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A Study in Anti-Heroics

Friendos,

The other night someone posted an image on 4chan outlining the next few movies Marvel will be releasing over the next three summers.  There were definitely some I’m stoked for, like this summer’s “The Wolverine” and of course the second Avengers film which I believe is slated for a summer 2015 release.

However, the one notable omission for me among all of these upcoming movies is the film I have been waiting for for about 20 years now:

Hell yesVenom.

I realize that many of you may not be familiar with Venom so lemme give you a rundown:
Venom is the pairing of disgraced reporter Eddie Brock and an alien symbiote costume originally worn by Spider-Man. Since Brock hated Peter Parker for ruining his journalism career and the symbiote hated Spider-Man for rejecting it (it amped up his aggression) the two made a perfect pairing and were drawn to each other.
The character started out as a villain and nemesis to Spider-Man but eventually evolved into an anti-hero (the anti-hero) of the early 90s. He was like what Stone Cold Steve Austin was to the WWF in the late 90s; proof that morality had shades of grey and that sometimes people wanna cheer for the bad guy.
If you ever saw the third Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie, Venom makes an appearance toward the end after Topher Grace’s Eddie Brock merges with the black alien goo.

Venom-Spider-Man-3-venom-1883845-949-452

I had mixed feelings about this character: For starters, I liked Grace’s sleazy portrayal of Brock and it was a believable arc into obsession and madness, but the costumed appearance was a little off (too scrawny) and he never referred to himself as “we” like in the comics.  Also the character was a straight-up villain (not even a sympathetic one like sandman) with no qualms about harming an innocent Mary-Jane.  And if there is one thing Venom is adamant about it’s protecting “innocents.”  And since there was no redeeming aspect to him, there was none of Spider-Man’s internal conflict about stopping him,

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which is one of the things which makes their relationship so interesting.  However, this was understandable considering that he only appears in the movie’s third act and there are two other villains already.  Still, it would have been nice to see more of the complex relationship between him and Spidey.
Short of that I would happily watch a movie about Venom which basically picked up where he “died” in SM3.  Since that trilogy is done and they have since rebooted the Spider-Man franchise, it obviously wouldn’t (couldn’t) be a movie which followed the continued battles between Venom and the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man, but that’s okay because Venom actually had a life and career in California after his earlier career as Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis.

If it were up to me…

Venom’s survival after his apparent death in SM3 could be easily explained away (this is a comic book universe after all).

Picture 3

They smartly left Venom open for resurrection by showing the symbiote re-accepting Brock seconds before the pumpkin bomb asploded.

In his weakened state he hitch-hikes/stows away out to California, utilizing the costume’s camouflage ability which was never explored in SM3.  Upon reaching San Francisco he could meet up with his father and that relationship could be explored like it was in the “Lethal Protector” story arc while he stumbles upon a crime ring in SF or Oakland. Having already been painted as an asshole in SM3, his better nature could be explored by showing how he protects fellow outcasts (like the SF homeless) as he learns to move on from his defeat at the hands of Spider-Man.
The obvious good thing about this approach is that they could avoid doing an origin story which would necessarily have to involve Spider-Man, who as a Marvel A-lister would necessarily have to steal the show.
Fuck that; we know where Venom came from already and even if the Sam Raimi Spider-Man’s story ended, Venom’s is ripe to be explored.  Simply do a quick montage like during the opening credits of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Picture 4

to show how he moved from SM3 to San Francisco and BAM you have an adequately explained hero and possibilities for awesomeness.
There is literally so many places to go with this and Marvel has already proven that a B-list hero can carry a movie.

Ghost_Rider

Ghost Rider

Even more significantly, a C-lister like Blade not only carried a movie but spawned a trilogy.

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Ultimately if the story is good it doesnt matter how much cultural clout the character has.  After all, the fact that I’d never heard of The Watchmen prior to seeing a trailer for the film didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.

***

Realistically, do I think I will see the continuing adventures of Topher Grace’s Venom?  No, but I am more concerned with seeing any portrayal of the character than I am with seeing a specific actor’s portrayal (even if I didn’t really take any issue with that actor’s portrayal and feel that the backlash against him was unwarranted).  Hopefully the new rebooted Amazing Spider-Man franchise starring Andrew Garfield will make good use of the character in a way that Raimi’s franchise did not.

So far, the first film in that rebo0t featured the Lizard as a villain,

amazing-spider-man-lizard

while the upcoming sequel features Electro and Rhino,

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three villains who were absent from the Raimi trilogy.  These choices make sense because Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is second perhaps only to Batman’s in size, so repeating various villains in unnecessary.  That said, if one villain deserves a repeat appearance in the third film, it is Eddie Brock’s Venom.  As well as being a key character in any story arc involving the symbiotes (such as Maximum Carnage, Lethal Protector, Separation Anxiety, etc.),

Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_365_page_39-40_Maximum_Carnage

More than world peace , I would like to see the cinematic equivalent of this drawing.

he is a dark reminder to Spider-man of everything he does not want to be but could easily become if he gave free rein to his emotions.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Walking Ass-First into the Future

Friends,

   There is a lecture by Peter Joseph which ranks among my favourites called “When Normality Becomes Distortion.”  My fondness for it stems from the fact that it critiques our current methods of doing knowledge and calls into question our assumptions of what is empirical.  Among all of the interesting ideas presented, there is a simple yet profound one which screams to me every time I hear it: “The projections of thought in any point in time can only reflect the state of knowledge at that point in time.”  This idea is illustrated with reference to the constellations and the forms they represent.  “Spoons, oxcarts, scales and common animals” are the pictures astrologers see in the sky, not “space shuttles, TVs, and laptops.”  This bespeaks “the cultural characteristics of the period of origin” of these constellations and shows how the conceptions of primitive man were extrapolated and applied to all he saw.  The important realization here is that we still do this and we need to recognize that the cultural fixtures we conceive of as permanent have no actual permanence or empirical basis.

   Think about our current mainstream conceptions of the future from The Jetsons to Looper to Firefly to Alien.  Notice how the characters in these examples inhabit a world (or space) which is fundamentally like the one we exist in now?  People go to work and school, exchange currency for goods, and have a lot of the same problems and trials that we have now but with a futuristic twist (i.e. Instead of a car breaking down, a hovercar breaks down).  I think this is because while we can paint a picture of the future which takes into account the possible future trends and direction of current technologies (and posits new technologies) it is a lot harder to predict how ways of life, cultures and taken-for-granted assumptions about contemporary life would change in the future.

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“Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic that they originally predicted.”

   While Peter Joseph’s quotation is well-stated and well-received, I have paraphrased it into the words, “We must not let our projections of the future be bound by our conceptions of the present.”  This is where I think is the real challenge lies and where overused terms like “paradigm-shift” actually have merit.  In the box solutions like augmenting/expanding obsolete infrastructure, the passage of more laws, and the exchange of currencies when we have the technological ability to live in a post-scarcity world, are so many examples walking ass-first into the future, looking backwards to lead the way forward.  These ideas have no empirical value only represent the attempts of primitive people to deal with things they didn’t fully understand.  And we’ve been taking their word as gospel from our governments to our mediums of exchange to our ideas about work and incentive.

   When we think about possibilities for the future and what we are capable of we must try not to assume too much about how permanent today’s fixtures are.  For one, its depressing to think that way, and more importantly its just plain inaccurate.  Just like paleo-lithic man could not conceive of inter-continental travel, much less conceive of the idea of continents, we too don’t really know what our future capabilities are and we shouldn’t get too attached to the way things are now.
Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

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Absent the Messenger

Dear All,*

Last night I volunteered at my improv school, The Staircase, for a performance called The Six-Minute Memoir.  As a fringe benefit of working the show (and I use the term “working” very loosely) I got to see 13 different writers share their experiences in writing and life.  All of them shared something of value which resonated with me to varying degrees, but I want to mention a thought I had when I was listening to the youngest speaker in the ensemble, Eva Kay.  Only 17, she is already an accomplished poet, and from what I could tell in the brief time I spoke with her, a lovely girl.

Yet I have to confess that I had some negative thoughts when she was reciting her poetry; She touched on some heavy themes and I started to think, “What serious shit has this girl ever dealt with that makes her think she knows about life?”  I mulled this thought over for a few seconds as I listened to her recite words that seemed pretentious from my clouded point of view, but then I realized something: It’s not about her experiences. it’s about mine.  Good poetry, good art for that matter, should be appreciated differently by each person because of their own different experiences, and not uniformly as a result of the experiences of the artist.  In fact, the art itself should have a transcendent quality wherein the artist’s disposition, experiences, etc. don’t even factor into your appreciation of their work.

I feel kind of dumb for lapsing into this trap of credentialism.  So often we go on the authority of what recognized masters say rather than seeing how a message resonates with us without prejudice.  And age-ism is just another form of this credentialism.  I assumed in my arrogance that because this girl did not share my struggle that she did not know struggle.  This is obviously malarky, and to that point one of my favourite quotations is,

“Everyone I know is in the fight of their life.” -Ben Harper, Better Way

Whether or not someone has been through what I’ve been through, they’ve been through something, and to them it was hard, like it was for me.  We really have to evaluate every cultural input as if it had no author, lest we allow our ignorance and prejudice to deprive us of some really wonderful things.

To punctuate this point, have you ever gone back and read something of your own volition which you were forced to read in school?  If you felt you got more out of it the second time around it wasn’t because the author’s experiences had changed (they might have been dead for years), it was because you had changed.  And, as well as reading in a more engaged manner, you had a different (not better, different) perspective that allowed you to get something out of the art which wasn’t there for you before.

The grand revelation is that it’s all about you: If you like a piece of art it’s because you see something positive of yourself in that art; if you are averse to a piece of art it’s because you see something of yourself in the art which you don’t like; if you are indifferent its probably because you don’t relate to it on any level.  Either way, the artist as the messenger shouldn’t factor into your judgment.

Best,*

-Andre Guantanamo

*Since I’ve abandoned the “Most Interesting” theme I used in blogger.com, I am not quite sure what I want to use as my intro and sign-off for my posts.  I may play around with a few things over the next few entries, so expect some inconsistencies.

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Identity Crisis

My Friends,
   While riding the Go Train I often read the free daily transit newspaper, Metro.  In an attempt to appeal to the young professionals and aspiring professionals who are likely to be riding the train, the newspaper typically has an employment section which gives pointers on resumes, interviews and professional decorum.  Quite frequently there are articles which deal with an individual’s online persona, and the likelihood of potential employers checking sites like Facebook and Twitter to see what kind of clown they are considering hiring.  This is really nothing new and it is actually job-hunting which prompted me to adopt the surname “Guantanamo” back in 2009.
   But now it seems like potential employers are taking it a step further than simple reconnaissance; it is now not unheard of to have applicants log in to their social networking accounts during the interview so that the interviewer can have a look.  Now if you have already admitted you have Facebook and they ask to do this, they get to have a glimpse at your profile which they would not get with a simple Google search, provided you have your privacy settings set high.  And if you maintain that you don’t have Facebook, they will either think you are weird or lying; everyone has it after all.
   Still the most troubling thing I read was that a man in Baltimore was actually required to surrender all of his Facebook login information (password included) during a re-interview (he was returning from a leave of absence).  Needing the job, he obliged, but (like many things) I found this really irked me.  What job-needing applicant would/could refuse this request?  And although its an invasive and presumptuous practice I don’t know that the employer can be legally reprimanded for this.  I doubt it.
   These days I find there are many grey instances like this one where justice is hard to come by.  The legal route is often tedious, complicated and blurry.  As well, knowing what your rights are still may not net you the job.  This is therefore one of the many situations where society forces us to lie … for brevity’s sake of course.  And lie I shall.
   Now obviously I have taken the right road thus far by changing my last name on Facebook and such, but a cursory googling of my actual name (i.e. the one on resumes) leads to my Google account … which is linked to this blog … which is a forum for me to spit that harsh truth which potential employers and my girlfriend’s parents may find unpalatable.  So I must adopt fully this alias Guantanamo while also  distinctly and separately developing my real*** identity online.  Never the two shall mix.
   Now I have heard that having a fake online profile can be considered fraud.  And if fraud is indeed a crime (it is),  I owe it to myself to at least be an artful criminal.  That way if they ever make a movie profiling my criminal exploits the audience will be compelled to cheer for me instead of the cops.

   I will make a troll profile.  Rather, a most glorious troll profile.  For those not in the know, a troll profile, usually a fake Facebook account is used by Anonymous to be mean, raid funeral pages, and flame whatever threads they can.  It has no connection to the actual person whatsoever, and it therefore allows them to troll with impunity.  They put on their disguise and as far as the world internet is concerned they are an entirely different person.  It is akin to how Bruce Wayne puts on his Cape and Cowl when he conspires to combat criminals as Batman.
A little too ‘on the nose’ … but I get points for alliteration.

   But if you have ever suffered through Kill Bill Vol. 2, you might remember a speech that a pre-belt-around-the-neck David Carradine made:
   Essentially, Andre Guantanamo is Superman.  Or at least, its a real representation of my thoughts, concerns, pasions, etc…  But to fit in in this world (or to outsmart nosey employers) I have to make an online profile (Facebook, email, Twitter, blog) which is a little more Clark Kent, or at least in line with people’s expectations of a man in his late 20s.  
   ***Therefore, the profile bearing my real name will not only be a troll profile, but an attempt to pander to the world’s expectations.  It will contain pics of me in only nice clothes making Zoolander faces.  
Fuck it, I’ll just use this picture.
The “about me” section will be filled with power quotes from moguls and entrepreneurs, with a token literary quotation to show I am well-read.  Under favourite books, you will find The Art of War, The 48 Laws of Power, and of course Atlas Shrugged.  Overall, I want to look and smell like a preening douche who thinks the accumulation of wealth is the highest virtue.  This will be my great commentary about how I view the state of the world.  And should some future employer want to peruse my Facebook account come interview time, I will have a pre-approved (fuck)face to show him.
   Work on this new identity will commence soontimes.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   

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"My Mind is Workin’ Just Lke Them; The Rims That is…"

My Friends,
   This was a significant weekend for me in that it was my last before I begin the process of preparing myself for aircrew selection tomorrow.  For those who don’t know, back in June 2010 I applied to transfer to the airforce as a pilot from my current position as an infantryman in the army.  I expected to get called in for selection the following April (2011) but I did not, and I began to doubt that I would get called in at all.  This was difficult for me because whenever I would see relatives they would constantly ask me how the transfer was coming along and I would have to explain time and again that these things take time.
  Meanwhile, while I waited for the air force to come knocking, I finished my B.A., got accepted into my M.A. program, and went for a little traipse around the globe.  I only bring up these things to illustrate that I had just about given up hope for my transfer and had kinda just gone on with my life.  In fact, I had even begun making overtures to career choices outside of the military, such as advertising.
   But just when I least expected, the transfer centre got a hold of me telling me to make sure my yearly fitness test was up to date or my application would be discarded.  Then last week they called demanding my high school and university transcripts and instructed me to book an aircrew medical.  Now the ball is most certainly rolling and I find myself more apprehensive than I thought I would be.  And for a few reasons.
   First of all, I had resigned myself to seeking my fortunes in other ventures.  But resigned is perhaps the wrong word.  Rather I was excited about some of the things I wanted to do over the next few years that I would not be able to do if living on a base in Alberta training to be a fighter pilot.  Now there is the possibility that I must put these ambitions on hold to pursue an avenue I long thought no longer available to me.
   Second, and related to the last point, I am very much in love.  I just spent better than three months away from my woman while travelling around the world and it taught me that I don’t want to be away from her for prolonged periods.  Instead, I want to go on my subsequent adventures accompanied by her.  Sure, I would have leave periods where we could make forays into the great unknown, and in a few years, when she is done school we could live together.  But over the next few years her plans involve being in the GTA for school, so if I do well during selection and actually get picked up to be a pilot we will have the strain of distance to deal with.
   The third and most troubling cause of my apprehension is my own world-view; I think that war and the militaries which fight wars are obsolete.  We as a people should be past war but we are not and by accepting a full-time position in the air force (assuming I pass selection) I would be buying into something I resent.  I have tried to rationalize this to myself by saying that it would be better to have me in the cockpit of a plane than someone else who may not exercise the same discretion I would in a tense situation, but I can’t escape the reality that I would be a war enabler to some extent.  This has really made me doubt my inclination to fly fighter jets in the first place, and I have thought long and hard these past few weeks as the transfer process looms nearer and nearer.
   Yet, bearing all of these concerns in mind I have decided to set out in earnest to pass selection and get the job I have been waiting for for two years and contemplating for much longer.  It may be a choice that is at odds with my convictions, but my strongest conviction by far is that life should be a daring adventure and I aim to rise to the occasion when called.
   For some reason I feel really dirty.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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One Night in a Mental Institution

“Julie J. loves Amanda F.” 
-The Insane Scrawlings of a Madman
My Friends,
   Last night I officially ended the leave of absence which I had taken from the military to travel around the world.  I picked an interesting night start attending again, as this night we all boarded a bus and headed up to Hamilton’s long-abandoned Sanatorium for FIBUA (fighting in built-up areas) training.  Now sanatoriums were typically used for the recuperation of those afflicted with TB but apparently this one also saw use during its tenure as a crazy house.  Several of my comrades knew a guy who knew a guy whose mom used to do psych evaluations there, etc…  Whatever the actual use of the building it certainly bore all the earmarks of an abandoned asylum; heavily reinforced doors knocked right off the hinges, once austere and sterile rooms and hallways now littered with debris and broken parts of the ceiling, and an unsettling chill which befell you upon entering.  This last is not an attempt at hyperbole; it was actually a few degrees colder inside than it was in the unseasonably warm January night air.
   After leadership assured us that reconnaissance had been done and no zombies had been found we entered to begin the night’s training.  Things progressed as expected; some of the FIBUA doctrine had changed so I had new guys correcting me the whole night.  What I was struck by was how perfectly this real-life Arkham would have suited my purposes had I still been travelling; 
Artist’s rendering of where we were last night
easy to break into, overhead cover, and enough rooms so that I could give my “for real crazy” fellow squatters a wide berth.  Speaking of which, we encountered no squatters, just evidence of young vandals.  I found our pre-training briefing interesting in this regard as it mentioned the possibility of encountering squatters and instructed that we were not to bayonet them.  While such advice would seem self-evident to most normal people, you would be surprised what you need to explicitly outline for army guys.  
   I started thinking again about if I was sleeping in this place during my travels and a foreign army stumbled upon me while conducting training.  What kind of treatment would I be in for?  Not every army (including our NATO allies, as my former Afghan interpreters informed me) is as accommodating and live & let live as the Canadians.  And really, a homeless guy (or homeless pretender in my case) is an easy mark for any army composed of riled-up young males with weapons and a “kill kill kill” mentality which happen to stumble upon him.  And even if said homeless person was not treated roughly, it still must be an unsettling feeling to have the military bust into your home in the middle of the night.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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In a House with Unlocked Doors…

My Friends,
   In the total absence of gainful employment with which to attend, I have turned my attentions toward self-betterment.  Specifically I am exercising my brain on a website called sporcle.com that a friend put me onto.  Being a trivia website it was right up my alley, what with my stockpile of useless knowledge.  I find the quizzes to be quite challenging and have as yet only gotten a perfect score on a couple.  As with anything though there are aspects which I don’t like.  For one, the quizzes seem to be mostly user-generated.  Normally this would be fine and quite understandable but it has ruined the literature section of the site: said section is teeming with Harry Potter quizzes.

“Who the fuck is this Shakespeare guy?  Which Harry Potter book was he in?”

I don’t want to disparage Harold Pottinson but this is a little ri-goddamn-diculous.  I fancy myself well-read but because I haven’t crushed the Harry Potter series I am a literary dunce…according to Sporcle.
   My favourite quizzes thus far, weirdly enough, have been the geography quizzes.  “Name All 50 States” was not too tough and I mastered it pretty quick, but “Name All the Countries of the World” is one I am still struggling with.  This is a hard one.  For example, apparently San Marino, Timor-Leste and Burkina-Faso are the names of actual countries.  There are 196 nations total and my best score thus far is 189.  I figure this knowledge might come in handy one day so I do the quiz a couple of times a day.  It beats workin’ for a livin’.
   In related news, I haven’t been outside too much the past few days.  Some might say this is a good thing as the outdoors is only for people who fail at the internet, but being cooped-up, even on an elective basis, starts to fuck with me after a while.  Its why I limit myself typically to one new video game a year: I spend a few days or a week mostly indoors playing it, then I can go back to my mostly active lifestyle outdoors.  However, this isolation has less to do with any new video game than it does with the altogether shitty weather outside.  For real, what’s my motivation to go outside when its pissy and grey and I can hear the wind swaying the bungalow I live in?  Work?  Lol, I think not!
   The biggest problem with reclusive tendencies is that you begin to dissociate your bio-rhythms from the solar cycle; that is to say you begin to go to sleep and wake up later and later.  The situation reached a head yesterday when I awoke at noon.  Its by no means the latest I have ever slept in, but its as late as I care to go at this point in my life.  It looks even worse when contrasted to my woman who gets up habitually at 6:30 am every day.  She has a full quarter of a day longer than me to be productive.  I was there once and I wanna get back there again.
  But before you start worrying about me and the self-destructive spiral of sleep and isolation I am currently a victim of, please be reassured that I have plans to be active.  Chief among these plans is to attend the “Coldest Day of the Year (Bicycle) Ride” in Toronto tomorrow.  Being a dedicated mountain-biker I am going to have to work extra hard to keep up with all the city-slickers and their fancy and faster road bikes, but it should be a good time nonetheless.  Plus, there’s free hot chocolate which totally makes it worth the ten dollar trip to the city.  Simple math.

   Then after an arduous ride through the city I am going to my friend Mumtaz’s house for dinner.  The last time I saw him was in 2009 when he was my interpreter in Afghanistan so its a meet-up which I am quite looking forward to.  We kinda lost touch after I rotated out and I always wondered how he and my other interpreter Iqbal had fared after I left.  Both are in Canada and safe which I am quite happy for.  I can’t wait for dinner tomorrow, as it should be reminiscent of the good old days where we ate delicious but modest meals on cardboard tables waiting for bombs to drop on us.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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