Posts Tagged “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”
By the end of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, I was left unsatisfied by the ultimate resolutions, if you can call them that, left for the characters. Maybe I’m being a cynic or too big of a critic, but I found most of these so-called resolutions to be rather superfluous, unnecessary, and I fail to see the logic behind them. Particularly, I’m not quite sure why Dan insisted to diverge from his previous plans of lethal injections and instead opted for deadheading, only to wake up for “the heat death of the university” (204). In other words, when the world is ignited by the hellish fires of space (don’t judge me if that doesn’t make much sense, just go along with the notion…), Dan with the rest of humanity and any other forms of life—alien, transhuman, or unidentified—will perish; he will be dead.
So why wait for however long “the heat death of the universe” to occur to end your life? Why not try the less convoluted method of suicide? Is it cowardice? Dan had reasoned the initial decision on lethal injections with masculinity: “‘Oh, it was the macho thing, I guess.” (203) In a society where Whuffie is a predominant factor included in a person’s success and used to situate a person in a respectable light in the eyes of society, masculinity or even pride should not inhibit Dan from second-guessing himself on the matters of suicide. And for someone adamant about not having ambitions or not finding a section of Bitchun society to be a part of, why couldn’t Dan just “end it all”? This question is never really answered in the novel, and this frustrates me. I could go on a different tangent on the various theories as to what caused the drastic change in Dan’s plans—the guilt of murdering Julius overwhelming Dan, the obvious betrayal he committed in order to receive a plethora of Whuffie, Whuffie count dictates a Bitchun individual’s actions, killing himself with dignity—but all those are assumptions, all with little consequence or significance to Doctorow’s intentions (whatever they may be) to include a suicidal character in a quasi-perfect world.
Furthermore, why deadhead, occasionally updating yourself about every century or so, and continue to deadhead until something “stupendous” happens, like the end of the universe as you know it? Sure, if possible I would deadhead if I was expecting a brighter something sometime in the future, but if I were to only expect the nonexistence of all things, then I would lose sight of deadheading’s purpose. I’d be like Lil’s parents on their deadheading—except with less initiative on my instructions about “not to be woken until [my] newsbots grabbed sufficient interesting materiel to make it worth [my] while” (80). Certainly it would be fascinating to see what the other centuries and millenniums would hold for someone interested in the advancement of humanity and technology, so I’m not in total opposition of deadheading. I only find Dan’s approach to it to be nonsensical.
Do you think deadheading until the annihilation/self-destruction of the universe is a better option for someone like Dan who wants to embrace death? The definition of death has warped itself beyond recognition because the people of the Bitchun society consider themselves as “immortal,” and therefore do not fear mortality. Does this fact explain why Dan changed his mind in the end? Did he all of a sudden dislike, or rather feared the concept of permanent death, the lack of a relying backup to put yourself back into society?
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As I was finishing Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, it came to my attention that I had developed a strong affinity for Jules. I really hadn’t noticed how much I was rooting for him until page 183, when that plebe Kim told Jules “Don’t stay here and don’t come back. Ever,” with “an evil look on her face”. How dare she, after all that Jules did for her! But then I started thinking…what had Jules done for her, his ad-hoc and Disney World as a whole?
He definitely is passionate about his ideas and the Haunted Mansion—it seems he is often sitting around his abode brainstorming ways to make the ride better and faster. However, it is at times unclear whether his passion is for the ride or the Whuffie. For some reason I thought that he did not care if people thought worse of him for his Whuffie, but while I was looking for supporting evidence I ran across these moments…
(pg. 188, after Jules “bottoms-out”) “Scared. I trembled when I ascended the stairs to Dan’s room, when I knocked at his door, louder and harder than I meant, a panicked banging.”
(pg. 85, when Jules discusses his new plans for the Mansion) “Think of the Whuffie!”
It seems more likely that Jules is, as most of the Bitchun society, preoccupied with gaining Whuffie and finds himself completely lost without it.
It would have been one thing if Jules had waged war on Debra’s ad-hoc, attempted to destroy the Hall of Presidents and embarrassed his ad-hoc in public (in the end lowering their Whuffie, counterproductively) if it had been for the love of the Mansion, but perhaps it was for the Whuffie instead.
While I’ve been empathizing with Jules, he’s been wreaking havoc on Disney World for selfish reasons. Why try to keep the Mansion project to yourself when you could team up with another ad-hoc (Debra’s) to make better and faster improvements? That would even be the more Bitchun thing to do—anything that increases productivity. Instead Jules does what he can to get credit for any success.
Despite all this, I was and continue to be team-Jules. Did anyone find themselves empathizing with Debra, Lil or Dan instead? When I think through it, any of these characters could be the protagonist—perhaps Doctorow’s novel was from the perspective of the “bad guy”.
I was curious if Doctorow meant to do this—did he know that non-Bitchun readers would unconsciously side with the least Bitchun character? Even though he seems Whuffie-obsessed, Jules is the only character who refuses to dead-head on airplane rides and use a back-up when he’d risk losing memories, much like most of us said we’d do given the same choices. Does he intend for Jules to be the “hero”? If not, what point is he making by showing us how stubborn we are about our habits (that we would side with the antagonist simply because we can relate to him best)?
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One thing I find interesting about Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is that the reader is almost never exposed to any kind of family relationships. As far as I can remember, Julius only briefly mentions his own parents to say they took him to Disney World for his first time, and there is no talk of any character having even a brother or sister–perhaps in the Bitchun Society there is simply not the same emphasis on family as in our world today. In fact, the only family the reader does see is Lil and her parents. This relation seems hopelessly riddled with complications and contradictions, but perhaps this is a sign Doctorow believes that, even amid sweeping transitions in society, family will never change.
On the one hand, the Bitchun society seems to constantly come between Tom and Rita and their daughter. Tom and Rita had been members of the original ad-hoc that first seized control of Disney World, much of their time was directed toward keeping the park running instead of spending time with Lil, who likely raised and taught herself for the most part. Additionally, Tom and Rita appear to have a hard time distinguishing their daughter from every other teenage girl in the Bitchun Society. Rita tells Julius she thinks that “[t]here’s not much fire in that generation…Not a lot of passion. It’s our fault–we thought that Disney World would be the best place to raise a child in the Bitchun Society” (77). Finally, when they grow bored, Tom and Rita consider deadheading, but when they talk to Julius about doing so it becomes obvious that they have not even considered the effect it could have on Lil. Rita is quick to tell Julius that “[i]t’s just a thought, realy. We don’t want to worry her. She’s not good with hard decisions–it’s her generation” (80). When they finally are ready to deadhead, they take their last backups before saying goodbye to Lil. As Julius thinks to himself, “When they woke, this event–everything following the backup–would never have happened for them. God, they were bastards” (181).
At the same time, though, Tom and Rita are just like any parents today. They honestly believe that Disney World would be a good place to raise Lil, so they do so. Even by the time that nineteen years old they are still at some level trying to help raise her; when Lil gags at Tom and Rita’s stories, Tom tells her, “Lil, you’re an adult–if you can’t stomach hearing about your parents’ courtship, you can either sit somewhere else or grin and bear it” (77). When the two are saying goodbye before deadheading, “Lil and her mom kissed one last time. Her mother was more affectionate than I’d ever seen her, even to the point of tearing up a little. Here is this moment of vanishing consciousness, she could be whomever she wanted, knowing that it wouldn’t matter the next time she awoke…She was infinitely serene and compassionate, and I knew it didn’t count” (182). Knowing that she would never remember the moment, Rita allows herself to be completely, honestly affectionate with her daughter. The scene is mirrored when Rita and Tom wake up from deadheading: “Even at a distance of ten yards, I heard Lil’s choked sob, saw her collapse in on herself. Her mother took her in her arms, rocked her” (187). Rita and Tom do love their daughter, but, as I imagine many parents struggle with, they have not been sure exactly how to show it. Julius comes to this same conclusion when he asks himself, “Why did she hate me so much? I’d been there for her daughter while she was away–ah” (190). Tom and Rita have simply tried to raise a child in the unprecedented Bitchun society; they are nowhere close to perfect, as they have made plenty of bad decisions–deadheading in particular–but they still love their daughter.
But that is just my take. What are your ideas on the relation between Lil and her parents? What grade would you give Tom and Rita on raising their daughter? Do you think that the family as we know it will persist in the future, or does the Bitchun Society, a world where parents and children alike can live forever, destroy any notion of family?
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I found Julius’ story of his ex, Zed, really fascinating. In particular, I was struck by the similarity between Zed’s decision to restore from a pre-Jules backup, and the plot of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, the plot revolves around a new technology that can erase all your memories about a specific person. So, when Joel and Clementine break up, Clementine decides to erase all her memories of Joel. Hurt, Joel reciprocates by erasing Clementine, but as re-lives all his memories as part of the erasing process, he realizes how valuable their relationship was, and decides that he’d prefer to remember the pain along with the good parts, rather than lose it all, and starts trying to fight the erasure process. There is also a theme running through that if you erase your memory of doing something, you’ll just do it again– a couple of the minor characters do this. In all, the movie pretty strongly rejects the idea that people would be happier if they erased unhappy memories.
So, when Zed was able to do basically the same thing, by restoring from a backup that had never met Julius, I started wondering how common that kind of decision was, and what effects it had. Does anybody tell them, when they wake up without their memories, what they’ve done? The book mentions that people get synopses of important events that they’ve missed; can you ask that certain things be left out? Or is just hearing about it sufficiently different from living it that it doesn’t matter if they tell you or not? What if you bump into somebody else that you knew at that time, and you don’t remember them? Or someone you still remember asks what happened to your husband?
Did Julius and Zed get divorced, or is Julius a widower now?
I also find it interesting that Jules didn’t reciprocate. I’m not surprised that he didn’t, because he’s been pretty opposed to using the backup system to manipulate his memory. He talks a lot about not wanting to “lose” time, wanting to experience his whole life all the way through for thousands of years. So, he wouldn’t wipe his memory of Zed for the same reason that he doesn’t deadhead through airplane flights, and for the same reason that he is so worried about losing his last year with Dan. To him, it doesn’t matter that the him-who-wakes-up won’t even be aware that anything’s missing; the him-who-is-not-yet-dead doesn’t want to lose anything. Which is actually a fairly un-Bitchin way of looking at things.
To the people who have been talking about a lack of emotional connection– do you think this might be part of it? That the Bitchun attitude towards memory is that it can be manipulated to make you happy, and that relationships can therefore never quite be permanent?
Eternal Sunshine is pretty clear that there are no advantages to erasing your memories of someone, but the people in Down and Out don’t seem to have a problem with it. What do you think– might it improve some people’s lives? Is there anything you might want erased?
I’m pretty leery of memory-erasing. For a long time, I couldn’t remember 2007 (long story), and it was upsetting. But I wonder if it would have bothered me as much if I hadn’t constantly had people asking me about the things I couldn’t remember. If I didn’t even know there was a gap– well, I wouldn’t even know, so I wouldn’t know to worry about it. But that’s almost creepier… I don’t think the me-who-remembers could choose to forget, even if I knew that the me-who-forgot wouldn’t even know about the gap. In that way, I’m like Julius.
What about you?
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For this time’s reading, I want to talk about the idea of being “crazy” and Jules’ decision to not be restored. We begin the reading with Jules reminiscing about the girlfriend he had who went crazy. She was perfectly happy living in space and basically doing nothing, but as soon as Jules brings her down to Earth, she changes. For some reason, she can’t handle life on Earth—maybe it’s too tame for her or something. So, instead of trying to go through counseling, she decides to just restore from an earlier backup, before she met Jules, who has no choice but to accept her decision and try to move on.
First, I think it’s interesting that insanity still exists in the Bitchun Society. Even with all their advanced technology, someone can still be “nonchemically dysfunctional.” In other words, their brains are fine, but something in their minds have snapped. It does not however surprise me that the Bitchun Society’s solution to this is just to restore from backup. In their world, everything can be fixed simply by pretending (or, in the case of the person being restored, literally believing) that the event just never happened.
On the other hand, Jules’ version of insanity is different. He is becoming more and more volatile, but he hasn’t gone crazy the way that Zed did. Instead, he is alienating himself from everyone else in Bitchun Society by doing things that are not accepted by general society, thus losing Whuffie. As readers in his head, we don’t really see the evidence of insanity we’d expect if Jules was really going crazy the way we as readers define crazy. Therefore, we see that his type of crazy is more like the insanity of marginalized people who don’t just bow to society’s standards.
Finally, I’d like to talk about the little detail in the book that shows how dependent Jules still is on Bitchun technology. On his own, Jules would never have been able to destroy his own circuitry. After all, Jules thinks that the doctor knew this fact and only gave him the option to blow out his circuitry because the doctor knew Jules would never go through with it. Unfortunately for the doctor’s plan, however, Jules’ body chose that exact moment to have a seizure, thus forcing him to stop his circuitry.
Which brings me to my questions for today:
Do you think restoring from backup as a way to deal with problems is a cowardly way out?
Do you think the only reason everyone thinks Jules is crazy is that he acts contrary to Bitchun standards, or do you think he is a little bit mentally unstable (he does vandalize the Hall of Presidents seemingly randomly)?
What do you think it means that Jules could not render himself offline unaided?
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The most interesting section of these chapters, to me, was the conversation Jules has with Rita and Tom, Lil’s parents. In their conversation, Rita tells Jules the story of how her and Tom first met. It is a very intimate story that embarrasses Lil. She says, “Jesus, Rita, no one needs to hear about that part of it (77).” Her parents retort saying that she has no say in what can and cannot be said in their conversation. Rita blames this outburst on the fact that Lil was raised in Walt Disney World. Rita believes that Lil’s generation had an easier time with life and therefore are lacking “fire” and “passion.” I would say that our current generation is much like Lil’s generation. A lot of us have had things handed to us without any work having to be done to earn it. We hear that our parent’s generation, and really every generation before that, had to work hard at everything and that nothing was given to them. I think that our generation lacks “fire” and “passion.” With the introduction of so much new technology in our lifetime, we haven’t been accustomed to old fashion ways of doing things. Our grandparents, and some parents, can hardly use a computer while our young generation is so dependent on it. I feel like sometimes our generation is looking to the future, ready to embrace the new technologies to come, while older generations are stuck in the past. Although our generation may lack a certain “fire” and “passion” that older generations possessed, I do think we have the ability to except change and new ideas. I see our generation as being very open, while older generations seemed to be closed and somewhat frozen in the past.
Our generation has been given gifts that help us in everyday life. New technologies are created every year that surpass the ones from the year before. The quick, smart, and young pick these new technologies up with ease while those older try to figure out what is going on. iPhones and Blackberries are something that I know my grandparents just cannot understand. In Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, there is an advantage to being able to live forever. Unlike our older generations who have to take time to pick up new ideas and technologies, the generations in the utopian society depicted by Doctorow have all the time in the world to learn. There is no time limit on life, and therefore no time limit on learning. This is why it is okay for Jules to date Lil who is 15% of his age. Jules is a full century older than Lil, but because they look roughly around the same age it is okay for them to date. Rules we see today don’t matter because in their world, time doesn’t matter.
What do you think about time in the future depicted by Doctorow? What do you think about the different generations depicted in the novel as well? There are times where Jules tells himself that since he is over a century older than Lil he needs to act more mature than her. I find that interesting because in our society our elders are expected to be more mature but we don’t usually meet elders who are a century older than us.
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Originally, I wanted to write about some of the minor details that Doctorow chose to include in the book, namely the actual name “Bitchun Society” and the hilariously provocative play on words that Jules makes with the phrase throughout this second part of the novel (“Ad-hocracy was a great thing, a Bitchun thing…” on pp 90-91). However, I really didn’t have a set point that I wanted to make or anywhere that I could think to go with it. I just found it funny. That and it made me wonder what Doctorow’s purpose for choosing such a humorous name for his hyper-technological society. Any ideas?
Besides that more fun detour, I think this section of the book somehow made me even more opposed to this society, if that is at all possible. The weaknesses of this society become even more apparent as the section goes along, namely the concept of the Whuffie. While I admit that I don’t know exactly how it works yet, I understand that they are essentially respect points. Like we discussed in class, you need Whuffie in order for people to do the things you want them to do, and if you have enough Wuffie, you can essentially do whatever you want. It was created as a way to eliminate the need for money and as a more accurate way for society to function by. Jules points out that people from his and Dan’s generation respect the existence of Whuffie, but people of the newer generations (Lil’s generation) essentially live and swear by it. Call me crazy, but is this not still money? It essentially works as a way to measure a person’s worth based on some arbitrary number that you gain or lose based on the quality of your interactions or deeds. At least in the current world, you can choose to keep your monetary worth a secret whereas in this society, everyone is free to know. Is this really a desirable change?
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The Bitchun Society is defined by a completely connected network of it’s individuals. Anyone’s Whuffie can be looked up at any time, and being online is crucial for even everyday emotional interaction. Jule’s comforting of Lil after her first observation of the Hall of Presidents is a key example, “Offline, I couldn’t find stats or signals to help me discuss the matter” (40). A simple matter of closeness between lovers requires the consultation of the material and monitoring methods available online. While we don’t have a built in interface to the internet, our society moves closer to this every day.
Consider social networking sites such as Facebook, personal blogs, and Twitter. All allow and encourage regular updates to the internet on what you are doing or thinking at any given time. It also allows others to comment on those status updates. If something happens in your life, post it online, and get feedback. More and more, aspects of our lives that once would have been private matters between a few select friends or professionals are available to the world at large, and the world is able to respond directly. These opinions have an increasing influencing on our choices, as evidenced by the growing importance of seeking them. Three years ago, I didn’t have a facebook; days could go by without me repyling to an email. Now people wonder what’s going on, and even disapprove if I don’t respond to wall posts within an hour.
Also consider the growing availability of the internet. What once required ten minutes on a desktop computer with a slow modem connection can now be accomplished in seconds on a mobile phone carried in your pocket. In Jule’s world, you merely need to think about something, and the information is at your disposal. The danger of this type of society is a loss of emotional connectedness. If you are directly connected to the thoughts and opinions of others, there is less room for an emotional bond; you are already closely bonded to everyone. The lesser depth of emotional connections is clear in the quickly fluctuating Whuffie scores of the Bitchun Society’s inhabitants. It’s much harder to lose respect for a person with the type of expertise that Jules has with The Mansion, even as a fairly recent member of the Liberty Ad-Hoc, if you must learn the same things in real-time. However, when any information can be flash-baked, or just dumped into your public directory, it loses a great deal of value. The effort to learn new things, and the respect that someone who then teaches those things to others is lost. Without the effort, there is little chance for emotional bonds to develop. After all, if you monitor someone’s body temperature and heart rate, and have systems that can immediately interpret someone’s actions for you, there is no need to develop any deep emotional understanding or bonds. While this type of interpretation of the world is a rare occurrence for Jules, there are indicators that the potential exists; also, Jules is offline for the majority of the novel so far, and the feeling of bipolar mania can be at least partially attributed to the increase in emotional responses without the support of instant internet access.
What evidence exists that our society is (or isn’t) moving towards a fully integrated online system?
At what point do you think interconnectedness between all people begins to erode personal emotional connections, if at all?
Are the enhancements in the availability of knowledge worth any loss of privacy and emotional connectedness?
Would the Bitchun Society suffer from this problem more or less if death was still an issue?
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Various novels deliver different emotional reactions for their readers. Some foster a completely detached relationship, as in the time I plodded through Sense and Sensibility in tenth grade: not a single ounce of imagery or plot line persisted or flourished in my mind. There are book that leave a deep ideological mark, but make little personal connections: 1984 was a thrilling read for me, but the watchful eye of big brother is such an abstraction that I cannot say I have, or want to, be personally involved with the novel. Of course, then there’s a universal donor like the Harry Potter series, which has convinced millions of children that they will be receiving avian parcels in their upcoming adolescence. Yes, the projections of self into the wizarding world were grand; all those great times I spent killing dementors with Harry and the gang… But indeed, weren’t those so contrived? Almost like some type of direct to brain interface… And then there is this quaint little novel, penned by a cape wearing futurist in a high altitude balloon. I cannot describe this connection I’m feeling with it exactly, but it seems to be profound only few chapters in. It’s like Doctorow has this strong connection to my sensual and emotional imagery that I’ve seldom experienced in a novel. Perhaps its the prose. He doesn’t write like a 19th century authors, preening his feathers with flowery language and “innuendo”. He writes about characters in the digital, hell post-digital world, and it’s the same language we speak everyday. Part of it is the technology. I’ve pretended to identify with characters in other novels, but unlike Doctorow’s ,they’re not checking their cell phones/HUD’s every time they feel awkward or compulsively doling out Whuffie on Facebook. It’s the way that Wikipedia let’s you experienced so many archived events all at once and downloads conclusions and rationalizations in the click of a mouse, or the point of a finger. Maybe it’s the internet. The Bitchum Society is living in the internet. Everything’s about hits, traffic, Diggs and Facebook likes. Physical position is irrelevant, because there is infinite time to go anywhere you like in Jules’ world, and because our internet moves at the speed of light. If you die you get a new body; if you get banned you find a new IP address. Me and you deadhead whenever we take a break from the net, because Moore’s law doesn’t need centuries to leave you obsolete.
So where do you go and what do you do when you’re allowed everything, all of the time?
Well everyone has their favorite home page, right?
Do you wage developing wars over the next Mafia Wars or strive for the next RickRoll?
Is this what we do with such a powerful tool?
It’s like having immortality, and spending at Disney World. Everything is a Microcosm, but microcosms become so much more interesting when you figure out the cosmos.
But these are such larger themes, certainly ones required to look at a novel in an academic sense. I can’t resist, however, to say what really grabbed me from the first three chapters. My home in Florida may be two-hours North of Disney World, but I can’t help but feeling a little bit like an employee. When I was a young child, and Florida was still thousands of miles from my real home, I was one of those thousands who ran around Tom-Sawyer Island. But having lived in North-Central Florida for my (first) adolescence, I feel more like Jules. I know the territory, I study it, and I watch it change.
So what if we figure it out immortality (even if it’s “virtual)? Where would I go after I’ve stormed through the known-universe like a cosmic tornado? I can’t help but think that I’d end up somewhere a little North of Disney land. I’d crave the overwhelming humidity as it felt like I was paddling, not pedaling my bicycle along the “service” roads of my county. Or blasting down those same roads in my blue roundabout with my redheaded girlfriend (no kidding), looking up at the moon and smelling those pine trees at a hundred miles an hour. I’d go back to that time when I damn well thought I was immortal. I’d go back to get what the internet never could give me. My place, my time. What else do you have to fight for if you’ve got everything in the universe at your disposal?
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After reading the first three chapters of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, I find myself both horrified by the future of humanity presented and questioning the logical progression of technical advancement in the novel.
First of all, the inhuman qualities and unanswered questions of the first fifty-eight pages leave a lot of room for speculation. After being sized up by Jules’ internal computer in the Prologue, Keep-A-Movin’ Dan later directly addresses the lack of individuality and difference in society by noting the statement substantiated by the “Hope” designer face and the incredible amount of “teenage” girls who choose to sport it. Also, aside from a lack of individuality, the amount of “humanness” lost with each death and rejuvenation is not adequately addressed. Debra, having perished multiple times, lives for the “synthetic clarity of it all.” (58). With each uploading of memories from a body and subsequent downloading into a new body, are there any bits of information that are lost? Any signals that are not adequately converted from one body to another and therefore lost, such as the specific emotions, for example? In general, this is what frightened me about the world depicted by this novel, the utter lack of emotions. For brief moments, Jules reveals his inner thoughts and feelings for Lil, but so far the secondary characters of the book, at least those of the ad-hocracy, seem to be devoid of most emotions—fear, regret, hope, and other feelings are simply thrown away and have no place in the digitized central processing units that are the conscience of the people. Dan mentions early in the prologue the sense of fear and hardship necessary to feel true accomplishment; thus far, the book has eliminated this necessity (at least within the aggressors of Disney World and those fully assimilated into the Bitchun Society) and left its readers questioning the outcome of a world without emotions and a real sense of accomplishment (Jules does not seem particular proud about his multiple symphonies and degrees, but rather seems to have pursued them at his leisure during a boundless lifetime).
In addition, the use of the “Whuffie” and the ability of one another to instantly search people seem unnerving (although not too unfamiliar—a la facebook “stalking”). Using a number as an immediate way of a judging someone seems rather off-base, especially when Dan is initially judged by Lil—“I knew she was pinging his Whuffie and I caught her look of surprised disapproval. Us oldsters who predate Whuffie know that it’s important; but to the kids, it’s the world.” (22) Just as many people on facebook try to accrue as many friends as possible, the “brownie” points associated the “Whuffie” system seem like another way for people to immediately judge one another. Keep-A-Movin’ Dan is a perfect example, a book should not be judged by its cover; and a points system propagates a society of judgement and externalized self-worth.
Finally, a list of my more looming questions:
1) Why does Disney World remain untainted by technological advancements for so long? My momma used to tell me stories of her trip to the Magic Kingdom as a child, and as far as I could tell, it had not changed too much between roughly 1970 and 2000, the year we took a family vacation to just the Magic Kingdom. “It’s a Small World,” for example, had perhaps a few more dolls and some additional length to the ride, but overall was comprised of the same glass eye’d, eerily singing, ethnically diverse children that had endeared themselves to my momma so many years before. Perhaps the magic of Disney World is at once its technological marvels and uncanny ability to evoke the nostalgic past, but it still seems as if the theme parks in the world Doctorow described would have been one of the first things to change, a glimpse at tomorrow (such as Tomorrowland) in which young amuse park guests would first envision the future and one day help to reach it. Disneyworld’s “archaic” technology appears odd in a world of “deadheading,” “cloning” and “refreshing.” It seems as if the Imagineers may have sought to expand the park or include rides and technologies that predicted this future long before it became a reality.
2) This question does not relate exactly to the texts, but rather the graphics surrounding the chapters and adorning the front cover. Do you think the odd two-headed man chasing a smirking plug has an special significance (or could the two heads actually be two hears of an oddly shaped Mickey Mouse (his appearance has morphed significantly since the early days of the 20th century)?
3) The Ad-hocs are upset that new technologies will undermine the original artistic nature of Disney World, and it is a real marvel if you consider the life-like presidents, the lavish buildings, and devout attention to detail (especially for the time period in which it was constructed). Do you feel that technological innovation/renovation is indeed an impurity or rather a completely different form of art? Considering the societal context in which these alterations to the rides of the Magic Kingdom are occurring, which is more relevant? Is Disney’s initial goal of nostalgia and timelessness completely outdated in a world where one may expect to live thousands of years?
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