Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I just noticed I made the Daily Czech's list of Top Ten Things Overheard During Rolling Stones Visit In Prague! Not only that, but Petr spelled my name right. Cool.

Over at PragueBlog, Steve remarks that "Wilfred Thesiger led an amazing life," citing an excerpt from the English travel writer's autobiography published in the Guardian. Thesiger died three days ago. (I referred to to Thesinger's book The Marsh Arabs just three weeks ago as being high on my things-to-read list.)

What jumped out from the autobiographical excerpt was this: "The surface of the globe, having now - thanks to the internal combustion engine - been thoroughly explored, no longer affords scope for the adventurous individual in search of the unknown."

I've always been turned off by curmudgeonly statements like this, not just because they're curmudgeonly, but because they're simply not true. The blaring pop music from the transistor radios in remote villages that Thesinger so despises are, in their own way, as "authentic" as any of the ritual castration practices so finely honed by the natives of Abyssinina (described in his obit.)

The intersection of cultures brought about by globalization can yield choice moments of their own. I once saw a rather pale-skinned (British? Australian? Kiwi?) bloke streaking at a disco in Canakkale, Turkey (not a remote village by any means). He stripped down to his birthday suit and trotted out onto the dance floor. The locals, needless to say, were not impressed. I've frankly never seen anybody so literally "thrown out" of an establishment as that guy. The party came to a crashing halt and the music didn't get turned back on, which maybe was okay because they just kept playing that song by Tarkan over and over again. What a turd. (The naked guy, not Tarkan.) I don't know why I thought of that story just now. I realize that certainly wouldn't make it high on a list of Thesigner adventures.

So, that said, if anybody was ever entitled to complain about the creep of technology, it's definitely Thesinger.

Speaking of amazing lives of English travel writers, when is Patrick Leigh Fermor going to come out with his third installment of his account of hoofing it from Holland to Istanbul prior to World War II? That guy had better hurry up. He's approaching 80, although I suppose anybody who's led a life like that is probably fit enough to get through nine decades. Fermor's first two books, A Time For Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, are simply amazing. Unfortunately the trip stops near the Iron Gates of the Danube, past Belgrade near the intersection of Romania, Bulgaria and ex-Yugoslavia. Between the Woods and the Water, published in 1986, ends, "To Be Concluded..." Get on with it, dude!


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