Sunday, May 18, 2014

Astonishing Art from Grains of Sand

Cleveland-based artist Carl Jara creates these monumental, purely original, and jaw-dropping sculptures out of sand.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Wu-Tang Clan Will Rise Again

The 20th anniversary of their debut came and went last fall. The alleged final album from the crew, A Better Tomorrow, appeared less and less likely to become a reality as internecine discord and disharmony dominated any headlines Wu-Tang was getting.

An excellent in-depth feature at Grantland tracked down each living member of the Clan portraying a disappointing image of the Wu collective---fractured, scattered around the country, unable to connect all the necessary pieces to form Voltron, unable to finish their final album because of financial and creative disagreements.

Then, out of nowhere, the newswires blew up with word that the Wu-Tang Clan had actually recorded a secret album (a double-album) produced by talented Moroccan Wu affiliate Cilvaringz and were planning to release just one copy of it. The plan is to tour the album around museums and music festivals before auctioning it off to the highest bidder. Suddenly Wu-Tang, the gritty rap dynasty and beloved cultural phenomenon of the 90s, became one of the most talked about things on the internet.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Smart Infographic Displays Rappers' Vocabularies and Compares to Shakespeare, Melville

While I haven't yet read it, I've heard plenty of lofty, lavish praise for the style and poetic prose of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick before.

"This is the greatest work of prose ever written by an American without contest, I think. I mean I like to think that when human history is written, Americans will be remembered for two things: they went to the moon and they're the people who produced Moby-Dick. This is our Odyssey. This is our Odyssey and our Iliad."
- Terence McKenna

A very telling and well-conceived new infographic by Matthew Daniels ranks hip hop artists according to the number of unique words in their first 35,000 lyrics. Aesop Rock places #1. The Gza/Genius of the Wu-Tang Clan came in at #2 and the top 10 is dominated by the Wu family. Rza, Ghostface, and Killah Priest are all up there as well as the Clan's output as a group on their albums.

The unique word-count for Shakespeare and Melville (specifically Moby-Dick) are included in the chart for reference and you may be surprised at the results. Aesop Rock, Gza, and Kool Keith are beyond Melville. Shakespeare's around the top 10. I'm surprised MF Doom wasn't higher (he's around 11th or 12th). The study probably has its share of imperfections but the results are very fascinating nonetheless.

I can't say I'm familiar with Aesop Rock's work though I've always heard good things about him.

The Gza/Genius is one of my all-time favorites, though. It should come as no surprise to see him up here---the man recently did a TED talk about science, schooled Neil deGrasse Tyson, went on a lecture tour to places like Harvard and MIT discussing hip hop physics, and is helping to promote science education for inner city students through hip hop. Wu-Tang is for the children and Gza has been a shining example of this.

In light of the Genius' ranking on this chart, I pondered some of my favorite verses. So here's one of his best: "Amplified Sample" the first track from his second album Beneath the Surface (one verse repeated twice in the song).

The amplified sample, will trample, delete and cancel 
So vacate your vessel 
Guide this, strenuous as an arm wrestle 
Move swift as light, a thousand years in one night 
In flight with insight
Everything I thought of, I saw it happen 
Then I rose from the soil, the sun blackened 
Then came rap czars, left tracks in scars 
Apparent brightness of exploding stars 
Gave you goods to taste 
No ingredients to trace 
You remain stuck, trying to figure the shape of space 
No edge or boundary, release 2 rounds or 3 
Intimidate, my razor scrape, phony clown MC 
The physical shatter from the blast 
Pyroclastic flow, sets forth a tower of ash 
Through ignorance and misplaced trust your world's crushed 
Too late to activate hyperspace of thrust 
Even wearing camouflage, you're analog 
At war, the scene is high beams and fog 
I came in, accompanied by deadly rain and wind 
Mentally endowed with lightning, hit the crowd 
The warm side, edge across the barrier 
But the storm tide, destroyed your area

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Upon Return from Adventure in Lisbon and Barcelona

Ceramic tile art or azulejo in Lisbon.
An eventful and stressful, exciting and hectic period has come to an end. My move into a new apartment with my girlfriend was completed not very long before we had to prepare to head off on a two-week journey to Lisbon and Barcelona.

The European trip was magnificent in every way. Lisbon is one of the coolest cities I've ever been to and Barcelona is a lively metropolis punctuated by exquisite architectural masterpieces from Antoni Gaudi.

We walked over 110 miles during our two-week adventure, wandering and exploring both cities each day from sunrise to sundown and collapsing from exhaustion at the end of each day. We saw everything, though. Or at least as much as one can see in one city in one week. Every night I went to bed with images of colorful art or vast cathedrals or panoramic city perspectives in my mind's eye. Still soaking in all the things we saw. Getting back into the daily routine so quickly, the whole thing feels like it was just a dream.

I'm planning on writing up a lengthy post (or probably series of posts) about the trip featuring some of the many hundreds of pictures I took, but for now I just need to say: I'm back. And despite the new challenge of working the full-time 9-to-5 grind like a regular boring old adult, I plan on putting my nose to the grind to churn out as much writing as I can in my free moments. Too many ideas growing in my mind that need to breathe fully.

If you haven't already, please go check out my other blog where I've got a new post about the 75th anniversary of Finnegans Wake as well as an ongoing in-depth review of John Bishop's stupendously deep and fascinating Wake study Joyce's Book of the Dark.