Moments in War


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.

girls girls

One thing has bothered me about the novels in this class. All of them are written by men. This itself doesn't bother me, but I feel like it's clear from the writing that they are written by men. Two of the books dealt with WWII, which is typically a masculine topic. Otherwise, women had very small roles. The Mendleson article on the encyclopedic novel mentioned this trait, but I still found it tiresome for me personally. Not only do women have small roles, but if they appear in the novel, they will have sex with one of the main characters sooner or later (usually, at least). This insistence of women in relation to male sexuality is, in my opinion, problematic because these novels cannot seem to escape it.

Depiction of Goto Dengo

Okay, I have more coherently formulated my thoughts from class. What I find problematic (which is not the same thing as "inexcusable" or "should have been omitted") in Stephenson's depiction of Goto is that this individual representations too easily stands in for an entire group of disparate people. This is the function that representations serve; they are thus, in some sense, always violent. The decision to be made for individual authors, filmakers, theorists, etc., is not so much "should I produce representations?," because of course (it seems to me) Stephenson should be writing, as "How can I counteract the tendency of this representation to violently stand-in for a much larger whole." The way we read Goto Dengo and his relationship to the prototypical Japanese person of course depends on where we are coming from as readers; but that is not to say that the matter is completely out of Stephenson's hands.

Personal responsibility

I wanted to continue a thread of discussion from I think Monday's class regarding personal responsibility in the WWII and contemporary contexts in Cryptonomicon. Someone mentioned that whereas Bobby and Lawrence's responsibility is simply to take orders that aid an obviously morally justified cause (the war), Randy's responsibility and complicity in 1990's geopolitics is much more intricate and, furthermore, individualistic. It seems that Randy's worldy engagement often comes down to his whim, especially as someone of the professional class: he gets in and of romantic relationships, he starts business ventures, he picks and flies accross the world whenever the situation calls for it.

CNN story about "comfort women"


Saw this article on CNN and it made me think of the discussion Monday about horniness and soldiers in the war.

Sorry- kind of a tangent!


Figuring out the father of anna nicole smith's child was bad enough....

I thought the scene where the Waterhouse Family splits the inheritance was absolutely hilarious (Origin 620-633). The notion that the contentious process of equally dividing all of Randy's grandmother's possessions by reducing their worth to two relatively simple variables, monetary and sentimental value which then have to be crunched by a supercomputer. In spite of the supposed equality and objectivity, Rnady admits that "certainly there won't be a mathematically exact solution" (630). With everyone's fixation on getting what they want, it seems that they may as well have just fought it out and settled it the good old fashioned way!

Lord of the Rings Allusions


I cracked up when I read all of the Lord of the Rings allusions in this section of the novel. Randy refers to Andrew Loeb as "gollum", himself (and many of the secret admirers) as a "dwarf", his grandfather as an ethereal "elf"... it was hilarious! I know for a fact that an infatuation with Lord of the Rings is one of the signs of nerdiness. Many members of my family have been afflicted with such an infatuation-- my dad actually gave each of his friends Lord of the Rings nicknames when they were in their twenties (I think my dad was Frodo). This makes me wonder, does Neal Stephenson feel that he must add this section in to only assure us of his character's nerdiness, or is a major nerd himself? My vote is on the latter.

Goto Dengo's mines, and my questions


I just finished reading our section for Wednesday, and I am a little confused about what happened in the last thirty pages (or so) with the mines Goto Dengo has been working on. Why is there a "trick vault?" And why does there seem to be so much secrecy, i.e. the comment "I will give you instructions. We will make a special shaft" (678) that Goto says to Wing? Is Goto trying to pull a fast one, since he is in charge of the whole mining operation? And this mine is just supposed to be a shelter for Japanese gold? I'm sorry if these are stupid questions... i just don't quite understand it yet!

Entertainment is back again


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).

Moral ambiguity


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.

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