Kim Dotcom: The Man Behind the Mega
In October 2013, VICE News was invited to visit the infamous tech mogul and creator of Megaupload, Kim Dotcom, at his palatial property in New Zealand. Even though Kim is under house arrest—since he’s at the center of history’s largest copyright case—he’s still able to visit a recording studio in Auckland. So check out this brand new documentary we made at Kim’s mega-mansion and in the studio where our host, Tim Pool, got to lay down some backup vocals for Kim’s upcoming EDM album while talking about online surveillance, file-sharing, and Kim’s controversial case.
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No One Is Paying Attention to Dubai’s Mega-Rich Rappers
The United Arab Emirates isn’t a country you’d typically associate with hip-hop. It’s a place that is generally bereft of the cultural signifiers native to the dark, dank locales where rap was birthed—Illmatic, for instance, probably wouldn’t have been the same album if it was about the struggle of going $40 million over budget on your new artificial archipelago instead of the fight out of inner-city poverty.
But the young Emirati elite throwing cash at studio time and music videos to force their way into the rap game don’t care about that, and why should they? Genres don’t have to stay rooted. Dubstep was spawned in a south London borough known for its train stations and knife crime, and has become the party music of choice for frat boys with facial piercings the world over.
The problem is that those wads of cash aren’t conducive to your scene being taken particularly seriously. There aren’t many rappers in the UAE unleashing conscious backpack records aboutthe government’s oppression of its critics; far more who are content to jack Flo Rida’s artistic process and find new words to rhyme “club” with over a lame club-rap beat.
The $wiftest Pigeon
What is the sound of 1 million yuan flapping?
While most nouveau riche happily spend their new money on shit the old money has already deemed acceptable, China’s spoiled young princelings aren’t content with horses, sports cars, and insanely tacky watches alone. In tribute to the intrepid bootleggers who’ve propped up their country’s market economy, China’s rich have taken arguably the worst bird of all time, the pigeon, and slapped a Louis Vuitton logo on it. Racing pigeons are the new thoroughbreds here, with birds auctioned for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece and races netting millions for the championship flock. Which sucks for the old timers, whose balcony-bred birds don’t stand a chance against these million-dollar superflocks. And which just sucks in general because, well, pigeons. Fucking pigeons.
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Some Rich People, Including Jeff Bezos and Brian Eno, Are Building a Giant 10,000-Year Clock Inside a Mountain in Texas
Deep within a mountain somewhere in west Texas, The Long Now Foundation are hard at work building a 500-foot clock that’s been designed to run for 10,000 years. I know that sounds a bit like the folly of a Lone Star oil billionaire, but apparently this massive clock is going to adjust the manner in which we understand time itself, so I suppose that counts as having a purpose.
The team behind the construction—boasting names like Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine and, somewhat bizarrely, Brian Eno—want the clock to help destroy the short-term thinking they believe is plaguing society. Their aim is to engage the population so we all properly consider the ways we should be preparing for the future.
The giant clock might seem a slightly excessive way to do that, but when you’ve got Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos investing £27.5 million in your project, you don’t really need to worry about excess.
Executive director Alexander Rose talked me through the concept.
VICE: Hey. So what’s up with this gigantic clock?
Alexander Rose: The clock is an iconic project to inspire other people to get the conversation going about long-term thinking. I was once giving a tour to some IBM engineers and one gentleman said, “You know, this is never going to work. In 3,000 years, they’re going to be sacrificing virgins on this thing and all the blood is going to drip into it and it’s not going to work.” And I said, “That may be, but before you walked in the door here, you weren’t thinking 3,000 years in advance, so it’s already working.”
Well, what we hope to do is make something so mythic and crazy that people want to tell stories about it and it becomes a meme that can be called upon. When people tell you that you can’t do long term things, there will always be the 10,000 year clock.
I guess so—at least until the 10,001th year. What inspired the clock, Alexander?
"The Millennium Clock," a clock that ticked once a year, bonged once a century, and the cuckoo would come out once a millennium. If you make it “forever” or of an astronomic time scale of millions and billions of years it dwarfs the human experience and it doesn’t feel like there’s anything you can do that’s important in that time scale. So we thought, What is the human civilizational moment? If you look back to the last ice age, when agriculture started, that’s when large parts of the planet started having what we now call civilization. So that was chosen. If we can look back 10,000 years, then we can look forward 10,000 years.
I Went to Art Basel and Tried to “Get” Art
A while ago, I wrote a thing about how I don’t “get” art. In the piece, I dared to suggest that maybe it was silly that a neon sign that says “my cunt is wet with fear” is worth $100,000. It got read by a lot of people, many of whom disagreed with me and got very very angry. After reading people’s feedback, I thought maybe I had been a little harsh, and decided to give art ONE MORE CHANCE.
So I headed to Art Basel in Miami. In case you don’t keep up with #art, Art Basel is the world’s largest art fair. A bunch of galleries from all around the world gather in a big exhibition center in Miami and show off their bestest bits of art (pictured above), and have some parties and stuff.
First thing I noticed while walking around the main exhibition was the INSANE amount of canvases-painted-one-color that were on display.
I mean, I get it. It’s “making us question what art REALLY is” or some shit. Which I guess would have beenkinda interesting the first time someone did it 100 years ago. But do we really need to keep doing it? It’s been pretty well established what art is by now.
What I don’t get, is who the fuck is buying this stuff? Is this really worth $20,000? I know that nothing is worth what you pay for it, that’s just how the world works. Like, the computer I’m typing this on probably cost the manufacturer about 1/50th of what I paid for it. But come the fuck on, man. A black square? That costs as much as an entire third-world school?
I know the term “laughing all the way to the bank” is overused, but I find it hard you wouldn’t at least chuckle while driving to Chase if you were the guy who just made a year’s rent by painting a $30 canvas black.
And how does an artist even decide this is what they’re gonna do with their life? It’s like when people become an acoustic singer/songwriter. There is not one single thing that you can add to to that world, so why bother?
I guess it’s probably “Blair Witch syndrome”—where someone sees another person making a ton of money doing something that they themselves could have done and it makes them temporarily lose their mind.
Maybe that’s just what the entire art world is. Like how the tech world is made up almost completely of people who wish they could have been Mark Zuckerberg, the art world is people who are bummed they didn’t think of someone else’s obvious idea first.
Like how Tracey Emin made a bunch of money writing completely assinine statements in neon lighting, and now there’s an entire artistic movement of it. Like what you see above. Which are just four examples of about 1000000 I saw at Basel of people taking nominally profound statements and then turning them into art 3D objects to be sold for more than I make in a year.
Weirdly, Pharrell is taken seriously by people in Miami. I saw him at a bunch of shows, and he wasn’t laughed out of the building a single time. He even did a talk about design which, unfortunately, I missed, as I’m sure it would have been fucking GOLD. Apparently Kanye showed up and they had a debate about modern aesthetics, hahahahaha. This is the same guy who once asked everyone to start calling him “Skateboard P,” right? The one who was “rhymin’ on the top of a cop car”? I didn’t imagine that? And people are paying to hear him give his opinions on design now? Got it.
The VICE Guide to Business School
Justin Dett is the pseudonym of a graduate of a top-tier business school who wants to remain anonymous because he’d like to work again at some point in his life.
The people who make up your typical business school class come in all shapes and sizes and colors, but the one thing they have in common is their attraction to money. They fucking love it, and they love making it. They’re also probably quite a bit further along in terms of tangible life developments than the stereotypical aimless 20-something who is still struggling to hold down an apartment, a job, and a relationship at the same time. I’m not here to judge anyone’s chosen career path, and if making artisanal mayonnaise in Brooklyn is how you’d like to eke out the rest of your existence, more power to you. I will eat the shit out of it. But if you want to actually afford that fancy mayo, along with a host of other fun luxury goods that will—I don’t care what anyone says—make you happy, you need to get your ass to business school and get a Master’s in Business Administration.
It should come as no surprise that an MBA is way more financially valuable than the degree you have in gender theory or media studies or whatever piece of paper you get after writing long essays on Deleuze. Forty of the 100 best-paid American CEOs have MBAs, and believe me, those guys are some rich assholes.
The MBA is the biggest loophole in corporate America. The hardest part is getting into business school, but once you’re in, you can pretty much do whatever the fuck you want: It’s virtually impossible to fail, and employers don’t ask for your grades. When you graduate, and find a job—it’s pretty much inevitable that someone will hire you—you’re guaranteed to make boatloads of money; and remember, that’s what this whole thing is about. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the median salary of a newly minted MBA was $90,000 in 2012, and MBAs made, on average, $40,000 more than lowly peons with mere bachelor’s degrees.
You can’t fight the rich, so why not join them? Here’s how:
Getting admitted to business school is the hardest part. If you can’t get into a “top” school, you’re wasting your time. For obvious reasons, more and more people want to get an MBA, and more and more shitty schools have started offering shitty MBA programs, so MBAs are a dime a dozen in the US. You have to focus on one of the 25 or so best schools and ignore the other ones, because your prospects of getting a top job on Wall St. diminish rapidly when you graduate from Northern Eastern Southern Cocksucker State. Only 10 to 20 percent of applicants get into the worthwhile institutions, so you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Business schools are obsessed with statistics—namely GPAs and GMAT scores—because that’s how they convince saps like you to spend $100,000 on tuition. The higher the average GPA and GMAT score for an admitted student, the “smarter” the student, and therefore, the more exclusive the school. That means that if you fucked off in college, or if you suck at standardized tests, I can’t help ya pal. Sorry. Time to go back to mopping floors and playing scratch cards.
The next thing schools look at is your work experience and extracurricular activities, which are difficult to quantify, but almost more important than grades and GMAT scores. The good news is that business schools pride themselves on the diversity of their student bodies, and most of the bros and hos who apply to Business School are investment bankers and consultants—so your experience interning for a digital fashion start-up and “helping” with your friend’s music video will be a breath of fresh air for the admissions committee, as will your recommendation letters from people who aren’t your fraternity brothers.
Paying for It
Uh-oh. You got into a dope business school and have enjoyed a hazy week of showing up to experimental music shows and drunkenly telling people you’re getting an MBA to watch their facial expressions, but now you face the challenge of coming up with the $75,000 per year required to cover tuition and living expenses, and you aren’t rich just yet.
Unfortunately, most scholarships are probably off the table for you. If you’re a white male who hasn’t invented a perpetual motion machine and volunteered in several African countries, you’re completely screwed, and though there are typically more scholarships available for women, minorities, and the foreign-born, at most elite institutions, these will be taken by super-achievers who have already accomplished more with their lives than you ever will. Even if you luck out and get one, very few will cover all of your tuition, not to mention the money you will continue to spend on rent, deli salads, partying, and, as you go through business school, actual clothes a grown-up wears to work.
Some of you will have the luxury of hitting up the Bank of Mom, Dad, Stepmom, Stepdad, Rich Uncle, or Wealthy Suitor, etc., but if that isn’t an option either, don’t fret. Just getting into business school means that you’re already part of the 1 percent in the eyes of our nation’s financial institutions. That means you’re eligible for loans so large and uncollateralized that they would make even the most spendthrift subprime Floridian homebuyer splooge his pants. With only an admissions letter, yours truly was able to borrow almost six figures, even without providing a Social Security Number.
I remember hearing this word a lot when I was at b-school, so I though I’d include it as a section. Upon further reflection, I have no fucking idea what it means, so let’s move on.
BATH SALTS, ORGIES, MURDER AND ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE
If there is one thing society can learn from the soap opera now engulfing tech zillionaire John McAfee, it is that rectal shelving is the best way to take the psychoactive drug MDPV, marketed and known colloquially as bath salts. “Measure your dose,” McAfee wrote on a psychonaut forum two years ago, under his Stuffmonger handle. “Apply a small amount of saliva to the middle finger, press it against the dose, insert. Doesn’t really hurt as much as it sounds. We’re in an arena (drugs/libido), that I navigate as well as anyone on the planet here. If you take my advice about this (may sound gross to some), you will be well rewarded.”
It was the sort of vain boast to which he was prone. But it wasn’t too far from the truth, either. More than 99.9 percent of anyone now living, John McAfee seemed to have spent every waking hour Carpe-ing the fucking Diem.
Here was a man who did sex yoga. Who practiced the ridiculously fatal sport of aerotrekking. Who ranged the world gathering sycophants around him, investing in power yachts, designer chemical labs, bodyguards and shotguns, and above all else, making his life a holy shrine to his penis, and his life’s work the putting of that penis into as many young ladies as would have it. His holy grail, according to reports from close friends reported by Gizmodo, was “drugs that induce sexual behavior in women”. He lived for pleasure. For the most simple, hedonic view of pleasure, and – if you squinted your eyes a bit – you could probably have seen him as a kind of deranged folk hero.
But now someone is dead, and it’s a lot harder to see the joke.
We Spent Hurricane Sandy at Sotheby’s
What most people don’t know about Nimrod and I is that we’re hardcore art collectors. It’s in our Belgo-Jew-ish blood to dip our balls into the jaws of the art world, every chance we get. This passion for the finer things in life began a few years ago, when we inherited masterpieces, by the likes of Hirst, Elmyr de Hory, and Ed Harris (imitating Jackson Pollock), from our family’s vast collections.
Sadly, Hurricane Sandy’s flood waters wreaked havoc to our shared multi-million art stash in Chelsea, turning our timeless pieces into floating piles of canvas goo. To cope with our loss—and distract ourselves from the dead, powerless, and homeless hurricane victims we can’t stop hearing about on the news—we skipped uptown to Sotheby’s mega print auction sale. There, we could relish in the company of fellow art kooks who dispose of more Benjamins than any Hurricane Sandy relief fund could muster. My people!
Our flooded loft stank of wet garbage but the cozy air in the auction room smelled of sanitized money which, any art buyer will tell you, is a crotch-tickling aroma. Unless you’re one of those savvy, 2.0 bidding dilettantes who stream auctions and bid online in your underwear, you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about.
Our bidding style is completely below-the-belt, because we’ll do anything to restore the ocular stimuli into our lives. Nimrod even made a move on an elderly buyer who said Sotheby’s relocated her to a nearby hotel with power and running water. If the Sotheby’s scene is real, than all this climate talk must be a hoax.
While we returned empty-handed to our damp apartment, someone walked home with a cool $1.4 million Andy Warhol print. In the words of the great M.O.P. “Yap that fool.” (Zero proceeds from the auction went to the Red Cross.)
Above are some Sotheby’s vs Sandy pictures that give you an idea of what was going on at the fancy auction around the same time the tri-state area was being ravaged.
@museumbabes + @nnimrodd = ♥ @Sothebys
A Big Night Out with Russia’s Young Elite
Ninety-nine percent of modern Russia is one big, messy festival of repression. The rest of it? Well, it’s kinda the exploding climax of a people reared on a drip-feed of nothing, then suddenly given access to all the milk and potatoes they could ever dream of.
Since Russia’s basically built on twin towers of luxur€y and p:(verty, the concept of The VIP has become a national obsession. It’s either that or the gutter. And, of course, The Nightclub has become the ultimate murky pageant for unfulfillable aspirations, forced smiles, showing off and networking; all lubricated with cocktails starting at a tenner.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of all this “psychoanalyzing the nation” bullshit. BUT I also like being in rooms full of well-groomed Russian women. So, in the name of getting to the heart of the modern Russian psyche, I spent every last penny I saved from re-selling my North Korean holiday snaps on the ultimate night out in VIP Moscow: a place where mortals from outside the oligarch Slavosphere are rarely deemed rich enough to tread. It was transformational.
First stop was the Lookin Rooms. I wasn’t convinced it was going to be the example of Muscovite high culture that the local cabbies had promised me; more likely just some two-bit peep show. But what the hell, huh?
Oh righhhhhht!!! I get it—two-bit peep shows ARE Muscovite high culture these days. How do you feel about that, Tolstoy? “Man never chooses an opinion; he just wears whatever happens to be in style,” you say? Stoic words my friend. Though I’m feeling a little coerced by that sign reminding me to “BE COOL” while I guiltily stare at that Ukrainian immigrant’s bottom.
This picture sums up the evening’s dynamic: Attractive women ignoring badly dressed, but not entirely unattractive guys, to pose for the nearest camera. In fact, as I found out over the course of the evening, in this town, the camera possesses magical powers. Meanwhile, this shady dude in the suit lingered, pawing at a phone credit machine he presumably mistook for a real girl’s clitoris.
Of course the proper interpretation of the Lookin Rooms moniker is that this is a place for looking, gazing, and being gazed at. Of course, that gaze is reflected back at you infinitely by parallel mirrors and then recorded by the endless procession of Instagram-ers and buzzing venue photographers. All this attention clearly proves that you are A VERY IMPORTANT PERSON. Me especially.
Meet a Guy Who Helps Rich Dudes Before They Go to Prison
Rich dudes have people who help them through every aspect of their lives, from nannies to drivers to accountants to business advisers. But who assists them when they’re convicted of crimes and have to get carted off to federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison? That would be Executive Prison Consultants LLC, a company founded by Richard Zaranek (himself a white-collar ex-con) to help well-heeled nonviolent criminals navigate the confusing and Kafkaesque justice system throughout the journey from Master of the Universe to common jailbird to free-at-last. We spoke with Richard to ask him what his job is like.
VICE: Say I get charged with a crime by the feds and I’m in a lot of trouble. How can you help me?
Richard Zaranek: What we’ll try to do is see if the prosecutor is in a bargaining mode, which most of them are, and then we’ll try to add certain enhancements to the deal that will aid in getting that person placed at a facility that is appropriate for him or her. Essentially we’re putting together a package of materials that demonstrates to that judge why the sentence should favor the defendant.
How heinous is the level of crime on average?
We’re not talking about molestation, rape, murder, armed robbery, weapons, or violence. We’re talking about this white-collar world where it’s a simple thing of signing off on some papers or ignoring information that perhaps they should’ve scrutinized more deeply, maybe taking a bribe to look the other way when certain things are happening, stuff like this that kind of happens out there every day. You delineate the positive attributes, put the best foot forward, and simply ask the judge to consider that.