Friday, July 29, 2016

Poor Yoricks' Summer - Infinite Jest, Pages 394-430

Nearing the halfway point of the novel, Wallace is juggling several plot lines, still fleshing some of them out, offering additional examples of his general themes.

ETA's 16-A's very top man Ortho Stice "is being driven right to the edge by the fact that he goes to sleep with his bed against one wall and then but wakes up with his bed against a whole nother wall". It cannot possibly any of the other students playing tricks on him, so he visits Lyle. "Do not underestimate objects, he advises Stice. Do not leave objects out of account. The world, after all, which is radically old, is made up mostly of objects." I'm not sure how good or worthwhile this advice is, though. How does it help Stice cope? It seems like nothing more than the line from Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

We get more information on Found Drama. One of Himself's productions was entitled "The Medusa v. The Odalisque" and featured a play within the film in which "the mythic Medusa, snake-haired and armed with a sword and well-polished shield, is fighting to the death or petrification against L'Odalisque de Ste. Thérèse, a character out of old Québecois mythology who was supposedly so inhumanly gorgeous that anyone who looked at her turned instantly into a human-sized precious gem, from admiration".

In Mario's script, there are four states that are so befouled by toxic waste that they need immediate detoxifying and deradiating. But Rodney Tine states: "No way we can possibly permit territory publicly exposed as this befouled and waste-impacted to continue to besmirch the already tight and tidier territory of a new era's U.S. of A. The president [from the Clean U.S. Party] shudders at the mere thought."

The solution is to Give It Away. "We're going to give away the whole benighted smirch of ground." A kind of ecological gerrymandering. Make the people living in these areas move away, become a "new era's breed of new pioneers, striking in bravely for already-settled good old settled but unfoul American territory". And so the U.S. will force Canada to accept this area - and will continue to dump the country's waste into it.

That section runs right into the dark legend of Eric Clipperton, a young player who arrived out of seemingly nowhere and played his matches with a Glock 17 pointed at his head. He had made it very clear that if he ever lost a match, he would shoot himself in the head right there on the court, eliminating his own map. "No one is willing to beat him and risk going through life with the sight of the Glock going off on his conscience." While Clipperton is referred to as "the late Eric Clipperton" on page 410, we will not get the details until a little later.

The some stuff from another one of Hal's papers. Not the actual paper, but more of a recap. Outlining the demise of Network television industry, the fall and rise of millennial U.S. advertising (at first, disturbing ads (like tongue scrapers) that turned people away (yet they bought the product)), and then the rise of InterLace TelEntertainment ("What if a viewer could more or less 100% choose what's on at any given time? ... [W]hat if the viewer could become her/his own programming director; what if s/he could define the very entertainment-happiness it was her/his right to pursue?")

Choice plays such a huge role in this book. Marathe and Steeply talk about the individual's maximum pleasure versus the maximum pleasure for all people, using as an example how two desperately hungry people will decide who gets to eat "a hot bowl of the Habitant soupe aux pois".

The American genius, our good fortune is that someplace along the line back there in American history them realizing that each American seeking to pursue his maximum good results together in maximizing everyone's good. ... This is what lets us steer free of oppression and tyranny. Even your Greekly democratic howling-mob-type tyranny. The United States: a community of sacred individuals which reveres the sacredness of the individual choice. The individual's right to pursue his own vision of the best ratio of pleasure to pain: utterly sacrosanct. ... You are entitled to your values of maximum pleasure. So long as you don't fuck with mine.
Suppose you are able at one moment to increase your own pleasure, but the cost of this is the displeasuring pain of another? Another sacred individual's displeasing pain. ... Imagine there arises a situation in which your deprivation or pain is merely the consequence, the price, of my own pleasure. ...

In my mind I know it is true that I must not simply make a bonking of your head and take away the soup, because my overall happiness of pleasure of the long term needs a community of "rien de bonk." But this is the long term, Steeply. This is down the road of my happiness, this respecting of you. How do I calculate this distant road of long term into my action of this moment, now ... if the most pleasure right now, en ce moment, is in the whole serving of Habitant, how is my self able to put aside this moment's desire to make bonk on you and take this soup? How am I able to think past this soup to the future of soup down my road? ... How is my U.S.A. type able in my mind to calculate my long-term overall pleasure, then decide to sacrifice this intense soup-craving of this moment to the long term and overall?
I think it's called simply being a mature and adult American instead of a childish and immature American. A term we might use might be "enlightened self-interest." ... For example your example from before. The little kid who'll eat candy all day because it's what tastes best at each individual moment. ... The kid has to learn by his own experience how to learn to balance the short- and long-term pursuit of what he wants. This is the crux of the educational system you find so appalling. Not to teach what to desire. To teach how to be free. To teach how to make knowledgeable choices about pleasure and delay ... [T]he system isn't perfect. There is greed, there is crime, there are drugs and cruelty and ruin and infidelity and divorce and suicide. Murder. ... This is the price of the free pursuit. Not everybody learns it in childhood, how to balance his interests.
And then to the Entertainment:

How could it be that A.F.R. malice could hurt all of the U.S.A. culture by making available something as momentary and free as the choice to view only this one Entertainment? You know there can be no forcing to watch a thing. If we disseminate the samizdat, the choice will be free, no? Free from force, no? Yes? Freely chosen? ... You believe we are underestimating to see all you as selfish, decadent. ... Why make a simple Entertainment, no matter how seducing its pleasures, a samizdat and forbidden in the first place, if you do not fear so many U.S.A.s cannot make the enlightened choices? ... Perhaps the facts are true, after the first watching: that then there seems to be no choice. But to decide to be this pleasurably entertained in the first place. This is still a choice, no? Sacred to the viewing self, and free? No? Yes?

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