Is This the Century of Africa’s Rise?
For decades, the dominant African narrative in the media was of famine, war, and disease. Recently, in light of a perceived economic upturn and a relative reduction in famine and disease across most of the continent, the narrative has changed to one of thrusting progress. The Economist and TIME magazine have both published big articles in the last two years called “Africa Rising,” complete with positive economic statistics and photos of children flying rainbow kites in the shape of the African continent.
We have moved from pictures of starving children with flies crawling across their faces to pictures of young men in big cities talking on mobile phones. Of course, neither narrative is correct. No narrative that attempts to take on something so large and diffuse can ever be correct. But there is something about these conveniently totalizing stories that fires the passions of believers and cynics alike. Believers point to fast-growing economies and fragile but intact democracies, non-believers refer to what the Kenyan writer and investigative journalist Parselelo Kantai told me was an “insidious little fiction manufactured by global corporate finance.”
The idea of Africa’s rise comes from a straightforward interpretation of high growth rates and increased foreign investment in parts of the continent. As The Economist’s piece pointed out, “over the past decade, six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries were African.” According to McKinsey & Company, real GDP in Africa grew twice as fast in the 00s as it did in the 80s and 90s. Suddenly everyone has a mobile phone and that mobile phone has great reception.
Renaissance Capital’s Charles Robertson, author of The Fastest Billion, drew my attention to annual growth rates of “around six percent across sub-Sahara since 2000. Some say rapid growth is inevitable from a low base. This is nonsense. People got poorer in sub-Saharan Africa from 1980 to 2000.” Recent growth in Africa and rapid increases in Asia-Africa trade and investment have taken place against a backdrop of global austerity. As people struggle desperately in southern Europe, gas and oil resources are enriching a new generation in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and even—if proposed exploration occurs this year—Somalia and Somaliland.
The problem, though, is that most of this wealth is extractive. There is, as Patrick Smith, editor of Africa Confidential, told me, a “lack of value added on the African side.” “The energy companies are seeing massive domestic demand from Asia and they are capitalizing on that,” he said.
Parselelo Kantai put it more bluntly: “What is happening on the continent economically is a new era of massive resource extraction, catalyzed mostly by Chinese domestic demands. And because it is almost exclusively extraction without on-site value addition, it’s a process where the continent’s elites, the Chinese and Westerners, are the only people who benefit. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be called by its real name: the Second Scramble for Africa.”
What both Smith and Kantai are referring to is a system in which an elite minority, often not from Africa, benefit extraordinarily from the natural resources the continent has and the world needs. The outsiders may not wear pith helmets and long for a proper cup of tea any more, but it’s colonial business as usual.
Our Mystic Gave Us the Inside Scoop on 2013
Illustration by Kerry Zentner
The year 2012 didn’t end up being the apocalyptic Mayan bloodbath we all expected. So, since we’re all going to be dicking around here for a while longer, what can we expect from 2013? To answer this question we called our go-to for all things mystical, Tara Greene, who once warned us to keep our technology safe duringMercury Retrograde. I asked her to do a Tarot reading for 2013 and what she came up with was not reassuring: Positive energy through February, but a strong possibility for war in March; things get better through August, though there’s a chance of flooding; peace talks in September, but total economic breakdown in October; picking up the pieces in November only to be completely disappointed in December. Sounds bad, right? We asked Tara more about what’s going to happen this year and whether or not we’re completely fucked.
VICE: Your reading for 2013 seems bleak. Is there any hope?
Tara Greene: There are three things you need to remember. First, April is a very interesting card. It’s called the Wishing Card and it’s at the root of this whole chart. It says that what you believe or what you wish for is how you’re going to influence events in the world, so people need to stay very positive. Second, the thirteenth card indicates a sense of everybody having to pull together, everybody having to give up something to keep the whole economy and the world running. Finally, there are two major cards in this reading and that signifies a sense of extreme diplomacy, people working together, that sense of duality, communication, choices—major choices going on in this year as well.
So it seems to me that 2013 will set the stage for 2014. There won’t be much finality to 2013; there will be a lot more questions asked than answers given, correct?
Yes. It’ll be a very big rollercoaster. We’re going into the year of the snake. The undulations of the snake very much describe the rhythm of this coming year. And the snake is a very ancient symbol of rebirth, so there will be a shedding of the old skin; the rebirth of the new. I would say that’s a very good, positive symbol for this year.
What’s happening is the world is in a midlife crisis and the whole spirit of the breakdown of corporations, of culture of the old systems and innovation, of revolution, of freedom, it’s very much on the front burner beginning in 2011 all the way to 2015. So we’re going to see things break down further and further and further. But the danger is that it’s already becoming very fascist, so the big powers that want to hold onto their power are going to push back and resist harder and harder. What we can see with people in the streets with Idle No More and Occupy, those are just the beginning stages of more and more revolution going on in the world.
Also, if you look at 2013 numerologically, the number 13 in the Tarot is the symbol of death and rebirth. So the numerology and the Chinese symbols are overlapping again in the sense that the old has to go, but it’s a difficult birth. People are making it difficult—they’re not going with the flow, they’re not going with the change, and the Earth changes and all the climate changes are part of that, forcing people to change the way they look at the world, how we’ve been used to living all this year, we’ve been living in a big bubble for a long time.
Let’s move on to more specific things. Where is the best place to be, physically, on the Earth this year?
I would say that people need to definitely be away from coastal waters. There are going to be more tsunamis and more hurricanes and tornadoes and all that stuff, so I think the more inland you are, the better. In terms of good energy, nothing comes immediately. Iceland is a good place to be. Australia, no. Any country where eclipses fall over the country—those are not good places to be. All I can see for 2013 is huge upheavals everywhere. So in terms of good energy I would say the best energy place to be is in your own heart. Be meditative, be clear, be calm, be secure inside of oneself so wherever you go, you’ll be protected.
And how about fashion trends?
There’s going to be a lot of bright, lovely, heart-centered colors like pinks and greens, which are heart chakra colors. And a lot of gray. So two styles, very optimistic, very 60s inspired as well as other very technical, very sombre gray suits, very tailored. So again, a sense of dichotomies.
And what about music trends?
Everything is going to stay about the same.
Motherboard, VICE’s website about how the future is super scary but also potentially amazing, has a new look. Go check it out, starting with their great new documentary about drones.
Inventing drugs is a tradition that dates back to Homer. From the Odyssey and its lotus-eaters to the psychotropic inventions of the substance-addled Philip K. Dick, from the ambrosia and manna of mythology to the psychedelic Spice of the desert planet Arrakis, fake drugs populate the literary canon in all kinds of unlikely places.
Why create fake drugs when there are so many varieties of existing substances in the world? Well, sometimes it’s a plot conceit: how else are those babies going to be born with telekinetic mutations, or those interstellar captains going to see safe paths through space-time? Most of the time, however, a fake drug in literature or film plays a very specific metaphorical role.
- by Claire Evans
MARNI AND NATE ARE IN YOUR HOOD, PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR TWEETS
Marni Shindelman and Nate Larson are two artists who collaborate on projects centered on time and space in modern life and their relationship to social networks. Their most recent series of projects,Geolocation, involves the two chosing tweets which are tagged with location information, photographing the actual spot where the tweets were made, and then pairing the original tweets with their new images. They say the photographs “anchor and memorializes the ephemeral online data in the real world and also probe the expectations of privacy surrounding social networks.” We think the photographs are beautiful, powerful, and slightly creepy. We were so intrigued, we had to have a chat with Nate and Marni about the work.
VICE: How did this project come about?
Marni Shindelman: Nate and I were working on a project called Semaphore, in which we were translating text messages into semaphore flag language. We found one tweet on an old mashup app that had a gps coordinate on it near where we were shooting. We shot out first Geolocation photograph, “Sneaking Suspicion,” at that spot. At that moment, we knew right away we had started a much larger project. The technology caught up to us with the popularity of FourSquare and other locative games.
Nate Larson: It’s been an interesting time to think about these issues of privacy and over-sharing, especially with the way that the technology has become so common and widely affordable. We see the project as a social document, preserving fragments from this moment in history and linking the disconnected internet data back to its point of origin.
PRINT YOUR OWN PENIS - GOOD MORNING… WITH WARREN ELLIS
Welcome to the new column from award-winning comic author, novelist, and television writer Warren Ellis. Good Morning Sinners will look at the news stories of today and turn them into a vision of the future that is nothing less than 99 percent accurate.
Somewhere, in some gilded bunker of the 1 percent, a very old, very rich man is laying plans to print himself a new cock. Perhaps one with cameras in it. And maybe a gun.
I’m a Homo but I Loved Having Sex with This Robotic Pussy
When my boss asked me to review the RealTouch—an interactive sex toy that mimics the interior movements of the privates of living-and-breathing porn stars as you watch them bareback on a computer screen—I felt like Oliver from the Disney cartoon Oliver & Company: an orphaned kitty cat discovered by a six year old heiress. Finally somebody realized that all I want to do with my life is write about the people and places I put my dick, I thought. Dreams do come true in New York City!
Then I read the back of the box and discovered that the RealTouch doesn’t recreate the feeling of putting your dick inside a gay-for-pay straight guy’s butthole; it mimics vaginas (and, according to the box, women’s mouths and assholes as well). I felt like I had been had, but it was too late—I had to press forth by pressing my penis into the opening of a robo-vagina that looked as if it had the ability to castrate me.
For all intents and purposes, RealTouch is about as close as we’ve come to “future sex”—at least as I imagined it as a kid. With this device, along with a webcam and corresponding technologically advanced dildo, you can theoretically have sexual intercourse with RealTouch models and bona fide porn stars via the internet or, if you prefer to wank offline, a series of barebones DVDs that are included with the $300 sex toy (which, according to the RealTouch PR lady, is sold out everywhere).
The thing about technology is that there’s usually a long and frustrating setup process you have to endure before having fun. The RealTouch is no different. It requires three cords, two power boxes, and half a bottle of lube (so it can replicate pussy’s “natural wetness”) to operate. And that’s just the hardware; the software was an entirely Byzantine ordeal.
In other words, it was so fucking complicated I was forced to go to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store to get help installing Windows on my Mac and then the RealTouch software itself. Of fucking course the Apple Store was packed, and multiple employees were busy calming down a freelance graphic designer who was screaming, “THIS IS A CONSPIRACY THEORY!” over her malfunctioning hard drive. Nobody helped me, so I instinctively pulled out my phone and put on a bitch face, taking my cues from the graphic designer. A hippie in a blue shirt (aka an Apple employee) immediately walked over to me. I made a fake crying sound and then said, “I need this software to work right away.”
“What software is it?” he asked.
“It’s porn software.”
“Its for an article for VICE.”
“Aw, that makes sense. Let me help you.”
With the software successfully installed I returned home, but my troubles continued. Figuring out how to unscrew the RealTouch so I could fill the lube reservoir—two rubbery pink rollers that attempt to recreate the natural wetness of a vagina with the slick stuff—tookforever. And before I could get down to business I had to complete my scheduled phone interview with RealTouch representative Scott Rinaldo, who told me that the RealTouch is improving everyday.
When I asked if RealTouch had something against interactive gay sex, Scott said that they’re slowly building a guy-on-guy section and are poised to launch additional products. “RealTouch is the future of connecting people,” he said. “It’s two devices connecting people. We’ve got a product in development that will put us on Oprah—the couple’s product. It’s very mainstream.”
Scott played up how the product allows long-distance couples to fuck through the computer: The female fucks robotic dildos, and the male fucks a RealTouch device; the dildo records her the wetness and tightness, which the RealTouch hotbox replicates on the man’s dick in real time.
“I’ve used the couples product, and it’s amazing,” Scott said. “My wife and I can interact when I’m out of town. I leave home; I come home. I don’t miss her. RealTouch connected me to her.”
This Machine Makes Orgasms
Women who suffer from anorgasmia are victims of the most terrible non-life-threatening condition imaginable: They are unable to achieve orgasm. Ever. Not even with a vibrator, a bottle of wine, and a DVD of The Notebook. Fortunately, Prague’s Alternative Science Research Group has been working to solve this problem for the past seven years and they might have come up with a way to thaw even the most frigid of loins.
Their device, the Multistim, looks complicated and vaguely threatening, but if you hook your vibrator up to it, it transforms into a super vibrator that has the potential to make women with anorgasmia quiver like Mexican jumping beans being held by an epileptic. We asked Tomas Suchan, one of the minds behind the Multistim, to explain how his invention works.
VICE: So, lets’s say I’m a lady who wants to use the Multistim to have some mind-melting orgasms. How do I operate it?
Tomas Suchan: Well, you can connect a few appendages to it, including the standard vibrator, and the device will create vibrations specifically designed for your body. Based on our calculations and experiments we determined the ideal vibrations that affect each person. So you can set the unit to, for example, a mode where you will bring a woman to the brink of an orgasm three times, turn off the stimulation, and then make her come five times in a row.
Whoa. I know different women like different sensations though. Can you customize the vibrations?
A person can create their own profile and record the progress of their past stimulations. Let’s say that you record five parts of the stimulation you like; based on that, the unit can generate a sixth one tailored to you.
What else can it do?
The unit supports Bluetooth. There is also a special client developed for computers, so yes, you can control the unit over the internet from 1,200 miles away and stimulate your partner. You can even take the unit outdoors. It has a battery life of about 40 hours. You can also charge it through a solar panel.
Holy shit. How much does it cost?
The unit is going to be sold for something like 1,000 euros. And from the profits we want to gain more funds for anorgasmia research.
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