Naked Singularity Big Read: Revolutions

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So to start this week’s section, let’s actually go back to the last page from last week’s section: this is a slightly obscure phone conversation between Casi and Dane where the former accedes to Dane’s plan to snatch the drug money form the deal discussed in last week’s section. So questions immediately come to mind: Why is Casi doing this? And why does Dane want it so much for him? And do you think there’s any legitimacy to Dane comparing Casi’s decision to go along on a heist of dubious morality with humankind’s lofty aspirations to, literally, reach for the stars?

It’s interesting to note here the quote that prefaces Part Two and starts this week’s reading. It says in part: “Revolutions are ambiguous things.” And also: “Their success is generally proportionate to their power of adaptation and to the reabsorption within them of what they rebelled against.” Clearly the “revolution” here refers to Casi’s development as a person, although the part about reabsorption of what they rebelled against strikes an odd note. What exactly does that imply for Casi’s development as a person?

As Part Two begins, we’re back at Casi’s family’s house, and he almost immediately gets into a debate with a young boy named Timmy about the validity of life after death experiences. Timmy wants to refute the factuality of these experiences with the argument that all the stories are similar, but Casi rebuts that all the stories sound similar because only a certain kind of life after death narrative is ever permitted to be disseminated widely in the mass media. Again we are at the question of how our perceptions of the world are conditioned and what kind of a truth that conditions us to accept. We might profitably compare this to the vision of humanity that Dane has been feeding to Casi. This conversation also introduces the possibility that one “will never get a satisfactory answer . . . to these types of questions.” [322] As Casi is saying this to a young boy and likely going way over his head, we can take it that this as more Casi talking to himself.

Later, Casi is back in his neighbors’ apartment room, where Angus is still participating in his experiment to watch enough of The Honeymooners to make Ralph Kramden a living person. During this conversation, the idea of an advertising-only television channel is introduced. This is something of a singularity in itself, as it collapses the difference between the ostensible entertainment—TV shows—and the ads that we supposedly endure as a necessary obstacle to watching them. Of course, as the idea of an ad-only channel shows, the relationship between the two is not that simple at all: ads very much try to entertain us so as to change the way we think and sell to us better, and TV shows increasingly try to sell us products, lifestyles, and ideological points of view, in addition to offering their entertainment. Angus also introduces the idea of a “moral obligation” [333] to watch TV as a sort of repayment for all TV has done for him. The idea, as presented, is obviously satirical, but it does imply the rather serious fact that we exist in a relationship to TV and do feel certain very real obligations to it, some of which we are aware of and some of which we are not. The relationship of advertising to art is also brought up. And on page 335, De La Pava introduces the idea that “advertising doesn’t address a need, it creates it. It is self-sustaining.” This will be familiar to anyone who has read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Art might also create various needs within us. Lastly, the idea of infinite recursion, which has ghosted throughout the TV conversation, is brought up quite explicitly with Angus’ plan to introduce a new psychological disorder: a phobia of phobias.

It’s also in this section that the narrative starts to very seriously unravel. In earlier sections De La Pava maintained a clear distinction between Casi’s professional and personal life. The writing was orderly and we could follow cases and relationships without much hassle. Now that clarity begins to cloud over. On 343 Casi reflects, as though writing this all down at some point in the future,

Was there even a supposed-to for this kind of situation? A situation where when I looked at my receding past everything seemed retrospectively marked by an extreme order and predictability yet all moments since seemed to obey, and promised to continue obeying, their own set of stochastic, undisclosed, and undiscoverable laws. . . . [S]till the known universe seemed to bend and bend inexorably inward and towards me where it awaited my next move, supremely ready to react accordingly. And how I knew that decisions I would soon make or defer would have near-Sopphoclean import and yet nonetheless it all seemed oddly irrelevant.

Was I the only one to love Casi’s extreme description of the kind of coffee he would like on page 352?

Lastly, I’m curious about the escalating stories about what happened between Casi and Liszt (pp. 353-55). Does anyone recall exactly where this incident occurs in A Naked Singularity and how De La Pava describes what might have actually occurred?

For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here.

More from Conversational Reading:

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  2. Naked Singularity Big Read: Perfection For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. In chapter 3x2x1 (aka Chapter 6) De La Pava introduces one of the...
  3. Naked Singularity Big Read Prizes We’re starting the Big Read of A Naked Singularity in just under 2 weeks. Schedule here. And here are some images of the four signed...
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I read page 352 this morning enroute to the office, looking forward to my stop at the local coffee shop for the perfect morning brew, and could not help laughing out loud. “I’m easy…” As in many situations Casi is caught between being overly smart, wordy, arrogant and somewhat obnoxious while holding on to his essential likability and humility. The question is was he happy with the brown-lidded, dispensed coffee or did he really want a pefect latte? I would like to think the former.

The passage you’re looking for is on pg. 312:

“Wrong. I don’t wind some, lose some. I win them all and lost one, and the one I lost is because some criminally stupid judge couldn’t get her head out of her ass long enough to do her job right. Fuck!” Then I did a stupid thing. I punched a hole in Liszt’s wall. I needed sleep. I got the hell out of there.

Loved the coffee bit! I excerpted it on my own blog last week, and have to resist the temptation to ask for extra non-decaf every morning. He’s obviously mocking coffee culture but sincerely appreciates a coffee made to his specifications (as he appreciates food and drink in general). But sometimes a plain ol’ coffee will do.

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