THE POLITICS OF WAR: Absurdity and Economy continued.
CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller
“It was love at first sight”. This is one of those famous opening lines of a novel, if only because it is written about Yossarian, An Army Airforce B-25 bombadier, recovering from a battle wound while based at an island west of Italy in the Medetaranian. It is in reference to his surgeon, a man Yossarian has high respect for.
There are many avant gaard comments and scenes within the book like this one, designed to both amuse and confuse. In fact, the novel is rife with paradox. For this is the way the U.S. Military is run, you see. The phrase, Catch 22 , is a military rule, the self-contradictory circular reasoning that, for example, prevents one from avoiding combat missions. And it is a general critique of beaurocratic operation and reasoning.
Here then is basically the catch in Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. The character, Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and thus didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.
Catch-22 says, as one of the other characters would state, “that they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing”. And it becomes illicitly used to maintain a profiteering enterprise by a grass roots elite, who can keep the Base in check with lots of recruits utilizing this Rule while fighting the Germans, especially when missions were added on to a Airman’s schedule, forcing him to stay at the Base longer than his rotation was meant to . The whole point of this was to profit from his pay by giving him shares in the syndicate run by Milo Minderbinder, the squadron’s mess officer. The war thus kind of loses sight to the grander sceme of those who would profit from it.
Yossarian comes to realize that Catch-22 does not actually exist, but because the powers that be claim it does, and the world believes it does, it nevertheless has potent effects. Indeed, because it does not exist, there is no way for it to be repealed, undone, overthrown or denounced.
Meanwhile, the syndicate, which is run like a communist/capitalist enterprise, feeds off its shareholders with product they are able to buy on the open market at a higher price but sell at a lower price to the airmen and still make a profit, because they are collecting money from the airmen’s pay for each share of stock they receive. Its kind of like a reverse Ponzi Scheme.
Milo is one of the most complex figures in the novel, and the syndicate that he heads is one of its most elusive symbols. On the one hand, the syndicate gives Heller an opportunity to parody the economic activity of large-market capitalism. The extraordinary rationalization by which Milo is able to buy eggs for seven cents apiece and sell them for five cents apiece while still turning a profit is one of the most tortuously sublime moments in the novel. On the other hand, it can only be done through this Socialistic Collective.
Yossarian comes to fear his commanding officers more than he fears the Germans attempting to shoot him down and he feels that "they" are "out to get him." Key among the reasons Yossarian fears his commanders more than the enemy is that as he flies more missions, Colonel Cathcart increases the number of required combat missions before a soldier may return home. He reaches the magic number only to have it retroactively raised. His paranoia is considered irrational by the Base psychiatrist. As he states, “The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart. And don't you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live.”
The lines become blurred as to who the enemy really is when Milo employs German airmen to bomb the encampment at Pianosa because it will be profitable for the syndicate to do so. This predicament indicates a tension between traditional motives for violence and the modern economic machine, which seems to generate violence simply as another means to profit, quite independent of geographical or ideological constraints. Heller emphasizes the danger of profit seeking by portraying Milo without “evil intent." Milo’s actions are portrayed as the result of greed, not malice.
This is one of the most hilarious novels to read because it is full of paradoxical pranks. Yossarian soon discovers that he is one of two men who are truly sane at his base. The other is a man named Orr he will not fly with, even though invited to on several occations, because the pilot has a tendency to crash land in the Mediterranean. They share a tent and both are considered to be crazy.
Orr's motivation throughout, however, is to escape the squadron and the war. He plans to crash land in the sea and make his way to a neutral country where he can wait out the war (which he eventually does). He practices this goal by getting shot down every mission he flies, and so becomes an expert in crash landings, without losing a single crewman. But he is considered crazier than Yossarian because of it. Thus, Orr is the only character in the book who understood how to defeat the law of Catch 22.
Yossarian, upon hearing that news, grabs an inflatable raft and paddles out into the Medeterranean to finally make his escape. One is left with a sense that there is more to the absurdity of war than just the violence and the killing. It includes a rationale of isolation, greed, sex, opportunism, victimization, abject fear and a growing inability to differentiate between good and evil, madness and sanity.
-Resident Philosopher Doug Taylor
The story of Brandon Reese,
a Ventura High School student with a secret life.
Geek by day, bird by night, Brandon risks his life
for the girl he loves.
Tim Pompey is a news writer and poet. He was awarded the Still Waters Press Winter Poetry Award 2000 for his chapbook,
Getting Through the Fog.
Two documentary films focusing on Korea will be shown. The first film illustrates the artistic and cultural achievements of Korea's past, and the second shows Korea's industrial achievements since the Korean War.
A reenactment of a traditional Korean wedding will follow the screening.
RSVP is preferred, please call 641-4414.
Fillmore Library Presents:
Swazzle Puppets and “The Grasshopper and the Ant”.
A story for all ages!
In “The Grasshopper and the Ants”, young audiences will be introduced to a classic story and laugh along with the fun-loving Grasshopper as he learns the value of dedication and handwork.
This program is sponsored by the Fillmore Friends of the Library.
While most people were having barbecues and waiting for fireworks on July 4th, I was attending the Anime Expo at the L.A. Convention Center. What is Anime Expo, you ask? Well, it’s a 4-day event, the largest convention of its kind in the U.S. To quote the website (www.anime-expo.org), “Popular large events include the Masquerade, Anime Music Video Contest, Concerts, Battle of the Bands, and the AX Fashion Show. Anime Expo is a 24-hour convention that offers late-night dances, all night video programming, tabletop gaming rooms, and open-mic Karaoke in the late evening/early morning hours. Many of the attendees cosplay while attending the convention, and there are many gatherings for fans of different anime and manga series.”
It’s very similar to the San Diego Comic-Con, but the focus is clearly on anime, manga, and gaming. This isn’t my first go-around with this particular convention, but the experience is never the same twice. Since I only went for one day, I stayed in the Exhibit Hall, which is where you’ll find booths selling everything you can think of: anime, manga, t-shirts, music, and other merchandise, lots of it. Walking around are people dressed in all kinds of cosplay characters from anime, manga, games, even a superhero or two. The costumes were very impressive, many handmade by the people themselves. (They do allow photographs, but please, always ask permission first.)
In the very front of the hall were big-name companies, like Funimation, VIZ Media, and Dark Horse Comics. On one side of the hall were well-known creators, writers, artists, and even voice actors, signing autographs. At one large booth, people were given the chance to try their hand at voice acting, reading lines for a scene from an anime. For those with more time, there were also workshops, panels, and even showings of popular anime, including Fruits Basket, Black Butler, and Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (one of my favorites).
While the expo was certainly enjoyable, I should give fair warning. It does get crowded and hot. It took two and half hours just to get in and that was the pre-registration line. If you wish to brave the weather, be sure to bring water and an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun. I was wearing plenty of sunscreen and light clothing and I still came off with a nice sunburn on my head. That said, I still had a good time. I left with some new shirts (Yes!) and a book bag. Some booths even had freebies.
There's lots to see and do at the Anime Expo. Registration has already started for next year’s event. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
**photographs borrowed, not mine!
I don't know anything about this image, other than I like it. And it would be a good image for a caption contest.
Secondly, last week on BoingBoing Cory highlighted some Dewey Decimal System jewelry, made from old catalog cards.
Do you want to obtain a higher standard of health and well-being?
Did you know that all living things have a frequency?
The Mystic on the Mountain will demonstrate how with
natural, fresh, ingredients you can raise the frequency
of your body and be healthier and happier.
Learn how to make Quinoa Medley while enjoying
a discussion on Karma-less food.
|Foster Library is proud to present a new series geared
towards writing and writers.
Read below for a brief overview of each talk!
8/25 at 5:00pm – Charles Freericks - Writing a Memoir
Charles Freericks, author of the comedic memoir, "My Imaginary Friend Was Too Cool to Hang out With Me" speaks on how your own life may be the best grist for the mill for your writing - whether you choose to pen your memoirs or just to use autobiographical incidents for your characters in your fiction.
9/15 at 5:00pm – Doug Taylor – Fiction Writing Essentials
Mapping the novel from attention grabbing beginnings to a surprise ending, while building it with the use of dialogue, descriptive & action narrative and subplots .
10/15 at 6:30pm – Craig Carey - Writing your Adventure
Craig Carey took his hobby to the next level by writing about his adventures while hiking and backpacking the Southern Los Padres. Learn how to juggle a job, family, and writing in this informative seminar.
7/23 Elizabeth Alvarez - So, You Think You Want to PUBLISH a Book
Creating a publishing plan before, during and after finishing your written work. This is a practical overview, focusing on key questions to consider about the wide world of publishing platforms available today.
Geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online.
Come learn about geocaching while meeting experienced geocachers. You will also have the opportunity to:
Call 648-2716 for more information. Event is free and open to the public.