The Whale in the Room

Ride the Whale!

Month: October, 2012

Chaptah 15. Chowder. Of course there’s a chaptah called Chowder.

Celebrate with me ladies and gentlemen, labias and janglemen. One ninth of the book has passed us by and we haven’t even started whaling! Whooo, what a journey we’ve undertaken! But first, a little nugget we skipped over in last chapters rant. Of the people of Nantucket, Hermano Melville has to say this.

“For years he knows not the land; so when he comes to it at last, it smells like another world, more strangely than the moon would to an Earthsman. With the landless gull, that at sunset folds her wings and is rocked to sleep between the billows; so at nightfall, the Nantucketer, out of sight of land, furls his sails, and lays him to his rest, while under his very pillow rush herds of walruses and whales.”

Write me something better and I’ll write an equally profound homage to your works.

Because we are in New England, it makes perfect sense that chowder would come up. Upon arriving on Nantucket, Ishmael and Queequeg seek food and shelter at the recommendation of their last host, the one from the Spouter Inn who’s name escapes me. This place they seek is called Try Pots, and is owned by one Hosea Hussey.

One time my friends grandmother told me to be careful around girls who’s shirts had zippers down the front, for they were hussies. Duly noted.

There is minor confusion in ordering, but finally some chowder is brought. “It was made with small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.”

What the fuck is pounded ship biscuit? I bet this lady knows. Next.

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Moby-Google? Or Google-Dick? Chapter 14.

Hello Google.

Welcome back. Where have you been? No matter, we’re together again! Whilst browsing through my electronic mails today, I saw this in the top right corner. I rarely visit the google search engine, being that I have the search bar in my browser and google is basically everywhere anyway. It made me wonder, is today Hermano Melvilles birthday? I hope so. Either way, I worry about google sometimes. If I can find a way to compare Google to Moby-Dick at some point, I promise I will. Alas, I have not met the great whale yet, and so I cannot comment on their similarities, unless of course we’re talking about size, because I feel confident in the great measure of their respective masses. Make sense? Sure.

Maybe Moby-Dick was published on this day, 20 million years ago or whatever. It matters not, because I refuse to look it up. I’m not worried about spoilers in the story, but I like the mystery of Hermano Melville. Who was he? What did he eat? Did he shit in the woods, an outhouse, a chamber pot, or did they have home plumbing in the 19th century? Could he even afford it, or was he one of those sad, filthy visionaries that believed his life of poverty and disappointment would be worth the art? Good question.

My friend Eben(ezer) made me something awesome, so I could promote this ridiculous little project of mine.

MobyMobyDick.com

One time I received a bad grade on a philosophy paper. It was only a draft for the final, but I felt like his comments and my bad grade were in error and that my superior intellect could and did compensate for my unfamiliarity with the entirety of whatever work I was reporting on. I sent my professor an email, pissing and moaning about him being unfair,  something about how the Philosophy department being an embarrassment (being that I had taken many Philosophy courses and never had a Professor as a teacher) and he was being rediculous.

I only remember one part of his response and that was enough to teach me to shut up and listen more than I speak. It went something like,

I find it embarrassing that a student at the University of Massachusetts doesn’t know how to spell the word ridiculous.

I had become so used to saying things were ‘reee-diculous’ that I believed it was spelled as such. It was not a mistake. This is before every text window on the internet alerted the user to spelling errors. It has on one hand improved my spelling, because I am constantly forced to address it. It also makes me lazy, because sometimes I forget how to spell when I only have pen and paper. Which is what makes Hermano Melville so awesome. I’m sure he had an editor, but I doubt that said editor is solely responsible for making this book so fucking awesome. Writing is a lot harder when you don’t have the internet. Which is why myself and so many other clowns are writing and thrashing about like someone is going to pay us for thinking out loud with wikipedia ever in our back pocket. Shit.

Okay, I looked it up. 161 years ago, this beast was revealed. Shit. Now I want to look up reviews and see how the world received this book. I can imagine some pud from the New York Times (or wherever really) claiming it was “excessively wordy, an overbearing work with much homosexuality and godless rants on the savagery of Christians and should be deemed unfit for the industrious and wholesome spirit of the literate American man.” That’s not an actual quote. I think the common perception back then (amongst men in particular) was that only men did stuff. Unless it was making, having, or raising babies. Same goes for food. Us men can be so dumb sometimes, especially when it comes to women. Especially when it comes to women.

Oh yea. Chapter 14 is called Nantucket. It’s a barren place and it’s people are of the sea. More or less. Next.

 

Wheelbarrow. Chapter 13.

I admit I have been negligent in my duties as your official tour guide of Moby-Dick. Life gets in the way, and sometimes the work suffers. If only I maintained the diligent madness of an obsessive, we could be much farther along. I am not sorry. If you’re reading this, you’re still here.

Upon departing the Spouter Inn, Ishmael and Queequeg borrow a wheelbarrow for to transport their luggage. Queequeg proceeds to share a story about his first encounter with a wheelbarrow, in which he strapped the thing to himself and carried it with the handles over his shoulders. Or something like that. Ishmael asks “Didn’t people laugh?”

Queequeg shares another story, in which some white folks visit his home on the island of Kokovoko. The commander of the ship mistakes a rather important ceremonial bowl as a hand washing station.

“Now,” said Queequeg, “what you tink now?- Didn’t our people laugh?”

It seems that people take their customs very seriously. Hermano Melville seems to be equating wheelboarrows and ceremonial bowls in their effect to sow the seeds of mistrust. Once again, it seems Hermano Melville was ahead of his time in understanding that most of our customs, the things that we take most for granted, are not, in fact, innate behavior.

After boarding some small ship headed for Nantucket, some green fool starts mocking Queequeg. Thinking he’ll have a bit of fun, Queequeg picks up this buffoon, tosses him around, and places him safely back upon the deck. Of course these white clowns get their panties in a bunch, being shown up by a savage, and try to get Queequeg in trouble with the captain. No sooner does that happen that the wind picks up, the boom (the horizontal beam that holds the sail) starts swaying back and forth and sends the buffoon into the water. Queequeg, being THE MAN, almost immediately secures the boom like some sailor ninja, strips down, dives into the water, swims furiously for several minutes, dives under water, reemerges with said buffoon, and returns to the ship.

He did not seem to think that he at all deserved a medal from the Humane and Magnanimous Societies. He only asked for water- fresh water- something to wipe the brine off; that done, he put on dry clothes, lighted his pipe, and leaning against the bulwarks, and mildly eyeing those around him, seemes to be saying to himself- “It’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians. We cannibals must help these Christians.”

This chapter is so cool that even if you never read the book, read this one chapter from start to finish. I get the feeling I will be saying that again. Next.