by Geoff Olson

Those darn e-mail scams. Even with my spam filter set to detect the slightest whiff of “offshore bank account,” my inbox is regularly penetrated by bogus communications from fake people. Here’s just one from this week:

From: “Reverend/Barrister Ndaba Bongwater”<threeloyalpublicservants@giggle.com>
Subject:  Outstanding Investment Opportunity

My name is Mr.  Ndaba Bongwater. I am writing in concern on behalf of my three clients, government officials in great peril.

 Mrs. Linda Reid is Speaker of the Legislature for the government of British Columbia. Her mood deteriorate badly after media press show photo of her husband in   (consensual) encounter with full-grown South African giraffe.

Even though husband’s side-trip occur during Mrs. Reid’s wholly legitimate and enjoyable trip to 2013 Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Johannesburg (where I met her), radicals in gutter press used photo as ammo when she return homeward. A shootout  commenced, and she refuged herself legislatively in a $13,449 TV lounge/panic room, armed only with free coffee, muffins, and fax machine.

The incident  was amplified by twits on social notworking sites who defamed  Mrs. Reid as “Speaker with a blown Tweeter.” Even though Mrs. Reid paid government back $5,500 for husband’s 16,000 km trip to zoo, she feel secret shame every time she put on little legislative pirate hat and ascends throne affixed with $48,412 custom-designed, touch-screen computer.

Mrs. Reid tell Ndaba, “there is one thing that  free, zucchini walnut muffin from  $733 muffin display rack cannot fix: a cyber-bullied heart and a bank overdraft fee.” Okay, those are two things  (arithmetic not my client’s strength point).
My second client is also  government figure besmirched hurtfully by financial matters involving a spousal unit.  Mr. Raj Chouhan, member of legislature in British Columbia, also smilingly attend same South African conference as Mrs. Reid, but for non-giraffe related matters and in company of lovely wife. After unwarranted allegations impropriety, Mr. Chouhan agree to reimburse taxpayers $2,200 for cost of economy-class wife-fare (airline’s peanut pack/floatation devices are complementary and not expensed).

My third client, Ms. Jenny Kwan, was also dragged into 10th circle of heck by a spouse’s mere existence (you detecting patterns here perhaps). Also member of legislature in British Columbia, Ms. Kwan married once a man working for organization bestowing free needles and crack pipes to drug addicts. During a time period, he abscond Ms. Kwan and their children to vast American bemusement park with giant, terrifying cartoon characters and vomit-generative rides.

Ms. Kwan believe expenses for scary trip (and visits to Europe) were drawn from husband’s own account, rather than funds intended for addicts’ drug paraphernalia and limousine rides/dinners at Le Crocodile for organization executive/board. Threatened by radicals in yellow press, she pay $35,000 out of pocket, with unpaid leave of absence from work and attitude lingering about public service she describe as, “It’s been lovely but I have to scream now.”
I have reason to contact with you now in seeking friendship in good standing because my three clients move at total of fifty million dollars of their own funds out of reach of government forces to offshore account here in Burkina Faso. But now they need  to access funds confidentially for private counselling, anger management sessions, and extended holiday someplace warm. And although it may be “doing the kwassa kwassa with a hornet nest”  to mention in their homeland, professional life couching does not come cheaply (three officials + three life partners = six life coaches).

If  you consent to help these three loyal public servants, there is a ten percent gratuity for you available, totalling five million dollars. We require your bank account to transfer the funds to you in holding. Kindly expedite this request by sending promptly your account number. My intern, a trained lowland gorilla, is trustworthy. Your communication is in strictest confidence and we respond with detailed information on how to complete transaction through a securely encryptable website.
Thank you for cooperation. My clients believe you will be of assistance to us in safeguarding their funds for mutually beneficial purposes, under your strict supervision.
Blessings and salutations,
Reverend/Barrister Ndaba Bongwater
419 Nelson Mandela Drive
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

The Vancouver Courier, Apr. 4



whaleApr18by Geoff Olson

A few days after a training boat for the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue was surrounded by up to 200 playful dolphins, I was on a beach in Maui with my partner watching a pod of humpback whales breaching on the horizon.

It was quite the show, and I don’t mean the whales exclusively. Children yelled out with excitement, tourists in loud shirts stopped and fumbled for their cameras, and a father in a Speedo made a mad dash to alert his wife to the sunset show of airborne krill-swillers.

It’s remarkable how human beings react to animals in their natural environment. Any of us lucky enough to have witnessed a herd of caribous, a murmuration of starlings, a mass murder of crows — to say nothing of a chorus line of humpback whales — knows the drill. There is the gut-level recognition that wild animals are most real, most affecting, in their natural environment.

The humpback sighting brought to mind a memory of quite the opposite: a pitiful zoo at Stanley Park that once featured snakes, emus, monkeys, kangaroos and wolves. The penguins had a cement slide for their lowered-expectations recreation, but they were better off than the polar bears. I rem ember seeing the last sad, yellowed specimen “sunning” itself in the zoo’s brutalist-architecture fantasy of a polar bear home. Never once did I see the animal in motion (the enclosure is still visible just west of the Brockton Oval, as empty and timeworn as an Egyptian pharaoh’s sarcophagus).

In the same time period, the nearby aquarium offered shows featuring dolphins and three killer whales, Hyak, Finna and Bjossa, that soaked delighted visitors with trained routines. The gift shop sold plush toy orcas and trinkets to commemorate the encounters between orcas and oglers, but the toys weren’t exact anatomical matches without the drooping dorsal fins of the penned performers.

The orcas are no longer there, but Vancouver Aquarium’s rationale for keeping cetaceans in captivity, then as now, is that it’s educational for the young and promotes the values of animal conservation. Is there any actual evidence for this, or is this about lowbrow spectacle masquerading as natural history?

Today, anyone with an HD television and the Discovery Channel is more likely to expose themselves and their kids to more marine biology, with better visuals, than anything offered by fish-tossing whale trainers. (And if tourists or locals want to see cetaceans up close in their natural habitat, there are whale tours galore on Vancouver Island.)

On a recent CBC radio interview, Vancouver Aquarium CEO John Nightingale was asked if the aquarium would bring in more big marine mammals for its planned $100 million expansion. “The simple answer is likely,” he responded.

If that’s the plan — and the aquarium has been sending out mixed messages on this — the arc of history is running in the opposite direction. The Stanley Park zoo was shuttered in 1996 after a referendum two years earlier in which a majority of voters chose to close the zoo and phase out the animal exhibits. The aquarium’s orca show ceased in 2001. And in August of last year, the U.S. government nixed a permit to the Georgia Aquarium and two other American aquariums to import 18 caught-in-the-wild beluga whales from Russia.

The beluga is the last marine mammal with big box office for the remaining Sea Worlds and aquatic exhibits. There is little doubt we will hear all kinds of public  relations talk about the need for their continued capture and choreographing, in spite of the abysmal record of premature deaths of whales in captivity. But the effort is failing to convince, because growing numbers of people believe it is terrifically cruel to condemn sentient, ocean-roaming beings to concrete tanks for life, just for the sake of Homo sap’s amusement and ticket sales.

There is little doubt there are employees of the Vancouver Aquarium who love their jobs and the animals, too. The organization does valuable work. But the practice of cetacean captivity is as tired and tragic as the last mangy, ’90s-era polar bear of the Stanley Park Zoo — and it is destined to go the way of cock-fighting, bull-baiting, slave trading and witch burning. It’s just a matter of enough people getting the memo.

The Vancouver Courier, Mar. 28 and Apr. 18