Sunday, December 23, 2012

New blog about Finnegans Wake

Just a quick note that I've officially launched a new blog to be entirely devoted to Finnegans Wake.

It is called "Finnegans, Wake!" in reference to the title's imperative angle, calling the sleeping giant of civilization to rise up from slumber. The purpose is to awaken readers to the unfathomable, essentially infinite depths of the work which I believe is the greatest work of art of the 20th century.

It's become clear to me that the massive black hole that is Finnegans Wake was threatening to inhale the entirety of this blog plus it just makes more sense to have a separate home for all my blabberings about that most derided of obscure books.

I will, of course, continue to post plenty of material here and certainly won't cease discussion of the Wake around these parts, but all thorough explication, reflection, etc. will go on at the new blog from now on.

Unfortunately, since I'm heading out of town tomorrow for a holiday trip to the Bay Area, I probably won't have a chance to put up anything new either here or at the shiny new Wake blog until next year.

Until then, stare in amazement at this book cover artwork for the Wake done by Philip Smith. You can see more of his work here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

New piece in Slant Mag on Masta Killa

"I wrote this degree/
adjust ya eyes to the light/ so you could see"
- Masta Killa

Had a little piece published yesterday in Slant Magazine, my fourth for their them so far, a review of Wu-Tang Clan dart-throwing extraordinaire Masta Killa's new solo album entitled Selling My Soul. An unusually slick and soulful (and very short) batch of tracks that serve largely as a promotional showcase of Masta Killa's dexterity of flow and subtly striking poetics, essentially a preview to his long-awaited full length album Loyalty is Royalty.

(Expanded reflections on the career of Masta Killa after the jump...)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wu-Tang is for the Children: Neil deGrasse Tyson interviews The Gza/Genius

Astrophysicist and generally good-natured eloquent guy Neil deGrasse Tyson had co-founder of the Wu-Tang Clan and generally brilliant guy Gza/Genius as a guest on his radio/TV show recently. Somehow, Tyson was not quite aware of the massive cultural influence Wu-Tang, especially Gza, has had on the world. Here he learns, much to his amazement, how young listeners of Wu music were consequently led to passionate interests in science.

Watching him get schooled by The Gza, who spun out a few eye-opening bars during the convo, makes for great entertainment. And if you happen to be someone who is not fully aware of how Wu-Tang has inspired two decades worth of young people to seek Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding, you'd gain a fresh perspective by checking out the show.

(Video and personal reflections after the jump...)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On Completing Finnegans Wake

"Booms of bombs and heavy rethudders"
- Finnegans Wake, p. 510

Welp, I've finished my first full reading of Finnegans Wake.

Took almost exactly six months, reading each chapter in a non-chronological order (detailed here) along with a few guides and some other relevant books. The experience was a rewarding and enlightening one, certainly. I had an awe and strong curiosity for the book before actually reading it and now those feelings have only deepened.

It's going to take a while for me to assimilate all of my observations and notes into a full piece about the experience and I will in fact be starting up a separate blog to be entirely devoted to Finnegans Wake stuff. But for now I'd just like to share a few reflections.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Potent Quotables: The Gutenberg Galaxy Edition

The year is quickly reaching its conclusion, the nights growing longer as the hours of sunlight decline daily. Going through some of the unwritten or uncompleted pieces I had intended to write this year, it occurs to me that a long-planned review of Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy just isn't going to happen in the way I'd hoped. So I'm going to do something different.

First, some background info:
This incredibly dense and thoughtful text occupied a good portion of my mental energy in the final months of 2011 and into early 2012. Though it sparked many new ideas for me that completely altered my perspective on things, I mostly found it as puzzling and challenging to get through as my first reading of Ulysses. It certainly lacks the pleasing poetic language of Ulysses, but is equally massive in its references and often cuts jarringly from one huge concept to the next. I approached it thinking it'd be like any other analytical academic text but it's something very different.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Album Review: Sophisticated Movement by Kevlaar 7 & Woodenchainz

"My vinyl voice so vintage, hear the *crackling* and the *clicking*"
- Kevlaar 7

With three high-quality releases in less than two years, Kevlaar 7 is arguably the most consistent purveyor of pure hip hop right now. This latest offering, Sophisticated Movement, is a 15-track collaboration with burgeoning beatcrafter Woodenchainz, an album bursting at the seams with soulfulness as the sounds of decrepit Detroit's underground hip hop/blues heart continues to pour out from the Wisemen camp.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Importance of the O

Written by Wu-Tang's Gza/Genius, performed by Jim Jarmusch. (Not sure who produced it, though I believe it's Preservation). 

Here's a recent New York Times piece on The Gza/Genius and his new enterprise to teach science in public school through the use of hip hop rhymes. Wu-Tang is for the babies, in case you didn't know.

From the article:
Growing up in the Park Hill Houses on Staten Island, he was curious about the physical world but bored with school. Hip-hop became his outlet for showing off intellectually.

“It was always about crafting the best rhyme in the most articulate, witty or smart way,” he said. "For us, it was always about educating the listener."

It took him more than two decades to develop his curiosity about science into “Dark Matter,” an album now in the writing stage, which he hopes will bring his fans to astrophysics, starting with the Big Bang.

Ten Best Science Books of 2012

Trying to get back into the groove after an extended period away from doing any serious writing. My journey deep into the heart of Finnegans Wake has consumed me (increasingly so) for almost six months now. With just one chapter left until I've completed my first full go-round with the book, I'll soon have lots to say about it all. In the meantime, forgive my absence and enjoy perusing this wonderfully illustrated list of the ten best science books of the year via the essential Brain Pickings blog.

And here's a stunning cosmic photograph that appeared recently at the Astronomy Picture of the Day webpage.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Known Universe

Pretty sure I've posted this before in the past, but certainly well worth a re-posting. It's a video showing the entirety of the universe as we comprehend it, set to the music of composer Hans Zimmer (actually, a funky remix of Zimmer).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Quick World Series Preview

As Game One begins in less than an hour and I've got pizza to pick up and a friend's house to travel to, I'll try to keep this brief. Plus I already said enough about both participants in my LCS previews (which turned out to be spot on, go read 'em).

Despite the San Francisco Giants having home field advantage in the World Series, the betting lines show the Detroit Tigers as heavy favorites to win their first championship since 1984. That seems entirely logical considering the way the Tigers plowed over the best team in the American League, the Yankees, in a sweep of the ALCS. The Detroit pitching staff is headlined by the best thrower of baseballs on the planet, Justin Verlander, and if the Giants have any chance of winning they'll probably have to beat him at least once. Behind Verlander, every other starter in the Tigers' rotation is formidable, this depth being the key reason behind their takedown of the Yanks.

The problem for Detroit is their horrendous defense. Their starting pitching is so great, registering so many strikeouts that the defense tends to not matter all that much. The ball is so rarely put into play. This was especially true against the A's and Yankees in the postseason, two teams that strike out a ton and rely on home runs to score.

The Giants, on the other hand, hit the fewest homers in baseball this year. And yet they were one of the best offensive teams in the sport. This is because they succeed by putting the ball in play, smacking doubles and triples all over the field while rarely striking out. Look for this attribute of the San Francisco offensive attack to be a major factor in this series. The Tigers can't catch the ball (aside from Austin Jackson in center) and the Giants don't strike out that much.

The Giants also boast a much stronger bullpen than the Tigers and this will surely come into play as the San Francisco starting rotation appears to be a weak spot going into the series. They'll have their worst starter, Barry Zito, on the mound in Game 1 to face Verlander and it looks like their best pitcher, Matt Cain, will only pitch in one game (Game 4). The Tigers will surely put some runs on the board and so you can count on the Giants bullpen having to get involved early in some of these games.

While Detroit's vaunted rotation will be a major threat, I expect the Giants to have little trouble scoring runs, particularly at home. When the series shifts to Detroit, the Tigers will have a big advantage as they're built to carry a DH, while the Giants will have to put some inadequate hitter (Aubrey Huff or Hector Sanchez) in that spot. I expect Verlander to steal the show for Detroit at least once in the Series, but I still pick the Giants to overcome Detroit in six games.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 NLCS Preview: Cardinals vs. Giants

The National League Championship Series matches up the last two World Series winners, both of whom were surprise winners at the time. In 2010, the Giants managed to get past the loaded Philadelphia Phillies and went on to knock off a superior Texas Rangers team for the World Series. The Cards also upset the Phillies on their path to the championship, where they too upended the Rangers last year.

Now the two will duke it out for another NL pennant. It's a very tight matchup, closer than I expected before looking at the numbers. The Cardinals are clearly a very deep offensive team, even having lost Albert Pujols they actually scored a few more runs this year (765) than last (762). Carlos Beltran bats 2nd in their lineup and currently has the best career postseason numbers (.375/.488/.817 AVG/OBP/SLG) of any player in history, Babe Ruth et al included. With their middle infielders Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma showing plenty of offensive ability in toppling the Washington Nationals, there really isn't a weak spot in the whole lineup from top to bottom.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

2012 ALCS Preview: Tigers vs. Yankees

Well, that was fun.

The first round of baseball's playoffs provided just about the maximum possible amount of excitement with all four series requiring the full five games to be decided. All four series also featured at least one memorable game, while the San Francisco Giants managed to become the first team in the history of the sport to come back from a 2-0 series deficit by winning three straight games on the road.

There was a surprising amount of symmetry to the whole thing. In the American League, powerhouse favorites Detroit and New York saw surprise Cinderella teams (the Oakland A's and Baltimore O's) fight back to stave off elimination until respective aces Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia laid the underdogs to rest with dominant Game 5s. In the National League, the Giants completed an epic comeback by outlasting their opponent in a tense deciding game while the Cardinals had perhaps the greatest single-game comeback in postseason elimination game history---they trailed 6-0 (on the road!) and never stopped battling through each at-bat until they eventually broke through to first tie the game and then take a two-run lead, doing so in successive 9th inning at-bats while down to their final out.

Now we're left with an intriguing quartet of experienced postseason squads battling it out for a shot at the World Series. The Cardinals and Giants are our last two World Champions, while the Tigers and Yankees are about to begin their third head-to-head playoff matchup of the last 7 years. Here I'll give my quick rundown of the AL series (which begins tonight) and then later we'll take a look at the NL.

This is Where We Live

Hard to believe this is even a real photo (click to enlarge).

From NASA's essential Astronomy Picture of the Day page.

Monday, October 8, 2012

"There Are Some Lost": A Reflection

There's an old saying that death comes in threes. The news of three deaths each successively rippled through my aura this past week, leaving me in contemplation and occasional empathetic mourning. Thankfully, the deceased were not people who were close to me but all three were shocking nonetheless.

With this on my mind, I'd like to share something I had intended to write back in August as a dedication to a close friend of mine who abruptly passed away three years ago at the age of 26. He was initially the only friend who made an effort to stay in touch after I moved out of New York four years ago and, thankfully, I got to see him one last time two weeks before he died.

"There Are Some Lost" is a short, lyrically poignant elegiac rap song by Kevlaar 7 that was released earlier this year. It eulogizes his cousin who was murdered at the age of 20 and, with poetic deftness, manages to encapsulate the experience of losing someone.

I'd like to shed light on the song's two verses, reflect on some of the images, and attempt to unravel the meanings contained in his condensed lines.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Autumn is Here

All of the colors are changing
Autumn is here
Leaves now are falling
Dark's near....

It's the first cool, crisp day of Fall here in Austin. Autumn has finally arrived in this beautiful city.

Exactly two years ago, my former girlfriend and I embarked on a 12-hour journey up the coast of California to attend the World Vegetarian Festival in San Francisco. It coincided with the final two days of an exciting baseball season, with San Fran as its epicenter. That crisp, chilly weekend was one of the more memorable experiences I've had in the last four or five years (documented here). Today in Austin, World Vegetarian Day will be celebrated at a massive outdoor potluck picnic party in Pease Park which I'm attending.

After that I'll be hanging out with a diehard San Francisco Giants fan to watch their postseason begin. Two years ago, shortly after we returned from that unforgettable Bay Area trip, the Giants won the World Series.

Baseball has reached its final stages. Football has begun.

The air is crisp, the shadows long. 

Autumn is here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Album Review: Die Ageless by Kevlaar 7

"I must've been an emcee in my past life/
presently I'm unquestionably poetic/ I'm mad nice"
- Cormega

"the great ever living dead man"
- Coleridge describing Shakespeare

For a brief decade or so, as you may remember, CD singles were a thing. You'd go to the store and buy a compact disc that contained at most 2 or 3 songs, sometimes instrumental and acapella versions included. A good enough single with substance to it might make that lone compact disc worth innumerable hours of spinning. The hip hop genre's ultimate height, the 1990s, coincided with the plateau of compact discs. As more and more music was enabled to be stored and condensed into less and less space, the overall quality of the artform rapidly diminished to the point of catering toward 99-cent ringtone simplicity. In similar fashion, the medium of printed books began as a means of storing and increasing our knowledge only to eventually have bookstores fill up with vacuous bestsellers. 

In his first full-length offering, Die Ageless, Detroit emcee/producer Kevlaar 7 has assembled a vastly rich musical novel of 19 chapters (18 songs plus thoughtful intro). One could isolate any one or two tracks, carry them around like an old single compact disc and continually uncover an astoundingly intricate artistic nuance throughout. It's a collection of true hip hop singles, every track feels deeply considered, you really could split this album up into 3 short EPs that would all have replay value. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tense Continuant

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912) - Marcel Duchamp

"Then's now with now's then in tense continuant." 
- Finnegans Wake, pg. 598

Defending this painting against critics, Duchamp called it "an expression of time and space through the abstract presentation of motion." This all reminds me of Finnegans Wake, just like pretty much everything else I look at right now having been so immersed in the book for three months.

While still in his early 30s, Duchamp moved on from art to pursue an obsession with chess. I find this very intriguing. I've always enjoyed the part of Aleister Crowley's story about how he vigorously pursued becoming a grandmaster chessplayer until one day witnessing a room full of grandmasters and being so stunned at their quirkiness that he gave up that path for good. As he explains with humorous eloquence:
...I had hardly entered the room where the masters were playing when I was seized with what may justly be described as a mystical experience.  I seemed to be looking on at the tournament from outside myself.  I saw the masters --- one, shabby, snuffy and blear-eyed; another, in badly fitting would-be respectable shoddy; a third, a mere parody of humanity, and so on for the rest.  These were the people to whose ranks I was seeking admission.  "There, but for the grace of God, goes Aleister Crowley," I exclaimed to myself with disgust, and there and then I registered a vow never to play another serious game of chess.  I perceived with praeternatural lucidity that I had not alighted on this planet with the object of playing chess.
In the 1930s, while Joyce was finishing up Finnegans Wake, Marcel Duchamp reached what he believed to be the height of his chess ability and slowly stopped playing. Unlike Crowley though, he retained his reverence and passion for the game and became a chess journalist. He said some very insightful things about chess which I'd like to share here:
"I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art—and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position."

"The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chess-board, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem. ... I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists."
It was The Rza, Abbott of the Wu-Tang Clan who first taught me about the depth of chess, pointing out (among other things) the importance of the number 64, there being 64 squares on a chess board as well as 64 different possible combinations of pieces that make up DNA, 64 hexagrams in the I-Ching and a few other such examples. Robert Anton Wilson discusses all of this in connection with Finnegans Wake in his spectacular book Coincidance (he's also got a short essay on chess in The Illuminati Papers that will make your head explode; and in another piece discusses it all in regards to the Law of Octaves).

To finish off this wandering staircase of thought, there is actually a scene in Finnegans Wake filled with chess references. You'll notice it manages to tie back to Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase. It's in the penultimate chapter, during the earliest morning hours, when Mom and Dad are awakened by their crying son and rush through the house to his bedroom. The mother pops up immediately and moves swiftly with groggy (naked) father trudging behind, Joyce describes their movements through the house as though they were pieces on a chess board:

"you should have seen how that smart sallowlass just hopped a nanny's gambit out of bunk like old mother Mesopotomac and in eight and eight sixtyfour she was off, door, knightlamp with her, billy's largelimbs prodgering after to queen's lead... Room to sink: stairs to sink behind room. Two pieces.
In the quicktime. The castle arkwright put in a chequered staircase certainly. It has only one square step, to be steady, yet notwithstumbling are they stalemating backgammoner supstairs by skips and trestles tiltop double corner. Whist while and game.
What scenic artist!"
- FW pg. 559-560
Make of that what you will.

While I don't think this is included therein, William Anastasi has written a thorough study of the possible links between Joyce and Marcel Duchamp and it is available online for free. Read it here.

You can read plenty of great stuff about time and modern physics in Finnegans Wake here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

Here's a picture of an analemma which shows the Sun's position in the sky at the same time of day everyday for a year. Go check out NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day page to read more about it.

(Image copyrighted property of Anthony Ayiomamitis.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Potent Quotables: Question Everything

Escher in Italy (1987) by István Orosz

"The universe contains a maybe" 
- Robert Anton Wilson

"Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing." 
- Euripedes

"I do not pretend to tell what is absolutely true, but what I think is true."
- Robert Ingersoll

Inspired by this quote from Rob Breszny's excellent book Pronoia:

"Objection, evasion, joyous distrust, and love of irony are signs of health. Everything absolute belongs to pathology." So proclaimed Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil. Note well that he used the adjective "joyous" to describe distrust, not "cynical" or "grumbling" or "sour." The key to remaining vital and strong while questioning every so-called absolute is to cultivate a cheerful, buoyant mood as you do it. 
This is a key point in Robert Anton Wilson's book Quantum Psychology for which there is currently an online reading group going on over at Tom Jackson's excellent blog, check it out.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Baseball's Race to the Postseason (AL Edition)

The baseball season has zoomed by so fast that I haven't had much time to write anything about it. As Austin receives its first extended downpour of rain in about 3 months, now's the time to quickly share my thoughts on how things have played out and what we can look forward to over the final 15 games or so of the regular season.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Life's on the Clock"

This is what good hip hop sounds like.

By Kevlaar 7 featuring Rain the Quiet Storm. Produced by Woodenchainz. Off the new album Sophisticated Movement. Check it out here.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

On DOOM in Slant

"feel him in ya heart chakra, chart toppa
start shit stoppa, be a smart shoppa"
 - DOOM on "Figaro"

"the suggestion thrown out by the doomster in loquacity lunacy" 
- Finnegans Wake, p. 49

My review of the new JJ DOOM (Jneiro Jarel + MF DOOM) album Key to the Kuffs is now up at Slant Magazine. Go give it a read and let me know what you think. (Certainly not the best thing I've ever written, but it's part of my attempt to get back in the groove after some time off.)

Here's the funky new video for the album's first single "Guv'nor".

DOOM recently appeared on BBC Radio 1 and basically took over the show for two hours. The host played dozens of tracks from the Supevillain's vast catalogue and there's a good 40 minutes or so worth of exclusive interview with the elusive, reclusive metal-mask-wearing savant. You can stream the show in its entirety here or if that doesn't work, here's a download link.

Also, Jneiro Jarel put out an eclectic little mixtape for the album featuring remixes, some original old songs that were the influence behind his Key to the Kuffs beats, and more. Listen to it here and if you can find a download link for it, please send it to me.

For those interested, here is my thorough track-by-track review of the previous DOOM album Born Like This.

Glowing Infinite Cosmos Picture of the Day

Courtesy of one of my favorite sites on the internet, Astronomy Picture of the Day. Would love it if I could have their posts show up on my blog everyday but I don't think they'd like that.

With all the phony political presidential bullshit going on right now, I imagine myself as presidential candidate simply saying to people "Look at a picture of the cosmos. Zoom in close as you can and look how many galaxies and stars are in one little pixel. Now, enough of all this meaningless minuscule bullshit. Let's just stop murdering people in the name of senseless wars and figure out how to unite as a planet and start exploring the vast mysterious infinitudes of the universe together."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Awakened Only to See the Wake Everywhere

It's been nearly a month since I've posted anything here, an unprecedented length of absence that is due to a number of factors. For one, I wanted to let the announcement about the Finnegans Wake group sit atop the page for a while. A weeklong trip back home to New York also pulled me away from writing for a bit. And the key reason for my absence is that I've been immersed in thoroughly reading/studying Finnegans Wake for almost two full months now.

The Wake reading experience (my first full go-round with the circular, neverending text) has been occasionally sublime, rarely tedious, and mostly fun. It gets to be kind of addictive, which is why I haven't really written anything besides daily jottings in notebooks, mostly quotes and reflections on what I'm reading.

I had hoped to maintain a regular weekly blogpost here to update where I'm at in the book and what's struck me about it but I'm finding the balance of reading/writing to be a tough one to maintain, especially when the "reading" side of the ledger is so heavily weighted with not one book but half a dozen (a devoted reading of the Wake inevitably requires a few guidebooks, plus I'm occasionally reading the Football Outsiders Almanac 2012 in an attempt to keep myself based in reality through this process).

Now that I've completed 8 chapters of the Wake and gotten into a good routine with it, it's time to slowly bring my writing back to life as I've got a number of pieces to complete that have been collecting dust the past 8 weeks or so. This little post is my attempt at loosening up the writing muscles.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT: Finnegans Wake Reading Group of Austin begins Sept. 4th

"I'm going to prove that Finnegans Wake is an information pool based on computer memory systems that didn't exist until centuries after James Joyce's era; that Joyce was plugged into a cosmic consciousness from which he derived the inspiration for his entire corpus of work."
- The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick 
The Finnegans Wake Reading Group of Austin will have its first official gathering Tuesday, September 4th starting at 7 PM at the Twin Oaks Library in South Austin.

This event is free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome, you don't have to have any particular interest in James Joyce or his work. But do be prepared to read aloud in front of people.

I have a meeting room reserved at the Twin Oaks Library (a really nice place located near South Lamar and Mary Street) from 7 to 8:45 PM for the first Tuesday night of each month moving forward. If it goes well, maybe we'll even get together more frequently than once a month.

 Check out the flyer I just made:

(Click to enlarge)

We're going to approach the text in the manner outlined in an old post I wrote called the Finnegans Wake Treasure Map, going through the easier chapters first and slowly moving on through the more difficult ones. This is the order I've been reading the book myself and I've found that it works perfectly, especially since it starts off in Chapter 5 (known as the "Mamafesta" chapter) which deals entirely with describing the book itself as though it were an old letter with complex writing and symbols dug up out of a garbage dump.

Any questions or concerns, feel free to send an e-mail to 

Instrumental: Whatkanido (Can Do It) by Madlib

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Three Joycean Synchronicities

As Robert Anton Wilson liked to point out, reading about or discussing synchronicity usually tends to vastly increase the amount of strange coincidences in one's life. In my experience, whenever I've been engaged in reading Carl Jung, or the I Ching, or Wilson himself, synchronicities do tend to swirl around me.

This same thing especially applies to reading James Joyce. His major works are filled with synchroncities and coincidences. In his book Joyce the Creator, Sheldon Brivic attempts to document all the synchronicities embedded within the single day of Ulysses and he lists over a hundred of them. Robert Anton Wilson's book Coincidance has a few excellent essays about synchronicity in Finnegans Wake. It's safe to say that it's a big part of Joyce's major works (though the word "synchronicity" was coined by Jung more than ten years after Joyce's death).

These past few weeks I've been undertaking the task of thoroughly reading Finnegans Wake, this deep involvement tending to leave me in an unusual mindstate. I find myself thinking about certain words or phrases all throughout the day and often I can't wait to get home and dive back into the strange book. I've read four chapters thus far and I'm really enjoying it. With lots of notes already written about it, I'll have plenty to say about the book in an upcoming post.

For now, I'd like to share three funny coincidences that occurred over three consecutive days right around the time I'd begun reading the Wake.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Man Who Created the Mask and the Exile Who Dons It

We knew something was up. He'd been far too prolific, rapidly growing a rabid and devout fanbase, to suddenly disappear from the scene with his reputation disintegrating into the image of an indolent pot-bellied derelict who left collaborators, record labels, and fans agitated with his inability to finish projects. Hip hop heads have longed for the completion of his two most sought-after records, respective joint efforts with Madlib and Ghostface Killah, for something like 5 years now.

Finally, we've at least got an explanation for his absence.

The metal-masked writer/producer/performer known as MF Doom (aka The Supervillain) was thwarted upon trying to re-enter the United States in 2010 after a European tour and has remained in exile living in London ever since. An article in Q Magazine explained:
British-born [Daniel] Dumile moved to the US as a baby, but was never naturalised, so avoided leaving the country. But in 2010, possibly assuming his American wife and kids would be enough to secure re-entry, he obtained a British passport and set out on tour.
On return he met with an official who "just wanted to see how many people she could make have a bad day that day." Doom didn't tell her his profession, making him the only rapper ever not to give it the Big I Am. "Imagine me saying that," he says with a laugh. "I'm no big rap star, I'm a regular guy." 
Since then he's been holed up in South London.

While stuck over there he has been recording music, though. Suddenly, he's got a new album about to drop, a collabo with producer Jneiro Jarel entitled Keys to the Kuffs, to be released on Stones Throw Records on August 21st.

Here's a new track from the record called "Guv'nor."

In an era ruled by digital music, I still find many releases from Stones Throw to be worthy of physical purchase because of their propensity to craft an all-around artful package. This album features more of the same and they're even including free copies of a 100+ page magazine fully devoted to Doom. Instant purchase for me. More on that here.

As part of the promo push for the magazine, they've put together some colorful YouTube videos including an excellent interview with the artist who originally assembled the Doom mask. Lots of New York City flavor in this one, check it out:

Monday, July 9, 2012


Stormy weather has finally hit here in the middle of Texas.

As I write this on Monday evening, my roof is being pattered with rain and thunder frequently rumbles. Enormous and dark clouds arrived here yesterday, and last night up in Arlington this happened in the middle of a major league baseball game:

A field full of supposedly tough grown men, professional baseball players, made to cower with fear in a millisecond. Watch as they all sprint off the field even though it isn't raining.

Did I mention I started to read Finnegans Wake in earnest this weekend? The 100-letter word in the title of this post is the voice of God in the Wake, the thunderclap which explodes 10 different times in the book, each time signaling a new cycle in history. Adapted from Giambattista Vico's theory of the repeating cycles of human history, in which thunder scares aristocratic, intelligent, arrogantly advanced humankind into a crippling fear of God and they go back to the first stage, theocracy, the Divine Age.

Vico purported that primitive humans were so terrified of thunder that they fled into caves, just as the ballplayers flee into the dugout. 

The thunderword written above is on the first page of the book and contains the word for "thunder" in at least 13 different languages.

A loud crash of thunder ("A black crack of noise in the street") also blasts at the very center of Ulysses, marking the middle break in the book where everything changes, a dry barren wasteland gets nourished and rained on. Stephen (a stand-in for the author himself who had a great fear of thunderstorms) is made to tremble in fear as his boasting to friends is suddenly interrupted when "Loud on left Thor thundered: in anger awful the hammerhurler."

As regards the god of thunder Thor and his hammer, the most notable reaction of the baseball players in the video is Josh Willingham, a muscular slugger known as "The Hammer," falling down on all fours and covering his head.
"his heart shook within the cage of his breast as he tasted the rumour of that storm."

 *   *   *

With's notoriously covetous and absurd blackout rules (put in place to make sure cable companies pocket as much money as possible) I was barred from watching that Texas Rangers game last night despite paying for a baseball media package. I only got to see the great Thunderclap video when I read Grant Brisbee's hilarious coverage of it over at Baseball Nation. I strongly recommend checking that piece out, it made me laugh out loud at least 3 times. This picture that he linked to even made me fall out of my chair in laughter.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Album Review: School for the Blindman by Bronze Nazareth

Specs like Ray Charles seeing from his grave
He said "Bronze, you could hear the color of clouds
and see the sounds of existence like braille printed out"
- Bronze Nazareth

Maybe we could have predicted it, maybe we could've seen him coming. Just as the flourishing basketball culture of the early to mid-90s---with various flavors of expertise on display from Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Larry Bird, etc---merged with the DNA of a growing young super athlete to eventually become the all-around hoops behemoth that is LeBron James, the apotheosis of hip hop in the 90s was experienced by a growing Motown youth of musical precocity to eventually bring forth Bronze Nazareth, Wu-Tang's #1 draft pick.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wandering the Storm-tossed Seas

Artwork by Andrew Schoultz from his book Ulysses: Departures, Journeys & Returns.

Potent Quotables: Speaking to the Superconscious Mind

"Stubborn mental or physical diseases always have a deep root in the subconsciousness. Illness may be cured by pulling out its hidden roots. That is why all affirmations of the conscious mind should be impressive enough to permeate the subconsciousness, which in turn automatically influences the conscious mind. Strong conscious affirmations thus react on the mind and body through the medium of the subconscious. Still stronger affirmations reach not only the subconscious, but also the superconscious mind---the magic storehouse of miraculous powers."
- Paramahansa Yogananda
This quote is exactly what Robert Anton Wilson speaks of in his wonderful book Prometheus Rising, particularly in his discussion of the so-called "fifth circuit" or Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit. Wilson uses the computer-technology language that was popular in the late 70s and 80s but he's talking about the same exact thing (faith healing, miraculous rejuvenation, etc are all discussed).

In Prometheus Rising (and a few of RAW's other books), there are exercises at the end of each chapter that are very much like the affirmations Yogananda speaks of; statements to speak or focus on that are so powerful they can activate the powerful energies of the unconscious. 

Here are some of my favorite exercises from RAW. These are all proposed as ways to reprogram your mind and your way of experiencing the world which eventually results in a revolution of you.
- Believe that you can exceed all your previous ambitions and hopes in all areas of your life.

- James Joyce said he never met a boring human being. Try to explain this. Try to get into the Joycean head space, where everybody is a separate reality-island full of mystery and surprise. In other words, learn to observe.

- If all you can know is your own brain programs operating, the whole universe you experience is inside your head. Try to hold onto that model for at least an hour. Note how often you relapse into feeling the universe as outside you.

- Try living a whole week with the program, "Everybody likes me and tries to help me achieve my goals."

- Try living a day with the program "I am God playing at being a human being. I created every reality I notice."

- Try living forever with the metaprogram, "Everything works out more perfectly than I plan it."


Monday, June 25, 2012

Amen to R.A. and the Redeeming Beauty of Baseball

We're almost midway through the 2012 baseball season and ever so slowly some things are starting to become clear. We know the Yankees are once again a dominant force. The Padres are a complete abject disaster. The AL Central is up for grabs. Rookies Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are really good.

And R.A. Dickey is among the best pitchers in baseball.

That last one is the hardest to believe. For one thing, Dickey got knocked around by the Yankees last night. He's also a 37-year-old knuckeballer, which is something of a sideshow in the game of baseball. And yet earlier this year he became the first National League pitcher since 1944 to throw two consecutive one-hitters. His dominance reached the point of 44 and 2/3 straight innings without giving up an earned run until the Yankees finally got to him last night.

But even after surrendering five runs last night, he's still 7th-best in the league at keeping runs off the board. He leads the NL in shutouts, wins, and his tied for the lead in pitcher's WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Most incredibly, he's got the third most strikeouts of any pitcher in the NL and he's by far the oldest guy in the top 10 of that category.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Read Before the Electronic Ink Evaporates: Illustrated Joyce (and some Dali too)

Despite it being far too hot in Austin right now to do anything, including type on a computer, I have a few too many things that have been waiting in the queue and now's the time to share them.

First up is a post over at the website Brain Pickings that shares images from the special edition of Ulysses for which Henri Matisse provided illustrations in the 1930s. An American publisher had commissioned Matisse to provide some artwork for the text for $5,000 and Matisse came up with 26 full page drawings.

While the combo of Matisse and Joyce certainly sounds intriguing, I'm not particularly enamored of the result and neither was Joyce. The problem is that Matisse didn't bother to read Ulysses and instead drew up scenes from Homer's Odyssey.

I do really like the cover (shown on right) but the rest of it is unexciting.

In the mid-1930s when the Matisse-illustrated edition of the book was being put together, Joyce was hard at work finishing up writing Finnegans Wake which he been laboring on for almost 15 years. Fragments of the Wake (known as Work in Progress at that point since he kept the title secret until completion) had been appearing in magazines and even in individual book form during this time. Joyce encouraged his mentally unstable but artistically brilliant daughter Lucia to take a crack at making her own illustrations for one of the chapters of his enigmatic work and the results were actually quite good. Joyce much preferred her illustrations to the ones by Matisse and you can see why.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

16 Reasons Why James Joyce is the Greatest Writer Ever

This was originally posted last summer. Today being Bloomsday, I figured it was a good time to post it once more.

1. The simple fact that his writing is beautiful
All good writing strives towards poetry as poetry is the highest form of writing. Joyce started off as a poet and was good enough to receive attention from W.B. Yeats who encouraged Joyce to "turn his mind to unknown arts." This unknown art is a manner of prose in which every word and the flow of the words are considered with precise poetical precision. So Joyce's writing is an original, beautiful gleaming mass that yields gems like this one:

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

2. Joyce is to literature what Einstein is to science
In Ulysses Joyce toys with time and space all throughout the book. In the "Proteus" chapter, Stephen Dedalus ruminates and meditates on the nature of Time and Space using Schopenhauer's interesting words Nacheinander (German for "succeeding each other") and Nebeneinander ("beside each other"). The main character Leopold Bloom sells newspaper advertisement space for temporary periods of time. In Richard Ellman's complex exegesis, Ulysses on the Liffey, he argues convincingly that the 18 episodes can be broken into six triads within which the dominant categories of Space, Time, and Space-Time repeat over and over. Relativity (or more specifically what Einstein called "special relativity") also dominates the book, especially in the first six chapters as we follow the movements and thoughts of two different, separate characters at the exact same time of day. Relativity abounds in Bloom's cosmic reflections in the Ithaca episode. Also, Don Gifford's Ulysses Annotated explains how Joyce stretches out time by depicting the events of the day through a "rich mix of clock time, psychological time, and mnemonic time."
We are all aware, for example, that we can think and perceive far more in the course of a few minutes of multi-leveled consciousness than we could spell out in words in as many hours. Joyce variously explores this disparity. (Gifford, pg 3)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

To Clear the Tension in My Atmosphere, Part 2

Let us come back to our friend, the hairy guy who acts as a flimsy connecting thread in this little story, Mr. Jorn Barger.

Barger, creator of the term "weblog" and one of the earliest bloggers, as we have seen, maintained a website loaded with material on James Joyce, artificial intelligence, and more. Among his many impressive and worthwhile assemblages of material is a massive collection of quotes about Love gathered from the words of poets, writers, philosophers, musicians, royal figures, and others throughout the history of man.

The collection is entitled Solace: a textbook of romantic psychology and it is organized according to the stages love usually unfolds in, from "Seeking" and "Courting" down to "Trying" and "Fading" until either the love has dried up or one of the lovers passes away.

Having gone through the experience of a long-term relationship suddenly coming to an end, I've found that this collection does indeed provide "Solace" for the reader. As the "textbook of romantic psychology" states in its opening:
For this will cure him that is sick, and raise him that is in dumps; one that has loved, it will remember of it; one that has not, it will instruct...
And so I would like to now, for one last bit of blogspace, gather some quotes from Barger's very useful textbook about the experience of love's fading. This blog was, after all, originally begun out of the insistence of my ex-girlfriend who always acted as a supporter and muse for all of my writing. I feel I must give our relationship a proper sendoff before my heart paves a new road.

Monday, June 4, 2012

To Clear the Tension in My Atmosphere, Part 1

An abundantly hirsute, wizard-like, quirky-looking gentleman named Jorn Barger is the person responsible for originally coining the term "weblog" in the 1990s. I know this only because Barger, one of the web's original bloggers if not the original blogger, also has a reputation for having written heaps of enlightening material on James Joyce at his early weblog "Robot Wisdom."

Navigating through the many dead links one might expect to encounter on a site that hasn't been updated since 1999, you'll find a vast amount of material including original (sometimes groundbreaking) analysis and exegesis of virtually all of Joyce's work.

But that's not all Barger ever wrote about and this post is not about James Joyce. This is about life's propensity to ricochet experience into unforeseen directions. See, my girlfriend and I have decided to call it quits after three mostly wonderful years (living together for much of that time) and these last few days have been painful ones for me but the experience of prolonged sadness has led to a number of interesting experiences.

So I'd like to take a Jorn Barger-inspired trek through all of that right now.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Parallax, Cosmic Dimensions and Their Measurements

Via Brain Pickings here is an exceptionally awesome little video explaining graphically how we, as humans on the surface of a relatively minuscule celestial body in a practically infinite cosmic ocean, are able to accurately observe the stars and judge their distances.

It's worth watching more than once. You'll likely be too bedazzled by the scope of it all on first viewing, but the explanations undoubtedly become more digestible with each viewing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Great Migration six years later

"I'll probably never be as big as Slim Shady or Jay-Z
Even though I write vivid like I'm Homer the Greek"

Six years ago today, Bronze Nazareth, at that time a relatively unknown Wu-Tang affiliate, officially released his debut solo album The Great Migration. Most listeners, myself included, had immediately sought the record based on Bronze's already solid reputation as a producer of enticingly melodic and powerful beats. We weren't yet aware of his gift for poetic lyrics.

The all-around artistic brilliance of the album not only cemented Bronze's position as a new up-and-coming musician of great talent, it played a major role in my life at the time and became one of my favorite albums ever.

Monday, May 21, 2012

To be a writer

As has so often been the case since I left the nest of New York and jumped out into the abyss four years ago, I find myself going through transitions.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Four Unbelievable True Stories

Last Saturday afternoon my friend Joe told me one of the most incredible stories I've ever heard.

Then Sunday night during dinner I heard another outrageous story, this time from my girlfriend.

When I went into work Monday morning, my co-worker was eager to tell me about something unbelievable he'd experienced over the weekend. Later in the day, when I asked everyone what they thought of the gargantuan, explosive thunderstorm that hit Austin on Saturday night, I heard another ridiculous story.

All of these were so stunning, so unreal, that I feel I must share them all here.

I promise these are all true.
Flight of the black vulture

Story #1: While standing in Joe's backyard, a large bird with an enormous wingspan floated above us ominously. I've come to learn that these huge lofting birds are actually black vultures looking for prey. I recently saw one on the side of the road picking at a dead squirrel.

As we paused in awe of the floating feathered creature, Joe began to tell me the astonishing story of when the "hawk" (as he called it) crashed through his living room window. I laughed at his attempted joke. He assured me he was serious.

One afternoon last week, as Joe was in the bedroom, he heard a loud crash of shattering glass come from his living room. Thinking someone was trying to break in, he rushed over to find a huge hawk had crashed through the window and landed on his living room floor along with another much smaller bird, its prey. His dog Roscoe stood stunned and Joe watched as the big bird collected itself and jumped back through the broken window into his backyard and then flew away. It left its prey behind.

The smaller bird was dead, blood coming out of its mouth. Joe disposed of it, cleaned up all the broken glass, and went out to buy a new living room window.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Monuments of "Kings"

"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments 
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme"
- Shakespeare, Sonnet LV

The long-awaited solo debut of underground master craftsman and poetic rap sculptor Kevlaar 7, entitled Die Ageless, recently saw the release of its first song. The accompanying video is one of the best I've seen in a while, it melds perfectly with the energy of the song and its lyrics while providing a final fading image at the end that draws the viewer in. The quote from Malcolm X, flickering just barely into sight in the video's conclusion reads: 
"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."
The hungry hip hop fan can prepare for the upcoming release of Die Ageless today by savoring and digesting the words and images of this newest musical monument.

"Deans follow me, I bleed a hard road to follow
swallowing shadows
the past left me shallow
Xylophone suture
The future sees we're deep
free from a lasso
de facto suspicions, sick with admissions"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

La muerte no es el fin

"Phall if you but will, rise you must"
- Finnegans Wake, pg. 4

This incredible mural was on a wall in downtown Austin until, for some reason, it was recently painted over.

Shame. At least I got to get this great picture of it, though.

Monday, April 23, 2012

On the Recurrence of 423 and 432

Today is April 23rd and I've had many 4/23 thoughts rolling through my head all day so I'd like to unravel them here for all to see.

I awoke this morning around 4 AM in Daytona Beach, Florida. Had to catch an early flight to come back home to Austin after spending a weekend visiting with my family, especially my newborn niece and 2-year-old nephew.

My girlfriend (whose birthday is June 23rd) picked me up at the airport but her phone had fallen and broke yesterday so that added some complications to things. Later in the afternoon she acquired a new phone and called me at exactly 4:23 PM.

Today is Shakespeare's birthday, he was born on April 23, 1564. He died on April 23, 1616.

In his book Coincidance, Robert Anton Wilson examines a vast net of seemingly never-ending synchronicities in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, including those having to do with the number 23. Shakespeare is involved in it all and he gets tied in with legendary Irish king Brian Boru who died at the Battle of Clontarf which took place on April 23, 1014.

In the Wake, there are 5 main characters: 2 females (mother and daughter) and 3 males (father and twin sons). One of the main recurring themes of the book is a foggily remembered incident that occurred in Phoenix Park involving 2 girls and 3 soldiers, resembling Dublin's Coat of Arms which features 2 girls and 3 castles. Wilson notes that Ireland "is a living synchronicity, having 4 provinces divided into 32 counties and also having been converted to Christianity by St. Patrick in 432 A.D." (We'll talk more about that other funny number, 432, in a minute...)

The Easter Rising, an organized Irish uprising against the ruling British, was originally scheduled for Easter Sunday April 23, 1916 but because ammunition arrived late it began on Monday April 24th. The principle culprit behind the Easter Rising, namely Padraic Pearse, is frequently mentioned throughout the Wake and Joyce even knew Pearse personally because he took a Gaelic class from him once.

On my two flights and all throughout this past weekend I've been reading both Finnegans Wake and Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger Volume II.  Volume I of Cosmic Trigger (arguably RAW's best book and one which I hope to write a review for soon) prominently features the number 23 and the synchronicities that accompany it.

Wilson explains that he first heard of the 23 enigma from William S. Burroughs who told him a story about a boat captain named Captain Clark who ran a ferry between Tangiers and Spain. Clark told Burroughs one day that he'd been running the ferry for 23 years without any accidents. Wilson solemnly notes, "That very day, the ferry sank, killing Clark and everybody aboard."

That evening Burroughs put on the radio and the first thing he heard was a news report about a plane crash that occurred on its way to Miami from New York, the pilot was also Captain Clark and the flight was number 23.

This led Wilson to start keeping track of coincidences involving 23 that he encountered and he realized that (among other things) Euclid's Geometry opens with 23 axioms, 23 in telegrapher's code means "bust" or "break the line" while the 23rd hexagram of the I Ching is "Breaking Apart," and he continues:
I was even thrilled by noting that in conception Mom and Dad each contribute 23 chromosomes to the fertilized egg, while within the DNA coil of genetic metaprogramming instructions there are unexplained bonding irregularities every 23rd angstrom ... 23 was my spiral staircase, my intuitive signal.
The most important part of the book's story occurs on July 23, 1973 when Wilson thought he had begun to receive contact from the Sirius star system. The "Dog Days of summer" are associated with the star Sirius (known as the Dog Star because it's the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major) and begin on July 23rd each year. (Scanning the Dog Days page on Wikipedia I came across a quote from John Webster's play that was first performed in the year 1623.)

It's worth noting that I completed Cosmic Trigger Volume I back on January 23rd of this year.

*   *   *

"Where the lisieuse are we and what's the first sing to be sung?"
- Finnegans Wake, p. 432

Now, some tidbits on the number 432.

As already mentioned, I'm in the middle of reading Robert Anton Wilson's very engaging autobiographical book, Cosmic Trigger Volume II. I've just finished the chapter entitled "The Square Root of Minus One & Other Mysteries" in which the author briefly delves into the basics of mathematics and Einstein's relativity to highlight the awe-inspiring inexplicable fact that mathematics (a human invention) is always absolute and verifiable in the world we live in. It almost seems to be of divine origin.

With that in mind, we now take a look at Joseph Campbell's mathematical mind games as presented in two of his books, Occidental Mythology and The Inner Reaches of Outer Space.

Campbell notes that a Chaldean priest in Babylon named Berossos wrote an account of the history of Babylonia in which 432,000 years elapsed before the coming of the mythological flood came and wiped everything out, beginning a new cycle. Strangely enough, this resembles the cosmic cycles in the Icelandic Edda where, on the Doomsday of the Gods, Odin's heavenly warrior hall Valhalla will see 800 fighters entering through each of the hall's 540 doors to wage war at the end of a cosmic cycle.

540 x 800 = 432,000.

In the Hindu sacred epics, the number of years they calculate our current cosmic cycle to last (until it concludes and then another begins) is exactly 432,000 years. The astonished Campbell concludes:
So that we have found this number, now, in Europe, c. 1100 A.D., in India, c. 400 A.D., and in Mesopotamia, c. 300 B.C., with reference to the measure of a cosmic eon.
It gets even more interesting as Campbell explains how the Babylonians managed to calculate (to a precision that was just slightly off) the precession of the equinoxes, that is, the very slight wobble of the Earth on its axis that causes the stars to be in a slightly different position in the zodiac each year. The precessional lag is extremely small, just 1 degree every 72 years. Thus it takes 25,920 years for the zodiac to go the full 360 degrees of a circle.

25,920 divided by 60 (the basic unit of time measurement still to this day) = 432

It is as though the ancient observers of the stars all independently managed to calculate the rate at which the universe inhales and exhales.

Campbell quotes "a popular book on physical education" which states that a person of good conditioning who exercises regularly will have a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute.

60 beats per minute equals 3,600 beats per hour

3,600 x 24 = 86,400

86,400 divided by 2 = 43,200

There's more:

A computer program has found that the optimal number of dimples on a golf ball is 432.

The diameter of the Sun is about 864,000 miles (divided by 2 that's 432,000). The diameter of the Moon is 2,160 miles (that equals half of 4,320).

Pretty startling, huh?

Read plenty more about it here and here and here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 MLB Season Preview Part 6: NL East

Watching this guy all year ought to be fun
Finishing up our look at each division as the season starts (for real this time) in Miami tonight.

NL East
Suddenly this division looks a lot like its American League cousin. It will basically be a toss-up between the three top teams and a fourth, the Nationals, should really surprise people. I remain hopeful and optimistic in the chances of my Mets this year, too. Hard to quibble with that lineup of theirs.

1. Miami Marlins
PECOTA: 88 wins
My take: Over

Lots of bright bombast from this newly minted organization with a psychedelic stadium, loud-mouthed manager, and one of the most exciting players in the game signing a big contract. For years I thought this team's crappy on-field decision-makers have cost them wins but Ozzie Guillen has an equal reputation for being a smart tactician and a smartass. Look for him to have a huge impact.

They'll certainly be fun to root against as they'll be pretty damn good and possibly very annoying.

2012 MLB Season Preview Part 5: NL Central

NL Central

Coming down to the finish line here, I'd like to get this completed before the season begins later tonight. Will thus limit each team's preview to no more than two sentences...

1. Brewers
PECOTA: 86 wins
My take: Even

The top-flight pitching staff is backed up by a much-improved defense. Losing Prince Fielder certainly hurts but the lineup still has plenty of pop.

2. Reds
PECOTA: 85 wins
My take: Even

Solid all-around team in every respect, the addition of Mat Latos keeps them contending all season long. The result, thanks to some inevitable blunders from manager Dusty Baker, will be just short of the postseason.

3. Cardinals
PECOTA: 89 wins
My take: Under

Overall, the team looks surprisingly well-off despite losing one of the best players in team history. Besides Pujols, there's been far too much change here for them to keep up the championship pace, though.

4. Cubs
PECOTA: 74 wins
My take: Even

All eyes are on Theo Epstein and his gang of mighty men to see how they will go about turning this underwhelming group into contenders. If they don't immediately gut the team, the Cubs might surprise some people.

5. Pirates
PECOTA: 72 wins
My take: Even

At this point, they've had the worst 20-year stretch of any team in sports history so I'll be pulling for them to improve. Not bloody likely, though.

6. Astros
PECOTA: 62 wins
My take: Way under

How long can the DisAstros go? Certainly less than 50 wins and maybe a shot at the most losses ever.

2012 MLB Season Preview Part 4: NL West

More baseball talk...

NL West

1. San Francisco Giants
PECOTA: 86 wins
My take: Under

On July 18th last year (my birthday), the Giants were in first place with a better run differential than the Diamondbacks, an admirable follow-up performance thus far in the season that followed their World Series campaign. From that point on they collapsed (though it was overshadowed by the even louder falls of the Braves and Red Sox) and the Diamonbacks took a stranglehold upon first place that they would not relinquish.

The Giants' third ace, Madison Bumgarner
They boast one of the best pitching staffs in a league that is seemingly loaded with great pitching staffs. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner form a devastating trio. While Lincecum & Cain have been doing this for years, Bumgarner came in and had a 2.64 FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching ERA) in over 200 innings at the age of 21 last year. He's good.

The pitching will be great again but the question with this team remains whether or not they'll get enough offense to win. Pablo Sandoval is one of the most exhilarating hitters in the game but he hasn't had much help over the years. With Buster Posey and Brandon Belt in the lineup all year long, though, this team should pick up the division crown in what promises to be a close race.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 MLB Season Preview Part 3: AL East

AL East
Once again this looks to be the best division in the game and also the most difficult to predict. The expected finish of the top three here is basically a dice roll. You can make a great argument for any one of them winning the division (heck, all three are good World Series picks). At the same time, whichever two teams among the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox don't win the division will be left to compete with the powerhouse Rangers and Angels for two Wild Card spots. Needless to say, the American League will be a lot of fun this year.

(Asterisk denotes predicted Wild Card team.)

1. Rays
PECOTA: 86 wins
My take: Over
Desmond Jennings is your new favorite player

There is something very special about this Rays team and, no, I'm not talking about their magical finish last year. This organization has developed and stockpiled talent for years now, yet they've always been very conservative about bringing their young prospects up to the majors lest they have to pay them too much money too soon. This was exemplified last year by the late arrivals of Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore, two players who were clearly ready to come up to the pros last season but were kept in the minors for most of the year. It seemed as though the Rays were punting away their season by handicapping themselves this way, but once they finally brought Jennings and Moore to the bigs, both guys performed so well down the stretch that they helped propel the team to its miracle comeback in the standings.

This year, the Rays are all in. Nobody's stuck in the minors. The team is built to win right now. And they might be scary good. They've already had one of the best defenses in baseball for years, they are adding flame-throwing lefty strikeout machine Moore to a rotation that was already excellent (so good, in fact, that a quality starter is being sent to the pen), and they'll have a full season of a 25-year-old Jennings who could conceivably go for 20 homers and 40 steals.

2012 MLB Season Preview Part 2: AL Central

Continuing our rapid run through baseball's six divisions to see what we can expect this year. 

AL Central

1. Detroit Tigers
PECOTA: 86 wins
My take: Over

This is the only team in any division that is a virtual lock to win its division this year. Even if they perform at the low end of the expected-potential spectrum, they'll still be superior to anyone else in this perpetually unexciting division.

Miguel Cabrera and his new teammate Prince Fielder are not only two of the most powerful and consistent hitters in baseball, they're both extremely durable. These big boys don't miss games. Predictions and projections carry so much variability but counting on Cabrera and Fielder to form one of the most potent power-hitting combos in league history is something of a foregone conclusion. Yes, that means between right now and the end of the season we'll most likely get to watch a pair of sluggers mash at Ruth-Gehrig levels.

Monday, April 2, 2012

2012 MLB Season Preview Part 1: AL West

Yu Darvish, the newest Texas ace (photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
I wanted to avoid following baseball closely this year.

It takes up far too much of my time and mental energy.

Then the Angels, Rangers, and Tigers had to go and sign big-time players and suck me back in. Then Major League Baseball had to go and add another Wild Card team to the playoff scenario and modify the overall outlook of everything. The American League is stacked. Now it's impossible not to be invested in the outcomes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Searching for Optimism Part 2: Oakland A's

That big old football stadium nobody likes
Despite garnering massive amounts of attention for Moneyball, the successful major motion picture (starring Brad Pitt) all about their franchise, and winning the bidding war for one of the offseason's most sought-after young players, the Oakland Athletics aren't in very good shape these days. Even with the expanded gate into the playoffs, Baseball Prospectus approximates that this year's team has barely a 1 percent chance (1.3% to be exact) of making it into the postseason.  

It's safe to say their team doesn't look all that great. Aside from that, two of their key opponents look amazing. Half the teams in their little four-team division beefed up during the winter and look like they're ready to compete for the World Series for the next who-knows-how-many years. Their home stadium is now officially the crappiest ballpark in the majors. I've seen analysts predicting the team to lose 90 or 100 games in 2012. Not very encouraging news for an A's fan.

Well, I'm an A's fan (although not a deep-rooted one) and I refuse to subscribe to all these graveyard scenarios for my favorite American League team. After all, I only started to follow the green-and-gold so I could have a competitive team to root for while my New York Mets were languishing during the early aughts. Now the A's haven't been in the playoffs since 2006 and they've been stuck around 75 wins every year since.

Continuing my short series of analyzing three teams of low regard (Mets, A's, and Padres) to try and find some glimmers of hope and optimism, let's now delve into these Oakland A's piece by piece. To reiterate, my aim is to discuss these teams through the eyes of an incorrigible optimist who is trying to remain as objective as possible. Since we're talking about the hapless A's, that makes me this guy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Searching for Optimism Part 1: New York Mets

Breathe, Mets fans, breathe.
The 2012 baseball season is at least a week away from opening, but my three favorite teams---the Mets, A's, and Padres---have already been written off entirely.

While a bunch of teams (the Reds, Angels, Marlins, Tigers) loaded up for a run at the newly expanded gates into the postseason, my three favorite teams have stayed put for the most part. As a result, they aren't being talked about as anything except cellar-dwelling losers biding their time until prospects are ripe.

The Padres, with the best farm system in baseball, are supposed to be building up for a competitive run in 2013 or 2014. If the A's get to escape their dumpy stadium, they'll start to compete by 2014 or so. The Mets are their usual bumbling selves having lost their best player to a division rival and now suffering a bunch of injuries already this spring.

Frankly, all three teams are supposed to suck this year. That's what the experts (and sane, reasoned, objective baseball fans) say, at least. For the purposes of this series, though, we shall reach for some semblance of optimism for the 2012 season. There must be something we can root for as fans of these crappy teams. After all, each year it is inevitable that one or two teams completely blows away its preseason predictions led by surprise (if flukey) performances from a player or three. Why not the Mets? Why not the Padres? As for the A's, well..... why not the Mets!

So let's take a look at each team through the eyes of an incorrigible optimist doing his best to stay objective. We will use the 2012 projections generated by both Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport (as they appeared on March 23rd) and try to find where each of these teams might be able to best the system and squeeze out a few more wins. We need something to hope for after all. I'm far too hyped up for this baseball season to just give up on my team(s) already.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Satisfying Baseball Fix With Classic Clips

As the baseball season slowly approaches I find myself hungry for actual game footage. The Spring Training highlights are boring so I've found other resources.

The men in charge of Major League Baseball's media department have been notoriously strict about letting any game footage (whether from the past or present) appear on YouTube or anywhere else not owned by them. This is not only a major pain in the ass for devout fans of the game but it's also a huge missed opportunity to promote their product. There are nearly 100 years worth of World Series footage and an unthinkable mass of regular season video material in their vaults and yet nobody ever sees any of it.

Thankfully, YouTube does have a surprising amount of old World Series films. You can see clips of the 1937 Fall Classic between the Yankees and New York Giants; regular TV footage of the 1961 Series with at-bats by Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra; highlights from the '55 World Series when the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the Yankees; Cardinals legend Bob Gibson defeating the Red Sox at Fenway Park in Game 7 of the 1967 World Series and plenty more similar clips.

(More after the jump...)