Moby Monday – Have a Whale of a Dickmas

About as much fun as you can have on a whaleshipBreak out the dromedary meat and flip—Dickmas-time is here again! This Saturday, August 1, would have been Herman Melville’s 190th birthday, and ’tis the season to exchange Moby-Dick-themed gifts and re-create the gam feast (basically, a floating party) described in the book’s Chapter 101. The feast features not only “beef” of questionable origin and the alcoholic brew called flip, but “indestructible” dumplings and bread containing “fresh fare”—that is to say, bugs. Yum!

But if you fancy yourself a more modern fan, or simply can’t get your hands on (or your mind around) the gam feast food, there are plenty of other ways to mark the occasion.

D. Graham Burnett, author of Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature, delivers the Melville Society Cultural Project’s Melville Birthday Lecture at the New Bedford Whaling Museum at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 30.

At Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, a Moby-Dick reading marathon aboard the Charles W. Morgan—the world’s last surviving wooden whaleship—kicks off Sea Story Weekend at noon on Friday, July 31. A highlight comes at noon on Saturday, August 1, when singer-songwriter Patrick Shea performs tunes from his song-a-chapter project, Call Me Ishmael.

In Staten Island, the community performance group Staten Island OutLOUD will hold an outdoor reading from Moby-Dick at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 1. The event includes music from the Staten Island Philharmonic Orchestra.

And Arrowhead, the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, house where Melville wrote Moby-Dick, is hosting a Melville’s birthday ice cream social featuring live music and antique croquet from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 1. (If you go to this one, ask Arrowhead why their website’s cobwebby “Other Melville Resources” page doesn’t link to Power Moby-Dick.)

If you’re hosting a Dickmas event you’d like to publicize—or you’d just like to share your own Melville’s-birthday traditions—tell us about it in the comments. Here’s to a splendiferous Dickmas!

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

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.