VICE MAGAZINE VOLUME 11 NUMBER 12
FREE VOLUME 11 NUMBER 12
THE SKAMMERZ ISHU 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
This image is taken from Michael Wolf’s series Real Fake Art, comprised of portraits of workers in China’s multimillion-dollar knockoff-art industry. His book is available now from Peperoni Books. The above is a fake of Richard Prince’s painting Nurse in Love, with its painter.
VOLUME 11 NUMBER 12 Cover by Mishka Henner
I AM AN IDIOT I Lied to My Wife, Flew to Lagos, and Got the Shit Beaten Out of Me by Nigerian Scammers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 SHOWGIRLS Two Filmmakers Go Gonzo at the Club “Where Strippers Go to Die” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 OUR DISHONEST PLANET Stories of Common Hustles and Cons from Around the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
SOME NIGHTS WE TASE EACH OTHER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 PERMANENTLY TEMPORARY The Undocumented Workers Behind This Holiday Season’s Low, Low Prices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 RIDING THE DIRTY DOG A Love Song to the Greyhound Underworld . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 HOW WE GOT THE COVER We Spent Months Scamming a Scammer into Doing Our Work for Us . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
10 Masthead 14 Employees 16 Front of the Book 34 DOs & DON’Ts 72 Li’l Thinks: Energy 74 Reviews 82 Johnny Ryan’s Page
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aron Chan of Melbourne’s Kings Domain got the idea for his barbershop on a trip to Argentina. Buenos Aires’ culture of barbers inspired him to explore the custom at home. He figured that the style conscious men at home would respond to the simple, old-fashioned set up. We asked him about what he’d learned so far from being a barber. Why have barbers retained this popularity over all these years? Aaron Chan: There is always the need for guys to have a haircut obviously, and not all guys would go to a salon. That’s why your average baber where you can get the quick cut has stuck around. We sort of slot between the average barber and a salon, where guys who are a bit more image conscious can get a good haircut and feel relaxed while they’re there.
Why do barbers evoke that feeling of security? A good barber needs a good bedside manner, you need to feel comfortable sitting there—spending time with them and just relaxing. Maybe not even talking to them, just sitting there quietly in their company. You have clients who some days they’re up, some days their down, you need to read their emotions and accommodate that into how to treat them. And how do clients respond to that? +uys are pretty committed, if they õnd someone they like, they do like developing that relationship where you can sit back and feel comfortable. You can tell your barber what’s troubling you, you share some pretty deep secrets with your barber. You know you can trust them. Especially if they have a razor to your throat. It’s important to have someone you can go to, to chat and get tidied up; you leave feeling refreshed and that’s important for anyone.
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EMPLOYEES OF THE MONTH
ADAM WILSON Adam Wilson is the author of the novel Flatscreen and the forthcoming short-story collection What’s Important Is Feeling. We asked him if he remembered the first time he wrote a story that he liked. “Freshman year of college,” he said. “In retrospect it wasn’t that good, but I had just started reading Raymond Carver, and was in love with short sentences, and stories about sad men living lives of quiet desperation, and I felt pretty good when I wrote something in that vein. I didn’t write anything I was happy with for years after that.” He won the Paris Review’s Terry Southern Prize for Humor in 2012. For this issue, he gave us his story “Some Nights We Tase Each Other.” See SOME NIGHTS WE TASE EACH OTHER, page 42
JACKSON FAGER Jackson Fager’s the kind of guy who says “I love you” and means it. It’s a little weird when he says it to his male colleagues, but it’s still nice to hear those three little words, know what we mean? He’s a fantastic photographer and videographer who started his career shooting the news for CBS in New Orleans, which means he has no problem pointing his camera in the faces of grieving parents and angry crocodiles. In his time at VICE, he’s shot photos and videos of burn victims in Bulgaria, child miners in Bolivia, and, for this issue, exploited warehouse workers in the US. He once got hammered and told his wife he was going to “pile-drive her” (in a good way), but instead fell asleep with his dick in his hand. We love you, too, Jackson. See PERMANENTLY TEMPORARY, page 46
ROBERT FEARON Robert Fearon started as our video editor this year after giving up a cushy government job. Since then, he’s helped us make videos about getting drunk overseas and finding sunburnt love in the outback. Editing isn’t a thing most people think about much, but Rob has wanted to do it since he was a kid. When we wanted to be rich and tongue kiss David Duchovny, he was dreaming of cutting 15 hours of footage into neat 22 minute story arcs. Robert’s hero is Baz Luhrmann’s editor, Jill Bilcock, whose style has been likened to a Russian serial killer on crack. Few brains can pull things to pieces and put them back together for a living, and we imagine it’s hard to turn that shit off. Next time you’re stuck in a conversation with a wayward and rambling douche, spare a thought for this guy.
ADAM KNIGHT Adam Knight is our new-ish sales director working out of Sydney. It’s fair to say you never know what you’re going to get with sales people. They can be sharks, but given the current state of the world, it’s probably good to have some extra rows of teeth around. In any case, Adam seems like a nice guy who describes his job as: “Heaps of fun, sometimes stressful, but well worth it.” He also says he’s good at what he does because of the people he works with. On the other hand, he did say Family Guy is “way better than” The Simpsons, which is both a strange personal preference and a thing you shouldn’t freely admit. Adam’s first rule of sales is “knowing your product, knowing your clients, listening, and relationships.” It’s not exactly “Coffee’s for closers” but there you go.
FRIDGE FULL OF ICE CREAM When you live in Melbourne—which is currently 10,000,000 degrees—and work on a street that’s famous for junkie fights, a simple ice cream can bring a lot of comfort. It’s no surprise they just opened up a very fashionable ice cream shop across the road from us. We’d say more about it but the crowd of people wearing flat caps is always so big we haven’t managed to elbow our way in—which brings us back to the freezer. The icy-poles are from an intern we’d broken in enough to buy us treats. The tub was a leftover from a big warm-hearted office Thanksgiving. And the expensive ones—actually they were from the same broken intern. So thank you freezer full of memories and fuck you monoportioned ice cream bar!
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THIS WATER IS FULL OF BULLSHIT How much are you willing to pay for 33 ounces of bottled water? Your answer probably ranges from “About a buck” to “Nothing, asshole, water should be free.” But if you are a true believer in the benefits of Grander Revitalised Water, you’ll be happy to fork over 12.10 euros (about $16) for the privilege of drinking something that literally falls from the sky.
BY MARKUS LUST
T H E
If you buy into the Grander method, the company’s product isn’t just ordinary H20 from Tyrol, Austria, but a cure-all for everything from blisters to gastric disorders to cancer. The pseudoscientific enterprise was started in the 70s by Johann Grander, a gasstation worker who claimed to have invented a process that filters all the bad stuff out of water, leaving only the presumably diseasecuring bits. So many people believed in his method that he was able to quit his job and become a full-time new-agey entrepreneur. Alas, there is no there there—Grander’s miraculous claims have been repeatedly disproven, and in 2005 a new company got hit with a $50,000 “quackery” fine for misleading people about the benefits of Grander Living Water Units, a phony filtration system that the business was peddling for $1,200 to $10,000 apiece. All that didn’t keep the international retail chain Spar from adding Grander bottles to its shelves in Austria in early October, which has been frustrating for people like Erich Eder, a professor of biology at the University of Vienna. According to Professor Eder, people are willing to pay such a high price for this water because of “misinformation and myths. If something helps you beat cancer, it’s going to cost you. Unfortunately, Grander Revitalised Water doesn’t do any such thing. It’s a complete waste of money.” Eder has been calling bullshit on Grander since 1999, when he wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper labeling the whole Grander concept “esoteric humbug.” Five years later the company (unsuccessfully) sued him for making an inaccurate statement. Even today he’s dealing with legal actions from the litigious water merchants. “There’s still a pending lawsuit against me from Grander’s then-PR agency, Energetic PR Inc.,” Professor Eder said. “I’ve already won two similar lawsuits… And yet the court battle continues. Obviously, they try to muzzle me by all means.” Despite the professor’s efforts, it seems that there are enough believers to keep Grander in business for a long time, a fact that Eder seems mostly resigned to. “It’s just bottled tap water, and that’s exactly what it should be worth,” he said. “But then again, the most effective placebos are those with the highest price tag.”
B O O K
Stolen Puppy Photography BY MITCHELL SUNDERLAND Photo courtesy of Mary Lundberg
Puppies are man’s cutest and bestest friends, and people who mistreat them are coldhearted monsters who probably have a baby-dick complex. Unfortunately, monsters do exist, and puppies are often abused, abandoned, trained by brutal methods to attack other dogs or people, or dropped off at pounds where they’re executed instead of sold. A few years ago, Florida-based photographer Mary Lundberg decided to spread some awareness about abused canines by crafting portraits of the adorable animals she met while working at a shelter, but her good deed turned sour when adoption centers she wasn’t familiar with began using her images without her permission. Mary’s concerned because she has no way to check whether the places using her photos and drawings are really treating their charges humanely or if they’re using them to trick good-hearted animal lovers. I reached out to her to ask how it felt to have her work ripped off. VICE: How did your art project start? Mary Lundberg: I began at a shelter in Newport, Tennessee. At the time, they had very bad numbers regarding euthanasia. Many people dumped animals there and few adopted. I thought I should use my art to speak about these issues. When I moved to Florida, I continued the project. How did the project lead to people scamming you? What happened is that when I began to go to Miami, I also discovered Facebook and the fact that people use it to adopt dogs and cats. I began to post images that I had taken for my work to help the dogs—it seemed more important at the time to help save a life rather than keep them for a gallery. Then I started seeing these pictures popping up in what were called “chipins.” Chipin.com was a site that anyone could go on and create a page to ask for donations. I started to see people using my images—no permission asked—on Chipin. After someone used an image I made for ads about a dog, the dog ended up getting pulled and bounced from place to place. That image was also ripped off and used as a logo for a rescue called Helping Paws22. I never gave permission for that—it really has put me in a bad spot. I need to make sure there are not bad things or people or situations associated with my images, yet if I speak out I become the bad guy in the eyes of the rescue community. Did you stop them from using your images? I sent the chick who altered it a cease-and-desist letter. She removed it from her page, but the image was already all over. Did you feel like you’d been scammed? Animal rescue is emotional. For anyone wanting to scam and manipulate people, animal rescue is a great thing to get into.
Water bottle photo courtesy of iStockphoto/somchaij
F R O N T
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“...smart, entertaining, touching...”
“Spike Jonze creates movies that make us see the world in startling new ways.
I couldn’t have loved more.” ROLLING STONE
JANUARY 16 13-12-02 3:15 PM
F R O N T
T H E
B O O K
CANADIAN MEDICAL SCHOOLS ♥ PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES
The Evil Eyes of Traffic Cameras BY MICHAEL PATRICK WELCH
latter is actually the weaker of the two. Purdue provided funding for part of the program, the lecturer had ties to the company, and students were given biased supplemental reading. It was as if medical students at the University of Toronto were unwittingly required to sit in on a live advertisement for Oxy. The university uninvited the lecturer and revamped the program in 2010 after being criticised by Persaud and others, but the fallout from conflicts of interest like that is clear. In 2011, 1.6 million prescriptions for Oxy were filled in Canada, and US sales of the drug brought in $2.8 billion. And though the University of Toronto has slightly cleaned up its act, Adrienne Shnier, one of the authors of “Too Few, Too Weak,” said that abuses of this sort were ongoing. “Canadian universities are allowing faculty to engage in conflict-of-interest relationships, bring in external lecturers, accept gifts, research funding,
In 2010 the government’s long arm came to my New Orleans neighbourhood, Bywater. The area was going through a post-Katrina wave of gentrification, and some bureaucrat evidently decided that Chartres Street, a sparsely populated riverfront lane, needed a traffic camera to catch people speeding. While it’s true that drivers would sometimes go a hair above the 25-mile-per-hour limit, the general consensus was that the camera was installed as an easy way for a cash-strapped city to raise money, not to catch motorists with lead feet. “They put them where they think people are just gonna pay and aren’t gonna fight them,” said State Representative Jeff Arnold, whose attempts to legislate against the cameras were thwarted. “They place them less for safety and more for financial returns.” City Hall was not forthcoming with statistics for this story, but history has shown that these electronic eyes don’t make towns safer. Similar traffic-cam programs in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Portland had no effect; Philadelphia actually increased the number of accidents, probably thanks to folks slamming on their brakes to avoid tripping the cameras. Since the first cameras were installed in New Orleans under the administration of disgraced former mayor Ray Nagin, they’ve been the center of shady dealings. In 2011, for example, Police Commander Edwin Hosli was suspended from duty for illegally forming a
and scholarships for their students,” she said. “Each of these ties to drug companies can contribute to biased understandings and the dissemination of incorrect information on drugs… Furthermore, having affiliations with drug companies is considered a prestigious and acceptable practice by medical students, who are not taught to decode what these relationships mean.”
private company that paid off-duty officers to review tickets, among them both the son and driver of Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas. (Hosli returned to full duty this year after authorities declined to pursue criminal charges.) Running a red light can set you back $135 in fines, and speeding can cost $75 to $235, depending on how fast you’re going. Getting out of these tickets isn’t easy, either. You can fight your ticket for free, but if you lose that first court hearing you’ll have to pay a $50 fee to appeal. That money then goes into a fund to help pay for the cost of the city’s inevitable appeal, if you somehow win. The best defense against the cameras is to know where they are and avoid them. In fact, New Orleanians are getting so good at dodging the evil devices that the number of traffic citations has dropped—prompting Mayor Mitch Landrieu to set up yet more cameras in an effort to recoup the lost revenue. The city has protected itself against what would surely be a resounding loss at the ballot boxes by preventing citizens from voting on the issue. “People have given up the constitutional right of innocent until proven guilty,” said Arnold, who will soon reintroduce legislation to give New Orleanians a vote. “I also have some ideas that will make the cameras not profitable,” he added. “And if they aren’t profitable, they won’t have them. Because it’s not about safety; it’s about money.”
Photo courtesy of iStock/darak77
BY ANGELA HENNESSY
A recent Canadian study from public-health professionals titled “Too Few, Too Weak: Conflict of Interest Polices at Canadian Medical Schools” may have part of the answer. The researchers found that most Canadian medical schools had problematic ties to pharmaceutical companies—more than half of the 17 schools surveyed “had either no policy or a permissive policy” when it came to potential conflicts of interests like instructors receiving gifts or having consulting arrangements with drug merchants. These results came as no surprise to Toronto-based physician Dr. Nav Persaud. Earlier this year Persaud published an article in the UK-based Journal of Medical Ethics about the University of Toronto’s cozy relationship with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma when he was a student there. Persaud described a lecture series on pain management, which had been mandatory for students from 2002 to 2010, that was full of misstatements and outright falsehoods. For instance, oxycodone was described as a “weak opioid,” and less potent than morphine, even though the
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/krzych-34
Over the past decade, prescription pills have become the latest drugepidemic bogeyman. A study published earlier this year claimed that one in four American teenagers have misused medications at least once—a 33 percent increase from 2008— and OxyContin has been leading the charge. The painkiller’s active ingredient, oxycodone, gives users a feel-good high similar to heroin and is much easier to score than other hard drugs. But how did it get so popular in the first place?
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T H E
THIS GUY THINKS ALL PRO SPORTS ARE RIGGED What do Super Bowl III, the 2012 Olympic badminton tournament, the 2011 Cricket World Cup semifinals, and the 2012 Manny Pacquiao–Timothy Bradley fight have in common? According to Brian Touhy, they were all fixed.
For years, Brian has been waging a lonely battle, writing innumerable blog entries and two books that all say the same thing: the multibillion-dollar sports industry is as rigged as pro wrestling. This year the soccer world was rocked by a scandal that involved organised-crime syndicates fixing matches worldwide, and in 2007, it was revealed that NBA referee Tim Donaghy made calls to steer the outcome of games and gave inside information to bookies—but Brian’s allegations go well beyond those examples. He says leagues like the NFL and NBA force athletes to throw games and fix the outcomes so they can generate juicy story lines, thereby creating more revenue. I called him to ask what the heck he was talking about.
BY ZACH LUCINI
VICE: Why should anyone believe that sports are fixed? Brian Touhy: There are certain undeniable facts about professional sports that most fans don’t know and don’t care to know. Leagues willingly admit they’re entertainment and just another facet of show business, like circuses and reality television. It isn’t illegal to fix one’s own game. If they direct their referees to officiate a game in a certain way that may favor one team over another, there’s nothing illegal about that. When a league needs a certain story line to succeed or to promote a particular player, then it will do what is needed to ensure a profitable result.
Photo courtesy of Brian Touhy
Obviously gambling plays a big role in this—how big is the sports-betting industry? Worldwide about $1 trillion, and $80 to $380 billion [is wagered every] year in the US. Take the low estimate, $80 billion—that’s more than three times the revenue generated in 2012 by all major leagues. This is controlled by organised crime. The 1969 Super Bowl, where the Jets and Joe Namath upset the Colts, comes up a lot in your writing. Why is that game important? To me, Super Bowl III [the first step toward the NFL/AFL merger] is the Rosetta Stone for understanding why a league would fix its own game. Having Namath and the Jets win meant billions of dollars for the owners of both franchises. It was a game that had to go the AFL’s way to ensure the success of the merger between the two leagues. It was too important to leave to chance. And yet fans still believe the Colts—perhaps the greatest team in NFL history—fell apart in that game against the AFL’s third-place team.
B O O K
How to Fake Your Own Death BY JULIAN MORGANS
Most people have probably fantasised about staging their own grisly demise as a way to escape their problems (and/or cash in on life insurance) à la Krusty the Clown or (spoiler) Batman in that third Christopher Nolan movie. But it’s hard to disappear forever. Just ask Raymond Roth of New York, who went for a swim off Jones Beach and vanished—only to reappear five days later when the not-so-dead unemployed 47-year-old got busted for speeding. Or talk to the Taiwanese family whose parents faked their deaths in a car accident and collected $3.6 million in insurance but got caught earlier this year. My personal favorite faker, Leninguer Carballido, “died” to avoid a rape charge in 2011 but was discovered after being elected mayor of a village in southern Mexico last July. So obviously there are some rules to the faking-your-own-death game. Don’t get elected mayor of a Mexican village, would be one. Are there any others? Adam Virzi, the operations manager at Lyonswood Investigations and Forensics Group, an Australian private-detective agency, spends a lot of time tracking down disappeared people and claims most screw it up. “If you really want to disappear you have to be prepared to turn your back on your previous life,” he said. “People cut up their [credit] cards, their driver’s licenses, and they empty bank accounts. That to me is a sign of someone hiding, not dying.” For Verzi, fake-dying professionally means having a new, hard-totrace identity ready. “It seems like the US has half the privacy laws we have so it’s much harder to disappear there. Actually, the hardest people to track are New Zealanders because they come here [to Australia], and they don’t vote or pay taxes and then they go home. It really helps if you’re a Kiwi.” According to David Ranson, a professor of forensic medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, it also helps if you can turn the hunt into a homicide investigation, thus confusing the cops and others who will search for you. “To do this you could bleed yourself, so as to get the right [DNA and blood type], then smear it on the ground so you have a drag pattern toward a door. You could then flick some blood around to create the impression of being beaten up. That would be very convincing, as there is no way of determining the legitimacy of cast-off blood.” Assuming you then return to New Zealand and hide out among the sheep and mountains, you’ll have a long life of staying away from everything you’ve ever known ahead of you. As Virzi said, “Faking your death is only one part. It’s what you do afterward that’s the problem.”
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/Brasil2
F R O N T
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I AM AN IDIOT I Lied to My Wife, Flew to Lagos, and Got the Shit Beaten Out of Me by Nigerian Scammers BY LAURENT MOUCATE AS TOLD TO FELIX MACHEREZ ILLUSTRATIONS BY MATT FREAK CITY
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y now, everyone is well aware of “419” scams, also known as advance-fee fraud or Nigerian-email fraud. These are cons in which anonymous hustlers pose as corrupt African officials or exiled refugees looking to transfer Scrooge McDuck-ian heaps of cash into foreign accounts. They blanket thousands of email addresses with invitations, and the occasional gullible victim is tricked into forking over private banking information. There are a handful of variations, but most people with eyeballs and keyboards know to hit MARK SPAM whenever they see anything of the sort sliming around their inbox. In 2003, however, the con was less well known, and a friend of my father’s got seriously duped. When Laurent (his name has been changed at his request), then a 42-year-old salesman at a pharmaceutical company living on Réunion Island (a French territory in the Indian Ocean), received an offer to launder $1 million from a frozen Nigerian bank account into his own, it seemed to solve all of his money problems. Instead, he wound up battered, bruised, and abandoned in a strange country. I spoke with him recently to find out what the hell happened. bout ten years ago, I was at home playing chess on my computer when an email from someone claiming to be the governor of Lagos, Nigeria, landed in my inbox. The subject line was urgent, so I read it right away— actually, I read it a few times in a row. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I don’t recall the exact wording of the email, but the gist of it was that the governor of Lagos West constituency, Bola Tinubu, had hidden around $1 million in a secret bank account to avoid taxes. The money had been stolen from public funds, the email continued, and the Tinubu family couldn’t use it because they were being closely monitored by the government. They needed a foreigner to come to Lagos, take the money out of the account, and put it into a Swiss bank. That’s where I came in. Supposedly, if I sent $1,300 in cash to a Lagos address, they would get me a room in a luxury hotel, and I could come over and sign some documents that would be prepared by a lawyer, whose fees would run me another $1,300. I’d wind up with 5 percent of that $1 million, which sounded pretty fair to me. I’d never received this type of message before. There were some grammar mistakes, but I figured that was because the man writing it wasn’t French. He probably spoke Hausa or Igbo, or one of the many other languages spoken in Nigeria. Also, Bola Tinubu really was a Nigerian politician who was governor of Lagos West—that was the only part of the message that wasn’t a lie. I was in debt and desperately in need of money back then. I’d gone through a vicious series of hirings and firings and was once again in the hot seat at my job at a pharmaceutical company. The Nigerian deal sounded perfect. After I
subtracted the cost of the plane ticket and the $2,600 I’d give to my Nigerian partners, I’d stand to make well over $40,000, which would have put my family’s finances back on track. Plus, I’d have a few days of vacation in Nigeria. I realise how stupid I must look now (and how obvious a rip-off this was), but back then, I knew the Nigerian ruling class was extremely corrupt. Even though I thought the situation described to me in the email could’ve been bullshit, it sounded likely, and I desperately had to provide for my family. I spent a month vetting my Nigerian partners. We sent about ten emails back and forth before I was satisfied they were legit. Maybe I was trying to talk myself into it. I’m superstitious, so one night I told myself, All right, if I win a game of hearts with less than 15 points, I’ll do it. I’d never scored that low in my life, so when I landed at 11 points, I thought it was a sign and decided to buy a ticket. I didn’t tell anyone about the trip, not even my wife—she didn’t know how bad our money situation had gotten. I only told one friend of mine, a guy I used to drink with. I felt like my secret was safe with him, plus I had to hit him up for plane fare. I told my family and friends I was going to Nigeria to negotiate a contract to sell insulin pumps, which was plausible given my job. My friends celebrated my new status, and my wife was so proud of my promotion that I almost believed my own lie. I mailed the Nigerians $1,300 in cash and boarded a plane to Lagos. landed at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in late April, where I got my tourist visa in exchange for 10,000 nairas (around $50). The beginning of the trip went according to
plan. As I left the airport, two big guys in suits and ties, their fingers covered in gold rings, were waiting for me with a sign with my name on it. They took me to my four-star hotel in a black sedan— my partners really had booked a room there for a night. “We’ll see you tomorrow,” one of them told me. “You’ll have to bring the other half of the money in cash. You’ll receive an envelope with $50,000 an hour after the lawyer leaves you to finalise the process. We’ll be with you while you wait for him to come back. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in Nigeria, sir.” Sir! Naturally, I believed more than ever that it was all real and I was a really important person. That night I went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant downtown, where I met a Dutch engineer who worked for an oil company. After a few minutes of conversation, he told me, “You know, organised crime is very active in this area. Sometimes people are robbed, beaten, and kidnapped for money—especially Europeans.” By this point I’d already spent a lot of money getting to Nigeria and decided to ignore what, in hindsight, was a big flashing warning sign. For me, the only thing that was important was getting my hands on the money as fast as possible. After I left my companion, I went to the hotel’s ATM, withdrew the $1,300 I’d need to complete the deal, and went up to my room. That night, I received two calls from my Nigerian partners confirming our meeting the next day and a third call from a deep-voiced Ivorian man who introduced himself as the lawyer and stressed the importance of the $1,300. “This money will allow us to finalise the money transfer and all the transactions,” he told me in French with a strong African accent. I didn’t really understand everything he was talking about, but I told him I’d bring the money. The next morning I received another phone call, this one telling me that we’d be meeting in the business district near the hotel. I wasn’t afraid at all; it’s crowded down there and they’d have no chance to do anything shady. A man escorted me out of the hotel and toward the same car that had brought me from the airport, but when he handed me some legal documents in the parking lot I had my first big, stomach-plunging doubt. These allegedly authentic documents signed by Nigerian government officials were obvious fakes. They were
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gamut from light blue to sickly crimson. I went to the French Embassy to fill out an application for an emergency passport. While I was waiting for the bureaucratic wheels to turn, I begged locals to let me stay with them. A few agreed, and I spent four days going from one apartment to another, sleeping wherever I could. I think the way my face looked made it apparent to everyone what had happened to me. didn’t want to go home to Réunion Island; I couldn’t face the people there. Instead, I changed my return flight destination and went to my father’s house in the suburbs of Paris to spend some time alone. From there, I called my family, who were incredibly worried. Having them on the phone was as pleasing as it was uncomfortable and painful—I had to lie to my wife about what had happened in Nigeria and why I was in Paris. The way I told it, my business trip had gone fine, but there were problems with my father. “I have to stay here with my dad,” I told her. “He’s in really bad shape, I need to stay by his side in case something happens to his heart.” I stayed near Paris for about a month to gather my thoughts and wait for the bruises to fade. I worked from France over the internet for the pharmaceutical company and took a part-time gig to recoup the money I’d lost during this misadventure, plus enough cash for a plane ticket back to Réunion. The only job I was able to find was as a gravedigger, so I worked in a cemetery for three weeks. I was back on the island in early June and talked about what had happened to me as little as possible—I’m sure it looked incredibly strange, but there was nothing else I could do. Every now and then I look at my emails with the Nigerians, and I see dozens of things that don’t make sense and get furious at myself for being such an idiot. Eventually, I deleted those conversations, either out of a sense of pride or to hide them from my wife, I’m still not sure which. I still get some emails like the one that led me on that misguided mission, but now I delete them right away, without even taking the time to read what’s inside. Today, I’m divorced from my wife, who still doesn’t know what happened to me in Nigeria. Until now, I’ve never spoken about it.
badly printed, with grammar and spelling mistakes everywhere. I got in the car. There were four guys inside, all in suits. The ten-minute drive was completely silent, and ended in a tiny alley. All of a sudden I felt acid bubbling up inside my stomach—my doubts, which had been there all along, were suddenly confirmed. I knew exactly what was going to happen. “Give us everything you have,” one of the guys told me. I refused at first and said that I would go to the police. They didn’t like that, and three of the goons immediately jumped me and beat me unconscious. It didn’t take long. I woke up in an empty room with bruises all over my face and body. I assumed they were going to kill me. After 15 minutes or so, one of them came in and said, “Look, we don’t want to hurt you—the only thing we want is your money. But if you go to the cops to complain about anything, we’ll kill you with our own hands. We’ll slit your damn throat. Got it?”
I nodded. They dragged me to the car by the arms, drove for about 20 minutes into the middle of nowhere, and kicked me out. I stood up and brushed myself off. I was alive and had the clothes I was wearing, but no wallet and no passport. Besides some trees and a few small houses on the horizon, I was surrounded by dirt and a burning hot asphalt road extending into the distance. I walked to a bus station, begged my way onto one headed back to the city center, and picked up my bag and my last few euros from the room. I wasn’t booked for a second night in the fancy hotel, so I had to take a room in a flophouse primarily occupied by prostitutes and their johns. The sounds of gasps and moans kept me up all night. In the morning, I looked at myself in the mirror for a little while. My swollen face was covered in bruises that ran the
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The authors, Alexandra and Natalia, pose on a truck in the parking lot of Club 203.
SHOWGIRLS Two Filmmakers Go Gonzo at the Club “Where Strippers Go to Die” BY NATALIA LEITE AND ALEXANDRA ROXO PHOTOS BY LIZZIE HOLLINS
veryone knows what charming places strip clubs can be, but perhaps there is no club so charming as one in Moriarty, New Mexico—a truck stop with taxidermy and the bras of former employees on the walls, a few poles, a shitload of black light, and plenty of titties. Never mind that The Ultimate Strip Club List website describes it as the place “where strippers go to die.” Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo were convinced it was a solution to the financial roadblocks they encountered trying to earn a living as filmmakers, and so they ran away from Brooklyn to make a film project out of their “dream job.”
Usually this type of buddy story includes a decrepit motel, loads of meth, and bodies in a dumpster at the end, but this time is an exception, sort of. Yes, the two stayed in a motel infested with flies, and yes, the previous owner’s son had been cooking meth in one of the rooms. But the two still have all their limbs and used them to film their experience exploring what it would be like to trade lives with women who grind on the laps of the truckers of Highway 40. Think a Marina Abramovic performance crossed with a bizarro episode of Wife Swap directed by David Lynch’s daughters, set in the type of place where a one-eyed guy who shot himself in the head dispenses meditation advice to two naked women. After 13 days of dancing together and sleeping in the same bed every night, they still had a lot to talk about, so they interviewed each other about the experience. You can relive it along with them via the wonders of internet video later this month on VICE.com.
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Natalia Leite: I’m looking forward to the day I tell my grandchildren stories about the one time we decided to become dancers in a strip club in the middle of the desert. It seems a little surreal now to think that was our life a couple months ago—living off of the money we made dancing topless for lonely truckers and sleeping with hair extensions that had been mopping a filthy stage the night before. Alexandra Roxo: Only you would be excited to tell your grandkids that. What do you think was most challenging about the whole experience? The idea was scary from the start—from the minute we talked about staying at a strip club by the side of the highway. The motel on the grounds only has one functioning room, and it’s surrounded by guys sleeping in their trucks. When we said, “OK, we’ll just stay in that one room,” I started waking up with anxiety dreams and getting really freaked out, because as a woman, you already face so much shit in your life. Just for being a woman. Being harassed by men and all? Yeah, being harassed or attacked, or whatever it is. So to intentionally put yourself in a situation where you know that there’s a high risk of danger, to be in the middle of nowhere at this tiny motel surrounded by these truckers at night and working at this club—it sounded dangerous. The other scary part of it was the vulnerability of being naked in front of these big truckers.
Definitely. I really felt like there was, for me, a fear of someone doing or saying something, even inside the club setting that would really upset me. I learned so much about the truckers. Being constantly on the road, their life is so isolating. Some of them have never been in love, or have never had an intimate experience with a woman. Some of them don’t know how to interact with women. I do feel like my perspective changed from being more defensive and on guard to being more empathetic and understanding by the end of the experience. It’s a really interesting place. It’s like looking at a little petri dish and seeing how people from different backgrounds interact with each other in this closed setting. They really just crave intimacy more than anything. The dancing is a gateway into a conversation and that fulfills something for these people that don’t have anyone to talk to on the road. More than anything, you are giving your time and energy. That is what they want to pay for more than grinding your ass on them.
And not judging them. I remember one of the dancers we hung out with, Daisy, was saying how she feels like her purpose in life is to help people. Maybe, in her way, dancing is how she does that. The girls there are pretty amazing. And they really accepted us, to an extent. Totally. The other interesting part is the relationship between the women in the club and how it sort of puts the history of female relationships under a magnifying glass, because here are these women competing for men, their attention, and money. Some of them accepted us, while others were definitely catty toward us and each other. The owner, Ryan, told us stories about girls peeing in each other’s bags in the dressing room, all kinds of crazy stuff. One of the girls there clearly didn’t like me, and for no good reason. But then again, she was probably on Mocha
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The most popular street in Moriarty, New Mexico
drugs. She was talking about how she sometimes dances with her daughter who is a meth addict and ran away with a midget. People—customers and dancers—were just so open to tell their stories. They see you, and they’re like, “Hey, I tried to commit suicide by cutting half my arm off,” and you’re like, “Wow, let’s just cut to the chase here.” There were a lot of war veterans and ex–drug addicts. Everybody was so open to talk about whatever. What I’ve taken away from the experience is that going to a strip club is like a therapy session. Dancing isn’t just about taking your top off; it’s about this role as a whole, of being a therapist, a friend, a listener. I have so much respect for these women now. The dancing is so secondary, and when you see the dancing it’s not that different from being a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys, or being any sort of female performer. There’s so much social stigma attached to it, but at the end of the day it isn’t that different. Yeah, what’s the big difference between jumping around with your tits in a small bra versus being topless? It’s all about the illusion of sex. I think the more we spent time in there, the nudity became so normalised. When we were dancing onstage it didn’t feel very sexual at all.
I tried to dance kind of sexy because I’m from Atlanta, and that’s how I grew up dancing. I realised when we went back and watched the footage, one of the dancers was talking to the DJ and she was like, “What the fuck? Is this Dirty Dancing?” And I realised that’s not how girls in there dance. There is something very animalistic about the whole experience. But sometimes being onstage is awful. There would be guys standing on the edge of the stage staring at you, not smiling, not giving you money, and it makes you kind of feel like a piece of shit for a minute, or at least it did for me. It just creeped me out. There was one night where this guy had his eye on me all night, and I was like, “Oh no, this guy could be a real psycho.” Yeah, I had people say gross stuff when I was on stage, too. I feel like I had to drink in order to get up there, and it was really hard the first few times. It was really weird to just be like, “I’m going to take my clothes off in front of these big sweaty dudes.” But then, after you do it a few times, it becomes easier. Watch Natalia and Alexandra’s show about the lives of working ladies, Every Woman, premiering this month on VICE.com.
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OUR DISHONEST PLANET Stories of Common Hustles and Cons from Around the World COMPILED BY VICE STAFF, ILLUSTRATIONS BY SAM TAYLOR
Do you ever get the feeling that everyone you meet is lying to you? Well, that’s because they probably are—the world is full of people who will lie, cheat, rob, and hustle, putting on elaborate cons just to snatch a few bucks. An honest day’s work is for fucking losers, apparently, and it’s far, far easier to steal from the 7 billion gullible suckers roaming the earth. We asked our offices around the world to compile some stories of scams and dishonest rackets—big, small, innocent, fun, or despicable acts—and this is what they came back with. (Some names have been changed at the request of our sources because they admit to having committed illegal acts.)
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HOW I ROBBED A BANK
I was pursuing the classical career path in the Swiss finance sector. I’d attended business school, gotten work at the cashier’s desk in a bank, then moved up to the private banking department, which got me my own office. Three months before my training as a stockbroker was about to start, I had an epiphany and realised that this life wasn’t really what I wanted. I quit my job, but I was required by contract to work there for another three months. If you work in a bank and have all that money running through your hands day after day, you will always look for holes in the security system. What keeps people from stealing the cash is the fear of jeopardising their careers, but that fear was gone the moment I quit. Places like nightclubs that have lots of cash to deposit put their nightly take in bank-issued pouches and drop them into a special mailbox outside the bank that leads directly to an underground safe. Every morning, a clerk at the cashier’s desk goes down into the bank’s cellar to collect those bags and deposits the money into the appropriate account. I knew that very early every Tuesday morning, somebody threw two to three cash bags into that mailbox, containing around 100,000 francs (about $109,000) each. There was no camera surveillance on the mailbox and minimal coverage inside the bank. The path down to the bank’s cellar was not under surveillance either. I imagine they’ve changed that by now. My assumption when I planned the heist was that if money was “lost” in between the time the customer dropped his bag and when it was transferred to his account, neither the bank nor the customer would be able to figure out at what point exactly that cash had gone missing. I started coming in early every morning so I could be around at the time the vault was scheduled to be emptied. I told my bosses I wanted a few extra hours since I was leaving soon and needed to save up. One morning around 8 AM I casually went to the coffee machine and made myself a cup. Then I placed it on my desk, making it appear as if I had been working and had just stepped out for a moment to go to the bathroom. Then I took the elevator to the cellar, opened the safe, grabbed one of the three money bags, and stuffed it into my pants. I had arranged for a friend to meet me for lunch in the bank’s canteen, where I gave him the bag. He took it to my place and the whole thing was done. After five days the police were involved and had interrogated the entire staff. The easiest, and what should be the fi rst, part of a heist like that is to find a way to do it and get away with it. The much harder part is the time after you have accomplished your mission and have to avoid suspicion and handling the constant pressure of not knowing exactly how much the police and your boss know. Eventually, I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore and gave up. I went into my boss’s offi ce and put the money on his desk. He fired me on the spot, and I was charged for my crimes. “GARY,” AS TOLD TO TILL RIPPMAN
I’ve been involved in criminal activity all my life, since I was 15, and I’ve been in and out of prison since. I’ve gotten [arrested] for selling cocaine, firearms, three assaults on police officers… It goes on and on. If you keep getting arrested for the same crime, you get bigger sentences, so I move on. Now I am mainly involved in fraud. A friend of mine told me about this scam we call electronic pickpocketing. We use a machine called an RFID reader, which reads credit cards. Why pickpocket when all you have to do is walk past them? Basically, it can scan things as you walk past. On a busy street, you can walk past people, and it’ll swipe the numbers off their bank cards and put them onto the machine. It logs them all. We go out and collect the numbers, then pass them over to my mate who’s a computer engineer. He does his stuff with the numbers we collect, and that’s that. I go to busy places and walk about, collecting the numbers. I’ve done it at football matches, easy. You need to be close to people—nearly touching them—for the reader to get the information, but no one’s ever caught me doing this. I’m like a space-age Fagin. There’s no real way of targeting people; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, you just have to try. The most I’ve earned off the reader was 6,000 or 7,000 quid ($9,500 to $11,000) in a session. TOMMY “SWIPE”
FREE-MAGAZINE WARS Frenchmen Street in New Orleans is the place for live traditional jazz, which means most nights there’s a crowd of tourists who show up for performances at a dozen different venues. Working these crowds is a guy named Emmett who makes his money scooping up multiple copies of OffBeat, the glossiest and most expensive-looking of the city’s abundant free music magazines, and selling them to gullible out-of-towners for five bucks apiece. The city is home to a host of more dangerous criminal activities every night, but for some reason it’s Emmett who attracts a lot of anger and controversy. The vitriol against him is intense and ongoing. On neighbourhood-association email lists, locals brainstorm ways to have him arrested. One of the founders of Three Muses, an upscale Frenchmen Street restaurant, started a Facebook page on which he uploads creepshots of Emmett and posts as Emmett using inherently disrespectful dialect. (“Just got ass rape… again” and “Dey was like dis yo house?” are recent examples.) A coffee shop off Frenchmen Street put a sign over the stacks of free publications that read one copy per customer, please. Someone also put big signs on the telephone poles along Frenchmen: do not pay for offbeat, it is a free magazine. Despite all of this, Emmett is still hocking his magazines. JULES BENTLEY
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NUMBERS GAME I moved to Stockholm when I was 19 years old. I didn’t have any money, but I did have an ID card that belonged to some girl who looked like me. I also had a part-time customer-service job with a national internet provider, where I got access to people’s personal information and businesses’ tax-ID numbers. So my friend and I went to restaurants all over Sweden, pretending we worked at local newspapers. We told the restaurants to send the bills to the newspapers, and I authorised them with the company information I had gotten hold of at work. I also used people’s ID numbers to create several user accounts on Tradera, Scandinavia’s version of eBay. Whenever I needed money, I’d sell items that didn’t exist. I’d upload a photo of Kate Moss wearing a fur, remove her head from the photo, then say the fur was from some expensive brand. People would send me money for the fur or whatever, and they’d get nothing in return. Nothing bad ever happened to me during the year and a half I was doing it, and I earned $3,500. The only hassle was setting up all these email addresses. I had a different one for each item that I “sold.” I think there must have been around 40 of them. If I ever got caught, I would have played stupid and told the police that I’d lost my passport and make them believe someone was pretending to be me. “MARIA JOHANSSON,” AS TOLD TO CAISA EDERYD
He gathered together his valuables and cash in such a rush that he didn’t pause to check to see if his grandson was really kidnapped. In reality, he was sleeping peacefully at Carlos’s son’s home—a fact he only realised while on his way to meet the criminals with the money. This kind of fake kidnapping has become commonplace in Brazil over the past several years: Why actually snatch a child when you can just make some empty threats and trick people? That said, calls that begin with begging and screaming (the criminals often use recordings) are hard to ignore in a country where real kidnappings are all too frequent, but the military police told me that the best way to deal with a situation like that is to stay calm, not give the person any information, and attempt to contact the alleged kidnapping victim. Statistics about this type of crime in Brazil are scarce, since many victims don’t report these scams, but in 2007 the Associated Press reported that there were more than 3,000 complaints about fake kidnappings in the first 45 days of that year alone. Worse yet, it appears there’s little the police can do to stop this wave of fraud—if the cops do arrest the perps, chances are they’ll only be charged with larceny. ANNA PAULA MASCARENHAS
CARD CHEATS In Paris tourists attract street crooks and pickpockets, which means tricksters are everywhere. They’re at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, in front of Notre Dame, on the square at Saint-Michel, at Châtelet, and especially at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower. It’s there that a group of men—many of them Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants—fool passing marks into playing bonneteau, the French name for the infamous three-card Monte scam. “The bonneteau is not really a card game,” according to Georg, who lures tourists to the tables where the sleight-of-hand artists hold court. “It’s a game of chance: once the cards are mixed, you must choose one of three cards in front of you. Only one is a king of spades. If you find it, you double your bet.” Players usually win small bets at first, and then, as soon as they feel confident, will play for 100, 200, or even 500 euros ($135 to $675); the card shark slips the king of spades into his pocket unnoticed and the player loses. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but according to the Paris police, the 80-plus men who work these tables near the Eiffel Tower bring in a combined 2,000 euros a day. Even if there isn’t a clear link between Eastern European organised-crime syndicates and these low-level hustlers, a spokesman for the Paris police whom we asked about the situation—and who arrested 33 Romanian bonneteau fraudsters in October—suggested it wasn’t so far-fetched: “Looking at the amount of money they make, it is not ridiculous to talk about a true Mafia.” JULIEN MOREL
FAKE KIDNAPPINGS ARE A REAL PROBLEM One Sunday evening in 2011, a man we’ll refer to as Carlos got a call while eating dinner with his wife. He heard what sounded like his grandson’s voice crying and sobbing. Thinking the 16-year-old had been kidnapped, he met with the criminals to give them what jewelry he had, but apparently that wasn’t enough for the ransom they were demanding. He pulled out 7,000 reals (around $3,000) from his bank account the next morning. “The guys were professional,” Carlos said. “They were monitoring us, they called throughout the whole evening… You get really stupid in their hands; you’ll do anything they want.”
YOU’VE ALREADY WON If Canadians want to make thousands of dollars a week, all they have to do is trick their neighbours to the south into thinking they’ve won prizes. Simple enough, right? The scheme is called “prize-pitching,” and according to a former telemarketing scammer, it works like this: someone in the US gets a call from a Canadian who has some good news—the person they’re calling has already won! Exactly what they’ve won varies; in one case I heard about it was a “boat with sails of the sturdiest canvas and floors of the richest mahogany.” All the lucky winners had to do was pay the border taxes to have it docked near their homes. These fees might be $300 or $400, but what’s a few hundred bucks when you’re getting a top-of-the-line sailboat, right? And get a boat the victims did: soon after they wired money—usually through Western Union—they received a box in the mail containing a foot-long model boat with canvas sails and mahogany floors. The targeted victims are mostly elderly folks who are probably just happy to have someone to talk to. Once they lose their money to these fast-talking Canucks, they have little legal recourse—the most successful schemes are those that don’t break any serious laws, like the boat trick, and it’s difficult to prosecute scammers for crossborder crimes. And if the guys in charge are forced to shut one of these small-time scammers down after too many complaints, they can just recycle the fraudulent business in a week’s time, using a different name and setting up shop in a building down the street. MARTHE CÔTÉ
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PHANTOM FUNDS Thanks to the political and economic turmoil still shaking up their country, an awful lot of Egyptians have tried to flee their homeland for the sunnier, more stable pastures of the USA. The options for coming to and staying in America legally are pretty difficult, however. You can get a family member in the US to sponsor you, but that process takes about 15 years to complete. You can enter a lottery for a green card, but that takes an enormous amount of luck. Or you can apply for a short-term visitor visa and keep renewing it. The major problem is that the US requires any Egyptian applying for a visitor visa to show plenty of assets—businesses in their name and about 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($14,000) in their bank account—in order to demonstrate that they’re coming as a tourist eager to inject money into the American economy. (Having a business in your name demonstrates to immigration officials that you have a reason to return to Egypt.) Most Egyptians don’t have those kinds of assets, so those who wish to leave often take advantage of their country’s corruption. On my last trip to Egypt, in June, I met a lawyer who ran a racket facilitating visitor visas. For a small fee, he is willing to contact a friend at a bank and bribe them to forge a fake bank account that shows the applicant has enough money to qualify. After the visa application is processed, the bank account disappears just as easily. Everyone wins: the lawyer and the banker earn some money for their troubles, and their client gets to travel to America—where, of course, they’ll have to work illegally since that visa doesn’t serve as a work permit. ANGELINA FANOUS
140 percent between the summers of 2012 and 2013; a whopping 45 percent of claims that were investigated were revealed as being false. In the UK alone, AXA Insurance flags 20 or 30 exaggerated claims a month. It’s pretty much impossible to say who is committing all this fraud, but from what I’ve heard Spaniards are responsible for more than their share. A 26-year-old from Barcelona, we’ll call her Olivia, was willing to explain how she tricked the system. “This was the first time I’d ever done something like this, but the girl I flew with does it every time she travels. We flew to Oslo on the same flight but sat in separate seats on the way back, making sure not to be seen together in the airport. “Once we landed, my friend made her way to the baggage claim fi rst, picked up her case and mine, and left. After standing around grumpily for a while, I went to the information desk, made a scene [about the “lost” suitcase], and was given a form to fill out. There’s no point listing shit like iPads or jewelry, though, as most insurers only cover clothes. The next step is to ask your friends and family for receipts for their most expensive purchases. You can say they’re for your tax return if you don’t want to arouse suspicion. Send these [to the insurer] along with an online form and wait for them to approve or deny it. In my case, I got a letter a couple of months later with a check for 1,300 euros ($1,800) inside, which isn’t bad.” PAUL GEDDIS
DOWN AND OUT IN GREECE There are an estimated 20,000 homeless people in Greece, and they have an economy all to themselves, as I found out when I ended up sleeping on the streets of Athens in 2007. Soon after I became homeless, I was approached by a gang of Georgians and offered work as a drug mule. I know a lot of people who have done something like this, as well as those who pretended to be homeless in order to sell drugs—it’s harder for the police to track you when you don’t have a permanent residence. Mostly, this sort of thing happens in downton Athens. Gangs will also pay the willing to “protect” their prostitutes, most of whom are from Eastern Europe. I did that for a bit. The job is to keep an eye on the hookers and let the gangs know if anything happens with the clients or the police. Another common practice is getting street people to open bank accounts that gangs can use for money laundering. It only costs $200 to turn a homeless man into an accomplice in a financial crime. Then you’ve got the professional beggars. In Athens, most of them are well-trained gypsies from Romania, Albania, and southern Bulgaria. They operate in groups, work specific areas, and live in fl ats or gypsy colonies. If you are not one of them and try to work in their area, you are in big trouble. In certain places you can make up to 3,000 euros ($4,000) per month. Especially during the holiday season, you’ll have pickpockets mixed in with the beggars. They are mainly women, who slice your bag with a razorblade and steal your wallet from right under your nose. “THANASSIS,” AS TOLD TO ANTONIS DINIAKOS
LOST LUGGAGE In post–fi nancial crisis Spain, with a youth unemployment rate of 56 percent, there are very few opportunities for motivated young people. In that sort of economic climate, it’s natural for kids to turn to illegal means to finance their vacations. According to a study published in June by VFM Services, a fraudconsultant company, travel-insurance fraud is on the rise around the world. Insurance claims for lost or damaged baggage rose
FOOLS IN LOVE The job I used to have [in Lagos, Nigeria] was very difficult. I worked at a factory from 7 AM to 7 PM and got paid 7,000 naira ($44) for a month of labor. Can you imagine how hard it was? Sometimes I didn’t take buses to save money. I would have to trek all the way from my house all the way there. One day, my friend told me about internet fraud and how to make money from it, and I started doing it. I wasn’t doing it regularly; I would pop in and out. During the night [the guys] meet white guys online and pretend to be ladies. They tell them, “I love you, and I want to come over and meet you.” The white guy falls in love, and from there the guy says, “OK, I want you to come over here. What is it going to take for you to come here?” And they say, “OK, I need to get a visa and passport and ticket and things like that.” “But how much is it going to cost?” “Maybe a few thousand dollars.” The guy sends over the money, and you never hear from them again. The shortest time I got a guy to fall in love with me was only two days. I understand their white life so much that I use their lives against them. They don’t have a choice not to believe me. JOE, AS TOLD TO ANDY CAPPER
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Robots and Mexicans for Jesus!
Boy top. Pussy bottom. Wet sop. Pretty Autumn.
The only thing that could make these giantâ€™s legs sexier would be if they were cocks with tits on them.
This is my great-aunt, Gertrude. Sheâ€™s been growing garlic in the courtyard of her apartment building for quite some time. She says that if you look straight into the garlic, you see straight into your future.
I is for Ivan, who stood still on a corner immersed in ennui.
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13-12-02 3:19 PM
So let me get this straight. You not only expect me to remember that we have a kid, but you expect me to know where he is?
I’m Two Face, son… Two Face! You know Two Face. He’s that dude who’s got, like, two personas and shit?! ONE GOOD. ONE BAD. You see my black face is real fucked up! But my white face… That shit’s, like, AAAAAAALLLLLLL fucked up.
They told me that if I put my finger in my mouth like this, I won’t bite my tongue off when I’m grinding my teeth into dust.
You could be totally hot but instead you dress in curtains and burlap. You could bathe, but instead you protest bathing till you stink like an onion that just took a shit. You could choose to be more, but instead you choose to be less.
Hold on, buddy… That girl from last night just sent me a picture of her asshole.
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S U M M E R
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We thought about making his stroller an airplane, but we figured that might be a little too much.
Sixty-five percent of the human body is water. Thirty-five percent of this human man is a perfect bald-beard balance.
Yeah, thereâ€™s a dick hole in his pants. Yeah, it looks as though he drinks all day most days. Yeah, rent tends to be late. But look at his smile. How could I say no to that face?
Wisdom tells you how to look like an old person who makes others want to get old. Wisdom tells you when to sit down and take a breath. Wisdom tells you just how many sheets of plastic to bring on a Sunday picnic.
Iâ€™m telling you! My dick really is this big!
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13-12-04 11:32 AM
You dudes like my new T-shirt? I like it ’cause it’s subtle and it lets people know that I’m a cool guy (super chill) and really fun to hang out with.
I am such a space cadet! Where was it I put my colostomy bag and that sheep I stole? It’s on the tip of my tongue.
If you really want to take this to the next level, may I suggest whip scars and a couple of bullet wounds? Those will look great next to one of those ENGLAND s.
If I make my hair big, people won’t notice that I smell like dick.
This jacket flag is clutch. Clutch as fuck. Nobody thinks I’m unsafe when I’m out like this.
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Dec 2013 Apr 2014 Curtin House, Melbourne
Tickets on sale now Event Sponsors
13-12-02 3:24 PM
SOME NIGHTS WE TASE EACH OTHER BY ADAM WILSON PAINTINGS BY BRAD PHILLIPS
Adam Wilson is the author of the novel Flatscreen and the forthcoming collection of short stories What’s Important Is Feeling. His work has appeared in the Paris Review, Tin House, and The Best American Short Stories 2012. A recipient of the Paris Review’s Terry Southern Prize for Humor, he was recently named one of Brooklyn Magazine’s 50 Funniest People in Brooklyn. Brad Phillips is a Canadian painter who depicts oddly unsettling scenes of modern life, so we thought his work would be perfect to go with Adam’s story. Brad’s work was most recently shown at the Louis B. James Gallery in New York City.
n college I read Karl Marx and snorted cocaine. I lived with four other guys. We got money from our parents, or from student loans, or campus jobs. One of the guys, who we called Spine, was from Connecticut. Spine gave us drugs. Or rather, we paid for them by writing his term papers. I was caught in a cycle of needing drugs to complete Spine’s papers, and writing papers to pay for drugs. Spine was barely passing with Cs but didn’t care. He had a job lined up after graduation, selling commercial real estate for some blueblood uncle. One night I was battling a 20-pager on labor theory when I heard breaking glass. It was about 2 AM. Spine burst into the hall holding a baseball bat. He was wearing boxers and a bathrobe. Through his open door I could see two girls in his bed. One had her toenails painted like a rainbow. The other had an ankle tattoo of an ankh. Neither was Spine’s girlfriend. It was another injustice, though I wasn’t sure who was bearing the brunt of it. “The fuck was that?” Spine said. The others came out of their rooms. Mike had the police Taser he bought on eBay. Some nights we Tased each other. Donny opened his butterfly knife. Chris didn’t have a weapon. More noise from the living room. “Shit,” Spine said. Downstairs, there was a guy. A black guy, I should say, because it makes a difference. The difference was that we wanted black people to like us. None of us had black friends growing up. In college, the black kids stayed separate. The black guy in our living room looked marginally homeless. He smelled like burned plastic and had holes in his Nikes and his sweater. His lips were chapped and tinted white. He brushed glass from his body as if unaware we were watching. He scratched his arms and mumbled under his breath. “Hey, guy,” Chris said. The intruder snapped out of his daze. He grabbed one of Spine’s guitars and held it two-handed from the neck like he was about to
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hit a backhand. But the guitar was heavy. Instead of swinging at us, or dropping the guitar and going back out through the window, the intruder sat on the floor and began to play. The guitar—a semihollow ES-335 with cherry finish—was Spine’s pride and joy, his favorite of the five guitars he owned. I’d seen him polish the thing for over an hour. The intruder strummed the open strings, plucked a C chord. Then he started crying. “Fuck,” Mike said. We were still surrounding the guy. I didn’t have a weapon, but I noticed I was holding Spine’s laptop like I might bash it into the intruder’s face. Mike flicked the Taser on and off, I guess to show that it worked, and then put it in his pocket. Chris unclenched his fists. Donny folded his knife. I put the laptop on the coffee table. Spine still had the bat. The intruder was still crying. The girls, wearing Spine’s T-shirts, watched from the staircase. I got the intruder a glass of water. He sniffed at it and wiped his tears. “Smell all right?” Donny said. The intruder nodded. He took a small sip, then a bigger one, and then cleared his throat. “Cigarette,” he said. His voice was thin and weak. Spine got a cigarette, lit it, and handed it to the intruder. For a second their fingers touched. The intruder took a deep drag as he eyed our apartment. The floor was covered in trash and hardened socks. On the ceiling
hung a tie-dyed banner with Bob Marley’s face silk-screened in the middle. It was the end of April, and cold at night. Outside it was raining. The wind carried rain in through the broken window. The intruder was shivering. He took another long drag. “How about a beer?” he asked. His voice was louder, more sure. Donny grabbed two from the fridge. He tossed one over, opening the other for himself. The intruder took a slug. He licked his lips and said, “Ahhh.” I sat on the La-Z-Boy. Spine, Donny, and Mike were on the couch. No one picked up the broken glass. We didn’t have a dustpan. The girls moved into the doorway, and the intruder took notice. “Hello there,” he said, trying to act suave. Spine pointed a finger at the intruder. “Watch it,” he said. For a second we tensed. Spine looked at the bat. Then he laughed, hard. He actually slapped his knee. Chris packed a bowl. Spine picked up another guitar, this one an acoustic. He hammered out 12 bars in E, playing ninths to show off, sliding up and down the neck. The intruder tried to keep up, but he wasn’t as good as Spine. One of the girls pulled a bag from Spine’s pocket. She laid out lines on the table, and the intruder perked up. “You first,” Spine said. He handed the intruder a rolled-up hundred. The intruder looked skeptical. Then he snorted a line and handed the bill back to Spine.
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SOME NIGHTS WE TASE EACH OTHER by Adam Wilson
Next thing I knew he was standing, singing. Spine, Mike, and Donny were, too. We were all laughing, even the girls. The intruder leaned over and snorted another rail. He came back in on the next bar, still in time. “Now there’s just one more thing”—ba-wah, ba-wah—“that my new friends can bring”—ba-wah, ba-wah—“make me scream, cry, and beg.” “Wait for it,” Spine said. “For a touch on those legs!” The intruder winked at the girls, and stuck out his tongue. “Ew,” said Ankle, furrowing her upturned, tiny nose. Toes appeared not to have heard. “Hey now,” Spine said. The intruder took another cigarette from the pack out on the table. “You got a name?” Spine asked. “Jess,” the intruder said. “A girl’s name,” Spine said. “That’s right,” Jess said. “Well, Jess, we can’t let you steal any of our shit.” Jess looked out the window. I saw the rest of his night flash before him, the way it would go when he came down and we kicked him out. The rain definitely wasn’t letting up until morning. “There’s a couch on the covered porch, though,” Spine said. “If you want to crash.” Around this time, I was coming to terms with my lot in life. May came on, clothes came off—first sweaters, then socks and stockings—barefoot coeds sunning on the quad, books splayed across sunburned stomachs. I was onto Trotsky now, dreaming of Mexico. I sat in my room, reading, while the others partied downstairs with Jess; I listened to mariachi, sniffed imagined bougainvillea, ate takeout enchiladas. When I closed my eyes I saw Leon in that freight train, groggy head resting on a rice bag, rolling through Tampico at dusk. I saw Frida Kahlo slow-riding him, eyebrows arched, twisting the corners of his mustache with her fingers. Some nights I could feel the sweep of Stalin’s ice pick through the center of my brain. A knock on the door. “Entrez-vous,” I said. Isabelle, Spine’s actual girlfriend, wore a thin linen dress belted high above her navel. She picked a book up off my desk, flicked the pages, put it down. She took a cigarette from my pack but didn’t light it. “New roommate seems interesting,” she said. “That’s the word for him,” I said. “Interesting. The situation is, well, I don’t know exactly.” “Well, Robert is certainly infatuated,” she said, using Spine’s given name. “That’s Spine for you,” I said. “Spine, Spine, Spine,” she said, and lay down on the futon, inches from me, head on the pillow, smelling like shampoo and the faintest trace of sweat. We’d reclined like this a hundred times. I could’ve slipped beneath the linen, held my palm against her panties, felt the heat coming off her. She might not have stopped me. “So he broke in,” she said, “and you let him move in with you.” “Spine let him,” I said. “And he hasn’t moved in. He’s just crashing for a while.” If I told Isabelle about Ankle and Toes, it would only make things worse. She would probably tell me to fuck off. She might hit me. She’d definitely wait to cry until she was alone. She would let herself believe whatever lies Spine would spin to make it right.
Donny worked at Campus Convenience. Twice a week during his afternoon shift, Donny’s boss’s and his co-worker’s lunch breaks coincided, leaving Donny alone in the store for 20 minutes. When the coast was clear, Donny would call us on the house phone and scream, “Biotch!” into the answering machine. We’d grab backpacks and go, cleaning out the aisles, stocking up on freezer supplies. Spine insisted that Jess come along. “I don’t know, man,” Jess said. “Sounds off to me.” “Not off,” Spine said. “Easy.” Spine pulled on one of those full-face ski masks with holes cut out for eyes. “Trust me,” he said. “Take that fucking mask off,” I said. “This isn’t a movie.” “Seems off,” Jess said. “Something’s not right.” But we all got in the car and made our way to the store. e ran through the aisles, adrenalised. I felt sexy and alive. We stole Slim Jims, Ritz crackers, gummy worms. Jess was in and out in a matter of seconds with only a Snickers bar to show for it. “I ain’t playin’,” he said when we were back home. That night we had a feast. Spine bought a three-foot sausage from Stop & Shop, and we cut it in pieces to top our stolen frozen pizzas. We mixed vodka with Mountain Dew. Jess drank very little. I never saw him eat. He was waiting, always watching and waiting for Spine to lay out the lines. Toward dawn we were high as skyscrapers, looking over the mountainous heaps of our living room city, scraping powder, the dregs of Spine’s stash, off CD cases. Ankle and Toes were twitchy. They’d stopped massaging Spine’s neck and shoulders and lay head to foot on the floor, staring up at Bob Marley. Spine tried to pressure Jess to go out on the streets and find one last hit. “I don’t know, man,” Jess said. “This ain’t the hour.” “Buddy,” Spine said, a hand on Jess’s shoulder. He spoke in a calm, low voice, like a boxing coach coaxing his fighter into the ring for one last round. “Now or never, dawg.” We all walked outside. Jess led us. The sun lingered on the horizon, threatening to burst the black. The streets and lawns smelled like dew. We followed, trance-like, weaving over Longfellow Bridge as the skyline approached. We’d been walking for an hour. I was sweating, half asleep, or maybe I was sleepwalking and the morning was a surreal dream. Jess led us through the Chinatown gates into the old combat zone. He told us to give him all our money. For a second we hesitated. I looked up at a building, back at Jess. His hands were in his pockets. Spine took out his wallet, peeled off a fresh $50. The rest of us gave Jess tens and $20s. Jess crumpled the money in his palm. Whatever we were getting, we were overpaying. Jess said to wait outside. We lit cigarettes. We checked our watches. When we got back to the house everything was gone: instruments, plasma TV, stereo equipment, all our laptops. Jess must have had help, known a guy with a van. Our furniture was gone too—Spine’s king bed, even the corduroy couch with all the rips and burns. “Shit,” Spine said. “Shit.”
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PERMANENTLY TEMPORARY The Undocumented Workers Behind This Holiday Season’s Low, Low Prices BY KRISHNA ANDAVOLU PHOTOS BY JACKSON FAGER
A worker waits to be picked up in Chicago’s Little Village neighbourhood at 4:30 in the morning.
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ne morning this October, I listened as the roar of a Ford Econoline 15-person van shattered the predawn silence of Chicago’s Little Village neighbourhood, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest. I had come there at an ungodly hour to witness the roundups of temporary workers catching rides to warehouses. The raiteros, or drivers of these vans, weren’t happy to see us. One spotted us approaching and then floored it, peeling out and speeding away. Moments later, the same van screeched around another street corner and picked up the very people he had tried to fetch earlier who had also moved down the block. He refused to talk to us as he packed bodies into his van. Every morning at 4:30 AM, the small fleet of white vans fans out to the edge of town, where hazardous, low-wage temp jobs are highly sought after. To get these jobs you can apply at a staffing agency, but it’s better if you know a raitero. They are the on-the-ground field captains of temp work who control your chances of employment. To the many undocumented temporary workers in Chicago and beyond, so much depends upon a raitero. While it may sound like it, the word raitero isn’t Spanish. It’s a bilingual portmanteau of the English word ride with the Spanish suffix -ero, to note the one who does it. It’s pronounced “ride–ero” and entered the lexicon of American labor during World War II when seasonal and temporary agricultural workers migrated from Mexico and Central America to work California’s fertile Central Valley. Your raitero, simply speaking, gave you a ride. Since then the definition of the word has evolved. For Isaura Martinez, a 47-year-old mother of three, her raitero is not only a driver but also her ad hoc employer, her payday check casher, and sometimes, a source of harassment. Isaura’s typical experience with raiteros is indicative of her fellow passengers: She will show up at his pickup spot before sunrise and climb inside his crammed van. In an hour she’ll have been driven to a warehouse on the outskirts of town. She might arrange boxes of chocolates, unload boxes of underwear, or paste labels onto crates of Beanie Babies. Or she’ll spend the day unpacking shipping containers. At the end of the workday, Isaura’s back will ache and her hands will cramp. Another hour in the raitero’s van, and then she will be home with nothing to show for it except a few bucks and submitting to the fact that she’ll have to do it all over again the next day. She makes minimum wage—$8.25 per hour in Illinois. The raitero gets eight bucks a day per person and requires that she take only his van. Isaura is caught in a kind of exclusive licensing agreement with her raitero. He controls where she works and how she gets there. After this expense, her average take-home pay is $58 per shift. In Illinois, forcing and charging an employee for rides is illegal, but the practice persists, largely because Isaura, like many of her fellow undocumented colleagues, has no choice. And that’s just what’s involved in getting to work. “People can’t even imagine, they really have no idea— everything that one goes through so that they can hold a product in their hands—how people suffer on the inside,” Isaura told me during my visit to her basement apartment in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighbourhood. The “inside” she referred to is the industrial warehouses that serve as the integral hubs of the international supply chain, keeping shelves at Walmart stocked, and fulfilling millions of online orders
around the country. These are the warehouses to which she is transported by her raitero. You’ve probably seen at least photos of these leviathan-like buildings. Their construction is accelerating in exurban landscapes across the country, filling any gaps along the tangled spaghetti of interstate off-ramps. In Southern California’s Inland Empire, an hour east of LA, warehouses are built where there were once citrus groves and dairy farms. Outside Chicago, warehouses are replacing factories, a clear reminder of America’s transition from a production-based economy to a consumer-driven one. Off exit 7A of the New Jersey Turnpike, Amazon is building two warehouses that each will be bigger than 35 football fields on top of what were once cornfields. These will be the nerve center of the online retailer’s new Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service. Increasingly, the topography outside our cities is transforming to match our consumption desires. Cargo ships dock into ports with more and more T-shirts and furniture and toys, the warehouses multiply in number and size, and the invisible army of workers who must navigate the Dickensian world of opaque staffing agencies, raiteros, scheming warehouse managers, and bottomline-driven executives is getting bigger, too. Isaura has been working as a temp in Chicago for three years, but she’s never really sure where she’ll work on any given day. “When the raitero tells you, ‘Get ready, I’m going to pick you up, there’s work for you,’ even if they tell you that you’re going to go to a certain location, with a certain agency, they might change it that day and take you somewhere else.” Because she doesn’t know where she’s going, Isaura keeps her three agency ID cards with her at all times. (One is named MVP, which stands for Most Valuable Personnel.) Payday gets even more complicated and miserable. Warehouses use multiple staffing agencies, so Isaura could
Isaura Martinez is a 47-year-old temp worker living in Chicago. After paying her raitero, she makes $58 each shift.
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Stacks of shipping containers at the Port NewarkElizabeth Sea Terminal in New Jersey. These containers move goods to the US that are then sorted and repackaged in vast warehouses.
physically work in one place and still not know who owes her at the end of a pay period. Unless she assiduously tracks her hours, a staffing agency could short her. Isaura’s raitero also controls how she gets paid. At the end of the week, he’ll collect her checks from the staffing agency and go to a certain check-cashing joint. After she signs the check, he’ll deduct his daily transport fee from her already paltry wages. In Illinois, regulating someone’s pay like that is also illegal, but what other choice does she have? She makes $280 a week, which is the average wage for someone in that sector of labor. he temp worker clings to the lowest link of the great chain of logistics: an umbrella term used to describe the vast system of cargo ships, rails, trucks, and warehouses that help move products from the companies that make them to the happy customer—at, of course, the lowest price possible. Big-box retailers contract out their operations to warehousing companies, which employ full-time staff, truckers, drivers, and office managers, and they subcontract out the least skilled labor—like unpacking and labeling the goods—to temp-work staffing agencies. These agencies, some of which are national, publicly traded companies, find the bodies through raiteros. According to the American Staffing Association, an industry group for temp-staffing employers, 2.96 million people were employed on average by temporary-staffing companies each business day in the second quarter of 2013. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that in this tepid economic recovery, where job growth across the board has been stunted, temp jobs are up 8.2 percent compared with the same quarter last year. The ASA doesn’t keep specific statistics on how many workers are employed in warehouses, but Warehouse
Workers’ United, an organisation in Southern California that advocates for the rights of temp workers, estimates that there are 200,000 workers in Southern California alone. Javier Rodriguez is 38 years old and worked at NFI, a crossdock warehouse in Southern California’s Inland Empire, until May when he was terminated. More than 75 percent of merchandise shipped to LA goes through the warehouses in the Inland Empire, and the cross-dock is specially outfitted to sort goods for further shipment in less than 24 hours. The pace of operations there is staggering. Javier said that he was fired after he tried to file a grievance about unsafe working conditions. Over the year that he worked at the NFI cross-dock, he made less than $11,000, even though he worked almost every workday. “People are not just being physically damaged, but emotionally too,” Javier told me in his tidy apartment in Juropa Valley, California, that he shares with his wife and two small children. He described how management “becomes wealthier with the work from the people who are truly poor, who really need jobs. They mess with our morale because we need the job.” The economics behind temp workers makes perfect sense. Large retail companies are eager to shed the responsibility and hassle of maintaining a work force. Temp labor agencies compete to provide the cheapest contract. The neat subdivision of managerial work looks impressive on a PowerPoint presentation. When everything goes according to plan—cheap prices for the consumer—the temp worker suffers the most from the squeeze. By its nature, warehouse work is dangerous and taxing on the body. In California, heat and poor ventilation inside warehouses are a problem. In Chicago, packing machines have repeatedly sliced off peoples’ fingers. In many warehouses across the country, petty interpersonal battles between managers and workers make for a psychologically taxing workplace. As Leone Bicchieri, the director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, put it, things get ugly when “rats are fighting over scraps of cheese.” n 1960, Edward R. Murrow and CBS News produced an hour-long documentary called The Harvest of Shame, which details the squalid lives of seasonal agricultural workers. Temporary and seasonal work has always been a necessary mechanic of the American economy, and in the decades since Harvest aired, legislation, namely, the H2A-Agricultural Guest Worker program has provided measures to ensure the rights of nonresident immigrants are upheld. The easiest fix would be a clear determination of when temporary work crosses the line into full-time employment. Temp workers depend on raiteros and agencies because warehouses can keep them in employment limbo as long they like. During the holidays when warehouse work increases, companies hire more temp workers. Those same so-called temp workers are kept in that position for the rest of the year, because it’s cheaper for everyone. Employers evade paying certain benefits, like healthcare or workers’ compensation insurance. Behold the era of the permatemp. “It’s like a brave new world: war is peace, up is down, left is right, temp is perm,” Leone Bicherri told me back in Chicago. Could a warehouse guest-worker program or immigration reform help prevent the abuse of the undocumented permatemp worker? Raphael Sanchez isn’t sure. He is a 46-year-old
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undocumented immigrant and temp worker who lives in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He came to America 12 years ago and has worked all around the country. He told me that it’s the same shit, different warehouse. I met Raphael on a dead-end street right beside train tracks that zoom New Jersey’s commuters to New York’s Penn Station, where he told me about his experience. “I can’t really complain about the agencies because when you need work you can go to them. But at the same time, they take advantage of the workers. They know that we need them, and oftentimes we don’t have the option of fighting for our rights, because if we complain, they’ll just say, ‘Fine, you won’t go to work tomorrow.’” Immigration reform was obviously at the forefront of Raphael’s mind, but he was practical about any grand efforts at reform and what it means to work in this country: “It’s better to work for an agency than to be a bum.” Now that New Jersey voters passed a one-dollar increase in the minimum wage in this November’s election, Raphael will make $8.25 an hour. After our chat, Raphael asked if I wanted to see where he lived, pointing to a chipped-clapboard house at the end of the block. I followed him as he walked down the driveway past the house to a two-car garage. I was confused until I realised he didn’t live in the house; he lived in the garage—one room
“It’s like a brave new world: war is peace, up is down, temporary is permanent,” Leone Bicherri told me. made of drywall spackled together and just big enough for a bed and a few boxes. It was a cold early November evening and I asked him what it was like cooping up there over the winter. “I’ve lived in other places that have been even more destitute, even more inadequate,” he said. “But I’m starting to get the impression that I’m going to be staying here for a while.” It’s easy to malign the mechanisms of global demand, but it delivers what we want: a winter coat trendy enough for this season but still cheap enough so you can buy one next year and not think twice. The raitero, the staffing agency, and the soulless large warehouses make for easy villains. But taken in a broader context, the system of our international supply chain, which provides us with goods as available and disposable as we like, creates a class of disposable people. Watch The Last Mile: Temp Labor and America’s Supply-Chain Pain, produced in conjunction with Pro Publica, on VICE.com in December.
Rafael Sanchez in his tiny home in New Brunswick, New Jersey: “I’m starting to get the impression that I’m going to be staying here for a while.”
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RIDING THE 50 VICE
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A Love Song to the Greyhound Underworld BY AARON LAKE SMITH PHOTOS BY BOBBY ABRAHAMSON These photos are from Bobbyâ€™s 2001 road trip across the US by Greyhound bus. His book One Summer Across America documents his coast-to-coast journey.
DIRTY DOG VICE 51
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n the 1957 Jayne Mansfield–heavy film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s mostly forgotten novel The Wayward Bus, an assistant mechanic named Kit Carson stands chatting with a lunch-counter girl with Hollywood ambitions in a little dusty Central Valley bus depot named Rebel Corners. “I wonder if there’s going to be any important people on the bus today,” the girl asks. “Important people,” Kit tells her, “don’t ride buses.” Nelson Algren taxonomised the nonpeople he would run into while traveling in his book Nonconformity, written in the 1950s: “The pool shark hitchhiking to Miami or Seattle, the fruit pickers following the crops in the 1939 Chevy with one headlight gone and the other cracked… The ‘unemployed bartender,’ ‘unemployed short-order cook,’ ‘unemployed salesman,’ ‘unemployed model,’ ‘unemployed hostess,’ ‘self-styled actor,’ ‘self-styled artist,’ ‘self-styled musician’… Their names are the names of certain dreams from which the light has gone out.” Turgenev and Herzen might have called these people “superfluous” Americans. The dregs of the American dream. Though seemingly dated, vanquished Beat-lit stereotypes, these hustlers, dealers, prostitutes, and “freelancing phonies” never really went away—they’re still here today, tucked on the back of a Greyhound bus. Sometime in 2002, having dropped out of college and moved back home to North Carolina, unmoored and without job prospects or definite plans, I caught a chance ride to Fort Benning, Georgia, for a protest against the School of the Americas—the academy responsible for training all the Latin American paramilitaries and death squads. There, as frocked Catholic priests thrust themselves over the base’s ten-foothigh fence in nonviolent civil disobedience, I became friends with some young transients on their way down to Florida. After the protest ended, we caught a ride with a guy in a Buick, taking turns driving through the night. On a misty two-lane road in southern Georgia, a rural sheriff pulled us over and ran our IDs. One of the transients had an outstanding warrant and was taken to jail—his girlfriend was only 17, and apparently her parents didn’t approve. We drove around to three different ATMs to get bail money and made it to Gainesville the next morning, stumbling into Denny’s blearyeyed with exhaustion. There, as if by magic, an expired Greyhound Ameripass made its way into our hands. (I don’t remember how exactly, but I think these crusties got it from a friend of a friend.) For the uninitiated, the Ameripass was a reasonably affordable pass that got the buyer 30, 60, or 90 days of unlimited bus travel throughout the United States and Canada. Originally marketed toward European backpackers and students on a budget who wanted to wander cities and towns by day and sleep on the bus by night, the Ameripass offered a nice glimpse of the “real” America before being rebranded as the Discovery Pass and then permanently discontinued in 2012. Having never held an Ameripass in my hands, knowing only the legend, I examined it in awed reverence, like a cutter examines a diamond or an archaeologist a skull. For a talisman of such immense power—providing the bearer passage to literally anywhere in the continental United States—it was easily reproducible, just a laminated page of black-and-white text and
numbers, long before the repressive, ironclad era of QR codes. Along with the pass, we had been provided with a photocopied character set of all letters and numbers in the Greyhound font. So, as superfluous young men with nothing better to do, we posted up at the Kinko’s, hunched over x-acto blades and paste in medieval concentration, scraps of paper flying everywhere.1 After we printed out the final copies, we stepped back to admire our handiwork. It looked awful—a sloppy cut-and-paste job. The numbers and letters were unevenly spaced and tilted from side to side. “This will never work,” I muttered. “It’ll be just fine,” my companion said, though he sounded uncertain. When we brought them up to the lone Kinko’s employee to have them laminated, he grumbled. “You’re doing this all wrong! These look terrible,” he said, reluctantly sliding our passes through the laminator. Sealed in legitimising acetate, they seemed a little bit more official. Anyone who has ridden Greyhound or is familiar with the bus line’s various subterranean monikers—“The Dirty Dog,” “The Hell Hound”—can guess that it’s often an unpleasant experience. But what if that unpleasant experience transported you around the country for free? It’s hard to feel indignant and ripped off by free. The plan was to meet up in Pensacola. The crusties I was with tried to clean up, pulling out septum piercings and putting on crumpled button-up shirts. Despite their best efforts, they still looked like dirty guys dressed up in normal-people costumes. Being the kind of person who waits for a friend to dive into a lake first to see if they hit jagged rocks, I opted out of the maiden voyage. I said goodbye as they trudged off to the station, looking sullen and funereal. Given that one already had a warrant, I had slim expectations of seeing them again. When I showed up in Pensacola a day later and went to a punk house, they were already there, drinking beer that had fallen off a loading dock somewhere. “No problem at all,” they shrugged when I asked them how it went. After a vicious bar fight with some local military guys put a quick end to our time in Pensacola, my companions jauntily walked off to get on the bus to New Orleans, seemingly comfortable with the scam, already at peace with riding for free. t wasn’t until the next summer that I tried out my pass, and even then I did so only out of desperation. After two days trying to hitchhike out of the scorching Omaha sprawl and another spent waiting in the tall grass of Missouri Valley for a freight train that never slowed down, I stood in front of the Greyhound station, playing out the various escape strategies should the attendant realise my Ameripass was a fake. Eventually I walked in the door and tried to walk confidently up to the counter. “Portland, please,” I said. I tried to smile and exude charm. The lady scrutinised my shoddy laminated pass and typed numbers into her computer. She looked at my ID, and then looked at me, and then looked at my pass again.
1 Dear Nice People at Greyhound: The events described herein are of course
based on overheard stories, gossip, rumors; like the game of Telephone, by the time anything got to me, it was so degraded that it no longer resembled anything near the truth. I never did any of this. I promise. Sincerely, the Author
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A bead of sweat appeared on my forehead, and while my face muscles were stuck in a false smile of ease, confidence, and legality, all I could think about was running. All of a sudden, like a slot machine hitting jackpot, the old dot-matrix printer started spitting out reams of tickets—transfers, layovers, itineraries, the whole undulating geography of Greyhound’s western route spilling out in black-and-white. The Greyhound attendant put it all in a blue paper sleeve and handed it to me with an earnest smile. Outside the double doors, I tried to blend in with the thugs and cab drivers and methed-out kids scavenging cigarette butts. An intercom squealed garbled, unintelligible departure schedules. I got in the long, standing line for my bus with all the other damned souls. After 45 minutes, when our driver appeared at the door to check tickets, a middle-aged lady went up to him and started asking him all sorts of annoying questions. “I don’t have to put up with this,” he scowled, abruptly closing the gate door and driving off in a half-empty bus, stranding us all there. Another bus came an hour and a half later. When I boarded, I headed immediately for the back rows, hoping to be as discreet as possible—a ghost passenger, taking up a seat or two, but not really there. As we careened out of Omaha, the driver’s voice crackled over the intercom: “Anyone
who wants to smoke or drink or do drugs on this bus—I will throw you off without thinking twice. I will throw you off in the middle of nowhere and make you walk. Then I’ll call the police to come get you.” On Greyhound, you are not a passenger, you are an inmate in a prison transfer—you might be an adult, you might even be going grey, but to them you are still a kid in detention, a kid being frisked by a police officer and asked, “Do you have any needles that are going to poke me?” As the bus rumbled over the prairie, people settled in and started getting to know each other. A David Bowie–eyed guy with a vampire tattoo on his hand struck up a conversation with me. He was heading west with his wife, who looked like RuPaul. They’d just been married—he had hopped a freight train going 40 miles an hour out of Vegas to make their wedding. They kept discreetly dipping their hands into a well-concealed cooler and pulling out bottles of Smirnoff Ice. Throughout the back, other people were quietly pulling out their brown bags, careful not to make too much of a crumpling noise. The vampire-tattoo guy’s wife fell asleep, and he started talking to a big Midwestern country girl in the seat by the bathroom, periodically turning to me like a wingman to ask, “Isn’t that right?” “Don’t you think so?” and, “My bro here agrees, don’t you?” When the bus pulled over at McDonald’s
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for a lunch break and everyone piled off, he sent his wife in to get them some Big Macs with a kiss. As soon as she was gone, he headed for the bus’s toilet. The big country girl was waiting there for him, with wide, expectant eyes. As he crammed into the bathroom with her, he saw me staring and grinned, “I’ll buy you a burger if you don’t tell my wife what I’m about to do with this girl in this bathroom.” Later that day, the bus abruptly pulled over near Cheyenne in a deserted parking lot. Two police cruisers flooded the bus with their lights and the driver stepped out. Everyone seemed visibly tense, hiding guilty secrets, ready to run. The guy with the vampire tattoo and his wife hid their empties and held each other tight. As the cops boarded the bus, they made their way down the aisle, taking obvious pleasure in examining the passengers. Finally, they grabbed two Mexican guys—deportados—who went willingly, looking crushed. A few passengers mouthed objections, but most of them seemed visibly relieved—the “Thank God it wasn’t me!” reaction to being in close proximity to human suffering. Crossing Wyoming, I met a 26-year-old skateboarder who’d been living under a bridge in Santa Barbara all summer. We swapped cassette tapes and talked about Mike Watt. When our bus pulled over at a deserted Dunkin Donuts in the middle of the night, we got high behind the dumpster and then stayed up all night talking about aliens. After he fell asleep, I pressed my cheek to the cold window glass, looking out at the swarming stars and lunar cliffs in the glare of passing truck headlights. I watched the sun rise in the distant east across the flat desert at 4:30 in the morning. Boise was empty and glowing at dawn on a Sunday morning, like a movie set. I got some vending-machine coffee and had a peaceful moment peering up at the rumpled-bedsheet hills. Crossing lumpy green Idaho, I sat next to a middle-aged man who told me about his work fixing wind turbines. “It must be crazy to be so high up and close to those massive propellers,” I said to him. “It is crazy,” he said, his eyes moistening. He talked about following the contract work across the West and then showed me naked pictures of his girlfriend. Two days later, the bus finally pulled into verdant Portland, the miniature city of dreams. I saw my friends waiting for me in the bus parking lot, outside the window. I ran out and grabbed them like a man who had been drowning—we spent the summer as one does in Portland: riding bikes, drinking espresso, dumpstering from Trader Joe’s, and lazing indolently about. ike an all-you-can-eat buffet, or an arcade game with endless free plays, the allure of endless free travel can become compulsive for the doomed person who says, as Emerson wrote, “anywhere but here.” And so began a period of aimless travel, facilitated by the Ameripass and strung together with the flimsiest of alibis—visiting a girlfriend, visiting friends, trying to get home for the holidays. The important thing is to stay on the move, crisscrossing the country, finding new nooks and crannies, state highways and little towns, scanning back and forth like those dot-matrix printers, flinging drops of ink to form an image through pointillism. For restless people, those descendants of Cain cursed to wander the earth, the only peace is the peace of being in motion,
suspended between geographies. For them, there is nothing more comforting than an engine rumbling under a seat, cold air hissing from overhead vents, the rows of fluorescentilluminated products in an all-night truck stop, the feeling of being a fugitive temporarily evading captors—you fall into the most restful sleep of your life with your hoodie pulled up, using your backpack as a pillow. At home, the psychological anxiety of being stationary and accomplishing benchmarks can be more exhausting than the physical wear and tear of traveling—you drink too much, you pace holes into the floor, you feel angsty and take long aimless walks. When people say things like “I haven’t left town in two years!” you can’t help but look at them in disbelief. In the middle of the night, you look around the bus and feel moved by the sight of all the passengers asleep, curled up on one another, drooling on one another, snoring loudly—it reminds you of some half-forgotten memory of childhood nap time, when the lights were turned off and an entire room of strangers fell asleep together; or an even more distant ancestral memory when people dwelled in large families and close quarters—you wonder if it’s a coincidence that the land of Nod, that purgatory of eternal wandering that Cain is banished to, has come to signify the kingdom of slumber.
On Greyhound, you are not a passenger, you are an inmate in a prison transfer. You wake up in Pittsburgh, with its seething river and menacing Moriah-like mountains, the whole geography exuding a certain darkness as if lorded over by some winged black demon. You wake up in Savannah, the old clock on the wall, the churchpew wooden benches, the drooping Spanish moss containing a strange, pregnant sense of blood history. You wake up in Amarillo, where the yellow sunlight streams dustily through the huge windows and the station has been untouched by time—the pay phone is still 25 cents and there are coin-operated televisions attached to the plastic bucket seats. You wake up in Dallas on a seething Saturday evening in summer and walk past all the people out on dates to a little corporate “green space” and fall asleep on the lush sod grass until you are roused by police. How many times have you woken up in a fugue in the middle of the night and stumbled into the Abu Ghraibbright fluorescence of a station for a two-hour layover? Teenage army corps in their camo playing shoot-’em-up arcade games, a deadbeat dad making empty promises to his daughter on the pay phone, grandmothers sitting dignified on benches, heading down to Fort Lauderdale, a group of guys with crumpled dollar bills shooting dice on the Greyhound station’s bathroom floor, a security guard waking up the sleepers and making them display their tickets, gotta be a big man, gotta keep the homeless from falling asleep. Transients and vagrants of all kinds being shuttled down the river Archeron to Cincinnati, Duluth, Rapid City. You wake up for a layover in Atlanta at 3 AM, and walk laps outside to get the blood pumping—with its clean sidewalks, corporate parks, bank skyscrapers, and Starbucks, it could be any downtown in America.
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In the Atlanta terminal, you sit next to a 90-year-old man who is wide-awake and reading through his papers. An elderly Spanish anarchist from Madrid named Unamuno—after the iconoclastic Basque philosopher who barely escaped being shot after delivering a pointed j’accuse to Franco’s generals at a fascist Columbus Day celebration in 1936, at the height of the Spanish Civil War. Unamuno says that he’s an art and antiquities dealer and is traveling the country on behalf of a shadowy client he refuses to name. He laughs and doesn’t answer when you ask him if he fought in the Spanish Civil War. You sit together on the northbound bus and ride through the night, communicating in a mix of broken English and broken Spanish. The next morning, when you arrive in Raleigh, he blows off his bus so you can go to breakfast together and show him around your hometown. At the old diner, he pulls a pile of papers out of his leather satchel, scribblings, pamphlets, aphorisms, Venn diagrams, swatches of colour—the moral system he’s created, his version of the anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. You can’t decide whether it’s brilliant or bat-shit insane.
By the late 2000s, only a few stubborn lifers continued to mess with the fakeAmeripass swindle, to their detriment. There is a certain kismet to the chance encounters of the bus—to being bored out of your mind and finding solace only in talking to others who are awake and lonely at 4 AM and finding out that they have the craziest stories, that they are true singularities. You walk Unamuno back to the Greyhound station to see him off as he continues the trip north. You never see or hear from him again. echnology jumps inexorably forward, opening and closing vulnerabilities. Scams arise, are snuffed out, and then new scams emerge. The old mechanical Kinko’s copy counters that you used to be able to drop on the ground to get free copies are replaced by digital card readers that can be hacked to get free copies. The old world, where people could disappear and re-create themselves—where centralised records were only kept on paper and names and government-issued identification numbers weren’t immediately accessible via fiber-optic networks, bar codes, and fingerprint scanners— has been killed off. Scams may provide a through-the-looking-glass view of the money system, but they still function on the same endless supply logic of capitalism. Contingencies like shoplifting are presupposed and neutralised in advance by insurance policies. The initial amphetamine thrill of finding a dumpster full of just-expired food or making a change machine spit out endless quarters eventually wears off, and one moves on to new pastures, always seeking, never satisfied. The ancient prophets explicitly warned against a life that revolves around sensual pleasures and the possession of things—even if those things are had for gratis.
Adulthood sets upon you insidiously. Doors close, certain adventures grow stale, the body decays, and serious responsibilities to friends, family, health, and work begin to loom large. The cost-benefit analysis of cheating the system no longer adds up. You get a job that pays a little money and you would rather just pay full price than deal with the stress or hassle. Your appetite for risky behavior diminishes commensurate with the embarrassment it has the potential to cause. Like all good citizens, you eventually understand that it’s just cheaper to put quarters in the parking meter than pay for the mess of parking tickets that will eventually, inevitably, catch up with you. All noncompliant subjects are eventually beaten into submission. By the late 2000s, only a few stubborn lifers continued to mess with the fake-Ameripass swindle, often to their own detriment. One friend, already four years into a dress-up salaried job but trying to milk the last drops from his itinerant youth, took a final trip on his fake pass that ended with his having to run and hide from the authorities in the desert scrub brush. Another Greyhound scammer I knew had his pass confiscated in San Francisco. Yet another was caught using a fake Ameripass in Ohio, was arrested, and had to spend months going to trial, logging thousands of dollars in legal bills. Like all the dead scams strewn across Abbie Hoffman’s 1960s guerrilla manual Steal This Book!, the Ameripass has now faded away to just a memory, a secret password largely unknown that might, at most, inspire a twinkle of illicit nostalgia for bygone youthful indiscretion. n 2007, Scottish transportation company Firstgroup bought Greyhound with the intention of rehabilitating the besmirched brand to compete with new, low-cost carriers like Megabus. Greyhound’s familiar faded red, white, and blue logo was reinvented as a silver-embossed dog—a sleek, rebranded harbinger of a new, more comfortable American bus travel for white urban professionals. Recently, after a four-year or so break from riding the bus, I went to the Greyhound station in Raleigh and bought a ticket to New York—it was cheap, as cheap as Megabus. The counter lady gave me an assigned seat on a svelte new vehicle with Wi-Fi, spacious leather bucket seats, and a fragrant bathroom. The other passengers sat by themselves quietly fiddling with their electronic devices and magazines. As we were getting ready to leave, someone shouted to the bus driver that the Wi-Fi was not working. To my surprise, the driver promptly and courteously fixed it. The “new Greyhound” was something unrecognisable. As the bus barreled out of Raleigh down the flume-like Capital Boulevard, I prepared for the familiar lecture—“I will throw you out and not look back”—but a pleasant voice projected over the intercom, “Hi, folks, if you’re uncomfortable and it’s too hot or too cold, please come up and let me know.” Comfort and convenience are nice, but where was the nosnitches criminal-minded pact of the back of the bus? Where was the lonely, desperate need to bare our failures, humiliations, and disappointments to connect with others? Where were the teenage runaways, the secret drinkers, the drug mules, the trying-to-be-good pedophiles, the undocumented migrants, the aspiring prostitutes? All the giants, the mythical, larger-than-life
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American characters have gone extinct. They are silent now, like the dead, revealing nothing: Why get to know strangers when you can talk to people you already know on a device? Why ever have moving experiences in real life that can’t be recorded on the cloud network? I hated the new, perfect, Wi-Fi-enabled bus and the constantly-connected-but-always-alone soul-deadening future it represented. After a few hours on the road, the bus pulled off at a rainspattered rest stop in rural Virginia. The passengers crowded into a little gazebo to stretch their legs and smoke. A greying, middle-aged guy with kind eyes offered to share his cigarette with me. He was on his way back home to Petersburg, Virginia, after a month in rural North Carolina with his kids. As Southerners will do, we got to talking about the Civil War and he told me that he had found a loaded Civil War–era musket and a Native American tomahawk while metal-detecting out behind his house along the Appomattox River. He had even found an artillery cannon buried out behind an abandoned house and some ancient megalodon teeth while diving in Virginia’s muddy coastal rivers. “There’s all sorts of stuff buried out there… You just have to look for it,” he said, hopeful, excitable.
Back on the bus, a Massachusetts construction worker with a Kennedy accent heading back to the Cape joined our conversation. “Oh, megalodon teeth,” he said. “I have a buddy who goes out diving for those!” When he learned I was a writer, he told me I could go live in some half-abandoned house up on the Cape he knew about. Plans and dreams are discussed, lives are splayed open, people running away from and running to other people, seeing about a job, waiting for a paycheck, picking up a Western Union transfer. As Al Burian wrote in one of the seminal Greyhound zine narratives, “We live and die by the highway, and in between we sit in cramped seats, waiting to get somewhere, forgetting where we’re going.” But even now, in the icy future, so hemmed in and two-dimensional, all is not yet lost. Some solace can be found in the fact that there are still hidden places and fascinating people out there you’d never think to meet—secrets hidden in the overgrowth, revealed only when the sun or moon is in the right position at a certain time of day. Arcane relics and ancient scrolls remain hidden away in caves and tombs. Dinosaur bones and dusty suitcases lie buried, waiting to be discovered. As the great surveillance eye of the future maps and penetrates all known space, the hidden world goes deeper into remission.
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HOW WE GOT THE COVER We Spent Months Scamming a Scammer into Doing Our Work for Us BY MISHKA HENNER
cam-baiting is a form of internet vigilantism in which the vigilante poses as a potential victim to expose a scammer. It’s essentially grassroots social engineering conducted as civic duty or even amusement, a cross-cultural double bluff in which participants on separate continents try to outdo each other in an online tug-of-war for one’s time and resources—and the other’s private banking information. The baiter begins by “biting the hook”— answering an email from the scammer. The “victim” feigns receptivity to the financial lure, engaging the scammer in a drawn-out chain of emails. The most important element of baiting is to waste as much of the scammer’s time as possible—when a scammer is preoccupied, it prevents him from conning genuine victims. The cover of the issue you’re holding is a trophy from the most elaborate bait I’ve ever been involved in. Three scammers, spread across Libya and the United Arab Emirates, set the con. They posed as a widow named Nourhan Abdul Aziz, a doctor named Dr. Ahmadiyya Ibrahim, and a banker going by Ephraim Adamoah. From Nourhan’s initial contact with my associate, Condo Rice, to Ephraim’s actually donning an Obama mask and shooting our cover for us, 7,000 words were exchanged over nearly four months of emails. During that time, Condo and I negotiated our way through a labyrinthine network of fake websites, bogus documents, and broken English, and ended up with the weirdest photograph I’ve seen in a long time.
The cover was commissioned by the US edition of VICE, hence the discrepancy with volume and issue number.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice Re: please help us. Tue, Jul 2, 2013 8:12 PM
Hallo. i know it will be a big surprise for you to receive my email because email like these can talk by bad people over the internet telling people about money and every other things. but my self always receives offer from the internet which i normaly delete them because i believe it will be scam a letter, sorry if my english is not good but i am talking through my son who if i talk in arabic and he transat into english so you can read and understand me. please my friend i am beging you and i swear to Allah i worship that what am telling you here is not a lie, if you follow everything i have said in my letter both of us will be happy for the rest of our life. i am from Libya and my late husband is one of the late Gaddafi sons (khamis) driver in the army. it was my husband who took Gaddafi family to Niger and Algeria when they run out of Libya as rebels want to kill them. but he came back to Libya and diey when their convoy was hit by NATO bomb and him and khamis die immediately. but he told me something very important when we talking somedays before he die. he told me how he took some money from khamis and help kept it in a secret place as he is planing to run out of Libya that weekend. he said the money is in euros 12.6 million and all keeping in a big suitcase and in kept in a secret place. and also 67 kilos of gold which he keep them together in the place. why am writing you is because when him and khamis his superor die and i hear the news in television and i look on our bedroom table and see some papers he keep on the table some 3 hours before that NATO people bomb them and i found is the papers for the where the things he told me belong to khamis is keeping and i hurry up take them and my children and we run to where i am from writing you now, please i want someone to take ownership of the funds and the 67 kilos of gold which my husband travel and keep in secret for khamis as he using his own name to deposit it because if people knows that it belongs to khamis or my husband they will size it and report to the Libyan government. please send me your direct details and phone number so we can talk. my first son speaking english very well but i am trying. please reply with your information. i also want you to know that the money and the gold is not in Libya it is keeping in another country not far from Libya. i will wait for your reply. thank you for understanding me.
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mrs. Nourhan Re: please help us. Wed, Jul 3, 2013 8:56 AM
Hi, I spent many happy vacations in Libya before NATO ruined the country. Let me know how I can help you. Best, Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice Re: please help us. Fri, Jul 5, 2013 11:54 AM
Hallo, Thanks for your emailing me back, i believing we both should understand and trust ourself before we go into this dealings. all what i have telling you is true and Allah is my witness. my husband was the driver to Gaddafi son Khamis and he having a lot of access from Gaddafi and his children before he dieing. as i have told you we cannot go back to Libya again because everybody knows my husband work for the Gaddafi and his family for years. the rebels is looking to kill me and my children because of their father frends with Gaddafi family as they call him enemey. Please i want you to help us from your botom heart not only because of the promise i give you but to help us see a good life again after we lose our family breadwiner. i need someone who will be like a father or mother to my children and assisting us with his all heart to receiving this money and this gold, i decideing to contact you to assist us receiving the gold and this funds. be rest asure that this is no risk of anything in this business. this is 100% legal thing and i believe in the person that saying trust is the key work of 2 people and importants of business to do together. so lets work hand in hand and make sure we get this doing and finish as soon as possible. i will also send you another copy docuement calling gold certificate of the gold as i see it is writen in the document. which my late husband getting in Ghana to backing the 2 box as gold so to avoiding seizing it. i will send the document on demand of you. please tell me your mind. Mrs. Nourhan
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mrs. Nourhan Re: please help us. Mon, Jul 8, 2013 07:35 AM
Dear Mrs. Nourhan, My heart burns with the fire of ten thousand Tomahawks as I read your email. In the US, the powerful stick together and it is gross negligence on our part that we failed you. Let me try to rectify that by doing everything in my power to help you and your family. Please send me the documents you have and we can start from there. In the meantime, I will speak to my financial advisors and my bank manager about the best way of storing your gold. With deep admiration, Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice Re: please help us. Mon, Jul 8, 2013 11:34 PM
Hallo, Thanks for your emailing me back. please wait talking anybody now about this gold or the money. keep it secret thing bwteen you and me until it is on the way to reaching the US then you telling them. i hopes you hearing me? please i have sending my son to go scan the documents in busoness center and i will sending you in short time all the documents and contat of security company so you contating them and telling them to deliver to you in US so you arranging the buyer of the gold too ok. please see thei contact and contating the security company in Ghana immedietely.please you see my attch document it all the document of my husband for the deposit. give it to them also so that they know you genuine person from the family i sending them. Mr. Ephraim Adamoah Umpire Special Security Company Ltd. Accra, Ghana. thanks you ma frend. ATTACHMENTS:
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mr. Ephraim Adamoah Re: please help us. Thu, Jul 11, 2013 3:46 AM
Dear Mr. Ephraim Adamoah, I have been contacted by a lady from Libya who has asked me to get in touch with you to handle a substantial amount of gold belonging to Gaddafiâ€™s regime. I have looked at your impressive website and can see that you are one of the most important and trustworthy bank vaults in Africa. I am a very wealthy businesswoman in the US and have significant assets in your continent. I am looking to transfer $4.75 million in cash from an account in South Africa to Umpire Solutions in Ghana. Is this something you can help me with? It is vital that your company is used to handling such large amounts of cash. Otherwise, the lady in Libya wants to store 100 kilos of gold in your vault. She has sent me the certificates, which I can email you. My proposal is that once she transfers the gold, you and I share it between us. What do you think? Yours in confidence, Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mr. Ephraim Adamoah Condo Rice Re Fri, Jul 12, 2013 2:47 AM
Dear Mrs. Condo Rice , We hope you got our email yesterday, please we do work with evidence not hearsay, if myself happen to order them to be delivered to you in United States as Mrs. Nourhan Abdul Aziz instructed, the company would sack me because any valuables going out of the company a manifesto must be filed for it and in this case when I go to the board management to file a manifesto the board management must see the death certificate of Mr. Tarek Abdul Aziz (the depositor) before filing the manifesto to order the 2 valuables to be delivered to you, please my advice is for both of you to look for the hospital where he died in Libya or anywhere and get the death certificate, all what we want to see is that the depositor (Mr. Tarek Abdul Aziz) is truly dead and a death certificate is presented confirming his death in our company and we confirm from the hospital that he is dead, then I will file the manifesto within some hours and order the 2 valuables to be delivered in your home address in United States with immediate effect, so look for how to get his death certificate its very vital in this case. And please send to us your contact telephone number. Thank you for contacting Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd. Mr. Ephraim A. Chief Operations Officer [COO]. Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd. Address: P.O. Box M41 Accra, Ghana. Company Site: www.umpiressdsolution.com
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mrs. Nourhan Re: please my frend help us ok. Sat, Jul 13, 2013 10:47 PM
The security company wonâ€™t do anything without a death certificate. Maybe there is another way for you to prove your identity to them. I will write and ask them. Yours, Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice Re: please my frend help us ok. Tue, Jul 16, 2013 7:35 PM
Hallo my frend, please beging them to helpa us becuse the rebel govment dont agree hopstals to give dead cerfticate unles you contating the minitry of haelth in Tripoli and when is contat they wil know the peson name and if it is a Gaddafi peson they wont listen anyting you saying. they wil say is a enemey of Libya peple. please beging the security company to help us ok. thanks my frend Allah wil blesing you for help me and my children. please i contating this hopstal in Accra, Ghana and the dotor owner said he helping us give my late hsuband a dead cerfcate in his hopital but he teling me not understnd my eglsih very well. please i want you contat the hospital and beg the doctor to giv us the death cerficate to my husband so the security company wil deliver this 2 sutcase in your home address in US so that you will keping the money safe and saling the gold for us in the interntional maket there in US ok. this the is hopstal contat. Hospital Telephone Numbers +2330570766455 +233 0570766476 hopital site: www.ajriinsurancefze.com owner peseon: Dr. Ahmadiyya Jibrin R. Ibrahim (AJRI) thanks you ma frend.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice please are u help us? Sat, Jul 27, 2013 7:02 PM
Hallo my frend. please tel me you helping me and my children. i have not haer from you for days. please help me ma frend.
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Dr. Ahmadiyya Jibrin R. Ibrahim (AJRI) Death Certificate Mon, Jul 29, 2013 10:47 PM
To whom it may concern, I am trying to locate a death certificate for Tarek Abdul Aziz. Please could you email a copy of it to me. Thank you, Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Dr. Ahmadiyya Jibrin R. Ibrahim (AJRI) Condo Rice Re: Death Certificate Tue, Jul 30, 2013 8:34 AM
Dear Mrs. Condo Rice, I got your email and my hospital can be of assistance to you, I can help issue you the Death Certificate proclaiming that Tarek Abdul Aziz died in my hospital and defend it in any law court, but before I do that you should pay for the legal costs which is $1,950 why I required this money is because there are some legal processes I will use money for and within 2 days I will complete them, issue the Death Certificate and send to you as you requested, please if you agreed kindly send the deceased mini photo passport, with his full name and country of origin, then I will give you the name you will use to send the money to me here in Ghana and I will get the legal procedures done then issue you his Death Certificate before Tuesday afternoon 30th Jul. 2013. Will be looking forward to hearing from you. Yours Faithfully, Dr. Ahmadiyya Ibrahim Founder/Owner AJRI Hospital, Accra, Ghana. Tel: +2330570766455 http://ajriinsurancefze.com/
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice Re: Death Certificate Tue, Jul 30, 2013 10:21 AM
Condo, hallo my frend i see you email you sned to hopstal for doctor givings us the my husband dead cerficate. please i pray allah he agree in give my hsband the dead cerficate so that we give to the securty company to deliver his 2 sutcase to your huose in US so that you keep the money sefe and seling the gold in internetiola maket thei in US and send us some money after u sel so that i wil make papers for me and my children and we tavel to caracas and when we get thei i open acount and send you so you transfa our 50% share and keep your own 50% share as we plans ok. Nourhan.
VICE VIC E 65 65
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Dr. Ahmadiyya Jibrin R. Ibrahim (AJRI) Re: Death Certificate Wed, Jul 31, 2013 7:03 PM
Dear Doctor, If you have a copy of the death certificate, please send me an image of it by email. There are no legal costs involved in sending me an email with a photo attached. Thank you, Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mrs. Nourhan Re: Death Certificate Wed, Jul 31, 2013 8:06 PM
Dear Nourhan, The hospital will only send me a photo of the death certificate if I pay them. At this point, I need to know that you are who you say you are. Please send me a photograph of yourself holding up a sign saying Condo Rice. That way I will know that you are who you say you are. Thank you, Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mr. Ephraim Adamoah Condo Rice Re Thu, Aug 1, 2013 9:24 PM
Dear Mrs. Condo Rice , Have you getting the death certificate which our company required to ship your relativeâ€™s valuables to your home address in the United States? please reply alongside your contact telephone or mobile number. Thank you for contacting Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd. Mr. Ephraim A. Chief Operations Officer [COO]. Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd.
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice Re: Photo Mon, Aug 5, 2013 11:05 PM
hallo my frend please i take the photo now hold in my hand Condo Rice as you teling me and scan in busines center just now and ettach and send you so you know me not tel you a lie. please believe me i not tel a lie and wil not now is ramadan time. please send the money to dotor him give us this dead cerficate and you wil see the securty company deliver the 2 sutcase in your house and please you take them as i tel you to keep the money in other box secret and seling the gold in interntional maket thei in US as we plan it ok. your frend Nourhan. ATTACHMENT:
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mrs. Nourhan Re: Death Certificate Fri, Aug 9, 2013 10:52 AM
Dear Nourhan, I am very disappointed that you are not willing to trust me, your friend in the United States. I am working hard to help you and have even spoken to my attorney to prepare the transfer of $1,950 to the Doctor to secure your husbandâ€™s death certificate. However, this will not work if you are going to lie to me. By chance, my 11-year-old nephew saw the picture you sent me and recognized it from a school assignment he did on Islam last week. Here is the picture he showed me: http://www.123rf.com/photo_11904875_beautifulyoungmuslimwomanseatandholdingablan kpaper.html The resemblance is uncanny, no? And how convenient that the piece of paper is blank. Please explain this to me as I do not want to waste any more time. I have twelve businesses to attend to and am a busy woman. Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc. VICE VIC E 67
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mrs. Nourhan Condo Rice Re: Photo Mon, Aug 12, 2013 2:19 PM
hallo my frend please forgive me it is the photo peson becuase i go for take the photo realy and i asking him if govement like Libya rebel wil know somebody id and whei the peson is stay tru the photo send other people in internet and he tel me yes is posible intenet not security at all. because they wil trace me to here in Sharjah, UAE. please forgive me but this my phone number +971503067322 call me and we talk but i not send my real photo so that the rebel people secret agents won’t know is me talk you and trace to hear what we saying. please lets use phone and talking all things we want ok. Nourhan.
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mrs. Nourhan Re: Photo Thu, Aug 15, 2013 12:01 PM
Dear Nourhan, Here is what you wrote to me: “please believe me i not tel a lie and wil not now is ramadan time.” Why did you lie to me during Ramadan? I am very upset about this. I understand your concerns and know myself what it’s like to be in physical danger. But if we are to make this transaction successful we have to be honest with each other. The world is already full of liars and frauds so we have to be careful. Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
From: To: Subject: Sent: M
Condo Rice Mrs. Nourhan Re: Photo on, Sep 14, 2013 2:11 PM
Dear Nourhan, I am ready to make the payment of $1,950 to secure a copy of your husband’s death certificate which will release the gold from Umpire Special Security. Mr Ephraim assures me that he has authorization from Dr Ibrahim to process the payment on his behalf. All that’s left to do is to make sure Mr Ephraim’s identity is correct and then payment can be made. You don’t need to worry Nourhan, I’ll make sure you get your husband’s gold safely and soon. Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc.
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mr. Ephraim Adamoah Re Mon, Sep 23, 2013 11:01 AM
Dear Mr Ephraim, Thank you for your email. I am glad to hear you have made arrangements with Doctor Ibrahim for the transfer of $1,950 to release Tarek Abdul Azizâ€™s death certificate. Mr Azizâ€™s wife is very anxious that the gold should be sent to me as quickly as possible so I hope this will speed things up. Before I proceed with any payment, I need proof of identity from you so we can send payment to you in full confidence. Since we have never met, I have devised a set of instructions which I would like you to follow and which will ensure the authenticity of your identity. If you email me a photograph that contains the following details, we can proceed with immediate payment. Please study the attached attached drawing carefully. You must recreate this drawing in a photograph and it must include the following details: 1. You will need to hold a goat in your left hand and a United States flag with my company logo in your right hand (see the attachment for precise details of how the flag should look). 2. The flag will be on the end of a stick and held up. 3. At the front of the picture, a sign with SKAMMERZ ISHU (the second part of my company name) must also be visible. 4. The code FREE V20 N12 must also appear in the background to the right of the picture. 5. Finally, to be absolutely certain this is a genuine photograph, you will need to wear a Barack Obama mask. The photograph must be sent to me as soon as possible by email at A4 size (29.7 x 21cm) so I can study it carefully and make sure the details are correct. I look forward to doing business with you. Condo Condo Rice Vice Skammerz Ishu Inc. ATTACHMENT:
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mr. Ephaim Adamoah Condo Rice Re: Photo Wed, Oct 16, 2013 9:22 PM
Dear Mrs. Condo Rice , I have worked very hard for your picture today and spent money on the sign maker to make the signs as you told me in your emails so you can be happy with the proof that I am 100% real person and for us not to waste any more time now. Now you can be cetain tht this is 100% riskfree, you must pay the deposit of $1,950 so that the board management accept the new manifesto for Mr Tarek Abdul Aziz valuables to be delievered to your address in United States. Please Mrs Condo I am good christian with very happy customers and am very busy with lot of people to stay with the company and you must believe me now. Please send your contact telephone number so we can finish this business. Thank you for contacting Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd. Mr. Ephraim A. Chief Operations Officer [COO]. Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd. Address: P.O. Box M41 Accra, Ghana. Company Site: www.umpiressdsolution.com ATTACHMENT:
From: To: Subject: Sent:
Condo Rice Mr. Ephraim Adamoah Re Thu, Oct 17, 2013 10:06 AM
Dear Mr Ephraim, Thank you for the photograph you sent. I wish I could see it clearly but my eyesight is not what it used to be which is why I asked you to send it to me â€œat A4 size (29.7 x 21cm) so I can study it carefully and make sure the details are correct.â€? Until you send me the photograph at this size I cannot make any payments. My attorneys are losing their patience. Condo Condo Rice Skammerz Ishu Ltd. VICE, FREE V20 N12 70 VICE
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From: To: Subject: Sent:
Mr. Ephraim Adamoah Condo Rice Re: Photo Tue, Oct 22, 2013 2:18 PM
Dear Mrs. Condo Rice , Here is the photograph you requested, please now send to us your telephone number urgently so we can process the money. Thank you for contacting Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd. Mr. Ephraim A. Chief Operations Officer [COO]. Umpire Special Security Co. Ltd. Address: P.O. Box M41 Accra, Ghana. Company Site: www.umpiressdsolution.com
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LI’L THINKS: ENERGY BY KATE CARRAWAY, ILLUSTRATION BY PENELOPE GAZIN
If there is a single idea that can be borrowed from its original physics, or whatever context, and reapplied as an explanation for the ways in which people are shitty to each other, it’s that energy can’t be created or destroyed, only changed. Split open, every interaction and communication is a bare transference of needs and wants, cut into sub- and cross-sections of ego, love, rage, mood, intention, demand, everything, like imperceptible and maybe accidentally poisoned arrows heading straight for the brain’s amygdala. When energy is passed from one person to another, it’s shifting and interphasic and constant, but it will always just be energy, made up of all of our emotional pulp, and will necessarily have some effect or affect, because it has to. It has to! It’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s still a scam we all pull on one another, endlessly. Energy transference is the first, best, most elemental way to take advantage of, or just take from, one another. It’s eternal and inevitable, and not something that gets acknowledged, even now when we’re way, way deep into an era of hazmat-suited, self-caring vigilance about every potential infl uence or experience that might infect us with something, like gluten or negativity. Energy transferred is emotion transferred, which means that the quality of a feeling or urge gets onto and into whomever it comes in contact with, like emo-osmosis. This is more or less the basis of human relationships, but understood in its tinier, quieter, implicit machinations, energy transference is how even almost invisible discord is perpetrated. Like, how subjecting someone to the vagaries of a gnarly mood is a subtle, inevitable kind of violence; how asking someone for something is not only about the favor itself but also about the expanding, moving context of the ask. Electronic shits like email and texts—not @s or comments, maybe, since they’re more specifically directed and inherently invite a response—feel, when taken together, like a psychic Pacifi c Trash Vortex. But considered more carefully and granularly, each thing that is sent requests and requires a not insignifi cant dedication of attention (to the thing itself, its form, its glow, its typical, heartbreaking insignificance) that’s inverse to the decreasing amount of effort involved in the sending. Here, when energy is transferred it gets bigger, and usually badder. That energy, that feeling, that need, will be metabolised and understood and used—and osmosis-ed to the next guy—in some individual, unpredictable way, but the energy of it always exists.
This would be more whatever, more just fi ne, when our individual energy resources were more fulsome and available, divided between real time and paperbacks and a singular mainstream, and not busy doing the real work of adapting to new ways of thinking and connecting. (“Internet brain” is both funny-haha and funny-weird, but it’s a thing, and it’s a crucial misread to decide that the online swath of our lives is necessarily degraded and degrading.) Now, these ways in which energy and therefore attention are taken—just taken!—have become internetinfi nite, and out of this emotionally (and hormonally and physically) disruptive and demanding mass of information and possibility and ways of being, there has emerged an “attention economy” where those daily, momentary requests are currency: energy is attention, and attention is exchanged—transferred—like currency. In some ways these sorts of interactions are opt-out-able, but included in that economy is the assumption that our energy, attention, whatever, is owed. It’s no different from that darker stuff of human-on-human energy contact, when one person has the pleasure and privilege of releasing a need and want in the direction of someone else, like dudes hissing sex stuff at girls on the street, or anyone coming at you shoulders first, in a bar or wherever. It’s less about titties or specific anger, and more about a demand—unwanted and unsolicited—of attention, to offer it and get it back. This also applies to the expectations around where your attention should be, and how it should be spent—like, knowing everything, always, and having a developed perspective on everything, always, the second before it’s available on Twitter, in open tabs, or wherever else, and the correct and incorrect ways to deploy that knowing and that perspective. If this is going to drain our daily and lifetime reserves of energy cum attention, ultimately, I don’t know (is it like X and serotonin?), but what has to come in between these tiny robberies of attention via nega-energy-transference are some specific, explicit management choices of our own, which first means acknowledging the energy that’s being taken on or taken away or just changed with every encounter, every emoji, every tab. This is, to me, where it becomes clear that emotional behavior and energy transference online aren’t antihuman, but actually superhuman: human on human on human. It’s so much of all of us, snapping and grabbing at one another and one another’s notice—not eyes, not ears, but attention—for more. More of Kate’s Li’l Thinks can be found at Twitter.com/KateCarraway.
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If you like the puzzling drama of Bible stories, but ďŹ nd the writing a bit clunky and hard to decipher, subscribe to VICE. For $44 you can have ten issues of VICE magazine delivered to your door. At that price you can get a subscription for you, your mum, and baby Jesus. Subscribe now at vice.com/subscribeAUNZ
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REVIEWS BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH: BARNETT + COLOCCIA
TALIB KWELI Gravitas Self-released
I had a cool TA in college who helped reframe the way I thought about the world. He convinced me to express my disgust regarding the vague political issues I didn’t quite understand, like fracking, to anyone who would listen. In hindsight, I realise that guy only seemed smart because I was such a fumbling dickweed. I think I speak for all hip-hop fans when I say that Talib Kweli is the rapper version of that TA. ART POPE
RICK ROSS Mastermind Def Jam
There are two facts about Rick Ross that are selfevident: one, his name is two first names; two, the man likes to eat. You might think it’s funny to make jokes about his heft or goofy name, but it turns out the joke’s on you: Rick Ross is actually two dudes trapped in one dude’s body. There’s Rick, who makes all the Rick Ross songs about shooting traitors with elephant guns, and then there’s Ross, who’s in charge of generating Rick Ross songs about blowjobs on yachts. This record is 40 percent Rick, 60 percent Ross, and 100 percent ass-fuck crazy town. SE7EN SISTERZ
CHILDISH GAMBINO Because the Internet Glassnote
It’s weirdly satisfying to watch people you despise sink into the depths of soul-crushing depression. It reminds you that no matter how perfect some people
appear to be, their insides are burning with the same ego-crushing emotional pain yours are. Take comedian, TV star, rapper, and generally attractive male human Donald Glover. He just made this conventionally good rap record, which is doubly satisfying as a concept album documenting Honest Don’s slow realisation that he’s nothing more than a mangled soul trudging a forced march toward the icy, unforgiving embrace of death. JILL ROSENSCHATZ
It’s not like they’re completely awful or anything, but this record has a standard deviation of approximately zilch minus nil. If the E-40 of the 90s could have invented a time machine instead of coining indispensible phrases like “Captain Save a Hoe,” he’d zap into the future and Tase his own ball bag. A THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD MAN
SNOOP DOGG/DÂM-FUNK 7 Days of Funk Stones Throw
TOURIST Patterns EP Method
Snoop probably abandoned his last givable fuck back in 2005 when he propositioned the owner of a weed dispensary to install a waterslide, which explains why the walking godhead who created an archetype for all West Coast gangster rap hasn’t rounded out the elderstatesman part of his career in a cringe-worthy attempt to become LA’s Jay-Z. Instead Snoop seems content jumping paws-first into quirky genre exercises, whether it’s DJing as Snoopadelic, making a reggae album with Diplo, or cooking up this dirty, synth-y funk album with DâmFunk, the last remaining standard-bearer for all things stank. They seem so perfect together I’m surprised they don’t have their own sitcom. ERIC SUNDERPANTS
Liking music should never be easy. That’s why the recent EDM thing has been so frustrating. People used to be willing to go to prison in the fight for their dumb right to take drugs and listen to shitty music. EDM has taken it full circle by turning wasteoids dancing to bad music into the fabric of an entire industry. But wait, what? This is “real” dance music and not “EDM”? Either way, it sounds like a toilet flushing to these old ears. And, oh great, now it’s clogged and there’s shit-water all over the floor. SAD PUNK
LEE BANNON E-40
The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil, Vol. 4–6
Heavy on the Grind Entertainment
E-40 was spawned from a time I like to call the Era of the Microsoft Zune (a.k.a. the late 90s/ early 2000s) and has somehow managed to keep persuading people to give him money to make unmemorable music. The one thing he got correct is the realisation that the days when a rapper was supposed to release one perfect album every couple of years are as dead as Eazy-E, which I guess is why he’s taken to annually releasing triple albums with 45 songs on them.
We’ve been down with Lee since he was fucking around with all those New York high school-age rappers orbiting the Pro Era crew. Then a few months back he released a one-song EP, which basically makes him rap game Jack Nance. His current stuff is a bit too trappy for my taste, but you can tell he’s into some deep shit here. My gut tells me he’ll always make time to lay down a trippy sonic mattress for some rando struggle rapper who needs a place to crash. SLY BRICK
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REVIEWS WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH: BEEDEEGEE
KRTS The Foreigner Project: Mooncircle
Dear Berlin, America would like to apologise for the following: flooding you with deadbeat “artists,” turning Berghain into Disneyland, snorting all your good speed, and all the American knob-diddlers who’ve decided your city is where every DJ needs to be. Like this guy, who was so touched by your beauty while riding the U-Bahn after raving for 14 hours, he decided to cut an entire EP about his super unique, awesome expat experience. Actually, let’s be real. It’s your fault for handing out visas like supermarket coupons. Love, DORK BREATH
DREXCIYA Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller Clone
I love it when defunct techno artists pop out of the grave with Really Fucking Important reissues because I get to watch my DJ friends splooge themselves with glee. Even if it’s Drexciya, one of the weirdest outfits to come out of Detroit’s 90s techno scene (they claim to be the offspring of African slaves who were expelled from an America-bound ship). And up until this point their shit has been virtually impossible to find; when this drops, my friends are going to get so excited they’ll be swimming in a pool of cum, gurgling (and gargling), “Hallelujah, bitches!” YOKO FOUR LOKO
OH LAND Wishbone Fake Diamond
When you’re a hot Scandinavian dressed like a Narwhal, there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t be paying attention. The good parts of this album sound
like a Disney porno. The not so good parts look like Anne Hathaway’s tortured face and Goldfrapp’s nappy stains. The rest is a choose-your-own-adventure type of affair that’s somewhere in between the lovers’ harp and the girl power messages in a decent laundry jingle waiting to happen. MT
a retarded donkey with three legs. Then Todd would fire up his massive PA system as loud as it would go, aim it at the neighbours, and put on grindy pig core like this just to piss off the “whiny-ass chips next door.” I’m not sure if that counts as a good review, but I can recommend this record as great asshole repellent. BLADE DETH
SNOWFLAKE We All Grow Toward the Sea Satellite Union
THESE NEW SOUTH WHALES Live in Syndey Independant
This is the kind of band who, if you were mates with them in high school, your mum would be super worried. She’d hear you playing their CD through your bedroom door and be pretty sure you were about go postal at the public pool or something. Relax mum, the worst these kids ever did was nurse bucket bongs and shave their heads with safety razors. Harmless. That being said, one of them does work at VICE, so… AUTOMATIC VOMIT FACE, SUCKER! MR. BEAN
DISFIGURING THE GODDESS Deprive Decomp
Remember Joose? That 24-ounce blackout in a can that fueled your first toejob sesh? That stuff was banned a few years ago during the malt-liquor wars of 2010 because its ingredients included sewage runoff and liquid AIDS (not really, but basically). But even after it was banned in New York, I could always count on my buddy Todd to have a couple cans hidden in the vegetable drawer of his fridge. I’d ride my bike over to his house, and we’d knock a couple back as an eye-opener, along with whoever had crashed in his backyard the night before. I miss those quiet moments—the sun soft and golden just like in a car commercial—as the buzz kicked in like
This is my buddy Dan’s band, and I like him because he’s a bald, card-carrying pinko who’ll smoke 15 Swisher Sweets in a night and rant about the “escalating incongruities between socialised production and private ownership of surplus.” He’s also a record producer, which means he’s a part-time nanny to the human babies who play in rock ’n’ roll bands. That’s how I met him. When he recorded my drumming, he used to pat me on the back and tell me I was the next Steve Shelley. Then, when I went for a smoke, it was Dan in there fixing all my fuck-ups and polishing my sonic ass nuggets into something halfway tolerable. What I didn’t know was that all the while he was recording his own art-pop stuff on the side, playing all the instruments and singing and handling the recording duties too. This flies in the face of that time-tested axiom that everyone in the music industry who does anything besides rock the fuck out isn’t worth his or her weight in fetid afterbirth. BSHAP
TOY Join the Dots Heavenly
This stuff is OK. I listened to track four first, because that’s the power slot. It reminded me of that one song from White Knuckle Extreme: Best of BMX in 2002. Those were the golden days, back when everything was about poppy, good vibes and sponsorship money was flowing unimpeded. I mean, dudes still listened to
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DECEMBER THU 19 - The Venusians + Jesse Witney + Declan Kelly
FRI 17 - Hattie Carrol Launch + Guests
SAT 18 - J\i\e`kpEfnHnXidj"dpYifk_\iXe[p"dfi\K98
SAT 4 - Thieves + The Upskirts + Blind Valley + Stone Monks
K?L)*$Sound Doctrine Presents...
THU 9 - THE FOLK INFORMAL - the best in local folk & alt-country!
=I@)+$ The Trotskies (VIC) + Guests
FRI 10 - Fingertip$ + Guests
J8K),$ B`dJXcdfeC\Xee\:fn`\M@: ">l\jkj
SAT 11 - Post Paint + Devotional + Daisy M Tulley
THU 30 - Traveller & Fortune (SA) + Belle & The Bone People +
WED 15 - K?<C8L>?JK8E;$jkXe[$lgZfd\[pn`k_m\ipjg\Z`Xc^l\jkj THU 16 - The Wameki (JPN) + Jugular Cuts + 10K Free Men + Litter
Huckleberry Hastings FRI 31 - Feral Media & Fallopian Tunes Present...
+ HANDS UP - Banging DJs every Saturday from 11:30pm until the early morning! + LUNCH BREAK - A live set presented by Albert’s every Wednesday from 1pm on FBi Radio or live at FBi Social!
=9`JfZ`XcC)B`e^j:ifjj?fk\cnnn%]Y`iX[`f%Zfdnnn%]Y`jfZ`Xc%Zfd Events are correct at the time of print. Check fbisocial.com for any updates!
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REVIEWS BEST COVER OF THE MONTH: SNOOP DOGG/DÂM-FUNK
Slayer—especially the old dudes who’d gritted out the dark days of the 90s—but it’s way easier think about why Jim Cielencki went bald so young when you’re watching him smith-grind to a Sarge track. TED RAINES
ATLANTEAN KODEX The White Goddess 20 Buck Spin
Atlantean Kodex’s guitarist once described their music as “a trip through the dark underbelly of European folklore to a realm of fertility cults, fire-worship, and corn-demons.” On my planet, this sounds like God took a Renaissance faire sponsored by a German tampon company, turned it upside down, and shook it. It doesn’t matter though, because every song on this is really fucking long—except for the ambient Zelda soundtrack stuff on the interludes—which means you’ll never get through it anyway. YUNG JESUS
BOSTON Life, Hope & Love Frontiers
Boston’s new record has an ace in the hole most arena-rock comeback albums would get down on their knees and beg for: a depraved, disembodied, threeoctave-spanning voice from beyond the grave. Maybe you don’t remember the time Boston’s old singer had a little thing for his fiancée’s sister, which turned into a really big and illegal thing when he hid a webcam in her room. After she found the camera, he ended up killing himself by sealing off his master bedroom, lighting two charcoal grills, and attaching a hose to his car’s exhaust pipe. Listening to his voice on this record is scarier than the realisation that somewhere, Brad Delp is watching over us, limp, phantasmic penis in hand, singing “More Than a Feeling” while weeping and masturbating with a little noose. If that’s not rock ’n’ roll, I dunno what is. JAMAICA PLANE
D.O.A. Welcome to Chinatown (D.O.A. Live) Sudden Death
D.O.A. are one of Canada’s prototypical hardcore bands, so it makes sense that their song titles here are so achingly punk they must be doing it on purpose. “That’s Why I’m an Atheist”; “Fuck You”; “I Hate You”; “Marijuana Motherfucker”; “I’m Right, You’re Wrong”; “Disco Sucks.” They are all on point and 100 percent correct. D.O.A. is great if you want to feel 15 and trapped in a sweaty, alcohol-free VFW hall that smells like ferret dick, but if you have a job and responsibilities this is going to really piss you off, because even though D.O.A. is breaking up, their lead singer will never not be named Joey Shithead. FIN DIESEL
MUSE Live at Rome Olympic Stadium Warner Brothers
There is no band on earth that thinks they’re more important and culturally significant than Muse, the poor man’s version of the poor man’s Radiohead (Coldplay). Yes, that’s correct: I am claiming, in writing, that Coldplay is better than another band, even though the superior band is led by a man who’s currently wearing a jacket with no fewer than seven front pockets and probably at least three epaulets and isn’t Michael Jackson. GRACE HALEY
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS Live from KCRW Bad Seed Ltd.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ brilliantly titled fourth live album, Live from KCRW, is pretty much
exactly what you’d expect: a record of good songs you already know played live at an awesome radio station. For maximum fun times, grab your boyfriend or girlfriend (none of this “partner” bullshit, please, this isn’t a fucking Western) and dance around the living room in slow motion. SLEUTH LOOSELY
BAD VISION S/T Every Night Is A Saturday Night Records
You know when you meet someone who’s just next-level cool? A person who’s not only not an asshole, but also just super chill and a nice kid who doesn’t think they’re better than anyone or assume you also live in an eco-friendly converted warehouse? You know, someone whose parents are poets or the one dude who got rich from making documentary soundtracks and listens to albums like this one? You can’t compete with these types. They’re second generation winners. They will always beat you, it’s in their genes. If you come face to face with one of them roll over like a submissive dog and hope they invite you over for a beer. MAX POWER
HARMONY Carpetbombing Poison City Records
My dad is a super cool dude and really generous with giving people rides, but he’s also a total dandy. He likes word jokes and when people make mistakes in historical references. Growing up I loved him and his factoids about the French resistance, but I always wondered what it would be like to have a total piece of gristle for a dad—the kind whose hands weren’t softer than mine. This record gave me a bit of a sense of what it feels like to have an emotionally fractured and difficult dad who’s always calling your boyfriend a pussy and getting
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REVIEWS WORST COVER OF THE MONTH: KRTS
into fights with your “uncles”. It’s all very dramatic, and not a bad way to spend 40 minutes. Obviously if you have one of those dudes as a dad you end up as the type of girl Nick Cave writes unsettling songs about. I’ll take the dandy and just read early Australian settler diaries for a bit of gristle in my life. RAINBOW BRIGHT.
BEE DEE GEE
MICK TURNER Don’t Tell The Driver Drag City
I looked Mick up on YouTube to see him in action and every suggested video was a clip from Big Band Theory. It immediately made me feel like I was about to enter a losing musical battle, and you know, I feel sorry for the guy. He seems nice enough, he doesn’t need that junk crowding his shit. Luckily the guy who posted the video’s name was Electronikaki, which I thought would be a cool name for the girl from Whale Rider’s band when she grew up. That kind of saved him. Obviously this whole review isn’t based on uncontrollable technological coincidences, I did listen to it and it is lurching, listless, and evocative without slipping into sentiment. Plus I got a really funny Snapchat while I was playing it. YOLO4LYF
HARRY HOWARD AND THE NDE Pretty
The problem with solo projects is that there’s no one around to put the brakes on every bullshit idea you’ve got. That seems to be exactly what happened to Brian DeGraw from Gang Gang Dance, who recently moved to Woodstock to cram every half-baked idea he’s ever had (including beat-boxing) onto one intolerable record. Maybe this shit goes over well at the Ulster County farmers’ market, but to my ears, it’s a forgettable polyp in synth pop’s O-ring. PHILIP “C” REILLY
XIU XIU Nina Graveface Recordings
Wow! An album of Nina Simone covers that obliterates all the profound and nuanced vocal work that makes me love Nina Simone, sucking her songs into a frilly vortex of Jamie Stewart’s depression profiteering! I haven’t thought about Xiu Xiu since high school (“I love the valley, OH!”), but I honestly thought this guy would be in jail by now for declaring jihad on fun. BARNEY STAHL
I’m-on-a-boat feeling I’ve been dealing with, I’ve also been basking in the cognitive dissonance that comes with diagnosing a condition with the prefix pseudo- as “extreme.” Is that even possible? Listening to this record, which sounds like an “extreme” version of a pseudo-Are You Afraid of the Dark? theme, I’m pretty sure it is. This music feels tailor-made for the moment when an ailment becomes so intolerable that the only prescription is to take your anger out on society at large. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to google how to get this damn Bacillus anthracis onto a postage stamp. DUKUS P. TEKUM
VARIOUS ARTISTS Christian Workout Power Pack Capitol Christian Distribution
You were probably proud when you found the Desperate Bicycles’ Remorse Code LP in the dollar bin, but when I came across this gem I felt like fucking Friedrich Miescher. Get this: it’s specifically and explicitly a triple-disc collection made for Christian women aged 30 to 45 to help them break a sweat at the local YWCA. Plus, there are no digital downloads, it’s only available in Christian bookstores, and Christianity is a vicious celestial dictatorship that encourages ignorance, cruelty, and genocide. AVRIL MEURSAULT
BRITNEY SPEARS Britney Jean RCA
BARNETT + COLOCCIA How much enjoyment can you get from any new music when you’ve spent the day listening exclusively to Richard Hell and Ennio Morricone? Holy shit, so much more than you’d ever think was possible. When this finished playing I went “aww…” and made a loud, fully audible expression of disappointment because 51:38 mins wasn’t enough album for me. Get this one. BONUS: If you listen to this and mute the TV, Red Sonja becomes an astounding film. ZANE DE COURCY
Retrieval Blackest Ever Black
I’ve been weirdly dizzy for the past week, and this morning I finally got it together to see a doctor, who immediately diagnosed me with “an extreme form of pseudovertigo.” Aside from obsessively cataloguing every single drug I’ve taken in the past three months, and wondering if I’m personally responsible for the tunnel vision and heinous
Have you ever tried to kill a cockroach? First off, these little sharts have been around since dinosaurs were playing Twister in the Grand Canyon. What’s more is that they can live for almost a month without food, run up to three miles per hour, hold their breath for almost 40 minutes, and stay alive for a week without their fucking heads. Yeah, that’s right. Even if we lopped off Britney’s shaved head, we’d still have at least a week left of her very, very sad residency in Las Vegas, where every performance opens with another new song with the word bitch in the title. METH ADDICT
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NOW PLAYING ON VICE.COM
Photography: Jackson Fager
CHILD WORKERS OF THE WORLD
13-12-02 3:25 PM
JOHNNY RYAN’S PAGE
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VICE MAGAZINE VOLUME 11 NUMBER 12
FREE VOLUME 11 NUMBER 12
THE SKAMMERZ ISHU 2013
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Published on Dec 17, 2013