Running Silent's blog

Moral ambiguity

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Our discussion in class today kept me thinking about this whole notion of whether WW2 was really a morally ambiguous or straight cut war. Certainly, I would find it hard to argue that at least in Allied countries it was PERCEIVED as a morally unambiguous war. Afterall, many people call WW2 the last good war, because after that, few wars garnered so much public support. That being said, WW2 in truth, was not a morally clean war. It was a war which resulted in the dropping of two atomic bombs which to this day, is still a point of moral contention for some people. And certainly, Allied actions following WW1 created conditions ripe for the rise of Adolph Hitler.

Yamamoto

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I found the section of Yamamoto really interesting. From the reasarch I did, its take on Yamamoto's politics was actually fairly acurate, but what really did it for me was the colloquial thought process and delivery that Yamamoto goes through. I particularly liked his description of the Japanese Army. "... but those Army guys have spent their careers mowing down Chinamen and raping their women and they honestly believe that the Americans are just the same except taller and smellier. Come on guys, Yamamoto keeps telling them, the world is not just a big Nainjing. But they don't get it. If Yamamoto were running things, he'd make a rule: each Army officer would have to take some time out from bayoneting Noelithic savages in the jungle, go out on the wide Pacific in a ship, and swap 16-inch shells with an American task force for a while. Then maybe, they'd understand they're in a real scrap here." (335).

First Thoughts

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Let me say first that I am really enjoying this book thus far. It is much more coherent than some of the other books we've read, flows better in my opinion, and gut wrecnchingly funny (ok so maybe I'm exagerrating a bit here but let's just say it's a plus when you have vocal representations of your amusement).

There are two things that I found really interesting. The first was all the technical jargon about symbol logic. I can see how alot of people would not like it but I for one enjoyed it alot. The way it was presented made it really readable. There was a speed an excitment to their discussions which just rubbed off onto the reader. Not to mention Randy's accent was pretty funny, although at certain points it seems like his accent has disappeared totally.

Apologies

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I just wanted to explain my take on why Infinite Jest, a video of mother saying "i'm sorry" over and over again is as entertaining as it is. My reasoning may seem childish if not outright silly but I think that part of the reason this video is as addicting as it is because the idea of a motherly apology is so remote. Call me crazy and playing on exaggerations and jokes, but I don't think anyone can deny that at some point in their life before adulthood, they were "wronged" in some way and felt they deserved an apology they never received. What's more, you probably were forced to admit that you were at fault even when you truly believed otherwise; in a sense, a false forced confession. This double whammy makes people loose faith in any idea of justice and fairness. Moreover, because parents are the authority and monopolizer of power within a family unit, we as children view such an act as an abuse of power.

The homogenous consumer culture

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Here is the section I wanted to look at: "The noCoat campaign had three major consequences. The first was that horrible year Hal vaguely recalls when a nation became obsessed with the state of its tongue, when people would no sooner leave home without a tongue-scraper and an emergency backup tongue-scraper than they'd fail to wash and brush and spray" (414).

I think its interesting here that the rhetoric used describes not just even a societal obsession with tongue-scrapers, but a societal fear of being without one. This book seems to be laced with the idea of addiction and I think it is interesting to consider the nature of addiction in a large scale.

Buying Urine

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I am very interested in the recurring theme of waste and how personal and revealing it is. In Underworld, we saw that Marvin hid the smell of his waste from his wife because it was something he found very personal and secret. Waste had the power to display a person totally.

In Infinite Jest the characters take it one step further. Its more than just hiding their waste now. Now characters are actively trying to fabricate their waste through buying urine. They understand how their waste can reveal their secret of drug use, so they must falsify their waste. This kind of becomes a problem however about how revealing waste can be.

Final Thoughts

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Some final thoughts about Underworld. It was certainly a more enjoyable book than Gravity's Rainbow if only for the fact that it was much easier to read. The thing that really struck my about Underworld though was being able to see people's thoughts. I felt the thought processes and logic of each of the characters was something very unique. They each embodied a particular method of thinking. But unlike Gravity's Rainbow, their thoughts were coherent. Perhaps a little extreme, but logically in its own way none the less. I could actually connect and relate to their thoughts as opposed to the absurd paranoia of the characters in Gravities rainbow. And I would be lying to say that I have attempted to adopt some of their paradigms when it comes to seeing the world.

Indiscriminate Death

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I just thought it very interesting to see a recurrence in the idea of indiscriminate death on page 614. "And I thought, because, being a black man, I would be harder to see through. But I saw right through my skin to the bones. This flash too bright to make racial niceties. All the same in God's eyes, so let that be a lesson." (614). I think its interesting here for two reasons. First, it essentially equates God with death; the giver and taker of life. In this sense we can think of God as nuclear power. Nuclear power is the life giver in the form of the sun and nuclear power. It is also the life taker in the form of the nuclear bomb.

Apparently you don't just "get it"

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Starting around page 600, when Marian is listening to the radio about the protests, it repeatedly says, "She began to understand this was Vietnam Week on campuses... She began to understand that the riot out there, if that's what it was, was being...She began to understand that someone or some group had taken over the radio and as they day..." (599-603). I don't know if she has been thinking like this before but I didn't notice it until now. It just really strikes me that DeLillo would use "she began to understand..." and not "she understood". All the things she is "beginning to understand" are pretty straightforward facts. You either understand that its a riot, or not. You either understand that the radio has been hijacked or not. There is no in between process of understanding. Somehow though, I have a feeling DeLillo wasn't trying to make Marian slow or something...

Paranoia

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I think that Underworld reveals (more clearly) an aspect of paranoia that wasn't discussed really in Gravity's Rainbow. That is, when someone is paranoid, they already know the answer to their fears, and nothing short of an affirmation of such fears will calm their hearts. I think this aspect of paranoia is really well illustrated in the discussion about the census. "'Face the issue,' he said. 'What's the issue?' 'We have a right to know how many of us there are.' 'But you do know.' 'We don't know. Because the number is too dangerous. How threatened do you feel by the real number?'"(336) As you can see, he has already made up his mind about the facts. Nothing will convince him that the census data is accurate because he will simply claim that it has been manipulated.

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