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).
Has anybody read Candide? If you haven't you should. It's a really short, hilarious book that is full of horrible things happening over and over again while one character keeps saying "it is the best of all possible worlds". I was really reminded of Candide with the scene of Goto Dengo in the water after they all had to abandon ship. Here he is, people are bleeding all around him and he has to avoid getting shot even though the oil on his body is making him float, and then he survives the shooting somehow. Then, he starts to swim, with a a bunch of other guys, combating dehydration, sickness, waves, and a crazy shark feeding frenzy which he lives through only by floating motionless.
I've just thought of another way in which all four of these novels are connected. There seems to be a running motif of murder and violent attack, but the kind of attack that's unexpected and unprovoked. Reading about the Digibomber (and the Finn That Got Blown Up) reminded me of the Texas Highway Killer, which made me think of the A.F.R. and other Quebecois terrorists, and, to a lesser extent, the random and violent nature of the V2. Since all of these novels also deal in some way with war, I find all these instances of violence occurring close to home and without warning terribly fascinati
I love the moments when Stephenson ridicules the silly formalities of the business world. This particular moment made me laugh out loud (sorry I have the other edition of the book, so I don't know which page number it is): in his opening speech, the sultan contends that "nothing is more natural than that the present-day Kinakutans should run big fat optical fiber cable in every direction parth into every major national telco within reach, and become a sort of digital bazaar. All of the guests nod soberly at the sultan's insight, his masterful ability to meld the ancient ways of his country with modern technology.
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.
While I concede that Ferdinand is a hell of a name to render in katakana, the Japanese phonetic language used for transcribing words in other languages, I think that the translation Stephenson goes with is pretty much god awful. It really doesn't parse, no matter how hard I try. I think something like Faajinando comes a lot closer, but maybe that's just me. It just seems like sloppiness, which doesn't really fit with the meticulous construction of an encyclopedic narrative. Could he be trying to get at something with such a seemingly bad translation?
I love Bobby Shaftoe. I think he is absolutely hilarious in that card-playing, haiku-composing way. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
"Damn it, they are still in Africa! You ought to be able to see lions and giraffes and rhinos!" (176) Because really, that's all that Africa has to offer...a nice safari adventure.
"'N-N-N-Norway,' Lieutenant Monkberg says. He looks so pathetic that Shaftoe considers offering him some m-m-m-morphine...Then he comes to his senses, remembers that Lieutenant Monkberg is an officer whose duty it is to send him off to die, and decides that he can jut go fuck himself sideways." (263)
I'm really fascinated by the idea of information flow becoming inadvertantly bi-directional when observation becomes too obvious. Everything turns on the question of praxis. The Allies have to be careful not with how much information they collect via codebreaking, but rather how much of that information they put to use. Information is a funny thing because it relies on the interface between pattern and randomness to be communicative, which is another way to say that data is only meaningful/useful if it can be differentiating from other data. Finding pattern in the noise; it's basically an extremely large-scale sifting process.
This passage relates to a previous blog about the use of the term "Nip" in the novel: "Nip is the word used by Sergeant Sean Daniel McGee, U.S. Army, Retired, to refer to Nipponese people in his war memoir...It is a terrible racist slur." (212)
I thought this passage was particularly interesting because it reminds me of our society's preoccupation with trying to be really politically correct. I know people who are afraid to offend others, so they're hyper-sensitive about using the correct terminology: African American instead of black (which actually offends some people if they're not descended from Africans), Jewish instead of Jew...and so on. A lot of people I know aren't offended by being called black or a Jew, though, because that IS what they are and by trying to be politically correct, I think a lot of terms become overgeneralized. On the other hand, those names aren't derogatory, whereas "chink" and "nip" are.
I thinkt the whole idea of Detachment 2702 is hilarious. It's all a game of "I know that you know that I know that you know..." They have the information and they want to act on it, but they have to pretend like they don't have it. But it gets complicated with the sinking of the merchant ships because the merchant shipping code was broken. The Germans crack the Allies merchant codes. The Allies have cracked the German code so they know this. So then the Allies have to change the shipping code But if they change the shipping code, the Axis will know because they will intercept it and realize it's different. So they will change their code. And then the codes keep changing.