* Claire Skinner *
Last fall, I became obsessed with AMC’s show Breaking Bad. It was like developing a crush. Slow at first, then a headlong swoon. I found myself sidling out of social events earlier than usual, claiming that I needed to get some sleep. But instead of sleeping, I’d flop myself on the sofa and watch Walter White, the conflicted main character, cook meth in a trailer parked somewhere in the endless New Mexico desert. I’d watch episode after episode, each one as acidic and delicious as the strawberries I popped in mouth, cold and wet from the refrigerator.
* Gina Balibrera *
I recall standing on a platform before a television set, which was shrouded in funereal black cloth, and which played on loop a talk given by a grave white-haired scientist in a lab coat. The screen was grainy in a way I discerned to be fake: each trawling black worm was evenly sized, evenly spaced on the screen. The actor playing the scientist would cough when the screen broke up, due to an untimely earthquake disrupting the calm of his lab; the cough gave him away as an actor. My suspicion that the scientist was an actor made the film in which he appeared no less terrifying to me, a sensitive child, a nervous child. Spliced into the interview were stills from the 1906 Earthquake (the crevasse of Market Street, the burning of Van Ness) and images from the more recent 1989 earthquake, during which the Giants had played in the World Series, and one layer of the Bay Bridge had buckled and fallen onto the layer beneath it, crushing cars and tossing them into the sea–this was Pompeii, the dollhouse toppled over, all the toys drowned in the bathtub. And here, a map of the Ring of Fire, which extended down the Loma Prieta along the California coast to the tip of South America, and across the Pacific Ocean, putting our seismic disquiet in conversation with the volcanoes of the Philippines, Japan, Alaska.