Monday, February 8, 2016

The Mahabharata: The Burning of the House of Lac

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Mahabharata: a Book Report, in which I'm slowly reading through the Hindu epic poem The Mahabharata, and writing a book report on what I read. 

After the death of Pandu, his brother Dhrtarastra (the blind king) took the throne of Hastinapura.  His son, the wicked and conniving Duryodhana, heard rumors that Pandu’s son Yudhisthira was favored to become the next king.  Fearing a loss of power, Duryodhana hatched an evil plan to get rid of Yudhisthira and the Pandavas.  He persuaded his father to send the Pandavas away to a city called Varanavata.

Meanwhile, Duryodhana had one of his father’s ministers build a house out of Lac (an extremely flammable material) for the Pandavas to live in.  The plan was to burn them alive.  Thankfully, the Pandavas learned of Duryodhana’s evil scheme and built a secret shelter of escape should their house burn down.

One evening, the house was set ablaze, and the Pandavas escaped.  Ironically, the minister who’d built the house of lac perished in the flames.  Word reached Hastinapura that the Pandavas had died in the fire.  Meanwhile, the five princes and their mother Kunti went into exile.


Moby Dick Ch. 53: The Gam

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.

This chapter describes an activity that happens when two whale-ships meet on the open ocean.  They have a “gam” which Melville defines in this way:

GAM. Noun—A social meeting of two (or more) whale-ships, generally on a cruising ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boat’s crews: the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.

This cordial meeting is unique to whale-ships.  Other types of sea craft (including pirate ships, men-of-war, merchant vessels, and slave ships) tend to have more standoffish and hostile relationships with their fellow sea-farers.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 50: Ahab’s Boat and Crew - Fedallah

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.

In this chapter, Ishmael points out how unusual it was for Ahab, the captain of the ship, to have his own small boat, harpooneer, and crew.  In most cases, the captain’s life was seen as too valuable to risk in such direct contact with whales.  This was even more true in Ahab’s case because he was handicapped, having a false leg.  This is why Ahab secretly conscripted Fedallah and the other mysterious crewmen, because the owners of the ship would never have approved it.  It was simply too risky for a captain to be commanding a harpoon boat.  What if he were killed?

Ishmael describes Fedallah, Ahab’s harpooneer, in this way: “One cannot sustain an indifferent air concerning Fedallah.  He was such a creature as civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their dreams, that that but dimly.”


The Mahabharata: A Tournament

The following is from a work-in-progress called The Mahabharata: a Book Report, in which I'm slowly reading through the Hindu epic poem The Mahabharata, and writing a book report on what I read.  

Both the Kauravas and the Pandavas were taught martial arts by a master named Drona.  The best of the warrior-princes was Arjuna.  After the princes finished their training, Drona arranged a tournament to demonstrate his pupils' skills.  The first match was between Duryodhana (eldest of the Kauravas) and Bhima (strongest of the Pandavas).  However, before they could fight, the crowd became so divided and unruly that Drona called off the match, fearing a riot.

To satisfy the unruly audience, Arjuna gave a demonstration of his amazing skills, particularly as an archer.  As the prince was wowing the crowd with his impressive bowmanship, he was interrupted by the sound of an arm beating against a chest.  Who should appear, but Karna, half-brother of Arjuna, son of the Sun god and Kunti!  Karna was a large and impressive warrior, and he challenged Arjuna to a fight, saying, "Son of Kunti, whatever you have done, I shall outdo it before the eyes of all these men!"  Sensing an opportunity, the wicked Duryodhana forged an alliance with Karna.  Then the two great heroes prepared to duke it out.

As they prepared to fight, there was a corresponding conflict in the heavens.  Indra, the god who'd partially incarnated himself in Arjuna, created lighting, thunder, and rainbows.  The sun god, who'd partially incarnated himself in Karna, burned away the clouds of Indra.  And so, in this earthy conflict between Arjuna and Karna, there was a corresponding conflict in the sky between Indra and the sun god.

Meanwhile, Kunti, the mother of both warriors, fainted and was revived by Vidura the wise.  This was a lose-lose situation for her.  Kunti "gazed at her two sons in their armor, and she grieved." 

At this point, a guy named Krpa announced that, before fighting the prince Arjuna, Karna must prove that he is royalty.  Because he was unable to do so, Duryodhana intervened and proclaimed Karna king of a region called Anga.  In gratitude, Karna pledged his loyalty to Duryodhana forever.  Bad choice, Karna.  Then Karna's earthly father showed up, basically demonstrating that Karna was not, in fact royalty.  Bhima thought this was hilarious, and proceeded to insult Karna.  Duryodhana argued that the true source of kingship was not in birth--a fairly radical idea.

Basically, the tournament never really happened.  Everyone got into an argument about the qualities of kingship, and then the sun went down and everyone went home.  Meanwhile, the kingdom of Hastinapura was increasingly divided between the supporters of the Pandavas and the supporters of the Kauravas.  A conflict was brewing.





Moby Dick Ch. 52: The Albatross

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.

In this chapter, the Pequod encounters another whaling ship called the Albatross, which has been out at sea for a long time, and is heading home to Nantucket.  The ship and crew look weather-beaten and weary: “This craft was bleached like the skeleton of a stranded walrus.”  As the two ships approach one another, Ahab calls out, “Ship ahoy!  Have ye seen the white whale?”  But the wind and weather are too loud and stormy, and Ahab cannot hear the other captain’s response.  Ahab calls again to the ship: “Ahoy there!  This is the Pequod, bound round the world!  Tell them (back in Nantucket) to address all future letters to the Pacific Ocean!”

And then Ishmael, as he is wont to do, ponders the idea of sailing round the world and how it’s a metaphor for the futility of all human endeavors: “Round the world!  There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct?  Only though numberless perils to the very point whence we started…were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we cold for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage.  But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or another, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round glob, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.”

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Moby Dick Ch. 51: The Spirit-Spout

The following is from a work-in-progress called "Moby Dick: a Book Report" in which I read each chapter of Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick, and write about what I read.

One evening, as the Pequod was sailing, Fedallah (Ahab's mysterious harpooner), spotted a silvery jet, like the spouting of  whale.  But this was no ordinary jet: "Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea."  Upon approaching it, however, nothing was seen.  It was like a mirage of whale-spout, a "spirit-spout."  This mysterious vision was seen quite often, around midnight.  The sailors began to believe that it was spouted by Moby-Dick, though the whale had not been seen. 

When the Pequod rounded the Cape of Good Hope, it entered stormy seas: "And heaved and heaved, still unrestingly heaved the black sea, as if its vast tides were a conscience; and the great mundane soul were in anguish and remorse for the long sin and suffering it had bred."  Often, in these stormy seas, black sea-ravens flew behind the ship and perched ominously on its bow.  These sea-ravens, like the spirit-spout, seemed to have a spiritual significance: "We found ourselves launched into this tormented sea, where guilty beings transformed into these fowls and these fish, seemed condemned to swim on everlastingly without any haven in store, or beat that black air without any horizon."

Meanwhile, Captain Ahab kept his gaze and focus fixed forward, passionately seeking the white whale: "With one hand firmly grasping a shroud, Ahab for hours and hours would stand gazing dead to windward, while an occasional squall of sleet or snow would all but congeal his eyelashes together."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Anti-Club Playlist: Country Night!

On Friday nights, I DJ at Mulberry St. Ristorante (aka The Anti-Club) in downtown Fullerton. Last night's theme was "Old School Country Music."  Here's what I played...

“Games People Play” by Dolly Parton


“King of the Road” by Roger Miller


“I’m an Outlaw” by Kurt Vile


“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” by Bobby Bare


“Highwayman” by The Highwaymen


“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez


“It Was Jesus” by Johnny Cash


“Jolene” by Dolly Parton


“Mama You’ve Been On My Mind” by Johnny Cash


“I Like Beer” by Tom T. Hall


“Mexico City” by Jolie Holland


“La Jaula de Oro” by Los Tigres del Norte


“The Matador and the Fuzz” by Spindrift


“Shake Shake Mama” by Bob Dylan


“Just for Chevron” by Dirty Projectors


“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival


“That’s How I Got to Memphis” by Natural Child


“The Rider Song” by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis


“Am I That Lonely Tonight?” by Justin Townes Earle


“Fools and Sages” by Jonny Corndawg


“Hey Good Lookin” by Hank Williams


“Tell Me That it Isn’t True” by Bob Dylan


“Satan Taps My Head” by The Abigails


“Convoy” by C.W. McCall


“I’ve Been Everywhere” by Statler Bros.


“A Trucker’s Prayer” by Dave Dudley


“White Lightning Express” by Roy Drusky


“I’m Movin’ On” by Matt Lucas


“Running Bear” by Johnny Preston


“Walk a Mile in My Shoes” by Jerry Lee Lewis


“The Wayward Wind” by Teresa Brewer


“Born To Be With You” by Patti Page


“I Love You Because” by George Jones


“The Promise” by Sturgill Simpson


See you next Friday night at The Anti-Club!