"Dickish Behaviour"

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

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Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Ye Olde Sperm Whales...

MOBY DICK, or THE WHALE

Have you read the book Moby Dick? By Herman Melville? You should. The book is considered public domain now so you can easily grab a digital copy if you are so inclined. Basically it is about a man (Captain Ahab) who is obsessed with tracking down the whale that destroyed his ship and took his leg from him on his last voyage. That is the most succinct and flippant synopsis I could ever give of this masterwork. You’re welcome!

OR, if book readin’ ain’t your thang, you should check out the 1956 movie starring Gregory Peck. Why? Because he is an amazing actor. Check out how badass he looks:

As a side note:, Moby Dick also contains one of literature’s most famous lines: "From Hell’s heart I stab at thee." Which a lot of people know from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where he says it just before he dies at the end. (WOOPS SPOILER ALERT) Here ya go:

MELVILLE

The author of Moby Dick is a character in his own right, really. Here is the man himself in the most bad ass photo I could find of the guy. Check that beard! Check that hair! Dang.

Only about 3200 copies of the book were sold during Melville’s lifetime. The poor dude had a bit of a rough go, honestly. People can be pretty dickish on the internet, as we all well know, but imagine you’re Herman Melville and you see a headline that reads "HERMAN MELVILLE CRAZY." Yeah, that happened to the guy. At one point, when he published another book, entitled Ambiguities, the New York Day Book published that venomous attack as a HEADLINE. The review was done up like a news story. Here is a clipping from it:

"A critical friend, who read Melville's last book, Ambiguities, between two steamboat accidents, told us that it appeared to be composed of the ravings and reveries of a madman. We were somewhat startled at the remark, but still more at learning, a few days after, that Melville was really supposed to be deranged, and that his friends were taking measures to place him under treatment. We hope one of the earliest precautions will be to keep him stringently secluded from pen and ink." - New york Day Book, September 8th, 1852

The poor fellow didn’t have the most successful of writing careers during his lifetime and ended up having to resort to getting a job as a customs officer - which he attained through a connection his wife had. He held that job for 19 years.

WHALING. Like, in general . . .

Whaling was a huge industry and responsible for the financial livelihood of multiple coast towns, as well as influencing the very culture of these towns, for example Nantucket, amongst many other New England towns.

Now prepare to have your mind blown. What follows next is NOT for the faint of heart. Seriously. However, if you want to hear one of the most tragic, messed up, disturbing, and unbelievable true stories ever, I encourage you to read this. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-true-life-horror-that-inspired-moby-dick-17576/?no-ist This true story of a sperm whale attack on the vessel Essex in 1820 is something that was of great influence upon Melville’s writing of Moby Dick. Melville himself was a whaler for a period, and drew from the culture and his own experiences as well as the story of the Essex as recounted by Captain George Pollard.

Even though Melville did meet Capt Pollard, he didn’t have the heart to ask him about the horrific events he lived through:

". . . on his last day on Nantucket he met the broken-down 60-year-old man who had captained the Essex, the ship that had been attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in an 1820 incident that had inspired Melville’s novel . . ."

". . . During his visit, Melville later wrote, the two merely 'exchanged some words.' But Melville knew Pollard’s ordeal at sea did not end with the sinking of the Essex, and he was not about to evoke the horrific memories that the captain surely carried with him. 'To the islanders he was a nobody,' Melville wrote, 'to me, the most impressive man, tho’ wholly unassuming, even humble—that I ever encountered.'"

My jaw was on the floor reading the full article I linked. For an example, here is a small passage about how some "pranksters" in the crew burned an entire island down, causing the extinction of two animals:

"To restock, the Essex anchored at Charles Island in the Galapagos, where the crew collected sixty 100-pound tortoises. As a prank, one of the crew set a fire, which, in the dry season, quickly spread. Pollard’s men barely escaped, having to run through flames, and a day after they set sail, they could still see smoke from the burning island. Pollard was furious, and swore vengeance on whoever set the fire. Many years later Charles Island was still a blackened wasteland, and the fire was believed to have caused the extinction of both the Floreana Tortoise and the Floreana Mockingbird."

NEW MOVIE COMING OUT

Also, you may be interested to know (if you don’t already) that there is a new Ron Howard movie coming out later this year starring .. brace yourself.. CHRIS HEMSWORTH. So based on the cast of characters, it would SEEM that it is in fact about the insane true story mentioned above. So…. that should be insane. ALSO, I see "Herman Melville" in the character list, so I’ll be curious if it is in the context of the account in the story above, where he goes to talk to Captain George Pollard long after the time of the events. Anywho, check out the trailer: