. Sometime in early January, she would put it away with the ornaments wrapped in white paper. The next year we’d find it rust-colored, the emissary from a previous December, a once glorious now sad and ancient thing. I used to think that the branch was an example of Janet’s excess–that her desire to catalogue and organize and preserve every experience from a movie matinée to a play list from a Bruce Springsteen concert was noble, understandable, but often too much. A gilded lilly. But because Janet died before she was 40 years old, I cannot help but think that  she saved things because some part of her might have wordlessly understood that, as Rilke said, she was meant to “disappear early.”

And then from our childhood house I found myself on a little rise above the pasture. I am standing by the water pump. The night is so quiet and cold and the moon has made everything almost a metallic silver. Even the wood of the gate looks somehow like metal. The moon has a wreath of frost around it. And the stars–I can see them all. The sky is cold. It is so quiet in the New Hampshire night that I can hear the horses chewing the hay in the field. I can hear their lips thudding in the dark. I never want to come back to Los Angeles where I never see stars, where it is never so quiet as to allow a person to hear all the many variations on the word “rustle” where it is never so cold that the water freezes in the pump.

I am so confused about time. Was this so long ago? I was there. I remember the cold light. The little hill and the horses. Maybe eight years ago. I stood in the dark on the little rise and I listened to the horses and saw my own breathing. I looked at the stars. And now I am stunned–not so much that it is over–the horses, the house, the fields, the winter nights that I would volunteer to go out to the barn and fetch the buckets and plunge my hand into the deep scented darkness of the grain bin–all of these pleasures, pure pleasures–but that they ever happened at all.

Part of what meditation does is to help us, through silence, merge with something greater. To step out of language and into that infinite, often blissful place. In those meditations that enter the big silence, I  feel transcendent. Free from language, free from identity, free from linear reality.  Sometimes the darkness seems to move, to part, as if I am traveling through it.

Other times meditation  plunges me into some very specific places. Like the little hill above the pasture. Maybe I was meant to see moments like this as more than “a memory,” but a state of being fully alive. Did I not feel a oneness with all things as I stood listening to the hay move and the tails swish and the hooves stamp? Did I not feel complete as I looked at the moon and the frost? Did I not know a wholeness as rich and true as any mystic when I stood upon that worn hill and listenedwinterscenecharl2–my eyes open in the dark.

Day 153 11/25/13: Fintastic Holiday Gift Guide

Here are 6 antidotes to Black Friday mall madness:

1. This $75 pewter shark head staple remover  adds a certain savage gravitas to a desktop.

2. Become part of the fight to save sharks by joining The Shark Research Committee. A $70 membership fee entitles the lucky recipient to the SRC Quarterly newsletter and a signed copy of the lavishly illustrated and utterly engrossing book Shark Attacks of The Twentieth Century by Ralph Collier.

3. For the pint-sized naturalist: L.L. Bean’s great white sleeping bag looks awfully cozy!

4. I don’t know about you, but I really need this 4-D transparent white shark anatomy model with its 20 removable organs and body parts.

5. Shark socks.

6. Pangea Seed blends art with activism collaborating with artists & scientists to raise awareness about sharks and other marine life in peril. The proceeds from Pangea Seed’s  Art prints, sustainable clothingImage, shark pendants & other cool stuff go directly to their conservation efforts.

Day 152 11/24/13:Poetry Mashup #2: Automatic Sea

Today’s creation is a combined effort from “How to Do Automatic Writing” by Edain McCoy & one of those great old volumes (#13, I believe), from the series The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau entitled “A Sea of Legends.”    (I can’t believe this book is only 85 cents on Amazon. I love the messy early 70s color of the pictures and the illustrations are a nice mixture of Greek antiquities, Medieval woodcuts, modern painting (Paul Klee) and random delights like a photograph from a weird, experimental ballet called Sea Shadow) The automatic writing book is a nice beginner’s guide, and a creative way to bypass the  inner critic or nag one’s spirit guide. I’ve used it once and had a nice conversation (transcribed with my left hand in weird, sprawling ransom note script), with some unknown entity who seemed to have my best interests at heart.

Xeno-escrite: The rare phenomenon of writing in a language unknown to the writer.

Why the deities who live vividly in our minds

cannot be projected onto paper

is uncertain.

Venus could only be produced by the sea,

but the sea had to produce also a being more popular,

more accessible than a goddess.

She appears on the water looking into a mirror

to see if she is closer to becoming a fish.

Allow…energy to flow gently into your writing arm

Some people like to imagine that this is the life-giving energy of a benevolent deity

A soft, dreamy half wake focus.

Pliny wrote that when winter has been severe,

many fish are taken in a state of blindness

& all seas are purified at the full moon.

Asking about the Far Future: Moon phase: Full or early 3rd Quarter

Retrieving Information about the Past: Moon Phase: 3rd or 4th Quarter

Contacting the Dead: Moon Phase: Any

Xeno-glossy: the rare phenomenon of speaking in a language that is unknown to the speaker.

Everything on the earth and in the sky had been listening to the Great Master of Song

and choosing a specific language for itself,

but the fish had been quite helpless.

Never blindly follow any commands but those of your own heart.

The Sirens called for Ulysses, for they had knowledge of the past and future and could give him happiness.

Jonah sank…but as his breath failed,

he began to remember

the blue and shining sky,

the sweet odors of the desert

and the happy dreams of childhood.

Keep practicing until you can go fairly deep at will.

Write your name over and over.

If necessary, write the name of the entity you wish to contact

or write the word WRITE.

When you have received all the communication you want

or if it has stopped of its own volition,

sit in front of a mirror in a darkened room,

repeating the undeciphered tablets

to your reflection.

Day 150 11/22/13: On Rodney Dangerfield & The Greenland Shark

Besides learning that Rodney Dangerfield’s widow keeps a bottle of the deceased funnyman’s sweat in her fridge, “Rescuers Save Beached Greenland Shark with Appetite for Moose” by Pete Thomas is one of the oddest and coolest things I’ve read all week.

English: Rodney Dangerfield at the Shorehaven ...

English: Rodney Dangerfield at the Shorehaven Beach Club in New York in 1978. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greenland sharks are delightfully strange. They are slow. These sharks are not slate gray or blue, but a mottled color more like speckled green stone than flesh. Because they do not have urinary tracts, Greenland sharks secrete pee through their skin. Uric acid builds up in their tissues. Unless sufficiently rotten, (at which point the poison flesh  becomes an Icelandic “delicacy”) eating Greenland shark flesh can cause intoxication or even make people vomit blood. I don’t know if these symptoms depend on one’s “tolerance” or not.

Most disgusting and most poignant of all, the Greenland sharks’ only friends in the frigid, Northern waters are the eye eating parasites that accompany them everywhere. As Pete Thomas puts it:

“Greenland sharks, which can measure 20 feet, typically reside in deep water, where their only reliable companions are parasitic copepods that feed on their corneal tissue (the sharks suffer some eye damage, but the bioluminescent copepods glow and lure fish closer to feeding sharks.”)

My musings on the lonely, homely, toxic Greenland shark circle back to the bottled sweat of Rodney Dangerfield. If one dared drink it, what power might this elixir grant? The ability to laugh at nearly everything?

Rodney’s rejection began at birth:

“My mother refused to breastfeed me. She said she just liked me as a friend.”

So much of his schtick involves feeling ugly and abandoned:

“When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.”

“A girl phoned me the other day and said, ‘Come on over. There’s nobody home.’ I went over. Nobody was home.”

“I know I’m ugly. I said to the bartender, ‘Make me a zombie.’ He said, “God beat me to it.’

“I’m so ugly when I worked in a pet shop, people kept asking how big I’d get.”

“I was such an ugly kid… when I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.”

I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.”

I love outsiders and underdogs. Not studied freaks slumming in the land of melancholia, but the truly transcendent losers and impossible creatures who manage to survive the daily horrors and indignities–from eye-eating parasites to cheating spouses. We ought to praise tenacity as much as we praise beauty. We should understand the value of the hidden and strange, not just the self-consciously odd and kooky. Maybe most of all, we need to see life’s brutality with a bit of humor as Rodney did:

“My psychiatrist told me I was crazy. I said I wanted a second opinion. He said, “Okay, you’re ugly too.”

Day 148: 11/20/13: Getting Active for Sharks

I posted this video (I know it’s awful to watch), because it’s necessary sometimes to look at images of atrocity so we don’t forget what’s happening and we don’t stop fighting to end injustice. Beyond the brutality and waste of shark finning for flavorless soup, it is a myth that sharks (or perhaps any fish in this post-Fukishima world) are a health food. Sharks, in particular, are riddled with toxins from mercury to anti-depressants. 

This story talks about three recent deaths in Madagascar from shark meat consumption.

But let us not despair, shark friends! The sharks need us. Badly.

We all have talents, connections, abilities and creativity we can use to help out.

Organize a benefit. Teach a class. Have a letter-writing party. Put on an art show. Host a shark charity yard sale.

As a start, please click here to sign a petition banning the sale of shark fins & shark products.

Click here for some creative ways to help!