Cage III — Free Show (Infinite Jest)

Cage III — Free Show. B.S. Latrodectus Mactans Productions/Infernatron Animation Concepts, Canada. Cosgrove Watt, P. A. Heaven, Everard Maynell, Pam Heath; partial animation; 35 mm.; 65 minutes; black and white; sound.

The figure of Death (Heath) presides over the front entrance of a carnival sideshow whose spectators watch performers undergo unspeakable degradations so grotesquely compelling that the spectators’ eyes become larger and larger until the spectators themselves are transformed into gigantic eyeballs in chairs, while on the other side of the sideshow tent the figure of Life (Heaven) uses a megaphone to invite fairgoers to an exhibition in which, if the fairgoers consent to undergo unspeakable degradations, they can witness ordinary persons gradually turn into gigantic eyeballs.

INTERLACE TELENT FEATURE CARTRIDGE #357-65-65

From David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest.

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“Your first nightmare away from home” (Infinite Jest)

Your first nightmare away from home and folks, your first night at the Academy, it was there all along: The dream is that you awaken from a deep sleep, wake up suddenly damp and panicked and are overwhelmed with the sudden feeling that there is a distillation of total evil in this dark strange subdorm room with you, that evil’s essence and center is right here, in this room, right now. And is for you alone. None of the other little boys in the room are awake; the bunk above yours sags dead, motionless; no one moves; no one else in the room feels the presence of something radically evil; none thrash or sit damply up; no one else cries out: whatever it is is not evil for them. The flashlight your mother name-tagged with masking tape and packed for you special pans around the institutional room: the drop-ceiling, the gray striped mattress and bulged grid of bunksprings above you, the two other bunkbeds another matte gray that won’t return light, the piles of books and compact disks and tapes and tennis gear; your disk of white light trembling like the moon on water as it plays over the identical bureaus, the recessions of closet and room’s front door, door’s frame’s bolections; the cone of light pans over fixtures, the lumpy jumbles of sleeping boys’ shadows on the snuff-white walls, the two rag throw-rugs’ ovals on the hardwood floor, black lines of baseboards’ reglets, the cracks in the Venetian blinds that ooze the violet nonlight of a night with snow and just a hook of moon; the flashlight with your name in maternal cursive plays over every cm. of the walls, the rheostats, CD, Inter-Lace poster of Tawni Kondo, phone console, desks’ TPs, the face in the floor, posters of pros, the onionskin yellow of the desklamps’ shades, the ceiling-panels’ patterns of pinholes, the grid of upper bunk’s springs, recession of closet and door, boys wrapped in blankets, slight crack like a creek’s course in the eastward ceiling discernible now, maple reglet border at seam of ceiling and walls north and south no floor has a face your flashlight showed but didn’t no never did see its eyes’ pupils set sideways and tapered like a cat’s its eyebrows’ \ / and horrid toothy smile leering right at your light all the time you’ve been scanning oh mother a face in the floor mother oh and your flashlight’s beam stabs jaggedly back for the overlooked face misses it overcorrects then centers on what you’d felt but had seen without seeing, just now, as you’d so carefully panned the light and looked, a face in the floor there all the time but unfelt by all others and unseen by you until you knew just as you felt it didn’t belong and was evil: Evil.

And then its mouth opens at your light.

And then you wake like that, quivering like a struck drum, lying there awake and quivering, summoning courage and spit, roll to the right just as in the dream for the nametagged flashlight on the floor by the bed just in case, lie there on your shank and side, shining the light all over, just as in the dream. Lie there panning, looking, all ribs and elbows and dilated eyes. The awake floor is littered with gear and dirty clothes, blond hardwood with sealed seams, two throw-rugs, the bare waxed wood shiny in the windows’ snowlight, the floor neutral, faceless, you cannot see any face in the floor, awake, lying there, faceless, blank, dilated, playing beam over floor again and again, not sure all night forever unsure you’re not missing something that’s right there: you lie there, awake and almost twelve, believing with all your might.

From David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

“Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm?” (Moby-Dick)

“What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who, that lifts this arm? But if the great sun move not of himself; but is as an errand-boy in heaven; nor one single star can revolve, but by some invisible power; how then can this one small heart beat; this one small brain think thoughts; unless God does that beating, does that thinking, does that living, and not I. By heaven, man, we are turned round and round in this world, like yonder windlass, and Fate is the handspike. And all the time, lo! that smiling sky, and this unsounded sea! Look! see yon Albicore! who put it into him to chase and fang that flying-fish? Where do murderers go, man! Who’s to doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar? But it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky; and the air smells now, as if it blew from a far-away meadow; they have been making hay somewhere under the slopes of the Andes, Starbuck, and the mowers are sleeping among the new-mown hay. Sleeping? Aye, toil we how we may, we all sleep at last on the field. Sleep? Aye, and rust amid greenness; as last year’s scythes flung down, and left in the half-cut swaths—Starbuck!”

But blanched to a corpse’s hue with despair, the Mate had stolen away.

From “The Symphony,” Chapter 132 of Melville’s Moby-Dick. The speaker is, of course, Ahab.

 

“Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them” (Moby-Dick)

Oh, grassy glades! oh, ever vernal endless landscapes in the soul; in ye,—though long parched by the dead drought of the earthy life,—in ye, men yet may roll, like young horses in new morning clover; and for some few fleeting moments, feel the cool dew of the life immortal on them. Would to God these blessed calms would last. But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause:—through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.

From “The Glider,” Chapter 114 of Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Boredom // F. Scott Fitzgerald

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“Imperfect Resume” — Flann O’Brien

Selection from Flann O’Brien’s novel At Swim-Two-Birds:

The following, imperfect resume or summary as it is, may be taken as a general indication of the scholarly trend of the conversation sustained without apparent effort by the three of them.

It is not generally known, observed Mr. Furriskey, that the coefficient of expansion of all gases is the same. A gas expands to the extent of a hundred and seventy-third part of its own volume in respect of each degree of increased temperature centrigrade. The specific gravity of ice is 0.92, marble 2.70, iron (cast) 7.20 and iron (wrought) 7.79. One mile is equal to 1.6093 kilometres reckoned to the nearest ten-thousandth part of a whole number.

True, Mr. Furriskey, remarked Mr. Paul Shanahan with a quiet smile that revealed a whiteness of the teeth, but a man who confines knowledge to formulae necessary for the resolution of an algebraic or other similar perplexity, the same deserves to be shot with a fusil, or old-fashioned light musket. True knowledge is unpractised or abstract usefulness. Consider this, that salt in solution is an excellent emetic and may be administered with safety to persons who are accustomed to eat poisonous berries or consume cacodyl, an evil-smelling compound of arsenic and methyl. A cold watch-key applied to the neck will relieve nose-bleeding. Banana-skins are invaluable for imparting a gloss to brown shoes.

To say that salt in solution, Lamont objected finely, is a pleasing emetic is a triviality related to inconsequent ephemera – the ever-perishing plasms of the human body. The body is too transient a vessel to warrant other than perfunctory investigation. Only in this regard is it important, that it affords the mind a basis for speculation and conjecture. Let me recommend to you, Mr. Shanahan, the truer spiritual prophylaxis contained in the mathematics of Mr. Furriskey. Ratiocination on the ordered basis of arithmetic is man’s passport to the infinite. God is the root of minus one. He is too great a profundity to be compassed by human cerebration. But Evil is finite and comprehensible and admits of calculation. Minus One, Zero and Plus One are the three insoluble riddles of the Creation.

Mr. Shanahan laughed in a cultured manner.

The riddle of the universe I might solve if I had a mind to, he said, but I prefer the question to the answer. It serves men like us as a bottomless pretext for scholarly dialectic.

Other points not unworthy of mention, mentioned Mr. Furriskey in an absent-minded though refined manner, are the following: the great pyramid at Gizeh is 450 feet high and ranks as one of the seven wonders of the world, the others being the hanging gardens of Babylon, the tomb of Mausolus in Asia Minor, the colossus of Rhodes, the temple of Diana, the statue of Jupiter at Olympia and the Pharos Lighthouse built by Ptolemy the First about three hundred and fifty years B.C. Hydrogen freezes at minus 253 degrees centigrade, equivalent to minus 423 on the Fahrenheit computation.

Everyday or colloquial names for chemical substances, observed Mr. Shanahan, cream of tartar – bitartate of potassium, plaster of Paris – sulphate of calcium, water – oxide of hydrogen. Bells and watches on board ship: first dog – 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., second dog – 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., afternoon-noon to 4 p.m. Paris, son of Priam, King of Troy, carried off the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta and thus caused the Trojan War.

The name of the wife, said Lamont, was Helen. A camel is unable to swim owing to the curious anatomical distribution of its weight, which would cause its head to be immersed if the animal were placed in deep water. Capacity in electricity is measured by the farad; one microfarad is equal to one millionth of a farad. A carbuncle is a fleshy excrescence resembling the wattles of a turkey-cock. Sphragistics is the study of engraved seals.

 

Excellent, remarked Mr. Furriskey with that quiet smile which endeared him to everyone who happened to come his way, but do not overlook this, that the velocity of light in vacuo is 186,325 miles per second. The velocity of sound in air is 1,120 feet per second, in tin 8,150 feet per second, in walnut mahogany and heavy timbers 11,000 feet per second approximately; in firwood, 20,000 feet per second. Sine 15 degrees is equal to the root of six minus the root of two, the whole divided by four. Percentages of £1: 1-1/4 per cent, threepence; 5 per cent, one shilling; 12-1/2 percent, a half a crown. Some metric equivalents: one mile equals 1.6093 kilometres; one inch equals 2.54 centimetres; one ounce equals 28.352 grams. The chemical symbol of Calcium is Ca and of Cadmium, Cd. A Trapezoid may be defined as a four-sided figure capable of being transformed into two triangles by the means of a diagonal line.

Some curious facts about the Bible, Mr. Lamont mentioned politely, the longest chapter is Psalm 119 and the briefest, Psalm 117. The Apocrypha contains 14 Books. The first English translation was published in A.D. 1535.

Some notable dates in the history of the world, observed Mr. Shanahan, B.C. 753, foundation of Rome by Romulus, 490 B.C., Battle of Marathon, A.D. 1498, Vasco da Gama sailed around South Africa and reached India, 23 April 1564 Shakespeare was born.

It was then that Mr. Furriskey surprised and indeed, delighted his companions, not to mention our two friends, by a little act which at once demonstrated his resource and his generous urge to spread enlightenment. With the end of his costly malacca cane, he cleared away the dead leaves at his feet and drew the outline of three dials or clock-faces on the fertile soil in this fashion:

0 0 0 9 \ 1 1 9 9 1 8 \ 2 2 8 8 2 o o. o-,._ 7 3 3 \ 7 7 3 6 4 4 `6 6 4 5 5 5

How to read the gas-meter, he announced. Similar dials to these somewhat crudely depicted at my feet may be observed on any gas-meter. To ascertain the consumption of gas, one should procure pencil and paper and write down the figures nearest to the indicator on each dial – thus in the present hypothetical case 963. To this one should add two zeros or noughts, making the number 96,300. This is the answer and represents the consumption of gas in cubic feet. The reading of the electric-meter for the discovery of consumption in Kilowatt-hours is more intricate than the above and would require the help of six dials fox demonstration purposes – more indeed than I have room for in the space I have cleared of withered leaves, even assuming the existing dials could be adapted for the purpose.

Thereafter these three savant or wise men of the East began to talk together in a rapid manner and showered forth pearls of knowledge and erudition, gems without price, invaluable carbuncles of sophistry and scholastic science, thomistic maxims, intricate theorems in plane geometry and lengthy extracts from Kant’s Kritik der reinischen Vernunst. Frequent use was made of words unheard of by illiterates and persons of inferior education exempli gratia saburra or foul granular deposit in the pit of the stomach, tachylyte, a vitreous form of basalt, tapir, a hoofed mammal with the appearance of a swine, capon, castrated cock, triacontahedral, having thirty sides or surfaces and botargo, relish of mullet or tunny roe. The following terms relating to the science of medicine were used with surprising frequency videlicet thyme, exophthalmus, scirrhus, and mycetoma meaning respectively food when acted upon by gastric juices and converted into acid pulp, protrusion of the eye-ball, hard malignant tumour and fungoid disease of hand or foot. Aestho-therapy was touched upon and reference made to the duodenum, that is, the primary part of the small intestine, and the caecum or blind gut. Flowers and plants rarely mentioned in ordinary conversation were accorded their technical or quasi-botanical titles without difficulty or hesitation for instance now fraxinella species of garden dittany, canna plant with decorative blossoms, bifoliate of two leaves (also bifurcate forked), cardamom spice from the germinal capsules of certain East India plants, granadilla passion flower, knapweed hard-stemmed worthless plant, campanulla plant with bell-shaped blossoms, and dittany see fraxinella above. Unusual animals mentioned were the pangolin, chipmuck, echidna, babiroussa and bandicoot, of which a brief descriptive account would be (respectively), scabrous-spined scaly ant-eater, American squirrel aliter wood-rat, Australian toothless animal resembling the hedgehog, Asiatic wild-hog, large Indian insectivorous marsupial resembling the rat.

 

“…all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude…” (Moby-Dick)

It was while gliding through these latter waters that one serene and moonlight night, when all the waves rolled by like scrolls of silver; and, by their soft, suffusing seethings, made what seemed a silvery silence, not a solitude; on such a silent night a silvery jet was seen far in advance of the white bubbles at the bow. Lit up by the moon, it looked celestial; seemed some plumed and glittering god uprising from the sea. Fedallah first descried this jet. For of these moonlight nights, it was his wont to mount to the main-mast head, and stand a look-out there, with the same precision as if it had been day. And yet, though herds of whales were seen by night, not one whaleman in a hundred would venture a lowering for them. You may think with what emotions, then, the seamen beheld this old Oriental perched aloft at such unusual hours; his turban and the moon, companions in one sky. But when, after spending his uniform interval there for several successive nights without uttering a single sound; when, after all this silence, his unearthly voice was heard announcing that silvery, moon-lit jet, every reclining mariner started to his feet as if some winged spirit had lighted in the rigging, and hailed the mortal crew. “There she blows!” Had the trump of judgment blown, they could not have quivered more; yet still they felt no terror; rather pleasure. For though it was a most unwonted hour, yet so impressive was the cry, and so deliriously exciting, that almost every soul on board instinctively desired a lowering.

From “The Spirit Spout,” Chapter 51 of Melville’s Moby-Dick