24 March 2010

Bloomsday afternoon

I've only read through page 181. Leopold Bloom managed to get some work done and eat a bit of lunch. He winds up in the National Museum and remembers the bar of soap he bought. I'm reminded of this Woody Allen joke:

I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.

Talking about the plot of Ulysses is pointless. Not a whole lot happens. But a whole hell of a lot is going on, even if you can't follow it. Mostly, it's mental. You spend a lot of time in Mr Bloom's head as his mind wanders. Here's a piece:

At Duke lane a ravenous terrier choked up a sick knuckly cud on the cobble stones and lapped it with new zest. Surfeit. Returned with thanks having fully digested the contents. First sweet then savoury. Mr Bloom coasted warily. Ruminants. His second course. Their upper jaw they move. Wonder if Tom Rochford will do anything with that invention of his. Wasting time explaining it to Flynn's mouth. Lean people long mouths. Ought to be a hall or a place where inventors could go in and invent free. Course then you'd have all the cranks pestering.

This is an easy passage, with, if not complete sentences, at least complete thoughts. It's quite a jump from dog puke to an inventors' hall, but we all know our minds can do that. You see? There's a lot going on even though nothing is happening. I'm enjoying the ride despite the fact that it is bumpy and meandering--you have to stop frequently and go back, too. Normally, that would drive me nuts. I'm not sure why Ulysses has a hold on me right now. Perhaps St. Patrick's Day put me in a Irish mood. I think, though, it might be the familarity of it. The world of Bloom's mind that Joyce crafted feels like my own. Maybe that's what the fuss is all about. You can't "record" your stream-of-consciousness, but you could create, with art, a reminder, or a facsimile, that seems like your own mind. We all know fiction doesn't have to actually be realistic--the reader just has to believe it is. I believe I'm in Bloom's mind when he's walking down the street, so I keep reading.

17 March 2010

Bloomsday, continued

I'm still in the early morning of Bloomsday, having just attended a funeral with the aforementioned Mr Bloom. I also met Simon Dedalus, father of the aforementioned Stephen Dedalus, who was at the same funeral as Mr Bloom. The action in Ulysses takes place in a single day. Both Stephen and Leopold have had their breakfasts--Stephen's was prepared by his antagonist, Buck Mulligan, while Leopold served his wife Molly her tea and toast in bed before sitting down in the kitchen to his fried kidney. Both then went out into the city for walks. I followed Leopold's peregrinations with my Dublin map! Much of the story so far involves convoluted passages of internal monologues interspersed with random thoughts, stray impressions, and remembrances of things past. Imagine a kaleidoscope that never settles on the same pattern and you'll get the idea. Joyce is attempting to convey--it seems to me--all the stuff that fills the mind of an ordinary person on an ordinary day going about his regular business. It is confusing, infuriating, and fascinating at the same time.


12 March 2010

"Mr Leopold Bloom . . .

 . . . ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls."

I've decided to tackle Ulysses. I cannot say why. Mere days ago, I looked up on my bookshelf, and there was James Joyce, stuck between Erica Jong and Richard Kadrey. I still have the copy of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that I read in high school. I remember the book bewildered me at seventeen, but bedazzled me at twenty-seven. So far, I've met "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan" and been re-acquainted with Stephen Dedalus. Every page is sprinkled with Latin and Greek and allusions to things I think I should know about. Much seems like nonsense, but it is interspersed with much I want to leap up and write down and recite out loud, over and over again. Perhaps the "ineluctable modality of the audible" is at work.

I'll keep you posted. This might take a while.

04 March 2010

I'm hella stoked

A young fellow from our neck of the woods got excited one day in science class at UC Davis. He decided that the slang term "hella" would make a good prefix in the SI system. Everyone is familiar with mega-and giga- from computerspeak, and most of us know a kilo-meter is a bunch of meters (1000, or 10^3). So far, the SI folks don't have a prefix for 10^27 (10 raised to the 27th power). This lad--Austin Sendek is his name--thinks "hella" would do nicely. I'm all for it. After all, we need more humor in science. There are only so many "Uranus" jokes to go around. To give you an idea of how big 10^27 is, the world's electric power usage** is about 2 tera-watts, or 2 x 10^12 watts. That's only 0.000000000000002 hella-watts!

There's a Facebook page about "hella" and the story made it across The Pond to The Daily Telegraph!

**The number is from Richard Muller's Physics for Future Presidents.

02 March 2010

Life begins anew

The San Francisco Giants play their first Spring Training game on Wednesday. Baseball season begins and I live again. I believe Rogers Hornsby is credited with:

People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

I like to ski, and that helps. Otherwise, Rogers has it spot on.

Go Giants!