Friday, June 29, 2012

Call me Ishmael...I mean, Earl...Call me Earl!

Episode 52 or Season 3, episode 5 of the hilarious My Name is Earl TV show:

The episode is called "Creative Writing," one of those with Earl in prison. He elects to take a creative writing course to better himself. He begins to discuss it with his brother, a prison guard:

Randy, the brother, says, "Writing sounds cool. You can make a world where anything could happen. Like a guy all alone in a boat hunting a big white whale."

Earl replies, "Randy, nobody's gonna wanna read that!"

First of all, I can't tell if Randy actually means The Old Man in the Sea or Moby-Dick. I think he has gotten those two books crossed. When he specifies "all alone," this is clearly in contrast to our Melville novel, where people who have read note that Ahab is taking down the whole boat with him. If it were truly a solitary thing, there isn't as much conflict for Ahab. It is the conflict of bringing Starbuck and all the men in on it with him that is the real story. The Old Man in the Sea, while focusing on the futility of the endeavor, also focuses on man's determination--in this respect, the protagonist is a hero and not a looney.

Secondly, of all the fictional references to be made, they choose Moby-Dick. Are they saying how weird the novel and idea are? Why didn't Randy say something like, "...a world where anything could happen. Like a queen of a deck of playing cards threatening to cut your head off while you are chasing a white rabbit," or "...Like a taking a raft trip down the Mississippi to take a stand against slavery." Any other work of fiction could work, but they chose Moby-Dick first.

And these two characters have clearly never read the novel. I doubt they have read any book. I know the actors and writers are intelligent and creative people, but the characters are clearly idiots. Therefore, in this creative TV show, the writers have referenced a story that they think even the idiots know all about.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Facebook is Google's Moby Dick

I just love a good modern allusion to Moby Dick! In an article from in May of 2012, the author, Shel Israel, certainly doesn't hide the references:

It has become increasingly clear since founder Larry Page took back the Google reigns that he regardedhimself as some sort of a modern-day Captain Ahab and Facebook as his company’s Moby Dick.
Page’s harpoon was supposed to be Google+. The social network platform is clearly the best of numerous such offerings offered over the past few years. When he took the tiller, Page immediately redirected his ship so that the harpoon could be sunk into the eye of the Facebook whale.

But of course, the reference being what it is, this is not a good thing--we all see this coming as the text directs itself to the possible implosion that this Larry Page faces. This is the interesting bit in understanding popular references to Moby Dick: we all understand that it goes nowhere!
At first, this looked like the makings of a great turnaround story. The young, determined founder, vowing to do no evil, takes the helm of a great ship floundering in anunprecedented storm. Vowing to avenge cruel and painful losses, he sets a new course.
Someone should have warned Page to be careful what he wished to harpoon. It could turn around and give him a very nasty bite, even a fatal one.

And as Larry Page tried to guide the company:
It was said Page was steering into troubling waters in the same way that Ahab drove his Pequod to where no ship should go. 

Overall, this story focuses on Google+ trying to beat Facebook. Facebook is the white whale that he cannot beat:
It seems to me that Google’s biggest mistake is in treating its very real rivalry with Facebook as a life-or-death struggle.
And, of course, the article in proper bookend format, references the overreaching Moby Dick metaphor again:
Focus is a good thing, but obsession may cause your harpoon to backfire.