Friday, February 7, 2014

A Theme Decidedly Nautical

What I'm Listening To: Sea shanties. The majority of my playlist came from good compatriot Steven Molonyactor, barbarian, Black Flag owner – and originated themselves off the latter's immense library of same. These, I've whittled down to several choice favorites (Randy Dandy Oh and Running Down to Cuba among them) and added a few other selections (Barrett's Privateers and Blood Red Roses, mainly). Barrett's Privateers has probably emerged as my favorite, contingent on the fact that it falls nicely within my baritone range. Both the missus and the neighbors are mystified/annoyed at how impossible to dislodge the song's become from my brain.

What I'm Reading: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. I was lucky enough to stumble upon The Big Read, which contains chapters read by such luminaries as Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch and even China Mieville. While most of the chapters are read by literature professors and legitimate boat captains, some of the more famous passages seem to be targeted – Stephen Fry read the "married to Queequeg" chapter, China Mieville read the "Squid" chapter. The ultimate irony was achieved with Sir David Attenborough reading "Does the Whale Decrease in Magnitude", about how the whale will never go extinct. (adjusts collar)

On the whole, however, I'm really appreciating the book. Sure, I, like every other sane human, get pretty glassy-earred around the long-winded and inaccurate to boot factoids about whale skulls, whaling and the nobility of same, but I find myself in the reveling in the absurdly long sentences, actively wishing for more Ahab and basking the general seafaring nature of the book. I think there's a sailor somewhere in my feeble, overfed frame.

What I'm Watching: Vikings on The History Channel. Enjoyable enough historical fiction, the show's infinitely improved by its network, surprisingly. While not tremendously accurate, there are tons of small homages or references to the actual historical civilization that wouldn't have been highlighted were the show premiering on a more mainstream station. There's a discussion of Viking nautical techniques, monks speaking Old English, Northumbria as a primary antagonist and even the classic "three-shield" trial by combat at one point. Stick to interesting factoids about longships and shieldmaidens, Vikings. Avoid, at all costs, your lame duck attempts to feature courtly intrigue. You're no Game of Thrones and everybody can tell.

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