The Current Presents: Polica

February 10, 201612:12 PM ET

by Leah Garaas

United Crushers, out March 4, is very Minneapolis, at least in its name. Inspired by a group of Twin Cities graffiti artists, the phrase “United Crushers” can be seen on old silos, overpasses and other infrastructure throughout the area. As with Shulamith, Polica‘s second album, singer Channy Leaneagh says she gravitates toward the idea of naming her records after people she admires. “I drive around and I see that big, ominous ‘United Crushers’ looking down at all of us, and to me it feels like, ‘United States of Dreams Crushed,'” she says. “We’re all in this rat race, and we’re all trying to survive, and a lot of the time it feels hopeless. So for me, a lot of these songs build hope.”

While the album art depicts a pregnant Leaneagh, the album isn’t necessarily about childbearing. “United Crushers should have lots of different meanings, and I want people to take it where it takes them,” Leaneagh says. Still, being a mother did play a huge part in inspiring the writing on the record.

“The stuff I’m writing about is always the woman’s experience: what life is like for a woman, how women and children are like a canary in a coalmine.” When there is wrong in the world, Leaneagh says looking through the lens of women and children says a lot about its effects. For example, in the music video for “Wedding,” Polica looks at police abuses of power through the eyes of children.

Here, the band performs the song in The Current’s Twin Cities studios.

SET LIST
  • “Wedding”

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Outlook 'Uncertain' For Global Economy, Yellen Tells Congress

In a closely watched visit to Capitol Hill, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen listed risk factors in the global economic scene, such as concerns over China’s currency and market volatility. It’s the first time Yellen has testified since the Fed nudged interest rates higher in December.

Yellen testified before the House Financial Services Committee on the central bank’s semi-annual Monetary Policy Report to Congress.

In her prepared remarks, Yellen cited job and wage growth fostering gains in both incomes and consumer spending. She said the Federal Open Market Committee “expects that with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace in coming years and that labor market indicators will continue to strengthen.”

Yellen also said the committee “expects that inflation will rise to its 2 percent objective over the medium term.”

The Federal Reserve chief’s tone was more cautious when describing global economic and market conditions. Here’s an excerpt:

“As is always the case, the economic outlook is uncertain. Foreign economic developments, in particular, pose risks to U.S. economic growth. Most notably, although recent economic indicators do not suggest a sharp slowdown in Chinese growth, declines in the foreign exchange value of the renminbi have intensified uncertainty about China’s exchange rate policy and the prospects for its economy. This uncertainty led to increased volatility in global financial markets and, against the background of persistent weakness abroad, exacerbated concerns about the outlook for global growth. These growth concerns, along with strong supply conditions and high inventories, contributed to the recent fall in the prices of oil and other commodities. In turn, low commodity prices could trigger financial stresses in commodity-exporting economies, particularly in vulnerable emerging market economies, and for commodity-producing firms in many countries. Should any of these downside risks materialize, foreign activity and demand for U.S. exports could weaken and financial market conditions could tighten further.”

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Bernie Sanders Dines With Al Sharpton In Harlem

The Rev. Al Sharpton talks with Sen. Bernie Sanders at Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem the morning after his New Hampshire primary victory over Hillary Clinton.

The Rev. Al Sharpton talks with Sen. Bernie Sanders at Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem the morning after his New Hampshire primary victory over Hillary Clinton. Richard Drew/AP hide caption

toggle caption Richard Drew/AP

The morning after his New Hampshire primary victory, Bernie Sanders made a highly publicized visit to Harlem to dine with Al Sharpton, one of America’s most prominent civil rights activists and media personalities.

The two dined at Sylvia’s, the same restaurant where Sharpton huddled with Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign.

The meeting was a not-so-subtle recognition of Sanders’ pivot to South Carolina and Sanders’ effort to broaden his appeal to the state’s decisive African American voters.

Hillary Clinton has been heavily favored in polls to date to win South Carolina, in part due to the Clinton’s support among African American voters.

But Sanders’ strong finish in New Hampshire and fresh appeal to younger voters will further test Clinton’s perceived strength in the Feb. 27 primary.

More than half of South Carolina’s primary voters were black in the 2008 contest pitting Clinton against Barack Obama, the first black candidate for president.

She lost by a 29 percentage point margin.

Now facing a white liberal from Vermont in 2016, Clinton has led by double-digits in South Carolina polls. But Sanders’ now has 17 days to close that gap.

Clinton’s strength among black and Latino voters is critical to her electability argument.

“It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for a Democrat to win the nomination without strong levels of support among African American and Hispanic voters,” Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, wrote in a Tuesday memo to reporters.

Speaking to reporters after breakfast, Sharpton said he also plans to meet with Clinton next week. An endorsement in the race would like come after that, he said.

Sanders did not take questions from reporters waiting for him outside of the restaurant.

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An Old Bird Can Hatch A New Chick — Even At Age 65

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross that's believed to be 65 years old, and her mate have welcomed a new chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Here, a week-old chick peeks out from its nest.

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross that’s believed to be 65 years old, and her mate have welcomed a new chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Here, a week-old chick peeks out from its nest. Kaipo Kiaha/Paliku Productions hide caption

toggle caption Kaipo Kiaha/Paliku Productions

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross that researchers first tagged in 1956, has hatched what could be her 40th chick, leading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to call her “an iconic symbol of inspiration and hope.”

Born at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (which is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument), the new (adorable) chick has been named Kūkini — the Hawaiian word for messenger.

The chick was first seen coming out of its shell on Feb. 1, more than a week after Wisdom’s mate had taken over incubation duties to allow her to fly over the sea looking for food. Officials at the refuge say that Wisdom returned with a full belly – and then her mate took his turn to to look for food.

Wisdom is the oldest known bird living in the wild, the agency says — for years now, she’s been mapping out new territory in our understanding about the upper limits at which animals can rear their young.

It takes around seven months for a Laysan albatross to incubate and raise a chick – but the animals aren’t exactly known for staying put: in fact, researchers don’t think they set a foot on land except during the breeding season. They can travel hundreds of miles in a day and log thousands of miles in the air each year, using a massive wingspan of more than 6 feet to soar on air currents above the ocean. It can even sleep in the air, the Fish and Wildlife Service says.

Every year, the birds return to their breeding grounds for a chance at producing one egg — and, if a recent video from Midway is any evidence, to catch up on albatross gossip and generally preen around.

“Wisdom has raised at least eight chicks since 2006, and as many as 40 in her lifetime,” the Fish and Wildlife Service says. “Just as astonishing, she has likely flown over three million miles since she was first tagged on Midway Atoll in 1956.”

That’s enough mileage to account for up to six trips from the Earth to the Moon and back again, says Bruce Peterjohn, chief of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center’s National Bird Banding Laboratory.

Wisdom isn’t the only one in this story to show astounding longevity, Peterjohn says: “What is also miraculous is that biologist Chandler Robbins, who banded her as a breeding adult in 1956 on Midway Atoll, sighted her 46 years later near the same nesting location.”

Now 97, Robbins still makes occasional trips to the scientific stations where he worked for decades.

NPR has followed Wisdom before — as in 2011, when she survived a deadly tsunami that struck Midway Atoll and in 2013, when she had another chick.

News of the new baby bird comes one year after Wisdom suffered an accident in which an egg she and her mate had been incubating went missing.

Providing an update on the birds Monday, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument wrote via Facebook:

“Wisdom spent most of yesterday sleeping while she kept Kūkini warm in a drizzling rain. Today, both got to know each other and Wisdom assured Kūkini got a decent meal.”

If you’re wondering about Wisdom’s unnamed companion, the staff of the Papahānaumokuākea facility say they’re holding a contest to name her mate — who so far is often known as “Goo” or “Gooo” — a reference to his band number of 6,000. But they’d prefer “a more distinguished name.”

From the monument staff:

“The polls will end soon so cast your vote for one of the top 4 choices of names from over 50 that were suggested or email Ann_Bell@fws.gov your choice from: 1) Ahonui (means patience in Hawaiian), 2) Endurance, 3) Popsicle, or 4) Akeakamai (means yearning for or lover of wisdom).”

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John Kasich And The Long Road To Super Tuesday

GOP Ohio Gov. John Kasich at his New Hampshire primary night rally.

GOP Ohio Gov. John Kasich at his New Hampshire primary night rally. Jim Cole/AP hide caption

toggle caption Jim Cole/AP

One of the many curiosities of the 2016 presidential field is how hard it has been for a popular, swing state governor with a long track record of accomplishments to gain traction in this race.

But John Kasich’s second-place showing in New Hampshire’s primary has suddenly jolted his second-tier candidacy. With the race pivoting to South Carolina, the Ohio governor is getting a second look from Republicans still seeking an alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump.

Kasich has stood out in the 2016 presidential field for a message that is rooted in the “compassionate conservative” ethos, which helped propel George W. Bush to the White House.

In an ABC interview Wednesday morning, Kasich again struck a tone that is a stark contrast to Trump’s tough-talking style.

“And when we (grow the economy), we make sure we leave no one behind: the mentally ill, the drug addicted, working poor, everybody has a right to rise in America and to restore the spirit of this country,” Kasich said.

While Kasich’s compassionate message may seem like it could appeal across the swath of upcoming Southern states with decisive blocs of Christian voters, Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have been dominating in polls across the South.

In South Carolina, Kasich has barely registered in polls to date.

His New Hampshire victory could shake up that reality, particularly as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has stumbled following his poor debate performance.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s still-struggling campaign is unlikely to pose a threat to Kasich at the ballot box, but attack ads from Bush’s well-financed allies could weigh Kasich down.

The March 1 contests also present a huge hurdle for Kasich. Ten of the 13 states holding “Super Tuesday” contests have minimum thresholds to quality for delegates.

Cruz’s home state of Texas, for instance, has a 20% threshold. So do Georgia and Tennessee. Kasich’s 16% New Hampshire finish wouldn’t be good enough to nab him a single delegate in any of those states.

Kasich suggested to ABC that he would remain in the race after Super Tuesday, at least through mid-March, when more moderate states like Michigan, Illinois, and his home state of Ohio cast their votes.

The challenge for Kasich — and for that matter, Rubio and Bush — is whether they can make it past March 1 without winning a single state and still be viewed as viable candidates for the nomination.

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Marking 30 Years Since The Challenger Disaster

A wreath is left at a space shuttle Challenger memorial in Los Angeles on the 30th anniversary of the shuttle disaster that took the lives of all crew members.

Richard Vogel/AP

It is a sad curiosity that the word “disaster” comes from star (aster), as in “an ill-starred event,” owing its etymological roots to astrology.

Jan. 28 marked the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, one of the worst accidents in the history of the American space program. A nation watched, horrified, as the Challenger space shuttle blew up shortly after take off, killing all seven crew members. It was the first disaster in which U.S. astronauts died in flight. Among them was Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from Concord, N.H., mother of two, who would be the first ordinary citizen in space.

There is now a Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, part of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. Its promotion motto is: “The sky is no limit; it’s just the beginning.”

After the disaster, there was a major effort — a witch hunt — trying to figure out what had happened. The culprit, it turned out, was an O ring which failed to seal a rocket booster, allowing hot gas from the booster to hit the external fuel tank. Richard Feynman, one of the all-time physics greats, demonstrated to a dumfounded White House panel that the O rings lose resilience at low temperatures. (Feynman dropped one in a cup of ice cold water and showed that it stiffened up.)

In the case of the Challenger, the launch was at uncommonly low temperatures (it was in the low 20s the morning of the launch), and the O ring must have cracked under pressure, literally. As Feynman noted in an interview, NASA’s administrators’ mistake was not to take notice of similar malfunctions before, such as leakages around the O rings in previous missions and tests. The disaster could have been easily avoided, he concluded.

The last shuttle flight was in July 2011, when Atlantis flew to the International Space Station with no accidents. Since then, the manned space program has taken a sharp turn, as NASA decided to, first, use Russian spaceships, now, private companies (so far, Boeing and SpaceX) that will soon take astronauts to space.

There is no stopping human exploration of space. We are bound to outer shores as we were once bound to shores on this planet. Accidents will happen along the way, as shipwrecks did — and still do — happen. Let us learn our lessons, though, so that every effort is made to spare as many lives as possible in the years ahead.


Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist — and professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the co-founder of 13.7, a prolific author of papers and essays, and active promoter of science to the general public. His latest book is The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser.

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Songs We Love: Cerrone, '2nd Chance (feat. Tony Allen)'

Marc Cerrone

Marc Cerrone Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Afro (Because Music/Atlantic 2016)

Afro (Because Music/Atlantic 2016) Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

It’s been a boom time for old-school disco producers looking to grab some of the EDM spotlight, and, to put it kindly, the results have usually been mixed. Guest stars and cover versions are the default when an old hand makes a grand re-entrance in any genre. But even though he was responsible for some of the most famous records in all of Eurodisco — the most proudly mechanical and formula-driven dance-music style of the 1970s — it’s somehow unsurprising that Frenchman Marc Cerrone has personalized that script.

Rather than grasping for old glory or at straws, Cerrone’s new Afro EP sounds sleekly contemporary, without the slightest strain. The theme is in the title: In addition to a solo track, the two originals are collaborations with a pair of crucial African musicians, including Manu Dibango on “Funk Makossa,” a stretching out of the latter’s foundational 1972 hit, “Soul Makossa.” (The EP’s other three tracks are remixes, including one by key Daft Punk collaborator Todd Edwards.)

YouTube

But Afro‘s opening track is the gem. “2nd Chance” features Tony Allen, the drummer in Fela Kuti‘s original band, Africa 70, and the force behind a string of Afrobeat classics, and it is his buoyant pulse, along with a flickering wah-wah guitar, that sets the tone. The tempo is quick and there’s a lot going on — sharp strings, taut piano, a bit of chanting — but it all seems utterly casual, like a still-stylish, well-worn suit. And although both Cerrone and Allen are known for stretching things out (up to twenty minutes at a time on their best days), the brevity of “2nd Chance” — also available on the EP in a seven-minute “Extended Club Mix” — keeps the focus clear and leaves the listener wanting more.

Afro EP is out on February 12 on Because Music.

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6 Headlines, A Day After The New Hampshire Primary

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, with his wife, Karen, at his side, cheers with supporters Tuesday at his Republican primary night rally in Concord, N.H.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, with his wife, Karen, at his side, cheers with supporters Tuesday at his Republican primary night rally in Concord, N.H. Jim Cole/AP hide caption

toggle caption Jim Cole/AP

Even with expected wins by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, there’s plenty to talk about the morning after New Hampshire’s primary, whether it’s Republican John Kasich’s surprising No. 2 finish or the “Bernie Sandwich.”

A rundown of what’s being said Wednesday:

Bernie Sanders becomes first Jewish, non-Christian candidate to win U.S. primary — The Week

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) may or may not make history as the first self-described democratic socialist to win a major party’s nomination, but he already notched a famous first on Tuesday night, becoming the first Jewish candidate — and the first non-Christian — to win a presidential primary. Sanders has been projected to easily beat Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, just nine days after coming in a close second in the Iowa caucuses (where Sanders was the first Jewish candidate to win delegates in a presidential primary, something Joe Lieberman never achieved).”

Trump Has Last Laugh with Sweeping New Hampshire WinNew Hampshire Public Radio

“The precise make-up of [Donald] Trump’s winning coalition is unknowable, but the sweep of his win was vast. Trump won big in suburban Salem, blue-collar Claremont, and liberal Keene.

“The victory also put to rest a number of lingering questions. Would the Trump’s supporters who’ve packed his rallies show up to vote? Could Trump win over while rejecting retail-style politics that typify presidential campaigns here? And would Trump have the last laugh after thumbing his nose at the Republican establishment? Yes, yes, and yes, apparently.”

Chris Christie and New Hampshire: 10 Things That Went WrongWNYC

“He went right when [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich went down the middle: As he sought to attract conservative voters, Christie loosened his position on gun control, ratcheted up talk about World War III and called for a ban on Syrian orphans from entering the United States. Meanwhile, Kasich appealed to the independent and Democratic voters who can participate in the state’s GOP primary by stressing a softer, bipartisan message. Christie has had bipartisan accomplishments in New Jersey, but that wasn’t the impression that New Hampshire voters got.”

How Much Trouble Is Hillary Clinton In? — Politico

“Dark clouds remain on the Clinton horizon: The candidate striving to be the first woman U.S. president actually lost women by 11 points in New Hampshire. Her concession speech was gracious but uninspiring, and is unlikely to catapult her forward—she stretched to compare her own “life of service” to the service of police, teachers, firefighters and nurses. Democratic voters still have a hard time trusting her. Bernie Sanders has a lot of work to do to scale up his movement to a national campaign that can secure the Democrat nomination. But things like that have happened before.”

#MemeOfTheNight: Bernie SandwichNPR Politics

“We all know live election coverage is hard — you have to cram a lot of quickly changing information into not a lot of time, and sometimes you forget to eat dinner. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes must have been hungry, because here’s what he said after Bernie Sanders was announced a winner: Bernie sandwich. It quickly trended on Twitter, with several people pointing out that a Bernie sandwich has graced MSNBC before.”

Fox News Settles in for a Long Campaign With Donald Trump, a Candidate Who Proves the Network Has Lost Its PowerNew York magazine

“Inside Fox there is confusion about what role the network should play in this altered media ecosystem going forward. According to three insiders I spoke to, the channel’s hosts and producers are split over how to cover Trump. Historically, in moments like this the strategy would be clear: Punish the person who publicly crosses Fox. But network boss Ailes has tried that, and Trump not only survived the PR assaults, including one last month, but he seems to have emerged stronger than ever. The situation is even more dire because Marco Rubio, a favorite of many high-profile voices at the network, fared badly in the New Hampshire primary, only a few days after political analysts were floating the possibility that he might even beat Trump. Tuesday night, Fox’s pundit class had to accept that his robotic performance during ABC’s debate may have destroyed his candidacy. Charles Krauthammer even compared it to Ed Muskie’s 1972 implosion.”

The focus now turns to South Carolina and Nevada, where party primaries will be held from Feb. 20-27.

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In Beyoncé's 'Formation,' A Song For The Bama

Beyoncé, in a scene from the video for "Formation."

Beyoncé, in a scene from the video for “Formation.” Beyoncé via YouTube hide caption

toggle caption Beyoncé via YouTube

Author Jesmyn Ward won a National Book Award for Salvage the Bones, her gritty and lyrical novel of Hurricane Katrina-era Mississippi. In this essay, as in all of her work, she doesn’t mince words.

I was a freshman at Stanford University the first time someone called me a “bama.” One of my new friends from D.C. said it, laughing, and even though I didn’t know what it meant, exactly, I got that it was some kind of insult. I must have smirked or shrugged, which made him laugh harder, and then he called me “country,” too.

That’s when I understood what “bama” meant, and I didn’t bother denying it. I knew that as soon as I told my classmates I was from the South, they saw me as an under-educated, ignorant, foolish rube. Sometimes, in the rarefied environment of that elite college, I thought the same of myself.

I’m from a small town on the bottom edge of Mississippi, very near New Orleans and the Louisiana border. My family has lived there for generations. A few of us left in the ’60s for Chicago and Los Angeles and Texas, but whether for a visit or to retire, we always return. So when I saw Beyoncé’s “Formation” video, I understood. I knew who she was portraying in the video, and what she was trying to tell me and all the other bamas.

YouTube

I been out in this world a while now, Beyoncé’s telling us, living other places, slaying and inaugurating and eviscerating audiences. Been setting the world on fire. But I ain’t never left home. Y’all in my heart. I ain’t never gone.

She sings to those of us who grew up black in the American South, who swam through Hurricane Katrina, who watched the world sink, who starved for two weeks after the eye passed, who left our dead floating in our houses. She sings to those of us who were displaced, to Las Vegas, to Los Angeles, to Hartford, who lived for months or years or still live in those other places, when the living heart of us is bound so tight with oak and pine we can barely breathe.

For those of us who buy Camellia red beans and creole seasoning and Louisiana hot sauce and White Lily flour when we visit home, and then are a little disappointed when it cooks differently in the high, thin air where we live.

For those of us who never left, who ride clean on old schools with pretty shoes, who drive spurs into their Adidas and ride horses down the middle of the street. For those of us who write our stories or sing our songs about the South, who are told over and over that there is no audience for our art. For those of us who know Death rides shotgun, that He flares his robes when the red and blue lights flash behind us.

If they want to call you bama, let ’em, Beyoncé croons. Let them hate on all this life, this beauty. Let them know we bear the weight of the whole country’s history, and we still love our Afros and Jackson 5 noses. That we still love our babies and our Negroes.

We needed to hear this.

But this song and video are not solely for those who left and those who remained, for our babies, and for our men. This is for the black Southern woman, too. Beyoncé calls the ancestors with the drums, embodies them in high-waisted, gorgeous dresses, fans our Creole foremothers to life with bunches of lace. She flashes forward to the future and invokes the daughters in the church, worshipping in their hats and starched dresses by reflecting their beauty right back to God. She invokes the daughters who usher the dead’s souls while shimmying down the second line. Invokes the daughters who frame the gorgeous shock of their black faces with pastel mermaid weave and wigs.

Let ’em talk, she says. It don’t matter. What matters is me singing, us dancing, us standing and rising and ascending through it all. They might not understand all this beauty now, but I’m going to make ’em see, baby.

These daughters who, at the Super Bowl, danced in formation, wearing Afros and Black Panther garb. And it was then that we all knew that Beyoncé was not only glorifying her bama blackness, but, with that kind of fashion iconography, American blackness as a whole. In the video, we saw her stand tall on that antebellum house porch, imposing in her wide-brim black hat, her long black clothes, the jewelry at her neck and wrists that flashed like knives, and we knew she stood for us, all of us, flipping her twin middle fingers at the world.

We love this blackness, says that stance, and if they don’t, f*** ’em.

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From Junkyard To Museum: The Journey Of A JAWS Shark

The Academy Museum has accepted into its collection the sole surviving full-scale model of the 1975 JAWS shark, donated by Nathan Adlen.
  • Hide caption

    The Academy Museum has accepted into its collection the sole surviving full-scale model of the 1975 JAWS shark, donated by Nathan Adlen.
    Michael Palma/Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.
  • Actor Robert Shaw, who played the shark hunter Quint in JAWS, takes a break from lunch. Rather, from being lunch.
    Hide caption

    Actor Robert Shaw, who played the shark hunter Quint in JAWS, takes a break from lunch. Rather, from being lunch.
    Courtesy of Jim Beller
  • The original JAWS (1975) starred not one but three mechanical sharks, collectively nicknamed Bruce — after director Steven Spielberg's lawyer. Here, one of the Bruces takes a break on location in Martha's Vineyard. This shark rested on a platform when not in use, to protect it from the saltwater.
    Hide caption

    The original JAWS (1975) starred not one but three mechanical sharks, collectively nicknamed Bruce — after director Steven Spielberg’s lawyer. Here, one of the Bruces takes a break on location in Martha’s Vineyard. This shark rested on a platform when not in use, to protect it from the saltwater.
    Courtesy of Edith Blake
  • In a photo taken during filming, actor Ted Grossman is about to meet his end in the Amity Island estuary.
    Hide caption

    In a photo taken during filming, actor Ted Grossman is about to meet his end in the Amity Island estuary.
    Courtesy of Edith Blake
  • One of the original Bruces, staying dry above just some of the equipment needed to bring it to life.
    Hide caption

    One of the original Bruces, staying dry above just some of the equipment needed to bring it to life.
    Courtesy of Jim Beller
  • Bruce and crew.
    Hide caption

    Bruce and crew.
    Courtesy of Jim Beller
  • Joe Alves, the production designer on JAWS, poses with the endoskeleton of one of the original Bruces. Alves's life-size drawing of the shark can be seen on the wall behind.
    Hide caption

    Joe Alves, the production designer on JAWS, poses with the endoskeleton of one of the original Bruces. Alves’s life-size drawing of the shark can be seen on the wall behind.
    Courtesy of Joe Alves
  • NPR reporter Cory Turner meets the fourth Bruce in 2010 and finally gets to "touch the shark."
    Hide caption

    NPR reporter Cory Turner meets the fourth Bruce in 2010 and finally gets to “touch the shark.”
    Cory Turner/NPR
  • Production Designer Alves (left) and Roy Arbogast, who helped build the original Bruces, pose with the fourth Bruce at Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking.
    Hide caption

    Production Designer Alves (left) and Roy Arbogast, who helped build the original Bruces, pose with the fourth Bruce at Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking.
    Cory Turner/NPR

Call it a happy ending to a fish-out-of-water story.

Today, a one-of-a-kind, fiberglass shark cast from the same mold as the iconic, mechanical sharks used in the 1975 classic movie, JAWS, is leaving home.

After more than twenty-five years keeping watch over Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking, a junkyard in Sun Valley, Calif., the shark known as Bruce is headed to a museum.

This matters to me. Because the shark and I have a past.

Like many people, I used to be afraid to go in the ocean because of JAWS.

Unlike most people, I began a journey to cure myself of that fear — by trying to find and touch one of the movie’s fake sharks.

As I chronicled in this story from 2010, that proved difficult.

For filming, three sharks were made and hauled to Martha’s Vineyard. But, in the salt water, they broke so often that the movie ran over-schedule and over-budget.

“We were in deep trouble,” says production designer Joe Alves, who helped create the sharks. “The studio was reluctant in the first place to make the movie. When we came back, they just dumped the sharks in the back lot, and they just rotted away.”

The movie opened in the summer of 1975 and broke box office records. At some point that year, the studio, Universal, used Alves’ original mold to make one more shark, which hung by its tail for studio visitors until around 1990.

By then, both the shark and the franchise were showing their age (nice try, Michael Caine), so the studio scrapped Bruce, along with a pile of old stunt cars, and sold them to Sam Adlen, an enterprising junkyard owner.

Adlen had the flair of a showman. He wanted to make his junkyard, well, more than just a junkyard. Memorable.

Not only did Adlen mount the shark in a prime spot overlooking the yard, beneath it he kept chickens, a cow, and, at one point, a bull (all real, by the way). To get a leg up in phone book searches (back when good placement meant good business), Adlen even added an extra “a” to the company’s name.

Were it not for Sam Adlen, the fourth JAWS shark would have no doubt rotted away, just like the others.

“You know, it’s just amazing what good shape he’s in for having been outside for so many years,” says Sam’s son, Nathan Adlen, who inherited the junkyard and the shark when his father died.

Not long ago, Nathan sold the yard and just about everything in it. But not the shark — though he’d gotten plenty of offers.

Instead, Adlen donated Bruce to a new movie museum in Los Angeles being built by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — the folks behind the Oscars.

Sonja Wong manages new items that come into the museum. What did she say when she was told: We’re getting the shark?

“Well, I think it was more the face that I made. You know, it’s a challenge because it’s so large. It’s kind of an awkward shape too.”

How large and how awkward?

Wong says he’s 25 feet long, 12.5 feet wide, and 8 feet high.

How do you move an awkward, one-of-a-kind artifact that’s at least 40 years old?

A sling, of course. Wong says workers plan to cut the two, metal poles holding Bruce up and use the sling — and a crane — to lift him into a special crate on the back of a very big truck.

The shark will spend the next few years in cushy, climate-controlled storage while the Academy figures out A) How to conserve him and B) How to display him. As for where — exactly — Bruce is being kept, Wong won’t say. The location is…

“Secure, undisclosed — but thankfully not my house.”

Turns out, sharks have made her afraid of the water, too.

“I’m sure I’ll go back in again,” Wong says rather sheepishly. “It’s just, I know the logic behind it isn’t very good but…”

I tell her, she should try touching the shark.

It worked for me. And I have the beach vacation photos to prove it.

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