Jizvy minulosti aneb tátovo houkání

Amores Perros – spála je kurva. Tato nemoc, kterou si prošel kdekdo, a s mnohem přízemnějšími zážitky, mi léta páně 1994 přichystala rodeo emocí a utrpení, které na mé onehdy křehké duši zanechalo jizvy, jež mě dodnes zbroceného potem budí ze spaní.

Zavřete na chvíli oči (zatímco čtete tento text), přesuňte se na infekční oddělení Bulovky v dobách smradlavých chodeb a dvoubarevných zdí a pohleďte na rozkvétajícího chlapce, jehož kořínky se zdají být ohroženy zákeřnou nemocí, která ho ze dne na den zchvátila…

Bylo to tak:

V deliriu injekcí do prdele a čtení nemocničního vydání Saudkovy Muriel (jejíž identitu a historickou hodnotu jsem znovuobjevil až o mnoho let později dílem náhody a volných asociací, které vytáhly na světlo útržkovité vzpomínky z bílého teroru infekčního oddělení) jsem se potácel místností a ronil slzy. Brečel jsem tak srdceryvně, že nám sestřičky již během mého prvního večera v nemocnici přinesly malou černobílou televizi, která po dnech rotovala mezi pokoji, a přislíbily nám jí nechat natrvalo, respektive po celou dobu mého pobytu, pokud přestanu řvát.

Mé nejhorší utrpení však bylo teprve na cestě (pravděpodobně přesedalo na Palmovce na tramvaj a vyráželo směrem Bulovka).

Jedním z hlavních zdrojů mého strádání byla totiž separace od rodiny a postupně narůstající pocit opuštění. Kde jsou mí stvořitelé? Proč mě nepřišli navštívit v mé nejtěžší hodině, jak řád nemocnice dovoluje? Obzvlášť tato otázka mě sžírala zevnitř a moje zloba se mísila s nekonečnou strastí. To jsem ovšem ještě netušil, že druhého dne měly být moje pocity rozdmýchány intenzitou Supermanova dechu.

Jako by to bylo včera vidím zkroušené tělo pohublého hocha, jak se neklidně převaluje ve své hormonální disbalanci, a přemítá nad jedinečnou krutostí svého osudu, když tu – co to? Šálí ho snad sluch? Z dálky jako by se na perutích naděje téměř neznatelně nesl zvuk, který slýchaval již od útlého dětství! Legendární „houkání“ svého otce, zvuk, tvořený přiložením obou dlaní k ústům v jakési bergmanovské parodii lesního rohu, zvuk, jež Holub starší vytvářel na neslyšící osobu s překvapivou zručností. Chlapec odhazuje propocené povlečení, které zde hořce zvou peřinou, a vyskakuje z postele, řítíc se k oknu, odkud snad zvuk přichází.

Ale běda! V cestě výhledu z okna, ba i jeho otevření, brání lešení! Co za ďábelskou rekonstrukci si dovoluje bránit mu popatřit na vlastního otce! Zběsila šmátrá, snaží se najít úhel, který by snad poskytl uspokojivý pohled na chodník pod nemocnicí. Marně. Že by se mu snad to jen zdálo? Že by snad již konečně praskla cívka jeho mysli, tak hrubě navíjená od včerejšího dne? A ZNOVU! Ten vábivý zvuk na okraji spektra, který teď jako by se mu téměř vysmíval. Leč chlapec je si již jist, že jeho původcem není nic než prázdno v jeho duši, lovící z hlubin vzpomínek hřejivé volání rodiče. Ulehá do postele a zoufale přitiskává okraje polštáře ke svým uším, aby se oddělil od toho ďábelského zvuku, trhajícího jeho duši, který se ozývá znova a znova. Otec nepřišel. Nikdo nepřišel. Je sám.

Přetočme kazetu života o pár dní dopředu a retrospektivně se poperme s mystériem neznámého houkání. Jak se ukázalo, tatínek tehdy přišel. Přišel se na mě podívat, a nenechal mě v píče nemocniční péče, bohužel však sestřička nerozuměla jeho „hluché češtině“, když jí pokynul přivolat Martina Holuba, a přivedla mu zcela jiného chlapce. Zhrzen se vydal pod okna infekčního oddělení a jal se mě přivolat sám – svým legendárním houkáním.

A tak již dnes vím, že venku byl, tam za tím lešením.

Za lešením, které mi zjizvilo srdce.

Inside you

Oh how I love

Being inside you

.

Only when I´m enveloped by your warmth

And your variety

Do I feel complete

(like watching the Secret World of Arriety)

.

I quite appreciate

When I can penetrate

Your deepest, darkest hollows

That elated ecstasy surely follows

Oh how I love

Being inside you

Prague

How I love being inside you

I prefer the Martin Holub style, says Martin Holub

Martin Holub is one of the very few advocates of the Martin Holub lifestyle in the Czech Republic. „Partly hipster, partly tripster,“  is how this psychedelic drugaddict with a disseminated lifestyle describes himself. „It´s a style that´s difficult to define. I feel more at home in this style than in aristo, coco bello, animo or lepro. However, I´m not sure how others would feel being Martin Holub. It´s very non-mainstream.“

It is indeed very difficult to properly express the way of dressing, thinking, performing sexual acts or even the methods of excretion collected under the term Martin Holub. „Sometimes I pee sitting and sometimes standing up,“ contemplates Holub. „It depends on my mood and the political situation in Uzbekistan. I´m not sure how to extrapolate this for larger public.“

In spite of certain similarities with other alternative lifestyles, Martin Holub is so alternative he returns to the mainstream. „The only real alternative to the alternative today is the mainstream. Even the mainstream is becoming too mainstream though. The only option is some sort of a sidestep.“

Where?

„It´s impossible to say at the moment,“ concludes Holub.

The Last of Us, intermezzo (SPOILER HEAVY)

“In his dream she was sick and he cared for her. The dream bore the look of sacrifice but he thought differently. He did not take care of her and she died alone somewhere in the dark and there is no other dream nor other waking world and there is no other tale to tell.”

The Last of Us is a game about three broken watches. One of them, the literal, is given to Joel on his birthday by his daughter Sara, barely a few hours before she is violently taken from him forever. Whether the watch breaks sometime during the first day of the infection or during Joel´s later exploits remains unclear. It is of no consequence, however, as it serves both as his anchor to the past he can´t seem to leave and a metaphor for himself and the world. Much like the watch, both Joel and the world are frozen in one terrible moment, in that one day that changed everything. The twenty years that have passed between the night of Sara´s death and the outbreak, and the game´s plot, are merely a twisted reflection, an empty caricature of time´s passage. Nothing has changed about the world, nothing moves forward, neither the world nor Joel; both reluctantly floating in the eternal limbo of civilization´s final dawn. The giant cogs moving the world have stopped, brought to a screeching halt by a random act of some sick God, collapsing society onto itself in a matter of days and showing once and for all how fragile it had always been; the cogs within Joel have stopped as well, strangling whatever was human inside him and leaving only a survivor. Much like the world, Joel SEEMS to move – and yet what we see moving is merely his body. His mind and his soul are trapped within a broken sheet of glass, screaming as they are constantly forced to relive the last night of his life.

 

“Dark of the invisible moon. The nights now only slightly less black. By day the banished sun circles the earth like a grieving mother with a lamp.”

 

Videogames, as well as movies and books, have been overflowing with “anti-heroes” in the recent years. By anti-hero we mean a main protagonist who escapes the common definition of a hero and makes us feel like we´re watching a “real” person. However, what we have been fed were not anti-heroes, but their simplified caricatures. We have been lead to believe that anti-hero is someone who is perhaps a bit rough around the edges and is willing to go further than others and make some morally ambiguous decisions, only to come through at the end and show a heart of gold. In this version, the sole point of using an anti-hero was not to attempt to confront any “real” character with the events of a particular plot, but only to make the story grittier in the cheapest way possible.

Enter Joel. Joel is not an anti-hero in any way we can understand it and he sure as hell ain´t a hero. Joel is a survivor. Joel is a man faced with the impossible and coming on top in the only way one he knew how – by sacrificing whatever held him down. Joel is in it for himself, not in a blatantly selfish way, but in a distant, calculated way of a man who has lived in a cruel world for so long there is nothing he wouldn´t do to survive. Joel was not the man to give a beggar his spare change when the system still worked, and he is not the man to stop for an abandoned family when the it no longer does. But much like Kurtz in Conrad´s Heart of Darkness, being removed from an externally controlled existence between the baker and the policeman (meaning the safety of a civilized society), Joel is forced to make active decisions much harsher than “merely” leaving a family to its fate.

At several points of the game, it is hinted that Joel hasn´t flinched from committing outright crimes in his past. When he and Ellie are attacked by a gang of marauders, he remarks that in the years following the outbreak, he had found himself on both sides of an ambush. During his brief confrontation with his brother, he asserts “I did what I HAD to do to make sure we survive!”. Indeed, what must have he done to make his own brother leave him and swear to never see him again?

Joel stopped caring about anything at all after Sara´s death, and even that he tried to bury deep within the painfully translucent folds of his memory.

 

“Just remember that the things you put in your head are here forever, he said.

But you forget some things, don´t you?

Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”

 

Denial is the name of the game. Joel pushes back everything that makes him feel. He refuses to take Sara´s picture from his brother - he grows furious at the mere mention of her. Even 20 years later, we find him unable in the EXACT same way to accept Tess´s death. “YOU DON´T BRING UP TESS. EVER!” he shouts in Ellie´s face when she tries to voice her sympathy. Joel survives. Those who don´t get lost behind and damn them all to hell. Were we to ask ourselves how Joel faces his past, we would have been forced to simply state that he doesn´t . The past doesn´t drive the clickers away, the past doesn´t put food on your table. And that´s it.

 

“He knew that the child was his warrant. He said: if she is not the word of God God never spoke.”

 

Enter Ellie. From the first moment, it is clear that she is a burden to Joel not only because he has to drag a child around, but because she is a constant reminder of something he had lost so long ago. How do you deny your past when it stares you right in the face?

The game takes a long long time to bring Joel and Ellie together. How it happens is not important. It´s a road travelled one word a day.

At the end of the game, Joel is faced with a decision – either let Ellie die and cure the rest of humanity in doing so, or save her and doom mankind to its grim fate. For Joel, this is no decision at all. Without a moment of hesitation he shoots the surgeon in the face and lifts Ellie off the operating table. Afterwards, he blatantly lies to her, telling her that the Fireflies have dozens of immune people like her and that she needn´t worry about her role in the future of humanity anymore.

In the final sequence of the game, Ellie, deep inside knowing what Joel is, asks him to swear to her that everything he said about the Fireflies and the cure is true.

“I swear.” replies Joel without a flinch.

A question thus arises: why did Joel choose her over the world? Our minds, trained to spot amiable “anti-heroes” lure us towards thinking that he did it for her. Oh how good he is deep inside!

Bullshit. Joel saved Ellie for one reason and one reason only. Himself. He knows that Marlene was right in saying that Ellie would have preferred to die for humanity. But that´s not what Joel prefers.

The only thing that matters to Joel is that he WILL NOT lose another little girl. He won´t go through the same pain. This is his absurd and uncalled for second chance and the world can burn for all he cares as long as Ellie is alive.

 

Joel as a character is so intriguing precisely because he eludes any general proclamation. Watching the final credits, we are tempted to comfort ourselves by thinking „and now he´s finally found peace“ or „now he´s grown“ or perhaps „and now he´s changed“

No. The stark reality is that nothing changes about Joel. Joel is like his broken watch, stuck at a point of time when the world made sense. He is never going to be the same because the world just doesn´t allow it. He makes the same decision he would have made twenty years ago for his daughter. He chooses to struggle on in a hostile world. In the end, what will change will not be Joel. It will be Ellie.

“In his dream she was sick and he cared for her. The dream bore the look of sacrifice but he thought differently. He did not take care of her and she died alone somewhere in the dark and there is no other dream nor other waking world and there is no other tale to tell.”

The Last of Us, část první: v čem je nejlépe hodnocená hra současné generace tak trochu jako sex

Na Last of Us jsem se posledních pár dní těšil tak, jak jsem se asi nikdy na žádnou hru netěšil. Ne, že bych nějak hltal trailery nebo gameplay videa (kterými jsem si beztak nechtěl nechat nic prozradit), ale tak nějak jsem si říkal, že tým, který stál za nadpozemsky kvalitní trilogií Uncharted (a který v ní prokázal, že každou další hru dokáže dotáhnout ještě dál) prostě nemůže zklamat. Pak se napříč herními magazíny objevila absolutní hodnocení a i osm dní do data vydání se najednou zdálo být zoufale dlouho.

V pátek 14. jsem proto už okolo desáté naklusal do obchodu, vyzvednul si onen údajný poklad a vyrazil s ním domů. Ruce se mi klepaly excitací, když jsem disk vyjímal z obalu a horečnatě jím penetroval svůj PlayStation. Naskočilo intro a prvních pár herních kroků.

Po velmi působivém a emocionálně nabitém prologu tempo lehce zvolnilo a hra se přede mnou začala rozevírat jako stydké pysky při prvním styku. A v dokonalé analogii onoho prvotního kontaktu s maximem lidské komunikace jsem po pár minutách nedokázal zahnat palčivou otázku „To je jako všechno?“

The Last of Us se v tomto ohledu vskutku podobá sexuálnímu aktu. Dokud jsme ho ještě neprožili, těšíme se na něj víc než na Vánoce. Pilně trénujeme sami doma, nanášíme deodorant do nervozitou propocených podpaží a zoufale doufáme, že až padne koza na kámen (haha), dostaneme erekci. S určitým zmatením nás pak překvapuje, že jsme penis nestrčili do samočinné továrny na rozkoš, a že si ten sex musíme vlastně aktivně udělat sami. Zkoušíme to ale znovu a znovu a ejhle… ono je to lepší a lepší, a najednou přichází všechno, o čem jsme snili. Ovšem nejenom, že to všechno přichází, ono to tam tak nějak celou dobu bylo, a my jsme to pouze nedokázali vidět a využít.

Opusťtme teď ale na chvíli sféru sexu a vraťme se k TLOU, které je (snad ještě stále) předmětem tohoto příspěvku.

Nechci o ději hry nic prozrazovat, tak si jen shrneme to, co je implicitní: příběh se odehrává v postapokalyptické budoucnosti, která je takovým mixem McCarthyovy Cesty a Mathesonovy I Am Legend. Svět se již 20 let potýká s neznámou infekcí, která lidi mění v zombie; z hrdých měst Ameriky zbylo jen několik výsp civilizace, řízených nekompromisně efektivní armádou, a zbytek je „divočina“, kde se za svobodu platí nočním terorem. A to nejen nemrtvých, ale i těch, ve kterých zemřelo lidství a neváhají vás pro špinavou košili střelit do srdce.

Herně se jedná o mix survival hororu a stealth akce, ve které se veskrze na střídačku potýkáme se zombíky a zparchantělými lidskými „nájezdníky“. O náboje je samozřejmě nouze, takže je třeba vymýšlet finty, vyrábět primitivní nástroje a nebát se občas použít pěsti.

Není to však herní systém (i když i ten postupně nádherně rozkvete), který hru dělá tím, čím je. Nejlepší odpovědí na to, proč je vlastně TLOU tak pohlcující, je paradoxně otázka - a to otázka jednoho mého kamaráda „Co dělají herní záporáci, když se zrovna nepokouší ovládnout nebo zničit svět?“, jíž lze celkem jednoduchým myšlenkovým posunem rozšířit na „Zajímalo by mě, co dělají VŠECHNY postavy, všichni lidé, které ve hře minu i neminu, když se na ně zrovna nedívám.“

Právě v nevídaně komplexní reakci na tento vpravě existenciální dotaz je kouzlo Joelovy cesty. V univerzu, v němž z každého nuzného obydlí, z každé prohnilé matrace a fotky oblíbené kapely, z každého pohozeného dopisu a ve vaně trouchnivějícího těla, z každého zrezivělého grilu a rozbitého knihkupectví, lemovaného troskami umírající kultury, čiší život. The Last of Us nabízí svět, ve kterém se skutečně žije, svět, jehož obyvatelé se ze dne na den honí za přídělovými kartičkami na jídlo, barikádují dveře, vzpomínají na doby před infekcí či si o nich jen vypráví … a pokud na to přijde, pokud opravdu není zbytí… střílí své přátele, dostihne-li je infekce.  A to bez toho, že bychom je u toho jedenkrát museli vidět. Stačí se ve hře rozhlédnout a prostě VÍME, že to tak je…

(konec první části)

A craving

That can never be satisfied

A pleasure ever partially denied

An aspiration that can never become true

A story greater than the sky

And the oceans blue

 

What mockery stands behind the conception of my mind?

To love things not of this world

Not things that were -

Or will be -

Or could be -

 

To love the distant thunder in the hearts of planets

And living skies

The forgotten gods and remembered demons,

The imaginary spires of ancient cities floating through the cosmos for all eternity

Of every Atlantis, Avalon, Asgard, of every Camelot and Zion, of every Olympus and Ubar

 

Alas, never will I hear that thunder

nor witness the combating skies

nor see the gods and demons clash and reunite

Nor ever set foot within a forgotten city

 

Yet with all my heart

As long as I live

I will love the great story above all else

 

As much as it was never given to me at all

It can never be taken away

 

A craving

That can never be satisfied

A pleasure ever partially denied

An aspiration that can never become true

A story greater than the sky

And the oceans blue

What if gender roles in advertisement were reversed

Today, I saw a video called „What if gender roles in advertisement were reversed?“ (see below)

http://www.good.is/posts/intermission-what-if-gender-roles-in-advertising-were-reversed

Indeed, what if?

Being an avid proponent of gender equality (which may not be that apparent from the shitstorm below, but bear with me), I was interested in what it had to say about the portrayal of men and women in advertisement.

What I got instead was a shitload of manipulative pseudo-informative “facts” spiced with completely unrelated statistics that hurts the gender equality movement way more than it helps it in a way that only a spiced shitload can.

For one, the video mixes ads from various time periods, as if it´s somehow necessary to make a statement about ad posters from the 40s. Yes, it was a surprise back then that a woman was able to open a ketchup bottle, black people sat in the back of the bus and weed caused people to murder each other. It was a stupid period, as all are when looking back, as ours will probably be one day, simply because the governing sense of propriety changes. Get over it.

What´s more alarming, however, is the sudden and entirely random insertion of statistics about domestic violence. Domestic violence IS a problem and it is in all possible ways unacceptable, whether it´s directed one way or the other (cause yes, there are women beating men). However, I don´t really see how it RELATES to women being sexualized in advertisement. I sexualize my porn folder and my masturbation sock but that doesn´t mean I feel like beating either to a bloody pulp. When women are being dominated in advertisement, it´s not a “make me a breakfast or I´ll roundhouse you in the face” kind of domination, it´s sexual. And here, I will only be talking from personal experience (so it may differ for others) but I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t enjoy being handled roughly; not emotionally or mentally, mind you, but sexually. All we hear is “treat us like ladies” when really, in private they wanna be treated like whores. And again, I don´t FORCE anyone to want to be treated like a whore, but who am I to deny them if they do? But yeah, I guess there´s that hypothetical woman who wants sex to be a thing of respect bracketed by “may I insert?” and “Stop! Ejaculation time!”

 

The crowning jewel of the video, that is the inverted ads, is as off-mark as the rest of it. You know why? Because they are in most cases not offensive at all (at least to me). I enjoy being dominated as much as I like to dominate and in fact, I kinda cherish the idea of being dildo-humped (cause I assume that´s what´s happening on the pic) by a woman while drinking my morning cup of coffee. No irony there, I swear. The ads I did find offensive, or more precisely preposterous, are the ones where the authors completely twisted the point of “sexualizing”. Like the one with „Obsession for men“. Excuse me, how is the female counterpart of a ridiculously hot chick that fucking whale of a lumberjack? When you give me a bulging Adonis in shorts, I will nod and move on. Cause guess what? I don´t think ANY man on Earth minds being sexualized. Wanna pull at our pants, makes us beg for sex and open our legs (for whatever reason) with tools (or whatever we are interested in)? GO AHEAD, WE´LL HANDLE THAT KIND OF PRESSURE.

The girl who barks/bites? Awesome, give me more.

„I can´t fix an engine. Who cares.“ should even by my life motto. Except it left a bitter taste in my mouth because it goes hand in hand with the made-up statistic about rising problems with hypermasculinity. If anything, and I should know, it´s easier and easier to live, function, and be attractive as a non-hypermasculine male. There are myriads of types of women and men with different preferences. I aim for the ones who don´t need testosterone to drip from my every pore. It´s my choice, it´s their choice, it´s all fine. If you wanna be a raging 200 pound feminist, then you´ll also have to shop among different males. Like overweight mountaineers because hey, why should they be fit when it´s all just social pressure?

I guess my point here is be who you wanna be, but don´t be surprised about people (in this case some members of the opposite sex) who would like you to be different. And get that boobjob, we wanna have enormous tits in our lives. It´s not advertisement, it´s biology.

Elektronická hudba aneb to odsampluje každej

Asi by mě to už v sedmadvaceti nemělo rozhodit, ale nedávno jsem opět narazil kdesi v útrobách internetu na diskusi o elektronické, resp. samplované hudbě a o tom, že dělat „pípání na počítači“ a mixovat v programu něco, co ani nevyloudila lidská ruka/noha/hlasivky, není žádné umění.

Přeskočím protentokrát veskrze bezvýsledné debaty o tom, co si představit pod slovem umění, a pokusím se soustředit na stěžejní otázku, čili: obnáší hudba ze samplů nějaký um?

Pro ty, kteří nemají trpělivost číst celý můj elaborát, odpovím rovnou, že ano. Obnáší.

Hlavním argumentem odpůrců elektronické hudby je, že jí nikdo „nehraje“, že chybí nějaký lidský faktor šikovného prstokladu či prostě jakéhokoliv druhu „fyzické“ reprodukce tónů. Je ale to, co dělá hudbu libou, zajímavou či emocionálně silnou, její náročnost? Obecně se samozřejmě jedná o preference. Někoho skutečně uchvátí, že Satriani nebo Malmstein hrají něco, co by nikdo jiný nezahrál, a to bez ohledu na to, že sekvence zvuků, které na svých kytarách vyluzují, nemusí být vlastně ani moc libozvučná. V tom případě si ale musíme položit zásadní otázku, proč hudbu vlastně posloucháme? Je to proto, že je náročné jí zahrát? Velmi pravděpodobně ne, většina lidí by (předpokládám) odpověděla, že poslouchají hudbu, protože je jim nějakým způsobem libá. Jinými slovy hudba se neváže až tak k raciu, jako spíše k emocím. A v těch je málo místa na to, jestli jsou kytarové linky náročné na zahrání nebo ne.

Samozřejmě, existuje jistá souhra mezi tím, co je náročné vytvořit, a co je libé. V hudbě o něco méně, nebo alespoň méně uchoslyšně (hudební varianta očividně), než třeba v malbě, kde se nám asi nebude prostoduchý panák líbit tak, jako precizní zachycení oceánu, přesto ale zajímavost obrazu také netvoří zdaleka jen to, jak náročné ho bylo namalovat. V mnoha směrech jde hudba i opačným směrem – uchu je mnohdy libá jednoduchá, leč originální či překvapivá sekvence zvuků. We Will Rock You má „tleskací“ linku až provokativně banální, a přesto jí zná víc lidí, než cokoliv, co Satriani někde potí v rohu na kytaře. Riffy AC/DC zahraje kdokoliv po třech lekcích kytary, přesto si dovolím říct, že uchu apelují právě ony, a nikoliv Angusovy (Angovy?) sóla.

Vraťme se ale ke specifiku elektronické hudby, respektive k jednomu zajímavému rozdílu mezi vizuálním a audio uměním. Hudba ve svém lůně vlastně chová uhrovité MCs již delší dobu, a to v podobě klasických skladatelů. Bez ohledu na to, že by si většina skladatelů nějaký ten part pro hoboj asi sama odehrála (stejně jako náš uhrovitý MC patrně umí třeba na lesní roh), jejich kouzlo tkví v jejich schopnosti hudbu NAPSAT a nikoliv ODEHRÁT. Nikdo nechodí poslouchat klasickou hudbu, aby (hypoteticky) slyšel Dvořáka vrzat do cella, stejně jako se nechodí dívat na to, jak někdo ve třetí řadě skvěle hraje na flétnu. Pomineme-li akustickou složku živého koncertu, chodíme si poslechnout jeho kompozici, nikoliv de facto „samply“, které nám jí zprostředkovávají. Na konci jsme dojatí k pláči a tleskáme, protože s námi pohla tklivost či heročinost, nepláčeme proto, že jsme právě viděli ansámbl skvělých hudebníků.

Samplování hudby se v tomto směru od klasické hudby nijak neliší. Kompozice je zkrátka v hudbě vždycky důležitější než v jiných druzích umění. V případě malby by asi těžko pochodil někdo, kdo by měl „bezva nápad na obraz“ a nechal ho namalovat svojí ukrajinskou uklízečku. Možná ale i zde vyvstává jistá racionálnost vizuálního umění oproti zvukovému. Nejsme-li posedlí procesem tvorby, zajímá nás emoční dopad, nikoliv schopnost hudbu podat.

Na závěr snad jen okrajově zmíním, že jsem jednou viděl na youtube video, kde nechali lidi hrát si s profesionálními programy na samplování a dopadlo to katastroficky. Rozhodně nestačilo nahodit basovou linku, klikat na zvuky a sem tam přihodit do mixu nějaký ten rhythm-breaking element.

Samplování je prostě kurva obtížná facha, parchanti. Dobrou noc.

Tags: hudba sample

Tales from Master’s Thesis: Analyzing Watchmen, part 3

3.4. Costumed sexuality

Sexuality is indeed a strong influence on Moore’s depiction of superheroes, even though, or maybe precisely because, it has always been tabooed in the genre. Up until the publication of Watchmen, sexuality, and the act of sex itself, have been curiously omitted in the medium, reflecting perhaps the fallout from the laws imposed by the Comics Code Authority (a censorship system which at one point prohibited comics from containing directly depicted violence, foul language, women’s breasts, or even villains escaping from prison, as it supposedly ridiculed the American judicial system). Watchmen, however, provide an entirely new way of looking at the reasoning behind vigilante crime-fighting.

 

Moore connects sexuality particularly with costumes – an essential part of the superhero identity, and a symbol of potency and power. The relationship between impotency and potency is well-mirrored by the relationship between the civil and secret identity of the hero; this subtext has been present since the very first superhero story: “Superman’s prowess in defeating Butch Matson is only the earliest of many examples of the sudden virility and sex-appeal gained when character changes ‘into costume’. What if the costume were more than just a sign of the inner change from wimp to Superman? What if the costume itself were the sexual fetish and the source of sexual power?” (Reynolds 32)

 

In Watchmen, Moore reinterprets this transformation both literally and symbolically: he deconstructs the semiotic function of costumes in order to deconstruct the values and motivations of superheroes themselves. As Reynolds points out, in Moore’s hands “costumes are either sexless, denying the humanity of the hero within, or garments of great erotic significance.” (Reynolds 30).

 

The most obvious example of this is Dan Dreiberg’s unsuccessful attempt to have sex with Laurie Juszpeczyk in issue 7, and the subsequent successful intercourse between the two onboard Dan’s ship. While in the first case, it is Dan and Laurie, who have sex (or rather try to have sex), as ordinary human beings, in the second they are no longer in mufti: the protagonists of the intercourse are not Dan and Laurie, but Nite Owl and Silk Spectre. Only the transformation of identities, and the presence of costumes, provides Dan with the necessary virility, which is only confirmed by the post-coital dialogue: “‘Dan, was tonight good? Did you like it?’ ‘Uh-uh.’ ‘Did the costumes make it good? Dan…?’ ‘Yeah, I guess the costumes had something to do with it. It just feels strange, you know? To come out and admit that to somebody. To come out of the closet.’” (Moore, issue 7, 28)

 

The scene heavily undermines the supposedly ‘noble’ and ‘pure’ motivation behind costumes, and costumed crime-fighting, present even in their design: most costumes are in fact highly sexual, tight-fitting on men, and blatantly revealing on women. Their shape suggests potent muscularity and seductive sexuality – and yet, within the story, it is never addressed as such. In golden and silver age superhero comicbooks, the heroes are stripped of their sexuality, if only to vindicate the ambiguity of their clothing. Their costumes communicate both a highly erotic message, and a warrior-like abstention from sexuality.

 

In Watchmen, Moore tries to deconstruct this apparent opposition, and reveal behind it a new (or rather ever present), quite disturbing meaning. The character of Nite Owl intentionally resembles Batman – both have a totemic relationship with a creature of the night, rely on gadgetry and martial arts, and lack superpowers. However, as Reynolds points out, “The costumes of both are dark in color, suggesting the flying night creatures from which they derive – yet also include the rubber or leather masks associated with rapists and serial sex killers.” (Reynolds 32).

 

Although Reynolds’ reading of the semiotic function of Batman’s and Nite Owl’s costumes might be taking the meaning too far, it is true that leather, rubber and latex are closely connected to fetishism, and especially sadomasochism. This obviously sheds an unsettling light on the motivation of the two heroes: sadomasochism, much as vigilantism, contains dishing out and receiving punishment. What if the true impulse behind their seemingly honorable crime-fighting is a desire to satisfy socially unacceptable needs?

 

It is no coincidence that Nite Owl’s civilian alter ago, Dan Dreiberg, is portrayed as an aging man, who might in real life be indeed attracted to costume-clad superheroines. His fascination with sadomasochism is hinted at in issue 7, when Laurie pokes around his flat, finding a picture of a dominatrix dressed in latex and leather. The dedication states simply “From one ‘Night Bird’ to another. Love, the Twilight Lady”, but it is the ensuing dialogue that reveals its deeper significance: “‘Hmmm… what’s this?’ ‘That? Oh, that isn’t anybody. It’s just this vice queen I put away back in ‘68. Called herself Dusk Woman or something.’ ‘‘The Twilight Lady’. She sent you her picture?’ ‘Yeah, well, I guess she had some sort of fixation. She was a very sick woman. I keep meaning to throw the picture away, but you know how it is…’ ‘Mmm…’” (Moore, issue 7, 5). Laurie’s eventual acceptance of Dan’s fetish is also communicated on the level of costumes, as at the end of the story she says: “I want a better costume, that protects me: maybe something leather with a mask over my face…” (Moore, issue 12, 30)

 

At this point, Dreiberg seems to bear no interest in the matter, but shortly after his unsuccessful sexual attempt, he dreams of the Twilight Lady, equipped with a whip and clad in leather. The two characters then proceed to rip apart their clothes, the Twilight Lady revealing a naked Dreiberg, and Dreiberg revealing Laurie Juspeczyk. However, the shedding of identities does not end at this point, as Dreiberg’s sexual ego and potency reside within his Nite Owl persona. Laurie thus rips apart Dan’s skin to reveal him in his costume, and he does the same for her. The significance of this scene for the understanding of Moore’s deconstruction of costuming and superhero identity is immense – it uncovers the complicated relationship between secret and civil identities, and the suppression of one’s ego in and out of costume. Dreiberg sees his civil identity, in which he cannot fully embrace his sexual desires, as a mask, and his costumed alter-ego as his true self. This is a characteristic he also shares with Batman, who is often depicted as tapping into his true nature only in costume, with Bruce Wayne being merely a persona whose sole purpose is to provide necessary resources for costumed crime-fighting. The said phenomenon is delved into in for example Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth: “‘I want to see his real face!’ ‘Oh, don’t be so predictable, for Christ’s sake! That is his real face!’” (Morrison, Arkham 31). Arkham Asylum is also interesting because it only proves the enormous significance of Watchmen for the industry as well as for the entire concept of superheroism: Morrison’s study of Batman’s repressed sexuality would possibly never come into existence without Alan Moore’s disturbing insight into the motivations and sexuality of vigilantes. After the publication of Watchmen, it became impossible not to read into superheroes stories, be their publication prior or subsequent to the one of Watchmen, a sexual raison d’être. (see appendix 1)

 

However, as was already in part mentioned, Moore does not aim only to deconstruct the justification of costumes, but also the perceived absoluteness of the distinction between a mask and the ‘real’ identity. Dan Dreiberg feels more complete inside the Owl costume, because it allows him to recreate himself as he sees fit. His struggle to regain the true self is quite precisely mirrored in the struggles of Dr. Manhattan.

 

Dr. Manhattan represents the only true super-being in the story, but more importantly, the only being that is markedly non-human. Perhaps because of his former state as a human scientist Jonathan Osterman, he attempts to imitate humanity, towards which he feels an increasingly declining sense of responsibility. If we read Watchmen from Manhattan’s point of view, it is a story of a continuous act of losing touch with the human state of existence: Throughout the narrative, Manhattan gradually bares himself of emotions and conventional reasoning, becoming a thing we can only conceive of as God; the concept being partly confirmed in his last conversation with Ozymandias: “‘But you’d regained interest in human life…’ ‘Yes, I have. I think perhaps I will create some. Goodbye, Adrian.’”(Moore, issue 12,27)

The transformation of Manhattan’s relationship towards the existence of life on Earth, from an engaged association, through absolute disregard, to an awed, yet distant fascination, could be a topic for an essay in its own right, but what is important for us is that Dr. Manhattan is the only character in the story lacking an alter-ego. Or is he?

 

Even though he seemingly embraces his newfound state of existence in full, completely shedding his former identity but for the abbreviation ‘Jon’, he still falls victim to the duality of a comicbook superhero. His alter-ego is not a person, but a species: his alter ego is his attempted humanity.

 

This is the reason why throughout the story, Dr. Manhattan sheds his clothing, piece by piece, only to end up completely naked towards the end. With each layer of clothing removed, he reveals more of his true self, his true non-humanity, and becomes further disconnected from the human race. It is quite interesting to note how Dr. Manhattan’s transformation also symbolizes a journey towards potency (albeit not sexual). The full range of his abilities is prohibited from him until he frees himself from the last remains of his humanity – only then does he become fully omniscient and omnipotent.

 

He therefore functions at the same time as Dan Dreiberg’s opposite and parallel. To achieve potency, Dreiberg has to don a costume, leaving behind his natural appearance. However, in order to do the same, Dr. Manhattan must revert the process: he sheds his ‘costume’ (a costume of humanity) and embraces his natural look. Both characters attain potency through the retrieval of the true self, but each of them finds it at the opposite (and yet the same) end of the alter ego spectrum. The connection between the two is also reflected in their shared relationship with Laurie Juspeczyk.

Tales from Master’s Thesis: Analyzing Watchmen, part 2

3.3. Deconstructing the hero

One of Moore’s aims in Watchmen was to look behind the curtain of the superhero genre, and show the reader its protagonists in their true, infinitely fractured light, without the masks of absolute categorization. According to Ian Thomson in his work Comics As Philosophy,  Watchmen represented the coming of age of the entire comicbook medium by “developing its heroes precisely in order to deconstruct the very idea of the hero and so encouraging us to reflect upon its significance from the many different angles of the shards left lying on the ground” (Thomson 101).

By deconstructing the underlying principles by which we distinguish heroes from villains, Moore achieved a state in which the symbols we expect to communicate a particular meaning communicate something else entirely. In this respect, his approach is similar to the one of Grant Morrison in Animal Man – the bottom level of understanding, the ‘dictionary of perception’, is transformed, and thus all the higher levels of discourse fail to retain their ‘original’ meaning.

This is best exemplified by the difference between the Comedian and Ozymandias. The Comedian is a Captain America pastiche, who functions as a satirical reworking of the nationalistic hero – he is determined to uphold the laws imposed by the state at any cost, disregarding their moral ambiguity. Under regular circumstances, the Comedian would be read as a positive force within the story, a position which is confirmed not only by his allegiance to the ‘flag’ (emphasized by his costume design), but also by the fact that he is attacked (and killed) at the beginning of the story. This detail is extremely important: by law, it is never the hero who prompts a conflict; it is always the villain (unless there is a third party involved, which is threatened by the villain). This seemingly leaves us with only one option: reading the Comedian as a hero. However, as we delve deeper into the story, we realize that it is impossible to see him as such – he attempts to rape his team-mate, Sally Jupiter, and possibly countless Vietnamese women, performs his duties with appalling ruthlessness (especially during the war), and employs villain-like brutality to uphold the status quo. Moore also uses the Comedian’s costume as a means of underlining the transformation (the importance of costumes for the perception of superheroes is examined in detail in section 3.4.); in his most productive years, Comedian changes his traditional super-heroic eye cover for a full leather mask, this time not only resembling (as in the Nite Owl’s case – see section 3.4.), but fully constituting a mask of a dangerous criminal and – quite appropriately – a mask associated with rapists.

 

In short, the Comedian fails to fit into a definitive category: he opposes the main ‘villain’ of the story and under all circumstances fulfills his orders (administered by the United States government, by default a ‘positive force’), dons the American flag as his costume, and is a victim of an attack, rather than its perpetrator, but in all moral respects outside the expectations of the genre embodies the vices of the most inexcusable sort.

On the ‘opposite’ side of the equation (but at the same time sharing the gray spectrum), we have Ozymandias: a retired superhero and a successful businessman, who, by forfeiting his vigilante career, forfeits his claim in the ‘good guy’ category; at the end of the story, he is revealed to be the mastermind behind the ominous doomsday plan, as well as the Comedian’s killer. However, in the same way as it did for his victim, the depth of his character causes him to elude the simple categorization we would expect from the superhero genre. He is truly the Comedian’s opposite: by all standards, he should be read as the negative force within the story, a perpetrator of an insane mass-murder, a killer – a true ‘bad guy’. And yet, his qualities lead us on an entirely different way of perceiving his actions; he is virtuous in every sense of the word: courageous, wise, strong, respectful, and above all, morally committed to his actions (however twisted his morality may be). It is his desire to bring a lasting and global peace to humankind, which fuels his actions, whereas his opposite, the Comedian, is only motivated by his lowest desires and boundless cynicism.

An interesting point raised by Reynolds in Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology is that Veidt’s actions are partly prompted by the realism with which the superheroes of Watchmen are confronted: by removing the tangible enemy from the storyline, its heroes, and Veidt in particular, are forced to face “more intangible social and moral concerns, effectively removing the whole concept from the narrative expectations of the genre” (Reynolds 115) –in other words it is the social and moral concerns that led to the formulation of Veidt’s gruesome plan – he would have no need for attacking the major Earth cities in order to instill world peace, were his only problems the occasional brawls with costumed criminals.

Moore’s intricate portrayal of the two warring sides of the villain/hero duality shows this duality as much less absolute than we might believe (or unintentionally expect) it to be – in fact, it illustrates, in full, the impossibility of such a distinction. In Watchmen, as hard as we might try, we cannot distinguish good from bad – only the infinitely mirrored reflections of the two in each of the characters.

“The whole point of the book is to say that none of these characters are right or wrong. They are all humans or former humans who are doing the best according to their lives and according to the circumstances as presumably do we all. I didn’t want to make any character the one who’s right, the one whose viewpoint is the right point, the one’s who’s the hero, the one who the readers are supposed to identify it, because that’s not how life is.” (Khoury 114)

This point is also emphasized by the deliberate ‘moral indifference’, with which the comicbook is written. Although the story is largely narrated by Rorschach, it is ultimately the reader who must decide with whom to sympathize, as the ambiguous feeling of the work prevents a simple categorization of the characters, typical for the superhero genre. Moore’s approach to the morality of the characters is reflected in the non-linear, simultaneous layout of the story, mentioned in section 3.5., which aims to disrupt the obviousness of importance and unimportance of certain aspects of the narrative, again leaving the reader with the decision on how to read it.

Aside from dismantling the opposition between heroes and villains, Moore also examines the forced clash of superheroes and the real world, in order to show how their behavior, their course of action, and their perception of the world and themselves, would be transformed in such a setting. The immense influence of Watchmen on the superhero genre is clearly visible in this respect: since their publication, the tendency to move superhero stories towards more ‘reality’ has become the most dominant trend within the genre (as is proven in particular by the works of Mark Millar, such as 1985, Wanted or the Ultimates).

The characters of Watchmen, Rorschach in particular, and their relationships, are used to show not the impossibility of the superhero lifestyle, but its probable impact on the parties involved. As Reynolds point out: “More than just tough guys, these heroes or anti-heroes follow through the logic of their code, even if it leads to their own destruction. A realistic rendering of the traditional superhero code would have meant the same fate for Batman many times over (…) ending in death against overwhelming opposition” (Reynolds 107).

Walter Kovacs/Rorschach is a prime example of this: his vigilante war against crime must necessarily mean abandoning any connections to a normal life. Several characters point out his unpleasant body odor and his filthy appearance. This was indeed Moore’s intention, as he himself says “If you’re a vigilante, then this is what you’re going to be like: you’re not going to have any friends because you’re going to be crazy and obsessive and dangerous and frightening; you’re probably going to be too obsessed with your vendetta to bother about things like eating or washing or tidying your room because what have they got to do with the War Against Crime?” (Reynolds 117)

Although Rorschach’s actions are guided by a strong moral code and in spite of his viciousness, he successfully invokes an image of a superhero, he is an outsider - the undesired social element, especially in his civil life “Rorschach, in short, is cut from the template of the vigilante superhero, but with every semblance of glamour apparently taken away.”(Reynolds 107). This is indeed the most probable course of the ‘lone vigilante’ lifestyle, confronted with the complexity of human motivation and psyche.

Rorschach is also, much like the Nite Owl (see section 3.4.), a victim of his own costume: without it, he is but a shade of his true self. This is best illustrated in issue five, when he is arrested and unmasked by the police: “No! My face! Give it back!” (Moore, issue 5, 28). His words only go to prove how completely void of meaning his personal life is. Without his mask, to which he at many points alludes to as ‘face’, he is nothing.

It is also worth noting that Walter Kovacs is so strongly tied to his Rorschach persona, he would rather die as a civilian than as a vigilante. In his last moments, before he is obliterated by Jon in issue 12, he takes off his mask – as if to save ‘Rorschach’ from defeat, and offer his own life instead.

However, as is typical of Moore’s work on Watchmen, the symbolism Rorschach represents does not function alone; he is also a part of a trinity that serves to inspect different ways in which a superhero, if faced with real world, would possibly become cut off from the rest of humanity. The other two parts of the trinity are created by Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias.

Each of these heroes is, either due to the nature of his abilities, or his motivation, disconnected from the human race. Dr. Manhattan’s power is so incredible it slowly removes him from the human affairs; the struggles of lowly Homo sapiens become entirely alien to him towards the end of the story, as he points out at several points during his conversation with Laurie on Mars: “Don’t you see the futility of asking me to save a world I no longer have any stake in?” (issue 9, p. 8);”In my opinion, it (life) is a highly overrated phenomenon. Mars gets along perfectly without so much as a micro-organism.”(Moore, issue 9, 13). “I read atoms, Laurie. I see the ancient spectacle that birthed the rubble. Beside this, human life is brief and mundane.” (Moore, issue 9, 17). In many aspects, Dr. Manhattan is not unlike the most iconic superhero of all – Superman, who, in spite of his singularity, remains faithful to the human race - a behavior which Moore tries to deconstruct with his rendition of Manhattan. Manhattan’s opposite in the sense of power range, Ozymandias, took a very different road, and developed his mental and physical faculties to such a level as to exceed any other man on Earth, purely by harnessing the latent potential present within every individual (this is also put in a strong contrast to the purely accidental omnipotence of Dr. Manhattan). The deliberateness of his training is closely bound to his desire to control and reform human affairs (while Dr. Manhattan, true to his origin, sees only determinate randomness, which should not be tampered with). However, despite being invested so much in it in general, Ozymandias is so removed from the rest of his species that he ultimately deems it appropriate to sacrifice millions of lives in order to achieve a long-standing peace and harmony. In this, he is as removed from humanity as Dr. Manhattan.

The third part of the triangle, Rorschach, possesses neither the godlike abilities of Dr. Manhattan, nor the social power or physical and mental excellence of Ozymandias. He is also the only of the three who solves problems ‘hands on’, and deals directly with others – yet much like his counterparts, finds himself entirely disconnected from them. His separation is caused by the very war he wages: he can no longer perceive people as people; he only sees victims and actual or possible criminals, and the psychological space he reserves for his Rorschach persona is necessarily taken out from his own identity. In other words, the more he functions as a protector of his fellow men, the more he is detached from them.

“(Rorschach) is almost completely outside the bounds of the society he chooses to protect.” (Reynolds 106).

The trinity that Moore uses to deconstruct the conflicting nature of superheroes under the pressure of their own actions, sheds a pessimistic light on the very possibility of a superhero life, as the only people in the story who are able to lead a ‘normal’ life are those that have forfeited their vigilante career.

Another look at Moore’s work is not concerned with what it signifies for the future of the superhero mythos, but with the ripples it sends backwards in time, taking value from the conventions we thought were immovable. Geoff Klock points out that “Moore’s exploration of the often sexual motives for costumed crime-fighting sheds a disturbing light on past superhero stories and forces reader to reevaluate every superhero in terms of Moore’s kenosis – his emptying out of the tradition.” (Klock 65).

Klock also sees this ‘retrospective ripple’ in the story itself, namely in Veidt’s attempt to first destroy and then reconstruct in order to build a unity which would survive him. This clearly echoes archetypal redemptive violence principle.

The retrospective ripples, created by Moore’s Watchmen, carry a particular significance in the field of comics. Due to the unique narrative device called retroactive continuity (‘retconning’), which is closely related to the concept of a shared universe (see section 2.2), comicbooks are much more retrospectively susceptible to present changes of their content. In this respect, no other medium is as vulnerable as comics. The issue of multiple character authorship (further discussed in relation to Grant Morrison’s Animal Man) is often resolved by publishers and copyright owners ‘retconning’ certain pivotal moments in a given character’s history. The retroactive continuity essentially serves two functions, the latter of which is generally considered of greater importance: it removes inappropriate, illogical, redundant or otherwise undesirable content from the story and it ties together its crucial events (often contributed by different authors) to create an illusion of a more complex and interconnected storyline. These functions are facilitated either by addition, alteration, or subtraction of the material. Naturally, the various types of functions and devices of retroactive continuity often overlap.

As is mentioned in other parts of this thesis, the perception of a medium by the reader is shaped both intentionally and unintentionally by the medium itself; in other words certain idiosyncrasies the medium exhibits are frequently accepted by the readers as its ‘rules’ – not in the sense of what must be done, but more in what particular effects represent. In the same way the experienced comicbook readers unconsciously understand the fundamental difference between the authorship in the realm of comics and in the realm of literature, they also understand that this ‘shared’ authorship inevitably prompts many instances of retroactive continuity, and readily accept the retroactive continuity as an inseparable part of the comics storytelling.

This also means that the past of comicbook characters is not perceived as an unchangeable truth, but rather as something that is almost as likely to be changed as their future. It is therefore no surprise that Moore’s contemplation of superhero motives and sexuality in Watchmen ‘retroactively’ changed the perception of the sexuality and motives of comicbook characters in the prior comicbooks. It certainly revived discussions first prompted in 1954 by Dr. Frederic Wertham’s infamous book Seduction of the Innocent, in which he proposes that aside from comicbooks being offensive to the law enforcement system, they also portray disturbing non-stereotypical gender roles and implicit sexual symbolism. Wertham was particularly upset by the relationship between Batman and Robin. “They constantly rescue each other… Sometimes Batman ends up in bed injured and young Robin is shown sitting next to him. At home they lead an idyllic life. They live in sumptuous quarters with beautiful flowers in large vases… Batman is sometimes shown in dressing gown… it is like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together” (Wertham 190).

Although it is the character of Nite Owl who is generally considered a pastiche of Batman, there is also some similarity between Batman and the Hooded Justice. In the second issue, when the Hooded Justice foils Blake’s attempt to rape the original Silk Spectre by beating him to a pulp, Blake screams: This is what you like, huh? This is what gets you hot…” (Moore, issue 2, 7), which seems to greatly disturb the Hooded Justice. While Blake’s remarks can be considered simple insults and do not necessarily reflect reality, they can also be interpreted as Moore’s mockery of Wertham’s assertions about Batman – Hooded Justice most likely really is homosexual and it is also hinted that he has a sexual relationship with Captain Metropolis of a sadomasochistic sort. It is perhaps ironic that the type of sexual themes Moore brought into comicbooks was accepted by the readers as convincing, and they were willing to apply them to comicbooks published even prior to Watchmen, even though Wertham’s opinions were a target of heavy criticism.