Saturday, August 07, 2004

I will shoot them.

From BBC, Germany to attend Herero ceremony
A German minister will, for the first time, attend ceremonies commemorating the massacre of Namibia's Herero people by German soldiers 100 years ago. Germany's development minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, will take part in the event, scheduled to take place on 14 August at Okakarara. An estimated 65,000 Herero were killed there in 1904 during a rebellion against German colonial rule. It was one of the most significant battles between Germany and the Herero. The German military commander at the time, General von Trotha, ordered the Hereros to leave Namibia or be killed. "Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall no longer receive any women or children; I will drive them back to their people. I will shoot them. This is my decision for the Herero people," he said. Following their defeat, Herero men, women and children were killed, their wells poisoned, their cattle slaughtered and the survivors driven into the desert to die. Thousands fled to neighbouring Botswana. A group of Herero has filed a case for compensation against Germany in the United States. They are demanding $4bn in compensation, to be paid by the German government and by companies who they say benefited from slavery and exploitation under German rule. Germany has expressed "regret" for the killings, but the German ambassador to Namibia has called for the case to be dropped.

in the name of the cathode, the anode, and the holy grid

Secrets of ENIAC:
The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was among the very first computers—some say it was the first, though there are competing claims. Built at Penn from 1942 to1946, its work was the most prosaic imaginable: calculating missile ballistics and later helping with the design of the hydrogen bomb....For someone who came of age in the second half of the computer revolution, the immediately surprising thing about ENIAC is its physicality. It is a machine in the most literal sense, built from huge metal boxes, massive cables, thick copper wires joined by gobs of solder, panels full of dials, bank upon bank of vacuum tubes. Looking again, the second surprise is the beauty and intricacy of its individual parts. A single tube, responsible for just one numeral in a decimal ring counter, contains a thicket of wires, planes, and baffles. If you peer very closely, a microcosm of strange and enigmatic scenes begins to unfold. These images of ENIAC express the wonder I felt when, as a child, I came to understand what a computer is: not just a calculating machine, but a tool for amplifying imagination, making it possible to weave structures of pure abstract symbols and see them rendered as concrete things, real places. This is pure magic.
V., p. 404:
In his electro-mysticism, the triode was as basic as the cross in Christianity. Think of the ego, the self that suffers a personal history bound to time, as the grid. The deeper and true Self is the flow between cathode and plate. The constant, pure flow. Signlas--sense-data, feelings, memories relocating--are put onto the grid, and modulate the flow. We live lives that are waveforms constantly changing with time, now positive, now negative. Only at moments of great serenity is it possible to find the pure, the informationless sttate of signal zero.

"In the name of the cathode, the anode, and the holy grid?"

rainbow vision

European Space Agency:
Envisat's rainbow vision detects ground moving at pace fingernails grow
Originally developed to pinpoint attacking aircraft during World War Two, today's advanced radar technology can detect a very different moving target: shifts of the Earth's crust that occur as slowly as the growth of your fingernails. Radar data from satellites such as ESA's Envisat are used to construct 'interferograms' that show millimetre-scale land movements. These rainbow-hued images provide scientists with new insights into tectonic motion, and an enhanced ability to calculate hazards arising when this slow motion speeds up, in the form of earthquakes or volcanic activity....

Mason & Dixon, p. 172:
"Look to the Earth," she instructs him. "Belonging to her as I do, I know she lives, and that here upon this Volcanoe in the Sea, close to the Forces within, even you, Mopery, may learn of her, Tellurick Secrets you could never guess."

Friday, August 06, 2004

"the fireburst came roaring and sovereign"

Gravity's Rainbow p. 693:
... wirephoto of a giant white cock, dangling in the sky straight downward out of a white pubic bush. The letters


appear above with the logo of some occupation newspaper, a grinning glamour girl riding astraddle the cannon of a tank, steel penis with slotted serpent head, 3rd Armored treads 'n' triangle on a sweater rippling across her tits. The white image has the same coherence, the hey-lookit-me smugness, as the Cross does. It is not only a sudden white genital onset in the sky--it is also, perhaps, a Tree. . . .

See also:
Hiroshima Story and
In the Shadow of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Cultural Conditions of Unconditional Surrender

neverending windfalls of the War that Never Ends

Post-War Contractors Ranked by Total Contract Value in Iraq and Afghanistan From 2002 through July 1, 2004. Impressive numbers indeed, and the blood money seems likely to continue to roll in no matter how badly the contractors behave over there, too. Reuters reports:
CACI International Inc., under scrutiny over whether it contributed to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, was awarded a $15 million extension of its work in Iraq, the U.S. Army said on Wednesday. The award allows CACI's work supporting interrogations and other intelligence operations to continue while competitive bids are sought on a new contract for these services, a senior Army contracting official said.
Gravity's Rainbow, p. 105:
Don't forget the real business of the War is buying and selling.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

They called him "the Kenosha Kid," though this may be apocryphal.

from An American Debate: How Severe the Threat?:
If the United States was in imminent danger of a terrorist attack and faraway financial institutions were supposed to be on high alert, there was no evidence of it at Franks Diner, a 78-year-old Kenosha institution where senators mix with regular folk and the prospect of another attack seemed just part of the background noise of daily life. "I don't know who on earth to believe anymore," said Michael Schumacher, a 54-year-old writer who was eating a bratwurst for breakfast. "You feel you're being manipulated all the time." Some version of that view was echoed at almost every table here as many patrons questioned whether the Bush administration was trying to manipulate the terrorist threat for political advantage.
Gravity's Rainbow, p. 61:
Superior (incredulously): You? Never! Did the Kenosha Kid think ..."

keep your eyes on the prize

...of interest, perhaps, to readers who try to map Vineland's political geography to the historical Movement:

Doing Time for Political Crime: Paul and Silas, Bound in Jail
Dave Gilbert helped form the Weather Underground. Without killing anyone, the Weather Underground bombed military and corporate targets, during the early 1970s....Dave Gilbert wrote, “any white movement worthy of the name ‘revolutionary’ had to take on the task of building an underground that could carry on armed struggle against this criminal government.” This is the writing of historical agency, but it is also writing from too long a stay in the wilderness. What is a revolutionary? What court could bring “this criminal government” to trial? What is a “white movement”? These questions were not answered, though they remain on the table. As for the meaning of “underground”, and “armed struggle,” the answers became clear.

What David did wrong happened in 1981 when Thatcher and Reagan were in power, and the prisons grew. In fact it was the year when the “golden gulag” was placed around the neck of the republic, as Ruth Gilmore shows. David Gilbert was arrested for his role as a driver in a notorious attempt to expropriate a Brinks money truck in Nyack, N.Y., in which two police officers and one Brinks guard were killed. As an accessory he is now serving a life sentence in the N.Y. state prison system, shunted about according to the whim and ways of the Department of Corrections - now Elmira, now Attica, presently Dannemora.

At the opening of his trial in September 1982 he said to the court which he and his co-defendants, Kuwasi Balagoon and Judy Clark, refused to recognize, “We are neither terrorists nor criminals. It is precisely because of our love of life, because we revel in the human spirit, that we became freedom fighters against this racist and deadly imperialist system.”

"you sixties people"

Artist, Katie Grinnan in an Artnet interview:
AFH: When you use the word "hippie" are you referring to the ideology in songs like Joni Mitchell's, "They paved paradise and put in a parking lot," or Chrissie Hynde's, "I went back to my city"? Hynde is not a hippie, but those songs seem to relate to your work. Don’t you consider "hippie" a pejorative description for political art? It seems that label is often used to make relevant statements sound anachronistic or too extreme?

KG: I disagree. I think because I was born in the 70's and missed the 60's I idealize the word hippie. I admire hippies because I associate them with freedom, open-mindedness, experimentation, revolution, peace and an uncorrupted attitude towards money.

AFH: You must be referring to the original hippies. Don't you find there to be something distressingly naïve about current-day hippies since that aesthetic and those ideals have been so mocked and commercialized by subsequent eras?

KG: Well, I really like the Easy Rider "we can live off the land" idea of a hippie, but it's a little disheartening when the song "Revolution" refers to Nike. I'm pretty fascinated with the way the meaning of the 60's has evolved. I don't think the term hippie would be used now. There isn't really a specific hippie style anymore and attitudes have shifted and broadened due to hindsight. They've fractured into multiple groups like environmentalists, the health conscious, organic farmers, political activists, anarchists...etc.. even yuppies.
Vineland, p. 28:
Caray, you sixties people, it's amazing. Ah love ya! Go anywhere, it don't matter -- hey, Mongolia! Go way out into smalltown Outer Mongolia, ese, there's gonna be some local person about your age come runnin up, two fingers in a V, hollerin, 'What's yer sign, man?' or singing 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' note for note.

Funny and sad how the art establishment -- as represented here by the Artnet interviewer -- has come to adopt the view of the '60s counterculture promulgated, in Pynchon's novel, by a Reagan Administration DEA agent. This interviewer reminds pynchonoid of a Fox News commentator trying to bully a left-leaning interlocutor.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

the desert was prophecy enough

Heicheng, the largest and best preserved ancient city site along the Silk Road that linked China with Central and Western Asia, is being devoured by flowing sand.
from: Ancient city site in Inner Mongolia jeopardized by sand

V., chapter III, section V:
The only Mahdi is the desert. Mohammed Ahmed, the Madhi of '83, was believed by some to be sleeping not dead in a cavern near Baghdad. And on the Last Day, when the prophet Christ re-establishes el-Islam as the religion of the world he will return to life to slay Dejal the antichrist at a church gate somewhere in Palestine. The Angel Asrafil will trumpet a blast to kill everything on earth, and another to awaken the dead. But the desert's angel had hidden all the trumpets beneath the sand. The desert was prophecy enough of the Last Day.

if you're not disgusted, you're not paying attention

Yesterday's reference to Brigadier Pudding, now a worth-reading Martha Nussbaum article (source of the quote below) on disgust reminds me that the Pudding content of Gravity's Rainbow reportedly led judges to deny that fabulous novel a Pulitzer Prize way back when.
In the early 20th century, for example, James Joyce's Ulysses was attacked as obscene. Often complaints focused on its frank depiction of a woman's nonmarital sexual desires (in Molly Bloom's famous monologue, combined with ruminations about her menstrual period, deflationary thoughts about the penis, and memories of love). Joyce believed that our disgust with our own bodily functions lay at the root of much social evil -- nationalism, fanaticism, misogyny. Like D.H. Lawrence, he held that a healthy society would be one that came to grips with its own mortal bodily nature. Joyce's novel, of course, is the opposite of disgusting to one who reads it as it asks to be read. It presents the body as an object of many emotions -- desire, humor, tender love, calm acceptance. But one emotion that is conspicuously absent from its invitation to readers is the emotion of disgust....

the real business of the War

CACI, one of the companies that supplied interrogators at the heart of the Iraq prison torture scandal, says profits are mushrooming thanks to new business opportunities in the Iraq war. "Iraq is a very fertile opportunity for growth," says CACI's CEO, who faced grilling from California legislators upset about the company's activities in Iraq, in hearings regarding investment in the firm by the state's two largest public pension funds, according to an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 105:
Don't forget the real business of the War is buying and selling.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

what Paul learned from Pudding

Fussell was vigorously opposed to last year's invasion of Iraq: "If you don't get angry about this war you don't deserve to be alive." Under no illusions about the cruelty of frontline troops (in Doing Battle he describes how his own platoon murdered weeping, surrendering German soldiers, and elsewhere reflects on the fashion among American troops in the Pacific for collecting Japanese skulls), he regards the torture of Iraqi prisoners as "absolutely predictable - it's usually practised by soldiers upon each other". Sadism, he says, is ordinary in war: "That's why it has to be so carefully guarded by rules - the Geneva convention and so on."

"The greatest irony," Fussell wrote at the end of The Great War, "is that it is only now [after the relaxation of censorship in the 60s], when those who remember the events are almost all dead, that the literary means for adequate remembering and interpreting are finally publicly accessible." In a close reading of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, he picked out Brigadier Pudding, tormented by the image of Passchendaele and its "shell-pocked leagues of shit in all directions", for whom ritualised sexual humiliation becomes a compulsive means of remembering. When OUP asked Philip Larkin for a comment on Fussell's book, the poet called this final section "obscene nonsense". Fussell, who went further than most in his discussion of the profound damage, to minds as well as bodies, that could be the long-term effect of war, says: "It strikes me as almost cruel, to write about the last seconds of the lives of young people who are scared to death, as if war were a matter of battalions and staff organisations and so on. It's unimaginative, hopeless - it doesn't do any good."

Hello to all that, interview with author Paul Fussell