Friday, August 11, 2006

Not Quite Cliffs Notes

This is not a new book (copyright 2000), but I just came across it: The 5-Minute Iliad and Other Instant Classics: Great Books for the Short Attention Span. It provides a fun little take on a number of pieces of classic literature. I’ll have to read it to refresh myself about those I’ve already read and familiarize myself with those I haven’t.

Moby-Dick is condensed to 10 pages. I think it might have been especially useful to have had this as an alternative for those who got stuck on the “Cetology” chapter. In this version it—along with a few other chapters, I believe—reads thus:
The whale is a gigantic sea creature with a big head at one end and a great thick tail at the other. It is therefore a fish. Like us, the whale has warm blood and lungs; unlike most of us, the whale swims about in the watery depths of the ocean and breathes through the top of its head. There are different kinds of whales in different parts of the world. The most commonly hunted are the Right Whale of the North Atlantic and the Norway Right Whale. There are also Nearly Right Whales, Technically Right Whales, Slightly Erroneous Whales, Simply Wrong Whales, and a thousand other varieties besides. They have lots of blubber, which can be made into oil, and also ivory, and meat, and some of them, ambergris. Ambergris is used as a skin lotion by many islanders of the South Seas, as an aphrodisiac by many Asian, as jewelry by some Australian aborigines, and an excellent plaque-fighting toothpaste in the Americas.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Something in this slippery world that can hold

Hey shipmates...I'm gearing up for my presentation at NEKLS Tech Day '06. I'm talking about how to use techie tools to enhance and encourage book lust in patrons, friends, and family, and I'm featuring our M-D blog.

And then I remembered that I only posted my New Bedford trip photos to my Queequeg's blog. How foolish of me.

Mr. Sprinkles, Larry & I had a great time walking the streets and seeing the sites that Melville walked and saw. Photos of whales, ships, Moby-Dick/whaling-inspired tourist spots, history, and Mr. Sprinkles are all up on Flickr.

After reading M-D so many times, it was fantastic to actually be in New Bedford--and stay inches from the river that first launched HM into the world of whaling. It's odd how comforting it is to visit places HM visited and wrote about 150+ years ago. It makes the world feel strangely stable. As Ahab says, "I like to feel something in this slippery world that can hold, man."

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

To Kill a..

The new blog is up. Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The next book...(I'm sick of comments)

Sorry...sick of posting are some options from me...

Arthur & George (by Julian Barnes) --yeah...this just came out, but it's sitting on my coffee table, and it's longing for me...

To Kill a Mockingbird

Great Gatsby (I've listened to it, but never read it I love F.Scott)

Anything by Hemingway, Anything (really, anything...I've only read his short stories...and I love him)

Invisible Man

What I will NOT read: anything by Virgina Woolf (I've read too much already by her, and I've never liked any of it), anything by Dickens (ditto on Woolf), anything by Hunter S. (again, ditto...)

Friday, March 31, 2006

My List (What to Read Next)

OK, I've come up with a list of authors/titles that I would like to read, but might not without some extra motivation. It's random and off the top of my head, so I'm sure there are other things I would enjoy that I've left off. And it's slanted pretty heavily toward the 20th century. I'm going to put the actual list as a comment so you can come up with your own before seeing mine and being influenced by it. And then add yours as another comment, of course.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Arr! Is that the weathered Pequod coasting into harbor?

So, what's next? Is anyone interested in turning this into a real book club? Here are my votes. Tell me what you want.
  • Henry V (for Shakespeare in the Park)
  • LotR Trilogy
  • The Hobbit
  • One of those Jane Austen books or other 'classics'

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Redbeard, 89-117

We just had the MD post-reading discussion at the delicious Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen. Strawberry Fist, Her Grace, Her Grace's husband (who will now be referred to as His Grace), Her Grace's mom, Kelly, and I were all in attendance. In this post and the next one, I will finish my notes from this reading of Moby Dick.

From Chapter 89 - Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish:

"A Loose-Fish is fair game for anybody who can soonest catch it." "..What at last will Mexico be to the United States? All Loose-Fish"
I thought this was an interesting point of view. You've got to remember that in 1851, the US was acquiring territory and new states pretty regularly. I wonder if we will eventually incorporate Mexico, too.

From Chapter 90 - Heads or Tails:

"Ye tail is ye Queen's, that ye Queen's wardrobe may be supplied with ye whalebone". Now this was written at a time when the black limber bone of the Greenland or Right whale was largely used in ladies' bodices."
The things women do for fashion. Imagine getting into one of these things and having your chambermaid lace you up. In order to have the 'perfect' figure, you would be subject to anything from fainting fits to miscarriage.

From Chapter 93 - The Castaway:

"So, though in the clear air of day, suspended against a blue-veined neck, the pure-watered diamond drop will healthful glow; yet, when the cunning jeweller would show you the diamond in its most impressive lustre, he lays it against a gloomy ground, and then lights it up, not by the sun, but by some unnatural gases. Then come out those fiery effulgences, infernally superb; then the evil-blazing diamond, once the divinest symbol of the crystal skies, looks like some crown- jewel stolen from the King of Hell."

This is still the case today. Diamonds do look more fiery in flourescent light, even those of poor quality. Melville has taught us budding jewelry-buyers something useful. Make sure you view your gems, diamonds in particular, in natural light before you buy it. Diamonds of lower color quality (like yellow) are often placed under slightly blue fluorescence to make them look whiter.

And fluorescing diamonds do look very cool (like crown-jewels stolen from the King of Hell) under blacklights. Like a white shirt at a dance club.

From Chapter 96 - The Try-Works:

"Wrapped, for that interval, in darkness myself, I but the better saw the redness, the madness, the ghastliness of others. The continual sight of the fiend shapes before me, capering half in smoke and half in fire, these at last begat kindred visions in my soul.."

When I read this passage, I thought of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. All of those shadows on the cave wall.. However frightening they are to you, if it's all you know, then there's some comfort in it. Not an exact parallel, I know, but a tangent.

From Chapter 109 - Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin:

"Let the owners stand on Nantucket beach and outyell the Typhoons. What cares Ahab?"

Haven't we all felt this way about the people in charge of us at times? I know I have. And what a good way to put it, Ahab.

From Chapter 113 - The Forge:

"No, no - no water for that; I want it of the true death-temper. Ahoy, there! Tashtego, Queequeg, Daggoo! What say ye, pagans! Will ye give me as much blood as will cover this barb?" holding it high up. A cluster of dark nods replied, Yes. Three punctures were made in the heathen flesh, and the White Whale's barbs were then tempered.

"Ego non baptizo te in nomine patris, sed in nomine diaboli!" deliriously howled Ahab, as the malignant iron scorchingly devoured the baptismal blood.

This is a wonderfully devilish scene. I'd like to use some of it for a d+d cutscene. There seem to be a lot of rituals to dark gods, and, since I've never actually seen one, it's nice to have good visual ideas to draw on. And, the translated latin: I do not baptize you upon the name of the Father, but upon the name of the devil! Scary.

From Chapter 117 - The Whale-Watch:

"Take another pledge, old man, said the Parsee, as his eyes lighted up like fire-flies in the gloom, - Hemp only can kill thee."

How is it that Fedallah can give these sort of predictions? And how is it that he's actually right? Does he cast auguries or something? I love the sort of mysticism that Melville gives him. I'm sure it's a form of Orientalism, the idea of the other, that was so prevalent during the time in Europe. Melville gives these attributes to Fedallah, and the awe of him to the rest of the crew.

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