Tag Archives: parkour

Movie Review: The Last of the Mohicans

My Friends,
   I have The Last of the Mohicans finishing up in another window as I write this.

This movie came out like 21 years ago and I am just watching it now in spite of the universal praise I have heard it receive.  I should have watched it sooner cause it appeals to me on a few different levels.  Lemme get past the meat & potatoes philosophical aspects before I get to the more more whimsical stuff.

The Redcoats Are Not Always Bad
   Is it just me or have we been programmed to always view the red coats of imperial British soldiers as evil?  In The Patriot they burn down a church full of colonial women and children to goad Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger into attacking them

It works btw

In Zulu, Michael Caine and his soldiers are portrayed as brave holders of the fort against amazing odds…

…which distracts from the fact that they were foreign occupiers.

Cary Elwes was a douche-bag in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book… 

…although he didn’t wear red.

And let’s not forget the most recent example, Assassins Creed 3,

where, as a young half-Indian assassin, you are on a mission to bring down a secret society called the Templars against the backdrop of the American Revolution.

   So yeah, reasons aplenty in pop culture to hate the British empire.  However, LotM does its best to actually humanize the Brits and puts them on the side of right in the North American theatre which was unprecedented to me.  Mind you, they are still a little cunty, what with their attempts to force colonials to join their fight against the French-Huron alliance and their desire to hang Daniel Day-Lewis for sedition.  But in spite of these shortcomings, the real cunts of the film are a faction of Huron Indians led by Magua, who seem unable to accept the peace terms that their French allies set up with the British rivals.
   Now some liberals might say it is a little cruel to portray Indians as villains in a film set against the conflict between two European powers vying for territory which belonged to Indians, but this is interesting for the same reason that seeing the Brits as “good guys” is interesting: Frankly, conflicts aren’t black & white.  History doesn’t have good guys and bad guys, just people with conflicting motivations; for every cunt in history who is remembered for his cuntiness, there is a perfectly understandable set of motivations and causality which led up to said cuntiness.  It is actually unfair to the Huron Indians to portray them as universally good, just as it is unfair to portray the Brits as always bad.  Both were victims of their cultures and acted within a framework which dictated (broadly) their actions and motives.
   So yeah, to recap, while the film still portrayed an unrealistic good vs. evil dichotomy, it did so in an unconventional way where things were shown to be more complex than “native = good and foreign occupier = bad.”

The Huron Indians Were Fucking Terrifying
   Miss Weir taught me a lot about the Huron Indians in Grade 8.  I learned that they were fierce warriors who lived off the land, (yawn) respected nature, traded with the French, etc.  Needless to say, such explanations of their fierceness never painted a vivid picture of just how fierce they were:

Check out the first two Indians who lead the ambush starting at 0:55

Those two fuckers literally come out of nowhere screaming.  I would defy the bravest motherfucker I know not to shit his pants in such a situation.  Or better yet, watch this entire scene which chronologically comes first in the movie:
See where that dude gets fucking scalped?  I cringe when I think about the times I had sliced skin off my scalp while shaving, never mind losing the whole top of my head.  And the way they came out of the woods screaming after a musket volley?  I guess I never appreciated how terrified European soldiers must have been even with their superior numbers and firepower.  
I Want To Be An Indian
   Ok so not actually, but watching DDL and his fellow Mohicans running fleet-footedly through the forest at the beginning of the movie reminds me of how much I love the feeling of….
I dont really have a word for it.  Its a feeling you get, particularly in nature, when you’re fit and agile, and traversing the terrain, aware with your whole body of obstacles and fluidly moving around them in an optimized way.  The equivalent in the city would probably be parkour.  Again, its not about backflips or flair, or even looking cool.  Its about economy of movement and confidence of ability that come from knowing a place and oneself.  At the end of the day its what I believe all the working out, running and fitness is for: mastery of your environment.  
   They say you shouldn’t run from a bear if you see one in the woods, but watching the opening scene from LotM, do you really think a bear could catch the three Mohicans if it wanted to?  
I have my doubts.  
Similarly, do you think the police could catch parkour founder, David Belle in the environment he has mastered?
Again, I have my doubts.

If you have never had this feeling I pity you, but I suspect most people have.  I think most children at one point or another feel a certain connectedness with the world around them.  Its something as simple as not being afraid of getting dirty by rolling around on the ground; at its essence its just a connectedness with the world around you whether natural or man-made.
   This is a connectedness which I never want to lose but I face a problem in that my current lifestyle is not entirely conducive to it.  Will have to work on that.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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My Friends,
   My woman recently put me onto this website/blog called “Mark’s Daily Apple” (http://www.marksdailyapple.com/).  Its run by this dude in California named Mark Sisson who advocates a primal lifestyle.  I don’t know too much about the eating part of it (although I would assume its similar to the paleo or caveman diet) but I found myself reading lots about the physical fitness aspects of the primal lifestyle.  The idea of natural movements that exercise the whole body (without isolating a specific muscle group for aesthetic reasons) has great appeal to me.  This is one of the main reasons I like parkour; it brings out my inner primate.  A major tenet of this movement is bare-footing and as I read more about it, I found myself positively enchanted by the concept.  Since I was young I have always been inclined to walk with bare feet and I am starting to think that perhaps this was not a fluke but an expression of my genetics.
   When it comes down to it, a shoe is an unnatural augmentation to what is a highly-evolved mechanism: the foot.  Sisson argues, and I concur, that we are doing ourselves more harm than good by constantly wearing shoes.  He illustrates the point with diagrams from a study conducted in 1905 (that’s how long we have known about the detriment to our feet caused by most footwear).

When I saw this first picture my first thought “wow, that is a weird-looking foot.”  Since it looked dissimilar to mine I naturally assumed it was a set of feet that had been damaged by years of poor footwear.  But much to my dismay, the article pointed out that this set of feet was the healthy one, belonging to an individual from the “bare-foot sample.”  Notice the wide spread of the toes, almost as if each has developed to play an active role in walking?
   The article then shows an individual from the perpetually shoed (sic) sample:

Shit.  While I wouldn’t say my feet are that mangled, I (and most people I would guess) share a similar deformation of the toes.  The big toes point inward, which is apparently wrong, and the other toes have been cramped to the point that they look atrophied and shrivelled.  Most dismaying about feet like this and is that they seem to be a milder version of feet like these,

These are the feet of a woman who was exposed to the imperial Chinese practice of foot-binding.  While the deformation of the toes is far more pronounced and effectively crippling to the woman, the comparatively benign deformation of my feet is still scarily reminiscent.
   What to do about this dilemma?  We live in a society where we wear shoes.  End of story!  But the shoes we wear, even athletic shoes are having a detrimental effect on our feet and our joints  (Read more about this here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/flat-feet-treatment/).  I can speak first-hand about this.  Recently I have gone from running 4 times a week or so, not including running to commute, to not running at all, due to chronic ankle pain.  The impact from heel strikes, even with the cushioning of a “quality” shoe has proven too much for me.  Having heard a while back that man in nature typically has stronger arches from running unsupported on the balls of his feet, I suspected that I should perhaps look into “toe-running,” as it would have a lesser impact on my joints (It is no coincidence that uphill running is my favourite, less impact and its all on the toes).  However, during my most recent session of ankle physio I asked the therapist about getting into this type of activity.  Skillful as she was with active release therapy, she seemed really unsure about how to advise me.  Essentially she said “whatever you do, take it slow.”  I didn’t find that incredibly encouraging so I sat on her advice until yesterday when I read the article linked from Sisson’s website.  Now I am convinced that I must rectify the years of damage that have been done to my feet by literally airing them out.
   To that end I took a long barefoot walk that included terrain such as concrete, asphalt, cedar chips, grass, gravel and wooded trail.

Going barefoot will also help me get rid of unsightly ankle tanlines

Throughout the process I made a conscious effort to spread my toes with each step and really feel the ground I was walking upon.  Basically, it hurt after a while, but that doesn’t really bother me: As I have been told during my tenure in the military, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”  As I sit here writing this I feel the same kind of soreness you feel on your hands when you stop using gloves at the gym; both soreness from abrasion and tiny muscle soreness.  My goal is to keep walking around barefoot until I lose the sensitivity in my soles.  When that happens I will attempt toe-running barefoot.
   What is equally exciting and daunting for me is the implication that barefooting would have on my upcoming trip.  My backpacking boots are incredibly good at what they do: providing support for my ankles and arches.  But wearing them for the next six months seems like it will negate any progress I make in the next few weeks leading up to my departure.  As I walked I could not help but think that I may yet be able to train my body to carry a load whilst barefoot.  I would have to stick to a strict training regimen and re-evaluate things before I left but going around the globe barefoot would be an interesting thing to do.  I’ll keep you updated.
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo


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Over-Ambition: The Bane of My Existence

My Friends,

   Have you ever gone to bed early wanting to crush some serious sleep so you can literally attack the following morning in a whirlwind of movement and purpose?  You set your alarm for 6 am (although you can’t remember the last time you ever woke up that early) with plans to eat a light breakfast then run wherever the wind takes you, just knowing that the wind will stop blowing before your legs get tired of moving?  Then you proceed to sleep until noon and wake up a groggy mess only to answer your cell phone with the person at the other end asking why you’re still asleep on such a beautiful day?  I have. 
   It’s called over-ambition syndrome (OAS, if acronyms get you hot).  This crippling disorder affects me more than I’d like to admit.  Today was one such occasion where I planned to hit the bike trails and also go to the gym (even on an active day, its typically one or the other).  Then I kinda just got home from wage slavery and…fuck, what did I even do?  I got some pricing on travel insurance and filled out a contest application, but that, along with dinner would have taken a go-getter an hour.  There are four hours of my life now unaccounted for.  That depresses me 😦
   Another manifestation of OAS was at the beginning of summer when I decided that I would work an extra hour or two every day plus come in on weekends since I was getting all the overtime I wanted.  This lasted for about three weeks when I realized that my summer was too precious to spend cooped up in a warehouse, and also that OT sucks when you’re the only one there with no one to talk to.  Therefore, all my long-term financial projections which hinged on a minimum 60 hour workweek were scrapped.  Incidentally, it should be mentioned that I have had a very relaxing and enjoyable summer, proving unequivocally that work is for suckers.
   The final instance of this disorder, since I am quite fond of striking deceased equines, would be the time a few months back when I decided I was some kind of industrial Gepetto, and aspired to fabricate my own metallic Pinocchio at work using sheet metal, rivets, springs and assorted junk.  The project never reached completion but it would have looked something like this:
Yeah, that’s right we’re talking “Starscream cool” here.  So what went wrong?  Well, the whole project started when I saw all this scrap sheet metal laying around at work and decided I could make a bitchin’ totally ungay sword using tin shears, a grinding wheel and my recently discovered knowledge of the rivet gun and its multitudinous uses (like riveting for example).  I proceeded to fashion this sword using Cloud Strife’s buster sword from “Final Fantasy VII” as inspiration.  For those who didn’t spend the better part of their adolescence looking for a way to resurrect Aeris, that sword looks like this:
While the sheet metal was a pain to work with, I met with all the success that an untrained, first-time swordsmith with a limited set of tools can presume to hope for.  It was this success which was damning to me, as it convinced me that I should proceed to create life…or at least an oversized, jagged, metal action figure which could wield the mighty sword (I know, give the guy a rope and he wants to be a cowboy).
   Let me just take a second and reiterate the word “oversized.”  The sword was originally designed to fit in my hand and be swung like a machete.  For a “me-size” machete to double as a “toy-size” sword, even a longsword, we’d have to be talking about one big damn toy.  And so it was, I defied the conventional wisdom of designing weapons to fit those who wield them, and began brainstorming the specs for a wielder not only strong enough to carry the sword, but large enough in comparison to it so that he didn’t look like he was over-compensating for anything (see figure 2).
   I think you know how this ends.  I ended up bringing my sword home to show my friends then realized that it wasn’t cool dragging a two foot sword around town.  Hell, its not even practical without a sheath.  This realization that I had spent hours (oh yeah, all told, it took probably five hours to get this bad boy done once I factored in tracing, cutting, drilling, riveting, stamping and grinding) on something that was completely impractical and of far too much sentimental value to even sell, kind of soured me on going forward with the Starsream/Pinocchio abomination.  So the fabled “Sword of Boredom at Work” now sits in a place of prominence above my desk, a constant reminder that I should keep my feet grounded during my flights of fancy potential burglars (and dragons) don’t want none of this.
   Back to Over-Ambition.  I have alluded to the fact that I will be travelling this September for a protracted period of time.  I am excited more than I can say, but with 28-country agenda and no planned itinerary to speak of, it will take all of the personal discipline I can muster to remember the excitement I feel now when things get tough.  Because at some point, at some obstacle, I will lose this initial naive enthusiasm and have to look within me to find another reason to carry on.  I plan on coming back with more than the proverbial sword.
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo

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