Archive for the ‘Dystopia’ Category

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 brother ((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?)). 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. ((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.)) "

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.... ((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.))

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?) ((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.)) to make any kind of observation about a person/place/thing. ((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.)) 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) ((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." )).

Throughout my life, I've had people tell me "you can't say that!" "that's not fair!" ((I really hope I didn't add to this pile of insanity as a child, but I shamefully have my doubts.)) "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 later ((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....)). 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."

* * *

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 place ((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.)) 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 man ((Kroshka Kartoshka!)), watching old buses like wheeled cinder-blocks streak slowly down the street. It is not yet, here. Simply not yet.

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 plexiglass ((Ever notice how things officially described as "Design Elements" are necessarily devoid of elementary design?)), 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?

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-smoothed ((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.)) 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 inspection ((I received no official papers indicating pass or fail by review of Heronity.)), 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.

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 palindrome ((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)). 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.

panamac-1

Decent carrot juice and non-Costa-Rican-coffee ((By now I'm convinced this is the only distinction that really matters, did the coffee come from CR or not?)), 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.

panamac-2

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.

panamac-3

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.

panamac-4

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"?

panamac-5

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

panamac-6

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.

panamac-7

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 parrots ((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.)) 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!

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" ((Turrialba is Costa Rica's cheese mecca, a place where the cows and the coffee bushes do equally well.)), 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.

Validation is available for all clientele in the lobby.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

"M'am, do you need validation?"

"Yes."

"Alright. Please proceed down the hall to the left. The associate at the second table will assist you."

"Thanks."

"Have a satisfying day, M'am."

The portly receptionist handed the woman back her identification card and pointed down the hall indicated, her smile more impatient than reassuring. Graciela hated tight smiles like that. She knew they were fake, the smilers knew they were fake, the teeth inside it probably knew too --but nobody said a lick about it. She hastily returned the tightness out of spite and made her way down the corridor to the left of the cruise ship-like reception desk. As she turned the corner she met with a line of others, some with their shoes off, others already pantsless, and most with their arms crossed, tapping a foot or sighing with every exhale.

"God, why are they always so slow?" she thought, picturing the last set of validators she'd seen --portlier even than that receptionist, all in official sweaters a bit too tight, all making no apparent effort to get through the queue quickly. Graciela settled her mouth in for a long haul of tight smiling. The man in front of her turned around, shrugged, and raised his eyebrows, silently commiserating with a complaint Graciela had thought was silent, itself. He returned the smile. She tightened hers.

Ten minutes passed; she'd considered the striated ceiling panels, developed a strong disliking of the dark blue carpeting with its pointless red and gray splotches, and had come to fully loathe the cheap vinyl wainscotting. She kicked at it with her pointed vinyl slingbacks, being as vicious as she could without making any sound, entirely blind to --or perhaps because of-- the fact that her shoes were of the exact same stuff.

Thirty bucks for a ticket and they can't even put in some tile, she thought, her voice suddenly sounding a little like her mother's, even if she'd only said it in her head. The line moved approximately one person's-length. Graciela was pleased until she realized she'd forgotten she was in a line, and that the line'd have to move if she was ever going to get validated and go home. She turned around to see how long the line had gotten behind her, always something to throw an "at least" at in times like these. She was still the last in line.

"Oh come on!" It was louder than she'd meant it to be, and her face was instantly warm, her toes and fingers tingling. Nobody responded. Nobody even turned around, including the shrugger in front of her. Last and loud, the worst of the worlds --or at least, the ones that pertained to lines anyway. Wait! There it was! ...not really the same though, like that. At least it had been an accident! She stopped looking for an at least, thoroughly depressed at having run out of even this.

Why had she even chosen validation?

Because I need it.

There wasn't any argument to bring against the fact; inconvenience aside, she had to get it done before she could move on. She knew it. Before she could get back into the lobby with its slightly different pointlessly splotched carpet and its Mark, her date, who apparently didn't need to be validated, somehow. Maybe he was just insensitive. Irresponsible. If she kept seeing him, would she have to take care of all the dirty work herself? Then again, he hadn't seemed the least bit put off that she had chosen the left hallway. She tried to picture him waiting for her, standing right outside the service exit, coat-in-arms; patient, understanding, eager to see her again. What an idiot. More likely he was pacing the lobby with a souring expression, or he'd even ducked into another theatre when no one was looking. He could probably watch anything --horror films or porn even-- and be fine! For a second Graciela's mouth betrayed a real grin.

She would probably have been fine too, if that old film hadn't been mostly about women. Mark wasn't affected because it just didn't relate to him, she thought. Old women, depicted as old women. The makeup made it worse, not better. They let the actresses walk, talk, and hold themselves like they really were old. It was sad, it was horrifying, much too realistic. And why would they have done such a thing, make her prefer the evil sister and then redeem her right at the end, taking the feet out from under the character, simplifying and stupidifying her, stupidifying her? And that good sister. Unbearable. Weak, fickle, insecure, desperate for valida--. Graciela's eyes widened and her mouth lost any and all flavors of smiling.

It was true. She needed to be validated.

The line had moved enough to let her see the intake tables. She glanced at her watch: 5:42, almost three quarters of an hour she'd been in line, but it was definitely speeding up. They work faster when they see dinnertime coming, she thought, bending over to undo her slingbacks. She picked them up and wiggled her toes in her stockings, then took out her earrings. Only a few more people to go and she'd feel all better, and maybe next week she and Mark would go see something less risky. Something about robots, or plants maybe. They could watch a nice documentary about cacti. Or one of those things where you just sit and look at a mechanical arm welding a seam.

Graciela spent the next fifteen minutes musing about plastic and paint, toupe and seafoam, boxes and empty pads of paper, until she was finally called forward, almost euphorically unstimulated. The woman at the second table had to call her three times, breathing heavily in between M'am?s. Graciela padded to the table, a cheap foldout stacked with forms and molded trays of varying sizes. The incredible bulk of the woman attending it was nearly table-like itself; perhaps the fat was courting the furniture.

"Hello M'am, please put any jewelry in the blue tray, shoes in green, dress in red, underthings in white, do you have any prosthetics today?"

"Hello. No." Graciela stripped and put her things in the respective trays. She held out her hands for the clipboard backed form, which the woman passed her.

"Please complete this form M'am. I'll take your bag now."

Graciela didn't especially want to hand over her purse, even though she knew they wouldn't let her take it with her. It was unclean anyway, no point in getting validation if her purse was going to stay the same. Still, she couldn't help but hesitate a little as she slid it off her shoulder and held it out for the woman. She had liked it.

"Thank-you."

The form was as busy with disclaimers, agency names, slogans, and trademarks as it always was, just as the actual fields to fill in remained straightforward. Graciela filled in her name, address, sex, race, age, occupation, level of education, amount currently in savings, health score, blood type, family and sexual relations, and presidential rating. She scrawled in the name of the film. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Just printing it conjured a rope of nausea in her throat. The theatre really ought to just let you check a box.

Entirely bare and very eager to be rid of the sickness, Graciela gave the clipboard back to the woman at the table. She had been staring at Graciela's breasts, her mouth slightly open. Graciela pretended not to notice. The woman scanned the form.

"O-kay M'am, you'll be getting validated in the bubble suite, with uh, who's working bubble today." The woman swiveled around in her chair until she spotted another sweater-clad behemoth. "Sherry! Hey Sherry! Yeah, who's in the bubble suite today?"

"Chuck."

"Right, you'll be getting validated in the bubble suite today with Chuck. Do you consent? Into the recorder please."

Graciela stepped forward until her mouth was only a few inches from the plastic device hanging from the ceiling over the table.

"I consent."

A moment later Chuck appeared from somewhere in the bowels of the suitery. He was nearly as wide as tall, with an unkempt moustache and short hair that was oddly compressed in places, as though he'd taken several naps with his head crammed against a wall or desk. A thick red crease ran down the side of his face, crusted here and there with what looked like drool.

"Hello Miss, I'm Chuck," he said. "Please follow me."

Graciela moved with him down a series of hallways until they came to a door with a cheap printout of a clip-art bubble taped at about head's-height. Chuck opened the door.

"Welcome to the bubble suite."

The room was small enough to look like it wouldn't fit more than about a Chuck-and-a-half, and indeed the man had to use his hands to push his fat out of the way of the furnishings as he entered. There was a massage table, a desk and chair with a lamp, and of course, a bubble machine in the corner. It spit occasional explosions of soap bubbles into the middle of the room, making a faint pooting sound as it released them. Everything was vaguely stained, though evidently swaddled in disinfectant and air freshener.

"Please lay down on the table miss. Face up, huh."

Graciela did as she was asked. As she was told? It wasn't a question, even if Chuck didn't look like he could issue any commands. Why did they always have to be so--

"So you saw a bad movie, Miss?"

Graciela nodded and closed her eyes.

"Tell me."

"It made me worry about being older, and like maybe I can't distinguish between good and bad, and maybe I'm stupid. The characters' house was bigger and prettier than mine, and the cars too."

"Oh, how horrible. What a bad, bad film, shame on--" There was a pause as Chuck glanced at a form on the desk. "--Davis and Crawford, shame on that Mister Aldrich. You know, back then they really didn't know any better. They were very insensitive, irresponsible. But Chuck's here to fix all of that."

"Mhmmm." Graciela twitched as she felt several bubbles pop over her abdomen, spraying it with tiny specks of soap.

"Your plans for today?"

"Go home with Mark. Basic sex, eat something, walk Muriel--"

"Who is Muriel?!" Chuck interrupted, his voice suddenly all annoyance and exasperation.

Graciela opened her eyes and saw Chuck frowning over her. His belt and pants were undone, a length of flaccid flesh dangling from the hole of his boxer shorts.

"...Muriel is my Weimaraner."

"Your what?!"

"My dog."

"It doesn't say you have a dog on your service entrance form!"

"Oh. I guess I forgot."

Chuck sighed deeply, zipped up, and said he'd have to check with his supervisor. "I'll be back shortly. Please try to prepare yourself properly, Miss."

Graciela raised her arm to get a look at her watch before realizing it was gone. Sometimes this whole thing took so long she wished they wouldn't even offer it. Just let people take the risk of having reactions, make them deal with it on their own. Maybe they'd even get better at it over time, if they could practice. But that, the answer came, unbidden, that is how we end up with psychopaths and serial killers. She sighed and brushed her fingertips over the tops of her thighs. A little plumper every time. It was fine to be fat, they said, but wouldn't you have to say such things if you were Chuck's size? She wondered how often he was validated, himself. She closed her eyes and imagined his small, floppy penis. Prepare yourself properly, he had said.

She rested her hands at either side of her on the table and shook her head rapidly as if to loosen some bind. She took deep breaths, she giggled as the soap bubbles burst against her. As she heard the unmistakable thudding of Chuck's mass coming back down the hall, she quickly tweaked her nipples between thumb and index finger to make them stand up, and plastered on her tight smile.

Chuck entered the room gruffly, out of breath.

"My supervisor said we can continue, but your failure to provide a complete inventory of relations has been noted on your permanent record."

"Oh."

"So where were we, Miss?" Zip. "Ahh."

"...Walking my dog."

"Yes. Any other plans?"

"No."

"And what would you like to feel?"

"Younger. Stronger...more attractive." Chuck was getting closer to her head, a fact that betrayed itself in the increasing heat she felt there, and in the growing loudness of his breathing. "...Good, basically good, like I make the right choices and do the right things."

"Uh-huh."

His penis was no longer quite flaccid --more like an overripe banana as it landed on her forehead. It bounced lazily a few times over her face before coming to rest on her eyelid.

"You want to be good, do you?"

"Yes."

"Kiss it. Huh."

Graciela kept her eyes sealed shut and pursed her lips in anticipation of the bounty she was about to receive. The bounty, such as it was, landed with a plop on her mouth. She made a show of kissing it like a good girl would, eager and enthusiastic. Her stomach churned in disgust.

"You're very good," Chuck began, moving slightly away from her and beginning what Graciela knew was a two-minute-maximum masturbation sequence. Thank god they introduced a maximum last year, she thought, There were so many horror stories of people being stuck in validation for several hours, days even, they could take turns, it almost ruined watching movies. Not anymore. Well before even a minute was up, Chuck ejaculated all over Graciela's unresponsive body, and spent another twenty seconds or so rubbing it all in.

"You're very good, and very attractive. I like you much more than I did when you came in, Miss. I think you were older then, too." Chuck's voice was distant, disinterested, but the words filled Graciela with a sense of calm and safety. Chuck administered the standard set of three injections, making her a little fatter, a little plainer, and a lot more apathetic. "You're a very strong woman. Mark must be very proud."

Graciela smiled widely, unrestrainedly. "Thank you."

Chuck helped her up and opened the door for her, directing her to the final processing room to collect her things.

"You have a satisfying day now, Miss."

"You too."

Just before the service exit she met the elephantine attendant charged with equipping Graciela for the rest of her night. She was given a recycled pair of regulation earrings, black vinyl boots, a polyester blouse with matching trousers, and a small purse containing a pamphlet, in-ear headphones, a tiny bottle of water, and a copy of her keys.

She thanked the attendant and with her new and genuine smile stepped out the door.

"Everything set?" Mark asked as he approached her, his jacket folded neatly over his arm, his hand outstretched.

"Yep." Graciela took it, and they walked out of the lobby.

"What a great movie." "Really great."

Argentina Comicon Bombon.

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

The taxi pulls away from the straight lines of the city as it approaches the riverside, newly-built spirals of asphalt leading it towards a cluster of squat concrete buildings festooned in pennants and printed plastic banners. A stoplight on red curbs our progress, but not my sense that the event to come will suck. In fact, it's strengthened by a flock of what look like misplaced midwestern soccer moms crossing the road wearing batman t-shirts and hugging giant buckets of popcorn. They swivel to look purposefully at nothing, shoveling in the pochoclo with plump hands terminating in meticulous and retina-burning manicures.

"I guess this must be it."

And it was, even if it was less of an "it" than anything else ever managed to be. But before we go in I suppose it'd only be fair to hand out a little context; there's not all that much to go around outside the temples of half-assery and sleepy congregations that make up this city. You see, everyone in Buenos Aires is an artist. They know it just as they know they're proud, and hungry, and worthy (of what? well, what've you got, and what do the neighbors have? that + 1, hoy es el dia!). It's not limited to the young, to the female, to the left, to the anything. Are there artists in Miami and/or Italy ((Miami is to Buenos Aires what Barcelona is to Romania, which in turn is something akin to what a statue is to a pigeon. It's the mutually-agreed upon congregation spot away from the rookery, the somehow-logical destination for donating some of your filth and strutting around atop it so the other animals can see your swank. Alternatively, everyone being "Italian", it's right and good to do or be something if the thing is celebrated there. Which is how Buenos Aires ended up thinking it has great pizza despite its actual culinary preferences resulting in a sort of oil sponge decorated with julienned nonsense.))? Yes? Does saying you're an artist cost money? No? Dale, entonces somos artistas. This being something of a worldwide delusion (although perhaps not quite to the degree), you'll be familiar with the artifacts of the fallout: unbelievably shitty murals everywhere, idem rinkydink "workshops" selling objectionable curios with reeeally long "titles", and a service industry rife with workers who don't think they should have to be there.

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So many instances of sameness, your knees'll buckle and you'll spend the rest of the day sitting on the floor in stupefaction.

Then there are results like the Argentina Comicon, which shed ...it's really an abuse of the term to call it "light", but we'll push ourselves sickeningly through; a sad little light is thrown on the mechanism at play among the "artists". They're only charged, in their minds, with convincing each other of their artistness. They've no need nor any desire to convince themselves, or to show the rest of the world who they are and what they've got. We know this, because their Comicon did not involve any artists. I don't mean they had some panel whatever which was fulla film people or something and how dare they. I mean literally the entire ((Two rooms, 2,000m2 between them, by the way.)) space had exactly zero instances of artists showing their work, attempting to sell it, talking to interested people, or otherwise participating. One room, let's call it the Popcorn Nexus, was where the local theatre conglomerate sold their butter flavoring buckets o' chum and you could sign up with your DNI ((Social security number, basically.)) to fuck with some promo-pushing gadget brought by Disney/local cable company/Sauron for thirty seconds. The other room, which I hereby dub Shuffle & Blow --no wait, that sounds like it could've been fun. Let's see...the Maze of Farts and Purchases. If you were there with me you'd be nodding your head now, I assure you. This room was nothing but tables arranged in completely disorganized rows and cul-de-sacs, naturally placed so closely together they created constant peoplejams, naturally all selling the same 5 - 10 things. You could buy: graphic novels, booklets of hentai, figurines, tshirts, or fucking katanas. No graphic novelists, no hentai inkers, no figurine painters, no tshirt designers, no katana...fuck, I'd've taken a fucking tasselknotter at that point. No artists, no "artists". Shop clerks with their shop stuff. Five to ten varieties, please ensure you stop to gawk and mill at every.single.table nevertheless.

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Deep within the Popcorn Nexus.

But soft! What light through yonder fartmaze breaks! There was an outdoor area, a doublespoken cordoned-off parkinglot, selling weenies and more popcorn, with a coupla carnival rides for kids, disco blasting. And sure, something like 1.5% of the attendance was "doing cosplay". Most of it was bought, I suspect, at the pre-comicon-con, where you purchase generic blue cotton overalls and "luigi hats" while having your esophagus mechanically widened to accept the Second and Third Comings of the Popcorn.

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The patio de gastronomia was so fuckin' opulent and luxurious I wager that truck was selling straight-up pork sausages.

"And they get away with it; if a kid from San Diego, one from Germany, a Brit, and an Argentine get together at some point and the San Diegan says 'I went to Comicon this summer', and the German and Brit chip in, 'Oh, me too!', and then the Argentine joins 'em, 'So did I! It was great!' they don't turn on him and feed the guy his beer bottle."

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