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E Unibus Pluram (1993)

In the early 90s, David Foster Wallace wrote an essay called E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction. It was published in the June 22, 1993 issue of Review of Contemporary Fiction.

In honor of its 30th anniversary since publication, I've done a narration of it. FLAC, about 328 MiB:

Wallace's writing is extremely dense — I would not recommend multitasking to it — and uses some complicated vocabulary words that I probably mispronounced, so I thought it would be nice to provide a scrolling text video to act as a simple accompaniment:

This essay arrived to me via Will Schoder's 2016 video David Foster Wallace - The Problem with Irony. This was when my interest in film was growing, my patience for advertising was shrinking, and I was seeking out more media critique.

I'm posting this article to my /writing page, primarily because I don't have a separate RSS feed for purely audio or video releases, so I feel like I need to write something here to justify it. But really, I'd rather let Wallace's words speak for themselves, and I'm just going to provide a few bullet points that come to mind insted of trying to prose it out:

Some behind-the-scenes remarks about my read-along video:

I don't make a lot of videos and I don't know what video editor would typically be considered the best for producing this kind of thing. The only video editor I have is an older copy of Adobe Premiere (from before they turned subscription-only) and it could not handle such a huge amount of text in a single text box. I of course did not want to bother with managing tens of smaller-but-still-as-large-as-it-can-handle text chunks or downloading other editors. I wouldn't be surprised if 3Blue1Brown's manim could be coerced to perform this, though, since the goal of scrolling text is so easy to define programmatically. If I needed to make a lot of these I'd probably try.

But, I don't need to make a lot of these, I just needed to make one. So, I prepared this HTML page that scrolls by itself, and recorded the screen with OBS. Yes, it took 144 minutes, but that's fine because I just set an alarm and took a nap.

To set the pace of the automatic scroll, which varies over time, I added data-timestamp attributes to each of the headers and several of the paragraphs to act as keyframes, and wrote javascript to choose a speed between each keyframe. I did not bother to add any seek functionality because it only needed to work once.

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