Archive for vinz’s love letters from paris

Megalomaniac capitalists*

Sir Richard Branson, on the subtleties of being filthy rich

Look at me. I got money. I’ve got so much money, you have to admire me. Adore me. Want me. Feel my smell of dough. Envy me. My skin transpires gold. When I walk, you can hear, “ka-ching!”. I’m a success. I’m a winner. Loooook at meeeee…

 

As far as the race towards decadence in our contemporary world goes, megalomaniac capitalists take first place.

 

But let’s just stop for a minute, here. Before objectivists (or whatever it is they’re calling themselves now) start eschewing their boring litany about the free market, a caveat, on my behalf: this text is far from being an anathema against money or a criticism on means of production. This has nothing to do with that (stop holding your pockets; I won’t raise your taxes). This is about the invasion of the public space by a handful of slobs with questionable social skills, using the only means they know: “making it rain”, like a rapper in a strip club.

 

I’m talking about the new fauna of super CEOs or company owners, who saturate billboards and ads all around the world with their ugly mugs in what can only be understood as a desperate attempt to become famous using the ole’ exposition ad nauseum à la Kardashian.

 

Although these “megalomaniac capitalists” are obviously insane, they shouldn’t be confused with simple, crazy capitalists like sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin. I kind of like Branson, with his hare-brained attempts at breaking world navigation records, and his over-the-top openings where something always blows up. Branson is an idiot, but a fun idiot, like Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass kids. For example, here you can see a video of Branson trying to break some sort of kite surfing record. The guy is obviously having fun, and I can relate to that, so God bless his lithium prescription.

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This kind of megalomaniac differs a huge lot from those whose only talent (supposing that’s a talent), is making money. Schmucks who, at some point in their life, realize nobody gives a rat’s ass if you’re swimming in money as long as you’re a bumbling buffoon. So they decide to take action. And by “action” I don’t mean giving laptops to African kids; I mean invading all and every little public space up for sale so they can stamp their ugly face on it and impose themselves, manu militari, over all society.

 

A good example of this is the douche from “FlyNiki”, an Austrian who, after setting up his airline company, decided to stamp his face –at a scale worthy of Stalin–, on all the billboards of Europe. His ridiculous image, based on the “I’m like you” premise, makes him sport a red hat perennially balanced on the top of his head. He’s like you, sure… Only richer (subtle difference). When it came to decorating his planes, the best this guy could come up with was writing “NIKI” on the plane’s fuselage, like an A.D.D. riddled child left alone with a magic marker.

Or French optician’s magnate, Afflelou, an ectoplasm bent on appearing at the end of all of his commercials, although he has the charm and the sex appeal of a raw broccoli. His most famous spot –shot in China–, features hundreds of extras performing horrible, unimaginative, choreographies. At the end of such a grotesque train-wreak that ends (how did you guess?) on the Wall of China, mister Afflelou makes his way amongst hundreds of Chinese extras flapping joyously about and explains he sells glasses at a fifty percent discount. This wouldn’t be so bad, were it not for his complete lack of charm, or the fact that he blinks with some kind of tic that makes us thinks he’s the one that needs glasses. Look at the spot -you be the judge-, and ask yourself how much better this would be if at the end of the shot you saw someone like Jude Law, for example.

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But my favorite has to be, without a doubt, a French businessman called “Dupire”, which translates, literally, as “the worst”. This guy became a millionaire selling fake chimneys. You know, those horrible, kitsch contraptions, that “simulate” fire in some corner of the room, an impossibly red pyre that looks like the volcano where Frodo chucked the ring.

 

Having reached this point, I must admit mister “the worst” is the main motivation behind this text because, not content with selling his tasteless junk (again: I have nothing against his business. I am not, or ever have been, a member of the Communist Party, Senator), this pathetic character decided to plaster himself on all of his billboards. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if mister Dupire hadn’t, like Mugabe looking for votes in Zimbabwe, covered all of the Metro in Paris, at a rate of five ads per station.

 

Now, can a condescending reader, an expert in semiotics, image, symbols and all that, be so kind as to write me a small note, a couple of lines, explaining this preposterous fact: Mister Dupire is… A Rastafarian. Seriously. Lod-o-mercy, and all that. Personally, I’ve always been suspicious of white people with dreadlocks, but a multi-millionaire French magnate being a rasta is like Spike Lee being a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Not quite the crazy baldhead, that’s for sure…

As if that wasn’t enough, mister “the worst” has decided to further smear his detestable image by adding a couple of girls (young enough to be his daughters) to the nauseating picture. On top of his smug, we can read the highly enlightening phrase: “my chimneys seduce them”.

 

This pathetic little character is the unhappy byproduct of our society: a megalomaniac thirsty for attention, who thinks he can buy our interest and admiration using PR stalking* *.

 

* This text was originally published in Spanish, in El Nuevo Cojo Ilustrado.

* *”PR stalking” is a term I coined in the aforementioned publication, here.

Titties and beer

…Literally. When people ask me about Venezuela, the country where I was born and grew up in, they tend to pick one of two subjects: politics or women. Of course, this is just bar talk: some perfunctory expression of hate/love of Latin-American leaders and love/love of Latin-American women. Yes, yes; I know: we’ve won a bunch of beauty pageants. The sleaze ball in charge of Miss Venezuela, a repulsive little toad-like character called Osmel Sousa, has got the whole thing down to a friggin’ science. He makes supermodels like Oscar Mayer makes sausages. And the process is pretty much the same, trust me.

 

This is how we built one of the most discriminatory, macho societies in the world: the Titocracy (and I don’t mean we read Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus). Roll around Caracas, for example, and you’ll be eye-raped by a humungous pair of jugs holding a beer:

 

Tagline: "How many blondes can you handle?"

 

 

…so you can drool while you drive off a cliff.

 

Now, blitz a population with titties 24/7 (titzkrieg?) and you’ll soon have a materialistic, ego-obsessed, population. Enter plastic surgery.

 

Breast implants became a fad a couple of years ago: a female deputy in the National Assembly (our equivalent of the Congress) even proposed the state pay for breast implants for the poor, to avoid “discrimination”. If rich girls were morphing themselves into some ridiculous simulacrum of Pamela Anderson, why couldn’t poor girls do the same? Ah. The beauty of a good old democratic discussion (somehow, I’m not sure that’s what Plato had in mind when he talked about “open discourse in the Agora”).

 

Fast-forward to 2012, and we get this gem: a titty party… For women. But don’t get excited: the idea behind these parties is simple. Pay a cover charge (less than 2 dollars) and you get to participate in a raffle, the prize being (you guessed it) a couple of breast implants. A COUPLE OF FUCKING BREAST IMPLANTS.

 

Now, I don’t know who in their right mind would actually want to get breast implants, but apart from that, what kind of idiot would implant herself with a pair of fake tits she won in a raffle? A 2-dollar a ticket raffle, at that? (How many people go to these things? 2 dollars a ticket? Are you serious?).

 

That’s all I wanted to write about. Recently, some people celebrated “Women’s day” (noticeably by writing un-original and cheesy messages on their Facebook walls), so I thought I’d just chip in my two cents. Women’s rights, gender equality and all that, works like this in the third world:

 

Good luck with the raffle, ladies… (and cross-dressing guys?).

Free market apologists and the Republican Party

Few people are more annoying than the free market apologist, the guy who interrupts your casual conversation in the middle of a party in order to reduce anything and everything you say to a cold, economic theory. For example, while remarking matter-of-factly that I’m surprised how expensive a little can of Chipotle for our “Fajita night” turned out to be, he’ll retort, “but Vinz, it’s the law of offer and demand”; face beaming with a condescending smile.

 

You know the look: it’s like the expression on the faces of a group of PETA activists watching a YouTube video about baby pandas.

 

Because, you see, we just don’t get it. These guys are smarter than us. They’ve figured it out. They hold the proverbial Holy Grail capable of explaining all of life: economics. And when an aspiring Chicago Boy starts lecturing you about the virtues of egoism, you’d better run away as fast as possible if you don’t want to be dragged down into one of the most boring possible conversations ever. You can’t discuss beauty in painting or music with these guys, unless you’re willing to talk about “the public’s acceptance” of Van Gogh, for example. Why in God’s name someone would want to reduce a Jimi Hendrix album to “the value of living with Experienced rather than not”, beats me. All I know is that these guys are capable of making life, as a whole, the most boring, rational and predictable theme of conversation, ever. Listen to a free market apologist ranting against taxes and social policies; it’s enough to put a strung-out cokehead to sleep.

 

I do understand their point, though. I’ve read Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Hayek, the works. I’m willing to concede you may have an argument, even though your project of turning life into a gray, Aristotelian, rational cost-and-benefits equation seems as joyful as an evening with Mr. Burns. And the whole smug, paternalistic, “you’re just a bunch of irrational animals, hoi polloi that gets manipulated by autocrats every time”, is too much to stomach. But do your thing. Go chase John Galt into a mountain where people worship a golden dollar and never smile, if that’s your utopia.

 

My problem is strictly political and can be phrased as such: If you guys are so smart, Ivy League, Austrian economists reading, über-people, how come you can’t come up with a decent candidate for the Presidential election in the United States? Out of the hundreds of millions of citizens, and the thousands that enthusiastically uphold ideas like eliminating the minimum wage, all you could come up with was Bachmann, Perry, Romney, Gingrich and the now defenestrated Herman Cain? Really?

 

I mean, I’m not exaggerating when I say that your ideas are represented, or supposed to, by the Republican Party. And these are the best guys you could find to defend your theory?

 

If the free market is so self-explanatory, if you look down on anyone who seems alarmed by inflation and tut-tut him before explaining “quantitative easing”, if the Chicago Boys are so intelligent, how come you picked these ignorant, ill-prepared candidates?

 

Look at it from my point of view, as a foreigner: the rest of the world is under the impression that Republican voters are more misinformed and uneducated than Democratic voters. You fight consistently to destroy the stereotype of the gun-toting, Midwest soccer mom with no clue where Mexico is as your core voter, and you explain that your free market views make sense.

 

So, in order to uphold your views, you pick Rick Perry? The guy who’s so “rational” and “logical” that he advances absurd syllogisms such as “if gays can go to the army, why can’t we pray in school“? Or Bachmann, the lady that has no idea as to when the human species appeared? Cain? The candidate who didn’t have a clue about Libya whilst at war with that country? Romney? The politician that holds 10,000 dollar bets during a debate? Seriously?

 

Personally, I’m far from believing the Democratic Party is the best party ever. But how can you expect us, the rest of the world, not to perceive the Republican Party as a bunch of ignorant, incoherent, rambling zealots?

 

It might all be a big joke to you. But I come from Latin America, a region that always has to deal with the consequences of your terrible political decisions. So please: get serious. Or at least, stop being so smug when talking about economics or politics. If you’re a free market apologist who votes for the Republican Party, you should be ashamed of the candidates that represent you right now.

Fear and loathing in Ground zero

The immigration slip asks me bluntly, in the best voulez-vous coucher avec moi style, if I intend on killing the President of the United States. The question after that demands that I “swear on my honor” that I didn’t participate in any genocide between 1939 and 1945, something easy to asses by simply glancing at the birthdate on my passport. Paranoid guardsmen bark “next!” and push us with their clubs towards the booths at the end of the line, their attitude strangely reminiscent of that displayed by soldiers during the aforementioned genocide. We make our way slowly towards the imaginary line that separates the state of New York from the rest of the world, and the date, hanging shiny and digital over the US Customs sign, seems strange, for a reason I can’t really grasp. Seconds later I get it, and I struggle hard to repress a scream of the Venezuelan version of “Eureka”: fuck. Why the hell did I travel here on the eve of September 11th.

 

Manhattan seems worn out, like an old lover trying to convince you to climb into her rickety bed. The city breathes heavily; its arms and legs have trouble moving. You can sense the economic crisis in the faces of the people on the street as well as the signs of “out of business” popping all around town. The financial sector, artificially buffed on speculation steroids, has wreaked havoc amongst the lower and middle classes of New York. Just like the myth of the modern slugger crumbled amidst doping scandals, the American dream awoke rudely to the realization that its idol had feet of clay, that its biceps were faker than the tits of a Venezuelan supermodel.

 

The 11th of September greets us with the propaganda machine in overdrive. Every TV, radio station or Internet page tries to emulate the suffering lived here ten years ago. In this regard, Americans are disappointingly predictable. The nation that brags about its capacity to invent and innovate contents itself with recycling the same worn-out communication tools used by every government in order to advance simple, one-sided explanations. From Los Angeles to Pyongyang -give or take a few lies-, every country concentrates its efforts in the creation of one-sided historical accounts full of pathos that exclude any analysis with the accusation of being “antipatriotic” or “manipulative”.

 

Because in the middle of the tragedy that saw thousands of civilians lose their lives, we perceive the farcical construction of an epic narrative that seeks to establish contemporary US history. Nothing the poet Virgil didn’t attempt when he built the foundation of Rome on the aftermath of the Trojan War by mimicing Homer in his Eniad. In the New York of 2011, the epic discourse is fundamentally semiotic, based on television images that create the backbone on which pundits elaborate. These pundits, rather than “analyze” anything, content themselves with cementing the narrative using the tools of simulation/repetition that Baudrillard studied decades ago.

 

In this sense, there is no better example of North America’s contradictions than the Ground zero memorial. Using the “compulsion of repetition of Thanatos” outlined by Freud in 1928, the media, and through them society as a whole, stubbornly repeats the traumatic event in order to mimic collective suffering. This compulsion rejects any analytic viewpoint; in fact, ten years after September 11th., the Occidental world has learned very little, apart from banning water on commercial flights and checking people’s shoes before they board a plane. The image of an aircraft crashing into a skyscraper tears down any attempt at understanding the consequences of two wars –one of them completely illegal-, such as the assault on civil rights embodied by the Patriot Act and on International law that is Guantanamo. Instead, elected representatives hang their heads and dedicate themselves to recycling Thanathos, or death, and they invite the whole country to participate in this totemic ritual, no questions asked.

 

Ten years after the heinous attacks, all the USA has to show is holes. In front of Obama and Bush lies the empty hole left by the Twin Towers, and this hole reminds us of the empty promises they never kept. But in front of the devastated population, excreted out of the productive system by a handful of rapacious investors into misery and unemployment, lies the biggest fiscal hole in this nation’s history. New York has multiplied it’s homeless exponentially. They are everywhere, pushing their measly belongings around in supermarket carts while the Washington fat cats worry about some obscure notation agency downgrading them to A++ instead of thinking about these people’s survival.

 

This is the sensation one gets from the Big Apple today. On one side, banks establish record profits and investors act like poker players who know the house is about to go bankrupt, trying to clean everybody out before the casino crashes. On the other, the middle and low classes inject themselves with the speedball of American contradictions: Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman vouch for an “abstinence only” sex education in schools, while on TV a rapper waves a golden chain in our faces and explains that he has slept with the whole nightclub, that he has more sex than we’d have in a hundred years. The population’s living standards crumble, while they’re invited to follow the adventures of Kim Kardashian’s ass, who drinks champagne on a beach in Bali or Goa and shrieks as the cameraman swoops in for a close-up of her derrière with a .50 wide-angle lens, as if he were a doctor about to practice an endoscope of her intestines.

 

Because the biggest contradiction isn’t that ten years after the September 11th attacks the only thing built in Ground zero is a memorial and a petty, mediocre fountain. The most humiliating thing isn’t how they play with suffering and death in order to build an untimely meditation about the divine destiny of the United States, like Kim Jong-Il does in North Korea. The saddest thing is North America’s pragmatic compulsion, the desire to always look forward without trying to understand how one got here. In this quest for growth and future the States have forgotten the people, the citizens. People don’t run this country. Wall Street runs it. Notation agencies do. The financial system does. And the most dangerous and disturbing thing isn’t that this country may soon decide to implode, it’s that, for the rest of the world, the collapse of the United States leaves us with Chinese totalitarianism and Iranian fundamentalism as the only options.

 

And that future is as nerve chilling as the hole in Ground zero.

(You can see all my photos of NYC here)

A rape guide for IMF personnel

Memo to all our staff

 

Dear IMF employees:
The board of our respectable institution was appalled by the news of one of our most beloved employees, Dominique Stauss-Kahn, being accused of rape in New York a couple of weeks ago. On the bright side, this might have cleared up Dom’s nickname as “easy dick”, so please stop sending emails to our office explaining that the diminutive for Dominique is “Dom”, not “Dick”, which corresponds to Richard.

Most disturbingly, the mounting malaise in our midst threatens the proper functioning of our bank. The situation is critical: we must distance ourselves from the sleep-your-way-to-the-top, Hollywood exec image, that Dom has unfortunately given us. Our Public Relations department is already hard at work to address this issue (another positive result from this situation is being able to avoid the childish jokes, “Dominique is hard at work” in the future).

We have the utmost confidence that the heads of our DoubleSpeak section will sweep the affair under the carpet in no time.

Notwithstanding, this memo refers to internal conduct and seeks to clarify the many questions that have come to our attention in these last days. In answer to Mr. Patterson’s query for example, no, it’s not because Catholic Priests get off the hook with a slap on the wrist that we can do the same at the IMF. The Pope did try to stick his neck out for us on this one, but once he realized Dominique was jewish, he said we were on our own.

The problem seems to spur from a punctual fact, studied in extenso by psychologists: the confusion of countries, with the people of said countries. It is a common practice underlined in every field of work so do not panic, the IMF has started an in-depth treatment that aims to help each and every one of you.

In the meanwhile, this memo will provide you with valuable information in order to avoid future scandals concerning rape.

We know that some of you might be having trouble distinguishing the work environment from the private one, hence the confusions and scandals. Therefore, let us stress a couple of points regarding this issue and clear up the IMF’s policy:

-We still are, and always will be, allowed to rape and humiliate a country or a group of people. This is the IMF’s raison d’être. Not only is this expected, it is mandatory for any employee renegotiating debt with a third-world country.

-On the other hand, we are strongly opposed to, and will not tolerate, the rape of individuals. The difference must be obvious for any of our employees: raping Argentina in the ’90s, and fucking the shit out of their natural resources, is not the same as raping an Argentinean woman (refer to Human Resources for an illustrated guide regarding this matter).

-Metaphors do not constitute a legal excuse for rape. “Her boobs were like the Kilimanjaro” cannot be used as an argument by our lawyers in a court.

-We expect Dom’s “pull the loan out of my pants” joke, to be dead and buried.

-Our medical plan no longer covers Viagra pills. We know most of you are old and have a tendency to indulge in these kind of stimulants but from now on, you will have to pay for them yourselves.

-In light of the recent scandal, the “cum on Africa the longest” contest is banned. Participants will be reimbursed.

-Cultural and anthropological classes will be issued to our staff traveling abroad in order to understand in which countries “no” means “no”, in which countries “no” means “maybe” and in which countries women have no say on the matter whatsoever. Tests must be passed before every trip.

We hope this has been informative. If you feel in need of clarification, please address yourself to your direct supervisor. In the meanwhile, do schedule an appointment for the Rorschach test with our in-house Psychiatrist, and may we strongly recommend you don’t answer, “I see a pussy” on every card. May Dominique’s disgrace be a lesson to all of us.

Sincerely,
The man

imf rape guide

here cums the euro

 

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