Vancouver Unconventional Books Message Board › MOBY DICK: CHASING 3-diamentional TALES


A former member
Post #: 112
Geological layers
Subterranean cake
Shapes Colours Scent
Life Death AfterLife AfterDeath
Opposites are complementary colours
Harmony blends
Thematic transformations
Idee fixe
Dies Irae
Rhythms --backbeats and ostinatos
Magic and mysticism
Jesus & Lazarus
Cannibals & Christians
A former member
Post #: 113
"I am the architect..." (Chap 32, Cetology)


James M.
user 14454827
Group Organizer
Vancouver, BC
Post #: 43
Two wondrous, wide-ranging, and thought-provoking lists! I love the transpositions across so many disciplines! Thinking of forms and genres, i came up with this:

  • Adventure
  • Travelogue
  • Tragedy
  • Treatise
  • Romance
  • Object lesson
  • Pastoral
  • Satire
  • Testimony
  • Sermon
  • Dissection
  • Disquisition
  • Visualization
  • Myth

A former member
Post #: 114
Yes yes yes! laughing great list, James, thanks for sharing.
A former member
Post #: 115
SIGNIFIERS that swim through the sea of pages
recurring like architectural features
unifying ideas
They are landmarks, they are signposts, they are silent sphinxes
Do you see them
Do you read the signs with isinglass
Or limp past them with dead stumps for legs

A former member
Post #: 116
PYRAMID as a signifier

“Now, when I say that I am in the habit of going to sea whenever I begin to grow hazy about the eyes, and begin to be over conscious of my lungs, I do not mean to have it inferred that I ever go to sea as a passenger. For to go as a passenger you must needs have a purse, and a purse is but a rag unless you have something in it. Besides, passengers get sea-sick—grow quarrelsome—don't sleep of nights—do not enjoy themselves much, as a general thing;—no, I never go as a passenger; nor, though I am something of a salt, do I ever go to sea as a Commodore, or a Captain, or a Cook. I abandon the glory and distinction of such offices to those who like them. For my part, I abominate all honourable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever. It is quite as much as I can do to take care of myself, without taking care of ships, barques, brigs, schooners, and what not. And as for going as cook,—though I confess there is considerable glory in that, a cook being a sort. “yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls;—though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a broiled fowl than I will. It is out of the idolatrous dotings of the old Egyptians upon broiled ibis and roasted river horse, that you see the mummies of those creatures in their huge bake-houses the pyramids.”

“Such a queer dream, King-Post, I never had. You know the old man's ivory leg, well I dreamed he kicked me with it; and when I tried to kick back, upon my soul, my little man, I kicked my leg right off! And then, presto! Ahab seemed a pyramid, and I, like a blazing fool, kept kicking at it. But what was still more curious, Flask—you know how curious all dreams are—through all this rage that I was in, I somehow seemed to be thinking to myself, that after all, it was not much of an insult, that kick from Ahab. 'Why,' thinks I, 'what's the row? It's not a real leg, only a false leg.' And there's a mighty difference between a living thump and a dead thump. “That's what makes a blow from the hand, Flask, fifty times more savage to bear than a blow from a cane. The living member—that makes the living insult, my little man. And thinks I to myself all the while, mind, while I was stubbing my silly toes against that cursed pyramid—so confoundedly contradictory was it all, all the while, I say, I was thinking to myself, 'what's his leg now, but a cane—a whalebone cane. Yes,' thinks I, 'it was only a playful cudgelling—in fact, only a whaleboning that he gave me—not a base kick. Besides,' thinks I, 'look at it once; why, the end of it—the foot part—what a small sort of end it is; whereas, if a broad footed farmer kicked me, THERE'S a devilish broad insult. But this insult is whittled down to a point only.' But now comes the greatest joke of the dream, Flask. While I was battering away at the pyramid, a sort of badger-haired old merman, with a hump on his back, takes me by the shoulders, and slews me round.”

“ I thought I might as well fall to kicking the pyramid again. ”

“Don't you see that pyramid?' ”


“Now, as the business of standing mast-heads, ashore or afloat, is a very ancient and interesting one, let us in some measure expatiate here. I take it, that the earliest standers of mast-heads were the old Egyptians; because, in all my researches, I find none prior to them. For though their progenitors, the builders of Babel, must doubtless, by their tower, have intended to rear the loftiest mast-head in all Asia, or Africa either; yet (ere the final truck was put to it) as that great stone mast of theirs may be said to have gone by the board, in the dread gale of God's wrath; therefore, we cannot give these Babel builders priority over the Egyptians. And that the Egyptians were a nation of mast-head standers, is an assertion based upon the general belief among archaeologists, that the first pyramids were founded for astronomical purposes: a theory singularly supported by the peculiar stair-like formation of all four sides of those edifices; whereby, with prodigious long upliftings of their legs, those old astronomers were wont to mount to the apex, and sing out for new stars; even as the look-outs of a modern ship sing out for a sail, or a whale just bearing in sight. ”


“But even stripped of these supernatural surmisings, there was enough in the earthly make and incontestable character of the monster to strike the imagination with unwonted power. For, it was not so much his uncommon bulk that so much distinguished him from other sperm whales, but, as was elsewhere thrown out—a peculiar snow-white wrinkled forehead, and a high, pyramidical white hump. These were his prominent features; the tokens whereby, even in the limitless, uncharted seas, he revealed his identity, at a long distance, to those who knew him.”

A former member
Post #: 117
PYRAMID as signifier cont'd:


“The natural aptitude of the French for seizing the picturesqueness of things seems to be peculiarly evinced in what paintings and engravings they have of their whaling scenes. With not one tenth of England's experience in the fishery, and not the thousandth part of that of the Americans, they have nevertheless furnished both nations with the only finished sketches at all capable of conveying the real spirit of the whale hunt. For the most part, the English and American whale draughtsmen seem entirely content with presenting the mechanical outline of things, such as the vacant profile of the whale; which, so far as picturesqueness of effect is concerned, is about tantamount to sketching the profile of a pyramid.”

“But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish, is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as the buffalo's (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat.

“In life, the visible surface of the Sperm Whale is not the least among the many marvels he presents. Almost invariably it is all over obliquely crossed and re-crossed with numberless straight marks in thick array, something like those in the finest Italian line engravings. But these marks do not seem to be impressed upon the isinglass substance above mentioned, but seem to be seen through it, as if they were engraved upon the body itself. Nor is this all. In some instances, to the quick, observant eye, those linear marks, as in a veritable engraving, but afford the ground for far other delineations. These are hieroglyphical; that is, if you call those mysterious cyphers on the walls of pyramids hieroglyphics, then that is the proper word to use in the present connexion. By my retentive memory of the hieroglyphics upon one Sperm Whale in particular, I was much struck with a plate representing the old Indian characters chiselled on the famous hieroglyphic palisades on the banks of the Upper Mississippi. Like those mystic rocks, too, the mystic-marked whale remains undecipherable. This allusion to the Indian rocks reminds me of another thing. Besides all the other phenomena which the exterior of the Sperm Whale presents, he not seldom displays the back, and more especially his flanks, effaced in great part of the regular linear appearance, by reason of numerous rude scratches, altogether of an irregular, random aspect. I should say that those New England rocks on the sea-coast, which Agassiz imagines to bear the marks of violent scraping contact with vast floating icebergs—I should say, that those rocks must not a little resemble the Sperm Whale in this particular. It also seems to me that such scratches in the whale are probably made by hostile contact with other whales; for I have most remarked them in the large, full-grown bulls of the species.”


“But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has the Sperm Whale ever written a book, spoken a speech? No, his great genius is declared in his doing nothing particular to prove it. It is moreover declared in his pyramidical silence. And this reminds me that had the great Sperm Whale been known to the young Orient World, he would have been deified by their child-magian thoughts. They deified the crocodile of the Nile, because the crocodile is tongueless; and the Sperm Whale has no tongue, or at least it is so exceedingly small, as to be incapable of protrusion. If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure back to their birth-right, the merry May-day gods of old; and livingly enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky; in the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove's high seat, the great Sperm Whale shall lord it.”


“Champollion deciphered the wrinkled granite hieroglyphics. But there is no Champollion to decipher the Egypt of every man's and every being's face. Physiognomy, like every other human science, is but a passing fable. If then, Sir William Jones, who read in thirty languages, could not read the simplest peasant's face in its profounder and more subtle meanings, how may unlettered Ishmael hope to read the awful Chaldee of the Sperm Whale's brow? I but put that brow before you. Read it if you can.” (CHP 79: THE PRAIRIE)

STARBUCK: “His pure tight skin was an excellent fit; and closely wrapped up in it, and embalmed with inner health and strength, like a revivified Egyptian, this Starbuck seemed prepared to endure for long ages to come,” (CHP 26: KNIGHTS & SQUIRES)

AHAB: “That it was only then, on the homeward voyage, after the encounter, that the final monomania seized him, seems all but certain from the fact that, at intervals during the passage, he was a raving lunatic; and, though unlimbed of a leg, yet such vital strength yet lurked in his Egyptian chest,” (CHP 41, MOBY DICK)

"And then, presto! Ahab seemed a pyramid" (CHP 31: QUEEN MAB)
A former member
Post #: 118
• Conjures up geometrical shape, form, line of a triangle, a square circle!!?? (a mathematical pi 3.14159)
• Visual pattern - Serves as an architectural motif that helps unify the book
• Geographical, cultural & historical context → Egypt
• Laden with all kinds of meaning/imagery explored in MD:
- landmark
- astronomy
- navigation
- death
- life
- life after death
- treasures
A former member
Post #: 119
The Universal Thump
The Egypt of every man’s, and every being’s face
We are killers all of us
We are Cannibals all of us
A former member
Post #: 120
In music (and really any art form with rules of design in mind), a musical cell/motive/theme when first heard is of no significance until it recurs. Then one hears it again, and again. Rule of thumb for composition, is repetition of 3 (omg, 3 points of a triangle!!). What is the purpose of a recurring cell/motive/theme?

1. Unify the work with a common thread that winds through the musical fabric
2. Paradoxically to #1 (I think and love that it is paradoxically), create interest through variation through transformation/permutation/a kind of musical transubstantiation (yes there are differences here! For me anyhoos)
3. Through #1 and #2, said musical cell/ motive/theme may contributeß to structural form of work

Now, this could be for abstract style music, i.e. with no pictorial or literary association, like in Baroque/ Classical era music or maybe early modern music. Said musical cell/motive/theme is then subject to variations for interest, ex. Modulations in keys, counterpoint devices like melodic/harmonic inversion, imitation, etc, change in timbre, range, register, etc.

In Romantic music, many composers give musical themes a pictorial or literary association. And these themes may be subject to transformations to reflect the unfolding “story” of the composition. The composer may employ the musical theme in many ways:

Ex 1: Tranformation of the character itself: In Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, the musical theme heard in the 1st movement, represents the beloved and is first introduced as an elegant elusive theme played in the violins and flutes. Then in the last movement of this work, this same musical theme is now contorted to a grotesque musical parody when the beloved returns as a witch.

Ex. 2: Theme once established, may be used as a foreshadowing device: Wagner’s Music Drama, The Ring of Nibelung---“Siegfried” theme is played when Woton evokes the spell to cast a ring of fire around Brunhilde→ so the audience (the ones that are paying attention) know, aha! In the next music drama, Siegfried will the be hero that will breach the enchanted ring of fire to rescue Brunhilde!

Ex. 3: Quotation Music: In Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, the Dies Irae is heard in the last movement to reinforce the theme of death.

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