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Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon 
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
So this apparently gay man is taken in by Oedipa's appearance. In an underground world where gender roles are turned topsy-turvy, Oedipa is turning those roles even more than the gay males are comfortable with. But she decides to use man-in-woman's body ruse to try and get his story:

“If you tell me where you got your lapel pin,” said Oedipa.

“Sorry.”

She sought to bug him: “If it’s a homosexual sign or something, that doesn’t bother me.”

Eyes showing nothing: “I don’t swing that way,” he said. “Yours either.” Turned his back on her and ordered a drink.

Oedipa took off her badge, put it in an ashtray and said, quietly, trying not to suggest hysteria, “Look, you have to help me. Because I really think I am going out of my head.”

“You have the wrong outfit, Arnold. Talk to your clergyman.”

“I use the U. S. Mail because I was never taught any different,” she pleaded. “But I’m not your enemy. I don’t want to be.”

“What about my friend?” He came spinning around on the stool to face her again. “You want to be that, Arnold?”

“I don’t know,” she thought she’d better say.

He looked at her, blank. “What do you know?”

She told him everything. Why not? Held nothing back. At the end of it the tourists had been whistled away and he’d bought two rounds to Oedipa’s three.

“I’d heard about ‘Kirby,’” he said, “it’s a code name, nobody real. But none of the rest, your Sinophile across the bay, or that sick play. I never thought there was a history to it.”

“I think of nothing but,” she said, and a little plaintive.

“And,” scratching the stubble on his head, “you have nobody else to tell this to. Only somebody in a bar whose name you don’t know?”

She wouldn’t look at him. “I guess not.”

“No husband, no shrink?”

“Both,” Oedipa said, “but they don’t know.”

“You can’t tell them?”

She met his eyes’ void for a second after all, and shrugged.

“I’ll tell you what I know, then,” he decided. “The pin I’m wearing means I’m a member of the IA. That’s Inamorati Anonymous. An inamorato is somebody in love. That’s the worst addiction of all.”

“Somebody is about to fall in love,” Oedipa said, “you go sit with them, or something?”

“Right. The whole idea is to get to where you don’t need it. I was lucky. I kicked it young. But there are sixty-year-old men, believe it or not, and women even older, who wake up in the night screaming.” “You hold meetings, then, like the AA?” “No, of course not. You get a phone number, an answering service you can call. Nobody knows anybody else’s name; just the number in case it gets so bad you can’t handle it alone. We’re isolates, Arnold. Meetings would destroy the whole point of it.”

“What about the person who comes to sit with you? Suppose you fall in love with them?”

“They go away,” he said. “You never see them twice. The answering service dispatches them, and they’re careful not to have any repeats.”

How did the post horn come in? That went back to their founding. In the early ‘60’s a Yoyodyne executive living near L.A. and located someplace in the corporate root-system above supervisor but below vice-president, found himself, at age 39, automated out of a job. Having been since age 7 rigidly instructed in an eschatology that pointed nowhere but to a presidency and death, trained to do absolutely nothing but sign his name to specialized memoranda he could not begin to understand and to take blame for the running-amok of specialized programs that failed for specialized reasons he had to have explained to him, the executive’s first thoughts were naturally of suicide. But previous training got the better of him: he could not make the decision without first hearing the ideas of a committee. He placed an ad in the personal column of the L.A. Times, asking whether anyone who’d been in the same fix had ever found any good reasons for not committing suicide. His shrewd assumption being that no suicides would reply, leaving him automatically with only valid inputs. The assumption was false. After a week of anxiously watching the mailbox through little Japanese binoculars his wife had given him for a going-away present (she’d left him the day after he was pink-slipped) and getting nothing but sucker-list stuff through the regular deliveries that came each noon, he was jolted out of a boozy, black-and-white dream of jumping off The Stack into rush-hour traffic, by an insistent banging at the door. It was late on a Sunday afternoon. He opened his door and found an aged bum with a knitted watch cap on his head and a hook for a hand, who presented him with a bundle of letters and loped away without a word. Most of the letters were from suicides who had failed, either through clumsiness or last-minute cowardice. None of them, however, could offer any compelling reasons for staying alive. Still the executive dithered: spent another week with pieces of paper on which he would list, in columns headed “pro” and “con,” reasons for and against taking his Brody. He found it impossible, in the absence of some trigger, to come to any clear decision. Finally one day he noticed a front page story in the Times, complete with AP wirephoto, about a Buddhist monk in Viet Nam who had set himself on fire to protest government policies. “Groovy!” cried the executive. He went to the garage, siphoned all the gasoline from his Buick’s tank, put on his green Zachary All suit with the vest, stuffed all his letters from unsuccessful suicides into a coat pocket, went in the kitchen, sat on the floor, proceeded to douse himself good with the gasoline. He was about to make the farewell flick of the wheel on his faithful Zippo, which had seen him through the Normandy hedgerows, the Ardennes, Germany, and postwar America, when he heard a key in the front door, and voices. It was his wife and some man, whom he soon recognized as the very efficiency expert at Yoyodyne who had caused him to be replaced by an IBM 7094. Intrigued by the irony of it, he sat in the kitchen and listened, leaving his necktie dipped in the gasoline as a sort of wick. From what he could gather, the efficiency expert wished to have sexual intercourse with the wife on the Moroccan rug in the living room. The wife was not unwilling. The executive heard lewd laughter, zippers, the thump of shoes, heavy breathing, moans. He took his tie out of the gasoline and started to snigger. He closed the top on his Zippo. “I hear laughing,” his wife said presently. “I smell gasoline,” said the efficiency expert. Hand in hand, naked, the two proceeded to the kitchen. “I was about to do the Buddhist monk thing,” explained the executive. “Nearly three weeks it takes him,” marvelled the efficiency expert, “to decide. You know how long it would’ve taken the IBM 7094? Twelve microseconds. No wonder you were replaced.” The executive threw back his head and laughed for a solid ten minutes, along toward the middle of which his wife and her friend, alarmed, retired, got dressed and went out looking for the police.

The executive undressed, showered and hung his suit out on the line to dry. Then he noticed a curious thing. The stamps on some of the letters in his suit pocket had turned almost white. He realized that the gasoline must have dissolved the printing ink. Idly, he peeled off a stamp and saw suddenly the image of the muted post horn, the skin of his hand showing clearly through the watermark. “A sign,” he whispered, “is what it is.” If he’d been a religious man he would have fallen to his knees. As it was, he only declared, with great solemnity: “My big mistake was love. From this day I swear to stay off of love: hetero, homo, bi, dog or cat, car, every kind there is. I will found a society of isolates, dedicated to this purpose, and this sign, revealed by the same gasoline that almost destroyed me, will be its emblem.” And he did.

Oedipa, by now rather drunk, said, “Where is he now?”

“He’s anonymous,” said the anonymous inamorato. “Why not write to him through your WASTE system? Say ‘Founder, IA.’”

“But I don’t know how to use it,” she said.

“Think of it,” he went on, also drunk. “A whole underworld of suicides who failed. All keeping in touch through that secret delivery system. What do they tell each other?” He shook his head, smiling, stumbled off his stool and headed off to take a leak, disappearing into the dense crowd. He didn’t come back.


Here we have a tenuous but interesting connection between the founder of IA and Inverarity. I had stated earlier that the Urban Dictionary defined Inverarity as a chubby, smiling man whom I compared to a type of Buddha figurine:

Image

In the inamorato's story, the founder of IA decides to immolate himself Buddhist monk style. Seated on the floor Buddha-style, he starts laughing when the ex-coworker points out why he was fired in the first place--slow decision-making. So his story becomes legend and he is elevated to the status of a savior. A Buddha is one who is enlightened. A bodhisattva is one who forestall his enlightenment to help others reach enlightenment first. The founder of IA was about to become literally enlightened by setting himself on fire but he held off to help untold numbers of others to reject the idea of clinging to others or to material possessions which is a form of misery. The whole thing is facilitated by W.A.S.T.E. So we start to see what W.A.S.T.E. is doing: it is an underground movement linking all the various underground movements together. This makes the mega-movement strong and connected. IA was founded to defeat the idea of being in love with anything and that would include money. So did Pierce see W.A.S.T.E. as a threat to his empire and his love for material things? Or did he decide like Andrew Carnegie that money and wealth was a curse and should be dispersed through society philanthropically and was leaving it to Oedipa figure it out or die trying?



Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:26 pm
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
One must remember at the time that Pynchon wrote this story that homosexuality was still largely a taboo subject in most of America. In this day of people from all walks of life coming out as gay and transsexuals fighting for rights to use the public lavatory of their choice, homosexuality has become somewhat normalized. Gay people have left the dark niche which American society had consigned them to and, through the media, shed some light upon their world for the rest of society to see. In the sixties, the homosexual world was definitely underground. Cities would not allow gay clubs to set up in "safe" areas where children might see. So gay clubs were located in rundown, bad areas that were constantly raided by cops. Patrons were beaten and robbed outside.

Pynchon had foreseen the time when "normal" Americans would want to peek into the gay world and even rub elbows with the gay members of society (not understanding that they probably already knew someone who was gay but hiding it and might even such people themselves). So he creates a tourism industry that takes Americans visiting San Francisco into bonafide gay establishments--The Greek Way implying anal sex, of course--to see how this other population live, that the Pierce Inverarity's of the world would find some way to make a buck off them, to cheapen their existence and reduce them to a marketable commodity. For that is what it ultimately means to be accepted into the American mainstream, to have a price tag hung on you, to be exploited and used up. If you're lucky, the capitalist elite finds a way to milk you again through "retro" nostalgia. But the presence of the muted post horn inside the bar lets us know that no matter how marketable the gay community might become in the future, there will always be some part that remains underground, silent and waiting.



Fri Dec 30, 2016 4:54 pm
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
[Sorry to have gotten away from this for so long. So much has happened. But I should get back to this.--DB]

Oedipa sat, feeling as alone as she ever had, now the only woman, she saw, in a room full of drunken male homosexuals. Story of my life, she thought, Mucho won’t talk to me, Hilarius won’t listen, Clerk Maxwell didn’t even look at me, and this group, God knows. Despair came over her, as it will when nobody around has any sexual relevance to you. She gauged the spectrum of feeling out there as running from really violent hate (an Indian-looking kid hardly out of his teens, with frosted shoulder-length hair tucked behind his ears and pointed cowboy boots) to dry speculation (a horn-rimmed SS type who stared at her legs, trying to figure out if she was in drag), none of which could do her any good. So she got up after awhile and left The Greek Way, and entered the city again, the infected city.


So, again, Oedipa is woman caught up in a man's world where even the women are men and the other men are not even sure if she isn't really a man. Despite her being a woman, she isn't welcome, only cross-dressing men are. It is a world where there is no place for women except to give birth to male children, the future movers and shakers of the world. A world where men do not understand women and don't want to (remember Fallopian's contemptuous retort to Oedipa when she told him about the muted post horn she found drawn on a wall in the ladies' room at The Scope: "Women. Who can tell what goes on with them?") In the world of the IA, the chasm is so deep that people are even afraid to fall in love. Today's "incel" phenomenon is subverted from men who crave sex from women but can't get it to men who crave nothing from women and who just want to be left utterly alone. Their celibacy isn't involuntary but entirely and willingly self-imposed monk-like, hermit-like. And yet the misogyny inherent in both viewpoints appears to spring from the same source and seems every bit as misguided and dangerous.

And spent the rest of the night finding the image of the Trystero post horn. In Chinatown, in the dark window of a herbalist, she thought she saw it on a sign among ideographs. But the streetlight was dim. Later, on a sidewalk, she saw two of them in chalk, 20 feet apart. Between them a complicated array of boxes, some with letters, some with numbers. A kids’ game? Places on a map, dates from a secret history? She copied the diagram in her memo book. When she looked up, a man, perhaps a man, in a black suit, was standing in a doorway half a block away, watching her. She thought she saw a turned-around collar but took no chances; headed back the way she’d come, pulse thundering. A bus stopped at the next corner, and she ran to catch it.

Having now been initiated into this underground, Oedipa now starts to see its influence everywhere around her where before she had been so blissfully unaware. But she's not sure it's as widespread as it looks. Some of the muted post horns might just be her imagination. Then she sees a man in a black suit watching her—or is he? She takes no chances and flees.

So, the key word here is paranoia. We are delving into a fringe of society that thrives on secrecy and conspiracy theory where the most innocent of occurrences carry the most sinister and evil of intentions from shadowy agencies or entities that orchestrate these scenarios behind the scenes and disguising them as ordinary random occurrences. We enter the world of the occult. The word "occult" means hidden or secret from the Latin. By the early 16th century, it meant that which was not to be divulged. Later in the century, it took on the meaning that which cannot be comprehended, which was beyond understanding. By the 17th century, occult had come to be applied to magical traditions as alchemy, Rosicrucianism, Kabbalah, astrology, summonings, spell-casting, prophecy, scrying, witchcraft, devil worship and tarot. By the 20th century, UFOs and aliens could be added to the list of the occult. The contacteeism fad of the 50s was overtly occult where Invisible Colleges were replaced with Great Galactic Councils watching over humanity and making sure we never get too close to being gods lest we destroy the earth. Of course, why they allowed us to develop the atomic bomb if they were so concerned about our warlike ways is certainly something to question.

Part of the occult tradition has been the rejection of science or the appropriation of it for their own purposes (in which case, it isn't really science anymore). So, the impossible becomes possible, the unreal becomes real, the irrational becomes rational. There are always villains in back of everything. Nothing is random, everything is strictly determined and purposes are always nefarious. Underneath the entire history of the human race lie ulterior motives. So, the man in the black suit that Oedipa spies becomes a sinister agent. In modern times. the human race has even combined disparate areas of conspiracy into one. Hence, UFOs, Sasquatch, alien abduction and men in black are frequently featured together. For some UFO conspiracy advocates, the words "angel" and "demon" are interchangeable with "alien" and they believe praying and quoting bible verses actually ward off these aliens and prevent them from being abducted. It’s really the same old superstition wrapped up in science-fiction garb.

But here we are specifically concerned with the Men In Black or MIB as they are called because they feature in our story. The MIB came into the national consciousness in 1947 when a man named Harold Dahl and his crew aboard a marine salvager off the coast of Maury Island in Washington state spotted six doughnut-shaped UFOs hovering over them. One appeared to be in some kind of trouble and the other craft surrounded it. According to Dahl, the middle craft "shuddered" and released a barrage of "metal slag" that rained down on the salvager and its crew causing injury, damage and the death of Dahl's dog which was also onboard. This debris was afterwards collected and turned over to two military officers from McChord Field Air Force Base whose plane then stalled out in midair causing it to crash, killing both men and destroying all their evidence. Then a man dressed in a black suit and driving a black car arrived to visit Dahl and told him that bad things could happen to him and his family if he continued publicizing his sighting so he publicly stated the whole thing had been a hoax.

In 1953, one of the world’s original UFO researchers, Albert K. Bender, mysteriously shut down his organization, the International Flying Saucer Bureau. No one knew why. In 1962, Bender revealed in his book, Flying Saucers and Three Men, that he had been visited by three MIB who had basically put the fear of God into him and convinced him to get out of the UFO business. From that point on, the MIB became a cultural fixture in the American fringe and spread around the world. The MIB became a phenomenon unto themselves within UFO circles. They are, in fact, the creepiest aspect of ufology and conspiracy theory.

Image

These "men" are often said to talk like robots or in a strange singsong manner. They generally wear dark glasses, black hats and black suits, shoes and ties with a white dress shirt. But there are stories of MIB dressed in military officers' uniforms. They seem otherworldly and their clothes often don't seem to fit them right, as if they aren’t fully human. Some walk and sit very stiffly. Some are very tall and others very short. One strange thing I've noted is that in the 1960s, MIB were said to be dark and Asian or Indian looking but are now almost all uniformly pale or doughy in complexion. Their hair is usually black but not always. It is often worn too long for government agents or military personnel. Their hair often appears to be a wig or hairpiece as though they are completely bald. Some MIB look identical being the same height and having the same face. Some appear to be robots but others seem quite human. They are said to be very intimidating and exude an aura of pure malevolence or evil.

The MIB show up generally after a witness sights a UFO even when the witness has told no one about the sighting. They do not identify themselves either by name or organization. They would then intently question the witness, sometimes for hours, about the sighting. They usually appear in threes but not always. Usually, one man would do the talking while the other two just stood there silently looking evil. At least one of them would stare at the witness throughout the interrogation, never taking his eyes off the person. Very unnerving to say the least. They often showed up in a large, black, official-looking car but sometimes would arrive and depart unseen and often would do so impossibly fast, e.g. they might leave the apartment of a witness, closing the door behind them and when the witness would immediately open the door to watch them leave, would find the hallway deserted and no one outside. The witness would then continue to have UFO encounters and, each time, these would be followed by a visit from the MIB or by a strange phone call warning the person to remain silent. If the witness mailed something off to another party concerning his experiences, the MIB would show up on his doorstep holding the envelope or package, telling him that he was becoming a problem and if he knew what was good for him, to keep silent (here, they have a very eerie and striking resemblance to Pynchon's Trystero agents subverting the mail service). They warn the witness to keep silent about the sighting or bad things will happen. They seem to possess telepathy. While they can be polite, they are never friendly.

The stories about these MIB are rather creepy or comically odd and I'll give a few case histories to illustrate the point. I am not saying any of these stories are true as that doesn’t matter for our purposes:

-Abductee Betty Andreasson revealed that on June 8, 1978 at her rather secluded home in Ashburnham, Massachusetts at 5:35 p.m., she and her daughter, Bonnie, were the only ones there when they noticed two disturbing figures outside in the driveway apparently looking over the property. One man was dressed in a pressed black suit, was very tall, and had an extremely high forehead. His very black hair provided a sharp contrast with his very pale skin. His partner was very short, dressed in a khaki jacket, and walked with a very strange shuffling gait. The tall man moved his arms in a very stiff way, unwilling or unable to bend them at the elbows. Betty and Bonnie were too frightened of these weird-looking “men” to confront them and thought of calling the police. But then some cars came over the hill nearby and the “men” scurried behind some bushes. The tall one pointed at something in his stiff, elbowless way. Then the pair disappeared behind a stone wall and a moment later, two automobiles were seen driving away.

-In the late 2000s, author Kurt Sigurdson was Yeti-hunting near Crescent City, CA. He was an avid Sasquatch-hunter and had done it a number of times but on this occasion, he actually saw a Sasquatch approach him while he sat in his jeep parked near a swamp. In 2014, he relayed the incident. He was parked along a deserted stretch of road by a swamp in the late twilight when he saw the Sasquatch approaching him. Sigurdson realized what an extremely rare opportunity this was and he was both thrilled and scared to be in this situation and rolled up his window because he was scared. Suddenly, a car pulled up behind Sigurdson. One of the occupants in the car had what Sigurdson described as a "strobe device" of the type that he and his father used when they scuba-dived when he was a boy. He described it as big and bulky with a pistol-grip but didn't believe they made them like that anymore. The person with the strobe shined it at the Sasquatch which Sigurdson said "bellowed" and took off across the swamp. Sigurdson was angry at what he thought initially were two Sasquatch-hunters or "Bigfooters" as he called them ruining his opportunity to see one of these creatures up close. "So these guys then proceed to pull up next to me," said Sigurdson, "and they are in this like old-style, late 1970s, uh, this compact Japanese-style vehicle. It looked like a Datsun or an early Toyota. And, uh, I don't know if they made Toyotas back then, maybe a Honda. It actually looked like a Datsun, frankly, which I know most people haven't even heard of Datsun at this point but that's what it looked like. And these guys, I got a good look at 'em, they had high cheekbones, they had a very kind of a gold complexion, ya know, I'm like Scandinavian, so when I was in Iceland, I saw a few people with this complexion, there are humans with this complexion and it's very unusual and I think the Icelanders even have a special kind of phrase for it cuz it's attractive but it's weird. It's just very golden and mixed with the light-colored hair and the high cheekbones and these guys were handsome but like they just, uh, the guy in the passenger side just looked at me like I was a bug or something like I was the most vile, annoying zoo animal or something that was out of line and required some sort of intervention or whatever. And so, uh, they had light-colored eyes, not piercingly light blue eyes but, ya know, kind of light-brown hair cut fairly short. And they were wearing matching it looked like, um, plaid shirts that looked kind of well pressed and most plaid is kind of rumpled. People don't wear it pressed so it was kind of weird. They were way too big for the vehicle. They were just huge in that--they dwarfed the vehicle inside. I don't know how big they were, it's hard to tell but, you know, well, well over six feet tall. And so this guy proceeds to take out his diving light thing and I know this sounds ridiculous cuz it sounds like Men-In-Black but it really happened and he points it at me and I looked away thinking I would be okay but it reflected off the foliage on the other side of my jeep and blinded me--and this is the weird thing--so it blinds me but normally if you look at a light bulb or something weird, you look at the sun, I don't know, you get blinded for a second but I just remember like when I looked up they were already way up on this little bridge flashing out over the swamp. So I don't know how much time had elapsed but, uh...and then I honestly can't remember what happened. I try to remember but it seems like they might have come and parked behind me and I took off or I drove around them when they were on the bridge--I can't honestly remember. It wasn't that long ago so it's disturbing that I can't remember what happened. I just remember driving really fast back to Crescent City to a motel and checking in and my left eye was just killing me and it felt like I had a sty in it or something and I'm not prone to that and since it happened, I've been getting these little sores in the corner of that eye and it even makes my eye twitch. So that night I, uh, [gasps] I just... [breathes heavily] I, uh...I, um, couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat and I couldn't hold down fluids and, uh, [gasps heavily and clears throat and sounds near tears] anyway I don't like talkin' about it. It just was putting a kink in my, uh [voice breaking], Bigfooting experiences after that. I just kind of quit doing it [clears throat]."

-In 2005, a postal worker in Washington DC, who does not wish to be identified (for this reason, we’ll simply call him PW), claimed to have the following encounter: PW had to make deliveries to a certain government building that had extremely extensive surveillance all around it. When he went inside to drop off mail, he found the only place he had access to was the mailroom. No other part of the building was open to him. PW had to press a buzzer to be let in. This went on for a few weeks. Then one day, as he was making his run to the building, PW saw “three figures crossing the street on their way to the building. At first glance, I thought they were normal. But as I looked closer, I was shocked at how strange they were. They were extremely thin and they didn’t walk by putting one leg in front of the other but sort of waddled by moving their whole bodies from side to side lifting one foot off the ground then the other foot in a whole body side-to-side waddle. But as strange as this was, this was not what frightened me. What frightened me was that they were absolutely thin! It was like they were as flat as a set of clothes that had been ironed. Their faces and bodies were entirely flat—no contours. The nose did not jut out—nothing. And they were also extremely thin. The best I could describe it is if you saw a suit hanging from a clothes hanger, that would be about the same thickness. It was like no thickness at all, just clothes hanging from a hanger. All three were dressed in black suits. They all had black sunglasses.” As PW watched, the three figures walked up to the door of the building and rang the buzzer. They were given admittance in a few seconds. “I was absolutely scared shitless as I had just been about to enter that same building. I really wasn’t sure what to do but I kind of steeled myself and slowly forced myself to ring the buzzer and enter the building figuring, ‘Hey, I might have imagined this.’ In any case, I should force myself to go through my routine until I can think this thing out. When I entered the mail room, there were like 10 (normal) men standing there just looking at me. It was really intimidating. They asked me if I had seen anything. I was kind of speechless for a second and one of THEM walked right up to me from the side and slightly behind me. I could tell it was one of the same types of things that I had seen crossing the street. It walked right up to me and I was too afraid to turn my head to the side and look at it. I am very scared just typing this right now, remembering it. It didn’t say anything, it just got right up close to me and I had a feeling of fear so intense. I felt as if my heart had just frozen and was going to fall out of my body onto the ground. Again, they asked me, ‘Did you see anything? What did you see?’ I just shook my head and stammered, ‘No, I didn’t see anything!’ PW said there was no way they couldn’t tell that he was terrified. “I thought they might hold me there and not let me go. But finally they said, ‘Okay, leave now.’ The MIB that was to my side and a little behind me kind of took a step back to make way and I had to steel myself to actually walk past it on my way to the door and I was out of the building. It is the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” PW thought about the encounter when he got home. “At the time, I had never heard of the MIB. I had no idea what that thing was or what the government was doing. All I knew was that I was dealing with something far more powerful than me. I thought maybe it was some new type of robot and the government was doing test-runs on them but why that would be done in broad daylight I could not and still do not understand.” PW was so frightened that his first thought was that he should leave the country but then thought that if he did that, they might find that suspicious and track him down and kill him so he decided to do nothing and act as normal as possible. A short while later, he was assigned a new route by his supervisor who did not know why PW was being reassigned but told him that the order to reassign him came from higher up. As soon as he could procure new employment, PW quit but he still puzzles over what he saw that day and why it happened. He is adamant that, in spite of the weird flat creatures, the building was a government building being run by ordinary humans.

-This story happened in Japan. A man identified only as Kenji was a blogger and wrote about weird occurrences, cryptozoology (bizarre animals), UFOs and the like. One night while sitting in a nearby bar, he noticed three men come in. They superficially resembled the Japanese but were taller than most Japanese men. They wore black suits and ties but because the men were so thin, the suits were loose-fitting. They had very long fingers—a common trait of MIB. They looked like a mixture between Japanese and Middle Eastern but their skin was very smooth and looked almost translucent making them look sickly. They sat at a nearby table. They conversed in Japanese but with a weird accent that Kenji had never heard before. They ordered drinks but when they were brought over, they didn’t drink them. Once man tasted his drink, sort of grimaced and never touched it again. They sat still, occasionally fidgeting but otherwise doing nothing. One man attempting to use his cell phone but didn’t appear to know how and dropped it on the table. Other people in the bar began to stare at the strange men. Kenji felt they were there because of him and got up to leave. That’s when the one closest to him suddenly turned and started to converse with him. He remarked what a cold day it had been when, in fact, it was the middle of the summer and the day had been rather hot. The man wanted to know what Kenji did for a living. He told them. The man remarked that there must not be much money in it. Kenji asked them who they were and the man said they were businessmen just passing through. When Kenji tried to excuse himself, the man asked him to stay and they’d buy him a drink. During this time, the other two men did not speak but merely sat, one of them fidgeting with the chopsticks on the table as if he had never seen chopsticks before. The man said why go home and write about UFOs when he could stay with them and they would buy him drinks. The other men laughed at this point and Kenji said their laughter was humorless and menacing and raised his hackles. He felt scared and excused himself. Kenji said that maybe these really were businessmen and he misread the situation but these were the strangest businessmen he had ever seen.

-Author John Keel has written extensively about the MIB in his now famous 1975 book, The Mothman Prophecies, concerning UFO activity and the appearance of a terrifying flying “man” with hypnotic, glowing red eyes that the press dubbed the Mothman. The activities of the UFOs, the Mothman and the MIB culminate in the collapse of the Silver Bridge that spanned the Ohio River between in Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio on December 15, 1967 killing 46 people. After the tragedy, Mothman was seen no more in the area although the people of Point Pleasant have never forgotten him. Keel’s book was made into a movie in 2002. The story begins with a sewing machine salesmen name Woodrow Derenberger returning to his home in Mineral Wells, West Virginia one rainy night along I-77 from Ohio when a strange car passed him at amazing speed. This strange car had what Derenberger described as a “kerosene lamp chimney” and rode a few inches above the ground apparently having no wheels. This car cut Derenberger off forcing him to brake to a stop. A man dressed in black exited the “car” which then levitated about 40 feet into the air and hovered there. This strange man approached Derenberger wearing a large grin. He telepathically asked Derenberger to lower his window as he wanted to talk to him and that he meant no harm. Derenberger rolled his window down and the man asked Derenberger his name and then told him that his name was Indrid Cold.

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Derenberger and Cold talked about the distant town of Parkersburg whose lights were off in the distance. Cold seemed unacquainted with simple earthly things. Finally, Cold told Derenberger that he had enough information and thanked him saying they would meet again. The grinning man walked back towards his vehicle which lowered itself to the street. Cold got in and the “car” zoomed off into the night at tremendous speed and was gone in a few seconds. Since that time, many people have claimed to have met Indrid Cold whom many believe to be an MIB.

We will now examine the role of MIB down through the ages.



Sun Jun 03, 2018 1:31 pm
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
DB Roy wrote:
This is not written to get you to read the book. You should read it beforehand. That's not hard because it is very short--a novella, really--and you don't have to buy it as the text is available on the internet. If you read this essay without having read the novel first, it will be spoiled for you because I intend to analyze every part of it from beginning to end. I hope you find it engaging and educational. It certainly was educational for me.

This looks like a lot of fun. It helps me see why Pynchon is considered such a genius. It also helps make sense of why Franzen's "The Corrections" was so well received. I mean, it's good writing, but I think a lot of what made it "significant" was that it worked off Pynchon. At least, judging by what you have here.

The bad news (for me) is I'm not sure I'm up to reading "The Crying" right now. Even though it isn't that long. The good news is that it doesn't look to me like "spoiler" is a serious problem. As with a lot of good literature, it looks like it will be better the second time than the first. Because the meat is more in the writing than in the plot.

So maybe I will just read through your excerpts and comments at a leisurely pace. Enjoying them so far.



Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:01 am
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
We will remember that I earlier I mentioned the Holy Vehm organizations of the Middle Ages in areas of Europe such as Germany. These were secret and the membership often paid midnight visits to those they had targeted. The accused would be put on trial and executed. The members wore black hoods. Often, warnings were given before a person would be summoned to the secret midnight trial. In the United States, the Ku Klux Klan fulfilled the role of the Vehm. But the MIB also have a striking resemblance to a Vehm: witness sights a UFO, MIB show up and warn witness to keep quiet. Midnight visits and threatening phone calls put the witness on notice—“We are watching you.” In his book, The Gods of Eden, author William Bramley writes:

If we were to conclude that MIB only started in 1947 in connection with UFO sightings, we would be very mistaken. In Brandenburg [in Germany] there appeared in 1559 horrible men, of whom at first fifteen and later on twelve were seen. The foremost had beside their posteriors little heads, the others fearful faces and long scythes, with which they cut at the oats, so that the swish could be heard at a great distance, but the oats remained standing. When a quantity of people came running out to see them, they went on with their mowing. Shortly after this manifestation, Brandenburg was struck by a terrible plague.

Bramley also writes:

. . . in the year of Christ 1571 was seen at Cremnitz in the mountain towns of Hungary on Ascension Day in the evening to the great perturbation [disturbance] of all, when on the Schuelersberg there appeared so many black riders that the opinion was prevalent that the Turks were making a secret raid, but who rapidly disappeared again, and thereupon a raging plague broke out in the neighborhood.

Black riders would describe our Trystero quite admirably.

We find it impossible to separate the MIB and the UFO phenomenon from occultism. Black has always been the color of evil, fear and the unknown. That’s why evil villains are always dressed in black. Black cats, bats, spiders—all symbolize evil. Imps of the devil are generally black in color.

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Spiders and bats are blood-suckers and so share a bond with vampires who also generally depicted as black.

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Vampires share something in common with the UFO phenomenon and that is cattle mutilation which seems to have started around 1974.

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While a lot of ink has been spilled by UFO-writers trying to prove that aliens need the cattle parts for hybridization experiments or for manufacturing new diseases such as AIDS, they overlook the obvious connection. The mutilators are vampires. They suck the blood of the unfortunate cattle utterly dry but operate as phantoms leaving behind no teeth marks, claw marks or footprints. Even the flies, predatory and scavenging animals, will not touch the carcass marked with the mark of the vampire whom we depict as dressed in black suits and capes.

In the case of the mutilators, they are seen flying over the herds of the ranchers late at night in black, unmarked helicopters. The story was circulated these were Satanists with rich backers who buy the helicopters and they land in fields walking on rubber mats which leave no footprints, dart the cows, take their blood using some kind of suction pump and cut off those body parts and organs needed for rituals with surgical instruments. But these same types of helicopters are also associated with UFO sightings. Some witnesses have even seen what they believe are military men dressed in black uniforms and ballcaps entering and exiting these craft and UFO lore is rife with accounts of witnesses who swear they’ve seen these men mutilating cattle. In some accounts, standard Army scalpels are sometimes found nearby a dead cow.

The cattle mutilation has a connection to the Middle Ages also: the Christians were fond of spreading rumors that Jews stole Christian babies and sliced them up, drank the blood and then burned the corpses in Satanic rituals. The purpose of these stories was to stoke up fear and terror in the populace so that they could be manipulated into attacking the Jewish populace. These types of stories were repeated in the 1980s across the United States in what was dubbed “The Satanic Panic” in which people (mostly, if not entirely, made up of women) came forward and swore that they were ritually abused as children by family and/or neighbors who were “generational Satanists.” The story, whipped up by a complicit media (looking at you, Geraldo Rivera), went that these Satanists had infiltrated our federal and local governments as well as our schools, police forces and daycare centers in order to procure more children for sacrifice and sexual and physical abuse in rituals and that there were “millions” of these Satanists across the country and were probably already in YOUR town. People became terrified and were convinced it was happening around them. People were accused of belonging to Satanic child molestation rings and many were sent to prison on scant circumstantial evidence. The McMartin Preschool case was only one example of how the hysteria had very real and dire consequences for innocent people who had done nothing and many families were ruined by one family member making accusations against the others.

In 1897, a Kansas farmer named Alexander Hamilton, claimed a large cigar-shaped craft hovered over his farm one night shining down a bright beam and scaring the animals. When a heifer got caught in a fence, the beings in the craft (whom Hamilton claimed he could see and thought were hideous) lowered a red-colored noose around the bawling animal’s neck. Attempts by Hamilton and his farm hands to remove or cut the rope were futile and the craft took off with the poor heifer in tow dangling by the neck. Some time later, Hamilton said, the animal was found in a field some miles away terribly mutilated. Many UFO-writers reprinted Hamilton’s account word-for-word apparently unaware that Hamilton later admitted the story was a hoax. He belonged to a group who were engaged in betting who could tell the tallest tale and make others believe it (kind of a 19th century “Impractical Jokers”). Strangely, though, Hamilton’s story came out more than seven decades before real cattle mutilation being attributed to UFO activity began to actually occur.

Rich Reynolds makes the point that the MIB appear in the bible as the men in white. One such man tells Abraham to kill his son. In Ezekiel, six MIW appear at the gates of the city and one of them begins marking out those who will perish. MIW also seem to be assisting Jesus behind the scenes in the Gospels, their presence is never explained (while the OT calls them angels, the NT specifically refer to them as men dressed in white). MIW deliver death and pestilence to punish sinners. This may seem a bogus comparison to MIB but suppose the grim reapers in the field mentioned earlier just prior to a plague outbreak were arrayed in white raiment and the author, instead presenting them as black demons of sorts, said their appearance caused the deaths of many sinners instead of innocent people then we would see there really is no difference between the MIW and MIB. The good and the evil is entirely relative.

Modern study has examined offshoots of the MIB such as the phenomenon called “Hat Man.” Hat Man is a purely supernatural phenomenon which centers people often waking up to see a shadowy figure in a broad-brimmed or Stetson-like hat. He never speaks but stares. My own brother swears he saw such a figure once as a boy just after waking up in the middle of the night. A shadowy man was over by the desk in the room I shared with by brother. He had his back to my brother. My brother could see his outline and that he wore a brimmed hat. I was in my bed sleeping soundly. My brother watched him a while. He seemed to be searching through the desk. What he could possibly be looking for in a child’s desk is anybody’s guess. Suddenly, the man stiffened and stood up straight. My brother knew the man realized he was being watched and by whom. My brother closed his eyes. The room was silent but he knew if he opened his eyes, the man’s face would be close to his and so he dare not. He lay unmoving for a long time too frightened to open his eyes. Eventually, he fell asleep. In the morning, he told me about the man he had seen but I, of course, didn’t believe him. To this day, he swears he saw the man.

In another case, a girl awoke to find a man in a hat bending over her grinning (Indrid Cold?). She screamed until her family burst into her room by which time the man, of course, was gone. This sounds to me be nothing more than sleep paralysis where a person wakes up and feels a menacing presence in the room. This is part of what is known as hypnopompic sleep where dream images take on hallucinogenic properties as we transition to full wakefulness.

I experienced this myself when I once woke up to hear a woman upstairs screaming in what must have been sheer horror or excruciating pain. The only reason I didn’t jump up and run upstairs to see who was up there screaming so horrendously was that my cat, who had very sharp ears, was sleeping peacefully on my chest. There was no way he could have or would have slept through that. As I lay there, the scream started to fade and took on a very reverberant quality as it did so—as though she were screaming inside St. Peter’s Basilica. I lay there marveling at the strangeness of it. A friend of mine once woke to find a man dressed like an old-fashioned locomotive engineer standing over his bed staring at him. My friend said he was convinced the man was really there. “Take what you want,” my friend said but the man didn’t move a muscle. Instead his image began to quiver and crinkle like a burning photograph until it was gone.

In the case of UFO research, real humans sent by the government to investigate sightings have likely been confounded with the mysterious phantom-like entities cloaked in black. The former are real and the latter are not so real, i.e. one is natural, the other is supernatural. Brad Steiger compares the MIB to the trickster figures of mythology. The MIB feed into psychological fear that has haunted humankind since the earliest days of its existence—that there are those who walk among us who look human but are not human. This supernatural belief may be rooted in the perfectly natural truth of the sociopath or psychopath—a person in human form but with less feeling for others than an animal and who prays on others for self-gratification. What frightens us most about these particular creatures is that they have not been bred out of existence. They persist and in significant numbers. Their ability to mimic us well enough that they have survived and will continue to do so and, perhaps someday, prove they are the superior lifeform and outnumber us.

Pynchon’s Trystero likewise seem to be someone who has lived among us and yet apart from us for a very long time. Insiders that are outsiders. Like the Hashishim of Hassan-I-Saba, they are everywhere watching and listening. Like the MIB bureaucracy, somewhere there are Trystero offices where reports are filed, read and courses of action determined. It’s probably not known if Pynchon had read any MIB literature. “Flying Saucers and Three Men” had been out for less than four years before “Crying” was published. My guess would be that Pynchon likely read it simply because he is an author and authors are always in search of ideas. The image of the sinister figure in black suit and hat has become embedded in our culture. But the truth is, it has always been here.

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From an episode of "Lost in Space." One has to wonder if the writers were deliberately inserting MIB into their plots. It would certainly seem so.

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Two stills from the movie "Jeepers Creepers 2" (2003). Not only is the villain a Hat Man/MIB but there is actually a case where a woman swears a creature as this attached itself to her car while she was driving and resisted all her attempts to throw it off. What's really strange is that she claims this happened before this movie was released. Be that as it may, the MIB/Hat Man represents something rooted deep in our psyches. From Jungian psychology, it is something from the murky depths of the archetypes. H.P Lovecraft had nightmares about similar black creatures who snatched him up in the night and flew over the New England countryside dangling him in the air as he screamed in terror to which their only reply was to laugh horridly. He called them, appropriately, "night gaunts."

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There is another case on record of a witness who claims to have encountered a malevolent entity he swore resembled the Hamburglar.

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A play by Robert Anton Wilson, William Burroughs and Tom Waits. It concerns a German folktale similar to Faust.

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Zorro ("Fox")--another mysterious, masked black rider. He was invented in 1919 by author Johnston McCulley. Although intended for only one story, the public reception after the character was portrayed in 1920 by Douglas Fairbanks kept McCulley busy writing new Zorro stories for the next four decades. Like all mysterious figures in black, Zorro can never be caught despite there being a hefty bounty on his head. He is a type of Robin Hood figure--part of the underworld and yet fighting on the side of good. He represents that thin line between good and evil. His ability to mimic authority figures and yet elude them makes him a type of folk hero. HIs evilness can become a tool for good whether with or without his consent. The Trystero could be ruthless and murderous but they fought against government monopolization of the mail, the primary form of communication before the telephone or telegraph. Likewise, this dark side of our psyche that we see as something other than ourselves provides psychological balance.

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Sat Jun 30, 2018 6:52 pm
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
DB Roy wrote:
Attempts by Hamilton and his farm hands to remove or cut the rope were futile and the craft took off with the poor heifer in tow dangling by the neck. Some time later, Hamilton said, the animal was found in a field some miles away terribly mutilated. Many UFO-writers reprinted Hamilton’s account word-for-word apparently unaware that Hamilton later admitted the story was a hoax. He belonged to a group who were engaged in betting who could tell the tallest tale and make others believe it (kind of a 19th century “Impractical Jokers”).

Credulity is the side of paranoia that tempts the rest of us to abuse them. This temptation should be resisted. It is similar to pouring out a nice Scotch and soda for an alcoholic.

DB Roy wrote:
Hat Man is a purely supernatural phenomenon which centers people often waking up to see a shadowy figure in a broad-brimmed or Stetson-like hat. He never speaks but stares. My own brother swears he saw such a figure once as a boy just after waking up in the middle of the night. A shadowy man was over by the desk in the room I shared with by brother. He had his back to my brother. My brother could see his outline and that he wore a brimmed hat. I was in my bed sleeping soundly. My brother watched him a while. He seemed to be searching through the desk. What he could possibly be looking for in a child’s desk is anybody’s guess. Suddenly, the man stiffened and stood up straight. My brother knew the man realized he was being watched and by whom. My brother closed his eyes. The room was silent but he knew if he opened his eyes, the man’s face would be close to his and so he dare not. He lay unmoving for a long time too frightened to open his eyes. Eventually, he fell asleep. In the morning, he told me about the man he had seen but I, of course, didn’t believe him. To this day, he swears he saw the man.

This sounds to me be nothing more than sleep paralysis where a person wakes up and feels a menacing presence in the room. This is part of what is known as hypnopompic sleep where dream images take on hallucinogenic properties as we transition to full wakefulness.

I experienced this myself when I once woke up to hear a woman upstairs screaming in what must have been sheer horror or excruciating pain. The only reason I didn’t jump up and run upstairs to see who was up there screaming so horrendously was that my cat, who had very sharp ears, was sleeping peacefully on my chest. There was no way he could have or would have slept through that. As I lay there, the scream started to fade and took on a very reverberant quality as it did so—as though she were screaming inside St. Peter’s Basilica. I lay there marveling at the strangeness of it.

I once drifted awake to find myself convinced that there was someone behind me standing by the bed in which I slept with my wife. I realized it was Jesus, by the beneficent aura emanating from this presence. I spent a little time trying to decide whether I should turn and look. Then, before I made up my mind, the presence was gone. The closest I have come to a paranormal experience.

DB Roy wrote:
Brad Steiger compares the MIB to the trickster figures of mythology. The MIB feed into psychological fear that has haunted humankind since the earliest days of its existence—that there are those who walk among us who look human but are not human.
I was kind of thinking it would be fun to put out my own story of UFO visitation, to see if the MIB would come visit me. Or at least Will Smith. But then you suggested that a vampire might show up instead. And besides, if they can read minds they only show up when the sighting is real.



Sun Jul 01, 2018 12:46 pm
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
Harry Marks wrote:
Credulity is the side of paranoia that tempts the rest of us to abuse them. This temptation should be resisted. It is similar to pouring out a nice Scotch and soda for an alcoholic.


Wise words, amigo.

Quote:
I was kind of thinking it would be fun to put out my own story of UFO visitation, to see if the MIB would come visit me. Or at least Will Smith. But then you suggested that a vampire might show up instead. And besides, if they can read minds they only show up when the sighting is real.


Careful what you wish for, amigo.



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Sun Jul 01, 2018 9:55 pm
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
She stayed with buses after that, getting off only now and then to walk so she’d keep awake. What fragments of dreams came had to do with the post horn. Later, possibly, she would have trouble sorting the night into real and dreamed.

At some indefinite passage in night’s sonorous score, it also came to her that she would be safe, that something, perhaps only her linearly fading drunkenness, would protect her. The city was hers, as, made up and sleeked so with the customary words and images (cosmopolitan, culture, cable cars) it had not been before: she had safe-passage tonight to its far blood’s branchings, be they capillaries too small for more than peering into, or vessels mashed together in shameless municipal hickeys, out on the skin for all but tourists to see. Nothing of the night’s could touch her; nothing did. The repetition of symbols was to be enough, without trauma as well perhaps to attenuate it or even jar it altogether loose from her memory. She was meant to remember. She faced that possibility as she might the toy street from a high balcony, roller-coaster ride, feeding-time among the beasts in a zoo any death-wish that can be consummated by some minimum gesture. She touched the edge of its voluptuous field, knowing it would be lovely beyond dreams simply to submit to it; that not gravity’s pull, laws of ballistics, feral ravening, promised more delight. She tested it, shivering: I am meant to remember. Each clue that comes is supposed to have its own clarity, its fine chances for permanence. But then she wondered if the gemlike “clues” were only some kind of compensation. To make up for her having lost the direct, epileptic Word, the cry that might abolish the night.


So, as Oedipa wanders through the night, she is, in a manner of speaking, sleepwalking. She is journeying through a night-world where reality and fantasy are intermixed. She contemplates suicide--the blessed release from all the world's troubles and her own. But she cannot go until she remembers what she is supposed to remember. In this sense, we are all like Oedipa--we are born, thrust into the world and then we must make our way through it and pick up clues as to what it all means and fit them together, draw our own constellations. We can become so perplexed that we throw the pieces about that take our brody but, like the IA founder, maybe we should stick around. Have we forgotten more than we ever learned? Everything means something. But what? Oedipa knows that until she finds out, she is already, to an extent, dead and hence suicide will be no way out.

In Freemasonry, they have a ritual of the Third Degree concerning a master builder named Hiram Abiff who is building Solomon's Temple. One day, as he leaving work for the day, he is accosted by three of his craftsmen. They demand from him the Master's Word. Hiram refuses and is accosted by each craftsman (referred to as a "ruffian"). Being struck three times, Hiram dies. The ruffians then bury Hiram's body by an acacia tree. When they are later caught and reveal the location of the body, Solomon goes there and disinters the body. He grip's Hiram's dead hand in the Lion's Paw grip and pulls him from the grave and standing ankle to ankle, knee to knee, hand to back and mouth to ear, Solomon whispers the Master's Word to Solomon and he is resurrected (the Word is given as "Mah-Hah-Bone").

Similarly, Oedipa awaits rebirth by having the Word revealed to her so that she will be reborn in the clear light of revelation. As Pynchon wrote earlier: "as if a plunge toward dawn indefinite black hours long would indeed be necessary before The Tristero could be revealed in its terrible nakedness." Oedipa must ride it out.

In Golden Gate Park she came on a circle of children in their nightclothes, who told her they were dreaming the gathering. But that the dream was really no different from being awake, because in the mornings when they got up they felt tired, as if they’d been up most of the night. When their mothers thought they were out playing they were really curled in cupboards of neighbors’ houses, in platforms up in trees, in secretly-hollowed nests inside hedges, sleeping, making up for these hours. The night was empty of all terror for them, they had inside their circle an imaginary fire, and needed nothing but their own unpenetrated sense of community. They knew about the post horn, but nothing of the chalked game Oedipa had seen on the sidewalk. You used only one image and it was a jump-rope game, a little girl explained: you stepped alternately in the loop, the bell, and the mute, while your girlfriend sang:

Tristoe, Tristoe, one, two, three, Turning taxi from across the sea ...

“Thurn and Taxis, you mean?” They’d never heard it that way. Went on warming their hands at an invisible fire. Oedipa, to retaliate, stopped believing in them.


In Oedipa's night world, reality and illusion are intertwined. She meets a group of little girls who are themselves sleepwalking within her own sleepwalk. They may represent those who adhere to religion. They have a circle with an imaginary fire in the center. Circle is the root of the word "church." Circle is related to the sorceress Circe, the daughter of Helios. Her name is pronounced "kir-kee" which is the same word as our "Church." A church is a group of people united into an impenetrable sense of community. Their father is the sun and they encircle him and hence they are the zodiac. But, as Pynchon points out, the fire is imaginary. They worship but are asleep, unconscious. They do not fear the night because Circe had the ability to turn anyone who threatened her into a wild animal and, indeed, the word "zodiac" means "circle of animals." The Christian Church is essentially feminine but has been usurped by men (again, we are confronted with this image of a woman caught up in a man's world). Women have forgotten their role, that they are the keepers of the secret word and, when, Oedipa reveals to them the true meaning of their mindlessly recited rhyme, they simply shrug uncomprehending and go on with their useless worshiping. They have the symbol--the muted post horn--but do not understand nor make any attempt to. Angered, Oedipa, in her night world, stops believing in them. They may not be real and so Oedipa banishes them.



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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
In an all-night Mexican greasy spoon off 24th, she found a piece of her past, in the form of one Jesus Arrabal, who was sitting in a corner under the TV set, idly stirring his bowl of opaque soup with the foot of a chicken. “Hey,” he greeted Oedipa, “you were the lady in Mazatlan.” He beckoned her to sit.

“You remember everything,” Oedipa said, “Jesus; even tourists. How is your CIA?” Standing not for the agency you think, but for a clandestine Mexican outfit known as the Conjuration de los Insurgentes Anarquistas, traceable back to the time of the Flores Magón brothers and later briefly allied with Zapata.

“You see. In exile,” waving his arm around at the place. He was part-owner here with a yucateco who still believed in the Revolution. Their Revolution.


Still in her role as the Queen of the Night, Oedipa runs into an old acquaintance she had once met in Mazatlan region of Mexico while vacationing there with Pierce. Jesus Arrabal, an anarchist revolutionary in exile in the United States. Oedipa asks Jesus about his organization--Conjuration de los Insurgentes Anarquistas. Pynchon tells us it was in existence at the time of the Flores Magón brothers. These brothers--all law students--ere Ricardo, Jesus and Enrique of Oaxaca. The brothers, particularly Ricardo, were the prime architects of the Mexican Revolution which ran roughly from 1910 to 1920. In 1900, Jesus and Ricardo founded the anarchist publication, El Regeneración. Ricardo had done stints in prison for publicly criticizing the president, Porfirio Díaz. The Mexican courts banned Ricardo's writings and he fled for his life to the United States. In 1904, Ricardo led the PLM (the Mexican Liberal Party) from afar. When PLM uprisings were put down the Mexican government, its leaders fled to the United States to join Ricardo. The PLM itself also came to the U.S. as well and were headquartered in St. Louis. They were often termed the Magonistas.

By 1907, several leaders of the Magonistas, including Ricardo, were arrested and jailed. He was sentenced to prison for 18 months for violating American-Mexican neutrality when the Magonistas attempted to seize control of the copper mines in Cananea in Arizona about 30 miles from the border. The plan was to kill all Americans involved in the exploitation of Mexico and its resources. In 1910, the Mexican Revolution began and El Regeneración started being published out of Los Angeles. Diaz fell in 1911 but new leaders were stepping up whom the Magonistas also opposed and so the Revolution raged on. By 1917, Ricardo Flores Magón was arrested under Wilson's administration via the Palmer Raids which targeted any and all social activists, antiwar protesters and leftists in the United States and sentenced to Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas. The Revolution ended some three years later but Ricardo was still imprisoned and died there in 1922.

The Magonistas have since become heroes of sorts to the Mexican people and government demanded the return of Ricardo's remains to Mexico. The U.S. refused and buried him in Los Angeles. In, 1945, however, the U.S. agreed to send his remains to Mexico where they were and still are interred in the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons, a large cemetery in Mexico City.

Interesting that Jesus Arrabal's CIA seems to be occult-based--the Conjuration of Anarchist Insurgents. To conjure is to invoke by incantation or magical spell. But the Latin root, coniurare, also means "to swear together" or to conspire. So we once again find ourselves dealing with conspiracies. Perhaps Arrabal's CIA is a type of Mexican Trystero. But then Trystero is also a Spanish word and that ties in with Zorro as a black-dressed, masked rider opposing the government. Perhaps it is possible that the Trystero rode with Arrabal's CIA and hence the occult aspect of the group.

Arrabal was now running his restaurant in the U.S. in partnership with a Yucateco. A Yucateco is a native of the Yucatan, a Mayan. Their language is also called Yucateco. Oaxaca is not far from the Yucatan peninsula. The indigenous Indians of Oaxaca are called Zapotec. The Flores Magón brothers were, in fact, Zapotec Indians (their father was a full-blood and their mother was half). Mazatlán is further north.

Image
Mazatlán


“And you. Are you still with that gringo who spent too much money on you? The oligarchist, the miracle?” “He died.”

“Ah, pobrecito.” They had met Jesus Arrabal on the beach, where he had previously announced an anti-government rally. Nobody had showed up. So he fell to talking to Inverarity, the enemy he must, to be true to his faith, learn. Pierce, because of his neutral manners when in the presence of ill-will, had nothing to tell Arrabal; he played the rich, obnoxious gringo so perfectly that Oedipa had seen gooseflesh come up along the anarchist’s forearms, due to no Pacific sea-breeze. Soon as Pierce went off to sport in the surf, Arrabal asked her if he was real, or a spy, or making fun of him. Oedipa didn’t understand.

“You know what a miracle is. Not what Bakunin said. But another world’s intrusion into this one. Most of the time we coexist peacefully, but when we do touch there’s cataclysm. Like the church we hate, anarchists also believe in another world. Where revolutions break out spontaneous and leaderless, and the soul’s talent for consensus allows the masses to work together without effort, automatic as the body itself. And yet, seña, if any of it should ever really happen that perfectly, I would also have to cry miracle. An anarchist miracle. Like your friend. He is too exactly and without flaw the thing we fight. In Mexico the privilegiado is always, to a finite percentage, redeemed one of the people. Unmiraculous. But your friend, unless he’s joking, is as terrifying to me as a Virgin appearing to an Indian.”


Arrabal refers, apparently, to the Virgin of Guadalupe which occurred near Mexico City in 1531. An Indian named Juan Diego had seen Marian apparitions on four occasions. On the fourth encounter, she had him gather flowers in his mantle to take to the bishop after Diego told her he wanted her to give him a sign that would convince others. He took the flowers before the bishop and they fell out of the mantle and left behind a miraculous impression of the Virgin on the mantle:

Image


To Jesus, Pierce's appearance in Mazatlán was as miraculous as the Virgin's appearance to Juan Diego. Pierce represented the very thing they fought against thereby reaffirming to Jesus that there was, in fact, a chance for this other world that Arrabal refers to--this spiritual Utopia--to appear before him. Prior to meeting Pierce, Jesus took it on faith only that this world was real because everyone he had ever met who played the role of enemy of the people always had some sort of redeeming quality about them, some even became folk-heroes. This thwarted the appearance of the Utopia in the real world. It remained only spiritual, an ideal. But Pierce made it real. Pierce made it appear before Jesus who now knew it to be real.

Interestingly, the Virgin image on the mantle once bore a crown which was subsequently removed for reasons not exactly known. This represents once again the disenfranchisement of women. The Church stripped womanhood of her crown and her dignity and replaced it with an oppressive patriarchy. Were the Trystero looking to reinstate her? To sit her at the top of the world she created in the Varo painting? Or was the malignant magic in their hands? Were they using it to oppress or liberate her?

In the years intervening Oedipa had remembered Jesus because he’d seen that about Pierce and she hadn’t. As if he were, in some unsexual way, competition. Now, drinking thick lukewarm coffee from a clay pot on the back burner of the yucateco’s stove and listening to Jesus talk conspiracy, she wondered if, without the miracle of Pierce to reassure him, Jesus might not have quit his CIA eventually and gone over like everybody else to the majority priistas, and so never had to go into exile.

Were the revolutionaries, in the end, just hypocrites? Did they talk about revolution, the empowering of the masses, only to ultimately exploit them? Pynchon may think so. The name "Jesus Arrabal" signifies what? Arrabal simply means "slum." Jesus means "savior." So perhaps he is a savior from the slums. But Jesus is also the Christian Lord. "Slum Lord"?

The dead man, like Maxwell’s Demon, was the linking feature in a coincidence. Without him neither she nor Jesus would be exactly here, exactly now. It was enough, a coded warning. What, tonight, was chance? So her eyes did fall presently onto an ancient rolled copy of the anarcho-syndicalist paper Regeneración. The date was 1904 and there was no stamp next to the cancellation, only the handstruck image of the post horn.


So the Magonista newspaper is still making the rounds even though it was printed 1904 meaning it was still being printed in Mexico and before the Mexican civil war broke out. Here, we also catch a parallel with the American Civil War that played such a role in the Peter Pinguid story. The newspaper Oedipa spies is marked with the W.A.S.T.E. symbol. Was Trystero involved in both wars? Was the goal the overthrow of all governments?

“They arrive,” said Arrabal. “Have they been in the mails that long? Has my name been substituted for that of a member who’s died? Has it really taken sixty years? Is it a reprint? Idle questions, I am a footsoldier. The higher levels have their reasons.” She carried this thought back out into the night with her.

So, the newspaper is still being delivered even though the copies are old. Arrabal has no explanation for it. Clearly, though, the Trystero is keeping an eye on him indicating that he did indeed have a past association with them most likely through his occult revolutionary organization or that organization was absorbed into the Trystero. And what are their motives? Still pushing the revolution? Which one? All of them? Somewhere up there decisions have been made and they feel no obligation to inform us what those decisions are. Is the Trystero saviors of the slums or the slum lords?



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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
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Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:00 pm
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Post Re: Essay on "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon
Down at the city beach, long after the pizza stands and rides had closed, she walked unmolested through a drifting, dreamy cloud of delinquents in summer-weight gang jackets with the post horn stitched on in thread that looked pure silver in what moonlight there was. They had all been smoking, snuffing or injecting something, and perhaps did not see her at all.

Riding among an exhausted busful of Negroes going on to graveyard shifts all over the city, she saw scratched on the back of a seat, shining for her in the brilliant smoky interior, the post horn with the legend DEATH. But unlike WASTE, somebody had troubled to write in, in pencil: DON’T EVER ANTAGONIZE THE HORN.

Somewhere near Fillmore she found the symbol tacked to the bulletin board of a laundromat, among other scraps of paper offering cheap ironing and baby sitters. If you know what this means, the note said, you know where to find out more. Around her the odor of chlorine bleach rose heavenward, like an incense. Machines chugged and sloshed fiercely. Except for Oedipa the place was deserted, and the fluorescent bulbs seemed to shriek whiteness, to which everything their light touched was dedicated. It was a Negro neighborhood. Was The Horn so dedicated? Would it Antagonize The Horn to ask? Who could she ask?


The muted horn symbol is a subversion of the order, held dear by those victimized by the prevailing order and perhaps someday it would by the symbol of the overthrow of that order, the establishment. But did this underclass truly understand it? Was it a genuine symbol of a promised revolution to come? Or was it simply a placebo bequeathed to them by the establishment that had enslaved them, hated them and failed them more times than they could ever count? Did it come from men like Pierce or was it an obsession in them to capture it and subvert the subverters? Oedipa, by her own admission, is a Young Republican but how are we to take that? Does she mean a stalwart conservative in a certain age group or does she mean she is only nominally conservative mainstream maturing with socio-political wisdom? Oedipa does not appear to disdain the underclass but, at the same time, does she sympathize with it? Does she see a revolution as needed or needlessly destructive or even a threat to her own position in society? She may be recognizing that she doesn't hold any position of power other than being white and mainstream but at least a certain privilege is accorded her by that fact alone. She doesn't have to get up at 4 a.m. to scrub floors or wash clothes. Her position is such that it would be others who rose at ungodly hours to scrub her floors and wash her clothes while leaving the older children at home to the tasks of getting their younger siblings out of bed and ready for school to receive a substandard education that would never take them anywhere in life but prison and an early grave.

Oedipa's sleepwalk through the city is revealing more to her than she had ever seen when she was awake. She sees that she had been walking through life sleeping, oblivious to the plights of those around here while she played princess in the tower waiting for a rich man to sweep her off her feet. She now sees people who have virtually no hope of anything like that ever happening to them. These people can scarcely afford to dream. Oedipa isn't actually sleeping, she is waking up. She receives her warning: Don't ever antagonize the horn! Don't take our one and only dream away or you will pay.

In the buses all night she listened to transistor radios playing songs in the lower stretches of the Top 200, that would never become popular, whose melodies and lyrics would perish as if they had never been sung. A Mexican girl, trying to hear one of these through snarling static from the bus’s motor, hummed along as if she would remember it always, tracing post horns and hearts with a fingernail, in the haze of her breath on the window.

The songs in the lower stretches of the Top 200 never to become popular blasting through a cheap, tiny and tinny transistor radio symbolizes the underclass, those near the bottom, who would never amount to anything, who would pass too quickly from the world as if they had never been here. People who had nothing substantial to contribute to the world because they had never been allowed to. White people ran society as if it were a country club--it existed for their enjoyment and pursuit of life, liberty and happiness and everyone else could only participate only as the help, as virtual slaves. The Mexican girl is a symbol of the underclass who hums the songs she might never forget but which the rest of society will. They are her dreams and aspirations, her chance to contribute if it ever came, which it probably wouldn't but then again...maybe. But she traces a muted post horn in the fog of her breath on the bus window. Breath is "spiritus" in Latin. Her spirit is the muted post horn and all it represents to her--it is her only hope, her chance. She lives it and breathes it.

Out at the airport Oedipa, feeling invisible, eavesdropped on a poker game whose steady loser entered each loss neat and conscientious in a little balance-book decorated inside with scrawled post horns. “I'm averaging a 99.375 percent return, fellas,” she heard him say. The others, strangers, looked at him, some blank, some annoyed. “That’s averaging it out, over 23 years,” he went on, trying a smile. “Always just that little percent on the wrong side of breaking even. Twenty-three years. I’ll never get ahead of it. Why don’t I quit?” Nobody answering.

The man symbolizes the plight of the underclass and, increasingly, even the middle class. No matter how you play the odds, society is a rigged game, the pretend American dream, where you never quite get anywhere. "Why don't I quit?" Nobody gives him an answer because the answer is a bleak one: to quit the game requires death (the most probably outcome), extraordinary luck (the least probable outcome) or revolution (the messiest and most disruptive outcome). Revolution, however, is the only meaningful solution with the most permanent results. But when it came their turn to climb into the jacuzzis of the oppressors would they be soaking in their blood surrounded by their severed heads staring blankly?

In one of the latrines was an advertisement by AC-DC, standing for Alameda County Death Cult, along with a box number and post horn. Once a month they were to choose some victim from among the innocent, the virtuous, the socially integrated and well-adjusted, using him sexually, then sacrificing him. Oedipa did not copy the number.

So with the Alameda County Death Cult is a foreshadowing the revolution where the oppressors will be overthrown and sacrificed. No matter who you are among the oppressor class, you are NOT innocent, you are NOT virtuous, you are NOT socially-integrated nor well-adjusted. You are simply guilty as charged. Recognizing her membership among that elite, Oedipa passes on their invitation.

Catching a TWA flight to Miami was an uncoordinated boy who planned to slip at night into aquariums and open negotiations with the dolphins, who would succeed man. He was kissing his mother passionately goodbye, using his tongue. “I’ll write, ma,” he kept saying. “Write by WASTE,” she said, “remember. The government will open it if you use the other. The dolphins will be mad.” “I love you, ma,” he said. “Love the dolphins,” she advised him. “Write by WASTE.”

So it went. Oedipa played the voyeur and listener. Among her other encounters were a facially-deformed welder, who cherished his ugliness; a child roaming the night who missed the death before birth as certain outcasts do the dear lulling blankness of the community; a Negro woman with an intricately-marbled scar along the baby-fat of one cheek who kept going through rituals of miscarriage each for a different reason, deliberately as others might the ritual of birth, dedicated not to continuity but to some kind of interregnum; an aging night-watchman, nibbling at a bar of Ivory Soap, who had trained his virtuoso stomach to accept also lotions, air-fresheners, fabrics, tobaccoes and waxes in a hopeless attempt to assimilate it all, all the promise, productivity, betrayal, ulcers, before it was too late; and even another voyeur, who hung outside one of the city’s still-lighted windows, searching for who knew what specific image. Decorating each alienation, each species of withdrawal, as cufflink, decal, aimless doodling, there was somehow always the post horn. She grew so to expect it that perhaps she did not see it quite as often as she later was to remember seeing it. A couple-three times would really have been enough. Or too much.


Oedipa floats among all society's misfits who, for one reason or another, are denied a place that the table. As with the "Negro woman" whose miscarriage rituals are dedicated not to continuity but interregnum. Interregnum is defined as an disruption of governmental and social order. The night-watchman who swallows all the useless products of society shows that any attempt at societal assimilation is toxic. Beneath it all, the soil from which the interregnum is growing--the muted post horn--is everywhere, never far away.

She busrode and walked on into the lightening morning, giving herself up to a fatalism rare for her. Where was the Oedipa who'd driven so bravely up here from San Narciso? That optimistic baby had come on so like the private eye in any long-ago radio drama, believing all you needed was grit, resourcefulness, exemption from hidebound cops’ rules, to solve any great mystery.

But the private eye sooner or later has to get beat up on. This night’s profusion of post horns, this malignant, deliberate replication, was their way of beating up. They knew her pressure points, and the ganglia of her optimism, and one by one, pinch by precision pinch, they were immobilizing her.

Last night, she might have wondered what undergrounds apart from the couple she knew of communicated by WASTE system. By sunrise she could legitimately ask what undergrounds didn’t. If miracles were, as Jesus Arrabal had postulated years ago on the beach at Mazatlan, intrusions into this world from another, a kiss of cosmic pool balls, then so must be each of the night’s post horns. For here were God knew how many citizens, deliberately choosing not to communicate by U. S. Mail. It was not an act of treason, nor possibly even of defiance. But it was a calculated withdrawal, from the life of the Republic, from its machinery. Whatever else was being denied them out of hate, indifference to the power of their vote, loopholes, simple ignorance, this withdrawal was their own, un-publicized, private. Since they could not have withdrawn into a vacuum (could they?), there had to exist the separate, silent, unsuspected world.


The last paragraph sums it up and I have nothing to add to it.



Sat Aug 03, 2019 5:10 pm
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