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Archive for the ‘Infinite Summer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GOLDEN DAWN ARKESTRA-Tiny Desk Concert #761 (June 29, 2018).

They came marching in from off stage in robes and masks, with instruments and face paint, in more colors than have ever been in one place.

And they began the first song with a cacophony of keyboards and percussion before playing the discofied funk of “Children of the Sun.”

There’s horns from “Malika” (Sarah Malika Boudissa–Baritone Sax, Vocals), and “Zumbi” (Chris Richards–Trombone, Vocals) who set the melody going while the percussion from “Lost In Face” (Rob Kidd–Drums–who does indeed have a mask covering his face) and “Oso the Great” (Alex Marrero-Percussion) keeps things moving.

There’s a slowdown in the middle with just bass “Shabuki” (Greg Rhoades-Bass), and keys from the leader himself “Zapot Mgawi” (Topaz McGarrigle-Vocals, Organ, Synth).

Throughout the songs you can hear some wah wah guitar from “Yeshua Villon” (Josh Perdue-Guitar) and vibes–a persistent instrument which sounds otherworldly and perfect.  They come from “Isis of Devices” (Laura Scarborough-Vocals, Vibraphone).  Behind her, dancing throughout the song is “Rosietoes” (Christinah Rose Barnett-Vocals, Tambourine).

So what do we know about this band?

The blurb says:

It was a late night at an unfamiliar club in Austin, Texas when the spirit, sound, lights and costumes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra put a huge, dreamy smile on my face. It took more than three years to get ten of the players and performers in this band (there are often even more) to my desk. I tried to transform the bright daylight of the NPR office with some of my handy, previously used holiday laser lights. But honestly, it wasn’t until their psychedelic jazz kicked in that the office transformation felt real. Band leader, Topaz squawked through his megaphone to join them on their journey, while singing “Children of the Sun.”

Topaz told me that the band’s inspiration for both the name and the spirit of the musicians is loosely based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The organization, devoted to the study of the occult and paranormal activities, has been around since the 19th century.

Both of Topaz’s parents were heavily into spiritual movements and what happens here falls somewhere between high art and a circus, with music that feels connected to Sun Ra’s jazz, the extended musical adventures of The Doors and the surprise elements of Parliament-Funkadelic. You can dance and/or trance, or sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Before “The Wolf” he apologizes for an outbreak of cold on their planet.  But he wants to remind us that we are all human beings from the same planet and that we are all from stardust and vibrations. Together we can change the planet.

We would like there to be more light and love in the universe.  We must all stand together.  This is our fight song for that.

It moves quickly with the horns playing away and t he percussion flying.

The final song “Masakayli” opens with bongos from “Oso the Great” and clapping from everyone (including the audience).  The horn melody sounds a lot the theme from S.W.A.T. (there’s nothing wrong with that).  I feel like the guitar was kind of quiet through the other songs, but you can really hear “Yeshua Villon” on this one, especially the guitar solo.

This song ends with the jamming circus atmosphere that really takes off with a trippy keyboard solo from Topaz as “Rosietoes” plays with a light up hula hoop and “Zumbi” parades through the audience trying to get everyone hyped up.

It’s a tremendous spectacle and should bring a smile to your face.  Next time these guys are in town, I’m there.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Always Another Word”

These are the same remarks that were included in Five Dials Issue Number 10.

But since it has been some time since I posted them and since I am being a completist here, and since it has been nine years since Infinite Summer, I’ll cover these four in somewhat more details

Michael Pietsch
speaks about being DFW’s editor. He says that Dave loved to communicate through letters and “the phone messages left on the office answering machine hours after everyone had departed.”  He says he loved Dave’s letters and tore into them hungrily.  He gives examples of some communiques about cuts and edits of Infinite Jest.

I cut this and have now come back an hour later and put it back

Michael, have mercy.  Pending and almost Horacianly persuasive rationale on your part, my canines are bared on this one.

He continues that David’s love affair with English was a great romance of our time.  How he was so excited to be selected to the American Heritage Dictionary‘s Usage panel. But that was surpassed by his own mother’s excitement about it,

Michael thinks he may have tried to use every word in the dictionary at least once.  When he, Michael, suggested a book that opened with the word “picric,” David’s instant response was “I already used that!.”

Zadie Smith
addresses the critics of BIWHM who thought the book was an ironic look at misogyny. She felt it was more like a gift.  And the result of two gifts.  A MacArthur Genius grant and a talent so great it confused people.  His literary preoccupation was the moment the ego disappears and you’re able offer your love as a gift without expectation of reward.

She says that she taught students to read BIWHM alongside Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

The most impassioned recommendation he gave her was Brain Moore’s Catholics, a novella about a priest who is no longer capable of prayer. Don’t think of David as a God-botherer–think of it as ultimate value.

You get to decide what you worship, but nine time out of ten it turns out to be ourselves.

For David, Love was the ultimate value, the absurd, the impossible thing worth praying for.

George Saunders
speaks of reading BIWHM and finding that it did strange things to his mind and body.  He says it was like if you were standing outdoors and all of your clothes were stripped away and you had super-sensitive skin and you were susceptible to the weather whatever it might be–on a sunny day you would feel hotter; a blizzard would sting.

The reading woke him up, made him feel more vulnerable, more alive.  And yet the writer of these works was one of the sweetest, most generous dearest people he’d ever known.

He met Dave at the home of mutual friend in Syracuse.  While he feared that Dave would be engaged in a conversation about Camus, and he would feel humiliated, Dave was wearing a Mighty Mouse T-shirt and talked about George and his family, asking all about them.

Saunders says that in time the grief of his passing will be replaced by a deepening awareness of what a treasure we have in the existing work.  The disaster of his loss will fade and be replaced by the realization of what a miracle it was that he ever existed in the first place.   But for now there is just grief.

For now, keep alive the lesson of his work:

Mostly we’re asleep but we can wake up. And waking up is not only possible, it is our birthright and our nature and, as Dave showed us, we can help one another do it.

Don DeLillo
says that Dave’s works tends to reconcile what is difficult and consequential with what is youthful, unstudied and often funny.  There are sentences that shoot rays of energy in seven directions.

It’s hard to believe that in September, he will be dead ten years.

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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…)

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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…)

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[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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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[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…)

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