Moby Dick Plus Two Shorts

Before I get into the stories I plan to discuss this week, let me take a moment to say that a Coursera class called Cardiac Arrest, Hypothermia, and Resuscitation Science is surprisingly interesting. And useful. For instance did you know there is a reference to CPR in the bible? Did you know that the guidelines changed in 2012 and mouth to mouth may not be necessary? The class may not sound like it belongs in an entertainment column but given the number of medical shows on TV, don't you want to be able to point and laugh when they get resuscitation medicine badly wrong? Class started this week so if you are interested you should be able to catch up without getting super stressed. You can learn more about the class here:

I finally, after months and months, finished Moby Dick. This is a book I have always avoided as I heard it was much to long-winded and technical. It is, a little, but parts of it are much funnier than I expected. I particularly liked the chapters where Ishmael is complaining about terrible representations of whales in art, then moves on to less terrible and finally not too bad. My favorite bit was the description of a painting that showed whales lined up like a log jam, while polar bears frolicked on their backs. I would love to see this phenomenon in person.

I've also always been told Moby Dick is a big metaphor, but I reckon I missed whatever it is. Something to do with God, but whether God is represented by the whale, Ahab the obsessive one legged captain, Ishmael, the ship they sail on or the ocean itself I have no idea. If I learned anything from the book it could be summed by these words – enough with the revenge already. Seriously, if a whale eats your leg, or locusts eat your crops, bullfrogs fall from the sky and damage your new SUV why, why, why would you seek vengeance? I was trying to figure out what the oldest “revenge is a bad idea” story and came up with Cain and Abel. Never chase a whale that eats body parts and never smite your brother just because God is not a vegetarian.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the beginning, with Ishmael meeting and becoming fast friends with Queequeg. Even the parts in the middle that describe everything in excruciating detail are interesting, especially if you were previously unfamiliar with what goes into the slaughter of whales. If you are a supporter of animal rights you will be appalled to know this practice is still going on in parts of the world. It would be nice to read the novel and think everything in it was of historical interest only.

Moby Dick is in the public domain and I got my copy for the Kindle for zero dollars and zero cents.

From the long and complicated I jumped straight to a small and simple story by an author who thrives on long and complicated. Mile 81, a Kindle Single by Stephen King, takes place at a rest area that has been shut down. A boy who longs to be old enough to hang with the big kids investigates the hangout of the real big kids (high school as opposed to middle school), finds a bottle of booze, tries it out, then passes out. While he is unconscious bad things start to happen on the the highway right in front of the rest area. Not surprisingly these things are super scary and mysterious. I enjoyed this story very much, but the ending was kind of fast and somewhat out of the blue. Of course Mr. King has never been the master of excellent endings, so I can't really hold it against him. If you're a fan and you're up for a quick, bumpy ride of a story you could do worse than give this one a shot. As far as I know it's only available at Amazon.

Another short story that entertained is this offering from Strange Horizons. Called Estranged and written by Bruce Holland Rogers, it tells the tale of a divorced couple who go through some significant changes. And by changes I mean that she turns into a toaster shortly after the divorce. Then things go from there. It reminded me a little of Cory Doctorow's Someone Comes to Town Someone Leaves Town, with the character whose mother was a washing machine and whose father was a mountain. Surrealism can be annoying but I loved this story.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is an old chainsawsuit by Kris Straub. It's about the dangers of releasing animals into the wild.