Gentrifying the Living Room

Friends,

I am settling into my new place. The other tenants are alrite, but they didn’t know each other coming in and so there was no organization or rules in place when I entered the mix. I don’t dislike any of them, but they all present a unique set of challenges:

There is Tanya, an Indian girl who is the first one who really opened up to me when she saw me taking the intiative and cleaning the bathroom. Her boyfriend, Mayank is over all the time and he’s cool and outgoing and friendly.

Although he did just try to sell me Amway!

Keith is a hilarious motherfucker. I heard him before I met him -sitting in his room playing League of Legends screaming FUCK!!. The walls are thin and so I took umbrage the first night and felt personally disrespected. After a certain point I went to knock on his door and he came out to greet me. I didn’t say anything about the cursing because I think it is important to say as little as possible.
Instead I introduced myself and asked him what he was up to. He told me LoL, and while I suspected that he suspected I was there to complain about the noise, neither of us addressed it and he eagerly invited me in to see the computer set-up he was quite proud of. He is skinny and young with long-hair and nothing at all like the abrasive, dominance-minded tyrant I had pictured in my head. I’ve subsequently run into him at the gym where he goes to climb. I think we’ll get along well.

Then there’s Deryk; big jock-type dude who is a sweetheart but whom I don’t think is acutely aware of how sound travels in this house. It’s ok we’re working through it, as will be seen.

Then there’s John; not a tenant but our resident guy on the couch.

He is Deryk’s buddy and I get it -I have been that guy for like, years. I wanna be clear, I have no problem with John. I like John. I love John, because I am John. He kind of took up the love-seat in our unfurnished living room for the last while before I moved in I guess, but the problem is/was that I got plans for this living room and in short order I cleaned the garbage and shoe rack out of it and mopped it. Then today I acquired a coffee table from the downstairs tenant, Tyler and as such reorganized the sofa. Now it’s a Living Room; I am literally sitting here with my feet up on my coffee table looking out my picture window.

Admittedly it needs some work.

I like spending time here now, and that brings me back to John. He walked in this evening with Deryk after coming back from the gym and had this look of disappointment in his eyes when he saw Mayank, Tanya and I sitting here enjoying the living room he had been sleeping in, I felt bad but I kind of anticipated this because I spent the evening on the couch last night and it occurred to me that he might have had to find other accommodations.

I don’t want to displace him, but the benefit of having this common space kind of outweighs the bad. For example, my room is right next to the bathroom and when people shower, the pipes in the wall next to my head as I lie on my bed are deafening. However, now that I have a couch to sit on and work from in the evening, I can be comfortable and in (relative) quiet while the roomies are going through their evening routine.

The best part of all this is I never told John to leave. And truthfully he is still welcome. If he wanted to go through the rigor of asking I would be happy to get my air mattress for him and set him up in the kitchen, but I think he wanted low-hanging fruit for a crash, and I get that behaviour because I have demonstrated that behaviour in the past.

Funnily enough, Deryk, whom I have felt some resentment toward for callous noise-making, and whom I expected to fight me on the gentrification of the living room his friend was squatting in, has been cool. When John got himself a ride to another friend’s place after seeing his favourite squat had been turned into a Starbucks, Deryk actually opened up and intiated a conversation with me -something he had never done before. I had spent the whole time thinking that by exploring the space I was asserting myself against Deryk’s unchecked expansion –and maybe I was– but perhaps I was also liberating him by obliquely saying “no” through more intentional, deliberate and purposeful occupation of the space.

Intentional, deliberate, purposeful occupation the space! That’s a big idea right there, and it occurred to me on many a dancefloor while vying for space. BIG EGO Andre used to take it personally when my space on the dancefloor was being encorached upon or someone bumped into me -like how dare someone dance in front of me or in my bubble?; little ego andre sees that the best way to occupy space is to OCCUPY SPACE, and if you can’t occupy it effectively that means you got too much. Period.

“Loiterers should be arrested!”
-Jay-Z

I’ve had some reservations about living here this past week as a result of adjustment pains, but *just knocked on wood* I feel as good as I’ve ever felt tonight. I feel like people are starting to see what I see as far as what is possible in this place and I am starting to see them and what they have to offer.

Best,
-Dre

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#ourblackpanther

Friends,

I just walked out of Joker and I am sitting in a Tim Hortons well after midnight compelled to write about all my feels. This will be a somewhat scattershot post but at the very least it will be organized by headings. Also, it is less of a review than a description of all the ways the film mapped onto my life and spoke to me. Thank-you in advance for your indulgence.

Prologue

I worked all day in the Sadlon building at Georgian College. I have been working on my computer from there a lot but today was Friday and by 5pm it was empty and I was feeling like I needed to do somewthing. The idea of watching a film came to mind. I have long wanted to go see Once Upon a Time in Ho9llywood, but I wasn’t sure if it was still playing so I didn’t bank on it it. At about 6pm I decided it was time to make some moves. I hadn’t eaten all day and so had to go to the plaza where both grocery store and and cinema are located. I stopped at home first to drop off gym clothes and extra gear, expecting to walk to said plaza for groceries and see what developed from there.
At the grocery store I ate meatballs (keto af) then proceeded to work on my computer at my editing job. My boss…he used to be my friend, then we got to know each other better. I don’t think he wants me to work for him anymore, but he is scared to have me terminated because he knows that his whole existence is a house of cards that will come crumbling down at the slightest disturbance, and putting my livelihood at risk will cause said slightest disturbance. He knows this even if it is unspoken. After living with him for two months in Berlin this past summer I have a better idea of just how precariously he is holding onto his job and how scared he is of having his true nature exposed to scrutiny. I am going through the motions, keeping him appeased, but ultimately being less responsive to his passive aggressive attempts to pass his own insecuritiues on to me through professional channels. His words are meaningless, and I no longer make the mistake of responding to them beyond the minimal requirement.

************************

I wokred until about 9:30 in the grocery store’s cafe debating whether I would buy some alcohol to enjoy during the movie, slated to start at 10:15 pm. I really struggled with the decision of whether to buy booze because I am trying to drink less. It’s not like I drink a lot now, but I know how slippery a slope it is.
Work got boring to me and I decided to leave and head to the liquor store to pick up a small bottle of gin.
Since I had my backpack with me and I expected the theatre staff to want to check it, I purchased a small bottle of beefeater which I could fit in the back pocket of my jeans. The cashier carded me. I’m 35. Felt good I guess.

Prologue Part 2

I went into the theatre and purchased my ticket but when I went to have my ticket validated, the ticket checker said that I couldn’t bring my backpack in with me. I said I could and he disagreed. I channeled my Karen and asked to speak with a manager. The manager strolled up and we argued. My position was that I didn’t trust them to be stewards of my Macbook and bag, and also that they wouldn’t take a woman’s purse, so why should they take my backpack?. Their position was that no backpacks was company (Cineplex) policy. We argued for a moment and then I said that I was going to go in and watch the film, and unless he was going top use violence to stop me, he had better call the cops.

“Fine, I’ll call the cops!” was his response.

Reinforce the point I was making

Well yeah….I just said that…

I sat in the theatre in a state of some anxiety. I was expecting popo to roll up any minute and escort me out. I didn’t dare crack the gin I had smuggled into the cinema in my back pocket (expecting a bag search) because an unopened bottle of booze doesn’t count as contraband in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan. I figured this was a sign that I wasn’t meant to drink tonight; after all, if the cops approached me in the theatre I could state truthfully that:
-no refund had been offered
-noone had asked me to leave
-no official door policy had been put forward ensuring the safety of my property up to a certain dollar amount
As long as I stayed sober with an unopened bottle of booze in my back pocket, I had the legal high ground.

I breathed deeply and tried to relax even though I felt the dragnet encraoching upon me. Out the corner of my eye I saw the ticket-taker eventually enter the theatre during the pre-trailer commericals. He came up to my row. I kept my eyes to the screen. He paused for a moment and then walked up to me.

“Hey man, we were wondering if you would compromise by letting us have a look in your bag.”

Years ago, I would have taken the checking of my bag as an affront, but I guess the security state has become the norm even in my own psyche and so I enthusiastically agreed figuring it was preferable to an encounter with the cops and also wanting to smoothe things over. I showed him the interior of all the multitudinous pockets of my military-style backpack (the gin was in my back pants pocket) and, satisfied, he sat down next to me for a moment and admitted he thought that the bag rule was stupid but that they had had someone come in to see the movie with a weapon already. I sympathized with him, and kind of felt bad for being an obstinate dick. I sincerely wonder how Sister Rosa Parks felt after refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Even if we are in the moral right, it is a taxing ordeal standing up to other people, and we are wont to question the justness of our actions when we see the strain it puts on our fellows who are “just following the rules.”

And so it was, after the initial elation of getting away with standing up to the crooked Cineplex PTB, I felt a sense of foreboding that I was making wrong choices. Self-destructive choices which I would regret. I felt bad and I felt low and I felt dread about my choice to drink gin.

But then I smiled and thought that this was a perfect frame of mind with which to watch this film.

I cracked the gin as the light dimmed and the movie began.

The broken, Oedipal man

Arthur Fleck aka Joker is a pathetic man who lives with his mentally unwell mother. He loves his mother and she is not shown to be cruel to him (although cruelty is alluded to later in the film), but the sickenss of their relationship can be summarized in a scene where he is giving her a sponge-bath; she is naked in a tub and he is bathing her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is a sad state of affairs, and I would guess that it is the common state of affairs for incel men (living in their mother’s basement/mother is their best friend) taken to a visceral extreme.
Personally, I have worn many hats, and incel, Oedipal son has certainly been one. My relationship with my mother was violent and abusive most of my life, and then I was completely estranged from her from 17 onwards thanks to the efforts of a step-father who wanted out of his marriage as much as he wanted the best for the children he was raising. My mother was a tyrant and violently abusive, and my step-father, step-brother and I got her arrested and put up on multiple charges and removed from the household. Yet in spite of all the violence and intimidation I remember so well, she would balance it out with something even worse; a tendency to stunt my growth by crutching on me as a male ally in the household when she fought with step-father and smothering me with Oedipal, maternal affection. It’s complicated to explain because she was as critical as she was was encouraging, but throughout my childhood I was kept in an insular box and made to be useless and weak; and all the while I was criticized for my uselessness and weakness.
There is one story that sums up the sick nature of my mother’s affections aptly: About 5 years ago, things were going well between me and my mother. We were making inroads toward reconciliation and things were becoming normalized. I was spending many weekends at her house and it was all normal and fine. Like how it should be I suppose.
But then one night as she was going up to bed she gently suggested that if I wanted to I could come up to her room and into bed with her and snuggle.
Even thinking about it makes really uncomfortable. My mother never sexually abused me, but I realized at that moment the extent of the emotional abuse I had received, because at 30 years old with 15 yeasrs of estrangement between us, I had the perspective to see how wrong her smothering behaviour was.
I didn’t take her up on he offer.
In Joker, Arthur ends up smothering his bed-ridden mother to death with a pillow while she lays in a hospital bed.
Fitting? Perhaps.
Poetic? Possibly.
Relatable? Definitely.

Fixation on Black Women

There are four black women whom Arthur interacts with: a social worker, a therapist, a love interest and a stranger who reprimands him for “bothering” her son. Why the emphasis on black femininity? Well I can’t say for sure, but it resonated with me and so I’ll at least comment to that extent. I like black women. I am attracted to them. I don’t know why exactly but I suspect there are two reasons:
1) Assertion of white masculinity
2) Respect and reverence for primordial, divine femininity
I am trying to be more honest in my writing than I ever have been before but I’m not ready to talk about these things in greater depth right now. They need more thought. Hopefully the bluntness of how I stated these two ideas gives enough imagination fodder.

Searching for a Father 

A big theme throughout both the film and my life is the protagonist’s search for his father. He is led to believe that he is the illegitimate offspring of Thomas Wayne, but when he confronts Thomas Wayne he is rebuked and punched for his troubles. While my father never rejected me there are broad parallels between Arthur’s estrangement and my own.
There is a great scene where Arthur visits Wayne Manor and meets a young Bruce Wayne -his ostensible younger and legitimate brother. There is no malice here and he interacts jovially with the young boy until a butler (Alfred Pennyworth presumably) intercedes and tells Arthur to leave. Alfred, as the impediment between Arthur and his father; as the impediment betweeen Arthur and his little brother, was very reminiscent to me of my step-mother, Anita. It seems my whole life she has been keeping me from my father and I have long resented her for it.
Of course she wasn’t the only one keeping me from my father; before her it was my mother who chose to be unfaithful, then divorced, and then moved far away from my father so that I missed him my whole life.
My father, for his part is not perfect, having made, like Thomas Wayne, some stupid mistakes. There were times where when I was a teenager, living , much to my step-mother’s chagrin, at his house, and he would have to bend the truth to placate both me and Anita. I could loosely relate then when Arthur, being spurned by a pternity-denying Thomas Wayne, laughs, saying, “Why are you saying these lies?”
Ultimately there are further developments in the film which, rather than definitively answering the question of Arthur’s parentage, only obfuscate matters further, giving an unsettling Fight Club uncetainty vibe to the whole thing. Thomas Wayne’s eventual death then, at the hands of a clown-masked rioter encouraged by Arthur’s actions, pivotal though it is to young Bruce, sees Arthur simultaneously celebrating on the hood of a cop car in his brief moment of glory while crowds laud him after freeing him from police custody for the murder of Murray Franklin. The death of his possible biological father is shown to be meaningless as well as indirectly a result of his actions.

What of Murray Franklin?

Murray Franklin, a Gotham late-night talk show host, is significant because he represents an idealized surrogate father to Arthur and object of his delusions. Before Arthur even learns of of Thomas Wayne possibly being his father, he has reservations about the man. He has no such reservations about Murray Franklin, whom he fatasizes about meeting and being accepted as a son by.
Murray Franklin is portrayed by Robert DeNiro, and this is significant because the film draws inspiration from two of DeNiro’s earlier films, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. These earlier portrayals of DeNiro give a sort of meta-believability to his status as surrogate father figure to Arthur. However, the idealized version of Murray Franklin which Arthur fantasizes about is a far cry from trhe real version who lampoons Arthur’s secretly recorded initial overtures toward stand-up stardom and only has him on his show due to fan outcry.
Franklin, like Thomas Wayne, has been an absentee father to Arthur. Perhaps even neglectful. Nonetheless, when Arthur exacts his vengenace on Murray, who at the time is scolding him on live television after Arthur’s revelation that he klilled three men on the subway, I felt it was simultaneously appropriate and overkill.
Murray Franklin and Thomas Wayne both die the same night by the hand of men in clown masks/paint. Chaos ensues/continues. Even though these men were both neglectful, mean and spiteful, there is still something tragic about their deaths. Their passing represents things becopming undone and unraveling. When the father dies, all is chaos.

The Three Men on the Subway

Arthur’s arc gets interesting when he shoots three drunk men on the subway. The men are harassing a young Asian women (significant?) and Arthur’s condition (uncontrollable laughter) flares up. The Asian girl makes her escape and the men (employees of Wayne Enterprises) frustratedly approach Arthur seeming almost amused, but ultimately they beat him down in a scene echoing his beat-down at the hands of (multi-racial) kids during the opening of the film. This time however, Arthur is both armed and being attacked by three white men in suits, so when he lets off with his .38, it is less Bernie Goetz and more OWS. In fact, this scene really made me wonder why the film was so controversially received; from a racial and economic perspective at least, Arthur kills all the right people.

Post-Kill Blues

My favourite scene in the film occurs after Arthur kills the three subway harassers. He runs to a park bathroom, locks himself inside and then….dances? This dance scene actually made it to one of the film’s posters:

I know what it looked like to me because I have done this same kind of dance after moments of accomplishment, during moments of excellence and even when I am really enjoying some food -it is the movement of someone experiencing a rush of serotinin and channeling -nay, savouring-it’s movement through his central nervous system. Arthur is allowing the divine energies to course through his body/kundalini and heal his sick self. We see him here in a moment of becoming, and if our vision could go beyond the visible spectrum, into the subtler, higher vibrational realms and observe his spiritual body, we would see Arthur spreading his wings for the first time. His movements, vaguely reminiscent of tai-chi, are the same movements I have made on many dance floors when my spine/kundalini/chakras are properly aligned and I am basking in the heavenly and earthly energies moving up and down through me.

 

Honk Honk!!

And Pepe brings me to perhaps my most cynical thought of all: Sometime in in 2019 I became aware of the #clownworld/#honkpill/#honkler meme; a derivative of Pepe with a more acute dedication to pointing out the hypocrisy and absurdity of the world and laughing at it. I was immediately enamoured of this meme and by the time I sat down to watch Joker, I was well primed to appreciate Arthur even more than I otherwise might have. And this made me think: “Oh no, have I simply been manipulated? Were honkler and clownworld simply dreamed up by marketing execs to obliquely promote the film months in advance of its release?”
I don’t know, but it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I have been duped. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that my own susceptibilities as a somewhat disgruntled man in his 30s, with problematic relations with his father and even worse relations with his mother, have been exploited. This bothered me somewhat, but in truth, not as much as I would like to think it would have. It was actually reassuring on some level to know that someone (or some marketing firm) could know me and speak so deeply to my condition. Like Winston getting interrogated and tortured at the end of 1984, I just want to be understood I suppose, even if it is in a clinical and dispassionate way. And I don’t think I am alone.

The Rock & Roll Easter Egg

At the begining of the film’s final act, Arthur gets dolled up in his final Joker ensemble for the first time, preparing to step out for the evening and be a guest Murray Franklin’s show. As he leaves his house, we see him dancing down a set of stairs, and while this scene was shown in the trailer, the music was different. In the film, Rock & Roll Part 2  by Gary Glitter plays. The young college kids I was in the theatre with probably missed the reference, but Gary Glitter was busted for among other things, child pronography. While Rock & Roll used to be played at every sporting event when I was growing up,and in every Mighty Ducks film, since the late 90s it has been effectively blackballed. To me then, including the song was a nice touch; a perfectly oblique and tasteful nod to the fact that marginalized men can be wont to take out their sexual frustration on children, and it was an acknowledgement made without directly demonizing Arthur in an unforgivable way by making him a pedophile.

And the scene was fucking awesome; I had a big grin on my face as he got suited up for a night of mayhem and danced his ass down the stairs.

Swag!

The Final Analysis

The backlash against the film that I have read seems mostly like posturing and so unworthy of calling out by name, but as someone who unashamedly relates to Arthur Fleck I will tell you what the film was to me –a cautionary tale. It gave me and others like me a glimpse of what happens when we allow ourselves to be made weaker by our mothers; what happens when we allow oursleves to be too invested in the opinions and acceptance of our fathers; what happens when we fetishize women; amd what happens when we allow our worst impulses and delusions run our lives. Sure, there may be a brief moment on top of a cop car, cheered on by rioters , where we are immortal, but that too will pass. The path of Arthur Fleck is not one to emulate, but it hits home nonetheless because there but for the grace of God goes me.
When I think of a hero in film, I think of someone who, in the most abstract sense, shows me the righteous path forward. A hero is someone to emulate.
What then of an anti-hero? Well, irrespective of whatever the accepted definition of an anti-hero is, it seems to me that it has been perverted into referring to, essentially, a grittier version of a hero, who is yetr still ultimately worthy of emulation.
I find this to be a shallow reading of what an anti-hero should be. For me, I rather take the literal approach: If a hero is a role model, an anti-hero is just the opposite; the aforementioned cautionary tale. We can understand and relate to him just as much as we can relate to his more traditionally heroic counterpart, but his behaviour is self-evidently degenerative and not to be emulated.

Some consider the Joker to be the greatest villain, but he’s not, because villains can’t be understood or related to. Heroes and anti-heroes can. That doesn’t make PunisherVenomSpawn, et al. anti-heroes though, because excessive violence notwithstanding, they still do the right thing.

Thanos? He’s a villain because we can’t understand him. It’s like, “Bitch! Just snap your fingers and double the resources!

Juggernaut? Great villain because its hard to empathize with someone who just wants to destroy everything.

But Joker? Someone that relatable, and who can furthermore incite a whole demographic, in real life and in the film, to rioting? That’s more than a villain; that a hero, even if an antithetical one.

Best,
-Dre

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It’s a Lonely Night

Friends,

It’s been a good day, a long day, but a good one. I signed a lease today and will be moving into my own place tomorrow. This will be good for me as I have been living the hobo fabulous lifestylre too long, living on the largesse of others. Aside from that I completed some work project, paid my school deposit, got a lead on a new side hustle, made friends with just about everyone I spoke with and ate pretty healty.

But there was one dark cloud today: Since I can’t move I to my flat until tomorrow, I called my grandma to see if I could crash at hers on the south side of town.. There was no answer. No worry, I was in no rush. After all, I had a series of buses to take and a 90 minute trip with which to reach her. Just then, my new landlord, good samaritan that he is, offered me a ride to the southside as he had to go the depot for my new bedroom door anyhow.

We shot the shit for the drive and I like him and his integrity quite a bit. A few years older than me, he had taken his time finding a wife and starting a family -partying and such. We parted amicably, and I liad my backpack against the door and rang.

My grandfather answered the door and just looked at me and said, “Now you’re moving in?” Before I could explain he lost his shit and started yelling mostly incoherently about how he didn’t want to take care of anyone else and how his house wasn’t for rent.

Perhaps I should have known better -lat3ely he has been suffering from dementia (but I actually think there was a clarity to his words that I had never heard before…more on that in a sec), and between my invalid uncle and my cousin with his live-in fiance, my grandpa has a lot on his shoulders. I should have known better.

The fact that he is mostly deaf made explanations no easier and my grandma struggled to explain that I had just signed a lease and needex one night, even though I could tell she had he apprehensions about taking on a new dependant.

Here’s the thing -my] grandfather has never said an ill word to me, let alone raised his voice at me so I compltely taken aback, when later in the kitchen he unloaded on me with a lucidity I had never heard from this man who I always assumed was fairly unassuming:

“You’re a bum! You’re no good. I know what kind of guy you are! Why don’t you go to your father’s place? I’m not your father! I don’t want bums in my house. You don’t work!”

The whole time my grandma was getting upset but I implored her gently to let him keep going. I was upset by this, but also fascinated because from a certain perspective I agreed with him -there was truth in his words and it is a truth which I have been mostly isulated from my whole life and had to learn myself: I have not been making the most of my potential. But people have only just started telling me this and its a feeling like doors are closing as I get older.

It’s not a wholly bad thing -it’s motivated be to get my shit together, but again, it was pretty surprising coming so lucidly from from this man who is usually in his own world, mostly deaf, suffering from dementia and who usually calls me the wrong name.

My grandma tried to soften the blow, telling me didn’t mean it, but when I pressed her on the specificity of his word she said, “He used to love you so much. He wanted so much for you. ”

Even writing this I have to laugh. It’s so sad and its like being the last to find out what everyone thinks about you, even tho0ugh you know it about yourself and suspect they think it too.

But again, insulation; I feel like I have been lied to.

I lef tthe house to come here to this cafe and work on my computer and for a moment I got mad at my grandfather -I do work after all. When it copmes down to it he doesn’t know fuck all about me or my struggle. But that’s not the point -his truth, no matter how tangential and uninformed of the broader picture, IS STILL TRUE. I know its true because that’s how he sees it. There is something correct in his estimation that cares little for rationalizations, plans, non-traditional jobs, etc. His opinion is no the be-all, end-all but it is valid because it is ancestral, and on some levelhe must be worried that I have broken faith with him and everyone who came before.

Fair enough. I intend to make good on his faith and redeem the struggles him and those before him went through to bring me here. I don’t know that he’ll live to see it, but he does’t have to. The message has been communicated; maybe the last gift from this ancestor.

I won’t squander it.

In closing I will say this: Over the last year I haev really connected with the song No Eyes by Claptone. The chorus, “…no eyes…..no eyes on meeeeeee…” connects with me because as the first-born grandson I was the golden boy my whole life and everyone’s eyes were on me. Now, at 35 people have stopped giving a shit and are divesting. No eyes on me.

It fills me with foreboding and existential dread that I am alone. But its alrite because its also freedom.

And that’s what happens when you get past the breakers of ancestral pressure -the waves upon waves of “get married” and “start a family” which rash into your dinghy, wearing you down and pushing you back to the familiar shores of how it has always been done.

The brreakers will knock you back and leave you stranded in the same cycles of behaviour of everyione who came before if you give up. But if you persist, and keep fighting and paddling past the good-advice and well-intentioed interventions, you make it out to the open water.

But all that happens then is that you are in the middle of the ocean, left to your own devices with no eyes on you.

Act accordingly.

Best,
-Dre

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Toy Story 4 and my Resultant  Feels

Friends,

I am currently in the air over the Atlantic, heading back to Canada from Brussels, and I just watched Toy Story 4 for the first time. Overall, it was good and I found myself tearing up a few times toward the end.

When Did I Cry?

Tier/Tear 1

The first time I teared up a little was around when Gabby surgically removed Woody’s voice-box and instead of complaining or being indignant, he sat with her indulgently as she expressed her gratitude for what he had not freely given. He was patient with her, and while they (Pixar) could have approached the aftermath with him feeling emasculated, or at least eviscerated, Woody seems to take his removed voice-box in stride throughout the rest of the film. And, looking back, I think this is because as a character he is getting ready, before he even realizes it, to abandon the life of being a child’s toy.

Maybe that’s why I cried; putting away childish things like the shiny, brand-new ideal and settling for life as it is. One can relate, but more on that later.

Also, it should be said that there was an initial reading of this scene which came to mind immediately as I watched it; it occurred to me that as Gabby talking cordially to the freshly sewn-up Woody, flossing her new voice,  was in as poor taste as a rapist telling his victim how much he enjoyed the sex. That reading gets dark/weird real quick though and I’m only looking to get weird/weird here.

Tear/Tier 2

Another place I teared up a little were the scenes where Gabby, with Woody’s voice-box, gets rejected by Harmony and then later gets accepted by the lost girl at the carnival: In the former case, it is difficult to see someone work so hard for something, stepping on others and breaking rules all along the way only to fail. It’s like, “Fuck! All that suffering you caused; what was it all for?”
The latter case at the carnival was just kinda sweet though, and It made me think that the relationship between the toys and the kids is analogous to the relationship between men and women, and the lost toys might be like the MGTOW camp, whereas the toys owned by kids are the analogous to men who have been chosen by a woman. I like this reading because I think there is a pureness with which the toys love children that finds correspondence in the way men love women; it has been said that men love idealistically and women love pragmatically. Well, substitute toys for men and kids for women and you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Tier/Tear 3

The third scene that made me cry a little was at the end where Woody chooses life with Bo Peep over idealistically pursuing a life of servitude to Bonnie’s happiness. As mentioned earlier, this is foreshadowed by his relatively chilled attitude toward getting his voice-box removed.

So what’s going on here? If we already established that toy is to child as man is to woman, what does it mean when Woody chooses Bo Peep over Bonnie? Well, if we see that many toys find happiness without belonging to a child, perhaps we have license to say that, according to our little analogy, the child doesn’t represent the female precisely, but rather the feminine ideal. If Bonnie represents the feminine ideal in contrast to Bo Peep (who is at face value much more feminine than the toddler that is Bonnie), what then does Bo Peep represent?

I think devotion to something/someone tangible than the abstract ideal – a real relationship to a flesh and blood (or plastic and scotch tape) woman perhaps? Giving up the porn and the chasing of a wild sex life, which is ultimately unfulfilling? I don’t know, but that is what comes to mind.

This hits me hard; I am an idealist, and particularly in the realm of romance, there have been a couple of Bo Peeps who I turned away from because they weren’t Bonnies. But alas, the Bonnie’s are fickle and elusive, and while they (Bonnies/feminine ideals/any ideals) serve a valuable purpose as a north star and guide, they are precisely so useful because they are untouchable.

Annie was a Bo Peep. She gave me several chances to commit, but she wasn’t as ‘Bonnie’ to me as say Marijo was at the time -and Marijo was much less Bo Peep in my eyes. In fact, all I saw in the latter was the Divine Feminine personified and I didn’t treat her as something/someone real. It got ugly. This is getting into a quite personal and involved metaphor so I am going to digress on this point.

How Does the Fourth Film Fit into the ‘Trilogy’?

I’ve seen the original Toy Story a million times. I saw the second one almost once completely, but I forget how it ended. The third one I saw once and really enjoyed, thinking it was a great final instalment which really captured the essence of ‘putting away childish things’, such as when Andy goes away to college and passes on all his toys to Bonnie. As far as what the toys themselves learned in the third one, I think it was teamwork, but I don’t really remember. This is a problem then if its called Toy Story, because I remember what Andy learned and how Andy grew more than the toys. So while at first I was a little bit skeptical of this fourth instalment, thinking that things had ended well enough with the third instalment, I think the fourth gives a greater picture of the cycle of life as experienced by toys as represented by Woody.

We, the viewer are much more intimately acquainted with Woody than Andy or Bonnie, and in the fourth we see him clinging to his ideal purpose like an athlete past his prime. How long does he have to go down that road before he sees where it leads? Well, four films evidently, because right up until the moment he decides to remain with Bo Peep at the end (and even afterward when he bestows his Sheriff’s star to Jessie) he is helping his fellow toys become the best they can be in pursuing the goal of Bonnie’s happiness which he is preparing to let go of. It is a passing of the torch, essentially, and when Buzz tells him at the end, “she’ll be ok’ (referring to Bonnie when Woody is considering staying with Bo), we can see that it is about Woody learning to trust others. Even to trust the next generation. To trust ‘Forkie’?

Parallels in Society on the Macro Scale

How does Woody’s arc map onto Western Society’s arc? Can we say he represents the post-WW2 generation being put out to pasture and displaced by the younger, less traditional toys? I think it’s worth exploring. Woody’s first rivalry was with Buzz in the first film, and you can’t get much more of a contrast than cowboy and spaceman. Generationally and technologically, Buzz represented newness relative to Woody. Woody’s subsequent feelings of uncertainty upon Buzz’ arrival could even be viewed as representative of the American national feeling post-1960s, post-moonwalk, post-Kennedy assassinations, during the energy crisis, and in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam. Was the space race the direct cause of this loss of innocence and … miasma (?)? No, but it certainly seems as if a confusing and turbulent decade was heralded by a great success; by the arrival of ‘Buzz’ you might say (and Neil). 

From what I remember about the arc of the second film, Woody finds his tribe (Jessie and Silver) after stolen at a yard sale. This speaks to another aspect of American life which I think is important -the ability to get lost in the blurry fringes and find your people. Sure, Woody doesn’t make the choice to leave Andy in the film, but he nonetheless finds himself in the margins of society, and while there he finds himself. Very poetic.

Another telling scene which always stuck with me from the one time I watched the second film was when Buzz sees all the other Buzz Lightyear toys and has to deal with their youthful impetuousness and lack of understanding about who they really are.

Who they really are. In a broad general sense, this is the job of an elder, to remind the youner generation of who they really are. One of Woody’s most famous lines in the first film was screamed at Buzz Lightyear:

“YOU! ARE! A! TOY!!” -even in the fourth film he has to repeatedly tell Forkie (convinced he is trash) the same thing. But in the second film we see a more recently awakened Buzz taking his first furtive steps into the role of shamanic rememberer to a younger generation. I like this reading because it redeems the mass-produced Buzz Lightyear toys in the second film in a manner echoed in the fourth: “You are not (mass-produced) trash; you are a toy.” If we are continuing our allegory from the first film about the older generation being disrupted by the newer one and the confusion that causes, I think it is safe to say broadly that the resolution is a two-fold regaining of lost childhood on the part of the elder (like we see when Woody reconnects with his Round-Up pals), and a simultaneous taking up of the mantle of responsibility by the younger generation.

Empathy and understanding are a natural result.

I don’t feel competent to remark on the third film’s social commentary at the moment, but I briefly want to address how the fourth film might fit: At the outset we see Woody being left in the closet and not being played with. Bonnie routinely takes his star off and pins it on Jessie, and while  he occupies a position of some status within the hierarchy of Bonnie’s toys, he is no longer the head-honcho like he was in Andy’s room. Interestingly, Potato Head and Hamm, easily representative of an older generation than Woody himself, are still played with by Bonnie. This might allude to some tendency to ignore our grandparents but mythologize and lionize earlier ancestors, but that seems pretty thin so I don’t know. Nonetheless, as much as Potato Head and Hamm are played with, they barely speak throughout the film, and this is telling.

So Woody has been put out to pasture, Bonnie Is largely indifferent to Buzz, and the rising stars within the hierarchy are Jessie (which might be ham-fisted nod to feminism’s ascendance), and Forkie, essentially a bastardization of what a toy is. As a mish-mash of unmatched parts, Forkie could be an allegorical for the most physically extreme elements of the LGBT movement; them Ts as Dave Chappelle put it. As well, we could view Forkie’s initial insistence on his being trash as an echo of the nihilism attendant upon the current younger generations. And it matters not that he seems content and happy to be trash; this current generation seems to think that nihilism is pretty nifty, and they comepete in their memes to be seem the most idsaffected.

So if this assignment of roles within Toy Story 4 is accurate, what can we glean from the conclusion of the film, where Woody ends up with Bo Peep after passing the torch to the younger generation? Here’s what I think:

We gotta trust the younger generation.

We gotta mentor the younger generation.

We gotta know when to be idealistic and when to be pragmatic.

If you find the right woman, let her go if your calling means more to you.

If the right woman comes back and your work is done, go out and be happy with her.

That’s what I got at least.

Best,
-Dre

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Decisions…Decisions…

Friends,

I don’t know for sure who I’m going to vote for in the upcoming Canadian election, but I can say with some certainty it won’t be Liberal, NDP or Green.

I have values which are important to me and I’m not satisfied/convinced that they will be maintained/upheld by furthering/increasing the erosion of Canadian standards for the sake of inclusivity. What do I mean by erosion of standards? Well, it’s an erosion by standards by inference. Let me explain:

In the miost metaphysical (most true) sense, I maintain that standards and inclusivity have an inverse correlation; I don’t think can be disputed. My positions on everything in day-to-day (such as they are) may seem unfeeling, but I try to make them consistent on every lower level with the truth as I perceive it on the highest, most abstract level. If you can accept that idea, would you say standards or inclusivity have been prioritized over the last few years in Canada? 

Definitely inclusivity. And this is not a bad thing, as life is a balancing act, a dynamic tension if you will, and when things get too elitist we need to be more inclusive. However, when things get too inclusive, like for example when men are invading female spaces and the general population is being forced under law to speak woords which they don’t believe, then I think we need to amp up our standards.

We need a rebalancing This is why we are in practice (if not in theory) a two party system: the Canadian “personality” has two sides most aptly represented by Lib and Cons, which is why power tends to go back and forth between them.

I don’t put a lot of stock in politics or politicians as a rule, so before any further discussion let’s just say that by way of a baseline assumption on my part.

That said, if there is any relevance and I decide to go through the whole democratic charade, I am going to vote for my personal best interests.

Why?

Because groups don’t suffer, individuals suffer. So the public good, even assuming that Orange/Red/Green are better for it (which, I’m not convinced), is not of as much consequence to me as the individual good.

The group must unite, but under the banner of the individual. To that point, I think that it iserves my own personal best interests to vote for the party which would benefit me the most. If this is racist, then it is more of an indictment of the system of democracy than of the system of me. (P.S. I don’t think I’m racist).

I am a brother to anyone who will have me, but the people who want me as a brother only when they need my vote but want me to internalize guilt and self-hatred the rest of the time? No. Take me all the time and never hold my perceived privilege against me. 

As fqr as privilege goes, there are three main types of privilege which trump everything and nobody seems to want to talk about them: Two undivorced parents, financial security, and physical attractiveness. To this we might add IQ, but as that is a function of childhood nutrition in many regards it seems a function of the former two forms of privilege mentioned.

With regard to my side ‘winning’ the election versus feeling the need to sacrifice my interests for demographic groups that see me as an oppressor, I will quote Jordan Peterson for the third time: I’m not gonna feel guilty and lose; I’m gonna get cruel and win.

And if I get beaten, no big deal: I’ve licked my finger and stuck it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing; I will find a way to make it work. If I can’t then trust that I have (like everyone should) formulated a contingency plan to put myself in a place more in line with my values; a place where I amvalued and accepted as a brother all year and every day.

Like Tupac said, “Me Against the World.”

And like Malcolm X said, “I believe in the brotherhood of all men, but I don’t believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn’t want to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street.”

Treat me like an equal and dispense with marginalizing me for sex, orientation, skin color, etc. and then we can talk.

Til that day…

Love to all, including myself. And if that loses me friends, well then we all lose.

Friends,
-Andre

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(Prime) M(in)ister Dressup

Friends,

Canada has an inferiority complex. If the nation could be anthropomorphized as a person, it would be a person who is incredibly jealous of its best friend and neighbour to the south, the United States of America.

And rightly so, as America is the best goddamn country in the world. And yes, I can support this claim.

But I digress.

While the character of a nation isn’t wholly the reflection of its head of state (if anything the reverse is true), the head of state does perhaps have more influence on said character than the average individual citizen. If we can accept this premise, all we need to know about Canada can be gleaned from studying its Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

I’m gonna be honest, I don’t like this guy. That said, I’m gonna try and give him (and the country) a fair shake herein.

As the son of a former Prime Minister, the argument could be made that a big part of Trudeau’s success was the strength of his name. While I think there is truth in that appraisal, it actually doesn’t bother me. I recognize the importsance of dynasties for political stability, even if they are interrupted by the span of a couple decades (it’s called an interregnum). And if I objected on any level Trudeau leveraging his name, it would strike me as inconsistent with my other view that Donald Trump was in the right when he promoted his children to positions of power in his administration. Properly bounded and advised, I think that an underqualified individual in a stable situation can keep an even keel much more easily than a qualified person can weather a storm. So, no: I don’t have a problem with dynastic continuity. Even nepotism -I get it! I have gotten jobs and positions based on who I know, and if it’s okay at my low level and the patterns of power repeat upward and and downward at all levels to infinity, then I can’t criticize it on principle.

The above photo. It lambasts our weiner-kid PM for his penchant for dress-up. Again, this doesn’t bother me. It does make me cringe insofar as wearing traditional cultural garb seems like blatant pandering, but it just makes me wish that he would use greater discretion, not refrain from trying.

On this penchant for dress-up, the following image came out today:

Yep, that’s him in blackface (well, brownface) at a theme party in 2001. Naturally, the memes have already been fire:

But here’s thing: While the internet is losing its shit, and while conservative friends whom I have a lot of political overlap with are lambasting him, I find myself not caring.

Two reason really:

1) Blackface has never bothered me. It’s overblown and stupid to consider “completing” a costume racist.
2) We need to stop diggind up a person’s past and sacrifing them in the present because of it.

I don’t like Trudeau. He is a sanctimonious, incompetent and a hypocrite. That should be the crux of objections against him. Instead his detractors look at this blast from the past and get excited, acting like they don’t cry ‘foul’ when their political opponents resort to this same shit. It’s equivocal and silly.

Trudeau did nothing wrong back in 2001. He did a lot wrong in subsequent years when he set himself up for a bigger fall by portraying a standard of virtue which was impossible to live up to. But sweet, young Justin in 2001 was well within the grounds of acceptability.

***********************

What does this have to do with Canada?

Like its PM, Canada has to decide who it wants to be because its obviously not working. We’ve successfully alienated our closest ally in the US and now instead of the US’s best friend, we are 5th or 6th somewhere after Brazil, Japan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and the UK.

Canada has to decide what it wants to be known for. It’s a country of mediocrity; its never excelled at anything for a long enough time to be known for that thing. I know what I’m talking about here because I have fallen into the same rut in my own life. In my tim, I have been an okay soldier, an okay, student, and okay labourer, an okay home stager, an okay writer, an okay yoga teacher, an okay jeweler, an okay actor, etc. Okay isn’t good enough. Be bold. Pick something and focus on it. Stop keeping all of your costumes in your closet. Pick one and stick to it and throw all the rest out.

I am mad at my country but maybe I am more mad at me. We do tend to hate the things about others that we hate most about ourselves. Call it Canada Syndrome or whatever, but I need to mature and focus, and so does my stupid country.

And Justin Trudeau? I don’t hate this guy. I love this guy because I AM this guy.

Am I gonna vote for him in the next election? No…but then I wouldn’t vote for my own non-committal ass either.

And if I had to pick one country to be reborn in? Well, I wouldn’t pick Canada either.

I guess I picked a good time to return home and go back to school: I need it and evidently my country does too.

Best,
-Dre

 

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Weak Men

Friends,

Everything is relative, and in my experience, nowhere is this more true than in the realm of male-male friendships. There is something of a classic model of male relationships which classes men as either the Alpha or the Beta. Whatever you may think of this model and its applicability, I am going to be building upon it here.

You’ve been warned.

In theory, the Alpha-Beta (AB) model manifests in every male friend group; even a group of two, and it is the group of two I want to focus on. I/we can be part of many two person friendships, and our status as Alpha or Beta is subject to change depending on the friend we are hanging out with, and to a lesser extent, the specific circumstance we find ourselves in.

I have spent the last two months living with my friend, Archie, and I am the Alpha in the relationship…by a large margin (as you’ll see, it’s not as impressive as it sounds). I want to focus less on why this is and the specific details of our friendship, and more on how it (frustratingly) manifests.

Before continuing, it must be said that my expertise derives from the fact that I have been both Alpha and Beta at various times, and I have been Beta by the same wide, crippling, pathetic margin (relative to more Alpha friends) that Archie currently is relative to me. I see now how I must have been a chore for my indulgent friends to deal with.

Scarcity Mentality

I have had and lost many women….definitely more of the latter. I don’t care. That’s the point. Stop caring! Archie cares too goddamn much. He tells me so. He wants to claim women, regardless of who they are more interested in. Lately he won’t go to a local coffee shop with me anymore because I flirt with the barista and she flirts back. He admits this but justifies it by saying that he is worried about it getting awkward and not being able to go there again. I asked him if he had designs on her. He said he didn’t know, but that since I started flirting with her I didn’t give him a chance to decide.
Here’s the thing: I would love for him to make a bold move with her and catch her interest. Play on, Playa! That’s my mentality; pure abundance But he doesn’t want to do that because then he would have to reciprocate my magnanimity. And he doesn’t want to do that because of Jenny.

Jenny
Jenny is….was Archie’s friend and I met her once in passing over a year ago in Berlin outside a bar I was at with Archie. They were talking. Jenny and I shared a look and a rapport, and when you know, you just know. But alas, I had a fiance (and so did Archie) and so nothing never happened [sic].  Fast forward a year to now and I have moved back to Berlin into a spare room in Archie’s flat for a temporary stay. Being newly-single, I asked Archie early on about Jenny. He clammed up and expressed doubt that I had this connection (yeah, okay…), then came out with the truth that he was into her. Recently divorced, he had designs on her and was being territorial.

Well, I had no access to her aside from him connecting us, and I didn’t even remember her name. These two facts coupled with the literal millions of fish in the sea gave me a play on, playa outlook on the whole situation, even though I was dubious about his ability to make it work.

So a few nights ago he gives me an update on Jenny (whose name I had forgotten again and which he took as further evidence of the absence of connection). He tells me he “fired her as a friend” (his exact words) due to numerous scheduling snafus (her blowing him off). He had reached a critical threshold I guess and told her he didn’t want to be her friend and then blocked her. He Scorched the Earth! He fucked it up and if he couldn’t have her, noone could (at least noone who would need him to make the introduction). I felt anger well up inside me (not sure yet if the anger is justifiable or not) but all I said was, “And nothing of value was lost.” He enthusiastically, unironically agreed.

Liat

Same aforementioned coffee shop. Last week we go out to the back patio for our (at that point, at least) daily coffee and smoke. I walked out there first and saw a cute girl, Liat, sitting with a friend. We made eye contact and when you know, you just know. Archie joined me shorly after at our table and I initiated conversation with Liat and her friend as they were seated next to us. She was really bubbly and regaled us with a story about her broken arm and the cast she was currently wearing. Liat’s friend left, then Archie left, and Liat and I walked out of the coffee shop together (which visibly intrigued and upset aforementioned barista). We walked back to mine and started playing some music in my room. Archie joined and we had a jam and sing-along. I eventually went back to Liat’s place nearby and we spent the afternoon together and made love.

Later I found out that Archie was a bit resentful about this because I had moved so quick that he hadn’t had a chance to decide of he was interested. This was doubly frustrating because the very next day he had some chick over whom I assume he didn’t introduce me to because he was worried I would, I don’t know –steal her or something.

Which brings me to Lana…

Lana

A couple nights later, me, George, Archie, and Archie’s black friend, Lana, all headed out to a local bar that had a weekly open jam. Lana seemed cold to me at first, which Archie later suggested was a possible result of my surplus multi-cam jacket with velcro flashers on the sleeves from my time in Afghanistan. In retrospect, I suspect that perhaps he had also told her unflattering things about me being a prejudiced person (more on that in the next section). In any event, I care a lot less these days about what a rando feels about me and so I just went back in the bar content to watch the jam without playing. In the dearth of a vocalist, Archie got on the mic and asked if I wanted to come up and freestyle. I enthusiastically obliged and proceeded to lyrically assassinate, dropping my trademark, “Rest in Peace, Tupac Shakur” at the end.

Lana gave me props when I rejoined them on the couch and seemed to have warmed up to me. Classic black chick!

On the walk home, I ushered George away toward our direction to give Archie a chance to close with Lana. He did not and instead rejoined me and George. Soon after George split off in his direction and me and Archie headed back the flat we were sharing. I asked him, “So what’s the deal with you and Lana?” -Big mistake.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Um, are into her? How’s it going?”

“Damn, man, do I gotta worry that you’re trying to go after her?”

Jesus Christ! This is the kind of insecurity I was living with. I explained that I wasn’t interested, but the damage was already done.

Ugh, it makes me mad just remembering it.

Racism/Sexism/Homophobia

I don’t know if I’m racist. I don’t know if Archie is. All I know is that if I say a slur, I’ll say it with deliberate intention or not at all. If I say a slur, there will be an elaborate, oblique set-up, well-wrought build, and an emphatic delivery for the purpose of shock and humour. Otherwise there is no point and I feel like a dishonest coward. My whole thing goes back to the Patrice O’Neal school of “Say it with belief!”
Archie does not subscribe to this school of thought and says slurs frivolously because he feels he can vent his latent racism to me while maintaining the outward appearance of being progressive. He has admittedly gotten better about this (saying things with belief or not at all), but at the outset…Jesus Christ. He would say some slur and then immediately laugh and and look at me to gauge my response. I felt put upon to laugh or respond in a very awkward, cringey way.
At one point early on in our two months of living together I called him out for this, encouraging him to make offensive jokes, but to mean it; not just to do it seeking my validation (because that’s fucked and bespeaks pretty shittily of me). He got so offended and said some shit like “I thought I could make jokes with you without you getting offended” (which is more fucked up the more you think about it), and I simply explained that I wasn’t offended, but I felt embarrassed for him.
Looking back, this conversation was a line in the sand that I drew early on, and I feel like I have been paying for it ever since. Thankfully, all things come to an end.

****************

Thanks for indulging my venting. Since writing this post a few weeks ago I have moved on to Portugal and found a happy place. My closest male friend here is a young kid from the UK named Charlie. With him, its how it should be: We big each other up and don’t let trifling shit like women get between us. Ditto for my other close male friend here Ricardo, but he’s a big, gay Portuguese body-builder so competition for women really isn’t so much of a thing. I was very frustrated when I wrote this post, and looking back brough up some of the old feelings, but the further it is in my rear-view, ther easier it gets.

Best,
-Dre

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