The Unmatched Strength of Loyalty

A consistent motif found in King Lear is loyalty. Many characters exercise varying degrees of loyalty, and their decision to stay loyal to their sides of the conflict acts as a deciding factor in their deaths. Albany, Edgar, and Kent the three notable survivors, are all loyal to Lear’s side. Despite remaining on the side of Regan, Goneril, and Cornwall for the majority of the play, he denounces his loyalty to them and gains empathy for Lear, ultimately earning his survival despite not recognizing the deception of his superiors sooner. Likewise, Edgar, through both his legitimacy and innocence, assists Gloucester and Lear, ultimately killing his brother Edmund, avenging his trickery and misdeeds. While not completely loyal to Lear, the sheer force of his actions is what spares his life.

Kent is the most loyal of Lear’s aides. Although Lear “fires” him in Act I, Kent refuses to give up, and continues to serve him under disguise. However, Kent is not simply loyal out of blind trust, he understands Lear on a personal level, and knows when to call him out. This honesty may be to his detriment, but it shows the strength of his character.

Let it fall, though the fork invade

The region of my heart. Be Kent unmannerly

When Lear is mad What wouldst thou do, old man?

Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak

When power to flattery bows? To plainness honor’s bound

When majesty falls to folly. Reserve thy state,

And in thy best consideration check

This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgement,

Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,

Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sounds

Reverb no hollowness.

-Kent (Act 1, Scene 1)

If Kent was not truly loyal, he would not call Lear out on his tendency to cave to flattery, and despite being banished for his outspokenness, he continues to serve him. Kent’s loyalty is not hollow, he is loyal to Lear on a level unmatched by any other character. This exhibition of powerful loyalty is what earns him his survival.

On the contrary, Edmund, Goneril, and Regan end up dead due to their lack of loyalty to Lear. Goneril and Regan outright defy their father and act as the opposing force against his power. Their deaths are products of their own failures and spite, driven by their own villainy. Edmund is killed by his brother Edgar, who is a servant of loyalty. His death is largely symbolic in that he represents a lack of faith in the play’s “force of good”. While he shows a bit of self-awareness for his actions, it is too late, and he is already bleeding out by the time he recognizes his failures.

Grooving to the Very End

Using a diverse pallet of funk, hip-hop, big beat, house, techno, blues, soul, jazz, and more, composer Hideki Naganuma illustrates a vibrant variety of serotonin-laced jams. Unlike traditional artists, most of his songs do not use lyrics to provide the “meat” of a song. He instead uses sampled vocal cues that act as compliment to the instruments.”Teknopathetic” is a standout song in his discography, as it relies more on its vocals to send a message.

The song establishes a chorus which is repeated many times:

playing games
Thinkin’ I’m done
exchanging names

Beginning on the second repetition of the chorus, a woman’s chanting provides a rhythmical backing. A “conversation” between the two persists.

Later, the second verse employs the use of iambic pentameter:

You’ve been taking much too long
tryna’ find what’s going on.
Wasting all my precious time
while you’re making up your mind.
You think you’re really in the know,
waiting for the sign to go.
I’ve been waving that green flag
and you still ain’t moving.

A sense of rhythm is maintained through the lyrics, as the first seven lines stick to a distinct seven-syllable beat, broken by the last line’s six. Additionally, the first six lines contain three sets of consecutive rhyming pairs, adding to its poetic nature.

“Teknopathetic” speaks of “love and its troubles”, evident through its usage of dating terms and conversational vibe. This pairs well with Hideki’s other song “The Concept of Love” which shares a similar overtone. The break at 2:54 uses a dissonance of synths followed with disharmonic piano plinks, the woman’s voice is noticeably replaced, and it ends abruptly after the word “stop”. The dissonance is disorienting and contrasts to the harmony present earlier. Both the woman singer leaving and the abrupt ending signify the termination of the speaker’s relationship. Love is complex, confusing, unpredictable, and at times, pathetic.

Jet Set Radio Future (the work where “Teknopathetic” is featured), is a video game depicting an alternative future to Japan. Freedom of expression is illegal and gangs of teenagers roam the streets, fighting against oppressive forces via graffiti and roller blading. Released in 2002, its namesake stems from its explosive soundtrack featuring both licensed hip hop and Japanese punk rock, as well as tracks original to the work.

Meursault and Sisyphus: Making Do in a State of Suffering

Meursault has been sent to prison. He has committed the ultimate crime, murder, by shooting an Arab man five times.

This mirrors Sisyphus’s position of eternal punishment, being bound to roll a rock up a mountain, only for it to fall back down, in a continuous loop forever.

But writer Albert Camus insists that Sisyphus is actually happier than most humans ever will be. That, because his life is confined to suffering, by changing his mindset and accepting his reality, living as a prisoner instead of a free man, Sisyphus can live in eternal bliss.

“All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is a thing. (Camus)”

Meursault, rather than wallowing in his own pity and desiring the outside world, he adapts to the state of his life and accepts his punishment, achieving a morbid sense of comfort in his suffering. Meursault is the model prisoner, his life is carved out for him and he accepts it, rather than dreading it. He has his small fixes, but ultimately understands that his life is only punishment, and in his trademark boring and detached way, he’s accepted it. Only time will tell what awaits him next. How will what comes next tie into The Myth of Sisyphus, if at all?

“A Conversation about Bread” and the Double-Consciousness Writing Struggle.

As Eldwin attempts to write his ethnographical assignment based on Brian’s school experiences, he finds himself trapped in a creative rut. As he and Eldwin are two of the few black students in the overwhelmingly white UCLA, Eldwin feels pressured by Brian into writing his essay in specific ways. Should he write his essay without sacrificing his creative vision, which could potentially be misinterpreted as conforming to or reinforcing racial stereotypes? Or should he sacrifice his vision and conform to how white people want to see his work? Can a story be told without treating the subject as an object? This struggle continues throughout the story, and spurs many revisions of his essay.

As Brian puts it, “There’s no real way for you to capture the regional differences without getting all stereotypical. … Like, why would you want to tell this story about a bunch of black Southern guys discovering bread anyways? What purpose does it serve unless it’s to show yourself as somehow better than them?” (178)

Eldwin responds “Because it’s a good story, about cultural differences, racial differences, class differences. It’s more about how many different kinds of black people there are than it is about making everyone but Junior seem like a type.” (178)

Both of them make good points here. At the end of the story, a compromise is not reached. Where should the line be drawn? How can this issue be overcome?

Spiderhead and Our World

Escape from Spiderhead is presented as a story far removed from the norms of our world. We’re shown testing facilities complete with made-up drugs, snarky scientists, and prisoners of experiments who have lost their right to decide their fate. While the story may seem extremely unrealistic, I wonder, is this where we’re headed? I hadn’t really connected the dots until I read this small line,

“In his defense, Abnesti was not in such great shape himself: breathing hard, cheeks candy red, as he tapped the screen of his iMac nonstop with a pen, something he did when stressed,”

This line, while pointing out Abnesti’s declining state of health, also reveals that Apple is an existing company in this universe. Among made up devices and compounds, Darkenfloxx, Verbaleuce, Vivistif, Mobipak, there is an iMac, a recognizable device from our world. While Escape from Spiderhead surrounds us with its own terminology, this iMac is here to remind us that the events of this world our still happening in a version of our world, a world not totally impossible via the means of science. How do we end up on this dystopian path, where prisoners are slaves to research, and where chemical weapons become emotional weapons? What can we do to stop it?