Category Archives: Things that are Cool

Very Cool, Very Fucking Cool

Ugh, it’s really nice to be reminded how people are amazingly willing to fuck you over, even at six in the morning, isn’t it? Black people are being shot by cops, cops are being shot by people in response, and a girl is fucking me over as I type, all of which is totally nice to know. I’m homeless again and have been dealing with more brain problems, but for a minute I though things were just okay, when in reality I’m being reminded by reality that things are fucked up, which is cool to know. The last thing I’d want is to think is things are okay. It’s cool to remember that.

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Official Zaqistan Press Release

Zaqistan is consuming my life to such a degree that I’m questioning who I am in the first place. Why am I working so hard on this insane project? Who knows. Anyway, we have a couple events coming up, so I thought I’d share with you our official press release I’m sending media outlets. Take a look if you’re interested…

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The 10th Anniversary of the Republic of Zaqistan

November 19th, 2015, marks the 10th year anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Zaqistan, and to celebrate Twilite Lounge is hosting an Independence Day party. CUAC is buying a beer for every official Zaqistani citizen in attendance, and Zaqistani citizenship can be applied for and granted by Rep. Michael Abouzelof at a pop-up kiosk in the bar. Citizenship is free for those who meet the criteria of truly wanting it.

This event will be followed up by an academic symposium held at CUAC on December 3rd. On that night, we will be discussing the concepts behind Zaqistan, the recent media frenzy, as well as how the micronation fits with the history of Utah.

In case you are unaware, here is a quick background on Zaqistan. In 2005, New York artist Zaq Landsberg purchased two acres in a remote Utah desert for $610 off of eBay. After venturing out to the land that summer, Landsberg and a few friends who would become the first Zaqistani citizens declared independence from the United States and founded the Republic of Zaqistan. Ten years later, and with the help of writer Michael Abouzelof, Zaqistan has morphed into an international phenomenon that calls into question what it means to be a nation is in the first place.

Over time, Landsberg has built an array of monuments and public works on the land, including a Victory Arch, a customs booth immigration station, and robotic sentinels that protect the borders. Zaqistan has opened a temporary Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina and a Consulate-General in New York City in 2012. The Zaqistan State Department has issued more than 175 passports to date, and more than 300 people around the world hold Zaqistani citizenship.

Described as a “sovereign nation” by Conan O’Brien, “conceptual art project turned into a literal example of nation-building,” by Vice Media and acknowledged by US Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) as a “country,” the Republic of Zaqistan exists on a multitude of different levels. While public figures joke about the micronation, refugees from around the world have sought asylum there. It is a plot of land, a severely weathered sculpture garden, a national identity, a conceptual art piece, a de-facto sovereign nation, and a probe into the meaning of sovereignty, legitimacy, nationalism, perception, and reality.

To date, Zaqistan has been reported on in 40 countries and in more than 27 languages. It has been featured in Vice, the NY Daily News, PEOPLE Magazine, ARTE (France), The New York Times, Deseret News, KSL, WGN Radio, New York Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, USA TODAY, Fox News, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Yahoo! News, Business Insider, The Seattle Times, The Miami Herald, The Denver Post, SFGate, Salon, DunyaNews Pakistan, Emirates 24/7, Irish Examiner, Egypt 1, Singapore News, Kenya Central, and many others.  

Michael Abouzelof is a writer and representative of the Republic of Zaqistan. In the past he has been described as “a living example of the dysfunction of the American medical system.” Currently writing for VICE Media, he specializes in radical economics with a pop culture twist, late night existential discourses, and potentially treasonous conceptual art projects.

CUAC, formerly known as the Central Utah Art Center, is an artist-run contemporary art venue located in the heart of Salt Lake City. Their aim is to continue to be a pioneer in contemporary art in Utah and to take a multifaceted approach to community development through education, exhibitions, symposia, criticism, education about art collecting, and collaboration.

Twilite Lounge is a Salt Lake City dive bar that has been in operation since 1947. Home to an assortment of people from all walks of life, it is a popular neighborhood spot for young and old alike. On the night of the decennial party, they will be serving an assortment of drinks that feature the finer points of Zaqistani mixology.

The Salt Lake City event on November 19th is part of a global celebration of Zaqistanis coming together to mark the country’s decennial. Concurrent festivities will be held in New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, Amsterdam and Paris. The event is free and open to anyone 21 and older.

November 19th, 2015

8 PM–1 AM

Twilite Lounge

347 E 200 S

Salt Lake City, UT

The symposium on December 3rd will be held at CUAC. The discussion will be held from 6–7, followed by a general mingling from 7–8. It is free and open to all.

December 3rd, 2015

6 PM–8 PM

CUAC

175 E 200 S

Salt Lake City, UT

Contact zaqistanslc@gmail.com for more information.

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God Save Mike Abu

There hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of good things that have come out of the $18,000 dollars in medical bills I’ve racked up since August, but this video is definitely one of them.

My buddies Spencer Wohlrab and Jackson Chapman collaborated on a Go Fund Me page to raise some money for me, and since the page needed a video, Spencer put together this little guy. The $1,500 people donated turned out to be super helpful, but realistically the best part of the whole thing was knowing my friends had my back. Major injuries can be extremely demoralizing (trust me, I know), so knowing my scumbags friends actually care is, well, nice. Maybe there’s something to that whole “birds of a feather” thing. Either way, here’s the video.

[DISCLAIMER: It’s pretty ridiculous]

You can still donate here if you’re interested.

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Cool Runnings (Quite Possibly the Dumbest Thing I’ve Ever Written)

So I had to do this focus group, right? It’s all about snowmobiles and why I’d want one, which clearly means I had to stretch the truth. I mean, what would I do with a snowmobile? I have no truck to transport it, no money to buy it, and absolutely zero interest in owning one in the first place. Nonetheless, there was a fifty dollar prize for whoever made the most creative piece (which I crushed by the way), and I figured I’d just mess around with it and see what came out. It’s terrible, utterly terrible, but it does have some moments. Here are the three questions I had to answer:

1) WHAT YOU THINK YOU WILL LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR VEHICLE

Be it a snowmobile, personal watercraft, all-terrain vehicle, side-by-side vehicle, motorcycle, 3-wheel roadster or boat, we know you are contemplating ownership of one. Please let us know what you think you will LOVE most about it? Ultimately, what is the appeal? Why do you want one of these vehicles? Please show us through a few images.

2) WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR NEW VEHICLE?

What do you envision doing with this power sports vehicle? Where will you go? With whom will you be? What activities will take place?

3) HOW DO YOU THINK YOU WILL FEEL?

Think about when you actually have this vehicle. Think about doing with it what you referred to on the prior page. How do you think it will feel? Please tell us about what you think it will mean to you to own it, use it, drive, ride it. What will you get out of it? Perhaps think about how you might complete the sentence – “Driving/riding my new vehicle will make me feel ____________.”

What is life like without it? How do you feel about not owning one today?

Here’s my response…………………………………………………………………………………………..

COOL RUNNINGS

Chapter 1

Since the dawn of time, snowmobiles (a.k.a. Chariots of the Arctic) have given humans quick access to areas that might otherwise take what feels like forever to get to. Not only are they insanely awesome to ride, they provide riders with a command of the elements that transcends them from the world of mere mortals to the realm of the Gods.

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They are fast, sleek, no nonsense machines that can be used in a variety of ingenious ways. For some, they are purely recreational; for others, necessary for survival in isolated communities. Carl Eliason, who is considered the inventor of the snowmobile, found  the machines to be ideal for hunting. “With this machine, I was able to turn the tables on my hunting comrades–as long as there was snow on the ground. While they hoofed it on foot, I would ride and get to our destination in the woods an hour ahead of them!” Although the machines can be loud enough to alert potential game of a hunter’s presence, the ability to move with relative ease through the snow is simply too advantageous to ignore.

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However, since I do not hunt, none of that applies to me. The real reason I would love my new snowmobile is similar why bikers love their motorcycles–they provide an avenue for going where no man has gone before, an enhancement of liberty as I continue my quest for discovering true freedom.

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True freedom and picking up chicks.

Chapter 2

Of course, there might be more to life than finding true freedom and meeting women. Possibly. For me, having fun with my friends brings color to my life, and having a snowmobile would allow us to color outside of the lines. I cannot say for certain where we go, as I envision me and my two best friends traveling through parts unknown, following our hearts into territories that would otherwise remain foreign to us. I can see it now; blizzards, bears, our own self-doubts–these would no longer be obstacles for us. If anything, they would provide us with unique moments to reminisce about once we got back to the lodge. A sense of comradery can be found through such experiences. I have no doubt that Mike Brown, Jon Larsen and I would become better friends because of our snowmobiles.

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I would also want to look like the polar version of Ayrton Senna, a Formula One race car driver who tragically passed before his time. I would coordinate my outfit to match my snowmobile with his image in mind, dressing all in red except for my signature yellow helmet. That way there would be no question who was lapping the other snowmobilers.

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Chapter 3

Obviously my snowmobile would make me feel awesome. Why wouldn’t it? Everything I’ve described rules so hard that I can’t imagine feeling anything less that fulfilled. True, eventually I would have to return to civilization and resume my day-to-day existence, but knowing that I now have the ability to feel that level of coolness–both figuratively and literally– would give me something to look forward to. Although the general drudgery of work would still be unavoidable, I’d know that soon I’d be flying across the snow.

Both figuratively and literally.

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Now that I think about it, life without my snowmobile totally sucks. Am I wasting my life? Why am I here right now, sitting in this room, when I could be out on the backwoods trails, the crisp wind chilling my face as my all-powerful machine warms my heart? Human beings are both blessed and cursed with our ability to conceptualize, and whereas thinking about my snowmobile while I sit in a cubicle is something I’d love, sitting in my cubicle thinking about how I don’t have a snowmobile is completely crushing. Life is already hard without having to realize that you don’t have a snowmobile, and with that in mind, is there really any question of why I want one in the first place? No, there isn’t.

I want a snowmobile.

I need a snowmobile.

And as God as my witness, I will have a snowmobile.

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Note: I chose these photos because they reflect exactly what I think when the word snowmobile comes to mind. Outside of Aryton Senna, all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

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Habibi: I Got the Moves

Recently I had a chance to apologize to someone about always coming off as such an idiot, and for whatever reason this Habibi video was brought up in her response. I’m not sure of all the details of why I’m in it in the first place, though I do recall my friend asking if I would do it since I was such a “cool guy.” Unsurprisingly, my character was named “Cool Guy #3,” ( a role the director said I played quite naturally.) From what I remember, the video was filmed in some loft in Brooklyn near Baby’s All Right, where I would later loose my maroon hoodie at and stumble home from crying. Although this likely had more to do with the free vodka than anything necessarily inherent, I assume it was cause I’m a cool guy like that. The girl who mentioned the video lives in California and hates me, (a description that protects her anonymity thanks to the preponderance of girls who fall into that category.) As she related the story to me, her band really wanted to cover the song, but upon watching the video and seeing my face, she was so disgusted and filled with hatred and decided she could never, ever hear that song again. This is the influence cool guys can have on other people’s set lists.

Habibi is an all-girl Burger band based out of Brooklyn, and the video was directed by my friends Rachelyn Rez & Alice Barlow. Check it out, fuck yeah Cool Guy #3…

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Mike Abu’s Guide to Beer

Today I’m going to teach you how to successfully open and drink a beer. This is a necessary skill for drinking a beer at home or at work, especially if there isn’t anyone around who can open a beer for you. Below is everything you need to know about how to drink a beer. Cheers!

Step 1) Ascertain if there is any beer in the fridge

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As you can see, there are many things in the fridge, but beer is not one of them. This is a problem. Luckily, unlike most problems in life, there is also a solution.

Step 2) Find money

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Money is any object or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a particular country or socio-economic context. It can be exchanged for beer. Change is generally frowned upon for purchasing beer as it makes the cashier have to count for fucking ever, but sometimes all you have at your disposal is a jar of dimes and nickels. They are legal tender. Use them for beer.

Step 3) Take the elevator

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Elevators are useful for avoiding stairs.

Step 4) Walk to the bodega

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Proximity is key when it comes to bodegas, though sometimes the closest one doesn’t sell beer for no reason whatsoever. Know your bodega. It will come in handy for buying beer.

Step 5) Pick out beer

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You must choose, but choose wisely–your selection of beer says a lot about you. Beer comes in many flavors and sizes, and it can sometimes be overwhelming for novices. The keys are knowing how much money you have and how you feel about quantity vs. quality. Remember, O’Doul’s cannot be considered a beer, even though it calls itself a non-alcoholic beer. Beer has to have alcohol in it, otherwise it’s just a terrible soft drink for terrible people. Don’t be a fool.

Step 6) Pay for beer

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You cannot purchase beer if you are under 21 in America. You can ask older people to purchase it for you if that’s a problem. I use my state issued ID to prove to the cashier that I am old enough to buy beer. After awhile, they stop asking you for it, because you buy beer from them a lot and now you’re age is a given. However, sometimes they ask you anyways. Instead of being annoyed, say something like, “Oh, I’m flattered,” which implies that you still look underage, even if you don’t.

Step 7) Take beer home

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You can drink beer pretty much anywhere but certain cities consider outdoor drinking to be a public nuisance. They therefore try to stop you from drinking beer by giving you a ticket and/or jail time. This is because cops suck. It’s safest to stay in alley ways or indoors. Home is the best if you want to avoid stumbling up the road after drinking beer.

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Obviously you’re going to drink beer now, but you’ll probably want to drink beer later too, and you’ll probably like beer more if it’s cold. Fridges are made for keeping beer cold. Use them.

Step 9) Open beer

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Now you have a beer in front of you that’s almost ready to drink. But wait, there’s a problem…

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Indeed, this beer is closed. You cannot drink a closed beer no matter how hard you try. If you open it by smashing it with a rock, beer will spill everywhere but down your throat, the latter of which being the place you want to put beer. A knife would work in a pinch but luckily enough the beer industry has recognized the need for beer to be easily opened. A handy tab provides access.

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Pull tab upwards as so and…

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Voila! The beer is open!

Step 10) Drink beer

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You have successfully opened the beer which is now ready to be consumed with gusto. Put it to your mouth and drink it, you deserve it. Open, drink, repeat–that’s the best thing to do with beer. Congratulations! You are on you way to becoming a true alcoholic!

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Still Alive

 

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Photos by James Nord

Trench coats courtesy of J. Lindeberg

Style by me

MIKE ABU’S GUIDE TO ZAQISTAN

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Zaqistan is located in the most hostile, unforgiving environment than anyone could have the misfortune to experience. It makes Skull Valley look like a water park. In essence, there is no reason to ever go there, yet somehow Zaqistan survives in the unrelenting heat of an alkaline desert, thriving in the absurdity of its existence.

If I was to offer one thing to say about Zaqistan to potential visitors, it would be this—don’t go. It’s a fucked up place. African Bushmen would describe Zaqistan as an impossible environment to scrape a meager existence from; ancient Greeks would have attributed the barren flats to a vengeful Hades. But if you are masochistic enough to visit this merciless land, you’ll definitely have an experience. 

As far as I know, the first step to visiting Zaqistan is letting two kids from New Orleans, one from Chicago and another from New York sleep on your floor in Salt Lake City. Then you watch one of them meticulously create a piñata costume as he tells you about his homeland.

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From what I’ve gathered, renowned global explorer Zaq Landsberg founded Zaqistan in 2006. He’d fallen into a little (not much) money and decided on a whim to purchase approximately two acres of the old Bonneville Sea bed on Ebay for $600 dollars. When prodded, Zaq gave his reasoning for the acquisition as, “Getting a little piece of the American West before it was gone.” Judging by Zaqistan’s incredibly remote location, that’s not going to be a problem anytime soon. Its original embassy was located in Argentina, but for a while it was located in an art gallery in Manhattan, a stone throw away from the United Nations building. Although there are a number of people who have dual citizenship with Zaqistan, for the vast majority of the time the official population is zero. Nobody lives there, and nobody blames them.

 Resting as the only independent nation within the contiguous United States (outside of Native Reservations), Zaqistan is ridiculous, just like this sentence. Although the land does appear to be unsustainable for any form of life, extremophiles like sagebrush and rattlesnakes live there in abundance out of sheer absurdity.

Cubans often use their Zaqistani passports to appear as tourists, as the passports look so legit and Zaqistan is so obscure that cops are dumb enough to believe them. My passport should be arriving in the mail any day now. I’m planning on using to pick up on easily confused girls.

 

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Like all proud nations, Zaqistan has a number of monuments that highlight its history and achievements. Most impressive of all is the Triumphant Arch, which stands out against the nothingness with a brilliance of sheer existence. The robots tend to be a popular tourist attraction for the younger generation, and the Zaqistani flag is a prominent fixture visible from every border. There’s also a lot of sagebrush.

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The Zaqistani national pastime includes shooting guns at bottles, drinking an irresponsible amount of alcohol, setting off fireworks and fashion photography. It’s a formidable place. Crime levels are low in Zaqistan based on liberal socialist laws and the utter lack of anyone. Health care is free if you bring a first aid kit.

If you’re trying to find Zaqistan in person, it’s suggested you know how to operate a compass, as the obscure directions you will receive by email include geographical coordinates that aren’t going to help. The compass is there to provide a fleeting feeling of hope. The dusty roads leading into the nation are convoluted and lacking signs, so it’s better to show up before dusk. 

Since phone service is does not exist in Zaqistan, contact with the outside world is scarce. If you end up getting a flat tire in the land and your spare also happens to be flat, you’re fucked without ingenuity. Zaqistan runs on ingenuity. It’s their main import and export. They import and export a lot of it.

The capitol Zaqopolis can be difficult to navigate for first timers, but once one learns to use The Zaqopolis as a central landmark it becomes almost impossible to get lost. What appears to be a monkey bar dome adorned with loose camouflaged netting and a number of female mannequin legs take on a special significance when you realize it marks the only shade for fifty miles. Indeed, it is the cultural hub of Zaqistan during the day, and the majority of political decisions take place under its cover. Cover is something highly valued in Zaqistan, as finding a shady spot of repose is the only way anyone can survive in its unceasing heat. Survival in Zaqistan is important. Surviving in Zaqistan is difficult.

 

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If you are capable of living long enough to see the sites, there are a number of breathtaking postcard-worthy landmarks to visit. The Guardians of Zaqistan stand vigilant over the land at times when it’s deserted, protecting the small nation from would-be intruders. Towering over the landscape is Mt. Insurmountable, the highest point in Zaqistan. Anyone daring enough to risk ascending the summit is guaranteed to be rewarded with unrivaled view of all of Zaqistan.

If you travel to Zaqistan with someone unfamiliar with the concept of “roughing it,” expect them to yell at you for hours at a time as you drink 40s of Mickeys and stumble around in the darkness. Don’t panic; it won’t help. Instead you should focus on finding the gold skulls of long deceased animals that mark the cryptic trail to Zaqistan, and if all else fails, try to hear the gunshots being fired into the night sky. You won’t hear them mostly because the deadening effect of the dried seabed eliminates all forms of echolocation, but it’s nice to have a false sense of hope. If your companion has given up his false sense of hope in exchange for a true sense of doom, explain that nothing has killed you yet, and at the very least death comes quickly in Zaqistan, which means you won’t suffer for long. If your companion explains that the duration of suffering is less important than the magnitude of suffering, continue drinking. More than anything, it’s important to maintain a loose form of consciousness at all times, as hyper-awareness is problematic in irrational scenarios. You probably already have your hands full; there’s no need to make things more complicated by recognizing how close you are to death. Denial is key to sensibility in Zaqistan.

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After your stay in Zaqistan, it is recommended you stop by the closest cowboy bar, a quaint little joint near a lone gas station in a town famous for refusing to die. Get a hamburger. Also get a shot and a beer. Congratulations! Somehow, against the odds, you survived to tell the tale, and now you can talk about something with bizarre authority, where every answer you offer can only be met with more questions. Zaqistan builds character, which you already must have had if you went there in the first place, and are now following in the footsteps of giants like Professor Wexler, world explorer.

 “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. I fucked up and chose the one to Zaqistan.”

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Beard of Solitude | Sobriety’s No Friend to Me

Beard of Solitude | Sobriety’s No Friend to Me

This was seriously the only productive thing I did last summer