Archive for April, 2016

April 28th, 2016

2016 BAIBF, a drudgery

The Buenos Aires Book Fair went on my list of things to check out the other day because…well, by now “what’s the worst that could happen” is a sort of sport. That’s the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, mind you, because people like it when things are called International (why they stopped short of Intergalactic I have no idea, marketer prolly wasn’t rockstaring outside the envelope). I get there at 20:00, weaving through the usual web of socks-napkins-and-power-adapters for sale, strewn around the ground on sheets, past the guy with $500 worth of microphone, guitar, and music stand and $0.02 of talent as he drolls out the doldrums and eyes passersby suspiciously. There’s a security retinue consisting of some old dudes in matching plastic manning a row of portable turnstiles equipped with barcode scanners they don’t know how to use. I buy a ticket (hey mister it’s not a book FREE! it’s a book FAIR!), three bucks with a two dollar coupon for buying books. They close at 22:00, but I figure I’ll be done with it in ten minutes.

The venue’s called “La Rural”, despite being somewhere approximating the middle of the middlest part of the city, and the building I enter’s as big and stylistically barren as any other convention center. What strikes me as I walk through is how very few books there are, and how each “booth”, more like a slightly raised platform perfect for tripping over on the way up or adrenaline-joltingly stumbling off on the way down, has some banner or other with “Gobierno de” and any given province silkscreenscribbled on it. I marvel a few hundred paces at having paid anything at all to attend this apparent Bored Bureaucrat Con 2016 as I observe the people manning these booths, all sitting, all behind big white plastic tables, all while pantallas gigantes de LCD! pan in and out of vaguely nonurban landscapes from wherever it is they’re advertising behind them. At the Tucuman booth, one of those guys with hair that’s long enough to not be short but short enough that nobody can call him a fag starts haranguing me about how they publish books by writers from Tucuman, because, you see, he’s from Tucuman, well actually he’s from Spain, but up north, in Tucuman? They publish books! By writers! Look, these are some examples. It occurs to me the raised platforms are there not to prevent a speedy escape, as I had originally thought, but because these folks likely think they’re really cool.

It’s at about this time the evening’s coffees and cognacs catch up with me, so I start searching for the restrooms. I walk nearly the entire perimeter of the building, about the size of two football fields, and discover at the last corner an exit different from my entry point, with a slow but steady stream of people carrying bags coming towards me, on some path through the darkness. I head out and find a series of fabric-covered tunnels a few hundred feet ahead, where the human ant trail is focused, so I follow against them, and after a good fifteen minute walk find the tunnel lets out into another, larger, room, which is naturally where the actual book fair is! Mind you, this isn’t pointed out anywhere. The sourness of old hot dogs and charred coffee is strong here though, mingling with the overabundant, fake apple-scented disinfectant/carpet shampoo, so I imagine I must’ve simply missed the local sirens’ smell.

I haven’t been to any sort of convention for roughly a decade, but still, the place seems odd. While it’s a far sight better than the lame governmental foyer, it nevertheless comes across as a sort of swap meet for the middle-aged, ho-hum fare peppered liberally with the pseudomedieval teen fantasy du jour stuff –but it’s the same ho-hum, middle-aged people buying it. They’ve adopted the insane slightly raised platforms from the first room, though many of these booths also have plastic walls in what must’ve been some attempt to further direct the flow of the herds (to what end, I’ve no idea, though I suspect it might’ve had something to do with the “food court” at the back). Also: extra-strength halogen spotlights that change colors every 2-3 seconds beaming over pretty much any available shelf, making the reading of titles something of a visual traffic jam. Helping this effect take on a true evil is the fact that Argentines shelve their books upside down, ostensibly as part of their turn-of-the-century compact with Beezlebub. So instead of struggling to read 8pt titles at knee-level in constantly changing light by leaning right and going top-to-bottom, one had to lean to the left and read bottom-to-top, which in theory shouldn’t be too upsetting but in practice feels about on par with swallowing one’s nose. Oh, and each booth has its own mediocre desktop computer “sound system”, so there are ~400 different songs playing softly at once. Pentru decor1.

I spend a while rummaging through poetry anthologies and seeing if any of the alt-y zines are interesting (not really). I eventually settle on a Kafka paperback for Spanish practice and attempt to use the coupon. Seller points out to me that it’s not to use at the fair, it’s to use at certain bookstores in the city a week after the book fair is over. I scrap it, pay, and wander around peoplewatching, noting that I’m probably the youngest female there save for the occasional hunched booth babe tapping acrylic nails against knockoff iphones. In a previously deserted corner I find a line nearly a hundred people long leading into some little black tent-like room. Probably where they’re stashing the good books. Or the exit. Or the BATHROOM!. I ask a woman with a great ass (who turns to look at me with an unfortunate face) what the line’s for? She shows me the book in her hand, which is some “real life” biography of Pearl Jam (what does that even mean?). She wants to get it signed. Oh, is the band in there? No, of course not, just the author, hahahaha. I don’t know, maybe he has a goiter or something. But I don’t know how to ask about a goiter in Spanish, and the face is even worse when she laughs, so I smile and walk on. After finding the bathrooms, I do one more lap, down a row I haven’t been in yet, finding the (inevitable?) Hare Krishna booth, which offers a nice olfactory pocket of respite from the rest of the place, but all their stuff’s in English, and I was kinda done with that at seventeen anyhow. Suddenly airport muzak comes blaring from a real live sound system somewhere in the guts of the building, making face to face conversation near impossible, and I gather it’s closing time. I watch people throw plastic tarps over the bookshelves as they prepare to leave, just like the guys at the produce markets do it (except of course for the produce market people being outside, and their tarps being tied down with rope, etc). Maybe it’s to let less of that hot dog scent seep into the pages at night.

The sock-sellers and Sr. Suspicious Fingerpickin’ are still out front when I leave, vying for the last of the day’s potential pennies. I slink into the subway station and head home, a blessed place with nothing whatsoever in common with the 2016 BAIBF.

  1. This bit of Romanian became a thing when a favorite restaurant in Timisoara tried to serve a certain gentleman his turkey schnizel cut into strips atop the potatoes. Which pieces didn’t in any sense fit together if one picked them up and attempted to reassemble a filet. Which prompted the gentleman to ask our waitress why she’d given him someone else’s uneaten bits of turkey schnitzel. She protested that no such thing had been done, and when asked why then the dish was presented thusly, she offered that it was “for decor”. She continued to mutter the phrase as we put on our coats and walked out. []
April 15th, 2016

In which a city that never sleeps burns out.

It’d seem a simple force of nature if not for the presence of so much un-naturally stamped in blue-gray columns and rows ’round the rotting monuments of this mass they’ve had the gall to call metropolis. The life, at night, is not a wave, not a pulse, there’s nothing resembling life amidst the artifice of fun strung out of tiny concrete blocks and confused bands offering grotesquely butchered tributes to the lovely people who live somewhere else. “Let’s Dance” has a bad trip on a fucking bongo drum while half its words are lost in mumbling over the emitter’s disinterest, enthusiasm miraculously rediscovered once the murder’s over and he can insist everyone clap because, please keep in mind, he’s working. We leave them a love note on a napkin and pour ourselves back into the swamp, knowing full well that’s the best show on tap that night.

Downtown beautiful buildings sit plumply in their pastry case and cast their glitter on the water; still, it’s silent except for the garbage trucks and folks who follow them, groupies of the grunts and squeaks and smells of twelve million people’s worth of junk. Their parties do not don the contemptible pretense of not starting ’til the day’s clock has run itself out, and I suspect whatever they’re drinking is superior to the club sludge. I suspect their conversation, for being mostly absent, outshines the paying sort too. There’s no circus here to run to, but pools and pools of “fuck it” with open invitations to join in. Just a toe.

The barrios they say are full of things to see. And it’s true for a week, for a glorious week in which you’d think what you’re seeing is a grand edifice that must house even greater things. And on the eighth day, you will see the light, and it will not be good. For there’s nothing inside aside from endless “todo bien?”s and incomprehensible failures, people with no idea what they’re doing or why but they’ll demand your respect (in words alone of course). Wouldn’t you like to support them? Wouldn’t you like to sit there, in the windowed cell they’ve got, and pretend with them that jack shit is just sublime?

There are no horses at the hippodrome, all they’ve got are slot machines. “The Palace” here is a beautiful old building full of tents that sell knockoffs of boring brandname clothing, littered with disused racecars and plastic booths where no one waits to “service VIP clients”. Shops along the main avenues keep their doors permalocked and post-it note plastered, please press the buzzer and wait five minutes for entry, for the sake of “seguridad”. I used to ask the keepers what they were securing themselves from. The answer invariably was that nothing really happened.

Nothing really happens here. I’ve never fallen out with a city so fast, a curious thing to me. Over the last year it’s become clearer the problem is all the pretending, which could’ve been fun in itself if it were about anything other than having fun. The only way to enjoy yourself here is to go out knowing you’re to entertain yourself, to reflect on nature, to push something until you’re completely exhausted. Nothing here will impress itself upon you, in other words. You must impress yourself upon it.

It’s hardly the worst problem to have, until you miss the old gods of your youth and can’t help yearning for someone talented –at anything that’s real– to take you somewhere routeless.

April 3rd, 2016

Line betting on BitBet, February and March 2016

Report 23. Joint statement, April 2nd, 2016

GPG signed statement
Accounting url: bitbet.us stats/18bCNXjdT2NUjcip6KdbFR5EEFAu3oTgTq

Total wagers made: 0; all time: 94 (2x wagers on 47 bets)
Total wagered: 0 BTC; all time: 47 BTC
Total bets resolved: 1; all time: 421
Total calls won: 1; all time: 32
Total calls lost: 1; all time: 10
Total calls pending: 5 (10 wagers on 5 bets)
Total amount won: 1.03843410, less 1 BTC resolved wagers, for a period gain of .03843410, with all-time loss at 3.36407151.

Outstanding wagers: 5 BTC

Notes:
In light of BitBet’s turmoil over the past month, it looks unlikely that PC4 will be able to keep operating, and as such no new bets have been placed. As noted, there are currently 5 BTC in bets still outstanding, none of which have actually had their resolution criteria met, which should mean they’ll be refunded, assuming BitBet’s receivership and wind-down are well-executed.

It’s been a bumpy ride, with ultimate results obviously less than stellar, and whether the line betting idea has its conclusion is still somewhat unknown to me; certainly a greater sample size would’ve better aided any sense of certainty. Assuming the profit center does indeed close with BitBet itself, I’ll be putting together a post-mortem to see what can be seen.

***

  1. Bets resolved from earlier placing periods: 1208. []