Friday, April 12, 2013

Exploding Bodies

 - Reading again. What now?
- An email from Budapest.
- From who?
- The owner of a hostel there thought he saw me on the street, wants me to know he's still my friend.
- He's not? Is he Hungarian?
- American. And not my friend.
- What happened?
- I was reading before in The New Yorker about gun control and exploding bodies of video games and movies.
- Is there a connection?
- It's pathetic when people who write for the corporate owned media seem to be trying to say something true, and just can't manage it. The staff writer wanted to say that maybe killing people while playing video games or identifying with characters doing it on movie screens might have a bad effect, even if it isn't directly creating a nation of actual mass murderers. There is something not nice about it, in the writer's opinion. But maybe gun control is a better option than censorship.
- Why is that "pathetic"?
- He was on the verge of saying that people have characters, habits that are learned, that give abilities to do certain things and inabilities to do others. That they are not completely free. That they have a story to their lives. Video games, violent movies, are about the denial of character. A classic detective story begins with a murder, the death so far from being anatomized that it is often not even described. Murder means a life story cut short, and the detective story itself is a restitution of the lost life, one story continuing and in a sense making up for the loss of the other.
- Interesting.
- You think? Good. What really is the exploding body for, that we lovely Americans like to fill our lives of imagination with? What does it do for us?
- What?
- Is it like eating a grape, the beautiful shape crushed in our mouths, releasing a flood of nourishing fluid?
- We're cannibals then.
- It could be we are attracted by the appearance of  bodies, and their explosion gives us some kind of satisfaction. But that seems to be wrong.
- Why?
- Because we are not attracted by the forms of bodies, but by the destruction of form. Sexual attraction drives us towards a body, exploding bodies spectacularly move away from us. Exploding bodies are appreciated as an attack on character, on life story.
- You really think we hate character?
- We are being trained to. If the only reason to do things is to make a profit, and we are supposed to make profit by any means, character, a life story is a hindrance, both to ourselves and others. When its served its purpose, it would be best if character could be blown to pieces, one story after another cut short, like bodies exploding on the screens of our computers and theaters.
- We've become mass murders of human character, that's what you're saying.
- Gun control won't help us out here.
- And the hotel owner in Budapest?
- The hostel life in East Europe is like living in a video game, an ongoing, collective mass murder of character. Everyone is crowded together, forced by noise and confusion to conform to the standard behavior of drugs, drink, gambling, movies and video games of course, going out to get robbed at strip clubs (a daily occurrence, 500 euros per person the usual loss). Nothing can happen, no story develop. Money is spent.
- Did you say this to the owner?
- Sure.
- He didn't care?
- Of course not, not as long as I kept my ideas to myself. Profit mattered, nothing else was real.
- So what was the problem between you two?
- He and his manager followed a "finders keepers" rule: anything left behind by a guest, even if they knew who it belonged to, was converted to cash. Often they'd find large amounts of cash too.
- Large quantities of drink and drugs!
- I first stayed at this colorful place after my wife threw me out. I told you about how she was always throwing me out, then the same day, or the next, or a few times longer, asked me to come home. After one last very long separation she flew back to L.A., and I suddenly resolved to go meet her there.
- What did you forget?
- A ten volume, hundred year old beautiful set of Shakespeare.
- Which was found and kept?
- First no one had seen or heard anything about some books. Then the manager said it had been at his house for months. That he then gave it to the owner. Who said he gave it to his girlfriend who was in Canada. Who contacted on Facebook said she never saw the books.
- And you got angry?
- No. The owner wrote me that "they" threw him out, but not the manager, after I stirred things up.
- What did he mean? What did you do?
- I wrote back asking him who threw him out, but he hasn't answered. I didn't do anything in particular. But when you try to do things in a world where no one is supposed to have a story, things have a way of getting done. He was writing to me because he wanted my help dealing with his manager who'd become his partner. The last time I saw the owner he'd invited me to a cafe to discuss a job opportunity. If I worked full time 5 days a week watching the hostel at nights, he'd give me a bed in one of the many bed dorm rooms. And on Saturday I'd get paid for working during the day, 1000 Forints.  Five dollars. Total monthly salary for working full time 6 days a week: 20 dollars. I told him he was crazy. He said the bed in the dorm was worth 20 dollars a day in the high season. I told him oppressed slave laborers don't usually pay 20 dollars a day to sleep in a room full of drunk and drugged wandering youth. He said he needed someone he could trust to watch the place, he was sure the manager was stealing from him. Later he started claiming everyone was stealing from him, me included. He'd lost 25,000 dollars in two days of playing roulette. This though his uncle made his living as a professional poker player going from casino to casino, and he himself was so good at poker he had to deliberately lose when he played at the legal poker parlors in Budapest, and even still he'd take home hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- What happened to him?
- What happened to the world?