Despite an Irritating Guest, Sarah’s Family Sparkles in the Last Frontier

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Several people (you know who you are) insisted that I check out a recent episode of Sarah Palin’s reality show on the TLC cable network. The episode in question features a guest appearance by the irritating Kate Gosselin, “star” of another TLC “reality” show — “Kate Exploits 8,” or whatever it’s called – which finds her shamelessly using her children for her own self-aggrandizement.

Though I followed this directive, allow me first to say that I have tried to ignore the existence of Sarah’s show, her appearance in such a project a disappointment to me. But I watched anyway, and though Gosselin’s disgraceful “performance” had me praying even more fervently for the end of her 15 minutes of inexplicable fame, I was pleased to see Sarah and her clan emerge so lovable and “genuine,” in keeping with the alleged mission of so-called “reality” shows, most of which are anything but.

Indeed Sarah and her family sparkled, from Sarah’s dad, a retired biology teacher who mesmerized the kids (and the TV audience) with his house, a residential natural history museum; to Sarah’s hubby Todd, who escaped the guest star’s nonsense to go fishing alone, leaving his wife envious of said escape; to Sarah’s kids who were disgusted by the guest star’s failure even to try and enjoy an Alaskan camping trip; to the guest star’s exploited children, who were in seventh heaven spending time with the Palins in the Alaskan wilderness.

Failing to sparkle in any way was guest-star Gosselin, who lasted only a couple of hours on the camping trip, after which she guilted/threatened her kids to leave with her in her wimpy, whiny retreat. How sad for those kids, who, understandably, wanted to stay with the mama grizzly, the grandpa grizzly, and their clan. I don’t even want to think of what awaits those kids when puberty hits – and when their mom’s 15 minutes does finally come to a much deserved end.

Of course, Kate seems to believe that those 15 minutes will last forever.  Before she humiliated herself in the Last Frontier, she whined to Sarah that they are two peas in a pod because they both understand the slings and arrows of media scrutiny. Sorry, Kate, you are nothing like Sarah, whose media scrutiny arises from the profound and genuine threat she poses to the twisted, leftist power base of the United States. Kate also failed to mention that whenever her own media scrutiny begins to wane, she does anything she can to get it back – posing for some cheesy magazine in a bikini, crying on insipid women’s talk shows, trotting out the kids, being surgically enhanced – whatever it takes.

As the show ended, I was left lamenting the missed opportunity I had just witnessed. Before embarking on the camping trip, the Palins thought Gosselin might need some training in grizzly-country safety. Having had extensive training myself in this area, I couldn’t help but imagine a scene where the bear expert advises guest-star Kate that if she should stumble upon a lone grizzly cub out in the wilderness, by all means pick the little guy up, cuddle him and hug him, tickle his tummy, and feed him crackers and M&Ms. Little grizzly cubs just love this – especially when mama is nearby. To those of you who know what I’m saying here, well, those 15 minutes….over. Yep, sadly, a lost opportunity. Sigh. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

The Whale in the Room

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February 28, 2010 | Comments

In the spirit of my affinity for mama Grizzly Bear, I have a great passion for all animals — the world’s wild predators in particular. Having had the great honor of writing about them professionally and catching glimpses of them in their home territories, I am, needless to say, heartbroken by the events surrounding the death last week of a trainer by an orca at Sea World in Florida.

I never would have witnessed a spectacle like this myself, as I am one who avoids like the plague “shows” that feature the ability of whales of any kind – orcas, dolphins, belugas – to tolerate life in small concrete tanks, coerced at specified times to jump through hoops or “kiss” the faces of young spectators. Seeing such magnificent animals humiliated in this way is nothing short of, as I said, heartbreaking.

As for the case at hand, we know now that this is the third death attributed to orca Tilikum. Third. This beautiful, tragic animal — a wild animal, mind you, a wild predator — has done everything he can to convince our so-called “superior” species, that he is not cut out for life as a trained clown. Indeed, I believe that none of these animals should be sentenced to such a fate. And I am not alone.

Through the years, thanks both to writing assignments and personal passion, I have had the great privilege of spending time with marine-mammal trainers and caretakers who have lived and worked with orcas and dolphins (dolphins being the smallest members of the whale family) – many ultimately turning against their vocation, once they realized that they were in fact abusing animals of such sensitive, intelligent souls, and, as the statistics bear, shortening the animals’ lives significantly.

And now here we are, faced with yet another so-called “mishap,” in which an orca was simply being an orca – a large, wild predator (also known as “killer whale” for legitimate, biological reason). The public really can’t be blamed for the mass misconception, given the rosy portraits painted by those who seek to make a buck off of whales, proclaiming them to be sweet, gentle giants driven to dedicate their lives to humans. How else do we explain the playful smile on the dolphin’s face or the orca’s wish to be ridden by a salmon-wielding trainer? The same holds true, I suppose, of other predators — lions, wolves, tigers, cuddly bears of all species — all of whom have at one time or another been convicted of crimes committed because of their true, though misunderstood, natures.

When the news broke about this most recent orca attack last week, debate erupted over what should be done to/with the whale. When further news broke that this was his third offense, attention actually turned from the whale’s culpability to the grossly irresponsible decision on the part of those who own him to keep him performing despite his record. I only hope that Dawn Brancheau, the trainer who lost her life, knew of Tilikum’s past and made her decision to partner with him voluntarily and out of love for him. If she didn’t, well, that’s an issue for her family to handle now that she is gone.

Tilikum the whale, however, remains with us, a public-relations nightmare destined now to become not the elephant in the room, but the whale in the room. Sea World has benevolently announced that he will retire from show business and live out his days in leisure. His fate, then, is to become a curiosity, “that whale that killed those people.” Either way, captivity is a torturous existence for an animal created to roam the open oceans with his pod, his family, hunting, procreating and navigating underwater mysteries with only other whales and his superior mind to guide him, without benefit of cheering crowds or artificial reward systems.

I can only hope that someday our own species, in the wake of these repeated and tragic events, will hear the whales’ message and realize it’s time to stop relegating these creatures to those mind-numbing concrete tanks and the show-biz humiliation that comes with them. In that sense, I have found last week’s public support of this animal heartening. Maybe we’re starting to hear the whale’s song at last.

Betsy Siino | Comments