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Monday, February 11, 2013

127

Interview With a Whale

As part of our ongoing series of conversations with animals on policy and population control issues, we recently sat down with Whale, a humpback whale currently based off the coast of Alaska.

Us: Hi, Whale.

Whale: Long time no talk, huh? It's been...twenty years?

Us: I know! I'm sorry. I grew up.

Whale: It's okay. This is what happens. Being a whale, particularly being, you know, more of a metaphor for childish wonder and exploration, I'm used to it. 30 Rock! That movie with Jeff Daniels. It's like being the Velveteen Rabbit, or something. What brought you back?

Us: The baby had a stomach bug, so I found a bunch of David Attenborough wildlife documentaries on Netflix Instant, and we loaded them up, and I held her on my lap to watch them, and she went nuts for you. She kept bouncing and pointing and saying "cha cha cha cha," and then she wriggled off me to peek behind the television to see if she could touch you.

Whale: Oh, that's so nice. That's really nice to hear. I don't know what it is, exactly; we're not soft or furry, and, honestly, I have a lot of gross-looking growths over my whole body.

Us: It just made me think about you, because when I was little, my parents had these huge coffee table books with Jacques Cousteau pictures, and everything, and my dad would go to the library and photocopy more pictures for me, and I was perfectly content to just be present with them, and now I get bored so easily. If you had told me, at seven, that my life would not involve being on boats defending whales from the encroachments of commerce, I would have thought you were crazy. Why is Hayden Panettiere living my seven year old life, and I'm saying she looks "too orange" on Twitter?

Whale: I think you transitioned into sharks, too, to be fair?

Us: But wasn't that a classic, hipster-y move, to be super into sharks? Maybe sharks are just cooler and more cinematic and have a whole week named after them. And then, after the whale episode, I was watching one about polar bears, and this polar bear was digging through the snow to get to this seal hiding in a little cave, and the seal escaped just in time, and I was all "YEAH LITTLE SEAL!" but then David Attenborough said that the polar bear had lost half of her weight over the winter, and if she did not successfully hunt soon, she'd have no milk for her two little cubs. It's the real world, you know? They don't have lentils. It's the cute little seal or the cute little cubs.

Whale: Everything is the worst. We're all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions, moral choices. Some are on a grand scale, most of these choices are on lesser points. But we define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, Human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying and even try to find joy from simple things, like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.

Us: Why are you so wise, Whale?

Whale: I'm very old, and people tell me their problems a lot and project things onto me. But, mostly, the first part was from Liz Lemon, and the second part was a quotation from a fake philosopher in a Woody Allen movie.

Us: Could I possibly...

Whale: No, you cannot ride on my back. Maybe you should just try to Be Here Now, or, you know, some other sort-of useful piece of advice about living deliberately.

Us: Okay.



127 Comments / Post A Comment

Judith Slutler

Oh Whale, stop barnacleshaming yourself! You are not gross looking, you are beautiful just the way you are.

Probs

@Emmanuelle Cunt shine on, Whale, you jillion-carat diamond!

Hot Doom

@Emmanuelle Cunt "It makes me sad to hear my wonderful, beautiful friend talk about her body that way."

Lu2
Lu2

@Emmanuelle Cunt "Barnacleshaming" = supercute!

Emby

So... as corny as the whale's philosophical treatise was supposed to be, it was actually something I really needed to read this morning. Because that whale is right, y'all. We make our own meaning and the whole of Creation—minus we burnt ends—is indifferent at best to our intentions and feelings. I think the whale has been reading Camus lately.

queenofbithynia

@Emby totally not what the whale said, though.

"Human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe."

Consider the speaker. "We" = whales. It is only whales, et cetera, that give meaning to the indifferent universe. Fair enough, whale.

Emby

@queenofbithynia Don't you mean "et cetacea?"

Nicole Cliffe

@Emby Emby, you are seriously killing it these days.

Lily Rowan

@Emby But also Angel, seriously.

Angel: Well, I guess I kinda worked it out. If there's no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters... , then all that matters is what we do. 'Cause that's all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy, but I never got it.
Kate Lockley: And now you do?
Angel: Not all of it. All I wanna do is help. I wanna help because, I don't think people should suffer as they do. Because, if there's no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.
Kate Lockley: Yikes. It sounds like you've had an epiphany.
Angel: I keep saying that, but nobody's listening.

Verity

@Lily Rowan I have always found that a good message for life.

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ms. alex

Whales! I once saw a picture of a person swimming (diving) next to a whale, and for some reason it just blew my mind. It was so big and wonderful.

Gef the Talking Mongoose

@ms. alex : I'll just leave this right here, then. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVtw94PJ8XA

Granted, what you see happening here is, practically speaking, a really bad idea. Still, awesome.

ms. alex

@Gef the Talking Mongoose OMIGOD.

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Lucienne

"I'm very old, and people tell me their problems a lot and project things onto me."

meetapossum

Guys, bowhead whales can live over 200 years! Whales ARE very old.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Nicole, something tells me this whale flipped the interview and made YOU the subject. So wise, these whales. Wise and crafty.

Lu2
Lu2

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose --That's how they get to be so long-lived. There is no end to the lessons of the whale!

micheljhon

'm Right on Top of that, Rose --That's how they get to be so long-lived. There is no end to the lessons of the whale
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Alexmen

"I'm very old, and people tell me their problems a lot and project things onto me."....Dale Buczkowski

cherrispryte

Sitting here with 5 different excel sheets open, trying to make sense of one of them, I can't help but think what a huge mistake I've made with my life, not devoting all of my time and energy into essentially recreating Voyage of the Mimi II, and living on a boat and looking at tail patterns and stuff.
I know like half of us went through a "I'm gonna be a marine biologist!" phase, but why did we stop? Why did I stop? Why am I not on the open seas right now?
I NEED A WHALE TO GIVE ME SOME ANSWERS.

Emby

@cherrispryte Little in the way of job security, if you can find one at all. Federal grants for marine mammal research are drying up and don't look to upswing anytime soon. Private financing for marine mammal research is also pretty pitiful, and also encourages a narrow, commercially viable documentary-focused style of work.

cherrispryte

@Emby Useful and sobering.
I'm still gonna go spend my lunchbreak planning imaginary whalewatching vacations though, if that's cool?

Emby

@cherrispryte Of course!

meetapossum

@cherrispryte I stopped because in 5th grade I went on a "learn to be a marine biologist!" summer course, and it was a lot more about fish and krill than dolphins and whales :(

Nicole Cliffe

@cherrispryte To paraphrase Stephen Jay Gould (who was saying this about paleontologists): "Not all kids who dream of being marine biologists become marine biologists, but every single marine biologist dreamed of being one when they were kids."

Bless them.

Nicole Cliffe

@cherrispryte (To be honest, it was an embarrassing moment, because I was taking a massive faceless lecture class from him and I grabbed him and said 'I always wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a kid!' and he clearly heard this literally every day. He was great.)

angelan

@cherrispryte I'm scared of boats.

damselfish

@cherrispryte very, very little marine biology involves cetaceans. You are more likely to spend your life counting sand fleas than you are to work with cetaceans. That's when I went "maybe not for me!"

Then I went into anthropology/archaeology, so I clearly do the "shit kids dream about but shouldn't take as jobs" thing anyway.

Jenn@twitter

@cherrispryte For me it was because I was terrible at science, math and swimming. But that doesn't stop me from daydreaming every time I got to the aquarium...

cherrispryte

@Jenn@twitter Yeah, the real answer to that is "you got a 2 on the AP Chem exam" but still.

Pseudo Pseudonym

@cherrispryte And, even if you were good at science, maybe you found out that you get seasick?

JanieS

Agh, my 9-year-old self is looking reproachfully at me, asking 'WHY ARE YOU NOT A MARINE BIOLOGIST, WE HAD PLANS, YOU KNOW.'

teaandcakeordeath

@JanieS
Each time I see a poster of an endangered species I feel a surge of guilt. I can *feel* them staring at me, psychically whispering "you were going to save me, and now you are doing ... what exactly?

Bittersweet

@JanieS I try not to think too much about what my 9-year-old self would be asking me right now. I'm depressed enough with overwork and the epically sh*tty weather we're experiencing today.

Nicole Cliffe

"Why do you not buy and eat a candy bar EVERY DAY now that no one can stop you?"

teaandcakeordeath

@Nicole Cliffe
"Why can't you use a hula hoop any more?"
And I really dont know the answer.

Bittersweet

@Nicole Cliffe "Why don't you have, like, 100 stuffed animals now that you can buy them yourself, instead of only 30 or 40?"

Hot Doom

@Nicole Cliffe I ask myself this fairly frequently. How could I forget something so important to my diet?

laurel

"Whyyy don't you stay up late every night now that no one can stop-- Oh, right, you're killing it with that. Carry on."

ms. alex

@JanieS "Why do you have green smoothies for breakfast every day instead of chocolate doughnuts with chocolate frosting like we planned?!"

plumb-bob

"Where is your red convertible that you were going to jump into without opening the door? What's with this practical, second-hand hatchback?"

iceberg

the triplets are obsessed with all things marine. whales, or "WEE-awww!", are very popular.

then again their (taught) response to "what does a turtle say" is "whoa, dude" so maybe don't trust the opinions of someone who has learned everything they know from Pixar movies.

noodge

did anyone else start reading this in the "whale" voice that Dori used in "Finding Nemo"?

elissa_what?

is anyone else really...afraid of whales? like that they would crush you or somehow accidentally drown you because they are so large? I'll feel better if someone else has this thing, too.

MarianTheLibrarian

@elissa_what? I'm afraid of all things that are really really big. I was in a museum once and they had a life-size replica of a whale and you could walk through it. I was trying really hard to keep my hyperventilating on the DL.
I was obsessed with the Statue of Liberty when I was little, but when I went to see it when I was 18, I was too freaked out by the size to truly enjoy the experience.

elissa_what?

@MarianTheLibrarian Thank you! I totally get that. Standing next to something very large gives me a little panicked vertigo. With whales I think it's the combination of the size and the horrible murky depths of the sea. I cannot handle the abyss.

Elsajeni

@elissa_what? I do not have this fear with whales, but I do with horses. Now that I'm consciously thinking about it that seems... backwards.

melmuu

This is a great whale story: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/12/magazine/12whales-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine

The Lady of Shalott

I am so obsessed with whales that my fiance got me whale earrings for Valentine's Day. (We are not big on secrets.)

I LOVE THEM SO MUCH YOU GUYS. Should I wear them with one of my two whale shirts? With my stuffed plushie whale??

Lu2
Lu2

@The Lady of Shalott Put them on your stuffed plushie whale and carry it while wearing the whale shirts (both of them). And a big badge that says, "I <3 Whales." p.s. what do the earrings look like? That's so cute!

The Lady of Shalott

@Lu2 I actually have double pierced ears. I COULD WEAR BOTH PAIRS AT ONCE. While wearing my whale shirts and carrying my toy whale.

I don't think the badge will be necessary then.

I don't know what they look like! I haven't seen them yet, booo.

Lu2
Lu2

@The Lady of Shalott --I have a toy stuffed whale, too, and I'm not even a "whalie." ;-) It is the cutest little thing. It's a baleen whale made of blue fur, and its baleen is made of ticking (the striped fabric used for bed linens). I totally like the overkill of your doing all that and still wearing the badge. Let there be no mistake!!

p.s. look what I found while looking for a pic of my whale (no luck)
http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/whale

Lu2
Lu2

@Lu2 argh, it didn't work. The exact picture I meant was a handmade Valentine that said "Whale you be mine?"

Zwetschke

"They don't have lentils." Why is the world so hard?

Onymous

Seals aren't actually very cute baby or not.
They smell like vomitted rotten fish.

Also I just want to punch all the people at sea world involved with keeping orcas there. "Oh we don't know why their fin flops over when we keep them in captivity" WELL THEN FUCKING STOP.

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I love this series so so very much.

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Sitting here with 5 different excel sheets open, trying to make sense of one of them, I can't help but think what a huge mistake I've made with my life, not devoting all of my time and energy into essentially recreating Voyage of the Mimi II, and living on a boat and looking at tail patterns and stuff.
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This is what happens. Being a whale, particularly being, you know, more of a metaphor for childish wonder and exploration, I'm used to it. 30 Rock! That movie with Jeff Daniels. It's like being the Velveteen Rabbit, or something. What brought you back? elixir du suedois

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