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.