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09-01-2012
The Gospel of Wealth: Towards a New Generation of American Consumership By Jim Chaffee
08-01-2011
Rick Perry leads Baal worshippers in prayer meeting By Pig Bodine M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
02-01-2011
A Film Too Far: The Battle of the Strait of Hormuz By Jim Chaffee
08-01-2010
Maurice Stoker quasireviews The Vicious Circulation of Dr. Catastrophe: A Polemical Ensemble by Kane X. Faucher By Maurice Stoker
06-01-2010
Boozer Allan Hamilton Justifies the Tea Party By Boozer Allan Hamilton
04-15-2010
Keith Olbermann Freaks Out Pig Bodine By Pig Bodine
06-15-2009
Saving California: Secession and the Reagan Scheme By Pig Bodine
05-15-2009
Maurice Stoker on Tom Bradley's Even the Dog Won't Touch Me By Maurice Stoker
12-15-2008
Two Glad Tidings from The Marshall By Marshall Smith
11-01-2008
Sarah Palin's Party of God By Maurice Stoker
09-15-2008
Double-Ended Dildos Manufactured at Cosmodrome By Kane X. Faucher
07-15-2008
At the Airport By Tom Bradley
05-01-2008
Building the Perfect Weapon By Thomas Sullivan
04-01-2008
CNBC Wins Pequod Institute Award for Excellence in High School Journalism By Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
03-01-2008
Pig Bodine's Funky Financial Cooze Network Topological Finance for Aging Bald Dudes By Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
12-01-2007
Un Mensaje Navideño del Director General Por Sandra Ramos Rossi
Christmas Parades are a Deadly Derangement of Culture and other Seasonal Asides by Kane X. Faucher
11-01-2007
Euphotan, Protoplasmic Flash, and their Properties by Nail, with commentary by Chevy the Scientist
10-01-2007
Suggested reading, Universitatis Merdalina Literature 734.5, Advanced Topics in Mathematical Literature: Pseudo-British/American/Pidgin English Literature, Tensor Products of Novels and Poetry for Quasi-Conformal Plagiarism in Modern Genre and its Relationship to Sexual Identity and Morphisms by Maurice Stoker
08-01-2007
The Unexamined Life in Hell: Peregrinations Across The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman by Maurice Stoker
06-01-2007
Presidential Politics in the Year of the Toad by Boozer Allan Hamilton Ph.D.
04-01-2007
An Eleventh Tonkin Scenario by Donald Dickerson
03-01-2007
The Second Annual Howard Littlefield Boosterism Award for Economic Forecasting Awarded to Boozer Allan Hamilton by Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
12-01-2006
Maurice Stoker On Writing a Prize Winning Best Seller by Maurice Stoker
11-01-2006
¿Study says lack of talent? by Pig Bodine M.S., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
08-01-2006
US Cracks International Terrorist Ring by Maurice Stoker
06-01-2006
Pig Bodine Solves the US Immigration and Education Dilemmas in One Blow by Pig Bodine M.S., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
05-01-2006
Maurice Stoker Anent Two Errors in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon by Maurice Stoker
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Maurice Stoker Anent Two Errors in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon - 2

Part II Hidden Motives, Initial Conditions and Toons

farm foot of hill 38

Fairness dictates any reviewer dispute Mr. Pynchon’s rap as obscure by intention. He is direct and straightforward, though there be a problem with presentation to be addressed anon. One may attribute much bemoaning the difficulty of his work to the fact that seventy percent of US college graduates cannot read even moderately complex prose with comprehension. That this number has gone up by twenty percent per decade over the last two decades is no surprise since everyone in the good old US of A these days has a college diploma, a bit of paper handed out to quasi-literates by quasi-literates with no cost save money. Of course, these educated disappear the moment called upon for noetic tasks, perhaps the very reason work requiring moderately phrenic dexterity is most often performed by those choosing not to receive certificates from establishments of higher education, or else by certified immigrants. Quite likely a greater proportion of those without such certificates are more literate, too intelligent for slogging through the stupefying infantile extension of high school that has become college.

Finding the works of Mr. Pynchon difficult likely places thee within that great mass of quasi-literate USofAers. Or mayhap frightened into believing he is difficult by those too dull to understand him. (For those interested in difficult writers, I suggest Henry P. McKean, Jr., an artist whose pithy prose is far beyond the ken of most literary illuminati, which is likely why he is overlooked by "significant" reviewers.) The important point to remember is that Pynchon’s evolution has been towards cartoons, in the sense of Looney Tunes, conspicuous in the latter half of Gravity’s Rainbow with Slothrop as Rocket Man in Potsdam. More noticeable yet in Mason and Dixon, wherein you will be greeted with the Vulcan salute and meet Popeye in a backwoods bar, as well spend some time with a sputtering, spit-spraying duck playing a female sort of Frankenstein seeking a mate (perhaps Elsa Lancaster, given the duck can’t seem to decide on sexual orientation). But one only learns to read by reading, and as Paul Halmos has written, the reader "should not be discouraged if … he finds that he does not have the prerequisites for reading the prerequisites."

flock of ducks

Mr. Pynchon performs good service in presenting the classical dichotomy of artist (Mason) versus practician (Dixon), mathematician/physicist/astronomer qua artist versus engineer. This is not often within the purview of the typical reader of such works in this particular setting, mathematicians and scientists as out-there for most as Betelgeusians (perhaps farther-out). The disposition of the former type versus the latter is typical, the artist sometimes absolutely necessary for limited engagements, then cast off when his creation is viable, whilst the engineer a man of repetitive tasks, thus handy and necessary until automated out of existence.

The intersection of Mason’s art and Dixon’s engineering meets with calibration of earthbound positioning via heavenly observation from Newtonian theory, Dixon providing the local gravity vector. The prequel to GPS, mayhap, and if so the story flows along without much of a hitch to the end of the 20th century, the clandestine aspects apparent in Mason’s work remaining. The modern players operate with improved hardware, most essential being atomic time, and mix in a smattering of Einstein with much Newton, adequately perturbed, adding also Dixon’s obsession with the normal bundle to the ellipsoid and that bugaboo he shares with Franklin: electricity and magnetism, awaiting the intervention of the partial differential equations of James Clerk Maxwell; the quaternionic calculus developed by the banker Olinde Rodriques (not Hamilton, who nonetheless makes off with the credit) to exploit advances in Gravity Mapping; bridges to marriage in an ultra-tight coupling of seemingly disparate Machines, the appropriate mixture of spiritual and physical mayhem, the staggering gate of higher order harmonics for oblateness and an advanced appreciation of the hula dancer of mass M at the north pole.

That this be about information or entropy, concepts linked stochastically, evident with Mr. Pynchon so worked up about Maxwell’s demon (yes, the same Maxwell). Information theoretically in a loose sense a picture worth a thousand words, then Mr. Pynchon inverts this as well and takes but snippets of cartoons, describing them in words in great detail, resulting in phonebook sized tomes within which many become lost as the author changes channels at seeming random times, almost all cartoon channels mingled amongst the occasional documentary but only for a brief span of moments before switching again. Remember this and you won’t lose your way. The book is really only a few cartoons strung out in words, nothing more. It’s easy really, but the message be buried in noise, the novelistic equivalent of spread spectrum, entropy raised whilst no more information be gained.

flock of ducks on paddy dike

So why cartoons? They are the most representative form of encyclopedia for the nation about whose origin he writes in Mason and Dixon. What more appropriate in retelling a history of cartoon politics, cartoon economics, cartoon heroes and cartoon leaders, cartoon education, cartoon law and order and constitution, cartoon religion and cartoon history, in fact a Cartoon Nation, than to use Cartoons? As noted so well in this novel, a nascent nation formed of waves of superstitious invaders, grown violent amidst bad Feng Shui, now a hotbed of superstitious loonies running amok in the entire world. Nothing reflects the reality of this Great Nation so much as a mythos (taught as history) composed of comic books, cartoons, and movies, with Presidents unable to distinguish movies from life, whose sense of history, economics, law and even their own accomplishments come from movies and comic books and cartoons, a nation with social contracts based on silly music and religions based on Superheroes blessing them as Chosen People. As made clear, a nation of slaves, though to what not so clearly delineated. Captain Zhang, among others, explicitly points out the slavery which Mason refuses to see, but both Mason and Dixon marvel at the violence, lawlessness, and uncivilized lack of restraint in slaughtering the native peoples carried out by those becoming Founding Fathers, the brutal racism of a nation about to declare all men equal while keeping those with black skin in outright slavery for another century, virtual slavery until the last half of the 20th century (note it was not until 1967 that the Supreme Court decided it unconstitutional for states to forbid miscegenation), their Great Emancipator himself, Abraham Lincoln, a racist who did not consider black men worthy of citizenship and wished to return them all to their “native land.” A nation founded by greedy white men famous for lying, who sanctified a self-serving tax-revolt with high sounding bullshit in a document entitled The Declaration of Independence.

ducks in a row

That Mr. Pynchon be so anti-American is almost a shock, until you consider what he has written concerning the Germans and the Dutch. It may be he dwells overmuch on the colonial periods of nations. But One must account for the fact that here he presents the initial conditions of a dynamical system which during the latter half of the twentieth century and on into the twenty-first, its own colonial period, attempts to enslave the entire world. The comments of the Half-Breed, Drogo, to wit “All the Brits want us for, is to buy their Goods. The only use we can be to them, is as a Herd of animals much like the Cow, from whose Udders, as from our Purses, the contents may be periodically remov’d,….” Of course, heart of irony that this new nation will find the means to build an Economic Milking Machine of slaves who think themselves free, a nation of Cows for the milking, and once that is perfected begin the process of franchising this into global colony. Moreover, it be done so subtly people don’t realize they are subjugated, a trick that had the Brits learned they would have continued the milking unto this very day, though it may be the Milking Machine has now outgrown the host nation. A few pages on Mason reminisces his father’s plight at the heavy-handed policies against the Brits implemented by the famous, newly dead Hero of Quebec, not unlike the counterrevolution here with such as the battles of Watts and Detroit.

wild water buffalo

Of course politics be but a tiny portion of what lurks within the bowels of this novel. Moreover, we have strayed from the path and need return, getting back to the second error and its implications and meaning; being no error in the sense of mistake but rather intentional miscue to hint at some Kabalistic pathway, perhaps even word from Maitrya and other Masters of Wisdom. (There exist those claiming Pynchon be Maitreya.)

From here on things might get a little, well, complicated. Just stay close and don’t stray, for your own safety sake.