I am always on the lookout for synchronicities. I enjoy them. I'm not a believer in fate, so there's no spiritual element to it. There are such things as coincidences! The only greater significance any coincidence possesses is that which we invent for it. And this is a good thing! I believe that the universe is best understood as a confluence of disparate ideas. Creativity itself is the invention of new connections between previously unconnected things. In both the entertainment I consume and the music I create, I seek cross-relevancy of disparate ideas that will lead to a higher personal notion of meaning.
And then sometimes it's just wacky happenstance. Such is the case in this, the convergence in my life of Longtooth and Moby Dick...
Several months ago I decided to finally read Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. [Though the whale's name is always written as "Moby Dick" in the book, the name is hyphenated in the title.] I finally finished the book over the weekend. It was excellent, definitely one of the most superbly composed works I've ever enjoyed. The first 20 or so chapters all focus on the narrator, Ishmael, his scholarly musings, his acquaintances, and what brings him to the fateful voyage. These chapters have a wayfaring, rather comical bent. After this, Ishmael becomes merely an observer, focusing instead on Ahab, the mates, the crew, the ship, and whaling itself in very, very specific detail. There are several chapters on cetology and whale flensing. There's a whole chapter discussing whether a whale's spout is water, air or vapor. You learn about seagoing carpentry, cooking, and metalwork. One chapter is entirely focused on describing the rope-rigging in the hunting boats. It's extremely detailed. And in the very end, they find and confront that damn whale. If you have patience and a love of brilliant prose, I highly recommend the book.
About the same time I started it, my friend periL75, the one who landed the Transformers score of a lifetime, stopped by my place to sell me Misfire (since he didn't need two). Generous as hell, he also made a present to me of Longtooth, the Autobot Pretender walrus!
FUNCTION: UNDERSEA DEFENSE
"The greatest truths lie at the greatest depths."
Surprised and grateful, I immediately recognized a remarkable coincidence: Longtooth never appeared in any cartoons; he only appeared in one single US comic book issue (#64), but it just so happens that issue is an homage to Moby-Dick, and Longtooth plays its revenge-hungry Ahab...
On an alien world, a techno-organic whale-like creature is terrorizing the waterways. While investigating a floating wreck, the creature surprises the Autobots and bites off Longtooth's leg. Blinded by revenge, Longtooth replaces the missing limb with a pegleg and singlemindedly sets out to hunt and kill the leviathan.
All this I remembered from memory. I was eager to re-read the issue after finishing Moby-Dick to see if there were any more subtle similarities to be found.
Meanwhile, I also happened to be re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (now that it's streaming on Netflix). As the Borg made their impact felt, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Moby-Dick overtones that would eventually come into play in Star Trek: First Contact. In reading the book, I quickly recognized the line that Picard had quoted when I encountered it -- and that it was actually paraphrased rather than directly quoted, presumably for easier digestion by the audience:
He piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it.
Shortly after First Contact, Patrick Stewart would in fact play Captain Ahab in a television adaptation of Moby Dick. I plan on renting that soon!
Another coincidence lent urgency to finishing the book: if I didn't want to re-read Transformers #64 until I was done with the novel, I likewise couldn't finish re-reading the remaining issues of the original Transformers comic series, precisely when they were most relevant, as the current publishers of Transformers comics have decided to continue the original series with the original creative team where the series previously left off! In fact, I already have issue #80.5, which I believe acts as an expository bridge between the original series' last issue (#80) and the new series (resuming with #81).
Now that I've finished both the novel and the issue, I regretfully have little of significance to report. The name of the alien planet was the same as Ahab's ship in the novel (Pequod), but otherwise the issue lacked the subtle homages that I was hoping for. I shouldn't be surprised, these classic Transformers issues were not known for their sophistication.
Curiously, the alien sea creature that Longtooth hunts is obviously patterned after a whale, but not a sperm whale like Moby Dick; rather, it's plainly a humpback whale. One can only speculate why.
So I ask you: what are the odds that I would be given a Longtooth toy at the same time that I'm reading Moby-Dick, the book upon which Longtooth's only relevant fictional appearance is based? And that the issue has added relevance right now because of the impending continuation of that series? And that I'm watching some related Star Trek episodes? And I saw that guy on the bus reading Moby-Dick at the same time I was?
The truth is it's all just coincidence. But finding patterns and connections between disparate things is what makes life so curiously interesting.