Friday, September 20, 2002

"Blanke found that electrically stimulating one brain region — the right angular gyrus — repeatedly triggers out-of-body experiences. Blanke and his team were using electrodes to excite the brain of a woman being treated for epilepsy. The right angular gyrus integrates visual information — the sight of your body — and information that creates the mind's representation of your body. This is based on balance and feedback from your limbs about their position in space. 'It makes perfect sense,' agrees Peter Brugger of University Hospital, Zurich, in Switzerland, who studies the phenomenon. 'We have representations of our entire body that can be dissociated from our real body,' he says. But this is an isolated case, he points out."
Electrodes trigger out-of-body experience, Nature, 19 September 2002

--Son, been wondering about this, ah, "screwing in" you kids are doing. This matter of the, shooting electricity into head, ha ha?

--Waves, Pop. Not just raw electricity. That's fer drips!

--Yes, ah, waves. "Keying waves," right? ha-hah. Uh, tell me, son, what's it like? You know I've been something of a doper all m'life, a-and-

--Oh pop. Cripes. It isn't like dope at all.

--Well we got off on some pretty good "vacations" we called them, some pretty "weird" areas they got us into's a matter of fact-

--But you always came back, didn't you?


--I mean, it was always understood that this would still be here when you got back, just the same, exactly the same, right?

--Well ha-ha guess that's why we called 'em vacations, son! Cause you always do come back to old Realityland, don't you?

--You always did.

--Listen Tyrone, you don't know how dangerous that stuff is. Suppose someday you just plug in and go away and never come back. Eh?

--Ho, ho! Don't I wish! What do you think every electrofreak dreams about? You're such an old fuddy duddy! A-and who sez it's a dream, huh? M-maybe it exists. Maybe there is a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us out through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever with all the other souls it's got stored there. It could decide who it would suck out, a-and when. Dope never gave you immortality. You hadda come back, every time, into a dying hunk of smelly meat! But We can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified, Electroworld--

--Shit, that's what I get, havin' a double virgo for a son...
Gravity's Rainbow, 698-699

"....with great pleasure that the Ransom Center announces the acquisition of the corrected typescript to Thomas Pynchon's first novel, V., originally published in 1963. Until now, Pynchon scholarship has largely been limited to critical analyses because of the paucity of primary sources available to scholars. Along with V., the Ransom Center has acquired eight typed letters dating from the early 1960s, from a young Pynchon to two close friends. The letters are witty, agonizing, insightful, imaginative, full of both doubt and bravado, and peppered with expletives. In short, they are a tremendous gauge of a young author's state of mind, and indicative of the brilliance that would follow in novels such as The Crying of Lot 49 and Gravity's Rainbow. One letter from Mexico in 1964 details the profound effects of the Kennedy assassination on Pynchon's mental state. A negative review of V. and his self-professed inability to plot have him questioning his worth as a writer, but rejection from Cal-Berkeley's math department tips the balance back in favor of writing. Pynchon also describes his role as best man at the wedding of fellow author Richard Farina, who would die tragically in a motorcycle accident two years later. Following the publication of Gravity's Rainbow in 1973, which is dedicated to Farina, Pynchon published no new novel for sixteen years, before returning to the scene with Vineland in 1989 and Mason & Dixon in 1997. It is estimated that this early typescript of V. contains one hundred pages of scenes ultimately excised from the published novel, as well as a dozen pages reworked almost beyond recognition. The Pynchon material at the Ransom Center should prove of great scholarly value and is a welcome addition to a growing collection of later twentieth-century literary materials."

Thomas Pynchon - A Passion for Secrecy, Ransom News, Spring 2001.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

"Dick Cheney vehemently denies that talk of war, just weeks before the midterm elections, is designed to divert attention from other matters. But in that case he won't object if I point out that the tide of corporate scandal is still rising, and lapping ever closer to his feet....An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal confirmed what some of us have long argued: market manipulation by energy companies — probably the same companies that wrote Mr. Cheney's energy plan, though he has defied a court order to release task force records — played a key role in California's electricity crisis. And new evidence indicates that Mr. Cheney's handpicked Army secretary was a corporate evildoer. Mr. Cheney supposedly chose Thomas White for his business expertise. But when it became apparent that the Enron division he ran was a money-losing fraud, the story changed. We were told that Mr. White was an amiable guy who had no idea what was actually going on, that his colleagues referred to him behind his back as 'Mr. Magoo.' Just the man to run the Army in a two-front Middle Eastern war, right? But he was no Magoo.... By maintaining the illusion of success, insiders like Mr. White were able to sell their stock at good prices to na├»ve victims...."
New York Times
17 September 2002

"the Grid's big function in this System is iceboxery, freezing back the tumultuous cycles of the day to preserve this odorless small world, this cube of changelessness"
Gravity's Rainbow, p. 678

Sunday, September 15, 2002

"It would be an oversimplification to label the contrast between Line and Mound a contrast between modern and ancient ways of knowing, science and religion. A more accurate way to state the contrast would be between heaven-centered vs. earth-centered forms of knowledge, both ancient and modern. The "star-dictated" (601) absolutes of Mason's astronomy or Zarpazo's Jesuit theology, which thrive on neat geometries and stable hierarchies, are juxtaposed with what Zhang and Dixon call the ambiguities and "inner shapes" of earthly realities, including the sheer difficulty Mason and Dixon have making perfect celestial or magnetic measurements in the field and the myriad ways in which mortal human lives and understandings conflict with truths that science and theology claim are universal. Zhang associates these latter forces with "the true inner shape, or Dragon [Shan], of the Land," while for Dixon they represent Tellurick or earth-centered forces, especially magnetism. In the Indian Mound these forces find their most powerful centering, their most direct contact and conflict with the different energies embodied by the measuring of the Line. For Pynchon, the Indian Mound and the Dragon Shan represent not only ancient world views antithetical to Enlightenment science, but are prophetic of how that same science already contained within it anomalies that could only be resolved with the invention in the twentieth century of quantum physics, fractals, and the sciences of chaos and "complex systems" combining both linear and non-linear iterations. Hence we are meant to see in the Mound's Vortex not a unique or exceptional occurrence but an emblem for the infinite number of narrative Vortices or alternative universes already present in any Linear rendering of either space or time. "
Line, Vortex, and Mound: On First Reading Thomas Pynchon's Mason and Dixon
by Peter Schmidt.