Day 36: 7/31/2013: Hear Ye! Hear Ye: Auditions for “JAWS”

Today with the help of my dear friend Dan, we brought the “JAWS” charity reading one step closer to reality with our Facebook group.

Check it out:

https://www.facebook.com/events/546709615393682/546809945383649/?ref=notif&notif_t=plan_mall_activity

Many people have graciously volunteered to read. If you’re interested, PLEASE let me know.  Perhaps you’ll channel discontented, philandering housewife Ellen Brody, her beleaguered husband Martin, or the GREAT FISH himself!

We’re still deciding on a venue, so if you have a cavernous net-strewn sea shanty you’d like to lend us for an evening, gimme a holler!

Day 35: 7/30/2013: God the Hunter

I have a cold, so between guzzling ginger ale, filling out a volunteer form for Sea Shepherd and feeling mildly sorry for myself, I’ve been contemplating Mary Oliver’s vision of God in her mysterious and powerful poem “The Shark” (see whole poem below this entry).

A lot of literature that explores animal consciousness reckons with the basic and inevitable idea of speech/speechlessness and power/powerlessness. But Oliver does something really interesting with this idea:

“speech, that makes all the difference, we like to say.

And I say: in the wilderness of our wit

we will all cry out last words—heave and spit them

into the shattering universe someday, to someone.

Whoever He is, count on it: He won’t answer.”

God, like the shark hunter is lost in his work. But this total absorption isn’t transcendent oneness, but abandonment, loss:

“The inventor is like the hunter—each

in the crease and spasm of the thing about to be done

is lost in his work. All else is peripheral,

remote, unfelt. The connections have broken.”

There is so much more to say about this poem than my feeble stuffed up consciousness can muster at the moment. Oliver’s makes such a bold and striking connection far more unsettling than her work normally is. I don’t mean to suggest she’s usually a light, happy-nature-lady poet at all, but this one leaves me in a place without the comfort of easy answers or associations. That’s good. I keep  seeing an “old man in the sky” style God leaving his creation spinning like a globe, how great whites always felt like ancient displaced Gods to me,  and the “God” that the hunter becomes for that brief triumphant moment when he removes the fish from its world of water, drowns him in the air.

“The Shark” By Mary Oliver

The Shark

 The domed head rose above the water, white

as a spill of milk. It had taken the hook. It swirled,

and all they could see then was the grinding

and breaking of water, its thrashing, the teeth

in the grin and grotto of its impossible mouth.

The line they refused to cut ran down like a birth cord

into the packed and strategic muscles.

The sun shone.

It was not a large boat. The beast plunged

with all it had caught onto, deep

under the green waves—a white

retching thing, it turned

toward the open sea. And it was hours before

they came home, hauling their bloody prize,

well-gaffed. A hundred gulls followed,

picking at the red streams,

as it sang its death song of vomit and bubbles,

as the blood ran from its mouth

that had no speech to rail against this matter—j

speech, that gives us all there may be of the future—

speech, that makes all the difference, we like to say.

And I say: in the wilderness of our wit

we will all cry out last words—heave and spit them

into the shattering universe someday, to someone.

Whoever He is, count on it: He won’t answer.

The inventor is like the hunter—each

in the crease and spasm of the thing about to be done

is lost in his work. All else is peripheral,

remote, unfelt. The connections have broken.

Consider the evening:

the shark winched into the air; men

lifting the last bloody hammers.

And Him, somewhere, ponderously lifting another world,

setting it free to spin, if it can,

in a darkness you can’t imagine.

 

Day 34 7/29/2013: The Ghost of Jack Webb & Me

I felt the ghost of Jack Webb working through me today. In the morning, I showed my international students the documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself” which uses movies to explore L.A.’s identity crisis. Multiple shots of city hall stirred up some heavy “Dragnet” nostalgia. The spirit of Sgt. Joe Friday sparkled in the bright badges of the LAPD officers I spoke with about the horror in Chinatown. As I dropped by PETA’s fancy office in Echo Park, I imagined  Jack Webb reborn as an animal rights crusader. In another era, he could have broken up backyard dogfighting rings, or brought down poachers with the same relentless moral superiority that he used to lecture acid-addled hippies. I hope PETA can help me with the turtle-pet store crisis. Stay tuned.

As for sharks, besides buying a 6-pack of Great White beer that features a slick, glossy and too-manic shark clutching a mug of froth and a chewed up surfboard, (I just had to buy it, I hope it’s not horrible), I’m reminding everyone to send comments  asking the National Marine Fisheries Service not to undermine the Shark Conservation Act with loopholes and exceptions.

I also want to finish dividing “Jaws” into readable “chunks.” I hate that word.  It evokes chewed up humans. Chunks of human flesh remind me that although I did succumb to using the word “Sharktastic” yesterday, I’m trying to outlaw cute shark language here–no “bite-sized” monologues, for example.  Even the Great White beer package doesn’t resort to cutesy words, although I just noticed that the shark mascot stands on a sandy shore littered with a shell, a starfish and a bloody human hand, a kind of nautical crime scene.

Day 33: 7/28/2013: Sharktastic Sunday!

As I wrote a few blogs back, I know what it’s like to want to avoid “the clipboard,” and today My friend Jen and I hoofed it around Los Feliz collecting signatures for the Shark Defenders petition.  Between the two of us (or three, if you count the large inflatable great white head we took turns carrying), we signed up 45 Shark Defenders in about two hours.

Bees hunted us, hostile indifference stonewalled our efforts near House of Pies, but we persevered. Sadly, we met quite a few sympathetic folk who didn’t have e-mail addresses. “I still live in the ‘70s,” one surfer confessed.

Along with names and e-mails, we collected a host of non-sequiturs:

Q: “Hi, would you like to save sharks from extinction?”

A: “I’m fine.”

Q: “Hi, would you like to save sharks from extinction?”

A: “We solved that problem in San Francisco.”

Q: “Hello! Did you know 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins?”

A: “Jesus.” (Not “Jesus” as in “Jesus, that’s terrible,” but a beatific implication– “I hope you find Jesus.”)

That enlightening comment made me think of tailoring our signature gathering. Hanging out at the Catholic Church: “Would you like to save Christ’s most miraculous and misunderstood apex predators from extinction?”

Certainly the faithful would agree that the greedy, wasteful and violent practice of shark finning is an abomination.

We debated going to The Rustic Inn, thinking that people might be more amenable to signing anything after staggering out of a tavern, but ended up zigzagging between shops and bus stops and street corners.

Some people refused to sign because they were afraid. “A shark bit my boogie board.” Others signed BECAUSE they were afraid, “Sharks are terrifying–but we need them.”  One sly dude made me go through my whole spiel, took the clipboard, poised the pen above the page, nodded encouragingly and then handed it back. “I’m just curious,” I queried, as he fled into Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. “Why wouldn’t you sign?” No reply.

But human indifference did not triumph!

THANKS to my dear friend Jennifer for making it so fun and THANKS to all the people who stood up for sharks, especially:

The sweet girl at Pop Killer who not only signed my petition but helped me to inflate my shark head.

The kind people outside the Gurdwara Sikh Temple who thanked US for our service, especially Paulo who wants to sell shark paintings to raise money for conservation.

And extra gratitude to the young guy near the newsstand who tackled the awkward clipboard and pen DESPITE having two broken legs and being on crutches.

YAAAY!

Day 32: 7/27/2013: Musings of a Shark Cult Leader

I’m truly touched by how many of my colleagues have eagerly volunteered to read sex scenes from “Jaws” in a public setting to help save sharks.

My shark-themed English class is part of a contextualized learning grant program. Today I met with my fellow teachers and we discussed our various hybrid classes. As I defined my pedagogical mission, I realized that I don’t want to simply teach a class this semester. I want to start a shark cult.  I want to engage and enrage students and make them to fall in love with what’s disappearing. Maybe love will move them if anger will not.

Even if I don’t inculcate an army of brainwashed shark worshipping eco-terrorists, perhaps they’ll awaken to the plight of elephants or the senselessness of war or overconsumption.

Is fun the most powerful call to action? Is making shark cupcakes for charity the gateway drug to environmental activism? Should I use “Sharknado” as a sassy introduction to the sobering topic of ocean acidification and climate change? A good cult leader must effortlessly engage multiple strategies.  Perhaps “Air Jaws” is a good place to start.

P.S. Monday I’ll follow up with the rescue places about the turtles.