Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Decemberists, DFW, and Eschaton

The other day, my friend Brian shared the new music video from the band The Decemberists with me. It's called "Calamity Song," and was actually inspired by the book Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, one of my favorite writers ever.

The video takes a scene from the novel in which a bunch of kids at a private tennis academy invent a complex game called Eschaton, in which they spread out on tennis courts and divide teams into various global regions, represented by abbreviations like SOUTHAF (for South Africa), INDPAK (for India/Pakistan), etc.

The game involves hitting tennis balls at your opponent's regions or military facilities, and trying to destroy them. There is one boy who uses a complex computer program that he wrote to determine casualties and other important statistics.

The game Eschaton is, I think, meant as an ironic parody of the abstract way American people think about war. The horrors of war are distant abstractions. But the problem arises when one of the players in the game breaks the rules and hits a tennis ball directly at another player. This causes a total riot/fight, and the leader of the game puts on his "Total Global Crisis" hat.

This scene in the book is meant to collapse our postmodern abstractions of war, and to show the awful reality that abstract political debate hides.

The word "Eschaton" is a Biblical one, referring to the end of the world, as in "eschatology." Anyway, having said all that, here's the video, which I think is pretty fantastic. Thanks, Brian.

Calamity Song - The Decemberists from conway on Vimeo.

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