Forty-Four: Shame on You for Thinking

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04.18: Gravity’s Rainbow

In which, despite efforts by Them to stop us, we continue our work on Gravity’s Rainbow with a look at Book Three, episode five – the Tchitcherine episode.

Notes:

Here’s an example of Kyrgyz script. When writing was first developed, a Latin alphabet was used. So “A screaming comes across the sky” would have looked like this:

Bir jini asmanda bolot

Around 1920, the Arabic alphabet was adopted. The words themselves didn’t change, but how they were written changed dramatically. Most notably, the Latin alphabet is written from right-to-left, whereas the Arabic alphabet is written from left-to-right. So the same sentence would look like this:

بىر جىنى اسمانادا بولوت

Finally, in the early 1930s, Russia began to impose a Cyrillic alphabet onto the Kyrgyz people. Pynchon has Tchitcherine working on this project. Once again, the words didn’t change but how they were written did:

Бир жини асманда болот


If you would like to learn more about Gödel’s Theorem, here’s a nice explanation at Scientific American. And here’s a write-up at the Guardian about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.


On chess outcomes and the number of atoms in the universe:

Claude Shannon – a mathematician and cryptographer called “the father of information theory” – put the lower boundary for the possible outcomes of a game of chess to be 10120. (This is called the Shannon number.) Victor Allis, a Dutch computer scientist working in the field of artificial intelligence, put the upper bound at 5×1050. He also estimated the game-tree complexity to be at least 10123, assuming a branching factor of 35 and an average game of 80 moves.

The estimate of atoms in the known universe is often put between 4×1079 and 4×1081.

5 thoughts on “Forty-Four: Shame on You for Thinking

  1. Just to say, I love the theme song. I look forward to listening to it.

    When my kids were little, we’d listen to audiobooks of “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.
    Each one had a musical intro by a deep-voiced singer, with an accordion and a ukelele.
    Turns out it was Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields) and the author. We liked the theme songs better than the books.

    1. While I would never equate myself with Mr. Merritt (interestingly, I did create a version of his “The Book of Love” for my wife and I to dance to at our wedding), I love it when people say they love our theme song. I love it too…though I made it so obviously I’m biased.

      In Against the Day, the Chums actually sing this as a ukulele choir. I actually came up with this version so I could then record a ukulele-choir version. I haven’t gotten around to that yet (partially because I like this one so much), but I will when we start covering that book.

  2. Literary resonances: the Tchicherine/Enzian black/white brother combination echo the half-brothers in Eschenbach’s Parzival. Parzival meets a knight Feirefiz, son of his father and a Moorish queen. Rather than all black, Feirefiz is mottled with Vitiligo, piebald, like a magpie (or, presumably, like Michael Jackson without his make-up). The TV show “Northern Exposure” introduced a black character Bernard as a half-brother to Chris, the DJ.

    Also, y’all mentioned addiction as a commodity. It reminded me of the afterword of “Naked Lunch,” an essay of Wm. Burroughs called “The Algebra of Need.” Haven’t read it (or GR) since the seventies, but in my memory the two are very similar. Pynchon may have drawn on it as a source.

    1. Tim, can we share these insights on the capstone episode of this season? If so, how would you like to be credited?

      1. Sure, I’m Tim Szeliga (sell-league-uh), a weatherman in Minnesota.
        Most of what I know came from reading Mendelson in Mindful Pleasures and reading GR three times (but not lately).

        At a Natl Marijuana Day rally in Central Park, I ran into Wavy Gravy, the clown who catered Woodstock. Thus began my habit of having celebrities autograph whatever book I happen to be carrying around at the time. He signed my paperback of Gravity’s Rainbow “Wavy Gravy — TEETH.” I have no idea what that means.

        I also had Tom Wolfe sign Hugh Kenner’s “The Counterfeiters” and Garrison Keillor sign Walker Percy’s “The Moviegoer.” Donald Barthelme stared me down and shamed me into buying his thirty dollar doorstop of a book.

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