Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Part Eighteen, Chapter Seven - Books With Excruciatingly Long Titles

So I guess the main plot point right now is Heller's problematic course schedule, right?  Money shouldn't be an issue much longer, and he's already found powerful allies in the mob.  His enemies, when they bother to move against him, have been easily thwarted and humbled.  Gris sure as hell isn't taking action.  So Heller's biggest obstacle to success is a malicious course load.


Thrilling and dumb.  All Heller has to do to resolve this problem is appeal to other faculty members, or complain to the mob-controlled university president.  Or, you know, manually drop and change some classes around.  I mean, does he have to graduate this semester?  If he was planning to go through college before getting around to saving the planet, he shouldn't be in any rush.

I'm also curious what the mob - or more specifically, Babe Corleone and Vantagio - were thinking.  Did they not see a downside to getting a young stranger a degree in nuclear physics, a "boy" fresh out of high school with no indication that he could manage a reactor without blowing it up?  And, if they were willing to get him enrolled as a senior, why didn't they go for broke and get him a ill-earned diploma?  Heck, why did they make him a senior in the first place?  Wouldn't it make more sense to just twist arms until he was admitted as a freshman?  

I suppose I should actually read the chapter.  Looks like Heller's buying books.

Gris watches - of course he does, he's always watching, he has no life beyond watching Heller live his - as Heller goes around campus, talking to professors, and making notes.  With a paper covered in Voltarian shorthand, he hits a bookstore to purchase the many, many texts required for him to graduate.  This proves difficult, as the student worker behind the counter can't find a copy of Euclid's Fundamentals of Geometry, or anything by Newton.  The closest they have are Euclidian Geometry as Interpreted and Rewritten by Professor Twist from an Adaption by I. M. Tangled and Laws of Motion I Have Rewritten and Adapted from a Text by Dr. Still as Translated from an Archaic English Newtonian Work by Elbert Mouldy (by Professor M. S. Pronounce, Doctor of Literature).

I think everyone in America should have a copy of this book.  Whenever you're feeling bored, or can't find anything better to do with your time, you can pick up Mission Earth, read a few paragraphs, and like magic you're filled with the urge to get up and do something, like run a load of laundry, check your car's fluids, floss, clean the gutters, anything but keep reading.

Fighting back the urge to go brush my teeth, I guess the satire here is that academics are reinterpreting old works instead of properly respecting the Old Ways?  Or something?  Like, instead of teaching math, universities teach interpretations of math?  Now, when I went through college I never saw anything like that, but maybe Hubbard had a different experience... in the 30's.  When exactly is this supposed to be taking place?  It came out in the 80s but it feels like the 60's and 70's.  Is this what Hubbard thought was going on back in America when he was sailing around the world to avoid the FBI?

Maybe we're just supposed to laugh at a doctor of literature named M. S. Pronounce.

Heller is sent to pick up his packs and packs full of books, two hundred pounds' worth, and he still needs to go to another store to get his copy of World History Rewritten by Competent Propagandists for Kiddies and Passed by the American Medical Association, so... that is so stupid that my brain stopped working. Why would the American Medical Association be involved in...

Heller goes to the other store.  On the way out he is ogled by young women students.  Gris thinks everyone is stupid for not figuring out that Heller is an alien.  The other store is run by an old man.  He gets the remaining books for Heller.  They don't teach Third Grade Arithmetic anymore, but "new math" involving "greater and lesser numbers without using any numbers this year.  It was orders of magnitude of numbers last year but they were still teaching them to count.  They stopped that."

Why does Heller need a third grade arithmetic book for a college course?  Why are his professors asking him to get books that the university-sponsored stores don't stock?

The nice old man chats with Heller about math.  Heller describes how some "primitive tribe on Flisten" showed him how to do arithmetic to count the spaceships flying around.  The nice old man was in the Navy and gets along with this Fleet man.  He finds an antique copy of Basic Arithmetic, Including Addition, Multiplication and Division With a Special Section on Commercial Arithmetic and Stage Acts, dated 1879.  He tells Heller to put it in a museum when he's done, since nobody remembers such lost arts these days.  Heller calls a cab to lug home his four hundred pounds of books.

If they don't teach basic math anymore, how does Izzy know to crunch numbers to make Heller super-rich?  Why didn't the nice old man ask where Flisten was? 

Heller goes back to his high-class whorehouse apartment.  He meets Vantagio, who admits that he threatened to cut off the school's student aid program if Heller wasn't admitted - the Gracious Palms uses some of the "Barnyard College" girls during peak periods, you see.  Vantagio makes sure Heller calls Babe to say how enrolled he is.  Heller doesn't mention how stupid his schedule is.  Babe is pleased, but makes Heller promise not to play hooky.  She has Vantagio check to see if Heller's fingers or feet are crossed.  After a heart-stopping moment of tension, Heller swears "that, unless I get rubbed out, or unless something happens that closes the university, I will complete college on time and get my diploma!"  Babe is pleased, Gris thinks Heller is going to blow up the school or something.  Heller also wants to talk to Bang-Bang Rimbombo.

"On time" for what?  What timetable is Heller operating under?  Why would it be unforgivable for him to take more than four years to finish school?  Why does he need to go to school in the first place?  And if it wasn't Vantagio or Babe's idea to make Heller a senior, why did the school president do that instead of have him enrolled as a normal student?

I don't know why anything is happening, but in fairness, I don't really understand what is happening either.  I guess one of the purposes of having Gris narrate Heller's actions instead of Heller is to keep the audience in the dark as to what the main character is thinking or intending to do.

Mission accomplished, Hubbard.

Back to Chapter Six 


  1. Hm, some of Hubbub's old pissed-off-at-the-college-system ways seeping in here. A couple of things: First, when Hubbub originally enrolled in (and promptly flunked out of/withdrew with said F on his official transcript) college, he was slated to take some basic physics and/or some basic atomic physics classes. He enrolled in 1931, flunked out/withdrew in 1932. This was right at the beginning of our understanding of how atomic energy and the whole spectrum of radiated particles worked and interacted with the world. 1950 rolls around, post-atomic bomb, Dianetics is on a roll, and Hubbard would make a huge deal about how the professors didn't seem to know anything about math and physics, since they kept changing their answers or their theories (apparently, Hubbub forgot that one of the things many early theories do is change, else nothing would ever improve). He once went off on how they couldn't agree if light was a particle or a wave and whatnot. Of course, in his mind, Hubbard had already figured it out, so he was more than happy to scoff at those ignorant math professors day and night. This probably influenced his little mathematics "satire" you wrote about.

    Second, "Orders of Magnitude" is a uniquely Scientological expression. In fact, the "tagline" for OT 9, the next level to be released (if it ever actually IS released) is "Orders of Magnitude". This phrase also peppers a lot of the literature, since he loved the idea of big numbers, such as flyers saying things like "10 Billion Megawatt OT Power NOW!" (They believe the spirit is an electronic entity of some sort). Too bad Hubbub couldn't do basic math and just have said 10 Petawatt OT Power NOW! But that doesn't have the same ring to it...

  2. Did Gris whine about a 'code breach' with the whole flisten thing, or did it just go over his head? The latter can't be applicable, because he's narrating this thing. I guess he just got tired of pointing out every code breach.

  3. You know when I was a kid a loved reading Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck italian comics, where every minor characters in the story had a name strictly related to his professions. I found it hilarious, but I was 8 years old. I cannot believe that Hubbard tought it to be clever and satirical, especially using that trick for every goddamn name in this dreck.