Monthly Archives: October 2011

Strong Starts (The links don’t show up well on the background)

My Friends,
   A good song is like a good bout of love-making (true or not, its an expedient segue into the topic at hand): foreplay is used to good effect.  Be it a 5 minute instrumental, a threat to the listener, or a soundclip from a film, a good lead-in to a song can set the mood or add some new perspective that the listener might otherwise not glean.  In the following list I make not pretensions about saying what the best lead-ins to songs are, simply some of my favourites:

Song: “Straight Outta Compton”
Artist: N.W.A.
Lead-in: (Dr. Dre) “You are now about to winess the strength of street-knowledge…”
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMZi25Pq3T8&ob=av3e

Song: “Starseed” (Live in Montreal)
Artist: Our Lady Peace
Lead-in: Five minutes or so of Raine Maida testing his vocal range
Link: No Link Available
Song:”M-E-T-H-O-D Man”
Artist: The Wu-Tang Clan
Lead-in: Torture skit
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWXpG266ybM
“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?…”
Song: “What More Can I Say?”
Artist: Jay-Z
Lead-in: Soundbite from the film Gladiator
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIJjK3IV3E0

Song: “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
Artist: The Temptations
Lead-in: Instrumental
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A2QkgMvTtM

Song: “Theme from Shaft” (A no-brainer although this lead-in is more than
half of the length of the song which mebbe disqualifies it)
Artist: Isaac Hayes

“IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU JUST BOUGHT A FRESH BENTLEY!!”
Song: “It Doesn’t Matter”
Artist: Wyclef Jean
Lead-in: “Yo, this is the Rock, kickin’ it with the Refugee Camp
 and you’re bout to smell what the Rock is cookin’!”
Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAag-nlCJQ0

Song: “American Woman”
Artist: The Guess Who
Lead-in: Spelling “American” in a singsongy manner

Song: “Woke Up This Morning” (Exile on Coldharbor Lane Version)
Artist: A3
Lead-in: Monologue that you didn’t hear on ‘The Sopranos’ theme
“You may think this next trick is impossible…”
Song: “The Age of Pamparius”
Artist: Turbonegro
Lead-in: Instrumental and prophetic-sounding gibberish about pizza 
Song: “Jenny From the Block”
Artist: Jennifer Lopez
Lead-in: Singing and instrumental from the Beatnuts (This one actually pisses me off because I don’t really like the rest of the song but something about the first 15-20 seconds is catchy as fuck)

Song: 2nd Round K.O.
Artist: Canibus
Lead-in: Mike Tyson soundbite
Song: “Brooklyn’s Finest”
Artist: Jay-Z feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
Lead-in: ‘Scarface’-inspired smack talk & gunfire
That’s all that comes to mind right now but when I have my itunes library on hand to skim through, this list will definitely be augmented.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Missing Mussolini

My Friends,
   Some of you may have noticed my prolific blogging as of late.  Such prolificity, if I may call it such, would not be possible without free and easy access to a computer, access which I simply would not have whilst hitch-hiking.  Well, somewhat shamefully I have to admit that for the last couple of days I have been derelict in my duty, insofar as my duty consists of sleeping outside, eating sparingly, walking miles every day and trying not to get robbed.

“When you say it like that, my life sounds pretty damn good!”

The problem is that I have been forced to wait here in Legnano, Italy at my cousin’s place while I wait for the Canadian Embassy in Rome to send me a new passport.  The mail service in Italy, much like the trains as I found out on my first day here, leaves much to be desired in regards to expediency and reliability, hence the reference to the late Mussolini.  The good news is that based on the tracking number I have from the embassy my passport arrived in Legnano … on fucking Wednesday!  I suppose that the Italian postal service is probably just on one of those extended coffee breaks which seem to be fashionable here.  If I’m lucky I will get it Monday, and if not, Wednesday this week because Tuesday is a holiday.
   Being stuck here hasn’t been a bad experience by any means though.  Three squares (minimum) and a warm bed every night is something I can messes with.  Yet I worry that I am losing my edge doing nothing but indulging in food, wine and comfort.  I feel like every minute I stay in Legnano I get weaker…
“…and every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger.”
I rationalize it and justify my excesses by saying “well soon enough I will be in austerity mode again and I will kick myself for not living it up when I could.  Nay! -when it was the only sensible course of action!”  But every day of chillin is gonna make it that much harder to face the music when I gotta tighten my belt and cozy up in a forest or building or something.  Or perhaps I have it reversed and this is much-needed recuperation time which will leave me feeling refreshed for another stint of the hobo-fabulous lifestyle.
H-O-B-O-L-O-U-S
Either way, I’ll find out soon enough.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Gentlemen at Large

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

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

Indeed, in the estimation of the two friends,

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

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

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

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

“SHOTOKAN KARATE FTW!!”

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

 
   

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Prelude to 2012

My Friends,
   The world is supposed to end this upcoming year.  I don’t know about you but I’m kind of excited.  I don’t think there’s anyone in the circles I roll with who couldn’t benefit from the kind of shake-up to their daily routine that only the end of the world can provide.  I am especially excited though because in my capacity as traveler I may find myself in the enviable position of being in certain countries as they are racked by the Mayan equivalent of the Book of Revelations.  Jealous?  Jelly?

Mad … YOU!

Yes, if I play my cards right I could be that foreign guy who happens to be in the right place at the right time to witness the world open up and swallow all those third worlders who are indiscriminately being forced to pay for the mistakes of the Mayans, who lacked the foresight to make a calendar that wasn’t finite.
   As lulzy as the plight of the third world is, I don’t think too much is going to happen but I hope it does.  Let me explain: I have no wish for third-world misery, the end of the world or death, but from my understanding, 2012 is allegedly going to be a period of great transition marked by greater awareness of the ills of the world and a desire by the masses to see them rectified.  I am doubtful that this will happen for two reasons: 1) I have little faith in the masses 2) I don’t believe in a guiding hand which governs human existence.  Still, I hope something happens, because in my estimation, shit is all fucked up.  
   Looking at some of the recent events which have occurred and are occurring still, it is easy and convenient to construe them as harbingers of upcoming events.  Things like the Occupy Wall Street movement are nothing if not a protest against the status quo and the way things have been.  You can construe this as some kind of sign of heightened awareness if you want, but then protests are as old as civilization itself.
   Beyond heightened awareness, I have also heard that certain “events” will herald 2012 as early as late 2011.  Well as vague as that is, it is still easy to hear news reports and forcibly fit them into the template of 2012 which exists in my mind.  For example, here in Italy there has been flooding in a city I was going to go to (Rome) and a city I had just left (San Remo).  Oh my God, the end of the world is chasing me!!  Also, last week in Italy the 24 year old motorcycle racing star, Marco Simoncelli died, which, if you really want to grasp at straws, could be construed as some kind of significant death of a Christ-figure leading up to the apocalypse (it’d be like Justin Bieber dying back in Canada).  
“How does I martyrdom?”
All of these things added up in my mind (plus the earthquake in Turkey which is my next destination), and because we are very me-centric people, I sub-consciously saw these events as signs.  Then I realized, “wait, if I was back in Canada I wouldnt give a vial of monkey-piss about an Italian motorcycle racer or flooding in some European backwater like Rome,” and I smartened the fuck up.
   So who knows?  I don’t expect anything will happen to overthrow the flawed system we live in, but because I have very little to lose and lots to gain, I’m down for whatever.  If apocalyptic shit does transpire in one of the places I end up, trust that I will act as your real-as-fuck correspondent, bringing you my own particular brand of justice fact-based entertainment.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo 

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You Can Take the Salami Out the Hood but You Can’t Take the Hood Out the Salami

My Friends,
   Since I have been traveling I have been diligent in partaking in local cuisine.  Some observations I have made: Portuguese bacalhau is dope, Spanish churros taste better than that Taco Bell tripe, French cheese, wine & bread are a trifecta of win schway, and Italian pasta can’t be touched.  “Well sure” you say, “thats what those countries are known for; of course its going to be better there.”  Well that line of reasoning might suffice for the reasonable mind, but dammit I need to delve deeper into the questions that have been answered to everyone else’s satisfaction.
   This is more (not much, but a little) than simply making much of an issue for the sake of something to write about; I got to thinking about how up until this last visit to France I have typically hated French wine.  Seriously, I cant remember buying a bottle or trying a glass in Canada that I thought much of in spite of the fact that they were marketed as mid to mid-high level wines.  However, I come to France and every bottle of wine, no matter how inexpensive, is some wild ass shit.  Ditto for the cheese: I have always loved Brie, but never did I enjoy it as much as I did in France.  I brought a smilar observation up to my cousin here in Legnano, Italy while we were enjoying some Gorgonzola, grapes, and bread.  Now since I have been here in Italy I have had something of a love affair with Gorgonzola which, in case you aren’t familiar, bears more than a superficial resemblance in appearance and flavour to blue cheese.  While crushing our nth wedge of this cheese tonight I inquired as to what the difference was between Gorgonzola and blue cheese.

“It’s the same” my cousin told me.

“Then why has blue cheese never tasted this good at home,” says I.

“Well ya see (you simple fuck) things taste different depending on where you eat them.  Aside from the fact that they make it here, you could drink a bottle of wine made in Padua two hours away and it will taste one way.  But you take that same bottle down to Naples and drink it there and it’ll taste different.  It’s something in the air affects the flavours.”

This explanation partly satisfied me mostly because it was an alternative to the common and widely accepted answer (if everyone believes it; I can’t help but be suspicious).  However, it still sounded like some old bullshit.  Not to discount atmospheric effects entirely; I mean I could see such factors making a difference if you simply walked into Mordor with your fancy cheese and let the heat, sulphur fumes and ash really absorb into it for a few hours before eating.  But what kind of pretentious cheese/wine/bread conoisseur can claim with a straight face that they notice the subtle difference that geography of consumption makes in the bouquet, body and aftertaste of their delicacy of choice?

Since I obviously take issue with the “it’s just better there” reasoning and I find the atmospheric influence reasoning a little suspect, I’m going to go ahead and assume the food tastes better here because my mind is playing tricks on me.  That is to say, I am probably just idealizing things in my head.  It makes sense; all of the amazing meals I have had here I associate in my head with where I ate them, the time of day (usually watching a sunset or sunrise), how good I was feeling at the time and how much progress I had made that day.  In fact , when it comes down to it, my meals have become ritualized to the point where simply eating is no longer sufficient; it has to be a multi-sensory experience.  Obviously, I could eat some pretty crappy food and in these circumstances I would probably remember it fondly.
   The ability of my mind to trick myself both saddens me and reassures me.  It is kind of sad to think that perhaps the food that I am enjoying so much here is no better than what is available back home (this is a fleeting sadness however, as my enjoyment is ultimately what matters most).  The reassurance comes from the knowledge that I have the ability to idealize and enjoy any meal and by association, any life experience more than I normally would by taking the time to do it right and incorporating as much pleasurable aspects into it as I can.

George Costanza: A rare genius unappreciated in his own time

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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What We’re Taught vs. What We Learn

My Friends,
   In the last few days I have been involved in a friendly Facebook debate based on some comments I made regarding the recent death of Muammar Qaddafi.  In defending my position rather than explaining it, as I should have, I went off on a bit of a tangent as I am wont to do.  This tangent was useful in the sense that it gave me some new ideas about things I already believe.  Luckily for the other parties to the debate, I had the restraint to not flood the thread with every thought in my head.  However, I will exercise no such restraint here.
  Actually, all I really want to express is a truism that most everyone probably realizes to some extent or another in their lives even if they have never vocalized it: The people we are taught to be as children and the people we learn to be as adults are vastly different.  Think about it like this; as kids we are taught to share, to be charitable, to love thy neighbour, etc…  For lack of a better word I will call it “altruism.”  Essentially, we learn nobility, duty and putting the needs of others before ourselves.  I learned these things in a Catholic school so everything good related back to the Christian God, but I’m sure all primary schools of every religion or none espouse the same basic ideas of good citizenship.  Furthermore, this conditioning (a word I use with no negative connotation) is compounded by a set of laws which at their most basic, serve to reinforce ideas of altruism and duty.
  However, we are faced with a contradiction in that to actually survive in this world, we must abandon to some extent the principles which have been impressed upon us.  I am talking about the pursuit money of course. How much is enough?  I dont know but I do know that you will have a hard time getting that much if you are altruistic and charitable.  From our first dollar, we are forced to compartmentalize in our heads how we should behave to be good people and how we must behave to survive.
   For a practical example, it is as simple as walking by a person asking for money on the street, one who appears destitute and hungry.  Ok, maybe you give them money and they buy booze, so you justify walking by them with that logic.  But why not just buy them a sandwich?  Because a sandwich would cost money; money which you could put toward your own survival.  Regardless of the fact that a sandwich probably doesnt cost shit for most passersby, it is still an incredibly unsound economic decision as there is no tangible return.  So in spite of what your teachers may have preached to you in grade school, common sense tells you different: instead of acting noble and compassionate, you act base because it makes good sense in the world we live in.
   I must be clear though, I am not condemning the passerby.  Quite the opposite, I am lauding his instinct for survival; it is hard to condemn someone for doing what life and his experience have taught him.  And this world teaches us not to view the suffering as fellow human beings, but as speed bumps.  That is the fundamental contradiction I wanted to express in this entry: we struggle because we have been taught compassion (and I would hazard a guess that we all want to be compassionate) but we are forced by the system we live in to be individualistic and self-serving.  
   I laugh when I hear the anecdote about John Dillinger, who, when asked why he robbed banks, responded, “Because that’s where the money is.”  How can you fault anyone who resorts to base means for money?  Sometimes…often in this world, money by honourable means is nowhere to be had.  In these instances we must resort to, at worst, criminal enterprise, and at best, a shitty job we hate, in order to survive.  While one is more legal than the other, both are simply base compromises of self, albeit necessary ones.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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"…with muscles in his back and a song in his heart…"

My Friends,
   Prior to this excursion I laboriously labored to make the comprehensive travel playlist for my ipod (see “Movin on … thinkin of you when Im gone …” 1 Sept 2011).  What with all my shit getting jacked that labour seems now to have been for nought.  Still, I listened to that playlist extensively in the weeks leading up to my departure so it is no small wonder that the songs I now sing to myself on the road are those which featured prominently on said playlist; more specifically, the ones I can remember the words to.  Here is a few of the little dittys which I belt out on the highways and biways with reckless abandon whilst hitchhiking, likely scaring away more than one potential ride with my gaping mouthed singing face and the intolerable racket I produce.

“My Way” – Frank Sinatra
A no-brainer.  It appeals to me both from the chasing your dreams angle and also from the traveling angle.  I feel like I can sing it honestly at this point and I hope that 50 or so years down the road I can sing it with the same honesty, having “lived a life thats full.”
Favourite Line: ” I’ve loved, Ive laughed and cried/Ive had my fill; my share of losing/And now as tears subside I find it all so amusing…”

“Born to Wander” -Rare Earth
Another no-brainer.  I have liked Rare Earth for a few years now but only got wind of this oldie but goodie classic this past summer.  The verses express the same kinds of ideas I tried to express to my woman before leaving and the chorus rocks so hard.  I even used this song in my unsuccessful video attempt to get corporate sponsorship for this trip from Dos Equis (that can be viewed here: Dos Equis Proposal).  All in all a dope, if too short song.
Favourite Line: “Im just followin my heart, girl and its followin the sun/lookin for an answer I know may never come”

“Beach Chair” – Jay-Z
I never really got into Jay-Z’s Kingdom Come album until lately save for one or two songs.  However this song, featuring Chris Martin of Coldplay, has a melody which I am not sure if I find haunting or enchanting.  I played it a lot this summer and something in it really speaks to me.  I dont know all the words but certain lyrics stay with me.
Favourite Line: “Im not afraid of dyin/Im afraid of not tryin”     “Some say “Hov, how you get so fly?”/By not bein afraid to fall out the sky”

“Don Quixote” – Gordon Lightfoot
I sings me a lot of Gordon Lightfoot -“For Lovin Me,” “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind,” but only this and one other really resonate with me for their adventure angle.  Anyone who has read my earlier entries might be familiar with my fondness for the book Don Quixote by Cervantes.  Well, I liked this song long before I ever started the book.  Lightfoot’s ability to strum the guitar like a bastard (thats a technical term) is showcased as is his knack for writing lyrics with compelling imagery and meaning.  Various lines from this song have touched me at various times in my life.
Favourite Line: “He is wild but he is mellow/he is strong but he is weak/he is cruel but he is gentle/he is wise but he is meek”

“Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash
I guess I sing this ironically to some extent because I feel anything but fettered.  But I think at one time or another we have all felt stuck where we were at and I am just glad to be out of that situation if only temporarily.
Favourite Line: “Well if they freed me from that prison, if that railroad train was mine/I bet Id move it on a little farther down the line…”

“Gone ’til November” (Video version) – Wyclef Jean
Gonna be a little past November on this excursion but I understand what ‘Clef is trying to express to his woman here.  Sometimes the daily grind and personal happiness are mutually exclusive.
Favourite Line: “Girl, I gotta leave, please dont cry/when I come back you know the limits the sky”

“Early Morning Rain” – Gordon Lightfoot
My all-time favourite Lightfoot song.  So good that Elvis even covered it.  A perfect song for the destitute traveler who misses his far-away home.  About a week and a half back I mentioned that I had cried more than once out of despair (6 Day Adventure Recap: 6 October 2011 – 11 Oct 2011 LONG!!!!,12 OCT 2011).  This was not quite true as I only despaired that hard only once.  However, quite often I have sung this song on the road and when I reach certain lines my voice cracks and I struggle through it, because it reminds me of my dad and home.
Favourite Line: “This old airport’s got me down, its no earthly good to me/cause Im stuck here on the ground, as cold and drunk as I can be” ->The whole song is good

Those are the songs that have been at the forefront of my mind as I have traveled these past few weeks but as I stop at each internet cafe I look up the lyrics to a song which is in my head but which I dont quite remember well enough to sing on the road so my library is always expanding.  I figure by the time I get back Ill have the whole travel playlist memorized.  Finally after years of post-secondary education I finally have some worthwhile knowledge in my head.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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