Tales of whales, Don and Kurt

Dan Rodricks

January 13, 1992|By Dan Rodricks

Pieces of column too short to use:

This just in. . . . A handsome and colorful 1992 calendar, featuring Vanderlyn's "The Landing of Christopher Columbus on the Island of Guanahani" from the walls of the Rotunda in the U.S. Capitol, and autographed by Rep. Kweisi Mfume. A nice gesture, I suppose, but something in these austere times, we could do without. Besides, I already got a calendar from Operators Heat. . . . Also in the mail: A piece of brick from the foundation of the old Our Daily Bread, floating in clear Lucite block for desk display. All I can say is, gee, thanks, and I hope the person who made that bauble donated his services.

In the wake of dead whales. . . . There's been a lot of response to a recent column on the death of another beluga at the National Aquarium. From Marge Kane: "It's just business: Bring in the whales and dolphins, make big bucks, and when they die everyone can be sorry. Roll them out and bring in some more!" Another reader, Linda Sherman, said the column was too hard on the aquarium staff: "I know, and even love, a number of people who work at the aquarium, some animal trainers among them. . . . It's captivity that is wrong, captivity that I hate. I realize, however, that it would be both simple-minded and unreasonable to write off anyone who takes part in that operation. . . . I know that there is genuine grief over the death of Anore. I've seen my friends hurting, and my heart goes out to them. I know how much they loved her. And when I read your essay, my heart hurt for my friends even more, knowing how your words would likely sting on top of the pain or mourning their loss. These are good people. They do care. They genuinely love the animals and do their best by them." The Sherman letter was one of the most thoughtful and heartfelt I received. While I appreciate the sentiments, I stand by my original premise: If the people at the aquarium loved the dolphins and whales so much, they would not take part in their captivity for human entertainment. The grief they feel for Anore might be better called guilt.

* Where's the mayor? . . . Kurt Schmoke should be leading a march on Annapolis. He should be screaming about having to close schools for a week, screaming about having to close libraries. Instead, he makes a mockery of his "City That Reads." ++ His five-day school-furlough plan is a lame political ploy. Too bad the school board won't stand up to him. Voters should be outraged. Schmoke has been far too nonchalant about all this. His message to Annapolis should be: You can't do this to the city; the city can least afford dramatic reductions in state aid. But we hear nothing like this from City Hall. (I call it Sleepy Hollow.) . . . And imagine that some people -- read that, Larry Gibson -- actually talk of Schmoke running for the U.S. Senate. Give us a break.

* Mayor again? . . . The talk of the town is William Donald Schaefer running for mayor again, and the talk is considered semi-serious. His backers think the don needs to keep busy. Being mayor again might help him live longer. What the heck. A battle between Don Donaldo and Queen Jackie McLean would be too much fun.

*

The Censor Lady. . . . I was happy to see that Mary Avara is up and about, and still burning a candle for decency in the cinema. We had not heard from the feisty censor lady in years when she commented on a recent obscenity case involving an Essex video store. Ole Mary still thinks modern civilization went down the toilet when the sun set on the Maryland Board of Censors. You can tell Mary misses her crusades against pornography and indecency. Mary betrayed not a little bit of sentimentality for her old job to reporter Joe Nawrozki. "There was a time," she reflected fondly, "when I had trouble eating because I witnessed food being used in just about every disgusting manner possible."

*

Another sign of recession. . . . Either there is more downshifting among workaholics, or more people who can't find full-time work are settling for part-time and temporary jobs. The number of moonlighters in the nation's work force has peaked at 6.2 percent after rising steadily through the 1980s. The recession is probably to blame, though I believe people are just pooped, that yuppies are yupped out. Remember, these are the 1990s. Our motto: We've Fallen And We Can't Get Up.

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