Saturday, January 13, 2007

Works Cited

The law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are colour-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the [second World W]ar were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practised? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the colour of their hair.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Works Cited: Cryptonomicon

Let's set the existence-of-God issue aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate. After about three billion years of this sometimes zany, frequently tedious fugue of carnality and carnage, Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife of a Congregational preacher named Bunyan Waterhouse. Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo--which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn't a stupendous badass was dead.


This is an allusion to a Randy/Avi conversation of two years ago wherein Avi actually calculated a specific numerical value for "fuck-you money." It was not a fixed constant, however, but rather a cell n a spreadsheet linked to any number of continually fluctuating economic indicators.


Randy was forever telling people, without rancor, that they were full of shit... No one took it personally. Charlene's crowd most definitely did take it personally. It wasn't being told that they were wrong that offended them, though--it was the underlying assumption that a person could be right or wrong about anything.


"Just kill the one with the sword first."

"Ah," Reagan says, raising his waxed and penciled eyebrows, and cocking his pompadour in Shaftoe’s direction. "Smarrrt —you target them because they’re the officers, right?"

"No, fuckhead!" Shaftoe yells. "You kill ’em because they’ve got fucking swords! You ever had anyone running at you waving a fucking sword?"


The room contains a few dozen living human bodies, each one a big sack of guts and fluids so highly compressed that it will squirt for a few yards when pierced. Each one is built around an armature of 206 bones connected to each other by notoriously fault-prone joints that are given to obnoxious creaking, grinding, and popping noises when they are in other than pristine condition. This structure is draped with throbbing steak, inflated with clenching air sacks, and pierced by a Gordian sewer filled with burbling acid and compressed gas and asquirt with vile enzymes and solvents produced by the many dark, gamy nuggets of genetically programmed meat strung along its length. Slugs of dissolving food are forced down this sloppy labyrinth by serialized convulsions, decaying into gas, liquid, and solid matter which must all be regularly vented to the outside world lest the owner go toxic and drop dead. Spherical, gel-packed cameras swivel in mucus-greased ball joints. Infinite phalanxes of cilia beat back invading particles, encapsulate them in goo for later disposal. In each body a centrally located muscle flails away at an eternal, circulating torrent of pressurized gravy. And yet, despite all of this, not one of these bodies makes a single sound at any time during the sultan’s speech. It is a marvel that can only be explained by the power of brain over body, and, in turn, by the power of cultural conditioning over the brain.


. . . free of governmental interference. Randy can’t believe he’s hearing this. If the sultan was a scruffy hacker talking to a room full of crypto anarchists, that’d be one thing. But the sultan is a government, for god’s sake, and the room is full of card-carrying Establishment types.


Pesky untermenschen! They’ve really gone and done it now! It won’t be twenty-four hours before the milchcow is located and sunk by the Allies. There is a good chance that a few U-boats will be hounded to their deaths as part of the bargain. That is not a good way to die—being chased across the ocean for several days, suffering the death of a thousand cuts from strafings and bombings. Stuff like this really drives home, to the common ordinary Obertorpedomaat, the wisdom of the Führer’s plan to go out and find all of the people who aren’t Germans and kill them.

Meanwhile, our basic Kapitänleutnant has got to be asking himself: what the hell are the chances that a tramp Trinidadian steamer is going to just happen upon us and our milchcow, out in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean?

You could probably work it out, given the right data:

Nn = number of Negroes per square kilometer

Nm = number of milchcows

Aa =Area of the Atlantic Ocean

. . . and so on. But wait a sec, neither Negroes nor milchcows are randomly distributed, so the calculation becomes immensely more complicated. Far too complicated for a Kapitänleutnant to mess around with, especially when he’s busy trying to effect a dramatic reduction in Nn.


Waterhouse gets there late—that transportation thing again. All the gasoline is being used to hurl enormous bombers through the atmosphere so that high explosives can be showered on Nips. Moving the wad of flesh called Waterhouse across Brisbane so he can try to deflower a maiden is way down the priority list.

Neal Stephenson