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".

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The World Series is Here

In a short series between two evenly matched teams, predictions are practically meaningless. Despite that, I love this time of year when we get to break down one final match-up to its most minute elements.

And there's been plenty of good preview material written about this series. Sam Miller dissected the participants at Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh and Jonah Keri argued the merits of each team  at Grantland, while Joe Sheehan shares his usual unique insight in his newsletter, suggesting the Giants' many left-handed hitters might tie up Ned Yost's bullpen management, while once the series shifts to San Francisco and Yost is forced to use pinch-hitters (which he did fewer than any manager in his league) his poor tactical skills could cost the Royals.

Making the Fall Classic 29 years after their last postseason appearance has brought an abundance of good vibes around this Kansas City Royals team and they're actually considered the favorites in this series.

Consider this more of a statement of my rooting interests than a prediction: I really like the Giants here. They've won 8 straight postseason series and have been an extremely entertaining group to watch during this dynastic run. Their cast of characters is as colorful as a comic book cover. Pablo the plump Panda, Brandon Belt the Baby Giraffe, Hunter Pence the Alien/Praying Mantis, and even Buster Posey who's so strikingly normal despite his fictional-sounding name.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, this Giants team has displayed an unshakeable resilience, especially in their last run in 2012 when they won both the Division Series and League Championship after falling behind. Of course, they also snuck up on the favored Tigers in the subsequent World Series, with Pablo Sandoval joining elite company (Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols) by smashing three homers in one World Series game.

We've seen enough from the Royals in the last couple weeks to expect plenty of fight from them so I think this could end up being an epic series between two teams who put the ball in play, thrive on sharp fielding, and clamp games tightly in the later innings with strong bullpens.

Happy Baseball!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Your Mind-Boggling Artworks of the Day

It truly boggles the mind how gifted some of our fellow humans are. It's hard for me to even fathom how these magnificent works of art were created.

Adonna Khare won a $200K Art Prize back in 2012 for her otherworldly triptych entitled "Elephants"---drawn entirely, all 13-by-40 feet of it, with a pencil.

I'm blown away by this piece and how she did it. Apparently the arrangement wasn't even pre-planned, just flowed out this way. If you'd like to take a closer look there are videos on YouTube and plenty of pictures.

And one more:

Phil Hansen created a perfect rendering of Nikola Tesla's portrait, using electric sparks. Take a look:

(Found both of these via

Friday, September 26, 2014

Some Thoughts on Moby-Dick

I spent the last couple months reading Moby-Dick, finishing it last week. A massive and often tedious epic, it's not a very easy read but the short chapters make it manageable and the language is deliciously rich and grandiose. The meditations of Melville (through the book's narrator Ishmael) often reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson; so immensely poetic and majestic, and yet the prose is also extremely precise in its realism.

With plenty of other writings on my plate at the moment, I'm hesitant to really dig into an in-depth analysis or reflection of this undisputed champion of the American literary canon so I'll instead just share a few thoughts and favorite passages from it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On Reluctantly Returning to NFL Fanhood

The NFL season officially began yesterday and I didn't watch a minute of it.

I've had a love/hate relationship with football for a while now. This year my interest has been rekindled to such an extreme that I've been devouring all the season preview material I can find---especially the fantastic Football Outsiders Almanac 2014---and yet I still don't have any desire to watch games yet.

If I had to rank the available methods for consuming NFL football from most to least favorite, it'd probably look something like this:

1. NFL highlight shows
2. Madden videogames
3. Fantasy football
4. Reading football articles
5. Watching football games

The Madden franchise helped lead me to become an NFL fanatic for a good decade or so. I didn't care about football growing up until I was in junior high, then it was football videogames and an exciting New York Jets team (in 1998) that combined to reel me in. Not long afterwards I was ritually recording the Jets game on VCR each Sunday so I could spend the rest of the week watching it closely, then trying to reenact their gameplan in Madden using the same players. I lived and died with Curtis Martin, Vinny Testaverde, and Wayne Chrebet. I was furious when Laveranues Coles departed to the Redskins in 2002 (the Jets would eventually trade to get him back a few years later).

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