David Foster Wallace on Ambition
“If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.” - David Foster Wallace.
It’s Episode #3 from our new series with PBS Digital Studios
Interview originally aired on the Leonard Lopate Show WNYC | 1996
Moon Rise Time Slice…. this is a collage of 11 photos taken over 27 minutes and 59 seconds
Gorgeous. Also photographic proof that the moon is not, in fact, larger near the horizon. That is merely an illusion.
What do they call that illusion? “The Moon Illusion” of course. ASAPScience did a really nice video about it.
Not only that, but see how the moon is red near the horizon? That’s because of the same science that makes the sunsets red and orange! And I did a video about that: “Why is the Sky Any Color At All?”
It all comes together, man! Science!
In the Metro section of yesterday’s New York Times, I published a story about a Renaissance chorus that performs religious songs, a cappella, in a variety of public spaces around New York City. It’s an incredible honor to see my byline in print in the New York Times; this is my biggest byline thus far, and feels, to me anyway, like one of those rare measurable steps-up in life. They are rare, aren’t they? You try very hard at something which seems impossible at the outset. And then it happens, and your understanding of yourself and the preceding weeks/months/years grows in some discernable, positive way.
This story began as a project for class, and was ultimately about twice as long as what ran in the Times. Since moving to New York, I’ve developed a nerdy fascination with the subway system, and was one day poking around on the MTA’s website when I came upon the page for their Music Under New York program, an initiative which grants performance permits to groups who play in public spaces around the city. The Renaissance Street Singers were prominently featured by the MTA, and, crucially, their leader had created a website and listed his contact info. I’ve spent a lot of time with that man, John Hetland, before, during and after the five performances I’ve seen the group give, and learned much about his life. John’s homosexuality, his move to New York, and his co-habitation with his longtime boyfriend, Alan MacKinnon, were a source of strife between him and his father, Henry, who was a pastor. (The published version of the article elides most of this, in the interest of space and tone.) John and Alan had a passionate, tempestuous relationship: John is shy, cerebral, retiring, while Alan was gregarious, animated, and drank heavily. He died in 1997 from liver failure, and when Henry Hetland spoke at the memorial service, he referred to Alan as his son-in-law. There’s a wall in the beautiful Chelsea loft they shared which John has decorated with photos of him and Alan. They met in 1974, the second year of the Street Singers, when Alan saw them performing, thought John was cute, and decided to join the group. He wasn’t that interested in performing, but John, it turns out, reciprocated his feelings. Alan quit the group shortly thereafter.
I finally got around to reading the epic, two-part, 28,000 word story published in the November/December issues of Texas Monthly. It’s called “The Innocent Man,” by Pamela Colloff, and concerns a man named Michael Morton who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife, for which he spent 25 years in jail. It’s one of the best magazine stories I’ve ever read—maybe the best—and was rightfully nominated for a National Magazine Award in the Feature Writing category. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.
3. Do not judge sites on anything other than the piece in front of your eyes. One of the beauties of the Internet is there’s a clean slate every single day, and just because one piece of content is vile and the worst thing ever doesn’t mean that it’s the hardline editorial stance of an entire site, or even the personal philosophy of that particular writer. It will go away.
I agree with a number of things on this list, but that an editor would write the above is mind-blowing to me. Isn’t this an explicitly anti-editorial take? Does Noisey reimagine its content and audience every day?
Hey, cats. Check out my new #handmade wonder. It is an English-Case style #book sewn on a frame with linen tapes. The spine was rounded with a hammer and the headbands hand-sewn with the utmost precision. Be impressed, because it took forever! : ) #bookbinding
So this is pretty great.
Yesterday I posted a fairly peeved note concerning Jessica Hopper’s Chicago Reader article about Vampire Weekend. (She’s responded to that note, very graciously, on her blog, but that seems to have vanished.) My note led to a spike in traffic, which was unexpected: if I’d realized it’d catch much attention, I might have explained myself more carefully. The essay below is an attempt to outline my thoughts beyond the mere pique of the thing. Some of you may have heard me talk about this stuff before, but it seemed worth setting down a full, coherent version of it; read at your leisure.
Let me note first, though, that the point here is not to snipe at Hopper, whose work I enjoy. More importantly, the issue I’m about to outline is not really about the music of Vampire Weekend. I do not need you to like their music. But I do want you to think about the culture of our criticism, because I feel like it’s ever more beholden to a kind of blind posturing that wants to stop it from saying anything useful or true. Let’s go ahead and call this posturing The Game.
This is the cultural criticism of the year. And it’s particularly timely given that Vampire Weekend just released streams of two new songs that I actually, uh, kinda like?
For the March issue of TRIBEZA magazine, in Austin, I wrote the cover profile of country musician Ryan Bingham, and also a feature about Psych Fest in advance of its sixth year. Dan Winters and Matt Rainwaters did amazing photog work, per usual. If you’re in Austin, pick it up—it’s free—but if not, you can digitally read the magazine here. The Bingham profile starts on p. 52, and the Psych Fest feature, which has a cool pictorial history at the end, begins on p. 76.