Wednesday, 06 May 2009

Why even fight if you don't fight dirty? I always have a hard time convincing students that the violence in Watchmen is categorically different from the chompurfzung violence traditionally featured in comics. Dave Gibbons draws Watchmen in the same style he used in a previous collaboration with Alan Moore ("For the Man Who Has Everything") to depict Wonder Woman thrutching Mongul: Although there might be an implied low blow in that panel, the thrust of the violence clearly moves from her fist to his face. Compare that to what Lori does to a street thug in Watchmen: Gibbons and Moore let you know that Lori's the sort of hero who castrates men with her bare hands. There's no incidental knee to the groin here as there was in the Wonder Woman panel: Lori grabs the thug by the balls and yanks. The creases in the thug's shirt do the work that the speed lines do for Wonder Woman. (Much like the blood in these panels.) The absence of speed lines creates the impression of a quiet violence that persists even as the palette shifts from the browns and yellows of the first panel to all shades of pain in second. Yet because Wonder Woman and Lori are both cartoons, on first read students think these very different violences more similar than not. And did I mention Lori enjoys doing this? Compare her face to Dan's when they each realize what's about to happen: They know the thugs stand no chance. They know they could dispatch them with ease. Yet Lori still fights dirty. She's the tenth-grader who picks fights with fourth-graders and goes for the eyes. In this respect, the gratuitous violence in Snyder's film actually corresponds to what we have in the book—and what we have in the book is a portrait of the hero as a sadistic bully.
Would that I had natural wit and talent enough to play baseball professionally. (Some humility would also be nice.) Fans of good writing (which, if you're reading this, you clearly are), I would like to introduce you to Chris "Disco" Hayes. He may be rough around the edges, but he has a sense of prose (so rare in an age when so few read) and can turn a phrase. Not surprisingly, he has an analytic turn of mind. But this post is about the writing, so here he is on PFPs ("pitcher's fielding practice"), which consist of a line of pitchers waiting to walk up onto the mound to fake their pitching motion and run over to a ball that has been rolled down the third base line by a pitching coach, pick it up, and throw the ball to a lucky veteran pitcher who is stationed at first base. After completing your turn, you go back to the end of the line and repeat. Once you have been through enough times that you are convinced playing in games is merely a drill to prepare you for PFPs[.] Prior to the start of spring training, I'd advise you begin joining every minor league player in cheering hardest during the World Series not for a team, but for solid PFP work. You see, the first week of spring training for pitchers is a series of lectures from pitching coaches about how important PFPs can be. Imagine the momentum and the voracity with which these lectures were given in the Spring of 2007 after the Tigers' PFP performance in the 2006 World Series. I had cold sweats and my feet started to ache in mere anticipation of the upcoming spring training during game 5 in 2006 as Verlander Bucknered the 5th of his team's 5 PFPs into right field for the 7th and 8th unearned runs en route to losing the series. On being humbled by a physical and humiliated by a physician: My calves are really the one and only attribute of my body people might look at in a body catalog and want to order for themselves. My ankles are skinny and athletic-looking and my calves are well defined. [F]rom the knee down I'm pretty proud of my body. [The team physician] taps the back of my ankle near the Achilles and says, "Make sure you stretch this out well, it's a bit tight." I take it to heart (though it nearly breaks mine) and nod my head. Duly noted. And then the joke hits me. It's witty, it's relevant ... ah, it's perfect. It happens so fast, before I know it my lips are making a coy, dry grin to indicate I'm about to be a smart alec. I figure the Doctor has a hundred physicals to perform, I might as well make a part of his day funny. Accordingly, I ask, "Would you say it's my Achilles Heel?" I swear I'm not making this up. It was so perfect. Contextually ... My entire body functions perfectly, but there's one specific area that may be a flaw that...

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