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Much of my six months of self-imposed internet silence included listening to a lot of indie rock and stand-up comedy. One of the things I discovered was the correct use of Pandora. Yes, I have finally learned how to use the streaming music site that everyone else with an internet connection has known how to use since 2006. Apparently, you’re actually supposed to enter the names of bands or artists that you marginally enjoy listening to. Yes, this is what yields the best results. How was this revealed to me? By Arlan, my new, masterful barber who turns heads of hair into gold, platinum, frankincense or myrrh depending on what you ask for. He’s like a bald, black C-3PO who skillfully cuts the hair of every possible ethnicity in the multiverse. When I arrived at his shop for the first time, I heard the mellifluous voice of David Cross coming out of the barbershop’s sound system. The acerbic comedian is an acquired taste for most people, and you wouldn’t expect to hear it at an Omaha, midtown tonsorium, considering the funnyman’s stated hatred for a certain Larry the Cable Guy. “David Cross, eh?” I asked Arlan, as I sat down on one of his two shiny red pleather chairs. “That’s what Pandora picked when I typed in Richard Pryor,” Arlan responded. After we exchanged the prescribed barber-client pleasantries, I asked him how he could’ve lucked out and seeded such great comedy on his Pandora feed. He explained that you “enter the name of an artist you kind of like, you’ll get good stuff in general.” It was a huge, dueling ta-da moment, both finding out how to seed Pandora correctly and finding a great new barber. Yes, that’s the correct spelling of “ta-da.” I looked it up. A good Pandora station is like gold, or Baby Gas-X if you happen to be living in the expatriate American community surrounding Naval Air Station Sigonella. That last thing is an inside joke I share with the creator and designer at Pixel Wolf, Adam Wolf. It served as a good transition sentence and a bridge into the connection I’m about to make. Like masterful coiffeurs, great designers are also golden. Adam Wolf is a gilded, skinny, bearded buddha when it comes to music advice and graphic design. And Arlan and Adam have a lot in common. Specifically, they listen to great things to create audible ambience while tactilely making their livings. They have sixth senses regarding things they want to listen to while working. Arlan was enjoying David Cross while cutting my hair and Adam introduced me to Noah and the Whale many years ago. Both are audible entities for whom I have a marginal interest, but both entries were outstanding seeds for two superb genres that, in general, provide multiple hours of listening pleasure: comedy and indie rock.
I am headed on a recovery mission for approximately six months. Posting to this blog will be impossible while I’m away. Expect more natural-Phil blogging when I return.
The Indian uproar about the U.S.’s supposed mistreatment of one of their consuls is at best silly. She never had diplomatic immunity in the first place. She is a liar and a thief and she was caught doing so. And it’s the worst kind of lying and stealing too: making false official statements about stealing from a poor servant. The best thing for India to do would be to hold her accountable. But they won’t. Because their government is composed of hypocrites and they rule over a shame-based society where privileged people have advantages because of social standing in the face of serious criminal charges. It’s evidence that India is still a third world country and that it’s not ready for the big time in terms of standing among Western nations. Equal rights for citizens is not a thing south of the Himalayas. They have some very clever people — there should be some geniuses in 1.1 billion — but they’re backwards in terms of justice and politics. They have 500 million souls living in abject poverty and the most important thing on their government’s agenda, diplomatically, is to shame the U.S. for following standard procedures during criminal intake? I used to think India was a great place. I still kind of do. That’s mainly because all of the Indians I met in college and elsewhere were amazing, brilliant and morally just people. All of them were. They had festivals celebrating their heritage. India must be a great place, right? But all of the coverage of this has shown me the true colors of that geographical jewel where the Ganges chose to run. Now I see why my college classmates left actual India and brought the good stuff about India with them to the United States. It’s sad.
If you’re ever in the mood to escape the ordinary, everyday amazing beauty of seaside Siracusa, grab your keys and take a drive up to the highest point in the Hyblean Mountain range, Monte Lauro. You’ll find a sweet, warm little town called Buccheri up there. Hungry? I highly recommend the Osteria U Locale. This little restaurant on Via Dusmet in Buccheri is simple, nice, friendly and they serve great food and wine. According to my father-in-law, the house wine was a robust Nero Di Avola. If you’re like me, the ability to eat at mellow little bistros like this is one of the reasons you came to Sicily. I heard about it because it’s extremely popular, so call ahead for a reservation just to be on the safe side. If you’re wondering what their number is, I put a link to their website in the body of this text. Their contact information is on that website. If you hadn’t figured that out already, I feel bad for you.
Escaping to the fresh air of the Sicilian mountains for a delicious lunch in an adorable little tavern was a great way to start 2014 gastronomically. Figure €20 per adult. The food is well worth the drive.
There are bright spots when it comes to writers who write about Italy. Despite her seemingly SEO optimized prose and confounding use of unqualified absolutes to introduce topics or places, Amanda Ruggieri is an American travel writer who actually manages to paint a decent picture of the places she visits here without causing autoimmune cerebral lesioning. Her writing is an exception to the hypnotically vacuous observations made by most of her counterparts. She still annoyingly equates aperitivo to “happy hour” for readers despite probably having the intellectual fortitude to creatively explain why it is not like a happy hour. She visits Palermo and other beaten-path places in Sicily, so she rates a refreshingly low 6.2-out-of-10 on my Valley girl scale of vapidity (10 would be, say, a Kim Kardashian tweet about eyebrow waxing). She uses the occasional idiom to be casual and fun in her pieces. So naturally she writes for The New York Times Magazine among other publications. Here is her blog. I’m sure you’ll Google her name successfully to find more of her decent work.
Average American traveller, I’m disappointed in you and the Huffington Post today. Do you no longer have the capacity for inner reflection? Seriously, what gene can we switch off in the American traveller’s DNA to prevent vapid dolts like this from blogging their nonsense to the world. This entry on the Huffington Post about Italy reads like a journal entry written by a 14-year-old Valley girl. It’s mostly incorrect and based on some banally obtuse observations by someone who visited Italy for a brief time on vacation. She obviously didn’t understand Italy and her myopically generic reflections show that. For example, #7: the only people I know of who drink throughout the day here in Italy are the alcoholics. It’s not common at all. Not even all of the alcoholics drink here. No one I know personally or professionally here boozes save for a glass or two at lunch or dinner. That is not to say that Italians have a problem with vacationers doing so. But Italians generally don’t booze. What’s the problem with these bloggers writing this shrill nonsense? It’s that some people actually believe what they’re writing because it’s on the Huffington Post. It’s embarrassing. Nutella isn’t on everything. Lunch is usually the huge meal that she’s talking about and it’s not every night. I’ve run out of words. Read it for yourself. . .