Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Warning: this post contains strong personal opinions. :-)

Jesus, life is tough without a proper internet connection...

Oh well, at least it's tough to post photos! That's why today you get mostly words...
Where were we? Oh yeah, LA and the concert...
The concert was pretty damn good. I don't particularly like the turn towards the hard/metalprog sound that the Porcupine Tree have taken in their last two/three cds, but every time I end up kind of liking them too, so it must not be so bad... Plus they unexpectedly did a few of my favorite old songs (like Smart kid and Even less) and Blackest eyes remains one of the best songs to listen live that I can think of...
Here you find a youtube version of this last one. Hopefully you can see it, because I can't...
Definitely a mention for the support band. Their name is Three and they did the tightest live performance of a support band that I have ever witnessed. Alone, worth the price of the ticket... believe it or not.

The day after (Sunday) there were some fun waves to surf at Manhattan beach. I borrowed a 8.4 Aipa with which I could pretty much catch everything I wanted (3-3/4 thick!) and I even managed to turn it sweetly, thanks to the fact the the tail half of the board is way narrower than the front one. Water is bloody cold for a spoiled surfer like me, but surfing with Gianfranco is always fun, because he always has good tips.
Actually the best part is the after surf analytical session...
OK, I got to spend a few words on him. He's one of those person that does not really belong to any category. He's a unique element. Yeah, whatever, we are all unique, but some people are more unique than others! That's just one of the ways he can look... I got plenty more photos out of a trip to Death Valley and Las Vegas he and his visiting brother did, but got to wait until I found a better connection to post them... come back!

His mind just works differently and I really love to discuss with him. He can bring up some subjects that are surprisingly unexpected and most of time at first don't seem to make to much sense... but, IF you are able to follow his winding path, you may be blessed with some revelations of some kind. Often, in my case, that doesn't happen right away. I remember many times I had forgotten about a thing he said, and then, after a while, like even a few months, something happens or somebody says something that makes me think about it, and all of a sudden I go:"oh, that's what he meant!".
Sunday afternoon, for example, I don't know out of what, he asked me:"why do you think ancient Polynesians carried flowers in their expeditions to discover new lands?"
To give them as a gift to eventual indigenouses sounded like a weak answer, so I said: "Gianfra', what the hell do I know and what the hell do YOU know?"
"It's because when they were approaching a new coastline/reef they could throw the petals in the water and see how the current worked..."
"Oh, come on... gimme a break"
"That's the same reason because they gave visitors leis (flower chains) as a welcome gift. So that they could drop them in the water before leaving to see which way the current was going to let them sail away..."
"Gianfra', did you read this or did you come to this conclusion by yourself?" (that's actually a very common question I ask him)
"I didn't read it, but I think it's convincing... and next time I go on a surf trip to a new spot, I'll make sure to have flowers or leaves with me, so that I can see how the current works..."
"You got to be kidding me..."

Sure enough, one day I'll be watching a surf spot and an offshore gust will blow some leaves in the water and I will see that he was right...

Anyway, this is just a simple example of what kind of analysis his brain is capable of. But he gives his very best when he tries to explain me surfing techniques and moves. I just wished I had a camera, you guys. Well, I actually did, but I couldn't take it out and film him without losing the spontaneity.
Unfortunately, on this particular subject, I lose him all the times. 'Cause he's not particularly good at that. I mean, sometimes he forgets to tell me if he's riding front or back side, where is the wave and little details like that... But still, it's just great to listen to what he has to say. He can talk about surfing for hours. He... I mean, we!
That's why I always stop in LA on my way to Italy. I really enjoy the time I spend with him.

Ok, 'nough of that. Monday morning at 7am I was on a plane for Newark. Seven hours later, on one for Rome. Not much to say about the flight... not particularly fun, as usual.
Oh yes, one thing. Both planes had that personal video system in which you can choose the movie you want to see. I don't remember how many movies there were available, but for sure more than ten and all hollywood productions. Guess how many movies I watched? Trust me, I tried each one of them... I just couldn't!
That's just an example of why I think that most of the western world citizens are dumb. 'Cause if they make movies like that, it means that most of the western world citizens watch them!!
Before a very smart guy (not the majority, but plenty of those too in the western world) came up with Netflix, the section of Blockbuster me and Sharon picked movies from was exclusively the foreign one. Not all of them were good, but, at least, they were always different! Now there's Netflix and we just love to pick the weirdest, least popular movies. I love Netflix. Too bad they didn't have quite the same selection on the plane...

Mmm... I wonder how many american readers I lost because of the above comment... Alright, let's lose a few italian ones too!

The arrival at the Rome airport is definitely one of the my shittiest moments of the year. I wait for my bag at the baggage claim and there's people smoking under the no smoking sign. I go to the restrooms and they are dirty. I come out of them and watch some Alitalia employees sitting still in their chairs, without even talking to each others, contemplating the fact that they are lucky to work in a booth that is actually a bit out of the way and "hopefully" no clients will require their service. I keep walking and I watch a huge number of people in uniform belonging to the three different police branches (why three, I'll never understand... anyway they're called polizia, carabinieri and guardia di finanza) doing exactly the same thing: nothing.
They have no respect and love for their job. The most common mentality in Italy is to take advantage of the company you work for. And the very best example is given by the politicians (who supposingly work the the citizens that elected them).
I enter a bar to order a coffee and the cashier doesn't say hi, doesn't smile, doesn't talk to me at all. She just gets the money, gives me the change and continues her cell phone conversation. When I leave the bar, five minutes later, she's still on the phone.
Then I catch a local train to the main train station (Termini). The train is dirty and there's no seats available.
At the Termini station, I deliberately choose to buy my ticket to Naples at the automatic machine. While I'm doing it, I notice a guy trying to pickpocket a tourist (fortunately without succeeding) and another one trying to get little cash in exchange of help on how to buy a ticket on the machine... well, at least the last one is trying to earn it!
The train to Naples is late.
When I get out of the station in Naples the traffic is horrible. It sounds like all 80% of the cars are honking their horns... it's complete chaos. I'm tired and jet legged and I fucking hate all that shit.
Fortunately the vision of my parents (and the fact that they don't look that much older than last year) makes me feel better.

I could go on forever on what I don't like about Italy, but that'll take too long. I'm going to mention instead what I like about it: food!
Here's the simple (for the italian standards) first lunch I had at my parents home.
- pasta with artichokes
- mozzarella, prosciutto (ham) and bread
- white wine.
Everything tasted like heaven and 100 times better than in Maui. I don't even know what vegetarian means when I'm in Italy...
The biggest difference, though, is in the wine.
Here's one of my theories. I noticed that all wines in the States contain sulfites. Somebody told me there's a law that prohibits to bottle wine without them. My guess is that's because in that way the wine doesn't go bad and kill people (at the end, it all comes down to liability...). So, in my not so humble opinion, ALL wines in the States suck. Even the Italian ones. Even the most expensive ones. Even the 100+ dollars bottles (which I wouldn't buy anyway... so that's actually good news)!

Now, this 2 euros bottle of Falanghina (good luck at pronouncing it) is made by a farmer a few miles outside Naples, has no label and can only be found at one particular wine shop (mine). It's the best wine I have ever had. I can drink a whole bottle, get happily high and wake up the day after without an hangover or nothing like that. Sorry, can't be found at Costco.

Holy cow, it's almost 11pm! Hopefully by midnight I'll be done posting this with my painfully slow dialup connection ...


Giampaolo Ongaro said...

Hi Giampaolo,
I am Giampaolo too :-)

I read this post and it seems you read my mind! And many Italian's mind too.

You're not the only one in Italy tired of our "genetical" lack of respect for the community we live in and its rules.

Unfortunately, the episode at the bar is quite symptomatic of our poor Italian mentality...

Even if many people in Italy is trying to change and evolve, it seems that the slyness and arrogance still pay off more in this country.

This is very sad and hurts me a lot because as individual we have the greatest potential but as a nation we suck!

Aloha from
Giampaolo, a "Maui Addicted" from Italy, Bergamo

P.S.: Tutta la mia invidia per essere riuscito in quello che per me per ora resta ancora un sogno...trasferirsi a Maui!!

Norm said...

Aloha G

Dude easy on the hate bro. If the west is that bad...well, I don't even need to say it do I. Enjoy your time at home but remember where you're going back to. If it was that bad and we are all stupid why join us?


cammar said...

I know very well that there's a lot of italians that think like we do. Usually they are the ones that travelled abroad and saw different ways of living and that opened their minds (judging from your English, you're prolly one of those too...).
If it would be possible, I'd send everybody abroad for one year and the problem of our "poor Italian mentality" would be fixed...
But, since that's impossible, it should be the school to teach the basic principles of the respect for the community... but who's gonna teach the teachers?!

I don't know man... and, in the end... I don't really care that much...
I'm not patriotic, I don't like flags, borders, national anthems and shit like that.
"Imagine there's no countries"... John Lennon said... "nothing to die for"...

But I do have a lot of respect for the people that stay and try to change. Good luck, sincerely!

Norm, what hate?!?!?
The only time I used the word hate was about the traffic in Naples! Criticize doesn't mean hate. And criticize a colture doesn't mean criticize everybody who lives in that colture. Don't take it personally, brah.

We probably have completely different ideas about the (blind) love for your own country (see what I say above), but that doesn't mean that we can't share the stoke in the waves... like we always do.
To answer your final question: I live in Maui not because it belongs to the western world, but because it's a tropical paradise with wind and waves.
AND, just in case it wasn't clear enough, I like living in the States way more than living in Italy ('cause the latter sucks way more than the first).

It's not all that bad and not everybody is stupid (I thought I said this already). I criticize them, but at the same time there's a lot of things I like about the States. I rarely mention them, because they are good already and don't need to get better. It's the bad ones that we have to work on. Like, again, the agressiveness and readiness to fight and kill in name of God or the american flag (which is what they want you to believe... in the end it's money, power and personal interest of the politicians).
There's always room for improvement... that's why I always criticize...

If Butan had wind and waves, I'd probably live there, though... Only place in the world that has the happiness of its citizens as the main goverment drive... they recently banned the plastic bags, because they didn't make the people and the environment happy. Try drive by the Maui landfill and you'll see why they did that. And next time you shop at wal-mart, try to teach you cashier not to give so many plastic bags away, please... I've been doing that for 6 years now.
Please you guys, do the same!

PS. My goodness, those squids that my dad just cooked... mmmmmm.... seppioline in umido, deliziose....

Anonymous said...

GP, You have one of the best blogs in the World. I look forward to reading all your posts.

fyi, almost all wines naturally contain sulfites: Sulfites or sulfur dioxide is a chemical that is naturally produced when wine is made. Sulfur dioxide is a fruit preservative that is widely used in dry fruits and some foods. The U.S. requires a “sulfite” warning label, as well as Australia having a “preservative 220” warning. Nearly all winemakers add sulfites, including those in France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Chile, etc. So, the wine you drink in foreign countries contains sulfites, but you just are not being warned about it when purchased abroad, as they are not required to tell you! Here's a link from an Organic Wine website: .

Hugh Grant said...

Without chemicals, life itself would be... impossible. Eh, paisan!

cammar said...

thanks for the appreciation and for the information about the sulfites... very interesting.
At this point I wonder if it's the solfites that make all wines taste horrible (TO MY TASTE BUDS!... before somebody gets offended) in the States.
The thing is that the same bottle of italian wine, let's take a very easy to find Pinot Santa Margherita for example, tastes way worse in the States that in Italy.
At this point, I can guess two things:
1) for some reasons they select the worse grape for the export bottles
2) or more likely they add more sulfites so that the wine can survive the oversea trip...
Please, if you or other readers know more let us know the answer.
For sure, the local Falanghina I drink doesn't have added sulfites. In fact it gets spoiled after a few months... not a problem, because it usually only lasts a few hours... :-)

Hi Hugh, (funny, one of the unwatchable movies on the plane was with Hugh Grant... one of my least favorite actors),
what an honor to have the CEO of such a environment friendly company like Monsanto to leave a comment on my blog!
Now, whoever you are, that was brilliant... LOL!!!
Let's spend a few words about it.
I read that Monsanto owns a large amount of corn fields in Maui and that they are genetically modified.
Even though I'm not an expert, I understand that the modification is made with the purpose to make the corn resistant to all the pesticides that the same Monsanto company produces and sells.
Again, I don't know these things for sure (actually, the only thing I know for sure is that one day I'll day), but that to me sounds like a nightmare.
For me, everything that is not natural (human behaviors included) is suspicous.
I must really stop buying the corn at Cash and Carry, because it likely comes from one of those fields...

Sharon said...

Just keep smiling baby....that's what I did and it worked. People are starved for a few good words and kind gestures. Keep your aloha flowing and lemme know how many smiles were returned :-)

Anonymous said...

GP, I'm not sure what you were paying attention to in the 70's (probably, like the rest of your cohort, you were focused on sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll), but hack then, "Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible" was the headline of a massive ad campaign launched by Monsanto in order to remedy what it saw as a "perception issue" surrounding its activities. Here are a few examples:

Some see these slogans (and others, like the more recent "Some call it carbon dioxide, we call it life") purely as examples of corporate disingenuousness, motivated by greed. That's a naive view, on a par with calling Republicans "disingenuous." It's true that there were some cases of criminal corporate disingenuousness, like the tobacco companies' continued denial of the ill-effects of their products, long after they had evidence to the contrary (by the way this malfeasance ended up costing the tobacco companies HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS). But that does not make all corporate claims disingenuous. And it's true that the Bush administration knew that there were no WMD and no connections between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaida. The US Congress demonstrated this conclusively (and by the way, the resulting malfeasance in this instance is also costing HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS, being billed to the US taxpayers). However, and this is a big however, these examples do not mean that all politicians are disingenuous, or that all corporations are disingenuous. Not so. For the most part, these clowns do sincerely believe their own claims, no matter how wrong-headed they might be; and that's what makes them even more dangerous.

Granted, if I were a modern-day Diogenes, searching for a sincere corporation or a sincere politician, I might have to anticipate a long stretch of nights spent sleeping in a barrel. It's like one of my corporate mentors once told me, "the thing about sincerity, is that once you learn how to fake it, then you've got it made." Words to the wise.

Bona sera.

cammar said...

I'm trying hard, but with not much success in general... yesterday though, I won an important little battle.
I was waiting outside the bar for my dad to drink his coffee, as an african guy selling paper tissues and socks walks by smiling to everybody.
I don't miss this unique chance and smile back to him. He stops and in a superfriendly non-pushy way, chats and try to sell me his products. I give him the change I have and tell him:"no need for your socks brah, just keep smiling please".
We hugged in the middle of the street.
My father came out of the bar and commented:"I see you got a new friend! Thank god mum is not here..."
(Mum is not exactly very open towards people of different races...)
Now, that was something.
This guy probably lives a pretty tough life in a town/country with little or no culture of integration with immigrants from other nations/races (historically, Italians are the ones that immigrated abroad, not the other way around). He probably has to live with daily disrespect and bad judgment from most of the citizens.
Still, he was the only one smiling in the street!
I was so happy to hug him and to call him brother/fratello...
'Cause that's what we are... all brothers and sisters from the same mother earth. It's so easy to forget that...

in the 70s I was in Italy and we didn't have that Monsanto commercial. Very interesting indeed. Just like the rest of your comment.
Let me just add that the toll still being payed for the war in Iraq is not only american taxpayers money, but also, AND WAY MORE IMPORTANT, innocent human lives.
70-fucking-thousands innocent people! I better don't say what I'm thinking right now...

Anyway, now that I'm not posting windsurfing only, I'm loving these comments about other subjects. I promise a forum on my next evolved website. There's so much stuff to learn from each other.
In the meantime, I may be posting windsurfing again soon... hehe... we'll see! Stay tuned...

Sharon said...

I know- I was smiling at the Pakistani’s while my Mum chuntered on about her prejudice toward them. When I asked an Indian Taxi driver what language he was speaking on his cab radio, his reaction was “where are you from then”? clearly not used to genuine curiosity from a whitety. I could feel my Aunt tense up as I just chatted with him…….and I was embarrassed by her and my Mums lack of tolerance. I’ve got to have more compassion as that’s clearly my own judgment and prejudice too!

I asked my Mum why she was so intolerant of color and she spouted all the usual reasons. What I noticed most was her (and all my elder relatives) lack of willingness to step out of that arena, even with something as simple as a smile.

Anonymous said...

So, from the sounds of it, Euros (at least the Anglo- and Italo-) varieties) make up for the absence of sulfites with a surfeit of prejudice.

So? Nobody's perfect. But I'll take the sulfites.

Lano said...

GP, good to hear you are sharing your love in the mother land! I hate prejudice and intolerance, The way you told that storey was fantastic, I felt like a fly on the wall.

Looking forward to you getting back in Maui though mate, missing my fix of pics and stories from that part of the world, have been getting some different persectives lately from KP and Tatiana,

Hurry back!

cammar said...

furtunately the prejudices of our mums for colored skin are more than compensated by my appreciation for it...

thanks for letting us know who you think is better based on the prejudices of two old euro ladies... how profound and interesting.
Maybe next time you wonna add also something constructive?

fly on the wall... must be one of those saying that I don't know...
Trust me mate, I'm looking forward to go back to Maui too!

Giampaolo (Maui Addicted) said...

Aloha Giampaolo,
I read all those comments on Monsanto and I see that a lot of people have no doubt that they are the Evil itself...
Whilst Mother Nature seems to be the Goodness...

Well I do not know very much about Monsanto... but It seems to me very oversimplified all the debates on GM organism...

Maybe I am a simpleton, but a lot of fruits, vegetables, flowers and animals are the result of different genetical manipulations by humans...
Many species of Hibiscus are an example and nectarines another one. Dogs races are all manipulations of wolves and different races of cows (the great tuscan Chianina for example ;-) ) too...Famous horses...

In my opinion, modern genetical manipulation techniques are not bad nor good. They are tools and as any tool it can be bad or good depending on how you use it!
There are safety rules for the usage of any tool.
There must be safety rules for genetical manipulation techniques as well.
Am I an idealist? Yes I am!

If I try to cure alzheimer desease manipulating human DNA, is it bad?
I do not think so!

On the other hand, I think that Nature is not as good as people like to believe. Natural things aren't necessarily safer or better.
Natural is not a synonym of Good.

Hemlock is natural...but can be deadly!
Sharks are natural, but some times they are hungry...and they have no compassion. The weakest you are the highest the probability to be eaten by someone else.
No place in Nature for handicapped persons!
It is it good?

Well, I am always "suspicious" and doubtful about both natural and not natural issues.
I never assume that Natural is better. I always try to use my common sense and my judgment capability.
It is not that easy...
Simple schemas (like Natural=good, Artificial=bad) are easier but not necessarily true.


P.S.: My carbon boom is far from being natural, but it's better!

PonoBill said...

Usually the truth is more complicated, but not so much different in end effect than myths.

For example, the no WMD's, no direct terrorist connection, and the notion that we are just doing this for oil or money are all simplified reasons why people are upset about the Iraq war.

The truth is a lot more philosophical and might even seem slightly more palatable from a moral stance (seeding democracy in the region to "stabilize" it) but the end result is just as horrific. It's become dogma in US politics that establishing free democracies makes America safer. Both parties believe it. Pure arrogance. A two hundred year old experiment is the only solution to government?

Stupid Hollywood movies means we must be stupid people? Hardly. More than half of ANY population is "stupid" meaning relatively low IQ and poor education, more or less by definition: its a bell curve. In most cultures the wishes and preferences of the stupid are ignored because they don't represent a good market. But when a culture gets wealthy enough the market size means more than the distribution of wealth. 150 million idiots with money is a good market. Lottery tickets, violent movies, crappy food, light beer, pink zinfandel--lots of buyers.

On my trip I'm listening to a series of 48 lectures on Egyptian Civilization. Really interesting and quite an eye-opener. Their culture lasted for more than 4000 years and was extremely stable because they were so conservative. They didn't want change. They also didn't want peace, but that's a different story. Every time the culture crashed it was because they couldn't find a capable leader.

I look at the current crop and wonder how long we have.

PonoBill said...

Oh, incidentally, you're probably not eating Maui corn. Most corn grown in Maui is seed corn, and yes, it's either heavily hybridized or genetically modified. They grow seed here mostly because it can be done in a reverse of normal US season, and it's less likely to be randomly pollinated. Hard to do in the US with corn growing all across the country.

Personally, I don't have strong opinions about genetic modification--genes are randomly modified all the time. It's why we are not single celled animals floating in goo. Yes, people could and probably will do evil shit with genetic modification. But they do that with rocks, and bronze, and steel.

One more thing. Don't be so hard on Italy. So many good things come out of that chaos. Got to be one of the most creative places in the world.

All these kinds of issues come back to fundamental questions like "why are we here" and "what do you think mankind should become?'

I'm not much of a believer in divine powers or other invisible people. Personally, I think it's important to get off the planet at some point, at least to be able to use the resources in the rest of the solar system. Hard to do that without a bigger vision than conservation. Huddling in the dark conserving the last drops of oil might be all we can be doing. But it lacks a certain grandeur, and my guess is that we'd all be fighting to the death over who got to consume the last resources.

Most of the "green" movements seem elitist to me. Keep things the way they are at least until I die. Don't let the climate change until me and my kids are gone.

Sooner or later that all goes away unless there's only a tiny population of humans on earth, using relatively tiny amounts of power--no more than some small percentage of the total amount of energy that the sun dumps on the planet every day is really "sustainable".

It's either up and out, or start huddling.