The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Crack fellows all #3

...crack fellows all, and capital from boot-heels to hat-band.
                                                                                       - Chapter 101

Shoko at MDM16

I'd be surprised to see Shoko at MDM17. When I met her at MDM16, she was on a one-year sabbatical from a "small, private university" in Japan, where she teaches "American culture." She asked the Friday-night panel of scholars about Fedallah as an Asian stereotype, but the format of "Stump the Scholars" didn't permit a full exploration of the issue. Pity.

After five months in Buffalo, Shoko was on her way to NYU. She was looking forward to meeting her son in New York.

It was Shoko who hipped me to the Frederick Douglass Marathon — Thank You and Best of Luck to you and your family!

(Details of the 2013 Frederick Douglass Marathon will be posted in January.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A four-letter word to the wise

courtesy of ksbuehler
Buried in today's newsletter from the Whaling Museum was this note:
Food and beverages will be sold on site to keep you well-fed and hydrated.
That four-letter word, "sold," marks a change from previous Marathons, where chowder dinners were served at 6 P.M., and snacks and coffee/tea/cider were available through the night — all, generously, free of charge. My guess would be that this change is due to the loss of the grant from the Department of Education. We'll have to wait till the MDM for the details.

Mind you, I'm not criticizing the museum for this change. To quote Tom Waits, "things are tough all over." Just a heads-up to returning marathoners to bring some extra cash (or your own snacks).

Get Ready!

MDM17 is just two weeks away!

Check out this post from last year for the what/where/how of the Moby-Dick Marathon.

At present, the New Bedford Marriott has vacancies for Marathon weekend. If you can't make it in person, watch the video stream, live from noon Saturday until about 1 P.M. Sunday.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Restoration of the Charles W. Morgan

Charles W. Morgan
courtesy of Ian.macky
Built in 1841, the Charles W. Morgan is the world's oldest surviving merchant vessel (according to Wikipedia), and the world's last wooden whaleship. Since 1941, "she" has been in the care of Mystic Seaport.

Restoration of the Morgan's framing and planking began in 2008. The plan is to relaunch the Morgan in July, 2013. Read about the work at the Preservation magazine website.

Another hat-tip to brother T.!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Crack fellows all #2

...crack fellows all, and capital from boot-heels to hat-band.
                                                                                       - Chapter 101

Larry & sons at MDM16

Bleary-eyed at the end of MDM16
Interesting guy, Larry. A psychiatrist on Long Island, he drove up with his sons, Eric and Brian, for their second (at least) Marathon. If you stayed for the entire reading, you heard his "New Yawk" accent at the podium, and saw the trio in their sleeping bags in the wee hours.

If you've ever wondered about the motivations of Ahab, Ishmael, or any of the others, talk to Dr. Larry. He's given M-D a lot of thought. (His take on the Town Ho story is that it's a mirror image of the story of the Pequod and its crew.)

As a psychiatrist, Larry is equipped to illuminate aspects of M-D the rest of us might overlook. Have you ever thought about Ahab's mother? She's mentioned once (Chapter 16), but the Doctor finds clues there that explain Ahab's later-life "issues."

If you see Dr. Larry, Eric, and Brian at MDM17, say hi.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crack fellows all

...crack fellows all, and capital from boot-heels to hat-band.
                                                                                       - Chapter 101

Rhonda at MDM16

I bumped into Rhonda in the break room a bit before dawn. She was agitated, excited; nervously paging through the M-D chapter she expected to read. (Such expectations are rarely met, due to the differences in speed and quality of the readers who precede you, and the judgement of the volunteer "officer of the watch" then on duty.)

Rhonda is a local textile artist with her studio in New Bedford. She's also a fan of Nathaniel Philbrick. After years working in the city, she thought she'd take a shot at the Marathon. She had never read M-D, but prepared by listening to the book on tape (repeatedly) while working.

If you see Rhonda at MDM17, say hi.

BTW, her reading was just fine.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kendall Collection 2001.100.2658

This decrepit bench on display in the Whaling Museum caught my eye. I showed the photo to brother T. and he identified it immediately: a sailmaker's bench!

T. worked at Hood Sailmakers back in the 80's when they had offices in Marblehead, MA. He was in the "handwork" department then, crafting and repairing sails in a large, open "sail loft" overlooking an arm of the harbor. The photos show the back of the bench, he explained. You sit with your legs opposite the bags of parts and supplies, your tools (mallet, fids, probers, awl,...) in the tray/holes at your right, needles stuck into that chunk of wood at the end. In front of your bench you'd have your "block," a large, free-standing piece of wood. The block functioned like an anvil for tasks like punching holes in sails to sew in rings.

courtesy: Elgewen
Each handworker had a "palm" to push a needle through multiple layers of sailcloth. T. had a hard-to-find left-handed palm. (He still has pain at the base of his left thumb.)

T. was working at the tail end of the tail end of the golden age of handwork. Computer-guided laser cutters were just coming in when the Marblehead loft closed. Until then there were after-work rum libations at Maddie's, and Friday afternoon keggers in the parking lot. Each December, workers scoured the loft for trashed metal parts to sell to the ironmonger — proceeds were used to decorate the loft's Christmas tree with mini bottles of booze. Ah, how comforting are the holiday traditions!