Awakening to my Purpose


Friends,

Things are now in full swing for me; I’m back on the road a mere 8 months after returning from my last excursion, Just Might Be Ok, which saw me quest through Latin America to Ecuador where I found ayahuasca. This adventure, which I’m calling World Was on Fire, has a slightly more reined-in scope as its focused on the American wasteland that is the southwest.
8 months.

That seems like a long time to not be living this life even if it is the shortest time between departures I have yet endured. Part of me feels like I should have been back on the road on July 10, the day after my brother’s wedding (i.e. the only reason I went back home to Canada) but it actually worked out a little better this way as opportunities revealed themselves to me late in the game and allowed me to depart in style.

One such opportunity was flying down to the American SW for a job. Not only was it a nice little cashflow bump but I also got down here on the company’s dime.
Another benefit of departing later was that it gave me time to brainstorm looks, themes and aesthetics I wanted to broach as I traversed the American wasteland. I think all of that experimentation has paid off and culminated in a look which is badass yet softened by various effeminate accents and touches, but most importantly hearkens back to those two most ubiquitous American archetypes, the soldier and the cowboy.
Finally the delayed departure allowed me to test my feelings for my friend, Marijo whom I intend to meet up with over the next few weeks when she flies in from Asia. We had talked of traveling together when we met in Nicaragua earlier this year, but our paths diverged from that point. However, the feelings remained constant which tells me that it’s something more substantial than the strong feelings that surface during a romance in paradise.

So how are things going?

Very well. I was spot on about the goodwill I would receive in America wearing my veteran-status on my sleeve -people are very inclined to approach me when they suspect I’ve served. Beyond that when I engage them in conversation and tell them about my journey they become captivated; either they used to hitch-hike/backpack or they intend to one day and they want to be a part of my adventure.

Whatever it is that motivates people to reach out to me I am aware that there is an exchange taking place even though it may seem one-sided -After all, I’m not typically giving them gas money if they pick me up or paying for room and board if they furnish me a place to crash. Quite the contrary; people who put me up for the evening often furnish me with meals, rides or other above and beyond-type help.

So what are they getting out of it? Well if you’d asked me more than a week ago I would have said that they are getting a story, or a chance to be part of my adventure, or most importantly the glow of living up to one’s highest potential and helping another. That last point especially is foundational to what I’m doing out here: I endeavour to put people in situations where they can act on their better inclinations. I try and streamline and make more attractive the act of doing kindness by making it more interesting, sexy, palatable, etc. After all, it’s so easy to be negative or indifferent to others; it’s almost a reflex. So I’m trying to get around people’s default programming by putting them in an uncommon situations that said programming may not account for.

**As an aside, it’s a beautiful thing when people get that curious look and start asking me about what I’m doing -for all intents and purposes I’m a bum on the street but that descriptor is reductive and frankly inaccurate. After all I’m not asking for anything but I am incentivizing the offering of help.**

However if you asked me what people get out of helping me now, after what I’ve learned in this last week, well the answer has changed, or at least refined. I stayed with the Kramer family this past weekend in Oro Valley and on my last night with them sitting around the campfire they helped me realize that I have something else to offer. I was tapping my bongos along to some music while we sat out there and their son, Kadin put on a hip-hop instrumental and suggested I rap (freestyle). I was reluctant at first but then something occurred to me. Beyond the fact that I’d alluded to my fondness for freestyling in my Couchsurfing profile which I’d met them through, I realized that me dropping bars would amp up the evening and make it better for all.

It was my job to do this.

I rapped for like an hour to various beats and many laughs were had. Did I fuck up, stumble, and say dumb, vulgar shit? Absolutely. But I also said some slick shit and entertained them. I began to realize that this hobby I’ve practiced for years by myself or with fellow “heads” could actually be plied and used to entertain other people and it was an empowering realization. I started to feel like something of a troubadour, a minstrel even.

“The minstrel of the Dawn is he/ Not too wise but oh so free.

He’ll talk of life out on the street/ He’ll play it sad and say it sweet.

Look into his shining face/ Of loneliness you’ll always find a trace.

Just like me and you/ He’s tryin’ to get into things more happy than blue.”

-Gordon Lightfoot, The Minstrel of the Dawn

I’m at a point now where I yearn for a new opportunity to perform and entertain. Not in exchange for food or a room or out of a sense of obligation but simply because it is something that I have to give which can bring joy and so I want to give it freely and openly.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Inconsistency and Contradiction

Friends,

I despise inconsistency. And my friend, this world we live in makes it damn near impossible to be consistent. Why? Because everyone looks at reality at an abstracted level. Their level of abstraction may be morality, or race, or nationalism, or gender, or familial love, or economics, or more likely they have more than one type of abstraction (i.e. having “deep convictions” about both American global primacy and the sanctity of all human life -huge contradiction there) that they compartmentalize in their head and which make them do mental gymnastics in order to prioritize which concern tales primacy when there is a conflict between their views. Take race and gender -the race/gender flavor of dissonance actually came up in a recent discussion where someone took issue with me describing sexual assault allegations as a “quick and easy way to deal with problematic men.” They challenged me on this and I described how these allegations had demonized specifically black male sexuality and there was literally no response.
They knew rape was wrong but they also knew that many a white woman’s lie about being raped by a black man had led to a black man being lynched. In this situation, wat do?

Now pay attention because here is one of the two times Ayn Rand was ever right and worth referencing (please keep in mind aforementioned “universal reality based on natural laws”): “There can be no such thing as a contradiction. If you find you have a contradiction check your premises; one or both is flawed.”

So let’s assume both race and gender are both flawed. What other lens/school of thought/bias/level of abstraction could resolve the#reparativerape contradiction my friend struggled with?
Well we could move laterally and examine it through a different abstraction like sexual orientation, marxist, Christian, or instead of moving laterally we can move up the chain of causality and see where race and gender et al. share a common root. It is from that point where can be begin to perform more useful analyses of reality and put forward more informed deconstructions of the world around us (read: opinions).

Until then we’re arguing fantasies that exist in different fictional universes. “Can you fit more Banthas into a tardis at warp 9 or would its mithril construction prevent that?” -did that make sense? No. Good because that incoherent, inconsistency is exactly what I see 92.3% of the time in comments sections. And really it’s analogous asking if a black escaped male slave is justified in raping the white female plantation owner who had his disabled son euthanized. Frankly, I’m surprised Tarantino hasn’t filmed that scene yet and I would love to see a film-maker play out a scene like that (minus the absurdist disabled son element) in order to see if they could make an audience cheer rape.

Do you hate nazis? Of course you do -it’s easy and you’re a lazy fuck. So in American History X Edward Norton, a neo-Nazi gets raped in prison by fellow NNs. Awesome, right!
No. It’s a horrible thing to watch. No Nazi should get raped. But as always lets be consistent: rape is a form of violence on the same continuum as all forms of violence and so consistency dictates that we instead say no Nazi deserves to be treated violently. But whoa, now we’re sounding anti-semetic and contradictory because we all know that unless you categorically condemn and denounce a whole generation of early 20th German people you are an anti-semitic.

HO, CONSISTENCY!! Cans’t thou mayhaps once again resolve our contradiction so that we can go on enjoying gefilte fish in our lederhosen with no compunction?

Consistency: Mayhaps I can…mayhaps I can…

First, is it really consistent to call one man a Nazi and another a Sioux Indian in light of the fact that they share the same biology and physiology? *** CONDITIONING ASIDE, THEY AS MEMBERS OF THE SAME SPECIES RESPOND COMPARABLY TO THE SAME CONDITIONING -THIS RESPONSE/SUSCEPTIBILITY TO CONDITIONING AS OPPOSED TO THE NATURE OF THE CONDITIONING ITSELF IS IS WHAT SHOULD BE DISCUSSED ROOTED AS IT IS IN CAUSALITY*** -sorry for capsing
If we further streamline our earlier statement about no Nazis deserving violence to “no humans deserve violence” you’ll notice two things:
1. You can’t argue with that statement. Not without adding another contradiction.
2. The magnitude and scope of that statement and the subsequent imperative which follows is immense. Preventing violence against humans is something you could devote a life of work to. On the other hand #preventnazisfromgettingraped is something that may trend on social media for two days -trivial, equivocal shit. Remember, “to be great is to assume great concerns.”

You might say that removing all nuance, labels and separation from people excuses bad behaviour, but I would argue that the application of and identification with said nuance, labels, and separation are what give rise to bad behaviour in the first place.

In summation, i hope this rant has stayed on a tack of coherence or if not, at least made some errant overtures toward it. In the words of Peter Joseph, “I am less interested in what people think and more interested in how they came to think it and how they maintain it as valid.” Right now there are a lot of dumb arguments out there predicated on constructs completely decoupled from reality and its rules. Under these circumstances it is impossible to be consistent and sadly whenever a contradiction erupts between two, say…capitalists about the degree to which government should have its hand in the economy, the tendency is to redefine oneself as an “anarcho-capitalist” or “neo-liberal” accordingly rather than to question and re-examine the assumptions behind government and economy to see if they are still empirically defensible.

More than anything develop a system founded in the principles of natural law then challenge that system by using it to deconstruct every situation you can. If it proves inadequate then strip away what is unnecessary until it becomes simple, universally applicable and lacking contradictions.

Then act on that.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Limiting Beliefs as the Pillars of Human Civilization

Friends,

Recently, I had a conversation with my friend and colleague, Peter Mazzucco about the USMC’s “40% Rule.” The rule itself has interesting implications for will-power, but it also gave me pause to think back and reflect on something which had occurred to me months back then I was on the road shooting my upcoming adventure-documentary, Just Might Be Ok. I was somewhere in Mexico sitting on a rock taking a mid-day water break from walking. I had done 30 km already and was fairly impressed with myself. I reflected on how I had prepared for this undertaking: several full days every week spent in the late-summer heat walking the Hamilton region. My feet had toughened, my endurance had gone up, and the muscles in my legs, hips and lower back had developed to accommodate these new weight demands. But did these factors actually enable me to walk 30+ km every day encumbered with gear, or was I always able to perform this feat and I simply needed to convince myself that I could (with training and gains).

I found it to be an interesting question with wild implications. First and foremost, if a proverbial “97 lb. weakling” who never worked out walked into a gym with a deeply enough held belief that he could lift 400 lbs., could he?  On the other side of the spectrum, is the professional body-builder able to lift the 400 lb. weight because he has increased his muscle tissue and bone density through his workouts or have those physical changes simply had the desired effect of convincing him that he could lift the 400 lb. weight?

henry-ford-think-quote-mood

What we’re really talking about here is the relation of thought/belief to reality. At this moment, there is a Playstation controller on the table in front of me. In theory, if I have a deeply enough held belief that I can’t lift the controller or if I have some fear-based aversion to touching it, it’s not getting lifted, regardless of how much I have worked out. On the back end, isn’t that the same as not being able to lift it?

Ability has at least as much to do with mentality as it does with outward physical appearance and musculature. However, our mentality shapes us and so those with strong mentalities, disciplined mentalities, typically have bodies which reflect this. This too, could be seen as an indication of the relationship between thought and reality.

When discussing this idea further with my roommate, Kelton, he broadened the question by asking if the 97 lb. man could use levers and pulleys and other such machines to perform the lifting feat. I figured that that still counts as exerting one’s will upon reality and so I said sure. When you think about it, this is how society works: We can’t do something; “fly” for example, so we build machines like planes which allow us to do just that and see our will imposed upon the world around us. But this also made me think of another aspect and nuance of the question: We have laws and regulations governing aviation, what if we had laws and regulations prohibiting the use of levers and pulleys? Well, in absolute terms, the 97 lb. man could contravene the law and still lift the 400 lbs., but assuming he came up in the authoritarian public school system and our society more broadly, he would likely have a deep-seated fear-based aversion to using prohibited machinery. Again, on the back end, this is the exact same as not being able to lift the 400 lbs.

I would go further in fact to say that all laws and their corollary rights fundamentally serve as limiters of possibility. They limit what we believe we are capable of. I used to look rights and laws as opposite ends of a continuum, both flowing from a central point (the state/authority/power), the former protecting the individual and the latter protecting the collective, and always in a constant state of tension. There is truth to this view, but within the context of limiting beliefs I began to conceive of a new conceptual model for our relationship to rights and laws.  Imagine that same central point (the state), but it is above us and it projects beams downward and outward to envelope us in an upside down funnel shape. These beams are rights and laws, and while they are touted as guarantors of freedom, they actually act as bars caging us into the activities and potentials the state has dictated to be acceptable.

5-ways-to-overcome-limiting-beliefs

Every law and right is in fact a micro-aggression which limits our possibility. Even the most well-wrought, agreeable laws, against killing perhaps, even these still limit our conception of what is possible for us in this world.

It’s at this point where the unimaginative might derisively retort, “So are you saying that we should get rid of all laws, you anarchist?” -as if such a proposition is completely ludicrous. I think the abolition of laws and rights is a desirable state to get to but it is a state we can’t discuss without talking about other societal changes which are beyond the scope of this post.

For now, it is simply important to recognize that every new law, rule, right, guarantee, statute, and stipulation is coercive. Recognize that you have been conditioned to be afraid of force being used against you for contravention of the laws. Recognize that a law against stealing means that there are consequences for stealing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t steal.

You can do anything. Convince yourself of this. Believe it at an experiential level, and begin to undo a lifetime of limiting programming.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Midnight at the Pier

Friends,

This story was inspired by the following prompt from r/writingprompts. Enjoy!

Times are tough and the world is not what it used to be. You have no choice but to become an illegal pokemon trader.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

Midnight at the Pier

Mirko stood on the dock watching as the crane loaded the last seacan onto the ship. The dull boom it made as it was set down was met with his cathartic sigh. They wouldn’t be out of the woods until they were in international waters but Mirko always felt better when the loading was done. It meant the worst was behind them; the deed had been done and now they just had to slip out undetected. As the crane pulled away and the deckhands started strapping down the last of the cargo, he texted his client:

“LOADED. DEPART IN 5”

He allowed a smile and pulled a pack of Marlboros out of the left pocket of his leather jacket, withdrew a cigarette with his lips and pulled out a lighter from his right pocket while his left hand returned the pack. He lit the cigarette with his left hand covering the flame and took a long inhale, allowing the smoke to fill his lungs and waited for the head rush and euphoria to hit before exhaling through his nose.

It seemed to be a another routine shipment. This was good. This was expected. They had bribed the right officials. They had operated at night and they had acquired their merchandise without incident.

Well, mostly without incident. There had been that one Lopunny a few days ago. It’s trainer had come home just as his men had finished bagging it. Luckily the sentry by the door had been able to knock him out with a pistol just as he pulled out a pokeball which contained a Charmeleon. In the early days they would have taken the Charmeleon too, but the years had shown that to clientele of more …discerning tastes, Pokemon had value beyond just battling. They were willing to pay a higher price for Pokemon which were less of a liability to transport, less of a liability to own, and less of a liability to keep as…pets. Mirko willfully abandoned this train of thought as quickly as he had set upon it. He preferred not to think about what his clientele did with their acquisitions. To him it was all business and he used that rationale to stay detached.

250px-428Lopunny
Pokemon #428: Lopunny

“They should have killed him” he thought to himself dispassionately of the Lopunny’s trainer. From a strictly pragmatic perspective it made sense. Stealing from trainers was certainly a more consistent means of acquiring merchandise than trying to capture in the wild, but it also carried the risk of trainers tracking them down and coming to retrieve their property in force. One of the reasons Team Rocket had collapsed was because it grew too big, got too caught up in its own notoriety and made too many enemies. Sure, they had procured some of the strongest Pokemon, but they were so flagrant about it that the most powerful trainers put aside fierce rivalries and united to stop them. Giovanni had tried to play both sides: he wanted to be the bad guy and the legitimate gym leader. At one point he had even tried to reinvent himself as a Robin Hood of sorts.

“Doesn’t work that way though. You are what you are. Piss enough people off and one day there’ll be no peace for you anywhere in this world. Better to operate this way” Mirko thought, “No making a name, no uniforms, no trying to go legit. Better to be shadowy, amorphous and adaptable….like a Ditto.” He chuckled at this last observation, but  this drew him back to a train of thought he didn’t enjoy as much.

250px-132Ditto
Pokemon #132: Ditto

“Christ! There’s even a Ditto in the manifest,” he reflected. “Seems that some clientele are more discerning than others in their tastes.”

The most in-demand merchandise he dealt in were the small, furry and more feminine mammals; Vulpix, Lopunny, Eevee, etc. And while he found those predilections distasteful he could at least understand the interest on some level. He’d gotten to know some of his clientele and they seemed well-adjusted (by eccentric millionaire standards) so maybe it was some faulty wiring; who was he to judge? Even Ponytas and Rattatas he could understand when push came to shove. But Ditto just seemed bizarre to him. Sure it could turn into whatever the client wanted, provided they already had one on hand, in which case it was a moot point. But its cost was so prohibitive that it made more sense to just buy one or more of the desired species.

“Unless the client has a taste for a pink gelatinous blob” he thought. His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of one of his men.

“We work while you stand and smoke, is that it?” the man asked in a jovial, familiar way.

“Ah but Zdravco there is a visible labor and an invisible labor, and just this moment I am thinking,” Mirko replied.

“Please enlighten me as to what a two-bit smuggler philosophizes about” Zdravco asked while reaching out his hand for a smoke.

Mirko reached into his pocket for the pack of Marlboros and extended it toward Zdravco as he smiled and leaned in close. Zdravco grabbed a cigarette but Mirko waited for him to lean in as well before he spoke.

“Would you fuck a Ditto?”

Zdravco responded without missing a beat: “Not even with your dick.” Then, “You have a light?”

Mirko chuckled while retrieving his lighter and lit Zdravco’s cigarette.

“Are we ready to disembark?”

Zdravco took a long inhale and sighed a large volume of smoke while going over the clipboard he carried. The smoke lingered above and between the two men for a few long seconds before dissipating into the chill night air.

“Yes….”

“But?”

Zdravco gulped slightly.

“Miro should have been here by now with a Jynx, but he is late and not responding to my calls.” Mirko pondered this. Miro had with them for only a few months and didn’t know too much about the operation, but he had proven himself reliable. Still, they had a deadline.

“Miro will have to catch up with us elsewhere. Tell everyone to get aboard. We leave in 2 minutes.”

As Zdravco began barking out orders over his walkie, Mirko saw a quickening of activity in the floodlit darkness, and he smiled at this. All of these men he commanded were “Pokemon Masters” in their own right. They had, as a minimum, obtained all of the badges in one league or more. Some of them had even beaten the Elite 4. Imagine their surprise then when they had had achieved such status only to discover that it didn’t amount to much. With so many trainers, gyms, and upstart leagues popping up over the last 20 years, the profession of “Pokemon Trainer” had lost some of its lustre. Now every bro with a backwards hat and a SILPH muscle-T claimed to a trainer. And the so-called masters? They were no longer those who had won league play but instead became those who could market themselves best on instagram and youtube.

This state of affairs might be lamentable if not for the opportunities it afforded a man of vision. Mirko considered himself just such a man. He never owned a Pokemon himself nor got caught up in the associated culture, but he had seen how others obsessed and decided to capitalize on their obsession and lack of opportunities. He tapped some of his boyhood friends first, those who had gotten starry-eyed about becoming trainers and ultimately been unable to build a life for themselves. He employed them to train Pokemon as pets for those with neither the time or inclination to go down the ruinous career-path of Pokemon Master. As his client base grew he started getting odd requests for specific Pokemon, usually the small, furry ones, to be trained in …particular ways. These requests typically carried an offer to pay more, sometimes double, the market rate. Initially these peculiar requests were a source of lucrative amusement, but as 10% then 25% of Mirko’s staff began specializing in this kind of training…this, pleasure training, he realized that this was the market he should focus on.

He had done well over the last ten years.

“I’ve built an army. An army with allegiance to no nation. An army which rivals that of most countries. The enlistment numbers of a superpower and the dynamic fluidity of a guerrilla band. Highly organized and responsive to my commands.” This thought brought a smile to his face. He took a last drag of his Marlboro and threw the half-smoked cigarette into the filthy harbour water below.

He walked up the gangplank and into his quarters.

The whore was waiting for him naked on his bed as he had requested. A big-titted, anorexic slut from Prague bent over wearing nothing but heels. She was laying face-down, ass-up, fingering both of her holes with curious hands.

“Fuck me, Niantic!” the whore moaned emphatically as he entered.

“What!?” Mirko demanded, “I didn’t hear you, slut!”

“Ooooh…fuck me, Niantic!” The whore repeated in her thick Czech accent as her body convulsed due to the work of her hands. Mirko could tell she had no idea what she was saying but she had learned perfectly the three words which she had been paid to learn. Mirko smiled. He was a practical and disciplined man with few indulgences, but one thing he liked was fucking Czech sluts while they called him by his underworld name.

He unzipped his fly and grabbed the whore’s forearms while entering her.

“Say it again, bitch!”

“Fuck me, Niantic!”

“AGAIN!”

“FUCK ME, NIANTIC!”

He smiled from ear-to-ear as he used up this young girl: “If everyone wants to be a well-known pokemon master, better to be an unknown ‘master of masters.’

THE END

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Mikael the Green

Friends,

The following story was inspired by the following prompt from the Reddit subreddit, r/writingprompts:

[WP] In a world filled with magical weapons, you encounter a grizzled, old veteran with nothing but a simple iron blade by his side.

Enjoy!

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

Mikael the Green

Mikael trudged his way through the undergrowth of the forest. The spongy dirt was further softened by the fallen pine needles and he took satisfaction in feeling the earth give way ever-so-slightly beneath him with each step. The bramble was thick and he cleared it as efficiently as he could with only his gauntleted, right hand. His left he kept by his waist gripped on the hilt of his ancestral sword, DOOMSBANE. He’d studied swordsmanship since he was a child and had trained with many different enchanted blades. Some were said to be a boon to valor; others were said to be imbued with light so that they might more effectively smite the mythical forces of dark -should they ever rise again. He had settled on this particular sword some time ago and it was said to ward off death for the wielder. That the engraved leaf motifs on the blade and the green reticulations on the hilt pleased him on an aesthetic level was an added allure that was simply coincidental. Wielding DOOMSBANE, he had allowed, even gently encouraged his bannermen, squires, and subjects to refer to him as THE IMMORTAL KNIGHT, or, more poetically, HE OF THE ENDURING VERDANCE in reference to both the sword and the green cloak he wore over his emerald-encrusted plate.

 Mary-Soon-Lee_prince-and-the-dragon
Illustration by Mary Soon Lee

He trudged on with a sense of purpose as if on some great mission or undertaking. In fact, he was on a mission of some import, even if only in his own mind, for he felt powerful in these woods and feeling powerful was important to him. “What better place to cultivate a regal presence”, he thought “than in these guarded woods where my family rules and where I am the mightiest denizen? Were anyone to surreptitiously observe me on this expedition could they but doubt my might? For, clad as I am, I appear less a man and more similar to the forest, were it to take the form of a man.” This thought brought a smile to his face and a further enthusiasm to his trudging. The smile spread wider across his face subverting the practiced stoicism of his visage somewhat to his chagrin. But this childish delight in fanciful imaginings he rationalized: “One mustn’t be stoic all the time, lest life become less joyous. Besides, all legendary knights were ordinary men whose legends were embellishments. Still, their well-wrought legends served to inspire subsequent generations and I can do the same.” Thinking this reassured him and made him feel that he had a good understanding of how the world worked, an understanding which hadn’t soured him with cynicism. At length though, the novelty of these thoughts wore off and the stoicism returned to his face.

He decided he would head to the clearing in the center of the woods with the tall pine he had played in since he was a boy, and from there he would loop back to his home. As he came upon the clearing he heard the dull yet brassy sound of metal plates falling to the ground. He froze and his right hand quickly moved to DOOMSBANE. Slowly his left hand moved to the enchanted dagger, SWIFTWALKER, sheathed in the small of his back. The latter was said to grant swiftness and stealth to its bearer and at this moment he was glad to have brought it. Making his way furtively closer to the clearing he espied the figure of an older man through the boughs and observed him in silence while the man finished unburdening himself of his armor then sat drinking water from a skin. Mikael observed the man thusly for several minutes. Nervous as he was to approach this interloper, his impatience for some definitive result finally reached a crescendo and impelled him forward. Before he knew it he was walking boldly into the clearing heedless of the noise he was making.

“Hail fellow!”, Mikael called out with a confidence he didn’t completely feel. The man turned to him without surprise and allowed a benevolent half-smirk. He attempted to rise but Mikael stopped him.

“No, pray rest. We needn’t stand on ceremony in this private place.” The man nodded in appreciation.

“Much thanks M’Lord….You are the young master of these woods?”

“I am.”

“I require only a brief rest before continuing on my way.”

“Peace, friend -there is no impetus here for a hastened departure. Take such time as you will.” The man nodded and smiled in appreciation again and took another drink from his skin. As he lowered it he wiped his mouth with the tattered sleeve of his worn tunic. The boy studied the man; He wore a patch over his right eye which couldn’t completely cover a vertical scar that ran from forehead to cheek. His left eye was a small and narrow slit with a piercing dot for a pupil and was sunken into his head to a degree that it made his forehead and features seem to protrude. His hair was grey and seasoned, the same color as his bristly beard which was neat and medium length. His body, though worn and tired, alluded to previous might and ferocity, his gaunt hands still looked as if they carried the strength to kill a man.

Mary 2 (2)

His armor told a similar tale: The plates were dull and unpolished, bearing scratches, dents and stains, though no rust. The leather of his armor bore holes which had gone un-mended for some time and the straps looked like they might give way. The man’s sword however, seemed to be faring slightly better. Certainly it was chipped and pitted in places but it still had the shine and edge of a well-maintained implement of war. It sat sheath-less on the grass beside the man attached to his doffed belt through a loop around the base of the blade near the hilt.

Mikael took this all in and it troubled him on a level below his conscious thoughts. He began to resent this man without even knowing why. His very existence was simply not congruent with Mikael’s outlook on life and the world, and his presence stirred up Mikael’s most repressed insecurities.

“You’re green.” -The man’s abrupt question pulled Mikael out of his thoughts. Or was it a question? It seemed to him almost accusatory.

“….yes…” Mikael responded warily. He decided not to elucidate upon his more poetic appellations.

“It’s good,” the man responded. “A good color for these parts.” He made a small gesture with his right hand, indicating the woods around them.

While Mikael appreciated the utility of his green garments in the woods, this utility had been at best an ancillary benefit and at worst an afterthought. This grizzled old man brought this useful quality of the clothing up as if it were the most important aspect of it though, and being praised for the wrong reason made Mikael feel like a fraud, a pretender at war. Also, the man’s seemingly willful overlooking of the impractical gems which adorned his plate felt like condescension.

“I care little for concealment; it is but a coward’s way to prolong his miserable life.” Mikael dismissively responded.

The man became suddenly, sharply attentive and sat there studying him. He made no especial effort to divert his gaze from Mikael’s, but instead looked searchingly into the boy’s eyes. While this might have been construed by some as impertinence, Mikael found himself more aggrieved by the man’s calm and dignified exterior. He went on:

“I announce my presence boldly where I go because I fear no man or beast and welcome all challengers. You yourself bore witness to how well I met you here in this clearing. Yet you insinuate that I wear these noble colors in order to hide myself?”

The man stared a moment longer and then sensed that further silence would only be taken as condescension by this young lord. He averted his gaze and spoke:

“Begging your pardon, M’lord, but I meant no insinuation of any such thing. I only applied my own rationale and logic to what I observed in your lordship. Your lordships’s own reasoning however is apt to be more sublime than that of a common soldier. ”

This almost satisfied Mikael and his body momentarily relaxed, but he noticed that the man was still seated holding his skin. This too could have very easily been perceived as further evidence of the man’s impertinence toward his betters, but Mikael saw it as a greater insult: The man was not intimidated by him and felt the situation didn’t merit reaching for his sword.

“STAND!” Mikael commanded.

The man stared a moment longer and then rose slowly, helping himself up with his left hand. He was still out of breath but the look on his face was the picture of amused tranquility. He stood motionless staring just below Mikael’s gaze with his hands at his sides, the right one still holding the skin.

“PICK UP YOUR SWORD!” Mikael yelled shrilly.

The man met Mikael’s gaze and Mikael thought he saw a slight smirk.

“PICK IT UP!”

The man attempted to speak: “M’lor—”

His words words cut short by Mikael quickly drawing DOOMSBANE and sticking its point toward the man.

“I WON’T ASK YOU AGAIN.”

For a second which seemed like an eternity for the man and longer still for the boy, he kept staring. Then, as he sensed Mikael was about to react to his inaction he dropped the skin from his right hand, averting for the moment Mikael’s next outburst, and bent to pick up his sword. He bent slowly at the waist and grunted slightly at the effort. As he bent Mikael instinctively stepped back several paces out of fear, although he told himself that giving his opponent space to compose himself was the chivalrous thing to do.

Mary 2 (1)

“Is this how it all ends?” the man thought to himself as he slowly bent. “A lifetime of fierce campaigning, attaining justice for widows and children, and punishing those who would prey upon the defenseless, only to be struck down by this young fool whose father’s army I served in so well?

The man allowed a slight smirk at this thought but made sure it was out of the boy’s view.

“Life and its cruel ironies. Oh well, I’ve benefited enough from irony, cruel or otherwise throughout the years. I may as well die as I lived. This boy is a fool if he thinks his father’s archers encircled around us are going to allow a duel-the young imbecile probably doesn’t even realize they’re there. I’ll be dead on the ground with five arrows in my chest before I can stand back up. Still, better that than to disobey him further and incite him into striking me down unarmed with his pretty sword. I doubt he’s killed anyone yet, and I’ll be damned if I’ll be his first. Breathe Deep, Old Man; Peace Soon Enough.”

The man gripped his belt with his left hand and the hilt of his sword with his right. He paused for a second and the feeling of the sword in his hand stirred something in him which had been repressed for years by unquestioning obedience and fealty.

“Let’s give him a thrill” he thought,  “and go out the way we lived: In a screaming, murderous rage.”

At this thought the man swiftly pulled his hideous sword from the leather loop on his belt and lunged toward the boy with unexpected speed, both hands wrapped around the hilt as a primal and savage war cry issued from his lungs.

The first arrow hit him in the stomach and his screaming became incredibly painful yet didn’t abate. He proceeded forward and kept closing the distance between himself and the boy, who at that point had turned white and had dropped his sword and perhaps more.

The second and third arrows came in close succession piercing his throat and just underneath his right shoulder-blade respectively. He stumbled at these strikes and his screaming became a frothy, hissing, gargle which sprayed the boy with blood and sputum as the man dropped to his knee and fell forward still clutching the sword with both hands. The fall snapped the arrow in his stomach, and the arrow in his neck acted to turn his head grotesquely to the right as it made contact with the ground, leaving the patched eye pointed upward, covered but somehow still staring at the boy above a bloody and contemptuous grin.

The arrow in the man’s back stuck straight up and seemed to serve as a grave marker grimmer than grey granite.

The boy was stunned and stared at the dying body of this once fierce man. He could hear the man’s death rattle; or was it air escaping from his pierced throat? It terrified Mikael either way and he was glad when silence and three members of his father’s elite guard filled the clearing. As the three scouts approached the boy from the surrounding woods, he regained some of his composure.

“You alrite, M’lord?” the captain asked. The boy gulped involuntarily.

“I’m fine.” The boy looked at the three men each in turn, and then with overreaching confidence asked, “What are you doing here? I don’t wish to be disturbed during my training.”

The two junior scouts looked at each other and then at their captain who never turned his attention from Mikael.

“We were on a routine patrol, M’lord and heard shouting,” he responded flatly.

Mikael knew it was a lie and knew that these men had been assigned to secretly follow and protect him. He was insulted by this and took it as an affront to his valor. He wanted to berate these men for interfering in his duel and threaten them with reprimands but he suddenly felt very tired. The clouds had cleared and the sun was beating down on him. His breastplate felt heavy and his cloak was causing him to sweat. His mouth too felt dry and he looked thirstily at the dead man’s still-bulging water skin.

“No.” he thought. “He would just smirk at me from beyond.” He looked to the captain and indicated to the body with his hand.

“Take care of this mess and don’t follow me home on pain of death.” He turned around and began walking abruptly away. He hadn’t gotten more than five steps when the captain addressed him.

“M’lord?”

Mikael whirled on him exhausted and irritated, with an expectant look in his eye.

“Your sword,” the captain continued in a quiet and meek tone with his eyes cast downward.

Mikael saw that he had left DOOMSBANE on the ground and that its fine blade, now sullied with blood and dirt, was pinned down under the rough sword of the dead man. Mikael steeled himself and walked over to the sword, grabbed the hilt and pulled it up off the ground causing the two blades two rub together and issue a piercing and unsettling grinding shriek.

Mikael stood up and sheathed DOOMSBANE without wiping it clean. He noticed the looks of discomfort the men wore on their faces and decided he would attribute it to similar revulsion at the sound of the blades rubbing together.

He turned around and walked home.

The End

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Nintendo: Once and Future Overlords of Gaming (and the World?)

Friends,

On July 6, Nintendo/Niantic released the “augmented reality” game, Pokemon Go. In this new instalment of the franchise, players are required to move around the world, the real world, in order to capture monsters digitally super-imposed onto the landscape around them and observed/detected/captured with their smartphone.

While an interesting idea, I was a little cynical when I first read up on this mechanism of the game. Why cynical? Well it seems to me that Nintendo has been trying to incorporate physical activity into gaming since the release of the Wii in 2006 (although in a broader sense they have been trying to get gamers out of the house more since the release of the Game Boy back in the 80s). While I appreciate this good intent, I remember that on the handful on occasions I played Wii, after the initial novelty had worn off, I kinda just wanted to play sprawled out on a couch in a dark room with the blinds drawn and wearing dirty track pants, like nature and God had intended.

But this is different. The memes tell the tale.

Cm-KlcYUEAAm_NX

Cm-LbeIVYAA2uJe

Or, most tellingly…

sorry-mom-ill-be-leaving-our-hometown-next-year-to-1213139

People are literally being mobilized to go out into the world in a way that video games have not been able to (nor sought to) make them thus far.

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Far-Fetched? Maybe, Maybe Not…

Why is this incredible? Well, Nintendo, or more specifically Niantic has figured out a way to not only get people to move around in the world, but has theoretically also found a way to get mass groups of people to all congregate in certain places at certain times. If you look at Niantic’s last augmented reality game, Ingress, you see a world where people try and dominate the global-digital landscape with whatever colour they have chosen, blue or green.

ingress-screenshots-r471x

They can “attack” and thus take over any region held by the opposing team provided they physically go to that area. However, beyond co-ordinated attacks or other such player-driven events, there is nothing driving people to be at a certain place at a certain time. In the case of Pokemon GO, all the Pokemon (at least those which have been released thus far) seem to be distributed more or less evenly in the countries where the game can played*, taking into account of course that certain types are only found in certain geographic conditions i.e. water-type Pokemon only found by bodies of water, etc. But as suggested by the above Bear Grylls meme, what’s to prevent Niantic from placing a Legendary (thus rare and prized) Pokemon like Articuno, somewhere inaccessible like Everest Base Camp? Nothing, save for the limitations of Google Maps.

But let’s take it a step further. What if Niantic released a statement saying that a certain incredibly rare Pokemon would appear only on the lawn of the White House, and then only for twelve hours? People would MOB D.C.!

……

Okay, this scenario is probably beyond a “step further” but I think you get my point. Even if Niantic did a 5-day Pokemon appearance event in a certain city, we could see mass-migrations of people. How serious am I about that? Well, according to Wikipedia, the app, after less than a week of being released, and then only officially in three countries, topped daily usage of Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat and Instagram. That means, it’s beating out people’s libidos and narcissism -no mean feat.

The effort put into capturing Pokemon may seem unbelievable to non-gamers, but is it that surprising? We take our games very seriously especially when there is a ranking structure and an opportunity to demonstrate our prowess and superiority. MMOs in recent years have seen this vulnerability exploited as people will stay indoors on a beautiful, sunny Saturday playing games online in order to take advantage of Double XP weekends. It’s about bragging rights and Pokemon GO differs only in one critical arena -your couch is the last place you wanna be.

Artificial Scarcity
I’m fond of talking about the power of scarcity to motivate people and games truly exploit that power. Whether it’s reddit karma, Pokemon in your pokedex or having a Vex Mythoclast in Destiny, these are things that take work to accumulate/acquire. It’s hilarious because they are digital constructs -lines of code, which by their nature are infinite. But, limit their available quantity or occurrence, attach some status to possessing them and all of a sudden people will scramble.

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For now, this is all guess-work and hypothesizing on my part. But it seems foolish not to make the thought-experiment. Maybe this potential hasn’t occurred to Niantic/Nintendo or maybe they are just waiting for an opportune time to mobilize their willing army of Pokemon trainers against the regimes of the world.

All I know is, if it turns out that there are to be different Pokemon in different parts of the world, I will be on the front lines becoming the greatest Pokemon master of them all.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*The game has at this point only officially been released in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, but lo and behold, here is a picture of me playing it in Canada…

IMG_1609
Fuck the P0-lice!

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Whitey’s Goin’ to Mars

I can’t pay no doctor bills,
But whitey’s on the moon.
10 years from now I’ll be payin’ still
While whitey’s on the moon.”
-Gill Scott Heron, Angel Dust

Friends,

Yesterday I decided to take a relaxing bath and listen to a 70s funk classics playlist. I don’t know too much funk but I liked the genre a lot in theory and principle because I know how extensively it influenced modern hip-hop, especially the aptly named “G-Funk” sub-genre. I was enjoying the playlist quite a bit, but it was the above song by Gill Scott Heron which really caught my attention, specifically the beat poetry portion at the end where he scathingly yet humorously criticizes the establishment for having a space program when people (black folk) in inner-cities are starving. It made me think a lot about the Jenga metaphor I used to use frequently to describe our social progress in the current paradigm: Essentially, we tend to try and build higher and higher with new innovations and achievements without broadening our base for more stability. This leads to a certain precariousness and imbalance where people are dying on the street in Karachi and they’re trying to create black holes at CERN -its kind of absurd that these two realities are existing on the same planet simultaneously.
To take the metaphor further, imagine we built a broader base for our Jenga tower, analagous to say, making sure everyone was fed and sheltered and educated, how much higher could we then ultimately build?

Jenga
Fuck it! Let’s toss time travel in there as well!

I don’t know, it just seems to me that there wold be more minds to advance our civilization ultimately further if we didn’t have a good many of them struggling to procure their next meal.

Buuuuut, I’m not here to talk about this metaphor as I have discussed it at length in older posts. Instead I want to talk about what “whitey” means when Gill Scott Heron says it.

So Who is Whitey?

This is really the question isn’t it, as its a bit of a polarizing moniker. I certainly don’t feel like whitey, nor would I wager do most of my light-skinned friends. So a question then: Would Heron’s sentiments have been different if there had been a black man on the Apollo 11 mission?
Perhaps, perhaps not. But this is the problem with framing activism and criticisms of the system along racial lines; it’s relatively simple for a established powers to deflect allegations of racism by “uplifting” a minority to a position of superficial primacy as an overt demonstration of how fair and egalitarian the system is. We saw the same thing when Obama got elected. Yes, black Americans got their black president so racism is over right? Tell that to Trayvon, Sandra Bland, Sean Bell, and countless others.

“I have much more in common with most working and middle-class white people than I do with most rich black and Latino people. As much as racism bleeds America, we need to understand that classism is the real issue.  Many off us are in the same boat and its sinking, while these bougie motherfuckers ride on a luxury liner. And as long as we keep fighting over kicking people out of the little boat we’re all in, we’re miss an opportunity to gain a better standard of living as a whole.
-Immortal Technique, The Poverty of Philosophy

George Carlin once observed that he felt the civil rights advancements made in the 60s were an accommodation, and I tend to agree with this sentiment. Nothing really changed beyond perhaps perceptions. Instead the system merely “contracted and expanded” to accommodate and placate a critical mass of people with grievances.

So does that make Obama et al. “token blacks”? No. I don’t think it does. There are enough dark-skinned people in positions of power to effectively refute allegations of racial barriers in the context of a debate. But the fact that there are “positions of power” is perhaps what is the real issue, and the one which Gill Scott Heron was reaching for in his spoken word. Whitey can really be decoded as the powerful. Black people, Asians, Aborigines can all be whitey because whitey is a class construct more than a racial one, and I think that people are starting to realize this.

As a progressive (and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this blog) you may probably get irked by white people who scream “REVERSE-RACISM” when they feel marginalized by the advocacy of another race. You may feel like they are being petty and overly sensitive. However, the existence of these opposing voices indicates more than just intransigence and privilege; it reveals that things are tough all over.  Racial bigotry notwithstanding, everyone is in a survival struggle of some sort -this is in fact an unspoken assumption of our scarcity-based economics system. It’s a system that emulates the animal kingdom in its ruthlessness and dispassion. So when I as a white man hear a black man complaining that he should have a job instead of me, it’s analagous to if I were I were a gazelle and a wildebeest being eaten by a lion was like, “Not fair, you should be eating more gazelles!”

Fuck that! I’d be like, “Motherfuck you and every wildebeest who looks like you.” -Facetious or not, I basically just explained racism.

IT’S A ZERO-SUM GAME, PEOPLE, and just because the gazelles have typically been able to elude lions better than the wildebeests in this particular corner of the Savannah (the Wesstern world) doesn’t mean they don’t taste just as good. In fact, whitey in this example would be all of the gazelles, wildebeests, boars, etc. who were fast enough to evade the lions and/or make deals with the lions by selling out their fellows. So let us not lose sight of the fact that if we are gazelles, our problem is not wildebeests, or vice versa. Our problem is what it has always been: LIONS. Or more accurately, scarcity and the survival anxieties it foments.

Scarcity will kill us. Fear of it will have us kill each other.

So Whitey’s Goin’ to Mars Now?…

It seems so. It’s funny, as a kid I was fascinated by space and the cosmos and my explorer spirit made me want to be a part of this new and exciting frontier. Buuuttt, something isn’t quite right about it. It doesn’t seem righteous to me. We haven’t figured out our shit here on Earth and we’re going to other planets.?Seems a little reckless.
Also, it scares me that certain “nation-states” will be going there and carving up the Martian landscape, declaring ownership and restricting access to future visitors.
And finally on a more philosophical slant, are we really the best representatives to go out into the universe and start colonizing other worlds? This human species has great potential but we are currently so fucked up and troubled that we aren’t really poised to make a splash as upwardly mobile galactic up-and-comers when we make the definitive move of colonizing another planet. We’re like the out-of-shape, obnoxious, combative, and smug debutante at the ball. Who would fuck us, let alone marry us?

Something Conclusive-Sounding….

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago. Since then, in just the last few days actually, two black men have been killed by cops in the US and a black sniper retaliated by killing 5 white cops and injuring more in Dallas. Racism, or at least its perception, is alive and well and its very tempting to reduce these instances and countless others to racism alone. But there’s something of an awakening happening. Mycah Xavier Johnson, the aforementioned sniper, specifically targeted police. He allegedly preferred to kill white cops but his primary focus was on their “cop-ness” and not their whiteness which means he recognized it was the status-quo protectors who were the devils he had to bring it to. He understood that his enemy was the lion and not the gazelle.
Now I gotta qualify this train of thought by saying I don’t believe in “enemies”, much less the use of violence, but I want to make the controversial point that Johnson’s anger was at least aimed in the right direction. Pun intended.

Police are the gazelles, wildebeests and boars that have made deals with the lion and sell out their fellow herbivores. They have thus effectively become predators in their own right and their intentions BUT they are neither as noble or evil as we would like to believe. They are simply trying to ensure their survival. However the existence of this constabulary class with a monopoly on force and legal authorization to kill you if they deem it necessary should bother you at a deep, existential level. Every cop is an iron fist and many don’t even have the decency to glove themselves in velvet. They are our brothers and sisters in an absolute sense, but as long as they are the enforcement arm of an establishment which seeks to keep you pliant, dependent and obedient, they can not be trusted.

This didn’t start out as a rant about cops but rather a discussion of racism vs classism.

Its’s funny how senseless violence can change things so dramatically.

Best,
-Andre

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