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Six-Week "Adventure" Recap: Part 1

My Friends,
   It’s been a long time and no writing.  Well, at least no writing which I have shared with the world.  Lots been going on so I’l give you some broad-strokes.

“A Man is Rich in Proportion to the Number of Things he Can Afford to Let Alone”  – HDT
 
   I have managed to consolidate all of my worldly possessions into my apartment over the last month; no more shit in my Dad’s basement and no more shit in my grandparent’s shed.  Everything I own is either in my apartment or in my assigned storage unit in my building.  Better yet, this mass of shit keeps decreasing by the week.  See it always bothered me that I had so much stuff scattered about.  Certainly I don’t use most of it, but more than that it is burdensome to carry baggage about and it is a burden which I do not like to put on others.

A George Carlin video clip seems almost obligatory in each post now so might as well get it over with right up front.

Well, in the past month I have gotten rid of the metric shitload of clothing and accessories which constituted my army gear (oh yeah, I am getting out of the army – More on that at a later date).  On top of that I keep on doing the Kijiji thing and I slowly get rid of stuff that way too.  Other than that, anything I can afford to part with for free (books, clothes, etc) leaves my possession at a rate of about a box per week.  I can’t wait til the day when my modest amount of possessions are simply the things I use on a regular basis with nothing held in reserve so to speak.

Flexing My A-Bone

   I started taking improv classes about a month back and frankly I’m not sure why I didn’t start sooner.  I always loved being in plays in elementary school and I took drama throughout high school.  Then after high school I really didn’t do anything in that regard, but I always had this idea in my head that I would act again.  Alas, it was just a general idea so I never approached it in earnest.
   But over the years I have met a few actors and I have always admired their drive to pursue a passion. A little closer to home, my sister, a ham like me, has been taking improv and is starting a Second City course which totally convinced me that I should get my shit together and go do what I feel.  I looked for improv classes in Hamilton and found The Staircase.  I was amused to realize that it was a building which I had driven by a few years ago and which had piqued my curiosity.  I had always meant to inquire as to what went on in there and it is only years later that I serendipitously followed up on that past inclination.  A strong argument for intuition indeed.
   It has been going well thus far;

Top … Gun … Actor!

I go two nights a week and I’ve met some cool peeps.  I even attended the recent Halloween party where there were some seriously wacky costumes.  Among the wackiest was my very own…

BANE

   I’m not sure at what point it occurred to me that I wanted to be Bane for Halloween but it must have been sometime in the summer because I knew I would have to spend September and October bulking up my upper body to be even reminiscent of the top-heavy brawler.  While I certainly didn’t expect to get Tom Hardy big,

 I had no intention of going looking like…

So I started a regimen of push-ups to supplement my as-of-late chin-up-only routine, and I also activated the Goodlife membership my sister got me for my birthday which helped too.  All the while I started putting together the costume.  Working in a gas appliance warehouse was very helpful because the gas fittings and thermocouples on-site allowed me to craft a pretty cool mask using a paintball mask as the foundation.  That coupled with some gear I picked up from my friends at Hamilton Tactical (Shameless Plug) made for a pretty legit getup:

Given the amount of work I put into the costume and the overall menacing look of it, don’t be surprised if I rock it next Halloween.  At the very least I’l have to attend FanExpo this summer to floss it.

Squabbles

   I got into some altercations last week.  Two in two days actually.  The first was when a bus driver, who felt that I had recklessly jumped in front of his stopped bus to put my bike on the front rack, tried to lecture me in a condescending way about jumping in front of vehicles.  I reacted in a counter-productive way and gave him shit back.  Realizing perhaps that he had come at me the wrong way he tried to show me, without lowering his voice, how his condescension had come from a place of concern.  It was enough to defuse me.  I listened to what he had to say and we actually got to talking about mountain-biking, the army (he was a vet) and the sad state of the world.  Given the shitty start of our relationship it actually ended pretty well.  I should fight more bus drivers I suppose.
   The next day I took off work to get my costume ready for the upcoming Halloween parties that weekend.  Going into Toys R’ Us, one of the managers jumped on me right away asking me…telling me to take my backpack off.  I complied grudgingly and went to the bathroom.  On the way I noticed many women with purses and it occurred to me that on top of not liking being told what to do nor being presumed a criminal, I also don’t like being profiled.  I went back to the counter and explained that I was taking my bag and getting what I needed and that he could assign someone to escort me if he wished.  He said I would have to wait a few minutes because he was busy.  I said I wouldn’t wait and when I proceeded into the store (to purchase a Batman mask btw as an accessory for my costume).  He followed and we got into a spat which became, among other things, a discourse about the legitimacy of rules in general, with me quoting Henry David Thoreau much to this manager’s lack of interest:

“Any fool can make a rule and any fool will mind it.”

I told him that he might as well call the cops and when he left I bought my mask and as I was walking out I saw him on the phone.  I asked him if he wanted me to stick around for John Q. Law to show up and he said he just wanted me to leave.  
I peaced out, glad I had stood my ground and feeling justified for my disobedience, but still not altogether happy.  Somehow I felt I had to rectify the situation and I later did.  But alas, I must go to bed now so I will finish up this recap tomorry.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
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Ugly People

There is a saying: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  That’s a bunch of bullshit and we all know it. If that were the case there wouldn’t be websites like uglypeople.com and there would be no cosmetic surgery industry.  We should stop deluding ourselves with the idea that ugly doesn’t exist so that we can address why it does.

My Friends,
   I was working at a trade show this past weekend and it proved something to me which I have suspected for a very long time:  This life takes its toll in some very unexpected ways.
   First, a thought experiment: Imagine someone widely regarded as pretty.  Say Brad Pitt:

At his prettiest in Thelma & Louise if you ask me

Now I would argue that Brad Pitt is physically attractive because he has gentle features, all his teeth, a chiselled physique and eyes that twinkle like Paul Newman’s when he smiles  
No Homo

On top of that I have heard him in interviews and when he is not coming off as lovably, charmingly bewildered, he does seem very coherent and affable.  And as if that weren’t enough, I’m sure he smells good too.  These non-visible cues tend to add to his physical appeal and I would argue that this holds true for all physically attractive people.
   However, working at a trade show all weekend I saw lots of people who fell short of the Brad Pitt standard of physical beauty (imagine that!).  On the whole it was an average looking bunch, but there were many incredibly ugly, disfigured, wretched people who came by and more often than not their behaviours, whether obnoxious, creepy, inappropriate, spiteful or aggressive, matched their appearance.  Now I say this with no malice, for I love my fellow man, but it occurred to me that these folks were living portraits of what this life can do to people.  
   Science has shown us that from a behavioural perspective, people are shaped by their environments.  It has been posited, and I would agree, that behaviours are a reaction or adaptation to one’s environment.  This is not to say that there is no genetic component, but the genes simply determine a range of possible behaviours while the environment dictates where a person falls in that range.  The best analogy I have heard is that human beings are like computers: the genes are the equivalent to hardware and the environment is the programming.  
10 years of running a bad program called “Crystal Meth”

   I guess I never stopped to think deeply about the ramifications of this principle on physical appearance, but if you think about it, the way someone looks is both a product of their genes and their environment.  If they did not have the genes to look at a certain way, lets say morbidly obese, they could not possibly look that way.  But just because they have the genes to look a certain way, again morbidly obese, does not mean they are going to look that way if their environment doesn’t reinforce that predisposition (i.e. exercise, proper nutrition, etc.).  In the above before & after picture, the woman obviously has the genes to look both ways, but her post-meth appearance was by no means pre-determined by genetics.  Rather it was a possibility which became reality due to environmental factors.  
   On a sadder note (yes, sadder than meth addiction), look at this little girl.
Not only is she going to be physically ugly for her whole life (scientifically provable based on the labels pointing out her defects), but she is going to be so very wretchedly so due to environmental factors imposed upon her by the indiscretions of another.  For she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, meaning her mother drank while pregnant with her.*  Often we think of life beginning the moment you are born, but we forget that the newborn has already been developing in its own unique environment for the previous nine months.**  
   So when I saw so many sloppy, ugly, slouchy, slack-jawed fucks this weekend (again, said with no malice, but ironically love), I couldn’t help but wonder how much of their appearance was a direct result of bad programming or environmental factors.  And of course, to what extent, if any, are these environmental factors a result of socio-economic status?  
   Now before you protest what you think I might be getting at here, watch this video:
Now I axe you: do you think the majority of people in that video were from relatively high or relatively low income brackets?  I would hazard a guess that they were mostly po-folk from shit-kicker American towns reduced to poverty after the mill/plant/factory closed down.  
   Now I am not saying that the people I dealt with this weekend were as wretched as the Wal-mart all-stars (thankfully I saw no butt-crack), but many tended toward these appearances (obese, unkempt, misshapen) and behaviours (general apathy toward outward appearance, rolling around on scooters).  And while I believe it is wrong to judge someone based on socio-economic standing, the affluent and the downtrodden are by and large very easy to pick out.  The wealthier, or at least comfortable have a certain carriage and deportment which is reflected in their attitudes, behaviours and appearances.  This is not to say that they always behave better; on the contrary, they can quite often be insufferable assholes and preening douchebags, not to mention misshapen and physically ugly.  However, in my experience they tend to carry themselves with a confidence and deportment that poorer types lack.  I can only attribute this to some sense of self-worth that they have, although I don’t pretend to know where they derive this sense of self-worth from.
   On the contrary, more poorer types in my experience tend to behave more erratically, being often unpredictable and squirrelly, not carrying themselves so much with confidence, but with a mixture anxiety, fear, desperation, or even malicious cockiness.  To me, these seem like symptoms of someone with little sense of self-worth.

I’ll just leave this here…

I don’t pretend to know why their sense of self-worth is so low though.

   Of course there are exceptions to these observations, and I find it fascinating and encouraging to see someone of modest means who carries themselves with dignity.  Again, I don’t pretend to know where their sense of self-worth comes from, but I do know where it doesn’t come from: their bank-account, for we already established that this person is not affluent.

To Be Contuvre…

~Random Tangent – Read at Your Own Peril~
   To this last point, there is a Spanish word, Hidalgo, which I am rather enchanted by.  Its actual historical context doesn’t impress me so much, but its literary context, that of a nobleman who has lost all his wealth but still retains the privileges of his class, well I rather like that.  For what more important privilege of nobility is there than knowing your worth; knowing that you are better? Not better than other people mind you, but better than the value society places on you based on your material wealth.  This is the most important knowledge.  A nobleman can be broke, destitute, emaciated and starving but he could still go somewhere and make a demand with the full expectation that it will be fulfilled. He had knowledge of self and that can’t be taken away once it is learned.  The problem is that many don’t ever learn knowledge of self in the first place; they either learn some religious malarky like “original sin” which implies they carry someone else’s sin which they must atone for, or they are just subjected to a society which reenforces subordination to legitimized forms of authority no matter what (don’t question your parents, always co-operate with police, etc.).  This teaches people that they are less than  a human being, they are simply subjects in a pecking order.  So instead of rooting their self-worth in the very fact that they exist, they tie it to fluid and changeable things like money, the opinions of others, etc…  Things, in other words, which can ultimately be lost or taken by others.  This process of acquiring financial means, social capital or other fluid things for the sake of moving up in society’s pecking order is colloquially called “getting ahead.”  So many are caught up in this game when they should be trying to figure out how to get free instead.

Contuvre…  

   When people who root their sense of self-worth in wealth and status which they do not have, I believe they are wont to treat themselves poorly (poor nutrition, deliberately poisoning themselves with alcohol and other drugs, poor posture).  They are worthless in their own eyes when compared to others who have done so much better by the standard which they judge themselves by.  This contributes to a less physically attractive person both superficially (slouched, vacant look in the eyes, slack-jawed) and in the long-term, as certain prolonged diets, vices and lifestyle choices will have irreversible and detrimental effects on a person’s physical beauty (see above photos of crystal-meth addict).
   So back to Brad Pitt, just imagine that he hadn’t had the particular upbringing he had and he had instead ended up as a lower-class worker or homeless person.  He would cease to be the pretty boy we all know and secretly (if you’re a dude) have a crush on.  He would likely be some long-haired, leathery-faced, fat American chain-smoker riding around in a rascal at the Springfield Wal-Mart.
   Conversely, when you look at the so-called ugly people from the Wal-Mart video, or just the ones you see in everyday life, imagine the wasted potential for hotness that their genes might carry but which has been squandered from perhaps as early as their time in utero when their mother may have drank or done drugs, to their childhood where they were perhaps malnourished and not taught their true worth as human beings, all the way up to adulthood where their bad habits intensified due to the ingrained belief that they don’t deserve any better than what they have and society’s persistent reinforcement of this idea.  This wasted potential for hotness is the unsung casualty in discussions about social change.  I truly believe that the further stratified our society becomes and the greater the amount of poor people becomes, the more the average physical attractiveness of the population will go down and the lower the overall number of 5/10s and above will be.  If this doesn’t instill a sense of urgency in you as to the importance of changing the world for the better, you should check your pulse cause you might be dead.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

*By calling the little girl with FASD ugly, I am not trying to be malicious, but honest.  One of the worst distortions of truth is soft, politically correct language because it turns some unfortunate human being’s real problem into some statistician’s quantified abstraction.  We must be precise in language and call things what they are, lest we trivialize the problems of others.  As is often the case, George Carlin had something to say about this:

**One of the important qualifiers for what constitutes life, or more accurately what constitutes an organism is that it has an environment which it affects and is affected by.  In the case of the fetus, its mother’s womb counts as this environment which in my mind pretty much galvanizes the position of the Pro-Life camp that life begins at conception.  However, this realization in my mind does not soundly resolve the abortion debate because if we are arguing the baby’s right to life we must also argue the mother’s right to security of person, which should be just as inviolate.
   I think the oft-overlooked position in the abortion debate is ameliorating the factors which lead to unwanted pregnancy and the desire to abort at a fundamental, root cause level.  Giving out condoms and lectures about safe sex apparently have not resolved matters.  A discussion about abortion is something that merits some attention and I may get to it at a later date but I wanted to clarify that although I believe life provably begins at conception, I don’t think it soundly decides the abortion issue.

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Make a Little Somethìn out of Nothin (sorry forrr the typos)

My Friends,
   Tragedy has struck.  While sleeping on the beach on Madeira Island on Sunday night, some (likely mustachioed) rake absconded with my backpack as I slept a little too deeply beside it.  I woke up in shock at its absence and spent the better part of the morning and afternoon with the Machico police, getting my visa cancelled and arranging emergency money.  I spoke with my parents as well and arranged for them to book me a flight back to mainland.   I had everything in that  backpack: money, wallet, passport, shoes, clothes, camp gearr, noteebooks, compass etc..   All in, there was about $2000 worth of backpacking kiit that I had acquired over the last five years.

                                                             “And now its all gone.”
 Obviously, this theft, especiially so early on, has been a serious blow to my confidence in  my ability to complete this undertaking as planned.  Sadly, I think we all know what  this means: I must noww do this trip in  hadcore mode.
   Let me explain: yesterday, in spite of the theft and the hunger, and the hoours spent with police, i managed to hold it together betterr than i would have expected.  However, when the saleslady forr TAP airline gave me 10 euros for food I broke down and cried.   More tears came when the flight attendats, learning of my circumstance gave me all food and cookies i wanted on the plane ride to Lisbon.  In spite of getting robbed by one strrrray douche, many people are still so good and helpful and itts them who i typiccally have the pleasure of running into.  As well, somewhere in all of this crying I realized that what i was upset abbout was not the loss of my gear; its just stuff that is eminently replaceable.  I was crrying because having initially decided to go home i felt i had failed and was going to miss my window of opportunity in life for this undertaking.  That thought depressed me more than any other.
    Also, drunk off Port wine on myfirst night in the country i wrote in my notebook something alongthe lines of how CCanadians arre the strrongest, most rrobust (sorrry this keyboarrd sucks) people on the  planet and that i wasnt going to let any nation get the best of me.  Well, Hemingwwaay said that “you  should always do sober whatyou said youd do drunk, (that way  you learn to keep your fool mouth  shut)”.  I  subscrribe to this point of view and its pretty much why iw went to afghanistan and australia lol. 
  So heres  what i was left with afterr the theft: desert camo cargo pants, eucalyptex shirrt long sleeve, eucalyptex bandana, flip  flops, spandex underrwear, petzl headlamp, 2x nalgene bottles, toque, sleeping rrroll, belt, wwatch.  I have since augmented that with a new lighter duty backpacck, which should be adequate for my new lighter load. 
  Herre is a small list of some items lost that couldneverr be rreplaced: my rrregimental flag, my  kabar knofe i ccarrrried on  all of my afghanistan patrols, my  rrhyme book (sorrrry shane, the album might be delayed) and of courrse my two pipes, both of which werre given to me by fatherr.  The loss of these saddens me morre than anything.

   Of ccourse, i  aalso lost my copy of Don Quixote but his lessons came thrrough in  my time of sadness: He and Sanccho  have been rrrobbedd sevveral times so  far (and worse) and he keeps on keepin on.  Setbaccks are parrt of adventure and i could not claim to be  any kind of adventurer if I turrned and went home att  the first impediment.  One day I will  laugh at this setback and hopefully i can offerr some futue  traveller calm rrreassurance that as long as youree alive you are ok (especially ifyou have a lovving family as a supporrt base).  Basically, the worrld fucked me so Im going to fuck it back.
   I realize ihavent said much regarrding the time between my lst entry and the theft.  RRest  assured oll make some point forrm notes about the food, tthe sights and even  an errrant nipple when i get to a keyboard that  isnt like fucking lego.
Remember: “The best way out is through” -Courage Wolf
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo

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