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Friday, September 22, 2006

Graffiti in the Born

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Stoned in front of the idiot box

So last night I was enjoying this year’s excellent harvest, and ended up watching Localia (channel 8). After midnight it starts broadcasting soft porn with cheesy playboy vignettes, then after that there’s a program called Strip Poker. The women always conveniently lose to the host of the show. Oh you got four of a kind? That doesn’t beat my royal flush! The woman feigns coyness, then strips gracefully and steps aside for the next nubile contestant.

After this show there are commercials for downloadable porno clips for your cell phone (jovenes – teenagers, maduras – older women, tetas – tits, transex, etc.), then after that a commercial for this apparatus called Andro-Pene which looks like a tube with a cinching device that stretches your penis. It's the same concept as the racks they used to torture people with in medieval England, only on a smaller scale and exclusively for your penis. And, according to the infomercial, it can be discretely worn underneath you clothes. This, gentlemen, is the last step to loserdom. I swear to god, man, if I start downloading cell phone porn (bouncing titties, hooray!), and spend 250 clams on an Andro-Pene I'd deserve to be weeded out of the evolutionary gene pool. Just fade away into an oblivion of soft core porn and late night wank fests.

There’s another channel called TT that broadcasts latin hip hop videos and r&b dancefloor sleaze. Underneath the screen there’s a lower third where you can send SMS messages that appear live on TV. The purpose of this is to hook up with singles or naughty people in your area. I know this guy (actually, my girlfriend’s brother) who met a married woman like this. Turns out she was a total freak who wanted to involve a dog in their intimate moments. He broke it off after she solicited the randy canine, but here’s the funny part. Not only was she married, into bestiality (all this without her husband knowing) but she also worked as a secretary in the Generalitat, Barcelona’s city council. As Paris Hilton says: “That’s hot”!

There’s also a program called Pocholo in Ibiza on la Sexta (channel 6). Pocholo (real name Jose María Martínez-Bordiú) is the son of a Spanish baron, and he has an uncle that married Franco’s daughter. So this specious blue blood is a celebrity in Spain. He has no known talents, nor does he have latin lover appeal, nor does he have a seductive charisma. He is simply what they call here a friki - a freak. Hence his own TV show, and appearances on shows like Chronicas Marcianas (former late night show which consisted of coke-addled pseudo-celebrities sitting around yelling at each other) and Hotel Glamour (former big brother type show with ex-escort girls, coke addled pseudo celebrities in a “glamorous” hotel sitting around yelling at each other).

Pocholo – it’s totally obvious – snorts enough blow to put Tony Montana to shame. In between mandible grinding madness and constant fidgeting, Pocholo (name derived from his childhood nickname, Pocho-Pocho - which supposedly means sickly) drives vintage cars, throws rave parties in Ibiza, and gets lost in the wilderness with porno actresses. Yes, all on his very own reality show, Pocholo in Ibiza - on late night Spanish television, of course. He’s entertaining in the same way that Paris Hilton is entertaining. He is a cultural phenomenon. You just kind of sit back and watch in disbelief.

Now, that's hot!

Like Paris Hilton, Pocholo is only known for being himself. Check out his bio on imdb. Supposedly he was an extra in a couple episodes of Miami Vice. But, other than that, in every program he’s ever appeared on, he’s credited as “himself”. This begs the question: could Pocholo and Paris be made for each other? Shocking, terrifying images flit across my mind. Imagine the consummation of these two figuras … what could possibly be more ridiculous than that?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

One man's crusade

He's in the Eixample. He's angry.

This is a man on a mission. His shirt reads, BICIS per la borera, NUNCA MÁIS, or BIKES on the sidewalk, NEVER AGAIN.

He walks through my neighborhood spewing bile on bike riders who get in his way on the sidewalk. Stalky and somewhat round-shouldered, he’s got a face like a bullfrog; two hard, dull eyes; two deep creases pointing up in an inverted V from the corners of his tightly pursed lips.

I’ve crossed him a couple times right in front of my apartment. I’d be in the process of looking for a place to park my bike, when he’d walk by and yell “Capullo! Mamón!”, or “Dickhead! Prick!” Spittle would spray out of his mouth as he continued his rant - something about sidewalks and bikes.

He’s not the first angry pedestrian I’ve encountered on the sidewalks. There are some parts of this city - particularly in the center, or in Gracia - where at certain times of the day it is simply impossible to ride your bike on the street. With the exception of some of the main arteries like Diagonal, Gran Via, Passeig Sant Joan, even half of carrer Provença, many parts of this city are difficult to navigate on a bike during rush hours. Angry sidewalk vigilantes have admonished me in colorful Spanish and Catalan, and I usually told them to “Fuck off” and went on my way. But the Nunca Máis fellow would get on my case right in front of my apartment, where inevitably I had to use the sidewalk to lock up my bike. Even after I told him the first time – “Vivo aqui, I live here …” – a few days later I heard “Capullo! Mamon!” and there he was, stomping away.

So the other day when I saw this snarky fellow dragging himself around the neighborhood I just had to laugh. He actually went through the trouble of making a T-shirt that said, BIKES on the sidewalk. NEVER AGAIN. Not only that, but instead of writing NEVER AGAIN in Catalan like the rest of his shirt, he wrote it in Galician: NUNCA MÁIS. Nunca Máis arose as a slogan and a protest movement after the Prestige oil spill in 2002, reflecting the discontent with Aznar’s government. Nunca Máis, then, has emotive and almost righteous connotations. This guy, with his particular hatred of bikes on sidewalks, obviously feels very strongly about about this phenomenon. Watch out for him. He’s not a big guy, but he’s loco. Batshit.

I wonder where his anger comes from.


At the risk of sounding solipsistic, my second bike in a month has been stolen. This happened a few days ago in one of the most irritating neighborhoods of Barcelona, the Born. It’s a beautiful neighborhood right in the middle of Guirilandia, but it's overrun with tourists and fashion victims. I went for a couple drinks with a friend of mine, and an hour later I found a sliced lock where my bike should have been.

2 in the morning, and I found myself walking back from guiri-fashion-landia. I stopped in Plaça Catalunya, bought a beer from a Pakistani guy, sat on a bench, and watched these Moroccan kids shaking down drunken guiris. The kids approached me at one point, thought better of robbing me, and said “Salam malikum.” (It’s not the first time someone has thought I was Moroccan). I drank the rest of my beer and walked the rest of the way home.

If you see an ugly matte black mountain bike with fucked up brakes, send me an email: somejackassstolemybike@gmail.com. Or if you have a bike and want to get rid of it, or even trade for something, let me know as well.


Tourist vs. Tourist

Sketch art bv Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi, no doubt inspired by Barcelona's center

Friday, September 08, 2006

Notes for the underground

The internet is a fountain for serendipity, if nothing else. Certainly from my side there has been no money to be made. But every once in a while you have stimulating dialogues, or even nascent projects as a result of a random search and the right combination of hypertext.

So, a story I wrote a few years ago - transposed from another story I personally experienced a few years before that - is now making its way through London’s subway system. I’ve never even been to London, but thanks to the editor of Litro, who found my story on 3ammagazine.com, somebody in that illustrious city might be reading it - some dude might even be wiping his ass with it for all I know. But I like the idea of random commuters picking up a copy. There’s always the off chance someone might actually dig it.

No I didn’t get paid for it (neither of the two times the story got published). But that’s not the point.

You can download it and comment on it via their website. Here's the link to the pdf. This zine is literally and figuratively underground. They hand out a different story every Friday morning to commuters entering the subway (be sure to check out past editions). It is a labor of love. My hat is off to them for starting it.

Of course, labor of love is something alien and frightening to many people. How on earth can you do something without monetary reward? “Like dude,” people tell me, “you gotta make your web a portal, put banners and shit on there ….” Well, no, quite frankly I think that kind of thing would be tacky. I’m not against making money, but there’s a difference between inspired craftsmanship – be it painting, or music, or writing – and what simply is advertising.

Advertising is not art. Marketing is not art. For example (this is a based on a conversation I had the other night), I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people tell me they make commercials as an inroad to make movies. As if the one had to do with the other. The problem is most people in advertising, because of the common medium being used – print, multimedia, television – think they are creating art. I’ve worked with these people, I’ve even edited commercials, and I can tell you from experience that they are among the most clueless individuals I’ve ever encountered. Fueled by a desperate need not to feel superfluous, they trick themselves into thinking they are creating art – i.e. something transcendent. My friends, if you are making a commercial for Coke, no matter how hip are snappy it is, no matter how many Argentinian tap dancers you throw in there, it is still a vision distilled through the eyes of people that think about one thing and one thing only, and that is to make money.

It is parasitic really. They see an idea that is becoming universally accepted or appreciated and exploit it. They take no risks. I can’t respect a drone, which is what most of the people in advertising are. Yes, I suppose there’s an art in everything, and they are artists in making money. But they do not create, or sacrifice. Everything is too calculated for that. Self-delusion, desperate hipness, tacit acceptance of the norm – this defines their little subculture.

I prefer someone who is straight up about what they do. You make money. You advertise. You consult. Whatever. Just don’t be pretentious about it..

Anyway, that’s why I appreciate what they’re doing with Litro Magazine. I’m sure it will form into something and pay for itself one day.

Excuse my little rant. Actually I have some friends in advertising, but they probably won’t even read this post.