Cooper had a lot of firsts today. First haircut. First peanut butter. (He is still alive!) First time actually gently petting the dog before he ruined it and went back to grabbing handfuls of fur excitedly. First neon shirt. For a while just now I sat on the couch saying “you do you” to him as he moved his wooden blocks from their box to a square of carpet and back again.
Now that I am back at work, Saturday is a weird sort of space of refuge. A space of diapers and little tiny finger foods and fast showers and very few laptops. A space of noticing the lizards on our front walk and talking about magnets and interpreting wordless gestures. A space of trying not to hear the latest news or answer work emails. A space of the present and the present and the present and nothing else.
We went on a family date night last night, which is my second-favorite kind of date night now, and we had so much fun we’re doing it again tonight, because we are irresponsible and carefree in exactly that limited way a family with a toddler can be. Spend the money! Eat the tacos! Cheers! This is your life on a Saturday!
There are so many ways to be reminded that everything around us is remaking itself every day, shedding little particles here and there, accumulating new ones, stitching together a new skin.
Jaws is a story about men.
You start watching Jaws and you are following a girl who is a loner and reckless and maybe a little drunk. She is not part of the group of young people around the fire—she is on her own, and she runs, and she takes her clothes off, and you can’t really see what she looks like naked but you can see what she looks like in the sea. And the music starts, and the boy running after her lies down in the sand, and you know what is about to happen.
This is not a story about that girl, or about the mother who loses her son and shows up in black to slap Chief Brody in the face, or about the wife who loves her pent-up, anxious, striving husband and is scared for him but wants him to do whatever it is he needs to do. This is a story about men. This is a story about three men who go out on the ocean trying to figure out who they are and who they have the potential to be.
This is a story about Quint and Brody and Hooper. The man who distrusts authority, the man who is authority, and the man who wants authority. The man who owns the boat and the man who is wary of the boat and the man who drives the boat. The man with no fear, the man who has always feared, and the man who does not yet understand what fear is.
There is something about all of these men that is simultaneously idealistic and true (which could perhaps be a description of much of Spielberg’s work). Quint (Robert Shaw) at first seems to be a pure male fantasy—both recklessly self-destructive and an expert in his own particular brand of reckless self-destruction. He kills sharks. He doesn’t listen to other men. He sings dirty songs about women. He is utterly in charge of his own destiny. He has scars.
But yes, he has scars, not all of them visible. He followed orders that were given to him by men in air-conditioned offices, he watched thousands of men die around him, he delivered the bomb. He survived. And when, towards the end of the film, he tries to lure the shark into shallower waters, opening up the throttle, pushing the damaged vessel far beyond its capacity, it is not reckless self-destruction at work: it’s the understanding of the nearness of death, of the sacrifice required. It’s maybe a little bit of loneliness. You see Quint at that moment come unhinged and you know he is crossing a threshold you won’t get him back from.
(The hand scratching at the chalkboard. The rows and rows of polished aquatic jaws and nowhere comfortable to sit.)
—Elizabeth Cantwell on Jaws, “It’s Only An Island If You Look At It From The Water” (Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine, August 2014)
I don’t know if this just marks the day I completely bought into Chris Cantwell’s mind, but I really do like this piece I wrote about Jaws. Subscribe! Read! Enjoy!
Tess Lynch on American Movie
Elizabeth Cantwell on Jaws
Brianna Ashby on Fried Green Tomatoes
Chad Perman on Joe Versus the Volcano (full version of this essay available on RogerEbert.com)
Erika Schmidt on North by Northwest
Bebe Ballroom on Rocky
Katie Zimolzak on The Godfather
Andrew Root on An American Tail
Summer Block on O Brother Where Art Thou?
and a new poem on Gun Crazy, from Arielle Greenberg
Subscribe now, for just $2/month or $20/year, and read Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine on ANY device, tablet, or computer.
Do you want to read what I wrote about Jaws? I think you want to read what I wrote about Jaws. And, you know, all of the other amazing writing in this issue.
KOKO IS STILL ALIVE?!
Great, now I am quietly crying into my coffee. And I was also JUST THINKING about Koko like a week ago and wondering if she were still around! KOKO, HI!
A year ago there was anticipation and pain and fear and joy. The anticipation of pain. The fear of joy. There was that narrowing of the visual field that only comes with extreme experiences that your brain isn’t sure you’ll get out of alive.
It was 2:22 pm on August 9 and everything around me was measurable and graspable and then, suddenly, it wasn’t any more. Something impossible happened and something impossible was present and all the molecules of the world as I knew it shuffled themselves around.
Things you taught me this year:
- how to run on very little sleep
- how to fight
- how to admit defeat
- how to accept and accept and accept that which comes unasked and unclear
- how to be softer
(It isn’t a Less Than thing. It isn’t that a year ago my heart was any emptier, that it had a hole in it waiting to be filled. It’s that you came along and blew up my world and as all the pieces settled back down they fell into different places and built different structures and meant different things. It’s that the walls fell down and became chairs and pathways and knives.)
Today there is still fear, pain, anticipation, joy. The fear of pain. The anticipation of joy. The day after day insanity of it all. The room that was any other room and now contains more but also seems narrower. An hour ago you woke up, and we sang you Happy Birthday, and we secretly felt that we were celebrating a more significant anniversary than you were. And you laughed at us and smiled at us and just like that the way the next year unfolds has already begun.
Tomorrow my parents are getting on a plane and flying out here and next Monday they are getting on a plane and flying back and the next time they fly out here they will be here for good.
My dad found a job—one of those wonderful things that drops in your lap at the right time—as the music director of a church out near Thousand Oaks, and he’s starting in the middle of September. I could not be more overjoyed to have them coming out here now, at this weird hinge moment in which I’m about to juggle a brand-new full-time job with the attempt to be a good mother to a crazy toddler and a supportive wife to a husband with a fantastically unpredictable and time-consuming career. So the timing is really perfect. To be able to drop Cooper off at daycare and tell him Gram will pick him up because mommy has to work late—to know that my mother will read my son the same bedtime stories and poems she read me—to have both sets of grandparents and the three of us and five dogs crowd around a dining room table in Palm Springs (where Chris’s parents live) for a Christmas dinner that no one had to drive more than two hours for—to be able to call my dad up and go get coffee with him … these are important things and wonderful things.
(I have always had a good relationship with my parents, but—and I’ve confirmed this with other friends—something about having a kid brings you closer. I guess it’s mostly that whole “OH I get what I put you through” thing, but there is also this sudden need for family that’s both physical and emotional and very very real.)
I searched for my parents’ house on Redfin today and found it, and scrolling through the pictures made me feel a lot of unexpected things. I won’t ever hang out there ever again! It’s just a house, but then again, it’s a house, and houses are where we lodge our memories and shore up our histories and locate our terrible bodies in space. The last time I was in that house it was Thanksgiving—it was my son’s first Thanksgiving—and there was snow the next week, and there was a long bout with sleep regression during which I screamed some horrible things in the night, and there were dinners eaten half-sitting-down and half-standing-up, and there was Chris in from Atlanta and then blowing back out to Atlanta, and there were my dogs and my aunts and uncles and my high school yearbooks. Before that we had dinner at Chipotle and I hadn’t told my parents yet that something alive was fighting and growing and breathing inside me but my mother knew and when we gave them a card later in the living room they both cried. A couple of times before that I was in the house with my old dog who was dying, and my father slept on the floor with her—with one hand in her fur—on her last night, and I called Chris on my old phone and cried. Before that I was in the house with Chris who went for a walk with my dad and asked if it would be okay if we got married, and before that I gave my mom a book I loved and said it was okay if she didn’t read it, and before that there was a Christmas morning with really warm socks.
There is a picture frame with a tiny me.
I think we leave pieces of ourselves behind wherever we go, and I hope whoever buys this house sweeps them maybe not all the way out into the night but perhaps just into a corner of the garage, perhaps into the back of a closet, where they can sit and hum and radiate whatever thing it is they mean.
Emily Yoshida: You all can halt and catch a mild, lingering summer cold that refuses to go away, because this show is great. I almost cried when Pace cried when he saw the Mac for the first time at Comdex; Scoot McNairy’s facial hair makeover in the finale is arguably a more disturbingly pale smoothness than whatever is happening on The Strain, a show I don’t watch; I’d watch a Season 2 if it was just about Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé creating Zynga. I feel like everyone was ganging up on this show to begin with because it had a weird name and was about computers instead of throwing rocks at ladies’ heads, and I feel like that’s a problem with humanity that we’re probably going to be reaping the damages from in the next 20 years. Too bad none of you guys halted and caught Halt and Catch Fire fever. You will never Blom true Dorf. Yoshida out. [Drops mic.]
Also, personal sidebar: I had so many emotions watching the season finale last night with my husband and a close group of other people who helped build and create and realize this season of Halt and Catch Fire. No matter what happens next for Halt, I know it has been such a blast for ME to just sit back and watch the story get told on such a beautiful stage, and to hear from other people—friends, family, strangers—who got hooked on the show and love it as much as I do. You all are amazing and wonderful souls.
How to Halt and Catch Fire: A User’s Guide
Tomorrow, the season finale airs at 10p/9c on AMC.
It’s a major milestone in a process that begin more than three and a half years ago in a windowless office at our day jobs in North Burbank, when Chris Rogers and I—neither of us professional writers—decided to write a one-hour drama script about the early days of personal computing. Never in our wildest dreams did we think it would actually become a series on television.
In the recent weeks, many friends, family members, and people I’ve never met but who are fans of the show have asked me if there’s going to be a second season.
The honest answer is: I don’t know.