Monday, January 13, 2014


A while back, my friend Wiley asked me if I could pen a political manifesto for him. I didn't get as far as a full-fledged manifesto, but hopefully this letter convinces you to donate to his cause. You would probably know him from his street art projects all over Houston.

Dear Resident,

The world is a cruel and hideous place. What remains of our cherished democracy is run by special interests and corrupt politicians. Perhaps its impossible to imagine a human left alive who has retained their integrity, one who hasn’t been seduced into selling their principles for money or power. Many of us have forgotten the promise of the American dream, and we are taunted by its caricature in our children’s social studies textbooks. Sometimes it’s enough to drive a good person completely insane. I beseech you to take that pistol out of your mouth, friend. There is a beacon of hope in the gloom, and his name is Wiley.

 Wiley has arrived to bring America back to its former glory.  Wiley hates problems and will eradicate them with a vengeance. Wiley is a legendary peacemaker and team builder. He will roll up his sleeves and confidently do away with whatever is upsetting you at this exact moment. Wiley will clean up your neighborhood and drive the drug dealers out. Unless you like drugs, in which case Wiley will use taxpayer money to give you drugs for free. Wiley will create a complex and beautiful bureaucratic system to satisfy drug lovers and opponents simultaneously. Maybe you don’t see how it could be possible, because you do not possess the staggering genius that Wiley wields like a giant golden samurai sword, gleaming in the sun. Wiley will make sure you do not feel self conscious about being less intelligent than he is. He will give you a hypoallergenic puppy and you will forget why you are upset.

Do you hang your head in shame at the sick, twisted future you’ve created for your children? Wiley will make it better. He will drink the poison from the rivers, and breathe deep the smog blanketing your impossible, sprawling metropolis. He will consume your mistakes, and excrete precious metals that have great scientific utility. Or in the case of the smog, Wiley will exhale a decadent cloud of potpourri that will also cure asthma in chronic sufferers. Wiley’s body chemistry doesn’t work like yours. Scientists aren’t entirely sure what Wiley is, but what is clear to us is that he is thousands of years old, and smells like freshly cut cucumbers at all times.

Wiley despises war, unless you like war, then Wiley is totally into war. Wiley will wipe the Middle East off the face of the earth in a nuclear holocaust. Or he could bring the war torn peoples together under the same roof, and host an imperial banquet, where enemies would throw their arms around each other, feast on otherworldly delights, and sing ancient drinking songs well into the morning- with a newfound understanding of love and compassion for their fellow man. Or he could create a virus that kills incredibly specific swaths of the human race. Wiley could engineer a virus that kills only people with blonde hair, or a nerve gas that only paralyzes Christians. People would vomit in horror and disgust at the ease and speed with which Wiley could end the human race. Or they would totally ask for his quiche recipe at a church fundraiser in a poor third world neighborhood. Wiley would build playgrounds with the money he raised from puppet shows and Baklava eating contests at this church fundraiser. Wiley’s humanitarian efforts would make the Peace Corps look like a fucking joke. Or he would go down in history as the most horrifying and insane mass murderer that walked the earth. It’s really whatever you want.

Wiley is a family man, and a man of god. Whichever god you worship, that is the one that Wiley grew up with. He was married to his wife in the church you’ve attended your entire life. Don’t get him wrong- Wiley respects all religious beliefs. But your traditions are the ones he holds closest to his heart. Wiley’s family is perfect, and closely resembles yours. Your kids don’t have time to love Wiley more than you, because they’re busy playing with the hypoallergenic Labradoodle that Wiley gave you. Even if they were self aware enough to know that they should abandon you for Wiley, Wiley would lovingly explain that normal people (you) need love too.

America needs Wiley. The world needs America to need Wiley. It is said that Wiley is the nucleus of the universe, and that all creation revolves around and originates from him. Wiley will lower your taxes, unless you would prefer that he raise them. Wiley will immediately raise your taxes, if that is what you desire.

Please vote for Wiley. Please also make a donation at our website Break into your parent’s house and steal their jewelry so that you might pawn it, and donate that money as well. Once you have emptied your bank accounts and exhausted all of your material options, please consider having sex with strangers for money that you would immediately donate to a VoteWiley representative standing outside the dirty motel room you now live in. Please also donate blood. Your blood, your children’s blood, even that drifter passed out by the dumpster (nobody will miss him). Wiley also accepts blood plasma, locks of hair longer than ten (10) inches, bone marrow, sperm, eggs, teeth in good condition, and large patches of human skin, if fresh.

In certain circumstances you may be asked to carry out tasks for Wiley under cover of darkness against his opponents. A VoteWiley representative will supply you with a security guard uniform, a duplicate keycard, and a silenced pistol. If you are captured, please use the cyanide pill that a VoteWiley representative has surgically implanted in the roof of your mouth while you were last sleeping. Under no circumstances are you to be captured alive. Please be careful as you help us build America as Wiley sees it.

Can you picture the opulence of Wiley’s America? If you concentrate hard, perhaps you can see the mountains of treasure that you will dreamily lounge on.  Can you see your palace that you purchased in cash earned from an unprecedented economic boom? Can you feel the warm glow of accomplishment, from knowing you played a role in ushering a new era of prosperity? Imagine the riot of joy as Wiley walks out onto the court and pitches the first ball of the sportsmatch to celebrate the oncoming eternal utopia! Can you hear the wails of the doubters, the naysayers, as they sob uncontrollably, digging their own graves at gunpoint? Isn’t it beautiful?

Vote for Wiley.

-Justin Vann
Senior Campaign Manager for VoteWiley

Saturday, January 4, 2014


            The world is being torn apart, as far as you can tell from twitter. In Cairo, the streets are drenched in gallons of blood, spent shell casings, and the dead. Far away from the horror in Egypt, you swerve to avoid killing a bicycle courier in the rain, and you spill painfully hot coffee on your inner thigh. You can tell it was brewed too hot, a pity considering this is Esmeralda Gesha that the roaster would be furious to know was being mistreated. You’re on your way to a big wine tasting. Perhaps it’s the coffee that’s making your heart race, but you know better.

The notion of interacting with hundreds of other wine professionals is making you feel nauseous.

            It fills you with dull panic, with a gentle hum of anxiety. You come to a stoplight and look at the beautiful flowers the city planted in the median. You note the attention to detail, right down to the crushed oyster shells that surround the flowerbed. You would never know that the landscaping company gets much of their products from overseas. The crushed oyster shells came from Sudan, but they aren’t actually oyster shells. They’re human teeth. You will never learn this truth, because you’re counting the syllables in your boilerplate answer to “Hey man how’s it going?”

            In the hotel ballroom, salespeople will grab you and enthusiastically drag you to a table full of their wine, the way a coyote might drag a mortally wounded, struggling calf. You HAVE to try this Manzanilla Pasada. This petillant Naturel Pineau D’Aunis. This Carbonic Macerated Nerello Mascalese. You will try them, and you will let them talk to you about the slope of the vineyards. They will tell you the story of the soil, the majesty of great tangled roots stretching infinitely into the earth for a drop of water, for a sense of place. They make this wine sustainably, responsibly. They let the earth guide their hand, and coo into their ear softly. When our earth mother has made physiological ripeness known to us, the vineyard workers gently pluck the grapes under cover of darkness, and gently wipe the dew away. They set only the finest clusters in ancient hand-woven baskets, gently.

            The national sales manager for a company that sells wine with cute animal names like “Wild Weasel” and “Sidewinder” will pause, choking on tears, on the beauty, the enormity of it all. You too will choke on your true feelings, and out of respect, you will not express them. The truth is you don’t care.

            The truth is that you only care about what produces results. If dumping boiling hot liquid mercury into the soil made the wine taste better you would do it. If you had to stick a dagger in a baby goat’s heart and pull it out to worship Satan at the stroke of midnight to save the grapes of champagne from the bitter frost of January, you’d do it. Bull’s blood was once used to filter particle matter out of red wine. Why stop there? We use the blood of our vineyard management team. Every year we bleed them out, and bury them, dying but still alive in the vineyard. Their weak death throes till the soil and allow for better aeration and drainage. The cycle of life is complete, and all that is left after centuries, is their teeth.

            You have terrible visions.  You have impulses that rise up inside of you, which you haven’t acted on, thanks to what is left of your self-control.

            You friend asks, Hey man, how’s it going? Great! I just came back from Barolo; a distributor paid for the entire trip and set my itinerary, because I sold three pallets of their second label, the one with the parrot on it. Anyway get this, I hired some manual laborers to help me salt the vineyards of the top five Barolo producers. Nothing will grow in those soils for a millennia! I got em good! Your friend will be speechless in horror, because they aren’t exactly sure what the top five vineyards in Barolo are. Not knowing the answer to a question is very shameful in your world.

            Are you going to take your next big test? What level are you? You answer something like Oh I’m a class C. You’re staring at something in the distance, and your friend is visibly flustered, is that a new system? Is that the new beer test? Mixology perhaps? I mean previous spirit exams were more focused on base ingredients, but is this more uh, mixing-centric? You remember a time when it all mattered to you this much. But now you are jaded and losing it, and this is where you wish you could just rip your dick off, limp and bloody, and hand it to them without an ounce of formality. And you would just cryptically mutter, mixology. Here are my mutilated genitals, mixology.

            You slither over to a table of California reds, the winemaker is telling you that this wine spent 18 months in new French oak, in house cooperage of course. You decide to act out, and you widen your eyes and almost shout THAT SOUNDS EXPENSIVE I’M PRETTY SURE I CAN’T AFFORD IT. You back away slowly, in mock horror. The winemaker is pleading with you; it gets down to 40 dollars a bottle by the glass.

            In your head, you’re burning down the biggest distributor warehouses, full of pallets of wine they’re either aggressively incentivized to sell, or small parcels of actual good wine that they didn’t know they had in stock anyway. It's not anyone's fault, this is just how it has to work you say, as you would place huge cans of gasoline strategically. You breathe deep in the ballroom and smile, imagining the smell of a burning warehouse full of wine. Picture a great spire of black smoke rising up from the warehouse. You imagine a swarm of police cruisers surrounding you in the parking lot and you greet the police with terrible news. Some of our stock has been heat damaged, check your orders carefully!

            You’re fantasizing about storming a dining room with a machete, snatching away iPad wine lists, and smashing them on the corner of tables. Hey asshole! I was reading that! I was looking at a map of Vosne-Romanee motherfucker, what gives you the right? You powerwalk towards the angry guest, and you’re gibbering apologies. What where you thinking with all this violence? Here you say, try this instead. You grab their hands and clasp them around a flashbang grenade, after suavely removing the spoon. This is a token of my appreciation. Please enjoy.

            You’re never going to get your moment of angry indulgence; you’ll never receive catharsis. Are you sure that your industry is broken? You seem to be the only one here that hasn’t moved in 30 minutes, you’re the only one flushed and sweating, with heart palpitations. What are you missing? Maybe you should become a brand ambassador for a liquor company. Maybe you should become a mercenary for KBR. Maybe you should stick your finger down your throat and vomit on the guy who is making sure everyone who comes to his table knows that this particular rose dessert wine is known as an “LPR”. Before he can say “liquid panty remover” you would grab him by his thin, fashionable tie, and vomit blood on him.

            A little girl holding an AK-47 is rummaging through the ruins of Muammar Gaddafi’s palace in Libya. She finds a bottle of 2001 chateau Pavie. Does she understand what it is? You are not there to explain to her that 2001 is drinking REALLY well right now. If you were there, you could help decant the wine (which is mostly Merlot, with a healthy dose of Cab Franc) into a decanter or a filthy broken coffee cup. You could tell her how the wine was recently upgrade from Premier Grand Cru Classe B to preimer grand cru classe A, a huge honor. Maybe she would be crying because at the age of five, she had been robbed of any semblance of childhood, the only reminder of happier days is a cookie monster flashlight duct-taped to her AK-47. You would lean in and comfort her, telling her that everyone knew Pavie was pretty much a class A, and she should feel better knowing that it is now formally recognized as such.

            None of this can happen though, because you are being slowly crippled by anxiety at this wine tasting in a large air conditioned hotel in North America.