Sea-Fever blog


It’s Moby-Dick Marathon Time! by Peter A. Mello

You really should try to make the Moby-Dick Marathon which begins shortly at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. It’s a great and unique experience in one of America’s most historic downtown districts. The event starts at noon and runs all through the night until about midday tomorrow. The majority of the reading takes place in the museum but this afternoon the crowd ambles across the street to the historic Seamen’s Bethel which is always a highlight. Get there early because the pews are as full as an Easter Sunday service!

In case you can’t make it, the museum has set up a live stream so you can experience it from the comfort of your own berth. Enjoy!



Moby-Monday: A Whale of a Weekend! (#mdm15) by Peter A. Mello

Moby-Monday is back and inspired by an extraordinary event organized by the New Bedford Whaling Museum. From all accounts the 15th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon was a great success!

I took my seven-year old son Luke to the Seamen’s Bethel on Saturday for Chapters 7 (The Chapel), 8 (The Pulpit) and 9 (The Sermon). Since I am on the Board of Managers of the New Bedford Port Society I am obviously biased, but there is no better place to experience a Moby-Dick reading than the place where Melville actually worshiped.  Here are a few pictures and a video from that experience.

Seamen's Bethel prior to 15th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon

The Sermon in the Seamen's Bethel, Moby-Dick Marathon

After taking this in, the tide of Moby-Dick enthusiasts carried us across the street to the Jacob’s Family Gallery in the Whaling Museum, the home port of the Moby-Dick Marathon, where there was a full house and lots of great energy.

Jacobs Family Gallery, New Bedford Whaling Museum, Moby-Dick Marathon

On Sunday mornings, we typically listen to classical music but this week we tuned into the livestream of the event. While listening Luke was hard at work in the corner with his carpenter’s kit and by mid-morning he had built a whaleship for my office! The extraordinary convergence and power of great art and new technology in action inspiring a young boy to dream and create!

Thanks and congratulations to the New Bedford Whaling Museum for putting on a great show! Using the livestream and an active Twitter feed, people were able to enjoy the experience without actually having to be present. Of course, there is no substitute for being there in body, soul and spirit. The New Bedford Whaling Museum is an extraordinary small museum that keep getting better. I’m already looking forward to the 16th Annual Moby-Dick Marathon!



New Bedford Whaling Museum’s 15th Moby-Dick Marathon by Peter A. Mello

Some might think that reading Moby-Dick is like running a marathon. Well, this weekend reading Moby-Dick actually is a marathon event at the New Bedford Whaling Museum which is hosting it’s 15th year celebrating Melville’s American classic.

Moby-Dick Marathon poster

Beth Perdue wrote a great article in today’s Coastin’ section of the New Bedford Standard Times about what you can expect which includes the below highlights so that you can chart your experience. Standing Watch – A marathon timeline (times are approximate)

Chapter 1-6, Noon, Saturday

These first few chapters are entertaining for several reasons, including the comical treatment Melville gives to the relationship of Ishmael and Queequeg and the rare and intriguing look at the city of New Bedford as seen through Melville’s 19th-century eyes. And, this year, the Whaling Museum returns the reading’s kickoff to the Lagoda, its 89-foot, half-scale whaleship replica, adding a new layer of atmosphere to the reading.

Chapter 7-9: Seamen’s Bethel and Father Mapple sermon, 1:20 p.m.

Being in the Bethel, the inspiration for this scene, is reason enough to make the trip up Johnny Cake Hill to hear the famous sermon by Father Mapple. The sermon, full of fire and brimstone and delivered with passion for the past few years by Rev. Dr. Edward R. Dufresne, is another great reason. If that’s not enough, the hymn (from the 1956 film) that kicks off the sermon will be sung by Joanna McQuillan Weeks, local choir singer and secretary of the Ladies’ Branch of the New Bedford Port Society.

Chapter 32: “Cetology,” 6:20 p.m.

This look at the scientific classification of whales is a “love it or hate it” kind of chapter with many votes landing in the latter category. In reality, Melville scholar Dr. Laurie Robertson-Lorant said, for those willing to dive in, the chapter can be very funny. “It’s hilarious because what’s he doing is deconstructing scientific classification,” said Robertson-Lorant. “He’s poking fun at this idea that now we have everything nailed down because we can make a chart.”

Chapter 40: “Midnight Forecastle” 7:45 p.m.

Written in theatrical style, this is an annual favorite among marathoners and this year promises to be extra special with the debut of Culture*Park, the New Bedford theater ensemble, to the mix. About 10 actors will perform the section which shows the ship’s watch, made up of representatives from many countries and cultures, eyeing a coming storm.

Chapter 69: “The Funeral,” 1:30 a.m. Sunday

Melville isn’t pulling punches with this powerful look at the 19th-century industry’s brutal treatment of whales. A key image here is the floating white mass of the whale’s corpse, according to “Moby-Dick” scholar and literature professor Robert Wallace, who called it one of the strongest ecological images in 19th-century literature.

Chapter 78: “Cistern and Buckets,” 3 a.m.

A short comic chapter showing Tashtego falling into a gutted whale carcass and then into the sea, only to be rescued by Queequeg. “It has what Melville calls ‘unspeakable horror’ as well as redemption and wry humor,” said Melville expert Mary K. Bercaw Edwards.

Chapter 81: “The Pequod Meets the Virgin,” 3:30 a.m.

A good example of the fun Melville managed to work into his tragedy, this chapter combines high nationalistic comedy — spoofing the futility of the German whalers — with deep Shakespearean tragedy — in the Pequod’s unnecessary cruelty to the old, blind, wounded bull whale, according to Wallace.

Chapter 87: “The Grand Armada,” 5 a.m.

In this chapter, the whaleboat enters a circle of mother whales and calves. Scholars say for all the novel’s focus on Ahab’s obsession, the whale is the book’s central figure and this chapter is its spiritual center. “Ishmael’s vision of the baby whale in the heart of the carnage “» is the spiritual touchstone for the entire book,” said Wallace.

Chapter 93: “The Castaway,” 6:10 a.m.

The beauty of Melville’s language, noted again and again in conversations about “Moby-Dick” is especially evident in this chapter about Pip going overboard and being dragged down into the depths of the sea, according to Robertson-Lorant.

Chapter 99: “The Doubloon,” 7 a.m.

A dramatic reading where Ahab nails a doubloon to the mast and each of the whaler’s crew members interprets its meaning, each according to their subjective view point, said Robertson-Lorant.

Chapter 110: “Queequeg in His Coffin,” 9 a.m.

“The fact that Queequeg cannot interpret the tattooing on his own chest even though his own heart beats against it is a lesson for us all,” said Wallace. “The dialogue between him and Pip in this chapter is unbearably poignant.”

Chapters 133-135: “The Chase,” 11:45 a.m.

The novel ends with an action-packed bang in these final chapters when Moby-Dick appears and the whalers begin their chase in earnest. “They’re chasing Moby-Dick, knowing that they’re doomed,” said Robertson-Lorant. “The language is so dramatic. The description of fear is the best there is.”

Want to experience things like Melville did as he prepared for his journey on the whaleship Acushnet, cross the street and step into the Seamen’s Bethel (aka Whalemen’s Chapel) where Father Mapple’s sermon will be delivered. Here’s a taste:

I’m proud to be a member of the Board of Managers of the New Bedford Port Society which is the organization that owns and manages the Bethel and the historic Mariner’s Home next door.  We are currently underway on a major restoration and preservation project and if you are interested in learning more and/or supporting this effort, please email me.  If you need or know someone who needs a new website or some digital marketing help, Sea-Fever Consulting’s digitsimple program will donate 25% of all revenues generated from new projects from now until the end of February 2011 that use the code SEAMENSBETHEL. More about our Good Neighbor Program can be found at digitsimple.

Back to the marathon.

  • The majority of the event will take place in the beautiful, newly renovated Bourne Building, the homeport of the Lagoda, the largest ship model in the world.
  • Can’t sail over to New Bedford for this happening? You can still experience it via the web. The Whaling Museum say they will be live-streaming the event via their website.
  • It’s doubtful that this event will conjure up the appearance of another white whale, but you can follow the event on Twitter via the hashtag #mdm15.
  • Think you know a lot about Moby-Dick? There’s a fun sounding Stump the Scholar’s quiz game with Melville Society experts matching wits. The free public program is patterned after National Public Radio’s popular show, “Wait, wait, don’t tell me.” No questions will be deemed too tough and prizes will be awarded. (10:00 am Saturday, January 8, 2011 in the Whaling Museum’s Cook Memorial Theater.

It sound’s like a whale of a weekend! Sea you there!



Moby-Monday: “In the Unequal Cross-Lights” — Contemporary Sculptors Respond to the Whaling Museum Collections by Peter A. Mello

Giant Squid sculpture by Erik Durant

Last month I took the kids to New Bedford Open Studios and one of the highlights was meeting sculptor Erik Durant and seeing his giant squid which was under construction for the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s outdoor sculpture show which opened last week. Durant’s studio is always a real hit with the kids if for no other reason than his giant ear sculpture with companion Q-tip;  Joy especially loves it.

The sculpture show is titled “”In the Unequal Cross-Lights” — Contemporary Sculptors Respond to the Whaling Museum Collections” and the title is derived from Moby-Dick. From David Boyce’s article in the New Bedford Standard Times:

The project’s title is taken from “Moby-Dick,” referring to Ishmael’s visit to the Spouter-Inn, where in the “unequal cross-lights” he sees a painting on the wall that confounds him. Melville writes that this artwork requires “careful inquiry,” “earnest contemplation,” and “repeated ponderings.” In other words, much like looking at some contemporary art work, one must allow it time to divulge its intentions, its message, its meaning, or merely its composition.

Photo from ErikDurant.com



World Largest Ship Models Rendezvous at the New Bedford Whaling Museum by Peter A. Mello
March 20, 2010, 12:56 pm
Filed under: maritime | Tags: , ,

Earlier this week, Joy, Luke and I had an afterschool adventure at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, homeport of the world’s largest ship model and one of our favorite destinations. We heard that there was another world’s largest model currently laying over at the museum, a real beauty of the classic Concordia yawl.

Today’s New Bedford Standard Times has a great article about Tom Borges, the artist who built this beautiful model. He started the project in 2003 and recreated, in painstaking detail, every element of this classic yawl. Better yet, he’s designed it so that it can actually be sailed.

According to the article and the Whaling Museum’s blog, which has more information about this project, it will only be on display in the museum’s Jacob’s Gallery for the next few weeks. It really is an extraordinary work of maritime art and if you can, you should make every effort to visit the museum to experience it.  



Moby Monday — Studio 360’s Moby-Dick Hour by MegDC


Psyching yourself up for this Saturday’s Moby-Dick marathon at the New Bedford (MA) Whaling Museum? What better way than with an hour of awesome public radio about the book’s profound cultural impact?

Recently rebroadcast, this award-winning episode of Kurt Andersen’s Studio 360 (downloadable or streamable here) features composer Laurie Anderson, painter and sculptor Frank Stella, playwright Tony Kushner, and others talking about their own fascination with the book—and about their sprawling artistic responses to it.

Margaret Guroff is the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.



Moby Monday — Like You’ve Got Something Better To Do? by MegDC
November 16, 2009, 9:30 am
Filed under: maritime, Moby-Monday | Tags: , ,

This dude always shows up.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum just began filling slots for its 14th annual Moby-Dick Marathon, a 25-hour, nonstop reading of Herman Melville’s little book to be held January 9-10, 2010. The event starts at noon that Saturday and it’s free to read, listen, or partake of coffee, cider, and “traditional whaleship fare” (ew?), but if you want a non-wee-hours reading slot, you’d better call 508-997-0046 posthaste and make your wishes known.

Margaret Guroff is the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.



FotoFriday: Working Waterfront Portraits by Phillip Mello by Peter A. Mello

Modesto Caril, Clam House Worker, New Bedford by Phil Mello 2008

The name in the title might look familiar and that’s because the artist is my cousin. Today the New Bedford Whaling Museum is opening a show of Phil’s amazing collection of photographic portraits of New Bedford commercial waterfront workers. From the museum’s website:

Working Waterfront, Photographic Portraits focuses on local shoreside workers and their jobs: from fish cutter to purveyor, from welder to auctioneer, from lumper to inspector, as well as fishermen. Each person, each job, is vital to the daily operation of supplying seafood to market. All photographs were taken by Phillip Mello, mostly using a Mamiya RZ 67 camera with Kodak BW400cn Professional film. They are part of a project he began early in 2008 and which continues today: to photograph the local fishing industry through the people who work in it. Mr. Mello knows these people and this place well, having worked on the waterfront for over thirty-four years, currently as plant manager at Bergie’s Seafood. His photographs benefit from this closeness, and we are fortunate to have had these doors opened.

There’s an opening reception this evening after the Whaling Museum’s Annual Meeting and before/during their very popular After Hours Friday night social event. But in case you can’t make the event or have trouble getting to the gallery anytime soon, you can experience Phil’s work via the Whaling Museum’s Flickr page.

Henrique Chiquito, clean-up man at a New Bedford Fish House by Phil Mello 2008

Phil is also the president of the New Bedford Port Society which owns and operate the Seamen’s Bethel, which first came to fame as the Whalemen’s Chapel in Herman Melville’s classic American novel Moby-Dick, as well as the historic Mariner’s Home.

Reproductions of photographs in the exhibit are available via the Whaling Museum’s photography department by contacting photoresearch@whalingmuseum.org. Proceeds from their sale will be split evenly between the Whaling Museum and the New Bedford Port Society.

 Dave and Jim Tomassia, fish lumpers, working in the fish hold by Phil Mello 2008

It’s an amazing body of work that celebrates the spirit of the people who work anonymously on New Bedford’s commercial waterfront everyday. Thanks to Michael Lapides, the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Director of Digital Initiatives / Curator of Photography for giving the community the opportunity to get this inside look and for creating a historical document that captures an important part of New Bedford today. And thanks Phil, the Mello family is proud!

Make sure you check out the Whaling Museum’s blog, join their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter too!

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Twitter, It’s All About The Whale by Peter A. Mello

Twitter Fail Whale

If you’ve been part of Twitter for any period of time, you have to be familiar with the most famous white Cetacean since Moby-Dick, the Twitter Fail Whale. Even Captain Ahab would have cursed the sight of this dreaded monster of the world wide web.

For Internet eons we’ve believed that the name “Twitter” was derived from something to do with the noise small birds made or something. But leave it to the scholars at the New Bedford Whaling Museum who have the waterfront covered when it comes to whale research to dredge up the following reference on page 197 of the dusty “Report of the Commissioner for the year ending June 30, 1902 : Aquatic products in arts and industries : fish oils, fats, and waxes. Fertilizer from aquatic products” by Charles H. Stevenson.

“The term ‘twitter,’ which has been previously referred to as applied to the thread-like or membranous substance ranging through the contents of the case, is also applied to the lining of that reservior.  This is from 2 to 3 inches thick, glutinous, and extremely tough.  In decapitating the sperm whale, especially in severing near the bunch of the neck, a very sharp spade is required to cut through this tough and elastic formation.  Although it is very difficult to manipulate, an economical whaleman never throws this substance away.  Since it can not be boiled out with the case, for the reason above given, it is saved and run through the pots with the fat-lean after the case and junk have been cooked.” (New Bedford Whaling Museum post)

Eureka! The crack staff of New Bedford Whaling Museum has done it again in discovering another pearl in the world of whaling wisdom (www), and now Twitter. While it all makes much more sense and the Fail Whale has new meaning, it does beg the question of how did they get to page 197 and stay alert enough to notice the word “twitter.”

But all is not calm seas in the www (world of whaling wisdom). It seems that the American Museum of Natural History’s Blue Whale’s tale is a little bent out of shape over this breakthrough as can be seen from its bitter tweet yesterday.

@NatHistoryWhale on Twitter

Whaling has not occurred in this country for over 100 years, so I hope that @NatHistoryWhale can migrate to a happier place and learn to forgive and forget.

Now that you know that “twitter” is not named after bird sounds but rather a “thick, glutinous, and extremely tough thread-like or membranous and elastic formation from a decapitated sperm whale” I’m sure you’ll want to be part of it. If you join make sure you follow @NatHistoryWhale, @whalingmuseum and me.

In case you want some real Internet reporting on this topic, the great Read Write Web had a comprehensive post on The Story of the Fail Whale – How An Unknown Artist’s Work Became a Social Media Brand Thanks To the Power of Community and Caroline McCarthy covered this story yesterday on cnet’s The Social blog in a post titled Oh, the irony: ‘Twitter’ used to be whaling slang.

Finally, if you’re into whale stuff, and you should be if you read this blog, the New Bedford Whaling Museum launched a blog a few months ago which is pretty awesomely educational. Check out this video which they brought to my attention on the important debate underway about whale education.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POi4rvN_Yts]
YouTube – The Onion: Are Our Children Learning Enough About Whales?

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FotoFriday: New Bedford Whaling Museum by Peter A. Mello

DSC01338

Visited the New Bedford Whaling Museum this afternoon for a quick run through the “Classic Whaling Prints” exhibit that opened today and snapped this cool diorama which is part of the show. If you can get there, check it out.

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