Sunday, September 19, 2010

An Epitomical All-Encompassing Building Roam post

Ever since I started this blog it's had the subtitle of "one of those Sports/Music/Literature blogs" which is kind of a joke (I would hope most people realize that) since I assume there aren't many blogs out there that focus on three such completely different topics. As this site has progressed along it's mostly been about Baseball and James Joyce with a few ventures into reviewing underground hip hop music. While I have plans to write a very lengthy series of posts on Joyce in the future, I am also hoping to start incorporating music (mainly underground hip hop) into the mix a lot more as well.

What has perhaps prevented me from doing so as of yet is my conviction that music is one of, if not thee most subjective of all the arts. What might be the absolute greatest piece of music I've ever heard may not hit you at all. Your favorite musician may be boring to me. My favorites might be totally worthless drivel to you but can be the highest form of lyrical poetry to me. What I hope is that the people who choose to read what I have to say on the topic do so with an open mind because I certainly will try to clearly explain why this music is so special and one might learn something interesting about a genre of music or a musician that they never lent a thought to.

(One of the other big reasons I haven't posted much yet about music is that I'd like to smoothly embed some tracks for readers to listen to but I haven't quite figured out how best to do that yet. I've settled for embedding YouTube videos of particular tracks but the sound quality is not nearly as good nor is the YouTube selection in possession of some of the rare gems that I'd like to share sometimes.)

I'm a bit disappointed with myself for letting a week pass by without posting anything but, as often happens, I allowed myself to get deeply immersed in...well...everything but my blog. A big part of that is my job but I'm out of work at 3. Truthfully, what's kept me heavily occupied the last few weeks are the three things this blog is supposed to be all about.

So I would like to make a post that perfectly encompasses those three elements of which this blog is about. This approach can be called A Building Roam as I am roaming from one distinct topic to the next, building knowledge and whatever insight I can offer about each one. Let's take the three of them (Sports, Music, Literature) backwards.

Ever since the James Joyce Quarterly highlighted my post connecting James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Salvador Dali's The Temptation of St Anthony I've been studying and taking notes on the subject of a Dali-Joyce connection and getting extremely deep into it, mining some serious gems. For one, the main link between the two men is the eminent psychologist Jacques Lacan who was directly involved with Dali on many philosophical/psychological theories and also wrote some extremely fascinating stuff on Joyce (and even attended one of the first public readings of Ulysses in the 20s). Just in the past few days I've discovered some pretty amazing and mindblowing new insights into Dali-Joyce-Lacan but I must hold back on sharing it all right now. I am writing a paper on the subject that I will submit to the Joyce Quarterly for publication because what I've been finding is pretty special and, while I certainly won't make it a habit of withholding my own writings from this blog, I would rather not just let it spill out into the worldwide web without getting any credit for it. Heck, I don't even display my real name here.

What I will share with you though are a few interesting articles I've been reading to learn more about the topic I'll be writing about. The first one, entitled "Joyce: Through the Lacan Glass," requires close attention and plenty of Google-searching for terms (Lacan had his own enigmatic terms for most of his psychological theories) but if you can persevere through it there's some extremely interesting stuff on Joyce, his relationship to the psychoanalytical community, and what he reveals about his own psychological state in Finnegans Wake.

Next, to get a better understanding of just how colorful and important a figure this Jacques Lacan was, read this selection from the New York Times Book Review about a Lacan biography.

This last one is long and I'm only just beginning to read it myself but it's the contemporary philosopher Slavoj Zizek (whom I've only learned about today but apparently he's a great modern mind) discussing Lacan and Joyce and it's already got me hooked. [Edit: scratch that, this piece is way too academic and barely discusses Joyce at all after the first few paragraphs.]

Probably because I've been on a heavy Madlib binge since late last year, I've pretty much neglected to mention the group (or "musical movement" would be more accurate) that holds the most prominent position in my musical life: the Wu-Tang Clan. With the monthly Madlib Medicine Show series coming to an unnerving temporary halt this past month (after 8 months of smoothly churning out at least one new album each month, Madlib apparently didn't finish up #9 in time) I've found myself drifting back towards the Wu-Tang universe that I've been so deeply immersed in for years but seemed to be drawn away from through my Madlib obsession. Well, yesterday and today I spent much of the day blasting Wu tunes through my speakers and vibing to it. This return to my musical source has sparked many ideas and I can assure you there will be much more Wu-Tang material (analysis, album reviews, even exclusive artist interviews) to come here at A Building Roam.

Today is the 41st birthday of the last member (the 10th) of the almighty Wu-Tang Clan, Cappadonna aka Cappuccino. Fittingly, in the system of Supreme Mathematics that so heavily features within the whole Wu-Tang mythology, the number 41 breaks down to Culture-Knowledge and thus on Cappa's birthday I'm using him as the focal point to start introducing the Knowledge of this unbelievably abundant and world-encompassing Culture.

The Staten Island-born emcee known as Cappadonna (real name Darryl Hill) has been a subject of argument among both the Wu fans and the group itself since he first appeared. The group originally consisted of 9 members (Rza, Gza, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and the final member Masta Killa) until Cappa started appearing more and more on the group's albums and even often times grabbing the spotlight on some of their best songs (his verses on the classic tracks Ice Cream and Winter Warz are a perfect example). He eventually seemed to become a regular feature in the group and essentially replaced ODB as the 9th member at times while ODB was in trouble, in prison, and then eventually in a casket. But after a falling out with group leader Rza over royalties, Cappa disappeared from Wu songs for a little while and was even airbrushed out of a photo for the Iron Flag album cover. Their problems having been settled, 'Donna has been back as a regular contributor to the Wu's releases these past few years although it's never been clearly stated by Rza (the "Abbott" of the Clan who seems to solely possess the power to bestow the official stamp) that he is a member of the group instead of just an affiliate. All of this may sound silly but the Wu-Tang Clan is perhaps the greatest musical group of all time (20 years, 9 artists that stayed together, dozens of albums, dozens of affiliate artist careers launched) and a quibble over whether or not one is officially a member of that group is of some importance.

Anyway...because of his status as unofficial extra member, his excellence has at times been a bit unheralded and overlooked. He has delivered some of the most famous Wu-Tang verses of all time and wrestled the spotlight from his brethren on some of their most popular tracks. Seemingly a protege of the extremely verbally creative duo of Raekwon and Ghostface, he's also developed a style of slang that's as colorful and diverse as his oft-referenced wardrobe ("one man catalogue, the London fog casual hog") and which sometimes pushes language to its very limits (if you're a Joycean reading this, you can perhaps see why I'm so heavily into these guys). His last album was entitled "Slang Prostitution" and he's been known to push lyrics to the point of near nonsense (as evident on a few tracks from his debut album). But when he's on, he's as good as anybody. I've chosen this freestyle of his (he's the second emcee) as a clear example.

"I meditate, coordination sparkle like a jew-el when I show articulation"

This one is one of my favorite Cappadonna songs of all time, off The Swarm compilation:

Here is his performance on the opening track of Ghostface's classic album Ironman (he steps in at the 3:10 mark and verbally dances on the beat with phenomenal grace)

While the Padres have turned the NL West race into baseball's most exciting stretch run, I've been sneaking away from my baseball obsessions a bit to catch myself up with the current state of the NFL. I'd been drifting away from caring about football over the last two years, sick of all the commercials, ESPN's gluttonous over-coverage, and bored with watching a sport which mostly features fat guys standing around and old guys talking into head sets. I've been dragged back in entirely because of a fantasy football league.

It's been fun to get reacquainted, though, because I really was a humongous football fan for many years, living and dying with my New York Jets each week and playing Madden pretty much every single day. A few weeks ago I went out and bought two NFL Season Preview magazines, devoured them, then purchased the awesome Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 which is much like the Baseball Prospectus annuals I've been so addicted to for almost a decade now.

Then, the other day, I actually went out and purchased a new game for my dusty archaic Playstation 2. I bought the final Playstation 2 installation of Madden Football. Compared to the stuff on the higher level game systems it's nothing spectacular but I care very little for video games these days and this PS2 version is just fine for me. I've jumped into it and felt the familiar addictive feeling as I neglected my readings, writings, and house chores to try and throw up another 50-yard bomb to Randy Moss (yes, I'm a Jets fan and I use the Patriots in video games---they're a fun video game team).

Instead of completely eschewing sports talk radio in San Diego with its incessant blabbering about the comings and goings of the Chargers, I've actually tuned in while driving around and kept up with this strange team of theirs. As described in the aforementioned Almanac, the Chargers had by far the best passing offense in football last year but the absolute worst running game and a very poor defense---yet they finished with 13 wins and 3 losses. Having lost their best wide receiver, a setback is expected but the Almanac speaks very highly of quarterback Philip Rivers (although emphasizing his extremely ugly throwing motion):
It's not just that there's no comparable player for Rivers at quarterback; really, there's not a similar player to Rivers in all of sports. There's no other player who performs so well while looking so ugly doing it, combining elite output with clearly suboptimal form.
Unfortunately, because of the NFL's blackout rules, we here in San Diego will not even be able to watch the Chargers' home opener tomorrow. The game is being played about 3 miles from my apartment and I won't even be able to see it. Luckily for me though, the Jets-Patriots game will be shown instead. Ah, memories.


  1. I really appreciate the depth of anaylsis you write with here.

    I probably would have taken another year or two before commiting to the completion of Ulysses if it weren't for your tasty insights.

  2. Thanks very much for reading and for the compliments Daniel. I really appreciate it and I'm glad these messages I'm floating out into the universe are truly striking people. Makes me want to write more.

    Stay tuned as I've got a ton more material to come about Ulysses. Will hopefully start posting a full chapter-by-chapter analysis of it in the next few weeks, cracking open and then reassembling the ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more.