Archive for the ‘Dystopia’ Category

Narodni's No-No

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

It's true that part and parcel of the way we travel is a general and vigorous avoidance of the overtly touristic. There's simply not that much that's organized with the purpose of mass entertainment that can actually deliver entertainment to those not fettered to the mass. Besides, wandering around wide-eyed through cookie-cutter "interests" with DSLR-bedecked livestock is how one meets...livestock, not natives. Essentially, there are a lot of stationary cruise ships in this world; all-inclusive, and all roped in to discourage you from wandering away from the group.

As with nearly everything, though, there are exceptions, one of the most prominent of which is probably the occasional trip to a museum. Noble, hallowed halls of my youth, tombs of wonder I'd always thought I'd want to work in, I love a good museum --but travel has taught me that the word itself, and even the auspices and trimmings, are largely a crapshoot. I'm not sure if it's a when, or more of a where, but at any rate the bar to museumhood seems to have lowered to depths rarely plumbed in other categories. To wit, the "Museo del Jamon" in Buenos Aires, if you like, or the utterly decrepit Brukenthal Museum of Sibiu, that bastion of Epson-delivered "masterpieces" and supernumerary ticket-checking interlopers.

Somehow, though, the complete and perfect failure of these museums that shouldn't makes them less offensive than museums that won't. You know, large, storied, monied institutions central to a city, which nevertheless have no real idea of what a museum is or what ought to go in it, or how. Sometimes, it's the shoddiness of the curation --a problem encountered mostly in Latin America, where art and artifacts are ubiquitously discussed in terms of their value to "the common man" rather than their own merits. Other times, it's a problem of policy: insane approaches as to whether or not pieces may be photographed and various other red tape fetishistic behaviors (beloved by the US and those doomed states still chasing the "ideals" of blue jeans and burgers).

Then there's the equally sad and infuriating example of Prague's Narodni Museum. Outside of Istanbul, I know no city more beautiful than Prague, its knack for line and curvature and smoke and sparkle licking every aesthetic joy I know at nearly every turn of the head. The Narodni Museum itself fits perfectly into this landscape, and crowns the very avenue that pumps blood and beauty into the New Town center. Everything is a scroll or an emerald, an epic pastoral stairwell or a waltz or windows and lanterns. I wouldn't even fault the place for having much less in the way of showpieces than structures; amidst empty rooms and corridors there's after all an eighteenth-century whale skeleton, and a very convincing (and comfortable!) yurt. I am satisfied with the thorough splendor of Prague enough to be entirely persuaded of its artistic accomplishments, even if the Narodni were quite literally devoid of any object at all.

narodni-1

narodni-2

The problem is: they advertised having Tutankhamun's tomb. That'd be fine if they actually had it, but, you see, they...don't. It's not that they have it on rotation like so many museums around the world have had it now and then, and I'm a petty asshole begruding their lack of some eternal claim to it. No, seriously, the thing's not there, at all. It's just advertised. Incidentally, have you noticed that if something is described as being an "x experience", where x is some worthy or potentially interesting thing, which necessarily therefore requires care and thought and money to produce, there's therefore very unlikely to be any x in it? Yes, the Narodni Museum has, specifically, the "Tutankhamun Experience." I suppose I'd been geographically dazzled into a stupor deep enough to overlook that last word.

What this "experience" consists of is a couple dozen fragments of vases, tablets, and the like, several with accounting notes intact, and these are certainly worth seeing, even if they are significantly eclipsed by the collections to be found elsewhere.

narodni-3

narodni-4

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Accessing these fragments is an exercise in frustration, though, as they're peppered throughout a complex of rooms covered in floor-to-ceiling screens (yes, blocking the far more intriguing interiors of the museum) on which is displayed...

narodni-6

...I don't know, I never watched much television and don't pretend to "learn things" on youtube, but I imagine this is pretty much how it goes, a shit-ton of stock footage with the occasional relevant graphic floating around in the foreground, different bits being mask-highlighted while some derp reads Wikipedia-level pseudotrivia on the audio track. And you...can't leave, see, it's the "experiential" part of the experience, you've got to stay in this room or that for this or that section of holy shit the audacity of the people who came up with this nonsense!

narodni-7

Museums are places where people pay to see interesting items they otherwise wouldn't, and where people who know about these items take good care of them. A museum is not a cattle-herding set of hallways locking people into watching some graphic design student's sophomore year project. If you're trying to force things into being interesting to the general public by making it "relate to them", or fit into "today's technology" or whatever other bullshit, contentless paradigm, you're not a museum, you're a rube-cube, no better than a three-card-monte setup on collapsing tables. It's quite clear the Narodni bought this "experience" as some sort of license + materials package as opposed to coming up with the sham themselves. Their susceptibility to this in tandem with the manifest outcome of having had much of what would've been present, stolen, makes me rather sad, for the one fault is so deeply shameful, and the other so spotless, I don't want to look at the mottled, blemished outcome.

Prague doesn't need its experiences replaced or capped or capitulated by quotation marks. And I am certain this is true whether one follows the beaten path or not.

A Black Forest

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

In the Rohrbrunner Forest, somewhere between Munich and Frankfurt, in a truck-stop motel whose rented room is so stuffed with extra beds it immediately evokes the desperate case of some plurious, fantastically religious family swarming in a last-ditch effort to sleep without the non-activity managing to kill any of its members. Are we really that far off?

The whisps of fog shuttle by in slow processions out the window, masking and revealing thick depths of trees, all closing their eyes to the seduction of golden autumn. The stench of stale french-fries and industrial effort wafts along in tandem, ruining the fairytale. Sometimes the world seems to have disappeared in some such mists, though it's not so clear which cloud it's hid behind; when nothing works as you'd expect, is it you who's failed to understand nature? Is it nature that's failed to be comprehensible? The question comes through the woods, heavy but silent: does it matter?

The result, after all, is the same: surrounded at some hazy margins by castles, by fortresses, by great spans of bridge; and by rotting agglomerations of idiots, by fast-food multiplexes, by the towering ghosts of "solutions" that have more to do with professing to solve than either solving or even knowing what the problem is, here I sit, in a truck stop motel, forced into stasis. You can check out, but where will you go? "Please insert your credit card to discover more."

The difference matters. That is all we really know. Two false steps into the void of settling and you're there, in the swamp, offering excuses and ritual sins to gods made up by the mass of morons. The correct thing will kill you, it is certain; if not now, then later. After all, it has as much time as it'd like, and can bide while you must sleep, or blink, or yawn, or breathe. But you will die anyway, and the other scythes are neither sharp nor sensible. For as long as the burden-gift of life is upon you, it is your lot to seek to understand nature and to be heartbroken by nature's failure to be comprehensible.

A Letter from Dad: "Can Pushing Make the Line Go Faster?"

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

When I was 17, I had one friend with an Autism brother1. He would sometimes bring him with us on our local sojourns, one of which was to sit on a bench at the tiny park and just watch traffic go by.

We would sometimes make up names for people who walked/drove past: "Oh, look at the nose on this guy! That's Bozo Redondo." "Hair check, hair check! This crazy lady has a swivel head and can't hold still; Miss Sheveled.2 "

Frank was usually silent, but very alert and always in observation mode. I think that's where we/I learned to always be aware of our surroundings/environment. Watch and listen to make sense of the world. I am not sure where he was on the Autism spectrum; whereas now someone hyper-alert makes me nervous ("what? where is it? calm down!") back then it seemed to be a calming thing. We relaxed in to our seat on the bench and did not want to miss anything in the moment: just speculating/naming/watching the world go by....3

If you have many years of acute observation, travel, elements of culture, and can be calm enough to observe, one becomes adept at what humans have always done to interpret their world: categorization/labeling.

Of course, this is prohibited. It is "frowned upon" (etymology?)4 to make any kind of observation about a person/place/thing.5 Some cultures/genders/groups are especially prohibited. Jokes are also taboo; there are daily news stories about someone being fired/shamed/black listed due to some remark or joke.

Yes, I was fired from a radio job for making an obvious joke about females back in the NOW days. But that's another story for another day (and you've probably heard it)6.

Throughout my life, I've had people tell me "you can't say that!" "that's not fair!"7 "you don't know that person!" "we need to help that ___ and that's not helping!" One's observations are empirical, untestable, and always suspect. Nature or nurture...why would you say something like that? Were you toilet trained at gunpoint? What were you thinking...or were you? You need to see a Psychiatrist!

Anyway Frank, his brother, and I went to a concert at the Claremont Colleges (Pomona, which later sent me a thin two paragraph denial letter the same day a fat envelope arrived from Stanford) one night. I think it was John Lee Hooker?

We were standing in line ("on line" if you are from New York) and when they opened the doors, Frank kept muttering "Can pushing make the line go faster?" as the crowd was tightening/jamming to the doorway. It was the only time I saw him get upset.

As the crowd continued to surge towards the door, he started to escalate and got louder..."Can pushing make the line go faster?" "CAN PUSHING MAKE THE LINE GO FASTER?" "No! Can't!"

His brother pushed us out of the crowd. We ended up sitting on a lawn next to the tiny place and listening from there. We had space and were able to turn down vision mode and turn audio up to eleven.

Frank started a meme with his observation. It applies to many things in life and I sometimes use it to this day--fifty years later8. The next time you are out and about and in observation mode ask yourself: Can pushing make the line go faster?" and look around.

Whatcha doin?

-t

p.s. "1872, Darwin Emotions ix. 223 A man who joined us, and who could not conceive what we were doing, when asked to listen, frowned much."

* * *

  1. I'd edit this to autistic brother, but I'm not sure the implied embodiment isn't intentional --if some afflictions are more central to a person's self-expression than others, you'd expect autism to be rather in the "central" group, wouldn't you? []
  2. I find the particular talent for appellatin' so delightful I couldn't tell you. As a kiddo I always drew my dad with a mohawk, when I drew him, 'cause he was so cool, see. I don't think he ever actually had a mohawk (other than a plastic one on his motorcycle helmet), but I'll probably always represent him that way, in my head. []
  3. When's the last time you saw teenagers engaging in anything like this most natural and otherwise timeless behavior? Watching the world go by on the phone isn't quite the same thing at all, is it. []
  4. I'm not sure that this rather un-idiomatic idiom even has an etymology distinct from sufficient insufferables muttering their irrelevant displeasure, but in the few tepid attempts I've made to find out, I've come away shorn of my good intentions by the sheer mass of similar mutterings. []
  5. I think he's a little over-sensitive to the emissions of various mulae. Then again, I refuse to live where he does largely on the basis of not wanting anything to do with the mulae, or at least on the basis of having a reasonable expectation that I can tell them to fuck off without some long-tail stream of personal inconvenience to myself. []
  6. Well technically this letter came in yesterday, and today's a new day, and the story's most definitely worth repeating, so here you go, drudged up from my archives:

    "KAYS, Hays Kansas. I was the morning announcer in my first
    job. KAYS was the only station in Fort Hays, Kansas (it was a
    radio-TV station where I also learned how to direct TV and was
    occasional weekend weatherman).

    Short jokes and funny stuff were a big deal in the 1970s and I used to
    try to throw in remarks, etc. This was conservative mid-america, so
    had to be careful of course.

    I told some risque stuff now and then and the station did what many
    midwest stations did by banning certain records (I remember "Tonight's
    the Night" by Rod Stewart being expressly forbidden. I got in trouble
    for playing the Isley Brothers once too).

    Anyway, I got called in to the manager's office, suspended for a week,
    docked pay, and then had to go back to the manager's office and
    apologize to the Kansas President of the National Organization of
    Women (NOW) because of a what I said talking with a news man.

    In those days, the "top of the hour" 00 to 05 on the hour, every hour,
    was news, farm report (barrows and gilts! I had no idea what those
    were when reporting prices...sorghum included!), and weather. Then
    the reporter would "throw" it back to the announcer with a "kicker"
    story--something funny or unsual or light news.

    He finished with a story about the first woman astronaut having just
    launched. So I said,

    "This is great! We have a woman astronaut, a female priest was just
    ordained, women are doing great things...I just don't think they
    should be allowed to vote!"

    Bam, right in to a record.

    Phones lit up, secretary comes in and says "Why are all these people
    calling the station?" etc.

    I just kept repeating to everyone, "it's a joke! it's not serious,
    it's a joke!" But almost got me fired from my first job.

    ...so there's my contribution to Woman's Month." []

  7. I really hope I didn't add to this pile of insanity as a child, but I shamefully have my doubts. []
  8. I actually remember Dad asking if pushing makes the line go faster throughout my childhood; waiting to get into the Del Mar County Fair, approaching Spike & Mike's "Sick n' Twisted" Festival of Animation, boarding my first plane to Europe.... []

Impression of Minsk, July 5th

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Minsk is gray sheets of rain worse than the moods it provokes. Sideways, stinging, down the broad avenues flanked by hollow concrete giants, the rain finds a way into your eyes, into your packages, wherever you'd least like it to go, whenever is least opportune.

In a bout of moving apartments across the hruscheba courtyard to the better place1 the rain returns, heavier than before, somehow thirsty for suitcases and the shopping bags full of milk, nectarines, bread, and Georgian (read: undrinkable) mineral water.

The atmosphere in July is twice the Januaries of my childhood; twice as cold, twice as gloomy, twice the daylight hours, twice the misery. I misspeak at every other corner, and fail to smile at all in between. All my pleasures here are inward, in private jokes, in stolen glances, in imagined pasts that did not and can never now exist.

Minsk is an egg abandoned, without a nest to keep it warm, or eyes to watch over and wonder at what sleeps inside. Were the place not so subject to the volatile whims of the gods that go scuttling by on their way to someplace else, perhaps the beast could be coaxed to come out. Perhaps something more than surface could wink into being, bare between the birches, wind in the feathers of gliding gulls.

Perhaps if it were winter, and Minsk was in her element, not forced to pretend about sun and smiling, perhaps then it would be still enough to show itself. If all the idiots were made to stay indoors, and the big soup pots were brought down from imaginary attics, if the noise of traffic ceased and the buskers went home to practice more...if the playgrounds were empty for an obvious reason and the fact I came here without a coat would be a death knell and not an uncomfortable inconvenience...then perhaps she could break from her shell and I would know her.

Until then, I sit on the wide kitchen windowsill waiting for the rain to stop, or admiring the cartoon baked-potato man2, watching old buses like wheeled cinder-blocks streak slowly down the street. It is not yet, here. Simply not yet.

  1. That place I dismissed on the first pass because six of its seven pictures featured the same purple couch --a nice couch, but by then far too conspicuous, as though it were hiding some darker secret among its deep purple brocade. []
  2. Kroshka Kartoshka! []

A Thermo-Rental Odyssey

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

When I first lived in Romania I called the kitchen-cum-living-room I spent most of my time in "The Orange Spaceship" on account of the shocking citrus blinds that coated the room in rod-n-cone obliteration by day. At night the berth was a somewhat more serious sodium carmine affair. The walls were bright yellow, the couch was bright red, and I found an excellent pair of sunglasses that year, incidentally.

Imagine my chagrin, then, on introduction to Chez Vozvrashchenie; yellow walls, admittedly a little more lemon cream than 'lectric skullfucker, and orange-as-she-comes drapes, filtering the light into the kind of shade you hear before you see. The door, inset with dithered plexiglass1, cast neon orange shapes on the opposite wall outside, a warning, perhaps, to ungoggled adventurers.

I replaced the drapes with thick black floor-length brocade, grounding the Spaceship 2.0 in one fell swoop, but I'm still at a loss as to how to approach the remnants of that alien civilization, consisting primarily of three...things some Brigaweird General thought fit to hang on the walls. Send help!

Exhibit A:

suns1

A charming snapshot of Sol wringing the last tears out of the terran landscape, the thirsty death to come foreshadowed by rib-like ripples in the foreground's dunes. The sky's intense blues suggest cool water never again to be savored --at least, not in this room.

Exhibit B:

suns2

Nuclear apocalypse in fiery zenith! Behold the orange intensity dividing shrubbery from topsoil; the righteous from the evil-doers; the obedient from the dissenters? Also, I suspect (when squinting, anyway) the center semi-circle may originally have been an attempt at a chaos star. Who wouldn't want to fall asleep and wake up to such a pastoral portent?

Exhibit C:

suns3

Nefertiti looks on, decapitated and utterly unimpressed, as the procession of the KKK Dromedary Corps traverses Giza. That is, Giza Island, where the Corps presumably battles against the predominant brownness of the environment and the disappearing surface area, requiring a constant smooshing together of the perilously close pyramids.

Would you believe me if I said that furthermore, the sheets that came with the place depict black silhouettes of snowmen, reindeer, and gift-wrapped boxes on a white foreground festooned with "holyshitisthataSPIDER!!1" black stars, too?

  1. Ever notice how things officially described as "Design Elements" are necessarily devoid of elementary design? []

Blistering Choice

Friday, May 10th, 2019

The very thought of the development of the specific psychopathies over time is enough to make me sick. Imagine the movement through a lifetime of a worm, acquiring in slow succession now antennae, now carbuncles, now splotches and hairs, complicated feet and feet for the feet themselves, ever multiplying in sickening mathematical complexity until there's nothing in particular that can be focused upon. All you can do as an observer is zoom in or zoom out, and every movement is edged in razors.

At first it was a sweet dream. There was something so simple, so round, about the correctness of things, about the possibility even of correctness. Only being able to imagine that there was some difference between paths, that there was meaning in action just as there was meaning in inaction, was revolutionary. It was the answer to all problems, and the light in all tunnels.

But there is no choice as to scope or context. For loving what is right you are not able to prefer it sometimes, or in some places. There is only where it leads you, of its own accord, by some laws you'll never know, by some laws that cannot be known. There is no guarantee that the entirety of life will be spent any other way than being compelled to love the correctness of the clutching of a sponge. And in truth, why should it really be any different? Whether something is large or small, simple or complex, whether it takes a great deal to comprehend or even see it or it appears as though a speck, a blip on the map of an existence, what does it matter to someone devoted to the thing itself?

And yet it can. And yet it can, terribly. It can matter to the extent that nothing else does, and the correct sponge holding becomes as a hateful fact, a thing utterly loathed and dreadful to think about, idol and paragon of everything wrong and unhappy. The silence and space around small things is too much to stomach, too much to mouth, even. It encroaches and grows and mocks, leaving the observer stultified and saddened, without material for anything at all. With no material, themselves, in or out. A shell, if you could call it that, for there's not all that much defining the borders after a while. Just a sort of gas that moves around, maybe, for unclear reasons, and to unclear ends.

You do not get to choose. The shape of what a dream looks like is a trap inasmuch as it contains any detail. The slightest detail at all is a lie, is a shackle waiting to ensnare the dreamer somewhere along the way, killing both their movement through the dream and their ability to wake up. Why should precision be quite so deadly? Supposedly specificity is a great boon, is a prime tool towards the development or manifestation of anything, anything at all. And yet, what can really be manifested in the presence of specificity? Only the hollow, aching death of the thing that was actually planned for.

Not knowing isn't better. Not caring is the only thing. But why would one dream if one didn't care? What's to dream about if you care about nothing? To dream of nothing itself, maybe, like a monk. Like a monk who sits, a dipole in the atmosphere, producing nothing.

It is in the network of rot of all of this that the insects appear, all fat, horribly articulated bellies and iridescent wings. What better place for such creatures to infest than a tangled nest of grief and contradiction. What experience, exactly, is one supposed to have from within an itching mess that can't be seen out of? The experience of prurience with blindness, the constant removal of one's own skin, the constant irritation to grow more calluses where the old ones were painfully scratched away.

And they said you can't take it with you.

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

"Hey, get my other pair of underwear out of the trunk?"
"Anything else?"
"And the water."
"You want some fruit?"
"Yeah. Bring the banana for the crabs."
"And an apple? Orange? Some juice?"
"Bring the whole lot. Better yet, bring the whole car."

There's a sweet spot between the convenience of mobile provisions and the hassle of managing all the little tasks that go into stocking, sorting, packing, and retrieving, where that which one wants, one gets, with minimal administration. Banal as it may seem, there's little better than supreme and simple outfitting in the remote wild, which is where the preceeding exchange took place --a place with orders of magnitude more hermit crabs than people, by count, by mass, by whatever metric you'd like.

Apparently hermit crabs like bananas, among other things it's hard to imagine stumbling upon just-so on a shore human scrapsmaking rarely blesses. A particularly ripe one went in, therefore, with the other trunkstuffs unknown to beachkind, like a towel large enough to accommodate any particular angle of lazing about, and a thermos full of clove-infused cafe au lait.

I navigated surf-smoothed1 feet through the short trail of hot sand towards the car, skipping over judgment-browed iguanas and fraying coconut husks. And stopped cold. A heron! Head stretched tall in wary regard, he spent but a second to raise his wings and fly from just in front of the hood to a grassy clearing some feet away.

heron
Leaving him be to continue his automobile inspection2, I returned to The Great Towel Island with All the Trunk Things and the Banana Relief for Hermitty Victims of Crabreality began in earnest. Three grand chunks were flung, and several perambulating shells were observed approaching, and eventually coming to rest upon, the soft yellow anomaly.

Then came the crow, swift, merciless, and robbed these gentle curmudgeons of one chunk (the reader may take comfort in the report that no crabs were seen still attached)! A few minutes passed -- a heated discussion on the provenance of the winch took place -- seawater previously imbibed found routes from out of various holes in various heads. The crow returned. A female, stricken with that particular cruel joke of sexual dimorphism favoring males with brilliant oil-slick blues while the girls go brownly by. She landed several feet from her desired prize, unsure if the banana bit was a bit too close to wiggling toes. She meekly approached, foot-gawk-foot, --and I laughed wholeheartedly at the cautious maneuver, which sent the bird hopping back a ways. She eyed me, attempted one step bananawise, and sent me pealing again. Three times more with this routine and she had had it, sitting sadly on a branch back at the treeline. Apparently it's not only adolescent boys who cannot abide the sound of women laughing. All the better for the crabs, who care not for such trifles --for they are neither sea, nor salt, nor slightly rotten fruit.

Back in the valley, it happened one afternoon that we'd been walking mile after bus-flanked mile over unsteady sidewalks, klaxon-blasted and asphalt-fatigued into desperation for a break. What luck that a certain "anime cafe" was there, tucked into the parking lot of an office supply store. Rainbow-ropelights and well-trod astroturf stairs beckoned. Into dayglo knick-knack paradise we oozed. Did you know that Costa Rica has some of the best, ripest, loveliest tropical fruit in the world? Costa Ricans do not know. For which reason you're well-advised, when ordering anything fruit-based here, to request the item "sin azucar". I forgot to ask Gothic Alice in Wonderland to omit the stuff from my guanabana batido, no doubt distracted by the Hello Kitty popcorn machine and 4' Domo-kun plushie staring me down in the hallway.

guanabana-1

It was like trying to drink one of those scented markers from second grade. And it came with whatever this guy is --though I must admit I can't locate him again, and that possibly he was a mere hallucination caused by the two gulps of sugar-with-some-guanabana-in-it I took before pushing Diabetes Tumbler (that's a "medium", for the record) aside.

guanabana-2

Getting what you want is a lot easier in the middle of nowhere.

  1. The sand here is volcanic, varyingly fine, and this particular time actually managed to bleed my ankles a little in the rather turbulent waves. That aside, best pedicure one could ask for. []
  2. I received no official papers indicating pass or fail by review of Heronity. []

The State of the Cards

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

As a companion item to http://btcbase.org/log/2018-05-22#1816592, here's the current state of supposed Bitcoin-linked Debit cards.

tl;wr At some point there may have been a market amongst these things, if we're to take the mass of reports, reviews, and similar pretense available online for anything other than ad-copy and scam fodder. In any case, in January of this year the company (Wavecrest) responsible for processing, verifying, or otherwise fucking with the Bitcoin-to-Debit conveyor cut all ties with card providers and their clients, resulting in a sinkhole of empty promises, feeble forward-looking statements, and absolutely zero actual utility.

The Would-Be Contenders

BitPay (bitpay.com)

Leaving aside everything else that's wrong with this outfit (see here: http://btcbase.org/log/2018-03-11#1787563 and here: http://trilema.com/2015/time-to-rehash-that-old-strategic-superiority-discussion/ and here: http://trilema.com/2014/bitcoin-in-argentina-exactly-nothing-to-do-with-the-derps/ and here: http://qntra.net/2015/09/bitpay-claims-hack-amounting-to-5000-bitcoins/ ), BitPay's debit cards (should they actually exist) are only available with in the United States, and applicants are required to hand over their Social Security Numbers --something no non-governmental agency is legally permitted to even ask (and something you're well advised to resist, seeing how the principal source of information used in identity theft comes from the inept maintenance of computer infrastructure by these exact culprits).

Cryptopay (cryptopay.me)

After a 15m registration process and a stroll through the extensive KYC verification required to get its cards to spit out more than a pittance, Cryptopay rewards applicants with a note: "Unfortunately you can't order a new Cryptopay card now due to the sudden programme closure by our card issuing bank. We're working on the solution, stay tuned."

Wagecan (wagecan.com)

This one has no notes about advertised products being mysteriously unavailable lurking in your lunchbox, but this at the cost of $200 upfront for the card and the usual KYC requirements, which can only be completed after the fee's been paid. How much the bribe to get the verification "approved" is isn't mentioned on the site. Plainly obvious scam, in other words.

Spectrocoin (spectrocoin.com)

If I see one more ad with that salt-n-pepper-haired fuck winking at me I'm going to lose my shit, you know? Especially since the card is advertised all over the web, and claims about it are plastered all over the site, but you'll have to talk to support to read that "Unfortunately our cards are not available, though we expect to have them this quarter."

Wirex (wirexapp.com)

Waits for users to sign up before mentioning that cards "will be available in a little while." With an account, you can sign up for a wait list --which as of today puts one at the 55k mark.

UQUID (uquid.com)

After an especially toilsome registration process which includes making no less than three separate passwords and takes a good half hour, UQUID simply spits "Sorry, service requested is not available. Please try again later." Whether "later" is more or less than "a little while" isn't indicated.

Xapo (xapo.com)

Despite still showing up on various card review lists etc, Xapo (a member of the F.DERP shame listing has silently erased all traces of offering any sort of card from its website.

Shift (Coinbase) (shiftpayments.com)

Advertised as a card that "plugs into" a Coinbase account, Shift is only available in the United States, and goes so far as to block IPs outside the zone from engaging in this "plugging". In any case, there's a reason Coinbase has been identified as a scam as far back as February 2013.

Bitwala (bitwala.com)

Nearly every sentence on Bitwala's site is appended with an asterisk. Why? It's not actually "launched" yet, but you can "pre-register" --which as of today puts one at the 25k mark.

Coinsbank (coinsbank.com)

"Cards temporarily unavailable."

Bitnation (tse.bitnation.co)

This was referenced as a card issuer on some list of reviews, but seems to be nothing more than a few images of geographical regions, idiot mugs, and links to social media accounts. I still don't know what it is even supposed to be.

Bitplastic (bitplastic.com)

Expired domain. And I thought there's value in such "virtual real estate"!

Raxcard (raxcard.com)

No verification mentioned, but between the $50 charge for signup and multiple reports of the payment being made only for the operators to respond with a "Sorry, we sent you the wrong address to pay to, please send us another $50", there's little doubt this is a simple scam.

Coinsbank (coinsbank.com)

First there's an announcement that "withdrawals to VISA cards are temporarily unavailable." Then "no debit cards available."

CoinJar (coinjar.com)

Waits for users to sign up to notify them that the card, if it exists, only works in Australia. Needless to say, this is exactly not how cards work.

ANXPRO (anxpro.com)

Visit the site as a guest, be regaled with heaps of boilerplate on their fabulous card etc. Sign up, and all mention of any card magically disappears, but "new card solutions are coming".

Advanced Cash (advcash.com)

"The card platform is not available." As usual, you have to sign up to even see this.

Mobi (mobi.me)

No card mentioned on site, despite being referred to variously online as a debit card issuer.

Worldcore (worldcore.eu)

Notes that its card is not available for use in all regions, but requires extensive KYC verification process before they'll even tell you whether your region qualifies. Pro tip: no, it does not.

Revolut (revolut.com)

"Currently only available in Europe." Also requires some application to use, which can't be downloaded on non-Euro IPs, not that there's any hope it'd work at all.

BCCpay (bccpay.co)

"We're performing maintenance at the moment. Sorry."

Panama Makes Me Ill

Friday, April 27th, 2018

And not just because of that stupid palindrome1. It literally made me ill after ~15 hours spent in its clutches, I'm a 5'9" congestion, ghow dho jdhoo gdoo?

Those fifteen hours saw about 20km of walking, which would've been no big deal were it not for the 20kg of gear and Panama's delightful wet-oven that spends all day doing free interpretations of the weather. Thirty degrees at ninety five percent humidity seems a lot more apt for making bagels than a livable climate, but one can only spend so much time in cafes.

Speaking of which, here's Casa Sucre, in the gussied-up part of Panama City, Casco Viejo.

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Decent carrot juice and non-Costa-Rican-coffee2, if you're in the neighborhood and feel like imbibing at your imaginary grandfather's house. The Mac didn't have Oregon Trail, and that note on the piano kindly asks that you keep your children away from the instrument's crotchety old keys.

Panama City has a fairly massive littering problem, replete with the kind of odor you'd expect from a trash-happy city in a hot place on the water --I'll spare you particular description. Casco Viejo, however, is a proper tourist trap, where refuse is magically handled with care, paint flows o'er the walls afresh nightly, and pavers hold the train of your dress while laying flat before you the paths ahead.

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The tourism board apparently foresaw a lot of outdoor entertainment happening around here, though every time I've gone it's been deserted, save for the occasional shaved ice vendor, one of whom ran towards me when she saw me throwing on another layer of sunscreen. You'd be hardpressed to find anyone so grateful for something so small, and indeed, on the whole Panamanians are good-natured. They've been cooked, trashed, and hustled into something like an exhausted, stressed-out cousin of the laid-back Costa Rican, though.

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They're also living like bugs in a city with pretenses to "the Dubai of Latin America"; there's not much difference in costs of living between Panama and the US --at least, not anymore--, but the same air-conditioned bastions of North Americanity that beckon tourists to go from TGI Friday's in Cincinnati to TGI Friday's in Panama City ostensibly for the benefit of saying they've traveled have no fantasy in store for the locals. One cabbie I talked to described 14-hour stints in his totally-not-a-Tata to get bills paid after he left his job as network manager of the city's second-largest mall. He figured there had to be someone willing to pay more than $1000/mo for it. "Turns out, there isn't." He described buying gold bullion in 2012 after considering whether it was a better buy than btc. Then he was quiet for a while. He may be showing up in #eulora if the cockroaches don't eat him first.

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It's not a concrete jungle so much as a trash heap smoothed at the margins and covered in glass; a place where pretty much nobody walks --even for a few blocks--, and the one-upping edifices of US imports lid all, attempting illustration of a greatness and identity of which only regional managers and their braindead acolytes could be proud.

*** Interlude ***

Didja know Panama has a "Blockchain Embassy"?

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"What the fuck does that even mean?!" you ask. Well, it's in a strip mall, and that's all I've got.

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I go in, Wingus & Dingus are seated on stools, hunchbacked over whatever on macbooks. I ask if they'd like to trade som'fin'. Dingus can't talk to me over the wobble of his mouth. Wingus says they have a bitcoin atm. But it only sells. Except it doesn't have any bitcoin to sell yet.

"So...the market here is basically non-existant?"

"Basically, yes."

But they have t-shirts.

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I'm still not sure what these shits are for, and I'm not convinced anyone involved knows either --unless it's outright a case of "ensure anyone clueless & curious about btc who approaches one of these things gets a clear signal that it's retarded".

***

Anyway, as I was saying, Panama makes me ill. I worked for a stint as a supermarket cashier in college, and the nicest old lady working there was from Panama City, made it sound like the sort of place where parrots3 sit on your shoulders and the plantains are like mana. I should've realized there was a reason she had moved to Ohio.

And if the city somehow fails to encurmudgeon you, the airport will: 30min cap on Wifi, several gates with broken A/C (the "causeways" aka mall parts are permafrigid tho'), and plenty of the kinds of logistics problems you'd rather not think about when handing your body over for flight, from frequently changed gates to directions that include lines like "you have to go down the unlit hallway behind the Chicken Port".

Happy trails!

  1. When your name's a palindrome, people seem a lot more eager to recite others they know to you, and that Panama shit gets stuffed in there 99% of the time. Here's one that reads better backwards than forewards. !uoy kcuF .setydolgort fo edaclavac a, gniretlews a, hcnets A []
  2. By now I'm convinced this is the only distinction that really matters, did the coffee come from CR or not? []
  3. In stark contrast to its northern neighbor, Panama, or at least its capitol, are devoid of wildlife. I saw one gull cooling its feet by the water. Otherwise, they've got roaches. []

Sede Atlantico

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

The University of Costa Rica has a handful of satellite campuses scattered here and there around this dimunition of a country, and for some reason figures that its compound in Turrialba has something to do with the ocean several hours' drive to its east. Overlooking the egregious decision to name it "Sede Atlantico" rather than its rightful "Sede Queso"1, I ventured forth on the two-hour journey to audit a class or two and see if there was any wasted talent hanging about.

It's a pleasant drive; the landscape shifts from the gray roughness of San Jose to the technicolor hovels of Hatillos, the city's pseudo-squattage, soon yielding completely to the overgrown jungle-forest-desert pastiche of the rural valleys.

On arriving at the campus, I found it rather remarkably empty for a monday mid-morning. In fact, there were many more cleaning women than students about, so I snapped a few shots of the freshly-painted, freshly-waxed hallways and looked for coffee.

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There wasn't any coffee to be found, however, the cafeteria being full of peeling wooden planks and chairparts. I asked what bipeds I could find, and was pointed towards a soda across the street. Coffee just isn't as enjoyable at a plastic table occupied by squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard, you know? So I walked a few kilometers until I found a somewhat more passable joint that had mediocre cafe con leche and fantasia de higos, a sort of parlor-game dish where you excavate poor, helpless figs from ice cream that's nowhere near up to par.

With the walk back I'd killed a little time, and went back to campus.

Which, as you've probably guessed...

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Well, maybe people don't hangabout here, all business, I guess? Let's go to class.

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Here's Room 4, which both online and right outside its door professes to be holding a class from 1 to about 4pm. At ten minutes to 1, it was empty. At 1 exactly, idem. Fifteen minutes later? I don't think PC0305-901 is doing so well.

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I tried out a few more rooms that were supposed to be holding classes. They were similarly well-attended.

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I went to the administration and asked them why their online schedule, as well as those posted outside the classrooms, were incorrect. The attendant mula, visibly perturbed to be wrested from digging through her purse for god knows what and called to some sort of duty, disappeared for a few minutes and re-emerged with the certainty that the schedules were correct. "So why isn't anyone in any of your classrooms?" "They're there, it's 1:30!" "I was just down that hall, none of these rooms have anyone in there." "We have new classes starting next week!" "Okay, but what about these?" "They're in session." "So why is nobody there?" "There must be!"

I decided to quit the carousel and check out Turrialba itself. The dozen or so girls I managed to find milling around the bus-stops and chop-suey stations near campus had either admitted there was nothing to do on the weekend around there, or else had said the place to go was a disco called Latinos. Naturally, I wanted to see this item.

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What, you can't spot it? This is the happening spot in all of Turrialba, folks! Have you no eye for excitement?

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How about now? Nobody said you can't have a great disco on the balcony of the local social security building!

On a brighter note, the thing downstairs had decent beet-juice.

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In addition, of course, to a screen-for-the-sake-of-having-a-screen ("Activate Windows!") and advertisements for a "workshop on Mayan Mysticism" and "caldosas", which is, I shit you not, ceviche thrown into a bag of corn chips.

The town's main square held the day's real gem, with a certain elusive bird from other excursions somehow choosing this spot to laze about and croon in almost full view.

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Here he is mid-gargle. It sounds about like Roman candles look, if that does anything for you.

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Anyone know who he is?

A cheesy pit-stop on the way back ends this foray:

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Until next time I feel like being delighted and disillusioned in nearly equal amounts, bon fromage.

  1. Turrialba is Costa Rica's cheese mecca, a place where the cows and the coffee bushes do equally well. []