Friday, July 31, 2015

Generic Travel Photos

Another Weapon Against Tyranny

I didn´t intend to get another photo of this church, but the van stalled and died directly in front of it. So I blocked the graffiti and took another one. The composition is better for this one but the lighting was better in the other one.

Not an uncommon position for Oggy


Now I have everything

I should write a tale about how I installed this hammock, not only the details but also the philosophic implications. I bought 2 hammocks because I couldn´t decide between the one you see here and a traditional loose cotton weave...and then I found a third hammock that was made of jersey cotton and seemed more plush, like a combination of the two...but this particular hammock with the tight weave seems the best one with the least stretch. I don´t have much room to droop. The problem was the heat soaking into the foam mattress would not dissipate for hours after I laid down. Even then no air could reach the underside of Oggy´s tortured body. So, I thought a hammock would be an improvement and even allow me to leave the piano on the bed.
Rear Hook: One hole was too high to put the nut on so I drilled another through the curtain holder
But hanging it required some serious thought, and it turned out I over-thought the whole thing and bought a bunch of eye bolts and carabiners and rope, but in the end only needed to drill one hole in the back and hang an S hook from the front.
Front Hook: Merely bent the lip low so I can put the hook in. Double strength so it will hold anyone.
The rear hook was an epic feat of engineering as the rear metal is a stamped box with no access to the inside area except through the tiny area where the door latch enters when I close the door. But it was big enough to glue a nut to the end of a coat hanger and push a washer (arendelas) and the nut (tuerca) into the boxed area and blindly thread the nut...but it worked because I am Oggy and nothing can stop me.
Eventually, someone will try to determine how I did this...and they will conclude that I put the nut and the washer through this latch hole glued to a small coat hanger...threading it blindly onto the hook...and they will be right. But they won´t know I did it all in the dark next to a coffee processing plant in Esteli, Nicaragua...
There is just enough room to hang the hammock and be freely swinging. Not enough room to play the guitar while in the hammock but I can´t have everything. I have moved to the higher altitude so the heat isn´t as bad here but soon I will know if this is viable.
Traveling with this much crap really wouldn´t be so bad if I were just going from Point A to Point B but I´ve managed to find a project that will involve some hopping around and dwelling indefinitely in pueblas and cities and that is when everything gets tedious because I have too much shit piled around to do any specific living. Like, trying to find my sewing kit and do some impromptu embroidering was painful. And Installing this hammock would´ve been so easy had I not done it on the side of a cigar factory

In other news, the gasoline companies in Nicaragua add a red dye and also water to their gasoline. Yes, water. A trucker told me that and it explained why the performance had gone haywire recently. Not only was the altitude messing with the mixture, but the mixture included water...and red dye...and crappy octane gasoline...and the attendants will not reset the dial to order to sell you 400 Cordobas worth of gasoline at a cost 500 Cordobas...because the dial says 500, which includes 100 from the previous customer. And other times, they will simply hope you don´t confirm the dial says the amount you paid for, such as asking for 500...and they merely pump 400 and ask for 500. But the water in the gasoline really irks me...and I think there is a water remover additive I can look for.

It occurs to me that the idle issues came with less than 1/4 tank of gas...much of it probably water...stalling the engine randomly...and at high altitude.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Viva La Revolution

Central American farmers and students got caught between two super powers fighting for world dominance. Stalin's ridiculously paranoid forced Socialism by Proxy was on one side, and the fantabulist Milton Friedman inspired Capitalist Utopia was on the other side. They both, unfortunately, required massive repression and genocide in order to properly establish the groundwork for the future utopia. You can spot a dictator in training by how many body bags he orders as part of a plan to make the world perfect. So, the Friedman lunatics convinced Eisenhower and Kennedy and Nixon to defend free market exploitation of fruit farmers AT ALL COSTS, and Stalin and Khrushchev made lots of promises to student rebellions. The lies and deception on both sides was epic. Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama...they are all battlegrounds between two ideologies that actually had no direct interests here, besides cheap bananas, so it was a perfect situation for them. Families in Kansas or Kiev, for example, would never feel the effects of thousands of land mines planted randomly in the jungle, so if that's part of the plan, then fuck it, go ahead. Let the Nicaraguans suffer the consequences. Oh, but that's delusional thinking, isolationist fantasy, the world is round and every evil deed has its day in court eventually. Eisenhower and Stalin set in motion a ripple effect that is still washing blood on our ankles today. The crime is that those responsible are usually dead and buried (sometimes honored as heroes) by the time everyone realizes they should be punished as villains.

I arrived in Nicaragua 36 years to the day Somoza was exiled after a few decades of indiscriminate destruction funded by American military. They celebrated with reenactments in Leon where the "students" demonstrated and the "soldiers" attempted to disperse unlawful assemblies. Fireworks replaced real guns. The actual tank that was involved in the resulting insurrection is still here in Leon, rusting in an open air museum with photos of the insurgents following the tank down main street next to Shell gas stations, Somoza's pawns fleeing like rats to their Florida mansions.

This seems noble on paper but I met a guy last night who was exactly the right age to have been involved in that insurgency and, indeed, he explained that he had fought for the FSLN and had the scars to prove it. One scar was obvious since his nose was missing the bridge. And his top front teeth were gone. His name was Adolpho...and his Spanish was so slurred because his nose and teeth were gone that I could barely understand anything he said...maybe one word in ten, they were all mumbles and accents, but he didn't really care since I think Veterans may simply want to talk, and the hearing part is secondary. He had bullet wounds in his arm...actually cried speaking about a woman who he had either lost track of during the Contra war or else she had been killed by Reagan's "Morning in America" militants. Maybe he had been tortured. If I could've understood him a little better he would've told me a good story. His drinking buddy actually stabbed me, but that's another topic.
Is "wedding shaming" a thing yet?
My point is that the wounds of war are of the flesh and bone variety, not ideological. So, 20 years of brutal dictatorship, followed by another ten years of Contra war, 30 years. Consider that the American Civil War was only 4 years long...and the effects are still obvious in the division between North and South. Now make that civil war 26 years longer with modern weapons and you get an idea of what Nicaragua has to recover from. I read a statistic that 1 in 5 El Salvadorians had to flee El Salvador because the deported El Salvadorians were running wild. I guess Kennedy could pour support into Somoza's corrupt regime but Obama can't reinforce the El Salvadorian police force. And Honduras has something like 14,000 police and neighboring Guatemala has 85,000 gang members which is part of the reason Honduras leads the world in homicide rates. There were supposed to be 14 military and police checkpoints between El Salvador and Nicaragua...and I counted 1, that was manned by two teenagers sitting in the shade with rifles. U.S. border enforcement cost about $18 Billion in 2012, which is like putting a 40 amp fuse in a fuse box when the 20 amp fuse keeps blowing up and then patting yourself on the back when your new fuse doesn't blow up.
I'd never seen these social art pieces before but a guy here said they are famous. I can't read the artist signature.

I guess Central America is like Haiti, failed social engineering experiments where two super powers with more ego than brains used farmers and students and soldiers as pawns to fight their dirty wars. But crimes like that never go unpunished and the $18 Billion price tag on border enforcement is the price of exploiting Central American farmers so you can get cheap mango juice at the Whole Food fruit section. In the long run it's a question of how deep in debt a country can go before it collapses like Greece. I see America as the dying Bison on the plain with vultures simply waiting for it to collapse into the grass. But the vultures will have big time competition with those refugees from Central America coming with home made potato guns to assault rifles to claim territory. Give me 85,000 organized Guatemalan gang members and I will hand you the keys to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Entropy tends toward chaos and it can be postponed but eventually the bill is due and the puppet masters will run for the hills with their loot. Somoza basically used counterfeit money to pay mercenaries to kill students...and the Contras used Ghetto Cocaine profits to kill FSLN leftists, who were using seized Ukrainian blood money to arm themselves. The details get real ugly and that man was trying to find some sympathy for what he knew he had lost and that he was not entirely sure he had accomplished anything. I said his sacrifice was for the future, maybe not today but I was ashamed that I could not fully appreciate what he was talking about. Che Guevara is a role model here because what he and Castro accomplished in Cuba was supposed to be the program in Nicaragua, but Che got assassinated in Bolivia and the FSLN picked the wrong year to oust Somoza because in 1980 Reagan thought he was staring in some war movie. So, now we have Che posters next to blind legless beggars outside trendy juice cafes where gringos wipe sweat from their aging cheeks and wait for the tour director to guide them to the next historic selfie photo op.

Monday, July 20, 2015

El Conquistador Pillages Church

Vultures in Flight. A 1942 Volkswagon Beetle in front of a 23rd Century Greek Orthodox Church in Hungary.*
I´m thinking I will not tag this photo with information specific to the photo. I´m on the move again and I feel the inundation of photos on the Internet with "Look where I am" kind of narrative is not only geometrically abhorrent but is ruining the experience of travel. My advice is to go to unexpected places. Do not research your trip, but when you get somewhere then ask, look around, surprise yourself. Because if you already know what to expect when you travel then why are you traveling? To complain about the hot water or the price of cod? Stay home, if that is the case. These are photos of my travels but I don´t want to give you my itinerary or have these photos appear in google searches. I understand the desire to commoditize and collate everything under the sun, but it´s honestly making travel more like a pre-planned "connect the dots" experience. fuck that. fuck google. *to prove my point I will deliberately mis-identify this photo.

You want to find a hidden beach like this? Maybe get off you ass and go somewhere.
I can say that the Battery that I bought in Labrador City lasted 4 years and one month...and 14,000 miles of insanity...before finally dying when I entered El Salvador. 14,000 miles from Labrador to El Salvador and I had to do the exact same process of jump starting my own van using the auxiliary battery. The battery had 13 volts but simply not enough cranking amps to even turn the engine over. The connections were tight. It was dead dead dead after a little bit of reading the Spanish dictionary at night. So I had to buy a new battery in San Salvador and that fixed the problem fast. I really hope it lasts 4 years and one month too. I gotta figure out a better arrangement for my interior lightning...right now it all runs off my main battery, but I have a good auxiliary battery and can get LED lights for the interior, not these crazy 20 watt bulbs from 1969. Maybe 2 watts. Run all night long.
Speaking of nights, last night the local Policia were banging on my van like they had captured El Chapo. "Come out with your hands up, we have you surrounded!" Fucking bullshit. I was so delirious and naked that I did not explain myself well as sweat poured from my face. Bullshit.

One thing at a time.

I´m too absorbed by the current situation to reflect on 9 months in Guatemala. It´s not much time. I think I´ll be back. Xela is very nice for long term stay, though in one week I could understand a young person wanting something different. If only I could play Cole Porter songs at a cafe...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Propaganda and Imagery Contest: Marshall Plan 2.0

Propaganda and symbolism has been in the news lately as the Confederate Flag (AKA: Walmart Snot Rag) finally came down 150 years after the Confederate surrender. Yippie!

But I don't want to talk about that because I promise you that the problems in Central America are so grave that they are going to make the civil rights movement seem like a PTA bake sale debate regarding cup cake prices.

This is a project that should take 20 years so I'm not going to explain myself in one shot. But the first thing I want to deal with is imagery.
Marshall Plan Posters

Here's another one:
Perfect Propaganda
If you can take a few minutes to visit the Marshall Foundation poster page I want you artists to get inspired.

There are 4 countries that are in dire need of a Marshall Plan 2.0 in Central America. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. And to prove how powerful propaganda imagery can be I'm not even going to explain my concerns at this time. All I want from you is a poster of equal quality and conviction, except mobilizing a country's support of a new Marshall Plan for Central America. CA4. I'm pretty good with mottos, but not art. Some motto like "Americas Unified"

Marshall is maybe one of the last American heroes and he didn't do it alone. George Kennan, William Clayton were instrumental as well, but it required the character of Marshall to somehow to deflect all the attention onto the problem and not onto him. This plan worked. And in 1950 they had a contest for a poster and now 65 years later we need a new poster for Central America. I'm telling you that the situation is grave and Americans and Canadians are definitely going to feel the effects soon. This is definitely your problem wherever you live. So, find some graphic artists who studied propaganda art and get them busy. I will actually pay for this poster and maybe a crowdfunding project would collect more money. Let's say $200 from me. I think that the poster is important because it galvanizes support, and cooperation and support is what is required. There really is no time to waste but I'm begging for a paradigm shift.

FYI, they speak Spanish in these 4 countries so you might want to incorporate that into the poster, but the support is going to be for Americans and Canadians to approve of what is probably a $100 Billion dollar effort to educate and modernize Central American countries over the next 15 years. Illiteracy needs to be eradicated...that's 7 years minimum. Sewage treatment plants are required. Geothermal energy. Etc. But none of that will happen without unified support and I'm simply going to copy the Marshall Plan page for page. They got a cool poster, so I want a cool poster. They ended up with 25 posters, but I'd be happy with one good poster.

This is still a moving image. GREAT IMAGE! 1950.
George Marshall may be gone but he left behind the blueprints for how to rescue a continent. The Marshall Plan worked even though Stalin refused to cooperate or allow any Soviet countries to participate. So, since Stalin is not in Central America, it will be even more successful. If the same feet dragging incompetence had existed in 1947 as exists right now in the Senate and House of Reps, I'm certain Europe would've crumbled. The historians say that the Marshall Plan and investment itself was not enough, but it gave other investors confidence in rebuilding. This is what Central America needs. Get busy.

P.S. The Marshall Plan was officially called the E.R.P, European Recovery Programme. So, C.A.R.P would be the Central American Recovery Program. But I also want to add Haiti, and Cuba, so the acronym gets messed up. Work with it.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Local Scenes

Goat and Volcano

It took 20+ years for me to finally drive to Guatemala so I wasn't going to leave immediately. I wanted to spend enough time here that I got to know tailors by name, my favorite restaurants, the fruit vendors, watch the government collapse, etc. Maybe I fit in here because I'm almost living a normal life and when I was living in Austin I was treated like dirt because I was living like an escaped convict. But Austin rent is around $750 a month and it's $120 a month here. I could probably find a cheaper situation but I like where I'm at. Still, change is unavoidable.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Musical Musings

I've been fooling myself for 20 years. More than 20 years I've been playing guitar off and on, even took a class at a community college. I've read books, methods, weaseled into master classes to listen but mostly I've pondered what it means to be a musician and recently, with the help of Jamey Aebersold's methods, I've concluded that a musician is not someone who pokes at an instrument to produce notes. No, that's a technician. A musician needs an instrument to release the notes in his head. This is such a fine distinction that it's rarely even mentioned in method books. 6 years in college music classes and this topic did not come up. I approached the instrument as a means to play a song and I memorized the places where I put my fingers to produce the right notes, but that's actually backwards to what a musician does. I never really internalized the notes. Maybe I memorized the beginning and the end, some fancy licks and what they sounds like, but mostly I memorized the mechanical/physical manipulations to produce the notes. I am basically pantomiming the act of being a musician, going through the motions, and memorizing all the movements requires to play a song...but there is a big difference between this and memorizing the notes, the sound of a song, and then using the instrument to produce those notes. Maybe this is something that can't be taught, but must be learned through experience, but wouldn't it help knowing that's not only the goal but knowing the mental reasoning behind it? I think it will, so I'm going to try to write down my understanding.

This is a big topic, something I've been working toward for years, so I can't break it all down in one essay, but I can give a pedagogical comparison.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wolf Quest Part XV: Closing Thoughts

The wolf quest about was an experiment, like most of my decisions. I prefer to be surprised from one day to the next and culturally I’m disloyal. I don’t see what other people see in society. I see chaos leading toward the destruction of everything I built. The prospect of living long enough to see everything I participated in either destroyed or underwater can only be ignored for so long. But it’s inevitable so unless I’m really amused by an activity or challenged or entertained, then it’s all academic, history in the making. Human development is too messy for me, too haphazard, chaotic, too much error and too little trial. I recognize that there is no pause button, but there is also no immediate demand for recklessness. That can be avoided, but the tradition is to leap before we look, and the science suggest that has doomed the planet. So, it all comes back to the debate about what can be salvaged from an self-destructive society? Can anything be salvaged? Why? Why salvage anything, any custom or technology? Destroyers of Planets are rare phenomenon so we all need to pay close attention to what is happening around us so if future genetics retain our memories then there’s a chance humanity will develop a collective fear, and that fear will be strong enough not to test.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Why is July Pronounced Juu-Leye?

This makes no sense. The word Duly, as in "Duly noted" is pronounced "Do-lee." But July is not pronounced "Ju-lee." or "Ju-lie"...instead it is pronounced completely differently than all other 'ly' endings. Terribly, traumatically, softly, sadly, justly....but July is Jew-Leye. It was named after Julius Caesar, whose name is also not pronounced as it is spelled. See-zer instead of Say-Czar. But if Julius was the name then we should pronounced it "juu-lee" because that would be abbreviating Julius. But we've ruined the spelling and also the origin of this word and deviated from all the rules of pronouncing 'ly' endings.
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.