Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How sick does it get?

Warning: this (angry) post was written a while ago, just after one of the visits we had to make to Barcelona, in some particularly tragic and difficult circumstances. I wasn't sure I would ever publish it, since we try and share fun, enthusiastic (and hopefully inspiring) ideas and insights about our un(t)raveling journey on this blog. It's not a matter of being insincere with our experience(s), but rather a decision to focus on what's positive. Or at least constructive.
While re-reading this post, I edited it a little bit and now feel most of the anger is gone. I hope what's left is the grotesque absurdity of the reality depicted here... In case it's not and you find that meaningless and/or sad, well, I apologize. Sometimes, our mood dramatically changes the way we look at things...

 After leaving Barcelona and living outside for almost two years, being back there changes a lot one's perspective. One becomes aware of how awkward it all is. I'm not going to argue with all the city's unofficial watchdogs: I've done that too much and I'm not interested anymore. So let's write it in bold letters before even starting "Barcelona is beautiful, amazing, vibrant, cosmopolitan, hype and fascinating. In two a-words: absolutely awesome!" Got that on tape? Fine, cause I won't repeat it. Even if they send me more of these crappy blog posts written by brain-washed tourists (or robots?), which list:
welcome to a world where arrogant ignorants run the official story-telling...
- "22 reasons why Barcelona is the coolest place on earth and we should all leave our current city to go live the dream there - reason #17 will blow your mind!" or essaying on
 - "17 things you didn't know about the Catalan culture that totally rock (#7 they have an alternative Valentine's day called Sant Jordi and #15 they do amazing human towers called Castellers)" or such...

I promise I won't ever argue again: "your" city, whoever you might be and however (il)legitimate your self-appropriation of it might be, "your" city - I say it loud - is the bomb! So now, do what you please with it: turn it into the Disneyland you want it to be, raise the housing rentals as high as you can, paint every single traditional place with the attractive colours of neo-vintage, globalized, post-modernity bullshit, turn each genuine neighbourhood into a hipster-on-a-bicycle, lactose-intolerant friendly zoo, fill the streets with French bulldogs' poop, organic f---ing quinoa fairtrade stores and moustache artisan hair salons, build an empire on sunscreen and icecream, on appart-hotels and brothels, on Sangria Familia and Parque Güays. I don't care. I'm done with Barcelona. Let's say it's not Her, it's me. And She deserves better than me anyway: I do not own a smartphone, I hate soccer with my guts and I ain't gone to Sonar, Primavera Sound nor Champañería ever. Not even once! Okay, that felt good! Now let's get to the point...

No need to rub your eyes with dirty hands, you're not dreaming...
When you come back to Barcelona after a while, I reckon you start to see stuff you wouldn't have noticed on a daily basis. And it's kind of like the Sixth sense effect: you start asking yourself "Is it normal?", "Can they see it too?", "Is it me or this is sick?" and so on. It may start at night, while walking the Eixample instead of taking the great Nitbus adventure - waiting hours to finally get your shoes puked on by a random global twenteenager on a dirty stinking bus. So, yes: you decide to skip that and just walk home. You'll eventually come across the average mob of dead drunk clucking turkeys dressed in their weirdest, colourful gala outfits. Don't worry, they're harmless, just keep walking. At some point you'll find yourself alone, breathing the fresh air from the sea. Give yourself in to some window-licking and you may run into that:

a famous brand of ropa interior proudly introducing their swimsuit collection for the summer!

...the swimsuits are actually floating in bubbly water...
One would have thought: "an insanely touristy Mediterranean metropolis, by the sea, with beaches and sand within walking distance, even surf stores and (quote marks) surfers! The swimsuit industry has to be flourishing. So, selling a swimsuit in July must be easier than stealing a wallet on Las Ramblas. No need to bargain, no need to oversell nor develop powerful rhetoric, no need to push too hard on the customers. Selling swimsuits in Barcelona in summer must be like selling mosquito repellent in Angkor Wat during the monsoon: you just don't bother advertising! You basically wait for people to find you and crawl at your feet begging you to sell that damn' flask of DEET. At any price! No, I don't need no receipt, sir. No plastic bag either. Please, Just sell the damn' bott... pschhhhhhhht!"

Well, apparently for this famous brand of socks, stockings and tights, it's not that easy. I assume they hired an AMEN (Area Manager for External Networking) who generated a SeISM (Seasonal Internal Strategy for Marketing) before surrounding himself with a multi-tasking diversely-skilled team of FUCKITs (Freelance Underpaid Creative Kids and Innovative Trainees) in order to set up some STiGMAS (Strate-Targeted Graphic Media and Advertisement Scenarios) that eventually brought them to rethink the ViCEs (Visual Concept Elements). And this brilliant crowd came up with the ground-breaking conclusion that the classic human-sized plastic dummy with hips and lips, tits and wigs was not quite enough convincing to exhibit and sell their crap; a crap that (as you read this) is being mass-produced by slave kids somewhere in China or Sri-Lanka, in some maquiladoras that are even bigger than Barcelona itself.

...while a mirror underneath lets you see just how it'll fit your lips!
So they designed this: huge cubes of plexiglas, pretty much like fish tanks or aquariums, of roughly the third of a cubic meter and full of water (so let's say an average of 300L each; there were SIX of them - we're already talking of a good 2.000 litres in just ONE store), with a bubbly system to make it sexier (???). The swimsuits themselves are hanging on those hollow minimal plastic shapes of hips and breasts, floating in the middle of the water tanks as if worn by invisible transparent yet gorgeous and pneumatic mermaids! The backside and bottom of the water tanks are covered with mirrors, making sure you won't miss any perspective on the dear bikini you're about to dream of all night long, until you come back the next morning at opening hour to purchase your own. Cherry on top of this sceno-graphic (oceanographic?) design that will sure enough turn MoMa and MacBa installations into hardly more than supermarket shelves: the sophisticated indirect lighting by neutral spectrum bulbs which results in virtually no shades at all... So, a long story made short:

"if we really do need all this shit in order to sell a bikini in the middle of summer 
in a warm and sunny city by the sea, I have to tell you I sincerely believe we are screwed
and there must be something rot in the relationship between supply and demand".

Keep walking, don't take it too seriously. If it wasn't a huge waste of man power and resources (energy, time and material), it could be just another trendy eccentricity, in the line of the whole fashion industry which desperately looks for new morbid thrills: skiny models, freak models, dwarf models, amputee models, skin-diseased models... What will be next? Corpse models, maybe? Okay, that's another debate and I might not have the time to deal with everything right now. Let's move on... Walk another block and you'll find this:

O lord, won't you buy me, a color TV?
"I want a 65" curved Samsung TV" [Come in and make it true! 0% mortgage]

I don't even know what a 65" curved TV looks like. Why would you like it curved in the first place? Back in the 90's, the Progress struggled hard to convince us we needed flat screens. Why do you want us to dream back with curved screens? What's the big deal here? Is curved becoming the new flat? Did I miss something? Actually, I know it's curved in the opposite direction. Of course, I can see that on the picture just as you do. But, hey! Let me entertain myself for a while pretending convex and concave are just concepts. All this for what? To basically watch some overpaid ignorants talking about some other overpaid ignorants who happen to be running the world or chasing a football? Seriously... Now, is it because the news are twisted that we need curved TVs? That would make some sort of sense in a Lewis Carroll novel...

So, if you let me just try and develop one idea: their point here is to get us into buying new stuff. It's not a scoop: it's been around for decades. What tickles here, is the feeling that it's getting harder and harder for them to get us into buying new stuff. The exponential law seems to apply here too: the more we buy (and the more they need us to), the more they need to invest so as to make it happen. Look back at our fish-tanks with water, bubbles, mirrors, plastic shapes and expensive light bulbs: compare this to the cost of producing one industrial bikini and you'll either want to laugh or cry.

not having any friends had never been so much fun!
But this is not even the worst. The worst is the volume of new useless crap they keep inventing every day, just to make sure there'll have something indispensable to sale tomorrow. Not long ago, and I'll finish with that, we randomly discovered an endless series of Youtube videos called "7 awesome things you didn't know existed" or "7 totally cool inventions that are available now" or something like that. There are many of them, each one presenting 5+ useless things on their way to totally necessary! Interestingly, most of these were "designed to make the world a better place" and "with a vision of global change" or any other equivalent piece of ready-made bullshitting. Surprisingly, they all address some needs of just a tiny fraction of the human kind, who is comfortable enough to worry about how to monitor every aspect of their daily decision-making with the ultimate goal of eventually getting rid of all decision-making. Another common aspect of all these is they are all intelligent and connected. They can be anything from an intelligent lunch plate to an intelligent bike handlebar; from a connected showerhead to a connected gloomy sleep-stalking cocoon. They're all going to change our lives because they're intelligent and connected. Through a free-app that you'll download right after your purchase, and once connected to your smartphone or your tablet or any other device like your smart bracelet, they will take care of everything. So, they basically will: expand your (any) experience far more ; advise you and make your (any) task easier and more enjoyable ; track and use all your (any) data to get to know you better ; learn to know you and decide for you what it is that you really want at every moment ; be each time closer to you and more intuitive ; make everyday life safer for you and the people you love. And, cherry on top: the only limits here are those of your imagination. Of course. It couldn't be less than that! I remember reading once about the difference between technology and progress. And I believe there must have been a slight confusion here, at some point...

why just spray him when you can instagram him too?
 So, before I resign from modernity and willingly go back to cave-age, here are some brilliant examples:
Drumpants: the intelligent soft pads that you stick under your trousers' legs and allow you to play a drum pattern with your bare hands on your lap, as you've done unplugged for the last 20 years (I'm still trying to quit). But what's new here is the underwear pads send the impulse - via bluetooth - to the Drumpants app on your smartphone and you now do not only look like a retard, but actually can record you and sound like Phil Collins!
Eva: the intelligent showerhead that knows your favourite water temperature depending on the day, the hour and your habits, adapts the flow to your current activity (more if you're soaking, less if you're shampooing), lets you know when your shower is getting longer than your current favourite schedule and sends a report data sheet - via bluetooth - to your smartphone, so you can monitor the water you've saved for the planet during this very shower, the last week and the last month!
 - Whatever they're called: the (many) intelligent sleep-monitoring systems that know your sleep and wake-up time day-by-day, adapts the room temperature, sprays some essential oils, picks the exact forest sounds track you want to listen to if it rains, lets you know when it's time for you to wake up based on your latest r-e-m phase, turns on the coffee-machine - via bluetooth - and sends a report data sheet to your smartphone, so you can monitor how well you've slept this very night, the last week and the last month!

don't watch your ride, feel it!
 - The Defender: an intelligent pepper-spray that exclusively includes a mini-webcam, takes automatically a picture of your aggressor while your pepper-spray his face, sends it to your smartphone - via bluetooth - where the free app you downloaded right after purchase will take care to send it by instant message to the private security company you've hired upon purchase, or the Police, or your cousin - if you've chosen him as your official rescuer, so they can come pick you and identify "him". "You're sure he gets what he deserves". Sweeeet!
 - SmrtGrips: some intelligent bike handlebar grips that ring and guide your cellphone when you're looking for your bike ; vibrate on one side based on where your gps wants you to take a left or a right turn (so you don't really need to bother anymore with the itinerary. plus, as they get to know you, they can directly determine better routes for you based on the track preferences of all other users connected to the online community in your neighbourhood!) ; alert you by sms if your bike is being stolen ; warn you by whatsapp if one of your kids is cycling off the safety zone you've defined around your own bike (so you don't really need to check on them) and, if stolen, immediately contacts - via bluetooth - any other users' device passing by, so you're sent a GPS track report to your smartphone and you can go retrieve it. The question is "How come you got it stolen in the first place, since the app was supposed to warn you before?"

"come on baby light my fire" (that was an easy one!)
 - Soundtorch: an intelligent (?) loudspeaker featuring an intelligent (??) gas stove. Since it is intelligent (???), the gas stove reacts to the sounds that you're mixing - somehow via bluetooth, because a microphone would be too low-tech - and delivers some intelligent (????) funky flame waves just halfway between your turntable, your glass of whisky and the tight nylon outfit of that hot chick bouncing her ass by the subwoofers. A great idea to finally bring an open flame experience in the world of the drunk living-room nightclubbing! It's so brilliant I may faint!

And... that's all folks! The future is way too sexy for me, I'm afraid. I'm heading back to my mountains where I can live like a hermit in a cave (well, hopefully, like two hermits). Metaphorically speaking. Or not?

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