Thursday, December 18, 2014

An Attempt at Comparing Wu-Tang Clan Members to 90s NBA Players

Continuing my series on the Wu-Tang Clan in commemoration of their new 20th anniversary album "A Better Tomorrow"...

Wu-Tang is forever. Wu-Tang is for the children. Wu-Tang is...getting kinda old. The youngest member of the crew is Method Man and he's now pushing 44. Certifiable superstars of the 90s, the nine-member collective of emcees known as the Wu-Tang Clan is still actively making music as we approach the year 2015.   

Whatever negative criticism their new album A Better Tomorrow has received tends to zero in on its production and some of the poor creative decisions made by RZA. Nobody has said these guys sound old or can't flow on a beat anymore. Twenty years deep into their careers, the Wu generals made it quite clear they can still rap (witness 48-year-old GZA spit rapid fire on "40th St Black/We Will Fight", for example).

To give us a sense of just how old these guys are, I thought it might be interesting to seek out comparable NBA players for each Wu member based upon the year they were born. (Note: my first thought was to do this with baseball players but I was surprised how boring the player lists were for the birth years we're focusing on.) Then I matched up the players whose attributes bore a subjective resemblance to the unique styles and talents of each member of the Clan.

There is nothing scientific about this, of course. It's just a fun thought experiment.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wu-Tang Clan's Original (and Better) "A Better Tomorrow"

Following my ranking of the Wu-Tang Clan's catalogue of group offerings, this begins a series of posts based around the new Wu-Tang album "A Better Tomorrow" and the factors surrounding its creation and release. Stay tuned for more this week.

For the Wu-Tang Clan's 20th anniversary album, the group's de facto leader Rza intended to craft a record that dealt with the current issues affecting our world today and the dire need for positivity and change for the future. The new album is entitled A Better Tomorrow and features a title track of the same name. That track should have been a "Part 2". Unfortunately, there is no acknowledgment at all made to the group's previous song with the very same title (and similar message), "A Better Tomorrow" off the Wu-Tang Forever album. Maybe it's because the earlier track, from the Clan's peak period, is of far superior quality to anything on the new album. The original "A Better Tomorrow" manages to be sentimental and positive, while keeping it raw.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Scenes from Adventures in the Iberian Peninsula, Part 1

Back in April of this year, I had the privilege of traveling to Lisbon, Portugal and Barcelona, Spain for a two-week vacation with my girlfriend. Documenting that here is long overdue. Here are some pictures from that unforgettable adventure.

Lisbon's reputation for having a rich street art culture was part of what drew us there, so you will notice lots of street art photos here. We even went on a Lisbon Street Art Tour that was excellent.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ranking the Albums of the Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan will form like Voltron once again. The Staten Island supergroup, widely considered to be the greatest rap group of all time, is set to release their 6th studio album, A Better Tomorrow, next week in commemoration of their 20th anniversary. Generating a massive amount of media buzz for a bunch of 40-something rappers (many of whose contemporaries have faded away by now), they are also going to be auctioning off a single-copy "secret" album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, which has already garnered multimillion-dollar offers and may never be heard by the general public.

As the 9 lyrical swordsmen are primed to release their first official group album in seven years, here is how I rank the five albums in their catalogue.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Lingerous Longerous Book of the Dark

One of the larger, more challenging pieces I've ever written is finally finished. For almost two years now I've been studying John Bishop's classic work of Finnegans Wake analysis, Joyce's Book of the Dark, and spent the last year writing a walkthrough/summary of its important ideas. The final part of that 4-part review is now posted at my other blog. I encourage you to go give it a read.

This final part is all about the female archetype in the Wake, the river goddess Anna Livia Plurabelle, and what she comes to represent in Bishop's interpretation. His entire book is built around the premise that the Wake is the account of what goes on inside the body of one man as he sleeps. Having constructed a towering argument on the basis of his thesis, Bishop concludes with an in-depth analysis of the 8th chapter of the Wake, the Anna Livia Plurabelle chapter. He finds that the sounds of "the hitherandthithering waters of" night (FW p. 216) described throughout the chapter are actually the consistent systole and diastole thumps of the sleeper's pulse. As he falls into deep sleep his vigilant ears focus on the sounds of his heartbeat leading him to reminisce, regress back to the prenatal bliss of "foetal sleep" (FW p. 563) inside the womb.

It's a groundbreaking argument, unlike anything I've read about the Wake, and Bishop presents his ideas so thoroughly and with such scientific rigor that it transforms not only the way one looks at Joyce's book but the phenomenon of sleep in general.

That is why I had to write about it. To be honest, I have wanted to write about Bishop's book since I first discovered it, years before I actually read it. One of the reasons I decided to start writing a blog in the first place was so I could eventually share an in-depth look at Bishop's text. (In fact, the title and subtitle for my other blog come from Bishop's text.) I discovered it back in 2009 or 2010, thumbed through it in amazement and was shocked and disappointed to find that the internet contains virtually zero discussion of this great book.

It's often said that you can find everything on the internet. While there's plenty of great material out there about Finnegans Wake, somehow the finest analysis of the Wake was not discussed anywhere. I wanted to change that. It took me an absurdly long time, but now I've finally finished it and web surfers curious about the Wake will be able to experience a surface-skimming glimpse at what makes Bishop's book so special.

I've also provided links to a video lecture of Bishop discussing the Wake, an audio interview with Bishop, and the iTunes University series of free lectures from Bishop discussing modern English literature.

I hope you'll find the time to go have a look.

Here are the links to the full four-part series.

Discussing the basics of Bishop's theory and the psycho-archeological approach Joyce adapted from Vico.

 On the Wake's science of sight and sound for the sleeping.

How to read Finnegans Wake.

 An examination of Bishop's "Riverbabble Primer".
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