Saturday, November 28, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVIII

This section begins in the middle of a dream Pointsman is having. Kind of. I guess it begins with Pointsman asking himself, "When did you enter the paradoxical phase? Because it must have happened recently. You're now sleeping through the noise of all those bombers noisily flying by! So much noise! But also so much sleep! And what are you doing instead of waking up? You're dreaming!" If Pynchon ever reads my blog, he'll probably be thinking, "Damn! That young man said it how I should have!"

Also, I'm not a young man. But I still get called a young man by really old men. It's super fucking cute.

Part way through the description of the dream, as Pointsman is leaving his house to enter the childhood village where he grew up, he begins to remember how previous dreams in this location usually go. He usually walks out of his house and turns right where he winds up in a cemetery and then begins to fly. But he can only rise so far, slowing as he goes. And then he stops. You know. The way the rocket does. I mean until it begins to fall, of course. I'm not dumb! I've known how rockets work since I was like twelve! But this time in the dream, he goes left. I suppose that's the direction where the rocket falls back to Earth? It's also known as the sinister direction. You know. Left. Which Pointsman mentions to the woman who is his wife whom he doesn't know at all because he's never had one. It's sinister time!

Other rocket imagery in the dream: a white light falling from the sky and the time of day, 6 o'clock, where the hands are straight up and down.

Pointsman awakes with a start at the tentative knocking on his door of Thomas Gwenhidwy who has come to report that Spectro has been killed in a rocket blast. That's what makes him realize he's in the paradoxical phase. He sleeps through loud noises but wakes to quiet ones. Also Gwenhidwy means a lot of different things in Welsh depending on how I put them into Google the Terrible Translator. It can mean filthy smile or white filtrate! I think it also meant something else when I put it in some weird way but I've forgotten because I did that a few days ago.

As Pointsman contemplates his mortality in the face of Spectro's death, I can't help thinking of the seven scientists who have shared The Book (five of whom are dead now) as a superhero group, probably because of names like Lamplighter and Spectro. Plus they're all being picked off in some Watchmen style plan by the smartest man in the world. It's a weird superhero group though because they're battling the Nazis and their super weapons by studying conditioning and madness and paranoia but failing at every turn. How could they succeed? What are they studying that can be used proactively against the rocket, against pure violence? Abreactions, conditioning, madness, hysteria? Like the sound of the rocket coming only after it hits, the things they study are the results, the after-effects, of the rocket's violence. Like how Roger's statistics can't save anybody, it can only offer some kind of understanding of the pattern of the rockets which seems to offer a vague hope or slight control, Pointsman and his group's studies will not save one life. But it might shine new light on how people become numb to the death all around them, how people can live with the possibility of instantaneous obliteration in the same way they've always lived without it. In a way, it's nothing new. It's just one more way to die that must be cloaked in denial and disbelief if one wants to get anything done at all during daylight hours.

Pointsman even sees himself as the Superman of the group, the lone survivor (he apparently can't imagine that the lone survivor of The Book's group might be Gwenhidwy), stepping up to accept the Nobel Prize for finally discovering the proof that it all, every single aspect of human behavior, comes down to physiology. He even imagines his final obstacle as some arch nemesis, some super villain (or Minotaur or Nazi hound or silent killer). In some way I don't totally understand because I've never had any ambition, he has his own death wrapped up in his fantasy of his final and ultimate success. Perhaps it seems more glorious to him this way, more heroic.

But he had lost that dream many years ago, beat down by routine and funding and bosses. Until now. Now, with Slothrop in his sights, he once again sees the possibility of seeing Pavlov's work completed and bringing the ultimate truth of why humans are what they are and why they do what they do to all mankind. Or maybe he just desperately needs to know why Slothrop gets hard-ons at places the rockets will fall. He probably makes a big deal about it so that the reader, realizing they still have six hundred pages left in the book, will be all, "Oh! Yeah! I want to know the answer to that too! I'm going to totally stick with this book to find out the answer which Pynchon will definitely reveal to me!" Ha ha! Idiot.

Slothrop has already been sent to the Riviera so I guess Pointsman's experiment has already started. Oh yeah. That makes sense since I am only about thirty pages away from Chapter 2.

"There's something here, too transparent and swift to get a hold on—Psi Section might speak of ectoplasms—but he knows that the time has never been better, and that the exact experimental subject is in his hands. He must seize now, or be doomed to the same stone hallways, whose termination he knows. But he must remain open—even to the possibility that the Psi people are right. "We may all be right," he puts in his journal tonight, "so may be all we have speculated, and more. Whatever we may find, there can be no doubt that he is, physiologically, historically, a monster. We must never lose control. The thought of him lost in the world of men, after the war, fills me with a deep dread I cannot extinguish. . . ."

Another possibility is that Pointsman simply fears losing the funding he's been getting because of the War. The only way to keep going after the War is to run the Slothrop Experiment! And also to bribe Pudding with poo-poo and pee-pee.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Cerebus #21 (1980)

It's almost as if Dave Sim predicted Rob Liefeld!

I don't know who you are that might be reading this without also knowing what I'm referencing in that caption but, just for you, I'll show you. And just for everybody else, a reminder of possibly the worst comic book depiction of Captain America ever. Rob Liefeld could have had the most spectacular career, without ever messing up human anatomy ever (he was not that), and this is all I would want people to remember him by:

It doesn't make sense in so, so many ways!

Rob Liefeld shouldn't be mocked for this attempt to draw Captain America. I'm assuming Rob had editors, right? And they had bosses? And Marvel had a president? That's how businesses work, right? You don't just accept shitty work from an employee or contractor, shrug your shoulders, and say, "I guess that's the best we're going to get!"

Also, I've seen a number of people compare this Liefeld art to actual pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger as some kind of defense of the picture (since it is almost certainly what Liefeld was basing the picture on). But that just makes it worse because how do you get it this wrong if you've got a model right there in front of you?! Sure, Schwarzeneger looks like he as huge man boobs and you can't believe his chest is that big. But at least his head is placed correctly on his body and his waist isn't three feet thick and his left man boob doesn't protrude six inches past his right man boob and his left shoulder isn't non-existent and, you know what? I'm tired of looking at that shit. I'm going to read Cerebus now.

Judging by Captain Cockroach on the cover, Weisshaupt appears in this issue. I didn't think he was introduced until High Society but I guess he gets a short story before then. When I first read Cerebus in my early twenties, I simply assumed Weisshaupt was a George Washington parody. It makes some sense because he's trying to organize the United Feldwar States. But now that I'm older and wiser and more enmeshed in conspiracy theories than I was back then (although even in my elementary school days, I was a huge fan of In Search Of and read any book I could get about the Bermuda Triangle or Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster), I should probably consider that he's based on Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Illuminati. That also makes sense because, well, his name but also because Sim has just recently introduced so many secret societies and mysterious philosophies in the last few issues. Weisshaupt is just the leader of one more political and/or social movement.

What also makes sense? He's a little bit of both. I'm sure America's Founding Fathers were familiar with his writing about Illumination's belief in equality and liberty (although a very structured equality and liberty where certain people were in charge of telling everybody else the rules by which one could be most free).

The story hits pretty hard with the America theme with the intoduction of Captain Cockroach in his purple, white, and blue uniform selling United Feldwar States war bonds with his sidekick Bunky the Albino, both working for President Weisshaupt, referenced as "the father of his country." So I probably wasn't wrong in my youthful assessment. It's just now I have an old-person assessment as well with a keen ability to read into texts things that absolutely weren't meant to be there!

Cerebus runs into Captain Cockroach and Elrod working together, learns about Weisshaupt, and even though he's dying to get back to his T'gitan army so he can invade Palnu, he just can't deny his curiousity.

Cerebus has many qualities that get him into trouble but I think his need to find rational answers to the ridiculous questions he encounters is the main one.

Weisshaupt explains his plan to rule Lower Felda to Cerebus and it's a familiar plan being that every power hungry authoritarian generally runs the same play.

What's amazing is how many people fall for it every time. I guess we're way past the "breeding them for stupidiy" phase. Especially in 21st Century America.

Cerebus bids farewell to Weisshaupt but only after having some wine. The wine reacts the drugs recently introduced into Cerebus' system which means he's instantly drunk. And then instantly sober. And then instantly drunk. The bottom line is that he doesn't quite make it out of the city before he, Elrod, and Captain Cockroach are attacked by a Hsifan ninja. The issue ends with Cerebus unconscious and Elrod about to die.

I don't know how Dave Sim did it but he satirizes America nearly perfectly in this issue. Are we that transparent?! Does everybody else around the world look at us and think, "All of their political and social decisions are based on racism and profit"? "IS THAT ALL WE ARE?!" I scream rhetorically because, you know, we're just finishing up four years with the worst person in the world as president and a bunch of stupid fucking assholes who believe he did a good job.

Cerebus #21 Rating: B+. Did you know that if you hit the random button on Wikipedia's home page, you're 83% likely to get an article not just about something you've never heard of but about something you actively don't give a fuck about? That math is solid.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVII.III

I've been avoiding this part for a few days because writing about it is going to expose my inability to comprehend any writing that refuses to insert a paragraph break at least once per page. Reading three or four pages that are also just one paragraph must be how Bilbo felt wandering through Mirkwood without any food and beset by giant spiders. I can only relate to things through references to The Hobbit. "Being fat in junior high was like discovering you were the joke dwarf who always fell in the river or couldn't be pulled up a rope or fell into a self-induced coma when there wasn't enough food and too many miles to hike by throwing yourself into a 'magic' river!" I mean, seriously, nobody believes Bombur was actually unconscious for days, right? He probably woke up after an hour or so and realized he was being carried and was all, "Oh, um, snore! I'm snoring still!"

The never ending paragraphs of the last nine pages of this section begin with Roger and Jessica passing by a church around Christmas. A bunch of soldiers are singing religious songs so that Pynchon can discuss a bunch of stuff like colonialism and more colonialism and, I don't know, religion? Toothpaste maybe? Is this when he goes off on toothpaste?!

Roger sees Jessica's reaction to the people going in for service and he surprises her by stopping and suggesting they go inside. It surprises Jessica because Roger has been such a cynic about religion and the paranormal and Christmas. But he explains to her as they walk inside, "To hear the music." Yeah, buddy. Sure. More like "Because I fucking love you and I saw the way the entire scene caught in your throat and threatened to overwhelm you with nostalgia and memory."

After that, it's all, well, Pynchon stuff. We begin with noticing only one face in the choir is black: a Jamaican corporal from Kingston. And since we (we being the narrator and the reader, discovering these things together, I suppose) have noticed him, we might as well take a quick peak at his life back on the island, right?! And from there, we can, through a passing description of the different coins he has gathered by singing on the streets, get a glimpse of how the Empire works. This island native brought to England to fight Britain's war only to wind up in an Anglican church singing songs in German. All this to sort of drive a certain point home in a bit of writing that I loved the first time I read this and I loved the second time I read this and I loved yet again in whatever numbered time this reading is:

"With the high voice of the black man riding above the others, no head falsetto here but complete, out of the honest breast, a baritone voice brought over years of woodshedding up to this range . . . he was bringing brown girls to sashay among these nervous Protestants, down the ancient paths the music had set, Big and Little Anita, Stiletto May, Plongette who loves it between her tits and will do it that way for free—not to mention the Latin, the German? in an English church? These are not heresies so much as imperial outcomes, necessary as the black man's presence, from acts of minor surrealism—which, taken in the mass, are an act of suicide, but which in its pathology, in its dreamless version of the real, the Empire commits by the thousands every day, completely unaware of what it's doing. . . ."

I love the image of the Empire committing suicide by its very nature. The idea that Britain thinks it's making the world in its own image but what it's actually doing is bringing the world to itself, incorporating the world into it, and changing itself forever. In a sense, immolating itself with diversity.

Next, we listen to the choir and must realize this is the War's evensong. Come! It is time to float, omnisciently, over the island and see what the War is doing, how it's acting, how it's transforming reality! First, let us begin with toothpaste and toothpaste containers and how they're transformed, perhaps transsubstantiated!, into weapons and vehicles of the War! And how those toothpaste tubes, how they do their duty as toothpaste tubes before doing their duty as war machines! Through one mundane item, Pynchon tracks how it connects those on the homefront with those on the battlefront. He explains the cycle so that he may shine a light on the way the War obfuscates this connection in its need to keep a stark divider between homefront and battlefront. He says of the Allied war effort, "it wants a machine of many separate parts, not oneness, but a complexity. . . . Yet who can presume to say what the War wants, so vast and aloof is it . . . so absentee."

Is Pynchon preparing the reader for the vast conspiracy to be speculated upon later? The need to hide the connections because the Corporate connections show a War that has no sides at all, really. Just a bunch of German and American and British Corporations that all have a hand in the tills of the War, and all seemingly work together in vast and mysterious ways to build the rockets which they fire not upon the enemy but, seemingly, upon themselves. The parts must be kept separate and obfuscated so that nobody knows, until it's too late, that they're all working for the same cause. Even when they fight against it, they're working for it, as Pirate finds out later.

Speaking of which, the whole Counterforce situation that arises later reminds me of the documentary Planet of the Humans which takes a deep dive into green energy and where the money comes to support it and how the definition of "green energy" gets distorted to the point that it no longer legally means what people think it means. And thus the people fighting for what they believe is green energy turns into a bunch of people fighting on the same side as fossil fuel backers and producers. Watching that documentary really helped me get a grasp on what was happening in the Counterforce section of the book.

At least I think it did! I still need to re-read it!

The paragraph decides not to end and begin a new paragraph when it begins discussing a mental patient at The White Visitation who believes he is World War II because I guess it's still discussing the same thing? What is the War? Is it possibly a vast conspiracy? Is it possibly a never ending cycle between civilian life and war casualties? Is it an insane man in a mental hospital on the cliffs overlooking the North Sea?

Pynchon allows some speculation on the mental patient: is he actually the War? Or just the person chosen to die for the War so it will live on? And what if it does live on? Where and when will it return? What terrible gifts will it bring the future generations? Will they embrace the gifts? Or will they just fart.

That was actually a pretty literal synopsis!

Oh! Oh! A new paragraph! My, that was a long one. Two pages! No way this next one can be...oh. Oh shit. Five pages?! Come on, Pynchon! You're doing my head in!

Luckily, this five pages of paragraph aren't some abstruse philosophical or conspiracy minded musing on the War. I mean, it might be! But at least on the surface, it's a description of Christmas in London near the end of the War but while the threat of the rockets still exist. We get a description of wedding dresses from weddings that never came to be. Descriptions of prisoners of war back from Indo-China staring half-starved and gawking at the women braving the possibility of rockets to find some Christmas gifts for their children. A description of Italian postal carriers who grope those women shoppers with their "dead hands." The GIs back from the front who just want their normal lives back, who want to maybe learn to identify and get to know those children. And those children! We get descriptions of the toys they were given last year, toys made from recycled Spam tins, which they take in stride having played with actual Spam tins the months and seasons before. Yet now, this year, as the War is nearing an end, the toys are once more back to normal.

Then there's a bit about the older people and how they watch as the clocks run faster due to the War's burden on the energy grid. It's a complicated bit that I'm going to need to re-read after giving my brain a short break from this incessant paragraph. See you immediately after this paragraph ends in your timeline but after a good long break in mine!

It would be cool if I knew some of the themes I should be concentrating on so that I could understand some of these passages in the context of those themes. But I feel like the theme in Gravity's Rainbow is everything and all of these sections are just Pynchon writing, "Hey, here's another weird thing I was thinking about. You should think about it too. So, you know how old people are like 'My time is short and it just feels like time keeps going faster every year?' Well, did you also know that due to the electrical load on the grids in Britain during the War, electric clocks actually did speed up? Wouldn't that have been a huge mind fuck! Being elderly during that time! Woo boy! Crazy, right? Also, remember that time people lost a week due to the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar? What if somebody actually lived through that week? What would that have been like? I wonder who was alive during that so I can use that in another book. Let me see...oh! Mason and Dixon! Perfect! From the start, those characters set up the idea of boundaries! I can jizz that kind of shit out without even having breakfast!"

So after the old people you get a scene of a foggy London street which is compared to a lone beach so—hey! why not?!—let's get a long description of the beaches and the barbed wire and the abandoned cruise ships too! And since we've moved on now, lets' move on up to the foggy downs beyond the cliffs overlooking those beaches! I mean, the reader is probably lost now anyway! What better way to imagine that sense of being lost in the writing by moving the reader all over a geographic landscape at the same time?! Eventually we'll get back to the church scene, right? And then the reader can think, "Well, I made it back to the part of this scene I remember. I suppose all that other stuff didn't really matter. What did it have to do with plot, anyway? Plot is all there is! Plot, plot, plot!"

When the narrator does welcome all back to the church, it's described as a refuge for all those tired of, exhausted by, the routine of the War.

"Come then. Leave your war awhile, paper or iron war, petrol or flesh, come in with your love, your fear of losing, your exhaustion with it. All day it's been at you, coercing, jiving, claiming your belief in so much that isn't true. Is that who you are, that vaguely criminal face on your ID card, its soul snatched by the government camera as the guillotine shutter fell—or maybe just left behind with your heart, at the Stage Door Canteen, where they're counting the night's take, the NAAFI girls, the girls named Eileen, carefully sorting into refrigerated compartments the rubbery maroon organs with their yellow garnishes of fat—oh Linda come here feel this one, put your finger down in the ventricle here, isn't it swoony, it's still going. . . . 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 stylish and cute about death and the afterlife, packing them into the Duchess 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, lucky 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. The children are away dreaming, but the Empire has no place for dreams and it's Adults Only in here tonight, here in this refuge with the lamps burning deep, in pre-Cambrian exhalation, savory as food cooking, heavy as soot. And 60 miles up the rockets hanging the measureless instant over the black North Sea before the fall, ever faster, to orange heat, Christmas star, in helpless plunge to Earth. Lower in the sky the flying bombs are out too, roaring like the Adversary, seeking whom they may devour. It's a long walk home tonight. Listen to this mock-angel singing, let your communion be at least in listening, even if they are not spokesmen for your exact hopes, your exact, darkest terror, listen."

There's that mention of Dumbo and his magic feather again! This mention of belief in something, in anything, even if that thing cannot and will not save you. They (capital 'T') need you to believe in something greater so that you believe in the cause They need you to fight for, to keep Them in power and money. It doesn't matter what this thing is. A magic feather? A lucky bone? a Miraculous Medal? A half-dollar? A sense of patriotic fervor? Christ Himself? It's all the same. It's a magic feather that enables you to ignore your fear of flying, your fear of death, so that you can perform a trick for Them.

And back to the mass, to the evensong, sung to bring all together, to smash the boundaries of self, of our own peculiar fears and anxieties, so that we might sing away, as a group, as one, all of our own individual darknesses. So that we can share in a moment of hope for something better, for salvation.

The story slips into second person, imagining the readers themselves are there that night, long ago, to get a glimpse of their salvation, to see the miracle baby, the one who will redeem us all for our greed and lust and envy, for our bombs and our wars and our unimaginable, unending need to murder the other. This tiny baby, this possible Christ, this unimaginable frail redeemer . . . how is that our only hope for salvation? And yet . . .

"But on the way home tonight, you wish you'd picked him up, held him a bit. Just held him, very close to your heart, his cheek by the hollow of your shoulder, full of sleep. As if it were you who could, somehow, save him. For the moment not caring who you're supposed to be registered as. For the moment anyway, no longer who the Caesars say you are."

In my narcissism, this reminded me of a poem I wrote in college (look at this brave act! putting some old, humiliating piece of youthful writing on the Internet! So brave!):
Being There

As the cross was set upon the ground and ready to be raised to stand up high, I thought of the coming vengeance.
As they led the 'Messiah' to his proving grounds, I laughed and scorned his hated name.
As they threw his bones upon the ground, I was the first to kick him.
And they tore off his clothes and they spit on his face and they laid him upon his wooden tomb.

And the crowd roared for a miracle, but the heavens would not open up.

As they bound his wrists upon the posts, I felt my own wrists burn.
As they tied his ankles around the base, I felt that I might fall.
As they put the crown of jagged thorns upon his human brow, I felt the sting of angry barbs encircling my own.
And the pounded the nails down into his wrists and they raised the cross to stand up high, and one of them ran him through with his spear.

And the crowd roared for a miracle, but the heavens would not open up.

As the blood flowed down his broken wrists, I thought of every man I'd fought.
As the blood ran down his gasping chest, I thought of all my words against God.
As the blood seeped down below his waist, I thought of every woman I'd known.
And he called to the Lord and the guards they all laughed and a few of the women, they cried.

And the crowd began to walk away for the heavens would not open up.

All grew quiet as he sighed his last breaths, and I suddenly knew I was wrong.
So I cried to the Lord that I should be forgiven but knew that he ignored all my words.
And I walked away to live my life so that Jesus Christ might die.

The section ends asking what have they, these men taking a break from their war lives, given to use here this night? Or, more apt, what have we taken from them?

Book Review: The Hobbit

According to my mom's note in the back of my copy of this book, I first read it when I was eight years old. I remember my sister had checked it out from the school library and I was intrigued by the pictures (the copy I own which was my parents' copy and which I actually read doesn't have pictures. I don't know what edition my sister had checked out). I'm not sure how many times I've read it since then. Maybe no other times. But I just reread it in two days so I guess it was pretty good?

I didn't read The Lord of the Rings until junior high and I remember restarting more than once. I reread Bilbo's birthday chapter a few times before I stuck with the book. And another time, I stalled partway through The Two Towers and left it for so long that I, much later, simply began again with The Fellowship of the Ring.

Apparently I had projected the parts of The Lord of the Rings I found boring and tedious onto The Hobbit as well. Turns out, there really aren't any boring and tedious parts of this book. I suppose there would be if the book were written from the perspective of one of the dwarves. How useless are those guys?! The first half of the book is simply Gandalf saving everybody every time they get in trouble. The second half of the book is Bilbo saving everybody after they get in trouble. The dwarves could have been eaten by the trolls at the beginning of their journey and nothing would have been different. Except maybe for making things easier at the end when it came time to divvy up the treasures with the humans and elves.

I suppose the dwarves were needed to call in Dain's dwarf army to give the humans and elves a chance against the goblin attack at the end. And it's not like having the dwarves die would have stopped the goblins since the dwarves weren't at fault in sparking their wrath. That was caused by Gandalf murdering their king in the dark when he could have just screamed, "Fly, you fools!"

What I'm trying to say is I understand why this book wasn't called The Dwarves. I was more upset by the death of Smaug than by the death of Thorin. If you haven't read this book yet, I'm just kidding! Nobody dies! *wink*

Is this the book that started the trend of having one fat kid in the group for comic relief?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVII.II

The next two sections see Jessica lying in bed with Roger as she watches short scenes play across the ceiling above their bed. There's also a recounting of a time they were out driving and Jessica stood up in the car with her top off as a lorry full of little people hooted at and ogled her. That's about it. So I should probably talk about the sections following those two sections in this entry instead of making an entirely new one. The only thing I'm worried about is that this section has that one paragraph (maybe two) that lasts for six or seven pages. I mean, how do you get your head around something like that, let alone discuss it in a blog post? Especially when you're as dumb as I am?!

The next short section is Roger's. It's full of his paranoia and morning routines in The White Visitation as he pulls one of Jessica's hairs out of his mouth. Is there anything more upsetting than pulling somebody else's hair out of your mouth? I don't mean after the wind just blew their hair into your mouth so you knew why you were pulling it out. But finding it stuck in there after who knows how long it's been since you've been around people. I'm not sure it's ever happened to me. But it feels like it's happened to me! It's making me sick and, for some reason, making me think of Ring. Pretty sure there was a moment in that (or maybe in Spiral or Loop) where somebody pulled somebody else's hair out of their mouth (probably Samara's, right?!).

Speaking of Ring, you're probably, at least, familiar with the Americanized version of the film. But have you ever read the sequel, Loop? Talk about a fucked up book. And then Spiral is just a huge fucking cheat that could be a mind fuck if I hadn't felt so absolutely cheated by its conceit. But Loop? Man, I read that book and I was all, "No way they'd ever make a movie about this!" But guess what?! I was wrong! There is a Japanese movie based on the book and it's just as fucked up! I also thought they'd never make a movie based on Stephen King's Gerald's Game and I was proven wrong on that one too. Who are the people who read a book about a woman handcuffed to a bed for 48 hours and think, "This would make an exciting film!" I guess they're the same people who read a book about a cursed video tape which switches to a cursed manuscript which causes a woman to give birth to a dead woman who has the ability to give birth to anybody if their DNA is injected into her (and also the curse will cause everybody who winds up having a baby after seeing the film based on the manuscript to give birth to another Samara). I mean, what? Fuck you, Koji Suzuki! In a good way, I mean! I really loved Ring and, even though it was fucking idiotic, Loop. But Spiral? I mean, no thanks.

You may have noticed that I don't have a lot to say about this section of Gravity's Rainbow by the way I was distracted by hair in Roger's mouth. There's probably more to talk about like how paranoid Roger becomes while away from Jessica and how he finally realizes that he's working in a place full of paranormal freaks who could, with their crazy powers, be manipulating everything in his life. He suddenly feels so out of control that he briefly considers taking a job in Germany, with the enemy, as a means to regain control of his life! Poor Roger the statistician has begun to lose it.

It's because he's so in love. He's the member of the relationship who has no power because he's more in love with Jessica than she is with him. But for Jessica, the relationship seems to be what she needs to get through the war. She's definitely staying with Beaver after the war's over. Poor Roger is already dumped and he doesn't even know it. Or maybe he does know it and that's why he's beginning to panic.

Here's how Jessica feels about the relationship:

"Tonight she'll be with Jeremy, her lieutenant, but she wants to be with Roger. Except that, really, she doesn't. Does she? She can't remember ever being so confused. When she's with Roger it's all love, but at any distance—any at all, Jack—she finds that he depresses and even frightens her. Why? On top of him in the wild nights riding up and down his cock her axis, trying herself to stay rigid enough not to turn to cream taper-wax and fall away melting to the coverlet coming there's only room for Roger, Roger, oh love to the end of breath. But out of bed, walking talking, his bitterness, his darkness, run deeper than the War, the winter: he hates England so, hates 'the System,' gripes endlessly, says he'll emigrate when the War's over, stays inside his paper cynic's cave hating himself . . . and does she want to bring him out, really? Isn't it safer with Jeremy? She tries not to allow this question in too often, but it's there. Three years with Jeremy. They might as well be married. Three years ought to count for something. Daily, small stitches and easings. She's worn old Beaver's bathrobes, brewed his tea and coffee, sought his eye across lorry-parks, day rooms and rainy mud fields when all the day's mean dismal losses could be rescued in the one look—familiar, full of trust, in a season when the word is invoked for quaintness or a minor laugh. And to rip it all out? three years? for this erratic, self-centered—boy, really. Weepers, he's supposed to be past thirty, he's years older than she. He ought to've learned something, surely? A man of experience?"

The way Jessica thinks about Roger versus the way she thinks about Jeremy is telling. Roger doesn't have much hope in the long run.

The final section of this section takes place in a church with a military choir and I'll try to discuss it next time. Those page long paragraphs are intimidating!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVII.I

In Victorian times, did men and women reach orgasm more quickly because every single interaction with somebody of the opposite gender had foreplay inherently baked into it? If just speaking with somebody of the opposite gender (and forgive me, the moment, for simply discussing heterosexual matters since those were major concerns of the time (these parenthetical digressions threaten to get completely out of control because I must now point out that, yes, homosexual behavior was also a concern but in a quite different way. Society's constructs had been built around the concern that men and women might fuck; the background notion that homosexuality was evil and perverse meant that people, on average, would simply assume it's not happening (or if they did assume it was happening, perhaps resort to denial before belief. Whereas if they assumed a man and woman were fucking, it would be a scandal addressed (shocking revelation: I'm not historian. I'm just a middle-aged English lit major. So anything I think I know derives from reading fictional accounts from people like George Eliot or Oscar Wilde or Chuck Dickens))) was something that needed seven different chaperones, can you imagine the sexual tension when there were only six chaperones in the room?! How many trousers were stiff from pre-ejaculate nearly coursing out of the throbbing penis of a suitor, or how many women's drawers were later handed to a chambermaid later that night, sopping and moist?

You see what I'm getting at, right? If every assumption of your society is that men and women are going to fuck if somebody looks away for even half a second then every single interaction is dripping with literal love juice. Imagine that being your existence and then you finally get to touch! Your genitals would explode from just touching fingertips! Then imagine kissing?! You'd be comatose for a week from the power of the orgasm. Just imagine how many times you had to actually fuck before the penis was all the way inside the vagina without both partners exhausted from the sexual pleasure! No wonder somebody like Don Juan would have been so fascinating. Imagine a man who could get his penis all the way inside a woman and last for three whole pumps! *SWOON*

The best part about being an idiot on the Internet is that I can speculate on stuff like this and when people say things like, "You're an idiot!", I can answer, "I know!"

Anyway, I bring this up because this section begins with a description of the first time Roger made Jessica cum (normally I like to use "come" as the verb and "cum" as the noun describing the liquid results of coming. But sometimes I just think "Stop being so intellectual about dick and vag emissions!"). He did it by just grabbing her wrist. Then later, she came twice before his penis ever entered her vagina. So it made me think, "Does this say something about Jessica or about society?" Then instead of discussing mid-20th Century sexual mores and how they might lead to a man and woman coming super fast, I decided to discuss Victorian Era orgasms because it seemed more interesting. Also it's further away from our society where men and women, by age 10 (probably), have already seen so much porn that they need to wack shit with heavy metal tools before they feel anything at all. I grew up between those two eras (70s and 80s) so I received a little bit of each. Porn was hard to come by in the 70s but with the advent of cable television, it got increasingly easier to at least see boobs. I feel bad for heterosexual women and gay men who grew up in that time because it was much, much harder to get your hands on media with erect penises in. You know how lucky you had to be to find a hardcore sex magazine in the bushes of your local elementary school?! Well, it wasn't like winning the lottery because that's where everybody hid their porn. But it was still an exhausting search sometimes!

One of the points of the passage is to let the reader know that Roger Mexico is crazy in love with Jessica Swanlake. Take this passage about his jealousy of Jessica's long-time boyfriend Beaver:

"About Beaver, or Jeremy, as he is known to his mother, Roger tries not to think any more than he has to. Of course he agonizes over technical matters. She cannot possibly—can she?—be Doing the Same Things with Jeremy. Does Jeremy ever kiss her cunt, for example? Could that prig actually—does she reach around as they're fucking a-and slide a mischievous finger, his English rose, into Jeremy's asshole? Stop, stop this (but does she suck his cock? Has he ever had his habitually insolent face between her lovely buttocks?) no use, it's youthful folly time here and you're better off up at the Tivoli watching Maria Montez and Jon Hall, or looking for leopards or peccaries in Regents Park Zoo, and wondering if it'll rain before 4:30."

One of the films of Maria Montez and Jon Hall.

The first section of this section is all Roger and his love and his pedestal built for Jessica. It's all optimism and the crush of new love and a world that only exists when the two of them are together, a world wholly outside of the war. It's also all sex and fantasy.

I'm going to split this section into multiple sections based on the page breaks because it's a long section and I'm prone to rambling.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Justice League International #9 (1988)

I guess that means Black Canary will have to defeat the Manhunters.

I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was twelve and I'll admit that I thought Éowyn killing the Witch-king was a pretty good twist on the prophecy that he would not be killed by the hand of man. Later, as I got old enough to despise everything in the world because my sense of wonder had been worn down to a nub like a well-used eraser, I realized twelve year old me was a credulous little rat bastard who wouldn't know a good twist if it jumped up out of the lake as a drowned zombie boy and pulled him under just when he thought the film was over and he was safe.

Wait a second. I don't want to discuss Éowyn anymore! Maybe I'll get back to it but I've just realized something more important. If Jason had drowned and remained a little boy from 1957 to 1979, how does he become a grown ass adult in the subsequent movies?! I suppose serious Friday the 13th fans believe Alice simply imagined being pulled into the lake, since the police found no trace of a small boy. And the actual Jason didn't drown at all but received such severe brain damage that he decided to live in the woods like Grizzly Adams. Maybe he didn't even remember his mother until she showed up to murder all those counselors and he learned who he was by observing the first movie from the woods. Then we was all, "Man! That woman killed Ma! I'll show her you can't behead my Ma and not get beheaded yourself!"

Hmm, that was too easy to solve once I spent any time at all thinking about it. I wonder how many hours I could lose looking up what actual fans of the franchise think? I'll never know though because I dislike fans and fan theories almost as much as I dislike my twelve year old self for being so amazed by the Éowyn twist!

Maybe the Éowyn twist is just as good as I thought it was 37 years ago. It's not like I've ever gone back to re-read The Lord of the Rings. I've only read a handful of books more than once in my life and have never re-read a book immediately after reading it until now with Gravity's Rainbow. You can blame Thomas Pynchon on my lack of reading comic books lately because his book was so fucking good and had so much going on that I had to read it again immediately.

This issue takes place during the big DC Millennium event so it might be a bit confusing for me. I'll be damned if I'm going to dig through one of the forty comic book boxes lying around just to find Millennium to read before this.

No thanks! I think I'll just muddle through!

Remember when DC had huge events that crossed over into every single comic they put out but were totally boring and inconsequential and didn't have "METAL!" in the title? I'm so glad those days are over and Scott Snyder has made crossover events super fucking hardcore and radical again! *five minutes of mouth guitar noises*

Oh! Is this some of that Éowyn-like prophetic foreshadowing?!

Rocket Red #7 has to be the most lame attempt at having a team member betray the team, especially since he's immediately replaced by Rocket Red #4. "Whoa! What a twist!" I probably thought back at my still tender and rat-bastardly age of sixteen.

Rocket Red #7 comes right out and tells everybody that he's a Manhunter. I guess part of the Manhunter philosophy is to first try and recruit man. If unsuccessful, only then do you hunt man. Batman explains to Manhunter Rocket Red #7 how to painfully shove offers like that up excretory orifices.

After Black Canary gets on his ass several times for not including her in his exclamations of "gentlemen," Manhunter Rocket Red #7 learns to say, "No man—or woman—can escape the Manhunters!" So I guess no Éowyn twist this time. Hell, I'll probably never learn the twist for how the Manhunters can be defeated because that's the kind of plot point that's going to take place in the actual Millennium issues. And I probably won't re-read those for another few years!

"Suck on this, manhunter!" was my most commonly used phrase in college.

Black Canary is so concerned about gender equality maybe she should be scolding Batman for not hiring any other women.

Rocket Red #7 beats the shit out of everybody inside the ship (not Beetle's Bug for some reason probably explained in Millennium #1) and then flies out to stand on top of it and not say he's king of the world because Titanic wasn't the huge breakout romantic hit it would be a decade later. What a great movie! It had everything! Boobs, guns, people dying. Like an Agatha Christie novel but with boobs!

Once Rocket Red #7 is outside of the ship, the members of the Justice League with actual, non-screaming-related super-powers take notice of him. That's because they're flying to show off to the others their super powers. The characters I'm talking about are Guy Gardner and Martian Manhunter. Booster Gold is also flying outside the ship but he's just a small town thief with a Legion flight ring and a force field. He doesn't even have a manly bulge in this super tight suit!

One thing I learned that maybe I knew once but probably not for long because I don't think it was ever front loaded as part of his characterization is that Rocket Red (like all Rocket Reds) is a techno-empath. That means his suit allows him to control technology by crying or getting angry. If you know for a fact that it means something else, just keep it to yourself, okay? This isn't fucking Wikipedia. It's a stupid joke review blog that, most of the time, forgets to even review the comic book.

Nobody knows how to stop Rocket Red #7 from crashing the ship into a Bialian oil refinery because if they try to stop him, he'll blow up the ship and kill everybody inside. Which, you know, will happen anyway if it crashes into the oil refinery. So I don't know why nobody tries to stop him anyway. They just fly ahead to save civilians. Luckily Rocket Reds #1-...I don't know, 53 (minus #7) save the day! I guess they use their Techno-Empathy to shut down Rocket Red #7's eyeballs.

Oh yeah, Rocket Red #7 dies here. I mean, not here, exactly, because nobody stops the Manhunters. He dies a little later after the jump scare out of the pile of debris scene.

Max Lord consults his mysterious robotic sounding friend about the Manhunter threat but the dumb thing doesn't know any more than he does. Lord mentions that the Manhunters have gotten close to all of their potential recruits while looking at a monitor with those recruits. One of them is Halo and Geoforce from The Outsiders! Oh why oh why couldn't Halo have become a member?! Halo was my pre-Sailor Moon role model. I think I've just always wanted to be a hot young woman.

Oh yeah. Didn't Doctor Jace turn out to be a Manhunter?

The story ends with Maxwell Lord's personal assistant shooting him because she was also a Manhunter. How all these people were Manhunters, I'll never know! I suppose it's like when you've been playing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for four months and suddenly one of the NPCs turns out to be a polymorphed dragon and you're all, "Holy shit! What a twist! This DM is devious!" But in reality, the DM only thought up the twist thirty minutes before that night's campaign. It's pretty much exactly like that.

Every writer at DC must have gotten a memo from editorial that read: "One of your characters needs to be a Manhunter. It doesn't matter which one but it would be a lot more exciting if they were an important part of the team!" And Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatties read their memo, shrugged, and concluded they were only willing to rid themselves of Max Lord's secretary and the stupid, replaceable Rocket Red.

A second short story finishes up this issue. It's about Jack-o-lantern of the now defunct Global Guardians being wooed by Bialian Rumaan Harjavti. He wants a super group of terrorists to threaten the Western world with. I guess they'll become Bialya's version of Qurac's Jihad. If it ever comes together, of course. Jack-o-Lantern would just be using Rumaan's money and support to get a new global team together. Probably.

Justice League International #9 Rating: B. Did you know China has a university called the China University of Mining and Technology? That acronym is so close to being disgusting! Some translator should point it out so they can come up with a synonym for "mining" that begins with an "n" so they can sell a ton of school merch to the West.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVI

This section was put in here so the reader could take a break from thinking and just laugh a lot. I remember laughing so much the first time I read this section. I would read a funny description of a terrible candy and then look up from my copy of Gravity's Rainbow—held prominently in a way which kept my hands from covering the title—glance around for somebody to make eye contact with and then laugh as if I were a laugh track for The Big Bang Theory. Then I'd nod sagely at the person whom I'm certain wasn't looking annoyed at all but totally interested and tilt my head toward the book as if to say, "Hunh? Hunh? Pretty great, right?!" Then the person would roll their eyes in the shared bond of experiencing great literature. I admit that it's not as effective as loudly blaring Alice Cooper's Killers from my station wagon as I slowly roll down the block, imagining all the kids I'm passing giving me devil horns and saying, "Rock on, dude!" But I still felt as if I were urinating on a lamp post to claim my territory.

The section begins with Slothrop returned to London after his interrogations at The White Visitation. But he notices things have changed like how he's definitely being followed constantly. I'm sure Poinstman could have found people to tail Slothrop successfully so having Slothrop notice the tails and become more paranoid must be part of the conditioning for the new experiment.

Having been returned to his old routine in the office he shares with his friend Tantivy, Slothrop meets a woman named Darlene with whom he's had a previous liaison. She takes him back to the place she's renting from an old woman suffering from "greensickness, tetter, kibes, purples, imposthumes, and almonds in the ears, most recently a touch of scurvy." I am not Googling any of those because they're almost certainly all made up by Pynchon. Especially scurvy.

And then the old woman starts giving him the candies, the wine jellies. That's when, if I were in public, I'd look up to find the eyes of some person nearby just trying to be ignored and I'd give them the quick eyebrow raise while glancing down at my book, raising it up just slightly so they understand that's what I'm gesturing to with my eyes, and then smiling that "Here we go again!" smile with a slight chuckle. After I go back to my book assured of our chummy communication, they, sitting there thinking I'm a madman, presumably go back to thinking about dog farts.

"'Now I remember you—the one with the graft at the Ministry of Supply!" but [Slothrop] knows, from last time, that no gallantry can help him now. After that visit he wrote home to Nalline: 'The English are kind of weird when it comes to the way things taste, Mom. They aren't like us. It might be the climate. They go for things we would never dream of. Sometimes it is enough to turn your stomach, boy. The other day I had had one of these things they call "wine jellies." That's their idea of candy, Mom! Figure out a way to feed some to that Hitler 'n' I betcha the war'd be over tomorrow!' Now once again he finds himself checking out these ruddy gelatin objects, nodding, he hopes amiably, at Mrs. Quoad. They have the names of different wines written on them in bas-relief."

And so the section of Slothrop eating a bunch of terrible candies begins.

"These people are really insane. No sugar, natch. He reaches in the candy bowl, comes up with a black, ribbed licorice drop. It looks safe. But just as he's biting in, Darlene gives him, and it, a peculiar look, great timing this girl, sez, 'Oh, I though we got rid of all those—' a blithe, Gilbert & Sullivan ingenue's thewse—'years ago,' at which point Slothrop is encountering this dribbling liquid center, which tastes like mayonnaise and orange peels."

After the blitz of offensive candies (the entirety of the passage even more humorous than the short passages I transcribed), Slothrop and Darlene fuck. As they're waking up, a rocket hits nearby. This causes Slothrop to get an instant hardon and they fuck again while somebody from outside watches through the blinds.

The experiment to determine what the fuck is up with Slothrop has begun!

Gravity's Rainbow Part XV

We're introduced to Katje in this section. Katje is Blicero's Gretel, Slothrop's temptation, Pointsman's octopus's conditioned stimulus, Pudding's feces factory, and Pirate's—I don't know—salvation, maybe? Why does she get around so much? Whoever she is, she's important enough to be rescued by the Allies—by Pirate, to be explicit—via a message sent from Europe to London in a rocket. Was she, as Blicero suspected, always an operative for the Allies? Or was that just Blicero's paranoia, which grew so strong that he eventually sent the message to rescue her from himself via rocket? I don't know because I'm not a tenured academic who can devote the kind of time needed to understand Gravity's Rainbow! Also, I've only read the book once so far. I'll probably have it all figured out after my current, second reading!

By the way, Katje means kitten in Dutch. Just in case that's important. Which it totally is because cats are fucking the best. Right up there with raccoons and goats. You might now have a slightly better understanding of me, now that you know my favorite animals are the most chaotic of our domesticated friends or, at least, in the case of the raccoon, urban dwellers.

Side note: when I was around ten years old (I'm 49 now! Yeesh!), I saw my first Red Panda at the zoo and instantly declared the Red Panda as my favorite animal. I always forget how much I like them until they pop up on the Internet. Ten year old me would be severely disappointed in 49 year old me. Red Pandas didn't even make my list of favorite animals after I remembered them and had a chance to edit the previous paragraph! They only made this side note!

Speaking of loving chaotic things, I love Bob Mortimer so much that I accidentally became him.

This section begins with Katje being secretly filmed in Pirate's apartment while Osbie Feels prepares psychedelic mushrooms for smoking. I have never smoked mushrooms before. Is that better than eating them? Or do you still wind up just as paranoid as Slothrop when he's, um, well, when he's just being Slothrop? I once went to a strip club with a couple friends of mine while I was on mushrooms. The DJ at the club knew one of my friends and kept making references to him during the night. This caused everybody in the club to look back at our table. Strangers constantly looking up at a person on mushrooms feels aggressive and terrifying. After this happened a number of times, I turned to my friend and said, "I have to go outside." He responded, "Why? Are you going to cut somebody's head off?!" Anyway, the film will later be used to condition an octopus into attacking Katje for part of the Tyrone Slothrop experiment. But we'll get to that outrageousness later!

Katje walks into the kitchen where Osbie is cooking the mushrooms down to powder just as Osbie opens the oven door which sends her into a sort of fugue state where she relives her time playing Gretel with Blicero as witch and Gottfried as Hansel. Although it's an extremely adult version of Hansel and Gretel with bits like "'the Rome-Berlin Axis' he called it the night the Italian came and they were all on the round bed, Captain Blicero plugged into Gottfried's upended asshole and the Italian at the same time into his pretty mouth" and "Katje kneeling before Blicero in highest drag, black velvet and Cuban heels, his penis squashed invisible under a flesh-colored leather jockstrap, over which he wears a false cunt. . . ." There's plenty more to that last example but I don't want to put in too many spoilers and/or visuals that might upset the squeamish. If it's true that Stephen King based his entire novel It on "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," is it possible to read Gravity's Rainbow with the conceit that the entirety of it is based on "Hansel and Gretel"? The 000000 rocket is the oven Blicero shoves Hansel inside. Except there's no Gretel to save him in this version, her having run off to the Allies.

Much of the characterization in the novel is based on the methods each character is using to control what they can in the face of the War's unending random violence and death. For Blicero, Gottfried, and Katje, their method is the fairy tale of "Hansel and Gretel." It is a predetermined act in which they control their roles and their environment. Or, at least, Blicero controls them. But Katje, at least, feels it is a rational decision. I don't know, exactly, how Gottfried feels about it. It's possible we eventually get a section from his perspective (I mean prior to his perspective from within the 000000 rocket) but I don't remember it. But I will remember it soon because it's in this section!

Part of Blicero's suspicion of Katje, that she might be a British spy, is a result of the "Hansel and Gretel" game itself. Isn't it Gretel who pushes the witch in the Oven in the end? Is she fated, simply by the rules of the game Blicero has chosen, to bring about his end? The game itself, used to control a world one desperately knows they have no actual way of controlling, fuels a new kind of paranoia for Blicero. She is his slave, his obedient servant, his pawn to move as he wishes. And yet, she is also his demise, his bringer of death. Just as the rockets which often misfire and fall back upon the Germans firing them, Katje presents a danger to her master, Blicero.

Here, Blicero's description of Katje's commitment to Nazism, to the game:

"But not Katje: no mothlike plunge. He must conclude that secretly she fears the Change, choosing instead only trivially to revise what matters least, ornament and clothing, going no further than politic transvestism, not only in Gottfried's clothing, but even in traditional masochist uniform, the French-maid outfit so inappropriate to her tall, longlegged stride, her blondeness, her questing shoulders like wings—she plays at this only . . . plays at playing."

Blicero (for now the story has dipped into his perspective. As so often happens in Gravity's Rainbow, a remembrance of a character by one character often turns into the narrating perspective of that character who might remember another character which will change the perspective to that third character's point of view) contemplates an earlier point in his life when he began the trajectory (parabolic, perhaps?) of the life he currently leads. It's similar to Pointsman contemplating the minotaur and the maze and Ariadne and how the lure of Pavlovian conditioning led him to The White Visitation and planning his experiments on Slothrop. This comes after his quoting a line from Rilke: "And not once does his step ring from the soundless Destiny...." He thinks about a friend from youth who was so athletic that his Destiny as a soldier to die on the Eastern Front was practically set, simply by muscle memory, by reflex. He thinks about these Germans, these youths, all used for their ability and their belief in the lie of Deutschland Uber Alles, manipulated by others, to be sent to their deaths. But more so, he thinks about those who will survive the war, those less committed than he, those limber enough, like Katje, to change.

Blicero himself has grown tired and now just looks forward to the end of his story. "He only wants now to be out of the winter, inside the Oven's warmth, darkness, steel shelter, the door behind him in a narrowing rectangle of kitchen-light gonging shut, forever. The rest is foreplay."

I feel like I'm just doing a lot of summarizing but it's my only method for getting a handle on the plot and the characters which will solidify these ideas in my head which in turn should allow me to recall previous passages when I get to sections that rely on the information within these passages to fully understand and grasp the meaning of the future scenes.

Blicero admits to worrying about his children, Katje and Gottfried, when he's gone. This worry makes me think it was indeed Blicero who sent the message via rocket that brings Pirate to rescue Katje (it isn't. I don't know who it was though. Katje? Piet? Wim? The Drummer? The Indian?!). As for Gottfried, well, Blicero's freedom for him is, um, somewhat different.

Blicero also remembers his time in the Südwest and how he met the Herero boy, Enzian, whom he took under his wing. "Took under his wing" is an awfully innocent way of saying "sexually molested and kidnapped him back to Germany." Enzian, we will find out later, has become the leader of the Schwarzkommando. From the first time I read the book, I remembered this scene where the young boy uses the name of his God as a stand-in for fucking which drives Blicero crazy with guilt and blasphemy and lust. But I didn't realize, once Enzian was introduced, that this was who that was. This is definitely something I need to keep in mind in that it colors the relationship between Blicero and Enzian. Sidekick and apprentice were the words I thought of to describe Enzian's relationship to Blicero previously; now I must also remember to add the words molestation, kidnap, and victim.

And then after Blicero ponders Katje's withdrawal from the game (I think only mentally at the moment although that would set up Blicero's decision to free her completely via extraction by Pirate), the point of view shifts to Gottfried.

Before I get to that, I want to clarify something I said in a previous section. I pointed at how dumb I thought my Children's Lit professor was being when she suggested we write long essays on single sentences of text. My point wasn't that critical analysis shouldn't somehow be longer than the text being analyzed; obviously that's going to happen an awful lot. Some lines and paragraphs need pages of explication! My issue was that she didn't want us straying away from that single sentence. She didn't want us bringing in other examples of the text and exploring greater themes inherent in the work while using the sentence as a basis for a longer discussion. She simply wanted us to focus exclusively on that sentence. So while I'm obviously all for dissecting the shit out of a text (although to really go in-depth on Gravity's Rainbow would take more time than I'm willing to spend so my sectional blurbs are far, far shorter than a truly explicatory dive should probably be), I'm simply not for the completely out-of-context vibe she was creating by pulling a single sentence out of the whole and concentrating exclusively on that piece. Because what does it matter if you can't refer back to the entirety of the piece of art it was pulled from? Or as Roger Mexico said:

"'I don't want to get into a religious argument with you,' absence of sleep has Mexico more cranky today than usual, 'but I wonder if you people aren't a bit too—well, strong, on the virtues of analysis. I mean, once you've taken it all apart, fine, I'll be first to applaud your industry. But other than a lot of bits and pieces lying about, what have you said?'"

The "you" is in italics in the previous quote because Mexico is referring back to Pointsman's previous argument that ends with "but what has one said?"

Anyway, back to Gottfried, I guess!

Gottfried is young enough that death is unreal to him. It is something that happens to others. The war for him is an adventure, and the game he plays with Blicero nothing more than routine, a routine that, though outrageously different, is nothing more than the routine his fellow soldiers live through. He understands that his freedom will come with the end of the War. Until then, he plays the game, he longs for Katje, and he fucks Blicero. But he is nothing more than an observer and he watches when Katje finally quits and Blicero, subsequently, throws a huge tantrum.

Blicero's reaction suggests he didn't send the message to rescue Katje. Perhaps she sent it, or one of the Allies she's been secretly passing information to for the last year. According to rumors Gottfried has heard, Katje has fallen in love with a Stuka pilot in Scheveningen. This Stuka pilot exists and his name is Wim. And on her last meeting with him, she is rescued and taken back to London by Pirate after Wim and the others (Piet, the Drummer, the Indian. Who? I don't know! Maybe a reference to a movie about British spies in WWII?!) abandon her. They abandon her because they were seeking the location of Blicero and his rocket site, the one piece of information she couldn't bring herself to betray. But once she left Blicero for good, he knew she had betrayed him and he immediately had the rocket launch site moved.

Now with the context of the rest of the novel, I can see where Katje came from. She was feeding information to the Allies just as Blicero suspected. But she just couldn't feed them enough. And even though her cover as a loyal Nazi party member came at the cost of sending three Jewish families to camps, she still feels she gave them more than enough information. Nobody seems to agree because she didn't give them Blicero. But Pirate takes pity on her and sends her over to The White Visitation.

Here's a lengthy transcription of Pynchon's description of the commerce of the war:

"She's worth nothing to them now. They were after Schußstelle 3. She gave them everything else, but kept finding reasons not to pinpoint the Captain's rocket site, and there is too much doubt by now as to how good the reasons were. True, the site was often moved about. But she could've been placed no closer to the decision-making: it was her own expressionless servant's face that leaned in over their schnapps and cigars, the charts coffee-ringed across the low tables, the cream papers stamped purple as bruised flesh. Wim and the others have invested time and lives—three Jewish families sent east—though wait now, she's more than balanced it, hasn't she, in the months out at Scheveningen? They were kids, neurotic, lonely, pilots and crews they all loved to talk, and she's fed back who knows how many reams' worth of Most Secret flimsies across the North Sea, hasn't she, squadron numbers, fueling stops, spin-recovery techniques and turning radii, power settings, radio channels, sectors, traffic patterns—hasn't she? What more do they want? She asks this seriously, as if there's a real conversion factor between information and lives. Well, strange to say, there is. Written down in the Manual, on file at the War Department. Don't forget the real business of the War is buying and selling. The murdering and the violence are self-policing, and can be entrusted to non-professionals. The mass nature of wartime death is useful in many ways. It serves as spectacle, as diversion from the real movements of the War. It provides raw material to be recorded into History, so that children may be taught History as sequences of violence, battle after battle, and be more prepared for the adult world. Best of all, mass death's a stimulus to just ordinary folks, little fellows try 'n' grab a piece of that Pie while they're still here to gobble it up. The true war is a celebration of markets. Organic markets, carefully styled 'black' by the professionals, spring up everywhere. Scrip, Sterling, Reichsmarks continue to move, severe as classical ballet, inside their antiseptic marble chambers. But out here, down here among the people, the truer currencies come into being. So, Jews are negotiable. Every bit as negotiable as cigarettes, cunt, or Hershey bars. Jews also carry an element of guilt, of future blackmail, which operates, natch, in favor of the professionals."

Once Pirate mentions that The White Visitation is where Katje can escape to, the scene shifts to her arrival there, and Osbie and Pirate having a conversation about going mad. I must, once again, transcribe a bit of text because it has a recurrence of "magenta and green" in an account of Dumbo (which will also have a recurrent mention later where Dumbo's magic feather becomes soldier corpses (or some such thing!)):

"'Of course, of course,' sez Osbie, with a fluid passage of fingers and wrist based on the way Bela Lugosi handed a certain glass of doped wine to some fool of a juvenile lead in White Zombie, the first movie Osbie ever saw and in a sense the last, ranking on his All-Time List along with Son of Frankenstein, Freaks, Flying Down to Rio, and perhaps Dumbo, which he went to see in Oxford Street last night but mid-way through noticed, instead of a magic feather, the humorless green and magenta face of Mr. Ernest Bevin wrapped in the chubby trunk of the longlashed baby elephant, and decided it would be prudent to excuse himself."

Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour during the War.

We learn that "[w]e are never told why" Katje quits the game with Blicero. But Pynchon adds some speculation that mostly amounts to simply saying, "Fuck it."

In his analysis of why he brought back Katje, Pirate teaches me the word "crotchet." I shall immediately add it to my vocabulary, much as I added hobbyhorse after reading Tristram Shandy.

And then, as Katje denies being Pirate's responsibility, knowing only that she owes him a debt, Pynchon gives us the story of her ancestor Frans Van der Groov and the story of the Dodoes. And I need to take a break because this section made me weep terribly last time I read it and I must prepare.

The Dodo story reads like an early draft of Mason & Dixon. It easily, aside from the linguistic style, could fit into that book (which I'll probably re-read soon). And while I thoroughly loved this section the first time I read it, I gave it no real mind to the overall novel. I do that now upon my second reading and it makes me sick to my stomach. If not an analogy of the Holocaust or of Colonial Genocides, it is certainly a portrayal of the thing within humans that allow, or perhaps demand, grisly and horrendous crimes such as those.

After the story of Frans Van der Groov and his dodoes (Dodoes that found salvation, or Preterite Dodoes?), Pirate and Osbie have a short conversation about what will happen with Katje. It begins like this:

"'He's haunting you,' Osbie puffing on an Amanita cigarette.
    'Yes,' Pirate ranging the edges of the roof-garden, irritable in the sunset, 'but it's the last thing I want to believe. The other's been bad enough. . . .'"

I don't know who the "he" and "the other" are referring to! Frans, possibly, since Pirate makes reference to having been told the story later in the novel. Pointsman, maybe? Slothrop?! I guess some things will need to remain a mystery.

The section ends on a scene at The White Visitation where the film of Katje that was being recorded at the beginning of this section winds up being played for Grigori the Octopus. He's being given a stimulus to respond to in the next Chapter.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XIV

This section begins with some insults for "Awful Offspring" from Ned Nosepicker's Book of 50,000 Insults. Judging by the quality of the three insults excerpted, I'm glad this isn't a real book that exists. Because the insults aren't that great unless you've already read Gravity's Rainbow and, even then, they're terrible. They rely on the person recognizing the name and career of Dr. Laszlo Jamf. So even if the book were real and Dr. Laszlo Jamf were real, the person who's kid you were trying to insult when you tried out the line, "When Jamf conditioned him, he threw away the stimulus," would probably stare incomprehensively at you while trying to decide if whatever the fuck you were saying was worth an assault charge.

For first time readers wondering what the fuck that Dr. Jamf insult shit was, they won't have long to wait. Unless they gave up on the book right after reading that introduction and then I guess they have to wait as long as it takes for them to try finishing Gravity's Rainbow yet again. I suppose for most people who aren't stubbornly intelligent people like me, that amount of time is determined by some sort of calculation of an infinite set approaching zero.

Look, I'm not Pynchon! I don't understand higher maths and Pavlovian theory and history! I'm just a vulgar jerk on the Internet "pretending" to be stupid so that people think I'm smart!

Pointsman approaches Pudding with his plan to experiment on Tyrone Slothrop. Pudding is resistant to the plan. But that's before Pointsman says, "I know a woman who is willing to piss and shit in your mouth. Now will you fund it?" And Pudding is all, "Take my money!"

Pointsman alludes to Tyrone Slothrop's earliest years as an infant and how he was experimented on by Lazslo Jamf. Apparently it's common knowledge evidenced by how Ned Nosepicker used it in his insults in a book that, I'm assuming since there are 50,000 insults, wasn't meant for a niche market. Lazslo experiment was thus:

"Unconditioned stimulus = stroking penis with antiseptic cotton swab.
    Unconditioned response = hardon.
    Conditioned stimulus = x.
    Conditioned response = hardon whenever x is present, stroking is no longer necessary, all you need is x."

While the experiment was widely circulated, the knowledge of stimulus x was never revealed. I've read Gravity's Rainbow but that doesn't mean I'm positive that it's ever truly revealed. Although it's almost certainly the smell of Jamf's experimental plastic Imipolex G.

It's in this section where the reader discovers the reason for calling Chapter One "Beyond the Zero." It's about deconditioning subjects when the doctors are through with the experiment. If x causes Baby Slothrop to get a hardon, one must decondition Baby Slothrop to not get a hardon from x before ending the experiment and releasing him back into non-experimental civilian life. But the deconditioning does not end as soon as Baby Slothrop does not get a hardon at the presence of x. That's the zero point: no evidenced physical response to the stimulus. But Baby Slothrop is still reacting to the stimulus, just up to but not quite reaching the point where he gets a hardon. The deconditioning must take into account all of the conditioning prior to the evidenced hardon. This is going beyond the zero.

Now how does the concept of beyond the zero work thematically with Gravity's Rainbow? Let me pause to think about it.

Perhaps—now give me room to speculate here—the conditioning is living in a war under the threat of rocket attacks and everything else that goes with it. That would make the zero the end of the war. Which would presuppose that just because the war ended and the rockets stopped falling, people have not been deconditioned past the zero. They've simply lost the stimulus to which they had been responding. More than that, what if we're supposing the main metaphor of the stimulus is the rocket itself to which nobody could react anyway because it strikes before a person knew it was coming? So the stimulus is simply constant fear and paranoia of death. When the war ends, the fear and paranoia do not simply go away because there is no method to go beyond the zero to remove the conditional response. Saying the war is over and everybody is now safe and the world will return to normal is taking the patient to the zero. But not beyond. A generation must now grow up full of fear and paranoia with no idea why because there's no actual stimulus. They've just been saddled with the conditioned response that was never taken beyond the zero because there was no cathartic expression for the end of the war. One day, it was just over. Now imagine the next generation growing up under the guidance of all of these people who have not been taken beyond the zero of their conditioned response of fear and paranoia. Perhaps the postmodern experience of the world through the eyes of this and their subsequent generations is the abreaction, the release and expression of all of this fear and paranoia. It then makes sense why the atomic bomb is one of the most blatant symbols of the postmodern era.

Pointsman wants to experiment on Tyrone while everybody else at The White Visitation simply espouses theories on his ability to protect where a rocket will hit by fucking somebody in the spot a few days before the rocket lands. Most of the theories, of course, rely on their fields of expertise as explanation.

Pointsman is the most boggled because the hardon/rocket relationship shows all the signs of a Pavlovian stimulus/response but in reverse. The reaction takes place days before the stimulus. But the two cannot be denied because Slothrop's map of sexual conquests matches up exactly with Roger Mexico's Poisson distribution map of rocket strikes. The two are somehow linked. The problem is discovering how. Oh, Pointsman is also frustrated by the idea that women are allowing Slothrop to have sex with him. Why him?! That must be part of it, right?! Or else—Mexico's statistics and Poisson distribution being in effect everywhere—wouldn't Pointsman be getting laid at least occasionally as well?!

Oh, I should put a quote I like in here now. Something to do with Poisson distribution, probably.

"But if it's in the air, right here, right now, then the rockets follow from it, 100% of the time. No exceptions. When we find it, we'll have shown again the stone determinacy of everything, of every soul. There will be precious little room for any hope at all. You can see how important a discovery like that would be."

I mean, is Pointsman fucking depressing or what?! "Hey guys! Wanna see my Nobel Prize for eradicating the concept of free will?! It's right over here in my study which you're fated to walk into now!"

The section ends with Pointsman and Mexico having a conversation on the coast (I mean, mostly ends. It actually ends on four more descriptive paragraphs but this is the main part). On my first read (I mean second read (possibly third read)), I got the general gist of it: Pointsman, for some reason, wants Mexico's approval and support for the coming Tyrone Slothrop experiment. But there's more to it and that's what I've got to chew over on yet another read through right now.

Jessica has put in Mexico's mind the half of the sexual encounter that isn't Slothrop: the women. What about the women? The rockets are raining down where Slothrop has his sexual encounter which probably means on the women's apartments or homes. Could there be an aspect of misogyny here? Consciously, unconsciously, or completely at random, these women are being hurt. And all the men interested in Slothrop's hardons haven't given them a second thought.

Pointsman seeks a purely mechanical and physiological explanation for Slothrop's rocket hardons predictions. How can there not be cause and effect when the pattern is obvious: hardon then rocket. Every time. But Mexico is open to other possibilities. Perhaps cause and effect, perhaps the linear way of looking at things, of reading experiments and explaining history . . . perhaps that's obsolete. Maybe there's a new way of looking at things, he suggests. Pointsman doesn't buy it but he is open to some new insight. But only based on the evidence. And so, a new experiment using what they have: ". . . reversal of rocket sounds to go on . . . clinical history of sexual conditioning, perhaps to auditory stimuli, and what appears to be a reversal of cause-and-effect."

The hardest part of the section will probably turn out to be the most important. But it's a section I can't fully get a grasp on because it discusses more Pavlovian theory. It's about Pavlov's beliefs on obsession and paranoid delusion, exactly the things Slothrop deals with in Chapter Two. Pointsman's plan is to manipulate Slothrop through the various stages of paranoia and obsession so they can determine, without his bias and through only secret observation, why he does the things he does. And maybe that can answer why the rockets fall where they do (although Pointsman admits that he's not really interested in the rocket problem and only brings it up in the hopes of getting Roger's support).

I should probably figure out this ultraparadoxical stuff before moving on but it hurts my brain. I'm just going to stick it in my brain surrounded by an inhibited area of my brain and let it percolate until I'm so obsessed with it that I'll definitely understand it but also I'll probably realize the ultraparadoxical phase is just a big conspiracy to get me to forget to eat and sleep properly.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XIII

If you were a reader thinking "I wonder what The White Visitation looks like and one compelling story about the patients who used to be housed there" then this is the section you've been waiting for! Because it begins with those things! In the story about the patient who escapes from The White Visitation when it used to be solely a place to house the insane, we learn that the Lord of the Sea has been named Bert. This might be important later. Try to remember it's a Pynchon novel. Every weird bit with a general eating shit directly from a woman's ass or some guy jerking off on an encoded war missive is probably important!

The White Visitation slowly became more than a mental hospital as the war began. The new military occupants' first piece of business was to set up a broadcasting station to broadcast paranoid thoughts into Germany on a constant basis; it's why The White Visitation was chosen: high on a cliff overlooking the sea and facing the Continent. It was the perfect place to beam wireless paranoia directly at the German people. A BBC broadcaster named Myron Grunton took up the job. And being wireless, his paranoid programs also infiltrated the dreams and daily life of the locals. How could it not? Paranoia isn't exactly a domesticated and controllable entity.

Myron's broadcasts became the first iteration of Project Black Wing. The idea of Project Black Wing began when Pirate brought back intel on a group of ex-colonial Africans—the Hereros—now living in Germany and involved in a secret weapons program for the War. What better subject to fire up paranoia among the Germans than the possibility of a race war brewing, based on the Hereros' vengeance for Germany's colonial and genocidal treatment of them back in Africa in the early 1900s? They named them the Schwarzkommando and they broadcasted, continuously, descriptions of the possible (probable!) danger of their discontent.

Moving on from Project Black Wing, also headquartered at The White Visitation is our Pavlovian and his dogs, Pointsman. As the War is nearing its end and victory is in sight, Pointsman grows more and more desperate and disillusioned. His experiments have not provided him with any material to make his name known; the War, while being an apt conduit for funding, turned out to not be the ideal situation for Pavlovian ideas. And he knows that when the War ends, so will his revenue. This is why he is so desperate to get his hands on Tyrone Slothrop and his bomb predicting boners. It's hard to show how making dogs drool can be turned to usefulness in the war effort. But figuring out the cause and effect, discovering the stimulus present to give a man's penis the ability to predict where a rocket will fall, how can that be denied by the people parceling out the money?!

Pointsman's biggest obstacle to more funding is Brigadier Pudding.

"Ernest Pudding was brought up to believe in a literal Chain of Command, as clergymen of earlier centuries believed in the Chain of Being. The newer geometries confuse him. His greatest triumph on the battlefield came in 1917, in the gassy, Armageddonite filth of the Ypres salient, where he conquered a bight of no man's land some 40 yards at its deepest, with a wastage of only 70% of his unit. He was pensioned off around the beginning of the Great Depression—went to sit in the study of an empty house in Devon, surrounded by photos of old comrades, none of whose gazes quite met one's own, there to go at a spot of combinatorial analysis, that favorite pastime of retired Army officers, with a rattling intense devotion."

That's Pudding. Pynchon adds more that evocative opening description of Pudding which is well worth reading but my goal isn't to transcribe the entirety of the novel here! I'm just trying to come to an understanding of what is happening in every section of this book. That's not going to be easy because I already feel like I've failed with the Slothrop's Sodium Amytal hallucination.

One of the great things about reading a 1973 Thomas Pynchon book in 2020 is that I have the Internet at my disposal. So when Pynchon says something like "Maud Chilkes, who looks from the rear rather like Cecil Beaton's photograph of Margot Asquith, sits dreaming of a bun and a cup of tea," I can simply Google "Cecil Beaton's photograph of Margot Asquith" and voila:

Maybe, for some reason, I'd have already been familiar with this if I'd read the book in 1973. But I doubt it! Unless there was some big Cecil Beaton revival that year.

Whether or not readers of Gravity's Rainbow in 1973 would have recognized this image, it's beyond doubt that 80 year old Brigadier Pudding would have used it as a point of comparison in 1944. He probably jerked off to that image on multiple occasions as a wee lad of 63.

The point of Pudding's mini-biography in his introduction is to point out that he's not really happy being in charge of doling out money to a bunch of maniacs who nobody would have thought twice about pre-War but he's too old and set in his outlook to be of any serious use to other parts of the war effort.

Here, have a line that broke my heart:

"In the ARF wing, the stolen dogs sleep, scratch, recall shadowy smells of humans who may have loved them, listen undrooling to Ned Pointsman's oscillators and metronomes."

It's just one line so it only brought me to the brink of weeping as opposed to the section on the Dodos and the other section on the Hereros' plans for generational suicide.

And now we get into discussions of Pavlovian theory. It's not as confusing as Alan Moore's Lucia James chapter in Jerusalem (I mean, what is? Could I have at least chosen something understandable without unending hours of torturous speculation and guesswork? Like maybe Memento or Lost Highway?) but more confusing than the boner I get reading and Archie and Jughead comic book (because of Veronica, of course! Va-va-va-voom! If it wasn't for Veronica, the boner would be more confusing than the discussion of Pavlovian science). It's sad that I don't understand it because I'm pretty sure it's all this smart theoretical stuff that is the key that unlocks the door to the room where all the good porn is hidden. The porn is a metaphor for postmodernist themes.

One dog, Vanya, has entered "the 'equivalent' phase, the first of the transmarginal phases." That means her response to the stimulus is no longer dependent on the strength of the stimulus. Her response is the same no matter how great or how meager the stimulus. Vanya's body and mind are literally being changed by her exposure to overwhelming stimuli. She no longer perceives a difference between inconsequential stimuli and life-and-death stimuli. Vanya has become numb to not just subtlety and nuance but to any degree of difference in outside stimuli she's exposed to. This is commentary on us, isn't it?! Especially in a time of war where rockets exploding around us have become just a part of our daily lives. It's an example of Roger's earlier confession to Jessica upon driving by scenes of devastation where people are searching for the living and wounded.

"Once Roger and Jessica might have stopped. But they're both alumni of the Battle of Britain, both have been drafted into the early black mornings and the crying for mercy, the dumb inertia of cobbles and beams, the profound shortage of mercy in those days. . . . By the time one has pulled one's nth victim or part of a victim free of one's nth pile of rubble, he told her once, angry, weary, it has ceased to be that personal . . . the value of n my be different for each of us, but I'm sorry: sooner or later . . ."

See? This is why this project is good for me in understanding Gravity's Rainbow. Because now I get why all the Pavlovian stuff! It's making sense!

After the bit about the dog Vanya, Pynchon describes Brigadier Pudding's weekly group meetings. It's fucking hilarious but I won't go into it here. It's another example, 80 pages in, of how hilarious this book is and, at the 80th page or so, easily still a surprise, especially if it's your first time reading it. A reader could easily make it this far having missed the truly hilarious other parts of the book (like, say, maybe the reader thought of themselves as too intellectual for toilet humor or slapstick. Why, they would have been doubly, but sternly, apoplectic over Poinstman's hunt for a dog that winds up with his foot stuck in a toilet!). But I submit there's nobody who could get to this section and not think to themselves, "Oh! Ha ha! Good show, chap! Mighty funny, this!" Unless, of course, they missed it because they were so confused by the transmarginal stuff it caused them to miss the way Brigadier Pudding's meeting devolves into other topics so that they read the entire section and thought, "Oh! I mean, what? 'Vertical interest'? I don't get it."

One scientist, Géza Rózsavölgyi, is concerned not with Pudding's meetings but how everyone at The White Visitation will be funded after the war. He believes they need a powerful program to justify their existence rather than a charismatic leader able to secure funding through pure force of ego and will. The work is what should matter; it is what should drive the science. Currently, Géza Rózsavölgyi believes that Tyrone Slothrop is their best bet for studies which will lead to a promising post-War program. And so Géza Rózsavölgyi sets out the parameters for Chapter Two:

"Precise-ly why," leaps Rózsavölgyi, "we are now proposing, to give, Sloth-rop a complete-ly dif-ferent sort, of test. We are now design-ing for him, a so-called, 'projec-tive' test. The most famil-iar exam-ple of the type, is the Rorschach ink-blot. The ba-sic theory, is, that when given an unstruc-tured stimulus, some shape-less blob of exper-ience, the subject, will seek to impose, struc-ture on it. How, he goes a-bout struc-turing this blob, will reflect his needs, his hopes—will provide, us with clues, to his dreams, fan-tasies, the deepest re-gions of his mind." Eyebrows going a mile a minute, extraordinarily fluid and graceful hand gestures, resembling—most likely it is deliberate, and who can blame Rosie for trying to cash in—those of his most famous compatriot, though there're the inevitable bad side-effects: staff who swear they've seen him crawling headfirst down the north façade of "The White Visitation," for example. "So we are re-ally, quite, in agree-ment, Reverend Doctor. A test, like the MMPI, is, in this respect, not adequate. It is, a struc-tured stimulus. The sub-ject can fal-sify, consciously, or repress, un-consciously. But with the projec-tive technique, nothing he can do, con-scious or otherwise, can pre-vent us, from finding what we wish, to know. We, are in control. He, cannot help, himself."

Christ that was a pain in the ass to transcribe!

Basically, the plan is to expose Slothrop to the rocket in more direct and intimate ways than just wandering around London getting boners where rockets will land. See what he makes of it. See how he reacts. Watch his paranoia run out of control until the world is exactly what he thinks it is: people manipulating his life to the point that he has practically no free will. And, I mean, yeah. How does one account for the observers observing the observation ruining the experiment? I mean, if you're manipulating a guy to see how he reacts and he reacts by assuming his entire world is being manipulated, does that mean, you know, anything?!

Oh, and who is Rosie trying to emulate? What person is the most famous Soviet war-era compatriot? It sounds like it should be Spider-man!

I said the section begins with a description of The White Visitation. But that's nothing compared with the actual detailed description of the building on which the section ends. It's practically a treatise on postmodern architecture.

And that's it! This was a most enlightening section to re-read. How come we can't just re-read books instead of having to read them first before we can re-read them? They'd be so much easier to understand!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XII

In my children's literature class in college, the professor often wanted us to write essays based on exactly one sentence from the text. You know, really burrow down into the meat of that sentence! Get to the bottom of those scant few words by writing dozens and dozens of more words. I never really did understand how or why she wanted us to do this. I mean how much did Lloyd Alexander really want us to get out of his description of the protagonist lying down on a tree root to get some rest?! What she wanted was for us to speculate on every possible meaning of every sentence in ways that just seemed like a huge waste of time. Did she expect us to write an 800 page analysis on a 150 page book?! Oh, sure, I've been slowly working on an explication of The Bible that's about forty pages into Genesis and it's already three hundred pages long. So maybe she taught me something?

No, no! She absolutely didn't! Because every time I tried to do what she expected, I would branch out (what do I mean by "branch out"? Write a seventy word explication of my word choice) and begin discussing other aspects of the story, like the sentence that came before the sentence I was supposed to be concentrating on and also the sentence which came after and, you know what? Because I was so precocious, sometimes I'd discuss sentences even more distant from the explicated sentence than that! I forgave her though because she complimented me the day I wore my Alice Cooper in Wonderland costume to my classes.

But imagine if I took her advice! I already write long-winded digressions of every single thing I write something critical about. Am I also supposed to write long-winded explications of every single sentence as well? Sure, it would probably be helpful for Gravity's Rainbow! But it would also be embarrassing because people would truly understand the high percentage of sentences in this book which provoke this reaction from my brain: "DER!"

Although, I will say her method of explicating texts is absolutely the right way to explicate the Lucia Joyce chapter in the third book of Alan Moore's Jerusalem. Just wait until I do some blog entries on that mind fuck!

This section begins with an advertisement for Lazlo Jamf's Kryptosam, a substance which is invisible until somebody jerks off on it. Super good for secret messages unless the recipient is a woman. Although I suppose if she really needs to read the secret message, she can find a male friend and jerk him off on the message. The cute bit of the advert is how it suggests the message be sent alongside some porn appropriate to the person in question. So if you're sending a secret message to Brigadier Pudding, you'll want whatever the print equivalent to Two Girls, One Cup was in the thirties or forties. I bet the equivalent was a woman standing fully dressed with a shocked little "o" of a mouth and her hand just about covering it up as you can sort of see the hint of a toilet in the background. So risqué!

The actual narrative begins with Pirate looking at the "porn" sent with his current secret message (is it the message that came in the rocket? I don't remember ever learning about the message in the small cylinder! If I had to guess using only the knowledge of what I remember from my first reading, I'd say it was a message sent in the 000000 (Gottfried and his Imipolex womb having been destroyed) about Katje and how to rescue her). The "porn" is a black and white image of Scorpia Mossmoon, the wife of Clive Mossmoon and the woman Pirate thought he could become a civilian for (until it was apparent they couldn't remain together and he re-enlisted), in the room they talked about living together in and wearing a sexy outfit which he often pictured her in but had told nobody about. So somehow They know exactly what will get him to ejaculate all over his secret message. Although it works so well Pirate nearly doesn't get his penis out and pointed at the message before blowing his secret message decoder load.

A still encrypted message appears through the smear of Pirate's jizz which, after decoding in his head, gives Pirate a time, a place, and a request for help. So it might be to rescue Katje. But is it from Katje? Or is it a gift from Blicero for his little Gretel? Perhaps, although doubtful, it was from Gottfried.

"There is a time given, a place, a request for help. He burns the message, fallen on him from higher than Earth's atmosphere, salvaged from Earth's prime meridian, keeps the picture, hmm, and washes his hands. His prostate is aching. There is more to this than he can see. He has no recourse, no appeal: he has to go over there and bring the operative out again. The message is tantamount to an order from the highest levels."

Now to undo some of my speculation! There is no reason to believe this message came in the 000000. That rocket, being as mythical as it winds up being, was almost certainly launched nearly straight North along the magnetic line (this has to do with mathematical reasons discussed during the subsequent and much, much later allied launch of the 000001 (and was somebody in that one as well? Slothrop?! Bianca? Ludwig and his lemming?!)). But who would have sent this one? It seems obvious the operative is Katje, even Blicero suspected as much. But would she have been able to get the message into a rocket? Or, and I think maybe I might sort of understand this better when I get to the Blicero/Hansel/Gretel section later, Blicero sent it himself.

This is why I needed to re-read this thing immediately! Because the first time through, I quickly forgot about Pirate's message from the rocket here. That's the problem with being so easily entertained by the secret message that can only be read after you smear semen on it. Of course I was concentrating on that aspect of this passage!