In training this week, learning about the company’s network management software. When I learned that courses would start at 8:30am, I was sure that I would always arrive late, since it takes me a little over an hour to commute. Get in Monday morning to find the class is composed of two other co-workers and a fella from Praetoria, South Africa, a client of the company.
The trainer asks us what time we want to start for the remainder of the week, everyone happy with 8:30, but Mr. SA asks for 8am. No problem. As the weeks winds on, however, it becomes more and more apparent that this guy epitomises some of the darker (or should that be “lighter”?) stereotypes of a “evolved” South African. I.e. he constantly makes disparaging remarks about what he terms “Africans,” going on and on about how really dumb they are. You can almost hear the muscles of everyone else in the class cringing whenever he opens his mouth.
I would just like to thank the producers and editors of Survivor for starting off last night’s show with a frontal view of Heidi bending over, pouring water, wearing a small bikini top. Reinforces my faith in the miracles of modern surgery.
So, heading to the Christmas vacations, knowing that I had to spend at least one evening with the family unit, I was searching for something to read. Upon a recommendation, I picked up David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Now, in soft cover, this thing is over 1000 pages long, about 100 of which are 5-pt endnotes.
Ah, the endnotes: not in any way, shape or form relevant to the book, they’re more descriptions of various drugs or addtional subplots to an already convoluted story. The story? Well, um, let’s see.
- There’s a tennis academy founded by a filmmaker who committed suicide by sticking his head in a microwave oven,
- one of his sons went from tennis to becoming an NFL punter and Don Juan,
- another son (in the academy) who’s a sort of tennis prodigy when he’s not blowing his mind on substances,
- a once-beautiful woman who’s been disfigured by acid,
- a bunch of Québec mercenaries who have previously lost their legs by jumping under trains,
- other Canadian pseudo-terrorists,
- cross-dressing semi-CIA operatives,
- a mysterious video that turns viewers into vegetables,
- myriad dregs of Boston society,
- AA and NA meetings,
- and, and, nothing.
That’s just it. For almost two months, reading about two hours per day, I slowly worked my way through. Everything was finally starting to come together, the story was slowly approaching its dénouement. I was in the metro last night, really grooving on how all these storylines were coming together, turn a page and
Not a wit. Just the endnotes. Over 900 pages of muddling my way through Pynchon-esque, precocious prep-school writing, only to be left hanging. There I was, frantically turning the pages yesterday evening, hoping that I had screwed up somewhere along the line, that however messy, at least one storyline could be resolved. That’s like the tape getting chewed up in the middle of Behind the Green Door.
Regardless, an interesting interpretation of Hamlet.
Update:The Onion has a great spoof on the writing of Foster Wallace.
This day always reminds me of an episode many, many years ago, when I was in the first year of a stormy relationship with someone who has become my friend. M.-E. was the product of a mother from Brittany, and a Catholic-Syrian father who also happened to be a sexologist. These folks insisted that, were I to sleep over at their place, I’d better damn well sleep in the same bed as their daughter, or else they would be rather insulted. Who was I to argue?
Anyhow, M.-E. used to rail against the commercialisation of Valentine’s, and she would exclaim that we were all suckers to even think about that day, and worse still if anyone were to spend money on it. Okay, I thought, I’ll make sure to never buy her flowers or anything on that day. So, that V. night, coming home from a class, I happened to see an old friend, H., from Saint John, NB. Conversation ensues, I invite H over for supper and to catch up on old times. Around 10 that night, the phone rings; M.-?.’s on the line.
Me: Hi! How are you!
Me: Hello? You there?
Me: Okay, what did I do wrong this time?
M.-?.: What did you do tonight?
Me: Well, I met H., she came over for supper, yadda yadda.
M.-?.: You didn’t think of calling me?
Me: What, call you for Valentine’s day?
Me: But you think it’s stupid. You would have been angry at me had I called.
M.-?.: That’s right.
Me: So, you’re angry at me that I didn’t call.
M.-?.: That’s right.
Me: So, one way or another, you were going to be angry at me, correct?
M.-?.: That’s right.
Laughter all around. I just couldn’t win.
Reporter: “Mr. President, how can you be sure that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.”
Bush: “We kept the receipts.”
Yesterday, while installing a program on my computer yesterday, a program developed by the company I slave for, my workstation completely bombed. Tech support came and took my shitbox away, but it was back in time for my arrival this morning.
Finish the installation of the program, and its icon appears on the screen. The icon: a space shuttle. I guess that explains why the computer crashed.
I think I might have lived next to this person in the Maritimes.
Dropped by La Boîte Noire last night, and rented Drunks, (I have a thing for Amanda Plummer; what can I say?). Unfortunately, I happened to have had fondue and wine for supper, so passed out about halfway through the movie. Damn, and I missed Spalding Gray’s monologue.
Decided on Saturday night to get me some of that there culture that everyone’s been talking about, so made plans to see a play. Besides, this being all-star weekend, there wasn’t a hockey game on the telly. (And yes, to paraphrase Liz Phair, “why do Canadians fuck doggy-style? A: So we can both watch the hockey game.”) So, headed out with friends to Nonya for some fine Indonesian cooking. Mmmm, prawns on a bed of shredded mango, followed by skewered lamb.
Afterward, headed with friends up to Théâtre La Chapelle, to see the final (thank gawd) presentation of West. Boy, can you say, “earnest”? A bunch of early-20 actors all acting Brit-street-tough, accompanied by the requisite chick wearing the short skirt, who gets the occasional scene talking about how she likes to get laid, get drunk, get an abortion. The play’s all about some London street gang, and all their little street problems of territory and mommy/daddy doesn’t like me, and I don’t want to work in a factory/office/construction site yadda yadda. So, adding to this tediousness is the fact that these actors adopt faux Brit accents. C’mon! Speak normal, we can figure that you’re supposed to be British. The playwright, who’s name has fortunately slipped my mind (David Berhkoff or something), the chuffwit, decided to impress us all with his adroit use of quotes from Shakespeare. It didn’t work.
Being in the theatre reminded me of just how much I don’t care for that whole environment: go see a play, and you realise that it’s always the same people–other actors who attend a friend’s play to ensure that said friend will attend the other’s play. Theatre students who, upon seeing one of their profs in the audience, will begin fawning in that quintessential “I’m so sensitive maybe I’m gay but I’m just not sure yet so I guess acting like this at least makes me look artistic” way. Older folks, who may have once been local theatre actors themselves but whose time in the limelight is long past, now just hangers-on, who stand around during intermission, pseudo-intellectually discussing the merits of the play and the play’s actors, and how the play compares to a similar production that ran at either the Fringe or a French theatre or the main english theatre (very short run); how the lead actor brings so much more to this production as opposed to the previous production, he brings the anger, the looks, the build, OH SHIT SHOOT ME NOW!
All these people–the hangers-on, the has-beens, the never-weres, the overly made-up, black-stretch-pants-with-white-thong-showing girlfriends, who sit raptly through almost two hours of dross and pap, sucking at their designer water bottles as though these, the water bottles, were pacifiers–these, the “cultural elite” of young hip anglo Montreal, waiting simply to be the first to jump to a standing ovation at the end, to metaphorically fellate the actors, to ensure that the same mediocrity be repeated endlessly.
The sad part is that it’s even worse in french theatre, where every play, regardless of the subject, will almost always include some pitiful scene where the actress will lift her top, flashing her breasts à la Tralala in Last Exit to Brooklyn for no other reason than to show how shocking and avantgarde they are. Newsflash: this isn’t the catholic-prudish early-70s anymore.
I really should start walking out of shows more often. I really should.