Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 10 – An Age of Miracles

Chapter 10 describes Rumfoord’s Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, which shares many of the themes and tropes of self handicap that Vonnegut would go on to explore further in the short story Harrison Bergeron. Other deep topics raised in this chapter include;

  • Profiteering from religion
  • Exploitation of people – Unk, the Martians, Rumfoord’s church
  • Free will
  • Equality and equity – all a prelude to the free-standing themes introduced here and then pursued more in Harrison Bergeron

Summary

  • Unk arrives to West Barnstable, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA after 3 years banished to to Mercury, where he is received by an awaiting minister at the Church of God The Utterly Indifferent – founded by Winston Niles Rumfoord.
  • The congregation, like billions of people on Earth, handicaps themselves so that they are all equal – with the strong wearing lead shot to make them weak – this is similar to the theme of Vonnegut’s 1961 short story Harrison Bergeron.
  • Unk is taken to Newport, where a Winston Niles Rumfoord materialization is set to occur. WNR has built a church around the invasion, and Unk / Malachi Constant plays a prominent role as the ‘Space Wanderer’.
  • Bee and Chrono work in concessions at the Newport estate with many other Martian survivors – Chrono still has his good luck piece.
  • Unk / Malachi Constant / The Space Wanderer emerges into a raised stage and is reunited with Bee and Chrono – all the while eagerly hoping to see Stony Stephenson, who he murdered while on Mars but does not remember.
  • Unk/MC/TSW is looking forward to a good life on Earth, but foreshadowing lets the reader know this is not to be.

Begin – Page 218

“Oh, Mankind, rejoice in the apathy of our Creator, for it makes us free and truthful and dignified at last.” Page 218, an epistolary from a Sermon by The Referend C. Horner Redwine

“Earth was most fertile where the most death was.” Page 219

Break 1 – Page 219

“There was not a country in the world that did not have graveyards with Earthlings and Martians buried side by side.” Page 219

“The church, which squatted among the headstones like a wet mother dodo, had been at various times Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Unitarian, and Universal Apocalyptic. It was now the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent.” Page 219

“The only garment he wore was a clinking breechclout made of wrenches and copper wire.” Page 220

“But stones that were wet, stones that were mossy, stones that were squared and written on by men – he hadn’t felt stones like that for a long, long time.” Page 220

“He was filled with the heedless, tender violence of a man who has had his lifetime cruelly wasted.” Page 220 – Unk, landed on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA at age 43, having fled his banishment to Mercury.

Break 2 – Page 220

“The subtitle was justified by this prophecy: That a lone straggler from the Army of Mars would arrive at Redwine’s church some day.” Page 221

“It was one piece, lemon-yellow, rubberized, closed by a zipper, and ideally skin-tight.” Page 221

“The garment was not in the mode of the day. It was a special creation to add glamour to the miracle.” Page 221

“When the bell was rung madly, the parisioners were to feel ecsctacy to drop whatever they were doing, to laugh, to weep, to come.” Page 222

“Ten screams would mean that the Space Wanderer had arrived.” Page 222 – the joyous West Barnstable fire department had a special signal for when the SW finally returned.

Break 3 – Page 222

“The good rain wet the old Paul Revere bell in the steeple, trickled down the bell rope, soaked the wooden doll tied to the end of the bell rope, dripped from the feet of the doll, made a puddle on the steeple’s flagstone floor.” Page 222

“It was called a Malachi.” Page 223

“There were similar bags of shot around his ankles and his other wrist, and two heavy slabs of iron hung on shoulder straps – one slab on his chest and one on his back.” Page 224 – the Redwine weights.

“A stronger person would have carried more, a weaker person would have carried less.” Page 224

“On Sundays, the entire congregation slapped the flea in unison.” Page 225

“In the clanging bedlam of the bells, Redwine heard the words that the Master of Newport said all bells spoke.” Page 226

Break 4 – Page 226

“Again the navigator argued stupidly with itself, tried to shut itself off. When it found that it could not shut itself off, it made dirty yellow smoke.” Page 226

“Everyone wore handicaps of some sort.” Page 227

“The dark young man’s wife, who had reason to be vain about her Phi Beta Kappa key, had handicapped herself with a husband who read nothing but comic books.” Page 228

“There were literally billions of happily self-handicapped people on Earth.” Page 228

“The expression of the face that looked back at Redwine was strikingly like the expression on the face of an intelligent ape in a zoo.” Page 229

“Unk had decided not to be afraid.” Page 229

Break 5 – Page 229

“Unk did not yet know that no one else in the world was dressed like him. He assumed that many people had suits like his – question marks and all.” Page 229

“Why thank God?” said Redwine. – In response to Unk’s ‘thank god’ on page 230

“In those days, Redwine and all the other young proselytizers had threatened unbelievers with the righteous displeasure of crowds – righteously displeased crowds that did not then exist.” Page 230-1

“The disciplinary arm of the Church was in crowds everywhere.” Page 231

“Unk had been planning to say almost exactly what Redwine had warned him against saying.” Page 231

“They will ask you two questions and you will answer them to the best of your ability.” Page 232

I WAS A VICTIM OF A SERIES OF ACCIDENTS, AS ARE WE ALL. – Page 233

“The doll was of a special sort that could be bought only in Newport.” – Page 233

“Accidents!” he yelled in response to, “what happened to you?” from the crowds on Page 234. Unk is happy to be back with people, back with crowds.

Break 6 – Page 234

“A greased eel couldn’t have squeezed in.” Page 234

“Handicaps of the most imaginative and effective sort were displayed everywhere.” Page 235 – another call out to the self-handicap theme of Vonnegut’s 1961 short story Harrison Bergeron.

Break 7 – Page 235

“Bee bought them from a religious supply house for twenty-seven cents apiece and sold them for three dollars. She was an excellent businesswoman.” Page 235

“Chrono would not socialize well with other children, and his reputation for dealing with life courageously and directly was so bad that only a few very foolish and very pretty little girls were attracted to him.” Page 237

“Winston Niles Rumfoord had sent the helicopter to just the right place at just the right time.” Page 238 – the helicopter finds a staked mother and sun who had been lost in the Amazon.

Break 8 – Page 238

“Put it in the picture window, so all your neighbors’ll know you’ve been to Newport.” Pg 239, Brackman – Unk’s former platoon sergeant on Mars, selling fountains.

“What was reputedly the longest free-standing ladder in history leaned against the column, led giddily to the door of the ship.” Pg 240 – Why is the ladder there?

“It was his way of saying, “Thanks.”” – Pg 241, the Martian survivors got the best concession options

“There weren’t many survivors – only fifty-eight in the United States, only three hundred and sixteen in the entire World.” – Pg 241

“He was cleaning his nails with the strangely bent, drilled and nicked piece of metal that had been his good-luck piece on Mars. It was still his good-luck piece on Earth.” Page 241

“Actually, most of them thought the new religion was probably a pretty good thing.” Page 242

“The trolls in the twilight of the booths refused to peek.” Page 243

“When Rumfoord staged a passion play, he used nothing but real people in real hells.” Page 243

Break 9 – Page 243

“He was touching the area over his antenna, over the antenna that had once done all his important thinking for him. He missed the signals.” Page 244 – Brackman watching the Space Wanderer meet Rumfoord.

“Thanks very much for the information,” Winslow had told the committee. “Now I don’t have that lost feeling any more.” Page 245 – On the identification of a Martian and his origin.

“Could we have done any better if he’d left us in charge of our own lives?” said Bee. Page 246

“That’s your privilege,” said Brackman. Page 247

“We’re all used up. We’ll never be of any use to him again.” Page 247

Break 10 – Page 247

“Have you ever considered the possibility,” said Rumfoord, “that everything went absolutely right?” Page 248

“The idea did not startle him, could not startle him – since the idea proposed was so far beyond the range of his jerry-built philosophy.” Page 248

Break 11 – Page 248

“Television cameras and microphones on booms could follow the system anywhere.” – Page 249

Break 12 – Page 249

“An assistant had now been dispatched to the Malachi booth outside to bring in the thirty-second and thirty-third persons to share the eminence.” Page 249

“But on and on the famous smile went.” Page 249 – Describing Rumfoord.

“He was now a captive of a crowd that thought he was a marvel.” Page 250 – Malachi / Unk as he enters the outdoor cathedral.

“He wasn’t much interested in the Space Wanderer as a person – hardly looked at him.” Page 251 – Malachi/Unk is just a tool to Rumfoord.

“Ruumford read the Space Wanderer’s mind, “They’d like it just as much the other way around, you know,” he said.” – Page 251

“It’s the thrill of the fast reverse -” Page 252

“During the lull, the Space Wanderer felt the first real tickle of plans for a good future on Earth.” Page 252

“It was undeniably great theater, notwithstanding Dr. Maurice Rosenau’s carping comment (op. cit.): The people who watch reverently as Winston Niles Rumfoord goes dancing over his golden jungle gym in Newport are the same idiots one finds in toy stores, gaping reverently at toy trains as the trains go chuff-chuffa-chuffa in and out of papier-mache tunnels, over toothpick trestles, through cardboard cities, and into papier-mache tunnels again.” – Page 253

“None of the three had any reason to be pleased with the reunion.” – Page 254

“Young Chrono hated the bearded intruder on his sublime relationship with his mother.” – Page 254

“The ladder was painted gold, too.” Page 255

“Maybe Stony Stevenson was in the crowd somewhere.” – Page 255

End – Page 256

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How was Goldratt’s The Goal Described on the Back Cover?

Here’s the text from the third edition (link to Amazon):

Written in a fast-paced thriller style, The Goal is the gripping novel which is transforming management thinking throughout the Western world.  The author has been described by Fortune as a ‘guru to industry’ and by businessweek as a ‘genius.’ It is a book to recommend to your friends in industry – even to your bosses – but not to your competitors.

Alex Rogo is a harried plant manager working ever more desperately to try and improve performance.  His factory is rapidly heading for disaster.  So is his marriage.  He has ninety days to save his plant – or it will be closed by corporate HQ, with hundreds of job losses.  It takes a chance meeting with colleague from student days – Jonah – to help him break out of conventional ways of thinking to see what needs to be done.  

The story of Alex’s fight to save his plant is more than compulsive reading.  It contains a serious message for all managers in industry and explains the ideas which underline the Theory of Constraints (TOC) developed by Eliyahu Goldratt.

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Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 9 – A Puzzle Solved

Summary

Over three years, Unk searches for a way out of the caves of Mercury, climbing higher and higher – returning to the spaceship less and less. Boaz becomes a friend and overseer to the harmonium, playing them music and even having some live on him. One day, the harmonium on a wall have the answer to the puzzle spelled out, “Turn the ship upside down.” Boaz decides to stay with the harmonium on Mercury.

One new theme explored is whether or not Boaz is doing anything positive for a creature with no intelligence, or is he anthropomorphizing the experience of the harmonium for his own benefit.

Begin – Page 199

“In terms of their souls, the martyrs of Mars died not when they attacked Earth but when they were recruited for the Martian war machine.” – The Winston Niles Rumfoord Pocket History of Mars Page 199

“The harmoniums spelled out for Unk and Boaz a new message of hope or veiled derision every fourteen Earthling days – for three years.” Page 200

“Dog Wuzza Kazak.” Page 201 – Vonnegut uses a children’s book to convey a story within the story.

Break 1 – Page 201

“On the upper levels where Unk wandered, the harmoniums were stunted and few.”
“On the cozy lower level where Boaz lived, the harmoniums were plentiful and fast growing.” Page 201

“Boaz had come into the space ship with a harmonium, which was exactly like all the other harmoniums, and he’d said, “Aint’ he a cute little feller, Unk?” page 202 – the question that leads to Unk attempting to kill Boaz.

Break 2 – Page 202

“He had come to regard his environment as being either malevolent or cruelly mismanaged.” Page 203 – Unk, threadbare, searching for a way off of Mercury.

“Boaz, twelve years younger than Unk, had never felt better in his life.” Page 203

“The door was necessary, since Boaz was God Almighty to the harmoniums.” Page 204

“True – Unk had walked fifty miles to every mile walked by Boaz, but Boaz’s shoes had not merely held up.” Page 204

“When Boaz found a harmonium he loved more than all the rest, that was what he did – let the creature feed on his pulse.” Page 204

“Unk liked to twist things around to where it seemed that anybody who was happy was dumb or crazy.” Page 204

“All I know is we’re being tested somehow, by somebody or some thing a whole lot smarter than us, and all I can do is be friendly and keep calm and try and have a nice time till it’s over.” Boaz, Page 205

“Don’t truth me,” said Boaz in his thoughts, “and I won’t truth you.” Page 205, Boaz on recalling Unk’s murder of Stony Stevenson.

“Boaz had invented the plea, and its meaning was this: Unk was to stop telling Boaz truths about the harmoniums, because Boaz loved the harmoniums, and because Boaz was nice enough not to bring up truths that would make Unk unhappy.” Page 206

“Just because something feels better than anything else,” he said in his thoughts, “that don’t mean its good for you.”

Break 3 – Page 207

“Scholars whose field is the Martian War often exclaim over the queer unevenness of Rumfoord’s war preparations.” – Page 207

“It is said that Rumfoord spent more time on the useless music libraries than he did on artillery and field sanitation combined.” Page 208

“When Boaz gave them their first taste of music, which happened to be Le Sacre du Printemps, some of the creatures actually died in ecstacy.” Page 208

Break 4 – Page 209

“If you ain’t got no more sense tan that,” he would say in his thoughts to the foolhardy harmonium, “you’re going to wind up out here in left field ever’ time. Think it over.” Page 210, Boaz to the Harmonium as he arranges a concert for them.

“I tell you,” Unk said to himself with satisfaction, “that is one pair they want to keep apart at all costs.” Page 210

“Unk’s imagination was now certain that the masters of all creation lived in those buildings.” Page 211

“Unk knew a lot of things for sure.” Page 211

“It just floated in air, suspended by magnetism.” Page 211 – Unk’s memory projects his hatred of the building owners to his own mind of is own office from earlier in the book.

“He was bound to admit, when given the solution to the puzzle that he had failed to solve in three years, that the puzzle was simple and fair.” Page 212

“His broad, brown, slab-muscled back amazed Unk.” Page 213

“Ain’t nobody watching out for ’em at all!” he cried. Page 214 – Boaz remembers the stereo is on, that the Harmonium will overdose on music.

“That was what the harmonium on the ceiling had said: UNK, TURN THE SHIP UPSIDE DOWN.” Page 214

“You see, Unk?” he said. “See what happens when somebody just runs off and forgets?” – Page 215

“Boaz, when he straightened up, was a wise, decent, weeping, brown Hercules.” – Page 215

“Some part of his mind warned him that Boaz was not bluffing, that Boaz really knew a truth about Unk that could tear him to pieces.” Page 216

“And when I die down here some day,” said Boaz, “I’m going to be able to say to myself, ‘Boaz – you made millions of lives worth living.” – Page 217

End – Page 217

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Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 8 – A Hollywood Night Club

The poor design of the Martian space ship auto-pilot traps Unk and Boaz deep in a cave on Mercury, where they cannot escape. The creatures of Mercury, known as Harmonium, spell out the words “It’s an intelligence test!” with their shimmering bodies.

Begin – Page 187

“The song is a slow one. Mercury will hold a single note in the song for as long as an Earthling millennium.” – Page 187

“The song their planet sings is important to them, for the creatures are nourished by vibrations.” Page 188

“They reach maturity and stay in full bloom, so to speak, for as long as Mercury cares to sing.” Page 189

“They have only two possible messages. The first is an automatic response to the second, and the second is an automatic response to the first.” Page 189

The first is, “Here I am, here I am, here I am.”
The second is, “So glad you are, so glad you are, so glad you are.” Page 189

Break 1 – Page 190 ***

“They aren’t shooting,” said Boaz. “Either the war’s over, or it ain’t begun.” Page 190 – we’ve gone back in time to when Unk’s ship first landed on Mercury and the passengers didn’t know where they were.

“It was easy to believe that the searchlights were playing over a sophisticated civilization indeed.” Page 191

“An apt image for flourishing eluded Unk.” Page 191

“When old Boaz and old Unk hits town,” he said, “everybody going to wake up and stay woke up for weeks on end!” Page 192 – Boaz believing they are amidst civilization.

“The designers of the pilot-navigator had purposely obsessed the equipment with one idea – and that idea was to seek shelter for the precious troops and materiel it was supposed to be carrying.” Page 192 – the absurdity of the ‘simple’ controls to the spaceship.

“They sensed correctly that they were being buried alive.” Page 193

“Having delivered its cargo safely from Mars to Mercury, as instructed, it had shut itself off.” Page 193 – They are 116 miles below the surface of Mercury.

“Boaz threw open both the inner and outer doors of the airlock with a grand carelessness predicated on a friendly atmosphere outside.” Page 194

“Not believing it was the thing that saved them from panic.” Page 195

“The space ship, thanks to the brilliantly-conceived sensing gear on its bottom, had sensed its way easily down and down and down, through one of the very few ways in – down adn down and down one of the very few ways out.” Page 196

“The pilot-navigator knew when it was licked.” Page 197

“I’ve never been alive that I can remember,” said Unk brokenly. “I thought I was finally going to get some living done.” – Page 198

“IT’S AN INTELLIGENCE TEST!” – Page 198

End – Page 198

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Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 7 – Victory

Summary of the Summary

The Martian Army’s invasion is inept, and they are defeated by the overwhelming violence and arsenal of the Earthlings. The reader learns more of the origins of the war, how Winston Niles Rumfoord financed it with his butler, Moncrief, and how the Tralfamadorean Salo gave him the designs for spaceships and half of his Universal Will to Become to power them. Rumfoord uses Earthling guilt at the force of their victory to create a new religion, The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. Unk destroys Boaz’s mind control device after they are stranded on Mars, and Bee and Chrono are stranded in the Amazon – some of the few survivors of the botched invasion.

Themes of the Book – Deep Ideas

Vonnegut, in his first published work, is not shy about going after big topics and big ideas. So far he has tackled the following concepts:

  • Free will
  • Mind control – Direct, memory wiping
  • Manipulation of the masses – creation of a new religion (page 176)
  • Sacrifice for the greater good – Mars
  • Profiteering – deliberate and through willful ignorance (page 176)
  • Creation of a New Religion
  • The Nature of God
  • The Nature of Luck
  • Parenthood – in the relationship between Chrono and Unk

Chapter 7 Summary – Victory

  • Winston Niles Rumfoord wrote the definitive history of the 67 day long Earth-Mars war, where Mars was devastated and all of the nearly 200,000 Martians went to invade the Earth.
  • The Martian troops losses are amusing in their hopelessness – they conquer the moon and are nuked, they announce their main force is coming and they too are nuked, everywhere ships land the Martians lose to the violence of Earth.
  • This is all part of Winston Niles Rumfoord’s plan – he has financed this war using his butler, Moncrief as the minister, and benefitted from the gifting of technology from Salo, the Tralfamadorean on Titan with WNR, who donates 50% of his supply of Universal Will to Become (“UWTB”).
  • WNR has a special plan for Bee and Chrono – who are the only survivors of their spaceship’s crash in the Amazon. Likewise, Boaz and Unk are sent to Mercury.
  • In all the Martian ineptness, their ships are designed to be ‘simple’ to fly with only an ‘On’ and ‘Off’ button, as Boaz says late in the chapter, “Who’s flying this fool thing?”
  • Rumfoord appears in Newport and declares a new religion, The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, and as his first parable describes the ‘lucky’ birth of Malachi Constant.
  • The chapter closes with Boaz, reflecting that he needs a friend, and questioning his personal motives, telling Unk that it is okay that Unk broke his mind control device.

Start – Page 167

“The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.” Page 167

“It has been said that Earthling civilization, so far, has created ten thousand wars, but only three intelligent commentaries on war – the commentaries of Thucydides, of Julius Caesar and of Winston Niles Rumfoord.” Page 167

“Winston Niles Rumfoord chose 75,000 words so well for his Pocket History of Mars that nothing remains to be said, or to be said better, about the war between Earth and Mars.” Page 167

“Anyone who finds himself obliged, in the course of a history, to describe the war between Earth and Mars is humbled by the realization that the tale has already been told to glorious perfection by Rumfoord.” Page 167

Breaks 1 – Page 168

Casualties from the 67 day long Earth-Mars War:
Killed 149,315 – Mars vs 461 Earth
Wounded: 446 Mars vs 223 Earth
Captured: 11 Mars vs 0 Earth
Missing: 46,632 Mars vs 216 Earth

“At the end of the war, every Martian had been killed, wounded, captured, or been found missing.” Page 168

“The last waves of Martians to attack Earth were, to the horror of the Earthlings who pot-shotted them, old men, women, and a few little children.” Page 168

Breaks 2 – Page 168

“It was frequently the case, however, that the troops lost their real commanders, either in the air or on the ground.” Page 168 – The negative impact of mind control on troop effectiveness.

“Their biggest trouble, however, was that they were scarcely better armed than a big-city police department.” Page 169 – Foreshadowed with the antiquated contents of the armories.

“The on button simply started a flight to Mars. The off button was connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of Martian mental-health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off.” Page 169

“This taste, to Earth’s considerable amusement, turned out to be a very light shower of rockets carrying twelve pounds apiece of TNT.” Page 170, Mars’s ‘Taste of Hell’

“Earth thought otherwise.” Page 170

“These hits not only vaporized the bridgehead – they rendered the moon unfit for human occupation for at least ten million years.” Page 170

“The actual number of rockets fired is of little interest when one can express the power of that barrage in another way, in a way that happens to be both poetry and truth. The barrage turned the skies of Earth from heavenly blue to a hellish burnt orange. The skies remained burnt orange for a year and a half.” Page 171 – The Martian main force broadcasts their lead time to arrival at 32 days – and they are intercepted with 2.5 million nuclear rockets.

“But the electronic pilot-navigators of the ships had other ideas.” Page 171 – the simple ships are an Achilles’ heal.

“A single, badly scorched man named Krishna Garu attacked all of India with a double-barreled shotgun.” Page 171

“The only Martian military success was the capture of a meat market in Basel, Switzerland, by seventeen Parachute Ski Marines.” Page 171

“Without Boaz, their real commander, to radio-control them, they fought listlessly, to say the least.” Page 172 – Unk’s old unit loses the battle of Boca Raton.

“The last of the Martians were coming in three waves.” Page 173 – they are committed to a foolish assault, it is the charge of the light brigade for an entire society.

Break 3 – Page 174

“The elaborate suicide of Mars was financed by capital gains on investments in land, securities, Broadway shows, and inventions.” Page 174

Break 4 – Page 175

“Salo was a messenger from the planet Tralfamadore in the Small Magellanic Cloud.” Page 175

Salo donates half of his Universal Will to Become – UWTB – to the Martian Army.

Break 5 – Page 175

“Earl Moncrief, the butler, built his financial procurement, and secret organizations with the brute pwoer of cash and a profound understanding of clever, malicious, discontented people who lived behind servile facades.” Page 175

“They were grateful for the opportunity to work like termites on the sills of the established order.” Page 175

“The manufacturers had no idea what the components were for. They knew only that the profits on making them were fine.” Page 176

Break 6 – Page 176

“As he says in his Pocket History of Mars: “Any man who would change the World in a significant way must have showmanship, a genial willingness to shed other people’s blood, and a plausible new religion to introduce during the brief period of repentance and horror that usually follows bloodshed.” – page 176


“And he had methods for prolonging the period of repentance and horror that would follow the war. These methods were variations on one theme: That Earth’s glorious victory over Mars had been a tawdry butchery of virtually unarmed saints, saints who had waged feeble war on Earth in order to weld the peoples of that planet into a monolithic Brotherhood of Man.” Page 177

Break 7 – Page 177

“Theirs was a wavelet, really, composed as it was, of only forty-six ships.” Page 177 – Bee and Chrono go to Earth.

“Shame, as Rumfoord had planned it, began to set in.” Page 178

Breaks 8, 9 – Page 178

“Chrono emerged, kissed his good-luck piece.” Page 178 – as Bee and Chrono are the only survivors of their ships crash into the Amazon rain forest.

“The explanation was simple, though there was no one around to make it: Unk and Boaz weren’t supposed to go to Earth – not right away.” Page 178

“Rumfoord was preserving Unk for a major part in a pageant Rumfoord wanted to stage for his new religion.” Page 179 – Unk and Boaz go to Mercury, as Rumfoord plans to divert them for about two years.

Break 10 – Page 179

“Most of the gang was hanging, at that moment, from lamp posts in the business district or Boca Raton.” Page 179

“Last night, while you were asleep, old buddy, I took that fool thing out of your pocket, old buddy, and I opened it up, old buddy, and I tore the insides out of it, old buddy, and I stuffed it with toilet paper.” Page 180 – Unk informs Boaz that his mind control device will no longer work on him, mockingly using his same style of diction.

Break 11 – Page 181

“Him and his dog are spread all the way from the Sun to Betelgeuse.” Page 181

“To that end devoutly to be wished,” said Rumfoord, “I bring you word of a new religion that can be received enthusiastically in every corner of every Earthling heart.” Page 182

“These words will be written on that flag in gold letters on a blue field: Take Care of the People, and God Almighty Will Take Care of Himself.”

“The two chief teachings of this relation are these,” said Rumfoord: “Puny man can do nothing at all to help or please God Almighty, and Luck is not the hand of God.” Page 183

“I can work the miracle of predicting, with absolutely accuracy, the things that the future will bring.” Page 183

“The teachings of this religion will seem subtle and confusing at first,” said Rumfoord. “But they will become beautiful and crystal clear as time goes by.”

“In the meanwhile, you would do well, for background on this parable, to read everything that you can lay your hands on about the Spanish Inquisition.” Page 184

Break 12 – Page 184

“But Boaz had decided that he needed a buddy far more than he needed a means of making people do exactly what he wanted them to. During the night, he had become very unsure of what he wanted people to do, anyway.” Page 185

“He was laughing at the ferocious mess he was in – at the way he had pretended all his army life that he had understood everything that was going on, and that everything that was going on was just fine.” Page 185

“Who’s steering this fool thing?” Page 185

“That’s O.K. you went and tore its insides out. I don’t want it.” page 186

End – Page 186

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Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 6, A Deserter in Time of War

Summary of the Summary

Unk deserts the army, and finds his son, Chrono – who has no connection to him – Chrono goes back to his game of German Batball. Next Unk finds Bee, who has a job teaching soldiers how to breathe in a vacuum, she hides Unk with a new group of trainees as his pursuers find them. Unk comes to in a spaceship with Winston Niles Rumfoord, who tells him that Bee is Beatrice Rumfoord, and that Unk – as Malachi Constant before his memory wipes – had raped her, fathering Chrono, during his trip to Mars. After his assault, he fell in love with her, and they spent their time on Mars getting their memories wiped in attempts to connect.

Chapter Summary

  • Boaz and Unk carry a siege mortar as their weapon as they march to the invasion fleet, where Boaz has arranged an easy assignment aboard the mother ship.
  • Unk creates a diversion with a grenade, which allows him to search for his wife and son.
  • Unk finds Chrono at the school playing German batball, which he excels in because of his good luck piece – a strap of metal with two holes in it.
  • The good luck piece, like the time travel is used to introduce the concept of pre-destination and free will.
  • Unk finds Bee as Unk’s pursuers find him – he gives her a grenade and then joins the class of new soldiers learning the Schliemann breathing method used to breathe in vacuum – where he passes out.
  • Unk comes to on board a spaceship with Winston Niles Rumfoord who is telling him the story of who he is, how he is Malachi Constant, and how he raped Beatrice on their voyage to Mars.
  • Boaz joins them in the space ship, which has a simple ‘On’ button, and before they leave, Rumfoord says that Beatrice was a virgin before her rape, closing the chapter with, “Pretty good joke on her husband, eh, Unk?”

Page 134, Begin

“The population of Phoebe at its height, according to Winston Niles Rumfoord’s Pocket History of Mars, was eighty-seven thousand,” Page 134 – WNR is not only the secret Martian commander, he is also the historian.

“Windows winked as dazzling torches inside went off and on.” Page 135 – describing the still booming factories of Mars.

Break 1, Page 135

Terror, grief and desolation – ” chanted the troops.

“It was meant to carry only two men, the rest of the space being taken up for candy, sporting goods, recorded music, canned hamburgers, board games, goofballs, soft drinks, Bibles, note paper, barber kits, ironing boards, and other morale-builders.” Page 136 – Describing the content of the ‘Company Mother Ship’ that Boaz has arranged him and Unk to travel in.

“There was a spout and roar from the throat of the sewer.” Page 137 – Unk creates a distraction to go find his wife and son.

Break 2, Page 137

“The Martian year was divided into twenty-one months, twelve with thirty days, and nine with thirty-one.” Page 137 – 8.

“Salo, Rumfoord’s crony on Titan, was a messenger from another galaxy who was forced down on Titan by the failure of a part in his space ship’s power plant.” Page 138 – Salo has a Martian month named after him, he has been waiting for 200,000 years for the part.

“UWTB is what makes universes out of nothingness – that makes nothingness insist on becoming somethingness.” Page 138, describing Universal Will to Become, which is also what powers their spaceships.

“The game of German batball is played with a flabby ball the size of a big honeydew melon.” Page 139

“The person responsible for the heavy emphasis on German batball on Mars was, of course, Winston Niles Rumfoord, who was responsible for everything on Mars.” Page 140

Break 3, Page 140

“His dream was to gather together his wife, his son and his best friend, to steal a spaceship, and to fly away to some place where they could all live happily ever after.” Page 141

Break 4, Page 141

“Those rage filled eyes flicked this way, then that.” Page 141 describing Chrono’s eyes.

“Clearly, the point of their efforts was not to hit Chrono with the ball, was not to put him out.” Page 142 – The German batball players don’t try to play with Chrono.

“He believed firmly that all his powers came from the good-luck piece, and so did his schoolmates, and so, secretly, did Miss Fenstermaker.” Page 143

“The history of the good-luck piece was this:” Page 143

“The piece he picked up differed from all the rest in having two holes drilled in it.” Page 144 Vonnegut uses contrast to describe the article.

“This was Chrono’s good-luck piece. It became as much a part of him as his right hand. His nervous system, so to speak, extend itself into the metal strap. Touch and you touched Chrono.” Page 144

Break 5, Page 144

“Being the boy’s father entitled him to nothing. Being an official investigator entitled him to anything he might care to ask for.” Page 144

“She was far behind in her work – so far behind that she had declared a moratorium on school work until she could catch up on her grading.” Page 145

“Everything anybody says is baloney,” said Chrono. “What you care what I think anyway? When I’m fourteen, you put a thing in my head and I do whatever you want anyway.” Page 145

“Before the child was wheeled into the operating room he was asked to name his favorite kind of ice cream. When the child awoke after the operation, a big dish of that kind of ice cream was waiting for him – maple walnut, buttercrunch, chocolate chip, anything.” Page 146, on the administration of Martian Brain control radios.

“The imagined strength he got from the good-luck piece made him strong enough to trust nobody, to go on as he had for so long, angry and alone.” Page 147

“I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. You’d just get a lot of people killed.” Page 148 – Chrono to his father when Unk attempts to get him to run away.

Break 6, Page 148

“Schliemann breathing, of course, is a technique that enables human beings to survive in a vacuum or in an inhospitable atmosphere without the use of helmets or other cumbersome respiratory gear.” Page 149, where we learn where Chrono’s mother works – and Vonnegut easily introduces a clever science fiction concept.

“This involves not only pill-taking, but plugging one’s ears and nostrils, and keeping one’s mouth shut as well.” Page 149 – more on breathing, but as a great wink to censorship.

“It was called, “God is Our Interior Decorator.” – Page 150, a joke about an Earthling broadcast of music.

“The recruits eyes were as empty as the windows of abandoned textile mills. So were the eyes of the instructress, since she, too, had recently had her memory cleaned out.” Page 150 – 151.

“There was a rebus of her name on her sweatshirt.” Page 151, wouldn’t a rebus of her name – Bee – simply be a bee? Vonnegut wrote a joke for me.

Definition of Rebus, per Google: a puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters; for instance, apex might be represented by a picture of an ape followed by a letter X.

“When the twenty minute ordeal was over, every recruit would know how unnecessary lung-breathing was.” Page 152, after Bee puts tape over their mouths, and they are to then voyage through color changing and a stopping of lung use. Is this Vonnegut also saying to stop using your brain? To use stop breathing as an example of stop thinking, which the Martian Army also avoids?

The first refrain of Bee’s Sonnet, for which she was sent to the mind-erase hospital:

Break every link with air and mist,
Seal every open vent;
Make through as tight as miser’s fist,
Keep life within you pent.

– Page 153

“In the deserted corridor stood a read and sweating man in uniform.” Page 154 – Unk has found Bee.

“What – what’s the message?” whispered Bee.
“The message is this,” whispered the messenger. – Page 155

“He’s a deserter in a time of war!” – Page 155 as troops come looking for Unk.

“The whole awareness of each man was concentrated in the region of a small, white life-giving pill dissolving in the duodenum.” Page 156

“He had been such a terrible soldier that the doctors had opened his head up at the hospital to see if he might not be suffering from malfunctioning antenna.” Page 156

Break 7, Page 156

“Bee surveyed the room with enchanted calm.” Page 156

“As they told her at the hospital: she had been very, very sick, and she would be very, very sick again if she didn’t keep her mind strictly on her work and let other people do the thinking and worrying. At all costs, she was to keep calm.” Page 157

“To have him keel over would certainly be the most peaceful solution to the problem he presented, and Bee wanted peace above all else.” Page 157 – the absurdity of wanting her husband to die, to maintain peace. To use death of a loved one to create peace.

Break 8, Page 158

“He thought at first he had been launched into space eternal.” Page 158

“Oh, God – ” he said, “many’s the time I’ve wished I was Stony, and many’s the time I’ll wish it again.” Page 159, Winston to Unk.

“What do names matter in wartime?” said the man. – Page 160, after Unk asks WNR for his name.

“Mars is a very bad place for love, a very bad place for a family man, Unk,” said the man.

Break 9, Page 160

“The recruiters have a saying about a male recruit like that – that he has named his balls Deimos and Phobus,” said Rumfoord, “Deimos and Phobus being the two moons of Mars.” Page 161

“The lieutenant-colonel in his gaudy uniform was made to feel like what he really was, after all – a strutting clown.” Page 162

“The lieutenant-colonel realized for the first time what most people never realize about themselves – that he was not only a victim of outrageous fortune, but one of outrageous fortune’s cruelest agents as well.” Page 163 – Unk / Malachi Constant is the Lt Cl, and he realizes this after raping Beatrice.

“Each time the man wobbled his mate, utterly humorless psychiatry straightenedher out – made her an efficient citizen again.” Page 164

“… And it is perhaps food for thought,” said Rumfoord, “that this supremely frustrated man was the only Martian to write a philosophy, and that this supremely self-frustrating woman was the only Martian to write a poem.” Page 164

Break 10, Page 164

“Them boys ain’t going to attack, if they don’t have a mother ship along. What they going to fight for?” Boaz to Unk, Page 165

“For the privilege of being the first army ever died in a good cause,” said Rumfoord. Page 165 – Why would the Martian Army fight and die?

“You boys just get on board, close the airlock, push the on button.” Page 165 – The simplest space ship ever made

“She’d been married for several years before she got to Mars,” said Rumfoord. “But when the hot-shot lieutenant got to her there in the space ship bound for Mars, she was still a virgin.”

“Pretty good joke on her husband, eh, Unk?” he said. – Page 166

End – Page 166

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Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 5, Letter from an Unknown Hero

Summary of the Summary

Unk, the soldier from Chapter 4, meets his friend Boaz, who does not appear to be a good friend, and is apparently secretly in charge of the mind radios and Unk’s entire battalion. Unk finds the letter – written to Unk by someone cataloging their knowledge of Mars, while being subject to frequent mind wipes – which tells Unk about the mind control, the invasion plans, his best friend Stony Stephenson, that he has a partner, Bee, and son, Chrono, and that he should not trust Boaz. The letter was written by Unk before his mind wipe. After reading the letter, Unk learns the assault on Earth has begun.

Chapter Summary – 28 Pages, 11 Breaks

  • The Martian army is preparing to invade Earth using antiquated weapons.
  • Unk meats a man, Boaz, who claims to be his best friend – Unk passes out from his mind control radio after observing they may be the only two ‘real’ people on Mars and Boaz encourages him to remember his past.
  • Superior officers appear to be under Boaz’s control, not vice-versa – he is in fact not radio-mind controlled and is one of the commanders of the Martian Army.
  • Boaz is not himself sure who is in command of the overall army and there is quite a big of mischief going on – drinking, abuse of soldiers and generals.
  • Unk finds the rock that was told to him by the man at the stake, who we now know was named Stony Stevenson – hidden beneath the rock is a letter.
  • The letter is written by an unknown person who explains 158 things they have deduced about Mars to Unk – including that Stony Stevenson, the man he killed, was his best friend.
  • The narrator informs us that the commander of the Martian forces is Winston Niles Rumfoord.
  • Unk learns that he has a spouse, Bee, and a son, Chrono – the same name from Chapter 1, Page 34 of Malachi Constant’s future son with Beatrice. Unk learns that he is the author of the letter to himself, he does not connect that he has killed his best friend, Stony.
  • After reading the letter, Unk returns to his barrack where the war against Earth has been launched.

Page 105 – Begin

“Unk’s formation halted before a granite barrack, before a barrack in a perspective of thousands, a perspective that ran to seeming infinity on the iron plain.” Page 105

The flag of Ceylon flies, indicating the time period in which Vonnegut wrote the book.

“The banners signified the countries that the various Martian units would attack and paralyze when the war between Mars and Earth began.” Page 106

Break 1, Page 106 ***

“All of the Martian Army’s rifles were of about the same vintage.” Page 107, Vonnegut foreshadows the outcome of the invasion.

“There were three beautiful women in that paradise and Unk new exactly what they looked like!” Page 108, foreshadowing that Unk is Malachi Constant.

“Unlike the shoes of anyone else in the company area, the shoes of Boaz were genuine leather from Earth.” Page 109, we meet Boaz and it is foreshadowed he is more than what we are told.

“You and me – we’re buddies,” said Boaz. Page 110

“Unk had the eerie feeling that he and Boaz were the only real people in the stone building – that the rest were glass-eyed robots, and not very well-made robots at that. Sergeant Brackman, supposedly in command, seemed no more responsible, no more in command than a bag of wet feathers.” Page 111

Unk tries to remember and is incapacitated with pain from his mind-radio.

Break 2, Page 112 ***

“I told him to try an’ remember back as far as he could. I never dreamed he’d go and do it.” Boaz, Page 112

“He thought of explaining to Brackman that he hadn’t really tried to remember back, that he’d known instinctively that that was a bad thing to do – but that the pain had hit him anyway.” Unk on Page 113

“Again Brackman reacted to pain in his head.” Page 114, Unk notes that Boaz is controlling Brackman with his mind-radio, not the other way around.

Break 3, Page 114 ***

“Boaz did this, though he had no rank at all.” Page 114

“It is a freak of military custom that the lowliest private can command his equals and noncommissioned superiors to attention, if he is the first to detect the presence of a commissioned officer in any roofed-over structure not in a combat area.” Page 114

“He had a small control box in his right front trouser pocket that could make his squadmates do just about anything.” Page 115 – Boaz is in control.

“Boaz had no antenna in his own skull.” Page 115

“As free as it wanted to be – that’s how free the free will of Boaz was.” Page 116

Break 4, Page 116 ***

“Boaz was one of the real commanders of the Army of Mars.” Page 116

“You oughta see how we treat the generals, if you think you’s bad off.” Page 117 – Boaz to his troops as he has them standing at attention

“Seven times, Unk!” Page 118 – Boaz is frustrated it has taken Unk 7 trips to the hospital to get his memory wiped – msst men only have to go once.

“Boaz was reassuring himself about the buddy who was going to be by his side when they hit Earth.” Page 119

“Boaz now used three magical words that seemed to describe the maximum happiness a person could achieve on Earth: Hollywood night clubs.” Page 120

“Boaz didn’t even know who was in command of the real commanders.” Page 121

“Boaz based his actions, as did all the real commanders, on what could be best described as conversational tidbits – tidbits circulated on the real-commander level.” Page 121

“What the officers drank was a lethal green liquor made locally out of fermented lichens.” Page 122

“They had taken off in their space ships, their faces blackened, their dog tags taped so as not to clink – their destination secret.” Page 123

Dear Unk: – the letter began.” Page 124

Break 5, Page 124 ***

This section is an epistolary, that refers back to the title of the chapter.

That is the first thing I know for sure: (1.) If the questions don’t make sense, neither will the answers.” Page 124

If the questions don’t make sense, neither will the answers.

The Unknown Letter, Page 124 – The Sirens of Titan

“There were one hundred and fifty-eight things the writer knew for sure.” Page 124

(48.) Some other people have things that can hurt you in the head, too. You can’t tell by looking who has one, so be sweet to everybody.” Page 125

Break 6, Page 125

“Whenever I ask a question, and the pain comes, I know I have asked really good question.” Page 125

“Then I get answers to the pieces, and then I put the answers all together and get an answer to the big question.” Page 125

“Unk wondered if there were people who could stand more pain than others.” Page 126

“Officers are as mixed up and unhappy as anybody.” Page 127

“Psychology: (103.) Unk, the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to beliee there is such a thing as being smart.” Page 127

“He couldn’t get over it, because he was supposed to know everything, and you weren’t supposed to know anything.” Page 128 – Stony Stevensons’s comments to Unk about the mind control.

Break 7, Page 129

“From that point on, the things known for sure in the letter were almost all introduced by phrases like: Stony says – and You found out – and Stony told you – and You told Stony – and You and Stony got roaring drunk out on the rifle range on night and you two crazy bums decided -” Page 129

“The letter said nothing about it, because the writer knew nothing about it, but this man and his dog were Winston Niles Rumfoord and Kazak, the hound of space.” Page 130 – WNR is the commander of the free-thinking men on Mars, he appears every 111 days.

Break 8, 9, Page 130

“Every idea anybody has comes from him.” Page 130

“And then all the people at the meeting pass around the ideas as though they had thought them up themselves.” Page 130

“(157.) Unk – you know why you keep on going? You keep on going because you have a mate and a child.” Page 131

Break 10, Page 131

“Unk had written the letter to himself before having his memory cleaned out. It was literature in its finest sense, since it made Unk courageous, watchful and secretly free. It made him his own hero in very trying times.” Page 132 – After Unk learns he is the author of the letter

Artwork – Page 132 – Unk’s signature to himself.

Break 11, Page 133

“The war with Earth had begun.” Page 133

“Brown man, white man, yellow man – surrender or die.” Page 133

Chapter End – Page 133

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Censorship is a Feature of Media and Advertising: Tools and Software for Decentralized Coordination

Censorship destroys trust in public health. The public health response since 2020 including lockdowns, were made worse by censorship. Successful groups recognize that modern social media embed censorship in their products as a feature – for sale to advertisers, either directly or through demonetization. Successful groups organize around the major networks and make use of tools that allow them to promote themselves via these major networks, while maintaining their own email addresses, communication tools, and meet-ups for in person interaction.

Any successful organization must control (1) its own ability to contact members and (2) maintain in person activities through events such as meet-ups. Any group, no matter how benign the messaging, that depends on social networks for coordination, will eventually be influenced by censorship.

“If I had a group like this at the outset, it would have meant so much for my sanity,”

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Twitter)

Censorship via corporate, advertiser-driven, media has driven a great deal of confusion over the past two years. Topics become forbidden. Information from different regions disappears if it disagrees with a profitable product. In aggregate, 2019’s pharmaceutical spending of $6 Bn on advertising would be the 2nd largest entity behind Amazon. There are inherent conflicts of interest in taking these funds. There are inherent conflicts of interests as employees at regulators like the FDA and CDC move into the private sector. Stating these conflicts of interest isn’t a claim of conspiracies – it’s a common issue that must be discussed such that it can be controlled.

Software Tools for Communication

  • Phone numbers – Old school, but they work
  • Email – Essential to have individual emails
  • YouTube – Censorship and demonetization can occur without warning.
  • Twitter – Accounts can be banned or suspended without warning
  • Facebook – Accounts, Groups and Events can be banned or suspended without warning
  • Newsletters – MailChimp, Substack are examples – these can be used to track email addresses.
  • Back up social network presence is essential – preferebly in a distributed instance, such as Mastodon Social. Fully hosted servers can be purchased (link).

Examples Make Good Templates

If you’re looking to learn something, a great way to apply a skill is to imitate someone who is already skilled in the art. The NoAgenda podcast has focused on Off The Grid (“OTG”) for over a decade. The Free State Project in New Hampshire is an organized attempt to influence politics by Libertarians that spans over twenty years.

Example 1: NoAgenda

NoAgenda is a twice weekly show that deconstructs global media coverage twice a week (Thursdays, Sundays) – inherent to that deconstruction are; topics not covered in the media, censorship by the major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube). The show’s founders have followed the ‘value-for-value’ framework where they don’t take advertisers – it is completely funded by donations from listeners, who participate as ‘Producers’. Because the show is run by media savants and has a network of software experts supporting their efforts, their broadcasts don’t depend on any other software networks for distribution – Adam Curry is even the founder of Podcasting 2.0, another distributed system.

The NoAgenda audience, approaches distributed networks with the following assumptions:

  • Any controlled network with advertisers will eventually trend to censorship because a big advertiser, “won’t want to be associated with that kind of content.”
  • Censorship can occur at many points in the media supply chain – often it comes through payment systems (such as Plaid) or network service providers (such as Amazon storage) that such broadcast methods depend on.
  • Distributed systems can follow on past models for distributed communication – HAM radio is a good example.
  • From a social media standpoint, NoAgenda uses hosted instances of Mastodon – even though Mastodon has attempted to block NoAgenda as a user.
  • In person gathering is core to maintaining community – meet-ups are core to the NoAgenda network. The meet up website was created as part of the value-for-value network by a producer.
  • Twitter is used to promote the show, nothing is done on Facebook.
  • The NoAgenda Newsletter – they use MailChimp – is used to manage emails and have outreach before each show that dries listenership.
  • There is a ‘troll room’ that listeners use during broadcasts to facilitate communication.

In 2001, a white paper theorized that a concentration of Libertarians could effect change if they concentrated their effort and moved to one state. In 2016, the Free State Initiative announced it had achieved its target. With the rise in lockdowns and confusing public health response to the Covid-19 Panic, New Hampshire has remained the most open of the New England state because of the Free State initiative. The Free State initiative recruits people to the state via Facebook, where it also arranges Meet-Ups by region. The group also uses Discord servers for communications and regional groups have their own communication methods.

Meet-Ups – Welcoming New Members

Meet-ups and in person connections are crucial to growing a community. If the current goal is to make it easy for people as they leave the mass hysteria, then meet-ups are an excellent way to help them see things are different outside the bubble.

A Final Note on Censorship as a Business Model

Censorship is a component of advertising. If someone is sponsoring, or paying for a service that is based on promotion, then they can choose not to promote themselves near another business. McDonald’s will not want to promote itself right next to Burger King; Coke will not want to be next to Pepsi; Round-up will not want to be next to a trial lawyer.

Positive promotion involves the brand out-bidding the other potential advertisers to secure all of the other available advertising space.

Negative promotion involves the brand paying to silence messages that conflict with their goals. This can be overt, or it can be tacit – such as when a news network avoids running news stories.

Modern advertising creates changes to past practices:

  • Pricing: Pricing software makes auctions and bidding simple, extracting full rents from bidders. Auctions get brands to pay the most possible amount for the ad – winners win big and can pay a lot. Losers cannot afford to enter the game.
  • Inventory: Digital advertising has infinite inventory. The deep personalization made possible on every advertising platform (Facebook, Google, Twitter) allows much greater inventory than a printed newspaper from 1955.
  • Paid content: Paid content is when media channels develop a story for a targeted audience and do not make it clear that the content was sponsored. A stealthier version of this occurs in academia, where large companies have the resources to sponsor research because of profits – while low profitability, but perhaps effective methods struggle to attract research attention.
  • Referral persuasion: Peer persuasion via referral and peer advertising makes message selection and promotion even more important to big brands. Persuasion is most impactful when it comes from friends and known acquaintances. Twitter and Facebook ads are the same format as their messages. Google ads look the same as search results. Users create messages which brands then promote as ads. The platforms are incented to promote messages in line with what brands will want to purchase – effectively circulating the kinds of messages that can lead to promotion.
  • All of these practices – pricing, infinite inventory, paid content, and peer persuasion combine to create more feedback loops which further drive media messaging away from openness and deeper into censorship.

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Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 4 – Tent Rentals

This chapter is the best fiction writing about the dangers of propaganda, brainwashing, censorship, and centralized control. A man wordlessly strangles another in front of a crowd of ten thousand, unable to communicate, unable to object, and unable to think for himself.

Chapter Summary

  • Unk, a 40 year old Martian soldier, is ordered to strangle a man to death in front of his battalion of 10,000 fellow soldiers.
  • Unk strangles the man, whose dying words are about a blue stone, because he – like all of the soldiers, is under mine control from radio antennas.
  • In addition to the mind control, soldiers are sent to the hospital for brainwashing – where Unk was told he is best soldier in his unit, despite the fact that his superior, Brackman, believes him to be the unit “f-ckup.”

There are no *** dividers between sections.

Page by Page, Writing Highlights

Page 95 – Start

“The snare drum had this to say to them:

Rented a tent, a tent, a tent;” Page 95

“Their uniforms were a rough-textured, frosty-green – the color of lichens.” Page 95

“Unk was forty years old.” Page 96

“That’s the platoon f-kup.” Page 97 – Brackman, about Unk.

“Something painful was going to happen to the man at the stake – something from which the man would want to escape very much, something from which he was not going to escape, because of the chains.” Page 97

“The soldiers were free to think a little now, and to look around and to send messages with their eyes, if they had messages and could find receivers.” Page 98

From a writing style standpoint;

  • “The stake was nineteen feet, six and five thirty-seconds inches high, not counting…”
  • “The stake had a mean diameter of two feet, five and …”
  • “The stake was composed of…
  • “For the information of the man at the stake: He was one hundred and…”

“At the hospital they told him again and again and again that he was the best soldier in the best squad in the best platoon in the best company in the best battalion in the best regiment in the best division in the best army.” Page 99 – Vonnegut describes the Martian Army’s use of mind control, as a metaphor for propaganda.

“At the hospital they even had to explain to Unk what Combat Respiratory Rations or CRR’s or goofballs were – had to tell him to take one every six hours or suffocate.” Page 100

“At the hospital they had said the most important rule of all was this one: Always obey a direct order without a moment’s hesitation.” Page 100

“Life was like that, Unk told himself tentatively – blanks and glimpses, and now and then maybe that awful flash of pain for doing something wrong.” Page 101

“Unk was puzzled by the man’s silence – and then realized that the man’s antenna must be keeping him silent, just as antennas were keeping all of the soldiers silent.” Page 102

“Blue stone, Unk,” he said. “Barrack twelve … letter.” Page 103

“An observer would have been at a loss to who was really in charge, since even the generals moved like marionettes, keeping time to the idiotic words:” Page 104

Page 104 – End

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Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 3, United Hotcake Preferred

Summary of the Summary

Malachi Constant learns that his business is bankrupt, reads a letter from his deceased father written in case this should happen, and signs up to join the Martian Army, which has engineered this situation. The same Martian spies are with Beatrice Rumfoord disguised as business advisers when we see The Whale, rechristened the Rumfoord, take off.

Summary

  • Constant flies his helicopter, poorly, to the opulent 31 story headquarters of his business, Magnum Opus, where the manager, Ransom K. Fern, tells him that he has gone bankrupt.
  • Magnum Opus was created by Malachin’s father, Noel Constant, an eccentric speculator, who lived in Room 223 of the Wilburhampton Hotel, where he fathered Malachi with the chambermaid.
  • Ransom K. Fern sought Noel out because he was looking for someone lucky to follow; nobody but Malachi ever learned the secret, bible-based, method of Noel’s investment method.
  • Helmholtz and Wiley appear to be two retired teachers at a bar, however, they are disguised Martian spies preparing to recruit Constant, brainwash him, install a radio controlled mind device, and have him serve in the Martian army, along with 14,000 other Earthlings who have already been ‘recruited.’
  • After reading a letter left to him by his father to be read when things have gone bad, the Martians appear at the exact right time and persuade Constant to join their army.
  • On the East Coast, Beatrice Rumfoord watches the spaceship leave while sitting with her business team – which are the same characters, Helmholtz and Wiley, who recruited Constant. They point out a building on her property that looks like a flying saucer.

Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Summary

“Nobody thinks or notices anything as long as his luck is good. Why should he?”

Noel Constant to his son Malachi via Letter – Page 89 of The Sirens of Titan

Page 62 – Begin

“While Magnum Opus owned the whole building, it used only the top three floors, renting out the rest to corporations it controlled.” Page 62

“Among the tenants were

  • Galactic Spacecraft
  • Moon-Mist Tobacco
  • Fandango Petroleum
  • Lennox Monorail
  • Fry-Kwik
  • Sani-Maid Pharmaceuticals
  • Lewis and Marvin Sulfur
  • Dupree Electronics
  • Universal Piezoelectric
  • Psychokinesis Unlimited
  • Ed Muir Associates
  • Max-Mor Machine Tools
  • Wilkinson Paint and Varnish
  • American Levitation
  • Flo-Fast
  • King O’Leisure Shirts, and
  • Life Assurance Company of California.”

Formatting added, Vonnegut did this all in paragraph form. Page 62 – 62.

***Chapter 3, Break 1 – Page 63 ***

“Fern waited for Constant on the thirty-first floor – a single, vast room that was Constant’s office.” Page 63

“The office was spookily furnished since none of the furniture had legs. Everything was suspended magnetically at the proper height.” Page 64

“Only adolescence and the age of sixty were represented.” Page 65, describing Ransom K Fern

“When you get right down to it, everybody’s having a perfectly lousy time of it, and I mean everybody. And the hell of it is, nothing seems to help much.” Page 66 Ransom K. Fern’s personal philosophy in life

“Malachi Constant had still to get it through his head that his luck was gone – every bit of it.” Ransom K Fern talking with Constant on Page 67.

“United Hotcake preferred was a favorite joke of his. Whenever people came to him begging for investment advice that would double their money in six weeks, he advised them gravely to invest in this fictitious stock.” Page 67

“For three months you have made nothing but wrong decisions, and you’ve done what I would have said was impossible.” Fern to Constant on the bankruptcy

***Chapter 3, Break 2 – Page 68 ***

“A history of Magnum Opus, Inc., is perhaps in order at this point.” Page 68

“He was thirty-nine at the time, single, physically and morally unattractive, and a business failure.” Page 69, a description of Noel Constant, Malachi’s father, at the time he decided to become a speculator.

“The materials with which Noel Constant built his fortune were hardly more nourishing in themselves than calendar dates and bedsprings.” Page 70, after the two paragraphs leading, “There is a riddle…., The answer is:”

“This was Noel Constant’s system:” Page 71, wherein Vonnegut describes how Noel used the words of the bible to find stock symbols, which were what he then purchased.

“Small as this exercise of authority was, it was significant, for it showed that Constant had at last become interested in something he owned.” Page 72, after Trowbridge Helicotper receives a note from Noel to change their name to Galactic Spacecraft, Inc.

“Then after two years, Noel Constant received his second visitor in Room 223.” The first was Florence Whitehill. Page 73, this second guest is Ransom K. Fern.

“I have to describe every company I owned in detail, or I can’t keep the money?” Page 74

“I had to find somebody who had luck in an astonishing degree – and so I have.” Page 75, Ransom K. Fern to Noel Constant.

“It was a marvelous engine for doing violence to the spirit of thousands of laws without actually running afoul of so much as a city ordinance.” Page 76,

“But just imagine how hard you would be to watch if you had a whole office building jammed to the rafters with industrial bureaucrats – men who lose things and use the wrong forms and create new forms and demand everything in quintuplicate, and who understands perhaps a third of what is said to them; who habitually give misleading answers in order to gain time in which to think, who make decisions only when forced to, and who then cover their tracks; who make perfectly honest mistakes in addition and subtraction, who call meetings whenever they feel lonely, who write memos whenever they feel unloved; men who never throw anything away unless they think it could get them fired.” Page 76 – 77 Ransom K. Fern

“A single industrial bureaucrat, if he is sufficiently vital and nervous, should be able to create a ton of meaningless papers a year for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to examine.” Page 77, Ransom K. Fern

“I’m not moving into it,” said Noel Constant. “I’m staying right here.”

***Chapter 3, Break 3 – Page 78 ***

“He asked her to please keep coming to see him once every ten days in Room 223 of the Wilburhampton Hotel, but not to bring the baby.” Page 78 – where we learn Noel Constant’s reaction to Florence Whitehill’s pregnancy: they marry, he gives her money and a mansion.

***Chapter 3, Break 4 – Page 83 ***

“The backbone of the roof had been broken intentionally, simulating great age.” Pages 83 – 84

“They had obviously discovered the consolations of alcohol and cynicism late in life.” Page 84, about the teacher pensioners at the Hear Ye Room.

“When they weren’t asking questions about the different things to drink, they were indistinguishable from millions of other American barflies on the first day of the New Age of Space.” Pages 84 – 85

“Helmholtz and Miss Wiley were behaving like pilot and co-pilot of an enormously pointless voyage through space that was expected to take forever.” Page 85 – the two pensioners, astronauts traveling on planet Earth. Page 85

“I see where the President has ordered a whole brand-new Age of Space to begin, to see if htat won’t help the unemployment picture some,” said the bartender. Page 86

“They were crack agents for the Army of Mars, the eyes and ears for a Martian press gang that hovered in a flying saucer two hundred miles overhead.” Page 86, where we learn that Helmholtz and Wiley aren’t teacher pensioners

***Chapter 3, Break 5 – Page 86 ***

“They had never used violence on anyone, and had still recruited fourteen thousand persons for Mars.” Page 86

“Their usual technique was to dress like civil engineers and offer not-quite-right men and women nine dollars an hour, tax free, plus food and shelter and transportation, to work on a secret Government project in a remote part of the world for three years. It was a joke between Helmholtz and Miss Wiley that they had never specific what government was organizing the project, and that no recruit had ever thought to ask.” Page 87 – Vonnegut uses the joke between the two as a joke for the reader.

“Their memories were cleaned out by mental-health experts, and Martian surgeons installed radio antennas in their skulls in order that the recruits might be radio-controlled.” Page 87

“Those lucky few were welcomed into the secret circle of those in command.” Page 87 – Helmholtz and Wiley are not mind controlled, they are at the inner circle.

***Chapter 3, Break 6 – Page 88 ***

“What I want you to try and find out is, is there anything special going on or is it all just as crazy as it looked to me?” Page 88 – Noel Constant via letter to his son, to be read when things have gone wrong. This is via epistolary.

From Noel Constant’s letter to Malachi, Page 89

  • “It looked as though somebody or something wanted me to own the whole planet even though I was as good as dead.”
  • “I kept my eyes open for some kind of signal that would tell me what it was all about but there wasn’t any signal.”
  • “… even a half-dead man hates to be alive and not be able to see any sense to it.”
  • “… nobody thinks or notices anything as long as his luck is good. Why should he?”
  • “… if you go broke and somebody comes along with a crazy proposition, my advice is to take it.”

“We are now prepared to offer you a direct lieutenant-colonelcy in the Army of Mars.” Helmholtz to Constant, page 90, having waited on the exact right timing once he had read the letter from his father. Noel Constant’s letter had primed his son to accept the offer.

***Chapter 3, Break 7, 8 – Page 91 ***

“It was as though Malachi Constant had walked forty feet, and had then dissolved into thin air.” Page 91

“On the following day…” is used as a repetitive intro by Vonnegut.

“She had proved that she was mistress of her own fate, could say no whenever she pleased – and make it stick.” Page 91

“It was a flawless shot.” Page 92, describing the launch of the renamed Rumfoord Space Ship, where Beatrice is sitting with Helmholtz and Wiley.

“You know what I said it was, don’t you?” said Miss Wiley. Page 94

Chapter End, Page 94

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