Monday, February 24, 2014

Juliana Miller Connector

Vonnegut reveals how Selena, MacIntosh's blind daughter, and Hisako do eventually commit suicide in a pact. In a way this connects to the story of Romeo and Juliet, two young people acting out of impulse believe and thinking that this may in fact be the best way out. This story is famous for the suicide plot scene so I took a deeper look in order to connect it to our story Galapagos. 

The term "expire the term of a despised life."is used in this article to help explain addicted love and teen suicide and how it all correlates together. In Galopogos Selena and Hisake decide to make a pact to kill themselves, maybe if someone knew the situation or about the pact this whole situation could definitely be prevented. I got the term from this article from the website:

 To learn more about young suicides I did some research as to why they might have plotted this suicide. This is one of the websites I went to for research:
Connecting real life situations with one in a book does help the understanding of the situations. 

Chapters 15-21: Word Master

1. anthropomorphic (pg.106)- attributing human likeness or characteristics to an inhuman being or object

2. cordon sanitaire (pg.88)- a barrier to prevent the spread of a disease

3. edentate (pg.80)- without teeth

4. fiduciary (pg.73)- a person to whom something is temporarily entrusted; a trustee

5. sinuous (pg.106)- characterized by twists and turns; winding

I chose these words, because I was somewhat uncertain as to their meanings.


Ch. 15-21 Summary

As the "Nature Cruise of the Century" continues, we become exposed to new characters and information that give us a better picture of what has happened and what is to come. In chapters 15-21 we gain greater insight into the characters of Andrew MacIntosh, Jesus Ortiz, the van Kleist brothers, and Bobby King. We learn that the soon-to-be-deceased Andrew MacIntosh made a deal with the struggling Ecuador for 50 million dollars in exchange for land under the names of himself, his daughter Selena, and Zenji and Hisako Hiroguchi, and that American dollars are still completely valid. Vonnegut reveals to us that Selena, MacIntosh's blind daughter, and Hisako eventually kill themselves in a suicide pact.
     From an evolutionary standpoint, over the million years since the story begins, humans' brains have diminished; however, their senses have not. They can function underwater better, and rely more on instinct than on reason. The human life span has diminished by 30 years, and their teeth have been put to the test. 
     In these chapters, we learn of Jesus Ortiz, who works on the Bahia de Darwin. Ortiz has an utter admiration of the upper class, and truly believes if he works hard enough, he can be one of them. He does his best to serve the esteemed guests of the cruise; however, when MacIntosh cruelly ordered him to serve the lavish meat to the dog then get out, Ortiz slipped into disillusionment as his perceptions of the world shattered. He destroyed the ship's telephone box in rage and despair.
     We learn more about Seigfried van Kleist and his brother, the Captain. Seigfried van Kleist will soon die from Huntington's chorea like his father, but the Captain will be spared, and eventually be the paternal origin of all humankind. Bobby King, the founder of the "Nature Cruise of the Century", is introduced to us, and we see how obsessed he was with filling his passenger list with stars. After the President advised people not to go on the cruise, most of those who had RSVP'd withdrew their confirmation, and Bobby King was out of luck. 
      It's also important to note that Vonnegut revealed that James Wait and Mary Hepburn will eventually marry, and that the narrator was killed during the building of the Bahia de Darwin and now haunts the ship.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Discussion Leader: Chapters 15-21

1) Why do you think Vonnegut includes the information that Selena MacIntosh's blindness gave her
the trivial advantage of enjoying the feeling of fur more than anyone else? Does this information add any value or importance to the character and plot?

2) Before Jesus Ortiz rips apart the telephone cable box, his big brain reassures him that, "...of course we would never do such a thing," because Ortiz knows it would be an act of poor citizenship. Do you believe evolution and biology are responsible for prompting negative actions, or are they a result of societal boundaries and man-made stresses?

3) For Bobby King, one of the most important aspects of the "Nature Cruise of the Century" was to have celebrities on the list of passengers to make it more appealing to "average" people. What is it about celebrities and wealthy individuals that makes people want to be or act like them? Is it a matter of popular opinion that alters our personal opinions, or do celebrities posses qualities that all humans desire?


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Discussion Leader chapters 8-14

1. Do you find it interesting, annoying, or have another feeling regarding Vonnegut's repetitiveness about something (for example, reminding us about the characters who are going to die by putting a star by their name.) ?

2. Why did Vonnegut tell us how Mary is going to die? Is this relevant to the story?

3. Why did Mary go on the cruise, even though she didn't want to and her husband is dead? Is it simply because she promised him?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chapters 8-14: A Summary

     In the story's eighth, ninth and tenth chapters, the narrator describes Mary Hepburn's relationship with her late husband, Roy, in his final months. Regrettably, Roy, who is afflicted by an inoperable brain tumor, loses his job only a short while before Mary is to lose hers. Having lost both his work and autonomy, Roy vests hope in "The Nature Cruise of the Century", or rather, "what he was staying alive for" (Pg. 37, L.10). His grasp of reality gradually loosens, to the extent that he comes to believe his four year old dog was present for atomic bomb tests that took place in 1946. On his deathbed, Roy reveals that his greatest regret was that that he had not reproduced. At Roy's behest, Mary swears to remarry as soon as she is able, as well as to board the Bahia de Darwin for "The Nature Cruise of the Century".
     In the eleventh chapter, the narrator introduces Adolf von Kleist, the Captain of the Bahia de Darwin who is said to become "the ancestor of every human being on the face of the earth today" (Pg. 49, L.25). The narrator also touches upon the relationship between Zenji and Hisako Hiroguchi, who will come to spawn a child, Akiko, who will bear a "pelt like a fur seal's" (Pg. 58, L.22). Zenji has invented both the Gokubi and the Mandarax, advanced translating machines that we are told will come to serve as a nuisance for the inhabitants of Santa Rosalia.
     The thirteenth and fourteenth chapters follow the business relationship between Zenji Hiroguchi and Andrew Macintosh, both of whom we are told are soon to die. Macintosh is looking to accrue property in Ecuador.


Ch. 8-14: Passage Person

1) "About that mystifying enthusiasm millions of years ago for turning over as many human activities as possible to machinery: What could that have been but yet another acknowledgement by people that their brains were no damn good?" (Ch. 8)

Vonnegut points out the irony of how we use our intelligence to make technology that exists to be smart FOR us.We pour everything into bettering our machinery, and Vonnegut suggests that this is so we can trust the artificial over our own unreliable minds. What do you think about humanity's constant struggle for innovation? Do you think the inventions that take burdens off of ourselves inhibit our skill and capacity for greatness, or just allow us to make further advancements? The desire for greater accomplishments drives the human race; what do you think would happen if humans no longer possessed this passion?

2) "Anybody looking for them would not be able to find them anywhere. Any big-brained search for them wouldn't even start on the correct continent." (Ch. 12)

I just wanted to draw attention to how Vonnegut always references "big brains" with a mocking tone. He obviously sees normal brains as more detrimental to humans than beneficial, and I wonder what humanity is like after the shift in brain power.

3) "But her self respect had been severely crippled by the discovery that a little black box could not only teach what she taught, but could do so in a thousand different tongues." (Ch. 14)

Here we see a consequence of Man's technological achievement. While it is rewarding to be able to create highly capable machinery, humans lose purpose as a result. We see this in today's society, for many people are being laid off and replaced my robots and technology; money is saved, but self worth isn't.


Connector- Chapters 8-14

The more and more this story progresses, the better it becomes, obviously. When I first began reading it, I thought it'd simply be another interesting story to read, but it's more than that; the way that Vonnegut writes keeps you hooked regardless if you want to be or not, but my favourite part? The book makes you think. This story of some unsuspecting characters makes the reader stop at certain points and compare their life and thought processes to those of the characters. It makes the reader stop and compare things of the book to those of the real world and other stories.

The first connection I made while reading this bit of Galapagos has to do with the American Sign Language class I'm taking right now.
   "He [Siegfried von Kleist] was unmarried and had never reproduced, and so was insignificant from an evolutionary point of view." [pg 49]
This is interesting because it's suggesting that because von Kleist had no children, he's basically pointless to the evolutionary system. I was reminded of ASL because last week I learned about a man named Alexander Graham Bell, who tried to completely exterminate all of the deaf community. He believed that because they had a hearing disorder, no matter how they came upon it, the person was inferior to the rest of his eugenic population. Because of this inferiority, Bell separated the deaf from each other, and had the children's parents convinced to sterilize them in order to prevent further reproduction within the deaf community, therefore, removing deaf people from the evolutionary process.
I find this connection interesting because in Galapagos, Vonnegut makes it clear that at some point, a person may no longer be able to contribute or matter to the process of evolution, just as in the real world some people will try to stop others from even becoming a part of the process at all.
                                      [I had to look up online trying to find exact dates and figured if you guys wanted to read more into this I'd give you a link. This page starts talking about Bell about half way down, to find it easier "control"/"F" the name "Bell". ]

My second connection, though serious, is also not as traumatic as the first.
 Wall-E. We know him, we love him, but how exactly is he related to Galapagos or Vonnegut?
Well, remember the part of the movie where all humans are on the spaceship, and the pilot learns that humans have been evolving so that they no longer have a pinky toe? Yeah, that's how.
Okay, maybe not the pinky toe thing, but the depletion of the human body part.
     "No person living today has hands clever enough or a brain big enough to operate a Gokubi or Manadarax." [pg 60]
So far in Galapagos, readers can gather that somewhere along human being's path through evolution, our brains begin to get smaller and smaller, and eventually fade basically into nothing. We're not sure why yet- perhaps we become too dependent on technology, or that's simply the way it has been for centuries and will be for many to come. Regardless, both the movie and book are suggesting that somewhere along the path of evolution, humans take a turn for the not-so-good. Though we may have technology, we may not have the brains to use them. Or the pinky toes.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Word Master- Chapters 8-14

inimical: tending to obstruct or harm (pg 40)

malarkey: nonsense, meaningless talk

 susurruses: whispers, murmurs (pg 48)

*I chose these words because I was unclear about the meaning of them, and they are interesting synonyms for commonly used words and ideas. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wordmaster: Chapters 1-8

1) Maybe a person who used to live on Galapagos or Guayaquil, Ecuador.
 2) To keep us as readers interested, and some way that will probably be explained because of their brains. 3)After the ship makes it to Galapagos.

This week my job was the word master, so here are some words to explore:
"to make extremely, excessively, or completely dry, as heat, sun, and wind do."
subterranean (pg 13)
existing, situated, or operating below the surface of the earth; underground" 
asexual, (pg16)
1." free from affectation; sincere; genuine: The man showed unaffected grief at the death of his former opponent."
2."unpretentious, as a personality or literary style."
archipelago, (pg 18)
 "A large group or chain of islands."
lawlessness. (pg 23)
"Contrary to or without regard for the law: lawless violence."
polyethylene (pg 26)
"A  plastic polymer of ethylene used chiefly for containers, electrical insulation, and packaging."


Monday, February 10, 2014

Chapters 1-7: Connecting

In Galapagos, humanity has undergone an utter crash of the fiat economic system. Nations haven't become penniless, but rather their pennies mean absolutely nothing. Emphasis has been placed back on material goods, and currencies around the world have been rendered useless. In the fictional 1986 world Vonnegut has established, the characters are in the midst of this fiscal deterioration of society as they know it.      
     Having done some research on Vonnegut and Galapagos, I learned that it is very likely Vonnegut drew inspiration from the Latin American Debt Crisis of the 1980s. In the 1970s, there was a big push for lesser developed countries to industrialize, and many Latin American and African countries borrowed money in order to do so. While growth was measurable and observable for a short time, the slow world economy of the mid 70s combined with increasing oil prices and raising interest rates in the West caused progression in the less developed world to simmer down. Countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico struggled to repay debts, and the value of their respective currencies depleted drastically.
     When people are scared or insecure, they look for tangible things to cling to (although one could make a solid argument for the opposite view). In poor economic periods in the United States, the price of gold increases. There is a certain amount of risk in the fiat system, for if enough fear is infused into a culture or a nation or the whole human race, the entire system can collapse, as Vonnegut shows us in this work. I'm positive Vonnegut used this premise to make the reader reflect on his or her own faith in the invisible realm in which we deal with every day.

For more info about the Debt Crisis:


Chapters 1-7: Passage Discussion

1.     "He was then living in the fifth of a series of foster homes, essentially an orphan, since he was the product of an incestuous relationship between a father and a daughter who had run away from town, forever and together, soon after he was born" (Pg. 14, L.15-19) ... "All through his childhood, Wait was severely punished by foster parents for nothing and everything. It was expected by them that, because of his inbred parentage, he would become a moral monster." (Pg. 15, L.3-6)

     These excerpts from the story's third chapter serve not as a justification, but rather as a sort of explanation for the callous behavior of James Wait. Wait's character, having been abandoned in infancy and several times thereafter, is perhaps conditioned to evade personal attachment. It is arguably for this reason that he has wed seventeen women, whom he has so easily cast aside in favor of more wealth from more women. The expectation that Wait was to become a moral monster is of special significance. I imagine that this expectation has worn on him. If he believes himself to be devoid of moral principle, he will surely act accordingly. Later, in Chapter 5, the narrator addresses a handful of starving peoples whose central problem resembles Wait's, "It was all in people's heads." (Pg. 24, L.11)

2.     "The two with stars by their names would be dead before the sun went down. This convention of starring certain names will continue throughout my story, incidentally, alerting some readers to the fact that some characters will shortly face the ultimate Darwinian test of strength and wiliness. I was there, too, but perfectly invisible." (Pgs. 19-20, L.27-3)

     The story's narrator reveals provocative information in small doses, for instance, the death or unknown presence of a central character. This is brilliant choice on Vonnegut's part and one that has been employed in a handful of his other stories. These gripping plot elements are granted without context, effectively maintaining a sense of suspense within the reader.

3.     "To the credit of humanity as it used to be: More and more people were saying that their brains were irresponsible, unreliable, hideously dangerous, wholly unrealistic--were simply no damn good." (Pg. 25, L.14-17)

     We know that the necessity of the brain will make up a key theme in this story. What are your thoughts on the sentiment above and its reiterations that we've read thus far?

- Utah

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chapters 1-7 Summary

Here is a summary of chapters 1-7:

The story begins in the small seaport town of Guayaquil, Ecuador. The year is 1986, but the narrator is telling the story from one million years in the future. The narrator begins by explaining what the Galapagos Islands are and that, back in 1986 when humans had silly, big brains, there was speculation and various theories as to how the diversity of life got to the islands. In chapter 2, the narrator introduces James Wait- a man who has cleaned out each of his seventeen wives' bank accounts and left them. Wait is in the Hotel El Dorado in downtown Guayaquil, and has just purchased a ticket for the "Nature Cruise of the Century" to the Galapagos Islands. Wait checked into the Hotel El Dorado under the name Willard Flemming and claimed to be a Canadian engineer who recently lost his wife to cancer. In reality, Wait is a high school dropout and result of an incestuous father and daughter couple from Ohio. James Wait ran away and met a pimp who taught him to be a homosexual prostitute, then  later became a dance instructor and criminal womanizer. There are only five other passengers to be on the Bahia de Darwin nature cruise, all of which we are warned will soon be faced with the Darwinian test of survival.

The narrator goes on to tell that the world, in 1986, was enduring a financial crisis that was a part of a  series of catastrophes which had, "...originated in...human brains." (pg. 25) The world was going bankrupt, and it wasn't because of a lack of money or resources, but because of humanity's opinion of money and resources. People were starving even though plenty of food was available- a problem among many that oversized brains caused. Humanity's opinion of currency was plummeting at a rate that made many forms of money completely worthless. Vonnegut persistently reminds the reader that the evil in the world in 1986 was purely created by the human brain.

Chapter 6 introduces another one of the six passengers of the Bahia de Darwin, named Mary Hepburn,   a middle aged widow and retired biology teacher. We learn that Mary's oversized brain is her own worst enemy and is pushing her towards suicide, as well as producing many insecurities. Mary is concerned that she may have a brain tumor, like what her husband died from that very same year. It was her husband, after all, who signed the pair up for the "Nature Cruise of the Century," a decision that Mary is blaming her oversized brain for convincing her to follow through with.

The section closes with informing the reader that in the present, one million years after 1986, that Darwin's Law of Natural Selection has applied to human's brain sizes by making them smaller.

Side note: Vonnegut was also from the midwest and studied mechanical engineering for some time at the University of Tennessee. I am curious to see if there will be any other parallels between James Wait and the author.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Week One: Chapters 1-7

For those of you who have read or previously begun reading this book, you don't have to answer these questions. Or, at least don't spoil it for others who haven't read the book yet. Thank you!

   As Discussion Leader for this week I have to come up with three (or more) questions regarding this section of the book for you to answer. They're open ended questions (short answers, not "yes" or "no"), and are either about the book itself, or about something that happened directly in the book. Here we go!

1) Who do you think the narrator is, and how did he die? Why is he the one telling the story?

2) "The two with stars by their names would be dead before the sun went down." [19] As the narrator tells us a little about the other passengers' on the ship, he puts stars next to those who are going to die, and says that this will continue throughout the story. Why do you think he let us know that these characters are going to die, and how are they going to die?

3)"The Bahia de Darwin was also doomed, but not yet ready for a star by her name."[21] The narrator lets us know that the ship is going to go down eventually, but not when. Do you think this will happen before, or after the ship makes it to Galapagos?


Thursday, February 6, 2014


We are Kayla, Utah, Lillian, Juliana, and Alana, and we are reading and dissecting Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut. We chose this book because we were interested in reading something by Vonnegut, for he offers a new perspective on science fiction and the human condition. In Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut examines the novelty and necessity of the human mind through an inclusive analysis of the moral complications of human evolution. Enjoy!