Tag Archives: Review

6 Nov 2019 Lecture Review

Friends,
I attended a lecture this evening which I was very excited to see -a Muslim speaker from the UK defending the idea of faith from the irrationality of atheism. Lovely, as I feel most mafuccas need more Jesus (or one of his archetypal counterparts) in their lives.
I was disappointed.
Right from the get-go as one of the “lucky” 20 early arrivals I “won” a t-shirt but could only claim it if I signed some forms denoting how I could wear it and what purposes I could use it for. I realized that this was going to be a highly-politicized thing and not a good faith talk about reconciling faith and rationalism.
Needless to say I passed on the shirt for this reason and also because all my t-shirts say “Nicaragua” or “San Juan del Sur” on them and I wouldn’t wanna deviate from a working formula.
I listened intently to speaker when he came on and did my best to follow his arguments, but he chained together a lot of words whose meanings I know, but whose combined meanings I had to think about for a second. Now English is my first language and I know my way around some big words, but guy was tripping ME up at certain point with his verbose bombast and jargon, so I doubt that the broader audience – a lot of international students and people taking their first crack at post-secondary- were picking it all up. (Keep this in mind)
At halftime Q&A I asked him about his earlier assertion that there was no connection between “truth and survival”. First I asked if that was his contention or if it was something he said while laying out the position of his opponents. He said it was his contention.
SO I then asked him a specific question about his example, his example being: “If we were all dropped in the forest and I said ‘all mushrooms are poisonous’ and nobody ate them, we would have a better chance of survival, even though my statement is not true.”
I asked him if he thought that this was actually proof of the lack of connection between truth and survival or if it was a problem regarding the level of analysis -for example, was that little lie about all mushrooms being poisonous nested in a larger order truth about needing to make ‘one size fits all’ rules to ensure maximum survivability? He evaded this question and moved on. I was disappointed, but it was destined to get worse.
For part 2 of the talk he quoted a verse from the Quran which laid out four possibilities for creation:
You were created from:
1) Nothing
2) Yourself
3) Another creation (infinite regression as he termed it)
4) Uncreated creator
I asked him to clarify the importance of the word “Uncreated” in 4) and elaborate on how “Uncreated” differed from “Nothing.” It turns out that “nothing” is nothing and nothing can’t exist, whereas an “uncreated creator” is something and therefore can exist.
I can’t make this up, people.
The problem was not that his explanation was a purely semantical one (especially after he had condescended to an audience member for listening to his words and not his meaning), the problem for me was that he could have gone so many more interesting places with “Uncreated” -the threshold between being and not being where the rules bend and life is created; the “friction point” (no pun intended) where masculine leaves its impression on feminine and creation happens; a point on the cusp of being and not being.
But no. Uninspired, dogmatic, proselytizing semantics is what we got.
I also asked him to explain why we couldn’t have been created from another creator going back in perpetuity and why this eternal process of becoming and unbecoming couldn’t be considered God.
Well evidently because that was not what he had learned. No, God had to be a static thing.
Now remember I said to keep in mind that a lot of his ostentatiously sophomoric word combinations were beyond the reasonably expected level of comprehension? Well, the most avid of commenters, two older gentlemen up front who seemed to to be comprehending him as well as me, took him to task for his unfounded and recklessly-made claims. He not only evaded but also began condescending to them for their faith in the scientific method. I forget the term he used, but it was some slur for rationalism, “scientism”perhaps….
Then he took a moment to (and I fucking cannot stand this) read off the names of books that we the audience should all read, finishing with “and then come talk to me.”
Yes, he literally said that. He told us to go educate ourselves. The college paid money to bring this guy to speak. It was fucking embarrassing.
By this point my eyes were rolled into the back of my head and I’m pretty sure I had developed brain lesions for the stupidity of it all.
The piece de resistance though, and what made me finally walk out was that after giving us a reading list, he started ranting and condescending to us, repeating the phrase “Don’t believe what you see on youtube” and “Don’t believe the youtube philosophers”. There were other spontaneous utterances interspersed between these fallback slogans, but the whole thing seemed to me like he was trying to film a highlight sizzle reel for his own youtube intros. I walked out in disgust.
The whole thing seemed like a calculated attempt to polarize people against Muslims through smug, self-assuredness; there’s a lot of this polarization on yt because by rousing up the most ignorant of you intellectual opponents to be the most vocal, you can then classify all of your opponents thusly. Transparent as hell!
Oh, and I’m not big fan of Richard Dawkins, but this jokester spoke the man’s name as if he was on his level. He was not.
I’m glad I went, but I will never attend a talk by this guy again. Nor will I provide his name.
Dear Muslim Society of Georgian, please aim higher. There are so many great compassionate, humble, erudite Muslim speakers you could have invited, but you chose a smug, preening, psuedo-intellectual who covers for his ignorance with big words and who wears what his what he knows like an ill-fitting suit.
I invited a Christian couple to this event, and I would have been embarrassed if they had been able to attend.
Best,
-Dre
PS: Real conversation as I left
Organizer who had invited me: “Yo bro how was it”
Me: “Well I ‘m glad I came, but I decided to leave when he started insulting the audience.”
Org: “I can’t talk about it”
Me: “You just asked me, though”
Org: “I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
Me: “So you don’t want to know how it was?…”
Org: ……
Me: “Ok, well have a good night.”
Can’t make this shit up!

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#ourblackpanther

Friends,

I just walked out of Joker and I am sitting in a Tim Hortons well after midnight compelled to write about all my feels. This will be a somewhat scattershot post but at the very least it will be organized by headings. Also, it is less of a review than a description of all the ways the film mapped onto my life and spoke to me. Thank-you in advance for your indulgence.

Prologue

I worked all day in the Sadlon building at Georgian College. I have been working on my computer from there a lot but today was Friday and by 5pm it was empty and I was feeling like I needed to do somewthing. The idea of watching a film came to mind. I have long wanted to go see Once Upon a Time in Ho9llywood, but I wasn’t sure if it was still playing so I didn’t bank on it it. At about 6pm I decided it was time to make some moves. I hadn’t eaten all day and so had to go to the plaza where both grocery store and and cinema are located. I stopped at home first to drop off gym clothes and extra gear, expecting to walk to said plaza for groceries and see what developed from there.
At the grocery store I ate meatballs (keto af) then proceeded to work on my computer at my editing job. My boss…he used to be my friend, then we got to know each other better. I don’t think he wants me to work for him anymore, but he is scared to have me terminated because he knows that his whole existence is a house of cards that will come crumbling down at the slightest disturbance, and putting my livelihood at risk will cause said slightest disturbance. He knows this even if it is unspoken. After living with him for two months in Berlin this past summer I have a better idea of just how precariously he is holding onto his job and how scared he is of having his true nature exposed to scrutiny. I am going through the motions, keeping him appeased, but ultimately being less responsive to his passive aggressive attempts to pass his own insecuritiues on to me through professional channels. His words are meaningless, and I no longer make the mistake of responding to them beyond the minimal requirement.

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

I wokred until about 9:30 in the grocery store’s cafe debating whether I would buy some alcohol to enjoy during the movie, slated to start at 10:15 pm. I really struggled with the decision of whether to buy booze because I am trying to drink less. It’s not like I drink a lot now, but I know how slippery a slope it is.
Work got boring to me and I decided to leave and head to the liquor store to pick up a small bottle of gin.
Since I had my backpack with me and I expected the theatre staff to want to check it, I purchased a small bottle of beefeater which I could fit in the back pocket of my jeans. The cashier carded me. I’m 35. Felt good I guess.

Prologue Part 2

I went into the theatre and purchased my ticket but when I went to have my ticket validated, the ticket checker said that I couldn’t bring my backpack in with me. I said I could and he disagreed. I channeled my Karen and asked to speak with a manager. The manager strolled up and we argued. My position was that I didn’t trust them to be stewards of my Macbook and bag, and also that they wouldn’t take a woman’s purse, so why should they take my backpack?. Their position was that no backpacks was company (Cineplex) policy. We argued for a moment and then I said that I was going to go in and watch the film, and unless he was going top use violence to stop me, he had better call the cops.

“Fine, I’ll call the cops!” was his response.

Reinforce the point I was making

Well yeah….I just said that…

I sat in the theatre in a state of some anxiety. I was expecting popo to roll up any minute and escort me out. I didn’t dare crack the gin I had smuggled into the cinema in my back pocket (expecting a bag search) because an unopened bottle of booze doesn’t count as contraband in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan. I figured this was a sign that I wasn’t meant to drink tonight; after all, if the cops approached me in the theatre I could state truthfully that:
-no refund had been offered
-noone had asked me to leave
-no official door policy had been put forward ensuring the safety of my property up to a certain dollar amount
As long as I stayed sober with an unopened bottle of booze in my back pocket, I had the legal high ground.

I breathed deeply and tried to relax even though I felt the dragnet encraoching upon me. Out the corner of my eye I saw the ticket-taker eventually enter the theatre during the pre-trailer commericals. He came up to my row. I kept my eyes to the screen. He paused for a moment and then walked up to me.

“Hey man, we were wondering if you would compromise by letting us have a look in your bag.”

Years ago, I would have taken the checking of my bag as an affront, but I guess the security state has become the norm even in my own psyche and so I enthusiastically agreed figuring it was preferable to an encounter with the cops and also wanting to smoothe things over. I showed him the interior of all the multitudinous pockets of my military-style backpack (the gin was in my back pants pocket) and, satisfied, he sat down next to me for a moment and admitted he thought that the bag rule was stupid but that they had had someone come in to see the movie with a weapon already. I sympathized with him, and kind of felt bad for being an obstinate dick. I sincerely wonder how Sister Rosa Parks felt after refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Even if we are in the moral right, it is a taxing ordeal standing up to other people, and we are wont to question the justness of our actions when we see the strain it puts on our fellows who are “just following the rules.”

And so it was, after the initial elation of getting away with standing up to the crooked Cineplex PTB, I felt a sense of foreboding that I was making wrong choices. Self-destructive choices which I would regret. I felt bad and I felt low and I felt dread about my choice to drink gin.

But then I smiled and thought that this was a perfect frame of mind with which to watch this film.

I cracked the gin as the light dimmed and the movie began.

The broken, Oedipal man

Arthur Fleck aka Joker is a pathetic man who lives with his mentally unwell mother. He loves his mother and she is not shown to be cruel to him (although cruelty is alluded to later in the film), but the sickenss of their relationship can be summarized in a scene where he is giving her a sponge-bath; she is naked in a tub and he is bathing her as if it were the most natural thing in the world. This is a sad state of affairs, and I would guess that it is the common state of affairs for incel men (living in their mother’s basement/mother is their best friend) taken to a visceral extreme.
Personally, I have worn many hats, and incel, Oedipal son has certainly been one. My relationship with my mother was violent and abusive most of my life, and then I was completely estranged from her from 17 onwards thanks to the efforts of a step-father who wanted out of his marriage as much as he wanted the best for the children he was raising. My mother was a tyrant and violently abusive, and my step-father, step-brother and I got her arrested and put up on multiple charges and removed from the household. Yet in spite of all the violence and intimidation I remember so well, she would balance it out with something even worse; a tendency to stunt my growth by crutching on me as a male ally in the household when she fought with step-father and smothering me with Oedipal, maternal affection. It’s complicated to explain because she was as critical as she was was encouraging, but throughout my childhood I was kept in an insular box and made to be useless and weak; and all the while I was criticized for my uselessness and weakness.
There is one story that sums up the sick nature of my mother’s affections aptly: About 5 years ago, things were going well between me and my mother. We were making inroads toward reconciliation and things were becoming normalized. I was spending many weekends at her house and it was all normal and fine. Like how it should be I suppose.
But then one night as she was going up to bed she gently suggested that if I wanted to I could come up to her room and into bed with her and snuggle.
Even thinking about it makes really uncomfortable. My mother never sexually abused me, but I realized at that moment the extent of the emotional abuse I had received, because at 30 years old with 15 yeasrs of estrangement between us, I had the perspective to see how wrong her smothering behaviour was.
I didn’t take her up on he offer.
In Joker, Arthur ends up smothering his bed-ridden mother to death with a pillow while she lays in a hospital bed.
Fitting? Perhaps.
Poetic? Possibly.
Relatable? Definitely.

Fixation on Black Women

There are four black women whom Arthur interacts with: a social worker, a therapist, a love interest and a stranger who reprimands him for “bothering” her son. Why the emphasis on black femininity? Well I can’t say for sure, but it resonated with me and so I’ll at least comment to that extent. I like black women. I am attracted to them. I don’t know why exactly but I suspect there are two reasons:
1) Assertion of white masculinity
2) Respect and reverence for primordial, divine femininity
I am trying to be more honest in my writing than I ever have been before but I’m not ready to talk about these things in greater depth right now. They need more thought. Hopefully the bluntness of how I stated these two ideas gives enough imagination fodder.

Searching for a Father 

A big theme throughout both the film and my life is the protagonist’s search for his father. He is led to believe that he is the illegitimate offspring of Thomas Wayne, but when he confronts Thomas Wayne he is rebuked and punched for his troubles. While my father never rejected me there are broad parallels between Arthur’s estrangement and my own.
There is a great scene where Arthur visits Wayne Manor and meets a young Bruce Wayne -his ostensible younger and legitimate brother. There is no malice here and he interacts jovially with the young boy until a butler (Alfred Pennyworth presumably) intercedes and tells Arthur to leave. Alfred, as the impediment between Arthur and his father; as the impediment betweeen Arthur and his little brother, was very reminiscent to me of my step-mother, Anita. It seems my whole life she has been keeping me from my father and I have long resented her for it.
Of course she wasn’t the only one keeping me from my father; before her it was my mother who chose to be unfaithful, then divorced, and then moved far away from my father so that I missed him my whole life.
My father, for his part is not perfect, having made, like Thomas Wayne, some stupid mistakes. There were times where when I was a teenager, living , much to my step-mother’s chagrin, at his house, and he would have to bend the truth to placate both me and Anita. I could loosely relate then when Arthur, being spurned by a pternity-denying Thomas Wayne, laughs, saying, “Why are you saying these lies?”
Ultimately there are further developments in the film which, rather than definitively answering the question of Arthur’s parentage, only obfuscate matters further, giving an unsettling Fight Club uncetainty vibe to the whole thing. Thomas Wayne’s eventual death then, at the hands of a clown-masked rioter encouraged by Arthur’s actions, pivotal though it is to young Bruce, sees Arthur simultaneously celebrating on the hood of a cop car in his brief moment of glory while crowds laud him after freeing him from police custody for the murder of Murray Franklin. The death of his possible biological father is shown to be meaningless as well as indirectly a result of his actions.

What of Murray Franklin?

Murray Franklin, a Gotham late-night talk show host, is significant because he represents an idealized surrogate father to Arthur and object of his delusions. Before Arthur even learns of of Thomas Wayne possibly being his father, he has reservations about the man. He has no such reservations about Murray Franklin, whom he fatasizes about meeting and being accepted as a son by.
Murray Franklin is portrayed by Robert DeNiro, and this is significant because the film draws inspiration from two of DeNiro’s earlier films, Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. These earlier portrayals of DeNiro give a sort of meta-believability to his status as surrogate father figure to Arthur. However, the idealized version of Murray Franklin which Arthur fantasizes about is a far cry from trhe real version who lampoons Arthur’s secretly recorded initial overtures toward stand-up stardom and only has him on his show due to fan outcry.
Franklin, like Thomas Wayne, has been an absentee father to Arthur. Perhaps even neglectful. Nonetheless, when Arthur exacts his vengenace on Murray, who at the time is scolding him on live television after Arthur’s revelation that he klilled three men on the subway, I felt it was simultaneously appropriate and overkill.
Murray Franklin and Thomas Wayne both die the same night by the hand of men in clown masks/paint. Chaos ensues/continues. Even though these men were both neglectful, mean and spiteful, there is still something tragic about their deaths. Their passing represents things becopming undone and unraveling. When the father dies, all is chaos.

The Three Men on the Subway

Arthur’s arc gets interesting when he shoots three drunk men on the subway. The men are harassing a young Asian women (significant?) and Arthur’s condition (uncontrollable laughter) flares up. The Asian girl makes her escape and the men (employees of Wayne Enterprises) frustratedly approach Arthur seeming almost amused, but ultimately they beat him down in a scene echoing his beat-down at the hands of (multi-racial) kids during the opening of the film. This time however, Arthur is both armed and being attacked by three white men in suits, so when he lets off with his .38, it is less Bernie Goetz and more OWS. In fact, this scene really made me wonder why the film was so controversially received; from a racial and economic perspective at least, Arthur kills all the right people.

Post-Kill Blues

My favourite scene in the film occurs after Arthur kills the three subway harassers. He runs to a park bathroom, locks himself inside and then….dances? This dance scene actually made it to one of the film’s posters:

I know what it looked like to me because I have done this same kind of dance after moments of accomplishment, during moments of excellence and even when I am really enjoying some food -it is the movement of someone experiencing a rush of serotinin and channeling -nay, savouring-it’s movement through his central nervous system. Arthur is allowing the divine energies to course through his body/kundalini and heal his sick self. We see him here in a moment of becoming, and if our vision could go beyond the visible spectrum, into the subtler, higher vibrational realms and observe his spiritual body, we would see Arthur spreading his wings for the first time. His movements, vaguely reminiscent of tai-chi, are the same movements I have made on many dance floors when my spine/kundalini/chakras are properly aligned and I am basking in the heavenly and earthly energies moving up and down through me.

 

Honk Honk!!

And Pepe brings me to perhaps my most cynical thought of all: Sometime in in 2019 I became aware of the #clownworld/#honkpill/#honkler meme; a derivative of Pepe with a more acute dedication to pointing out the hypocrisy and absurdity of the world and laughing at it. I was immediately enamoured of this meme and by the time I sat down to watch Joker, I was well primed to appreciate Arthur even more than I otherwise might have. And this made me think: “Oh no, have I simply been manipulated? Were honkler and clownworld simply dreamed up by marketing execs to obliquely promote the film months in advance of its release?”
I don’t know, but it is entirely within the realm of possibility that I have been duped. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that my own susceptibilities as a somewhat disgruntled man in his 30s, with problematic relations with his father and even worse relations with his mother, have been exploited. This bothered me somewhat, but in truth, not as much as I would like to think it would have. It was actually reassuring on some level to know that someone (or some marketing firm) could know me and speak so deeply to my condition. Like Winston getting interrogated and tortured at the end of 1984, I just want to be understood I suppose, even if it is in a clinical and dispassionate way. And I don’t think I am alone.

The Rock & Roll Easter Egg

At the begining of the film’s final act, Arthur gets dolled up in his final Joker ensemble for the first time, preparing to step out for the evening and be a guest Murray Franklin’s show. As he leaves his house, we see him dancing down a set of stairs, and while this scene was shown in the trailer, the music was different. In the film, Rock & Roll Part 2  by Gary Glitter plays. The young college kids I was in the theatre with probably missed the reference, but Gary Glitter was busted for among other things, child pronography. While Rock & Roll used to be played at every sporting event when I was growing up,and in every Mighty Ducks film, since the late 90s it has been effectively blackballed. To me then, including the song was a nice touch; a perfectly oblique and tasteful nod to the fact that marginalized men can be wont to take out their sexual frustration on children, and it was an acknowledgement made without directly demonizing Arthur in an unforgivable way by making him a pedophile.

And the scene was fucking awesome; I had a big grin on my face as he got suited up for a night of mayhem and danced his ass down the stairs.

Swag!

The Final Analysis

The backlash against the film that I have read seems mostly like posturing and so unworthy of calling out by name, but as someone who unashamedly relates to Arthur Fleck I will tell you what the film was to me –a cautionary tale. It gave me and others like me a glimpse of what happens when we allow ourselves to be made weaker by our mothers; what happens when we allow oursleves to be too invested in the opinions and acceptance of our fathers; what happens when we fetishize women; amd what happens when we allow our worst impulses and delusions run our lives. Sure, there may be a brief moment on top of a cop car, cheered on by rioters , where we are immortal, but that too will pass. The path of Arthur Fleck is not one to emulate, but it hits home nonetheless because there but for the grace of God goes me.
When I think of a hero in film, I think of someone who, in the most abstract sense, shows me the righteous path forward. A hero is someone to emulate.
What then of an anti-hero? Well, irrespective of whatever the accepted definition of an anti-hero is, it seems to me that it has been perverted into referring to, essentially, a grittier version of a hero, who is yetr still ultimately worthy of emulation.
I find this to be a shallow reading of what an anti-hero should be. For me, I rather take the literal approach: If a hero is a role model, an anti-hero is just the opposite; the aforementioned cautionary tale. We can understand and relate to him just as much as we can relate to his more traditionally heroic counterpart, but his behaviour is self-evidently degenerative and not to be emulated.

Some consider the Joker to be the greatest villain, but he’s not, because villains can’t be understood or related to. Heroes and anti-heroes can. That doesn’t make PunisherVenomSpawn, et al. anti-heroes though, because excessive violence notwithstanding, they still do the right thing.

Thanos? He’s a villain because we can’t understand him. It’s like, “Bitch! Just snap your fingers and double the resources!

Juggernaut? Great villain because its hard to empathize with someone who just wants to destroy everything.

But Joker? Someone that relatable, and who can furthermore incite a whole demographic, in real life and in the film, to rioting? That’s more than a villain; that a hero, even if an antithetical one.

Best,
-Dre

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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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Hall of Otis

Friends,

One of my favourite songs from recent years is the Jay-Z and Kanye collaboration “Otis” from the joint album, Watch the Throne. In short, the song is disgusting with almost universally positive reviews.* But you know how it go: you do something that works and everyone imitates it. In fact, there has been a falsehood perpetuated over the last few years in hip-hop that success can be measured as proportionate to level of hatred one receives, but the truth is more intuitive: success is directly proportionate to how many people jock, dick-ride, emulate and straight-up copy you. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” after all. And imitators there have been, all taking the song’s slick beat and dropping tight lyrics about their own exploits. Four such imitators are noteworthy enough to me to warrant mention and I want to rate them and see how they stack up against the original.
So first, the original…

1. Otis by Jay-Z and Kanye West
Best Lines: ” I guess I got my swagger back.”
“Sophisticated ignorance, write my curses in cursive.”
“Everything’s for sale; I got five passports, I’m never goin to jail.”
“Build your fences, we diggin’ tunnls,” etc… (near every line in the song is a best line)
Worst Lines: N/A

F0BEEF0BD855D6A89B989EDBD67E52CC

   Fuck, what can I say about this song that hasn’t already been said about a finger in your ass while getting a blowjob? Amazing! The wordplay is playful, clever and tight and it’s an unapologetic celebration of everything that’s wrong with the world. In fact, the only legit criticism I have ever heard levied at this song came from my friend, Adriana who lamented that the homage to excess, vice and privilege was completely un-ironic and thus an unwitting display of aberrant values. For this view I have some sympathy, but only to a point because my appreciation of the song is more contingent on what it meant to me and not what it meant to Jay and Ye.
This song is gonna serve as the control, if I may be so bold as to potentially misuse scientific language for the purposes of a “for fun” blog post. Gonna rate it on the scientifically-approved scale of 10.

Rating: 10/10

Now for the challengers…

2. Otis (Remix) by Busta Rhymes & DMX
Best Lines: “”Two niggaz reppin’ the ‘R’ -X and X!!”
“Don’t worry bout what condition I’m in, you cats can’t survive half the places I been.”
Anytime DMX growls like a dog.
Worst Lines: “DON’T. TALK. BACK. When your father’s talkin’ to you!”

Busta-Rhymes-DMX-OTIS-REMIX

   This version fucks with me. At the outset I thought to myself, “OH NOES, poor Kanye and Jay are gonna get murdered on their own track.” It was a reasonable assumption; on top of the fact that neither Busta or DMX are slouches on the mic, both have achieved mainstream success and arguably even icon status throughout their careers. And, in the case of DMX, everyone loves a comeback. But somehow this version…fails to deliver, and I’m not even 100% sure why. Even the wack rhymes aren’t that bad.
Some observations though: DMX is definitely the stronger MC on the track but that has less to do with him being “better” than Busta in any absolute sense. Rather, I think it has more to do with the fact that Busta seems to be gearing his delivery to sound more like DMX, menacing and violent. Don’t get me wrong, Busta can be legitimately threatening, but nobody does it like DMX and when you are going back and forth with him on a track it only accentuates how much better he is than you at it. I would have preferred Busta to deliver his rhymes in his more rapid, staccato style with heavily accentuated breaks followed by near-immediate, seamless re-immersion into rapid, staccato delivery (See What’s Happenin’, Fire, Thank-You, etc.).
Also, I don’t like the heavy use of sound effects on the track. I’m not saying it’s bad but it just doesn’t appeal to me personally.

Rating: 8/10

3. Otis Freestyle by Cassidy feat. Jag
Best Lines: “Scream at me if you need the trees, or the ‘white bitch’ (COCAINE) -I work the morning and the night shift.”
“In Philly I’m a willy/wheelie like a bike trick,”
“I’m from a ‘get shot in the face’ hood,”
Larsiny we in this bitch now -niggas need to leave, apply pressure to a nigga neck -he don’t need to breathe,” etc..
Worst Lines: N/A

cassidyjag3

   Straight-up: this version is ill and it probably comes the closest to eclipsing the Jay/Kanye original. Why? Well it’s a solid track with no wack rhymes for one. And while I think Cassidy clearly shines brighter than Jag, the latter is no slouch either. Rather his more subtly delivered punchlines serve to compliment and offset Cassidy’s often crude hilarity. The two have a definite rapport which I where I think they outdo Kanye and Jay, as their back and forth is seamless like Ghostface and Raekwon. For the uninitiated, that’s lofty praise.
On a separate note, I have become something of a fan of Cassidy in recent years, and that’s in spite of the fact that my tastes in music have changed and matured. While I listen to less and less music promoting criminality and violence I can’t help but smile when I hear Cass’ well-wrought punchlines about cooking up dope, killing people, etc. And it’s that same cleverness which really elevates this track.
The sad reality is that because neither Cassidy or Jag have the profile and stardom of Jay and Kanye, this track never got the exposure it deserved outside of the internet. Still from a technical perspective, it’s pretty unfuckwithable.

Rating: 9.5/10

4. Otis Freestyle by Justin Bieber
Best Lines: “Pull up on my enemies, see if they remember me, soon as they remember me, I wipe away they memory.”
“Ridin’ in a all-black Benz, with the all-black rims, and we lookin at some 10s through our all-black lenses.”
“Get it done abundantly, she wants to get up under me, I swear that I got hundred these cause baby I’m a money tree, so be my little honey, be my little bitty bunny, I got honeys all up on me -baby I just get it dunny.”
Worst Lines: “Started playin’ drums when I was only 2, now I kick it in Japan -Kung Fu!”
“I thanked Jesus at the awards, I’m never goin to hell, call me Zack Morris I’m savin ya by the bell.”
“My girls says I’m perfect … I think she is perfectly perfectly perfect.”

bieber

   There is so much right with this version that it’s a damn shame some of the lyrics are so wack. Out of all the challengers, JB is in the best position to cut a track in the same spirit of opulence, stardom and fabulous wealth as the original. And so he does, even quoting Kanye’s line, “Can’t you see the private jets flying over you?” But the problems are of a more technical nature: Pubescent white-boy delivery notwithstanding, Justin seems to be good at emulating great rap but his verses and delivery seem a bit robotic and overly MCish. He tries to cram too many multi-syllabic words in as a seeming cover for not feeling comfortable enough in his own rhyming skin to just flow on the track.  Overall, this version has a a “Hey, look what I can do” vibe rather than the “Shut-up and listen while I break it down for you real quick” vibe I would prefer and which would be better suited to the tone he is aiming for.
I love this version and I respect his effort, but I think JB needs to spend more time developing his rap voice to the level of his singing voice before he can be a serious contender in the rap game.

Rating: 7/10

5. Otis (Remix) by Papoose
Best Lines: “Actin like you fly -STOP, Imma tell you like they told Joe Pesci, go get your motherfuckin’ shinebox!”
“There’s no tomorrow, throw a hollow, all the haters know the motto, cop a mother-lode of bottles, tell the waiter hold the sparkles…”
“You fickle, you couldn’t hustle a nickel out a dimespot.”
“I serve my beef with shells like a fuckin’ taco.”
“Make my Bed in the Stuy -I sleep in y’all streets.”
Worst Lines: “I live in a condo big as Kilimanjaro.”
“I don’t even know the vowels, I-O-U,  gener-AL like Colin Powell,”

images

   Once again, so much right with this track that it pains me to see so many missteps. From a technical perspective, this is the kind of delivery Bieber should be aspiring to right now, but from Papoose, a seasoned MC known for lyricism, I think he coulda done better. Like JB, there is way too many instances of ostentatious muli-syllabic rhymes which just seem extraneous. And while there are some great punchlines (I absolutely love the Joe Pesci/Goodfellas reference) on the whole it wasn’t consistently amusing enough like Cassidy’s raps to take me forget that he’s rapping a lot of negative, crime-related shit.
I will give Pap credit though, he does wax conscious in certain parts, like when he tells young girls, “You don’t need implants to get your body all stern, if you just eat right your ass will be more firm.” Actually he spends a few consecutive bars toward the end of the track trying to “teach the younger generation,” going so far as to lament that young black girls, possibly taught to be ashamed of their blackness, seek perms to achieve a more white aesthetic. That’s my interpretation anyways, but I gotta give him props because he shows real honesty and pretty skillfully walks the line between conscious and preachy.
   One more similarity between this version and the JB version is that it’s a solo track. While I’m not necessarily against that, I don’t think it’s any accident that the two highest-ranking versions of the song I have here are duets. It’s a BIG beat and if you’re gonna attack it solo you gotta bring it.

Rating: 8/10

   I hope you enjoyed my critique of these tracks and that it has instilled a similar appreciation of the original song and all of its spin-offs in you.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*By “universal” I simply mean that I hadn’t seen a single bad review of it in my thorough and exhaustive search on google where I didn’t look past the first page.

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“One Fish, Two Fish, Putin, Obama” – A Study in Imposed Dualities

Friends,

Something occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed. Let me explain it in a roundabout way, my preferred method of explanation: You see, I have been following the buildup to World War III for about a year now, and before the US was making overtures toward attacking Syria in an attempt to goad Iran into conflict, it was stroking itself to the idea of attacking Iran directly.

iran-wants-war

While that more direct route was being considered, Russia and China had already made statements to the effect of, “We will fight you if you attack Iran,” “You fuck with Iran and you fuck with us.”  These sentiments from the once and current Communist blocs have not really changed too much even though the US is considering a more meandering route to Iran.  Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been very vocal about condemning Obama, and, in light of these criticisms of American war-mongering and his harbouring of Edward Snowden, he has gotten a weird sort of good guy image makeover in the view of the West.

ggp
(To be clear, I made this image to illustrate my point)

This heel/face turn has been helped along by the letter (incorrectly attributed to Putin) “From Russia With Love,” which was written in the Russian President’s voice and has been making the viral rounds.

So yeah, it seems like Vladimir Putin is a pretty cool guy.

But if that’s the case, then why do I not feel right about singing his praises and vaunting him as the last bastion against American imperial expansion?

Well for starters lets rhyme off the superficial reasons for mistrusting Putin:

1) He’s former KGB

Putin_KGB

2) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with feminist activists, Pussy Riot.

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3) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with gay rights activists.

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4) This is the same dude who has taken a heavy hand with Chechens.

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Hmmm, all these factors combined certainly make me reconsider my earlier statement that Putin is a pretty cool guy, but they don’t really account for my incredulity with regard to his good guy image.  I think my mistrust has more to do with IMPOSED DUALITIES.

Imposed Dualities
Do you ever notice that most of the choices you are presented with come down to two main options?  And while often these choices are only distinguished from each other by the most superficial of differences, people will still make great judgments about you and your character based on which of the two you choose.
Let’s review some of these dualities:

Evil vs. Good

Dark vs. Light

3

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2

communism-vs-capitalism-575x250

Presentation1

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It’s no accident that both sides of any of these choices are broadly similar and superficial differences are emphasized to create the illusion of diversity.  A good example would be how many video game retailers will have retailer exclusive DLC for games pre-ordered from them.  In the game Batman: Arkham City for example, you could get various costumes for Batman depending on where you pre-ordered your game. Voila; diversity of choice!

new-batman-arkham-city-bonus-costumes-revealed-earth-one-the-animated-series-batman-beyond-and-more

This is what freedom of choice looks like.

I have a hunch that its also no coincidence that red and blue are used extensively for the purposes of distinguishing broadly similar factions/parties from one another.  I am no colour psychologist though, so I’m not exactly sure what this denotes.

However, I want to draw attention to the last red vs. blue duality I included:

125177754

Most people probably recognized this as denoting the rivalry between the American Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.  These two parties have often been accused of being broadly similar in recent years,

demopublican

yet they manage to keep the veneer of differentiation though head-butting on issues like women’s rights, gay rights, fighting insurgency, etc.  However, since they are both essentially fed by the same hands,

The Most Dangerous Kind of Politician

there are necessarily proverbial  hands that both parties won’t bite.   This is not to say its a grand conspiracy where the wealthy elite control the puppets.

demopub

On the contrary, its a rather common and disingenuous conspiracy where parties and politicians recognize where their self-interest lies and make the appropriate choices to maintain their positions of power vis-a-vis campaign funding, airtime and favourable press.

Furthermore, do you notice how any up-and-coming candidate for the presidency (and by association, senate and congress seats) always pledges to undo the wrongs of his predecessor should he be elected?  This angle resonates with those disaffected most with the existing administration while polarizing the incumbent’s base, a base who, though they might not be 100% satisfied with their candidate’s performance when held up to his campaign promises, still prefers to stay the current course rather than make a departure

So how does this relate to Putin?

Well, someone’s gotta be the bad guy and someone’s gotta be the good.  That is, someone’s gotta be red and someone’s gotta be blue.

If you think about it, in spite of his newfound popularity, Putin is not so different from Obama: He criticizes Obama for his handling of the Snowden affair while openly admitting that he would have prosecuted a similar Russian whistle-blower for treason. You might recognize this position as the broad similarity I mentioned earlier when talking about imposed dualities and intra-national politics.  It seems that broadly similar imposed dualities exist at the international/global level of politics as well.

sdg

“It’s not about the one I like more, its about picking the one I hate least.”  (Paraphrase)
-Cynical Voters

Putin vs. Obama is the latesst permutation of Obama vs. Bush*, and in each case the appeal of the former is a direct function of how dissimilar they appear to be to the latter and how much the latter is hated.

Soooooo, why waste time waving the flag for either?  Good question!

I quoted Miyamoto Musashi in my last post, “When Truisms Lie,” and I will quote him again here:

“If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things”

I think if we apply this view of imposed dualities at all levels of politics (global, national, provincial, regional, state, municipal, INTERGALACTIC!!!) we will see it represented faithfully, which to me is a testament to its truth.  And it follows that if we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke and mirrors at one level (say, national politics), then we should avoid getting fooled by the smoke & mirrors at all other levels as well.  In all cases we must look past the obvious conflict which is being presented to us and see who is benefiting no matter which side wins. 

CUI BONO?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*I realize Obama never ran against Bush but he was touted as being the remedy to two Bush terms and two un-winnable wars.

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Astapor Syndrome

Friends,

Another weekend gone and so another episode of Game of Thrones has aired.  I have been enjoying this season so far (minus the whole Theon Greyjoy sub-plot, which is just difficult to watch) but I have noticed a trend.  Namely, Daeneryus Targaryan likes to free her some slaves.  Now this compassion for the oppressed isn’t exactly a new thing, as you’ll remember that her standing up for female captives about to be raped by Dothraki raiders in Season 1 is what set in motion the events leading to her husband, Khal Drogo’s death,

Khal-Drogo-game-of-thrones-22332273-1024-768

Remember to always use Polysporin on you sword-wounds. 

and later, the birth of her dragons.

DaenerysDragon

But she has been really amping up her bleeding heart sensibilities in the last few episodes.  There was a plot arc in the first few episodes of the season where, upon arriving in the city of Astapor, she resolved to free all of the city’s slave-soldiers at great personal cost.  Although admittedly she did end up tricking the slavers which culminated in perhaps the series’ best sequence thus far.

Picture 2

“DRACARYS!”

Fast-forward to last night’s episode, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” and we see that Daenerys (SPOILER ALERT) is up to her old tricks again.  This time her and her army arrive at the city of Yunkai, and while Ser Friendzone* Jorah makes it explicitly clear that the city has no strategic value, Daenerys has this overwhelming hankeing to liberate the city’s 200,000 slaves.  Furthermore, she demands that the city masters free all of their slaves and load them up with food and riches as recompense for their years of servitude.  Presumably these slaves will go on to live free, happy, and prosperous lives.

Does anyone else see a problem here?

Picture 3

Take that scene I posted the link to in the second paragraph; she tells thousands of slave-soldiers who have been brainwashed to be obedient, fearless and self-sacrificing their whole lives, that they are now free.  They can either seek life elsewhere or voluntarily join her in taking back Westeros.

Picture 7

Well, no surprise here, rather than pursue an unfamiliar and foreign lifestyle, these trained killers would rather keep on killing with the nominal distinction that they are now free.  And even though I don’t know how the liberation of Yunkai’s slaves will play out, I can only imagine that the slaves there are similarly ill-prepared for freedom.

Now I don’t want to be misunderstood here; I am not advocating for slavery, or opposing emancipation, but I think that simply telling someone they are free after years of conditioning them to be slaves can’t really work.

Remember this scene from The Matrix?  The key part is when Morpheus tells Neo,

113The_Woman_in_Red-med

“Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged.  And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependant on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

Do you see what I’m getting at here or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?

Whether you wanna call it Stockholm Syndrome or learned helplessness, or simply being a house nigger, I think there are many disenfranchised people (most of the population) that have been so conditioned to see themselves as lowly that they will happily fight for scraps from the table their whole lives rather than attempt to take a seat.

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” -Proverbs 23:7

Relating this idea back to Game of Thrones, a liberator like Daenerys would realistically (I’m aware of the irony of that word in this context) face a slave population that would largely reject the idea of freedom (or perhaps go on to take their own slaves, like the renegados during the Barbary slaving-era) and she herself would probably have some nagging doubts about the volition of her army of “free men.”

This is one of the things I like about this show: You can watch it absently and take it for face-value or read between the lines and see that there are some important questions it raises.

Best.

-Andre Guantanamo

*This joke was made by my friend, Matt.  Gotta give credit where credit is due

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The Truth That Makes You Squirm*

Friends,

This past Friday I attended a production at The Staircase called Slut (R)evolution, a one-woman show starring Cameryn Moore.

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At the risk of over-simplifying the subject matter, the performance was an exploration of her sexual development, and showed the progression through sexual awakening, becoming a lesbian, slutting it up in college and becoming straight again (sic.).  I stuck around for a few minutes after the show and spoke briefly with her, and when she asked me what I thought I kind of blurted out that I was extremely uncomfortable for the whole hour and a half.  Rather than be put off or insulted she seemed to take it in stride and asked me why.

My response wasn’t very eloquent and I said something (only half-honest) about the subject matter (BDSM) being very racy for my vanilla sensibilities.  But in reality it wasn’t that at all; free and open access to internet porn has more or less taken the edge off seeing extreme sex, let alone hearing about it.  Rather I felt uncomfortable by just how vulnerable Cameryn made herself.  She really laid herself bare for all to see, and save for a few uneasy laughs at the beginning I was mostly dead quiet throughout the show. It’s hard for me to say what the exact cause of my discomfort was but here were a few things that made me uneasy:

The Backlash Against the Commodity Status of Female Sexuality

Traditionally a woman’s virginity has been viewed as a symbol of her virtue, and while things have relaxed to the point where women can breathe a little bit and have some of that sweet pre-marital, even that has imposed limits.  After all, many of us likely have a number in our heads of how many men is acceptable for a woman to be with (a symptom of our society’s obsession with quantification among other things), and where does that leave women who go past that number?  There is an amorphous, poorly-defined line which seems to widen and narrow arbitrarily which a woman must walk if she wishes to explore her sexuality without being seen as a slut by others.  The solution of course (like the solution to so many things) is for a woman stop caring about what others think, because its none of their business who she has sex with.

However, some women instead react to the pressure by becoming the insatiable sluts they have already been pre-judged to be,

eminem the way i am

“I am whatever you say I am; if I wasn’t then why would I say I am?”

and even go so far as to delude themselves into believing that they are being liberated.  This is not me just making this up; Moore makes a similar assertion in her show when looking back on earlier promiscuity and how she justified it at the time as more than simply rebelling against her father.  Speaking of her father..

The Shame of Your Parents is a Motherfucker

The one time which she explicitly mentions her father is when she talks about overhearing him and her mother fighting about the crowd she had chosen to hang out with as a teenager.  Being raised a Mormon, hanging out with dudes who wore make-up apparently said a lot about her own sexuality, and she recalls hearing her father yell to her mother that she was “just a fat slut.”  She then laments that this was before she was even sexually active.  Or particularly fat.

Its funny how people’s expectations of you, particularly those of caregivers, can really influence  the course you pursue.  And when these expectations are in place alongside stringent moral standards regarding chastity, well I can only imagine the result is overwhelming for some people.  For my own part, I have often thought, “What if I had been born a girl?”  For starters, I used to drink quite a bit and go out to clubs and parties, seeking the attention of the opposite sex and looking to get laid.  I can only imagine how if I had been a girl I might have been much more successful in all of those endeavours to my own detriment.  It occurs to me that were I a girl I might have just been a fat drunk slut like so many others, but fate saw fit to give me a penis, and so society and I both regard me with a gentler eye.

Everyone is Just a Different Aspect of You

There is no artful way to say it, so I will just come out with it: I don’t find Cameryn Moore particularly physically appealing.  Furthermore, her attitudes toward toward sex, though some would call them progressive or liberated, unpleasantly remind me of an emptier time in my life where I didn’t place a particularly high value on my own sexuality and sought to just sleep with girls for the sake of bragging rights.  I will say that she is a gifted performer in that she is able to make herself completely vulnerable, but watching her show was like watching Requiem for a Dream; I saw it once and I don’t need to see it again.

In its own way, her detailing of her sexual misadventures and misuse of herself was like watching a WorldVision infomercial or a documentary about a bloody war.  Its like, “Here’s the society we enable and what we reduce people to.  A generation, nay, a society of people who don’t value themselves and aren’t valued by anyone else.”  In our own way, we are all fat sluts but we maintain a narrative that things are going according to some plan in the vain hope that we can convince ourselves of this by convincing enough of the others around us.

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Cameryn Moore made me doubt the validity of my own self-affirming narrative and I am still having trouble forgiving her for that.

***

If you get a chance to see Slut (R)evolution you definitely should.  You may not be as troubled by it as I was, but if you are … well we all need our conceptions shaken up from time to time.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

*“Find the truth that makes you squirm” was a piece of advice I read in a Men’s Health investment guide a few years back.  The logic was that when doing a financial self-assessment you don’t want to lull yourself into a false sense of security, but rather address the areas of your finances which might not be secure.

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