the first chapter of Moby Dick rewritten in tiresome modern idiom

CHAPTER 1. Loomings.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – it’s none of your business how many – being mostly broke, and bored with the land part of the world, I thought I would sail around a little and look at the watery part of the world. I’m probably the most mentally healthy person you know. Whenever I feel my face getting grim; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself accidentally reading the ads in the window of funeral homes, and following funeral processions through traffic; and especially when I’m hangry, and only my extremely strong moral principles stop me from deliberately going out in public and methodically slapping people’s earbuds out – then I know it’s high time to get to sea, ASAP. This is my substitute for getting in fights. I’m too mentally healthy to kill myself; I quietly and considerately put myself on a ship and sail myself away instead. There is nothing surprising in this. Everyone feels exactly the same way, and if they don’t, they’re lying.

You think I’m lying? Exhibit A: a city. Go to your local coastal city. Everyone is looking at the water. They drive over from other neighborhoods just to come to the water. They make a day of it. They’re not doing anything, they’re just staring at the ocean. Why? Is it because they all work office jobs? No! Here come more of them! They cram themselves up to the edge of the water and stare at it. WHAT DO THEY WANT? WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING AT. Perhaps the ships themselves all packed together, each one with several compasses on it, creates some kind of critical mass – all of the small compass-magnets on all the ships in the harbor combining into one really big magnetic field – and the people get sucked into the field and trapped there. That’s science.

Exhibit 2: the countryside with lakes in it. Every path you follow in the countryside brings you to some water, such as a stream. There is magic in it. If you take your standard fool with ADHD dissociating in the middle of a supermarket and put them outside and give them a shove, they’ll automatically lead you to water (if there is any nearby) (try it). Another good experiment to try is to get lost in the great American desert in a caravan supplied with a metaphysical professor! Try it in the great American desert at home!

Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are a match made in heaven. Married forever. That’s science.

Keep reading

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Here’s an artist who wants to paint you the dreamiest, most enchanting landscape. What does he put in it? Trees, meadow, cows, a cottage with smoke coming from the chimney, obviously. He will probably put a path in it and make lots of triangular mountains in rows and have them be different shades of blue (naturally.) But there’s gotta be a stream in it. Go visit the prairies in June, and wade for forty miles through knee-deep through tiger lilies. What’s missing from this picture? Water!

If Niagara Falls was made of sand instead of water, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why would a guy given a handful of cash have trouble deciding whether to buy a coat (which he needed) or go to the beach? Why are all the best, healthiest, sexiest and most mentally healthy people obsessed with the sea? (You get me.) When you were first on a boat, did you not succumb to VIBES? Consider ancient Persia. Consider ancient Greece. They understood about vibes, and also gods.


And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all! You get me! You understand it now.

Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I get weird, don’t you dare imply that I buy a ticket and get on a boat. I have never had money in my life. How dare you. Anyway I don’t go as a passenger – that’s bougie, and something boring people do. Passengers never have a good time. And although my C.V. is incredible – I go to sea SO MUCH, you guys, I have lots of experience – I don’t go as a boss, or a cook. That sounds like far too much work. Hard work. Disgusting, respectable, bougie, and far too responsible. I can literally only look after myself. Do not ask me to look after ships or shit. In fact, I have only a vague idea of what a ship is. There’s so many different kinds of ships – don’t get me started and DO NOT GET INVOLVED. Also, I’m allergic to glory.

It’s kind of attractive to go as a cook. I mean, I’m allergic to glory and there’s some glory attached to the position of the ship’s cook, but, like, you’re not management-track and so it’s still credible. But I don’t really want to cook (say) roast chicken. I really fucking love to eat roast chicken. I’m one of the best at doing it actually. I really appreciate when people go out of their way to butter, season, baste and roast a chicken for me. Picture a roast chicken and I am Looking Respectfully at it. Maybe something more, maybe I’m worshipping it. Don’t make this weird. If you want to get weird about my relationship with roasted chicken, why aren’t you getting weird about the ancient Egyptians? They ate roasted hippos (look it up) and the pyramids were basically pizza ovens. So it’s pretty hypocritical to think that I’m being weird about roasted chicken when I’ve never made mummies out of chickens or built a religious pizza oven dedicated to honoring them: check and mate, haters.

Anyway – I like to go to sea as a manual laborer. A simple sailor. Salt of the earth… er… sea. Yeah, true: as a job it sucks. They make you jump around, order you around, treat you like shit. They expect you to jump around the boat like a grasshopper. And yes, at first, this sucks. It’s degrading, especially if you come from a middle-class family. Worse, it’s awful if you’ve already had some kind of professional job before signing on to be the dirt on the boss’s boots – like, if you went to college and worked as a teacher and actually got kids to pay attention to you, really feeling this connection to work/teaching/identity or some shit, and now you are just literally the scum on this captain’s boots, in the lowest possible job in the world. It hurts! It hurts your dignity. But the hurt, and also the dignity, both wear off in time.

So what if some old bastard sea captain orders me – ME! – to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, compared to the shit in the Bible, compared to the shit in the news, compared to the shit everyone else has to take. Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t a slave? Tell me that. We’re all just serfs under capitalism, right, so why not just be honest about it: I prefer the honesty. Anyway, however the old sea captains may order me about – slapping and punching of course – I have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s the same experience everyone else on Earth has, but more honest. Everyone else in the world is being served the exact same way. Either in a physical or a metaphysical way – sometimes people get the shit beaten out of them in person, sometimes online, sometimes emotionally, it happens to you in EVERY JOB, you sign on to get pushed around and slapped in the teeth: so the point is that when you’re a sailor, it’s a clean and honest slap. All the workers of the world share the same universal slap to the face that gets passed round, one slap passed all ‘round the chain, like paying it forward, but it’s a slap; and we should all accept this Universal Slap as the price of living, and then offer each other healing back massages, brother to brother, and slap each other and then kissed the places we slapped, and be happy.

I could examine that but I’m not going to.

Anyway: I always go to sea as a sailor. I’ve said that already. You’re welcome. BUT THE POINT IS, they pay you. If you’re a passenger, they don’t pay you, at least, not that I’ve ever heard of [citation needed] (do they pay passengers?? Is there a job I can get where I can be a passenger and get paid?? Look this up.) Yeah so passengers have to pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. (That’s Adam and Eve. You get it.) But BEING PAID. GETTING PAID IS THE BEST. NOTHING COMPARES TO GETTING PAID. EVERYONE LOVES THAT SHIT. Which is surprising, since we also apparently believe that money is the root of all evil, and isn’t there something in the bible about “no rich people can get into heaven,” right? And yet it’s universal, literally everyone loves payday. Ah! How cheerfully we send ourselves to hell.

Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor (I’ve said this already) because it’s FRESH AIR AND EXERCISE. Okay so think about ships. Normally, bosses stand on the “bridge” thing, and because we’re sailing a boat, the nose is going into the wind and the butt part of the boat is at the back. That’s how wind works. But if you think about it, winds usually go in one direction more than other directions (unless the men have been eating beans and farting: it’s Pythagoras, look it up) SO if you’re a boss standing on the boss-deck, the wind is blowing FROM the sailors TOWARDS you, and YOU ARE ACTUALLY BREATHING THE AIR THAT SAILORS ALREADY BREATHED. The boss THINKS he breathes it first, but he doesn’t. He gets the air at the BACK of the boat and sailors get the air at the FRONT. So it’s better to be at the front of the boat (sailor) for health reasons. This is a metaphor for life and work, etc.

But I have smelled the sea lots of times as a paid sailor and WHY I should decide to go on a whaling expedition – ok so you know how there’s an invisible police officer of the Fates who has me under constant surveillance, who secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way? YOU get me. You know him. “The poor FBI agent tasked with reading my search engine history” YOU GET ME. Anyway, “Ishmael, why, after having a perfectly well-reasoned, and very smart of you, part-time job as a spontaneous random sailor, did you decide to escalate that to joining a WHALING EXPEDITION, which is worse in every way?” Well, ask my fucking secret FBI agent, he can answer better than anyone else. Including me. You get me. Also, obviously, this was predestined, part of the Universe’s Grand Programme for its talent show, which was all scheduled way before our time. The concept of sending me on the whaling voyage comes in as a kind of interlude or solo between the main performances of the Universe’s great talent show. I bet it was advertised llike,


Whaling voyage by some guy called Ishmael.


Like a commercial break in between the big acts. A filler episode. Lightens the load for everyone else. Though I can’t explain why the stage managers – the Fates – chose such a shitty role for me, a WHALING VOYAGE of all things, when it feels like others were given magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces – it seems a little unreasonable at first. Why doth Ishmael get shat upon, etc. But then I think about all the circumstances, the plot points and motivations that were cunningly presented to me under various disguises – FBI agents, bouts of random hanger, gay awakenings, you get me – and you can see that actually, I was set up. And worse, between them all, these Fates and Circumstances conspired to make me believe it was all my own choice and good judgment. Is Free Will an illusion? Are my decisions bad? We will NEVER know because I, Ishmael, am just a little guy that the Universe plays head games with.

One of the ways the Universe tricked me into starring in this performance and then mocking me for it was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself (whaling expeditions usually contain whales.) Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then of course, if you have a whale, you have the wild and distant seas where the whale rolls around with his body-the-size-of-an-island; the dangers and nameless perils of the whale; whales are also found in interesting places I haven’t seen; this all tipped me over the edge. Maybe normal people could’ve resisted, but I am tormented with an everlasting itch for obscurity. I hate everyone else’s oceans. I want the forbidden seas.

You know The Horrors? Of course you do. You might be surprised that I, the most mentally healthy person you’ve ever met, a person who is self-aware enough to go to sea when they’re at their fucking limits, a guy who likes fresh air and manual labor and normal things, is familiar with The Horrors. Well, you’d be surprised. I know what’s good, I’m an extrovert. But I’m still quick to perceive The Horrors. And how I deal with the horrors is a very extroverted thing: I’m social with them, if they’ll let me. It’s smart to be on good terms with The Horrors. You should always be on good terms with your permanent neighbors. That’s how extroverts deal with The Horrors, and I recommend it.

I think that’s enough explanation for why I welcomed the whaling voyage. The great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild figments of imagination that pushed me into doing it, the whales came marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah. They marched into my innermost soul in endless processions and occupied it, you see, I was quite helpless under this occupation – I consented to the haunting and the whales marched in to haunt me – and amidst them all was one grand shrouded white phantom, like a snowy mountain in the air.

You get it.

You know how it is, with whales.

(read the actual first chapter of Moby Dick here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm)

this was so amazing i had to go read the first chapter of the original again, and by god did op do an amazing job updating the language while keeping the original meanings.

but in a stunning commentary on united states history and politics, the newspaper headlines DID NOT NEED TO BE CHANGED!


Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States. Whaling Voyage by One Ishmael. Bloody Battle in Afghanistan.

works just as well in 2022 as it did in 1851.

Ah I’m so glad to hear that, thank you! Thank you for noticing that it’s pretty much a line translation! with the headlines I was SO SO tempted to just leave them as they were…


#anything that makes me laugh this much deserves a reblog #Moby Dick #language #suicide cw? #(dude’s got a point tbh) #(when I was about 12 my Girl Scout troop went dolphin-watching off Cape May) #(and the feeling of being on a boat out in the ocean was absolutely euphoric) #(the dolphins were just a bonus)

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