Category Archives: entertainment

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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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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“31, Numb, but the Hurt is Gone…”

Friends,

I’m 31.

31 stony grey steps toward the grave if I’m looking to be poetic and needlessly morose.

It’s certainly been a full 31 years, but even in light of everything I have experienced thus far, I feel in some ways like I am just getting started.

Not at life, mind you, but at living.

This is gonna be a big year for me. How do I know?

Well because it has to be. I can’t keep on the way I have been thus far or I will keep getting what I have always gotten.

And I’m bored of that.

2015 was a big year for me. Monster was my operative word. It was my theme for the year if you will. It was on my tongue for everything I wanted to do career-wise.

And, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy: It was my biggest year in film (such as it was), and certainly I could have kept said momentum up and kept growing, albeit in a linear fashion.

But that didn’t seem righteous to me. Essentially, there were other areas of my life I had been neglecting during my entertainment pursuits, most notably my aspirations as an adventurer, and to keep on the same way I had been would have been to repress those longings.

So I donned the sombrero and poncho of el peregrino and made my first foray into Latin America where I partook in ayahuasca and shot a film. This satisfied my longing for adventure while reassuring me that I wasn’t losing too much professional momentum. I got two birds stoned at once as it were.

But now I’m back home. Back for over two months actually, and I stand at a bit of a crossroads: Where do I go from here? I could go back into that linear progression but it doesn’t feel righteous; that is to say I don’t find myself pulled in that direction. After all, do I really wanna spend the rest of my life only telling other people’s stories? No, mine must be the priority.

I feel on a very deep level that to keep pursuing the same things, the same way in the same place is to do myself a disservice and squander my potential while ignoring my passions.

If the theme of 2015 was Monster, the theme for 2016 is Evolve. I have known this…felt this, since mid-2015. I’ve recognized this need for a quantum-shift for that long.

So how do I plan on evolving?

Well, I am precipitating said evolution assymetrically and on many fronts simultaneously, developing existing aptitudes and even trying my hand at new endeavours not strictly film or even adventure related. That’s a big step for me.

So what are some of my approaches?

Well, there is another adventure documentary in the works which will be my greatest undertaking yet. I can’t speak too definitively about it right now simply because I’m not producing/organizing it (which is kind of a relief), but if it doesn’t get deferred until 2017, it will begin this October. Stay tuned for that.

But, I’m kinda sorta almost hoping it does get deferred until next year because my back-up plan is pretty damn sweet too. I’ve started making some inquiries about this one but I can’t start making arrangements until my new passport comes in over the next couple weeks…

On the home front I am starting a collective which at this moment I am simply calling ACCESS. It will be a first furtive step in the direction of embodying a set of values important to me and my partners in the project, values such as sustainability, abundance, collaboration and skill-development to name a few. We are still selecting the property we wish to purchase for this endeavour, and there is a strict set of criteria it must meet, but I am confident we can have that portion of it sorted out before any departure I may be inclined undertake in the fall. This will be a long-term project that will grow and develop as my partners and I do, and I’m excited to begin living values that I have thus far just been discussing.

With regard to strictly creative endeavours, I’ve done something I’ve been meaning to for some time now which  is to lay down vocals for a hip-hop track. Director and Rapper, Matthew Luppino is producing it and it should be out over the next few weeks. I love rhyming and playing with words and so this is a long-overdue step. I want to challenge myself to write a few tracks a year as a way of harnessing this skill. I’m nice at writing bars. Now the world will see this.

Film-wise, I haven’t been applying for auditions but I have kept busy enough through referrals and the like, and for about a month of my time home I was pretty goddamn busy doing stunts on Blood & Fury: America’s Civil War. This latter was actually really important because it gave me that feeling of still being in the game which is so useful for combating feelings of idleness during this period of reflection.. But the whole time I’ve meditated constantly upon how to evolve. A seemingly obvious step would be to finally look into getting an agent but I’m not 100% sold on that…yet. I think there are other ways in which I can transcend where I’m at before I allow that influence into my life.

Finally I am going back out to comedy shows after a lengthy hiatus. This time however I am more aware of how I present myself on stage and going to try new means of delivering my ideas which will hopefully add to their efficacy.

Like I said earlier, I’m 31. I am LITERALLY in the prime of my life when all factors are taken into consideration. True, my body may have some wear and tear (I was in the army for 10 years), but that is mitigated by eating well and keeping fit. And really, from a physical fitness perspective, I’m still easily in the upper 20th percentile of North American men my age. But even if I wasn’t that lack would be offset by the fact that I’m smarter, wiser, more focused, more established and freer than I’ve ever been. I am at a singular moment in my life where I can do ANYTHING. So it’s very important that I don’t squander this time with vain pursuits because I will never be able to achieve like I can achieve now.

Evolve.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Hall of Otis

Friends,

One of my favourite songs from recent years is the Jay-Z and Kanye collaboration “Otis” from the joint album, Watch the Throne. In short, the song is disgusting with almost universally positive reviews.* But you know how it go: you do something that works and everyone imitates it. In fact, there has been a falsehood perpetuated over the last few years in hip-hop that success can be measured as proportionate to level of hatred one receives, but the truth is more intuitive: success is directly proportionate to how many people jock, dick-ride, emulate and straight-up copy you. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” after all. And imitators there have been, all taking the song’s slick beat and dropping tight lyrics about their own exploits. Four such imitators are noteworthy enough to me to warrant mention and I want to rate them and see how they stack up against the original.
So first, the original…

1. Otis by Jay-Z and Kanye West
Best Lines: ” I guess I got my swagger back.”
“Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive.”
“Everything’s for sale; I got five passports, I’m never goin to jail.”
“Build your fences, we diggin’ tunnls,” etc… (near every line in the song is a best line)
Worst Lines: N/A

F0BEEF0BD855D6A89B989EDBD67E52CC

   Fuck, what can I say about this song that hasn’t already been said about a finger in your ass while getting a blowjob? Amazing! The wordplay is playful, clever and tight and it’s an unapologetic celebration of everything that’s wrong with the world. In fact, the only legit criticism I have ever heard levied at this song came from my friend, Adriana who lamented that the homage to excess, vice and privilege was completely un-ironic and thus an unwitting display of aberrant values. For this view I have some sympathy, but only to a point because my appreciation of the song is more contingent on what it meant to me and not what it meant to Jay and Ye.
This song is gonna serve as the control, if I may be so bold as to potentially misuse scientific language for the purposes of a “for fun” blog post. Gonna rate it on the scientifically-approved scale of 10.

Rating: 10/10

Now for the challengers…

2. Otis (Remix) by Busta Rhymes & DMX
Best Lines: “”Two niggaz reppin’ the ‘R’ -X and X!!”
“Don’t worry bout what condition I’m in, you cats can’t survive half the places I been.”
Anytime DMX growls like a dog.
Worst Lines: “DON’T. TALK. BACK. When your father’s talkin’ to you!”

Busta-Rhymes-DMX-OTIS-REMIX

   This version fucks with me. At the outset I thought to myself, “OH NOES, poor Kanye and Jay are gonna get murdered on their own track.” It was a reasonable assumption; on top of the fact that neither Busta or DMX are slouches on the mic, both have achieved mainstream success and arguably even icon status throughout their careers. And, in the case of DMX, everyone loves a comeback. But somehow this version…fails to deliver, and I’m not even 100% sure why. Even the wack rhymes aren’t that bad.
Some observations though: DMX is definitely the stronger MC on the track but that has less to do with him being “better” than Busta in any absolute sense. Rather, I think it has more to do with the fact that Busta seems to be gearing his delivery to sound more like DMX, menacing and violent. Don’t get me wrong, Busta can be legitimately threatening, but nobody does it like DMX and when you are going back and forth with him on a track it only accentuates how much better he is than you at it. I would have preferred Busta to deliver his rhymes in his more rapid, staccato style with heavily accentuated breaks followed by near-immediate, seamless re-immersion into rapid, staccato delivery (See What’s Happenin’, Fire, Thank-You, etc.).
Also, I don’t like the heavy use of sound effects on the track. I’m not saying it’s bad but it just doesn’t appeal to me personally.

Rating: 8/10

3. Otis Freestyle by Cassidy feat. Jag
Best Lines: “Scream at me if you need the trees, or the ‘white bitch’ (COCAINE) -I work the morning and the night shift.”
“In Philly I’m a willy/wheelie like a bike trick,”
“I’m from a ‘get shot in the face’ hood,”
Larsiny we in this bitch now -niggas need to leave, apply pressure to a nigga neck -he don’t need to breathe,” etc..
Worst Lines: N/A

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   Straight-up: this version is ill and it probably comes the closest to eclipsing the Jay/Kanye original. Why? Well it’s a solid track with no wack rhymes for one. And while I think Cassidy clearly shines brighter than Jag, the latter is no slouch either. Rather his more subtly delivered punchlines serve to compliment and offset Cassidy’s often crude hilarity. The two have a definite rapport which I where I think they outdo Kanye and Jay, as their back and forth is seamless like Ghostface and Raekwon. For the uninitiated, that’s lofty praise.
On a separate note, I have become something of a fan of Cassidy in recent years, and that’s in spite of the fact that my tastes in music have changed and matured. While I listen to less and less music promoting criminality and violence I can’t help but smile when I hear Cass’ well-wrought punchlines about cooking up dope, killing people, etc. And it’s that same cleverness which really elevates this track.
The sad reality is that because neither Cassidy or Jag have the profile and stardom of Jay and Kanye, this track never got the exposure it deserved outside of the internet. Still from a technical perspective, it’s pretty unfuckwithable.

Rating: 9.5/10

4. Otis Freestyle by Justin Bieber
Best Lines: “Pull up on my enemies, see if they remember me, soon as they remember me, I wipe away they memory.”
“Ridin’ in a all-black Benz, with the all-black rims, and we lookin at some 10s through our all-black lenses.”
“Get it done abundantly, she wants to get up under me, I swear that I got hundred these cause baby I’m a money tree, so be my little honey, be my little bitty bunny, I got honeys all up on me -baby I just get it dunny.”
Worst Lines: “Started playin’ drums when I was only 2, now I kick it in Japan -Kung Fu!”
“I thanked Jesus at the awards, I’m never goin to hell, call me Zack Morris I’m savin ya by the bell.”
“My girls says I’m perfect … I think she is perfectly perfectly perfect.”

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   There is so much right with this version that it’s a damn shame some of the lyrics are so wack. Out of all the challengers, JB is in the best position to cut a track in the same spirit of opulence, stardom and fabulous wealth as the original. And so he does, even quoting Kanye’s line, “Can’t you see the private jets flying over you?” But the problems are of a more technical nature: Pubescent white-boy delivery notwithstanding, Justin seems to be good at emulating great rap but his verses and delivery seem a bit robotic and overly MCish. He tries to cram too many multi-syllabic words in as a seeming cover for not feeling comfortable enough in his own rhyming skin to just flow on the track.  Overall, this version has a a “Hey, look what I can do” vibe rather than the “Shut-up and listen while I break it down for you real quick” vibe I would prefer and which would be better suited to the tone he is aiming for.
I love this version and I respect his effort, but I think JB needs to spend more time developing his rap voice to the level of his singing voice before he can be a serious contender in the rap game.

Rating: 7/10

5. Otis (Remix) by Papoose
Best Lines: “Actin like you fly -STOP, Imma tell you like they told Joe Pesci, go get your motherfuckin’ shinebox!”
“There’s no tomorrow, throw a hollow, all the haters know the motto, cop a mother-lode of bottles, tell the waiter hold the sparkles…”
“You fickle, you couldn’t hustle a nickel out a dimespot.”
“I serve my beef with shells like a fuckin’ taco.”
“Make my Bed in the Stuy -I sleep in y’all streets.”
Worst Lines: “I live in a condo big as Kilimanjaro.”
“I don’t even know the vowels, I-O-U,  gener-AL like Colin Powell,”

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   Once again, so much right with this track that it pains me to see so many missteps. From a technical perspective, this is the kind of delivery Bieber should be aspiring to right now, but from Papoose, a seasoned MC known for lyricism, I think he coulda done better. Like JB, there is way too many instances of ostentatious muli-syllabic rhymes which just seem extraneous. And while there are some great punchlines (I absolutely love the Joe Pesci/Goodfellas reference) on the whole it wasn’t consistently amusing enough like Cassidy’s raps to take me forget that he’s rapping a lot of negative, crime-related shit.
I will give Pap credit though, he does wax conscious in certain parts, like when he tells young girls, “You don’t need implants to get your body all stern, if you just eat right your ass will be more firm.” Actually he spends a few consecutive bars toward the end of the track trying to “teach the younger generation,” going so far as to lament that young black girls, possibly taught to be ashamed of their blackness, seek perms to achieve a more white aesthetic. That’s my interpretation anyways, but I gotta give him props because he shows real honesty and pretty skillfully walks the line between conscious and preachy.
   One more similarity between this version and the JB version is that it’s a solo track. While I’m not necessarily against that, I don’t think it’s any accident that the two highest-ranking versions of the song I have here are duets. It’s a BIG beat and if you’re gonna attack it solo you gotta bring it.

Rating: 8/10

   I hope you enjoyed my critique of these tracks and that it has instilled a similar appreciation of the original song and all of its spin-offs in you.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*By “universal” I simply mean that I hadn’t seen a single bad review of it in my thorough and exhaustive search on google where I didn’t look past the first page.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

THE REDDIT LINKS. PLEASE CLICK AND GIVE US AN UPVOTE

http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/2drf72/the_expendables_3_live_performance_in_toronto/

http://www.reddit.com/r/CanadianForces/comments/2drea6/got_out_of_the_army_last_summer_after_ten_years/

http://www.reddit.com/r/Dance/comments/2drfqj/though_primarily_a_dancer_i_got_hired_to_do_this/

http://www.reddit.com/r/movies/comments/2drfsd/my_team_and_i_promoting_the_expendables_3_with_a/

Friends,

Yesterday while at my BG agency to pick up my cheques and pay commissions, I got into what ended up being a three-hour conversation with my agent, interrupted only by a coffee-run. While she has been very supportive of my principal acting projects and has watched me develop, she levied the criticism that I don’t promote myself well enough.

“Hmmm…” I mulled this over for a minute and determined that she is a master of understatement. In my own words, I chronically undersell myself, which can be a big no-no in the entertainment industry.

For whatever reason I have never tried to develop the self-promotion skill-set as I hang onto the naive belief that the work should speak for itself. That said, my agent’s words came at a time when I was faced with a serendipitous dilemma/opportunity. You see, last weekend I performed at Toronto’s Tast of the Danforth festival in a live-action show to promote The Expendables 3.

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Me, about to get knocked the f*&k out by Jet Li

And, just yesterday, the official video for the performance hit youtube. Due to all of the team members promoting it heavily, we blew past our day one target and are well on our way to hitting our day two marks. But I want MOAR!!!
So going beyond the traditional “share on facebook, and get your parents to click ‘like'” I have decided that I want us to go above and beyond with a full-court press consisting of the following strategies:

1) Reshare the shit out of it every day this weekend. Usually I share things only once and hope for the best. Not this time. Im cramming it down the throats of the people who made the unwise decision to friend me on social; media.
2) Tweeting celebs. I have never gone this route but I figured I would join the rest of the team in doing this because they can only ignore so many tweets that call them out personally.
3) Press release: This is foreign territory to me and I only got the idea from my marketing-savvy brother Adam, but it makes sense. Right now he is editing my draft and when its all said and done Im gonna submit it to certain publications and hope for the best.
4) This blog post. If you are a follower and you are reading this I ask that you click this link. Enjoy it. Like it. Share it. Repeat. xoxo
5)Co-ordinated Reddit push. I conceived of this last night and have been working to co-ordinate many team members who are not familiar with Reddit. But at 8pm Eastern time tonight we are going to be posting a link to the video to various subs in the hope of gaining some traction. We would love it if you could join in this push and I will be publishing the links to the various threads once they go live in just over an hour.

Ultimately, the way I reconcile myself to this whole process is avoiding self-deception and also the deception of others. I know a lot of people would call this spamming and I don’t deny this but I think I want to find out for myself what merits there are (or aren’t) to being your own biggest fan. And, at the end of the day, I console myself with the fact that we aren’t “shining up shit and calling it gold,” but rather we are making sure an entertaining video that we worked our asses off to make gets the exposure it deserves.

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Us…post-“asses being worked off”

Hope you like the video

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Top 6 “Fuck You; I’m Fly Now” Lyrics

Friends,

What’s the point of becoming rich & famous if you can’t rub it in the faces of everyone who ever bullied you, was mean to you, punked you or ignored you? Well, the following rappers seem to agree with that sentiment and gave these former tormentors a shout-out.
Here are some of my faves.

“Dear teacher, you’re probably somewhere near a speaker,
I’m ballin’ outta control, do you hear my sneakers?
FUCK Y’ALL!”
Artist: Jay-Z
Song: So Ambitious feat. Pharrell

“And any chick that didn’t blow Doc?
I NEVER KNEW YA!”
Artist: Redman
Song: Da Da DaHHH

“What’d you say your name was again?…and I know you from where?
Elementary School?
I DON’T KNOW YOU, MAAAANNN!
Money, not you again…go that way.
LOSER!”
Artist: Big Pun
Song: It’s So Hard

“I know something you don’t know, and I got something to tell ya:
You won’t believe how many people straight doubted the flow; most said that I was a failure.
But now the same motherfuckas askin’ me for dough,
And I’m yellin’, ‘I CAN’T HEAR YA!’
‘Yo, Nelly can we get tickets to your next show?’ -HELL NO
YOU FOR REAL?”
Artist: Nelly
Song: Ride Wit Me

“I was a freshman, in other words, a new jack!
When you mentioned Big L, brothas was like, ‘who’s that?’
Then I made a master plan, now I got a batch of fans,
So when you mention my name now, ‘OH THAT’S MY MAN!’ ‘
Artist: Big L
Song: School Days

“Yeah, this album is dedicated
To all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothing
To all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustling in front of
That called the police on me
When I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter
And all the niggas in the struggle
You know what I’m saying
It’s all good baby baby”
Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.
Song: Juicy

There are many others, perhaps enough to warrant a part 2 in the future, but that’s all for now.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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My Top 9 Rap Lyrics

Friends,
This post has been a long time coming.  As something of a hip-hop fan I have latched onto many lyrics over the years which I feel neatly encapsulate my own experiences.  They don’t have to be standout lines, or famous rhymes, but they are the ones which make the listener feel like he and the artist are in on the same joke that nobody else gets.  Here are my proverbial inside jokes with a smattering of rappers.

***

“Aint no right or wrong in this game called survive”
Song: Keep Your Hands High ft. The Notorious B.I.G.
Arist: Tracey Lee

Tracey-Lee-black-enterprise

You might have missed this song when it came out.  More likely you are familiar with Jay-Z’s recycling of parts of it on his song “What More Can I Say?” from 2003’s The Black Album.  (Or, if you’re only the most casual of fans you likely heard T.I. sample from “What More Can I Say?” for his 2004 hit, “Bring ’em Out“)
In any event, the line dispels the notion of the duality of right & wrong, or more to the point, good and evil.  These qualities are powerful myths which serve as expedient yet detrimental explanations for human behaviour. They don’t paint a true picture of why people (criminals in this case) do things.  What Tray-Lee is really saying here is that people in the game don’t do dirt because they’re evil; they do it out of necessity.  All of that murder, exploitation, theft and corruption, it’s all a natural outgrowth of the struggle for survival.

***

“And God made dirt, so this dirt won’t hurt.”
Song: Shook Ones: Part One (by: Mobb Deep)
Artist: Prodigy

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Obviously this is closely related to the last entry but it deserves mention because of the almost throw-away manner in which it is uttered. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it type line which bears more truth than perhaps any other part of the song.  It also addresses the fallacy that certain behaviours are “unnatural” in any absolute sense; all behaviours are reinforced by the environment which the organism creates for itself.  It’s like Omar says in The Wire, “All in the game, yo…”

***

“We all gon’ die, we bleed through similar veins.”
Song: Thug Luv (by: Bone Thugz n’ Harmony)
Artist: 2-Pac

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2-Pac really spells out the unity and sameness of all human beings here in spite of the fact that he seems to be making a threat.  Still, there is profound existential awareness in his imagery; we all do, in fact, bleed through similar veins and if this shared mortality and vulnerability can’t bring us together, then what can?

***

“Ran through what we scared of; what was we afraid for?
Song: Awnaw (by: Nappy Roots)
Artist: Big V

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I love this line because it is a an expression of that feeling you get after going through adversity. It’s like, everything you haven’t done yet seems scary and impossible, while everything you have done seems not only do-able, but rather common and passe.  When it comes to the plausibility and possibility of any given endeavour, the biggest factor in determining your confidence is whether you have already done it or not.  That’s it.  So go out and do things. Then, doing more things will only seem more do-able.

***

“See things how they are, and not how you like ’em to be”
Song: Mistakes
Artist: Immortal Technique

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Who among us hasn’t told themselves a comforting lie at some point in their lives. I’ve been awake for five hours and I have probably already told myself ten.  But Tech is saying that wish-thinking, delusion, and all other forms of self-deception will only keep you in the invisible prison of ego because you are actually only lying to protect your ego.  The true self doesn’t need comfort, it doesn’t bruise and it wants the truth that will make the ego writhe and squirm.  Feed the ‘self’ with truth, and starve the ego of lies.

***

“Can I walk a righteous path holding a beer?”
Song: Resurrection (Large Pro Remix)
Artist: Common

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This is a big one for me. After all, I know there are things/vices I shouldn’t be doing as they serve as barriers for personal growth…but they’re so much fun.  Nobody seems more aware of this than Common, who, at this point in his career, was also probably puffing a blunt and grabbing an ass.  But does that mean he’s a bad dude?  Some would say ‘yes.’  I would say again what I said earlier, that good and bad are just myths. Still, every time I cloud my ability to think with a chemical I can’t help but think that perhaps I am mistreating my biological hardware.

***

“What you eat don’t make me shit.”
Song: Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)
Artist: Jay-Z

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If you’ve ever worked in a job, a blue-collar one especially, you have probably had co-workers complain about how much/little work someone else is doing.  The irony is that their bitching is almost certainly taking up paid time that they should be using to work.  I get it if someone’s performance is directly making yours more difficult; definitely solve the problem at the lowest level possible without making too much of a stink about it.  However, live and let live; you don’t have to be the police for your co-workers, and by extension other human beings.  Don’t feel the need to expose someone who is getting to the same place you’re getting by taking a different route that isn’t hurting anyone. That’s hater bullshit.

***

“When I catch up to these fiends, Imma knock ’em on they ass.”
Song: Can I Live? II (by: Jay-Z)
Artist: Memphis Bleek

Memphis+Bleek

You gotta approach this world knowing (not thinking) that you’re already a star but that nobody knows it but you.  Bleek gets it, even if noone else does.  And while you could make the argument that he still hasn’t caught up with these “fiends” (read: mainstream superstardom) he is still certain that he would “knock them on their asses” (read: blow them away with his lyricism) if he did.  Prove him wrong!

***

“Too bad you couldn’t do good at marriage!”
Song: Renegades (by: Jay-Z)
Artist: Eminem

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Oh man, this song and this line specifically resonated with me like crazy when I was a teenager.  It seemed like my parents were only too willing to point out my shortcomings and failings when they were fucking up left, right and center.  Eminem cut through this bullshit in a way that struck a chord with white, teenage boys in step-families in the early 2000’s; we knew things were fucked up and that the idyllic veneer of perfection and tranquility that coated our suburban world was simply that, a veneer.  We saw the cracks, the flaws, the violence, and the fights behind closed doors, and then the smiles which were plastered over faces when there was company over.  We knew the truth and Em let us know we weren’t alone.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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