Sunday, July 31, 2011

Matt Kish answers why MOBY DICK is his favorite

I corresponded with Mr. Kish about his little obsession. It's a great answer...I mean, why do I like Hamlet so much or Lowry's The Giver? However, the crux of my argument is that Moby Dick is supposed to be a classic. Mr. Kish's blog is at
"Hey Matt, that's a tough question to answer thoroughly in the comments section but I'll give it a try. Like you (I think), I bristle at the idea that something should be considered and revered as a classic just because a lot of other people say it is. I tend to reserve that kind of labeling for my own personal headspace rather than try and force it on others. "Moby-Dick" means so much to me for many reasons though. First, it has been an almost constant companion throughout my life, whether it was the film or an abridged version or a graphic novel or the full text. I've read it quite a few times, and at each stage of my life the book revealed more and more to me. I treasure the book so much because, in spite of its thorny and difficult language, its challenging and sometimes maddeningly inconsistent structure, and its long nonfictional asides, I truly believe the book is about everything. Honestly. Nearly everything we humans experience, grapple with, wonder about and struggle toward is in some way addressed in the book.

But honestly, its not for everyone. Some love it, some hate it. Few are indifferent. I don't make any kind of judgments about a person based on whether or not they like or don't like the book. Some of my closest friends turn green and start tuning out of any conversation where I mention the book.

But to me, it's everything."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Harold Bloom on Jonah

I've read a lot of Harold Bloom through my English education. Great guy. The authority. I mean, THE authority on all things literature.

That's why this makes an even greater impact to me. He is talking of his favorite book of The Bible and the very second sentence of his little essay:

"A sly masterpiece of four brief chapters, Jonah reverberates in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, where it is the text for Father Mapple’s grand sermon."

This sentence is setting up the fact that this is how important Jonah is--it is used in one of the great novels, almost as a base. Basically, Moby Dick would not exist without Jonah.

He then needs to reference it again, as if putting it into perspective, using Moby Dick as the reference point of the perspective, as we all supposedly know Moby Dick:

"There is of course the giant fish (not, alas, a whale) who swallows up Jonah for three days but then disgorges him at God’s command. No Moby Dick, he inspires neither fear nor awe."

Again, anybody that seems to have to mention WHALE has to mention Moby Dick!

Danny Glover is Ahab...chasing dragons?

Danny Glover stars in Age of the Dragons, an apparently "very dull movie." It premieres tonight on SyFy channel.

(Digressing, I still think it stupid they changed the name of SciFi Channel to SyFy. Plus, all the non-science fiction they show is horrible. And I, for one, would so much rather they play old, bad scifi TV shows and movies than make these garbage movies. I mean, when you see that a movie is called Mansquito, is there really anything else you need to know? Seriously, the title alone tells you absolutely everything possible about the movie. And then SyFy is just like a new monster-movie maker: Dinocroc vs. Supergator? Why? Do these actually make money somehow? If they want original programming, stick with the TV shows they are making. They are good.)

And I just realized what else is interesting about this--I didn't even hear about this until today. I have Yahoo! News alerts come to me with anything published with "Moby Dick." I search this stuff all the time. Why was nothing published about this prior to today? It's on today...

Herman Melville Family Day is today

There is something special happening today in New Bedford, Massachusetts!

I just really really want to know what the "special sperm whale activity" actually is!

Now Melville is considered an American classic novelist. I wonder how many of the people attending can name a single other book or story he wrote. I would really like to take that poll. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think many can name other works.

"NEW BEDFORD — Herman Melville Family Day celebrates the 192nd birthday of the famed author of "Moby-Dick" at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on Saturday, July 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a full day of free children's activities including a whale of a birthday cake."

"Special activities are scheduled throughout the day. From 10 a.m. to noon, kids can make their own floatable toy model of Cap'n Ahab's ship, Pequod. Wading pools on the plaza will allow young shipwrights to test their vessel's seaworthiness before they take them home. A children's poetry workshop will be offered from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m."

"At 11:30 a.m. whaling wives, Ruth and Abby from the 1840s, will visit with children. At noon the museum's youth apprentices will lead a special sperm whale activity. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. kids can illustrate their very own version of Moby-Dick and from 1 to 2 p.m., be photographed with Moby Dick's statue."

"Ongoing activities include make-and-take art projects — whale hats, whale tail bookmarks and magnets — and making chalk whale art. Moby-Dick cartoons will be featured in the theater and drawings to win a family membership will be given hourly. The Museum Store will also hold a Whale of a Tent Sale on the plaza."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moby Dick is the God Particle

"Finding the 'God Particle'" by Lana Bandoim

"The God particle, also known as the Higgs boson, is the Moby Dick of science."

The article is another instance where Moby Dick is alluded to for any reference to an exhaustive search. The search is consuming and takes time, effort, money--everything in a person's life.

Now, if you compare this sentence:

"The thirst for knowledge is not the only motivation to find the God particle."

with Moby Dick, does that mean that Ahab was simply searching for knowledge? Is Moby like the forbidden fruit?


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Moby Dick mini-series

A new series! I know Hollywood has no more ideas but what else can you do with Moby Dick that the Gregory Peck movie couldn't do? Well, they remake everything anyway...

The following is stolen from IMDB at: (7-14-2011)

"Cast member Gillian Anderson first came to fame playing Dana Scully on the TV series The X Files. It was mentioned several times throughout the run of the series that Scully and her family were big fans of Herman Melville's book 'Moby Dick': her nickname for her Naval officer father was "Captain Ahab;" his nickname for her was "Starbuck;" and her dog, which she named Queequeg, was, like its namesake, also an eater of humans (the dog ate the body of its previous owner)."

"This is the first production of "Moby Dick" since the 1930 film version with John Barrymore to have a leading female character. There are no women in Herman Melville's original novel."
Gillian Anderson's character is named Elizabeth, so no "Call me Michelle" here. I bet it is Ahab's true love back in Nantucket. "Oh, Ahab, why do you have to go off for your revenge and leave me and little Ahab behind?" And I will have to address the whole Gillian Anderson thing about her whole family being a fan of the book...

Ethan Hawke plays Starbuck and William Hurt plays Ahab. Hey, they got some top talent anyway.

The budget was $25,500,000, according to Wow. Looks like it is still in post-production with some German company because their homepage,, is in German.
(So what does this say about our great AMERICAN novel?)

Amazing to me how many people are following this on the imdb forums page and talking about it. It has almost as much hype as any of the superhero flicks.

Moby Dick singing live!

There's a band named Moby Dick and the Wailers that appeared at a summer concert series in Massachusetts. Get the pun of the name?

I wonder if they sing sea shanties?

Or "Sea of Love"?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Do I want to be in Moby's throat??

"Were you ever curious about how Capt. Ahab felt when Moby Dick’s cavernous mouth closed over him, eliminating light and life?"

Seriously, they start the article with that sentence.

First of all, it really makes me want to go to feel horrified at getting eaten by a whale...

Secondly, Ahab doesn't even die that way! He gets tangled up in the ropes. I remember because Mrs. Conley, the teacher who subjected me with this in the first place, asked me that specific question.

So, if you wanted to toot your little exhibition thing, wouldn't you ask how Jonah felt? He didn't get eaten, like that first sentence suggests. Or could they not say Jonah because it is biblical?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Moby Dick on Twitter

“Twitter is an innovative way for us to share this special event with a global audience,” museum president Stephen C. White said. “Nowhere else does ‘Moby-Dick’ come alive the way it does on the decks of the Morgan, the sole surviving ship of the fleet that inspired Melville.”

Oh, my. I can't believe this. It's a marathon reading of all 135 chapters. And they've done this for 26 straight years now!

And it only takes one solid day, from noon to noon, July 31-August 1.

Wow. Do they do this to any other book? I don't even know how to search for something like that. Are there any other books out there that are annually read in their entirety? The only ones I think could be possibilities are ones like Dickens' A Christmas Carol or other seasonal, and short!, ones.

I know one of the Baldwins read excerpts of Moby Dick within the past year. That doesn't count. Entirety.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Call me Michelle" part two

2010: Moby Dick commentary part two

The movie starts off with a sub disaster in 1969. There’s “something out there” (and that’s about as creative as some of the dialogue gets). Ahab is a sonar man, records the whale’s vocals, on a tape that looks disturbingly like it is from 1989 and not 1969, and gets his leg cut off when Moby breaches and bodyslams the sub. Ahab gets to look eye to eye with the whale, with special effects that don’t look all that good, however, you get the impression that Moby meant to be vicious. That was pretty cool.

The writer was most definitely an aficionado of the original novel, or at least had enough working knowledge of it, to drop in names of people and ships that the reader would recognize. Tashtego, Pippin, Queequeg, are all briefly accounted for. Even when the other navy sub the Essex chases after Ahab’s Pequod, you get a sense of the author knowing his subject matter basics. When the two seamen are discussing the "whiteness" of the whale bothering them, they make it a joke that white is always evil.

They just didn’t handle Ahab right. Even when he shouts, “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me!” you barely get the sense that he is obsessive, probably drawing on background knowledge of Ahab in order to connect the dots. Again, you simply had to know the book to really figure it out.

“Where there are squid, there are whales.” Would there be anything left after nuking the squid?

The harpoon marked “Fedallah” is made out of the hull of the Acushnet, the sub from the opening 1969 scene.

When Ishmael/Michelle yells, “It’s your fault! You’re hunting it—it’s not hunting us!” to Ahab, I just wanted to scream. Moby was destroying other boats, subs, and cruise ships without Ahab anywhere near. It’s not Ahab’s fault AT ALL in this movie. It is his job to destroy the monster. The corpses they run into cry out for vengeance, for Pete’s sake. If in the novel Ahab sacrifices his men and ship for his revenge, he simply does NOT do that here. He is a military captain whose job it is to destroy the whale and every single one of those seamen knows it is their duty to keep the waters safe. There simply is no single-minded obsession—there is coincidence that Ahab’s revenge and his duty match up.

At the end, when they take out the individual little boats, that is a pretty cool reminiscence of the last three-days’ hunt from the novel.

However, basic enjoyment of the movie has to rely on background knowledge of the original novel. I don’t think this movie stands up at all by itself if you had no idea about some of the peculiarities.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Call me Michelle"

Now that was funny.

I watched a newer movie version of the beloved Moby Dick. This one is called 2010: Moby Dick.

The Ishmael character is played by a female whale researcher named Michelle. Took me a second to put it together, but when her assistant Pippin kept calling out to her, "Doctor Herman," she finally responded, "Call me Michelle." Clever. Ishmael--Michelle. Cute. Even her last name being Herman is cute.

However, the good stuff stops there.

This was only a so-so movie, and I don't mean that just because of my aversion to the classic novel. It's no better than your average SciFi Channel original movie.

I want to go into all the specifics of the movie--that's what I do here. I first want to make the point that they ruined what Ahab was all about, and thereby ruined the movie.

Moby Dick, like in the opening of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, is wrecking ships. You know how the Nautilus is wrecking the ships and it's all being blamed on a sea monster? Well, here the sea monster is actually doing the wrecking and it's getting blamed on Ahab.

Now my point is that the revenge factor simply vanishes from the story. For some reason, Ahab goes radio silent, doesn't check in, and goes rogue, even though his job is to hunt down the sea monster. Most of everything that goes on in the movie is predicated on the fact that they have been assigned to this already since the wreckings. Why does Ahab pull the Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now routine? Why is anybody arguing with him? All Ahab has to do is call his superiors, tell them what is going on, and get the help he needs, rather than be hunted down himself. "Hey, Admiral, just checkin' in! We've almost got that whale cornered! Mind sending me a couple extra ships?" "No problem, Captain Ahab, since that is what we sent you out to do anyway!"

Especially after the cruise ship goes down! Every seaman on that sub would happily follow that whale in order to blow it into snot. So now it doesn't have to be Ahab, it could be any captain--Ahab just put himself in the right position apparently, even outfitting the sub Pequod for this. And of course, he has been waiting since 1969, the original attack that took his leg. Now that 2010 has rolled around, and new attacks have started--where the hell were they for 41 years?--Ahab finally goes after him. If there were sporadic attacks through the years, or this hunt made Moby destroy new ships to piss Ahab off (sort of like Moby shooting hostages), now that would have been better. No, Ahab waits 41 years for new attacks, and now, under orders!, finally goes after the whale. Where is the revenge-for-hate's-sake factor?

More later on this incredible movie. (I mean "incredible" in its most literal sense--not believable.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Well, Wikipedia says it's a classic!

While doing some preliminary research on the term "classic," I came across this Wikipedia article:

And of course, the picture right next to it: Moby Dick.

Later on, it talks about "imprimaturs." It has this comic book version of Moby Dick next to it:

I believe it very telling that these imprimaturs came about in the early part of the twentieth century, just as interest in Moby Dick had risen...hmmmm.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New theater adaptation of Moby Dick--with puppets!

Masks and puppets with good character voice actors tell the tale, bringing the novel down to a length of only 90 minutes.

From the critique: "This Moby Dick works as adaptation, but what makes this production more fascinating is beyond the book. It is a meta-Moby, where we are all Ahab, struggling with our obsessions, looking for significance in what seems a tumultuous sea."

Now that should be on a book jacket.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wow--somebody really likes Moby Dick

Picture copyright Matt Kish.

Wow--this guy really likes Moby Dick.

The article discusses the new book being put out by a guy named Matt Kish. Moby Dick is apparently his favorite. As The Giver or The Catcher in the Rye are mine, Moby Dick is his.

From the article: "['Moby Dick'] has been such a companion for me my whole life," Kish told HuffPost. "I've read it a bunch of times, I saw the TV movie, various comic book adaptations -- it's been such a part of me."

Amazing. His favorite is this book. It is amazing to me.

He started drawing an adaptation of a page a day. The work really is quite extraordinary. Check it out here on his blog:

Also from the Huffington Post article: "He started a blog where he posted his daily illustrations -- mainly just so family and friends could check out his work. But within days, other 'Moby Dick' fan sites caught on and began reposting his drawings. Soon, to his surprise, he was fielding requests from publishers."

Although, the art is exceptional. I don't think it really mattered what book it was and the public and the publisher would have liked it. However, the book lends itself to his interesting psychological take. Maybe he could have done Kafka's Metamorphosis, drawing like that.

It is his passion though and I applaud him for it. And for Moby Dick to influence that kind of creativity has to say something about the book. It may not be my cup of tea, but it is clearly his cup of tea.

However, the crux of the matter with me is why Moby Dick is considered a classic.Shouldn't the definition of "classic" be something for just about everybody? Maybe that is a road I need to explore...

Trivia Question

I do this daily trivia question at They email me a link and I answer a daily question on pretty much everything. There is a ladder to move up the more you get right, so I think that is why I keep doing it. Whatever. Point is: yesterday's question (7-12-2011) was about Moby Dick.

A sailor's narrative of the sinking of the Essex was an inspiration for which 19th century novel?

  • Horatio Hornblower
  • Mutiny on the Bounty
  • A Night to Remember
  • Moby Dick
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
So as you can see, you had to have some knowledge of the subject. There is at least one very viable option in those choices with 20K Leagues. Two others aren't half bad at all as guesses (and I really have no idea about A Night to Remember...something about Titanic that the clue negates if you know your timeline.)

I must say that the Essex story was far more interesting than Moby Dick. It's called In the Heart of the Sea by Nathan Philbrick and I absolutely loved that read. And I don't normally go for non-fiction at all.

I just think the thought process for Melville must have been interesting...

Hmmm, this story about the Essex is fascinating. Ten thousand miles from the nearest land mass. Do you know that they had to resort to cannibalism on the trip home? It might make you crazy enough to want revenge on a silly whale! ...Wait a minute, I think I may have something here...

So, in all ways, In the Heart of the Sea is like an unofficial prequel to Moby Dick.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Don't give up the ending to Moby Dick,0,6453659.story?track=rss

Talking about some of the greatest spoilers in movie and TV history, this article starts by saying,

"Spoiler alert: Romeo and Juliet die, Scarlett doesn't love Ashley but Rhett walks out anyway, the Ring of Power is destroyed, Moby-Dick wins, Laura Palmer was killed by her father, and Soylent Green is people."

I find it fascinating that Moby Dick is one of them. One of the six.

I remember the hype around Laura Palmer of Twin Peaks even though I never watched the show until after it had ended (it was good and I should have watched). Soylent Green is one of my favorite movies now, even though I wasn't born when it first came out--somehow I never heard the spoiler and am glad I didn't when I finally watched it.

The article mentions Lost and The Crying Game, (and since I unfortunately heard about the ending to The Crying Game, I think it has ruined any enjoyment I could get out of watching it--I have never seen it yet know everything), eventually mentioning the ending to Casablanca.

Amazingly, no mention of The Sixth Sense--I guess even the author didn't want to spoil that one. (Because that one COMPLETELY destroys any enjoyment of the movie for the first time if you know the end.)

As the article ends, "— spoiler alert — Ilsa leaves Casablanca without Rick, but we still cry every time, and then we watch it again." Does this work for Moby Dick? If I hadn't have known that the whale wins, would it have been a shock?

I mean, here we have a novel from 1851 where the protagonist loses and dies! Maybe that would have made a reader sit up for the first time, like watching The Sixth Sense the first time--you can't put it back in the box. Any subsequent viewing of The Sixth Sense is awash in trying to pick out clues.

However, as I have posted very recently, two jacket bookcovers mention the end!!

On one: "In an ironic twist of fate, Ahab is last glimpsed entangled in the harpoon lines once intended to strike down his nemesis, Moby Dick.”

On another: "its dramatic end when the white whale triumphs and all hands, except Ishmael, perish"

So, is the reader supposed to know or not?? Does it hinder the reading?? Were those bookjacket authors screwing us out of a reader's enjoyment??

I'm tellin' ya, I'm on to something here...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Racecar driver hooks his Moby Dick,0,7804305.story?track=rss

"When C.E. Falk won the Hampton Heat Late Model 200 at Langley Speedway a year ago, he likened the victory to finally hooking his Moby Dick. Some observers, however, considered crew chief Phil Warren, a Langley icon who won a record seven track titles as a driver, to be captain of that ship and Falk a young driver fortunate to ride his coat tails."

If he hooked his Moby Dick, wouldn't the analogy also entail him blowing up in a huge racetrack explosion while taking out every other driver but one?

The allusion today focuses on a one-dimensional obsession. My Moby Dick was reading and finishing Moby Dick when I had been trying to and lying about it for 25 years. I guess I should have burned in a conflagration of flames while torching the novel--that would have been poetic. But the allusion as it is used today does not necessarily mean the destruction of the pursuer.

Everyone must have a Moby Dick now. I think the difference is that for some of us, like Falk and myself, Moby Dick is a pinnacle to achieve something you've always been reaching for. For fictional characters Khan and Picard in the Star Trek movies, it did destroy the first and almost destroyed the latter (ST II: TWOK and ST: First Contact respectively).

I must fully analyze the Moby Dick references in those Star Trek movies now...

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Star Trek commentary book

Every episode analyzed from a geek's WTF? point of view.
Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.