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:

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 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.


7/24/2013: Day 29: A Shark Miscellany

Things I would blog about if I wasn’t overwhelmed with fatigue:

1. The shark attack in Brazil captured on video

2. Reflections on a shark’s mouth being a gateway to another world (with much credit and admiration given to Joseph Campbell).

3. The complex emotions aroused in me by a shark attack

4.This line from Neil Shubin’s book “Your Inner Fish”: “Basically, we’re all modified sharks.”

5. How Shubin explains that divergent forms of the bones that support the upper and lower jaws in sharks, help us swallow and hear. The muscles and nerves that we use to talk and swallow move the gills in sharks and other fish.

6. The otherness and fear evoked by a shark attack juxtaposed with the fact that way back deep in the mystery of all things, sharks and people were sort of one

7. How a great white hijacked a whale watching expedition and how much I wish I had been onboard.

8. My action today: 8 signatures on the epic Shark Defenders petition.

Day 26: July 21, 2013: Dirty, Sexy “Jaws”

famous poster

I’m writing a blog entry for Sharksavers about the Jaws charity event.

My original copy of “Jaws” is so old and well-loved, the spine is nearly demolished. I keep trying to locate key moments like Alex Kintner being yanked off his raft, but the ravaged paperback, as if possessed by an X-rated daemon flips open to a lurid sex passage.

On page 104, Benchley gives a description of Ellen Brody’s nipple-revealing “diaphanous nightgown” and tells us that her husband (Roy Scheider in the movie) returns from the bathroom “tumescent.” Ellen, however has taken a sleeping pill. She drifts off as Brody grumbles “I’m not very big on screwing corpses.” The rather poetic “tumescence” (the “tomb” sound underscoring Brody’s doomed chances) becomes a frank and embarrassing “dwindling erection.”

When I read this book as a pre-adolescent kid, (at least a dozen times between 1975 and 1976)  the sex scenes were as disturbing to me as the shark attacks.  Sometimes as with Brody’s “screwing corpses” comment, the two themes merged.  A memorable and lengthy description of Brody urinating recalled the shark “spewing foam and blood and phosphorescence in a gaudy shower,” as he chomped on poor Chrissie in the opening chapter.

Castro saw “Jaws” as a critique of capitalism, but maybe the novel with all its adultery and frustration, is an even better allegory for all-consuming desire, and the awkwardness of bodily love, gross fluids and all.

Day 25: 7/20/2013: Cast a Vote for Sharks

I have to admit, the nominees for Oceana’s Ocean Hero awards make my efforts feel more than a little bit hodge-podge and patchwork!  All of them–adults and children alike– are doing important work for the ocean, but here is a roundup of my new shark gurus:

Yale grad student Leah Meth helped win protections for sharks and rays at CITES with her creative and incredibly successful Shark Stanley Project.

Dr. Neil  Hammerschlag’s shark tagging program at the University of Miami gives at-risk high school students an opportunity to experience “full immersion” shark research.

8-year-old shark lover Sean Lesniak helped create a bill in the Massachusetts state legislature that would impose stiffer penalties on shark finning.

You can vote for candidates in both the junior and adult categories here.

The deadline is July 26.

Day 20: 7/15/2013: FINished with Fins

I want to give the proceeds of the “Jaws” Anniversary reading to SharkSavers because I really dig their Finished with FINS campaign. I like that they strike right at the heart of the market for shark fins by expanding their outreach and activism to Hong Kong and Singapore.

This morning I contacted SharkSavers about partnering up for my February “Jaws” benefit and threw in a $25 donation toward funding shark sanctuaries.

Day 12 7/7/2013: 994 Names

Today my friend Jennifer and I discussed effective ways to get people to sign a petition.

We ruled out gimmicks like coconut shell or other “theme” bras, free hugs, offering liquor, money, etc.

How then to overcome the dread evoked in by a well-meaning person with a clipboard?

I know that my liberal guilt goes through the roof every time I am greeted with a question like, “Do you have time to help feral, blind children who live at the bottom of abandoned wells?”

“Not today,” I often demur, my tight-lipped resentment seasoned with a dash of remorse.

Since I only have 994 signatures left to gather on my Shark Defenders petition, Jen offered to help me. We’re going to find some cool shark t-shirts to wear and then celebrate our signature gathering with a few well-deserved cocktails. (Shark Defenders in no way endorses these methods).

If this sounds too frivolous for a day of shark action, I also put in one hour of work designing my shark book proposal.

P.S. In a complete non-sequitur, I’d like to wish Ringo Starr a happy 73rd birthday.

Day 7 7/2/2013: Shark Defenders


Photo: Shark Defenders

One week into my 365 days for sharks, this blog feels as uneven as a personal diary. In one way I like that—I want it to reflect the ups and downs of a  inspiring, boring, frustrating, transcendent, etc.  But I also want to be pithy, bright, witty, full of zest and deep insight. Shark Defenders is a good model.  Their site features photos of  insane shark tattoos,  conservation quizzes (I got 4/5 thank you very much), a list of the Top 10 Shark Dives in the world and lots of ways to volunteer.

I  downloaded The Shark Defenders Pledge Petition and will begin to collect signatures today. When I gather  1,000 names of  people who pledge to support shark/ocean friendly laws, I can submit start my own local Shark Defenders chapter and Facebook page.