Day 52 8/16/13: Strange Bedfellows

Today’s action: Write to Sharksavers Board of Directors

OCEARCH at work

OCEARCH at work

Ugh. It’s so upsetting to me that Sharksavers (the charity I chose for the JAWS benefit), is supporting OCEARCH, an ultra-shady shark “research” outfit that uses brutal hook and haul methods to tag great whites often inflicting severe damage to the animals in the process. Their mission is suspect, (are they glorified fishermen or actual researchers?) their methods are barbaric and unfortunately they appear  sceince-y enough to be media darlings.

To learn more about OCEARCH’S macho “science” read this. 

(Thanks to Sarah Mucha & the Stop Ocearch FB group for the sample letters!)

Day 51 8/15/13: Sharks’ Teeth by John Ciardi

Action: Looking forward to screening and teaching Rob Stewart’s movie Revolution a follow up to Sharkwater which I just downloaded from iTunes. Until then, this little poem:
The thing about a shark—-is teeth
One row above, one row beneath.
Now take a close look. Do you find
It has another row behind?
Still closer—here, I’ll hold your hat:
Has it a third row behind that?
Now look in and…Look out! Oh my,
I’ll never know now! Well, goodbye.

Day 50: 8/14/13: Predatory Hijinx

Type C killer whales in the Ross Sea. The eye ...

In between learning more about volunteering for Sea Shepherd, I watched three videos of orcas killing great white sharks. 

It’s interesting to see how passionately divided the public’s sympathy becomes when two apex ocean predators face off:


That Shark is like I’m f*cked

Aww! I almost cried

F*ck Killer Whales. Great Whites FTW*


Just Proves who the real apex predator is

I bet Free Willy wouldn’t have pulled this sh*t with a Megalodon

When I saw this clip of Orcas hunting sea lions, I couldn’t help but think of how Tilikum killed that mysterious “drifter” who broke into Seaworld for…what exactly? The thrill of an illegal swim? A strange and dramatic suicide? A misguided longing for communion with something wild, even if it meant death? I can feel an obsessive search for answers coming on….

*FTW= For the Win

The Importance of Being Interesting

Really interesting post on the importance of reaching a larger audience with your literary research. I am so often torn between the necessity for writing and for direct action, and this piece helped me start to realize how the two might be linked together.

READ: Research in English At Durham

ilIn this guest post, Oliver Tearle, editor of the Interesting Literature blog, explains how and why literary research can be made interesting to a wider audience.

D. H. Lawrence was fond of climbing mulberry trees in the nude to stimulate his imagination. Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group once convinced the Royal Navy they were a group of Abyssinian princes by donning fake beards and painting their faces black. George Eliot was the first person to make reference to ‘pop’ music. These are just three of the things I’ve discovered in the last year, since I embarked on a project to find the interesting side of literature. I did this partly because of that perennial question, or invitation, which preoccupies (and haunts) many a PhD student and academic researcher: “Tell us about your research…”

Increasingly in Higher Education, academics are being encouraged to communicate their research to a…

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Day 48 8/12/13: Two Blocks of Sea

Today I went to Santa Monica for a beach clean up, but I must have got the details wrong since I couldn’t find anyone there. No loss. The air felt nice. The ocean looked a little bit wild. My friend Jen and I picked a bit of trash here and there and waited out the traffic over beer and sweet potato french fries and talked about the writing life and our fathers who are both gone but who loom large in memory.

At home again, late with homework to do, I still wanted to do something about sharks. Since I’m going to South Africa, I decided to go donate Two Blocks of Sea to the great whites of Dyer Island, a rich nature reserve. The stretch of water between Dyer Island and nearby Geyser Rock (an island home to 60,000 Cape Fur Seals), is also called Shark Alley, a treacherous stretch of sea familiar to anyone who watches shows like “Air Jaws Apocalypse.”   I felt moved by the language of the donation form: 2 Blocks of Sea to the Great Whites of Dyer Island.

On a recent architecture tour in downtown L.A., the docent talked about a guy who purchased “air rights” so he could build skyscrapers. Air real estate. Two blocks of sea. I imagine some cut-away science text book diagram of green-blue water and a curved ocean floor.

Measuring the sea seems like trying to measure time. In November, my father will have been gone a year. But what does one year even mean? In a few minutes, I walk two blocks in a city that is both utterly foreign and oddly familiar. A thousand memory fragments surface and dissolve. Time is scrambled. What does a shark experience in two blocks of sea—the electromagnetic fields of distress, the rise and fall of tides?

Sharks don’t strike me as nostalgic creatures, but I wonder if they experience that confusion of memory when they move through some well-traveled stretch of open oceans only to discover it strewn with a ragged web of nets, or find a channel once plentiful with fish, strangely, suddenly empty.

Day 47: 08/11/13: 12 Random Shark Facts

Thanks to for these fascinating fragments:

1.  Even though almost equal numbers of men and women spend time in the ocean, no one knows why sharks seem to prefer to attack men. In fact, nearly 90% of shark attacks have happened to men.

2. Hammerhead sharks’ heads are soft at birth so they won’t jam the mothers’ birth canals.

3. The first pup to hatch inside the sand tiger shark mother devours its brothers and sisters until there are only two pups left, one on each side of the womb. This form of cannibalism is called oophagy.

4. Sharks belong to a group of fish known as the elasmobranchs, or cartilaginous fishes. Rays and skates, which may have evolved from sharks, also belong to this group.

5. Recent research indicates that when a shark plies surface waters (when the dorsal fin cuts through the sea’s surface), it could be detecting pressure waves associated with a struggling animal nearby.

6. In 1977, Happy Days’ Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli jumped over a penned-in shark while on water skis, giving birth to the expression “jumping the shark” to describe a desperate dramatic measure by a TV show.

7. For every human killed by a shark, humans kill two million sharks.

8. Solomon Islanders believed that when people died, their ghosts inhabited the bodies of sharks.

9. The second-most dangerous shark in the world, the tiger shark, is sometimes called the “garbage can of the sea” because it will eat anything, including animal carcasses, tin cans, car tires, and other garbage. One was even found having a chicken coop with the remains of bones and feathers inside its stomach.

10. When a shark eats food that it can’t digest (like a turtle shell or tin can), it can vomit by thrusting its stomach out its mouth then pulling it back in.

11. The first written account of a shark attack is found in Herodotus’ (c. 484–425 B.C.) description of hordes of “monsters” devouring the shipwrecked sailors of the Persian fleet.

12. Dreaming has been observed in bony fish, but not yet in sharks.

Until I read that last fact, I never considered the title of this blog from the perspective of dreaming sharks.

And so, in yet another effort to overcome this innate self-centeredness, I joined The San Diego Shark Protectorate, a meetup group devoted to shark conservation.

Day 46: 8/10/13: “Life is a Great Surprise”

The title is a quote from the great Vladimir Nabokov. I always think of Nabokov’s words when I have a particularly lovely experience. Today I went on a hike led by my friend Dan, an intrepid urban explorer. These hikes are always a surprise, as Dan has mapped so many forgotten and unseen places—odd urban pathways between hotels, a gorgeous park that smells of mountain sage hidden in the middle of a desolate nameless neighborhood between downtown L.A. and Echo Park. Exploring the unknown heightens the beauty of the familiar city places:  the gorgeous Victorians of Angelino Heights, the lotuses and lilies of the reborn Echo Park Lake.

I met so many bright, interesting people on the hike–professors of Latin and Math, a fellow English instructor and a guy who told me about rescuing a small blue shark from a reactionary mob of Santa Monica bathers during the height of “Jaws” mania/paranoia. Even though the poor shark was only about three-foot long, the hysterical swimmers and even the lifeguards were ready to beat the creature to death when it beached itself until this kind man set the shark free again in the ocean.

This anecdote is a nice transition to the benefit–using “Jaws” as a tool to save sharks rather than argument for their destruction. In Elysian Park, Dan introduced me to the hikers and I gave a brief little spiel about the JAWS benefit for Sharksavers.

Talking about my shark project, I always try to balance the humor with the dire truth about shark extinction, which is sort of tricky. While I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news,  we tend to forget that we are  living through a mass extinction event. As  Derrick Jensen once wrote, “there is no roll call on the nightly news” for the 200 plants and animals that disappear from this planet every day.

But this entry was about joy. Surprise.

I usually write about “forgetting” in the context of human denial and selective memory. But I’m just as guilty of picking and choosing.

It’s easy to remember the angry mob on the beach and forget the solitary guy who saved the little shark.