Unaccompanied Miners: Down the Shaft with Bolivia’s Child Laborers
In 1936, George Orwell visited a coal mine in Grimethorpe, England. “The place is like… my own mental picture of hell,” he wrote of the experience. “Most of the things one imagines in hell are there—heat, noise, confusion, darkness, foul air, and, above all, unbearably cramped space.” Orwell was a lanky guy, 6’3” or 6’2”, and I am too. So I was reminded of his comparison recently while crawling through a tunnel as dank and dark as a medieval sewer, nearly a mile underground in one of the oldest active mines in Latin America, the Cerro Rico in Potosí, Bolivia. The chutes were so narrow that I couldn’t have turned around—or turned back—even if I’d wanted to.
Orwell wasn’t the first to equate mines with hell; Bolivian miners already know they labor in the inferno. In the past 500 years, at least 4 million of them have died from cave-ins, starvation, or black lung in Cerro Rico, and as a sly fuck-you to the pious Spaniards who set up shop here in 1554 and enslaved the native Quechua Indians, Bolivian miners worship the devil—part of a schizophrenic cosmology in which God governs above while Satan rules the subterranean.
As an offering to him, miners slaughter llamas and smear blood around the entrances to the 650 mineshafts that swiss-cheese this hill. Near the bloodstains, just inside the mine, a visitor can find beady-eyed statues with beards and raging boners—a goofy caricature of Satan known as El Tio, or “the Uncle,” to whom workers give moonshine and cigarettes in exchange for good luck. Before entering the mountain, I’d offered a small pouch of coca leaves to one of these little devils, requesting a bendiga, a blessing for my safety.
A few hours later, I was hundreds of feet underground, shambling through three-foot-tall tunnels, bony knees bruising over hard rock. My guide, Dani, a miniature man with the strength and temperament of a donkey, had burrowed so far ahead that he’d disappeared into the darkness. I called out to him. When he didn’t reply, my photographer Jackson turned to me and coughed. “I’m freaking out,” he said, and we soldiered on, trying to trace Dani’s path through the hot, sulfur-stinking tunnel.
The Bill and Ted Show at Universal Studios Is Super Homophobic (and Also Racist and Terrible)
Each year, Universal Studios Hollywood has a big Halloween event called Halloween Horror Nights. Part of this is a play called Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.
The play is about Bill and Ted going on some kind of pantomime-y Halloween adventure. Along the way, lots of jokes are made about things that have happened in pop culture over the preceding year.
I use the term “jokes” loosely here. As they are, generally, terrible, and follow the same formula: Pop cultural reference + pop cultural reference + a reference to sex = LOL!
For instance, there’s a scene where a Sharknado appears and Kim Jong Un comes on to the stage to explain that the Sharknado came into existence as a result of Kristen Stewart sucking his dick too hard. After he said this, the audience laughed. Unless I’m missing something, this is meant to be funny because:
1) It references Kristen Stewart
2) It references Kim Jong Un
3) It references sex
4) It references Sharknado
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.