the official blog for the documentary film "For Ed Ricketts"

Lab Party

In the spirit of Steinbeck and Ricketts, let’s hang out with themes from Cannery Row and elements of historyin relationship to the compelling and fun parties that occurred at Ed Ricketts’ lab. Steinbeck’s Cannery Row finds a creative way to envisage his friend Ed Ricketts’ as the character Doc. It becomes apparent the real Doc (Ed Ricketts) is a person who genuinelys accept people from all walks of life to hang out with him. One must venture to guess that Steinbeck’s famous social circle would add some zest and zing to these parties. Now let’s imagine an alternate reality involving a lively Ed Ricketts’ party at the Pacific Biological Laboratories (PBL) on Cannery Row. This is a realm where he did not die, but is still hanging out with his friends from all walks of life.

The era for this setting is the Beat Generation of the late 1940s. The party is during a fanciful and beautiful summer on a Wednesday evening in Monterey, California. Ed Ricketts maintains a reticent demeanor, but is engaged and motivated by the world around him. Perchance in our scenario there could be young traveling Jack Kerouac-like individuals with other similar bohemian nomads in tow. They stumble upon the party at the marine biology lab and decide to have a drink and a laugh.

At the party some of Ricketts’ young guests are exploring the lab, and trying to figure out the scientific jars full of alien-looking sea creatures. Within the lab’s inventory, a young man discovers and picks up one of the smaller hand-size scientific containers. He attempts to read the label aloud, “Para…stichophus…Cali…fonicus.”  The creature looks like a thorny, long tubular worm, and has an orange pigment with a sprinkling of various spots of yellows and splashes of light wine burgundy. Ricketts walks in a measuring manner to the young man, and with a soft voice, “this is the California Sea Cucumber, and a very fine specimen you have chosen here. It’s a scavenger that feeds on plankton. It does that by using its tentacles that look like thorns all over its body to help it feed.”

Meanwhile, the PBL is a cacophony of Johan Sebastian Bach’s “The Art of the Fugue” and loud conversations, which sound like a flock of frenzying seabirds. There are heavy whiffs of smoke traveling through an already thickening air from the close proximity of people in one room. Lax soldiers in town on leave with their adorning prostitutes, looking for excitement, cannot resist joining the party. Bouts of laughter and shouting are just as intoxicating as the party’s swigs of cold beer. However, Ricketts’ continues to speak to his party guests in his soft-spoken tone as he imparts his latest insights. To no surprise, he is sharing his recent travels in Alaska and British Columbia. He depicts the vivid descriptions of the great vastness of trees and wide expanse of wilderness.

The merriment and enticing classical music attracts local fishermen who are roaming the waterfront street. They arrive at the party like bouncing moths to an unavoidable shining light bulb in the dark. It somewhat disrupts the festivities, but an older gentleman with round-frame glasses plays a different record on the hi-fi from Ed Ricketts’ son’s collection of jazz. The song selection is Miles Davis’ “Donna Lee”, and it inspires sporadic little gyrations of hip movements from the ladies. The older gentleman upholds his reserved nature, and merely observes the joy of the party with a quiet conduct. He is none other than the famous author Henry Miller. However, during this cheerful evening he is just another bystander in a swelling group of collective minds.

In the kitchen a petite and smiling Adelle Davis is entertaining a few younger iconoclastic-looking men who have disheveled hair and silken eyes. She shares with them the finer points of health in her latest cookbook, and they listen with polite intent. The wooden lab is full of smiles as the night continues with a culmination of vibrant, colorful opinions and inebriated gratification.

During the height of the party’s voluminous excitement there is a sudden pause that creates a freeze frame in everyone’s movement and sound. Within a blink of an eye, it disappears from view and awakens to our present reality. Sadly this particular event only existed in the wonderful alternate setting of our imagination. Nevertheless, there is a rejoicing aspect to the idea of Ed Ricketts’ hosting a soirée. Maybe this brief “what if” explains why it’s so fun to explore the sphere of Ed Ricketts, and his impact on history. What do you think Ed Ricketts’ parties would have been like back then or could be in a speculative future scenario? What might the outcomes be? Or the influential results?

Written By Matthew Runfola

Dummy Book

Why do we love books? Is it because it is the most tangible aspect of holding the imaginative parts of our inner-self? It could be. On the other hand, some may say that books are outdated because of computers. I mean come-on, you’re reading this article on the Internet! I am here to tell you that real books and book-publishing history are still pretty darn important. So sit back, relax, and let’s take a look back in time before the Internet, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and any other nifty hi-tech instant-access to information gadget you can think of. I am talking about the 1930s when radio and books were still the latest and greatest craze for entertainment.

During this time, the publishing industry is booming while the Great Depression is going on. So what the heck does that mean for rest of us today?  We have phones that can talkback to us with directions to Barnes and Noble. Well, during those days people use to have to do things the ole fashion way. Back then folks couldn’t just jump on their laptop or smartphone to find the latest book. Nope, it had to be brought to them with the help of a traveling bookseller. Think of this bookselling practice as the grandpa version of Google Books or Amazon.

To help these salespeople, the publishing companies came up with what is called a “salesman’s dummy copy”. These are like books, but with some big differences. They had about 20 pages to read…a table of contents and a chapter or two. The rest was full of blank pages. Sometimes the back binding was blank or had a different color from the front cover to let the customer choose. Extra information was provided to show the neatest parts of the story to help with a sale. image

Also the empty pages allowed the salesperson to take down requests, such as names of customers, addresses, and how many to order. With such little information meant criminals couldn’t break copyright laws. This was pretty smart for a time that didn’t have computer e-publishing protections. image

Publishers did not produce a whole heck of a lot of these types of books, so like many things in life, salesmen’s dummy books gently faded away into human history, and as a result, these magnificent little gems are quite rare today. If you’re lucky enough to discover a dummy copy of a story from a famous author, for example John Steinbeck, it could be worth something. There is a special secret society of book collectors who pay big money for this kind of stuff, and they’ll collect anything from ancient books to your latest copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. If you have a dummy copy, it could be worth a fortune or a good paperweight. Either way, it is important to know this is a part of American history, and that is worth something by itself. Who knows, but real books may die out like the dummy book. What do you think?image

Check out the cool pictures below of the Sea of Cortez. Can you guess which one is the salesman’s dummy copy and the real McCoy? imageimage

Written By Matthew Runfola

Nice shout our for our film in the San Francisco Chronicle!

Great article on Ed Ricketts and his lab :) And great to see Frank Wright and Michael Hemp interviewed!!! :) 

macleodsbooks:

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck

macleodsbooks:

The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck

“How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise—-the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream—-be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are the certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book—-to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves.”

—John Steinbeck, “Cannery Row”  (via bluevalleylightning)

alitpassage:

Opening paragraph of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row; one of the best in American literature - Cannery Row, Penguin Books, 1992 paperback edition #steinbeck #writing #literature #canneryrow (Taken with instagram)

alitpassage:

Opening paragraph of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row; one of the best in American literature - Cannery Row, Penguin Books, 1992 paperback edition #steinbeck #writing #literature #canneryrow (Taken with instagram)

returnoftheboomerang:

Because sometimes, your only option is to draw john steinbeck at 5AM.

returnoftheboomerang:

Because sometimes, your only option is to draw john steinbeck at 5AM.

apyros:

beach by andrew gulik on Flickr.
Search
Navigate
Archive

Text, photographs, quotes, links, conversations, audio and visual material preserved for future reference.

Likes

A handpicked medley of inspirations, musings, obsessions and things of general interest.