The Pale Bro

Here is a post I wrote a few years ago and never hit “publish” on, even though no one reads this. The online literary world has finally, I think, moved on from these inane essays about David Foster Wallace, though there was a chapter in Andrea Long Chu’s much overhyped book about some comedian lady who did some performance art piece about eating Infinite Jest and I must say that neither the performance art nor Chu’s analysis gave me anything new to think about in terms of gender and the literary canon. I never got this post to reflect any kind of coherent thesis about DFW and women who write essays about not reading him, but whatever. Out of the draft pile and into the fire.

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A few months ago I read yet another hot take on the internet about how David Foster Wallace was a bro, and only bros read Infinite Jest, and bros who read Infinite Jest spend most of their waking hours harassing passing women about DFW’s genius, and therefore the most feminist thing you can do for yourself is to not read Infinite Jest, and then write an article about not reading Infinite Jest. I have to say, for most of my life, of which I have been a woman and devoted reader throughout, I had given very little time to pondering the bro-esque qualities of DFW or his many fans. I liked Broom of the System¬†just fine. His non-fiction was mostly too hyper and tinged with meanness for me, and so I find myself in strong disagreement with the people who recommend “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” I loved The Pale King. I thought it was profound, even in its unfinished but expertly pieced together state. The person who most regularly recommends Infinite Jest to me is my younger sister, a singular lady whose tastes have never been beholden to any preconceived notion of cool. I’ve certainly met some men who have loved DFW, but what sticks out to me more is that I know four different men with the Trystero symbol tattoo from The Crying of Lot 49, and those are just the ones with it on their forearms, so I suspect I actually know more.

I wanted to dive into this alleged feminist backlash against Wallace a bit, after the sixth or seventh or eighth post I read on this topic. Unfortunately, I am not really in the mood for Infinite Jest. So instead I read Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. I hated this book. Not because David Foster Wallace expressed thoughts out loud about both wanting to get laid for being a big famous writer man, and yet not wanting to be the kind of dick who wants to get laid for being a big famous writer man. That sounded fair and relatable to me. No, I hated this book because David Lipsky asked DFW the same two dumb questions for three hundred pages: What is like to be a Genius? and, What is like to be an Addict? How the fuck could anyone, even someone as hyper-articulate as David Foster Wallace, answer these questions?? This was so frustrating, though reading the book did increase my enjoyment when I watched End of the Tour, and Jesse Eisenberg and the script ganged up to create a portrayal of Lipsky as a jealous, insecure snake. What I did enjoy- the talking about 90s schlock alternative rock, thinking about the Midwest, and David Foster Wallace’s really, really wrong prophecies for the future.

He was a genius, no doubt, but he spent most the 90s thinking like many people did- that the biggest threat to our collective future was that entertainment (porn) was going to get so good, so virtually real, that people would become more and more passive. Basically, a more thinking man’s version of the Idiocracy fallacy. I think we all might wish that the future (which is now) was all Virtual Reality Sexy Times and not, like, people dying by the hundreds daily because of the opioid crisis and lack of health coverage.

Mercury Retrograde in Pisces

In which our lazy blogger is even more consumed by nostalgia than usual. I’m really quite glad about the insane resurgence/omnipresence of astrology these days, very much enjoying making the sun, moon, and Mercury responsible for my emotions.

And so here’s a newly uploaded video of a Portraits of Past (that name!!!!) show at ABC NO RIO in 95. This band didn’t get on my radar until years later, but I’m happy to be nostalgic for something I missed the first time around. Their reunion album from 2009, Cyprus Dust Witch, is on heavy rotation on my “Jogging Music for Aging Punks” playlist.

Dream Signals in Full Circles

Tristeza’s 2000 album Dream Signals in Full Circles was slammed by Pitchfork (3.5 stars!) for sounding like something that new age record label Windham Hill might release. The review sounds so dated now, very Y2K indie rock derision. Pretty sure we didn’t add the album to the heavy rotation list at the college radio station, but I remember really liking this record. (Some of us have been made Disagreeing With Pitchfork a thing for nigh on two decades!!) I didn’t have anything bad to say about Windham Hill either; my fifth grade teacher had played Ray Lynch’s Deep Breakfast at the end of almost every school day and I remained quite fond of that album. I cannot exactly recall where we were in the Cycle of Ironic Appreciations back then, but it was probably not safe yet for people trying to make Music Director at a college radio station to admit to that. Nice to be old now.

And if you want to go straight to the new age tap root:

Drawing of Sound

Ambient but melodic, mostly drumless but rhythmic, shimmering, magical. I had never heard this particular Windy & Carl record before today but the algorithm provided. One of my top 3 bands from Michigan, without a doubt. They also run a record store, should you find yourself in Dearborn. My college dream was to get Windy & Carl to score a planetarium show and I haven’t given up on that yet.

Music For a Found Harmonium

In the last post, I mentioned it was an Orb remix of a song I liked when I was young that tipped me over into a full-blown 90s rave revitalist. That would their remix of Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Music For a Found Harmonium. Deep cut.

I was never quite sure why this Penguin Cafe Orchestra hit me as hard as it does. I mean, it’s extremely catchy, sure. But it was so deeply engrained that it caused me to burst into tears when it appeared in Napoleon Dynamite. (Now there’s a movie to revisit after 15 years.)¬†

As with many of life’s great mysteries, the answer was in a youtube video, waiting to be discovered. A trailer for the 1988 John Hughes’ move She’s Having a Baby, starring Kevin Bacon, apparently only seen on VHS copies of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Like most people of my generation (Generation Jordan Catalano aka Generation Oregon Trail aka Generation Analog Youth Digital Adolescence aka Generation Here’s A Thinkpiece On Why I’m Not A Millenial), I probably watched Ferris Bueller on VHS upwards of… five hundred times? More? And this is a truly brilliant trailer, a masterclass of film editing. I don’t know why anyone would bother with the movie. The entire human drama of trying to become an adult in 90 seconds. More than any other piece of media, this shaped my entire concept of the idea of “growing up.”

PCO was also famously remixed by the departed Avicii, and you know what, I fucking love that too. This is EDM for people who listen to NPR, but here we are. The heart loves what it loves.

 

 

 

 

The improbable lineup of Lollapalooza 1997 ended each night with a performance from Prodigy, The Orb, and Orbital. Everyone else- Korn, Tool, Tricky, Devo- had to play in the daylight. The evening was reserved for techno. I did not understand this genre then, neither liked nor disliked it, but I stayed at the Nissan Pavilion and tried to figure out what “performing” dance music actually entailed. There were light shows, disco balls, dancing, the white guys on the distant stage were… on the computer? I was tired from a days’ worth of weeping during James’ set and moshing to Tool (like I said, improbably lineup) and too self-conscious to attempt any rave-like undertakings. Eventually we went home long before the final set was over. I barely remembered any of this until a few months ago when I came across an Orb remix of a song I liked when I was small and all of sudden I couldn’t get enough of 90s techno. I look forward to the rave-themed nights at whatever cut-rate retirement home houses me in my dotage. I hope they provide glow sticks and pacifiers; I will finally dance.

opus 37

I turned 37 two days ago. This was the first year I seriously considered starting to lie about my age, really felt my flagrant disregard for adulthood milestones. On the other hand, what am I, some kind of NORMIE?! Shouldn’t I be proud that I have given capitalist production and reproduction the runaround for so long? Maybe that’s going too far. My friend Erik told me on my 29th birthday that I could “pass for a hard-living 24,” so maybe I’m still just a stressed-out 32 in my soul.


The Shape of Things That Never Came

And now we tried to be strong, and carry on
But somehow the party seemed doomed
There was a girl on the floor with the heart beat gone
And death so kills the room

And now we tried to be strong, and carry on
Throw our head back and howl
But the water is warm and the currents are strong
And its time to throw in the towel, little darling

Oh!

(source)