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The Mission

My Friends,
   I am working in Toronto this weekend east of downtown.  Its actually an easy job: show up in the east end for 8am, set up some stuff for an hour or so, come back at 1pm and tear it down.  Then the day is mine.  However, it is the period between set-up and tear-down I am most looking forward to because I will be in the neighbourhood of a seriously sweet nerd-shop which I visited back in the summer on another job.  To clarify, when I say nerd-shop I mean a place that sells comic books, cards, collectibles, sculptures and most importantly, toys.  As you might recall from my recent post, “The Curious Case of Andre Guantanamo” (23 July 2012) I have in the last few months been on an action-figure binge after recognizing that even though I am ostensibly an adult I still have immature tastes and I should nurture these tastes.  Anyhow, this particular shop made it into a tweet a while back when I sat mulling over which action figure to buy while there.

RotJ Luke, ESB Han, or WW2 Captain America.  I opted for the Cap under the advisement of the clerk.

These three figures were only a sampling of the many figures at the store from both the retro Star Wars line and the Marvel Universe line, my two current favourites.  So needless to say I am excited to go back.  When you factor in that I could also potentially visit the Silver Snail on the other side of the downtown core while in the city, well it occurred to me that there would be a veritable feast of toys to choose from this weekend.
   And therein lay the problem; nurturing a massive toy boner,

Pictured: Another Kind of Toy Boner

I got so worked up about the smorgasbord of action figures I would get to choose from that I prematurely decided to go looking for some toys on the way back from picking up the gear for the weekend from the company’s warehouse in Mississauga.  Chatting with one of the workers there (a fellow nerd) I learned of Gotham Central on Dixie Rd.,  not 5km from my current position.  I asked him to clarify if they had the toy lines I was looking for and he confirmed it.  So I went and checked it out, and while it was a good shop he oversold it a little and it turns out they didn’t carry much in the way of what I was looking for.
   But this was ok, as I had only learned about this place at the last minute and my actual plan had been to hit the Toys R’ Us on Hurontario and the Wal-Mart on Hwy 5 and Trafalgar on the way back to Hamilton; a somewhat roundabout way to get home but planned with maximum toy exposure in mind.  So I hit the TRU and was mostly disappointed.  They really had nothing too much in the way of either preferred toy line.  Dejected I decided to make my way to Wal-Mart but I did notice two shelves of Marvel Universe 2-packs.  The two which caught my eye were… 
…Black Costume Spider-Man & Dr. Doom…

…and Old-School Wolverine & She-Hulk.

Now right off the bat I have to say that I have no special affinity for Dr. Doom or She-Hulk.  I just wasn’t raised on them I guess.  That said I couldn’t really justify buying either set when I would be paying twice the price for a character I didn’t want.  But even more than this, I had a close look at the knee joints of Spider-Man and Wolverine and they looked a little fucky so I decided that discretion would have to be the better part of valor and I proceeded to Oakville and the Wal-Mart there.
   Utter disappointment awaited me here as the only thing they had in the way of Star Wars figures was the shit that no one wanted,
Quinlan Vos anyone?…Anyone?

and for the Marvel figures all they had was toys from the Spider-Man movie.  I gave these a quick once-over to see if any struck my fancy but there were like ten variations of Spider-Man (i.e. Hydro-Jet Spider-Man, Rocket-Boost Spider-Man, Chunneling Spider-Man, etc.) and they all sucked.
   Moving right along, I headed west across Dundas into Burlington where there was another Wal-Mart on Appleby Line.  Again I was presented with the same disappointing array of toys and out of desperation turned again to the Spider-Man movie line.  There was in this case one action figure who caught my eye: 
“Symbiote Strike Spider-Man”

My interest in this figure stemmed solely from the fact that I am a fan of the Venom character and this was Spider-Man wearing the symbiotic black suit before Eddie Brock got it.  But I am a discerning shopper who does not simply buy something flashy if it has no utility.  Thankfully we live in an age of iphones and tech-savvy nerds like me who do things like post toy reviews on Youtube.  I watched this review while standing in the aisle,
and decided to pass on this figure on account of his poor articulation and poseability.  You laugh at my thoroughness, but this is actually the second time I have checked out a review for a toy on the fly.  The first time was about a week back when I was trying to decide between Master Chief from Halo 4 and a Dark Knight Rises Batman:
As you can see, I also consulted the Twitters

I made up my mind to get Batman after watching a review of the figure which allayed my fears of poor articulation and poseability.  In fact the figure turned out to not only be incredibly detailed but very poseable…
as you can see here.

   So I left Wal-Mart still empty-handed, disheartened and resolved to head home.  But like a spiteful harpy bringing deceitful promises of wonderful toys, I saw another TRU as I pulled out of the Wal-Mart plaza.  I suppose they had built it just recently and I hadn’t as such been able to work it into my original plans.   Was it worth checking out?
Worth dying for…
Worth killing for…
Worth making an illegal U-turn for.  
   FAILURE!  This TRU actually had some of exactly what I was l looking for, but its failing was that it didn’t have all of exactly what I was looking for.  I couldn’t believe it: I had checked out five stores across Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington and none carried any of the good toys I wanted, and when they did carry something good it was never the character I wanted or it was bundled with some garbage.  Perhaps this is a testament to my pickiness.  But I like what I like.  And if my woman makes fun of me for spending so much time searching and being picky, I will be forced to remind her that it was the same pickiness and discernment which led me to choose her.  Smooth right?
   Still I think I learned that if you’re excited about something, like I am about tomorrow’s happy toy hunting in Toronto, you shouldn’t cheapen it with little teases at the local toy emporium.  It’s like knowing your going to have some freaky, guilt-inducing sex and getting so stoked about it that you get horny and relent to watching some missionary porn.  What’s the sense in that?  Honestly; why not just wait?
   Anyhow, I didn’t quite get my proverbial “toy nut” today so if I don’t find something incredibly sick tomorrow I run a serious risk of catching the collector’s equivalent of blue-balls.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo


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Adventurer’s Remorse/I Still Love Porn

My Friends,
   So I took a trip around the world and all anyone asks me about is the guy who jerked off beside me on the train.  That is the sum total of my meanderings de la monde.  Apparently the most eventful thing that can happen to you in the world is to have a quasi-homeless dude tug his crank beside you.  It bugs me but its also partly my fault; after all, I didn’t have to make it known that this event happened.  Yet somehow I knew it would make a good story.  Little did I know how right I was.
   Other experiences which may have had a more profound impact on me just don’t translate well into storytelling on the blog or around the lunch-table at work.  So as an easy out I just told the story I knew would elicit the desired response (mirth).  And to my credit I have got pretty good at telling the story and its much better than it originally was.

I always wanted the story of “The Masturbator on The Train” to have a dewback in the background.  And now, with “The Masturbator on The Train: Special Edition”, its finally there.

   As much as I hate having my adventure reduced to one (sordid) incident, this isn’t even the first time its happened.  For example, I spent a summer out in B.C. a few years back and although it was in many ways an experience whose greater effect on me cannot be encapsulated in words, when the topic of B.C. comes up, I inevitably talk about the size of the salmon I caught and “the Spirit Bear”… 
…which I saw.
Ditto for two months of backpacking in Australia.  Being in the outback was an experience which defies words, but if anyone asks I will almost certainly reference getting stung by a scorpion.  
Its a cool story, after all  
   Finally, my time in my other favourite desert, Afghanistan, is typically summed up with a story about the heat or the IED we drove over that didn’t blow up because it was water-logged.  Its unfortunate that our most important experiences must be reduced/distilled to the most communicable/relatable stories.  The more esoteric and meaningful aspects of our lives and experiences are either too difficult to communicate or not palatable to others.  Like if I’m at work shooting shit the shit with the boys about travel, am I more likely to bring up the beautiful mixture of feelings I felt while on the road; happiness to be free pursuing what was my highest aspiration yet also sadness for all that I had left behind, or will I bring up the topless beach I went to in Spain? (Protip: I’ll prolly bring up the story with boobies in it)
   Why does it have to be like this?  I think its a result of the society we live in; we tend to value the whole less than the interesting/marketable/sexy (i.e. exploitable) parts.  This is why we tell anecdotes instead of sharing feelings. This is why people visit resorts and not the rest of the country the resort is in.  This is why Hustler et al. show extreme close-ups of women spreading their vaginas.  
This is actually a brilliant cover

   Its just that, pornographic; we like to reduce things to their constituent parts for ease of consumption.  Yet something qualitative is most certainly lost in the process.  When you’re bombarded with all these images and no discernment or thought is required on your part, you will inevitably devalue what you are being bombarded with.  I don’t blame you, you get bored.  
   Everything (people, products, and our most cherished experiences) is for sale in our society, but people don’t want the cow, the woman, or the life experience.  What they want, respectively, is the filet, the vagina or the sleazy story about public masturbation.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Gentlemen at Large

My Friends,
   Today, I had the pleasure of reading “The Man Who Would be King,” by Rudyard Kipling.  It is the story of two friends who sought their fortune by creating an empire for themselves in Northeast Afghanistan during the Victorian era.  It is related to the narrator by the surviving friend, after the whole house of cards of would-be sovereignty has come crashing down.  There’s a very interesting parable about pride goingeth before a fall, women being your downfall, the head that wears the crown being heavy, etc.  What I find interesting was the two friends’ incredibly simple plan to carve out a nation for themselves:

   “We shall go to those parts and say to any king we find … ‘you want to vanquish your foes?’ and we will show him how to drill men; for that we know better than anything else.  Then we will subvert that king and seize his throne and establish a dynasty.”

Indeed, in the estimation of the two friends,

   “…in any place where they fight a man who knows how to drill men can always be a king”

It makes perfect sense; while all armies are in theory bound to some sort of nation or head of state, in practice people are likely to feel a greater sense of loyalty to the tangible authority whom they see every day.  Its why coups tend to be pulled off by senior ranking mlitary officers.

Air force officers for example…
…oh those rascally flyboys.
   When someone turns the combat training of their dependants/vassals/subjects over to someone else, they are implicitly making that someone else a de facto parent or authority.  Who hasn’t seen an army movie where the drill sgt. tells the green recruits something to the effect of “You want your mama?  Too bad; I’m your mama now!”  While (even sarcastically) masquerading as the one who gave them life can itself have a powerful psychological effect on the troops by commanding obedience, a father/son dynamic naturally develops on its own from the master/student one.  It kind of puts into perspective the generous offers of NATO countries to train and mentor third-world (read: Afghan) personnel.  While nominally we are trying to empower fledgling nations by training their armies and police forces, perhaps such mentoring is well-intentioned subversion (to say nothing of the quality of government there and whether or not it should be subverted).
   I am not going to labour this point because it was simply an interesting idea I chanced upon, but I will list a few points worth consideration:

-anyone who who has studied any form of martial art or any variation of that martial art is fiercely loyal to that school or style

“SHOTOKAN KARATE FTW!!”

-Luke Skywalker was warned about straying toward the dark side (i.e. learning from the emperor) in any small measure because then he would be in the emperor’s pocket
-Daniel-san probably would have killed someone had Mr. Miyagi commanded it
-Maximus had a bunch of legions loyal to him in Gladiator who were willing to back him up in a coup
-I just re-watched The Expendables last night and the army of Vilena is pretty much in the pocket of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Eric Roberts throughout the movie after the latter provided them military training 
I think that’ll suffice for examples.  I realize my argument isn’t airtight and that I am drifting between discussing individuals, armies and nations, but hopefully you can see the underlying point I am driving at here.  Often proving your point of view outright is less important than presenting an intriguing idea; the latter presupposes discussion.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

 
   

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