Moby Dick

Automated Vengeance

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal', by Zach Weiner, 20 November 2014.

Coincidence. Synchronicity. I don’t know, God’s will? Hell, why not get mystical, right?

Or is it just that we happened to see the same article as Zach Weiner?

Which would bring us back to coincidence. But, hey, we don’t know.

Question for an interview that will never happen: From conception to posting, about how long does it take you to produce a cartoon? Or is that already answered in a podcast?

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Weiner, Zach. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. 20 November 2014.

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Excessive Pedantry (Either Way)

Detail: Engraving of a sperm whale

There is this joke, see, and it’s not exactly a good one. Rather, it is a barb intended to poke and cut, and comes when one is just being a bit too pedantic: Do you read novels? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … come on, Charlie, it can’t be both!” Don’t laugh. Er, I mean … right. Go ahead and laugh. But take a moment to consider the chuckle and what it is for; you might be amazed how often this point comes up.

Then again, when it is not politics but, merely, a job to keep the roof raised and the cable television connected … oh, wait. We’ve picked on Todd Van Luling before, but then, the pointα still holds.

Scrutinizing the science of Moby-Dick is definitely beside the point, especially because there’s evidence in Herman Melville’s notes that he purposely skewed facts to bolster his story. Melville even wrote a friend saying he embellished things writing, “To cook the thing up, one must needs throw in a little fancy.”

But the rambling scientific musings of the character you’re supposed to call Ishmael are often so maligned by high school and academic readers alike that noting a few places where the facts are all wrong seems a worthwhile exercise. Today, November 14, is the anniversary of the United States release of Moby-Dick, so it’s as good a time as any to knock it down a peg leg.

Here are five scientific inaccuracies in Melville’s masterpiece ....

Yes, really.

It’s a living.

Perhaps it should suffice to say that Moby Dick is a difficult novel to read for any number of reasons, not the least of which would be its length, general verbosity, or glacial pace; and, further, we might remind that not everything is a drinking game. Spotting inaccurate science in a nineteenth century adventure novel is a bit like looking for inaccurate science in science fiction. Where The Odyssey becomes Star Trek, reality warps.

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α That is to say:

Articles like these always recall a curious episode from over a decade ago, before CNN Headline News became the HLN monstrosity you find playing on the flatscreens in a bourgeois McDonald’s. Late autumn, 2003 or so. There’s a war on. The phrase, “I died a little inside”, had not yet risen to fashionable heights. Or maybe it had. A new young reporter gets his first big shot on the air, and he’s stuck doing a report on which sweaters will look best on your small dog during the Christmas season. Which, in turn, is enough to inspire a recollection of the old Wayne Cotter joke about masturbating a fish.

Van Luling, Todd. “5 Scientific Inaccuracies You Didn’t Know Were In ‘Moby-Dick'”. The Huffington Post. 15 November 2014,