Moby Monday — Ishmael Tweets You Back

Your new pen-pal?
First came Moby-Dick as a Twitter feed. Then came a newspaper piece that reimagined the novel as a series of tweets from its narrator, Ishmael: “We’re all having a ‘whale of a time’ here! (That’s right, I WENT THERE. Sue me!)”

Last week, Thomas Watson of New Orleans went all 2.0 on the concept with TweetMeIshmael, a Twitter feed in Ishmael’s 19th-century voice. Not only does this Ishmael note his key observations as tweets, but he responds in character to Twitter users who @reply to him (by typing “@TweetMeIshmael” at the beginning of a post). Here’s a convo about Chapter 16:

TweetMeIshmael Yojo, Q’s little black god, has tasked me with finding a whaleship. Three suitable ships in harbor: Devil-Dam, Tit-Bit, and Pequod.

jmsullivan @TweetMeIshmael Go with Tit-Bit! Tit-Bit! Come on, how can that not be a fun ship?

TweetMeIshmael Laughing aloud! RT @jmsullivan “Go with Tit-Bit! Tit-Bit! Come on, how can that not be a fun ship?”

TweetMeIshmael Learned a/b Pequod: owners (Peleg, Bildad); captain (pegleg Ahab)

jmsullivan @TweetMeIshmael Pretty sure those are names of Assyrian demons. Would be _very_ wary of this ship. Sounds ominous. What was wrong w Tit Bit?

TweetMeIshmael @jmsullivan Then Yojo shall have some company. re Tit-Bit: Its seaworthiness concerned me. What chance has a tit-bit against a spermaceti?

Watson, who is reading the book on his Blackberry, first thought of the feed as a way to take notes on author Herman Melville’s turns of phrase. Surprisingly, this will be his first time through the book—if he makes it through. Watson read part of the long, dense narrative during one summer vacation and always intended to finish, but it wasn’t until he picked up Nathaniel Philbrick’s nonfiction masterpiece In the Heart of the Sea recently that he felt ready. Philbrick’s gloss on the lives of Nantucket whalers “filled in a lot of the gaps I’d had,” Watson writes. “If I were a teacher, I’d make In the Heart of the Sea required reading before Moby-Dick.”

At press time, 30 Twitter users were following TweetMeIshmael. Watson plans to post at least one tweet for each of the book’s 135 chapters, though he may post more as time and inspiration allow. “If this little project helps me finish Moby-Dick, I’ll consider it a success,” he writes. “If a few dozen people enjoy Ishmael’s missives in their Twitter feed, so much the better!”

Margaret Guroff is editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick. She tweets about artistic responses to Moby-Dick at twitter.com/powermobydick.

Moby Monday – The Musical Monomania of Patrick Shea

At work they call him "Mr. Shea"
While you were doing whatever the heck you’ve been doing the past 10 months—working? watching pug videos on YouTube? who can remember?—Brooklyn sixth-grade teacher Patrick Shea has been cranking out whaling tunes. Specifically, he has been writing one song per week, each based on a chapter of Moby-Dick.

Shea—who is also the frontman for the pop band The New Fantastics—posts these songs to his blog, Call Me Ishmael. Last week he announced that the first 19 of them were available as a digital download. For just $5, you get the close vocal harmonies of “The Specksynder”; the counterintuitively danceable “The Lee Shore”; “The Counterpane” waltz; and many more. The perfect(ly affordable) gift for the music fan on your Dickmas* list!

Shea says he came up with the idea for the blog last summer, when his two vacation goals of reading Moby-Dick and writing one song per day eventually combined. He has posted 39 songs so far, which means that he ought to be done with the book’s 135 chapters (plus epilogue) in another couple of years. About the same amount of time, total, as your average 19th-century whaling expedition.

*August 1, Herman Melville’s birthday

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

Moby Monday — Call Me Ish-Meow

The whale-riding scene has been cut from most editionsFans of LOLCats—the barely literate, photo-caption-writing felines of I Can Has Cheezburger—will enjoy a new edition of Moby-Dick compiled by blogger Debra at She Who Seeks. Using other people’s LOLCats images, Debra presents a clever four-panel version of the story. One quibble: the condensation omits the book’s cetology material completely. (Or maybe that’s a good thing?)

The Internet is surprisingly light on LOLWhales, but they do exist. Here’s one of a whale defying gravity—and apologizing for it. The spelling is particularly atrocious … but then, it’s not a sperm whale, so what do you expect?

Visitors to the Cheezburger site can upload images and write their own captions for free. Just an FYI, in case you have an LOLMobyDick inside you, dying to come out.

•••

Good work, Team Whale. After trailing Black Beauty during much of the 45-day polling period, Moby Dick surged ahead to win the Guardian (UK) online vote for “best performance by an animal” in a work of classic literature.

The final score was 35.2% for Moby Dick to 33.3% for Black Beauty, with Buck from The Call of the Wild, the bear from A Winter’s Tale, and Jip from David Copperfield trailing far behind. Victory is sweet!

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

Moby Monday – Dickmas Comes but Once a Year

Just keep it away from your legYou may think you don’t know anyone who needs a Moby Dick hat. But have you seen this Moby Dick hat? Hand crocheted by a teen crafter who sells her wares under the name WhatsEatinYou, the cap comes pre-harpooned for the wearer’s safety and convenience. I found it on Etsy.com, the online handcrafts superstore, a location packed with potential for Dickmas—the traditional Herman Melville’s birthday celebration on August 1—in case you aren’t yet finished with your shopping for this year.

No whales were harmed in the making of this feltidermySadly, someone snapped up this cruelty-free “feltidermy” Moby Dick trophy head almost as soon as it was posted on Etsy by crafter girlsavage last week. But there are lots of other options. Who could resist a Moby-Dick GYOTAKU, a fish printed onto a page of everyone’s favorite metaphysical novel by artist Barry Singer? Or a stunning map of the voyage of the Pequod by printmaker Kathleen Piercefield—whose own website, by the way, offers a slew of other Moby Dick prints, including the haunting Pip: Alone. Have a look around; you might find the perfect item for your own Dickmas list.

Some commentators rue how commercialized Herman Melville’s birthday has become, but I personally prefer the gift exchange to earlier forms of observance, including the ritual donning of the cassock.

Happy shopping!

•••••

There are only four more days of voting left in the Guardian (UK) poll that pits Moby Dick (an asskicking sea monster) against Black Beauty (a talking horse). While the whale did pull ahead last month after we first mentioned the poll on Sea-Fever, he is currently once again losing to the horse by a hair—and whales don’t even have hair.

If you didn’t vote before, won’t you take a minute to put our boy over the top in this thing? Hint: your friends can vote, too.

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

Moby-Monday: A big honking book in tiny poems

I will write haiku / without "Call me Ishmael" / e'en if it kills me!
You might think nothing could be more antithetical to Herman Melville’s sprawling Moby-Dick than haiku, the compressed Japanese form that was the salvation of every “write a poem” assignment in school: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, and time for lunch. But where there’s an idea, there’s a haiku about it on the Internet.

In the case of the white whale, online haiku abound. Here’s one by Dan Higgins, a reader of the Albany (NY) Times Union newspaper:

Call me Ishmael
Then we will go whale hunting
‘Til the thing kills us.

A darker version showed up on muruch.com last week:

Call me Ishmael.
Ahab’s white whale heart of Hell.
Obsessed depths of death.

The king of Moby-Dick haiku, though, is Moby-Dick in Haiku, a hilarious 15-part retelling by the genius behind MadHaiku.com. Here’s chapter one:

Call me Ishmael
a white boy from Manhatto
I’m not really gay!

Noticing a pattern? There are other Moby-Dick haiku out there … and they all seem to start the same way. Do you think Melville wrote that famous first line in five syllables on purpose?

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

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Moby-Monday: Let’s Beat a Dead Horse!

Artist's rendering with baleen whaleWe all know Moby Dick is a badass—the erstwhile Badass of the Week, in fact. He can crush a wooden whaleship with his wrinkled brow. But can he crush Black Beauty? This is the question raised by a poll running on the Guardian (UK) website through the first week of July.

Along with Moby Dick, contenders for “Best Performance by an Animal” in the newspaper’s literary poll include Buck, the half-St. Bernard, half-Scotch-Shepherd dog from Jack London’s The Call of the Wild; the unnamed bear from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale; and lapdog Jip from Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield. But it’s the autobiography-writing horse in Black Beauty who is currently giving everyone’s favorite cetacean a run for his money. In fact, the horse has been leading by a nose since the poll started a couple weeks back, albeit by just a dinky horse nose, not a mighty sperm whale’s.

Seriously: The terrifying freakish embodiment of God, death, nature, vengeance, or [insert true meaning of Moby Dick here] is up against a talking horse … and the horse is winning? Something is wrong here, my friend. Will you help make it right?

“Horse and Whale,” by Marilyn Burkhardt, used with the artist’s permission.

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

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