Monday, December 27, 2010

Our first year online: a thank you

Whale Like Me's journey started in 2006. For those just tuning in: Whale Like Me is the feature documentary production poised to shake up the stand off between whalers and conservationists, and - we hope - open new ways of understanding whales, and the way humans relate to them.

Our web presence started in May 2010, and in this space just after Christmas, before we launch into an exciting New Year for the project, I'd like to put out some very well-deserved thanks to those responsible for Whale Like Me online.

Emily Frances Knox and her partner, Michael Gregg, devote time and energy to maintaining our Facebook and Twitter presence, and in the space of just a few months, they have established a cetacean news service many have come to rely on for interesting developments in what we know of - and how we relate to - whales and dolphins.

Web developer Sid Bachtiar, based in Levin, has patiently implemented our web designs - here he is with his dad... ok, just kidding. Here he is with his son Josh.

As the site continues to grow, you can be sure Sid is to thank, weaving code.

Sid's company Bluehorn is based in Levin, New Zealand... just a pleasant drive away from our beautiful city of Wellington.

More news in the New Year - positive news: stay tuned.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We meet again

Apologies for the lack of updates - we have been busy working hard to advance the project, which leaves little-to-no time to actually blog about it. I’ll try to make up for this with more frequent entries this month.

I returned to Japan in late November – my third trip there in the past 5 months.

Hideki and I met with various officials, and were surprised by the good welcome we received. Of course there was caution, as we expected, but the bottom line was a very proper, official neutrality towards our project. Neutrality is the proper response, and one I would expect from both sides.

As a point of interesting comparison, we have had more trouble meeting with Australian officials than we have had with the Japanese. Our work seems to be situated on an active fault line between both sides, where neither side feels sure of their footing. I have experienced initial distrust from Australian, American and Japanese interested parties alike – the Australians and Americans being uncomfortable with the presence of a Japanese co-director and a collaborative approach, and the Japanese being uncomfortable with my Australian/American nationality and the international nature of the production.

My impressions may certainly evolve, but it seems to me that the Japanese concern is the more natural of the two, since they are the ones under scrutiny by the international community over this issue, and since foreign media attention is so often one-sided against their interests. This makes it all the more interesting that we have had more trouble meeting with Australian officials than we have had with Japanese ones, while benefiting from personal references and introductions on both sides.

Next, we journeyed to the coastal town I am becoming better and better acquainted with – to meet the whaler again.

I must refer to him as the whaler for now, until all formalities have been taken care of and we have agreed on how his identity is revealed.

The meeting was informal, and as we talked, I realized that I like him. As with the first meeting, the difficult issues brought tension to the air – there is no escaping this and on the contrary, I am glad we are both staunch defenders of our positions, but in all other instances there was almost a sense of camaraderie.

This makes our interaction all the more interesting – what I seek would spell the end of his livelihood as a whaler, and what he seeks would spell the continuing practice of what I see as murder – yet we seem to be embarking upon a friendship, based on the rare conviction that our stories should be told alongside each other, and at least for me, on a sense of wonder that such a thing is turning out to be possible.

My Japanese is improving incrementally: I now hear the language very well. The different words register clearly in my mind as I hear them, even though I only understand a fraction of them. The whaler’s English remains a blessing, making communication easy, and allowing co-director Hideki Fuji to be a full participant in our conversations rather than a translator.

During this meeting, we were advised of a fascinating event which we will have the honor of attending and filming, in January 2011 – details to be revealed in a future update. We also discussed my attendance of Japanese language school in March followed by 4 to 6 weeks of immersion, living in the coastal town, meeting its residents and absorbing something of its nature.

More news very soon, and best wishes to you all – wherever you hail from on this Ocean Planet.