KKT's blog

Moments in War

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For all the terrible things that can be said about war and the effects that it has on humankind, there was one part of the novel that really touched me:

"But then much brighter, warmer light floods the interior of the V-Million. Bischoff looks back and up, and sees the forward end of hte pressure hull turned into a dome of orange fire, the silhouette of a man centered in it, lines of welds and rivets spreading away from that center like the meridians of a globe. It's bright as day. He turns around and swims easily down the gangway" (906).

So. The U-boat was in deep trouble and pretty much everyone on it realized that they were going to die in the very near future. But Rudy promises Bischoff that he will live. And then Rudy opens the U-boat hatch and lights a match, killing himself but allowing Bischoff to swim out of the boat to safety. Yes, terrible, awful, inhuman things happen during the war, but there are also tiny moments of goodness that occur--like one man giving up his life for that of another.

Entertainment is back again

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One of the major themes of the other three novels that we've read so far has been entertainment, particularly film. I feel like I even wrote a blog entry or had a discussion with someone or something pretty early on in the course talking about how people sometimes imagine their lives to be a movie. And voila, in this section of Cryptonomicon we get people imagining another person's life as a movie:

"Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse's widow and five children agree that Dad did something in the war, and that's about it. Each of them seems to have a different 1950s B-movie, or a 1940s Movietone newsreel, in his or her head, portraying a rather different set of events. There is not even agreement on whether he was in the Army or the Navy, which seems like a pretty fundamental plot point to Randy" (639-640).

Gold!

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I thought that Randy's email to his partners was hilarious, besides being informative (pages 525-528 deal directly with the gold). I thought it was interesting that he anticipated all of these issues and problems and came up with several plans from the point of view of the "questioner," but then still couldn't find a way to get the gold out of the jungle in a sufficient manner. It was also interesting that there is SO much gold just sitting there in the jungle, and that some old lady happened to tell Randy about it. How has it stayed there for so long? I suppose that the transportation issues are the major reason.

Military Life

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I thought the scene that discussed the messages from Grand Admiral Karl Donitz and Kapitanleutnant Gunter Bischoff was hilarious. Bischoff's messages were funny, but it was the Admiral's responses that were the most interesting:

"Nice work, Bischoff! You get another medal. Don't worry about the Enigma, it's fantastic!"

"Superb, another medal for you!"

"You are a hero of the Reich and the Fuhrer himself has been informed of your brilliant success!"

"You are now officially the greatest U-boat commander of all time" (391).

So. All of this lavish praise, besides being hilarious, got me to thinking about the military and its structure.

"This is quite a poser"

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I thought the scene on the grounded ship, when people like Bobby Shaftoe and Root are trying to figure out if Monkberg is a German spy, was hilarious. I loved how they were all trying to use logic to determine whether or not to destroy the code books:

"'Has anyone ever died,' he [Root] says, 'because the enemy stole one of our secret codes and read our messages?'
'Absolutely,' Shaftoe says.
'Has anyone on our side ever died,' Root continues, 'because the enemy *didn't* have one of our secret codes?'
This is quite a poser" (276).

I thought it was really interesting that they were trying to use all this logic to convict Monkberg of being a spy instead of actual evidence (although they do use some of that, like his self-inflicted leg injury). The logic they were using seemed sort of backwards to me, although I am definitely not a logic/math person.

"It's war, baby."

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So this is kind of a small thing, but I thought it was pretty interesting. On page 48, Glory and Shaftoe are interrupted by wailing sirens. Glory asks what it is, and Shaftoe "sees searchlights. And it ain't no Hollywood premiere. 'It's war, baby,' he says." I thought the juxtaposition here was really funny. Here Shaftoe is, saying that this isn't some Hollywood thing, and then some terribly cliche Hollywood line comes flying out of his mouth. Maybe he wants it to be Hollywood, because then it wouldn't be real? I'm not sure, but it's amusing nonetheless.

Our Old Favorites

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So many of our favorite themes are showing up again in this book! The first major one that I noticed was paranoia, our good buddy from pretty much every novel we've read this semester. Of course, since the novel is about codes and encryption and war, paranoia is huge. I really liked Stephenson's recognition of the paranoia, though; on page 53, he writes, "The question is: how much paranoia is really appropriate?" I guess I liked the implication here that sometimes paranoia goes over the top (see Gravity's Rainbow), and that there's a fine line to be drawn between too much and not enough paranoia.

Wasted Conversation

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Finished! 3 down, 1 to go. I'm not sure I fully understood everything that happened in the end, but hopefully some of the pieces will click soon.

So. There was one scene that really tied in to the whole "family relations" thing that a lot of groups were talking about yesterday:

"What moved *me* to feel sorry for Orin was that it seemed pretty obvious that that had nothing to do with what Himself was trying to talk about. It was the most open I'd ever heard of Himself being with anybody, and it seemed terribly sad to me, somehow, that he'd wasted it on Orin. I'd never once had a conversation nearly that open or intimate with Himself" (956).

Ghosts and Windows

So I'm not sure if I even knew this was possible, but Ortho Stice got his forehead stuck to a window. This scene (865- 876ish) was hilarious, but I'm also not entirely sure I get the significance of it (although maybe the significance has yet to come by page 900?). Throughout all of Hal's plotting to get Stice loose ("Dark, prepare yourself mentally" (870)), Stice is speculating about paranormal matters. I thought it was interesting how a.) Stice seems more concerned about ghosts and stuff than about having his forehead stuck to a window and b.) that neither Hal nor Stice immediately refutes the idea that there may be paranormal "things" in the ETA. Hal says that "Mario says he's seen paranormal figures, and he's not kidding, and Mario doesn't lie . . . so belief-wise I don't know what to think. Subhadronic particles behave ghostishly. I think I withhold all prejudgment on the whole thing" (871). So obviously there's been some speculation on the matter, and even Hal has a hard time refuting the fact that there may be paranormal things floating around the ETA.

M*A*S*H

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I thought the scene where Steeply tells Marathe about his father's obsession with M*A*S*H was really interesting and powerful. For one thing, there were parts to it that were downright amusing (I love Marathe's language issues, like on page 639 when he says "'I am knowing of the U.S.A. historical broadcast television comedy program M*A*S*H.'") But I also think this section speaks to both the idea of excess and the idea of addiction. It's pretty obvious where the excess comes into play--after all, Marathe astutely states that Steeply's father's "unbalance of temptation cost him his life" (646). Thus, this is a severe case of addiction--addiction to M*A*S*H, yes, and in broader terms, an addiction to entertainment (one of Wallace's favorite topics). For Steeply's father, it's as though M*A*S*H was his own personal Infinite Jest, and he couldn't stop watching it, so it eventually killed him. I'm guessing we're going to see more "personal" Infinite Jests such as this one throughout the rest of the novel.

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