“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” – Chairman Mao Tse-Dong
I may have been mostly sitting on my butt lately (it’s the vertigo), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been mentally active (I hate double negatives, don’t you?)! I’ve been reading books and watching movies, and here are my brief opinions of
a bunch two of them.
This larger-than-life story pits two 19th Century titans of industry against each other AND the forces of nature! It has the added feature of being mostly true.
On the one hand, all-American inventor Thomas Edison, whose sweatshop-cum-laboratory has given the world the wonders of the victrola and many other inventions, with direct current (DC), which usually won’t kill you but can’t be transmitted very far. Edison’s solution: what do people living in the country need electricity for, anyway?
George Westinghouse, having invented the air brake for railroads and thus made his million, sees the potential in this mysterious stuff, electricity. When his senior researcher is killed in a predictably avoidable accident, Westinghouse recruits the weird Serbian Nikola Tesla, who has been digging ditches since being fired by Edison’s lab for advocating an alternative to DC, the vastly more transmittable but also more dangerous alternating current (AC). There’s also the little matter of the $50,000 bonus Edison promised Tesla and then welched on, saying “You don’t understand the American sense of humor.”
Thus is engaged the The Current War, which lasted from about 1890-1904. Edison demonstrates the dangers of AC by electrocuting an incredible number of stray and unwanted animals, only the first of which is shown, fortunately, and off-screen. Tesla responds by letting millions of volts of AC cacade over his body at the 1893 Chicago Exposition with no ill results.
Overall, the film is gorgeously filmed and very, very believably acted by all those involved. Female characters, mostly in the form of the two inventors’ wives, are represented. It was reportedly a troubled production, with portions re-shot after a test screening at a film festival, but if so, the result doesn’t show on the screen. (Thanks, Martin Scorsese, who as a co-producer insisted on the right of the final cut!)
We take electricity and the light, warmth and power it gives us for granted. This film reminds us that we shouldn’t, that it was the work of hard-nosed businessmen that brought those wonders to us. I wish all historical films were this good!
In 1978, when I briefly worked for newspaper heiress Margaret Scripps Buzzelli, she flew me to Moorhead, Minnesota, where I interviewed a very withdrawn and forlorn Michael Greenwood. He was a civilian scientist who’d just served as a source for the influential 1977 PENTHOUSE article “The Pentagon’s Deadly Pets,” which pretty much blew the whistle on the U.S. Navy’s use of dolphins at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. (Note: I can’t find the original article on the Web. It should be. I think I have a copy in my files, I’ll OCR it and put it up here.)
Of course Greenwood, who shows remorse for his dolphin deeds similar to Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry, says the dolphins at Cam Ranh were weaponized with syringes that injected enemy swimmers trying to mine the U.S. warships with compressed air, causing an instant and fatal embolism. The U.S. Navy has said it never weaponized dolphins, finding them to be to unreliable in targeting as a weapons platform, and anyway a live enemy swimmer is more valuable than a dead one, because he can give you intelligence.
I spent a couple of days interviewing Greenwood, smoking dope to control the weirdness of what I was hearing while he consumed an inhuman amount of cheap beer. He talked about dolphins and more, about distant communication with submerged submarines using ultra-low frequencies and about being able to send them a self-destruct signal should they fall into enemy hands. And about a tell-all book he hoped to write on the subject, then tentatively titled The Dolphin Machine.
It was a very heavy interview. I still have the tapes, and I have tried to listen to them to edit them into something I can put on line. But Greenwood’s elliptical, looping, self-reflexive way of speaking defeats me every time. He is incomprehensible and hypnotic, and that’s a bad combination. I went home feeling depressed.
So now we have the promised novel, only it’s titled Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare. I think it may take the cake for longest gestation time for a literary work, even beating my own Wet Goddess, which took 37 years to finish, or 24, if you don’t count the 13 years I put it aside because I was emotionally too close to the story. For the record, I think the earlier title, and probably the earlier draft, were better.
Greenwood has written a novel just like he talks — elliptical, looping, self-referential — and very confusing to read. I have gotten 81 pages into it, and I can’t bring myself to pick it up again. It’s sad, because THIS IS THE ONLY NOVEL, AND PROBABLY THE ONLY WORK OF ANY KIND, ON THE OBSCURE SUBJECT OF MARINE MAMMAL WARFARE!
But here’s what I’ve been able to glean so far: The title character is leader of a Navy S.E.A.L. team, The Hounds of Hell, doing a dirty mission in Vietnam. Then he comes home, goes to college, and asks his professor a bunch of obvious, didactic questions like “What is a scientist, Max?” Cut to Peter, now a novice professor of psychology, lecturing his first class… and he flashes back to the time years ago when he, several human collaborators, a bunch of dolphins and a couple of pilot whales, infiltrated a Chinese harbor and fucked-up a bunch of Chinese whales.
At least, that’s what I think is going to happen. Peter Fisher finishes teaching the class before he finishes the flashback, and then… he dies. This is revealed on page 84. I’m sure that his story continues somehow, because the book goes on for a total of 666 pages. All of them as self-referential as an actor speaking to the camera.
There’s an old dictum in writing fiction, or non-fiction for that matter: Don’t tell the reader what you want them to know, show them. Greenwood never seems to get this, and thus we are subjected to a novel that reads somewhat like a corporate board meeting: Greenwood clues us in on what he’s going to tell us; then he tells us; the he explains what he just told us. It’s insane and boring as shit to read, but I really want to finish the book because I know Greenwood personally (albeit superficially), I can tell he went through something traumatic with dolphins, and I admire what he was able to do and learn about them. He’s also responsible for the release of one, a female Tursiops named Dolly Phynne, from the Navy’s Key West facility, without orders to do so. For which, I gather, he got in trouble. But Dolly Phynne is a another story.
(Greenwood also tells an incredibly funny and poignant story about a dolphin’s blunt response to open-ocean work, but that too is another story.)
Well, this book has a bunch of 5 star ratings on Amazon, so I guess somebody must like it. But now that I’ve put it down, I can’t pick it up again. You try.
About six weeks ago I was contacted by someone with the unlikely name of SunShine McWane, an associate producer for the Dr. Susan Block Show, to ask if I wanted to do a live interview. The podcast has been on the air since 1996 (!), and Dr. Suzy, as she is known, has quite a few listeners in the Los Angeles area.
Of course, ever hopeful to evangelize a greater audience (which, I hasten to add, is hardly a scientific way to do my work, but an effective one given I don’t have the numbers) I said yes.
Thus began the odyssey of SunShine (no, I never did ask why) McWane, who was determined to get a marine biologist on the show to discuss dolphin sex. I warned her.
“The producers of ‘Dolphin Lover’ tried, without success,” I recalled. “They couldn’t get the one they wanted, so my dialogue about that ended up on the cutting room floor.”
SunShine assured me that she was hopeful. Two weeks later, she didn’t sound so positive.
“They’re all so hoity-toity,” she complained. “I never imagined it would be this hard to find someone to go on a podcast and discuss the normal way dolphins have sex!”
I told her that, for what it was worth, with bottlenose dolphins there didn’t seem to be a normal way of having sex. It was made up all the time, with whatever props, objects or beings were available. That made her pause for thought.
“Well, we’ve got to prepare a PowerPoint presentation,” she finally sighed, and we left it at that, although where she was going to find a lot of illustrations was an unresolved problem.
Two days later, SunShine was back on the phone. “Can you do the show tonight? We had a cancellation.”
So I did. Who could turn the poor thing down? But of course there was no time to prepare the PowerPoint, so it would just be 90 minutes… of me. And due to the time difference between here and the West Coast, I would be on at 1:30 on a Sunday morning.
So be it. No sacrifice is too great to benefit the cause of Cetacean Liberation!
When I finally got on the air with Dr. Suzy, I found a rather nice, considerate person who tried to balance her concern for animals who might be the victims of sexual abuse with a realization that my story was quite real and told us a lot, not only about dolphins but about humans. She didn’t try to squelch me, like Bubba the Love Sponge, or make fun of my zoophilia, like Howard Stern. For that I was thankful.
And, as the above recording shows, she actually knows a lot about the situation with dolphins… although she prefers bonobos, those cute little apes who have been known after spats to make up by having sex.
You be the judge.
If you’ve been following my disappointment with The Edge, a New Zealand radio station-podcast that deceived and defamed me, then you know I made a complaint to the Broadcast Standards Authority, their equivalent of our FCC. Here it is.
Discrimination and Defamation: I believe I am the victim of a set-up. DJ Dom Harvey emailed me on March 28, 2019 (my time, all dates same year) and asked if I would do the interview for what he described as “a radio music show.” I said yes, and the interview took place on Monday, March 31.
I was one minute into my story and describing how the dolphin presented me with her genital slit for rubbing, when Meg had what I can only describe as a total freak-out. (The station has bleeped “genital slit” since they archived the program. This term is used by marine biologists to describe the organ and is values-neutral, but the bleep gives the unwarranted impression that I used a vulgarity or slang.)
Meg then declares “That’s disgusting” several times, and I will grant her her opinion, what I’m complaining about is that the station never gave me the opportunity to present mine. Meg states “This is a non-consensual situation. A dolphin cannot consensually choose to have sex with a human. You absolutely took advantage of that.”
That is a tangible falsehood. Dolly, the dolphin in question, was released into open water several times a day to perform tricks with a riverboat. She had the option to leave many times. Furthermore, dolphins are famous for having homosexual sex, lesbian sex, sex with oars, sex with sharks, and even human beings. The late Dr. Ken Norris, a USC professor of marine biology and an expert on dolphins, said “Dolphins have sex the way human beings shake hands.”
Meg left the studio, ending any chance of answering her accusations, but the interview proceeded with Dom and Randell for about 20 minutes. At no time was there any suggestion that the material would not be used. I expected it to be edited for length and content, but I was not expecting what happened.
Dom emailed me that the show would air “in the next couple of days.” I expected him to inform me when, as all other radio and podcast hosts have done. When I hadn’t heard a date by April 4 I emailed him to inquire. In response, he sent me an edited, 10 minute version of the interview, which I thought was for my approval. I told him it was fine, but there was still no air date from him, so I looked in the program’s archives. There was an April 3 program, but the only part that was used was Meg’s freak out! No other parts of my interview made it to the air! Not only that, but the 10 minute file Dom Harvey sent me was a decoy, intended to placate me and hoping I wouldn’t find out how they butchered my interview.
As a result, I was placed in a very severely negative light. The station maintains that I wasn’t because Dom et al. had discussed the topic on previous shows and had given listeners the “facts” of the situation, in spite of the fact that one of the “facts,” that I was fired from the dolphin show, is a lie he made up. I was never fired because I never worked for them. I was a freelance student photographer given free access to the property to produce photos for a book about dolphins.
The station responds “…we are aware (this) is not the case, but do not think this is material…” In other words, The Edge is OK with their DJs lying, as long as they do it about unpopular people.
This is the most egregious censorship I have ever encountered. I was not only discriminated against, I was lied to and given a fake file that was never intended to be used. And I am being given no recourse by the station.
As the letter I received says, “The Dom, Meg and Randell show is not a news, current affairs or factual programme… Listeners expect light-hearted chat and laughs, but do not expect it to be ‘authoratative or truthful,’ which is the defining characteristic of a factual program according to the commentary on the Standards.”
In other words, it’s OK to lie as long as you call it entertainment and not news.
Had I known the terms of the interview — that my interview would not be treated as news or history but as a basis for the hosts to make up defamatory things about me — I would have not done the interview. My permission was granted under false pretenses, and the falsehoods continued through the broadcast of the show without informing me and Dom giving me the decoy file.
Another producer encountered this while interviewing me, and didn’t use the interview at all: https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/radio/kyle-and-jackie-o-forced-to-dump-interview-with-a-man-who-had-sex-with-a-dolphin/news-story/49fde32f995ab26ed9c83cae7a7b2d18
I do not see why the station didn’t do this, instead of voluntarily defaming me and defaming me.
The Edge claims that their “hosts criticised behavior which is unlawful in New Zealand under section 143 of the Crimes Act 1961. We consider this was appropriate, and there is no breach of this Standard.”
However, I contend that absolutely no efforts, much less reasonable efforts, were made to present my competing viewpoint. Indeed, Dom Harvey and cohorts appear to have gone out of their way, by a considerable amount, to denigrate and defame me. I do not advocate bestiality or any criminal behavior, just for legal, if not social, tolerance of harmless practices.
MediaWorks writes, “…the Standard applies only to news, current affairs and factual programming, which this was not… Therefore, there cannot be a breach of this Standard.”
Look, you can’t have it both ways: If the story isn’t factual, it can’t be accurate, now can it? They’ve admitted that the version of the story they’re promoting and using as an excuse to stay out of trouble with the BSA isn’t factual, and therefore, it is inaccurate.
MediaWorks itself notes, “There are serious issues with how Dom, Meg and Randell dealt with you and your contribution during the Broadcast. In particular the Committee is concerned about the way the interview was edited and broadcast on 3 April, and the information which Dom Harvey provided to you after the interview, which was misleading and incomplete. …However overall we are satisfied that the storyline or (sic) the 3 April were not unfair to you, and fairly reflects your position in relation to your interactions with Dolly.”
Do I need to say that I manifestly disagree?
MediaWorks then proceeds to list all the considerations for what is fair, which I should not need to repeat here. But they refuse to take responsibility for the deception and treachery they used, saying instead “…we do not accept that this impression was caused by the Broadcast. In the Committee’s view, any negative impression was a result of pre-existing perceptions of bestiality and those who engage in it.”
Gentlepersons, what we are dealing with here is a STEREOTYPE of bestiality. I am college-educated, do not drag my knuckles, and have had sex with women hundreds of times, versus once with a dolphin; I have a biological daughter who designs my book’s covers. MediaWorks has chosen to inflame a rampant and potentially dangerous stereotype of the zoophile; indeed, the law banning bestiality in New Zealand, going back almost six decades, makes us second-class citizens, apparently without the rights granted to everyone else.
Why is this, I wonder?
“We consider that prior to the broadcast you were adequately informed of the intended nature of your participation,” MediaWorks writes. When audience feedback proved overwhelmingly negative to this subject, no word was provided to me. “We would have expected them (the producers) to communicate their decision to you,” MediaWorks notes dryly.
Gentlepersons, I know my story is radical and not popular with some people, and I expect them to oppose me. What I am not prepared for is sabotage, and that is what has been executed here. Perhaps the producers shouldn’t have used the interview at all! “A better decision would have been not to play any part of your interview, rather than playing only the portions of the interview in which Meg reacted to your behavior,” MediaWorks writes, admitting they made a serious goof.
However, it is apparently OK to defame me this way, because Dom, Meg, and Randell spent a couple of minutes discussing the subject on a prior show. How can I agree with their hosts, who don’t even bother with the impression of impartiality? The way MediaWorks allowed its hosts to portray me is like letting a member of the Ku Klux Klan deal with the concerns of the Negro.
The audience never got to hear it “from the horse’s mouth,” as we say here in the States. My experiences and words were interpreted by a hostile crew, ignored and disparaged, and I was lied to and given false information by MediaWorks and its employees.
MediaWorks admits to this! “The Committee does not approve of the way your interview was edited, and we understand why you might feel you had not been given a reasonable opportunity to comment,” they wrote. Do I need to say more?
Their argument is that, because of a label, zoophile, I should have no rights under New Zealand law. May I point out that I am a human being? Does that stand for something in New Zealand?
The presentation of me on the show was grossly, manifestly unfair. Even MediaWorks agrees.
In short, MediaWorks went out its way to abuse me on the April 3, 2019 Dom, Meg and Randell program; violated its own broadcast guidelines; lied to me about it; failed to keep me informed of developments that affected me; and finally, gave me misleading information, the edited interview, which they never intended to use.
I hope you will demonstrate to the people of New Zealand that such unethical conduct doesn’t pay by condemning what MediaWorks has done, what the producers of the Dom, Meg and Randell show have done, and in particular, what Dom, Meg and Randell have done to me.
Thank you for considering the evidence objectively. – Malcolm J. Brenner