Day 327 5/18/14: Marxist Philosopher Slavoj Zizek on JAWS

What does the rise of fascism, class struggle or the brutality of capitalism have to do with the marauding great white in JAWS? Although I don’t always agree with Zizek, I do like his take on my favorite film….

Day 252 3/4/14: JAWS meets The Beatles

I ALWAYS freak out when my obsessions collide. Especially The Beatles and JAWS. I nearly had a coronary a couple summers ago when I found a book of John Lennon’s drawings in which he’d scribbled a swimmer being chased by a huge black dorsal fin.
(Drawing circa 1976, waning JAWS era! I had always geeked out wondering how John would have felt watching JAWS when Richard Dreyfuss snaps at Quint: “I don’t need this working class hero crap.”)
Now, I stumbled on this unknown youtube visionary who has blended the ocean and radio and other sounds of the first scenes of JAWS with the Beatles Revolution 9, and some piece of John Lennon audio which, I admit I can’t readily tie to an interview.

(Is he talking about A Hard Day’s Night or Let it Be?)

Day 243 2/23/14: The Sweetest Hangover (I don’t want to get over)

Yes, I do have a hangover today—one born not only of vodka, but of LOVE.

WOW! So much fun at JAWS: An Evening Of Relentless Terror & Really Awkward Sex! Hilarious readers, really fun audience, sold out of shark cupcakes, laughed our asses off and raised over $1000 for sharks. Thank you again to our most talented cast: Dan Koeppel, Peter Gilstrap, Andrew Quintero, Sandi Hemmerlein, Jessica Groper, Erik Odom, Jack Morrissey! What a talented bunch. AND Helen Kim, Connie Pearson, Gail Gibson, Jennifer Alessi & Lisa Stone & Renee Patton for all your hard work.

The JAWSREADNGsharks love you and so do I!!!

Day 130 11/2/13: How To Tell A True Shark Story

What a fabulous night of art, conversation and all things shark at the Hero Complex Gallery. My favorite pieces in the very Quint-centric (not a criticism) JAWS-tribute art show, were those that riffed on the movie’s less well-worn lines (although all of the dialogue is threadbare if you’re a JAWS geek), and its unforgettable, but only briefly glimpsed faces.  Aaron Glasson’s “The Harbormaster,” is a psychotropic take on that smiling old salt who emerges, pipe-clenched-firmly-in-teeth from a dockside shed, an oasis of eccentric calm amid the rabid, reward-hungry shark hunters and then is gone.

Gorgeous Jaws-themed cookies, a fascinating presentation by Jaws production designer Joe Alves, insanely life-like replicas of Hooper, Quint and Brody and Ben Gardener’s head. “Smile You Son of a Bitch” closes Nov. 3.  If you live in L.A. and love JAWS or sharks, please go and support the show. You can buy some great art for as little as $20 and support Pangeaseed’s shark conservation efforts.

As transcendently JAWS-geeky as the evening was, the true highlight for me came afterwards when my friends and I were lucky enough to have dinner with Ralph and Cindy Collier and talk sharks and drink wine and eat very late into the evening. The waitresses seemed to linger and eavesdrop as Ralph told stories of unlucky abalone divers of mysterious tooth fragments. I’m delighted and surprised by the ease with which Ralph dismantles myths and clichés about shark behavior. He patiently answered my questions about stories that have long haunted me like the 1959  attack on skin diver Robert Pamperin whose body was never found.  Such cases often support the theory that sharks “eat people,” that the hapless souls disappear down the ravenous shark’s gullet.  But according to Ralph, studies of tides and currents offer a more realistic possibility– the remains are often carried or pulled out into the oblivion of the deep sea.

In “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien writes that war stories are never really about war. “They’re about friendship. Sunlight.”  I would argue that shark stories are also mystery stories about what it means to be animal and human and that like O’Brien’s Vietnam stories, even the true shark stories carry the deep dreamy resonance of myth, of nightmare, of the collision of worlds–human & animal, land & sea, tellable & untellable.


Day 106 10/9/13: Valentine Road

Driving home from a lecture on blogging, (I blog far too much and at all the wrong times), I heard an interview with Marta Cunningham, the director of  “Valentine Road”  a documentary about the 2008 shooting of Lawrence King, an openly gay  junior high school boy in Oxnard, California.

While Cunningham doesn’t demonize Brandon McInerney, the 14-year-old who killed Lawrence during his first period class (the murdered boy had asked McInerney two days before to be his valentine), the director is quite critical of how the school handled things. For example,  in the wake of the shooting, the faculty might have handled the traumatized middle schoolers a bit more delicately, instead of herding them into a spare classroom for a screening of “Jaws.”

I tried to inhabit the bodies of those kids who’d just seen their classmate executed in front of them. The  queasy unreality I felt after being car-jacked during the L.A. riots was the closest I could get.

I hardly ever think of “Jaws” as a violent movie, but If I’d just witnessed the murder,  how might I process a story that begins with a naked woman wrenched beneath the surface of a dark ocean by something unseen?  Would I cheer for Chief Brody perched on the sinking mast of the Orca, firing his rifle at the relentless beast and uttering his triumphant “Smile, you son of a bitch,” before he blows the shark to bits?

It’s beyond horrible that school shootings, workplace shootings, movie theater shootings, and mall shootings have become routine events in this country.

John Lennon would have been 73 years old today if he’d not been shot and killed in 1980.

A few months after his death, I stood at a podium. I was 14 years old, burning with passion and grief at my hero’s murder. I debated another eighth-grader on the need for gun control. I don’t remember the particulars of the debate, which is now just a flash of feeling, more dream than memory. I only know that I won.