About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

Marine Mammal Deaths At SeaWorld

On Sunday the San Antonio Express News published a terrific, but immensely sad, story by Richard about the deaths of orcas, dolphins, and other mammals at the SeaWorld parks.  What’s Killing the Orcas at SeaWorld? takes a careful look at the statistics of creatures dying at SeaWorld and quotes trainers, SeaWorld employees, research studies, and animal rights activists in an effort to address the care of marine mammals in captivity and whether they are more likely to die than members of their species in the wild.

Infections seem to be a huge problem for marine mammals in captivity.  Richard’s story reviewed reports that SeaWorld filed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and calculated that almost 150 orcas, dolphins, sea lions, and beluga whales have died of infections at SeaWorld since 1986, and five dolphins, whales, and sea lions have died of various infections — such as fungal infections, bacterial infections, and inflammation of the brain — since May 2014.

wild-orca-alaska_siThe big point of contention is whether living in captivity contributes to those deaths, as animal rights advocates contend, or whether the creatures at Sea World are no more prone to infections than members of the species living in the wild.  As Richard’s article reports, that’s tough to assess, because there aren’t many reliable studies of the lives of these mammals in their native habitat.  Animal rights advocates argue that creatures that have evolved over millennia to range widely over large areas of ocean, hunt their own food, and form relationships in the wild simply aren’t suited to captivity.  The advocates believe the orcas become stressed (and show it by breaking their teeth chewing on concrete and metal) and the stress makes them more prone to infection.  Richard’s article quotes some former SeaWorld trainers who talk about the constant medication that some of the mammals have received.  And while we don’t know the prevalence of infection deaths in the wild, we do know this — orcas, dolphins, and sea lions have somehow survived and thrived in our oceans for centuries without have to be heavily medicated by human beings.

I should note that SeaWorld has criticized Richard’s story, saying on its blog:  “The article is unfairly critical of SeaWorld and misleads readers with incomplete sets of facts that are presented in a biased way.”  I respectfully disagree.  I think the piece is a fair treatment of an important issue that employs the tools of great investigative journalism, like review of public records, getting quotes from people on both sides of the story and experts, and then trying to piece things together.  The reality is that the death of the marine mammals in the care of SeaWorld is just an uncomfortable topic for SeaWorld.

I’ve never cared much for zoos or places like SeaWorld.  I feel sorry for the animals that are caged, and I think it reflects poorly on us that we keep creatures that are meant to be in the wild penned up for our entertainment.  It’s particularly appalling that we confine marine mammals that show clear signs of intelligence, like orcas, and then have to dope them up to try to keep them alive.  Richard’s story just heightens that view.

Sad Elvis

In the busy entertainment district of Nashville, you see them.  Large caricatures of Elvis Presley in front of storefronts, just waiting for a boozy tourist to stop and snap a photo and post it on their Facebook page.  The microphone that he apparently was singing into is gone, but Elvis is still there, chained down around his waist so he can’t be taken away.

IMG_1035We’ve had controversies about young Elvis and old Elvis.  Rebel Elvis and Las Vegas Elvis.  Thin, leather-clad Elvis and fat, jumpsuit-wearing and karate-chopping Elvis.

This, I think, is a picture of sad Elvis.

I’ve never been a huge Elvis Presley fan, but anyone who loves rock ‘n roll has got to tip their hat to The King.  There’s no doubt the Elvis Presley changed the world and revolutionized America when he started to sing blues music and swing those hips.  He inspired the Beatles and lots of other acts and left an enormous imprint on American music and culture.  His death was pathetic, but there is no denying his vast and enduring influence.

Now, on the streets of Nashville, the King is reduced to a fiberglass photo opportunity, like Ronald McDonald or a T-Rex or Paul Bunyon.  It’s disturbing, and it’s wrong.  There’s something forlorn and almost despairing about it that a few brightly colored balloons tied to his wrist won’t hide.

Poor Elvis!

Old Brick Beauty

IMG_1081Lit from beneath, the faded paint from a long ago sign on the side of a brick building adjacent to one of the pedestrian bridges in Nashville seemed to almost glow when we walked across last night. The worn and repaired brick, the old wood in the windows and door, the paint — it was an example of how beauty can be found even in the most ordinary settings.  Amazing what a little light can accomplish!

The High-Water Mark


The Cumberland River flows through downtown Nashville.  There’s a little park on the downtown side of the river where you will finds lots of concrete steps, people still shaking off last night’s overindulgence — and a literal high-water mark.  It’s hard to believe the river reaches such heights, but in 2010 the Cumberland topped the high-water mark entirely and crested at 51.86 feet, causing catastrophic flooding that swamped the area.  The river was a lot lower, thankfully, when we visited yesterday morning.

Nashville Dans La Nuit


For a city located smack dab in the midst of middle America, Nashville is pretty damned cool.  In addition to the music scene, which you probably knew about already, Nashville has some great bridges.  The footbridge from the Bridge Building over the Cumberland to downtown not only affords you an excellent view of other bridges, it also is a striking bridge in its own right.

American cities would do well to turn all unused railroad bridges into pedestrian footpaths.  They’re irresistible.

Bachelorettesville


Nashville must be the top bachelorette party destination east of the Mississippi.  You see the bachelorette groups everywhere — pedaling together to power the bicycle bars heading down Broadway, slamming down Jell-O shots, singing along with the band at the Honky Tonk Saloon, and whooping it up on the sidewalk — and always smartly attired in matching shirts and hats with clever slogans about love or being drunk, and sometimes both.  As soon as one group leaves, another bachelorette band arrives to take its place.

Why is Nashville such a popular bachelorette destination?  Well, why not? It’s got lots of saloons and live music and drink specials and pedal bars and all of the features of a modern bachelorette fantasy.  And let’s just say that the ladies we saw were taking full advantage of the chance to cut loose, starting bright and early and hitting it hard.  They were having fun in the bride-to-be’s last hurrah.

I’m guessing that what happens in Nashville stays in Nashville.

Moonshine 


The bar where we ate dinner last night was very well-stocked, but I paused for a minute at the serious collection of jars — until I realized it was all moonshine.  Well, we are in Tennessee, after all, eating in a place called The Stillery, and there wasn’t a revenuer in sight.

The moonshine came in lots of different flavors, like “apple pie.”  I’m sure many party-hearty visitors to Nashville have figured they should guzzle some shine to make their visit fully authentic . . . and then came to regret it the next morning.  I wasn’t tempted.  In college I learned my lesson well that drinking fruity concoctions where the Kool-Aid-like flavoring serves only to mask the crushing alcoholic content isn’t a wise course of personal conduct — especially when it’s served from what appears to be a garbage pail.  

With an inward nod to Granny Clampett, I let the white lightning pass and stuck to a beer.