Sunday, November 12, 2006

We Await Silent Trystero's Empire (W.A.S.T.E.)

Thomas Pynchon has a new novel, 'Against the Day.' It's set between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the aftermath of World War One. Here's how the author describes his book: "With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred." Right. I'm going to Barnes & Noble to buy it after hitting the "Publish Post" button.

Pynchon is a culture-jamming writer descended from America's founding families, his bloodlines going back to both the religious-extremist disease vectors from Europe and the brown anarcho-animist pagans who received them, and in his novels he refers to his family's history (as the "Slothrops"). This first-hand sense of history no doubt contributes to length, humor, and occasional inscrutability.

This new one weighs in at over 1,000 pages. If you like intricate in-joke fiction which references the history of a thousand years of Western science, paranoia, finance, spying, bureaucracy, philosophy, colonialism, and conspiracy, you're in for a treat. If you like things which make immediate sense, probably less so. The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Vineland, and V. are, like, how would I describe them? Imagine the Bush Dynasty had a super-intelligent, rebellious son who studied mathematical physics and wrote subversive fiction which chronicled his family's weapons and drug-dealing contretemps, and we're starting to get there. For example, the plot in one of his books centers on a romance between an FBI Cointelpro agent and a radical hippie documentary filmmaker.

The muted postal horn above is Pynchonese for an international society and shadow postal service which is more efficient and faster than those run by governments, and Trystero was its mythical founder. They would counterfeit stamps and send fleet messages in unbreakable code, kind of like an ancient, secret Fed-Ex service, but which stays just below the radar to agonize the agents of princes and kings. Hopefully it's still operating. It might as well be the logo for the business I'm in, but using it would be too obvious.

You've probably never heard of Pynchon, but ironically, you've probably heard him: his voice has been used on The Simpsons. In real life, he used to work on rockets at Boeing in Seattle, and used the experience as material to dream up a cheerful marketer of lethality called "Yoyodyne." The wikipedia entry on it will give you a peek at his influence:

Yoyodyne is a fictional defense contractor introduced in Thomas Pynchon's V. (1963) and featured prominently in his novel The Crying of Lot 49 (1966). Described in the latter book as "a giant of the aerospace industry", Yoyodyne was founded by World War II veteran Clayton "Bloody" Chiclitz. The company has a large manufacturing plant in the fictional town of San Narciso, California.

The name was adopted in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as the name for a defense contractor. In Buckaroo Banzai, Yoyodyne's corporate offices features the sign, "Where the future begins tomorrow." Yoyodyne is a front for a group of red Lectroid aliens, all with the first name John, that landed in New Jersey in 1938, using the panic created by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio play as cover.

Numerous props in Star Trek series, such as control panels and dedication plaques, indicate that parts of Federation starships were manufactured by Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems, or YPS. Often, these notices are too small to be visible on a television screen, or can only be observed by freeze-framing. Yoyodyne is also a client of the law firm Wolfram and Hart on the TV series Angel, a spin-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Many technical works, such as Cricket Liu's DNS and BIND (O'Reilly), Per Cederqvist's Version Management with CVS, Jesse Vincent's RT Essentials (O'Reilly), and the GNU General Public License use Yoyodyne as a company name in their examples. The Internet domain name,[1], was allocated by internet software designer TGV Inc. as a "fake" domain name for use in DNS configuration examples.

The first Internet-based direct marketer, Seth Godin, founded a company called Yoyodyne which was acquired by Yahoo! in 1998. [2].

Also, there is a non-fictional company called Yoyodyne that manufactures and sells high-performance and racing motorcycle parts [3].

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