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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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).
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.
I'm really loving this book, largely because I find the characters so identifiable. I'm constantly reminded, especially by the Waterhouses, of xkcd, a webcomic that is repeatedly quoted by nerds because it's so ubiquitous. The entire archives of this comic should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves to have an even remotely nerdy bent, but a few seem to speak to Cryptonomicon in particular. (Make sure you hover your mouse over the comic and read the alt-text for an additional punchline/explanation of the really obscure punchline.)
One of my favorite parts of this book so far is the chapter entitled "Santa Monica" starting on 442. Waterhouse's description of Santa Monica pier, and especially the plants and design of the area is hysterical and quite true. "The are too geometric and perfect. They are schematic diagrams for plants sketched out by some impossibly modern designer with a strong eye for geometry but who has never been out in a woods and seen a real plant. They don't even grow out of any recognizable organic matrix, they are embedded in sterile ochre dust that passes for soili n this part of the country."
All the beach towns in Southern California have this feel- beautiful but somehow not real. Santa Monica to Venice Beach to Laguna- they're perfect for those TV dramas. Of course, there is the litter and the screaming kids and the too-many-seagulls, but the landscaping is very much other-worldly.