Archive for the ‘Project: Blooms + Baskets’ Category

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Bile Beans

15/06/2012

Bloomsday 2012 | By Jim Gavin

James Joyce

As a young man, he fled the squalor of Dublin and traveled penniless to Trieste, where he lived in obscurity as an exile. By day he taught at the Berlitz Language School, but his true vocation was literature, and he dedicated his life to the creation of books that would eventually make his name, or his last name, at least, famous throughout the world. Stanislaus Joyce was a martyr to his brother’s art.

James had been in Trieste for about a year, cultivating his silence, exile, and cunning, when he wrote to Stanislaus, trying desperately to persuade his little brother to join him on the continent. Stanislaus was twenty at the time. He hated Dublin even more than James and all he had to look forward to was a miserable clerkship that paid fifteen shillings a week. He had his own literary ambitions, and he dreamed of a new life just as much as James, but he also knew that he was being summoned to a special kind of hell, in which he would always live in the shadow of his genius brother. James had inherited both their father’s sense of humor and his talent for acquiring debt, and Stanislaus understood that James needed him as much for his companionship as his ability to hold down a job and fend off creditors. James was brave to leave Ireland, but he did so confident of his destiny. Stanislaus didn’t have the luxury of genius, and in many ways his decision to join his brother took an even greater amount of courage.

Stanislaus was three years younger than James. As the oldest son, James was the pride of the family, and because his talents were obvious at a young age, everyone agreed that he was destined for a brilliant career. Stanislaus, on the other hand, failed to distinguish himself in any way. The vaudevillian differences in their personalities are immediately apparent in their names. “James Joyce” is bright and sonorous, exuding a princely charm. “Stanislaus Joyce,” is square and awkward, a real clanger, and this was how they would go through life. Social gatherings looked like this: here you had James, tall and willowy, delighting everyone around him with his beautiful singing voice, flashing wit, and eerie self-belief, and here you had Stanislaus, short, sweaty and uncomfortable, standing off to the side and occasionally darkening the room with a sour opinion or fumbling remark.

Stanislaus idolized James and followed him around Dublin. James usually rewarded this devotion by showering Stanislaus with gentle scorn, the kind of ball breaking that all little brothers endure.  Stanislaus did his best to keep up, first by reading all the books that James read, and then by trying to cultivate his own opinions and literary style. He showed James entries from his diary, in which he had recorded a host of gloomy aphorisms – “every bond is a bond to sorrow” – and James made great sport of dismissing his efforts, calling them “Bile Beans,” which soon became a nickname for Stanislaus. When he was eighteen, Stanislaus described his thankless position:

It is terrible to have a cleverer older brother. I get small credit for originality. I follow Jim in nearly all matters of opinion, but not all…I perceive that he regards me as quite commonplace and uninteresting – he makes no attempt at disguise – and though I follow him fully in this matter of opinion I cannot be expected to like it.

However, James trusted Stanislaus more than anyone, and from the beginning confided his hopes and dreams and growing vision of himself as a artist. Though he would never admit it, James depended on his little brother’s awe and admiration, as well as his critical eye. For years, Stanislaus was the first person to read anything James wrote. Stanislaus was always his sounding board, and on their long, half-starved walks through Dublin, James would work out his opinions on art and life.

Stanislaus’ opinions lacked the Thomine intricacy of his brother’s, but they were strong and set him well apart from his peers. His break from the Catholic Church was instant and unwavering. He had always despised the priests, feeling in his gut the sadism and hypocrisy that kept them in power, and around the age of fifteen, he saw through the whole charade and left the Church forever, without a second thought.  Unlike James, he never suffered a melodramatic crisis of faith, and in later years he never looked back with any kind of sentimental appreciation. James saw great drama and mystery in the Mass. But for Stanislaus, it was all bullshit. End of story.

The two brothers differed most in their opinion of their father. James idolized him and found endless pleasure in his outrageous and self-aggrandizing stories. Stanislaus despised the man. He thought John Joyce was a pathetic drunk who, enchanted by the glory of his past, had shirked his responsibilities as a husband and father and driven a once decent middle class family into the most abject poverty.  In Ulysses, we learn that Stephen Dedalus, standing at his mother’s death bed, refused to kneel and pray.  This happened in real life. James refused, and, less famously, so did Stanislaus – Non serviam was his motto, too. When their mother passed, John Joyce began to weep uncontrollably, at which point Stanislaus violently denounced him for being a hypocrite after putting their mother through so much suffering. John Joyce replied meekly, “You don’t understand, boy.” There’s something to this. As a young man, at least, Stanislaus’ views were stark and unforgiving. He had little patience for human flaws. James, in contrast, with a deeper empathy and humor, delighted in the flaws. In later years, Stanislaus would reflect on their Dublin youth: “I wish I could see now, or could have seen then, the funny side of things, as my brother did.”

The day Stanislaus arrived in Trieste, James informed him that he and Nora were broke and they would need him to pay the rent.  This pretty much set the tone for their time together in Italy. They both taught at Berlitz, but James spent most of his paycheck at the pub, leaving Stanislaus to deal with mundane things like rent and food. Nora was glad to have Stanislaus around because she hoped he would help curb her husband’s drinking.  Stanislaus did his best. On many occasions he literally dragged James out of bars. Somehow, between bouts of drunkenness and feeling sorry for himself, James managed to get work done and Stanislaus often provided a guiding hand. He supplied the title for Stephen Hero, the book that would eventually be radically distilled into Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In Stephen Hero, Stephen has an incredibly square but loyal and sympathetic younger brother, Maurice, who plays a large role in the book. In Portrait, Maurice gets cut out entirely.  Stanislaus felt deeply hurt by this decision, but with his usual forbearance, he also recognized that it was the right decision, artistically.

Stanislaus read and commented on all the stories in Dubliners, and served as a model for the protagonist of “A Painful Case.” Mr. James Duffy is a solitary middle-aged bachelor living an exceedingly dull life in Dublin: “Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder. A medieval doctor would have called him saturnine.”

But then he has an affair, of sorts, with a married woman. For his own uptight reasons, Mr. Duffy eventually breaks off the affair, claiming that “every bond is a bond to sorrow.” Four years later he reads in the paper that the woman had drunkenly wandered in front of a train and been killed. Bereft, he wanders through Phoenix Park, feeling like “an outcast from life’s feast.” James claimed that the portrait of Duffy was how he imagined what Stanislaus would be like in middle-age. This might’ve been the case, but Stanislaus left Dublin for Trieste and his life turned out much less solitary and much less dull.

For me the enduring image of James and Stanislaus is provided by a one sentence footnote in Ellmann’s biography. In a chapter devoted to the “The Dead,” Ellmann tells us that as James was struggling to complete the story, he suffered a terrible case of rheumatic fever. Ellmann suggests that the fever actually helped Joyce find the rhythm and meaning of the final passage, which he completed “in an atmosphere of fatigue, of weariness, of swooning.” James had recovered enough to resume work on the story, but he was still in a weakened condition, and so, according to Ellmann’s footnote, “He dictated the ending to Stanislaus a few days later.” Two brothers, broke and far from home, getting down on paper, together, the most beautiful goddamn ending in the history of modern literature.

In Trieste…

Eventually, James left for Paris and took his place among the literary gods. But Stanislaus stayed in Trieste, where he had found a home.  He had his own set of friends, and became a well-liked professor of literature at the University of Trieste. He married a former student and they had one son, James. In following his brother, he had stumbled upon an extraordinary life his own. For the remainder of their lives, the brothers rarely saw each other, but they corresponded frequently. During WWII, Stanislaus was removed from Trieste for speaking out against the Fascists. He was sent to Florence, and the last thing James Joyce ever wrote was a post-card to his brother, with the names of influential people who might be able to help Stanislaus deal with Italian authorities.

In his later years, Stanislaus spent much of his time writing about James and defending him against his critics. In his wonderful memoir, My Brother’s Keeper, Stanislaus comes off like a pissy Boswell, mocking the epic pretensions of the boy genius. Behold fourteen-year-old James Joyce, swanning through Dublin, carrying under his arm a thick stiff-covered exercise book that contained his first collection of poems. The title of this work – Moods. But looking back, Stanislaus could also see that his ego and pomposity were “evidence of the struggle to keep the spirit within him alive in the midst of all-pervading squalor and disintegration.”

Stanislaus loved and admired his older brother not for the famous works he produced, but for the fierce and mysterious spirit that drove him towards his destiny:

He detested falsity and believed in individual freedom more thoroughly than any man I have ever known. Freedom…was the guiding theme of his life. He accepted its gifts and its perils as he accepted his own personality, as he accepted the life that had produced him. His revolt was a defense of that personality against a system whose encroachments on the plea of obedience ended, like modern totalitarian systems which have copied it, only with the complete cancellation of character.

Of course, it’s easier to be free when you have a brother along for the ride, paying your rent. The brothers needed each other, and in countless ways, they rescued each other. Stanislaus could not escape his brother’s shadow, even in death. He died in 1955, on June 16th. Bloomsday.

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Jim Gavin is a writer. Read his 2011 Bloomsday essay.

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Swedenborgian Vastation

15/03/2012

2012 Tournament Preview | By Jim Gavin

Earlier this year, during halftime of a Long Beach State-Lousiville game, I got up from the couch, intending to microwave some more taquitos, when, out of nowhere, I experienced an abject terror, without ostensible cause, and only to be accounted for, to my perplexed imagination, by some damned shape squatting invisible to me within the precincts of the room, and raying out from his fetid personality influences fatal to life. Later, I would realize that this maleficent being was only Digger Phelps, filling the room with his deranged analysis, but at the time my world collapsed, and like Henry James Sr., I realized that I had come to the dark precipice of a Swedenborgian vastation. Basically, I lost my mind, and having perceived the grotesque illusion of reality, I chose to dedicate my life, or, at least, the remainder of this year’s college basketball season, to attaining those invisible realms ruled by Ibis-headed Thoth, who sometimes appears under the turban of Mercurius Tristmegistus, thrice-greatest Hermes. Now let’s talk hoops!

Pac-10

Just as the Gnostics abhorred the corruption of the physical body, I’ve come to abhor the Pac-10 and its continued slide into darkness. How bad was the Pac-10 this year? Well, for starters, their conference tournament was won by Colorado, who’s NOT EVEN IN THE PAC-10! They’re in the Big 8 Conference. This is madness!

(Note: my editor just informed me that the Pac-10 is now the Pac-12, which includes Colorado and Utah. I should’ve known that, but in a way my lack of knowledge is the truest knowledge of all. To quote Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite: “Through the inactivity of all his reasoning powers the mystic is united by the highest faculty to That which is wholly unknowable; thus by knowing nothing he knows That which is beyond knowledge.” That’s SO me!)

The turmoil at UCLA is well documented. Ben Howland has recruited not but knuckleheads for the last four years. Most of the better knuckleheads have transferred and are thriving in hell holes like Las Vegas and Albuquerque, and the ones who have stayed are either semi-effective lunatics who piss on their teammates’ beds (Reeves Nelson) or spoiled brats from Orange County (Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb, and the atrocious Wear twins). Meanwhile, you have a guy like Michael Snaer, a local kid from Moreno Valley now playing at Florida State, who is one of the toughest and steadiest guards in the country, and exactly the type of guy that Howland used to be able to get.  Elsewhere, you have Kevin O’Neal burning another program to the ground at USC; Cal barely sneaking into a play-in game, led by their best player, Jorge Gutierrez, of Chihuahua, whose luxurious locks inspired me to write a cycle of erotic rondels, now available in a limited vellum-bound edition; you have Washington treading water, as so many great Seattle area players go elsewhere, and Washington State, all shriveled up after the departure of Tony Bennett, now leading Virginia to their best season in ages; you have Arizona State, still waiting to get the hang of Herb Sendek’s esoteric offense, and the less said about the Oregon schools the better. Only Arizona feels like a program on the rise, and that’s based solely on Sean Miller’s reputation as a recruiter. They didn’t even make the tournament this year. So here we are: Go Colorado! It’s up to you to redeem the Pacific coast!

Syracuse

Syracuse probably has their best team ever. They’ve also had their most unsavory and potentially felonious year ever, which is saying a lot, considering the fact that Jim Boeheim has always had a shady recruiting record, and he has always ignored behavior problems on his team, as long as the players were effective. Now, after the horrors of the Bernie Fine allegations, there are new allegations of the program knowingly ignoring positive drug tests over a number of years. Basically, all this depravity is going to boil over, but in the meantime, the Orange might just win the tournament. One shining moment, before all the trials and suspensions and Paschal sacrifices.

“Bracketology”

According to the Corpus Hermeticum, the universe is an emanation of living beings arranged in hierarchical order. Same with the tournament. Selection Sunday used to be exciting and full of surprises, as we watched the Archons take their rightful place among the Hebdomad, but now ESPN devotes all its time to Joe Lunardi, a twisted eunuch who uses that giant WOPR computer from War Games to predict, with mind-numbing accuracy, all sixty-four seeds in the tournament.  I divine the field my own way, consulting the old grimoires and finding answers in the Enochian Aethyrs of John Dee, so that on Thursday morning, when the tournament tips off, I may go forth with confidence to Hooters, wearing the mask of Osiris, a dirk of cold steel, and my MacGregor tartan.

John Calipari

Every year he steers the top recruits in the country to his program, but how? Basically, from what I’ve heard, he sits them down in a candle lit room, amid red damask and flaming pentagrams, and at the stroke of midnight, his assistants lead into the room a draped figure, and after an interval of unholy chanting, Calipari commands the draped figure to dance the dance of Syrinx and Pan, and when the dancing reaches a fever pitch, Marcus Camby enters the room, arrayed as Baphomet, and he undrapes the figure, revealing her to be The Sacred Whore of Babylon, with whom the recruits are encouraged to make sport. It all ends with Calipari combing back his hair and shouting to the heavens, “I am the Beast and my number is 666!”

Bluebloods

More and more the NBA draft is becoming a country club for the scions of the basketball elite. Mike Dunleavy Jr., Dajuan Wagner, Kevin Love, Gerald Henderson, Al Horford, Patrick Ewing Jr., Ronnie Brewer, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Austin Daye, Steph Curry, Nolan Smith, and bunch of others I can’t remember – they all had fathers who played in the NBA or overseas. This year we have another crop, and it’s no surprise that two of them are at Duke, everyone’s favorite bastion of evil and privilege. Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, was the top recruit in the nation and now he’s the best one-on-one player in the country (though it pains me to admit it). His teammate, Seth Curry, is the son of Del Curry, but he’s not nearly as good as his brother, Steph. The sons of Paul Pressey, the former Milwaukee Bucks great, both play huge roles for Missouri, as does Tim Hardaway Jr. at Michigan. There’s also a MacAdoo at North Carolina, and even Michael Jordan’s miserable kids played college ball.  My point is this: rich kids always win. If you’re father made a lot of money in the NBA, it’s fair to say that you begin life with a distinct advantage. They were born rich and they will die rich, and though I’ve rejected the claims of the material realm, I would encourage all of you, my dear comrades, to torch the country clubs and feast on the entrails of all of those who can afford an SAT prep class. Or maybe just befriend them and hope they give you jobs.

Now to the Brackets

Seeking hidden truths about this year’s tournament, I joined the Order of the Golden Dawn (I saw their ad in the back of Poets & Writers). My initiation was a dark and splendid affair. With my satin robe held fast by three chords representing the Three Supernals of the kabbalistic Sephiroth, I was led into the consecrated Temple and given my mystic name, Frater Lux e Tenebris, which is Latin for something. After a strange Templar ritual which involved the consumption of various illicit pharmacopoeia, all the First Order Zelators encircled me and began throwing tennis balls at my head. After this ordeal, the Magister Templi kissed me long and hard on the mouth and sent me to the distant Isle of Tristan da Cunha, where I was supposed to spend three weeks performing a magical operation that would allow me to understand the mysteries of the Orphic Wheel. I spent the first two weeks watching episodes of Justified on my laptop, but eventually I took pen in hand and waited for inspiration. What I’ve written below comes not from me, but from STEVE, an astral Being of subtle intelligence who occupied my room for the rest of the week, whispering in my ear the diabolical laws of the New Aeon, and eating all my food. Later, he stole my wallet and all my pharmacopoeia.  Unless you have attained the rank of Lord of the Paths in the Portal of the Vault of the Adepts, none of this will make any sense to you.

South

Players to watch:

Anthony Davis (Kentucky): unibrowed and willowy beyond belief, Davis has dominated college basketball in much the way that Ralph Sampson did a million years ago. Unlike a lot of recent freshman big men – Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Beasley – Davis is a true gamer and he can dominate without having the ball in his hands

Jeremy Lamb (Uconn) – had a disappointing year, but he still has Ray Allen-esque tools and when he wants to turn it on, he has the smoothest perimeter game in college basketball.

Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons (Xavier): one of my favorite quotes of the year came from Holloway, after Xavier beat Cincinnati and then got into a brawl. “We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in the locker room…We went out there and zipped them up.” Not good PR for the university, but that’s the kind of attitude I want in my point guard. Holloway and Lyons will control their fire, like the Chaldean necromancers of old, and they will bring down Duke in the second round.

Cody Zeller (Indiana): Tom Krean’s rebuilding project at Indiana is way ahead of schedule, thanks in large part to Zeller. He and his brother, Tyler, of North Carolina, could become the best brother duo in NBA history.

Upsets

Shaka Smart has VCU peaking at the right time, again, and even though they lost just about everybody from last year, they still play with the same intensity and belief. They’ll beat Wichita St. in round one. I’m taking Colorado over UNLV, and Xavier over Notre Dame – as always, the Society of Jesus reigneth supreme – and then Xavier will beat Duke in the second round.

Pick

Kentucky has by far the toughest road to the Final Four, but I still don’t see anyone beating them.

West

Players to Watch:

James Ennis (Long Beach State): another local kid that USC and UCLA missed the boat on. Ennis compares nicely to Eddie Jones, one of my all time favorites, and he will be a steal late in the first round of the draft.

Kyle Kuric (Louisville): another in a long line of Louisville dunk artists – Darrell Griffith, LaBradford Smith, Alvin Sims – who will never pan out in the NBA.

Mike Scott (Virginia): his game is as exciting as name! Led Virginia to a solid season, finally. It’s always baffled me why Virginia isn’t more consistently dominant. Great school, with access to one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country, and the architecture is rich in Masonic symbolism.

Kim English (Missouri): despite his name, the do everything senior guard will play a major role in Missouri’s march to the Final Four.

Upsets

I’m taking Long Beach State to the Elite Eight. They played Louisville tough earlier in the season, but came up short after a terrible shooting night. I think they’ll get past them in the second round, and then past Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen.

Pick

Missouri. I’ve loved watching them this year.  Much of the credit for their success has to go to former coach Mike Anderson, who left last season to return to Arkansas. He recruited all these guys and they still play with the 40-minutes-of-hell mentality that he brought from his days with Nolan Richardson. Credit to current coach Frank Haith for building on what Anderson started. Haith and Anderson have helped Mizzou crawl out from the long and odious shadow of Quinn Snyder, the former Duke golden boy who turned out to be, surprise, a total fraud, just like Madame Blavatsky.

East

Players to watch:

Dion Waiters (Syracuse): the most dominant and NBA-ready guard in the country, Waiters happens to come off the bench for the Orange. He has Iverson-like athleticism, and though he’s considered undersized, I think he sees the floor and passes well enough to play point in the NBA. Will have one or two insane highlight dunks in the tournament.

Jeff Taylor (Vanderbilt): one of the most frustrating players in college basketball. He has all the tools, and few players look more like an NBA player, but he tends to drift out of games. Vanderbilt had the talent to win the tournament, but there’s just something off about them; Coach Kevin Stallings just can’t seem to figure out how to make them work.

Jared Sullinger (Ohio State): aesthetically, he’s only slightly more appealing than Tyler Hansbrough, but he has amazing hands and always gets good spots in the paint. Helps that he has a fine point guard in Aaron Craft, who I like to describe as “Crafty!”

Upsets

West Virginia over Gonzaga, who continue to get way more credit than they deserve based solely on a flukey tournament run twelve years ago. Florida State over Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen. The Seminoles are another team, like Missouri, with a great mix of toughness and experience.

Pick

Just heard on the radio that Syracuse center Fab Melo is suspended for the tournament. And so the prophecy has come to pass. I’m now taking Florida State to the Final Four.

Midwest

Players to watch:

Henry Sims (Georgetown): hardly played his first three years, but has taken over the role of playmaking center and helped the Hoyas have a better year than most people expected. It’s like he went from being a First Order Neophyte directly to Third Order Ipsissimus!

Thomas Robinson (Kansas): one of my favorite moments of the season was watching Robinson single-handedly destroy Baylor’s frontline. Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day I can tell you! Anthony Davis will be the first pick in the draft, and could become an MVP-caliber player, but Robinson is a lock to become a great NBA power forward.

Upsets

Not much here. I’m going to live dangerously and take NC State over San Diego State in the first round. Otherwise I see UNC sneaking past Kansas in the regional final.

Pick

UNC. Once they sorted out their point guard position, dropping Larry Drew Jr. (another kid who’s dad played in the NBA), and handing the ball to Kendall Marshall, they’ve been excellent. Much depends on John Henson’s injured wrist.

Final Four

Kentucky vs. Missouri/Florida State vs. UNC

Final

Missouri vs. UNC

Winner

Missouri

As above, so below. Tetragrammaton!

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Jim Gavin divides his time between home and Del Taco.

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Blooms + Baskets | “Do You Like Truffles?”

16/06/2011

Bloomsday, 2011 | James Joyce, Class Warrior

By Jim Gavin

After Ulysses was published, legends began to swirl about Joyce.  In a letter to his brother Stanislaus, Joyce catalogued some of his favorites.  He was, variously and simultaneously, an Austrian spy, a cocaine addict, the founder of dadaism, and a Bolshevik propagandist.  Joyce wished his life were so exciting.  Intrigue and peril, for him, meant avoiding the landlord on rent day.  He had benefactors and creditors in equal number, and his novel had been written on the run, as his family moved, or fled, from apartment to apartment in Trieste and Zurich and now Paris.

During his first years in Trieste, Joyce decided that he was a socialist. He believed in the redistribution of wealth, but only insofar as the wealth came his way.  He was a rotten socialist.  In Ulysses, Joyce turned Leopold Bloom, a lowly advertising agent, into an epic hero. Marxist critics assumed it was satire and they denounced Joyce. He told his friend Eugene Jolas, “I don’t know why they attack me. Noboby in any of my books is worth more than a thousand pounds.”

His peers didn’t know what to make of him. Genius? Bounder? Fraud? Mooch?

George Moore, a forgotten Irish novelist, said, “Joyce? Joyce? Why he’s nobody – from the Dublin docks: no family, no breeding.”

Over tea, T.S. Eliot told Virginia Woolf that in Ulysses Joyce had killed the 19th century. Woolf was less impressed. She described the book as “underbred” and “the book of a self-taught working man.”

Hemingway wrote to Sherwood Anderson: “Joyce has a most goddamn wonderful book. It’ll probably reach you in time. Meantime the report is that he and all his family are starving but you can find the whole celtic crew of them every night in Michaud’s where Binney and I can only afford to go about once a week…..The damned Irish, they have to moan about something or other, but you never heard of an Irishman starving.”

Joyce enjoyed flaunting all the money he didn’t have.  One afternoon he had lunch with T.S. Eliot, who, as a Midwesterner, a Harvard man, a Prostestant, an Anglophile, and a nine to five banker, had what you might call a certain distaste for extravagance.  Joyce ordered more and more wine and revelled in the horrified expression on Eliot’s face.  Eliot knew that Joyce wouldn’t let him pay, and he knew that by indulging like this, Joyce was condemning himself to weeks of scrounging.  Eliot never understood this kind of irrational behavior. Joyce understood it completely.  Hence the books they wrote.

On May 18, 1922, the English novelist Sydney Schiff invited Joyce to a supper party for Stravinsky following the performance of one his ballets.  Joyce arrived late and found everyone dressed in formal clothes, of which he owned none.  To cover his embarassment, he began to drink.  Then Marcel Proust walked through the door. He was wearing a fur coat. This was a legendary moment. What did the two greatest novelists of the 20th century talk about when they were introduced?

Proust: Do you like truffles?

Joyce: Yes, I do.

And that was pretty much it.  There are competing stories about what was actually said that night, but this one is the best.  Proust consorted with dukes and duchesses, Joyce with pub crawlers and onion sellers.  Neither really understood or read that much of the other’s work, but I imagine there must have been some recognition that night, some sense of stellar alignment.  I picture a brief nod, silent and transcendant, the kind that might pass between two explorers finding each other in the deepest jungle.  Proust died six months later and Joyce attended the funeral.

(Sources: all quotes taken from Richard Ellman’s James Joyce.)

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Read more Blooms + Baskets here, and a Q&A with the author here

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Blooms + Baskets | Tournament Preview by Jim Gavin

16/03/2011

2011 NCAA Tournament Preview

By Jim Gavin

Preamble

In 1984, Georgetown beat Houston in the final. I don’t remember much about the game, because I was eight years old, and still recovering from my unwitting participation in the MK-ULTRA program, but somehow, through the fog of unending nightmares, I remember the post-game interview with Reggie Williams.  Only a freshman, he had just played a great game, leading the Hoyas with nineteen points.  With a microphone in his face, Williams froze, as if he suddenly realized, only now, that he was on TV, in front of millions of people.  He just stood there for a long time, too nervous to speak.  I still remember how uncomfortable that moment felt, but now it strikes me as a remnant of some lost and beautiful age when your average eighteen year old was shy and awkward and in possesion of a private interior life.  But now, because of reality TV, and Facebook and Twitter, and clandestine government experiments in mind control, every high school and college student is a media savvy prick broadcasting their lives over an increasing number of digital platforms, all of which are controlled by the Office of Strategic Services.

Am I paranoid? That’s not a question for me. That’s a question for the guy from “Comcast” who came by my house a few weeks ago to install “cable.”  Yes, I finally got to watch some college basketball – San Diego State is in the top ten? – but it also meant that I woke up a few nights ago in a Washington DC hotel room, with no memory of how I got there.  It’s all happening again.  March Madness.  A few days from now I’ll turn on ESPN to watch tournament highlights, and then Digger Phelps will start talking.  To the average viewer, his words will seem like the ramblings of a madman,  a series of drooling, half-stuttered non-sequitors with no connection to reality.  These innocent civilians will simply turn the channel.  If only I were so lucky. Instead, I will sit there, hypnotized, until I suddenly find myself on a rooftop somewhere, calibrating my rifle scope.

Now let’s talk hoops! Basketball is my favorite sport. I love it when they dribble up and down the court. Or, as Kurtis Blow once put it:

Basketball is my favorite sport

I love it when they dribble up and down the court.

A few thoughts on the past season:

Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette

Thanks to a lacklustre freshman class, the two biggest “stars” this year in college basketball are upperclassmen who’ve dramatically improved over the last couple years and now stand poised to be mid to late first round draft picks and future quality bench players in the NBA.  That shouldn’t take away how much fun they are to watch.  Kemba Walker has hit big shots all year, including his iconic step-back against Pitt, and has generally held together a young Connecticut team coached by Jim Calhoun, a man who looks, talks, and runs his program like an Irish mobster.  I think he’s friends with Eddie Coyle.  Fredette, meanwhile, exists somewhere on the tweener spectrum between Ben Gordon and J.J. Redick – he’s a great scorer and a great shooter, but in the NBA his cheeky crossover will get ripped every time, so he’ll have to rely on his shooting.  I hope both these guy go far in the tournament.

Fab Five

The Fab Five documentary aired a couple days ago, sending me into fits of nostalgia.  They were gods when I was playing high school basketball, and I can still remember guys at practice trying to throw lob passes like Jalen Rose, wrong-footed on the break, eyes straight ahead, hooking the ball over his head with his left hand.  And I remember playing a pick up game at a park by my house and seeing a guy wearing the same Nikes the Fab Five wore. I asked him about it and he told me that he had bought them cheap at an outlet mall out in Lake Elsinore (the one in the Inland Empire, not Denmark).  He gave me some inside info: “They don’t keep them on the shelves. Ask the guy working there if you can see the selection in the back.”  I wanted these shoes and all the stars seemed aligned: I was working at K-Mart, so I had money. Plus I had just gotten my license and inherited a shitty Ford Tempo from my dead grandmother, bless her heart.  She was a smoker and the windows were so yellow I could barely see out of them.  Anyway, I explained the situation to a couple friends, and on the strength of information given to me by a stranger at a park, we prepared for a journey that would change our young lives forever.  It took us about an hour to get there on the freeway.  The temp guage quivered on “Hot” the whole time, but we made it to the Nike outlet.  I found someone on staff and asked, “Can I see the selection in back?”

He looked at me cock-eyed. “What are you talking about?”

“This guy told me that the good shoes are in the back.”

“What guy?”

“I don’t know his name.”

“There’s no selection in back,” he said, and pointed to the display shelves. “What’s out there is out there.”

And there you have it. Life is pretty much one “Araby” after another.

The High-Top Fade

I’m all for this early nineties nostalgia.  Around the country a few guys are rocking, as it were, the high top fade.  Ryan Evans of Wisconsin is probably the best example.  Now it’s incumbent on white kids to go back to the early nineties Lucky Luciano look, exemplified by Steve Nash and Christian Laettner.  Of course, if anyone was truly brave, they’d break out the jheri curl.  And short shorts. But I think those are as far gone as the periwig and Elizabethean ruff.

All-Blueblood Team

Here’s a list of players from different eras who have fancy blueblood names:

Preston Shumpert (Syracuse)

Chase Budinger (Arizona)

Wellington Smith (West Virginia)

King Rice (North Carolina)

Pace Mannion (Utah)

Granville Waiters (Ohio State)

Pearce Landry (North Carolina)

Mason and Miles Plumlee (Duke)

Darren Montague Hite III (Princeton)

Operation Paperclip

What if I told you that after WWII the O.S.S. brought Nazi scientists to the United States to conduct experiments in everything from rocket telemetry to mind control? And what if I told you that these scientists went about creating a race of ubermenschen, with blonde hair and cold dead eyes? And what if I told you that eventually these scientists would work in collusion with Duke University, forging an unholy alliance of insufferable douchebags bent on world domination? Pretty far-fetched, right? Well, look into the eyes of Kyle Singler and tell me, dear reader, if you detect a soul.

Seth Davis

He’s the top analyst for CBS, a smug little toady rich kid with a smug little toady rich kid laugh.  Every time he opens his mouth I want to beat his face in with a shovel.  He’s a Duke grad, of course. Makes Jay Bilas look like Charles Barkley.

Bill Raftery

Basically, the best college basketball announcer in history.  Dick Vitale is just the loudest. Anyone who really loves college basketball got sick of Vitale a long time ago.  But Raftery is one of those guys you miss before they’re even gone, because you know they don’t make them like that anymore.  He calls the game to make you aware of the kids, not himself.  But he’s also a boozy raconteur and there’s nothing better than when he let’s loose with some anecdote about trying to recruit a kid at a CYO game in Providence in 1976.   He’s the type of guy you want at your wake.

Brackets

Southwest

Players to watch:

Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame): it pains me to admit that a member of the Hansbrough family is a watchable basketball player, but the couple times I caught Notre Dame, he was really fun to watch. He’s like a modern day Jimmer Fredette. I actually think he might make a better pro.  Moves beautifully without the ball, and puts all his passes right on the money.

Jeffrey Taylor (Vanderbilt): my favorite Swedish player since Hanno Mottola! He’s one of those guys who will look like a lottery pick one second, but then totally disappear the next.  With his skill and athleticism he should dominate.  If he turns it up in the tournament Vandy will have a crack at the regional final.

Kyle Kuric (Louisville): do everything guard had one of the best dunks of the year, for which he got scolded by Bobby Knight (see clip).  He’s improved all year, along with the rest of Louisville, who are surprisingly likable for a Rick Pitino team.

Upsets

I have this bracket pretty much going by seeding.  Great sweet sixteen match-ups: Kansas v. Louisville, Purdue v. Notre Dame.

Pick

Kansas will get past Purdue.  Once again, there is something strangely anonymous about them this year, but I guess that goes for a lot of schools this year, where there isn’t a dominant player.  They have steady senior guards, the nation’s two most polished forwards in the Morris twins, and an x-factor in Tyshawn Taylor, who I can see taking over games, the same way my mind was taken over so many years ago by lysergic demons, who still visit me sometimes, mocking my monochromatic world, and daring me to break free, once more, from the grotesque illusion of reality.

Southeast

Players to watch:

Reeves Nelson (UCLA): if Kevin Love had an evil twin who was forced to grow up in a basement, eating rodents and committing horrific acts of self-mutilation, he would basically look and play like Nelson.  I think UCLA coach, Ben Howland, got tired of recruiting one and done guys, and is now recruiting low flying kids like Nelson, who won’t win him a title now, but just might when he’s a senior.

Kenny Boynton and Irving Walker (Florida): ultra-quick guard duo playing as well as they ever have.  Hard to contain if they’re hitting shots.

Brandon Davies (BYU): sinner

Upsets

Old Dominion over Pitt in the second round.  Pitt beats up teams all year, but once they get to the tournament they never have a guy who can consistently get them points.

Pick

Florida – not happy about this pick.  Billy Donovan is pretty obnoxious but I’m usually impressed by the way his teams play.  They seem to have the right mix of speed on the perimeter and capable guys down low.

West

Players to watch:

Surfy Magoo (San Diego St): the free spirited guard emodies everything that’s gnarly about the city of San Diego.  He plays with an ultra mellow vibe, while hanging ten (assists) on his opponents.  Dude pretty much has no worries!  Kawhi Leonard, of Riverside, is pretty good too.

Kyrie Irving (Duke): will be the number one pick in the draft, even though he’s been injured all year. What a year for college basketball! He might play a little in the tournament.

Upsets

Arizona is about due for a pathetic first round exit.  And they’re playing Memphis, coached by former Arizona assistant, Josh Pastner.  Easy money.  I like UConn to the Final Eight, but I don’t think they can beat Duke, goddamnit.

Pick

Duke. Usually, I don’t pick them on principal, and they end up getting to the final four. I’m hoping the opposite will happen this time.

East

Players to watch:

Harrison Barnes (North Carolina): top recruit in the nation looked like the second coming of Marvin Williams for most of the year – not a good thing – but had a good ACC tournament.  Still, there’s something robotic about him, and the rest of UNC.  They’re like a bunch of Corvettes, powerful and fast, but they can’t turn so well.

Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche (Syracuse):  I’m counting on them to play well, otherwise my bracket is fucked.  Go Orange!

Larry Bird Jr. (Indiana State): Bird the Younger, a five foot tall blind hemophiliac, has struggled to get playing time this year.

Upsets

Princeton over Kentucky.  You probably think that’s a crazy pick.  But is it any more crazy than being on the Further Bus with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, and losing your virginity to Neal Cassady, and entering into a common law marriage with orange girl (see clip), and then getting taken into custody by a nameless government sub-agency that proceeds to teach you how to murder a head of state with nothing more than a shoelace and a rocket launcher?  I didn’t think so.

I also think Syracuse will beat Ohio State in the regional final.  I just find it hard to believe that Ohio State will be led to the Final Four by a freshman, Jared Sullinger, who is basically a slightly better version of Lawrence Funderburke (he just missed the cut for the blue-blood team).

Pick

Syracuse

Final Four

Syracuse v. Duke/Kansas v. Florida

Final

Duke v. Kansas

Winner

Kansas.  Shine on you crazy Jayhawks. And rest in piece, Owsley.

*

Jim Gavin is a writer. Read his previous reports on Blooms & Baskets here >>

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Bloomsday 2010 | John Joyce

16/06/2010

A portrait of the artist's father.

Bloomsday, 2010

John Joyce

By Jim Gavin

Fathers glory in bad jokes.  Whenever I ask my dad whether or not a certain person is dead – usually an old actor, athlete, or politician I haven’t heard about in a while – he’ll say, “I hope so. They buried him.”  This has been going on for over thirty years and yet, somehow, I never see it coming until it’s too late.  My head drops a little, I stifle a groan. To his credit, my dad always delivers it in a virtuoso deadpan, as if he’s sitting at the Algonquin Round Table, instead of in his recliner, with the Dodger game on.

Ulysses didn’t really make sense to me until I got to the Cyclops chapter.  Early in the day, Leopold Bloom attends the funeral of Paddy Dignam, and later he enters Barney Kiernan’s pub, where the quality has gathered:

-How’s Willy Murray those times, Alf?

-I don’t know, says Alf. I saw him just now in Capel street with Paddy Dignam.  Only I was running after…

-You what? says Joe, throwing down the letters. With who?

-With Dignam, says Alf.

-Is it Paddy? says Joe.

-Yes, says Alf. Why?

-Don’t you know he’s dead? says Joe.

-Paddy Dignam! says Alf.

-Ay, says Joe.

-Sure I’m after seeing him not five minutes ago, says Alf, as plain as a pikestaff.

-Who’s dead? says Bob Doran.

-You saw his ghost then, says Joe, God between us and harm.

-What? says Alf. Good Christ, only five…What?….And Willy Murray with him, the two of them there near whatdoyoucallhim’s…What? Dignam dead?

-What about Dignam? says Bob Doran. Who’s talking about…?

-Dead! says Alf. He’s no more dead than you are.

-Maybe so, says Joe. They took the liberty of burying him this morning anyhow.

Apparently, my dad wasn’t very original.  And neither was Joyce, whose divine reprobate of a father, John Joyce, often used this joke, which he probably heard from his father, or in a bar, or from his father, while in a bar.  Readers can take many different approaches to Ulysses – Marxist, Freudian, etc – but I prefer to read it as one big bar joke.  The scene above, its music and hoary humor, originates from the tongue of John Joyce.

John Stanislaus Joyce was a failure, quite possibly the biggest failure in Dublin, which would place him high in the running for biggest failure worldwide, but his many failures were always overshadowed by his enduring sense of grandeur.  Particularly the grandeur of himself.  At one time, the Joyce family had some money, but by the time James was born, it had been squandered by his father, who gallantly refused to let a few debts get him down.  The Joyce clan grew large – John once described himself as the father of “ten or eleven children” – and on the streets of Dublin it was common to see them, after another eviction, moving en masse to new lodgings.  The kids carried the bags and furniture, while their patriarch led them onward, holding aloft a framed engraving of the Joyce family crest.  In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus famously describes the career, or careers, of his father, Simon:

A medical student, an oarsman, a tenor, an amateur actor, a shouting politician, a small landlord, a small investor, a good fellow, a storyteller, somebody’s secretary, something in a distillery, a tax-gatherer, a bankrupt and at present a praiser of his own past.

James Joyce had the good fortune of being his father’s favorite, and he more or less adopted his father’s views on politics and religion.  Champion of Parnell, Enemy of the priests. John was an encyclopedia of Dublin lore, and when Joyce was a boy, John would take him on long walks through Dublin, telling him which house Swift lived in, where so and so dropped dead, singing songs, telling jokes, creating the atmosphere that lives on every page of Ulysses. He was the kind of true local and man-about-town that is hard to imagine in our current age, in which we have all become reclusive know-it-alls armed with digital hate cannons.  So John Joyce had a good side.  The bad side – the drunken abuse he heaped on his long-suffering family – helped convince James Joyce to leave Ireland.

While in “exile,” Joyce lived as improvidently as his father, but stayed dedicated to his family and his art.  In Stephen Hero, it is said of Mr Dedalus (Joyce spelled it “Daedalus” in the earlier book, in stricter accordance with Greek myth): “He had his son’s distaste for responsibility but not his courage.”  Joyce wasn’t above paying himself a compliment, but it’s hard to deny him this truth. He stayed on good terms with his father, writing often and bugging him for details about people and places that he could put in his books. In Ulysses, Simon Dedalus is a peripheral figure, losing out on the theological shell game that connects Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, but his appearences are always memorable for his wit and the eloquence of his wrath.  In the Hades chapter, Simon rides to Dignam’s funeral with several locals, including Bloom, who sees Stephen passing in street and says to Simon:

-There’s a friend of yours gone by, Dedalus, he said.

-Who is that?

-Your son and heir.

Simon goes on to express his concers about poor helpless Stephen, his most cherished son, who has been hanging around with a disreputable cad, Buck Mulligan:

-He’s in with a lowdown crowd, Mr Dedalus snarled. That Mulligan is a contaminated bloody doubledyed ruffian by all accounts.  His name stinks all over Dublin.  But with the help of God and His blessed mother I’ll make it my business to write a letter one of those days to his mother or his aunt or whatever she is that will open her eye as wide as a gate.  I’ll tickle his catastrophe, believe you me.

If the goal of every writer is to become the shame of their parents, as J.P. Donleavy once said, then Joyce failed.  John tried reading Ulysses, but it didn’t hold his interest.  He thought singing was Joyce’s true talent.  Still, he was proud enough to describe his son, the author of the century’s greatest novel, as “a good kind of blackguard.”

For many years, Joyce considered returning to Ireland to visit his elderly father, but he never made it.  John Joyce died in 1931, his last words: “Tell Jim he was born at six in the morning.” Joyce had recently written him with some astrological questions. They were always in each other’s thoughts. Joyce was crushed by sorrow and guilt and in a letter to Harriet Weaver, he wrote:

I was very fond of him always, being a sinner myself, and even liked his faults. Hundreds of pages and scores of characters in my books came from him.  His dry (or rather wet) wit and his expression of face convulsed me often with laughter…I got from him his portraits, a waistcoat, a good tenor voice, and an extravagant licentious disposition.

And lots of bad jokes.  Years before, when Joyce told his father about Nora Barnacle, John said, “She’ll stick to you.” Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for funny man, John Joyce!

*

Jim Gavin’s “Blooms + Baskets” column appears twice a year, “Blooms” on Bloomsday and “Baskets” as a preview to the NCAA basketball tournament. Read “Gogarty,” from Bloomsday 2009, here >>

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Blooms & Baskets 2010 NCAA Tourney Preview

17/03/2010

2010 NCAA Tournament Preview

By Jim Gavin

Items: Bracketologists, Clark Kellogg, Bobby Knight, Lake Havasu, Coke-crazed satin wonderlands, Calipari, Pitino, Pearl Washington, Richmond.

Preamble

If you want to win your tournament pool, follow the example set by Bob Foley, proprietor of the Chevron station where I worked for many years.  Bob was the most boring alcoholic I’ve ever met.  He’d get to the station every morning at 5am, pound three 20oz cans of Foster’s, count the cash in the safe, make a trip to the bank, and then he’d sit for a few hours on a stool in the mini-mart, staring desolately at the pumps.  He was a Korean War vet. Figuring every man has a story to tell, I once asked him what he did in the army, and he said, “I was a barber.” Apparently, he spent his tour cutting hair on an airbase.  Every weekend, for fun, he drove to Lake Havasu, where he owned a small house.  I once asked what he did out there – Havasu is a Mecca for gambling and boating and all manner of lurid recreation – and he said, “I blast the air.”   Apparently, he drove five hours each way, through the desert, to sit in air conditioning and watch TV.  He drove a Chrysler 5th Avenue and washed it once a week.

Every year his crew put together a tournament pool. We happened to have a bunch of basketball junkies on the payroll and it was always fun setting up the TV in the mini-mart.  Sometimes regulars would come by to the watch games, and now and then a stranger getting gas or cigarettes would get hooked into a game and stand around watching it alongside the juco flame-outs who were ringing them up.  Bob had no interest in sports, but one year he asked for a bracket.  He filled it out in less than a minute, picking the higher ranked seed in every game.  He won and claimed his winnings by deducting $5 from all of our paychecks.

If you want to win your pool, use the cold logic of Bob Foley.  But if you want a more sensual tournament experience, if you ache for a gorgeously doomed romance, a kind of Byronic death trip, where the idea of “winning” is rendered meaningless by the pleasures of risk and stupidity…then please, follow my picks.

*

It’s 2010 and still no human, that I know of, is capable of a flip dunk.  Until then, we are left with the same old boring game of passing and setting screens and watching Bob Huggins sweat.  Some thoughts on the season:

Joe Lunardi

If you don’t know, Joe Lunardi is ESPN’s tenured “Bracketologist” – his sole function in life is to predict the tournament field, which he apparently has down to a science, using RPI rankings, strength of schedule indexes, and NASA solar flare reports.  His apotheosis represents many things, all of them dark and troubling.  First, that there is even a place in our culture for a man to make a living as a bracketologist suggests that America, as an empire, has reached a terminal state of frivolity.  One thinks of Czar Nicholas, spellbound by Rasputin, while all around him the knives were coming out.  But worse than that, Lunardi’s quantative know-how, his smug sexless pedantry, completes the transformation of sports fandom into Dungeon & Dragons. Fantasy leagues have ruined sports, elevating pure data streams over that sublime little hesitation move Paul Pierce uses whenever he goes right. O how I weep! Isn’t there any heaven where old beautiful dances, old beautiful intimacies prolong themselves?

Pac-10

What a shitfest.  I can’t remember a major conference being so uniformly bad.  The Pac-10 got two teams into the tournament and both will be out by the second round.  Over the past four years there has been a mass exodus to the NBA, with players like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Jerryd Bayless leaving early, but during the last two seasons the Pac-10 has failed to replace that kind of talent.  UCLA’s last two recruiting classes have been hugely disappointing, but maybe this is strategic.  There’s a strong possibility that, because none of these guys will split immediately for the NBA, Ben Howland will have a strong senior-laden team in a few years, a bit like a mid-major, and then they’ll get their asses kicked by a Kentucky team full of one and done millionaires.  I thought Sean Miller was a good hire at Arizona, but I think it will take a long time for the Wildcats to rebuild.  Oregon’s problems, meanwhile, stem entirely from their uniforms.

Clark Kellogg

Has replaced Billy Packer at CBS for all the big games.  A vast improvement, but it means we’ll get a lot of this…here’s Kellogg describing Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey: “He has what I like to call a ‘rush hour’ handle.  There are guys who have a good handle when the road’s empty, and guys who have a good handle when there’s a few cars around, but McCamey has a ‘rush hour’ handle, because he can handle the ball in heavy traffic.’  Kellogg begins every other sentence with “what I like to call” and then provides a tortuous explanation for his lexicon.

Bobby Knight

When he was a coach, I hated Knight, his ego and tantrums, but I really like him as analyst.  Last year he was the only guy at ESPN to notice that Stephen Curry was not only the best shooter in the country, but the best passer as well.  He thought Curry could be the next Steve Nash, and he was dead on.  This year he criticized Kentucky for hiring John Calipari (see below), even though the man had already burned two major programs to the ground.

Rick Pitino and John Calipari

Congrats to the State of Kentucky – your two highest paid employees are scumbags.  There’s a good chance Kentucky will win the tournament this year, and there’s an even better chance that two years from now the school will be under investigation.  The media loves Calipari – he’s a great interview – and for almost two decades he’s gotten a free pass for running dirty programs.  His mentor, Pitino, has never come under scrutiny for NCAA violations and for many years he has made a ton of money on the corporate speaking circuit, extolling the virtues of family and teamwork etc. But last year, during a dinner with some friends and coaches, he took leave from the table to go in a back room and bang a crazed Louisville groupie, who got pregnant.  Pitino paid for the abortion and later had to admit to the affair when the woman tried to extort money from him.  Like Calipari, Pitino is a master of cultivating the media and he has basically been given a free pass on this sordid little episode.

Big East

My fondest basketball memories involve the Big East in the mid-80s. It was all going on in NY, with the Golden Age of Hip Hop providing the soundtrack for epic battles between the likes of  Pearl Washington and Walter Berry.  It was a coke-crazed satin wonderland! The past is always superior to the present, but Big East right now is pretty amazing.  There is no soundtrack for it – there is no soundtrack at all in our lives right now because listening to music has become a subordinate pleasure to its acquisition and plus all the new bands suck, every single one of them – but there have been great games all year.  Even teams that didn’t make the tournament, like Providence and Seton Hall, had great players to watch and both probably could’ve won the Pac-10.

Luke Wilson

Every time I’ve been in a room with other people, and one of Luke Wilson’s AT&T commercials come on, they all gasp in horror at his bloated visage.  Yes, there is something sad about the commercials, the air of resignation that hangs over Wilson as he tries to muster whatever might be left of his insouciant charm, but give the guy a break.  Maybe he’s just a dude in his thirties who’s packed on a little pudge in the face.  He’s not a monster. Leave him alone!

Oh yeah, the brackets….

MIDWEST

Players to Watch:

Evan Turner (Ohio St.):  Likely national player of the year.  Hopefully he’ll have the NBA career that Grant Hill should’ve had.  Very similar games, and Turner can actually use his left hand.

Greivas Vasquez (Maryland): unctuous slow-footed Venezuelan tweener somehow managed to make himself ACC player of the year and will lead Terps to what I like to call the “Sweet Sixteen.”

Chris Wright and Austin Freeman (Georgetown): probably the best backcourt in the country, save for those daring and inscrutable Elegante twins, Nigel and Marvin, at Weber State.   The Mitch Richmond-like Freeman has only gotten better since being diagnosed with diabetes.

Upsets

Northern Iowa over UNLV in the 8/9 game? That’s weak shit but I just don’t see much there.  I think this one will go according to seeding.  Damn you, Bob Foley! (shaking fist at sky, assuming that Bob finally drank himself to death at some point and is in now up there heaven, or more likely purgatory, but I don’t where that is.  Probably somewhere between the sky and heaven, next to the moon.)

Pick

Kansas – something monotonous and creepily made-to-order about their domination this year.  Your classic Big Wally in the middle, swatting shots; stud point guard finishing off games; interchangeable parts on the wings.  Frosh Xavier Henry, like all lefties, is entrancingly smooth.

WEST

Players to watch:

Kris Joseph (Syracuse): has embraced his role as sixth man and has consistently made big shots at the end of games.  Looked lost last year, but has made a huge leap.

Gordon Hayward (Butler): one of those kids who was a point guard in high school and then grew nine inches, and now is a strong, athletic four with great vision and ball skills.  Future lottery pick.

Jimmer Fredette (BYU): shoots well and his name is Jimmer Fredette.

Upset

Kansas St. is a weak No. 2 seed and their coach, Frank Martin, is a moron. I’m picking the Mean Green of North Texas to take them down.  They’ve got an experienced team and a nice guard in Josh White.  I mentioned the Big East earlier, but another development this year was the re-emergence of the Atlantic 10.  Xavier has been strong for years and I think they’ll eliminate Pitt in a great second round battle.

Pick

Syracuse – the key to this year’s team was the graduation, last year, of Eric Devendorf, one of the biggest knuckleheads ever to grace the Carrier Dome, and they’ve had a few.  Johnny Flynn was great, but he dominated the ball too much.  Right now they are perfectly balanced with solid seniors in Rautins, Jackson, and Onuaku (who might miss the first game with injury), humble hard working freshman, Jardine and Triche, and an X-factor, in Big East Player of the Year Wesley Johnson, who will be healthier than he has been all year when the tourney starts.

EAST

Players to watch:

Juan Fernandez (Temple): my depraved fetish for floppy haired Argentines knows no limit.  Sophmore dropped 33 on Villanova and had a great year overall.  Plays with total poise at all times…he’ll be one of the best guards in the country next year.

Da’Sean Butler (West Virginia): in the Big East tourney he made two of the ugliest game winning shots I’ve ever seen, typical of the ugliest team in college basketball.  Do you like watching games in the low fifties, where at least three players foul out and no one can make a free throw? Then you’ll love Bob Huggins and his annoyingly effective Mountaineers.

Darington Hobson (New Mexico): WAC player of the year has chance to make splash on national stage.  Best juco transfer in the country this year.

Upset

Temple over Kentucky.  Obviously this is a moral imperative, but I think Temple has the guard play to handle Kentucky’s pressure.  I’m not convinced that Kentucky phenom John Wall, as a freshman, is on the same level of Carmelo Anthony or Derrick Rose.

Pick

West Virginia – they are playing well and will grind people up.  Great battle in sweet sixteen versus New Mexico.  Huggins was last in the final four seventeen years ago, and three DUIs ago.   Bless that Cincinnati team, with Nick Van Smack and Eric Martin, of West Covina, whose brother once got gas at my gas station.  He was wearing his brother’s jersey and seemed pleased that the guy resetting the pumps was a fan.

SOUTH

Players to watch:

Jerome Randle (Cal): lone bright in the Pac-10 this year, will at least give Duke some fits in the second round.

Jeremy Anderson (Richmond): might be the best point guard in the country.  Has that rarest of things, a killer mid-range game.

Kyle Singler (Duke): with any luck, he’ll blow out his knee, but he’ll probably end up MVP of the Region and take his rightful place in the pantheon of Caucasoid Duke forwards.

Upset

Richmond over Villanova in the second round.  Jeremy Anderson vs. Scottie Reynolds: best guard match up in the tournament.  They’ll also take down anonymous three seed Baylor to make it to the regional final.

Pick
Richmond – Yeah, suck it, Krzyzewski.

FINAL FOUR

Kansas, Syracuse/West Virginia, Richmond

Final
Syracuse, WVU

Winner
Syracuse

*

Blooms & Baskets is a twice-yearly newsletter combining reflections on James Joyce and college basketball. The author, Jim Gavin, is a bracketologist currently based in San Francisco.

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Bloomsday 2009: Gogarty

16/06/2009

Bloomsday, 2009

Gogarty

By Jim Gavin

In June 1901, several Royal Navy ships returned to the Dublin docks, carrying Irish troops who had fought on behalf of the British in the Boer War.  To celebrate the return of these brave men, a conservative Irish newspaper, Irish Society, printed a touching and patriotic poem sent in by one of its readers:

The Irish Yeoman’s Return, or Love is Lord of All

The Gallant Irish yeoman

Home from the war has come,

Each Victory gained o’er foeman,

Why should our bards be dumb?

gogarty

How shall we sing their praises

Or glory in their deeds,

Renowed their worth amazes,

Empire their prowess needs.

So to Old Ireland’s hearts and homes

We welcome now our own brave boys

In cot and hall; ‘neath lordly domes

Love’s heroes share once more our joys.

Love is the Lord of all just now,

Be he the husband, love, son,

Each dauntless soul recalls the vow

By which not fame, but love was won.

United now in fond embrace

Salute with joy each well-loved face.

Yeoman, in women’s hearts you hold your place.

………..

As a tribute to British Imperial glory, this was adequate stuff. But the poem was more than that.  Alert Dubliners quickly recognized the poem as an acrostic, the first letter of every line spelling out a slightly less romantic vision: THE WHORES WILL BE BUSY.

This was the infamous handiwork of Oliver St. John Gogarty, a young medical student who had been contributing articles to Sinn Fein protesting Irish recruitment into the British army.   A second-rate poet, blessed with a gift for blasphemy, he was the consumate man-about-town and at the time he had the reputation of being the wittiest man in Dublin.  His exploits as a provocateur guaranteed his fame locally – during the Civil War he escaped his IRA captors by jumping out a window and diving into the Liffey – but to his great regret, his most enduring contribution to literature would come not from his own pen, but from the pen of his former friend and rival.

*

Gogarty and James Joyce met in 1903.  Milling around the check-out desk at the National Library, the two young men fell into a conversation about Yeats, as one does.  Both sniffed out the competition, and from then on their relationship consisted almost entirely of ball-busting and back-handed praise.  Gogarty referred to Joyce as the “Dante of Dublin” and Joyce accused Gogarty of lacking sincerity.  At the time, Joyce didn’t really drink.  He was determined to be a rebel in his own land, but Gogarty, an accomplished drinker, took it upon himself to teach his friend about the pleasures of the national wine – stout.  Joyce was a quick study.

Money was often an issue with these two.  Joyce, knowing that he was a genius, felt it a great injustice that he had to keep borrowing money from a hack like Gogarty.  He once asked to borrow Gogarty’s rifle, for some unspecified purporse, and not long after Gogarty found out that Joyce had pawned it.  Their decision to become roommates, a few months later, would prove disastrous.

Just south of Dublin, on the coast, there sits a stone military fortification called the Martello Tower.  Thick and round and about forty feet high, it was built early in the 19th century to fend off a potential invasion by Napoleon.  It had been out of use for years when Gogarty, somehow, got his hands on the lease.

He moved in with an Anglo-Irish Oxford man named Trench, and later, Joyce, at loose ends after his mother’s death, was given a key.  The arrangement didn’t last long.  Joyce grew weary of Gogarty’s constant jibes and his refusal to recognize Joyce as a genius, but the three poets in the tower did manage to create a bit of a sensation.  Many writers stopped by to drink and take in the stunning view of the Irish Sea.  One especially florid visitor, William Bulfin, had this to say about his stay in the tower: “The poet (Gogarty) was a wayward kind of genius, who talked in a captivating manner, with keen, grim humour, which cut and pierced through a topic in bright, strong flashes worthy of the rapier of Swift.” Ugh…he went on: “The other poet (Joyce) listened in silence, and when we went on the roof he disposed himself restfully to drink in the glory of the morning…”

Joyce was often late on the rent, and his brother Stanislaus, in a diary entry, suggested that the only reason Gogarty put up with this was because he feared that Joyce would make it some day, and he wanted to stay in his good graces.  But both men were too stubborn and arrogant to maintain their friendship. The party finally ended one night when Trench had a nightmare that he was being attackd by a panther. He screamed himself awake, grabbed his revolver, and shot the fireplace, a few feet from Joyce’s head.  Trench went back to sleep, and Gogarty took his gun.  When Trench screamd awake again, Gogarty gallantly called out, “Leave him to me!” and shot some pans hanging over Joyce’s head, which landed on him.  Joyce, a delicate creature, apparently, couldn’t abide gunplay. He moved out that night and not long after he and Nora Barnacle departed for Europe.

Joyce and Gogarty grew estranged, rarely communciating during the next few decades, but Joyce would end up paying him tribute, in a back-handed sort of way, by making his old friend the model for Buck Mulligan, the first person we meet in Ulysses.   Mulligan mounts the stairhead and intones the first words of the Latin Mass, raising the curtain on Joyce’s epic.  Mulligan is portrayed as a brutal and mocking antagonist, but a hilarious one, a genius force of negation, totally unsympathetic to the sorrows of young Stephen Dedalus, who has just lost his mother. Gogarty’s wit is everywhere in this chapter and in other places throughout the novel; it’s always a joy when he shows up on the scene.  You know someone is about to get cut to pieces, and you know you’ll be gifted a few choice obsentities.

(The Mulligan/Dedalus dynamic, two poets starving in a tower, both jealous of and dependent on each other and fearing that they will be the one who doesn’t “make it”, has been exploited with regularity throughout the last century, and for me the most beautiful example is Bruce Robinson’s “Withnail & I”)

Joyce, ever silent, lets his old friend have all the best lines.  He even inserted one of Gogarty’s famous pub pieces, a bit of blasphemy called the “Ballad of Joking Jesus”:

I’m the queerest young fellow that ever you heard.

My mother’s a jew, my father’s a bird.

With Joseph the joiner I cannot agree.

So here’s to disciples and Calvary.

*

Gogarty was just another aspect of Ireland that Joyce tried to leave behind.  He failed, of course.  After Joyce died in 1942, two books were found on his desk. A Greek lexicon and a copy of I Follow St. Patrick, a long-forgotten memoir by the wittiest man in Dublin.

*

Jim Gavin lives in California.

*

Note:

“Gogarty” is Jim’s 2009 Bloomsday letter, an annual phenomenon.