Imperator for a Day

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Imperator for a Day

The first thing I remember is a guy leaning over me in a surgical mask whispering, “Don’t worry Madame, it’s all just a dream.” Of course this statement instantly sent me into a nightmare panic because I am not female, in fact I never have been since birth—and on top of that had no idea where I was. Not one clue. The shock of it all caused me to sit up bolt-upright, on the hospital gurney where I was lying in what looked like an operating room and smack my face directly into the doctor. The pain was real enough. The bed felt real enough. The doctor’s face was fleshy and moist and real enough. He yelped in pain, feeling the magic, too.

Yeah. This was not a dream.

It looked a lot like they were about to operate on me in this place, wherever it was. I was peeved and was not polite about hiding it, “What the fuck, guy?” I said looking around. Yeah, this was an operating room; shiny green tile walls, institutional white ceiling and floor, metallic table with sharp instruments, adjustable medi-steel bed with all the plastic-tube trimmings, and of course myself—clad as I was in a surgical gown, my bare naked ass nestled with care on disposable foam-plastic linens. I was comfortable, in fact too damn comfortable for comfort because obviously that warm fuzziness, that quintessence of calm inside me, was not serenity, not fulfilment due to a happy sex life, and definitely not yuletide joy—no, it was a sedative, a powerful one designed to keep me fast asleep as they gutted me like a fish.

Whatever goofballs these jokers had dosed me with were wearing off. The doctor had not reacted at all to my question and just stood there stupefied—looking at me like he needed a firmware upgrade. Still clumsy, I reached a hand over, grabbed the front of his scrubs like an apex predator, and dragged his surgical mask face right up to mine, and screamed: “What the actual FUCK, guy? Who are you, where are we, and what are you doing? Answer now.” I got right down to the nitty-gritty, just like that.

I heard him mumble and sputter but it wasn’t mumbling at all, but some weird language: “Nygh ghrm phra anyi’mywen alhg’lip pa quanda f’taghn!” and then over it a second, softer, calmer voice interposed itself: “It is always asleep, pardon, she is usually sleeping becalmed, please repose!” and without a second thought I ripped off his surgical mask and figured it out. Right there, on the inside of the mast was a little Noiserock™ speaker and a Google™ amplifier—without a doubt he was one of those new-fangled GoogleDocs, half-trained med-techs from Central Asia or rural Indonesia that performed medical procedures, lived, worked, and played all using live translation apps. They worked for free and were entirely advertising supported.

I rolled my eyes. “Fuck this,” I said getting out of the surgical bed, unlatching heart monitors, doodads, and beeping buzzing things from my naked body. As I got up a nurse entered, a non-nonsense big burly woman wielding a tray of disposable syringes. The doctor, meanwhile, was scrambling around on the ground for the translating surgical mask that I had kicked across the room and under a cabinet at the far end of the operating room.

She looked at me with the authority of a middle school teacher: “Is there a problem?”

“Yeah.” I responded, “can I leave this dump?”

Before the nurse could respond, the doctor chimed in. It seemed he had chased down his mask rather quickly and put it back on his face. Maybe he had practice. “Certainly, you bête noire! Beat it!” The nurse set down her tray on a cabinet near the door. “Cover up your ass bro.” she said with a sigh as she let me through the door. “Your clothes are in the silver locker in the green room. And if you change your mind, go somewhere else. Frankly, I’ve had enough.”

“Well I have no future plans to return,” I replied and she slammed the OR door in my face. Is this customer service, I thought? My head was already putting together the pieces of just how I got here and what the hell was expected of me. I think it started with a show? A game show?

The green room was hard to find, but my clothes were not. They had thrown down my shit in a corner—not even inside a locker. The fancy lockers were left reserved for paying customers at the clinic, medical tourists they called them, people who came in for age-reverses, gender transformations, race-switches, or more exotic surgeries like having their faces turned into the likenesses of unicorns, gorillas, or famous stars. Procedures were god-awful expensive, from everything I’ve ever heard about the subject.

It wasn’t even 10 minutes after throwing on my clothes and exiting the clinic that my cell phone began to toot and send me the gentle electrical shocks associated with a premium™ cell phone call, causing me to consider if I had potentially fucked up badly in some manner.

Wait. I thought. Did I sign something? It was still hazy in my mind, the drugs were still floating around somewhere inside me, making my memories into multiple choice tests and myself a student completely ignorant of the answers. There had been a game show, sure as shit, at least that I knew.

I answered the phone.

“Jackie!” said the voice with false jollity, “Jackie Perez, right? We need your help. We need you to go back to Doctor TheFacePlace.com’s office. I mean, you have to, you’re our winner.”

“Huh?” and then I asked for an explanation, politely. He said it wasn’t unusual to forget. I won a game show Imperator for a Day. Everyone here, reading this on the form, will know what show I am talking about. It is the usual stuff: You audition, you work out, you get abs and learn the capitals of Europe and brush up on your Brazilian Portuguese, you fly down to Rio, and you do the quizzes and the dares—and if you are lucky the viewers acclaim you Imperator for a Day. They sing FELIX IMPERATOR and DOMINVS ET DIEUS NATUS and throw a big orgy filled with product placement and a cash prize along with one government policy you put on your civic wishlist way back when you first auditioned.

Now it came back to me. Yeah. I thought. Wow. I won. The quantum superposition question. The hoola-hoop contest. The sniper-rifle disaster relief race.

Then the man on the telephone, João Doente, explained the catch: after we filmed the contest, the singing, the dancing and then the win—including the throwing of the donative gold coins to the Praetorians, and the ritual filatio—all of it, the producers decided, down in their heart of hears, they were not happy. They had seen the raw footage. They had meditated on the daily rough cuts, and resolved it was just not good enough. Sure, maybe it would fly in the Latin market but definitely not in Eastern Europe and definitely not in the Lunar Colonies. No way.

So they needed more. First of all, they wanted raw bareback sex, lots of it, and the needed Jackie Perez to embrace his feminine side. They needed an Imperatrix not an Imperator to get those viewer eyeballs really wet and greasy, really drooling and ready for the new season, and for this reason they invoked an obscure part of the Imperator for a Day contract: all contestants will make themselves available for free cosmetic surgery, so far as they show demands and under the penalty of non-participation in the show, should they choose to otherwise.

“Look,” said João, after all the pleading was said and done, “the produces have shareholders to think about.”

“No way in hell am I getting a sex-change and reshooting the episode,” I replied.

“It’s just a reshoot,” he continued to plead, “You won. You already won. Square and fair.”

“Yah,” I interrupted him, “I burned off my eyebrows in that flamethrower unicycle challenge. I’m not doing it again, and much less am I doing it while recovering from a sex-change, it’s a non-starter.”

“You’re unreasonable.” João soured. “Look, we’ll change you right back after the show is done.”

A little pissed, I told him to do the surgery to himself it he was so hot to find a star, and then to and fuck himself right in his brand-new pussy afterwards. He hung up before I did.

I thought that was the end of my experience, but six months later sitting in the community room of the Dr. Diet Cocaine rehab centre where I was chilling out in Santiago, Chile I switched on the wall screen only to see that fucking asshole, that nobody unit producer João Doente was fully transitioned into a woman and passing out solid gold Roman coins to Praetorian guards as if she had won the right to be Imperator for a Day and not me. Turns out the producers decided reshooting was too much of a hassle, tapped João to do the surgery, and then simply edited all the footage to make it appear as if she had won all those challenges—and not yours truly.

To say the least, I was beside myself with fury. The achievement was mine, and they had stolen that from me, not even allowing me to keep any prize money or public recognition simply because I wasn’t willing to film the whole thing all over again as a woman.

I hope all you readers out there on the forums understand my frustration.

I know my story is not a unique one—a lot of potential contestants get lured into game shows thinking they can just win and that is it, but the producers often come back to the winners and ask them to do it all over again as the other gender, as double amputees, or even a talking dog in one case, but personally I am drawing the line here, I think enough is enough and I believe the public should be made aware.

In the future, I urge each and every freelance actor or athlete to carefully revise the content of his contract with a licensed entertainment lawyer and an accountant, and no matter what you do—never get taken in by those big bright shining showbiz lights.

Please, please like or share this post to share the truth!

Plastic Stars

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In the far north of the Bronx, on the outskirts of New York city where street numbers end and canals with lime-green waters begin – a wooden house rests, long abandoned by people who have moved on to better places. Here, the trash man of New York City arrives each night with trinkets fished from cruel wet streets to give his young daughter, who knows no better. With a face of simple joy, she receives the glowing wands, blinking plastic rings, broken Christmas stars, and strings of soiled lights, then hangs each and every one in a secret room where toys discarded by wasteful become a thousand countless lights of intoxicating colour.

Many years have passed now, and the trash man and his daughter are long gone, but the house remains amongst the maze of lime-green slimy canals. For the brave or foolish few who still attempt the hazardous journey, it is said that on certain starless nights when fierce winds rip from the icy Hudson, a visitor to the house may still find the little girl’s room – a sad place made wondrous by a thousand cheap stars.

Fencing, Bullshit, and Game of Thrones

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An unarmoured Jamie maintains a careful distance and threatens his opponent. 

Fencing, Bullshit, and Game of Thrones

The show presents a difference between “Lordly combat” on the show and “Street combat,” which can only have been written by individuals with absolutely no grasp of what fencing is and why anyone would be trained at it (hint: because being trained makes you better at it). Examples of this difference being illustrated in episodes are numerous: Jamie-in-training vs. Bronn, Bronn vs. Ser Egan, Karl vs. Jon, Jon-in-training vs. Trainees, the Hound vs. Arya, Arya-in-training vs. Syrio, and Jorah vs. Dorthaki guy in S1. Of these examples Jon-in-training vs. Trainees (season two, I think) is probably the most realistic for any fencer who has encountered a large amount of unskilled fencers in a given setting all at once (a tournament),  that is to say the die quickly. Also, not all of these scenes show precisely the same aspects of fencing, but anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. 

Fencing has some fundamental concepts that are important. In rough order of importance, they are:

1) Distance. People who are too far from you cannot effectively attack and hit you with a sword, or a dagger (looking at you, Karl). This is an iron rule. If the setting would be a polite fencing match or a street fight, this rule would remain unaltered. In practice, the rule means that you should be as far as possible from an opponent’s sharpened steel/point-scoring pointy end while at the same time threatening him from as close a position as you dare to maintain. There is an inherent tension between your ability to attack and his ability to respond.

2) Movement. Movement is related to distance. If you have room to move forwards or backwards (formal fencing), you can quickly change the distance between you and an opponent. This is another iron rule. Movement is important because if you move faster, you can manipulate this advantage into being able to quickly strike and retreat, complicating his responses. The interaction between movement and distance in time is called tempo. The Dothraki, I am willing to bet, would be masters of tempo.

3) Actual moves with your sword. Surprisingly for many new fencers, this is actually one of the less important parts of fencing, both as a beginner and probably in very high levels of competition. Parries and attacks both must occur in distances where they matter. Why parry an attack that can never land (just retreat!)? Why attack when the attack can never land (the opponent retreats or attacks first)? But of course attacks, parries, counterparries, ceeding, and all the rest of actions happen a lot. These are important when something like Attack– Parry— Counterparry—counterattack occurs and the final action (we call this whole sequence “a phrase” in fencing jargon) lands. The third element of fencing, the mechanics of swordplay in terms of moves and counters, is not an iron rule of fencing in the GoT world because some people fight WITH armour and some WITHOUT. In Arya-in-training Vs. Hound and Joran Vs. Dothraki in S1 we see this illustrated (also we see it in the books with Barristan vs. Pitfighter Guard of Hizdahr). The armour basically modifies tempo and particularly distance rules: you do not have to respond to successful attacks that hit an armoured part of your body, you can just close distance and deliver a finishing blow.

Going back to my original point, that fencing training makes a difference, let us look at a scene: Jon vs. Karl. Karl is armed with two daggers, which are longish. Karl is known to be an expert at using his weapons and is dangerous. Jon approaches Karl as he talks, Karl with weapons raised and in a somewhat protective posture, while Jon has his weapon down, trailing at his side. If Jon knew what he were doing, he would have his weapon raised. Whether he were lordly or not in is fencing, he would know to do this.

Why?

As we discussed, distance is the iron rule of everything, and in this situation it seems that both parties are not wearing armor apart from some leather protective gear (not unlike Kevlar fencing garments). Therefore Karl’s knives are very deadly. 

Jon should raise his sword and assume a protective posture (similar to Karl’s) and put the point of his sword halfway between himself and Karl. Why? Because he should put a passive threat out there, i.e. Come any closer and you will be stabbed by this thing, which is longer than the daggers you have. From this point Karl will be at a large disadvantage, despite being a “streetfighter.” He has the choice of either relinquishing combat, attacking, or holding his ground. If he relinquishes, i.e. throws down weapons, it is over. If he attacks, he has to cross the very dangerous distance between the area where JON CAN ATTACK HIM WITH A LONGER WEAPON AND HE CANT ATTACK BACK. This is a very, very, big disadvantage. We also know that Jon wields Valerian steel. Steel so sharp it slices silk in half. Karl’s leather is useless against such a weapon. He would die attempting to cross that distance through superior speed (a quick attack). If he attempted to take the blade (another fencing term), i.e. made contact with his dagger and the tip of the sword to deflect it and attack, the dagger would probably be cut by the valerian steel, and Jon will counterattack, which would result in Karl dying before he made it close enough to attack himself. Getting around Jon’s guard with a valerian steel sword, having no armour of your own, and having no sword of your own, is not that easy.

So how does the show solve this? Jon very politely moves his distance close enough to Karl so that Karl could launch an attack and hit him with his given position. 

What should Jon have done? Well what any competently-trained fencer would do. Raise guard and launch a series of attacks at Karl’s closest hand – the easiest and safest attack to launch. Karl for his part can’t do much to counterattack because he is far away. He will parry, but his parries will create larger holes in his defence that defend dearer organs of his body. The end will eventually come for him this way. 

Now we are being super unfair and classist. What could Karl do against the Lordling bastard Jon Snow?

Karl could throw his weapon(s). This is a gambit and probably his best chance. If he misses or Jon ducks, or the hit is not significant enough to stop Jon, he is finished. It’s probably what I would do if I were Karl. More than anything, Karl needs to get a rise out of Jon (if Jon is a fencer and not an actor named Kit Harrington) to break his guard, make/find, an opening, and end this dangerous situation where he does not have the upper hand. 

 I think, my Dear Readers, you have the point. If you are fighting with swords, the swords are sharp and dangerous. The best defence against them is not being in the way, (stay away from the pointy end), and if you can’t do that, move away from the pointy end. This is why fencing training is useful. It gives you an awareness of the movement, your ability to strike, his/her ability to respond, and the dynamic dance of steel between the both of you (to borrow from R. R. Martin).

Martin in fact has a far better understanding of fencing dynamics than the show. The fight between the Mountain and Oberyn is illustrative: Oberyn uses his spear as a classic point of leverage against an stronger and larger opponent. He cannot possibly challenge the mountain with another great-sword, so he chooses a spear. It is both the emblem of his house, and a good way to threaten from distance (what we have been discussing). The mountain cannot close this distance because he is armoured (decreasing his movement). The advantage of armour is softened because Oberyn adopts tactics that decrease it: he does not attack armoured zones. He attacks linkages in armour, the eyes, holes in the armour. So the Mountain must respond to these quick attacks aimed at vulnerable places, and must respond in a slower fashion than he otherwise could because he is weighted with useless armour made useless by Oberyn’s strategy. The only problem was that Oberyn became bored of playing the slow, careful game, and closed distance with a weakened opponent who was many times stronger than him. Had he simply kept it tougether and racked up the points, he would have won. 


In fact, this fight and Jon’s could have played out the same had Jon adopted rational tactics of staying far and nibbling at Karl’s extremities. 


Further, I do not want to say that the TV show’s depiction of fencing is always bad or ridiculous. I am by no means an excellent fencer (and moreover, I’m old now), but what I am is dyslexic, and I was an OK fencer and experienced in my time. So is Jamie. I found it interesting that he is both a real talent and dyslexic. Many times I have found the inability to tell right and left in normal life to be a curse but in fencing to be a blessing. I feel that I have far less preconceptions than those with solid directional footing, am more creative in attack, and am never phased by individuals who alternate their right/left hands or who are left-handed (a major point of confusion for right handed fencers who are not dyslexic). In a medieval setting, where reading is less of a thing and driving swords through people’s faces is more of a thing, dyslexia could be one’s ticket to being a truly great knight.


In conclusion, lordly or no, fencing training makes a difference. No amount of street cred will allow a person with an inferior weapon to cross a dangerous distance without paying the price (unless Kit Harrington nicely allows them to do so). Moreover, I am not sure what the GoT writers think about formal fencing, but the fact is that people everywhere play to win, especially when everyone is watching and one’s honour and name are on the line (I mean they write down the results and everything, guys!). Part of playing to win means giving your opponent nothing. No space, no further room to run from your attack, no option but to launch his own failed attack, movements designed to unbalance, him, tricks to make him misjudge his distance, etc. These kinds of strategies are universal and often effective, giving the odds almost entirely to those with training and experience versus those who do not know one end of the sword from the other. Simply being able to read the reactions of the opponent, his leaning forward before an attack or where he is looking, is a valuable skill providing information about a future attack or retreat. Using these competencies is why people learn fencing, and why people who know how to use swords, in history and in sport, tend to slice up those who do not.

-Andre

Hexagrams

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Hoy voy a escribir algo un poco fuera de lo normal: una reseña musical, o más precisamente, una recomendación musical.

Muchas veces he mencionado uno de los impulsos más poderosos posibles hacia la escritura creativa, para mí, es la música. A menudo uno se siente incapaz de generar ideas, escribir nuevos argumentos, sentir hondamente los sentimientos de los personajes de los cuentos, etc., y la música se ayuda en ese aspecto. Es decir, mientras uno se queda en las zonas encalmadas del mar, se hace falta el viento de la música, que se llena a uno con varias emociones, unos puntos de partida para la imaginación, y una dirección emocional. La música en sí sugiere un tono (alegría, tristeza) y posiblemente un argumento (conflicto, cambio, alienación, terror) y, de vez en cuando, personajes enteras – como si la música fuese el rumor interno de una psicología.

Bueno, basta de circunloquios. La música que me inspiró recientemente es la de los Hexagrams. Es un grupo mexicano con pinta de insolación, paranoia, y un sentido apocalíptico. El track “Ghost” me cristaliza esa sensación de inquietud, temor, y la realización de que la comunicación verdadera es derrotada, imposible, incoherente.

Aquí el link para la música de Hexagrams en Bandcamp:

http://hexagrams.bandcamp.com/track/ghost-single

Delay on the 1 Train

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Delay on the 1 Train

Manhattan is a strange helter-skelter of vitamin supplement stores, fashion boutiques, twee cupcake shops, and educational institutions very seriously combatting poverty. Living there is very serious, very dream like, or possibly a nightmare. Rent is another thing. You could sell your arm, your leg, your twat, and your butt and still come up short. It’s a hard place to live – which is no secret to anyone. I heard a story once of a woman who had eight children just for the food stamps. Even today she is still a queen of free government hams, plentiful cheese, limitless boxes of Catholic charity macaroni cooked to perfection, and an open door teeming with young sharp teeth and eyes. Have you learnt anything yet?

A subway car runs over a man. Maybe he wanted to be run over. Maybe another bum pushed him on the track after a swig too many of the booze bottle between them, held in common, like a promise. Hard to say exactly why, but for 2.50$, the price of horror, you see and smell the result more realistically than Hollywood can do it in 3D. There is no line for entry – this is not the Kingda Ka kids, this is real. An open human cadaver, freshly slaughtered on the track – and it really does have a unique smell to it. Take a whiff. Now: exeunt omnes to Pinkberry, where in fact the a small seasonal artisan Peppermit luscious cream retails for 5.95$, which is ironically higher than the cost of observing mortality.

Starbucks is open too. I went there instead because my phone needed charging. I sat next to a young lady who was enjoying hot dollar pizza. Who brings pizza to Starbucks? People who like coffee and pizza. I guess that answers the question or both of us. Maybe she is a student.

She is a small girl, and not very attractive, she has no bright future ahead of her, just a lot of guarding parking lots, a distant future husband, and a Christ-mass special Pinkberry “squigglez” card loaded with 50$ from her estranged father which she will lose very soon. She will lose this card while waiting for the 1 train. A man, impossibly well dressed, will jostle her. He is white as snow, has golden hair, and is made of cash money. The colour of his suit is between blue and gray, and despite its drabness, looks very expensive because it shines like silk. In his hand there is a bag – oh what a bag! – the real money evidence, my darlings. It’s the thing that will announce he is serious in all his meetings despite his youth. In fact it is not a bag but a “Distressed camel suede pocket Yrpes Clutch” that merits its own web page with lifetime grooming and security plan. Like I said, young rich white men need props.

As Melinda, and we will call her Melinda because her real name is lost to history, saw this man with more money hidden in his left testicle than the rest of the train mashed up and extruded as a beef patty  – she felt a little envy, and a little irony for the Beatz Audio earphones in his head. She’d have shook them out of his noggin if she could, but before she knew it, he jostled her, and her 50$ Pinkbery card was lost, forever, drifting in the outer oort cloud, waiting to be picked up by a bum more perceptive than any subterrene pigeon, regular flightless rat, half-mad MTA employee, or NYU student. The bum would add the cream Pinkberry card to his collection of lost gift ephemera: a card to Jamba Juice, a MET donor society card, a mysterious key card, a confusion of Starbucks cards, a NYC medicare benefit card,  and some colourful free coupons for chicken nuggets at McDonalds. All these things and more, including photos of a family long gone, half forgotten, dreamed about, hated, rejected – were found on his body, or what was left of it, on the tracks of the 1 train one late night, and every person who passed him was forced to stop and smell the body.