Music

Parks & Rec Creator Michael Schur Directs New Decemberists Video

Here is Michael Schur on directing the video for the Decemberists “Calamity Song,” which was inspired by David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest…

The band’s manager, Jason, contacted me through his brother Michael (with whom I went to college) and asked me to direct a video they were planning that referenced a section of the book Infinite Jest. The Decemberists are my favorite band, and Infinite Jest is my favorite book. This was tantamount to telling me I had just won two simultaneous Powerball lottery jackpots, on my birthday, which was also Christmas. Thus, my response to him was that, although I was pretty sure this was an elaborate dream I was having, if it were in fact real, then yes, I would be interested. The production team on Parks and Recreation, many of whom are also big fans, volunteered their time and energy, and we shot the whole thing in one day in Portland. Infinite Jest geeks will hopefully enjoy all of the specific references and small details, but we tried to design it so that those with no knowledge of the book at all would be able to understand and enjoy it, as well.

Schur directing a Decemberists video for a song based on David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece even merited a lengthy feature in today’s New York Times

The video, which makes its online debut on Monday, depicts the playing of Eschaton, a game invented by Wallace that he describes about 325 pages into “Infinite Jest.”

Adolescents from a New England tennis academy are seen ritualistically serving balls on a court onto which a map of the world has been superimposed. The balls, which represent five-megaton nuclear warheads, are aimed at objects labeled as military targets — power plants, missile installations — while a lone child oversees the game from a nearby computer terminal.

All in all, it ain’t exactly Battleship. Wallace himself wrote that the athletic skills required by Eschaton separated it “from rotisserie-league holocaust games played with protractors and PCs around kitchen tables.”

And of course, such a lofty music video couldn’t be debuted on YouTube or Vimeo. So instead the honor went to NPR, naturally. It’s embedded below…

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