November 21, 2007 - 0 Comments

"One word more about Cape Horn, and we have done with it.

Years hence, when a ship-canal shall have penetrated the Isthmus of Darien, and the traveller be taking his seat in the ears at Cape Cod for Astoria, it will be held a thing almost incredible that, for so long a period, vessels bound to the Nor'-west Coast from New York should, by going round Cape Horn, have lengthened their voyages some thousands of miles. "In those unenlightened days" (I quote, in advance, the language of some future philosopher), "entire years were frequently consumed in making the voyage to and from the Spice Islands, the present fashionable watering-place of the beau-monde of Oregon." Such must be our national progress.

Why, sir, that boy of yours will, one of these days, be sending your grandson to the salubrious city of Jeddo to spend his summer vacations."

- Melville, White-Jacket, 1850

November 15, 2007 - 0 Comments

"And it is a very fine feeling, and one that fuses us into the universe of things, and mates us a part of the All, to think that, wherever we ocean-wanderers rove, we have still the same glorious old stars to keep us company; that they still shine onward and on, forever beautiful and bright, and luring us, by every ray, to die and be glorified with them.

Ay, ay! we sailors sail not in vain, We expatriate ourselves to nationalise with the universe. . . "

- Melville, White-Jacket, 1850

November 7, 2007 - 0 Comments

"But as everyone knows that idleness is the hardest work in the world, so our commodore was specially provided with a gentleman to assist him."

"But the longer we live, the more we learn of commodores."

"It would be advisable for any man, who from an unlucky choice of a profession, which it is too late to change for another, should find his temper souring, to endeavour to counteract that misfortune, by filling his private chamber with amiable, pleasurable sights and sounds. In summer time, an Aeolian harp can be placed in your window at a very trifling expense; a conch-shell might stand on your mantel, to be taken up and held to the ear, that you may be soothed by its continual lulling sound, when you feel the blue fit stealing over you. For sights, a gay-painted punch-bowl, or Dutch tankard--never mind about filling it--might be recommended. It should be placed on a bracket in the pier. Nor is an old-fashioned silver ladle, nor a chased dinner-castor, nor a fine portly demijohn, nor anything, indeed, that savors of eating and drinking, bad to drive off the spleen. But perhaps the best of all is a shelf of merrily-bound books, containing comedies, farces, songs, and humorous novels. You need never open them; only have the titles in plain sight. For this purpose, Peregrine Pickle is a good book; so is Gil Blas; so is Goldsmith."

-Melville, White-Jacket, 1850

November 4, 2007 - 1 Comments

"'Sounds good: simple and practical. Mind if I write it down in my notebook?'

'Of course not. But you mean to say you can't remember that much?'

'Nah, I'm like a chicken: three steps, and my mind's a blank. So I write everything down. I heard Einstein used to do that.'

'Oh sure, Einstein.'

'I don't mind being forgetful, he said, 'It's actually forgetting stuff that I don't like.'"

-- Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, 2006

November 1, 2007 - 0 Comments

"Highgate is a lovely residential area inhabited by surgeons, rock stars, and prosperous dealers of six-month-old Indonesian antiques."

"He had agreed to sit at this table only after his dear friend and distinguished colleague Williamsson had insisted he do so. He hated Williamsson passionately, categorically, and with the constant and inexhaustible rage that one man of science can feel for another."

"For the first time in his life, Abercrombie was confronting nature in its most obscene, vehement, and luxuriant incarnation: The jungle. Even more disorienting than these noises was its complete absence of human cadence. The jungle trumpeted its own laws, indifferent to anyone who would explore it. In the forests of Europe and particularly those in England - all of them located near towns - animals learned to grow silent at the approach of man, and to flee this creature that killed without the justification of survival. The tranquility of the countryside was the tangible sign of man's reign of terror."

-- Stephane Audeguy, The Theory of Clouds, 2007