An Open Letter to Susan H. Shane, Ph.D.

Suse Portrait

 

 

UPDATE: I received a reply from Dr. Shane on July 12, apologizing for her statement and saying she wouldn’t make the same negative claim today. She also said she had no intention of denying my experience with Dolly, and described female dolphins as being “good candidates” for experiencing orgasm. (I think they’ve had it for 30 million years, but hey, I don’t have a Ph.D., which means I can leap to conclusions with virtually no consequences.)

I’d publish her response here, but she hasn’t given me her permission to do so.

I accept her apology and applaud her open-mindedness in being willing to change her mind. As far as I’m concerned, this matter, which has bothered me for 44 years, is closed. Thanks, Suse.


 

July 7-8, 2018

Suse, I’m writing you this morning to “get off my chest” something that happened between us in 1974, while you were attending New College and staying at my mother’s house on Siesta Key, where I was also living at the time. You deeply wounded me and ruthlessly invalidated me with six thoughtless words, and it has rankled me ever since.

Your professed ambition as an undergrad, as I remember it anyway, was to become “the Jane Goodall of dolphins.” Sorry you never made it, but maybe it’s for the best anyway. Let me explain why, from my own perspective.

You’ve probably forgotten all about this, but I never have, because you became symbolic to me of mindless veneration of dogma, any dogma but in this case SCIENTIFIC dogma (if you don’t tell me it doesn’t exist, I won’t have to call you a liar).

I don’t remember what led up to this, but we were sitting in my car, I was in the driver’s seat, you were in the passenger seat, we were stopped somewhere and I was trying to describe my 1971 experience with Dolly the dolphin to you, which was only the most profound, moving, deeply personal and transformative experience in my life.

No, you have no idea. You really, really don’t. And I’m not even sure you CAN.

And I was trying to describe to you, while Dolly and I were making love in her pen at Floridaland, how she took me underwater just before we experienced a simultaneous orgasm, and how she groaned, just like a woman, underwater.

You looked at me as if I’d just offered to sell you a slightly used bridge in Brooklyn, cheap.

That’s when you said the six words that utterly invalidated me, my experience with Dolly, my observational abilities, my truthfulness and my intelligence.

You said, and I quote, “But female animals don’t have orgasms!”

And I just sat there, gobsmacked, not believing what I’d just heard.

This has nothing to do with any feelings I may or may not have had toward you. You were very attractive (you still are), and I was hopeful enough to imagine we might get it on, even though I was pretty sure you weren’t attracted to me. I wasn’t very accepting of my own zoophilia then, and was looking to normalize myself through experiences with women. But that’s neither here or there.

When you said, “But female animals don’t have orgasms,” a number of rebuttals came to mind. More have come up int the intervening years. Here are some of them in a nicely-ordered, bulleted list:

• Without putting too fine a point on it, you’re a female animal (I presume you’re not vegetable or mineral) and YOU have orgasms, don’t you? What makes you so special? Or what makes female non-humans so unfortunate? Is female orgasm an evolutionary privilege of H. sapiens, and if so, what have you human women done to make the universe favor you over all other females on this planet?
• Since when is an unprovable negative hypothesis “scientific”? A single case of a female animal having an orgasm is sufficient to invalidate your assertion. Try this link  at 0:40. I don’t know what you’d call that, if not a bitch orgasm.
• Please cite a peer-reviewed scientific paper – ANY paper – which authoritatively states that female animals don’t have orgasms. The only two people I’ve seen allege this in print are Larry Niven (misogynistic SF writer) and Dr. David Bronowski (mathematician). I don’t see as that makes either one an expert on the subject, or anything remotely close. Nor can I find any references to actual studies of this question.
• The clitoris (not mansplaining) is the focus of female sexual arousal and orgasm. The only female mammal I’ve been able to find that doesn’t have one is the platypus. The platypus male has such a spiny penis that he has to knock her out with poison spurs before they can mate. Since other female mammals have clitorises, what do you suppose they have them for? Do you think they get stimulated during mating? And let’s not forget, because of humans’ upright stature, the female human’s clitoris is typically farther from the opening of the vagina than in other female mammals. This means other species’ females should find it easier, rather than more difficult, to experience orgasm during mating without much need for foreplay. Female equines even have a moveable clitoris which they can push against a stallion’s penis when he’s thrusting. Canines form the copulatory tie, which not only involves long-duration sexual stimulation but positions the male dog’s bulbus glandis so it’s depressing the bitch’s clitoris, which I’m sure leads to orgasm. Pigs copulate for up to 20 minutes; it’s difficult to imagine how a sow could NOT experience an orgasm with that duration of penetration.
• In many species I’ve observed (dolphins, dogs, birds, bovines, equines, etc.) a female in estrus will solicit sex from a male rather than waiting for him to get around to it. (Below: cow in estrus soliciting sex from a bull.)

gotsperm?

Why do they do this? For Queen and Country? I think not; most non-humans don’t have the comprehension to connect sex with reproduction (dolphins and a few self-aware others being exceptions). They do it because they’re anticipating an orgasm! And why shouldn’t they? The anticipation of an orgasm leads female animals to solicit sex, just the same way it does males. It’s a powerful driver for bisexual reproduction, which is the most important act an animal can perform. If it didn’t exist, evolution would have invented it millions of year ago for just this reason. Also, in many females, orgasm triggers ovulation and various involuntary responses that help transport sperm to the ovum.
• How did this idea you parroted back to me get started? Well, it’s true, most female animals don’t display a lot of activity or vocalize during mating. The one exception, the feline, is supposed to scream during sex because it’s painful, the males having small spines on their penises. (I conducted an informal experiment many years ago to test this hypothesis and found that female cats scream even when penetrated by a smooth phallus, it just takes 3-5x longer than with a spiny one. So it isn’t the spines that are causing her to scream.) Does this lack of activity or vocalization mean they aren’t having orgasms? Of course not, and it would take a leap of faith to assume so. Many women do not display the “stereotypical” (i.e. faked) orgasm behaviors, moaning, thrashing around, biting, pulling their partner’s hair, etc., that are often associated (in men’s minds, at least) with the female orgasm. To make Brooke Shields fake an on-camera orgasm in the 1981 romantic film “Endless Love,” director Franco Zeffirelli stood off-camera, pinching her toe incredibly painfully. While my own experience is, admittedly, unscientific and limited, the two non-human partners I’ve successfully had sex with (Dolly and Pixel, my previous, 34-kg bitch) had orgasms. If you need to remind yourself what I told you about Dolly’s orgasmic behavior in 1978, you can buy & read my novel Wet Goddess  because I’m damn sure not wasting my breath explaining it to you again. When I had orgasms while having sex with Pixel, I could feel her vagina squeeze me. According to Masters and Johnson, involuntary contractions of the female sexual organs are the most reliable indicators of female orgasm, so I am inclined to think that’s how most female mammals experience it: totally on the inside, not the outside. After all, if the female mammal started thrashing around, the male would fall off her back and sex would be over without insemination. So thrashing around would be self-extinguishing, evolutionarily speaking. And looking for human-type behavior in non-humans is called “anthropomorphism,” isn’t it? (Rhetorical question, but you already knew that, didn’t you?) If scientists claim female animals don’t experience orgasms because they don’t react the same way human females do, they’re being anthropomorphic scientists. If they want an honest answer from somebody who is uniquely qualified to provide one, they should talk to zoophiles, like me. We’ve been there. We know. Not “think” or “believe” or “imagine” or “hypothesize” or “guess” or “that’s what the data indicate:” WE KNOW. Because we’ve been there, that’s how.
• How did this silly, crackpot, unsupported notion get started? I think I figured it out, and although this is my speculation, it’s based on well-known and often-observed aspects of male human behavior. Prior to the 1950s, there weren’t a lot of woman biologists, certainly not like there are today. So biology conferences were mostly-male gatherings. What do a group of men (yes, even scientists) like to do when they get together by themselves? Drink beer and watch porn movies in back rooms after the  conference. So some guy with a 16mm B&W fuck film would commandeer a projector and slap a hand-lettered notice on his hotel room door announcing that there would be an impromptu showing of “Mating habits of the female Homo sapiens” at such and such a time. And I assume the men would make coarse jokes about the ACTING of the players, all of whom are faking their reactions because they have to endure multiple camera set-ups, retakes, etc. Just like regular feature film-making, making porno films is a boring, time-consuming exercise in patience. But all the biologists see on the screen is the edited version: the woman screaming, flailing, thrashing around, biting her lip or her man’s shoulder, etc. Of course, when you go out in the field, you are subconsciously comparing that arousing performance with, say, a mare or a wildebeest who may let the male mount her with very little courtship. And under those circumstances, the biologists who have been Hollywood brainwashed by powerful images at primal levels about what to expect from sex (with a human ACTRESS, let us not forget,) look at a mare or sow or jenny mating, and they don’t see the dramatic performance seen in porno films, and that some women actually do achieve in their sex lives. (One of the worst nights of sex I’ve ever had was with a Jewish woman who assumed, without asking, that I liked her screaming and pulling my hair.) In short, the dubious conclusion that “female animals don’t have orgasms” is certainly a case of inadequate investigation, superficial observation, bias confirmation, constricted imagination, latent Victorianism and probably, not wanting to rock status quo, an all-too-facile acceptance of “revealed wisdom”.

So I sat there, in my car, staring at you and trying to deal with a lot of disbelief, anger, even outrage. First, there doesn’t appear to be a source to your assertion, whereas I had actually performed the act and felt the sensations with my body, which is a very sensitive, but often unreproducible way of monitoring somebody else’s emotions. And I took a number of physical risks to do that. I had no inkling of the emotional risks i was taking, which turned out to be far worse and long-lasting.

I was trying to interest you, or anyone really, in the fact that I had a high-strangeness experience with an intelligent alien species. Information theory determines that the frequency of an event is inversely proportional to the value of the information can be gleaned from it. We learn more from rare events than common ones. So someone should be able to learn a whole fucking lot about dolphins from my experience, but so far no takers. I don’t know, maybe cetacean researchers are prudes?

“Female animals don’t have orgasms.” My first cogent thought, after I got over my shock, was How the fuck do you know, Suse? And I still wonder who told you that, or how you learned it, or what book you read it in, and why you decided to accept it was true without either an authoritative source or some research. And what made you think you “knew” it, when it could not have been anything other than a pure belief on your part, almost a superstition. I mean, you didn’t get a grant to check it out, did you? I didn’t think you bowed to authority, but I guess I was wrong.

My second thought was rage. Just pure rage, which I struggled very hard to control. I almost told you to get out of my car. It wasn’t so much what you said, Suse, as the abusive way you said it: as a pronouncement. A fact. No question of argument with YOU, Professor Shane! You didn’t express any curiosity about my description of human-dolphin love making, or question it, you invalidated it and negated it without really considering what I’d just told you. You seriously dissed me. Why did you feel the overwhelming need to blow me off? What did I ever do to you? I never fucking laid a hand on you, never insulted you or called you a rude name. I tried to behave like a gentleman toward you, as I was taught. In return, you insulted me, my observation abilities and my ability to reach conclusions based on evidence. You not only told me that I was wrong, but that I was stupid or naive for having reached the conclusion I did. Suse, I had experience. I had evidence, gathered at great personal cost. I’d been there, you never even considered the idea. Your comment on my experience was made from an armchair. Am I saying you should have been a zoophile? Of course not. I’m not proselytizing for my sexual orientation, I’m proselytizing for dolphins. And yet, in spite of my admission, which I was keeping very close at that time, you displayed no curiosity or interest. You just wanted to tell me I was wrong, and you didn’t explain what your motivations were, or why.

Third, I was astonished. I thought maybe you hadn’t understood me, that I hadn’t made my argument, when I told you that, as we reached climax, Dolly groaned three times in a rising tone synchronized with my thrusts. That detail seemed to go right by you. Selective hearing? You made some dismissive remark about that observation, I forget what, but then I tried to tell you that, as we swam along making love, Dolly synchronized the strokes of her tail with my pelvic thrusts. “That was just for deeper penetration for better fertilization,” you retorted, completely ignoring the subjective or emotional component there. I suppose you meant it was somehow “instinctual.” How could making love with another species be “instinctual”? We both know that dolphin matings are very quick, a matter of a few seconds, but Dolly not only managed to last about two minutes with me (sorry, I didn’t check my waterproof watch, I’m sure you understand) but apparently timed her orgasm to be simultaneous with mine. Besides, when you made your “better penetration” remark, you weren’t in possession of the full facts, because you never asked me. While it’s difficult for me to know for certain, I’m pretty sure I never penetrated Dolly’s vagina. At the time I thought I’d run into one of her pseudocervixes, but a marine mammal vet intimately familiar with the situation (if you believe him, anyway) told me I’d run into the external adductor muscle, which I guess closes the opening of the vagina, preventing salt water from getting in. Her genitalia are certainly a lot more complicated than yours! So I guess her thrusting in sync with me was because she enjoyed the sensation, not some vague instinctual urge.

Finally, Suse, there was a disillusionment, sadness, and rejection. I tried to share something very precious and rare with you, an intimate experience that, at the time, I had told almost nobody about. I felt like you’d be interested, but your only interest seemed to be in correcting me, and rather rudely at that. You weren’t trying to enlighten or inform me about something in which I was in error; you were bluntly telling me that my experience didn’t happen the way it happened, or that my sensations of it or conclusions about it were erroneous, and you did this without the slightest shred of evidence that they were.

In short, YOU GASLIGHTED ME, SUSE, at the same time as you ripped me a new one. For what reason? I think I have a right to know, even after all these years. Was my statement somehow a threat to you or the knowledge you represented? Were you appalled at my apparent ignorance? Did you think I’d taken too much LSD and hallucinated the whole thing, that I was bullshitting you, that I made it all up, or that I was sexually boasting? Nothing could be further from the truth. I was (and remain) deeply puzzled about my love affair with Dolly, and continue to try to understand her motivations and interpretations of it to this day. Because it was so strange, so tender, and so beautiful, it has become the central defining point in my life. (The birth of my daughter ranks second.)

You showed no concern for my feelings; in fact, like a lot of women I’ve encountered, you acted like I didn’t even HAVE feelings, which is offensive and sexist of you. You seemed eager to humiliate me, or show off your own “correct” knowledge. It was disparaging and emotionally deeply wounding, and at that point, while I was still in mourning for Dolly, I was easily wounded. Your callous remark twisted that knife.

I mean, what the fuck, Suse? What the goddamn fuck? I can’t find any reason why you behaved that way. I understood Dolly a lot better than I understood you, which has always been my problem with people in general and women in particular. I have no inherent facility for understanding, and interacting with, my own species. My tool kit to do so seems to have been assembled one painful socket wrench at a time.

As UFO researcher Jacques Vallee said of UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass’s derision of the whole subject, “Since when is ridicule part of the scientific method?” Because you showed no curiosity or interest in my experience, I don’t think you acted in a scientific manner. Admittedly, my experience was anecdotal, but you didn’t try to gather testimony. You reminded me of the savants of Medieval France who scoffed at the peasants who claimed that stones fell from the sky. Everybody knew such a thing was impossible!

Your attempted nullification, or re-interpretation of my experience to fit scientific orthodoxy, was very much in keeping with the other scientists I encountered at that period, people I’m sure you know or knew: the Caldwells, Blair Irvine, the Tavolgas, and so on. (Interestingly enough, Randy Wells, whom I knew in high school, has never tried to “correct” me, listens patiently to my ideas and manages to make insightful remarks. He’s a great guy and an open mind.)

I was confronting very unsettling and problematic questions about the “telepathic” communications with Dolly that I seemed to be having at the time. I considered the possibility that I was becoming schizophrenic, and rejected it. I existed in a state of “suspended disbelief” for quite a while, and even the overwhelming experience of totally interpenetrating each others’ bodies, hearts and minds when we made love couldn’t completely convince me that the phenomenon of inter-species telepathy was real. Since then, however, I’ve made contact with a number of other trainers and researchers who claim something similar (but non-sexual), has happened to them: Ric O’Barry (on tape: “Eventually I realized it was all telepathy, because shooting a weekly television show we just didn’t have time to use standard conditioning techniques.”); Frank Robson, NZ fisherman, dolphin trainer and author of Thinking Dolphins, Talking Whales and Pictures in the Dolphin Mind; Michael Greenwood, civilian scientist with the U.S. Navy, author of Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare (“If the U.S. Navy would release what it knows about dolphins, it would revolutionize psychology,”); paranormal researcher Lyall Watson, who found a strange man in NZ who could mentally “bully” dolphins into obeying him; the inimitable and widely despised John C. Lilly, and most recently “David Capello,” pen name for a British trainer from the 1970s who wrote a very good trilogy, The Perfect Pair, about the brutal, frustrating and heart-breaking work of being a commercial dolphin trainer. I’m trying to get information about SRIs remote viewing experiences with dolphins. I also interviewed the late Florida sculptor Don Seiler, who claimed a dolphin thwarted an attempted shark attack on him in the 1940s. I got a letter from a witness who confirmed his story — Truly Nolan!

When a scientist proposes a hypothesis, he or she goes out looking for data to either confirm or disprove it. Based on the data, it is possible to make predictions about how the hypothesis will be received. Since Dolly and I made love in 1971, human beings have learned a hell of a lot more about dolphins that we knew back then. EVERYTHING WE’VE LEARNED HAS REINFORCED MY CONCLUSIONS ABOUT DOLPHINS, and nothing has contradicted them. Dolphins are self-aware, linguistic, tool-users with highly complex social systems, remarkable memories, undiscovered abilities and a so-far-unexplained camaraderie with human beings, their biggest predator. I could have told you that back in 1971, based solely on my experiences with Dolly, but I hadn’t paid my dues, so who would have listened? Certainly not you. You acted like a fucking know-it-all. It’s not an attractive attitude, even for scientists.

Since that time, I see you’ve come a long way. How far, or in what direction, I have no idea. You seem to have strong humanist values, for which I applaud you. Are they a recent acquisition? Where were they, in dealing with me? I just didn’t deserve the way you dismissed me, Suse, I just didn’t deserve it.

I had a terrible night last night, and woke up filled with an inexplicable, unfocused rage. I don’t think back on our encounter often, certainly don’t dwell on it, and I bear you no ill-will, Suse. I also want to say I was a very inconsiderate, selfish and careless person myself, in those times, and I regret having been that way. But I would like an apology from you, both for being factually wrong, then for deeply, callously hurting my feelings by invalidating the most personal, transcendental and loving experience in my life. It wouldn’t have cost you anything to keep your mouth shut, but you had to go and be a nerd showoff. Well, you hurt me, Suse, with your callous attitude, and you added to my increasing dissatisfaction with scientists as human beings.

You probably think I’m fucking nuts for writing this after all this time. Maybe I am, I don’t care anymore. I’m no spring chicken, and there is, as I said at the opening of this letter, an irrepressible urge to have this out with you. Although I have largely outgrown or learned to cope with the long-shouldered rage and resentment I experienced in my deeply troubled youth, I haven’t been able to let this one drop. Admittedly, I have a problem hanging on to resentment; worse, in the winter of 2012-2013, the stress of watching my lover’s people being slaughtered and captured by the Japanese fishermen in Taiji gave me an emotional breakdown. When they captured that little white dolphin, Angel, for display, something inside me snapped, and I decided I would try to make dolphin meat a little more expensive in Japan. I conceived a plan to invade the Japanese consulate in Miami and either kidnap or kill the consul. I worked on this for several days, laying out a budget, material requirements and strategies, before realizing I was fucking out of my mind and getting some psychiatric help. After that episode, my brother, a psych nurse, suggested I re-start taking gabapentin, which has helped with my episodes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder in the past. That rage hasn’t been a problem since… until today. But more recently, I’ve had terrible problems with vertigo, which has eluded all the usual diagnoses, and my ENT told me to stop taking the gabapentin, which I did about 3 weeks ago. So if this letter upsets or offends you, blame it on my meds. Or the lack of them.

That’s all I really have to say, Suse. My New College education was a sham, I’m not friends with anybody I went to school with there. My most precious possession from that time, the 8mm film 351 that I made with the late David Pini and my former friend John “Rabbit” Wasko, was destroyed by a careless projectionist. My only reason for “friending” you on FB was to share this complaint with you, a complaint about rather callous rejection and denial that also questioned my integrity as a human being, and to get an apology, if one is forthcoming. For a long time I just sloughed it off, because I didn’t want to go to all this trouble, thought I was silly for playing emotional paleontologist and was afraid of the reaction I might get from you – afraid of another rejection, oddly enough, and I just realized that now as I’m closing.

I wrote Wet Goddess and appeared in the award-winning short documentary Dolphin Lover because I had acquired some unique insights on dolphin thought, emotions and behavior. I had to explain to people that dolphins can offer us love as deep and profound (maybe more so) as we experience with other humans, to make people aware how emotionally vulnerable dolphins are in spite of their enormous physical strength, to show why it’s wrong to keep them keep them in captivity or eat them, to encourage the restoration of their degraded habitats and to encourage further investigations into their cognition, language, abilities and their facility for working with us, the killer apes of Planet Earth. And for most of the 37 years it took me to write, re-write, re-re-write, layout and publish that book, I was horribly afraid that I would die without being able to share my experience with a world that desperately needs to hear it. In a joking sort of way, I thought if that happened I’d have to go through reincarnation, except that this time I’d be the dolphin, and Dolly would be the human…

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out a way to disentangle my dolphin experience from my zoophilia, and it’s on my zoophilia rather than the dolphins that most interviewers and writers have focused. (The comments on Dolphin Lover range from WTFs and calls for eye bleach to the people who want to dismember or murder me for having made love with a dolphin.)  This is disappointing, but not unexpected, the shock media being what they are these days. In spite of this, I persisted because I JUST HAD TO TELL THIS STORY, no matter what the personal outcome to me. The same has been true for my other two books, one a memoir of sexual/physical/emotional abuse as a child in the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s infamous orgone energy-sex cult, the other being my second wife’s unbelievable tale of becoming a “seductee” after an extraterrestrial spaceship, piloted by a very humanoid alien, crashed in her back yard. I could never disprove her story, because, like my early suspicions about the dolphins, all the event-forks kept breaking her way. But, sadly, I couldn’t prove it, either.

I hope you read this, Suse; maybe it will make you learn something about yourself you weren’t aware of before, or teach you something you didn’t know. But maybe not. I know you thought I was a jerk back at N.C., and I did very little to change that opinion. But life has a way of abrading a person’s rough edges, and I am a better person now than I was back then, if not more materially successful. Now officially retired from journalism, I’ve had a very checkered career, never really achieving my goals. You seem to have done well for yourself and achieved at least some of your goals. What I’m feeling toward you, or at least your career path, isn’t jealousy but envy. My problems were seldom doing the job, almost always with getting along with other people on my jobs. On the other hand, your current posts display an admirable humanitarianism. I just wonder where it was when you told me, with the certainly of a pontiff quoting scripture, “Female animals don’t have orgasms.”

Whether you respond or not, Suse, I’ve fulfilled a personal need that has been simmering in me for decades. Unless you want to engage in dialog, I will not broach the matter again. Since I have no great affection for you, I’m going to drop you as a FB friend. I’ve said what I have to say, and while your response, if you choose to make one, may be illuminating, it’s utterly unnecessary from my POV. You can still PM me if you want. I hope you never treated, or will treat, anyone sincerely looking for knowledge like you treated me, Suse Shane, because it was beneath you, and it was lousy science, too. Have a nice life.

ch13#2a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Enchanted Mirror”

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Book Review: The Perfect Pair, Book I: The Enchanted Mirror. 

 David C. Holroyd and Tracy J. Holroyd. 2012, Matador Press.

Reviewed by Malcolm J. Brenner

Being a dolphin trainer looks like a glamorous job, as Ric O’Barry could tell you. He trained dolphins for the mid-1960’s TV show Flipper, which was dubbed into dozens of languages and became a world-wide hit. Rightly or wrongly, O’Barry now blames himself for the current plague of dolphin exploitation, including the proliferation of swim-with-dolphin facilities and oceanariums that are pillaging wild populations.

In reality, dolphin-training is a difficult, demanding, often-dangerous job that is guaranteed to break your heart. The “why” becomes obvious in The Enchanted Mirror, the first book in a trilogy chronicling the career of one “David Capello,” the stage name of a dolphin trainer who worked for an unnamed entertainment company in 1970’s England.

Is the book fiction or a memoir? I’m not quite clear. The foreword writer describes it as “a true story,” but co-author Tracy Holroyd, who wrote it with her brother David, told me they fictionalized Capello’s story for legal reasons (like I did with my human-dolphin love novel Wet Goddess). Does it matter? No, because his story reflects what former trainers like O’Barry and SeaWorld’s John Hargrove have revealed about the job.

We open with Capello in the middle of a performance with Duchess and Herb’e, his “perfect pair,” two dolphins who can synchronize their moves flawlessly, and we find that he’s directing them by… thinking? Flashback to Capello, a callow 17-year-old, hearing his mom suggest he apply as an assistant at a dolphin show. Although disinterested, he somehow gets the job and goes to work at a training facility, improbably located in a grimy coal-mining town.

The first reality Capello encounters is unwanted animals: a pair of messy penguins and a dangerous sea lion. He gets so friendly with the pinniped that, after a drunken binge, he ends up sleeping in its cage! When confronted by an irate local whose parking space he’s taken, Capello experiences weirdness: the sea lion comes to his defense. “For the oddest moment,” he relates, “it seemed as though I were looking in a mirror; then I felt all my aggression seeping away and saw it – actually saw it – filling up those big green eyes.”

This is the first time he experiences what he calls a connection with other species, and when the first pair of dolphins show up for training, the feeling is amplified.

“Aren’t you beautiful? I thought. I reached out and, as my hand made contact with this strangely different creature of the sea, my nervy excitement began to dissipate, leaving in its wake a sense of peace and calm. I felt something: a connection of some kind that made me feel light-headed. It was as if she was stealing my strength, leaving me feeling weak and disoriented, yet I couldn’t break free of her spell. I was totally and utterly captivated.

“This animal was giving off some serious vibes.”

Here, Capello joins a very select group of humans, including me, O’Barry, New Zealand trainer Frank Robson, former U.S. Navy scientist Michael Greenwood and a few others who claim to have been touched by the dolphins in a remarkable way: mentally. But let us leave this improbability momentarily to continue Capello’s story.

By this point all the major forces are in play which will, I suspect, carry the story through three volumes. Capello rapidly becomes very possessive of Duchess and Herb’e, thinking of them as his dolphins, when in reality they belong to the megalithic company that issues his paychecks. The fact that other trainers can’t get them to perform makes no difference. Young, hard-working and sometimes just dumb lucky, Capello soon finds himself running the dolphin training operation and confronting all the problems which the commoditization and exploitation of sentient non-human species creates.

When the “perfect pair” aren’t up to performing eight shows on holidays, a second team of dolphins must be imported, one of whom turns out to have been traumatized in capture. Capello describes in agonizing detail the enormous stress of capturing her twice a day and trying to force-feed her. When the filtration system can’t handle the amount of waste in the water, he risks the wrath of management by dumping the tank and refilling it. When the show finally opens to the public, a woman trainer steals the limelight by disrobing for the cameras of the Fleet Street tabloids… and so on.

During all this time, Capello also recounts the colorful and sometimes creepy people he roomed with. He recalls his work as a trainer so clearly and vividly that I wonder if he kept a private journal, or had copies of the individual dolphins’ logbooks to work from.

Capello ends The Enchanted Mirror with himself ascendant, Duchess and Herb’e working as the perfect pair and a second duo, including one unfortunate dolphin blinded in shipping, as back-up performers. He feels on top of the world until he learns that a third pair of dolphins are being sent to him for training… a couple ominously known as Bonnie and Clyde.

Stand by for Vol. II: The Mirror Cracks.

Fiction it may (or may not) be, The Perfect Pair is one of the best and most authentic books I’ve ever read about the realities of dolphin training. The Holroyd siblings manage to convey all the aspects of the job, be they boring, funny, horrifying or wonderful. Although their writing is very good, I had a couple of minor quibbles. While most of the story is told in past tense it occasionally shifts into present tense, Capello talking to himself during the more extreme chapters. Tracy Holroyd described this as a deliberate technique to engage the reader, but I found it disconcerting. Also, a disturbing scene of some poltergeist-like nocturnal activity in the oceanarium raises questions that aren’t answered in this volume.

Historically, tales involving human-dolphin interaction don’t end well for the dolphins. This goes all the way back to Pliny the Elder, who in the 1st Century CE wrote in amazement of a dolphin who visited the now-Tunisian city of Hippo Diarrhytus. Alas, the creature’s friendly nature attracted many wealthy visitors. “At last, the vexations that were caused them by having to entertain so many influential men who came to see this sight, compelled the people of Hippo to put the animal to death,” Pliny wrote. So, while I have a dark feeling about how the Holroyds’ telling of Capello’s tale will end, fascination and professional interest compel me to continue. Ignorance is not bliss, particularly when you’ve gotten as close to one of these creatures as I have.

And what about that mysterious feeling of “connection” that Capello describes, the ability to train and direct dolphins with his mind? This is one of those things that gets discussed in back rooms at marine mammal conferences.  A lot of trainers report it; I know, because I’ve spoken to some. Scientists generally dismiss telepathy and other such paranormal phenomena as preposterous notions, the product of superstition or delusions. Well, I may have been stoned when I was communicating with my dolphin, Dolly, but I’m not stupid. I doubted the experiences at the time and thought I was literally going crazy later on, but it turns out I wasn’t: I’m not the only one who’s had a dolphin get into his mind.

I can’t begin to explain how they do it, but consider this: We humans have been in our present form on Earth, Homo sapiens, for about 150,000 years. That’s not even a blink in time. Dolphins, on the other hand, have been in their present form for at least 12 million years, or 80 times longer than we have. They not only have a vast history of survival, but they’ve been self-aware all that time and able to explore their consciousness. Isn’t it possible they’ve figured out some things about mind and the nature of reality that we haven’t?

The Perfect Pair will give you one man’s insight into their world as he encountered it, but if you find yourself buying the whole trilogy, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

(Malcolm J. Brenner is the author of the 2010 novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover and two other books. He lives in Punta Gorda, Fla.)

The Perfect Pair homepage

 

 

 

 

 

 

With some effort, dolphin-human love story regains its lost “Premium” status

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla., USA – “The role of the self-published author is not an easy one,” Malcolm J. Brenner said, sliding onto a dingy leather couch that might have once been white.  “In addition to successfully writing one’s magnum opus, one must also bring it forth into the real world, where it will grow up to compete in a ruthlessly Darwinian struggle for readers and reviewers.”

Brenner sipped iced tea – his habitual summer drink, with the occasional hard cider thrown in for historic, recreational and religious reasons – and relaxed. He had the furrowed brow of a man who has a lot on his mind, and no wonder. He recently finished re-formatting a 113,000-word Microsoft Word file for the ebook version of his most famous, or infamous work, the 2010 autobiographical novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover.

“It’s basically a re-telling of a torrid love affair I had with a female bottlenose dolphin in the summer of 1970,” Brenner explained.  “I just changed the names and a few details so that living people on whom the characters are based couldn’t sue me.  Even though I’m publishing it as a novel, it’s much closer to Tom Wolfe-style ‘new journalism’ than it is to fiction.”

Author Malcolm J. Brenner at home.
Malcolm J. Brenner in his trailer in Punta Gorda, Fla.

An admitted procrastinator since childhood, Brenner said that Smashwords, which publishes and distributes the ebook edition of Wet Goddess, alerted him last November that changes to their Premium Catalogue distribution system might require revising the file, which he first uploaded in 2011.  “I wasn’t clear on the details of what exactly the problem was, but apparently the old file no longer satisfied the new requirements, or so they said,” he said.

The Smashwords Premium Catalog puts the book into the hands of all the large ebook distributors, including iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, OverDrive, Tolino, Gardners, Odilo, Baker & Taylor Axis 360 and more.  “I’m interested in sharing my experiences with dolphins as widely as possible,” Brenner said.  “They are non-human people, so it behooved me to take care of this update issue sooner or later.”

After receiving warning emails for several months, Brenner finally pulled up his socks and tackled the problem himself.  This versatility, he said, demonstrates the technical virtuosity required of successful self-published authors in the 21st Century.

“If you’re an aspiring author and you’re lucky enough to land an agent or a publisher these days, you can thank a higher power,” Brenner scoffed.  “I knew a controversial book like Wet Goddess would be a hard sell even for a successful author.  I made a few stabs at finding a publisher without success, and an agent took me on for a while.

“She wined and dined me once at a book fair in Tampa, then, with no explanation, stopped communicating.  Months went by with no word.  It was only when I threatened to sue her to recover my manuscript that I learned from an irate family member she was still recovering from a near-fatal car crash months before.

“In publishing, like anywhere else, sometimes shit just happens,” Brenner concluded, with a hint of resignation.  After more rejections, he responded by abandoning the idea of conventional publishing and taking on all the tasks himself.  “It required me to become a jack-of-all trades, but the fact that I don’t get along well with many people actually makes that a good way to work,” Brenner admitted.  “If I work for myself, I may have an asshole for a boss, but at least he understands me.”

Brenner pre-sold copies of Wet Goddess to family and friends to raise funds for the initial press run of 50 copies.  A sympathetic friend contributed necklaces made from fossilized sharks’ teeth as premiums for advance sales.  The worst problems came from trying to get the manuscript proofread before it went to print.

“Don’t get me started,” Brenner fumed.  “I hired a so-called proofreader from a local community college, but she could only proof in academic style!  Book manuscripts require what’s known as Chicago style, and besides, Wet Goddess has a lot of colloquial dialogue in it,” he recalled.  “Every time a redneck character used the word “ain’t,” she flagged it – more than 300 times in the manuscript!  You’d think that if she was professional she’d have called me up and asked me what my intention was, but no.”

As a result of this and other unforeseen difficulties that cost him the original author’s proof copy of his debut novel, the first press run of Wet Goddess shipped with about 250 typos in it, including one whole, and rather crucial, paragraph repeated, Brenner admitted.

“It appears very close to the, uh, shall we say ‘climax’ of the novel, and it was very embarrassing to find it,” he explained.  “I hope I’ve got it stuck back in the right place now.”

For a cover, Brenner was able to rely on the talents of his daughter, Thea Boodhoo, an advertising industry professional and college-trained artist.  “I was going to use a B&W photo of a dolphin that a friend in New Mexico colorized many years ago,” he said, “but Thea thought she could do better, and when I saw her finished work I knew she was right.  I only made a couple of very minor Photoshop changes to the file she handed me to make the title stand out more and add the subtitle.”

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A friend who owned a small desktop publishing business referred Brenner to Royal Palm Press, a nearby print-on-demand company, for production services.  “I had no idea what the local reaction to the book would be, so I had a chat with Tom Lewis, the press’s owner at the time, to make sure he wasn’t blindsided,” Brenner said.  “Tom said ‘As long as it’s between consenting adults, that’s fine with me,’ and that was that.”  Brenner also served as his own layout artist, an experience he described as “a mad blur of on-the-job training.”

With book in hand, Brenner ventured onto the soggy ground of marketing.  “Here, I got terrifically lucky,” he said.  “I didn’t have the money to hire a public relations firm to distribute a press release, but I found one that had a reverse-charge policy. The media outlets who received the press releases paid for the service, not me, so my initial publicity was free!”

Upon its release in January 2010, the novel received intense press coverage due to its taboo-shredding themes of interspecies sex, zoophilic love and a dolphin character smart enough to out-think a human.  “For a while it was frantic, but very gratifying,” Brenner recalled.  “I was doing several interviews a week, sometimes two a day.  A few of the interviewers were skeptical or harsh about what they thought might have been going on, but the majority were genuinely curious to know what happened, and to learn more about dolphins.”

Since then, the book has enjoyed sales surges whenever some news gatherer gets curious and wants to know about his experience, Brenner said.  One came in 2011, when a New Zealand TV producer, David Farrier, released a videotaped interview with Brenner he’d recorded the year before.  Others don’t conjure such pleasant memories.  Brenner felt humiliated by shock-jock Howard Stern’s 2015 obsession with his zoophilia, and a 2011 interview with Bubba the Love Sponge cost him a gig with a local slick when its advertisers threatened to withdraw unless the magazine dropped him.

Brenner’s most recent foray into the murky waters of self-promotion was somewhat less melodramatic.  “When I finally got around to looking at the Smashwords file, it said there was a problem with one of the book’s photos, but I couldn’t find it with a self-diagnostic program they offer,” Brenner said.  “So I took a chance and asked Smashwords’ customer service, citing the warning notices they sent me.”

He quickly received a courteous reply from a guy named Kevin, explaining that the problem was probably due to the use of colons in his chapter titles and sub-sections.  “I was glad it was so easily resolved,” Brenner said, “until I downloaded the file onto my computer to make the corrections and realized what a mess it was.”

In the interim between uploading the file in 2011 and downloading it in 2018, Microsoft had changed Word and given it a new file extension, .docx instead of the original .doc.  “That one little ‘x,’ unfortunately, made a hell of a lot of difference,” Brenner said.  “When I had to add a couple of pages to the print manuscript of Wet Goddess, converting the book from the old to the new file format inserted blank spaces more or less at random between paragraphs.  I had to start at the beginning and re-do the whole layout, including throwing in a couple of new photos to fill some yawning blanks.”

The problems with the ebook file were similar.  There, many words were unnecessarily hyphenated, and photos had to be re-aligned to make sure they didn’t obscure the text.  Brenner said the process took him about two weeks, including a couple of days off when he wasn’t feeling well, but he’s glad he did it.

“I don’t have the money to pay somebody else anyway,” he complained, “so I might as well do it myself, because being retired I do have a fair amount of time.  Besides, whenever I master a task like this, I improve my overall word-processing skills, which helps me find work in the freelance job market.”

In the eight years Wet Goddess has been in print, it has sold about 1,500 copies in 18 countries, mostly in the English-speaking world, due to Brenner’s unflagging self-promotion efforts.  When a fan in Russia contacted him  three years ago to inform Brenner he’d undertaken an unauthorized translation, the author responded by granting him permission to publish it there!  “It hasn’t taken off yet, because the translator, Anton River, lives in a very conservative northern city,” Brenner said.  “He’s planning to move to a better climate soon, and I hope he’ll renew his efforts to promote the book when he does.”

In addition to Wet Goddess, Brenner has written and self-published two other books.

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Growing Up in the Orgone Box, published in 2014, is an unflinching memoir of his torture and sexual molestation at the hands of Dr. Albert Duvall, an “orgone energy” therapist and close associate of the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich, and the dysfunctional family structure that allowed this to happen.

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His 2016 novel Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair is a more light-hearted romp through the mythology and culture of the UFO scene, told from the point of view of a young woman determined to live up to her family’s expectations of her, no matter what it costs her personally.  “There is, again, inter-species sex, but since the other species is bipedal, mostly humanoid and obviously sapient, nobody should blow a 50 amp fuse over it,” Brenner said.  “After all, ‘Star Trek,’ Edgar Rice Burroughs and countless other science-fiction writers have only been doing it for about 100 years.”

Sales on these two books have been nowhere near those of Wet Goddess, Brenner said, and he’s had difficulty getting them any kind of publicity or reviews.  “That’s because, while they’re both sexually radical books, they’re not as radical as a man and a dolphin making love,” he said.  “Somehow, that just blows people’s minds.”

Having just turned 67, Brenner hopes to see his work more widely appreciated before he dies.  Asked if he thought his writing would endure beyond his lifespan, he waxed philosophical.

“My daughter might take it on, but she’s not planning to have children, so who knows what will happen over the course of time?  We only know of the Greek poet Sappho’s beautiful writing because it was used to wrap fish,” he noted.

“Let us remember that from the point of view of a book, which may endure for millennia if it’s an epic, humans are fleeting things who read it at some point in their limited lifespans, devoting to it some portion of their precious time,” Brenner said, drawing on an eerie theme reminiscent of the ambiguous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.  “For this reason, books, especially long-lived books like Epic of Gilgamesh, Tao De Ching and Cattle Raid of Ulster, are grateful for the time their readers spend with them.  The books try to compensate the readers through a symbiotic relationship that informs you with a novel set of ideas, or supports your need for entertainment that doesn’t require batteries, WiFi or 3D glasses.

“I think that we humans, as a species, have a lot to learn from our dolphin cousins,” Brenner concluded.  “As for my writings, they will survive if people find value in them.”

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dolphinleapMED

Why I wrote “Wet Goddess”

Prologue

(Above: Dolly, my dolphin lover. © 2010, Malcolm J. Brenner)

Let me make something abundantly clear: Wet Goddess was not written to promote bestiality or zoophilia, although I knew if I told my story it would probably come down to that.

I wrote Wet Goddess to share my experience with a creature that I found to be remarkably sophisticated, intelligent, aware, loving and worthy in every way of the designation, “non-human person.”

And she didn’t come out of some alien spacecraft. Her kind exist here on Earth, as they have for millions of years before we appeared, surviving ages of fire and ice in the arms of Mother Ocean.

In the decades since my experience with Dolly, science has, in many ways, caught up with my impressions and anecdotal experience. Now cognitive psychologists and others have explored the mind of the dolphin and arrived at the same conclusions I did in 1971: dolphins are self-aware individuals, able to recognize themselves in a mirror, experiencing a vast range of emotions and behaviors, language users and capable of employing “theory of mind,” the ability to calculate or imagine what another creature is thinking.

We should be devoting a large chunk of our resources as a species to understanding these creatures who have survived so much longer on this planet than we have. What are we doing instead? Some nations still slaughter them en masse in tuna nets, while others conduct murderous drive hunts and butcher them with glee. Some nations take the prettiest ones and commoditize them and sell them into enslavement, where they are forced to perform stupid tricks for our amusement. And we are polluting their environment at such a rate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. I despair for their future.

My zoosexual love story with Dolly the dolphin is what has attracted most attention, but if I’d had sex with a barnyard animal or a household pet, do you seriously think I’d have spoken up, exposing a practice that most people find viscerally revolting?

Of course not. Zoophiles may still have to keep their sexuality a secret in most situations, but they are humans and accorded certain rights by law. Dolphins are considered chattel, or property, by the same system. I am advocating for changing that and giving dolphins rights under a framework that recognizes their status, as acknowledged by science.

And that, folks, is what I mean when I say “I didn’t write Wet Goddess for zoophiles, I wrote it for dolphins.”

Sorry I had to spell it out for those of you who so perceptively pointed out that dolphins can’t read.

 

Book review: “Uniquely Dangerous” by Carreen Maloney

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Book Review: Uniquely Dangerous by Carreen Maloney. Published by the author.

By Malcolm J. Brenner

Every so often a non-fiction book comes along which threatens to expose the common wisdom about its subject for the misconception it really is. In my own life, I can think of only a few books that have had this profound effect on me. Growing up in the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement, one was The Autobiography of Malcolm X, co-authored by Alex Haley; another was Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s short but damning tale of incarceration, Soul on Ice.

I mention these two books because they come most readily to mind, not because I want to make race an issue. The subject of Uniquely Dangerous is an Anglo man, not a person of color, and a privileged Anglo man at that, who rose to wealth and renown while concealing a dark secret from everyone around him, including those he loved.

His name was Doug Spink, and if that sounds vaguely familiar, you have a long memory for the perverse and obscure. It hearkens back to a 2010 raid by a multi-agency taskforce of 30 people on a tiny cabin in Whatcom County, Washington, to bring Spink in for probation violations relating to an earlier arrest for drug smuggling.

But that wasn’t what made the headlines. What got the big, bold typeface was the announcement by authorities that they had busted a “bestiality farm” run by Spink, where clients could be serviced by dogs or horses he had on the property (including a champion show jumper). The allegations grew even weirder when local animal rescuers announced that they have saved several rats covered with petroleum jelly. One “client,” an English tourist, was arrested with Spink.

Carreen Maloney was an experienced print journalist and a supporter of the Whatcom County animal shelter that received Spink’s animals. While the headlines about bestiality repulsed her, she wondered about a lot of things. Why hadn’t any of the reporters who covered the story tried to interview Spink to get his side? Weren’t journalists supposed to be fair? What happened to the animals, especially seven dogs and the mice, that went to the county shelter? And what made a successful businessman like Spink, who worked in cutting-edge encryption technology that even puzzled the Feds, drop everything to live like a hermit and indulge a sexual orientation many people found revolting?

Thus began an eight-year odyssey for Maloney, but her toil and research has paid off in a remarkable tale that reads like a mystery story but has the ring of truth. We find out that the 2010 raid was only the beginning of Spink’s troubles with the justice system, which seemed more concerned about ending his vocal support for his alternative sexuality than about punishing him for a non-violent crime.

Maloney has accumulated a huge volume of material on Spink’s dual life, a high-tech wizard by day and a zoophile by night, and distilled it to its most essential parts. The story plunges backward and forward in time, exploring Spink’s past, his family life, and the marriage that ended in failure when he came out as a zoophile, and a gay one at that. But Maloney handles these transitions with great skill, even weaving in her own narrative, as a tragic personal loss sets her on the road to telling Spink’s story.

Along the way, Maloney also takes sidetracks into other elements of the hidden zoo culture, showing us how it covertly appears in art, advertising, entertainment, religion, as an enduring theme of a group that’s uncomfortable with its own species. She uses Spink’s torment at the hands of federal prosecutors as a lens through which to view society’s loathing of human-animal sex, and she courageously asks the question, why? Why such a visceral reaction?

If you are a zoophile, or know someone who is, you owe it to yourself to buy Uniquely Dangerous, because seldom has writing on this inflammatory topic been so lucid, so even-handed and well-documented. If you are interested in the psychology of human sexual deviance, this book will provide useful insights. Similarly, those concerned with loss of personal freedoms and the erosion of privacy will find a story that illustrates their worst fears. If you like tales of personal will and courage in the face of overwhelming odds, you’ll cheer Spink’s outspoken defiance. And if you simply admire a riveting piece of journalism about a taboo subject, Maloney won’t disappoint you.

The portrait that emerges is of a complex, troubled man who always seems to find himself athwart the tides of life, whether he’s fighting his ex-wife for his beloved jumping horse or telling a federal court judge exactly how he feels. In the end, you may not like Doug Spink, but you might come to admire him. In a world that demands conformity, he refused to bend. Uniquely Dangerous is the balance sheet of what that stand has cost him.

— Malcolm J. Brenner, author: Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover

(In the interest of full disclosure, my novel, above, receives a brief mention in Uniquely Dangerous as part of material past the Appendix. This inclusion has in no way influenced my opinion of the book, however. — MJB)

 

 

“Twysted Tyrants” show interview April 16

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. – Since the publication of his review of Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water, author Malcolm J. Brenner has seen renewed interest in his writing and  opinions on the controversial subjects of inter-species sex and love.

“The interview, written by Ashley Feinberg and published in The Huffington Post, has drawn a lot attention, and insane condemnation from people who wouldn’t know me from Adam in an ape suit,” Brenner said. “However, it’s also sparked an enormous bump in sales of my novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover, which is based on my 1970-’71 relationship with Dolly, a female bottlenose dolphin.”

Monday, March 26, was unique, in that Brenner got requests for two interviews: one from The Twisted Tyrants Radio Show on STLR Media in Sarasota, Fla., the other from a student journalist in Sydney, Australia.

Brenner will be a featured guest on the podcast starting at 9 p.m.
(Eastern Daylight Savings Time) on Monday, April 16. The show is hosted by Johnny Christ BayBay and his sidekick Uncle T, as well as a couple of other on-air personalities.

“Most interviewers want to talk to me about zoophilia and the maybe dolphins, in that order,” Brenner said, “but I’ve written two other books, one about my childhood in a pseudoscientific cult and the other a novel dealing with UFOs. When Johnny contacted me, he mentioned that he was interested in my experience practicing Wicca and my time reporting on the Navajo Nation, because one of his advertisers is a magical supplies store. I’m glad to shine some light on other aspects of my remarkable life.”

“Be prepared for two hours of strictly adult entertainment,” Brenner concluded.

 

Review: The Shape of Water

A few days ago, I was contacted by writer Ashley Feinberg, with the Huffington Post, who asked my opinion of the movie “The Shape of Water.” I hadn’t seen it yet (I’d been wanting to, on the recommendation of friends), but I was glad to go the next day (one of the pleasures of being retired).  Rather than mess it up with any kind of introduction, I’ll just link to the story: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-shape-of-water-malcolm-brenner-dolphin-sex_us_5aa17482e4b0e9381c169b7a

And I’ll tell you I’m very happy with the way the interview went and the resulting story. Many thanks, Ms. Feinberg!