Saturday, July 03, 2004

What happens when you mistake the map for the territory?

Some British road-line painters found out the hard way. (Look at the picture in a different version of this story and decide if you believe they painted the lines that way on purpose, all the while pondering the postmodern ambiguity of it all.)

Mason & Dixon, p. 141:
Occasionally Insanty roll'd a sly Eye-ball into the picture. Treatises on "parageography" arriv'd, with alternative Maps of the world superimpos'd upon the more familiar ones.

Friday, July 02, 2004

What if the United States returned sovereignty to Native Americans?

pynchonoid was thinking of Mason & Dixon and its alternative ending when he encountered's page of Photoshopped answers to this timely 4th of July weekend query.

"it's all theatre"

United Press International:
....after quotes from the proceedings began to be read by Arabic language news services, the paranoia turned to pride as it was apparent that Saddam was arguing with his captors. Then after only a small portion of audio was released, the mood changed back to conspiracy. "Saddam will never really be tried for he knows all the secrets of Bush and America," one said. "He will tell the world about them and they can't let that happen."
BBC News Online:
Mr Berg - who has previously blamed the Bush administration for his son's death - said he had always held anti-war views and his opinions had not changed. He said he was "doing what I have always done. I'm a retired person who protests the war whenever given the opportunity." Ironically, "the opportunities given to me since my son was murdered have grown tremendously. I feel an obligation to take advantage of them. I don't feel at all ashamed for doing it," he said. But Mr Berg complained that the US media "won't let me give my story".... In an interview with one US network, he alleged, he had been cut off when he tried to express his political views after describing the personal horror of his experience. He said he had been asked to remove a T-shirt reading Bring the Troops Home Now before going on air. When he refused, Mr Berg alleged, producers deliberately limited camera angles to a headshot to avoid publicising his anti-war stance.
Associated Press:
A defiant Saddam Hussein rejected charges of war crimes and genocide against him in a court appearance Thursday, telling a judge "this is all theater, the real criminal is Bush."
Gravity's Rainbow:
It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it's all theatre.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The offhand and fragmentary Memos show one more thing about Charles Ives. In the old days, in music and in prose he had done rough sketches like most artists, then fleshed out and connected and shaped them. By 1932 he had lost the energy or ability to connect and shape, to follow through. His writings of latger years are letters, memos, isolated pages of poetry and rant. That is why though he still had musical ideas he could no longer compose; nothing pulled together any more. The centrifugal elements of his nature had lost their coherence, his pen its directing consciousness. Paradox was no longer part of his message but part of his problem. As the Memos reveal, Ives had fallen into dissenting fragments.

This passage, in Jan Swafford's engaging biography of American musical genius, Charles Ives, Charles Ives: A Life With Music, reminded me of Slothrop's disintegration in Gravity's Rainbow (page numbers, in brackets, from the 1973 Viking and 1987 Penguin editions): now--early Virgo--he has become one plucked albatross [...] Scattered all over the Zone. It's doubtful if he can ever be "found" again, in the converntial sense of "positively identified and detained." [712]

He's [Bodine] looking straight at Slothrop (being one of the few who can still see Slothrop as any sort of integral creature any more. Most of the others gave up long ago trying to hold him together, even as a concept--"It's just got too remote" 's what they usually say. [740]

Another Ives/Pynchon parallel, also from Swafford's biography: Ives refused to accept a gold medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, reminiscent of Pynchon's refusal of the Howells Medal.

As pynchonoid nears the end of Swafford's book - stretching out the reading the better to savor it - yet another parallel:
The Pulitzer Prize [1947] set off one more period of discovery. Ives was all for attention to the music but steadily fought off publicity about his person. A press photographer practically broke into the Redding house, but was kept at bay by a fresh-painted floor and ejected.

This echoes a myth about Pynchon - who, like Ives, protects his privacy - that appears to have been shattered by fellow pynchonoid, Richard Lane, as revealed in a Pynchon-l post in May. Sorry, but Pynchon apparently did not jump out a window to avoid a photographer in Mexico.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

...from: New Disney film takes different view of U.S.: America's Heart and Soul a contrast to Fahrenheit 9/11 in today's San Francisco Chronicle:
In an irony even Mickey Mouse would find hard to miss, America is about to weigh two wildly contrasting versions of itself in theaters this weekend as the Walt Disney Co. debuts its own foray into documentary filmmaking right alongside Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- which the studio refused to release. [...] In contrast to its scathing critique of Bush foreign policy, the messages in "America's Heart and Soul" -- which will begin playing on 100 screens Friday -- are more thematic, general and affirming. Besides their espoused patriotism, Puritan work ethic and shared can-do-it-ness, Disney's mini- profile subjects give voice to no particular political philosophy. Message detection may prove a more nuanced, subjective exercise -- a bit like deconstructing "Up With People" or a Super Bowl halftime show.

....from Gravity's Rainbow, pp. 134-135
Everybody you don't suspect is in on this, everybody but you: the chaplain, the doctor, your mother hoping to hang that Gold Star, the vapid soprano last night on the Home Service programme, let's not forget Mr. Noel Coward so styling and cute about death and the afterlife, packing them into the Ducess for the fourth year running, the lads in Hollywood telling us how grand it all is over here, how much fun, Walt Disney causing Dumbo the elephant to clutch to that feather like how many carcasses under the snow tonight among the white-painted tanks, how many hands each frozen around a Miraculous Medal, luck piece of worn bone, half-dollar with the grinning sun peering up under Liberty's wispy gown, clutching, dumb, when the 88 fell--what do you think, it's a children's story? There aren't any.

[Insert headline and url of news story re: Iraq or other current War]

"It means this War was never political at all, the
politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people
distracted ... secretly, it was being dictated instead
by the needs of technology ... by a conspiracy between
human beings and techniques, by something that needed
the energy--burst of war, crying, 'Money be damned,
the very life of [insert name of Nation] is at stake,'
but meaning, most likely, dawn is nearly here, I need
my night's blood, my funding, funding, ahh more,
more.... The real crises were crises of allocation and
priority, not among firms--it was only staged to look
that way--but among the different Technologies,
Plastics, Electronics, Aircraft, and their needs which
are understood only by the ruling elite ..." (GR, Pt.
III, p. 521)
....More than one outsider I corresponded with compared the meeting to a support group. I was struck more by its religious overtones. The transhumanists have their sacred texts, The Engines of Creation and Mind Children among them. They have communal gatherings, which usually occur online. They have a set of beliefs about resurrection and the afterlife, couched in the language of cryonics and computers. They divide the world into believers and infidels (the “bio-Luddites”), and they call on one another to evangelize—or, as they often put it, “spread our memes.” Many transhumanists believe that we’re approaching an apocalyptic end-time they call “The Singularity,” a convergence of technological developments that will push the rate of change so dramatically that the world could be transformed beyond recognition. The WTA states that if The Singularity comes, it will probably be caused by the creation of self-enhancing, superintelligent beings.

If the religious elements also sound like science fiction, there’s a good reason. The concept of The Singularity comes from Vernon Vinge’s novel Marooned in Realtime (1986). Arthur Clarke wrote about mind uploading in The City and the Stars, first published in 1956. Robert Ettinger got the idea for cryonics from a story called “The Jameson Satellite” by Neil R. Jones, published in a 1931 issue of the science-fiction magazine Amazing Stories. In that story, a man specifies in his will that, when he dies, his body is to be shot into space, where it will be frozen and preserved. Millions of years later, he’s thawed out by robots and given a mechanical body so that he can live forever.

...not to mention the cyborg elements in V. that Carl Elliott doesn't mention in his interesting Wilson Quarterly article, Humanity 2.0.

pynchonoid gives Mr. Pynchon the parting shot, from his 1984 essay, Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?:
"If our world survives, the next great challenge to watch out for will come -- you heard it here first -- when the curves of research and development in artificial intelligence, molecular biology and robotics all converge. Oboy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"Would it surprise you to know that all the major combatants involved in World War II used pornography as part of their psychological operations (PSYOP) strategy?" asks PSYOPS vet Sergeant Major Herbert A. Friedman (ret.) at Sex and Psychological Operations, a site that offers examples of WWII porn PSYOPS flyers.

Pirate Prentice was surprised to find himself the target of such a operation - not, pynchonoid suspects, because he was unaware of such PSYOPS tactics, but because his own government was using such tactics against him...with a nasty, paranoia-inducing twist:
Like every young man growing up in England, he was conditioned to get a hardon in the presence of certain fetishes, and then conditioned to feel shame about his new reflexes. Could there be, somewhere, a dossier, could They (They?) somehow have managed to monitor everything he saw and read since puberty . . . . how else would They know? [GR, 71-72]

An often-obnoxious p-list writer dredges up an old interview with David Bowie that mentions Herbert Stencil of V.

Monday, June 28, 2004

pynchonoid believes those who believe that The Wizard of Oz, the movie, substantially influenced Pynchon, but TRP's consistently anti-fascist, anti-genocide writings undercut the racism that Thomas St. John finds in the original novel by L. Frank Baum. St. John addresses Baum's genocidal views in a recent Counterpunch article, Indian-Hating in The Wizard of Oz. St. John notes the influence of the traditional "Indian captivity narrative" on Dorothry's story, especially her kidnapping by the Wicked Witch of the West - an influence that appears in Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, in the parts of that novel concerned with the Captive's Tale.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Maybe Tyrone Slothrop's ancestors weren't so uptight after all. A San Francisco Chronicle review of The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America by Edmund S. Morgan notes that under the covers the Puritans were a randy lot:
.... most Puritans believed in a woman's right to "that pang of pleasure" associated with intercourse. The laws of New Haven -- one of the strictest and most conservative Puritan enclaves -- allowed wives to summarily divorce impotent or underperforming husbands on that score alone....Puritan households exercised great permissiveness when it came to premarital sex. During the late colonial period it was not unknown for pious fathers to encourage "the young men courting their daughters to spend the whole night at it under their own roofs. After the old folks retired the couple slept together unattended....