Myth-Making Dolphins

Photo found on Best

They're transporters of the souls of the dead, per Dante, transporters of tools and messages, per the US military, and friends to man, per the popular dolphinariums.

OK, quick: do a free association with the word “dolphin”…what swims into your head? The wind chimes shaped like dolphins on your back porch, perhaps. Or their visage on your shower curtain? Now, when thinking of dolphins, what doesn’t come to mind? Strangely, for this column, what doesn't is fishing! As majestic, intelligent, and mythological dolphins are, sport fishing for them, fortunately, has never materialized. For complex reasons, dolphins have transcended the sport.

Nevertheless, dolphins have a unique relationship to the angling world. The word 'dolphin' refers to two different species of fish: the marine mammals related to porpoises and whales, and dolphin-fish, also known as mahi-mahi or dorado, which are prized saltwater game fish and table fare. While on the open-ocean, anglers may marvel at the torpedo-like stealth of the former while casting top water lures feverishly toward the iridescent chartreuse of the latter.

Sharks, often the “white whale” for many ocean anglers, also share a unique relationship to dolphins. Contrary to popular myths, which often link sharks and dolphins as lethal adversaries, neither species preys on the other, and marine biologists agree that the two ocean dwellers generally tolerate each other. A hungry bull, mako, or great white shark may feed on a wounded or vulnerable dolphin, but in general, they leave each other alone. Consequently, tuna, a primary staple for many shark species, often swim alongside dolphins because, for many reasons, dolphins and tuna pursue similar prey and joining forces reduces the likelihood of a shark attack. Most sharks will ignore dolphins or large schools of fish and focus on smaller, more solitary prey.

Unfortunately for dolphins, their relationship to tuna has not been as advantageous. Since the two schools often intermingle, commercial fishing has caused many problems for dolphins because the industry’s sprawling nets often snag them, a tragedy that has caused many animal activists to protest this traumatizing practice. Subsequently, in the 1980s, commercial tuna fishermen were forced to deliberately avoid casting nets upon dolphins, which they did previously without recourse. Average citizens encountered the byproduct of this environmental controversy in their local grocery stores when ”dolphin-safe” labels were placed on tuna fish cans.


Arguably the most popular dolphin, Flipper, made his debut on American television sets in the mid-1960s. Flipper was an intelligent dolphin and the unusual pet of a park warden living on a Florida marine reserve. Flipper helped the warden manage the park, enforce its rules, and occasionally dolphin-sat his two sons, Sandy and Bud. The lyrics to the show’s theme song reveal the reverence dolphins earned early in popular culture.

The NFL’s Miami Dolphins have trademarked one of the most indelible dolphin images in American culture; the football helmet-adorned dolphin muscularly leaping in the air. In addition to their popularity in television and Miami football paraphernalia, dolphins also are featured in dolphinariums, a popular attraction in many major tourist destinations.

In literature dolphins have received much attention. In science fiction, dolphins figure prominently in Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern series; the Known Space fiction of Larry Niven; Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series; and David Brin’s Uplift series. In the fantasy genre, you'll find them in Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus Trilogy; Karen Hesse’s The Music of the Dolphins; and Ken Grimwood’s Into the Deep. And in children’s literature, they'll be swimming along in Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins and Mary Pope Osborne’s Dolphins at Daybreak, to name but a few.

Superstitiously, dolphins swimming alongside a ship represent good luck. For fishermen, this luck usually equates to bountiful catches, probably because the presence of dolphins often means they’re herding and feeding on baitfish such as mackerel, herring, mullet, cod, or squid; most likely, sport fish such as dolphin, tuna, sailfish, or shark may be nearby. Dolphins are also believed to transport the souls of the dead, and the great Italian poet, Dante, cast them poetically in the underworld by comparing suffering souls floundering in hell to dolphins rolling playfully on the ocean’s waves. He writes in Canto XXII:

With the ten Demons on our way we went;

Ah, fearful company! but in the church

With saints, with gluttons at the tavern’s mess.

Still earnest on the pitch I gazed, to mark

All things whate’er the chasm contain’d, and those

Who burn’d within. As dolphins that, in sign

To mariners, heave high their arched backs,

That thence forewarn’d they may advise to save

Their threaten’d vessel; so, at intervals,

To ease the pain, his back some sinner show’d,

Then hid more nimbly than the lightning-glance.

Many classical philosophers and orators including Aristotle, Pliny, and Cicero have studied and alluded to dolphins in their writings and speeches. Plutarch, the Greek biographer and moralist, wrote, "to the dolphin alone, beyond all other, nature has granted what the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage.”

In fact, Aristotle may have been the first cetologist (a person who studies cetaceans or marine mammals such as dolphins, porpoises, and whales). According to Dr. Alexandros Frantzis of Greece’s Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute (PCRI):

(C)etology…was born in Greece about 2,350 years ago. Aristotle was the first to observe cetaceans in their environment and to…take notes of his observations. He actually scientifically published his results. He not only took notes, and this is amazing, but he took notes about the methods he used…Aristotle was the first to put together the basis of a very modern method used in modern cetology…called 'photo-identification'. So Aristotle didn't have a camera during that period, but what he did in collaboration with fishermen, when there was a dolphin captured and entangled in the nets but still alive, before releasing it, they created an artificial notch on the dorsal fin of the dolphin. So in this way, dolphins that were resident in an area could be re-sighted for many years.

Dolphins were arguably the most popular animals in ancient Greek mythology, art, and iconography, and the mammal appeared on many Greek objects including buildings, frescoes, currency, and jewelry. As Frantzis states, "the image of dolphins then, like nowadays, probably had some relaxing effect toward humans and were probably a symbol of the harmony and the health of the marine environment." Dolphins were never perceived as quarry for anglers, but rather, as a mysterious symbol of some larger, complex marine ecosystem. In essence, because of their intelligence and social behaviors, dolphins were perceived as more human-like than fish-like (of course, they’re not technically fish, but mammals), which is why some myths portray them as former humans, and some gods used their imagery or morphed into their form.

Image of dolphin fish from Land Big

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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