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Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Re: Joyce


Vital stats:
Format: reading/exegesis/celebration of one sentence to one paragraph of James Joyce’s Ulysses
Episode duration: 5m-25m
Frequency: weekly

If you described the medium of podcasting to an aspirational American of sixty years ago — the kind with a complete shelf of Mortimer Adler-approved Great Books of the Western World, purchased whole — they’d imagine something like Frank Delaney’s Re: Joyce [RSS] [iTunes] as its primary use. For a time, we envisioned all forms media as potential delivery systems for read-along literary and historical lectures by learned, articulate middle-aged men, preferably from across the Atlantic. Delaney thoroughly embodies these qualities, and in fact he once received National Public Radio’s anointment as “the most eloquent man in the world.” I know because the quote appears prominently in the header of every page on his site, as it would on my own. NPR has never made a big deal of my articulateness, but if they ranked me even among the top twenty, I assume they’d grant me as much airtime as I need to say whatever I want.

This, in any case, is why Delaney will dominate America’s public airwaves once a week for the next 27 years to discuss James Joyce’s Ulysses. As least I assume he will, since my mind can’t process the notion that NPR wouldn’t see fit to commit all necessary resources to an exegesis of one of the most important novels ever written in the English language by the man they named the most eloquent in the world. Though I personally listen to the show as a podcast, my brittle value system requires me to believe that other families gather round the wireless each and every Wednesday to hear celebrated one more facet of Joyce’s linguistic, structural, and sheer Dublinistic acumen. The majority of the broadcasts only run between five and fifteen minutes, after all, which only slightly exceeds American radio’s ever-supercilicizing estimate of audience attention span. In fact, I’ve surely gotten to you far too late; you’ve no doubt already listened to every episode since the show’s inception two and a half years ago. I should instead point you to something more marginal, like Two and a Half Men. I hear it is a situation comedy.

But if you somehow have yet to catch up with Re: Joyce, you’d best start now. Delaney has thus far spent 141 episodes reading through Ulysses, at a pace of what seems like one line to one paragraph per. He doesn’t read slowly; he appreciates extensively. Each scrap of text sends him on a textual dig, excavating another corner of this dense labyrinth of references, allusions, multiple meanings, and simple jokes. (Simple to James Joyce, that is.) Delaney’s enthusiasm for this novel comes through in every single episode in a manner that feels freakishly untiring until you consider that Joyce’s fans value his writing for its own bottomlessness. The author claimed to have “put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant," and thought this would grant the book "immortality." I read this on Ulysses’ Wikipedia entry, a page at which I recommend prospective listeners take a glance. Otherwise, they’ll get through twenty episodes wondering why they keep hearing about the same brief, snippy exchange between a couple of Irishmen named Stephen Dedalus and Buck Mulligan.

Wait, Stephen Dedalus? The guy from that other James Joyce — novel? Autobiography? — book, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? And who’s this Buck Mulligan? I thought Ulysses followed a guy named Bloom on a day’s walk through a stringently, near-autistically realistic description of early 20th-century Dublin. Didn’t they name the day of this supposed walk Bloomsday for that very reason? Questions like these, as well as the difficulty of some of the prose that prompts them, tend to put hopeful readers off the book. A hearty Virgil like Delaney can help them power through this wall, but his very appreciation of Ulysses — of its intricate craft, of the genius of its creator, of its sheer greatness — can at the same time discourage them again. Finding your own approach to any work of art that has become a monument to its own achievement can seem impossible. Someone pointing out that it’s full of patterns usually helps as much as it sounds like it would.

But unlike many lesser teachers of literature, Delaney doesn’t really insist that you comprehend. He clearly understands that sometimes, with a worthwhile book — often, with a worthwhile book like Ulysses, especially the first few times through — you’ve just got to roll with it. Whether you choose to read the novel first and then listen to Re: Joyce, listen to Re: Joyce as preparation for reading the novel, or read the novel along with Re: Joyce, I offer the same advice about listening to the podcast: just roll with it. You’ll quickly tire of hearing the name “Buck Mulligan” spoken so many times, but I assure you the feeling will pass. Listen to five or ten episodes at a sitting; forty or fifty in, you’ll find your listener’s mind has engaged with Delaney’s readerly mind, and accepted that it can’t contextualize everything right away. Unless you’re especially young, though, I recommend you start reading Ulysses without waiting for Re: Joyce’s completion, which Delaney has scheduled for his hundredth birthday in 2042. So we have an additional drama in the question of whether he’ll make it — and whether we’ll make it. The finished product could well turn out to be the most compelling possible endorsement for eschewing retirement in the name of continued active-mindedness. To put it mildly.

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[Podthinker Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture [iTunes] and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He's working on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Contact him at colinjmarshall at gmail or follow him on Twitter @colinmarshall.]

International Waters: Episode 13 No to Killfist?

Maeve & Howard in London
Dana Gould
Maeve Higgins
Jackie Kashian
Howard Read
Rebecca Dana

Dana Gould, Maeve Higgins, Jackie Kashian and Howard Read join host Jesse Thorn and special guest Rebecca Dana to talk gooches, rabbis and celebrity baby names.

Engineered by Lindsay Pavlas, Nick White and Chris Morris, written by Jordan Morris and Sarah Morgan, produced by Colin Anderson.

John Hodgman On Tour: Appearing in Oregon, Massachusetts, and Other States!


In celebration of the world not ending, John Hodgman is taking time to step away from the judicial bench to visit a variety of states, including Oregon (nickname: "The Big Beaver Furrier's Dreamland"), California (motto: "Do Not Fear Our Giant Prehistoric Trees") and Massachusetts (which is actually a commonwealth).*

You can purchase tickets for any of these appearances through his website.

Dates and Cities

-March 7: Portland, OR
-March 8: Eugene, OR
-March 10: Northampton, MA
-April 20: St. Mary's City, MD
-May 3: Alexandria, VA
-May 4: Hartford, CT
-May 29: San Francisco, CA
-June 21 to June 23: North Adams, MA (Solid Sound Festival)
-June 22: also North Adams, MA (MASS MoCA)

Bring your minds. There is COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE to be learned.

*All state information from The Areas of My Expertise, which you have, of course, completely assimilated the contents of by now.

Judge John Hodgman Episode 98: All Dogs Go To Trial - Live at SF Sketchfest!

John Darnielle

This week, our episode is live at Marines Memorial Theater from SF Sketchfest!

Brianne, a dog trainer, owns a small poodle named Shilo. She likes to take Shilo everywhere – the bus, classes at SF State, even restaurants. But this annoys her boyfriend, Zach, who thinks that Shilo's constant company is annoying, saying that it's representative of Brianne's attitude that the rules don't apply to her. Does Shilo need a shorter leash? Only Judge John Hodgman can decide.

We're also joined by past expert witness JOHN DARNIELLE of The Mountain Goats for a truly special musical set.


Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Roman Mars and Boots Riley, Live at SF Sketchfest

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Roman Mars
Boots Riley
Steve Agee
Peter Hartlaub

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

This week, a live recording of Bullseye, held at the Punchline Comedy Club as part of SF Sketchfest.

From 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Peter Hartlaub Recommends San Francisco on Film: "The Conversation" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"

The San Francisco Chronicle's pop culture critic, Peter Hartlaub, joins us to share some of his favorite San Francisco films.

He recommends Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation for its realistic depiction of San Francisco, as well as the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which, in spite of its terrifying story, might give San Francisco's public transit planners some food for thought.

Peter Hartlaub writes for the San Francisco Chronicle and blogs about pop culture at The Big Event.

(Embed or Share Peter Hartlaub's SF Movie Picks)

Roman Mars on 99% Invisible, Public Media and Crowd-Funding

You'd think that it'd be almost impossible to tell stories about architecture and design in a completely invisible medium, but Roman Mars makes it work. The public radio host and producer's stories show that design is everywhere – he's produced stories about the unintentional music of escalators, failed prison designs, and reclusive monks who make the best beer in the world.

These stories are all a part of 99% Invisible, "a tiny radio show about design" that Roman hosts and produces. The show is truly tiny; it airs for only five minutes on a handful of public radio stations, including KALW. But the podcast is another story. Episodes of the podcast version of 99% Invisible are longer and more detailed – and they reach a much larger audience. Last year, Roman led a massive Kickstarter campaign to fund the show's third season. Fans gave more than $170,000, making it the most successful journalism Kickstarter to date.

Roman joins Jesse onstage to discuss his theory of creativity, his reasons for exchanging his dream of becoming a scientist for a career in public radio, and his Doogie Houser-esque college experience.

99% Invisible is available on iTunes and Soundcloud. You can follow Roman on Twitter at @RomanMars.

(Embed or Share Roman Mars on 99% Invisible, Public Media and Crowd-Funding)

Comedy: Steve Agee on Movie Trivia in the Pre-Internet Age

Why did God invent the internet? Steve Agee has an idea. It's probably not what you think.

Steve Agee is a writer, actor, and standup comedian. He's a former writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and appeared as Steve Myron on the beloved Sarah Silverman Program.

You can follow him on Twitter at @SteveAgee.

Embed or Share Comedy: Steve Agee on Movie Trivia in the Pre-Internet Age

The Coup's Boots Riley on Merging Music with Social Activism, and What to Learn From Telemarketing

Boots Riley's life has always been about change, and never about complacency. He was already an leftist activist in high school, staging walkouts on school grounds, and he followed his parents' lead into community organizing. He was immersed in rap and hip hop in his hometown of Oakland, California, but didn't make the connection between the power of music and activism for several years.

Boots has fronted the hip hop group The Coup for over two decades as an MC and producer, and the group's positive, funky, and danceable music is still clearly message-driven in 2013. Their lyrics confront injustice, police brutality, and the rise of corporatism with aggressive wit. The group released a new album, Sorry to Bother You, late last year.

Boots talked to us about why he thinks an active engagement with world makes life worth living, finding humor in the disturbing reality of poverty and injustice, and what he learned from his time in, of all things, telemarketing.

BONUS AUDIO: Boots and his longtime collaborator Eric McFadden performed several songs live on stage. You can listen and share those tracks here.

(Embed or Share Boots Riley on Merging Music with Social Activism, and What to Learn From Telemarketing)

The Outshot: "I Got Five On it" by The Luniz

What says "Bay Area" to you? For Jesse, it's all about I Got 5 On It by the Luniz – specifically, the Bay Ballers remix.

(Embed or Share The Outshot: "I Got 5 On It")

Throwing Shade #67 - Throwing Shade LIVE in Philly (#2)

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Throwing Shade LIVE in Philly, Show #2 A.K.A The Show Where The Entire Audience Was Drunk. 

Subscribe and Rate on iTunes
@gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod
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RISK! #421: Greg Proops

Greg Proops

Live from San Francisco, Greg Proops shares a story about the dazed and confused 1970's at our Feb 2013 Sketchfest show.

Stop Podcasting Yourself 257 - Paul F. Tompkins

Paul F. Tompkins

Comedian Paul F. Tompkins returns to talk shoe jingles, wakeboarding dogs, and a butt website. Also, Dave discovers Flex Magazine.

Download episode 257 here. (right-click)

Get in touch with us at stoppodcastingyourself [at] gmail [dot] com or (206) 339-8328.

Brought to you by:

(click here for the full recap)

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 263: Party Flu with Jon Glaser

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Jon Glaser

Actor and comedian Jon Glaser joins Jordan and Jesse for a discussion of Jordan's recent tailor experience, Jon's TV show Delocated, and Jon's formative years. Plus, the youngest JJGo fan Henry stops by.

(The series finale of Delocated airs March 7 on Adult Swim. SET YOUR DVRS.)

My Brother, My Brother and Me 140: Hops for Pops


After a two-week absence which we assume was as horrifying for you as it was for us, we return with an episode chock-full of pope jokes and doin' it humor. Sometimes in the same breath. It's good to be back.

Suggested talking points: Papal Exploratory Council, High School Subtraction, Subway Spy, Suds Buds, Red Band Trailer, Giant Eagle

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