Archive for the ‘Pale Summer’ Category

dfwreadSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTIAN SCOTT aTUNDE ADJUAH-Tiny Desk Concert #477 (October 9, 2015).

aacsChristian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his septet play what he calls stretch music: “the particular type of jazz fusion he’s up to: something more seamless than a simple collision of genre signifiers.”

They note that even his appearance stretches traditional jazz: “You may note that he showed up in a Joy Division sleeveless T-shirt and gold chain.” It’s sleek and clearly modern, awash in guitar riffs, but also bold and emotionally naked.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (not sure how to abbreviate that) is a trumpeter and he can hit some loud powerful and long –held notes.   It’s funny that when he bends over the trumpet grows quieter—those ic really are direction-based.

For the first song “TWIN” he does some impressive soloing over a simple and cool beat—piano and delicate guitar riffs (there’s also an upright bass and drummer).   After his lengthy solo there’s a flute solo that also works perfectly (if less dramatically) with the background music.  (Christian plays tambourine during her solo).  He says that this song is about being a twin.  His brother, Kyle Scott is a film director and for whom Christians scores the music.  Christian also explains that he comes from an African-American and Native-American background and that this song has rhythms as a sort of history of his family that touches on Mali, Senegal Gambia and The Ivory Coast and makes its way to the Caribbean, Cuba and into New Orleans.

He’s pleased to play the Tiny Desk Concert for an audience that appreciates “Music that has nutritional value.”

For the second song, “West of the West” he brings on a young alto-saxophonist who plays with his drummer in a different band. The song opens with a rocking electric guitar solo and then the jazzy band kicks in behind it.  The instrumental features a couple of solos by the saxophonist, the pianist and the bassist.

“K.K.P.D.” is a dramatic song for which he gives a lengthy back story.  Many years ago in his home of New Orleans, he was stopped by New Orleans police late at night for no reason other than to harass and intimidate him.  he was coming back from a gig.  He resisted and was in a serious situation and was seriously threatened—the story is long and very affecting, especially given how articulate (I know, terrible word, but true) and calm he is about retelling this horrifying story.  His pride almost made him do something ill-advised, but instead he channeled that pent-up frustration into a piece of music whose long-form title is “Ku Klux Police Department.”

He adds that we see things on TV about inner cities or the ninth ward and we believe them to be true.  Like that the neighborhood is happy that the police are clearing out the youth there.  We begin to think that the narrative is true, although the people who live there can tell you otherwise.  Despite the title and the origin, the is song is designed to reach a consensus to move forward –not to build derision or hate.  He says that we have to start working on that now, because if it doesn’t start now then our children will continue to inherit this situation.

It opens with a noisy guitar wash and fast drums.  It’s quite noisy and chaotic although it resolves very nicely into an almost sweet piano-based song with slow horns.  The middle of the song ramps up with some intense soloing from Christian.  I love how that segues into a very different section with an electronic drum and delicate piano.  Chritsian’s next solo is much more optimistic.  The final section is just wonderfully catchy.

When he introduces the band, he points out just how young some of his newest members are: Drummer Corey Fonville (another new member) used a djembe as a bass drum, and also brought a MIDI pad so he could emulate the sound of a drum machine; Lawrence Fields, piano; Kris Funn, bass; Dominic Minix , guitar (21 years old); Braxton Cook, saxophone (24 years-old) and Elena Pinderhughes, flute: 20 years old!

I don’t listen to a ton of jazz, but I really liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot.

[READ: July-October 2016] The David Foster Wallace Reader

I’ve had this book since Sarah bought it for me for Christmas in 2014.  I haven’t been in a huge hurry to read it because I have read almost everything in it already.  And some of that I have even read recently.  But this summer I decided to read some of my bigger books, so this was a good time as any.

One of the fascinating things about reading this book is the excerpting in the fiction section.  I have never really read excerpts from DFWs longer books before.  And once you decontextualize the parts, you can really appreciate them for themselves rather than as a means to the end of the story.  This is especially true of the excerpts from Broom of the System and Infinite Jest.  But also just reading some of these sections as a short story makes for an interesting experience.

It was also very interesting to read the non-fiction all together like that.  These pieces come from difference anthologies, but they have thematic similarities  So, placing them together like that allows for really comparing the stories.

And of course, the selling point for most DFW fans is the teaching materials in the center of the book–an opportunity to look into the man’s mind at work shaping younger minds.

I have written about virtually everything in this book already (title links refer back to previous posts), so mostly these are thoughts about the pieces themselves and not a part of a whole. (more…)

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reySOUNDTRACK: ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN-“The Cutter” (1983).

echoI’ve never been a huge Echo & The Bunnymen fan, but I do like their greatest hits.  This is one of them, and it’s a song I’ve liked from pretty much the minute I heard it.  Ian McCullough has a Jim Morrison vibe in his vocals, and there are interesting Eastern melodies and pieces thrown into the song (like in the intro).  These give it an unconventional feel, even though the main melody is pretty straightforward.

I have no idea what the song is about–I sing along without really thinking about it.  And the “spare us the cutter” chorus, complete with screechy guitar chord is pretty dynamic.  As is the loud drum change during the “drop in the ocean” part.

By the end of the song the drums seem to sound bigger, and the fills really propel the song to the end.  It’s a fine song by a band that I’m not sure I need to hear more of.

[READ: August 25, 2014] Pale Summer Week 7 (§46-§47)

After the pile of small chapters that last week gave us, this week offers just two.  One is a very lengthy discussion between two characters.  The other is another piece of the Toni Ware puzzle.  I enjoy the way the first of these sections balances the medical, the emotional and the supernatural.  And it makes me laugh that Drinion’s supernatural bit is never addressed directly in any way–it just is–as assuredly as Rand’s psychological problems just are.  But I do find it interesting that more people have talked about Rand’s problems than Drinion’s (even though his is as fascinating as he himself is dull).

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Critical Injuries Five Years of RehabilitationIt was challenging to find a related song for this week’s reading, although frankly a band called Interior Disposition would fit with just about any DFW passage.  But having a song called “Fornix” paired nicely with the computer problems that the author faced this week.

From the online information, it seems like Interior Disposition is a metal band.  And yet when I tracked down their full album and listened to a bit it’s largely trippy outer space noodling, or as one of the sites labels them: dark ambient.  There’s bubbling sounds and sounds of what I think of as deep space.  It is strangely relaxing and yet with a hint of tension all the way through (so yes, dark ambient is a pretty good sum).

Okay a little more digging tells me that the band is actually a guy, Oleg Hurvatov, who is Russian and also records under several other aliases: the wonderfully named Exploplasmatic Coagulation, and the puzzling Lanceolaria Im Licht Der Laterne

“Fornix” is only 1:46 and is probably a good introduction to the band/album.  If you like the 2 minute sound, the rest is pretty darn similar, just much longer.

[READ: August 18, 2014] Pale Summer Week 6 (§35-§45)

This weeks read was mostly a series of smallish sections.  some of them are entertaining, some of them provide interesting insights into the organization of the Service and of some of the characters.  And some of the sections are just downright funny.  The more I read of this book this time, the more bummed I am that it was never finished.  I even just wish I knew how much more he had planned.  There’s potential for this book to have spiraled out to 800-900 pages, there just seems to be so many things he could have followed up on–the Sylvanshine transformation to mastering RFI; the whole business with the infant, I love it; learning more about Mr. X (although likely there wouldn’t be much more about him); and of course what led to David Wallace leaving the Service and what compelled him now to write about it (which I don’t think is really addressed).

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borepageBoredoms are an experimental noisy band from Japan.  I am completely unqualified to talk about them as I only know snippets of their output.  But I have always been intrigued by them.  Lead dude Yamataka Eye has been the main impetus behind the band.  And it seems like exactly the kind of noise/music one might play if one were horribly bored.

Yoshimi P-We is the longest serving drummer with the Boredoms.  She is the “Yoshimi” in the title of The Flaming Lips’ album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

Over the years they have gone from outright nose (listen to the track “Bubblebop Shot” from Soul Discharge or “We Never Sleep” from Onanie Bomb Meets the Sex Pistols which is mostly screams and drums) to a more ambient (but still noisy) style. They performed a live show with 77 drummers  on 7/7/07.

They’ve even changed their name to V∞redoms.

Here’s an interesting clip of the band from All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2012, being a lot less noisy but still pretty weird.

[READ: August 11, 2014] Pale Summer Week 5 (§27-§34)

There were a few things in this week’s reading that seemed to contradict other things in the reading.  This is not surprising as Pietsch says that there were things that he knew DFW would eventually change.  The notes at the back of the book (yes, I peeked, bit no spoiler here) say that there were different possible plotlines for some of the characters and even a duplication of a weird character trait.   But it’s funny to see it evolving in front of you.

In §27, Sylvanshine seems to be able to control his Random Fact Inference somewhat–and he seems to be using it rather than being inflicted by it.  This is either a big change or a cool development in Claude’s life.

There is also what I think is an actual mistake: two people have the same number: 907313433 (see §30).

In another “unfinished” issue, the surveillance in §29 is one of those situations that would certainly have been explained in greater detail (or had another scene about it).  I initially assumed they were doing surveillance for deadbeat companies (maybe for new vehicles), but there are indications (in later sections) that perhaps something else is going on, maybe to do with the Glendenning/Lehrl issue that Reynolds and Sylvanshine are talking about in §30.

One thing that I hadn’t explicitly noticed earlier, but which comes out in Cusk’s section below is the idea that “more information is not better.”  While this seems to be very true for their job, it can certainly be a debilitating world view and I wonder if that is at play as well. (more…)

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tpk4SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-“Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song” (1987).

limeThere are multiple references to Nesbitt’s soda in this book.  I am unfamiliar with Nesbitt’s except in this funny little song from Negativland (on their album Escape from Noise).  I have always liked this song, perhaps because it is so simple (and is an actual song) amidst the chaos of the album.

A simple strummed guitar introduces this quaint song about everyday frustrations:

We spent a lovely summer, my wife Elaine and me,
We bought us a great big motor home, with a shower and TV,
We was camping and having a great time, watching Brokaw on Today,
Till a bee flew into the Nesbitt’s Lime Soda, and we had to throw it away.

Now most of the time I’m a peaceful man, but I lost my temper that day,
Just one last bottle of Nesbitt’s Lime Soda, and we had to throw it away.

I’m including the second verse not only because of the sodas listed, which I find endearing, but also because of the phrase “good old Mountain Dew” which reminds me of something DFW would say:

I brought a case of Nehi, and Double Cola, too,
A half a dozen Upper 10’s, and good old Mountain Dew,
I bought a quart of cola-a, to get me through the day,
But just one bottle of Nesbitt’s Lime Soda, and we had to throw it away.

I think most of the Nesbitt’s in the story is orange (that was their big seller) but Nesbitt’s did actually did have a Lime (or I guess Lemon-Lime) soda as well

[READ: August 4, 2014] Pale Summer Week 4 (§23-§26)

After last week’s massive 100 page section inside of one person’s head, it’s nice to get back to some of these smaller sections.  I’m particularly pleased to have another David Wallace section, as I find his the most entertaining.


This is a brief First person section that begins: “Dream:”  Rows of foreshortened faces, many blank doing endless small tasks. It was his psyche teaching him about boredom.  He was often bored as a child, but that boredom was not actual boredom.  Back then he worried and fretted a lot, feeling the “sort of soaring, ceilingless tedium that transcends tedium and becomes worry” (253).  It was anxiety with no object.

He was the nervous delicate son, as opposed to his brother, the gifted driven son whose nightly piano practice coincided with their father’s return from work.  I section that says “after the incident with my own son” (254) reminded me that someone suggested that “Incarnations of Burned Children” may actually fit into this book and it seems like that could be applicable here, although I shudder to think it.  In psychotherapy he realized that his family was Achilles.  His brother was the shield and he was the heel. His father was a warrior, but his mother’s role was unclear. (more…)

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tpk3SOUNDTRACK: OBETROL-“The Sound Machine” and “Chopped an Dropped”(2011).

obetrrolObetrol is a band that I can find out very little about. They seem to have 5 songs out and each one is quite different. My favorite is “The Sound Machine” which has a lush sound with twinkly guitars and a wispy female vocalist singing over the top of it.  It has a very trippy slow motion quality to it.  The singer sings a bit like a delicate Kim Gordon (in that shes not always exactly on key).

It’s hard to get more out of this song since it’s only 2:25, but I think it would make a cool intro to any record.

“Chopped and Dropped” on the other hand opens with buzzy guitars (and a “Kick Out the Jams” sample).  The vocals are sung (screamed) by a man. It is a fast-moving tinny punk song with trippy female echoed vocals in the background.

Hard to pin them down, but you can check them out here.

[READ: July 28, 2014] Pale Summer Week 3 (§22)

This week’s read is only one section because it is almost 100 pages of one person’s testimony.  Presumably, this is also part of the testimony on videotape which was broken down into smaller sections.  But there is no “context” for this section;  no ID number.  Although it does address very similar issues and questions.  I was on the fence about how much to include here.  So much of it is “irrelevant,” that I hate to get bogged down in details.  So I think it will be a basic outline of ideas until the more “important” pieces of information surface.


For the most part, this is all inside one man’s head as he talks about his life in college, after college, and into the Service.  In terms of advancing the “plot,” there’s not much (until the end).  Mostly this is simply a wonderful character study, full of neuroses and problems that many people face at some point (to one degree or another).  We don’t know who this author is (very minor spoiler: we will learn who it is in §24 [highlight to read]).

The interviewee states that “A good bit of it I don’t remember… from what I understand, I’m supposed to explain how I arrived at this career.”

Initially he was something of a nihilist, whose response to everything was “whatever.”  A common name for this kind of nihilist at the time was wastoid.  He drifted in and out of several colleges over the years, taking abstract psychology classes.  He says that his drifting was typical of family dramas in the 1970s–son is feckless, mother sticks up for son, father squeezes sons shoes, etc. They lived in Chicago, his father was a cost systems supervisor for the City of Chicago. (more…)

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sylvanOne of the fun things about doing these summer posts is finding appropriate music to each week’s write up. I like to find something related to what’s down below.  Last week it was an artist named Pale King.  This week it’s a band called Sylvanshine.

Sylvanshine is a cover band from Texas.  According to their web site, they play covers of Collective Soul, Van Halen, The Black Crowes and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I didn’t listen to any of their live tracks, but the excerpt of their version of The Toadies’ “Possum  Kingdom” is pretty spot on.

Learn all about them (or book them) at their website.

[READ: July 21, 2014] Pale Summer Week 2 (§10-§21)

Week two continues some of the characters’ lives and introduces us to them at the Service.  It also has a couple of very lengthy passages in which people spout their opinions about aspects of the country and the Service which are thoughtful and, frankly, very interesting and would work as good meme quotes, if you liked that sort of thing.


This is a two-paragraph chapter about bureaucracy “the only known parasite larger than the organism on which is subsists.”


A list of syndromes/symptoms associated with Examination Postings in excess of 36 months (ending with “unexplained bleeding”).


Leonard Stecyk is back in this short chapter.  He is an adult now. He is walking door to door to introduce himself to his presumably new neighbors, and to offer to the neighbors the Post Office’s 1979 National Zip Code Directory–“his smile so wide it almost looked like it hurt.”


An unnamed character is inflicted with nervous profuse sweating.  (This character will be identified later).  This chapter also has footnotes (as did the Author’s Foreword), although these footnotes are in the third person (as is the chapter).  Does this mean it is written by Dave Wallace too?  It is another thoroughly detailed chapter that I find very enjoyable to read even if it doesn’t advance the “story” much. (more…)

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tpk1SOUNDTRACK: PALE KING-“An Airing” (2013).

paleNope, I never heard of the musician Pale King until I searched for a song to put here.

This song begins as a piano instrumental (with some keyboards layered over).  It swells and lifts through some simple chord changes.  A martial beat comes in from time to time to give it some urgency.

This might actually work as a the opening credits to the never-to-be made movie of The Pale King, or perhaps a soundtrack to §1 (which is a short prose poem type of thing).

At about 1:45, some guitars burst through (adding some drama), and the drums grow louder.  It builds slowly until it starts to taper off and ends much like it began

I don’t know much or anything about the artist except that he’s from Toronto and he has a bandcamp site where you can hear this track.

[READ: July 14, 2014] Pale Summer Week 1 (§1-§9)

In other Summer Reading Group posts, I have tried to summarize chapters, make connections between characters that I may have missed in earlier readings of the book and, just tried to be more microscopic about my reading.  I don’t usually philosophize too much about the stories, but I do wax poetic from time to time.  Having said all that, The Pale King presents its own unique challenges because the book is unfinished.  So it’s not always clear if any connections can be made from chapters that are elliptical. DFW in particular likes to write scenes without naming characters, giving the reader something to discover later on, perhaps.  So you may have a scene that has no named people in it, but their speech patterns or details are referenced later, allowing you to piece things together.

There is definitely some of that piecing going on here, but as I said, when a book is unfinished, and this one was largely pieced together by editor Michael Pietsch, it’s not clear if you are missing something or if it simply isn’t there.  So there will be some speculation, and some omissions for sure, but we press on.

A further complication is the collection of Notes and Asides at the end of the book.  Some reveal information about characters that is not necessarily evident in the book, some talk about things that might have happened or even might have been removed if DFW had played around with the text more.  In general I am not going to read these now, so as to avoid spoilers.  But I may insert them later (with spoiler warnings) to make it easier to make sense of the book later.

The primary setting for the book is the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, IL set in 1985.  Editor Michael Pietsch (in his thoughtful and helpful Editor’s note which is mandatory reading if you are going to read the novel) says that DFW described the book as “torandic,” with elements coming in and going out over and over.

The other key question is just how unfinished is this?  We have no idea.  It feels like it could go on for a ton longer, and yet it no doubt would have been edited down to a more manageable size afterwards.  There are sections that seem like they could have more and others that seems like they would have been trimmed a lot.  And then of course, there could be other things that never even saw the light of day.  None of that should keep anyone from reading the book though. (more…)

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Five years ago, can it really have been five years? a group of people did a summer read of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  I thought it was a hoot to closely and slowly read the book which I had read about a decade earlier.  Now, a similar group of folks are doing a summer read of DFW’s posthumous, unfinished novel The Pale King.  I read TPK when it came out and I enjoyed it, even as I wished there was more.  I anticipate that it will be fun to re-read the book in a more slow fashion this time around.

As with my past group reads, I’m going to endeavor to summarize what I read and maybe offer some insights into what I think it’s all about.  Those who want in are welcomed to post here.  And of course, any inspired thoughts are welcomed.

I ‘ve included the schedule and, below the fold, a brief breakdown of each of the sections of the book.

July 14: Sections 1-9, pp. 3-85
July  21: Sections 10-21, pp. 86-153 [67 pages]
July 28: Section 22, pp. 154-252 [98 pages]
August 4: Sections 23-26, pp. 253-316 [63 pages]
August 11: Sections 27-34, pp. 317-386 [69 pages]
August 18: Sections 35-45, pp. 387-443 [56 pages]
August 25: Sections 46-47, pp. 444-516 [72 pages]
September 1: Sections 48-50 plus, pp. 516-575 (end) [59 pages] (more…)

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