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Players aren’t inside the goddamn game. Players are part of the apparatus of the game. They’re part of the map.
August 22, 2011 9:04 AM   Subscribe

The Decemberists recreate Eschaton from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. The new video for "Calamity Song," from The King Is Dead, takes us into the dystopian world of the novel, Infinite Jest.

The Decemberists Colin Meloy, is apparently quite of fan of DFW and "had this funny idea that a good video for the song would be a re-creation of the Enfield Tennis Academy's round of Eschaton — basically, a global thermonuclear crisis re-created on a tennis court — that's played about a third of the way into the book." More on Eschaton. And a cool diagram.
posted by otherwordlyglow (74 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
Predicted; Metafilter has a case of the vapours for the rest of the day.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:12 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


My heart just exploded with love.
posted by ged at 9:16 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Previously
posted by louche mustachio at 9:19 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


His head didn't go through the screen!
posted by elektrotechnicus at 9:30 AM on August 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Mr. Meloy, I served with Michael Pemulis, I knew Michael Pemulis, Michael Pemulis was a friend of mine. Mr. Meloy, you're no Michael Pemulis.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:31 AM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


OK, I hereby officially take back every ranty thing I said about The Crane Wife.

Can someone notarize that?
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2011


Oh, so this is what The Decemberists sound like. Like a better produced Mountain Goats.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


IT'S SNOWING ON THE GODDAM MAP, NOT THE TERRITORY, YOU DICK

(The best thing about the Eschaton scene is that it's really just an elaborate discussion of poststructural literary theory posed as a complicated game between tennis nerds.)
posted by shakespeherian at 9:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


(The best thing about the Eschaton scene is that it's really just an elaborate discussion of poststructural literary theory posed as a complicated game between tennis nerds.)

Please elaborate. Show your work.
posted by urschrei at 9:39 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


That was so good I almost cried.
posted by Shebear at 9:40 AM on August 22, 2011


Those kids all look too normal, and the computer's too fancy. Doesn't feel "open" enough. And of course the band is too old to play those characters. Otherwise, yeah, that's pretty close to how I always pictured it. Hooray for two things I love coming together.
posted by penduluum at 9:40 AM on August 22, 2011


Meh.
posted by hincandenza at 9:40 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


The new video for "Calamity Song

I didn't realize David Foster Wallace was so into Bud Light.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 AM on August 22, 2011


This made me smile.
posted by silby at 9:43 AM on August 22, 2011


AAAAAAH. Awesome. A much-needed smile after sobbing my way through the Jack Layton thread below.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 9:43 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was really, really wonderful. I actual felt very emotional watching it. Thanks for posting. Time to go back and reread that scene. I like to think DFW would approve.
posted by vito90 at 9:44 AM on August 22, 2011


The Decemberists Colin Meloy, is apparently quite of fan of DFW.

There's a shocker.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Huh. Well-played, Decembrists.

When I whipped up my playable Eschaton rules, you know who the big winner was? My dog. She'll be working through that tennis ball bonanza for the rest of her life.
posted by COBRA! at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/arts/music/michael-schur-directs-decemberists-video.html

To create the “Calamity Song” video, which was filmed over a rainy July weekend in Portland before the heavy lifting began on the new “Parks and Recreation” season, Mr. Schur drew upon the volunteer support of his television colleagues, including his show’s costume, props and graphics departments. He said he did not worry about seeking permission from Wallace’s business representatives because he had recently acquired the film rights to “Infinite Jest.”

(Mr. Schur added that he had no immediate plans to film an “Infinite Jest” feature. “I like my current job a lot,” he said.)

posted by mattbucher at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2011


Predicted; Metafilter has a case of the vapours howling fantods for the rest of the day.

FTFY
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:50 AM on August 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


Also, here is a guest post Colin Meloy wrote for Infinite Summer back in 2009.
posted by mattbucher at 9:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


He had recently acquired the film rights to “Infinite Jest.”

To sit on them, right? To stop such a thing from happening?
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 9:52 AM on August 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


I dunno Schlimmbesserung, I would personally love to see someone catapulted home over fans and the Convexity's glass palisades at desperate speeds, soaring north, sounding a bell-clear and nearly maternal alarmed call-to-arms in all the world's well-known tongues on the silver screen.
posted by Wyatt at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Awful. It was snowing, not raining, and Lord's head doesn't go through the monitor which is one of the most visually memorable scenes in the whole three billion pages of that book. It's hard to imagine what the point of filming any of this was if it wasn't going to end with Otis P. Lord flying through the air.

Plus there's some awful music playing.
posted by rusty at 9:57 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was so looking forward to seeing Ann Kittenplan (who in the novel is rumored to do steroids and has a crew cut haircut and pen-ink tattoos on her knuckles) - I wanted to see this bully knock some teeth out and go apeshit on various kids around the tennis court....

So I was a bit disappointed. :(
posted by fantodstic at 10:00 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Please elaborate. Show your work.

Oh boy!

One of the main focuses of poststructuralism is the slippage between signifier (the word on the page) and the signified (the meaning/gleaned understanding that that word facilitates). So for example 'dog' is the signifier of an actual dog, and when I use the word 'dog' I intend for you to receive it as pointing to an animal which you then picture in some way. But what happens is that, of course, even something as simple as 'dog' can get confused, because maybe I'm talking about a cocker spaniel and you picture a doberman, or I'm using it as a slang term for an ugly person and you picture a doberman, or whatever. The problem obviously gets way more complicated when you extend it to abstract concepts, sentences, paragraphs, etc. So poststructrualism is, in part, an understanding that multiple readings of a text can be equally valid, because every reader will necessarily read a text differently than any other reader-- there are no two equal readings.

ANYWAY, Borges points to poststructuralism w/r/t signifier vs. signified being not only necessary, but freeing and allowing for an author to have great fun. In his story On Exactitude In Science [PDF] (read it! It's very short!), Borges indicates that an attempt to create a text that exactly recreates what it's attempting to represent is unwieldy, useless, and will ultimately be discarded. I believe (although I could be mistaken) that because of this Borges story, the terms 'signifier' and 'signified' are sometimes substituted with 'map' and 'territory.'

SO during the Eschaton game it begins to snow, and a hilarious fight breaks out over whether the snow is affecting the imagined world of the game or whether it's just affecting the representation of that world that their play consists of. Is there even a difference? Does their game have an imagined world that is represented? And then Pemulis screams that it's snowing on the map, not the territory, which is just... exactly what Pemulis would say. The entire thing is such a niche, esoteric argument within a niche, esoteric enclave, and it ends with a character getting his head stuck, literally, inside his own computer screen.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:04 AM on August 22, 2011 [99 favorites]


Dammit, I miss-flagged shakespehrian's comment. I wanted to fantastic it. I'll fantastic this and hope the mods figure it out. I'm going for a walk.
posted by silby at 10:06 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The entire thing is such a niche, esoteric argument within a niche, esoteric enclave, and it ends with a character getting his head stuck, literally, inside his own computer screen.

And it's hilarious later on, like maybe hundreds of pages later, that said character (Lord) STILL has the computer screen stuck to his head with various pieces of sharp material pointing at vital arteries and he has to move extremely carefully. I remember nearly falling from my chair when I read that...
posted by fantodstic at 10:09 AM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have the strong feeling that the conjunction of David Foster Wallace, the Decemberists, and Ken Tremendous is the trifecta of something, but I can't figure out what to call it. "Hipstergeekism"? At any rate, if Wes Anderson were also involved I think it might signal the imminence of Ragnarok.
posted by RogerB at 10:12 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I flagged it as fantastic too silby. I think they'll figure it out. (Unless the flags are too coarse a signifier of its fantasticness. Maybe we should write out detailed tributes to shakespeherian's comment. Tributes equal in length to the comment.)
posted by JHarris at 10:16 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Building on what shakespeherian said about the metaphor for literary deconstruction i see a meta layer (of course, it's DFW) that feeds back into the lexicon of the rest of the book. There is frequent usage of the term map to mean someone's face. People get a look on their map or have their map ruined by violence.

There is a mirror between the barrier characters feel between their inner world and the "real" world and the disconnect between the map and the territory. Some go to great lengths to maintain and augment the barrier. Some are struggling to break down that barrier hoping to truly connect with someone else.

The eschaton segment operates as a physical enactment of the ongoing war in the major characters' minds between their map of the world and the world itself and how the effects of the war are readable on their map (face).

On preview - I started writing this and then left my desk to get lunch. Having arrived back at my desk I see that shakespeherian has expanded on his prior words much more effectively than my effort above but it was already written so I posted it anyway.

posted by Babblesort at 10:20 AM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


My favorite Decemberists Video.
posted by Danf at 10:21 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always imagined the Eschaton to be way more chaotic toward the end.

And where does the "Y.O.T.C.A.T" fit in to the timeline Colin? Where?

(Love this song, love this band.)
posted by eyeballkid at 10:27 AM on August 22, 2011


Goddammit, why do I have to be at work and unable to view this video right now.
posted by dustpatterns at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2011


Drug and tobacco use removed for clarity.
posted by Bachsir at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2011


Drug and tobacco use removed for clarity.

Yeah, I was just about to say WHERE's THE WEED COLIN?!?!
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was just about to say WHERE's THE WEED COLIN?!?!

On Kenneth's frequency.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:46 AM on August 22, 2011


I was so looking forward to seeing Ann Kittenplan (who in the novel is rumored to do steroids and has a crew cut haircut and pen-ink tattoos on her knuckles) - I wanted to see this bully knock some teeth out and go apeshit on various kids around the tennis court....

This is why "faithful adaptation" discussions about DFW will always be way more fun than the "hobbits' house doors are 9.5 centimeters larger in diameter than those" ones.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:51 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey speaking of which did anyone else see the John Krasinski Brief Interviews with Hideous Men?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 AM on August 22, 2011


shakesperian: Poststructuralism certainly deals with those issues, but they'd already been a central current in analytic philosophy before the literary dweebs got involved.

DFW clearly had a serious thing for Wittgenstein (his first novel, The Broom of the System, makes this explicit; his father, a philosophy academic, wrote about him), and I think that's a much more likely influence (the early "picture theory"/Tractarian Wittgenstein). If you're not convinced, find that passage where he describes Enfield as "one of the facts that made up Boston" - language straight out of the Tractatus.

I'm also pretty sure DFW read this paper, which interprets the theology of Al-Anon through the lens of cybernetics, which effort is about as weird as you'd imagine. It's author, Bateson, was very much obsessed with the map-territory thing, and coined the term "double bind", which DFW got a lot of mileage out of.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 10:53 AM on August 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


I've been flagging every post in this thread as Other because they are really off the discursive map of awesome. Including this one. Moderate that, nerds!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:01 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


elektrotechnicus, thanks for that. I obviously know nothing about analytic philosophy.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on August 22, 2011


"Howling fantods?" No. I'm not scared. I'm sort of this weird mixture of happy and sad.

Totally different thing.
posted by pts at 11:06 AM on August 22, 2011


Ooh, Bateson! It was Bateson who introduced Richard Bandler and John Grinder to Milton Erickson, which ultimately resulted in NeuroLinguistic Programming. It wouldn't surprise me at all if DFW was a Batesonian, especially given his metalogues.

"The Map Is Not the Territory" is an NLP Presupposition, but originally comes from Alfred Korzybski.
posted by Grangousier at 11:12 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian: I didn't in any way mean to include you in the category of "literary dweebs". Your explanation was great, and "literary theory" versus "philosophy" thing is pretty arbitrary and really has more to do with which social circles a particular academic ran in. But I always feel the need to point out that I'm on Team Jacob analytic philosophy.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2011


Not a problem at all, and I'm especially glad to have learned where the terms 'map' and 'territory' come in, which also makes me wonder whether Borges was a fan of analytic philosophy.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2011


I really like the guitar tone and the melody that reminds me of Love and Rockets. The video's good, too. The Decemberists are one of those bands that I thought for years couldn't possibly be as good as their fans say, but that turns out to be even better. Maybe someday I'll write a song that good.
posted by The World Famous at 11:29 AM on August 22, 2011


I would love to see this, but I can't get the npr or nyt video to play in firefox, chrome or IE. I have no idea what I could have done or filtered that would make this impossible to see. I hope it'll make it to youtube soon.
posted by dejah420 at 11:45 AM on August 22, 2011


"Your favorite band sucks and I'm disturbed that they like the same book that I do.:"
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:50 AM on August 22, 2011


OK, I know it's a huge cliche to talk about how the Decemberists sound like everybody else. That's the first time I've heard Calamity Song. If you can ignore the distinctiveness of Meloy's voice (and Michael Stipe's for that matter), damn if it doesn't sound exactly like a missing song from Reckoning.
posted by peep at 11:55 AM on August 22, 2011


I was thinking the same thing, peep. Except that it's not Reckoning. It's Talk About The Passion with the drum beat from Stumble and Pete Buck's Rickenbacker line from Madonna Of The Wasps.
posted by The World Famous at 12:03 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would love to see this, but I can't get the npr or nyt video to play in firefox, chrome or IE. I have no idea what I could have done or filtered that would make this impossible to see. I hope it'll make it to youtube soon.

Funny I got the same problem (on OSX). This New York Times link worked for me though.
posted by bobo123 at 12:04 PM on August 22, 2011


You know, as soon as I posted that I started hearing Talk About the Passion.
posted by peep at 12:05 PM on August 22, 2011


Oops I glazed over your mention of the nyt.
posted by bobo123 at 12:05 PM on August 22, 2011


There are great things here, but I haven't read Infinite Jest, so I don't have much to say about them.

On the other hand, I feel the need to share the fact that every time I read "the map is not the territory!" on this page, I hear it in the voice of that one salesman on the train at the beginning of The Music Man who keeps insisting "but he doesn't know the territory!"

Brains are wonderful things.
posted by ErWenn at 12:09 PM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was thinking the same thing, peep. Except that it's not Reckoning. It's Talk About The Passion with the drum beat from Stumble and Pete Buck's Rickenbacker line from Madonna Of The Wasps.

I believe it is Pete Buck playing. (Thus my What's the Frequency, Kenneth? comment).
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:09 PM on August 22, 2011


I would love to see this, but I can't get the npr or nyt video to play in firefox, chrome or IE. I have no idea what I could have done or filtered that would make this impossible to see. I hope it'll make it to youtube soon.

Funny I got the same problem (on OSX).


Same issue here but it was working on my Mac Safari earlier. so I assumed NPR servers were the problem. NYT link is working though
posted by Bwithh at 12:12 PM on August 22, 2011


and literally a second or two after posting that last comment, the NYT video I had playing dies. It now says "video currently unavailable". boo.
posted by Bwithh at 12:13 PM on August 22, 2011


I believe it is Pete Buck playing. (Thus my What's the Frequency, Kenneth? comment).

That's awesome.

If I had Pete Buck in the studio playing on one of my songs, I'm pretty sure I would ask him to please make it sound like Talk About The Passion and Madonna Of The Wasps, too. Then I would mute all of my own guitar tracks.
posted by The World Famous at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2011


I would love to see this, but I can't get the npr or nyt video to play in firefox, chrome or IE. I have no idea what I could have done or filtered that would make this impossible to see. I hope it'll make it to youtube soon.

Funny I got the same problem (on OSX).

Same issue here but it was working on my Mac Safari earlier. so I assumed NPR servers were the problem.


I was having the same problem earlier with Firefox and Safari, but it's working now. NPR's servers must have been having problems.
posted by homunculus at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2011


I believe it is Pete Buck playing. (Thus my What's the Frequency, Kenneth? comment).

Relatedly, the guy sitting next to the lead singer (greying beard, the drummer maybe?) I know isn't, but yet looks a lot like, the current incarnation of Michael Stipe (who, from evidence in recent photos, is in his "aging lumberjack fashionista" phase).
posted by aught at 12:35 PM on August 22, 2011


Michael Stipe (who, from evidence in recent photos, is in his "aging lumberjack fashionista" phase)

Man, that guy just looks more and more like one of the Seven Dwarfs. Was there one named Hipster?
posted by philip-random at 12:41 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aught- That would be John Moen
posted by mrzarquon at 1:13 PM on August 22, 2011


Anyone else notice the t-shirts the players are wearing are based on Jeanette Levy's design? (Previously).
posted by logicpunk at 1:46 PM on August 22, 2011


I'm just so glad that someone, somewhere has brought Eschaton to life.

That it is The Decemberists is just an added bonus.
posted by bright cold day at 2:41 PM on August 22, 2011


I wish that the other 4 band members, awesome as they all are, had had more to do than just sit there watching. . .
posted by Danf at 3:05 PM on August 22, 2011


Hah. Now I want a red beanie that says "utter global crisis" on the front.
posted by no mind at 3:16 PM on August 22, 2011


I wish that the other 4 band members, awesome as they all are, had had more to do than just sit there watching. . .

Well, Jenny Conlee has been undergoing chemo for breast cancer, so she can be excused from doing nothing but sitting there in a pink wig.

If you feel guilty, join Team Jenny.
posted by dw at 3:59 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always imagined Eschaton as post-modern Calvinball.
posted by tzikeh at 7:48 PM on August 22, 2011


It must have been the servers, as I was able to view it just now. I thought it was well done, and given the constraints of a 3 minute video, did justice to that chapter. Plus, I think it'll make sense to people who haven't read the book, and perhaps more people will give the book a shot.

no mind: "Hah. Now I want a red beanie that says "utter global crisis" on the front"

Yeah, me too.
posted by dejah420 at 8:02 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, so this is what The Decemberists sound like. Like a better produced Mountain Goats.

Given this post's emphasis on poststructuralism, I cannot deny the validity of that interpretation.
posted by Barking Frog at 9:40 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So which tennis courts is this filmed at?
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 11:09 PM on August 22, 2011


At night I drink myself to sleep and pretend I don't care that you're not here with me, 'cause it's so much easier to handle all my problems when I'm too fucked up to see.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:25 PM on August 22, 2011


"The year of the chewable Ambien tab". Nice.
posted by gaspode at 8:30 AM on August 23, 2011


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