Moby-Monday: Alec Baldwin on Moby-Dick

Last week, Tom Beer of Newsday quizzed actor Alec Baldwin on his love for Moby-Dick…and then the paper stowed the interview behind a paywall, more’s the pity. Here’s a (hopefully) fair-use excerpt:

Q: What does Moby-Dick have to say to us today?
A: We still live in a world where men are led by other men. And those men, the followers, have trouble distinguishing the membrane between the leader’s passion and his neurosis. You’re onboard that ship and you know that Ahab’s your man and you want to go get this whale, and then you find out the hard way that maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Well, isn’t that [Enron’s] Jeffrey Skilling? Wasn’t it a white whale he was after?

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

Moby Monday — Remind you of anyone?

French designer Jean-Marie Massaud has proposed a helium "manned cloud"—a floating 20-room hotel—that bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain white sperm whale.

Cruising for days at 100 miles per hour “permits man to explore the world without a trace,” Massaud’s website states: “to experience spectacular and exotic places without being intrusive or exploitative.” So, pretty much what Ahab was going for—except for that last bit.

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

Moby Monday — Considerable Horizon

“It’s irresistible to make the analogy between the relentless hunt for whale oil in Melville’s day and for petroleum in ours,” scholar Andrew Delbanco recently told the New York Times. Moby-Dick is “a story about self-destruction visited upon the destroyer—and the apocalyptic vision at the end seems eerily pertinent to today.”

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

Moby Monday — So much for monomania

Comic strip artist Zach Weiner has done it again. In a 10-panel Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip, Weiner imagines Ahab getting an unwelcome answer to his standard greeting, “Hast seen the white whale?”

“Yes! Killed him!” replies a jolly fellow captain—turning a timeless, dramatic quest for vengeance into more of a shaggy-dog story.

In an earlier strip, Weiner spares the whale, but allows a de-armed captain (possibly that of the Samuel Enderby) to offer Ahab a little perspective. “Oh, it ate your leg,” he says calmly. “That’s pretty bad. Of course, it ate my arm.”

“Well, a leg’s pretty bad,” Ahab responds. “Actually, a leg’s worse.”

“Not really,” the first captain says. But hey, he adds—if you feel some crazy need to avenge the loss of your leg, “Go for it!”

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

Moby Monday — A few minor adjustments

My friend, I give you perhaps the world’s first movie tie-in: a 1925 edition of Moby-Dick illustrated with stills from the John Barrymore silent-movie version, The Sea Beast. Slight problem—the film takes dazzling liberties with Herman Melville’s novel, giving young Ahab an evil half-brother, Derek, who pushes him into the jaws of the white whale that shears off his leg. Ahab also gets a love interest, Esther, but after said shearing, Derek convinces Ahab that she could never truly love a one-legged man. (One photo bears the caption, “Sensitive of his crippled condition, Ahab interprets her love as pity and self-sacrifice.”) Ahab ends things with Esther, sets off in search of the whale he blames for ruining his life … and kills it.

“In story, the screen version of Moby-Dick exceeds the book,” writes S.R. Buchman in an “Appreciation” that precedes Melville’s Derek- and Esther-free text. “The discrepancy between the two must not be considered as a profanely wanton alteration. The episode of the book has not been misused; it has been enlarged and clarified.” And Melville’s ending provides an “unreasonably cruel fate” for Ahab, Buchman complains. “In all justice, Ahab had suffered enough to be granted expiation and its rewards, but Melville killed him.” What a blunder! “It is a relief and satisfaction that the picture version allows Ahab to live,” Buchman concludes. I can think of at least one whale who might take issue with that.

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

Moby Monday — Studious Digesting of Beer

Dutch brewer Ramses Bier makes a wheat beer named after Moby Dick. According to a handy Babelfish translation, it’s “a zest Munich” style beer with “notige an aftertaste.” Proost!

Closer to home, Bluegrass Brewing Company of Louisville, Kentucky recently concocted a “white” (actually reddish-gold) porter called Melby Dick, named after Herman Melville’s novel and a brewing-company marketing staffer. One reviewer deemed it “terrific,” but unfortunately the brew was made only in a limited edition.

So if you’re in the mood for a frosty whale-related beverage (and there’s no flip on hand), consider Cisco Brewers’ Whale’s Tale Pale Ale or North Coast Brewery’s tasty Scrimshaw pilsener. Then all you’ll need will be an abominable tumbler etched with measuring lines, to be sure you’re getting the full Cape Horn portion.

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