Saturday, September 21, 2013

James Michener analysis - part 5: Michener's 'Space': Rel. to the film 'Pulp Fiction'


Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American dark comedic crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino, who also co-wrote the screenplay along with Roger Avary. The film is known for its eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and a host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references. Directed in a highly stylized manner, Pulp Fiction connects the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals, and a mysterious briefcase. Considerable screen time is devoted to conversations and monologues that reveal the characters' senses of humor and perspectives on life.[a]

From Pulp Fiction: Mobster Vincent Vega, high on heroin, driving on his way to pick up Mia Wallace. The music playing during this scene is the song Bullwinkle Pt. II, originally from the album Surfer's Pajama Party (1964) by the surf rock band, The Centurians (formerly, The Centurions) (listen on YouTube here). Surf music is a genre of popular music associated with surf culture, particularly as found in Orange County and other areas of Southern California. It was especially popular from 1961 to 1966, has subsequently been revived and was highly influential on subsequent rock music.[b] The use of surf music in this scene serves as a reference to something in Michener's 1982 novel, Space, that is, that one of Space's characters, Millard Mott, is involved in surf culture. This reference is discussed in more detail below.

Michener's Space is a fictionalized history of the United States space program, with a particular emphasis on manned spaceflight. In order to further elucidate the connection between Space and Pulp Fiction, we begin by listing the four main husband-wife pairs in Michener's novel, then we go over preliminary information from the novel. Following this is quoted a section of dialogue from the novel, in which all four of the couples are gathered together, interacting with each other. The children of these couples are included in the list. (In the below, 'Fremont' is a fictional American state created by Michener, and 'Clay' is a fictional city in Fremont).

List of major characters and their children
Mott, Stanley. Born Newtown, Massachusetts, 1918.
Mott, Rachel Lindquist. Born Worcester, Massachusetts, 1920.
      Millard, born 1943.
      Christopher, born 1950.

Pope, John. Born Clay, Fremont, 1927. U.S. Navy.
Pope, Penny Hardesty. Born Clay, Fremont, 1927.
No Children, but have tried.

Grant, Norman. Born Clay, Fremont, 1914.
Grant, Elinor Stidham. Born Clay, Fremont, 1917.
      Marcia, born 1939.

Kolff, Dieter. Born near Munich, Germany, 1907.
Kolff, Liesl. Born Peenemünde, Germany, 1916.
      Magnus, born 1947.

Preliminary information
By the time the reader gets to chapter 7 of Space, which is set in the year 1969, it has already been revealed that Millard Mott is gay (and that his parents know this), and he has also spent a lot of time hanging out with a group of like-minded surfers while living in Southern California. The other Mott son, Christopher, has gotten into trouble for exposing himself to a female. Marcia Grant has become somewhat estranged from her father. She has been 'seduced' by an unscrupulous man named Strabismus, into working for his organization, which pushes the idea that 'little green men' from outer space are about to invade Earth. She has also been seduced by Strabismus, who is significantly older than she, in the literal sense. Strabismus is known for having quick sex with younger women, then 'dumping' them. Marcia's mother, Elinor Grant, has also fallen prey to Strabismus to the extent that she believes in his 'little green men theory', and contributes money to his organization. Magnus Kolff is quite accomplished, learning to play trumpet at an early age, and is now playing in a formal orchestra. All four fathers in the above-listed group work for the space program, and two of the wives, Penny Pope and Rachel Mott, work in related fields. Liesl Kolff devotes her time to being a homemaker. Stanley Mott started out as a rocket engineer, but has relatively recently become more of a space scientist, working with more 'abstract' ideas than do engineers. Stanley's devotion to his work results in him being a 'distant' father to his two sons, and it is implied in the novel that his indifferent and uninvolved parenting is one of the main factors in his two sons becoming 'dysfunctional'. As of 1969, Norman Grant is a Senator, John Pope is an astronaut, and Dieter Kolff is a rocket engineer.

Dialogue from Space, Chapter 7 ("The Moon")
Near the end of chapter 7, the four couples listed above (minus their children) are all sitting together eating a meal. There are several switched-on television sets visible from their table, so that they can simultaneously watch different views presented by live network TV programs, covering current events of the space program. Part of their conversation is here given:[c]

[Norman Grant] asked the Kolffs, 'How did your son learn the young?'
Liesl Kolff answered eagerly, 'In America you want people to learn. Mrs. Mott, here, she taught us English at El Paso. No charge. When we move to Huntsville, first day they give out band instruments. How old was Magnus? Four maybe, he took one.'
'But we had trouble,' Dieter said. 'You might say the big decision, when he wanted to do funnies with the football band. I put my foot down. "You do not do funnies with Beethoven." He wanted to cry.'
'How were you able to make him see things your way?' Rachel Mott broke in.
'You tell him once, he don't listen,' Liesl said. 'You tell him twice, he shout at you. So you don't tell him a third time. You get a hammer and smash his trumpet.'
Dieter laughed. 'It belonged to the school. We had to pay for it. Magnus was so ashamed, he said a truck ran over it, his fault.'
'We got him a better one, and with it he joined our little orchestra. Then University of Alabama. Then Munich for one year. Now Boston, maybe forever.'
'You must be very proud,' Rachel said.
'We are,' Liesl replied.

Grant turned to the Motts. 'Weren't you having a little trouble with your son?'
'Both of them,' Rachel said. 'And not just a little.'
'In what respect?'
Stanley Mott was hesitant to speak of family troubles, but his no-nonsense-wife was not, and appearing almost prim and an epitome of rectitude, this forty-nine-year-old New England woman said, 'Life styles, I think, our eldest son-' She corrected herself. 'Our elder son seems not to like girls. He's living with a young man about his own age in Skycrest, Colorado. They run a shop featuring health foods.' And before anyone could comment, she added quite firmly, 'We've made our peace with Millard. He's a fine, gentle boy and we have no doubt he'll be the same kind of man.'
'He's twenty-six,' Mott said.
'I think of him still as a boy,' Rachel said, and her husband added, 'It's a shock when your son exhibits traits that you, well...' He stopped in confusion, then blurted out: 'We're sending him money to get his store started, and I for one am proud of what he's been able to accomplish. He's well spoken of in the Skycrest community.'

'Young Christopher's troubles are more serious,' Rachel said. He's been arrested for selling marijuana.'
'Drugs?' Liesl asked.
'I'm afraid so. Tell me,' Rachel asked, throwing herself, as it were, upon the mercy of her audience, 'How do you keep your children out of trouble in this permissive society?'
'There is a vast difference,' Senator Grant said as he watched the televisions. 'When I was a boy in Clay, every element in the society was supportive. The police were friendly. Sunday School teachers wanted to do the right thing. Our football coach was an admirable figure, and I remember one day when I sneaked into the poolroom to see for myself what infamous things were going on, and two of the town roustabouts took me aside and said, "Norman, you're supposed to grow up into a fine man. Maybe marry the judge's daughter or something like that. You're not meant to be in poolrooms. Now get out."'
'It's not that way any longer,' Rachel Mott said. 'Right now our son's in Miami chanting "Ho ho ho! Ho Chi Minh!"'
Senator Grant turned from the televisions. 'He's what?'
'It's a childish nonsense. They think it's funny to make us older people angry.'
'But what's the Ho Chi Minh nonsense? Surely your son is not...'
'They want the war in Vietnam to end. They insist we get out.'
'That's government policy,' Grant snapped. 'That's not for puling children to determine on their own.'
'Christopher's no child. He's nineteen. He's terrified of the draft.'
Grant rose. 'When we faced a much more terrible enemy, two of them, my generation volunteered. You did, didn't you, Mott?'
'The Army picked me up,' he said evasively, not wishing to admit on this night that he had not been in uniform.
'How about you, Pope? You volunteered, didn't you?'
'I was playing football, sir. Still in high school.'
'But in Korea?'
'I was already in uniform, sir, but I did a lot of combat flying over there.'
'You certainly volunteered for the German side, didn't you, Kolff?'
'I fought on the Russian front,' Dieter said, not caring to explain that it took four Nazi detectives to find him in the fields of southern Germany before the Army could throw him in uniform.

'In time of crisis,' Grant said, 'men rally to the support of their homelands.'
'Millard, out in Colorado, denies it's a crisis. He told us in his last letter that he's sure the whole thing's contrived.'
'Contrived?' Grant snorted. 'When the Congress of the United States...'
'That was his major point,' Rachel said. 'Congress has not had the courage to declare actual war. Millard said it's all a political game, an avoidance of reality.'
'Your Millard had better watch out, Mrs. Mott.'
'He says it's what he calls a ploy. A way to get the children of the poor to defend the privileges of the rich without disturbing business as usual.'
'He sounds like a Communist.'
'He tells us that most of the young people in Colorado think the same way. Two of his friends have escaped to Canada. To avoid the draft.'
'Escaped? America's no prison. If they ran away to Canada, they did so because they're cowards. President Nixon and Congress have laid out certain plans, and it's the duty of all citizens to obey them.'
Stanley Mott, not wishing this argument to proceed any further, asked, 'In a time of wildly changing mores, what can a parent do to keep their children stable?'
'Sometimes,' Liesl Kolff said, 'sometimes you have to take a hammer and smash the trumpet.'

[At the end of chapter 7, it is revealed that Millard Mott has gone to Canada to avoid the draft.]

Correspondence with Pulp Fiction
As mentioned above, the fact that surf music is playing while Pulp Fiction's Vincent is high on drugs, indicates a connection between Vincent and Space's Millard Mott, who was, for some time, involved in Southern California surf culture. Also, Pulp Fiction's Maynard (a 'voyeur' of gay sex; sitting on the far right in the screencap at below left) corresponds, to some degree, to Millard, who is himself gay. (Note the similarity of the names Maynard and Millard).

Above left: From left to right: Zed, 'The Gimp' (a gay sexual 'submissive'), and Maynard, in the basement of Maynard's shop. The shop, though it is portrayed in the movie as being located in Los Angeles, represents a perverted gay 'enclave' whose existence lies elsewhere (as described below). Above right: Maynard looks on as Zed anally rapes their captive, Marsellus Wallace. The music playing during this scene is another 1960's surf song, The Revels' Comanche.

The 'theme' of gay sex in Southern California surf culture, is the connection between Space and Pulp Fiction. As indicated by the modern-day setting of Pulp Fiction, the presence of The Gimp as a character in the film, and the portrayal of Vincent as a drug user, Tarantino not only implies that current Southern California surf culture consists largely of gay men, but also, that some of these men participate in perverted (e.g., 'dominant/submissive' sadomasochistic) sex with each other, and that sometimes, drug use is involved in the commission of these acts. When Michener has Millard's mother, Rachel Mott, describe her son as "gentle" (in the dialog quoted above), what's being suggested is that most people outside the gay surf culture view surfers in a neutral manner, and don't realize that its members are committing savage sexual acts upon each other. As an aside, many surf rock bands were and are using their music as a 'covert' attempt to get across to the general public, that this type of behavior is going on in the surf culture. This is evident not only in the sound of these bands' music, but in the titles (and where present, lyrics) of some of their songs as well. For example, the title of the song Comanche is a reference to the savagery of the aforementioned sex acts: The Comanche were an American Indian tribe whose name is derived from a Ute word meaning "anyone who wants to fight me all the time."[d]

Above left: The portions of a Confederate flag in Maynard's shop, indicates not only that perverted gay sex occurs to an inordinately common degree in the American Southeast, but it also indicates the 'geographical metaphor' in use here: Orange County itself lies to the southeast of Los Angeles. Above right: A rectangular variant of the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag under General Robert E. Lee (during the American Civil War), often referred to simply as the Confederate flag. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Modern display of the Confederate flag' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

a. Wikipedia, 'Pulp Fiction'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Wikipedia, 'Surf music'. Web, n.d. URL =
c. Michener, James A. Space. Random House, 1982. pp. 530-533.
d. 'Comanche'. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 25 Aug. 2016. URL =


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

James Michener analysis - part 4: 'The Novel'; various geometrical patterns; links


The Novel was written by Michener in 1991. A departure from his better known historical fiction, The Novel is told from the viewpoints of four different characters involved in the life and work of a writer of historical novels concerning a picturesque district (Grenzler) in rural Pennsylvania. There is much discussion of writing, not all of it in support of Michener's own style. Many story devices discussed by the characters are later used by Michener in this same story.

Chapter Summary
The Writer - Lukas Yoder: Narrated by the author of a popular series of historical novels as he works on his "final" novel.
The Editor - Yvonne Marmelle: The personal and professional life of Lukas Yoder's editor.
The Critic - Karl Streibert: A new literary star appears in Grenzler, and tries to rise from Lukas Yoder's shadow.
The Reader - Jane Garland: Told in the voice of an avid reader and prominent citizen of the Grenzler area.[a]

Hex signs
Early in The Novel, we find that Lukas Yoder has a hobby of sorts: He locates, restores, and then sells (or sometimes gives away for free), hex signs.

Above left: Barn with a five-pointed hex sign in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1941. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Hex sign' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.] Above right: Barn with compass rose hex signs at the historic Mascot Mills in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.[b]

Hex signs are a form of Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, related to fraktur, found in the Fancy Dutch tradition in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Barn paintings, usually in the form of "stars in circles," grew out of the fraktur and folk art traditions about 1850 when barns first started to be painted in the area. By the 1940s commercialized hex signs, aimed at the tourist market, became popular and these often include stars, compass roses, stylized birds known as distelfinks, hearts, tulips, or a tree of life. Two schools of thought exist on the meaning of hex signs. One school ascribes a talismanic nature to the signs, the other sees them as purely decorative, or "Chust for nice" in the local dialect. Both schools recognize that there are sometimes superstitions associated with certain hex sign themes, and neither ascribes strong magical power to them.[c]


Shown at left is a pentagram. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Pentagram' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began using both upright and inverted pentagrams (five-pointed stars) in Temple architecture, dating from the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedicated on 30 April 1846. Other temples decorated with five-pointed stars in both orientations include the Salt Lake Temple, and the Logan Utah Temple.[d]

According to the Dictionary of Symbols, "Pentagrams can take either pentagonal or star shape. Their symbolism is manifold, but is always based upon that of the number five, which expresses the conjunction of inequalities. The five points of the pentagram come together in the fruitful marriage of three (the male principle) with two (the female principle). In this context, the pentagram symbolizes hermaphroditism. Pentagrams were used as recognition signs between members of the same group or society, as for example the followers of Pythagoras in Classical antiquity. The pentagram unified them: it was one of the keys to Higher Knowledge and opened the door to what was secret. ...

"In Europe the pentagram of Pythagoras became that of Hermes Trismegistus and was regarded, not simply as a symbol of knowledge, but as a means of casting spells and of obtaining power (Ghyka, Matila C., Le nombre d'or, Vol. 2, Paris, 1931, p. 77). ...

"In its stellar, rather than pentagonal shape, Masonic tradition calls the pentagram the Blazing Star. With some reservations Boucher quotes Ragon's interpretation of the Blazing Star as being 'the image in ancient Egypt of the son of Isis and the Sun, begetter of the seasons and emblem of motion, of that Horus, symbol of primeval matter, inexhaustible well-spring of life, spark of holy fire and universal seed of all beings. To Masons, it is the emblem of the Genius which raises the soul to great deeds'.[e] ...

"The pentagram gives expression to a force which is the synthesis of complementary powers."[f]

Compass roses

Shown at left is an eight-point compass rose.[g]

Above left and right: Note the compass rose-like eight-point star figure on the wall in this scene from Stanley Kubrick's 1999 movie, Eyes Wide Shut. The star here represents, in part, the Egyptian Ogdoad, which, as described in part 1 of this analysis, is a set of four male-female pairs of deities that was worshiped in ancient Egypt. Each of the eight points on the large, outer star here represents one of the Ogdoad's deities, with the four larger points representing the four male deities. Kubrick uses the star to draw a correspondence between the four male deities of the Ogdoad, and William Blake's four Zoas: Each Zoa was associated with one of the four major compass directions: north, east, south, and west. As denoted on the right-hand screencap above, each of the four large outer points on the star from Eyes Wide Shut, can be taken to be pointing to one of these four directions, and thus, each point can be taken to represent one of the four Zoas; thus the correspondence Kubrick is drawing, between the four male deities of the Egyptian Ogdoad, and the four Zoas. Blake, in his later mythology, developed an ogdoad consisting of the four Zoas and their four feminine emanations. He called them the Eight Immortal Starry-Ones.


Above left: The Jewish Star of David is a hexagram: Two equilateral triangles, one upright and the other inverted, overlapping each other. Note that the boundary of the interior region of the star has been traced out in heavy lines - this interior border is a regular hexagon (a six-sided figure). Above right: As described in the analysis of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on this blog, Kubrick uses a hexagonal shape for each of the three rear thrusters of the Discovery One spaceship (shown here). The disproportionate extension of the hexagons in the vertical direction here indicates the predominance of the unconscious mind, which in a man (i.e., 2001 astronaut David Bowman), has feminine characteristics. (For more on the symbolism of the Discovery One spaceship, see the analysis of 2001).

In Jungian psychology, the hexagram "expresses the union of opposites - the union of the personal, temporal world of the ego with the non-personal timeless world of the non-ego. Ultimately, this union is the fulfillment and goal of all religions. It is the union of the soul with God."[h]

Hexagrams are also featured within and on the outside of many Masonic temples as a decoration. It may have been found within the structures of King Solomon's temple, from which Freemasons are inspired in their philosophies and studies. Like many other symbols in Freemasonry, the deciphering of the hexagram is non-dogmatic and left to the interpretation of the individual.

The Shatkona is a symbol used in Hindu yantra that represents the union of both the male and feminine form. It is a hexagram and looks exactly like the Star of David.[i]

Links between Freemasonry, Judaism, and Rosicrucianism
1. Kabbalah, an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought that originated in Judaism, is studied in certain non-Jewish organizations, such as Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn.
2. The Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross (Orden des Gold- und Rosenkreutz, also the Fraternity of the Golden and Rosy Cross) was a German Rosicrucian organization founded in the 1750s by Freemason and alchemist Hermann Fichtuld. Candidates were expected to be Master Masons in good standing. Alchemy was to be a central study for members. Much of the hierarchical structure for this order was used in Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (SRIA) and from there, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.[j]

Links between Mormonism and the 'occult' (e.g., hermeticism and alchemy)
See The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by historian John L. Brooke, Ph.D.
Excerpt from this book: "Quite simply, there are striking parallels between the Mormon concepts of the coequality of matter and spirit, of the covenant of celestial marriage, and of an ultimate goal of human godhood and the philosophical traditions of alchemy and hermeticism, drawn from the ancient world and fused with Christianity in the Italian Renaissance. Mormonism and hermeticism both propose a distinct relationship between the visible and invisible worlds. The classical Mormon theology announced by Joseph Smith at Nauvoo in 1844 cast the Mormon faithful not in traditional Christian terms, supplicating divine favor, nor in the role of magicians, manipulating and coercing supernatural forces. Rather, Mormons were to expect, as hermetic perfectionists, to be coparticipants in divinity and to play a direct role in the supernatural cosmos of the invisible world."
(--Brooke, John L., The Refiner's Fire, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. xiii-xiv.)

a. Wikipedia, 'The Novel'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Image from the Wikipedia 'Hex sign' page; Mascot Mills Barn w Hexes LanCo PA by Smallbones, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
c. Wikipedia, 'Hex sign'. Web, n.d. URL =
d. Wikipedia, 'Pentagram'. Web, n.d. URL =
e. Boucher, Jules, La symbolique maçonnique, 2nd edition, Paris, 1953.
f. Dictionary of Symbols. Ed. Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant, Trans. John Buchanan-Brown. London: Penguin Group, 1996. pp. 747-748.
g. Image from the Wikipedia 'Compass rose' page; Compass rose en 08p by ElfQrin, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons; edited for clarity.
h. Man and His Symbols. Ed. with introduction Carl G. Jung. London: Aldus Books, 1964. p. 240.
i. Wikipedia, 'Hexagram'. Web, n.d. URL =
j. Wikipedia, 'Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross'. Web, n.d. URL =


1) In certain instances it has been determined that the creators of some of the productions analyzed on this blog, and/or the creators of source material(s) used in the making of these productions, may be making negative statements about certain segments of society in their productions. These statements should be taken as expressing the opinions of no one other than the creators.

2) This blog is not associated with any of the studios, creators, authors, publishers, directors, actors, musicians, writers, editors, crew, staff, agents, or any other persons or entities involved at any stage in the making of any of the media productions or source materials that are analyzed, mentioned, or referenced herein.

3) In keeping with the policies of the filmmakers, authors, studios, writers, publishers, and musicians, that have created the productions (and their source materials) that are analyzed, mentioned, or referenced on this blog, any similarity of the characters in these films or source materials to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


All images on this blog are used solely for non-commercial purposes of analysis, review, and critique.

All Wikipedia content on this blog, and any edits made to it, are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Marcus Aurelius's Meditations - from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Saint Augustine's Confessions and City of God from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Saint Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica from the 'Logos Virtual Library' website (except where otherwise noted), compiled and edited by Darren L. Slider; believed to be in public domain.