Archive for the ‘Infinite Summer’ Category

[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…)


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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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I was just about to Publish this post below.  Then I searched for links to the sites mentioned, and I stumbled across an article from the LA Times which said that the cool folks at Infinite Zombies and This Bolaño group are basically doing the same thing (only better).  And, since my idea is fairly half-assed, I’m just going to follow them instead.  Thank you guys!  And you’re even starting right when I wanted to!  Huzzah!

Their schedule is here.  So count me in! (more…)

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[cue music]:

I saw these stats come sailing in, on Christmas Day on Christmas Day.
I hit 60,000 views on Christmas Day in the mor-ning.

I hit 30,000 views back in March, and I was quite thrilled.  When I started the blog in May of 2007 I didn’t expect to get all that many views, it was more or less a blog to keep track of my books and maybe have other people comment too.  And so, it took nearly two years to get to 30,000.  Imagine how delightful it is to reach the next 30,000 views in the span of just nine months!

So thanks everyone for checking out what I had to say.  And thanks also for all the comments.  As with the first 30,000, I’ve included the stats that have brought me to this hallowed (but random) spot.  And I must add that Infinite Summer, which is underrepresented in my top ten posts, was absolutely essential for this huge spike in views (thanks DFW fans).  But, by far the biggest surprise was the surge that came from the first book(s) on the list below.  I posted about the Ulysses Moore series in April.  And it was by far the most frequently sought and (presumably) read post on the blog.  So, Scholastic Publishing, if you read this, please note the craving that my readers have for the rest of the series!  And please update your site!!

So, anyhow, thanks all.  Listed below are the Top Ten (and a few extra) viewed posts on my blog.  Happy New Year!


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paleSOUNDTRACK: TINDERSTICKS-Live at the Botanique, 9th-12 May 2001 (2001).

This is called an “official bootleg.”  It must be very rare as I can’t even find a picture of it online.  My friend Lar must have gotten it for me, as I have never seen the band live and it was (apparently) only available at their shows.  Or maybe I got it online during the tour?  Whatever the case, it’s a great live selection of their later songs.

It’s a cool collection of songs from shows over the course of three days.  It’s also interesting that the track listing is five songs from one gig, then three from the final gig and two from the middle one.  The band sounds great (the live setting always suits them). On this disc, Paula Frazer sings the duet of “Buried Bones” and there are some nice backing vocals from Gina Foster and Viki St. James on the last two tracks.

It’s a rather mellow set list, but the crowd certainly enjoys it.  And, as this is something of a greatest hits (of the more recent tracks), I could listen to it all day.

There appears to have been only one other “Official Bootleg”: Coliseu Dos Recreios De Lisboa – October 30th 2001.  But I’ve never seen it.

[READ: October 25, 2009] “Three Fragments from a Longer Thing,” “Good People,” “The Compliance Branch,” “Wiggle Room” and “Irrelevant Bob”

These are the last pieces of uncollected David Foster Wallace fiction that I had left to read.  I saved this for last because, well, they are supposedly parts of the soon to be released The Pale King.  Some of these pieces are definitely from The Pale King (it states so in the magazine  openings).  A couple are possible contenders for The Pale King, but we won’t know until the book comes out (sometime in 2010, I’m led to believe).  I had read some of these pieces before but it is much more satisfying to read them together.

The strange thing for me about these pieces is that when I read the New Yorker titles initially, there was no indication that the pieces were excerpts.  They treated them as short stories (even giving them titles).  So, when you read them, they feel like something is missing (namely 900 more pages).  And in many respects, I think that’s bad for the author.  Sure its good to get the work out there, but when a story feels unfinished, it leaves a bad taste in the readers’ mouth. (more…)

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