Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Everything posted by Alastair

  1. What a wonderful spectrum covered in this episode: from the harrowing loneliness of Nigel to the giddy delight of realising Important If True could follow through on their silly domain joke, turn commentary into action, and - in a small but genuinely meaningful way - save social media.
  2. Anyone else getting an Infinite Jest vibe from the way Cooper's real mission - Find Laura - only really begins as our time with the show ends? Or, for that matter, from the dread of seeing the ending draw nearer, expected resolutions unresolved, new threads forming... and realising that the artist has just about said all he needs and intends to say? It's 12:37am and I'm wide awake trying to process this show - trying to reconcile its strange, melancholic emotional aftermath with the word as I see it - just as that book had me doing years before. And once again, life feels messier and sadder in the very best of ways. ...I wish David Foster Wallace had been around to enjoy new Twin Peaks.
  3. The shift from Cooper to Richard was the hardest and most distressing thing to process of all of this. A dream where the world is not what we know can be hard enough; a dream where we are not ourselves cuts (beautifully, by design) down to a deeper marrow-level dread. Strangely, those last few seconds brought a glimmer of hope to me. A hollow, give-it-a-few-years-to-process, End-of-Evangellion-style hope, but hope nonetheless. Laura is in there; Cooper is in there. Sheryl Lee's scream gives form to something awful and slow-building, but something that can at last be grasped and understood. I would almost go as far as finding it touching that as of that scream, they're in this nightmare together, sharing whatever strange melancholy highway adventure follows. But I'm not sure I'm capable right now of seeing this as history overwritten or undone, which is too big and dreadful to comprehend. Just a fracturing; a sideways step. One reality/Cooper/Laura of many. I Want To Believe. I Need To. If you need help giving a shape to the shapeless - as we all surely do right now, I mean, you're shaking too right now, right? - this Vox write-up by Todd VanDerWerff goes into some absolutely beautiful introspective territory. If you're trying to find fulfilment from a feeling of emptiness, this is a wonderful start. <3
  4. After 15 hours of loving new Twin Peaks unconditionally, through good times and bad, I feel as if Twin Peaks at last looked me square in the eye and said "I love you too".
  5. Another very striking thing of many this week: the absolutely seamless transition from Monica Bellucci to young Gordon. Part of me felt, against all logic and reason, as if the archival FWWM footage were shot yesterday and for this exact purpose. It really helped ground Bowie's appearance as something beautiful and worthwhile and new.
  6. God, Freddy's superhero origin story just destroyed me. I love that (a) The Giant/Fireman was so literal and descriptive, and (b) we only get this as a cheery anecdote. I feel like the Fireman character's entire history - of cryptic clues mixed with weirdly matter-of-fact statements - was a 25-year buildup to this top-shelf moment. It reminds me of a running gag from, of all shows, Little Britain, where a character who rarely says anything more thoughtful than "yeah, I'know" gets his opinions quoted back to him by his friend in a ridiculously articulate, poetic way - something we never see on screen from either of them, which forces us to take it at literal value because there's nowhere else this information could have come from. A weird comparison (and by no means an endorsement of Little Britain), but something about that setup - being forced to accept something deliberately out-of-character through the inner logic of the world itself - is such a specific and powerful comedic trigger for me. (See also: the gym set conversation.)
  7. The Idle Book Club 16: Mr. Fox

    In recent years, I've shifted from a book-as-a-sacred-object-style reader to the kind who lovingly vandalises everything with pencil annotations. To be honest, it comes from a worry that words will just wash over me. As such, no good passage can be allowed to pass without a cursory mark; a bracket or scrawl to remind Future Alastair: this is something you once feared forgetting. I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself doing this with Mr. Fox as much as any "great" book - long after deciding this wasn't my kind of novel at all. Sentence to sentence, story to story, so many individual components felt immensely satisfying in isolation. That initial frustration broadened into a much stranger spectrum of feelings, not all of them readily identifiable. And as much as I disliked the meta-structure at first, it somehow softened the sharpness of each transition. Jumping between stories gradually felt less jarring to me than it would have in a traditional short story compilation. At times this felt less than the sum of its parts; I'm increasingly convinced it was more. Either way, those parts were very lovely, and Oyeyemi has left an imprint only a talented author can leave. Thank you for choosing this very odd book. I'm glad to have read it. :-) Edit: It's a little disorienting to realise just now Helen Oyeyemi is my age. It makes Sarah's recommendation of her new story collection all the more appealing; I think of my personal changes between 27 and 31 and wonder just how different a woman she is now. All authors mature and change as human beings, of course, but the same-age thing just put it into a suddenly-very-real perspective; one that wasn't quite there for me until now.
  8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

    This is a fantastic read. Thanks!
  9. Jeff Goldblum

    Two years on, the Ian Malcolm painting (mentioned in page one of this thread) is still bringing joy to ordinary folks in Brisbane and Melbourne. We recently shot this video celebrating its strange place in our lives. We still routinely exchange it in public places. Here are a few more shots of The Goldblum Transfer in action. The number of owners recently expanded to five through marriage, and will soon be six through the miracle of childbirth. The soon-to-be parents have discussed - to what extent of seriousness, I cannot say - the possibility of bringing it to the maternity ward. (My own wife, for some strange reason, politely declined the opportunity to share the honour.)
  10. Plug your shit

    For the past five months, some friends and I have been making weekly video sketches. Some weeks it's genuine heart-and-soul material; others, a simple deadline exercise to avoid creative stagnation. I'll leave it up to you to decide where the below video falls on that spectrum. This week we decided to break form and mimic a generic YouTube gaming channel. The premise: a Super Mario Bros. speedrun by people who have never played Super Mario Bros. It's safe to say we owe the choice of end credits music to Idle Thumbs.
  11. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

    This reading experience started romantically, almost ridiculously so. I bought it in Paris at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore (the previous incarnation of which Hemingway frequented - and, more importantly, where Jesse and Celine reunited in Before Sunset). Pure, unapologetic pornography for bibliophiles. I sat outside, opened the first page, and the secondhand cigarette smoke around me instantly took on a weird benevolence. I dug the dialogue. It was rhythmic. It was effortless. Outright enviable. The economy is as every bit as good - startlingly good - as everybody says. All the same, I found this an emotionally very difficult read. I began it at the beginning of six months abroad (very much an existential course correction) still phasing out of an anxiety issue ultimately rooted in missed opportunities and long-buried relationship what-ifs. Not to overdramatise, but reading about jaded expatriates, unrealised love and people filling emotional voids with travel hit all the wrong nerves at all the wrong times. I found the whole business just achingly sad, twisted the heart into some unfamiliar and unsettling configurations. I spent very little of the the subsequent plane and train trips reading; a few pages would be enough to trigger either a thoughtful tangent or an outright panic attack. My time abroad was happily a lot more transformative than Jake's sad tale, ultimately taking me to a much better place. Six months later, on the flight back, I was delighted to find i could safely able to resume without fear of triggering crippling psychological responses. It was a meaningful bookend, bringing a lovely, measurable layer of personal growth and closure to the experience. In the interim, I started and finished Infinite Jest. I repeat: Infinite Jest was easier to read than these 122 pages. I have some issues with the book itself - particularly with the way Brett felt more like a projection of the author's frustrations than a real human being - but they feel oddly secondary and irrelevant under the circumstances. The story was good; the emotional imprint it left was far greater. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
  12. Plug your shit

    A couple of years back, I made a ridiculous faux corporate motivational song on the iPad. People responded weirdly well to it (weirdly as in "oddly specifically"; three separate listeners independently said "I sang this in the shower"). The idea of a music video was entertained and (as I seem chronically compelled to bring all high-effort, low-payoff, wouldn't-it-be-cool-if pet projects to completion) finally finished today. I couldn't resist a quick shout-out to some Thumbs fan friends with a token Weinhändler at 1:02. (You could also count the coincidental inclusion of the , which C. Remo recently embraced to great effect on Twitter.) Now the only thing left is to ask "why?"
  13. Oh my, yes. I'm also having this experience now with Infinite Jest. One of my first reading priorities when this is done (alongside reading a bunch of very short books) is to return to Pynchon and see if that resistance has softened. It's a wonderful feeling, knowing your brain has been rewired for the better.
  14. Episode 8... ?

    I assumed disappearing from the front page was only an innocent side effect of introducing a fifth podcast to the pantheon.
  15. Tone Control is a Podcast!

    While I understand the practical desire for mono, likely putting me in the minority here: I have to say the stereo in this was abnormally good. It brought a real sense of warmth and space and being there very few podcasts offer, and genuinely enhanced the experience for me. Perhaps narrowing the left-to-right balance would be a nice happy medium. Food for thought. May I ask what kind of mic you used for this? It's exactly what I've been searching for in my own podcasting projects. Steve, I really dug your interviewing - perhaps "conversational" is a better word here - technique. You have a good instinct for guiding the discussion along; more a social skill than a journalistic one. It really works. And Sean's talk of channelling anxieties into creative energy aligned perfectly with some personal thoughts I was trying to process at the time. I cannot stress how important it was to hear those specific words at that specific time. Thank you.
  16. Infinite Jest

    After a solid 6-8 months of incredible and thrilling reading momentum (sparked, as it happens, by the Idle Book Club), my decision to take on Infinite Jest ground it to a complete halt. For the first 200 pages, it had the perpetual feeling of finally-starting-to-stop-feeling-like-a-chore, without ever fully crossing that threshold. Kind of the literary version of being on the verge of a sneeze. At some hazy point after this, however (for me, somewhere between the video phone essay and the Elder Incandenza's garage monologue), it actually stops feeling like a chore. The little vignette-like scenes begin (though this may be an illusion from simply adapting to the style) to feel more confident, swaying more wildly between overtly comedic and empathic/heartbreaking. The uncomfortable sensation of missing out of something vital, of not getting it, of enduring based purely on the recommendations of readers you trust: all gone. After 200 pages or so, reading it suddenly takes on a frantic urgency. I'm not convinced this stumbling block was strictly necessary. DFW made the deliberately challenging choice to introduce us to characters who would not appear until hundreds of pages later (i.e. most of the Ennet House residents), while parading around other characters who only get a proper introduction and context much further in (i.e. most of the ETA students and faculty). It makes me wonder if it was an Umberto Ecoey trick to weed out all but the most attentive. Either way, the feeling of passing that early endurance test - of being trusted to make connections yourself - is certainly a powerful one. I've been treating it as a multi-month writing course, with extensive, increasingly blunted, sometimes borderline-incoherent pencil notes scrawled on every page. This book is making me a better reader, a better writer and a more empathic human being. This book. Seriously, you guys. This book.
  17. Dota Today 1: QOP Top and POTM Bottom

    Despite not being part of the target audience, I am genuinely thrilled to see the Idle Thumbs empire expand. Congrats Nick, congrats Sean.
  18. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

    "A Howling Good Read." - Sorry, sorry. I finished this yesterday and would happily rank it among my all-time favourites. Hilary Mantel has such an admirable, intimidating way of reshaping the English language to her will without ever seeming show-offy. Every other page, a passage would make me respond audibly with a "wow", a wince, or simply a laugh in delight; not in reaction to the the story itself, but the way it was written. Accomplished, but - I've ben grasping for the right term for a while now - practical? Workmanlike? Either she can write like this in her sleep, or every line is the work of incredible thought and economy. Either way, it's just mind-boggling that she can apply that talent to a book of this size. It's odd to call a reading experience exhilarating, especially for such a dense text, but here it fits. It is exhilarating. I felt I ought to be smoking a cigarette afterwards.
  19. Books, books, books...

    So many great authors can reward your intelligence by forcing you to make the final little connection that gives it meaning. With Pynchon, you're grasping for connections that may not become obvious until the end. With some more out-there authors, you're grasping for connections that might never be clear outside the author's own head. (This is why I'm reluctant to open Naked Lunch.) I envy anyone who can feel good about themselves during this process. I just got a Goodreads notification about Julian Barns's new book, which sounds fascinating. It's a very short read, but not, by any account, a very light one.
  20. My friends, you had me at Video Games.
  21. Audio books

    It comes down to how much "dead time" you have; points where the part of your brain that can process a story are free, but the parts that are able to hold and read a book are not. Driving, walking, jogging, cleaning, shopping. Any mindless, habitual activity that leaves your ears and brain to their own devices. If it's a very, very good book, you may even find yourself catching an extra minute or two while brushing your teeth or getting ready in the morning. It's not practical for everyone, of course. Personally, I drive about 90 minutes per day, so I quite enjoy using it to push forward with novels I am also physically reading. Having the actual text on hand can help counter the feeling that you're somehow "cheating", if that's ever an issue. Either way, it's an absolute godsend if you ever feel you've stalled with your usual reading habits.
  22. Audio books

    I know there's a lot of love around these parts for The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I can confirm audio version is up to the task. The book's strength is in its ability to quietly switch between four very different perspectives, showing the would through four sets of eyes while remaining in the stylistically consistent third person. The narrator brings each of these four voices, well, a voice. It's every bit as warm and heartfelt as the source.
  23. Infinite Jest

    I've been pulling myself through the first chapter for a couple of months now, returning to it briefly in between other books, appreciating the (deliberately) stilted scene from a great distance, but never feeling the drive to keep going. Finally, 19 dense pages in, the narrator finally opens his mouth. And so does David Foster Wallace. Wow. I think I get it now. Suddenly, the remaining 1038 pages are a very exciting prospect.
  24. The Idle Book Club 8: Cosmicomics

    From the basic premise, I'd assumed somewhere in the back of my head this would involve personifications of astral bodies and elements, rather than a (near enough) human perspective. And so when I reached page two (after several halfhearted attempts) and a ladder to the moon came out, I did a huge double-take. Wait. This inspired Pixar's "La Luna"? About half way through, it's the stories closest to this that have stood out so far. A tiny human perspective of huge concepts of time and space, expressed as bittersweet love stories. These ingredients also stood out in the story of a world without colour. By comparison, the etherial drifting through space hasn't been quite as gripping; the wonders of the universe are all the more wonderful through human eyes.
  25. Idle Book Club Episode 7: By Blood

    (The above post was presumably in response to the Zodiac picture I posted; a fact now made much less obvious by an edit. Sorry - it was starting to creep me out!) Yeah, I pictured a substantially older, more conservative-looking, less unhinged version of that illustration. In other words, an almost entirely different face, now I'm actually looking at it in detail. But he definitely had glasses!