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Old 2013-04-14, 03:55   #23
ewmayer
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Snow Falling on Cedars, p.177:
Quote:
On the night of the nineteenth a quarter moon rose over the sea while the fleet stood seven miles off Tarawa. Ishmael ate a last meal on the Heywood's messing deck with Ernest Testaverde, a boy he liked, an anti-tank gunner from Delaware.
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Old 2013-04-14, 04:10   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Snow Falling on Cedars, p.177:
Quote:
On the night of the nineteenth a quarter moon rose over the sea while the fleet stood seven miles off Tarawa. Ishmael ate a last meal on the Heywood's messing deck with Ernest Testaverde, a boy he liked, an anti-tank gunner from Delaware.
Is your complaint that a quarter moon wouldn't rise at a time when Ishmael would be eating a last meal? Or was there something else there that earned your ire? 'Cuz as long as it's a last quarter, then it doesn't seem so hard to imagine that Ishmael might be eating at midnight, does it? Or does the rest of the passage make clear that it's earlier in the evening?
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Old 2013-04-14, 04:30   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Snow Falling on Cedars, p.177:
Heh! First Quarter, or Last? The former would be setting after the sun. Of course, the latter would be rising in the wee hours of morning. 'Twould make the meal a very early breakfast.
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Old 2013-04-14, 19:25   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jyb View Post
Is your complaint that a quarter moon wouldn't rise at a time when Ishmael would be eating a last meal? Or was there something else there that earned your ire? 'Cuz as long as it's a last quarter, then it doesn't seem so hard to imagine that Ishmael might be eating at midnight, does it? Or does the rest of the passage make clear that it's earlier in the evening?
"Ire" is much too strong - it's a fine book in most respects, and the above did little to make reading it less enjoyable. Don't have the book with me right now, but the scene in question makes clear that it's the evening before battle, i.e. nowhere near the early-a.m. time one would see a waning quarter moon rise. I'll paste more here later, to provide a fuller context.

-----------------------

Edit: OK, so the passage in question has the protagonist first having dinner with his pal Testaverde, following which Testaverde convinces Ishmael to write a "last letter" home. It does imply that it's late in the evening:
Quote:
Ishmael went below and got his pad of paper. He sat on the top deck with his back against a stanchion and composed a letter to [Japanese-ancestry girlfriend he'd had at home in the Pacific NW] Hatsue. From where he sat he could see twenty other men, all of them writing intently. It was warm for so late at night, and the men all looked comfortable with their collars open and the sleeves of their uniform shirts rolled up.
Ishmael writes a long, emotionally conflicted letter to Hatsue about how he "hates the Japs", her included, then
Quote:
It was at this point that he ripped the sheet from his writing pad, crumpled it, and threw it into the sea. He watched it floating on the water for a few seconds, then threw his pad in after it.

At 3:20 in the morning, wide awake in his bunk, Ishmael heard the order delivered to the troop hold: "All marines lay topside to your debarkation stations!"
Whlle I suppose it's possible that the protagonist went to bed around 3am, the author appears to be stressing the sleeplessness typical of "eve of battle" scenarios - not much to emphasize unless the person in question has been lying sleepless for at least several hours or more. I mean, "Ishmael lay down in his bunk at 3am, but was still wide awake 20 minutes later - on a night such as this, sleep would not come" may be technically correct but lacks a certain "oomph", wouldn't you agree? But let's crunch the numbers:

Using the Sky&Telescope Magazine Interactive Astronomical Almanac, I researched at what time (and phase) the moon would have risen at the latitude and longitude of Tarawa atoll on the night of November 19-20, 1943. For the 19th the app has the moon rising at 1:12am, roughly 6 hours before sunrise, with a corresponding moon phase [= % illuminated, in their convention] of 50% - that means 3/4 way through the cycle, phase waning as the moon gets closer to the sun in terms of apparent positions in the sky. Note that rules out the possibility that the author may have intended "1/4 through a full cycle" when he wrote "quarter moon", so the phase is off. Since the scene is set on the night from the 19th to the 20th, though, we should advance one day, and thus a 41%-phase moon rising at 2:03am on the 20th. The phase is thus a bit closer to "quarter", but the timeline of the entire passage would be ludicrously compressed:

o Moon rises just after 2am; Ishmael and buddy sit down for dinner, blissfully oblivious of the fact that they will be facing a gut-churning life-and-death situation at some point well before sunrise. (The novel mentions - in apparent contradiction of the tidal-planning snip below - that the idea is to land under the cover of darkness, but that the planning goes awry leaving the men landing around sunrise. But with all the gearing-up and a three-hour boat ride, the men must surely know they'll be getting awakened well before sunrise);

o After dinner, his buddy convinces a reluctant Ishmael to write a last letter, above-quoted scene follows, at some point after which Ishmael goes to his bunk;

o Last-quoted scene, invoking a "sleepless night" scenario, starts at 3:20am.

Again, not a huge deal - but since I was asked to justify my reasoning, there you go - but it took me less than 5 minutes to find the needed lunar ephemerides, one wishes authors of serious works would just take the needed time to get such basic scene-setting facts straight. I would have been more forgiving if the author had simply squared the alleged moon phase with the time of the passage (e.g. moon near or just past full), even if that didn't match the historical record for the date in question.

Although, given that battle planning routinely takes account of such things for strategic purposes, it behooves rather more due diligence than for a non-battle-themed literary passage. For example, if from the above Wikipedia page on Tarawa, if one clicks to the Battle of Tarawa page, one sees that tides played a major role in both the planning of, and disastrous start to, the invasion:
Quote:
The Marines started their attack from the lagoon at 09:00, thirty minutes later than expected, but found the tide had still not risen enough to allow their shallow draft Higgins boats to clear the reef. Marine battle planners had not allowed for Betio's neap tide and expected the normal rising tide to provide a water depth of 5 ft over the reef, allowing their four foot draft Higgins boats room to spare. On this day and the next the ocean experienced a neap tide, and failed to rise. The neap tide phenomenon occurs twice a month when the moon is near its first or last quarter. In a neap tide the countering tug of the sun counteracts the pull of the moon, and water levels deviate less. In this instance the moon was at its farthest distance from the earth and exerted even less than normal gravitational pull, leaving the waters relatively undisturbed. In the words of some observers, “the ocean just sat there,” leaving a mean depth of three feet over the reef.
Oddly, the novel does mention the landing craft getting stuck on the reef, "five hundred yards" from the island proper - seems an obvious plot point one would have researched in some detail before dramatizing.

It also does a disservice to the many real men who fought and died at places like Tarawa to "just make stuff up" when writing about the events, even in the context of a historically-themed love-story/murder-mystery novel. For instance, I suggest the interested reader click from the above Battle of Tarawa page to the page on a certain Lt. Bonnyman featured in the top-right photo on that page. Or a certain Col. Shoup. Given the sacrifice by many such men - on both sides - were I writing something based on their story, even "just fiction", I'd want to at least do them the honor of getting the most-basic facts straight. If that makes me obsessive/anal/nitpicky, so be it.

Last fiddled with by ewmayer on 2013-04-14 at 23:18 Reason: add lunar ephemerides
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Old 2013-04-15, 11:48   #27
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At midnight, the quarter moon will be on the horizon.
The first quarter will be setting in the west.
The last quarter will be rising in the east.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BmEGm-mraE

D
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Old 2013-04-15, 19:03   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davieddy View Post
At midnight, the quarter moon will be on the horizon.
If by "quarter moon" the author meant "last quarter" that would work - but I've always heard that cycle-based description include a 'first' or 'last' to make clear which it is. If a layperson simply says 'half moon' or 'quarter moon' one presumes they are referring to 'fraction of apparent disc illuminated'.

[The sophomoric snarkster inside me might be tempted to say something along the lines of "...if the author in question had spent 1/10th as much time fact-checking as he did writing about guys' schlongs, he could have cleared all this battle-related stuff up nicely" - but hey, the title does say "Belles lettres", so let's keep it highbrow. I betcha the schlongs sell better than the lunar ephemeri, though.]
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Old 2013-04-15, 19:09   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
... so let's keep it highbrow. I betcha the schlongs sell better than the lunar ephemeri, though.
I betcha [sic] "ephemerides" are less likely to cause distress than "ephemeri" though.

Last fiddled with by xilman on 2013-04-15 at 19:10
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Old 2013-04-15, 19:51   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xilman View Post
I betcha [sic] "ephemerides" are less likely to cause distress than "ephemeri" though.
I included the -des in my plurals of yesterday's longer post, but for whatever reason, 'ephemeri' sounded better to me while composing today. In other words, the -des sounded better in dose dere posts than in dese here. I apologize to dem sensitive-eared wonks who insist on the correct, Greek-playwright-evoking spelling.
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Old 2013-04-16, 02:42   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davieddy View Post
At midnight, the quarter moon will be on the horizon.
The first quarter will be setting in the west.
The last quarter will be rising in the east.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BmEGm-mraE

D
Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
If by "quarter moon" the author meant "last quarter" that would work - but I've always heard that cycle-based description include a 'first' or 'last' to make clear which it is. If a layperson simply says 'half moon' or 'quarter moon' one presumes they are referring to 'fraction of apparent disc illuminated'.

[The sophomoric snarkster inside me might be tempted to say something along the lines of "...if the author in question had spent 1/10th as much time fact-checking as he did writing about guys' schlongs, he could have cleared all this battle-related stuff up nicely" - but hey, the title does say "Belles lettres", so let's keep it highbrow. I betcha the schlongs sell better than the lunar ephemeri, though.]
By quarter moon I meant 7 days after or before the new moon.
Both will be on the horizon at midnight.
I hope "keep it highbrow" didn't involve yet another dig at my failure to spell out the relevance of the accompanying link in words of one syllable.

See if you can spot some topicality here:

Ding dong the witch is dead

D
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Old 2013-04-17, 04:40   #32
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And the quarterback is ... busted! Just when we were grudgingly willing to give Mr. Guterson the benefit of the doubt, we encounter a *second* "bad moon rising" passage. This time the timeline leaves much less room for doubt, since the date and time figure crucially in the murder trial at the heart of the novel. On the evening of September 15, 1954, the accused, San Piedro Island (near Seattle) fisherman Kabuo Miyamoto heads down to the island docks around 5pm to prepare his boat for a night's driftnet fishing:
Quote:
On the night in question he'd checked the Islander's engine oil and quickly greased the net drum's reel drive before putting out for Ship Channel Bank in the hour before dusk.
...
In the blue light of dusk he'd made the turn out of the harbor and run for open water ... The moon had risen already behind the island and hung just over the big bluff at Skiff Point -- a quarter moon, pale and indefinite, as ethereal and translucent as the wisps of clouds that traveled the skies, obscuring it.

[narrative then has him drinking tea and eating a leisurely dinner on the water]

...But by eight-thirty he'd idled his engine at the bank...
Ah well, some authors just shouldn't write about stuff one best develops an intuitive feel for when one grows up outside the big city. I feel the need for a bit of "limericial doggerel" to describe the situation - note I never feel overly constrained by "official syllable-count rules":

In a writing bout fueled by Cantharides,
The author overlooks some key verities.
He writes of lovely Hatsue,
Resists adding "bless you!",
While royally buggering up his ephemerides.
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Old 2013-04-17, 04:55   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
And the quarterback is ... busted! Just when we were grudgingly willing to give Mr. Guterson the benefit of the doubt, we encounter a *second* "bad moon rising" passage. This time the timeline leaves much less room for doubt, since the date and time figure crucially in the murder trial at the heart of the novel. On the evening of September 15, 1954, the accused, San Piedro Island (near Seattle) fisherman Kabuo Miyamoto heads down to the island docks around 5pm to prepare his boat for a night's driftnet fishing:


Ah well, some authors just shouldn't write about stuff one best develops an intuitive feel for when one grows up outside the big city. I feel the need for a bit of "limericial doggerel" to describe the situation - note I never feel overly constrained by "official syllable-count rules":

In a writing bout fueled by Cantharides,
The author overlooks some key verities.
He writes of lovely Hatsue,
Resists adding "bless you!",
While royally buggering up his ephemerides.
Yes, that one seems somewhat harder to justify.

NB: I always read "Hatsue" as having 3 syllables (thereby destroying your rhyme scheme, quite apart from the syllable count), though I can't remember if it explicitly says anything about that in the book.
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