Categoría: WEEKLY COFFEE
Por Victor C Drax
I have a curse. A St. Valentine’s curse. Horrible and dark, it is said it was originally crafted by Norse witches. Maybe it’s upon you too, as it is expanding on recent times, like a plague, like a little virus that starts isolated on a little country forgotten by God, only to expand and take over the planet. I’ve gone to church, I’ve gone to doctors. Nobody can help me with this thing. And I fear, this February won’t be any different.
Bear with me here. I know I’m having a hard time telling you what pains me, but I get nervous just thinking of it.
It’s not buying presents.
I think we all know how it goes. You buy groceries on that store near your home and when you walk in one morning, the place is full of chocolate hearts and teddy bears. All that is missing is the huge “BUY ME” neon sign, but these marketing strategies are so effective that the feeling isn’t lost. Regular products and sweets now come in a variety of love, so you can buy you ladyfriend’s favorite brand of candy, now shaped like a heart –and double price. It is, arguably, so much worse for my girlfriend, since my birthday is almost a month away from Christmas. Plain and simple, you better have money when St. Valentine comes. But… no, that is not the true power behind my curse.
You could think it’s being alone.
Well. It ain’t.
Although I recognize that I’m not Johnny Depp’s lost brother, I’ve learned to play to my strengths with the tools I’ve been given, something fundamental to any person on the face of the planet. I have a girlfriend, as a matter of fact, and we’re quite glad with each other, so that thing of listening to the radio and being suddenly assaulted by Aerosmith’s Hole in my Soul won’t induce a explosion of tears, shakes and the unspeakable terror of loneliness because most of the time I don’t feel like engaging other human beings in conversation, because I’m a grouch, because sometimes I am actively obnoxious, because I’m not cut out for smile and dance with my sweetie on the prairie, holding hands with a rainbow crowning our pretty romance. I’m safe from the fear of nobody liking me since there’s someone who sort of does (and that I like too, that’s very important). So, nope, that’s not the heart of the curse.
Oh, perhaps it’s that fake act that you have to put on, pretending it’s a special date to celebrate love, when you could do the same things you do on Valentine’s any other day of the year.
Close, but no cigar.
It’s not up to me to say whether I’m a romantic fellow or not —if we accept romance not so much as “Now we can talk to each other like babies and I can give you lots of stuffed stupid animals,” and more a thing of “Drive faster, honey, I’m running out of bullets and the cops are getting real close”—, and that is not very much the point; if you decide not to celebrate Valentine’s day on this premise, you might as well forget about mother’s day too, since you can (and you should!) treat your mother in a special way every day of the year. Give yourself a break, buy your girl a present, have dinner! And if Valentine’s Day for you and your better half is every day, then that’s great too. No, this is not where the energies of my curse are born.
Brace yourself, for the power of my St. Valentine’s curse is… people.
“WHY ARE WE EVEN CELEBRATING SOME AMERICAN TRADITION THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR TROPICAL ROOTS? IT’S ALL A PART OF CORPORATIONS THAT TRY TO SELL SHIT TO YOU AND IF YOU BUY INTO THEIR GAME, YOU’RE AN UGLY, SMELLY ZOMBIE AND I’M GONNA BE HAPPY WHEN THE APOCALYPSE COMES AND I CAN SHOOT YOU RIGHT IN THE FACE. I MEAN, WHY IS VALENTINE’S SO IMPORTANT? AM I EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE WITH A HUMAN BEING? LOVE COULD BE TO FRIENDS OR YOUR PETS, NOT A GIRLFRIEND OR A BOYFRIEND, THOSE THINGS ARE STOOOOPID, SINCE EVERY RELATIONSHIP WILL END ONE DAY. I’M TELLING YOU, ONE DAY YOU’RE GOING TO BE ALONE AND SAD ON VALENTINE’S AND YOU WILL SEE MY WAYS AND YOU WILL TURN INTO A TIM BURTON CHARACTER BUT IT WILL BE AWESOME BECAUSE WE’RE FREE FROM THE BIG OVERMIND THAT TRY TO MAKE US ALL THINK ALIKE.”
Fuck’s sake, just shut up if you don’t care about it.
Última actualización el Lunes, 18 Febrero 2013 19:09
Categoría: WEEKLY COFFEE
Por Víctor C. Drax
You just can’t be depressed anymore.
Being sad and gloomy is now mainstream. All those kids during the past decade that were experiencing the regular emotions while growing up had big allies. Tim Burton. My Chemical Romance. Hot Topic. You could be fifteen years old and cry because your parents got divorced, and listen to a song by… AFI, I guess, and consider slitting your wrists. Next day, the girl you like would give you the eye and all is fine and peachy again. They even invented a word for it: Emo. If you were moody and you had issues handling your feelings, you were emo. You were expected to dress in black, with stupid fucking symbols (like a pentagram fused with a heart; I think it’s the logo of some band called “Him”). You were branded. You were ridiculed. Go cry somewhere else, you little prick.
But depression (the actual, clinical condition) is no laughing matter. Unlike those teenagers, you can’t easily label someone who is depressed. There are a lot of feelings of shame and guilt and when you’re at that low point, all you want to do is avoid attention, not attract it. Let’s suppose your girlfriend sailed to eternal happiness with your best friend. You’re going to be depressed and pissed and you will talk to people about it and whatnot. It’ll last somewhere around five days, then go away, you can continue perfectly with your life, as the symptoms wane with time.
Depression, on the other hand, will stay and will only get worse. It may be triggered because of that girlfriend who left you, but it could also be because you’re too stressed. Or you got the wrong comment delivering a project on the job. If a disease is an entity, then depression is a parasite that sticks to you and remains dormant. It will eventually wake up, take any excuse and really mess up with your head. On day one, you’re feeling low, a little sick. If you’ve had previous episodes with the condition, you might recognize it for what it is (and not something like a flu, or exhaustion). But you will turn your head the other way, partly because you don’t want to accept that it’s happening again, but also because there’s not a lot that you can do, now that the show has started. Day two, your energy is not there anymore. You’re moody. We can all agree that people are stupid, but now they’re stupider than usual. Talking to colleagues and carry on with the day seems like such a big hassle that it’s so much better to avoid. Staying home sounds like a good idea. On day three, shit’s getting serious. Now it’s not people the ones who are stupid: you are. You’re mad at yourself and you will take any excuse to put down the enemy in the mirror. Things that you usually like now are annoying and don’t have a lot of purpose. Perhaps by now, you can recognize that you’re depressed. I mean, I hope you do; a lot of folks never identify the feelings and go untreated their whole lives. Or what’s left of them, because the parasite will only get nastier.
Somewhere around day six or seven, you will start having these really dangerous thoughts. What’s the purpose of continuing? Things are not going to improve; the world is not going to be suddenly fixed one morning. Why staying? Who is going to miss you?
I think we all know how that kind of stuff evolves.
We go back to paragraph one. Maybe in the eighties or even the nineties, you could approach people and explain them, but now? Boy, put some eyeliner on that shit, because nobody wants to hear about how difficult your life is. Wanna kill yourself? Yeah, right. Tell me how it went next weekend, over drinks.
It’s amazing how many people, in the face of someone obviously depressed, would say something like “man up.” I believe this is for the whole “emo” phenomenon; depression is a sideshow now. Not a clinical condition, not something that erodes your will over time, but a sing of immaturity. You’re supposed to be over it at seventeen, tops. With a cultural landscape like the one we’ve had on recent years, with kids wanting to emulate their suicidal heroes and the appearance of gothic-pop fashion, anyone can take a bunch of gray pictures and upload them to Facebook (and MySpace before that). Depression is no longer a disease: it’s the stuff teenagers who want to be mean use to have a social background, so they can connect with other kids and chat about the regular teenager tropes.
We end up with a crowd of people (grown ups) who feel like shit, who may be aware that something is not working quite well inside their heads, and who feel already stupid —too stupid to carry the whole “emo” stigma on top of it. Maybe they work a way around this and express their grief in different ways. Someone I know used to say that those things are a good starting point for art. As a guy who wrote a piece on suicide that received a fair amount of attention ( http://www.letralia.com/258/letras02.htm ; the text’s in Spanish), I can attest: art is not therapy. Therapy is therapy.
There are many reasons to not seek help. Why? The answer eludes me. I’ve heard them all, from “that stuff is too expensive for me” to “they will prescribe me pills and I’m not going to stop drinking alcohol under any circumstance.” That crap is just what it smells like: excuses. Eventually, you will have to realize that you can’t deal with it on your own. That you’re not one of the morons on Good Charlotte and that you do need psychological attention, the same way you would go to a doctor if you catch pneumonia. Being depressed is not stupid. It’s not fashion. It’s serious shit that warps your thoughts and your feelings and makes you see things through a distorted glass.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
Última actualización el Lunes, 14 Enero 2013 00:48
Categoría: WEEKLY COFFEE
Por Victor Drax
Just so you get an idea of where I’m at, I want to tell you of the deadlines I’m dealing with —and you better forget that most are self-imposed.
I have to deliver a new episode, weekly, of the hardboiled serial I write. Sometimes, it’s an easy task and my brain has already figured the road I’m going to traverse once I’m in front of the blank page. Some others, it’s just though, man. I’m writing stories and I’m writing a novel.
More background: I’m a lawyer. I went for about six years to college, turned into a full-on vandal and alcohol enthusiast and somewhere along the line, I understood that if I wanted to make money, I needed that degree. The last two years of the college sobered up not only me, but each of the rascals I hung up with (and still do). We survived the extermination of those semesters.
Soon after, I landed a job at an important company (“consultant attorney” is my job’s description, if you can believe that) and now I deal with eight hours at an office, about two more of traffic (that has nothing on Calcutta’s), so I can be home at night and flex my creativity muscle. It would be so much easier if I just get home, play some videogame or watch whatever tv show is on, but I just can’t. If I go to sleep without writing a single sentence, without at least an hour of playing on Auf Der Maur, I feel like the biggest fucking yerk in history.
Ozzy Osbourne got it right, “life won’t wait for you, my friend.” And I need to make a mark, as an artist, before the zombies rise and civilization stops existing.
Trying to write a coherent plot, with good dialog lines and decent descriptions under stress is akin to having sex with a gun to your head. You may perform, but it doesn’t means it’s any good.
I had two other writing projects that call for my attention and one of them can’t be ignored. Third project: you’re on hold. When do I play the bass, you may wonder? Each time I can, which usually means “daily, about an hour after writing, and Saturday non-stop”. I go to bed tired and wake up feeling like I wrestled on an ultimate fighting cage. Drink a couple of painkillers and here we go again.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw an interview with John 5, Rob Zombie’s current guitarist. He said something that really got to me. Speaking about his days as a musician trying to make it in the scene, he said that it was tough, “but I just wanted to be a working musician.” It expresses perfectly what an artist should strive for. Not fame (certainly, not fame), not groupies, not drugs. You should work your ass off to be the best entertainer you can be. So you can be a guy that lives of his performance. A working artist.
All the artists I know, fall into one of two categories: the ones who make money for something other than art (like my job, or coming from a wealthy family), and those who decided they would pursue academically the arts, in a country that couldn’t care less about its writers, sculptors, painters and so on. Yeah, that’s the group of the unemployed, broke artists.
They say that machines will achieve a human-like level of intelligence the day the understand arts and can create art of their own. Makes sense. A computer, with its logical algorithms wouldn’t understand why would you want to dedicate yourself to the craft: you work day after day, (when you could be watching a movie, for example), creating a product that nobody asked you to make and for which there may or may not be an audience. Forget about monetary compensation; even in the United States of America, the land that produced some of the best writers of the past century, only a handful of very fortunate authors get to publish a book and make a living. Not to mention musicians that will never get to quit their day jobs. Inside our Venezuelan borders, I can name only two bands that can live of their music.
What’s the purpose, then?
There is no definitive answer, it varies for everyone. Some are chasing fame and attention, some are looking for money and some already abandoned the dream. For me, is the thrill I get when I can entertain some else. Push you over the edge of your seat and make you wonder “what the fuck is going to happen now?” If I play a tune and you headbang, or tap your feet to the music, my enjoyment is twofold. I love the rush, the adrenaline that my brain won’t produce, unless stimulated.
But to make that happen and keep myself away from eating only canned food, it’s like a wise man once said: “punk rock won't pay the bills, so well, gotta get started early.”
Última actualización el Lunes, 19 Noviembre 2012 03:30
Categoría: WEEKLY COFFEE
Por Alexander Gamero
Julián1 lost an eye, due to a corneal ulcer that was diagnosed 2 months late, medical negligence, and a public health system in collapse. Hilda, as a consequence of her extreme poverty and her troubled relationships with drunks, had to become a prostitute in order to make a living; and when that stopped working, she has even thought of setting her house on fire, with her daughters and herself inside. Palmira was consistently beaten up by her mother when she was a child, and when she became a mother herself she almost lost one of her daughters, due to the virtually non-existent basic public health services in her town. Miguel´s children have not managed to get into public universities because his father has signed a petition for a referendum to shorten the President’s time in office. Julián is from the center of the country, Hilda is from Guarenas - close to Caracas -, Palmira is from Guachara in the State of Apure, and Miguel is from the south of Anzoategui. What do they have in common, you ask? The four of them live in a country where Human Rights (HR) are violated on a daily basis; and they also live in a country which was just elected a member of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN), a body supposed to promote the protection of the HR around the globe.
How is this possible? A country where people doesn´t have access to high quality public health and education gets elected to be part of this Council?
We probably need to answer another question first.
What is the Human Rights Council of the UN?
According to its web2, it’s “an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.” It meets in the city of Geneva, in Switzerland.
The mechanisms and procedures it uses to achieve such an ambitious objective are basically 3: the Universal Periodic Review3, a mechanism intending to analyze the situation of the HR in the 192 Member States of the UN; the Advisory Committee4, a think-tank; and a Complaint Procedure5, allowing individuals and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) to file for “major” violations of HR.
The HR Council was founded in 2006 to replace the much discredited Human Rights Commission. Even though its objectives were laudable, was used mostly to attack Israel (over a third of the country-specific resolutions concerned Israel6). On the other hand, it ignored repeated violations of the HR done by some of its members: Russia, China, Sudan, the United States of America, Cuba, among others. Sudan’s particular case was highly controversial, because back then there was an active civil war – currently under a temporary peace treaty – around the Darfur region, being the government in one of the belligerent sides and being accused of attempting an “ethnic cleansing”. The conflict, also known as Darfur’s Genocide, was triggered by the alleged discrimination by the government of the non-Arab Muslims. The mortality figures vary; the British Parliament7 estimated the number of dead on 300,000, due to starvation and diseases produced by the displacement, on top of the direct deaths due to the armed conflict. United Nations estimate the number of displaced people on almost 3 million. During this period, the Sudanese government was a member of the Human Rights Commission…
But apparently the dismissal of the Commission and the creation of the Council were not enough, since this new body has sanctioned mostly Israel, ignoring for example the growing restriction to freedom of speech in Venezuela8. UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, in an official statement9:
“The Secretary-General is disappointed at the (Human Rights) Council’s decision to single out only one specific regional item (Israel), given the range and scope of allegations of human rights violations throughout the world.”
We can see then that the efforts to promote HR, inside the UN itself, have been seriously flawed. Only a few are accused, and the allegations to allies are ignored.
Venezuela and Human Rights
Given the recent events, it’s advisable to review a few articles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights10 and make some comments on the Venezuelan case.
Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” And a fragment of Article 2: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion…” Do all Venezuelans have the same rights with this government? Does someone who signed to ask for a plebiscite to retire the President from power have the same rights as someone who belongs to the ruling party (PSUV)? Miguel’s testimony, for example, whose children were excluded from the public universities because he himself is a detractor of the President, seems to indicate the opposite.
Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” The Venezuelan government does not guarantee minimal personal security conditions. Unofficial figures11 from the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia place the number of murders on 2011 over 19 thousand, which means 53 deaths per day, and over 2 per hour. Our relative murder rate is 4 times that of Mexico, where the conflict with drug dealing cartels has war-like characteristics. The government itself recognized its incompetence in this area, on the 2011 Universal Periodic Review12: “Fully guaranteeing the right to life, and specifically the right to public security, continues to be a challenge, but work is continuing to design and implement public policies that tackle the problem from an essentially scientific perspective.” The scientific perspective has produced over a dozen of national security plans, including the recent Presidential Commission on Weapons. Nevertheless, the crime rates in the country have consistently increased, year on year off.
Article 5: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The recent TV reportages on the living conditions inside Venezuelan prisons come to mind. In The Economist’s words14 “Far from being secure places of rehabilitation, too many of the region’s jails are violent incubators of crime” “(…) at least 26 prisoners died in a battle between gangs inside Yare jail in Venezuela… A similar number died in a riot at El Rodeo, another Venezuelan prison, last year, which saw gang bosses hold out against thousands of national-guard troops for almost a month.”
A risible Human Rights Council
A complete analysis of the HR situation in Venezuela is beyond the scope of this article. It is, however, clear that the government has not managed to guarantee the most basic human rights, starting by the right to life, even though it has repeatedly tried. Therefore, how can a representative of President Chavez’s government sit in this Council?
Given the inclusion of governments with dubious legitimacy of origin, such as Sudan or Cuba, and others who flagrantly and evidently violate HR such as Russia or China, we cannot but conclude that, disregarding its quest for valid and desirable objectives, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations is risible. A body that does not equally evaluate all of UN’s Member States. One more instrument in the anti-Semitic quest of half of the world. An instance where despotic governments go to defend themselves, and not to change their actions regarding HR.
Then, it is valid to ask ourselves: Is it really relevant that our high school and college students participate in a “Human Rights Council”, within the frame of a Model of United Nations? Should we encourage respect for an inter-governmental body that has so many flaws and contradictions? Where are the Human Rights in the world going, if the organism responsible for promoting them skips a sanction – or even a serious discussion – to governments reaching the border of genocide?
Última actualización el Lunes, 19 Noviembre 2012 21:12
Categoría: WEEKLY COFFEE
Por Victor C Drax
If you were born after 1990, what I’m about to tell you is going to sound insane. Bear with me: imagine a world without the internet. No more torrents, no more YouTube, no more Google. To buy stuff, you must go to stores (actually going, in person) and to watch movies, you must go to the theaters.
Hey: chill out. Breathe in, breathe out, don’t panic. Try not to think about the death of Facebook and Twitter (yes, you will have to interact face to face with people) and focus on what you’ll get. Like, uhm, going out more. And… uh… fresh air. Ok, being without internet sucks, yet we, children of the eighties and before, managed. Before the apparition of Napster, the concept of using the internet to download music was kind of abstract. It was like some new disease: you knew it was there, but you didn’t know anyone who had it. Nowadays, if you listen to something you like on a movie (because you’re not getting it from Mtv), you download it. You download the whole album, you download the complete discography of the artist. Music is easy to get and, arguably, easier to consume. Have you wondered how did we get by before the download thing existed? Well, we had ways. We had tapes.
Tapes (also known in my South American motherland as “cassettes”) were a rectangle of plastic, a little bigger than your Blackberry. You could go to the record store (crazy, I know) and buy two cd’s or four tapes that were, more or less, the same thing. You had to switch sides when you played it and it didn’t give you the commodity of picking the song you wanted by just pressing a button, but at least you got the complete thing, the full album so to speak. In my early teens, I would go with a bunch of friends to these stores and sneak tapes to my backpack, some of them from bands I liked, like Aerosmith and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but most of them were virgin tapes.
Now, why on earth would I want an audio tape that has no sound? Because you could record in them. This is where radio comes in.
I’ve been on The U.S. of A lately and it’s been a pleasure to confirm that, if you listen to the radio, you might get good stuff (I distinctly remember Billy Idol), but here, in Caracas, radio motherfucking stinks if you’re a rock fan. Not only you’re not listening to whatever new music is coming out, but you don’t even listen to old hits. Lame as shit, considering that in the age of tapes and cd’s, radio was our dealer. Of course they would play girly crap like The Backstreet Boys, but if you were patient, you would hear Alanis Morissette, Metallica, Soundgarden. I mean, music that doesn’t suck. I can’t count how many afternoons I would stay in my bedroom, drawing whatever fantasy concept I had in my mind while the radio played shit I wanted to hear. At the first notes of a song I liked, I’d jump to the cd player and hit the “record” button. Sometimes, the dj would announce what song was coming and you were set up to make your mixed tape. I had so many of these things that I would forget on which tape was a specific song I was looking for.
Everyone with some years behind says this, but those were the golden days. Because there was no internet, you couldn’t get all the music you wanted; cd’s were sort of expensive and variety wasn’t that big. You had to create a network of friends and share the cd’s you had, so you would make tapes. That’s how I got most of Queen’s works (and half of Iron Maiden’s). If you played them enough (and you can believe I did), the tape would get damaged and sound would be fuzzy. It was time to send your cassette to music heaven… or the used record store.
Tapes were also a great gift. You had an argument with your girlfriend? You made her a tape. Today, most everyone has an iPod so you can’t really give music in an analogous way, but back then, if you found the songs your girl really liked, you would at least make her smile for the gesture (provided your offense wasn’t that big anyway). And if you forgot your anniversary, there you had a quick present.
The easiness of having music with the internet is a mixed bag for me. Of course you can get to any work of any artist with just a few clicks, but I remember the day when all the work you had to do for music paid off. Tapes (and cd’s in particular) were a wonderful thing to walk home with. They would be a work of art and you wondered how the booklet inside would be —now, all you get is a file.
God, I feel old.
Última actualización el Lunes, 15 Octubre 2012 04:34