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The iPocalypse

Friends,

In the last few years smartphones have become ubiquitous in society.  Walking down the street its impossible not to see people wearing ear-buds.  Sitting on public transit you would be blind not to notice that everyone around you has their eyes glued to whatever viral video or vine is popular at the moment.  Well, either blind or immersed in that same video on your own phone.

These typical bland & innocuous observations out of the way I want to dig a little deeper than your average observational blogger might be wont to do.  Now I gotta qualify what I say by pointing out that I tend to be a bit contrary and I will argue any position even if its to point out that the person I am arguing with hasn’t thought deeply enough about their point of view even if I share their point of view. Whatever, I’m a dick like that I guess.  That said, the anti-smartphone sentiment has become fairly common Facebook bitching-fodder, and by default I am suspicious of any view which becomes the common man’s claim to intellectual discourse (see: atheism).  

So, without any further ado…

The Zombie Apocalypse Redefined
One of the most common criticisms levied at smartphone zombies is that they are in fact the zombies slated to take over the world in the imminent zombie apocalypse.

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Now I actually have a little bit of sympathy for this view, but only insofar as smartphone obsession is treated as an aspect of materialism and conspicuous consumption.  This view was of course explored in Goerge A. Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead (1978), although I confess I have never watched it the full way through and thus such observations on my part are only hearsay.

Dawn_of_the_dead

However, when this zombie comparison is postulated reductively to suggest that anyone immersed in the virtual world is a zombie, I begin to take a bit of an issue.  In a limited sense I agree: People being oblivious to what is going on around them can open them up to many hazards, but at the same time many of these hazards already exist even without smartphones.  Take for example walking into traffic and getting hit by a car: There’s a lot of variables present in that event, including but not limited to, the amount of traffic, the condition of the vehicle, the speed of travel, the disposition/distraction level of the driver, the awareness and agility of the pedestrian, etc…  But the witch-hunt for oblivious smartphone zombies assumes that someone on a smartphone is the prime cause for such an event.  Taken more broadly, this seems to be the latest permutation of our society’s fascination and preoccupation with foisting all responsibility for a complex occurrence, inevitably brought about as a result of a multitude of factors,  upon a single individual for expediency’s (and legal liability’s) sake.  Taking a systems approach and looking at the broad range of causality is simply not done because it would force us to ask difficult questions about our obsolete infrastructure and the lunacy of manually-operated cars and trucks when safe, automated operation is a technological reality.
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However, potential hazards notwithstanding, can an individual immersed in smartphone reality be accused of being a zombie?  Not always.
You see, that way I figure it, a smartphone zombie is distinct from you average couch potato in two important regards: One is visibility.  Whereas the couch potato immerses himself in his vice largely in private, the smartphone zombie engages in his smartphonery for all the world to see.  Hence, in my opinion, the popular backlash.

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The other distinction is that the smartphone zombie’s obsession is mitigated by the fact that his experience is not passive.  Certainly its not active in the same way punching someone in the dick or having sex is active, but its certainly interactive.  Even if its something as malignant as flaming a cancer patient’s support page, there is still more effort and thought being put into the endeavour than simply receiving a message.  Hell, the greatest part about the internet, aside from access to the entire world, is the ability to leave your indelible mark on that world.  And, with all those possibilities at someone’s fingertips suddenly me bitching about my day doesn’t seem all that interesting as a topic of discussion.  Which brings me to my next point…

It Hurts to be Ignored
We’ve all hung out with someone who could not put their phone away for five seconds.  It’s one of those things that becomes more insulting the more you dwell on it.  You roll your eyes whenever their attention wanders from you to their phone or groan audibly whenever their phone beeps or vibrates.  The feelings of rejection and unimportance inspired by occurrences like this are very real and are not diminished because you are being brushed aside for an object rather than a person.
Typically, I don’t get upset by stuff like this anymore because I try to keep two rules in mind:

Rule #1: “The responsibility for being understood belongs to the speaker; the responsibility for understanding belongs to the listener
Let’s call this the prime directive of communication; obviously you can only influence your own actions in any direct, meaningful way, and since you play both the listener and the speaker in any given exchange, the responsibility for understanding is always yours.  The upshot is that if you can’t communicate with someone who is absorbed with their smartphone then you are not coming at them effectively.  Don’t waste time fretting about how “unnatural” a form of communication it is because you can’t reach them with your words.  That’s like a guy talking about how sex is a really superficial and lame way to bond with people because he has erectile dysfunction.  Bottom line: reach out to people on their level and work to bring them to your level.  Don’t start on your level then become bitter when they don’t respond to you  There’s a reason why my French teachers taught us French class in English.  If they came into a classroom of English-speaking 10-year-olds and started spouting off in frog-speak my notebook would probably have been filled with dick drawings instead of conjugated verbs…
…and French impressionist dick paintings, graphite on paper.

Rule #2: “Don’t have conversations with distracted people.”
I learned this little gem from a book called, “How to be a Pick-Up Artist” by Wayne “Juggler” Elise.  I believe the lesson here is really two-fold:
First, and the more immediately pragmatic of the two aspects, if you persist in talking with someone whose attention is elsewhere, some part of the message is going to get lost.  It’s like, don’t give me directions while I’m on the phone getting the results of a medical exam.  There’s a chance I might not remember the finer points of your instructions if my own mortality is first and foremost on my mind.  To take this kind of example to a less extreme level, sometimes my girlfriend wants to tell me about what so and so said at the gym.  While this information is not incredibly essential to my continued existence I am happy to digest it, even if it is occasionally uninteresting, if only to strengthen the bond between me and her.  However, if she begins sharing said story while I am typing away furiously on something as profound and consequential to my existence as, say…this blog post, and then simply to fill the silence, then I might look at her incredulously and slightly annoyed.  That is not effective communication.
The second aspect in this rule is that you should have a little more self-respect; if someone is ignoring what you’re saying because they are too wrapped up in other things, but you keep talking in an attempt to win them over, then you are demonstrating lower value.  You are implicitly telling this person that you are worthy of only a fraction of their attention by co-signing their inattentiveness with your continued engagement.  Stop doing this.  Also, it need not be adversarial; simply tell them politely that you will let them finish what they are doing and then talk to them.  9 times out of 10 they will put aside whatever occupies their attention (smartphone in this case) and give you their rapt attention.  If they brush your polite concern aside and insist that they can concentrate on you and their phone at the same time, remain firm in your polite refusal to have conversations with a distracted person.  They will eventually come around and respect you the more for it at a sub-conscious level.  Or, they will stop hanging out with you.  But in this latter case, if they don’t have it in them to ever give you complete attention then they probably aren’t worth your friendship.

To these two rules I might add a third: If you are going to insist on having someone’s complete attention, at least have some interesting shit to say.

I think that if these two (3) rules are followed and really adhered to then we wouldn’t have the current backlash against smartphones that currently exists.  It all comes down to communication; if you’re a good communicator with interesting shit to say, no technology is going to stand in your way.  If you suck at communication and you talk about banal shit …well, no amount of pining for the good old days of probing, intellectual discourse while sitting in well-worn leather chairs in front of a fire while swirling brandy in snifters is going to cover for the fact that you talk like a faggot and your shit’s all retarded.

This unfortunately does not bring me to my last point in any artful way, so apologies if my argument seems disjointed, but here goes.

Motherfuckers Love Them Some ‘Takin’ Shit Out of Context”
Consider the following image

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What do you thing Einstein meant when he said this?  What do you really think he meant by saying this in the first part of the 20th century when the possibilities for inter-continental communications were being initially being explored and promised to bring all people closer together?
Do you think he meant:
A: “We must be careful not to lose our humanity and critical mind in an age of mechanization and automation which promises to alleviate many of the burdens now placed upon us” …or something to that effect (This is my own personal interpretation BTW)
or…
B: “Fuck cell phones and anyone who uses them!” (Not an actual Einstein quotation…at least I don’t think so)

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a way in which a solid quotation can have empirical value than transcends the context in which it was initially delivered, but we really gotta be more selective about the piecemeal way in which we apply broad ideas and concepts to issues of marginal importance.

Conclusion
I’m not really sure.
I’m all for deconstructing what I feel is a popular backlash against smartphone technology, but that is not to say I see no problems whatsoever with the use/misuse of them or any other technology.  I guess more than anything my point is a variation of what it always is: look at the bigger picture, place things in a broader context and question everything.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Lights, Camera, Action

Friends,

   What have I been up to lately?  Well, I am glad you asked cause in truth there are very good reasons for me not blogging as prolifically as I would like to.
First of all, my computer finally shit the bed on me and stopped working  a few weeks back.  That has really cut down on my computer time, buuut evidently I still do have some computer access (I am typing this blog) so I can’t really put all the blame there.
Then there has been some minor writer’s block too; sometimes I’ll have a post that has been mostly written for weeks but I have trouble getting back into and finishing it up (see Life Imitating Art).
But mostly my prolonged absence from the game is an indirect result of attending the Art-o-Con on May 5th (2013).  My friend, author Harrison Wheeler had a booth there promoting his book, Jester’s Incognito and while there we happened to sit in on a presentation put on by the horror movie magazine, Fangoria.  This presentation had 5 panelists from the Canadian horror film industry, three of which were producer, Kelly Michael Stewart, director Torin Langen, and actor, Robert Nolan.
I found myself getting very involved in the presentation asking many questions and becoming genuinely fascinated with the thriving Canadian film industry.  I guess I had always figured there was some stuff going on in Canada film-wise but I figured it was spill-over from the US industry, i.e. Hollywood filming up here cause it was cheaper.  But to hear these guys talk I was starting to realize that not only was stuff getting made here (and really, they were only talking about horror and not even delving into other genres) but that it was GOOD stuff too.
After the presentation I made ended up speaking briefly with a couple of the panelists but I had more of an in-depth conversation with Robert Nolan.  He was a cool guy whose story I kind of admired.  Rather than groom himself to be an actor his whole life, he was someone who had done a lot of living before deciding to take on acting as a profession.  In his estimation, this had actually helped him by giving him a broader experiential base when plying his trade.
I confessed to him that pursuing acting as a career was something of a pipe dream of mine but it seemed like kind of an overwhelming undertaking because I always assumed I would have to pack up and move to Los Angeles.  Seeing how the industry was thriving here in Canada I was beginning to see how much more accessible the dream was.
Robert was great and really supportive; he gave me some pointers about what I needed to bring to the table to be considered by directors and sent me some links I could use to look for auditions.  We even became Facebook buddies lol.  Most importantly, he said that if I thought I was an actor, I was, end of story.
So basically for the past month and a half now I have been going hard trying to break into this world that has always seemed so foreign and mysterious to me.  I have had some early success  (which I owe mostly to being well prepared for auditions.  Thanks Robert!) but enough rejection to keep me humble.  It’s a lot of fun too; I find myself in Toronto for much of the week, living on my sister’s couch and whipping around the city to wherever the auditions are at.
Now if you are a follower of my blog, you may remember that I quit my full-time job back in February because I hated it and I was miserable there.  I literally used to stay up late on Sunday nights (and drink) because the thought of going to bed and resigning myself to Monday morning and a new workweek was too depressing.
Now, in a weird sort of twist I actually look forward to Monday mornings as, after the lull of Saturday and Sunday, Monday is typically the time that the casting websites tend to get flooded with new job postings and casting calls.
Today is sort of an appropriate day for me to update you guys in my film-related pursuits too, because if all goes according to plan, my first production should go up online today (finger’s crossed).  It’s the pilot for a web-series whose working title was “What NOT to do in a Zombie Apocalypse” but the director had talked of changing the title so who knows exactly what it will go up as.  I guess I will see in a few hours.
In the series, I play Stan, the leader of the survivors of  the recent Zombie Apocalypse.

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The Survivors (from L to R): Jeremy, Darcy, Lydia, Chris and Stan (Moi)

   What attracted me to this project (aside from being an up and coming actor who will take what he can get lol) is that it had a pretty clever script.  And the way the director, Ana Sani, described the style she was going for (fast, witty dialogue and quick cuts) made it seem like it would be pretty damn good.  Having seen only the first draft of the episode, I’m pretty happy with it and I think we have set ourselves up for some good character conflicts down the road.

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Me killing a zombie and being filmed doing it.

   There are a few other projects I am in contention for which hopefully pan out, and even in cases where I haven’t gotten a certain part I feel like I have made a good impression so we’ll see how it goes.  Anyhow, its Monday morning and I have yet to check the new audition postings.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Prelude to 2012

My Friends,
   The world is supposed to end this upcoming year.  I don’t know about you but I’m kind of excited.  I don’t think there’s anyone in the circles I roll with who couldn’t benefit from the kind of shake-up to their daily routine that only the end of the world can provide.  I am especially excited though because in my capacity as traveler I may find myself in the enviable position of being in certain countries as they are racked by the Mayan equivalent of the Book of Revelations.  Jealous?  Jelly?

Mad … YOU!

Yes, if I play my cards right I could be that foreign guy who happens to be in the right place at the right time to witness the world open up and swallow all those third worlders who are indiscriminately being forced to pay for the mistakes of the Mayans, who lacked the foresight to make a calendar that wasn’t finite.
   As lulzy as the plight of the third world is, I don’t think too much is going to happen but I hope it does.  Let me explain: I have no wish for third-world misery, the end of the world or death, but from my understanding, 2012 is allegedly going to be a period of great transition marked by greater awareness of the ills of the world and a desire by the masses to see them rectified.  I am doubtful that this will happen for two reasons: 1) I have little faith in the masses 2) I don’t believe in a guiding hand which governs human existence.  Still, I hope something happens, because in my estimation, shit is all fucked up.  
   Looking at some of the recent events which have occurred and are occurring still, it is easy and convenient to construe them as harbingers of upcoming events.  Things like the Occupy Wall Street movement are nothing if not a protest against the status quo and the way things have been.  You can construe this as some kind of sign of heightened awareness if you want, but then protests are as old as civilization itself.
   Beyond heightened awareness, I have also heard that certain “events” will herald 2012 as early as late 2011.  Well as vague as that is, it is still easy to hear news reports and forcibly fit them into the template of 2012 which exists in my mind.  For example, here in Italy there has been flooding in a city I was going to go to (Rome) and a city I had just left (San Remo).  Oh my God, the end of the world is chasing me!!  Also, last week in Italy the 24 year old motorcycle racing star, Marco Simoncelli died, which, if you really want to grasp at straws, could be construed as some kind of significant death of a Christ-figure leading up to the apocalypse (it’d be like Justin Bieber dying back in Canada).  
“How does I martyrdom?”
All of these things added up in my mind (plus the earthquake in Turkey which is my next destination), and because we are very me-centric people, I sub-consciously saw these events as signs.  Then I realized, “wait, if I was back in Canada I wouldnt give a vial of monkey-piss about an Italian motorcycle racer or flooding in some European backwater like Rome,” and I smartened the fuck up.
   So who knows?  I don’t expect anything will happen to overthrow the flawed system we live in, but because I have very little to lose and lots to gain, I’m down for whatever.  If apocalyptic shit does transpire in one of the places I end up, trust that I will act as your real-as-fuck correspondent, bringing you my own particular brand of justice fact-based entertainment.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo 

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