Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Infinite Summer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: INFINITE JEST-”Determinism, But I Mean It When I Say It” and more (2012).

I admit I didn’t know this band existed until I Googled Infinite Jest music about five minutes ago, because, yes, I wanted to put a thematic song here.  Imagine my surprise that there’s a band called Infinite Jest (and that they are based in Boston).

Infinite Jest are an electronic duo (their site says they specialize in live shows with mind-bending visuals).  All of their songs are available for download on their site.  I picked this one because I liked the title (I was honestly hoping for a song title or two that referenced the book, but alas).

All of the music is electronic, but it’s not bass-heavy dance style–it’s more spacey electronic (the kind that I like).  I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the genre, but i like it from time to time and most of this stuff is pretty cool. I rather prefer the instrumentals, although some of the songs with processed and autotuned vocals are okay.  The track “Fuck” uses a sample of a scream which I would have guessed was Trent Reznor, but I assume anyone can scream like that.  They’ve even made a video for their song “Cuddling.”  Like Infinite Boston it shows scenes from around Boston, only set to music.  You can hear and see it all at their website .

[VIEWED: July 2012] Infinite Boston

For fans of Infinite Jest, William Beutler has created a very exciting project: Infinite Boston.

Infinite Jest is set in the Boston Area, specifically in Enfield, a fictional town that is located around Allston and Brighton, MA.  Many people have taken photos of interesting locations (fictional and otherwise) in the Brighton area, but none have approached this task with the steely-eyed determination of Beutler. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE COLIN McENROE SHOW-The Life & Legacy Of David Foster Wallace (December 5, 2011) (2011).

This NPR show features an interesting discussion about David Foster Wallace:  his fan base, his cronies and his archive.   The guests were Donald Brown (New Haven Review), Evan Hughes, Ryan Walsh (who created the David Foster Wallace Audio Project) and Maria Bustillos.  Evan Hughes recently wrote a piece in New York that I’ll look at tomorrow and Maria Bustillos wrote the main piece for today’s post.  The other two guys I admit I don’t know.

This show looks at some interesting aspects of DFW’s life in the wake of his suicide and the release of The Pale King.  Although really the impetus seems to be Hughes’ article (which was published in Oct).  McEnroe asks him about the state of literature today and how both Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides have created characters that “resemble” DFW in some way.

They talk about the cult of DFW and play some audio clips.  Brown is an older reader and so does not embrace DFW as much as others.  He is of the same age as DFW and so loves the people DFW loved more than DFW himself.  I get the feeling that he is a curmudgeon.

But they can all agree that fans of DFW feel that he was their buddy.  Super-intelligent but very human, almost speaking like they would (if they were that smart).  They conclude that the Kenyon commencement speech is something of the pinnacle of his project of earnest warmth in humanity.

At the half way point, Maria Bustillos comes in to talk about going to the archive (which you can read about below).  She explains her own interest in self-help books and how DFW was a person who needed help.

The end of the episode has them talking about DFW’s voice.  They wonder why DFW has an “audio project” but other writers do not.  They talk about DFW’s voice and his presence during interviews and how he is very warm, even when he’s being cold (it’s an odd clip they choose). I’ve mentioned the Audio Project before.  It’s wonderful.

For anyone interested in reading books that are in a similar vein to Infinite Jest, Bustillos recommends Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry) and wholeheartedly recommends The Last Western (Thomas Klise).

A fascinating thing about this show was finding out that McEnroe was the author of a pretty funny piece in McSweeney’s many many years ago called “I Am Michiko Kakutani.”  He offers an anecdote about originally mentioning DFW in the story but that the McSweeney’s guys asked him to change it to someone else.

But I have to say that the show seems a bit too much about Colin McEnroe (the McSweeney’s anecdote was just one of many involving McEnroe).  He talks a lot about himself and about how he’s “afraid” that the Awl will make fun of him or that Franzen (who was with McEnroe in a green room backstage at some show) will put him in his next book (because he was discussing Neti Pots).  But I’m just not sure that Colin McEnroe rates enough to warrant the concern. 

It’s an enjoyable show, although unlike other interviews by people like Charlie Rose or Michael Silverblatt, McEnroe’s questions and comments aren’t very well informed.  If you know a lot about Wallace, this show is a bit frustrating because it takes a tone that Wallace is basically a “postmodern ironist” or that he sees everything as “a big dark joke.” And even when the guests are showing that that is not the case, he seems to try to keep reverting back to this trope.

Oh well, it led to some interesting articles at least.  Like the one below.

[READ: December 7, 2011] “Inside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library”

For no reason in particular, I’m devoting this weekend to articles that are specifically or tangentially about David Foster Wallace (it’s been awhile, and I have yet to finish my Consider the Lobster project, so, why not). 

I actually read this because of the above radio show.  I know Maria Bustillos because we’re both in a newsgroup.  “Newsgroup” is so 90s, I wonder what they’re called these days).  Anyhow, Maria has always proven to be smart, funny and very articulate.  And the only reason I didn’t read this article when it came out was because I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive into this topic. 

After listening to the above radio show, however, I felt that this would be a very interesting article. And so it was.  It’s available at The Awl.

As it opens, Bustillos lets us know that she visited the DFW Archives Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin and pored over all of the materials they have there (undergrad papers, drafts of fiction and non-fiction, syllabi, tests and quizzes, and juvenilia among other things). 

Wallace was a major note-taker.  And he loved to take notes in a book as he was reading.  Just look at some of these books

But what surprised Maria (and me) is that among Wallace’s collection of wonderful fiction was a collection fo self-help books which were equally annotated and marked up. 

Much of the set up of the article concerns why DFW had self-help books at all.  The answer is, of course, because he was a depressed person (obviously) and because he had been in rehab for a pretty long time.  None of this background information is new, but Maria offers insights into DFW and his life that I had never heard before (Maria and DFW had corresponded, although I don’t know if they were “friends” or not).  (more…)

Read Full Post »

[WATCHED: August 22, 2011] “The Calamity Song”

I woke yesterday to the news that one of my favorite bands had made a music video which was a tribute to one of my favorite books, Infinite Jest. Colin Meloy was a reader during the Infinite Summer project (one of the more high profile readers, although he didn’t really contribute beyond the first week).  When I saw him at BEA, I asked him if he finished the book and he said that indeed he had. Weill according to this story from The New York Times, Colin liked the book so much that he wanted to use one of the great scenes from the book as the basis of a music video.  And since The Calamity Song has the line “In the Year of the Chewable Ambien Tab” which is an allusion to Infinite Jest‘s Subsidized Time, well why not use that as the song.

The video was directed by Michael Schur (a huge Infinite Jest fan) who is a major figure behind Parks and Recreation. The video is a bare-bones retelling of the Eschaton sequence from the novel. For those who have not gotten to that scene yet, Eschaton is a game of global annihilation played on a tennis court. There are strategic places you are supposed to hit from across the court (so it’s a physical game, not just an academic one) with your 5 megaton tennis balls.   The scene is challenging to read because there’s so much going on, but the video does a very good job of giving you the essence.

Sure, diehards will have lots to quibble about (it’s raining, not snowing; Ann Kittenplan (the girl who gets hit with the ball) is totally hot–not so much in the book; and the scene doesn’t end with someone’s head crashing through a computer monitor).  Most of the quibbles are addressed in the Times article but some are easily answered anyhow–it was filmed in two days, it’s a flat screen monitor (you can’t put your head through that), and why not have a hot Ann Kittenplan, it’s a music video, right?   (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SERENA MANEESH-”Sapphire Eyes” (2005).

I used to keep a list of songs and albums that I would try to find.  On this list was a single or a B-Side by Serena Maneesh.  I’ve lost the list, but someone just donated their debut album to our library.  So I’m excited to check it out.  In the meantime, I found the video for this track so I’ll start there.

For years people waited for the follow up to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.  And if David Shields ever does release a disc under that name again, it will be more scrutinized than Chinese Democracy (and possibly less inspired).

So, why not let someone else take up the reigns of shoegazing music some fifteen years later.

This track displays many traits that made MBV so great.  It opens with a slightly distorted female vocalist.  She starts singing before a throbbing bass and noisy, distorted (seemingly backwards) guitars bring in a wall of noise.  But that wall only lasts for a short time before it breaks away and the song builds again, slowly, with more and more parts (the video shows a violin although I can’t hear it).

And then about half way through the song it does what MBV always made me do, pick up my head and go, yes, this is great.  A mildly distorted amazingly catchy bridge peeks out through the noise and grabs on to you.  Then more noise and a little backwards vocals and its over.

Other reviews of the album suggest that this isn’t the only kind of music they play, that they are also heavier and darker; I’m looking forward to the rest of the disc.   First impressions (five years late) are very good here.  Check it out here.

[READ: June 25, 2010] A Reader’s Guide

Despite my fondness for Infinite Jest, I had not read any of the supplementary books about it.  I’d heard of them, of course, but I didn’t feel compelled to get any of them.  Then I saw that this one was very cheap.  And I decided to get Elegant Complexity while I was at it (a few cents to the Fantods).  Complexity is a big honking book, and I don’t have time for it right now, but this reader’s guide is very short and a very quick read.

I had an idea of what to expect from the book, but I didn’t really know who the intended audience was.  So, I was very surprised to see the way it was set up.  The first chapter is a biographical account of DFW including his place in the new writers anti-ironic camp.  It was a good summary but nothing new, and I worried about what I had just bought. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ALANIS MORISETTE-Jagged Little Pill (1995).

In this book, DFW considers himself to be absolutely useless when it comes to music.  He doesn’t know anything at all.  He says he listens to Bloomington country radio stations until he can’t take it anymore and then he switches over to the alt rock station.  He’d never even heard of Nirvana until after Cobain’s suicide.

And so, the soundtrack for the book is R.E.M., Bush (two songs) and Alanis.  In fact, there’s a surprisingly long section devoted to Alanis in the book, including DFW’s admittance that he would love to have a date with her for tea.  He admits that she is pretty much manufactured angst and yet there’s something about her that he finds irresistible.

At this stage (2010), the whole Alanis thing seems almost adorable in it’s “controversy” or “hype” or whatever.  It’s still hard for me to be objective about the quality of Jagged Little Pill (I mean, Flea plays bass on it so it must be good, right?).  I really enjoyed it at the time, perhaps because of its rawness or its honesty (which was pretty novel at the time, especially from a woman), all packed in a clean production of course.  There’s also something weirdly appealing to me about her (really not very good) voice.  She seems just off enough for all of this to be really sincere.

And of course, the nastiness of “You Oughta Know” was pretty astonishing for pop radio at the time.  True, there’s songs on here that make me cringe now (there’s a lot about her that makes me cringe) and yet there’s still some really enjoyable stuff here.  Even the perennially mocked “Ironic” for all of its flaws has a stellar chorus.

Now that the “women in rock” phase of alternative music has passed, there’s very little music like this being made anymore.  So it’s kind of fun to reminisce about this stage of my musical life, warts and all.

Oh, and by the way, I also grew up watching Alanis on “You Can’t Do That on Television,” so it was pretty exciting to see a child star that I knew make it big.

I never liked Bush though.

[READ:April 21, 2010] Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

As I mentioned, I was super excited to get this book and I treated it like the artifact it is: trying to read it in one sitting (impossible) or at least in as compressed a time as possible to preserve the stream of consciousness attitude of the book.

For, as the subtitle doesn’t quite state, this is five-day conversation between David Lipsky and David Foster Wallace.  The tape recorder was running for most of these five days and what we get is a literal transcript of the conversation (with much of Lipsky’s parts excised).  It is an all-access pass to the mind of the man who wrote Infinite Jest as the hype of the book was really taking off and as his brief promotional tour for the book was winding down.

Lipsky was (is) a reporter for Rolling Stone. DFW’s Infinite Jest was the huge media hit (#15 on the bestseller list) and the hype was outrageous.  DFW had begun a (sold out) reading tour which actually began the day before the book came out, so he rightfully notes that no one could have actually read the book by then, they were just there because of the hype.  And Lipsky himself is part of this hype.

Lipsky was sent to do a profile of the wunderkind, literature’s next great hope (RS hadn’t (hasn’t?) covered a young author like this in a decade at least).  The idea was that Lipsky would tag along with DFW, go to the last readings on the tour, an NPR interview, and spend most of their time together: planes, rental cars, hotel rooms, etc generally just hanging out with tape recorder running. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[READ:April 19, 2010] Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself [Afterword]

I was pretty excited to get back to work (!) and find the final two Bolaño books that I wanted to read.  (I had planned to read all of Bolaño’s published-in-English works before finishing 2666, except, of course for The Savage Detectives, which is very large (and which is, ironically, the book of his that I wanted to read first–before I got involved in the madness of 2666–and for Amulet, which is a novella based on a character in Savage (and therefore should be read after it, right?).  These two books are Romantic Dogs and The Distant Star.

But then I saw it, the one thing that could arrest my Bolañomania: the David Lipsky book about David Foster Wallace.  I didn’t realize it was coming out so soon, and in fact I had forgotten it was coming at all.  But there it was.  Well, I read the blurb, I saw the cover, I read the details, and I knew there was no way I’d be reading anything but that for the next few days. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[WATCHED: March 17, 2010] Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

This film is based on the short story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace.  The book is a collection of short stories.   The majority of the stories are indeed, brief interviews (although some are unrelated). And the film is an adaptation of these interviews.  It did pretty poorly at the box office and has met with largely negative reviews.  And I think for the most part that’s understandable.  If ever a film was made for a select audience, it was this.  And it’s very easy to see why a vast number of people either didn’t like it, or didn’t get what he was trying to do.

The interviews in the book are designed so that you only hear the responses of the “subject.”  You never hear the initial o follow-up questions, and you don’t learn anything about the questioner.  In an NPR interview, John Krasinski reveals that DFW told him that he felt that the stories were a “failed experiment.”  He wanted to create a character without actually writing anything about her specifically.  He wanted the reader to insinuate who the interviewer was based upon the answers and reactions of the subjects.  He felt that he was not successful in doing so.

When Krasinski read (and re-read) the stories, he pictured who the interviewer was.  And so in his script, he created an interviewer (because a movie without the interviewer would have done even worse at the box office!).  His interviewer is a young woman who is working on a post-doctorate in feminist studies.   When Krasinski told DFW this, DFW told him that that is exactly who he had in mind.  This great interview reveals how excited Krasinski was at getting DFW’s blessing. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE TRAGICALLY HIP-Live from the Vault-Volume 4 (2009).

Faithful reader will recall that this disc got trapped in my car’s CD changer.  When I had it the player replaced, they sent the old one back to mysterious Toyota offices far away.  And, about a month or so after sending it out, I received a package from Toyota with my three lost discs (this one, a Black Sabbath disc and, a promo disc I took from the library to try and wedge into the player to get it to eject the other discs (that doesn’t work, by the way) which was, embarrassingly, Ozzy & Kelly Osbourne doing a duet of something or other).

Thank you random Toyota person for keeping this disc, which is not easily replaced, in good condition.

So this concert is from 1994 and was recorded in Brussels on the Day for Night Tour.  I think many fans feel that this is a high point in The Hip’s recording career, and this concert attests to it.  The band sounds fantastic, energetic and really tight.  And the music from this era is just great: dynamic and dramatic.

This disc also adds to speculation that lead singer Gord Downie is a weird guy.  His between song banter is quite peculiar, to say the least (apropos of nothing: “Do you think of your pet as a pet or a member of the family?”).  Which also leads me to wonder if fans in non-English speaking countries (and yes, I know that many people in Brussels do speak English) think or care or even mind when lead singers babble in English to them.  Just curious.

I don’t have any other Vault discs from The Hip, but this one is certainly great.

[READ: During an ∞ of minutes during December 2009 & January 2010] Everything and More

As part of my pledge to read all of DFW’s works, I skipped the fiction and moved straight to this.  I hadn’t heard all that much about this book, except that it was pretty dense.  And, yup it is.

I’m going to give a comparison for any other DFW fans who are thinking about reading this.  If you have read Infinite Jest (and if you’re interested in DFW you should certainly read that before this book), and if you recall Endnote 123: Pemulis’ high tech math formula for calculating Mean Value w/r/t Eschaton, then you will have a fair idea of what you’re in for with Everything and More.  So, if your eyes glazed when you started to read that endnote, you’ll likely want to skip this book altogether.  However, if you plugged through with that endnote and you didn’t care that you didn’t get it, but you kind of enjoyed it because despite the math, it is very funny, well, then you might enjoy this book too.

If you’re a hard core math dude and you understand what things like: ∃ and ∈ and ∉ and ∏ and ℜ and even ∀ then you’ll have no problem with this book.

But math aside, there’s a lot of funny things in this book.  And DFW is in full conversational tone, with several places where he says things like “not sure if this has been mentioned in the book yet” implying that he never proofread the thing, which we know he did.  There’s even a funny observation as to the placement of a picture (“it’s not entirely clear to me why they put [this pencil sketch] here”).  There’s also tons of footnotes.  And most of them are labeled IYI (meaning If You’re Interested), and he totally lets you off the hook if you don’t feel compelled to read these.  Although as with most things DFW does, the footnotes are always tons of fun.

He also shows his great undying affection for his math professor, Dr. Goris (Dr. G).  He quotes liberally from Dr G’s classes, citing examples, funny quotes and the amusing joke that Irrational Numbers are called ‘surds.  There’s also great joke about schnitt (which I’ll explain later).  It even opens with a hilarious (or maybe not) section about the inability to get out of bed in the morning when you think about infinity.

As in for example in the early morning, especially if you wake up slightly before your alarm goes off, when it can suddenly and for no reason occur to you that you’ve been getting out of bed every morning without the slightest doubt that the floor would support you. Lying there now considering the matter, it appears at least theoretically possible that some flaw in the floor’s construction or its molecular integrity could make it buckle, or that even some aberrant bit of quantum flux or something could cause you to melt right through. Meaning it doesn’t seem logically impossible or anything. It’s not like you’re actually scared that the floor might give way in a moment when you really do get out of bed. It’s just that certain moods and lines of thinking are more abstract, not just focused on whatever needs or obligations you’re going to get out of bed to attend to.

And but so, what is this thing about?

Okay, so it’s about ∞ and the history of ∞.  It begins with a great section about the ancient Greeks (Zeno’s Paradox and all that) and slowly moves up through to Aristotle.  I myself have always been a Platonist (yes, in fact, I have made that distinction in my life, which may say more about me than many people know), and have always been kind of anti-Aristotle.  And, for the purposes of this book, that’s a great position to take.  Aristotle turns out to be like the arch-nemesis of ∞. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: STARLIGHT MINTS-Change Remains (2009).

This is the fourth disc from the Starlight Mints.  Their music is hard to describe at any time, but this disc complicates things even further.

The number of genres they cram into this disc is impossible to count.  However, there seems to be a very heavy concentration of a sort of punk/disco feel.  The disco beats (and telltale bass lines) are very strong yet the noisy guitar and instrumentation removes the disco sheen.

And that overall sense sums up the disc fairly well.  It’s got this poppy aspect to it, but there’s a sinister undercurrent.  In my review of their earlier discs, I described them a having a Pixies influence.  And while that’s still true (the sinister part (and the vocals definitely sound like Black Francis)) their sound has evolved away from a grungy rock into a more keyboardy feel.

The opener is a short instrumental that sounds like a cartoony James Bond theme.  The next few tracks have a good 90s alt rock feel (although “Zoomba” mixes it up with some jazzy horns).   But it’s the second half of the disc where the disco sounds really come to the fore.

And, lyrically, the band is all over the place.  It’s always fun to see what’s coming around the corner (as when the rocking “gallop along” comes out of an otherwise mellow dancey track).   Starlight Mints are definitely not trying to sell billions of records, but they are no doubt building a delightful niche fan base. And I’m one of them.

[READ: Week of January 18, 2010] 2666 [pg 1-51]

And so begins the Infinite Summer-like reading of 2666.  I don’t know if this reading group has a catchy title yet (I can’t even think of a jokey one right now), so for now, 2666 it is.

I don’t really know what I’m in for with this book.  And as such, I’m not entirely sure what thee posts are going to turn into.  Unlike with Infinite Jest, which was confusing from the get-go, this novel starts out in a rather straightforward manner.  So, I think for the foreseeable future I’ll do some plot summary and comments.

2666 is divided into 5 books (which were originally supposed to be published independently).  The first book is 161 pages and is called The Part About the Critics.

I had no idea what this book was about.  I’d heard it was a great, difficult read, and that was enough for me.  I like to go into books fairly blindly, so that’s nothing unusual.  The back cover blurb says that it centers around Santa Teresea, which I suspect has something to do with Juarez, Mexico.  So, okay, I get the idea that we’re in for a harrowing tale about murdered women in Mexico.

So, imagine my surprise when the book opens with fifty-plus pages about 4 scholars of a little-known German writer.  And imagine my further surprise when the language of the book is fairly easy to read. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS-Austin City Limits (2007).

I’ve recently discovered the awesomeness of Austin City Limits.  And in the two or so years that I’ve been watching, I’ve seen some great live shows (even is most bands are reduced to 30 minutes).  This re-broadcast of The Decemberists, however, just blew me away.

The concert comes from The Crane Wife tour, and it is just a wonderful exploration of this fantastic CD.  I’ve liked the Decemberists for years, and have listened to all of their discs multiple times, but there was something about this recording, in particular the wailing guitar work of Colin Meloy (seeing him lying on the floor making crazed feedback was pretty impressive), and the amazing solo work of Chris Funk that gave me even more respect for this wonderful album and the band.

It is highly recommended. For more info see here.

[READ: January 14, 2010] 100 Page Tribute to David Foster Wallace

I was able to order a copy of this journal directly from The University of Arizona and received it not too long ago.  It is a two part issue (55/56) that is chock full of all kinds of things, including this 100 page tribute to DFW.  I intend to read the whole thing, or at least more than just the DFW stuff, but as I don’t see that happening too soon, I wanted to address this tribute section directly.

DFW received his MFA from UA and he was also an editor at Sonora Review.  He also published “/Solomon Silverfish/” there shortly after getting his MFA.  So the tributes make sense from this publication.  All of the tributes here come from varied people and are all either interesting or moving to the Wallace fan. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 523 other followers

%d bloggers like this: