I had a CD planned for this week, but when I searched for Imipolex G online to see if it was real or based on anything, I can across this song by a band I’ve never heard of. How could I pass it up (at least it wasn’t a song about coprophagia).
I listened to the whole album (only once, so this isn’t a fair criticism) and it’s all in a similar vein–lo-fi sounding. Like maybe it was recorded on a two-track. The vocals are slightly whiny–not bad whiny–90s indie rock whiny.
And I see that Joe Jack Talcum from the Dead Milkmen has a solo album on the same label, so that makes sense. I probably would have lived this album back in college. And I would have wondered what Imipolex G was and then I would have found out about Gravity’s Rainbow and tried to read it. And given up.
So this song is just over three minutes and opens with feedback squalls, but that noise is undermined by the jangly guitar that takes over the song. It’s quite catchy (in a noisy indie rock kind of way that almost dares you to think it’s catchy.
I’ve tried to determine any lyrics I could “plans etched on the wall… target for my head…I’ve got to go away.”
I’ve embedded the song below, although clicking on the button will take you to their My Space page, rather than playing it directly.
The album appears to still be available (original pressings came with a bug).
[READ: Week of March 12] Gravity’s Rainbow 2.4-2.8
This was a conveniently short read this week (I had a lot going on, so those 30 fewer pages were a nice breather). Section 2 continued mostly with Slothrop, although it was also an extrapolation of the people who were impacted by him in the beginning of the section.
For those with weak stomachs, we saw what I have to assume is the most disgusting section of the book. And there was also a reverie (and the use of the word reverie) that had me a little confused.
Section 2.4 shows us the state of PISCES after the crisis with Slothrop. Poinstman (as titular head) is questioned because budgets are under scrutiny at “The White Visitation.” Not to mention the Brigadier seems to missing and Myron Grunton is in a funk. However, Pointsman is calm and tells everyone to be calm too. But when he says there’s no danger, the room erupts on him. Throwster screams, a voice exclaims that Slothrop knocked out Dosdon-Truck and the girl in one day. And there’s been embarrassing inquiries from Duncan Sandys [I admit I thought this was a very funny name spoofing Sandy Duncan, but evidently he was real and was Prime Minster's Churchill's son-in-law].
But Pointsman explains that Sir Stephen is not knocked out, he is in Fitzmaurice House; Miss Borgesius is stil active on the program (oh boy) and Sandys is having his questions answered.
There is a brief argument over Clive Mossmoon from Imperial Chemicals (ICI) [recall that Pirate was in love with his wife, Scorpia]. Edwin Treacle says that Pointsmas is being funded by Mossmoon and ICI, while Pointsmasn says they were just talking about the Schwarzkommando. In fact, he wishes that ICI would finance this. One of them is bluffing.
Throwster says that if Brigadier Pudding reneges, the whole operation is down the tubes, but Pointsman puts them at ease about him as well. And despite the complaints, he knows that these arguments give the appearance of democracy and actual give and take, so he lets them proceed.
There’s a brief interlude with Webley Silvernail and his A/V equipment as he watches dog Vanya and rat Ilya interact. He thinks about them thinking about him in the maze of the building as they dance a Beguine called Pavlovia, which is a rather amusing little song about Pavlov and pellets and mazes. There’s a little joke tagged onto this in which a propaganda poster suggests that V-2 means to raise both arms in honorable surrender (with phoentic: ei ssörrender).
As the lights dim, we zero in on Brigadier Pudding as he heads out of the building to D Wing.
[There's two interesting things to note. The first is the narrator's voice which in this sentence briefly takes on a second person: "A voice from some cell too distant for us to locate" (231) which is an odd little twist and sort of makes us complicit in this secrecy. And second, the voices intones "I am blessed Metatron. I am keeper of the Secret. I am guardian of the Throne..." (231). Metatron is something of an occult angel who is believed to be God's scribe and voice. (You can see Metatron in Kevin Smith's Dogma)].
Pudding must go through several antechambers before getting to his destination. And each one holds a challenge (was Pointsman making him reveal secrets in his sleep? How does he know these things will torment pudding):
- a hypodermic works;
- a cup of coffee (Savarin a pun on Severin which i don’t get);
- a filing cabinet left ajar with case histories visible;
- a skull
- a Malacca cane
- a rotting corpse–no just a filthy overcoat.
He knocks on door 7 and enters to see a white woman in a black uniform of the night. Pointsman knows what Pudding likes and the woman’s eyes are made up beautifully. Her blonde hair is pinned beneath a dark wig.
Soon they are naked; he is prostrate before her then crawls forward to lick her boots. He tells her a story which pleases her (sometimes they do not please her) and his reward is pain: 12 whips from the cane. And then we get his real reward–coprophagia. Let that digest for a moment. He returns back to his quarters, despondent, left only with the penicillin that Pointsman makes sure he takes after eating poop.
And with the mention of Captain Blicero, we realize that this woman is none other than Katje.
Section 2.5 opens with a ponderous sentence that I still don’t understand: “The great cusp–green equinox and turning, dreaming fishes to young ram, watersleep to firewalking, bears down on us” (236). Perhaps it is a floral way of saying that Spring is nigh. March is here (like a lamb) and women are dressing seasonally appropriately at “The White Visitation.” But over at the Casino Hermann Goering, Slothrop is still there and the only familiar face is General Wivern. And Slothrop is falling into a state of consciousness “perhaps what used to be called a reverie” (hey I picked the right word!).
He seems to be in touch with the late Roland Feldspath–expert on control systems, guidance equations, feedback situations (and contact in the very first scene with Carroll Evnetyr–who has been hovering, eight kilometers above Slothrop most of the time. Of course Roland, nobody’s fool, is none too pleased to have a boob like Slothrop as his human contact: “What monsters of the Aether could this Slothrop ever charm away from anyone?” (238). But one of his secret missions (in death) is to show him what he knows about Control.
Roland goes on a reveries of his own about the state of Control and his current condition, which was all kind of cryptic and even had a lengthy mathematical formula (which I will not try to comprehend, but which, after painstaking transcription in Word with Equation, gets printed like this:
θ (d^2 φ)/(dt^2 )+ ∂^* dφ/dt+ δL/δα (s_1- s_2 )α= -δR/δβ s_3 β
Slothrop feels weird after these “sessions” with Feldspath–kind of German. Indeed, he’s even dreaming in German (including dialects). He’s also learning ordnance, electronics and aerodynamics, and has a session about propulsion from a guy from Shell International Petroleum named Hilary Bounce.
The connection to Shell is that in 1941, the British Ministry of supply gave Shell a £10,000 research contract to develop a rocket that would run on something other than cordite. Isaac Lubbock created the first successful test with liquid oxygen and aviation fuel [this is also apparently true].
Slothrop is an Esso man, though. See, Shell messed with the engine of his old car. Although Bounce reports that he doesn’t deal with the gasoline; that comes from The Hague (memories of Katje) and Slothrop asks if that’s Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij N.V. And indeed it is.
Slothrop, outraged (and speaking England’s English (using “bloke” and “Jerry” asks if he knows the Germans have been in The Hague shooting rockets at London and using the Royal Dutch headquarters building for a radio guidance transmitter. Hilary Bounce is baffled by this information. But says it is just a ‘wild coincidence’. Slothrop can also hear the quote marks when people speak now.
Slothrop thinks he can see the Monster in the sky (but it looks like clouds). But more specifically, he can see the blueprint of a German parts list for the A4 Rocket. Which leads him to a flagnote for Document SG-1 (a state secret). When he asks Wivern for the document (the Allies have all the documents) Wivern says there are no SG documents. Slothrop, not wanting to give anything away, says it must have been 56 not SG.
Then over in the parts section of the blueprint is Imipolex G. Insulation device made of Imipolex G? He asks Bounce again who stalls, but when Slothrop gets testy, Bounce reveals his teletype machine. Slothrop attempts to lure Bounce away from the machine with a girl named Michele, whom Bounce has been eyeing and vice versa (although she seems to be eyeing his gold benzene ring–the IG Farben Award for Meritorious Contributions to Synthetics Research.
Section 2.6 opens with a party where hashish was slipped into the Hollandaise. “There has been a big run on broccoli” (HA HA!) (244). The party is crazy with puking and fighting and a crooner singing the Fox-Trot “Julia.” Hilary is passed out and Michele is fondling his IG Farben. Slothrop waves but neither notices. The host Raoul is walking around dressed like a cowboy, and walking a horse (who is crapping on the carpet). And then in comes the zoot suit.
The zoot wearer is Blodgett Waxwing who approaches Slothrop. They acknowledge each other and head outside (past a white slave trader who is asking anyone if they want to be a white slave–“I wanna be a green slave!”). Blodgett gives Slothrop a wad of American scrip and asks him to hold it before Tamara [insert Groucho Marx joke about Tamara that I literally just got] shows up. Slotrhop asks where he got the zoot suit. Blodgett asks him his size and promises him one (and a keychain).
Blodgett is an escapee from Caserne Martier, the worst stockade in the ETO who specializes in forging things. He has been AWOL since the Battle of the Bulge (winter 1944-45) but still sneaks onto bases to watch the movies (if they are Westerns).
The Blodgett/Slothrop “plot” is summed up thus: (and I love the last line):
The story here tonight is a typical WWII romantic intrigue, just another evening at Raoul’s place, involving a future opium shipment’s being used by Tamara as security against a loan from Italo, who in turn owes Waxwing for a Sherman tank his friend Theophile is trying to smuggle into Palestine but must raise a few thousand pounds for purposes of bribing across the border, and so has put the tank up as collateral to borrow from Tamara, who is using part of her loan from Italo to pay him. But meantime the opium deal doesn’t look like it’s going to come through, because the middleman hasn’t been heard from in several weeks, along with the money Tamara fronted him, which she got from Raoul de la Perlimpinpin through Waxwing, who is now being pressured by Raoul for the money because Italo, deciding the tank belongs to Tamara now, showed up last night and took it away to an Undisclosed Location as payment on his loan, thus causing Raoul to panic. Something like that. (247).
Slothrop wanders the party and sits next to a girl who has a face like “Tenniel’s Alice” [This is an Alice in Wonderland comment--I had to look that up!]. But before he can get comfortable the aforementioned Sherman tank crashes the party and more slapstick ensures. The tank’s shell (a dud) fires in to the room; Slothrop climbs in to take away the woman in charge (presumably Tamara). He drags her out–she’s quite a looker–but he has no erection, even with the loud noise. Too bad nobody’s monitoring THAT, eh?
Blodgett appraises him and says, “You are the man.” Slothrop says he once saved a dame from an octopus and Blodgett responds:
“With one difference…. This really happened tonight. But the octopus didn’t.”
“How do you know?”
“I know a lot. Not everything, but a few things you don’t.” (248).
Blodgett tells Slothrop he’ll need a friend and if he can get to Nice, he’ll be taken care of. Blodgett takes the envelope back and gives him a zoot suit. The suit belonged to a kid in LA who lost it in the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 (he was beaten by whites while the cops gave the whites advice and then arrested him for disturbing the peace). All the captured zoot suits were bought up and brought to France. No harm in a little profit.
Section 2.7 opens by explaining just what Imipolex G is. It’s simply a new plastic developed in 1939 by L. Jamf for IG Farben. It is traceable to research done at Du Pont by The Great Synthesist Carothers (his work brought us nylon). Plastic’s virtues were described in the slogan: Strength, Stability and Whiteness (Kraft, Standfestigkeit, Weiβe–how often this was mistaken for Nazi graffiti). There’s some scientific principled described as well as a work history of Jamf (he worked for Psychochemie AG (originally known as Grössli Chemical Corporation) which was a spinoff from Sandoz (where Dr Hoffman made his important discovery as every school child knows) [I am uncool enough to have had to look this up, but as soon as I saw that his name was Albert, I knew what he was talking about--pounds, shilling, pence]. There’s some more details about the history of Imiopolex G which Slothrop pieces together thusly:
Imipolex G shows up on an “insulation device” on a rocket. The rocket is fired from a transmitter on the roof of the Dutch Shell headquarters. Dutch Shell is co-licensee for the marketing of the Imipolex which is a rocket with the same propulsion system as one developed by British Shell at around the same time. And all of this intelligence is being gathered by Duncan Sandys (Churchill’s son in law) who works out of the Ministry of Supply office located at Shell Mex House.
Slothrop stages a Commando raid on Shell Mex house but finds no one there, just machines. And he realizes that Duncan Sandys is just another name in the game.
Slothrop returns to the casino and sees a London Times. Amid the news, he sees a list of fallen soldiers, one of whom is Tantivy Mucker-Mafflick with an obit signed by Major Theodore Bloat. Slothrop is stunned. They took Tantivy (later it occurs to him that the story could also be a lie, planted for him to find).
Hilary Bounce comes in saying he had a great time last night. Slothrop says his night was fine (and mentally notes that Bounce is on his shitlist too). He also knows that he has fooled Bounce. So he soon sneaks off for Nice in his zoot suit. He finds the address on the card that Bladgett gave him. It’s a dirty hotel, which he enters and looks around. It is a surreal scene (he even talks briefly to Tantivy) until he flashes Bladgett’s card and asks for papers for passage to Zürich, Switzerland. The man says it will be ready tomorrow. He gives Slothrop some cash and says to stay sober and away from the girls. And so Slothrop spends an uncomfortable night with drunks and revenants (Hi, Daryl)..
One of the voices is of Jenny, whose block was hit the day after New Year’s. Slothrop was going to check on her but then They took him to the Casino. He wants to hear Tantivy and Katje, but no such luck. And then a banging on the door: American MPs, with this brief but powerful critique of the Army.
For possibly the first time he is hearing America as it must sound to a non-American. Later he will recall that what surprised him most was the fanaticism, the reliance not just on flat force but on the Tightness of what they planned to do … he’d been told long ago to expect this sort of thing from Nazis, and especially from Japs—we were the ones who always played fair—but this pair outside the door now are as demoralizing as a close-up of John Wayne (the angle emphasizing how slanted his eyes are, funny you never noticed before) screaming “BANZAI!” (256).
But they’re after a man named Hopper who takes off through the streets. And Slothrop realizes that he is FREE.
When he wakes again a woman has new papers for him including an address is Zürich. He is now Ian Scuffling an English war correspondent. There’s an interesting line just before he leaves for Zürich .
“Sa-a-a-ay.” It’s just occurred to him. “Why are all you folks helping me like this? For free and all?”
“Who knows? We have to play the patterns. There must be a pattern you’re in, right now” (257).
Slothrop makes it to Zürich and checks into the Hotel Nimbus–in an attic room reached by a ladder. Blodgett’s contact is a Russian named Semyavin. Semyavin explains that everything here is specialized in its own cafe. watches, women, furs. What does Slothrop want? Information. This pisses off Semyavin “Life was simple before the first war.” Now information is the medium of exchange.
Slothrop heads to the cafes for information but can’t distinguish between the corporate spies and the Loonies on Leave (a sort of playlet within the story showing hucksters trying to hawk their wares, set to music.) Finally, in the Strägelli, he meets Mario Schweitar who offers him L.S.D. (pounds shilling pence, nice one). Schweitar thinks he’s in the wrong country. He’s from Samdoz.
Slothrop asks about Imipolex G, but Schweitar scoffs, saying its the company’s albatross. And he casually mentions that Jamf is dead. Slothrop is surprised and asks for information. Schweitar asks for 500 Swiss francs. Which Slothrop ain’t got. So he sells the beloved zoot. He goes out dressed in workers clothes when he sees a Rolls Royce idling. He sprints away realizing that They know he’s on to Them. He can’t go to the Nimbus and he doesn’t want to get any of Blodgett’s men in trouble, so he wanders to the Odeon cafe (where Lenin, Trostky and James Joyce all ate).
While in there an Argentinian named Francisco Squalidozzi signals him with an obscure Spanish cartoon that Slothrop doesn’t understand. No matter, Squalidozzi confides that he and some mates stole a German U boat and are going to Germany to seek asylum. Slothrop asks if he’s gone goofy, that Germany is not where you want to be. But Squalidozzi says it’s not as bad as what he’s left back home…with Perón on his way. Slothrop has no idea what he’s talking about.
Squalidozzi buys him dinner and proceeds to bemoan the state of Argentina: no more opens spaces nowhere for the gauchos to go, it’s all fences and labyrinths. Slothrop sighs and says that that’s progress. But Sqalidozzi disagrees and begins telling of his little espionage plan that entails the U-boat and a message to Spain via Geneva. Slothrop says he’ll do it…for some cash. And he hops on a plane.
While on the plane he wonders why he should stop at Geneva. Why not go to Spain (oh, Fascists) South Sea Islands? (Japs and GIs), Africa? (natives, elephants and Spencer Tracy). While thinking this a voice tells him there’s nowhere to go–it is well known adventurer Richard Halliburton.
Slothrop is to meet his contact. He waits at a cafe, the man shows, they make change for a large bill which includes the message for Squalidozzi, and it’s a done deal. He’s on a train back to Zürich that afternoon.
He gives Shweitar money for information about Jamf and waits for Squalidozzi to return to their agreed meeting point. Even though he doesn’t show, Slothrop waits (he likes the anarchist, and, after all, there were anarchist Slothrops way back in Boston–although he (and most of his family) are ignorant of which side they were on).
He decides to go to Jamf’s grave and wait for Scweitar. A few days later Schweitar’s man arrives with an envelope of information. The section ends with the cryptic: “In the weeks ahead, in those very few moments he’ll be allowed to wallow in his past, he may even have time to wish he hadn’t read any of it…” (269).
This week’s final section is 2.8 (the end of section 2) and we return to Pointsman. It is peacetime once again–V-E Night has just occurred (May 8, 1945). Although Pointsman wants to relax, there is The Crisis–no word about Slothrop for over a month. The plan was to let Slothrop escape from the hotel and the let Secret Services tail him instead of PISCES (thereby saving PISCES money).
And the team Pointsman authorized, Harvey Speed and Floyd Perdoo (on the mission Slothropian Episodic Zone, Weekly Historical Observations–SEZ WHO), were supposed to investigate a random sample of Slothrop’s sexual adventures. He compares Slothrop to Don Giovanni –640 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey and …1003 in Spain!–Slothrop’s conquest similarly range all over London. SEZ WHO go looking for the above mentioned Jenny, who is not just not there…and no one has heard of her.
There’s also no Darlene, whom they traced to the residence of Mrs Quoad (who was a young divorcee(!)). What if these conquests are all just fantasies? In Pointsman’s mind the Poisson is still valid.
Nowadays, meetings at PISCES are a joke at best, with talk of renaming the organization or dissolving it all together. The representative from Shell Mex House, Dennis Joint wants to put the program under Special Projectile Operations Group (SPOG) as an adjunct of a British rocket scavenging effort called Operation Backfire.
Shell Mex House is frantic about Slothrop because he knows everything about the A4 including everything that Britain knows about the A4. What if Soviet agents got him?
And there have been defections from PISCES–Rollo Groast is back in the Society for Psychical Research, Treacle set up his own practice, Myron Grunton is back on the wireless. Even Mexico grows distant. Katje still does her duties, but with the Brigadier ill (did he skip the antibiotics?) she’s getting antsy. Only Géza Rózavölgyi is still here–of course, he’ll never leave.
So they take a holiday by the sea. It’s Pointsman, Mexico, Jessica, Katje and Dennis Joint. Pointsman doesn’t want to talk shop but everything is strained. Mexico and Jessica are cold to each other. Dennis Joint clearly wants Katkje who is staring out to sea. And, he himself can’t get past the strange connection between Katje and Prentice (remember Pirate? I miss him!) Pirate has been down to “The White Visitation” asking pointed questions about her.
Pointsman tries to chat with Mexico but just comes off sounding crazy. Jessica has gone all Fay Wray (and there’s a weird little King Kong sequence as written by Mitchell Prettyplace). Then there’s this wonderful gem:
Murphy’s Law, that brash Irish Proletarian restatement of Gödel’s Theorem–when everything has been taken care of, when nothing can go wrong, or even surprise us…something will (275).
Which taken together leads to the oddness of a real life Schwarzkomando summoned by the defunct Operation Black Wing. A story made up to scare last year’s enemy proves to be literally true. Which they learned of a week before V.E. Day. And then,
Someone remembers Gavin Trefoil, face as blue as Krishna, running through the topiary trees stark naked, and Treacle chasing him with an ax, screaming “Giant ape? I’ll show you a giant ape all right!” (276).
And look there’s Katje who looks like she’s ready to flee the beach. Poinstman is supposed to control her. With no control she must be terrified (he thinks). And Pointsman has been hearing a voice telling him he needs Mexico; that Jessica is a threat to him (Pointsman)–turning Mexico against him. He should send Jessica out to Operation Backfire, just tell Joint to get her attached to SPOG and Jessica is out of the way. Of course, Pointsman is talking back to that inner voice and they all think he is crazy. Poinstman blows it off as a little eccentricity and the Voice ends this week’s reading by repeating “Yang and Yin.”
This week’s reading also features four of the five proverbs for paranoids.
- You may never get to touch the Master but you can tickle his creatures.
- The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
- If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.
- You hide, they seek.