Monthly Archives: September 2013

“One Fish, Two Fish, Putin, Obama” – A Study in Imposed Dualities

Friends,

Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.

iran-wants-war

While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.”  These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran.  Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.

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(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)

This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.

So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.

But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?

Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:

1) He’s former KGB

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2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.

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3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.

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4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.

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Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image.  I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.

Imposed Dualities
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options?  And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:

Evil vs. Good

Dark vs. Light

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2

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Presentation1

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It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity.  A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them.  In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!

new-batman-arkham-city-bonus-costumes-revealed-earth-one-the-animated-series-batman-beyond-and-more

This is what freedom of choice looks like.

I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another.  I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.

However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:

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Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.  These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,

demopublican

yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc.  However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,

The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

there are necessarily proverbial  hands that both parties won’t bite.   This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.

demopub

On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.

Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected?  This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure

So how does this relate to Putin?

Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good.  That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.

If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics.  It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.

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“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.”  (Paraphrase)
-Cynical Voters

Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.

Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either?  Good question!

I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:

“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”

I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth.  And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well.  In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins. 

CUI BONO?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.

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When Truisms Lie

Friends,
Carpooling to work today, it was fitting that the conversation between the driver and myself drifted to the topic of Pearl Harbor.  Today is after all, the twelfth anniversary of another day that will live in infamy.

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When discussing the possibility that Pearl Harbor may have been allowed to happen to justify U.S. entrance into the war, the driver seemed skeptical and paraphrased Hanlon’s Razor:

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

More accurately, he paraphrased an interpretation of that maxim from Sir Bernard Ingham:

“Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government.  I do assure you that they
would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.”
The basic idea implied of course is that conspiracy is a far more elusive jackelope than human ineptitude.
Seems true doesn’t it?  After all, we all know stupid people, but in truth we probably don’t know very many outright evil people (though we tend to use good/evil hyperbole in vain in our rhetoric) so the statement resonates with our own experience.  Adherence to this self-evident postulation then allows us to dismiss the very notion that there might be a conspiracy afoot because we are very well-acquainted with human error, and its (counter-intuitively) more comforting to believe human beings are stupid rather than clever.
Well, the problem here is that we tend to associate conspiracy with evil, when more accurately it could be described as “Competitive Deselection.”  In fact, conspiracy itself rarely (if ever) amounts to more than an advantageous commercial/power consolidation decision which has pronounced detrimental impacts on others while benefiting those who perpetrate it.  Evil has nothing to do with it, its simply the ultimate expression of the behaviour demanded by the world we live in.  Namely, getting ahead at the expense of all others.
Once you demystify it and eliminate evil out of the equation, you see that so-called conspiracy exists all around us.  After all, who among us has not been screwed out of earnings or exploited or robbed?  We typically don’t attribute these actions against us to conspiracy, but this has less to do with their dissimilarity from formal notions of conspiracy (i.e. shadowy, behind closed doors, nefarious dealings) than it does with our lack of imagination when extrapolating the consequences of the actions of ourselves and others.
Another such razor, and likely the more famous of the two, is Occam’s Razor.   Although there are more nuanced aspects to this maxim, it is most widely understood as, “The simplest explanation is (often) the best.”  And sure, why not?  We can all conjure in our minds images of some complex lie that was told to us to obfuscate the truth.
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But think how easily this maxim can be manipulated to discredit alternate, often more plausible explanations.  For example, you have often heard me rail against superstitious concepts like good and evil, but they serve as much simpler explanation for human behaviour than things like systems theory or sociological studies.  So, should Occam’s Razor be applied here?
Similarly, early explanations of men in the sky (gods) are much more simplistic than concepts like gravitation, electro-magnetism et al., but should Occam’s Razor, or more accurately Occam’s Razor as it is widely (mis)understood, be applied uniformly because it sounds true?
Of course not.
Now I must qualify what I am saying by mentioning one of my favourite quotations from the samurai, Musashi“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”
Fractal-Mobius-Dragon-IFS-10
Fractals, dude!
It’s the difference between saying that some countries are wealthy due to better governance, mineral wealth and scientific progress, and saying that some countries are wealthy due to a global system based on differential advantage.  Notice how both explanations are very simple but only the latter serves to explain socioeconomic divisions at the regional, municipal and individual levels as well (After all, you can’t explain the financial disparity between two next-door neighbours by making reference to better governance, mineral wealth and scientific progress).  It is this simplicity, that of having a single explanation which can be applied to all levels of the phenomena being discussed which I think should be gleaned from Occam’s Razor.
Now I started out writing this post aiming to point out the inherent lies in some of our taken-for-granted turns of phrase and truisms, but it ended up being more of call to be aware of how to judiciously apply your truisms, because these statements (the ones examined and others) do hold at least a kernel of truth if nothing else.  But if you misapply truth you might as well be lying.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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“Glitterati” – One Weekend in the Big City

Friends,

I opened up this window intending to talk about the Toronto International Film Festival premiere I almost just attended but it occurred to me that I could do with talking about the weekend as a whole because it was full of movie magic.

FRIDAY
Friday I departed for Toronto early so as to be on set for 11am to shoot a short film called The Prostitute.  Although it was all above-board with regard to permits and such, it had a very guerrilla feel to it due to the fact that the director had the actors helping out with things like blocking traffic and such.  I didn’t mind this because I think film-making at the indie level is, by definition, a collaborative effort, but towards my 8th hour on location without being called in front of a camera I got the sense that such delegation was symptomatic of a deeper disorganization.  The crew members confirmed as much to me as it was starting to get dark.
Now when I’m on set I plan on being there all day so I wasn’t too perturbed about not being called for hours, but there was another lady accompanying her 5-year-old daughter (one of the principals) and as it started to get dark she was getting visibly agitated.  I felt for her because she had also taken the day off work and when it was all said and done neither of us had gotten on set at all.
As it stands, the ADs are going to aim to schedule another shoot date where they will have organizational control and the director will simply direct and not plan.  I think this will be a good arrangement because as a director I think he really has a vision and is someone who knows how to coax the best performance out of his actors.  I look forward to going back and finishing the project.
This project is also significant for me in that it will be my first on-screen kiss.  I met my on-screen girlfriend on Friday and getting to know her and doing blocking with her had a vaguely first-date feel about it.  Hopefully this chemistry translates well to the screen because my IRL girlfriend, Chelsea is not thrilled about this arrangement, and we wouldn’t to be in the doghouse for naught, would we?
Oh, and then I went to go get my bike after we wrapped and someone had stolen the seat from it.  I hope it helps them in their endeavours.

SATURDAY
Saturday, I had two auditions: The first was  for the part of a reluctant neo-Nazi; more frustrated young man than racist ideologue.  He is actually the protagonist in the story and it worked well because I already have a shaved head (which is entirely incidental BTW).  They also had me do a cold read for the antagonist, the leader of a skinhead group named Ian.  Something of a charismatic orator, Ian has a hard-on for hunting blacks so I ad-libbed some of the oration dialogue employing everyone’s favourite N-word.  I only bring this up because it was my first time saying “nigger” in an audition and I would be saying it again in an audition before the day was through.
The second audition was one of those ones you go to that you don’t really remember what part you are trying for and you can’t even go back and look at the original posting because the filmmakers have already taken it sown.  So I walked into the meeting room and the filmmakers gave me free rein to deliver some prepared dialogue (monologue), but to ascertain the kind of character I was trying so so I could better inform my selection of monologue I started asking some sneaky questions like, “How do you see this character,” and “Give me your take on his motivations.”  They were happy to talk at length about the character; they even lauded me for hitting the nail on the head as to how he should be played when I wrote my cover letter for the audition (“Oh…yeah…my cover letter :-|), but unfortunately their explanations didn’t give me a clue to which monologue I should go with so I said fuck it and just went with a brand new one I had adapted from this classic scene from The Wire.
Well, my gambit paid off as it turned out both casting directors were big fans of the show and really liked my Avon impression (which, in case you were paying attention was my second and third utterance of “nigger” in an audition setting that day and ever).  However, they wanted to see another side so I did one of my more recent favourites which is the “Mongoloid” monologue Sheriff Earl McGraw delivers at the beginning of From Dusk ’til Dawn.
Overall I was happy with how both of these auditions went and I feel like if they go with someone different its because I didnt look the part or someone else just did way better.  That’s the best way to feel I find because that way you don’t have to torture yourself worrying about how it could have gone better.

SUNDAY
Two more auditions.  The first was kind of lukewarm due to the fact that it was a cold read and the first role I read for was not really a character who was suited to my particular talents.  They asked me to read for another character though which went a lot better so we’ll see.
The next audition was actually a callback which I should have memorized but did not and I ad-libbed some of the dialogue which would have been okay under normal circumstances but these particular filmmakers wanted a more faithful read-through of the script.  Even worse I think I threw off the guy I was reading with.  Fortunately when I went back out to the hall I practiced it a couple of times and when I read through it with the next guy it was a lot better and verbatim from the script with my own added flair.  They seemed to appreciate this so we’ll see how it goes.  I was kind of disappointed in myself for coming in there all reckless like I did but hopefully my 180 in the span of a few minutes impressed upon them some adaptability on my part and made me a little more memorable in their minds.
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Afterwards I made my way down to TIFF to meet up with Matt, Nita and Danny to wait in line for the premiere of Gravity.  For three hours we waited and when we were close to getting in, there came the announcement that Rush seating had filled and that we would not be able to get in.  This was disappointing but I certainly didn’t regret hanging out for three hours with some cool peoples.

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That said, as soon as we got the info that the movie was a no-go I took the opportunity to break out as quick as I could and head back to the home I hadn’t been to since Friday morning.
All in all it wasn’t a horrible weekend: nothing on film, four solid to good auditions, stolen bicycle seat, lost earphones and three hours chillin’ with my peoples.
Can’t wait to see what next weekend holds.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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