The “crack of doom” is a phrase referring to the blaring of trumpets that heralds the Last Judgment. As you might expect from such a piquant phrase, it’s been used to some effect in literature.
In Moby Dick Melville uses it to describe the enduring dangers of the sea:
But though, to landsmen in general, the native inhabitants of the seas have ever regarded with emotions unspeakably unsocial and repelling; though we know the sea to be an everlasting terra incognita, so that Columbus sailed over numberless unknown worlds to discover his one superficial western one; though, by vast odds, the most terrific of all mortal disasters have immemorially and indiscriminately befallen tens and hundreds of thousands of those who have gone upon the waters; though but a moment’s consideration will teach that, however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very impressions, man has lost that sense of the full awfulness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.
Most famously, Shakespeare used it in Macbeth:
Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo; down!
Thy crown does sear mine eyeballs. And thy hair,
Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first.
A third is like the former. Filthy hags,
Why do you show me this?—A fourth? Start, eyes!
What, will the line stretch out to th’ crack of doom?
So what drives modern marriage? We believe that the answer lies in a shift from the family as a forum for shared production, to shared consumption. In case the language of economic lacks romance, let’s be clearer: modern marriage is about love and companionship. Most things in life are simply better shared with another person: this ranges from the simple pleasures such as enjoying a movie or a hobby together, to shared social ties such as attending the same church, and finally, to the joint project of bringing up children. Returning to the language of economics, the key today is consumption complementarities — activities that are not only enjoyable, but are more enjoyable when shared with a spouse. We call this new model of sharing our lives “hedonic marriage”.
– Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers
Who wrote this code I do not know.
He quit this job so long ago.
He will not mind me looking here
To find the bug that makes it slow.
His coding style is very queer
There's hardly any logic here
To understand it, it would take
At least another dozen beers.
I give my monitor a shake!
Why can't I find that one mistake?
It's something simple that I seek
Perhaps a switch missing a break.
The code is buggy, slow and cheap
But I still have this memory leak.
And lines to code before I sleep.
And lines to code before I sleep.
Self-reference is a common feature found in post-modern literature. But I find it interesting that earlier authors played around with some elements of self-reference. One famous example is Don Quixote, which purports to be a translation of a real text that Cervantes discovered. This allows Cervantes to introduce his own judgments and (often amusing) criticisms at the characters. Another amusing instance I recently read in Elmer Gantry, wherein Sinclair Lewis has the title character express his dislike for satirical writing:
I know that if you could lose your intellectual pride, if you could forget that you have to make a new world, better’n the creator’s, right away tonight–you and Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells and H. L. Mencken and Sinclair Lewis (Lord, how that book of Lewis’, Main Street, did bore me, as much of it as I read; it just rambled on forever, and all he could see was that some of the Gopher Prairie hicks didn’t go to literary teas quite as often as he does!–that was all he could see among those splendid heroic pioneers)!
Allegedly Einstein once said, “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.” It’s best to switch to literature then, for Longfellow had a different idea:
It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late—
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand “Oedipus,” and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers
When each had numbered more than fourscore years;
And Theophrastus, at fourscore and ten,
Had begun his “Characters of Men.”
Chaucer, at Woodstock, with his nightingales,
At sixty wrote the “Canterbury Tales.”
Goethe, at Weimar, toiling to the last,
Completed “Faust” when eighty years were past.
What then? Shall we sit idly down and say,
“The night has come; it is no longer day”?
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress.
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
It is never too late to start doing what is right.
Melville understood it well:
If I had been downright honest with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself.
I love this quote from Moby-Dick about the sea as a means for curing a morose spirit:
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.
Whose boxes these are I do not know.
They must have died long ago.
They will not mind me looking through
Their papers covered all in mold.
My finding aid is very queer.
We're using MPLP here.
My only thought is that it'll help
Researchers find out what is clear.
I give the moldy page a shake
And ask if there is some mistake.
I hope I do not breathe too much
Of each and every deadly flake
The boxes are dusty, dark and deep.
But I have to decide which ones to keep
And miles to sort before I sleep,
And miles to sort before I sleep.
I am off to the University of Waterloo to interview some hopefully promising young minds. So I’ll have to take a break from the blog for a few days. If you are bored until then, then this might help.
In Cannery Row, one of the main characters, Doc, recalls a conversation:
Blaisedell, the poet, had said to him, “You love beer so much, I’ll bet someday you’ll go in and order a beer milk shake.” It was a simple piece of foolery but it had bothered Doc ever since. He wondered what a beer milk shake would taste like. The idea gagged him but he couldn’t let it alone. It cropped up every time he had a glass of beer. Would it curdle the milk? Would you add sugar? It was like a shrimp ice cream.
Steinbeck means this to be somewhat humorous, but now, 65 years later, there actually are beer milkshakes. Indeed it’s easy to find both guides and videos online.
Not only that, but shrimp ice cream is itself available, and moreover even has its own eating contest. John Steinbeck truly was a seer of odd food.