Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Allah Don't Surf...

To those seeking deliverance from the crowded lineups, polluted beaches, and surf rage that now characterize the contemporary wave-riding experience, the mid-20th century is perceived as a sort of saltwater Garden of Eden.

In that bygone era when travel was cheap and surfers were few, anyone with a couple hundred bucks and a backpack could depart from the soul-crushing modern world and emerge days later on an unknown, uninhabited beach which offered perfect year-round surf.

Much has changed in the intervening decades.

Today, on-line reports and webcams are the primary nexus for surf-related communications. Clandestine destinations once spoken of in hushed tones and revealed with the utmost secrecy are now plastered on the Internet for thousands to see. Indeed, the wave-hungry traveler need only log on to surfline.com to find out within seconds which particular region of the world is firing and make his or her reservations accordingly.

Regrettably, many of these pristine beaches are now becoming clogged with surf camps and resorts for the well-to-do that promise crowd-free surfing for the right price. Other spots remain strictly off-limits owing to the fierce determination of locals (both native and ex-pat) to fiercely protect their beloved waves from the invading hordes of board-toting vacationers.

Surf journalist Mike Kew calls this insidious process "Californication"; a tribal practice endemic in parts of Southern California in which a small crew of locals will claim they "own" a particular stretch of beach.

Sadly, this territorial urge is no longer confined to the Golden State. Incidents of surf-related violence have become so prevalent they are even erupting in faraway (and once peaceful)wave utopias like Indonesia, Mauritius, and Fiji.

As the tentacles of this newfound protectionism extend into the farthest reaches of the globe, the Endless Summer mythos may be nearing extinction.

Or is it?

It seems there are still a few remaining beaches largely untainted by crowds, localism, or the greedy depredations of corporate surf gurus.

For those willing to risk their lives for some choice waves, the Islamic world remains largely untapped.

It is worth noting that there is nothing in the Koran forbidding believers from paddling out and enjoying Allah's liquid creations. Unfortunately, among the faithful, political violence remains the most popular extreme sport.

In other words, before heading east, leave the Bhagvat Gita at home and consider investing in some kevlar.

"Yemen is amazing," asserts surf journalist Charles Smith in the August issue of Transworld Surf. "There are more guns per capita then anyplace else in the world, so everyone is packing and serious."

In a tautly-written narrative that sounds like something out of Soldier of Fortune, Smith recounts his perilous attempt to "surf Osama's home break."

After checking out the lay of the land, Smith and a crew of fellow Arab-speaking explorers get their stoke on when they witness an adrenaline-inducing right-hand "peeling off the beached hulk of a ship in the town of Qishn."

Warned by locals that even US Special Forces rarely venture into this notoriously unstable region, the group pack the land cruiser with Russian small arms and head off into the unknown.

After a spine-smashing journey through mountainous roads they come upon a scene that can only be described as "epic."

When local tribesmen descend on the coastal village to wreak havoc and loot the illicit cargo of a Pakistani merchant vessel, they are soon met by government forces and a full-blown firefight ensues.

After an uneasy truce is reached, the Qat-munching stoners paddle out and enjoy a mysto session which Smith describes as "crazy, weird, and psychotic all at the same time."

Could this new breed of surf traveler engender a surf culture within the Islamic world?

Only time will tell...

Karen Hughes, call your pager. I have an idea...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

OKC: A Botched Sting Operation?

"From day one, a surfeit of scientific anomalies and inexplicable events have surrounded the allegedly airtight case against the two men [McVeigh and Nichols]. Indeed, despite widespread belief that the crime has been solved, a number of looming questions remain unanswered. While many would prefer to ignore the shroud of mystery that still envelops this monumental tragedy, to do so wouuld sacrifice perhaps our most valuable commodity: the historical record."

I wrote these words approximately five years ago in my contribution to the Disinfo anthology You Are Being Lied To (Disinfo, 2001).

While I was never one to doubt the culpability of McVeigh and Nichols, to this day I remain disturbed by evidence indicating the presence of multiple bombs inside the Murrah Building and the very real possibility that the lethal blast involved other individuals who are still walking free.

Thanks to reporter JD Cash's bulldog-like tenacity, the truth of what happened that fateful day is starting to emerge.

In a recent dispatch, Cash reveals that the Oklahoma City Bombing investigation (code named OKBOMB) was marginalized from the outset by Justice Department officials largely motivated by what he describes as "political considerations."

Despite empty promises made to the families of the victims that federal officials would "leave no stone unturned" in the investigation, Cash was informed by unnamed Justice Department officials (corroborated by extensive documentation) that "the FBI failed to arrest all the persons involved."

According to Cash, "one former senior member of the DOJ put it in strong terms. He laid blame at the feet of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Forearms" (BATF).

"I knew [Andreas] Strassmeir was central to this crime and I believe Carol Howe, the informant, was dead right," asserts the unnamed official. "She warned the ATF and they blew this whole thing. They knew the details of what was in the works and they messed everything up..."

More to come...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Of Microbes and Men...

"Death rides triumphant on his pale Horse through our streets, and breaks into every House," wrote a terrified London physician in the deadly summer of 1665. Before year's end, 100,000 would fall victim to the silent depredations of the insatiable "Black Death."

As citizens sought refuge from the fatal presence of this "unholy visitor," the God-fearing people of London would undergo a sort of mass psychosis.

"Those stricken with bubonic plague," writes historian James Leasor, "expected no mercy, and were not disappointed. Shunned by almost everyone with whom they usually came into contact---for blood ties and kinship meant nothing at such a time---they died in agony by the thousand."

Corpses were burned in mass graves. Plague-stricken homes were anointed with an anonymous red cross, and in some instances, the inhabitants were locked inside until the entire household had perished from the deadly disease.

Soon there was a complete breakdown in the social order as grave robbery and drunkeness became all too common.

By the time the plague had run its grisly course, the once crowded city was likened to a living Hell; a desolate charnel house seemingly inundated with the putrid stench of rotting flesh.

While it is tempting to relegate these macabre events to an unenlightened age, if we fast forward three centuries, the malign power of plague to transform men's minds has changed very little.

In modern day South Africa, nearly one in three deaths are attributed to the ongoing AIDS pandemic. In response, a growing minority of free-spirited adolescents are challenging the age-old custom forbidding bestiality.

"We know about AIDS and we are very afraid of it," a high school student informs South Africa's News 24. "That is why we are having sex with these goats. Goats don't have AIDS."

The unnamed 11th grader says he engages in goat play approximately four times a week.

Having spent his formative years watching his elders die from AIDS, he considers his goat-lust a healthy alternative to an early death.

"It's obvious that if I'm not sick there is nothing I can transmit to goats and goats to me," he explains. "We won't become HIV-positive because goats don't get AIDS. We often share the same goat and don't get each other's diseases."

Bestiality has become so prevalent in the African nation, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has issued a bulletin decrying the practice as an "AIDS myth."

"Bestiality is a criminal offence. Charges can be laid under the Criminal Procedure Act and also in terms of the Animals Protection Act," assert SPCA officials.

Another disturbing rumor alleges that having sex with an infant or child is a sure-fire cure for HIV or AIDS. As a result, the nation is witnessing an explosion in child-related sexual offenses.

In 2004 alone, 21,702 cases were referred to the courts. According to official statistics, only 6% were convicted.

"Did you ever read 'Heart of Darkness'? asks Debbie Coetzee, a South African sex crimes detective interviewed by Worldnet Daily. "Well, we are way beyond that point and well on our way towards barbarism."

Meanwhile, a newly-invigorated strain of tuberculosis has suraced in California...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Last Man Standing...

Rare is the carpet salesman who can say that his very existence checks the inexorable forces of history. Yet Zablon Simintov is just such a man.

Holed up in Kabul's historic Flower Street synagogue, the 45-year-old enjoys a unique status: he is Afghanistan's last remaining Jew.

His wife and daughters wisely escaped this unstable, war-torn country six years ago. Yet the fierce iconoclast is determined to maintain a Jewish presence in a nation largely known for its embrace of Muslim fundamentalism.

It isn't easy. Having long ago lost his carpet store, Simintov lives a hand-to-mouth existence entreating the rare visitor for gifts of phone cards or whiskey.

It wasn't always like this.

For several years, he carried on his lonely struggle with Ishaq Levin, a determined co-religionist who shared his stubborn determination and avowed sense of purpose.

Unfortunately, that's about the only thing they shared.

It would seem that the two believers lived on opposite ends of the spacious house of worship in a seething atmosphere of mutual hatred.

The flare-up began when religious elders urged the younger Simintov to bring Levin, an elderly man, to Israel. However, this well-intentioned plan backfired when the older man became convinced that his younger colleague was plotting against him in order to eject him from the country and sell the synagogue.

The dispute would reach soon reach epic proportions. Indeed, even the rise of the Taliban regime did little to quell the simmering animosity. Their feuding was so pervasive they blamed their arrest and torture by government religious authorities on one another.

"They beat me with cables and a Kalashnikov," recalls Simintov to the UK Observer. "Ishaq paid them to put me in there. He told them I was a spy." Levin, who suffered the same fate, countered with similar charges.

But alas, before they could forge an uneasy truce, Levin, who was in his 70's, recently left this mortal coil. Aware of his enduring hatred for the deceased man, police initially believed Simintov was the murderer. However, an autopsy revealed that the old man died of natural causes.

The 800-year-old Afghan Jewish community, which once numbered in the tens of thousands after a wave of immigrants resettled from neighboring Iran, now consists of one man.

Facing a bleak, uncertain future in a harsh, inhospitable land, it is difficult to speculate where Simintov will be in five years. Will he fulfill his destiny as Judaism's last man in Afghanistan or will his tale of courageous survival amidst war, terror, and torture engender a second Jewish Diaspora to his chosen homeland?

Only time will tell. But the outspoken man of faith is sure of one thing: he enjoys his newfound solitude.

"The old man was crazy," he remarks bitterly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Perils of Serenity

Call it the freemasonry of the perpetually guilty; a group of unlucky souls who fear their privileged status has given them subconscious yearnings to tell off-color jokes and laugh at Rastafarians. This fancied notion, known as "unconsicous racism," is the core sentiment behind the newest wrinkle in the highly lucrative tolerance industry.

As I've written before, combating the dark forces of hate can be quite a profitable endeavor. However, the ranks of the extreme right have been drying up as of late.

So what better way to keep cashing in on the sensitivity seminars and Ford Foundation grants than to declare the majority of Americans guilty of some ill-defined form of "internalized" racism?

Indeed, according to these self-proclaimed experts, even the most colorblind soldier for social justice might be secretly harboring a klansman within.

"Studies show people can be consciously committed to egalitarianism, and deliberately work to behave without prejudice," observe the good folks at tolerance.org. But alas, these misguided individuals might "still possess hidden negative prejudices or stereotypes."

The horror!

Althought this sounds oddly similar to the kookery propogated by Re-evaluation Counseling and other holdovers from the 70's Human Potential Movement, it is quickly gaining ground in academic circles.

Harvard University is currently pushing forward with a study known as Project Implicit aimed at revealing the sheer prevalence of subconscious bigotry.

It is highly likely that in the coming years we will witness a whole new category of "innately" racist individuals and institutions.

As a matter of fact, someone is already questioning one of America's most sacred fellowships: the 12-Step group.

After two decades in Recovery, author Anne Wayman attended a seminar called "Journey Toward Wholeness---Beyond Racism" and came to a disturbing realization.

"As a white woman who has had a chance to examine my own, mostly unconscious, racism," she writes, "I've come to understand that the myth of perpetual powerlessness, while damaging to me, is often a real barrier for people of color."

She is particularly concerned with the First Step which declares that "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable."

Wayman now believes that "people of color understand powerlessness at a level I probably never will" and considers the whole notion that people are "perpetually powerless" implicitly insensitive to minorities.

Just what was Bill W. thinking?

Wayman now believes that the program needs to "let go of the myth of perpetual powerlessness" and only then will the Recovery movement "reflect true diversity."

Hold on a minute! What's going to happen to the millions of people who have achieved sobriety through 12-Step methods now that one of the steps has been deemed suspect?

Call me psychic, but I'm already envisioning a "Recovering Racists" (Eleven)-Step group...

Saturday, March 12, 2005

For all eternity... Posted by Hello

THE ETERNAL HIPPIE: Endless Summer of Love

Maybe it's my Irish Catholic fatalism, but I've always believed that the "quest for immortality" was merely a metaphor for achieving in life what will be remembered after one's death.

I guess I was wrong.

Ray Kurzweil, an amazingly self-absorbed baby boomer, is seeking immortality in the most literal sense of the word.

The 57-year-old inventor hopes to annoy the hell out of his fellow earthlings well into the next millennium.

"In my view, we are not another animal, subject to nature's whim," he smugly informs the Seattle Times.

Kurzweil envisions a world where microscopic robots or "nanobots" as he calls them, will be injected into the body and programmed to restore aging bones and muscles, unclog arteries, generate brain cells, and perform other life-extending tasks. Even better, genetic upgrades will be available on-line and the human heart will become obsolete.

Before you dismiss his predictions as the demented ramblings of a schizophrenic homeless guy with tin-foil "receptors" attached to his baseball cap, Kurzweil is far from a scientific neophyte.

A recipient of the 1999 Medal of Technology Award, the nation's highest honor, the pioneering researcher is credited with developing one of the first print-to-speech reading machines for the visually impaired. His other innovations include the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, and other advancements in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence.

The MIT graduate predicts that these developments will occur within the next two decades and is closely monitoring his health to ensure that he will live to witness this monumental scientific discovery.

While Kurzweil's utopia might sound tempting to some, should immortality become a commodity, my gut tells me very few will be able to afford this revolutionary panacea for the aging process.

Indeed, while the rest of us pass into the next world, future generations can enjoy the ubiquitous presence of a newly-created Mandarin class of ex-hippies who will maintain their tarnished legacy of bad folk music, political treachery, mindless new age spirituality, First Amendment revisionism, wife swapping, and perpetual self-congratulation for centuries to come...

Suddenly the prospect of death doesn't seem quite so bad...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Damn dirty apes! Posted by Hello

APE SHALL SHAG APE: The Cult of the Pygmy Chimp

Make no mistake, the bonobo is quite a randy creature. Like a primate version of a wife-swapping 70's leisure cat, the tree-dwelling Pan paniscus spends each day in a perpetual state of erotic frenzy.

When these hot-blooded chimps aren't swapping mates for non-reproductive quickies, the switch-hitting females can be seen engaged in prolonged crotch-grinding sessions while the bi-friendly males have apparently perfected the outdoor sport of "penis fencing."

For decades this smaller cousin of the chimpanzee fondled and frolicked in relative isolation in the lush forests of Africa's Congo River Basin. However, the bonobo's free-loving, pacifistic, vegetarian lifestyle has captivated the imaginations of progressive researchers.

You see, the females don't just party like drunken strippers, they also enjoy a sort of benevolent despotism over the rest of the tribe.

"The species is best characterized as female-centered and egalitarian and as one that substitutes sex for aggression," writes bonobo expert Frans de Waal who considers this discovery "a belated gift to the feminist movement."

Like the hippie-run Freedom School in the 70's cult classic Billy Jack, in this simian micro-society issues of power, control, and violence have been subsumed by an all-consuming focus on love and affection.

"Bonobos are much less aggressive and hot-tempered than are chimpanzees, and are not nearly as prone to physical violence," asserts feminist author Natalie Angiers.

Don't the males ever rebel?

"They seem to be in a perfectly good situation," de Waal believes. "The females have sex with them all the time, and they don't have to fight over it so much among themselves. I'm not sure they've lost anything, except for their dominance."

Should we adopt the pan-sexual, non-violent, bonobo lifestyle, proponents argue, we may one day live in a society without war, violence, greed, or envy.

To further this global crusade, books and web pages are sprouting up in order to propagate the enlightened worldview of the pygmy chimp.

Some are even going so far as attempting to live their lives in accordance with bonobo principles.

"My philosophy of Ethical Hedonism applies the principles of The Bonobo Way to the far more complex, civilized lives of human ladies and gentlemen," chirps cable access sex kitten Dr. Susan Block.

However, it is worth noting that it wasn't that long ago when people believed that the the bonobo's larger cousin, the chimpanzee, was the peace-loving solution to makind's ills. However, the pioneering research of Jane Goodall would later prove that these cuddly creatures were capable of acts of cruelty, violence, and even organized warfare.

Furthermore, USC anthropologist Craig Stanford, a bonobo skeptic, argues that de Waal and others are pursuing a political agenda under the guise of science. According to Stanford, the majority of research has been conducted on bonobo's in captivity when evidence indicates that in the wild, female bonobos "are no more erotic than their chimpanzee counterparts." Field studies have also shown evidence of aggressive behavior by males and even...meat eating!

Obviously much of what we know about the bonobo has likely been distorted by those seeking to validate their own academically-driven theories about the evil nature of men and how a rational society should be run.

Even if these captive bonobos enjoy the occasional ape orgy, how exactly does this help them survive in Africa's untamed wilderness?

"As appealing as their genetic programming may be to the students and faculty of Smith College," writes Steve Sailor, in reality, "there are fewer than 10,000 bonobos alive, no more than 1/20th the number of those testosterone-addled common chimps."

These arguments will likely do little to quell the enthusiasm of the bonobo faithful. And perhaps we will seek their guidance when the apes take over...

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Our last hope? Posted by Hello

Five Minutes in the Garden of Eden...

Like most undergrads who attended college during the progressive 1990's, I'm well aware that western exploration was an unqualified disaster for the world's primitive tribes. Nevertheless, I can't help but profess a certain guilty admiration for pioneering pathfinders like John Hanning Speke , and Richard Burton.

Long before the lethal process Conrad called the "merry dance of death and trade" was underway, the two plunged headlong into Africa's uncharted interior and risked their very lives on a single-minded quest to locate the source of the Nile River.

What I find particularly interesting are Speke's experiences as the first European to encounter the many isolated tribes that make up what is now Uganda. One can only wonder what went through his mind when he encountered the surreal court of King Mutesa, the youthful chief of Buganda.

"Hardly a day went by without some victim being executed at his command, and this was done wilfully, casually, almost as a kind of game," remarks historian Alan Moorehead in his illuminating White Nile. "Torture by burning alive, the mutilation of victims by cutting off their hands, ears, and feet, the burial of living wives with their dead husbands---all these things were taken as a matter of course."

However, since the 1986 Seville Statement absolved preliterate cultures of violent behavior, the excesses of Mutesa's reign have largely been airbrushed from the historical record.

Today, clove-smoking modern primitives adorn their bodies with piercings and tribal tattoos in the hopes of recapturing their primordial instincts and anarcho-primitives rail against technology and perceive stone age settings as a sort of utopian alternative to the modern world.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time before someone decided to capitalize on this popular reverence for Rousseau's "noble savage."

The February issue of Outside magazine features a fascinating adventure narrative by David Behar that recounts his harrowing odyssey into the untamed rainforests of West Papua, Indonesia.

Behar's trek was chartered by a company known as Papua Adventures which specializes in "First Contact" expeditions that allow tourists to interact with authentic native tribes who remain untainted by contact with the western world.

"We'll meet 'em, share a little tobacco, chill for a bit, and then move on---like passing nomads," explains Kelly Woolford, the 43-year-old ex-pat who heads Papua adventures. Woolford's inaugural expedition was in 2003 when the Missouri native led two Europeans on a successful first contact.

"We were out for almost two weeks when we came upon the 'new' tribe, he writes on the Papua Adventures web page. "They escorted us to their makeshift bushshelter. We offered them tobacco and they didn't want it. We offered them some biscuts to eat and they refused that too. The chief talked to us for several minutes, but we couldn't understand his language. Then the chief signaled us to go and then they walked away into the jungle."

Not exactly worthy of a made-for-TV movie but then again, who can put a price on communing (however briefly) with an authentic primitive tribe?

Behar's group fare far worse and the brief encounter turns ugly when they are chased off by hostile tribesmen. However, after returning home, he remains haunted with the thought that perhaps the entire episode was staged.

Woolford is adamant that what they saw was real. "Papua is so weird, you don't need to stage anything. It's the land of the unexpected," he explains. This view is immediately contradicted by an expert of Behar's acquaintance who analyzed video footage of the expedition.

"I'm 95% sure it is a hoax," says William Foley of the University of Sydney. The anthropologist informs Behar that he detects several anomalies such as the lack of skin ailments which are commom among West Papua's bushmen and he finds that the tribal dress is far "too elaborate" for a mere hunting party. "All those headdresses---no way."

Other experts agree with this finding but Woolford is standing firm and argues that objections to his endeavors are largely rooted in an institutional bias among anthropologists who have long dominated this field of exploration. "If you are fit, and you want to pay, then you should have the right to go," he says.

Behar remains unsure what exactly he saw.

"My intuition tells me that what I saw on our trek can't possibly exist. But what if it does? What if West Papua is the last place on earth where ghosts of the past still thrive in the present---where the surreal becomes real?"

Unfortunately, denizens of on-line world don't exactly share Behar's sentiment. Indeed, Woolford has already earned a place at the Museum of Hoaxes web page where he is currently being derided by skeptical readers as an unsavory chisler whose so-called "tribes" are little more than locals decked out in Gilligan's Island headhunter garb.

"I call BS," remarks an irate poster. "If some sap pays for that, they shouldn't have had the money in the first place."

Does Woolford merit this opprobrium? Hardly. I reserve my contempt for the legions of coddled, wannabe Shamen who would believe that conversing (however briefly) with a primitive will somehow lend credence to their fanciful theories as to the superiority of uncivilized man.

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