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.

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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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Filed under adventure, entertainment, Fiction, Uncategorized

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

Friends,

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

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

But this is different. The memes tell the tale.

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Cm-LbeIVYAA2uJe

Or, most tellingly…

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

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

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Far-Fetched? Maybe, Maybe Not…

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

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

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

……

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

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

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

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

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

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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

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Fuck the P0-lice!

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Filed under blog, futurism, gaming, opinion, pokemon, travel, Uncategorized

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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Filed under blog, discourse, discussion, entertainment, philosophy, racism, Uncategorized, Understanding

Becoming a Pillar of the Community

Friends,

I often talk about building a strong community; the kind of place with trust and reciprocity where I would feel comfortable raising a child. But as of late I haven’t been living that goal to an extent that satisfies me. So last week I decided to fill my schedule and do something that thrust me into the community every day. I started Saturday…

Saturday June 18/2016
After spending a day outdoors rediscovering the beauty of nearby Dundas Valley, I showered up, put on my best grey wife-beater and headed to a tantric sex seminar at local community hub, Avalon House. It was a small, intimate setting and the attendees were all quite friendly. My only qualm was the instructor; she wasn’t the greatest presenter of information and was someone who I got frustrated with just listening to. At one point she demonstrated synchronized breathing with me (I breathed out with my mouth while she inhaled with her nose, and vice versa, while staring into each other’s eyes) and it was really tough to make a spiritual connection cause her breath was really bad. Plus, she kept trying to overtly demonstrate mastery in extraneous ways -i.e. when she asked if anyone had ever been massaged I mentioned that a girl I dated used to give me massages. She was quick to point out that the girl probably didn’t really know what she was doing. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the girl was a licensed massage therapist who worked at the Renaissance Hotel where pro athletes stay when they visit to play the Jays. Plus, she kept implying that I was gay in spite of the fact that my interest in women had been established naturally in prior conversation. I wasn’t bothered by this, but it felt like a heavy-handed neg.
I had to depart early and head to the Summer Solstice ritual for the Wiccan Church of Canada, but alas when I got to the venue I discovered that they weren’t there which was kind of a bummer because I was looking forward to sacrificing a small mammal and then smearing its entrails all over my genitals before engaging in a ritualistic orgy.
PILLAR OF THE COMMUNITY!

Sunday June 19/2016
Mostly took it easy, although later in the afternoon, Kelton, Kay and myself did go check out some open houses. Trying to make ACCESS as reality….
Later in the evening I headed back downtown for the SalsaSoul social. It was a lot of fun. There was a lesson in Zizomba (not Zumba) and then after basic steps were learned it transformed…degenerated….evolved maybe?… yeah, it evolved into a dance party with salsa in the main hall and Zizomba on the patio. Since I don’t know how to Salsa I spent most of my time on the patio but it was a great learning experience. I’ve never had much in the way of formal training in dancing but some older ladies there who were a lot more experienced and forgiving of my newness made for great partners as they knew how to follow and it made me better at leading.

QUICK TANGENT: Men and women have different roles to play in dancing, but noone is crying SEXISM! And why? I think it’s because even though the man “leads” (and he most certainly does), what is he without his partner? Nothing. They are not equal, insofar as equal implies sameness, because they are most assuredly different. But they are complementary (not complimentary….I hate when people mix these two up) and therefore both completely necessary, inextricable and beautiful in their paired completeness.
I know, I know, caveman misogynist thinking…..

BACK TO DANCING…. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the social -beautiful people (WOMEN!) of all different ages dressed casually and everyone was so warm and welcoming. It felt a lot more organic and conducive to making meaningful connections than being at a nightclub. This is good, because I do want to go out dancing more. In fact, dancing once a month is a resolution of mine and it seems a lot more attainable now that I’ve found not only a venue but a scene in which I feel I can thrive.

Monday June 20/2016
Today, I did some work for my friend, Amy. It’s nice working for her; she feeds me well, makes great espresso and she pays cash. I jetted home around 2:30, grabbing a bottle of Campari en route then drew a bath, smoked a little dope and indulged in the liquor while listening to a 70s funk classic playlist on youtube. Incidentally, this playlist gave me the idea for the title of my next post which will tentatively be called, “Whitey’s Goin’ to Mars” so look out for that -it’s gonna be hot. Also, I think I’m gonna start learning how to play bass…
What does this have to with community engagement? Well, not much except to point out that I was still kinda drunk and high when I went to my first Toastmasters meeting. Now I wasn’t killed or anything but I certainly felt…..expanded. Going in as a guest I figured I would be silent and observe but after I introduced myself during introductions, a longtime member, Nathalie, felt that I was ready for prime-time. When the chair indicated it was her time to relate a humorous story she passed the buck to me, feeling that I had the confidence and the chops to do so. Faced with no choice but to rise to the occasion I got up and reverted to this sort of default faux-bewildered posture I put on when I’m trying to come across as endearing to crowds. I’m not sure how it comes across to my audience but to me it feels Matthew McConaughey-ish. If you’ve ever seen me affect this persona and disagree as to the extent of its McConaughey-ishness please keep your opinions to yourself. IT’S MCCONAUGHEY-ISH DAMMIT!!
So I told a humorous story and then later during a portion called table topics I gave a riveting one-minute speech about play-doh. How do I know it was riveting? Because I got a shiny gold trophy, BITCH!!

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“Best Table-Topic Speech.” -Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.

So, basically I can retire from Toastmasters undefeated at this point. Ha, just kidding going back next week (blind, stinking sober) to give a speech of the
“life lessons” variety. So that should be fun.

So, What Does Tomorrow Have in Store?
Well, I have tentative plan to go to improv tomorrow, and after that a writer’s group I’ve been meaning to attend on Wednesday. But this feels cool and right to me and its amazing how quickly a “should” becomes a necessity when you put it into your phone’s daytimer.

Anyways gotta sleep now.

Annnnd maybe just one more Campari….

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

 

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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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The 10 Laws of Adventure

Friends,

I am currently on a self-imposed lockdown for two weeks enduring what is called monk mode. I intend to write more about my circumstances and goals in that endeavour but that will be my next post. What I want to talk about now is, as the title suggests, 10 maxims I fleshed out in my journal while making my ayahuasca pilgrimage to South America for my upcoming film, Just Might Be Ok

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Pictured: Two of my favourite books.

You see during this monk mode period I have been reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power and it’s inspired me to present my maxims in a similar, if abbreviated, way to really hammer home their importance.

Law 1:
Be Physically Imposing

Observance of the Law:
Having been robbed on a previous trip I was more cognizant about where I slept and kept my baggage, but these considerations were not the only thing which saved me: As a fit guy with a better than average build and great endurance I made my way through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador without incident because I was (I assume) more trouble than I was worth.

Keys to Power:
Prior to departure I thought long and hard about what kit I would bring and what I would wear. I wanted to go fast and light and so abandoned the large backpack from the get-go, instead opting for a military vest with a custom pouch set-up, leg bags and a small backpack with a hydration bladder (GEIGERRIG…great piece of kit). A few days into my trip I acquired a sombrero and poncho. The entire look culminated thusly…

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“El Peregrino”
Photo Credit: Kenneth Klemens

Now that may be more comical than imposing to some and to be sure I did want to capture a certain good-natured, adventurous aspect as I was simultaneously shooting a film, but as I keep pretty fit and spry I wasn’t just some fatty at a convention cosplaying. No, everything I carried was functional and the skin I showed was calculated. It wasn’t like I could take anyone who might want to attack me, but I was imposing enough to make any comers think twice, and mobile enough to be out of range if their second thought was, “let’s fuck this dude up.”
However, the safest I ever felt was walking around shirtless or in a wife-beater after stashing my gear at my accommodations. Why? Because I have a built upper body. And without the encumbrance of my gear I was not an attractive target. The way I look and my physique (such as it is) didn’t happen by accident and a modicum of fitness is a warning and beacon to others that perhaps this dude might go the distance if they tried to pull some shit. It shows discipline, and someone who is disciplined on any level instantly becomes a less attractive mark.
On another note, people often poo-poo a workout regimen that focuses on the upper body, but if I could recommend one workout for the adventurer unrelated to endurance and stamina it would be pushups. If your upper body is built, it doesn’t matter if you have chicken-legs, as ne’er-do-wells are creatures of convenience and there’s always lower hanging fruit. So yeah.

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The Pit-Bull. Raised by a loving family it has the sweetest disposition and will allow you to scratch its belly and pet it, but its powerful appearance and reputation make the uninitiated balk. The brave and wise know that it is a powerful a loyal friend.

Reversal:
Cops. For whatever reason they don’t like you walking around the city dressed like a paramilitary, so its wise to keep aggressive-looking gear easily stowable in urban centres. With regard to being muscular, there’s always gonna be some shithead who tries to pull your card even in your hometown, but it likely won’t be on a street in broad daylight. Standard rules of preservation apply: if you go out to bars, try not to go alone, don’t eyeball people, don’t get too drunk and don’t hit on anyone’s girl and you’ll probably be ok.

Law 2: 
Always Bring a Bottle of Something

Observance of the Law:
Throughout the duration of the pilgrimage I relied heavily on Couch-Surfing as a means of sleeping for free. On my last night in Mexico, I couch-surfed with Sinuhe and his family in Villahermosa. I went out for a run in the evening and returned with a bottle of my favourite spirit, Mezcal. We sat to have a couple drinks and it turned into a party. His girlfriend and friend joined us, his mother started making food and pulling out bottles of tequila. It was one of my best nights of the trip.

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Me and Sinuhe, before eating some worms.

Keys to Power:
“Free” really means the ability to put money you would have spent on accommodations elsewhere. Like, for example, food or beverage to show your host appreciation and party with them. The benefit of this is two-fold: First, it makes it more fun. Second, Couch-Surfing is a community where people review each other after the stay, and those references have an effect on whether other people let you crash with them in the future. You could call it Social Capital, and you can increase your social capital by turning positive reviews into glowing ones.

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Jesus Christ. Where people expect water, you bring wine. A vagabond of abundance, they admire your grit, your salt-of-the-Earth sensibilities and of course your desire to make them the guest of honor at the party they didn’t know they were hosting. Then when the morning comes you are gone, having enriched their lives with just your presence. For the rest of their days they spread the legend of the pilgrim who came and made them a part of his adventure.

Reversal:
It is wise to check if the household is amenable to drinking before placing a bottle of booze on the table and telling people to fill their boots. Also, sometimes people will pick you up (if hitch-hiking) and take you home and feed you. In cases like these it is understood that they have the means and desire to treat you and in fact might be put off if you insist on stopping somewhere to purchase them a gift. Feel it out and find some other way to contribute or content yourself with paying the kindness forward.

Law 3:
Be Generous

Observance of the Law:
Being 31 on this last outing, I was more established in the world than a lot of the people I met in hostels, often the 18-23 age range. But they were cool people who I wanted to hang out with and didn’t want them to not come out or sit there without a drink because they didn’t have the same budget as me. I thought of all the kindness and generosity I had received on this excursion and previous ones and realized I had a lot of good karma to pay back. So, around me, no one ever thirsted.

Keys to Power:
I am not a wealthy man in absolute terms but I certainly have enough to buy a round of beers in Mexico, several times over in fact. And for a few dollars, nights wandering the city alone turned into nights on the town. Plus, due to the natural tendency of guys to one-up each other, buying a round meant that every other dude would wanna buy a round and it would become a party.

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The Brother. If the Brother gets 20, his brother gets 10. In fact, the Brother can’t be at ease unless his brother is taken care of. Stand together or die alone.

Reversal:
Don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted. Women are usually worse for this back home, but on the road everyone understands the value of reciprocity. Still, be careful of drinking with locals; either they’ll peg you as the rich gringo and try and run up your tab, or some blonde cunt in Mexico City will try and put a bottle of champagne on your tab because you’ve been hitting it off with her friend all night. True story.

Law 4:
Wear a Condom

Transgression of the Law:
Back in Cairns, Australia in 2006 I picked up this lady named Tania and took her back to my hostel. Since I had a shared dorm room we went downstairs into the laundry room and began to get busy. Now not only did I not wear a dome but I also failed to get her appropriately warmed up, and so when I went to stick my penis in I met resistance.
I pushed hard. Still resistance.
So I gave ‘er the old college try and –OWWW!“- I achieved penetration.
Now, whence cometh the ow? Well being an uncircumcised dude I actually tore my frenulum (the piece of “webbing” between the head of the dick and the foreskin. When I pulled out I noticed a profusion of blood and was like, “Hmmm, that’s peculiar.”
Needless to say, that soured the whole thing pretty damn quick.
She left and I looked up with my pants around my ankles and a used napkin soaking up the blood only to stare into a security camera.
Great Job!
A condom may have absorbed the brunt of the friction and torn first sparing me the embarrassment.

Observance of the Law:
I met some lovely ladies and got to stick my penis in a few of them. It was terrific.

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(…they exist, just…not available…)

Keys to Power:
Traveling through Latin America, an STI isn’t even the worst thing that could happen from having unprotected sex (BABIES!). There is nothing incredibly profound about this law I know but it bears repeating because, well…when I wrote these laws down (Jan 2016) I was really feeling this particularly strongly I guess.

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A Suit of Armor. Not to be worn all the time, it is donned during battle and protects its wearer from the ravages of love and/or war.

Reversal:
(*sigh*) There really shouldn’t be, but every guy reading knows that sometimes a girl makes a really compelling case for why you should fuck her without a condom. She’ll say something like this: “Fuck me without a condom.” And you’ll be like, “……….” And then she’ll be like, “I want your big dick to come inside me.” And then you’re like, “Fuuck!”

Then five minutes later you’re lying there beside her terrified that you just ruined your future while she’s planning your lives together.

Totally worth it.

Law 5: 
If Your Budget is $5,000, Have $10,000

Observance of the Law:
Departing for this trip I was over-prepared in many regards: I brought more gear than I needed and ultimately gave a bunch of it away; I was already fairly enlightened before taking ayahuasca which really took the edge off (more on that to come), etc. But perhaps in no regard was I more prepared than finances. Since I was on a quest with a fairly clearly delineated end-goal it was very important that not only did enough enough money to finance my mobility, food and accommodations (hitch-hiked and camped a lot which really brought costs down), but also enough in reserve to deal with any emergencies and the inevitable spur-of-the-moment decisions that one makes when on the road (See Law 6).

Keys to Power:
I never wanted for anything aside from during times of discipline-oriented, self-imposed austerity, and I was actually shocked when I saw fellow travelers leaving things like food up to chance. There is a fair amount of leaving things to chance one has to do when living on the road and I certainly didn’t go without my share of Quixotic adventures and reversals of fortune, but I decided I didn’t want to be hungry unless it was a some kind of personal challenge. Did having extra cash embolden me to make some choices which were costlier than others? Almost certainly. Do I regret those decisions? Not in the least!
This law can be interpreted in two ways. Literally it can mean, “if you’ve planned a $5000 trip, find a way to accumulate another $5000, but for most that’s wildly impractical and unrealistic. Instead, look at what your budget and then trim as much fat as you can. Time is your ally here as well as grit; if you’re willing to live outdoors and hitch-hike and deal with the resultant uncertain arrival dates, $5000 all of a sudden stretches WAY goddamn further. Also and this is just my opinion here, you don’t just travel, you have an adventure.

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A Clerical Error. Somehow, some way you were allocated twice as much as you actually need and it allows you to regularly spoil yourself in the carefree pursuit of whimsy and new experiences.

Reversal:
I like to think I travel on hard mode which is why I try and refer to it as adventure. But if I do it on hard mode there are some who can be said to do it on extreme mode. With only the proverbial dollar and a dream they eke out a living as they go and basically stay in a place until they earn enough to leave. This is also an enriching way to travel and one I haven’t yet delved into.

Law 6:
Don’t Deprive Yourself of Something That Will Make a Memory

Transgression of the Law:
In September 2006 I departed on my first backpacking excursion to Australia. Landing in Cairns I was close to the Great Barrier Reef, but I was so caught up with getting to the outback that I dismissed going diving there as too peripheral to my interests. I even used the cost to justify my decision not to go. Now I’ve seen most of Australia, but I still haven’t seen that goddamn reef.

Observance of the Law:
Departing in November 2015 I had planned to make my way south through Mexico sticking to the coast and avoiding Mexico City like the plague, as I had heard nothing but how high crime was there. But hitch-hiking is nothing if not a circuitous and unpredictable way to travel. Compound this with the fact that my espanol is poquito (i.e. language barriers) and I found myself inexplicably back on the doorstep of Mexico City after I had managed (I thought) to work my way around it. So I said, “fuck it” and decided to enter the city and hope for the best.
Turns out it was the best choice I made throughout the whole trip. The city had an amazing vibe to it, full of energy and exuberance. It was exciting, dangerous, the women were beautiful, the food was delicious. I even fell in love one night. Looking back I am glad that fortune conspired to make me reconsider my fear-based decision.

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Also, there was some gorgeous architecture in ‘D.F’

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A Stock Portfolio. The record or where you have invested your time and money. It should be diverse and robust. Not all investments will be “profitable” in the short or immediate term, but you hold onto them for life and you see their value increase over time.

Reversal:
Do it for the story can be a great mantra to live your life by but it must be tempered with judgment (See Law 7), because every choice has an opportunity cost. Don’t follow an exciting whim that will jeopardize something dearly important to you hoping that things will just work out somehow (See Law 4).

Law 7:
Find the Level of Stupidity You’re Comfortable With

Observance of the Law:
When entering Mexico from south Texas I had a lot of anxiety. Everyone I met told me it was dangerous, or I would get robbed, kidnapped, beheaded, etc. I was kind of a big bag of nerves when it came time to cross the Rubicon that is the US-Mexico border. However, skipping Mexico and heading right for Guatemala was not an option as I wanted to experience every place. So I compromised: Reckoning that the Mexican border region was the most problematic area of concern I opted to take a bus from Texas through the border and into the interior to the state of Zacatecas.
From there I hitch-hiked south unmolested and had some great adventures.

Keys to Power:
Any number of fellow travelers have passed through the Mexican border without incident and some I met along the way who told me of what a great time they had and it made me wish I had spent time there. But we all make the choices that appear right to us at the time and so it’s hard for me to feel regret. Instead I feel glad I faced a fear on my own terms and kind of smirk inwardly at the constantly-repeating situation of being scared of no more than the unknown.

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The Stuntman. The Stuntman’s raison d’etre is to perform the feats that others are either unwilling or unable to. But every Stuntman has a forte and shines most brightly in a certain area. When there are risks to take, make sure they are the ones that are important to you and that you feel competent taking them. To take the metaphor further, push yourself, but if you’re someone who specializes in getting lit on fire, don’t let them throw you off of a building.

Reversal:
If you have to impress a girl sometimes you gotta double-down on stupidity. It is a man’s prerogative after all…

Law 8:
There are No Dangerous Places, Only Dumb, Unprepared, Fearful People

Transgression of the Law:
In September 2011 I was in Madeira, Portugal, the beginning of a trip to circumnavigate the northern hemisphere. It was a vacationer’s dream and everyone I spoke with screwed up their face with disbelief when I asked if it was safe. “Of course” was the response. I got lulled into a false sense of security and my first night there I fell asleep on the beach and woke up to find all of my gear missing.
Safe place. Go figure.

Observance:
After the robbery in Portugal I decided to continue on and a few months later found myself in the Middle East. It was November 2011 and Egypt was still jumping off after Arab Spring. Naturally I decided to fly to Cairo from Beirut -I wanted to see the pyramids! I made some prudent decisions such as avoiding Tahrir Square where shit was liable to jump off at any given time (See Law 7) but on the whole had nothing but a great experience in spite of people’s warnings that it was super-dangerous. I kept my wits about me and was fine.

Keys to Power:
It is natural for us to be wary of places where something bad has happened. But when you really internalize the idea that bad has happened (literally) everywhere, what you see is that you have a lot of power to avoid getting yourself into said situations. There will always be circumstances beyond your control but you can choose what you make yourself susceptible to by being aware of bad situations as they’re developing and ejecting/aborting if you sense trouble.

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The Surfer. The surfer knows that the ocean is much mightier than he and could kill him very easily. But he understands that there is beauty in danger and it is beauty which he is in search of. So, knowing that he can never hope to control the ocean’s waves, he doesn’t fight the ocean but instead learns to ride it.

Reversal:
If your hear gunfire don’t walk into the crossfire thinking, “As long as I keep my head on a swivel I’ll be fine.” Some situations are empirically dangerous, particularly those which are not contingent upon your actions and interactions.

Law 9:
Play Dumb with Cops, but BOLDLY Dumb!

Observance of the Law:
While walking through Manzanillo, Mexico in full adventure gear I had my poncho drawn closed to conceal my equipment from view. On a whim I decided to throw the poncho back and walk around town looking like a paramilitary. Of course I looked cool walking around but it was also a controlled opportunity to see what I could get away with in Mexican towns; a trap of sorts to make 5-0 reveal their hand. In short order I was stopped by cops who had no compunction about manhandling me and asserting their presence. I played the meek tourist (a stark contrast to the calculated manner in which I was attired) and told them I was a pilgrim. The leader of the cops asked me if I was a some religious nut and then if I was escaped from a (mental) hospital (this I took to be the highest flattery) and I assured him I was not either. I showed them my journal and portrayed myself as a quixotic but harmless young adventurer (not far from the truth). As they flipped through the journal’s pages they saw that I had a picture of a girl. They asked if it was my girlfriend and I smiled like some kind of hopeless romantic and said, “maybe one day.” This really humanized me in their eyes.
But most important by far was the fact that I was so committed and bold in my portrayal as a meek, well-intentioned traveler. My feigned bewilderment brought their defences down and while they approached me hostile and defensive, they left curious, amused and perhaps only mildly annoyed.
The mark of success was that they didn’t even check my pockets or pouches even though they identified I had re-purposed grenade pouches.

Keys to Power:
Getting stopped by cops can be inconvenient, but acting bothered and inconvenienced only gives them further pretense for investigation. As Law 22 of The 48 Laws of Power advises, “Use the Surrender Tactic” -be overobedient to authorities flexing muscle. Even if they suspect that you are insincere in your deference and respect, they face a dilemma because calling you out on insincere respect is implicit admission that their power is contingent upon your accepting and agreeing to it.

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The Jester. He plays the buffoon and everyone has a supposed laugh at his expense with never more than a cursory suspicion that they might be the butt of the joke. As such he outlasts the more confrontational and is indulged by the powerful.

Reversal:
It depends on where your interests lie. The majority of our encounters with cops are them fucking with us and it is our resentment and desire to end the encounter quickly that causes us to offend them, or worse, implicate ourselves in some crime or another. This is why this rule is so important; learn to have fun with your encounters with so-called authorities as it is only when they have you scared and/or aggressive that you can truly lose.
That said, there are times you may find it expedient to answer all questions quickly, diligently and without feigned meekness. For example, if you are registering a complaint or in some way asking for their help (which as a general rule I don’t advise). They will ask you probing questions which, if you are like me, you may resent answering, but their help is contingent you being straightforward with them.

Law 10:
Don’t Carry Drugs

Transgression of the Law:
On about my third or fourth week in Mexico in December 2015, I left Mexico City for Veracruz. In VC I decided to lighten my load some more. I figured I would ditch my pipe kit as pipe tobacco wasn’t really abundant and as I went to throw pipe and kit away I had a last-minute impulse to check the compartments in the pouch. I found a joint that I had accidentally smuggled into the US and then Mexico completely unknowingly.
I ended up having a fun time that night but that’s not the point; my oversight could have been very costly had I been caught.

Transgression of the Law II and Obedience of the Law:
In Jaco, Costa Rica I was on the beach with two people from my hostel outside of a club when cops pulled up for an surprise shakedown/search. The other two didn’t know me too well and I didn’t know them and fortunately the cops segregated me from them. Playing boldly dumb (See Law 9) almost to the point of belligerence I reacted indignantly then the one cop lifted up my shirt to see if I was hiding anything and such indignance and lack of fear they seemingly took as a signal that I was not a tourist they wanted to fuck with too much. After all, lots of rich, connected bastards go to Costa Rica, and even though they are police they don’t want to create too much of a stir when tourism is their bread & butter. But, as it pertains to the Law 10, carrying no contraband on me, I had really nothing to fear; when they turned their backs on me I walked about 10 metres away to piss on the beach while looking at them and challenging them to do something (not brilliant, I know) Then as I started to get bored of the whole endeavour I hit the ground and started doing pushups. This earned outrage from my sequestered companions but to the cops it was like saying, “You guys wanna fuck around? Okay, I got all the time in the world.”
They drove off while I was mid-set and passed me closely I guess as a way of trying to intimidate me. Fags.
My companions didn’t fare so honorably. You see, they were, unbeknownst to me, carrying cocaine. And so with that fear of getting caught  they folded and the cops, sensing their fear, searched them like they hadn’t searched me.
They didn’t get arrested, but after the cops left they were visibly shaken while I was annoyed and ready to fight someone -certainly not an ideal state but better than theirs.

Keys to Power:
While it is a prudent idea not to carry contraband, the real meat & potatoes of this law is that if you feel you are culpable for some reason you will be less confident and more fearful during an encounter with authority which will cause you to act erratically and/or dishonorably as my fellow hostelers did. Better to feel righteous and carry that frame so strongly that whomsoever dares impede you starts to suspect that they are in the wrong.

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The Crusader. On a holy mission from the Almighty himself, the Crusader’s moral high-ground is never in question. Should another find themselves at odds with you they will seriously consider where it is they stand and check themselves.

Reversal:
The only possible reversal is that whatever you do, whether it is carrying drugs, guns, etc. convince yourself and believe that it is the righteous and noble thing to do. The goal here is not to sweat under scrutiny and to be bold and unafraid when encountering some “authority.”

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

And so ends my adventure maxims. As I wrote these more occurred that I had thought over while adventuring but never committed to the original list. It may be a worthwhile endeavour to revisit the subject in the future.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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107 Acting Tips in Review

Friends,

Recently (other) friends of mine shared the article “107 Acting Tips” (http://www.stagemilk.com/107-acting-tips/) and I thought I would weigh in with my opinions on each tip. I am no expert, I just do what makes sense to me.

So without any further ado…

1. Watch a play. If you haven’t watched a play this month book a ticket now. – I’ve seen plays but its not really my favourite way to take in entertainment. It’s important to see a couple I suppose if you haven’t ever, but beyond the need for having a cultural context, only see them regularly if you enjoy them.

2. Work a scene with a friend THIS WEEK. – Agreed, but moreso about working a scene portion. If you have a friend great but you don’t need someone else to plumb the depths of a character’s psyche.

3. Do something you’ve never done before. – Sure, why not. But since shitting while standing in line at the grocery store falls into this category…

4. Read a poem. – Yes. Analyze them too and look for meaning and patterns even if they seem extraneous and far-fetched. This is how you get smarter

5. Speak a poem out loud. – Agree.

6. Delete embarrassing Facebook photos. – Torn on this because I have said some dumb shit that I don’t agree with anymore but nothing is ever really deleted on FB and if someone finds out you deleted everything it looks mad suspicious. We need to embrace past mistakes even if only to show how far we’ve come. This is a lesson we are slow to learn and we always try and rewrite the past to our own detriment. NOTE: I see now it read PHOTOS. I have un-tagged myself from photos people have tagged me in but ask yourself this, “Do I want to get to a level where I can’t hide anything online?” If the answer is yes, embrace whatever’s out there and even try and capitalize on the notoriety a bad pic might garner. If the answer is “no” then enjoy your comfortable, near-certain obscurity.
As a side note, don’t take yourself too fuckin seriously. Yeah, I get it, it’s your career, but if all you got to offer is a blemish-free presence online, then Jesus-Fuck you’re in for a rough go.

7. Breathe. You can’t act when you are holding your breath. – Agree

8. Do you have an agent? Spend the majority of your time getting an agent. – As someone who is self-represented for three years now I am torn on this. I can see opportunities I may have missed but I also know how influence works; you become friends with someone and you want to do right by them, but right by them might mean doing something that doesn’t fit your artistic sensibilities. I would say only look for an agent when you have exhausted every other avenue, and then only if you find someone who is on the same page as you regarding how you want to develop your career. Agents are strong personalities but its your career so you gotta be stronger otherwise you’ll get too caught up in their plans for you.

9. Sign up to IMBD Pro. – Yes, but only if you have some credits there. While a necessary cost eventually, it’s prohibitively expensive for a starting actor

10. Have a favourite actor. – Depending on my mood, mine is either Erica Fontes or Rebecca Linares. Michael Parks is good too…

11. Watch the IMDB Top 250. Finish the top 100 this year. – Meh….

12. Follow StageMilk on Facebook and Twitter. – Gonna check these guys out before making a call but in general following people online costs nothing and means a lot to them so do it.

13. Read something on Stanislavski. – Fine, but keep in mind, every generation needs a revolution.

14. Read a voice book. – 100% I gotta make developing my voice more of a priority.

15. Read The Power of the Actor Chapter 1 – 3. – Only if you can bootleg it.

16. Do an acting class. Even if it’s one hour do something THIS MONTH. – Drop-ins only! Your certificate from a four-month program doesn’t mean shit.

17. Buy a camera. – Agreed.

18. Hum in the shower. – At a minimum. I like singing and rapping. Also, scrubbing my teste-satchel.

19. Congratulate people on their success. – Only if you mean it
(19b. MEAN IT! If other people’s success bothers you then check yourself and figure out what you’re really unhappy about -my two cents)

20. Try Tai Chi. – Tai Chi isn’t really my thing but try it.

21. Try Feldenkrais – Sure…now if I only knew what this was.

22. Try Alexander Technique. – See 21…..

23. Try Yoga. – Fuck Yeah!

24. Exercise 3 times this week. And next week. And every week until the day you die. – Exercise EVERY DAY!

25. Read Plays. – Sure.

26. Learn your lines. – Agreed. Learn them like a pro so you can ad-lib like a master lol

27. Do a voice warm up. – 100%

28. Get a haircut. – As long as you don’t go completely bald like me and become competition 😀

29. Watch films. – Only ones that appeal to you

30. Read every night before bed. – Yes. I should do this more instead of dicking around on my phone. Read widely on a lot of different topics. If you just read about acting you’ll be a dullard.

31. Read the first three pages out loud. – Agreed

32. Watch television shows. – But not television. There is great programming on television but advertisements are cancer & AIDS in A/V form (sorry if commercials are your bread & butter) and an assault on your consciousness. Every fibre of your being should resent that assault. Don’t own a television. Watch on your computer. Install adblocker.

33. Read books on acting. – Occasionally, and only if you’re looking to tweak a certain part of your skill-set. It’s not like you’re gonna hurt yourself reading acting books, but at the same time there are only so many hours in a day and so many things that will give you a much broader glimpse of the human experience, which in my experience is what really gives you material to draw from.

34. Get an acting coach. – Can’t really speak on this but one day I might.

35. Read plays out loud with friends. – Sure

36. Tell stories. – Agreed.

37. Tell jokes. – Agreed.

38. Learn to dance. – Agreed, but that doesn’t mean you need lessons. Get high, put on music and dance alone in your room in front of the mirror in your underwear. Emulate your favourite music videos (Method Man’s moves in Da Rockwilder were a formative part of my repertoire). That’s the dancing you’re gonna truly enjoy

39. Dance. – Agreed.

40. Learn to sing. – Agreed.

41. SING. – 100%

42. Fall in love. – With several people. All at once if possible. I would recommend falling in love at least once a day. If you can’t you either have a faulty heart or you’re hanging around uggos.

43. Live your life. – Disagree on principle because this is really trite. But insofar as it means “don’t try and be someone else,” I agree.

44. See a therapist. – If you want to experience the egoic masturbation of talking about yourself in depth, just do quizzes online. I might recommend a Meyers-Briggs test…

45. Watch interviews with actors. – Agreed. You’ll see that everyone struggles and hear meaningful anecdotes you can relate to

46. Write everyday. – Fuck, if you can discipline yourself to do so then absolutely.

47. Read everyday. – Agreed

48. Go to drama school. – Get Fucked!

49. Listen to podcasts. – Onlu if you find them interesting.

50. Talk about theatre. – This seems dumb to me but whatever. I guess it makes more sense if you’re a theatre actor…

51. Ask questions! – Only if you have a question. Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions.

52. Have your heart broken. – This isn’t one of those things you can put on a to-do list but I think it’s an important part of the human experience which will enrich you as an actor.

53. Be vulnerable. – Always.

54. Have an opinion. – Have a view. And hold onto it loosely, always willing to change it if new evidence presents itself.

55. Get political. – Don’t be a cunt though and make sure you get mad about the right things, not paltry and inoccuous shit like offensive words when 1 billion people are starving. Vicinczey said it best:
“To be great is to assume great concerns.” -We would all do well to remember that.

56. Learn to love conflict. – I would rephrase it to “Learn to love controversy.”

57. Be honest with yourself. – 100%

58. Get a mentor. – Agreed, but my experience with mentorships is that they happen organically so you cant really look for one.

59. Get an apprentice. – If you ever see someone struggling in a position you were in ALWAYS help them.

60. Stay flexible. – Survival of the most adaptable

61. Open your heart. – The phrasing of this bothers me but sure. Know what moves you. For me its certain songs and monologues and they will elicit tears no matter where I am. Cry often

62. Start a writing group. – Agreed. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum and its better to have many names on a great script than one name on a mediocre one.

63. Join a book club. – If you’re inclined to do so and it helps you read regularly.

64. Engage in your community. – 100% These are likely gonna be your first fans. Never forget where you came from.

65. Write a play. – I suspect this list is geared toward theatre actors more, but yes, write a script of some kind. A play too if it helps you think more spatially in terms of where everything has to be.

66. Go to fringe festivals. – If you’re inclined to.

67. Go to opening nights. – I’ve always had a strict hierarchy of priorities: Shoot – Rehearsal/Table Read – Audition – Party. But some premieres are more important than some shoots. Choose carefully.

68. Make a short film. – If you’re a film actor, absolutely.

69. Produce a play. – If you’re a theatre actor, absolutely.

70. Go backstage in a big theatre. – Especially if you’re not supposed to be there…

71. Stand on a main stage. – Sure

72. Make mistakes. – Don’t be afraid of mistakes would be better.

73. Do what scares you. – But only if it feels right.

74. GET FIT. – Agreed, but understand that you’re body is a reflection of your values and experience and also that certain body types lend themselves to certain roles. What do you want role-wise? Go get it!

75. Meditate… – Absolutely. Do a 10-day Vipassana retreat if you want to

76. Download Headspace. – Will have to google what this is.

77. Do an improv class. – Absolutely

78. Roll around on the floor.

79. PLaY like a CHILD.

80. Trust yourself. – Yes

81. Trust the director. – 99% of the time

82. Trust your casting.
83. Read the play before learning your lines. – Agreed

84. Watch people. – BUt don’t ever identify as a “people-watcher” -these people are insufferable and pretentious

85. Listen. – Agreed

86. Listen to your parents stories. – Agreed

87. Learn history. – Having a degree in history I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here.

88. Learn the history of theatre. – Sure

89. TRAVEL. – As an avid traveler and adventurer I can tell you that this is the single most important rule here….srs though, it helps give you context for life and see the people around you in more detached, observant ways. Plus, there’s a way in which new places can spur latent creativity in you.

90. Try new things. – Anal? It doesn’t mean you’re gay, it means you’re an actor and you do kooky sex stuff

91. Enjoy your own company. – 100%

92. Stay up all night. – Fuck yeah. Add an open word processor file and a bottle of scotch and you have the makings of excellence

93. Go sky diving. – Meh

94. Learn EVERYONE’S names. – I’m bad for this but working on it. It’s nice to be remembered.

95. Help friends with auditions. – Sure

96. Build something. – Agreed

97. Learn a poem. – Agreed

98. Write a poem. – Agreed

99. Get a diary. – I get what they mean here but honestly notepad on your phone is the best route

100. Write. – I could have sworn this point came up earlier. Yes.

101. Buy a Dictionary. – No. Dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are free…..definitely use them though

102. Learn a new word everyday. – Fuck, if you can. I’m in the position of re-learning words I forgot the meaning of.
(100b. Create new words/neologisms to encapsulate ideas, feelings and emotions that existing language is inadequate to describe.

104. Learn a new skill. – Always.

105. Sit in on a rehearsal. – Sure

106. TEACH. – If you’re in a position to pass on knowledge, do so freely and willingly.

107. Be E.P.I.C. – This is the straw that broke the camel’s back -not sure what this acronym means and after all the goofy fluff advice in this puff-piece I’m not really inclined to find out. Also, it’s 11:54 and I got blown up on set multiple times today.

A few that they missed….

108. Develop your online presence. – Your fans want to hear from you and they can only do that through instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube, snapchat, etc… Closing yourself off from any of these is a slap in the face to all the users, basically telling them to get on your level. BUT, all these things take time. This blog here takes time. And you only have so much of that. Luckily we all find literal hours per day to dick around (vagina around) on our phones. Make that productive time.

109. It’s not about who you know, but it is about building relationships. – Beware anyone who says “I know a guy…” because he is trying to sound connected. Who you know doesn’t mean shit. Who thinks of YOU first when they have a project or a problem is what matters. If you wanna work with someone be in the top 3 of their mental rolodex.

Related to that….

110. 95% of success is showing up – You’re lucky if you get one shot. Don’t fuck it up. Also, even if you only have a small role, don’t be daunted. Treat it like it’s you first project and people witll remember your enthusiasm.

111. Have a life before acting. – The need for child actor’s notwithstanding, there’s more to life than standing in front of a camera pretending.

112. Never let money or lack thereof stand in the way of a project you wanna do.

113. Don’t try and squeeze every last penny out of your project. Get it seen by as many people as you can and book your next job off of that. If it’s good enough to get distributed its good enough to bootleg.

Me sleepy now

 

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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