Tag Archives: syria

“He Who Laughs Last Probably Died Laughing”


An army friend of mine once related a story to me when we were in Afghanistan about a game he used to play in university lectures called, “Bait the Jew.” The premise of the game was simple: in class discussions he would say deliberately inflammatory things which would rile the Jewish students, particularly those with Zionist sympathies. He would then have a laugh at their expense. I cringed at this and felt kind of embarrassed for him but it was one of those situations you find yourself in all-too-often in the military where you gotta let some repugnant shit slide because for better or worse, this dude has my back when shit hits the fan.

But if you think about it, Bait the Jew is emblematic of how humor is generally done these days: inflammatory remarks are levied at various demographics (with various degrees of cleverness) and the “injured” party’s reaction only increases the mirth of those who see the humor in it. Sometimes, the injured party’s reaction is relatively benign (legal recourse, appeals to the government or similar jests in kind), but sometimes it’s pretty severe:


I’m gonna go ahead and say exactly what’s on my mind here: Some people are VERY happy about the Charlie Hebdo massacre.


Well, to me, I think it validated a lot of pent-up xenophobia and and Islamophobia and it certainly made a fair number of self-described atheists pretty euphoric. There is a definite under-current of these emotions in the wake of the attacks and a jubilation which some are hard-pressed to contain. It goes deeper than the validation of prejudice though. Some, like certain military friends of mine, have a vested financial interest in war because (at least in the Canadian military) there’s lots of delicious tax-free money to be made fighting commies/Nazis/insurgents. But there’s also the awards, honours, medals and respect that come from service overseas.

military-humor-soldier-russia-listen-here-noob-memeYou basically get some new bling to keep your uniform frosty.

Medals are a status symbol in the military and the worthiness of your career is (unofficially) related to the size of your rack of medals. In the context of being in the military, it’s considered a more or less objective indicator of whether or not someone is a good soldier. Sure, a guy may be an insubordinate, racist drunkard, but look at all his medals. Also, there is an unspoken resentment against superior officers who presume to command subordinates with more operational experience, and thus more medals, than them. So in my estimation, a lot of war-mongering has to do with guys who want to legitimize their careers and authority, while at the same time becoming one of the highly decorated veterans they vaunt.

I’ll defer to Bill Hicks here:

billPortraitWhat kind of people are these with such low self-esteem that they need a war to feel better about themselves? May I suggest, instead of a war to feel better about yourself, perhaps … sit-ups? Maybe a fruit cup? Eight glasses of water a day?

I was one of these guys when I got into the army. I saw dudes who had deployed to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, the Golan Heights and when they’d rock their medals on parades I wanted my own taste of that. Well, I got it. And, surprise surprise, all of that admiration and veneration from the younger generation didn’t mean all that much when I finally had it.

How far do you have to go down that road before you see where it leads?

But I digress here because I didn’t set out to write a scathing indictment of the military mindset wherein a solider validates himself, his existence and his career through violent campaigns and occupations which leave people dead, orphaned, bereaved and embittered.

Rather I was writing about humour and the way it is done. This hits a little close to home for me because as of late I have been trying my hand at stand up comedy so I find myself very much concerned with what is funny and what is not. Now at the outset, let me be clear: I am not above laughing at crude, insensitive, racist, sexist, etc. jokes. I’d like to qualify that by saying that I only laugh at them if they are clever, good-natured and well-wrought but that would be lying. I’ve laughed at the worst of the worst and will continue to do so provided I find the joke in question funny.

Now I think many of us would agree that if I, as a white male, went around making racist jokes about blacks, saying the word nigger all willy-nilly and advertising bigotry, the people who were the butt of my jokes would have a legitimate qualm and reason to not find them funny. If things were taken a step further and I got my ass kicked by the injured parties, a lot of people would probably be like, “Well he got what he deserved.”

Now notwithstanding the fact that there are orders of magnitude of difference between the shit-kicking I deserve and a shoot-out in the streets, can we at least acknowledge that a similar dynamic is at play here?

1)Someone makes a joke at another party’s expense
2)The second party is offended by the joke
3)To vindicate their bruised honor, the injured party does (decidedly less whimsical) violence against the jokester (and anyone else unfortunate enough to be nearby)

Some of you may say that I have abstracted the Charlie Hebdo massacre too much to make it congruent with my hypothetical black joke scenario, but I maintain that this is an important mental exercise which helps us to recognize common kernels of causality. So yes, while there are worlds of differences between the CH massacre and me getting my ass tuned up by a bunch of hypothetical aggrieved African-Americans (Canadians???), there is a similar dynamic of vindication here.

Or how about this: A lot of people here in the west think it’s stupid for Muslims to freak out over pictures of the Prophet Mohammed, BUT GOD HELP YOU IF YOU DON”T STAND FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM AT A HOCKEY GAME!!!

Yes, cause that makes infinitely more sense.

Or a lot of people might hate on (again) Muslims for those honor killings we hear so much about, but I would posit that “vindication of the national honour” (i.e. “honor killing” on a massive scale) is the main mobilizing premise used to dupe scared people into joining the war effort in the wake of some (usually trifling or made-up) initial provocation.

Don’t get me wrong I am no apologist for Islamic violence, but I recognize that it’s pretty presumptuous for us to poo-poo them for their violence when we cumulatively as “the West” are perhaps the greatest purveyors of direct violence (war), indirect violence (proxy wars) and war profiteering that have ever existed.

But again I need to digress, because this is neither meant to be a scathing indictment of Western foreign policy.

So what is funny and what is worth killing someone over? I think the answer to both is, “It’s all relative.” Furthermore, there is a degree of overlap, so some hilarious shit might get someone killed.

He who laughs last, probably died laughing.”

I recognize doing stand-up that a joke which I find funny might get my ass kicked if it offends someone, and whether popular opinion is with me or against me depends on a number of factors: The disposition of the general public, whether I am part of the privileged class, whether the subject of my ridicule is a downtrodden minority and last but not least, the prejudices of the general public. Let’s face it, if Charlie Hebdo cartoonists saw some humour in making cartoons at the expense of rape victims and a bunch of feminist extremists IRL pwned (killed) them, there would be a lot of people of the mindset of, “Well, that’s what you get for talking shit.” But since the indignant transgressors were Muslims, the attitude seems to be “Fuck them and their feelings!

So, should Charlie Hebdo cartoonists have showed some restraint with regard to their jokes about Islam? Absolutely-the-fuck-NOT! We NEED people to push limits and say things that are on their minds even if the group-mind doesn’t deem it politically correct. The fact of the matter is that it takes a lot of guts to say some shit that you know isn’t popular, which incidentally, is why I mostly reserve judgement against the Westboro Baptist Church. Much as I might disagree with their message I have to laud their guts.

And while I think it sucks that people sometimes get killed for speaking their mind, I also think it sucks that we live in a system which necessitates the speaking of one’s mind in the first place.

What do I mean by that? Well, speaking one’s mind (whether that is asking for a raise, telling off a rival, or making an unpopular joke) is a form of asserting oneself and one’s views. But the necessity of self-assertion pre-supposes some marginalization happened as a pre-cursor. So the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists felt they had to assert themselves at the expense of devout Muslims, and the devout, more extremist elements of that group felt they had to re-assert themselves against those who had made light of their faith. Like so many struggles within a competitive socio-economic system, it’s just another case of one group trying to get ahead at the expense of another.

So again, for perhaps the hundredth time, I want to ask, “Shouldn’t we, instead of focusing on the individual acts of violence or insult (the latter being just another form of violence), instead look to transcend the structural mechanisms which pit people against one another in the first place?”

It doesn’t matter whether you identify more with Muslims or the cartoonists, cause while you bicker over who was in the right or wrong, someone is profiting from this whole debacle at the expense of both groups.


And what I find incredibly offensive about any new legislation pertaining to surveillance and privacy that will come to pass from this massacre is that it will likely disproportionately target Muslims (at least initially) and also that it flies in the face of the freedom of speech which Charlie Hebdo stood for.

So while we take sides, everyone loses.

Problem => Reaction => Solution

But I digress, because I didn’t set out to talk about how we are being manipulated and played against each other.
Also, I ran out of clever shit to say.

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


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.


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.

(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


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


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


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


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







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!


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:


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,


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.


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.


“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. 


-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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The Bastard Cause

My Friends,
   A few years back I took a political science course which related to how power and influence are wielded and consolidated in Canadian politics.  And though it dealt specifically with Canada, the lessons of the course had universal implications.
   To add a practical aspect to the course, the professor decided he wanted the class to choose a representative (I put up my hand and was picked) who would act as the student voice and help to organize agitation for change we wanted to see in the course.  Basically he gave us carte blanche to organize and demonstrate so we could make changes to the marking scheme of assignments, the weighting of assignments, due dates, etc…  It turned out disastrous; people were not simply apathetic but generally scared to be involved in walkouts or any other disruption which their parents might disapprove of, even though the professor had said that’s what he wanted from us.   I’ll take blame for failing to inspire them where blame is due, but I think their lack of enthusiasm was a product of something more fundamental than a lack of charisma on my part.
   However, the result of this experiment is not what I want to talk about today.  Rather I wish to segue into the matter at hand by recalling an important lesson I learned in my first couple of days as class rep.  Basically, I had worked with the sub-representatives and had gotten a survey of what the class of 150+ students wanted to see regarding change to the curriculum.  I made a list of our modest demands and when I went to ascend the dais to communicate these ideas, the professor refused to let me have the floor.  He explained that I was not the legitimate, duly-elected leader of the class because I had simply put my hand up when no one else had.  For him to recognize us we would have to have a formal election.
   This fuckery put us behind two weeks because I had to go about organizing an election and urging my peers to nominate/self-nominate.  In the end, the consensus was that I should have the job because I was the only one who showed interest.  So there I was, representative-acclaimed, still at square one with 14 days less to work with in the semester.
   This taught me that perceived legitimacy imparts great power to a group.  It may not seem that profound, but keep this in mind next time you read the newspaper.  There are sound-bites and quotations aplenty in any news publication from individuals representing one interest trying to discredit, decry and deligitimize representatives from other interests, or other interests as a whole.
   A recent news item which conceived the kernel which became the idea which became this post is Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews’ condemnation of the hackers from Anonymous making public all of his personal information in response to his proposed internet-privacy infringing legislation, Bill C-130.  Of the hackers from Anonymous, Toews said:
   “These are individuals, as far as I can understand it, who can choose to belong to Anonymous whether other members of Anonymous want them to be there or not…So in many respects, these are individuals acting on their own.”  –24H 28 March 2012

Do you see what he did there?  He called into question the membership status of individuals belonging to a group with no membership requirements, save for self-identification as a member.

But in the bullshit department … a businessman can’t hold a candle to VIC TOEWS.  Cause I gotta tell ya the truth folks … when it comes to bullshit, big-time, major-league bullshit, you have to stand in awe … in awe … of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, VIC TOEWS”

   Ironically, he gives an amorphous and loosely-associated group like Anonymous a certain credibility by virtue of tangibility: By recognizing that there might be some kind of membership process by which the hackers interfering with his privacy have not yet gone through, he is imparting recognition to the group.  Still, this inadvertent nod to the group should not detract from his aim, which was to attack the credibility of the group’s individual members.
   Another example of this kind of marginalization would be when the British government withdrew Special Category Status from IRA prisoners in the 1970s and mandated that they would have to wear normal prison uniforms instead of their IRA uniforms.  The Brits were looking to take them down a peg from “political prisoner” to “ordinary criminal,” which is basically like spitting on them and their cause.  Obviously, the IRA prisoners didn’t stand for it, but that’s a different story.
   While this calling into question of membership status and group structure is an effective means of delegitimizing an opponent, I feel the most oft-used (and often readily believed) method is to remove a group’s ownership of a cause, or simply to blame foreign interlopers.  Let’s go back to the early 1960s when the Portuguese were fighting to maintain control of their African colonies, primarily Angola.  The Salazar government maintained throughout the conflict that the Angolans were happy as Portuguese subjects and that the war was being waged by Soviet proxies trying to destabilize the balance of power in Africa.  I have a great-uncle who was on the Portuguese side in that war and when we have talked about it, he still insists that the Angolans loved the Portuguese presence and that the enemies they were fighting came from abroad.  If that was actually so, then whence cometh war?
   Even a superpower like the USSR would have had marked difficulties discreetly waging a proxy war against the Portuguese in Angola if both the Portuguese colonists AND the Angolan natives didn’t want them there.  If the Angolans were really on the same side as the Portuguese then they would have done a better job of reporting these interlopers who would materialize in and out of the civilian population much like the Taliban materializes in and out of groups of our Afghan “friends” today.
   However, saying that the war/cause is being waged by foreign belligerents is an expedient way to cast doubt on just how disaffected one’s own people are.
   Which brings me to the G20 conference in Toronto during June 2010.  I have had conversations with cop friends of mine who were doing security at the summit about the morality of preventing Canadian citizens from  marching into the streets.  One of the worst justifications I have heard for violent suppression of these protests is that the so-called “Black Bloc” were all foreigners and professional agitators who riot for pay.
   There is so much I take issue with in this defence, so let’s just break it down into three main questions:

1) Whether Canadian or foreign, if they are rioting for pay, who is paying them?  No one seems to ask this question although the trope of the “agitator-for-hire” is one I have heard from different police officers.  It seems to me that someone would only pay these people to violently demonstrate if they had something to gain from it.  So what is there to be gained from violence in the streets?  Justification for over-reaching legislation?  Larger budgets and greater powers for police forces?  Who might profit from these things?

“You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers.  But you start to follow the money and you dont know where the fuck it’s gonna take you.”

2) Even if they are foreigners, it IS a multi-national summit.  Its seems a bit presumptuous to invite the leaders of the nations over and then get mad when their constituents follow as well.  Multi-national protestors at multi-national summits are as natural as multi-national spectators at the Olympics.
3) Do we really think that all of the discontent that was expressed was the work of these agitators?  Is there actually no angry Canadians who wanted to be heard throughout these protests?
   Obviously this last question is the most pertinent to the discussion at hand.  Its as if the mention of foreigners should convince the masses watching at home that all Canadians are happy with the way things are and that they should be too.  
   But to illustrate how preposterous this assurance is, let’s look at a current example: Bashar al-Assad is claiming that his people, who have been revolting for a year now, are not the problem.  instead it is again foreign interlopers trying to destabilize his government.  If we find his claims about Syrian contentment so ridiculous, why should any other government’s claims about its idyllic domestic situation be deemed any less so?
   I apologize if I seem a bit disjointed, and in the case of the G20 stuff, a bit tangential.  Overall, what you should take away from this wall of text is that whether its a grassroots movement or an elected leader, an opponent will always try to chip away at their legitimacy.  If you can delegitimize an opponent you take away their ability to play ball on your court, so of course you’re gonna win.  
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Things are Tough All Over

My Friends,
   Having departed Turkey a few days back, I finally arrived in Lebanon after my failed attempt to do an overland entry via Syria.  The friends I am staying wth have an aprtment right in the middle of Beirut which puts me in very good position for exploring.  Being something of a “”Mediterranean people” myself, I spent my first day walking toward the ocean.  It was a bit of a longer walk than I thought but I reached it and to my surprise the natural coastline wasy very much still there.  I ran down more excited than a 27 year old man ought to be to climb and jump from rock to rock.  Having a ball doing this I also talked wth the many fishermen who were out there.  They werent catching anything large but Ive been told that “a bad day of fishing beats a good day of anything else.”  I did notice however a pretty clever system for storing the fish they had caught: instead of buckets they stored the fish in they accumulated pools of water left n the pitting of the rocks as the tide went out.  This I suppose is one of the advantages of natural coastline fishng, as opposed to fishing from a bridge or a pier.
   Leaving the coastline all climbed out, I made my way back to the road and got offered a boat trip by Aman (Iman?) I explained that I was good and took off but a few minutes later he was yelling after me to wait up and we ended up chilling for the next hour or two.  When I expressed concern that he was leaving his job selling boat trips he explained that it was his first day and he had taken his first commission of 5000 Lebanese pounds and walked out.  Well far be it from me to convince him that maybe he shouldnt skip out on his only source of income during the first couple of hours on the first day, so we ended grabbing a beer and looking for a scarf for me.  After we had walked some, Aman started getting a little antsy and explained that he wanted to take the 100000 LP in his pocket to the gambling house and turn it into 50000 LP.  Feeling I knew him well enough at this point to counsel him some, I said “yeah or maybe you dont go there and you wake up a little bit ahead tomorrow.”  “No, trust me, its easy,” he assured me.  So reluctantly I went to this underground gambling den with him, admittedly half interested to see what it is young, Lebanese males do when they are not working.
    The place was literally underground but well lit and sanctioned so it wasnt dangerous or anything.  But fuick was it ever depressing: grown men parked in front of video poker machines smacking the bittons like zombies and smoking endlessly.  I took a seat beside Aman and watched the 20,000 credits bought with his last 10000LP (about $7.50 CAD) slowly dwindle.  When he was at around 6000 credits I was like “dude cash out and well get out of here and grab another drink.  At this  point I figured alcohol was a more acceptable vice than degenerate gambling.  However, I can only guess at that moment that the machine heard my plea and the good sense it made and saw fit to give Aman a four of a kind which put hom somewhere just above the 20000 credits he started with.  “See, I can get up to 50, its easy.”  “Alright my dude, well Im gonna peace out.” 
   Degenerate gambling is sad in and of itself but there are not a lot of opportunities here in Beirut for young people unless they are the best of the best, and similarly few opportunities for emigration to places with more plentiful work.  So when that gambling becomes the only escape from a job you hate and a life of dissatisfaction its even worse.  I would like to think that if I were in his shoes I would handle the pressures of life better but I was very fortunate to have the upbringing I did and perhaps under a different set of circumstances I would have become that video poker zombie as well. 
   I took a long and meandering route back to my friends’ apartment but I saw a good deal of the city which worked for me.  Since I had decided to head west the first day to the water, I opted for east the nest day to the mountains.  That the mountains were obscured by blue atmospheric haze should have been an indication of how far they were.  I dont know exactly how far, but I left at 830 am and when I finally reached a distant peak (the site of a Maronite Christian convent of all things) it was 1230.  I admired the view but realized with some dismay that now i had to walk back.  Now I cant even begin to describe how beautiful the views  from the mountain ridges were.  Just know that said beauty was rivalled by the complexity of the roads that ran up and down the various peaks.  I ended up getting lost a few times in the various valleys (its a whole bunch of mountains) but managed to still find my way back by maintaining a westerly direction.  Weirdly, I also made it back a little quicker which I think can be attributed to the fact that I was trespassing through property and bush-bashing the whole way.  I even got stopped by the cops at one point wondering why I was in the rough on the side of the road.  By the time I got back my feet were slayed. 
   In contrast to the last couple days of adventures, I have not left the house yet and its already noon.  Today I will spend my time convalescing from the dual-afflicitions of a cold and athletes foot.  The cold I woke up with yesterday and I find it ironic that I have only gotten it now that I am sleeping indoors; when I was freezing sleeping outdoors I was healthy as an ox.  It has become a little worse since yesterday but I am getting lots of rest.  Its more inconvenient than anything.  Far worse to me is the athlete’s foot, which I daresay is a souvenir of my previously discussed trip to the Turkish Bath in Ankara.  When I got to my friends’ apartment here in Beirut I kept noticing a slight smell whenever I was sitting at the table or something.  When the smell began following me I assumed the worst and my assumptions were proved right: a double case of foot fungus and my brand new vibram Five Fingers shoes contaminated.  Well I bought some anti-fungal cream for my feet which I have been applying but the only remedy for the shoes is to bag them up and put them in the freezer.  Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to ask your friends if you can put your filthy contaminated shoes in the freezer with their food.  I dont embarrass easily but I definitely reddened up here.  Between the flu-like symptoms of this cold and the fungus on my feet, they gotta be thinking “wow, never inviting this guy here again.”
   In any event, some prolonged freezing for the shoes and frequent applications of cream for me all day will hopefully mean that I am good to go for tomorrow or the day after and can enjoy Beirut and the surrounding cities to the fullest before heading to Egypt.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Of Course I Don’t Want to Dıe ,,, But Not Lıke Thıs,,,

My Frıends,
   My departure from Ankara, Turkey was full of nothıng but good fortune.  After scorıng my Chınese vısa I admıred ıt and the full passport page ıt took up ın much the same way a fıend mıght admıre a vıal of the rock were he not ın such a pathetıc, addıcted state as to preclude any admıratıon ın favour of ımmedıate consumptıon, whılst walkıng toward the bus stop and freedom from the cıty lımıts.  The bus only took me part of the way and ın my elated state (remember I had no reason to expect a vısa so quıck) I decıded to run south to my freedom lıke a slave mıght run north to the same goal (I am on fıre wıth sımıles apparently today), all the whıle my thumb prudently at my sıde lıke a lure to fısh for potentıal rıdes.  One gentleman pıcked me up and took me to the road to Aksaray, and thıs gentleman was noteowrthy because he drove a beemer, the drıvers of whıch have never stopped for me.  Maybe there ıs hope for BMW drıvers after all.  Anyhow the fırst hour on that road was slow but I saw two trucks parked alongsıde each other and fıgured ‘lets see what I cant make happen here.’  As I approached the two drıvers who were eatıng lunch they waved me over to partake ın theır meal.  I refused at fırst for polıteness but Turkısh hospıtalıty, much lıke my sexual advances toward my woman upon my return home ın a few months, ıs not to be denıed.  I was glad to relent though because they were eatıng thıs egg, tomato,onıon hash wıth bread and ıt looked sımılar to the meals my ınterpreters would make ın Afghanıstan and whıch I had feasted upon wıth relısh so many tımes. 
   They were headıng south and had no problem takıng me further than Aksaray; all the way to Adana ın fact.  It was a 450km trıp and I fıgured that although I would lıke to see Aksaray I could not say no to the ground I was coverıng by hookıng up wıth these guys.  It was a slow trıp though and we averaged about 50km per hour.  Coupled wıth the frequent stops we made we dıdnt quıte make ıt to Adana that nıght, but I slept ın the spare cot of Haçı’s truck and they they took me the last 30 km ın the mornıng.  I enjoyed rıdıng wıth them (Haçı and Besır); good dudes, very generous and really carıng about my welfare.
   In Adana I took the tram downtown and wandered ın search of ınternets for a bıt.  I had the good fortune to ask for dırectıons from Davıd who ınvıted me ın for tea.  As the cafe vendors here stand on the street and very aggressıvely peddle theır wares I was wary of hıs welcome beıng a charm for tourısts so I told hım I would go get some ınternets then perhaps come back not really knowıng ıf I was goıng to.  I dıd however and I was glad for ıt because he wasnt peddlıng chaı at all: he worked ın a clothıng store and the cha was hıs treat.  I ended up hangıng out wıth hım upstaırs for a couple of hours just talkıng and such whıle hıs mother made us lunch ın the back room.  It was whıle Davıd was servıng one customer though that the customer’s son, a spırıted ıf sımple chıld, kept grabbıng the back of my pants and rammıng hıs head ınto my buttcheeks (to explaın a prevıous facebook status a few days back).  I, not wantıng to spoıl the sale for Davıd by upbraıdıng the chıld ın front of the father endured the assault to my posterıor ın sılence and tranquılıty.

Anal assault by a young boy aın’t a good look, ma nıgga!
   Lunch was delıcıous; rıce and a sort of stew wıth ravıolı and chıck peas.  Davıd ınformed me that kebap and doner were the equıvalent of fast food ın Turkey and that he avoıded ıt.  Thıs was good: I was gettıng the real experıence here.  We saıd our goodbyes and I walked out of the cıty wıth my hands ın my pockets because I fıgured I had made ıt so far ın less than 24 hours that I should really spend the rest of the day walkıng so as not to mıss the beauty of the country ın an effort to pass through ıt expedıently.

   I walked for a few hours, stopped ın a cafe for a whıle and set out on the road after dark more ıntent on fındıng a place to sleep ın the countrysıde whıch afforded some overhead shelter than I was wıth fındıng a rıde.  Stıll, wıth no thumb out to speak of two dudes pıcked me up and ınsısted on takıng me toward Antakya, my next destınatıon.  Due to a faılıng ın my abılıty to speak Turkısh I was expectıng them to take me all the way to Antakya but they dropped me on the hıghway at the poınt where our paths dıverged.  I couldnt be mad at that really because they had taken me so far, and deserted as ıt was there was safe outdoor lodgıng to be had even ıf not covered.  So I kept walkıng.  Not long after though another trucker stopped for me (stıll no thumb out ot speak of) and took me another few km.  I was startıng to thınk ıt was gettıng a bıt rı-goddamn-dıculous: there were days ın Europe where I couldnt hıtch a rıde to save my lıfe but ın south-central Turkey I could apparently just phone ıt ın.

   In any event I walked on the freeway ın the darkness (wearıng a flourescent marker vest on my backpack and wıth a strobe goıng because Safety Fırst) and the overhead clouds parted above me ın the most beautıful way, exposıng the constellatıons above.  Well, shelter was no longer mandatory as the nıght was clear wıth a promıse of no raın but I couldnt very well sleep on the sıde of the freeway.  Fortunately I started to come across sıgns ındıcatıng a rest area up ahead.  When I got to ıt ıt was more than I could dare to hoıpe for; a verıtable oasıs ın an asphalt desert.  Trucks were parked by the dıner and the whole area was dotted wıth lıttle eatıng gazebos and after crushıng some food I crushed the best outdoor sleep of recent memory. 
   Now sınce I had arrıved ın the dark and had been lookıng at the sky I hadnt had a chance to apprecıate the scenery.  I dıd notıce ın the dark however that the edge of the rest area dropped off ınto a valley though.  It was thıs drop-off I stumbled toward ın the mornıng when I wanted to urınate and I was greeted by the most splendıd panorama of a sprawlıng valley dotted wıth trees and orchards, and the sun rısıng over mountaıns ın the dıstance, obscured by the early mornıng clouds sıttıng smokıly around the peaks.  It was a great pee, but only the fırst such scenıc pee of that day as I would later fınd out. 
   I got to walkıng and ıt was slow for the fırst hour or two.  Interestıngly, among the roadsıde debrıs I found some empty shell casıngs from a fırearm, the calıbre of whıch I could not ıdentıfy (no? not ınterestıng? ok then…).  I got pıcked up by a mınıbus full of dudes en route to Iskenderun(m?) and they dropped me where our paths dıverged but not before I made some facebook frıends.  Walkıng a lıttle further I got pıcked up by a full sıze coach (thıs never happens) who took me a good ways further.  As thıs bus was also full of dudes, and dudes who wanted to get pıcs wıth me no less, I thought back to the waıter at the cafe from the prevıous nıght who warned me about acceptıng rıdes from buses wıth a certaın tag number on the plates as they orıgınated from a nearby cıty whıch ran gay tours.  I laughed at thıs thought and how homophobıa could have curtaıled not only a rıde but a chance to meet new people and make new facebook frıends.  Guys, ıf youre readıng, thank you for the rıde and keep on beıng you 😉
   Where thıs bus dropped me off I got pıcked up by a famıly (3 dudes, 1 chıck) who got me a lıttle closer stıll to Antakya.  Where they dropped me was the second scenıc pee I had.  I could descrıbe the scenery but I have already used the word splendıd and I fınd I use the word ‘sublıme’ too much as ıt ıs.  Just know that ıt was beautıful and I pıssed all over ıt.
   Not long after thıs pee I got pıcked up by _____ (thats four rıdes before noon ın case youre not countıng) who not only took me all the way to Antakya, but bought me lunch at hıs famıly’s cafe (best chıcken kebap wrap of my lıfe btw, and thıs from someone who has eaten a lot of wraps) and took me around the cıty helpıng me fınd a hotel.  Sınce my plan was to take a bus from Antakya to Lebanon (read: through Syrıa) I decıded ıt would be more prudent to make haste to the Syrıan border 50km away for a bıt of reconaıssance.  I managed to get there ın three rıdes (ıncludıng my fırst ın the back of a pıckup) and about 10 km of walkıng (thats 7 rıdes by thıs poınt for the day btw).  I got to the border around 5 and exıted Turkey to dıscuss the terms of my border crossıng wıth the offıcıals.  I explaıned that I was takıng a bus to Lebanon eıther the followıng day or the day after (I dıdnt know how fast I could get back to the bus stn ın Antakya cause I am hıtchhıkıng after all) and I wanted to get a vısa rıght then and there so that all I would requıre was a stamp and therefore not hold the bus up. 
   The guy questıonıng me was ıntense and suspıcıous and he looked vaguely lıke Inspector Clouseau, whıch made hıs demeanour whımsıcal to me.  Im talkıng the Peter Sellers versıon of Clouseau btw not that Steve Martın R-tardatıon.
 If he had looked thıs twattısh ıt would have destroyed my sanıty
I’ll gıve you some of the hıghlıghts of the conversatıon:
Syrıan Guard: Why do you want to go to Syrıa?
Me: I am tryıng to get to Lebanon
SG: Do you speak Arabıc?
Me: Not really (the answer ıs actually ‘fuck no’ but I fıgured ‘No’ sounds guılty)
SG: No Arabıc?
Me: No
SG: So you dont understand derka derka mohammed jıhad?  *Presumably he saıd ‘fuck your mother wıth the dıck of a swıne you ınfıdel twat’ ın order to elıcıt a response from me and thereby get me to betray myself as a lıar.*
Me: Um, nope
SG: What ıs your job?
Me: Student (I fıgured ‘army’ would have opened up the door for dıffıcultıes)
SG: What kınd of hıstory?
Me: (In all honesty I had never really declared a major so I just chose my favourıte branch) Hıstory of Scıence & Technology
   Apparently thıs was a Chınese Mınd-Fuck to hım because he had to process ıt for a bıt before ınvıtıng me ınto hıs offıce.  We talked some more and he asked me why I wasnt stayıng ın Syrıa longer.  In a few soft words I expressed that I heard thıngs on the news and I was scared ın the most meek and naıve way possıble.  Thıs was calculated as I actually fear nothıng (except my woman mıssıng her perıod :-O) but I learned a valuable lesson from Henry Fonda’s portrayal of Tom Joad ın The Grapes of Wrath: No matter how gangster you are (and all my whıte, non-gangster frıends can attest to just how gangster I actually am), always act meek and unassumıng wıth authorıtıes; ıt lets them feel lıke they are ın charge when really they sımply hold the cards for the brıef moment you need somethıng from them, be ıt a vısa or a break on a speedıng tıcket. 
   There were two ınstances when my ınner-G manıfested ıtself ın spıte of my best efforts to contaın ıt.  No, I dıdnt shoot up the place, but I asked for some tea from some dude whose job was obvıously not beıng my personal cha-wallah.  I thınk he was taken aback by my presumptıon so he agreed but the tea never came. 
   Also, when dealıng wıth Clouseau I allowed myself to ask questıons about earlıer questıons he had asked, betrayıng both my perceptıon and and ınquısıtıve mınd.  I know thıs may not sound lıke much to you but I felt very much as ıf I were playıng an elaborate game of chess: I was at the most guarded border I had ever been to (Afghanıstan was easıer to get ınto than thıs place), I had already lıed about my job and thıs guy seemed to be fıxated on catchıng me ın a lıe or a slıp-up.
   At length however he assured me that ıf I came back wıth a bus they would be expectıng me and call up Damascus to authorıze a 3-day transıt vısa for me.  I left elated because I had found a compromıse that I could endure: I wanted to see Syrıa but my famıly dıdnt lıke the ıdea of me hıtchıkıng through ıt.  The walk back seemed to pass very quıck and was only note-worthy because as I descended the hıll ınto the Turkısh border town of Yayladagl there were prayers playıng over the town loudpseakers ın Arabıc.  Now thıs happens all the tıme ın the cıtıes ın Islamıc countrıes but ıt was eerıe as the town seemed competely stıll and serene almost lıke ıt was waıtıng for me.  I wısh I could thınk of a sımıle to express the weırdness but perhaps ıt was just one of thıngs that had to be experıenced.  (Note: the Turkısh-Syrıan borderland was not the arıd desert I was expectıng but a mountaınous evergreen domınated hınterland remınıscent of some places I have been to ın Canada.)
   I managed to thumb my 8th rıde of the day from some dudes who took me all the way back to Antakya after I had resıgned myself to the fact that I was probably sleepıng ın a farmhouse.  Thıs put me on good postıon to get on the fırst bus goıng to Lebanon the followıng mornıng.  The reconaıssance had been a success.  Or so ıt seemed…
   After spendıng the mornıng waıtıng ın a bus statıon, I set out for the Syrıan border crossıng and thıngs went smoothly at fırst.  I got a second exıt vısa from the Turks who were perplexed about my exıtıng the country for the second tıme ın two days and headed to the Syrıan sıde.  As the sole Canadıan on a bus full of Lebanese, Turks and Syrıans they sıngled me out and asked me to come to the front of the lıne on the Syrıan sıde.  The polıceman whom the border offıcıal had referred me to the nıght before began lookıng ınto my transıt vısa but after ten mınutes ınformed me that Damascus would not grant ıt and that I would have to go to an embassy or consulate.  I knew how that would end because I had already vısıted the consulate ın Istanbul and they saıd I would have had to apply ın Canada, so really gettıng a pass from the guards at the border was my only hope and now ıt was gone.  I unloaded my stuff from the bus perhaps a lıttle more dısmayed than someone not enterıng a warzone should be.  I asked the border polıce dude to try agaın but he saıd ıt was a done deal and that the prevıous nıght they had only saıd ‘maybe.’  Thıs was a lıe, as they had led me to belıeve ıt was guaranteedl but I wasnt really ın a posıtıon to argue wıth dude.  He dıd lınk me a free rıde back to Antakya ın a Syrıan car though.  Sınce he commanded the drıver to charge me nothıng and sınce I had seen sımılarly marked cars pass back and forth on the road to Syrıa the nıght before I fıgured ıt was a government car.  ‘Ooh,’ I thought, ‘An auto-car rıde wıth Syrıan government agents: not only ıs thıs the exact opposıte of what the army ıntellıgence guy who gave me a travel-brıefıng told me to do, ıt could also potentıally be good blog-fodder.  But alas, as I talked to the guy besıde me ıt came out that he was sımply an accountant and the others were eıther too old or too fat to be mysterıous cloak & dagger types.  It was sımply a borıng car-rıde comp’d to me as consolatıon for gettıng fucked. 
   Back ın Antakya I have booked a flıght to Lebanon vıa Istanbul.  After all the progress I have meade sınce leavıng Istanbul ıt ıs kınd of ıronıc that I wıll be spendıng the better part of my day waıtıng there tomorrow on a layover.  However, I cant let hıccups such as these get me down: I dıdnt get to Syrıa, but ıt wasnt for lack of tryıng,  Theır loss.  
   Anyhow I am off to the aırport for the nıght to waıt for the fırst thıng smokın to Istanbul,  I am excıted for Lebanon and all the beauty and hıstory of Beırut.
Stay Thırsty 

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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


-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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