Category Archives: bloomsday

The Game Players of Dublin

He waits for the next player. Not another scholar or student, he hopes, but someone who comes for challenge of the game itself.

It has not been a while between players, for there is no time here, but if a state is embedded in another state in a certain relationship that can from at least one perspective be projected into what would be a series of interruptions in a timelike continuum, then we can say, all provisos accepted, that it’s been a while. And it usually is.

He always tries to guess where they will leave. He doesn’t like to think of it as giving up: it seems unfair. The game makes its player, he likes to tell himself. They leave where it is right for them to do so.

Will they be defeated by the arbitrary first level, its sheer surfaces affording none of the usual purchase expected of a traditional game mechanic? Grow as restive as the schoolchildren in the uneventful second? Or will they shy at the irruptions of Aquinas and the unexpected apparition of Blake’s buttocks on the beach in the second? (They will, he knows, very many of them, unless they take it for weird texture and aim for the true targets.)

Once past this introduction, the next three levels are relatively easy going, and he will have the pleasure of feeling the player settle into the familiar primary character, dumpy in his toothbrush moustache, warming up for the day’s obstacles.

Level seven is always a pleasure – the episodic nature, he supposes, gives a sense of reassuring form to the players, and is also a relatively safe arena where they can fool around with some advanced rhetorical weaponry. The practice will come in handy in nine – eight, admittedly, being something of a palate cleanser – when the first really powerful set of antagonists must be dealt with. There is no boss at this stage, but an elaborate melee which can weed out many casual players.

Usually this is when he can spot the remaining students. They panic, turn on the noclip cheat and start whizzing through the walls. (He’s seen it happen too many times to be disappointed.) And the players who remain with him are a joy to watch in the next few levels: the friendly primary is back, hopping between the floating islands of level ten, unlocking the hidden jam session in level eleven, and rounding on the first big boss in twelve.

The shifts of scale in this level are dizzying, and the tone of the game starts to darken, creating a sense of expectation which is deliciously wrong-footed by the sudden shift to the cloyingly moe atmosphere of level thirteen – assuming, of course, that the player hasn’t read any of the controversy about this level on the ‘net. He’s seen all the ways successful players negotiate the stickiness of this level. Most of them make it through by accepting the game logic on its own terms, although it can be played satisfactorily enough in irony mode, or even casting the character as the villain.

The fourteenth level takes 8-bit homage to a new level, beginning by appearing to drop the player out to a character terminal announcing “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.” Those patient enough to persist after are treated to a recapitulation of the entire history of adventure gaming, in which interface design and play mechanics vary from minute to minute. Many players will give up in dismay or resort to cheats or walkthroughs, but those who do not can be lost for days as they hunt down allusions and easter eggs, a process which he never finds boring.

The level ends in a simulation of a chaotic MMPORG battle which leaves the player, once again in control of the primary, in the nightmarish, constantly shifting environment of the fifteenth level. The most dedicated players can find this level dull, confronting and repellent by turns, as the character is mocked, distorted, humiliated and degraded, and the use of multiplayer chat can give the level the feel of an unmoderated web forum from Hell.

Those who don’t make it to level sixteen have his sympathies, but he is always engrossed by how the survivors negotiate its elementary but interminable mazes, full of seemingly useless weapons and broken equipment. There are keys and treasures here, he is sure, that will keep the players busy for many years.

In the following level, he is allowed, with joy, to participate, almost to become a character himself, engaged in a grave and courteous duel with the primary and secondary character. This was the designer’s favourite – that other self of his, lost, long sleeping in Zurich.

And he? He is the mechanism of the game itself, an aspect of the designer, but also of all his collaborators, the players: he is the plotfarmer, the voyce. He has watched the primary, moustache abristle, vaulting rolling barrels of porter, countless times, as he and the player ascend the heights of the last chapter, up to the final boss, the great mamamonster, as much a libel of woman as Kong is of ape, to grapple with her great sentences, once more to rescue the princess of her from herself.

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Ulysses: eighteen incorrect chapter précis

Telemachus. Stephen is annoyed by Buck Mulligan, who is repeatedly calling and trying to sell him a new long-distance phone service.

Nestor. At Deasy’s school, Stephen is required to perform humiliating duties such as removing pigeons from the eaves.

Proteus. Stephen walks along the beach and admires the flowers.

Calypso. Mr Bloom attempts to speak to his cat using Ancient Greek or “onomatopoeia”.

Lotus eaters. Mr Bloom imagines that he owns an expensive car which he compares with a languid floating flower.

Hades. Mr Bloom and some gentleman visit a funeral and respectfully remove and replace their hats.

Aeolus. An editor is very rude to Mr Bloom. The title of this section is thought to be the origin of the expression “A-hole”.

Lestrygonians. Mr Bloom ponders where to eat, and decides on Gonian’s.

Scylla and Charybdis. Stephen argues in the library. Because it is a library in Ireland, arguments are encouraged rather than shushed.

Wandering Rocks. This is a chapter about how great it is to wander around Dublin, where you may come upon the statue of Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott.

Sirens. In Ancient Greece, sirens were often used to alert protagonists that dangerous birds were near. These ‘birds’ are represented by two sexy barmaids.

Cyclops. The first really weird chapter, in which the narrative “cycles” between a number of different voices, many of them silly.

Nausicaa. The behaviour of Mr Bloom in this chapter, as its title suggests, is quite revolting.

Oxen of the Sun. It was for this chapter that Oliver St John Gogarty, the model for Buck Mulligan, was unable to forgive Joyce, as the initial letters of the central sixteen sentences spell the message “GOGARTY IS A NUMPTY”.

Circe. The action in this infamous chapter are indeed, as its title suggests, “saucy” beyond belief, and may be safely skipped

Eumaeus. Mr Bloom and Stephen discuss events of the preceding chapter with a series of “euphemisms”.

Ithaca. A question-and-answer episode which is based on an ancient call and response: “Duck season!” “Rabbit season!” “Duck season!” “Rabbit season!”

Penelope. Bloom’s wife Molly thinks about which man, or “pene”, she will choose to marry (“elope”). She finally decides on Mr Bloom, which is convenient, as she is already married to him.

Samuel Flood, author of Ulysses

How can it be that within a few weeks of his sudden and unexplained withdrawal from the blogs and web forums which were his primary means of communication with the rest of the world, the genuine literary achievements of Samuel Flood, a man I am privileged to number among my friends, are already sinking beneath a weight of mockery and misunderstanding? A brief correction is surely in order.

As even his detractors will admit, Flood is – in the absence of any positive evidence to the contrary, I persist in referring to him in the present tense – a devoted student of the works of Joyce, and his scholarship received some tokens of respect, however grudging, even from within the groves of academe. I certainly never met anyone whose knowledge of Joyce’s work, or enthusiasm for it, matched that of my friend.

Passion, passion for the works of his beloved hero, was his glory and also his great weakness, for it fuelled his admittedly immoderate on-line behaviour, which in turn gave rise to the opinion that he was a hopeless crank. The obsessed autodidact, the internet addict cloistered in his parents’ spare room, the fanatic interpreter of a novelist with a reputation as “the happy hunting ground of unbalanced minds”; all these stereotypes lay too ready to hand for Flood’s work to be given the attention it deserves. Especially as they each contained a grain of truth.

Perhaps, then, it was inevitable that he would be lampooned as “the mad Aussie rewriting Joyce from scratch.” Inevitable, but inexcusable. Incredibly, some of his online enemies seem to believe that he was attempting to memorise Joyce’s greatest work and then transcribe it verbatim!

You will forgive my indignation at this calumny, which reduces Flood’s life’s work to a monstrous parlour trick or vaudeville act.

Better (but still showing a regrettable lack of diligence or literary understanding) are those who characterise Flood’s work as an attempt to write “an Australian version” of Ulysses. In one meagre sense, this is true, but nothing could be further from my friend’s intentions than the creation of a “mash-up” or any other such patchwork, reeking of the pretentious cant of post-modernism. Flood reserved an especial scorn for such assemblages, which he regarded as mere novelties designed  to stimulate literary palates coarsened by the barbarisms of the mass media.

Let us turn with relief to a view of Flood’s own commentary upon his work:

“Obviously, Ulysses is the greatest work of fiction in English. What is less obvious is that it is incomplete.

“Our task is immense: Joyce delineated only a day and a city. We must go on to delineate the remainder of the world.”

“My Ulysses is a section through my life as Joyce’s was a section through his.”

“Slice of life: Ulysses renovates this old cliché. But nothing can be cut into a single slice. The rest of the cake is ours.”

Delineating the world: this monumental ambition, with its echo of Blake, is the task Flood set himself. Readers of the published drafts of his Ulysses were puzzled by the triviality of the subject matter and the lack of anything Joycean in the style. (Modesty compels me to admit that I was not exempt from this.) The drafts appeared to be a flat relation of Flood’s daily routine, from his waking in the late morning, a prolonged visit to the Marrickville council library where he scanned magazines and science fiction paperbacks and engaged in a brief disagreement with a council employee regarding his right to eat takeaway fish and chips on the premises, his dinner with his parents, and lastly to his endeavours in an online multiperson role-playing game, terminating in his retirement at 3AM. There was no stream of consciousness, no stylistic gymnastics.

Also absent were any signs of Irish culture, a fact all the more surprising to those of us who knew of the pride Flood took in his own ancestry. It was his commentary on this fact which led to my realisation of the true nature of his work, which is nothing less than a continuation of Joyce’s project.

“You’re looking for Irishry, anecdotes, nationalism, wit and Guinness. My first drafts were full of all that – the projection of a fondness for Ireland which I nurtured as an alienated young man in the suburbs. All balls. If Dublin can stand in for every city, then any city can stand in for Dublin. I’ve never even been there.”

Now, both the towering scope and the strange humility of Flood’s ambitions became clear. The first Ulysses is a fragment, the result of the intersection of Joyce’s genius, the episodes of the Odyssey and a particular place and time: Dublin, 1904. Flood’s Ulysses is the result of the same procedure operating on different materials: Flood’s literary talents intersecting Sydney, 2010. Naturally, the outcome of the latter is quite different from that of the first. Lower in literary merit, certainly. But who could hope to equal Joyce in those terms?

Eventually, Flood envisages a total Ulysses, a vast library of books of all sizes, each devoted to the consciousness of a particular reader in a particular place. Blogs and photostreams are, perhaps, the crude forerunners of this great project, which will fulfill, in some sense, Mallarmé’s prophecy that “everything in the world exists to end up in a book.”

Revisions of his Ulysses show a great compression, to the point where all eighteen episodes of Ulysses can be expressed in eighteen letters: “WENT OUT AND CAME HOME.” The Homeric correspondences are maintained by reference to an elaborate cypher. We can see how far beyond mere post-modern pastiche Flood takes his rigorous argument. I will leave the last word to him:

“Dublin was only exceptional because it was his home town, and the Odyssey is only special by virtue of its having formed the template of the epic. Beyond his great verbal skill, Joyce’s creation is the overlay of a book onto a city by virtue of its narrative structure, and this structure is arbitrary enough to allow it to be imposed onto any text and any city. It may be argued that only the great genius of Joyce could create a Ulysses: I maintain that just as Bloom, a humble and ordinary man, is the hero of an epic, so too every text, no matter how lowly, is also an epic, when properly considered. Given this, writing Ulysses is not a daunting challenge. What is difficult, given the limitless resources open to us, is not to write Ulysses, at least once.”

Miscellaneous Voices

Miscellaneous Voices 1

My contributor’s copy of Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing #1, which includes my Bloomsday on Twitter post and a lot of other good stuff as well.

It’s being released on April 1, or you can pre-order it here.

The Tweets of Sin – Bloomsday on Twitter

malachi LOL RT @agenbiteofinwit It is a symbol of Irish Art. The cracked lookingglass of a servant.

agenbiteofinwit @malachi Usurper.

malachi @agenbiteofinwit Ah, come off it Kinch, drinks tonight. Your shout!

agenbiteofinwit Marking. I hate marking. Little snotnosed fools.

agenbiteofinwit Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes.

agenbiteofinwit Signature of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot.

agenbiteofinwit Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane.

agenbiteofinwit Damn, why is it you’re unfollowing me whenever I get onto Aquinas. You illiterate cornerboys.

lbloom Yum, kidney for breakfast. Nice hams that woman in butcher’s had.

martha93: henryflower is now following you on Twitter

martha93 d @henryflower What perfume does your wife wear?

martha93 d @henryflower you naughty boy

lbloom Poor Dignam. RIP. Place gives me the willies.  Damn big rat I saw there.

lbloom @mylescrawford What will I tell Keyes?

mylescrawford @lbloom Tell him he can KMRIA!

lbloom: ELIJAH_IS_COMING is now following you on Twitter

breen Ace of Spades walking up the stairs. Horrible. Wife just laughed at me #dream

afriend23 @breen U. p: up

breen @afriend23 Oh god damn you to Hell!

breen: You have blocked afriend23

lbloom Just ate a delicious gorgonzola and mustard sandwich. Mmmm, feety. Burgundy. Good pick me up.

Corny_K Just heard that hot money is on #throwaway

agenbiteofinwit just joined a twibe. Visit http://www.twibes.com/group/HamletReadersGroup?v=0 to join

DublinViceRegal The Right Hon. William Humble, earl of Dudley received the hon. Mrs Paget, Miss de Courcy & Hon. Gerald Ward A D C

jjomolloy So where’s this flashmob then? #dublinflashmob

fr_conmee_SJ On my way to the flashmob #dublinflashmob

kernan Got my new coat on for the #dublinflashmob

malachi Just saw Parnell’s brother playing chess. Bet he’s not going to the #dublinflashmob

dillyD yay! lol #dublinflashmob

jwysenolan Where are you all? #dublinflashmob

lbloom Where all these people came from? Tooraloom tooraloom tooraloom. #songinmyhead

simondedalus Come, thou lost one, come, thou dear one, come to me! #songinmyhead

henryflower d @martha93 Why do you call me a naughty boy? Bye for today

lbloom La la la ree. I feel so sad today.

lbloom Ooop. Pardon me. Must be that Bur

lenehan what is a #throwaway and why is it a trending topic?

blyons @lenehan why don’t you ask @lbloom ? #throwaway

lenehan @blyons @ninetyeight ah so that’s the size of it! he’s got a few shekels on #throwaway

ninetyeight Is it that bloody whiteeyed kaffir? That never backed a horse in anger in his life? #irelandfortheirish

GertyHearts Evening is so beautiful, it makes my soul stir with all of its peaceful loveliness.

GertyHearts Ooo look – fireworks! 🙂

GertyHearts: lbloom is now following you on Twitter

agenbiteofinwit The aged sisters draw us into life: we wail, batten, sport, clip, clasp, sunder, dwindle, die: over us dead they bend.

vlynch @agenbiteofinwit @malachi Ah, get emo boy another drink, will you?

malachi @vlynch @agenbiteofinwit So where we off to then?

vlynch @agenbiteofinwit Pornosophical philotheology. Metaphysics in Mecklenburg Street!

vlynch: BritneyFuxx0r is now following you on Twitter

lbloom A man’s touch. Sad music. Church music. Perhaps here.

lbloom: zoe69 is now following you on Twitter

lbloom: Sweets0fSin is now following you on Twitter

lbloom: virag is now following you on Twitter

lbloom: bell0 is now following you on Twitter

zoe69 Nebrakada femininum teen bisexuals http://ew8f.d9ue.ru/

virag Viral Marketting! Dr1ve traffic to your Bl0g http://surf-me.83.ru/

Sweets0fSin has been suspended due to strange activity. Mosey along now, nothing to see here.

bell0 R U man enough for her? 1ncredible sizwe http://349.diuyne.we2rr.nu/

agenbiteofinwit They say I killed you, mother. He offended your memory. Cancer did it, not I. Destiny.

agenbiteofinwit: cancerpills23423 is now following you on Twitter

cancerpills23423 Beware God’s hand! Discount c1alis http://ap0.sd3.tv/

agenbiteofinwit Shite!

lbloom @agenbiteofinwit At what o’clock did you dine?

agenbiteofinwit @lbloom Some time yesterday.

lbloom @agenbiteofinwit Yesterday. Ah, you mean it’s after twelve! 🙂

agenbiteofinwit @lbloom The day before yesterday.

lbloom @agenbiteofinwit Wait what timezone are you again?

jaj @answerbot What parallel courses did @bloom and @agenbiteofinwit follow returning?

answerbot @jaj Answerbot isn’t sure what to do with your input.

jaj: you have blocked answerbot

lbloom He rests. He has travelled. Night, all.

mollyb Yes because he never did a thing like that before as to ask for breakfast in bed O Im randy and got my period and yes I said yes I will Yes

Ulysses – where should I start?

[NOTE: the server this quiz was hosted on is no longer accessible: I’ll revive it one day] In the hopes of encouraging more people to read at least part of my favourite novel, here is a little quiz in glorious Web 1.0 to determine which chapter of Ulysses you should bother reading.

Ulysses – where should I start?

Happy Bloomsday! To the confusion of purists and completists!