May 24, 2018

"What was America in 1492 but a Loose-Fish, in which Columbus struck the Spanish standard by way of waifing it for his royal master and mistress?"

"What was Poland to the Czar? What Greece to the Turk? What India to England? What at last will Mexico be to the United States? All Loose-Fish. What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men's minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?"

From Chapter 89 "Moby-Dick" — "Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish" — which I'm reading this morning because of one of the best comments I've ever read on this blog, written by Left Bank of the Charles, on a post about an article in Slate in which a man complains about the difficulty making money by picking up and recharging the electric scooters of Santa Monica.

(The earlier post gives you a longer passage from "Moby-Dick" and the connection to the electric scooter problem, but new comments would be better on this new post.)

35 comments:

gilbar said...

i suppose someone will say: The Indians had already waifed america
but!
"so long as the party waifing it plainly evince their ability at any time to take it alongside, as well as their intention so to do...."

after the smallpox; WHAT ABILITY did they have to take it alongside?
If a country is conveniently free of people; thanks to the prior inhabitants being So Foolish as to not be resistant to disease.... It's a Free Fish

traditionalguy said...

Lose fish have guns and lawyers that keep them lose from the nets of fishermen. Fast fish are registered owned fish who have a FaceBook dossier kept on them and allow brands/tattoos on them showing whose fish they are.

The Messiah liked to tell his men that he would make them Fishers of Men.

Rockeye said...

Egad,Moby Dick. A boat lowers away and spends a terrifying night lost in fog with certain death looming. One half-page. Why evil things that are the color white are more badder than really evil things of other hues: eleven excruciating pages. Luckily editors were eventually invented.

Henry said...

Flotsam and Jetsam awaits its moment.

Loren W Laurent said...

Loose fish sink ships.

-LWL

Caldwell Titcomb IV said...

What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish?

Inquiring minds want to know - something to do with Abu Dhabi prostitutes?

EDH said...

All of which raises the question: Did Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald view Scooter Libby as a Fast Fish or a Loose Fish?

tim in vermont said...

I’m not commenting because I am jealous.

Ficta said...

Apparently I've listened to Frank Muller's amazing unabridged reading of Moby Dick so many times that I now hear his voice if I read it. Which is fine with me; it's the performance of a lifetime. If you think Moby Dick is a slog, try listening to Muller read it, it becomes very entertaining.

Bob said...

^ I second the vote for Muller's recording. It's a masterpiece.

Sebastian said...

To Dems, American voters are Loose Fish.

Bob said...

The prodigious Trump is both ubiquitous and immortal:

Forced into familiarity, then, with such prodigies as these; and knowing that after repeated, intrepid assaults, the White Whale had escaped alive; it cannot be much matter of surprise that some whalemen should go still further in their superstitions; declaring Moby Dick not only ubiquitous, but immortal (for immortality is but ubiquity in time); that though groves of spears should be planted in his flanks, he would still swim away unharmed; or if indeed he should ever be made to spout thick blood, such a sight would be but a ghastly deception; for again in unensanguined billows hundreds of leagues away, his unsullied jet would once more be seen.

Roger Sweeny said...

A modern economy can't run like that. It requires people to feel deeply and strongly, "That looks like a loose-fish but it is actually a fast-fish. I must leave it be. To take it would be robbery and wrong."

The failure to have that feeling is a major reason for Russia's economic problems (and a good deal of the rest of the world, for that matter).

The Cracker Emcee Rampant said...

No wonder all the Hindus know the score...

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Sebastian said...

To Dems, American voters are Loose Fish.

The Democrats and the establishment Republicans saw the white working class as Fast Fish, claimed by the Democrats. Trump ignored that claim and succeeded in winning them over. Or at least enough of them to make a difference.

Carter Wood said...

Sweden is, of course, Swedish fish.

Daniel Jackson said...

Ah, the Master of American Letters: grumpy Herman Melville. How I adore him and have great respect for those who also follow the Way of Ishmael.

However, we would all do well to read The Loomings, or Chapter One. Relevant to us all is why Ishmael (we are all like the Jack Ass character of the Bible with all hands turned against us) ALWAYS ships as a common sailor:

"Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breathes it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonalty lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it. But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way—he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme (sic) of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

'"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
'"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL."
'"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN (sic)."'

"Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces—though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgments."

My father was a Master Mariner of All Vessels, All tonnage, All Oceans, as well as a curator of maritime transportation at the Smithsonian. Me. I shipped as an Ordinary Seaman with a 100 ton inland license and am better for it.

Daily I thank God the Old Man made me memorize chapter one of Moby Dick and thumped me when I made a mistake.

There is a lot to say for Moby Dick and half a page about a lifeboat lost in fog is not nearly enough.

Quaestor said...

I was raised on Moby Dick. Before I could read my mom read to me from a condensed version of the story chapter by chapter. I can still remember her version of Queequeg voice, which she imagined to be like that of a talking bear. Later as a grade school kid, I tried to tackle the real thing borrowed from the public library, but I got frustrated with the jargon. Mom lent me her copy which she had annotated while studying the novel in an American Lit. class.

According to her notes, a "waif" was in whaling parlance a small pennant attached to the shaft of the lance used to kill a whale. Before they almost went extinct the Right whale was the preferred prey of most whaling expeditions because the animal would float high in the water after death. Normal practice was to kill several whales, claim ownership with an attached pennant, the waif, and return later to process the bodies.

Big Mike said...

Someone tell Melville that a whale is not a fish.

Quaestor said...

Why evil things that are the color white are more badder than really evil things of other hues: eleven excruciating pages.

A number of horror writers took some lessons from Melville, Lovecraft among them. William Hope Hodgson is another. One of his books is called The Boats of the Glen Carrig, a novel written in direct imitation of Melville's style in Moby Dick. Hodgson's story concerns a group of shipwreck survivors in several boats who make landfall on an uncharted island inhabited by monsters, including bloodsucking trees and gelatinous white aquatic humanoids. It turns out that Hodgson's title and theme have been borrowed by a German "doom funeral" metal band (yet another sub-category of the heavy metal genre? whoda thunk it?) called Ahab — yep those krauts know the score about Moby Dick, and they don't even read English as a native language.

gilbar said...

Someone tell Melville that a whale is not a fish.
many people Did, he disagrees


" First: The uncertain, unsettled condition of this science of Cetology is in the very vestibule attested by the fact, that in some quarters it still remains a moot point whether a whale be a fish. In his System of Nature, A.D. 1776, Linnaeus declares, “I hereby separate the whales from the fish.” But of my own knowledge, I know that down to the year 1850, sharks and shad, alewives and herring, against Linnaeus’s express edict, were still found dividing the possession of the same seas with the Leviathan.

The grounds upon which Linnaeus would fain have banished the whales from the waters, he states as follows: “On account of their warm bilocular heart, their lungs, their moveable eyelids, their hollow ears, penem intrantem feminam mammis lactantem,” and finally, “ex lege naturae jure meritoque.” I submitted all this to my friends Simeon Macey and Charley Coffin, of Nantucket, both messmates of mine in a certain voyage, and they united in the opinion that the reasons set forth were altogether insufficient. Charley profanely hinted they were humbug.

Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old fashioned ground that the whale is a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me. This fundamental thing settled, the next point is, in what internal respect does the whale differ from other fish. Above, Linnaeus has given you those items. But in brief they are these: lungs and warm blood; whereas, all other fish are lungless and cold blooded."

wwww said...



I love that book.

Cozy Classics sells a board book for babies. Hilarious. Moby Dick in 12 words.

Captain Leg Mad

Bob said...

> "Why evil things that are the color white are more badder than really evil things of other hues: eleven excruciating pages."

But in a matter like this, subtlety appeals to subtlety, and without imagination no man can follow another into these halls.

Quaestor said...

W. H. Hodgson wrote a passel of macabre fiction of a nautical nature, which makes his service as an infantry officer in WWI unusual. Perhaps he found the land less terrifying than the sea. In any event, he died in a German artillery barrage in 1918.

John Orzechowski said...

In reference to the earlier quoted passage from Moby Dick:
Excorcists cannot be elected to Congress because possession is nine tenths of the law.

Teller said...

A lovely companion to Melville is Clifford Ashley's masterful Book of Knots, particularly his description of the pressure on the boatswain to properly craft the essential tool for an execution at sea: "The noose is always adjusted with the knot slightly below and immediately in back of the left ear. This is to provide a sidewise jerk, which is one of the refinements of a successful hanging."

Ralph L said...

I bet the guys in the pickups hoard the Birds until the fee goes up.

If Bird shuts down at 9 pm, how do the drunks get home, or do they fear liability problems?

James K said...

To Dems, American voters are Loose Fish.

No, to Dems, illegals and would-be immigrants are Loose-Fish. Blacks and single women are Fast-Fish.

Anthony said...

Now I know why I’m reading it again

Char Char Binks said...

A Fast-Fish is also a Slow-Fish.

gerry said...

Loose fish sink ships.

Brilliant!

Zach said...

I love the discussion of fast fish vs loose fish, but you have to admit, a scooter in the back of a guy's pickup truck is a fast fish if there ever was one:

First: What is a Fast- Fish? Alive or dead a fish is technically fast, when it is connected with an occupied ship or boat, by any medium at all controllable by the occupant or occupants, - a mast, an oar, a nine-inch cable, a telegraph wire, or a strand of cobweb, it is all the same. Likewise a fish is technically fast when it bears a waif, or any other recognised symbol of possession; so long as the party waifing it plainly evince their ability at any time to take it alongside, as well as their intention so to do.

Zach said...

Rereading Left Bank of the Charles's post, I see he reached the same conclusion as me. Apologies for not reading his comment first.

mikee said...

I like the idea of the waif, a marker that the thing has been claimed and the claimant is in possession, even though the claimant isn't there right now.

The company needs to make it possible to mark the scooters with a waif upon collection by the pickup truck guys, to determine if they are recharging or just kidnapping the scooters.

Bad Lieutenant said...

What they need is scooters that will drive themselves home, or to the nearest charging station. Can't be that far off.