July 14th

July 14th

Today the Bastille was stormed. Today, two centuries two decades and six years ago, the Bastille was stormed. In that explosion of rage – particles flying in spirals and harsh smoke sprouting from this Armageddon – modern Western Civilization was born. It sprouted from an explosion, from a mini Big Bang, like popcorn when it explodes and ceases to be a smooth golden sphere and becomes a crispy cloud. Today, – also  - a year ago I met a girl of obsessive charm and barbarous cruelty, of confusion and of many faces. She marked me - that’s unquestionable. Love is a very big word for what I feel – crush maybe fits it better.

I met her on a rainy night in that monstrous and fascinating city that New York is. The dark drops ran down between the roofs of Downtown and the trees of Washington Square in front of where we both lived for the summer. We were introduced in the middle of a mob of teenagers of all colors and nationalities, in the best Benetton style, that had been driven to seek refugee under the zinc roofs of the remodeling works of our NYU dorm after a fire alarm went off. And that’s how, in the middle of that sea of youngsters in pijamas, our friendship was born. It flowered, and eventually it became something more complex. But soon that complexity tangled itself with confusions and stupid problems, taking the friendship to an abyss that didn’t seemed to have an end. However it touched the cold floor. And it’s still there, a year after, feeling the cold ground of the dark abyss – waiting for someone to take it out of there. But it seems it’s never coming out.

 And that’s how, my July 14th speaks of a personal and ridiculous Bastille. And I think of her and I think of her cruelty and I think of her charm. The universe makes fun with irony. We were appointed to go to her country’s embassy for some paperwork today – her flag everywhere. I am sure that for her it was just a normal day, I’m just a ghost from her past. Everything continues in that uber-dark abyss and I continue with my ridiculous, amorous, teen, pathetic Bastille – a year after my July 14th, still waiting for her. 

Odalisque

            Caracas is a lot of things. Caracas is, primarily, a chaotic African metropolis. It is Lagos, Bamako, Conakry and Mogadishu with their tropical crime, their endless slums and their governments of prostitutes. Caracas is also a Latin American city of the eighties, not only because it is conformed by pharaonic ruins from that period and before – from the glorious times (which also makes her being Rome in the year 400) – but because it is drowned in crime, violence, misery, third-worldism and Bye, bye middle class! (Brazilification). It is Medellin in the days of Pablo Escobar and Bogota in the FARC’s best times. Caracas is also Beirut in the Lebanese civil war, divided between East and West. It is Teheran and Cairo, cities once bathed in opulence but now turned into dust. Caracas is like New York; it will go from social scum to lighthouse in the world. Caracas is Heaven’s Branch on Earth. Caracas is Hell’s Branch on Earth. Caracas is Brazil. Caracas is Puerto Rico. Caracas is Dubai. Caracas is Mumbai. Caracas are many. Caracas are few. Caracas is one. Caracas are all.

            Caracas is Caracas. 


PHOTOS: Donaldo Barros

Broken Idols

Finis Patriae - End of the Homeland

Finis Patriae - End of the Homeland

Frankly, I have almost no desire to write about Venezuela because it hurts to talk about a country - my country, your country - whose light fades every day. Herrera Luque was always right: this is a country of crazy people. There is hunger in the streets and queues to spare in the markets, but just as cattle, Venezuelans do queues without raising their voices. Venezuelans cannot be compared to Cubans, say several people. I'm sorry to inform you that Venezuelans don't like the times of the Venezuela Saudita anymore. Here the syndrome of the frog in the pot happened: If a frog gets into a pot and the water is extremely hot, the frog will jump. But if the frog gets and the water is acceptable but being heated slowly, it will remain in it as the heat kills it without realizing it. Here castrocommunism was installed with dissimulation (and not that much).

Yesterday, Farmatodo - the largest chain of pharmacies in Venezuela - was seized by the government and its directive board was arrested for participating in the imagined "economic war". Now our tropical Stalin announced that it would include Farmatodo in the Food Mission; sort of failed government project to feed the poor. What does this mean? Farmatodo will probably become another bankrupt company of the government: one of hundreds of companies expropriated. Our state is a corporate monster, a corrupt sultan with odalisques stolen to other owners, who can not bear its own indigestion after devouring everything in its path. What do I think of this? That they will come soon for our businesses, our homes, our cars, our schools, our lives. We will live a tropical Dr. Zhivago, we will repeat those stories about nearby Cuba that once seem so far. 

I remember when, in the early 2000s, Venezuelans said that we should saw ourselves in the mirror of Cuba. Now Argentina, and even Spain with Podemos, has made us their Cuba. Argenzuela is a modern version of Cubazuela, only that in the newest one Venezuela is the oppressor and not the victim. How do our grandparents feel? They saw how we defeated the Cubans in the 60s, how Rómulo Betancourt told Fidel Castro that Venezuela did not need liberators - that Venezuela birthed them. Now we have been taken by them. Decades and a Cold War later.

And it goes beyond the cubanization. The new laws unconstitutionally approved (the constitution is a pretty little book that serves only for decoration) are just disturbing. They are totally Orwellian and neurotic. The death penalty is now legal; Whom will they kill now? And worse, the use of deadly weapons against protests has been authorized. ¿Democracy, Mr. President? No, that died fifteen years ago.

What remains for me to think? Darkness. Obsession-compulsion-phobia. Delirium. This can not be real. But it is. And my hopes for change are minimal, I no longer feel sure about escaping this disaster. The country has been devoured by misfortune. Venezuela is gone. Just barbarity. 

FINIS PATRIAE.

 
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Photo:  

http://walsrya.deviantart.com/art/Venus-de-Milo-171953275

Miss Universe 2014 Costumes Round: Lady Gaga, you've been replaced.

(Original article published on January 23rd) 

Amid shortages and low oil, Venezuelans are waiting for the most sacred time of the year: the Miss Universe, to be held on Sunday in Doral, Florida (Finally in Venezuela!). We are all waiting, however impossible it may seem, for our beautiful Miss Universe Gabriela Isler to deliver the crown to Migbelis Castilian, Miss Venezuela 2014, and Samsung's official secretary. Today, two days before the competition, the round of national costumes or rather extravagant rags slightly inspired by the countries was held. The conclusion: Lady Gaga you've been replaced. 

1 - Miss Venezuela. I will not speak ill of you. Long live our araguaney tree which is abnormally blooming in January! (Thanks global warming)

Miss Venezuela

Miss Venezuela

2 - Dear Miss Lebanon, I know you are the representative of my other people but, girl, you could do better. You used exactly what my mom buys at the folkloric store in Ehden every time we go to Lebanon: her robes for resting.

Miss Lebanon

Miss Lebanon

3 - Switzerland, Switzerland, Switzerland, I see you one more minute and I'll die of depression.

4 - New Zealand (or Miss Arandelle?), the fact that you have fiords don't give you the right to believe that you are the drag queen version of Frozen's Elsa.

Miss New Zealand/Arandelle

Miss New Zealand/Arandelle

5 - I got scared. That's all I have to say about Trinidad and Tobago.

6 - How great! Who would say Lana del Rey would represent Serbia?

7 - Come and visit Slovenia: the land of American prom dresses.

8 - Israel, you are so creative.

10 - Tanzania: The Little Mermaid on Broadway.

11 - Germany, I want you to know that I loved that you represented the Berlin Wall but I don't get why the 99 Red Balloons are white and not red.

9 - Slovakia, beware your evil stepmother and stepsisters. Maybe they'll destroy your dress.

Let's go Venezuela!

12 - You won, Miss Canada! You reach a new level of abnormality. You should be thankful that there's no diplomacy here or you would be North Montana already. 

The Kicks of a Hanged Person

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While the eyes of the world are concerned with Ebola and the Islamic State, in Venezuela - formerly the most stable and dynamic democracy of Latin America - a dictatorship is consolidating itself. In recent months, the socialist regime of HIM Nicolás Maduro, heir of Hugo Chavez, has increased the persecution of opposition leaders, arresting many and forcing others into exile. Now, the latest victim of the witch hunt is the former congresswoman and opposition leader Maria Corina Machado.

The new nemesis of the revolution appears to be a woman of a wealthy class and bourgeois femininity, a harmless butterfly that is no threat to anyone: but beyond her delicate appearance, María Corina is a rapacious eagle. Her popularity was consolidated when she was elected as congresswoman of the state of Miranda, Venezuela's second most populous state, in 2011 and subsequently after she interrupted President Chavéz in one of his speeches to complain about listening him speak for eight hours and then, impressing many, accused him of being a robber due to his expropriations. Later - after being beaten, kicked and pushed by the stairs by chavistas in the National Assembly - María Corina took a major leadership in the opposition movement after the February protests and the arrest of Leopoldo Lopez. Because of this, Machado managed that Panama ceded its chair on the OAS so she could express the oppression in Venezuela which costed her the wrath of the Venezuelan regime which unconstitutionally dismissed her from the National Assembly.

María Corina after the violence she suffered in the National Assembly. 

María Corina after the violence she suffered in the National Assembly. 

Now Maduro's government is accusing her of an imaginary plan to murder him and conspiracy and, if convicted, Maria Corina could face up to 16 years in prison, joining the list of political prisoners - students, mayors, judges and opposition leaders - and violations of human rights of the Venezuelan state. Freedom of expression has become a caged bird, a parrot in Caracas' suburbs. 

Here, in the North and South, freedom is gone and human rights are a sunken dream. Here, a cowardly dictatorship pursues an admirable woman for opposing his brutality, like the dragon and the Virgin - who always steps on the snake - in the Book of Revelation.

My blood boils with so much injustice. When will the abusing stop? When will they respect the Venezuelan people? We have become warlords; a country dominated by violence and abuse. We are a humiliated, trampled people. We are forced to make endless queues in the market and people die every night. What have we become? In this persecution of Maria Corina I do not see Venezuela. I do not see my country, the civilization of black gold. I see the dictatorial Cuba of Fidel, I see Perón's broken Argentina. We have disfigured the face of Venezuela and La Tierra de Gracia bleeds. In the air, only the sweaty terror of a petrodespot oligarchy before its imminent end is felt. A red halo of violence and abuse is felt. The kicks of a hanged person are felt. 

It is time to say enough!

"María Corina is accused for saying the truth"

"María Corina is accused for saying the truth"

The Tragedy of Aramaic

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The simple reason I am writing this post is because I want to show an unfortunate reality that few know. Yes, it will be kind of like a Wikipedia article but it deserves it. 

I must assume that many of you have heard of Aramaic (Exactly, the language of Jesus. The one of The Passion of Christ), but for those of you who don't know, it's an ancient language that was once spoken as the primary language of the Middle East and the liturgical language of the eastern Christian churches that reached as far as India, China and Mongolia. Aramaic is a Semitic language (ie it is related to Arabic and Hebrew) that originated in the deserts of western Syria in the late bronze age. From this linguistic crib came shepherds who expanded it into the rest of the Middle East. Aramaic later evolved into its imperial version as it became the official language of the Persian Empire. Due to the large area covered, and the number of peoples who spoke it, Aramaic ended up evolving into different dialects and languages. But the prosperity of Aramaic ended in the first centuries after Christ: After the advent of Islam, Arabic became the new language of the region and Aramaic (along Coptic and the Greek dialects in the Middle East) started to disappear. 

Aramaic scripture in a Mandaechian scroll

Aramaic scripture in a Mandaechian scroll

By 2000, after years of persecution in nations like Iran and Turkey, this magnificent language was reduced to the Christian populations in Iraq, small populations in Turkey and Iran, and three mountain villages in Syria. Then came the war and persecution. The mass exodus of Christians and their persecution by jihadists after the fall of Saddam Hussein reduced the number of speakers quickly. Almost ten years later, the Syrian civil war broke out.

The current situation of Aramaic is depressing: in Syria, the Aramean towns have suffered a loss of population and an exodus after the recurrent invasions by Islamists and subsequent battles against the Syrian army. In Iraq it's even worse: the Northern Plains, where the Chaldeans (Iraqi Christians) lived, have been captured by the Islamic group ISIS. This self-named Caliphate has declared a war against religious minorities and has made a hell in the Christians and other groups' lives. Christian civilians were beheaded or buried alive and many women have been sold into slavery: the rest have died or fled, leaving everything behind.

With the Aramean population refuged and scattered across the world, the future of this people is not promising. But why is Aramaic so important? This language, which suffers from a possible extinction in the hands of fanatic groups, has a continuous recorded history of over three thousand years: something only Chinese, Greek and Hebrew can celebrate. This means that Aramaic is one of the most important languages in the world and one of great importance for Western culture since a part of the Bible, probably the most important literary work of the West, was written in this language. An example of the importance of this language is the famous Aramaic phrase Jesus Christ said during crucifixion: Eli, Eli lama sabachthani - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. In addition to this, as the linguist Ken Hale said, the extinction of a language is like throwing a bomb at the Louvre: Thought patterns, vocabularies, ways of being, idiosyncrasies and the history of a people are some of the things that are lost. 

The writing on the wall

The writing on the wall

Today the Arameans are not only scattered and dispersed throughout the world, but they are being brutally murdered and persecuted. This language and this people, with its three thousand years of history and its existence as a time capsule of a time already gone, are disappearing at an alarming rate and this could be one of the greatest cultural loss in recent years. The writing on the wall of the Old Testament, which was in Aramaic, predicted the fall of Babylon. Now, the fall of other people of the same rivers is predicted. 

The Devil's Fingerprint

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I thought no further action of this pantomime would impress me until I heard the news: worthy of the classic totalitarian measures of the Cuban regime, the government of Venezuela has approved a new dystopian law. This new law makes the installation of a fingerprint machine to control the purchase of basic goods mandatory at all public or private supermarkets and pharmacies. With what excuse? To combat smuggling.

We can not deny it. In Venezuela there is smuggling: supermarket food is purchased and resold by peddlers on the street at really expensive prices. But does that means that the nearly thirty million Venezuelans living in the country are thieves smugglers? That the food shortage is the fault of the people? Obviously not, but apparently our government, the biggest thieves out there, see it that way. The reality is simple: the smuggling that the government fights is a fantasy, an empty air created to distract the masses. There's no food in the markets and people are being killed in the streets, but the problem is smuggling.

The fingerprint is not only mandatory but it must be also purchased by pharmacies and supermarkets with their own money, another sample of the government's attack to the private sector.

This new measure is a step for the installation of communism. It is simply a modern version of the Cuban rationalization notebook. Now we are just numbers, numbers controlled by an Orwellian machine.

The MUD (The main opposition coalition), following a long tradition of stupid "solutions" to a brutal regime, has asked us to bang pots (cacerolazo). I'm sorry to say this but doing noise, even as much as we can, will not change the opinion of a tyrant who murdered nearly forty people during the months of February and March. These opposition measures seem like a joke, a bad joke that has no idea of what he has in front: the installation of the Cuban rationing system. It is time for us Venezuelans to ask for respect. The only fingerprint I want to see soon is Maduro's in his renouncement letter. 

Katy's Jean Dress: The 90s are back.

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Katy Perry's 2014 VMAs jean dress

Katy Perry's 2014 VMAs jean dress

Maybe Britney is no longer a sexy Catholic schoolgirl and the Spice Girls aren’t the face of England anymore (Cool Britannia, you’re still in our hearts), but their cheerful era is (finally) back. Pop culture has shown us many signals of this awaited resurrection, this zombie copy of the colorful antebellum times between the end of the Cold War and 9-11, but now we have the final proof: Yesterday, Katy Perry and her quite picturesque partner made their grand entrance to the 2014 VMAs wearing a jean dress and a jean suit. Oh yeah. You read it well. They were wearing a replica of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s infamous matching jean dress and suit from the 2001 AMAs.

Ok. I know. They wore the jean outfits in 2001 and not in the 90s. But you know, 2001 was almost from the 90s… It was part of the same cultural era: Britney and Christina were still quite popular, fashion was quite similar from the one of the late 90s and, well, the world was still enjoying that bubblegum pop infested cheerfulness from the Spicemania days. That’s the revived era I’m taking about: A period spanning roughly from the 1990s to the early 2000s.

Britney Spears' 2001 AMAs jean dress

Britney Spears' 2001 AMAs jean dress

Spending the summer at NYU's Precollege made me realize this resurrection. My dorm was in front of Washington Square Park, where I would spend some time with my friends sometimes. Under the bright sunlight coming through the trees, and with the Arch and the fountain in my view, I had my epiphany: I was living in Clueless!  People all over the park where wearing items typical from the era: tie-dye shirts, high-waisted jeans and miniskirts, parachute pants, crop tops, denim on every possible piece, jean overalls, Dr Martens shoes, high sneakers and even those enormous Spice Girl-like high heeled platform sandal.

As I discovered this new (awesome) world, where some hispters (or maybe a new urban species) dress up as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I started to realize new things in old TV series and films: “the clothing of Friends’ first season seems quite current!” or “Hey! This (outfit Cher Horowitz is wearing) looks like one of my sister’s!”. This soon evolved into a new worldview where I was rediscovering the 90s, like when I realized one of my friends was dressing like someone from Clueless. But fashion wasn’t the only thing being affected by this revival: news of the resurrection where everywhere.

Scene from Clueless (1996)

Scene from Clueless (1996)

First it was the video of Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, the song of the summer, in which entire scenes of the 1996 classic Clueless are revived. Then it was TV: The first thing I discovered was Lifetime’s upcoming new film, The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story (bullsh*t), but soon I found that classic 90s cartoons like The Magical School Bus and the Power Puff Girls where returning in 2016. Finally, I was amazed to see a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster in the cinema (I bet we’ll have a Power Rangers film soon): the 90s were back.

Iggy Azalea's "Fancy": a total imitation of Clueless. 

Iggy Azalea's "Fancy": a total imitation of Clueless. 

The reason of this revival is simple: the world is a mess. We live in a planet where people are being decapitated because of their faith in Iraq and where rising sea levels are no longer a sci-fi dystopia but a reality; a world where tiny but powerful corporations cause big unemployment rates and where there has been non-stopping war in the same regions for a decade; a world where the economy failed and where sometimes people seem more interested in their phones than in their friends. It’s normal to look at the past and find enjoyment in it. It’s just a way to escape, an attempt to find happiness in a long-gone time. We are creating a world based on our glamorized nostalgia of the past, a feeling that even people like me, who were infants in those times, can grasp.

The 90s were great and their resurrection makes me more than happy. Their culture, with their pop culture and their fashion, is bringing fresh air to our dark, grotesque and pessimistic situation. Anyways, nostalgia is a cycle that happens during every decade and cultural period. I’m just hoping, after watching Katy’s tribute to Britney (I loved it, okay?), that the Paris Hilton-Juicy Tracksuit-Smallville era nostalgic revival takes long before appearing (Except you, dear Mean Girls, Freaky Friday and White Chicks. You can return whenever you want to.)

 

 

Hedonist Monsters

A few days ago, the young 22 years old Elliot Rodger murdered seven people in the city of Santa Barbara in California. The man, as part of that disturbed wave of public and spontaneous murders in the United States, took a gun and a knife and attacked innocent civilians in the city, committing suicide later. Rodger, who suffered from Asperger’s, sent a deranged manifesto by email in which he explained why he committed the act: women should be punished.

Elliot Rodger

Elliot Rodger

Delirious, he explained the reasons for his sickly mass murder. He had chosen the University of Santa Barbara for the parties and sex he never got and because of this he hated women and blamed them for his unhappiness due to being rejected many times in the sexual field. Rodger felt that women were semi-human bestial animals that didn’t deserve rights and that should be eliminated in a holocaust. He also hated to see happy couples or young people enjoying life and for this he attacked many strangers with hot drinks long before the killings. In addition, the young man was racist.

Many people blamed Asperger’s, a type of autism that he had, as being behind the murder. Asperger’s is not a personality disorder and much less a disease that makes people commit such inhumane acts. To say that this syndrome was the cause of the brutal act is a backward bias of pre-Civil Rights days. The real plague behind this murder is hedonism and the objectification of the body in modern culture.

Why did Rodger picked that university in the first place? He sought sex and partying. He is one of the results of what the media sell us (He decided that university after seeing a film about college sex). We have become a culture that does not respect human dignity and objectifies women and men. Rodger had those sexist points of view loaded with misogyny because of what the media has made of omen: men’s sexual prizes won by strength and sensuality. Our culture sells us sex as a mere hedonistic adventure in which the other member is a mere object of pleasure, a mere toy. It has lost all perception of love and depth in the personality and spirit of the person who commits the sexual act. Our outrageously promiscuous culture, that through this superficial hedonism transformed the promiscuous person into a sex toy shared by many people who only earn pleasure with the warm body of the other person, has turned us all into prizes and objects without personality or feelings. We are becoming more like Don Draper and less like Romeo and Juliet.

Venus and Cupid by Alessandro Allori

Venus and Cupid by Alessandro Allori

Here I am not talking about abstinence but about respect to the body (People are entitled to have sex when there is love and respect for the persona of the other). Rodger drowned himself in a culture where only pleasure and not the person matters. It is a total return to matter and not to the mind. We are people with bags over our faces.

Our culture teaches us that a sentimental bond isn’t required with a sexual partner, that only those with physical qualities can get "love ", and that in human relationships only matter matters. Many " feminists" even support this wild promiscuity, which really turn women into reused toys and hunting loots. These vain and superficial teachings and bestial, sexist and barbaric hedonism have created monsters like Rodger. We live in a culture that does not respect women, the body, and the sentimental bond in human couples and while we live in a world of people with bags over their faces, monsters will continue to be born.

K of Kardashian

Sometimes we say stupid things that threaten to collapse the whole universe and cause a man-eating inter-dimensional vortex of quantic nature that would open the doors to a universe inhabited by Tetris blocks-humans hybrids. Well, not exactly… But sometimes words can be really dangerous. So please, beloved readers, be ready to throw things at me because I’m about to say something a la “Let them eat cake”: I want to see a biographic film about the Kardashians.

Kim's wedding rehearsal was in the Palace of Versailles (Photo: nymag.com)

Kim's wedding rehearsal was in the Palace of Versailles (Photo: nymag.com)

History has produced important families of great public fascination: The Tudor, the Borgia, the Romanov, the Windsor, the Astor, the Kennedy, and more recently the Kardashians. This popular American family of Armenian origin has taken our newspapers, televisions, and pop culture. Why? Because their life is one of the bestselling drama shows: the reality shows “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”.

Between constant “I was like ‘oh my God’…” and Hollywood’s Babylonian preoccupations; the family shows their whole life to the world in a modern, “real”, and less elegant version of “Dynasty”. How could a Californian bourgeois family rise to that level of fame? One day, Kim did a sex-tape. Years later, she was celebrating her third wedding’s rehearsal in the Palace of Versailles. This family has become the fascination of thousands of millenials obsessed with the digitalization of common life (Instagram in macrocosmic level) and has managed to take the meaning of “KKK” from the worst racist organization of the USA to: Kim, Kourtney and Khloe.

It’s because of that sudden and confusing wave of Kardashianization that took our society that I want to see a film about them. Let’s face it; they are something fascinating.  They are a bizarre obsession of pop culture; they are haute icons with the talent of doing-nothing.

SNL's imitation of the Kardashian sisters

SNL's imitation of the Kardashian sisters

The Kardashians are a symptom of this convulsed Matrix-like times, that’s why I want a appealing film that tells how something so banal became so important; not because of them, but because of what they mean for modern culture. A movie that explains the Kardashian enigma and their rise to power; a movie that explains that abnormal cultural aspect of the modern Zeitgeist and of Generation Y’s world. Meanwhile, I’ll continue enjoying SNL’s parody that so funnily mocks the Kardashianmania and the enigma they are inside our current culture.