Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallow´s Eve

The day began with playing with the kiddies. Lots of fun, as I pelted them with little plastic balls. It´s fun being the biggest kid in the class. I left the daycare center into the pouring rain. I went home and worked on some blogging stuff for the Obama campaign. Analyzing and summarizing the reactions in some main blogs for the campaign. After that I headed on to school, about an hour late.

After school, I headed home for a while, then on to Avenida de Mayo to a place called Cafe Tortoni, a luxuriously decadent coffee house. It comes straight out of Vienna, with art nouveau chandeliers and stained glass tiles. I had a cappuchino and the most wonderful flan on the planet. The best, blue ribbon first prize. I literally shaved the thing down with my spoon and ate it bite-by-bite. After that, I headed down to Palermo for some pizza.

On the subway ride over, as I was crossing through train stations, there was a fellow playing music in the crosshall. I took off my headphones, listened and dropped some change in his bag. As I went walking on, I really heard the music, stopped and went back to hear the rest of the song. The fellow played a beautiful song on his guitar and keyboard, and it filled the acoustic hall of the subte. The song ended and I went on my way down the neon white and blue tiled hall.

I almost forget it was halloween, it is unfortunately not a big holiday here. I only remembered because a little girl was walking with bright orange teeth in her mouth. I usually spend my halloween in my Moroccan garb. It is the only time I can wear a jallaba and not be looked at like an extra for the local Franciscan order. What seems like a lifetime ago, I was in Mexico now. For Dia de Los Muertos. The lovely Mexico City and the little island of Patzcuaro for the festivities. The city was filled with colored balloons and flowers to be placed on the graves of the departed. Also good flan. Seems like an eternity ago.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Paro II

I shaved this morning my burgeoning beard into a half goatee. The kiddies at the day care center played with it like I was a goat. After I went to class. The class was full with students but there was no teacher. Our teacher Gabriel is usually late, so we thought nothing of it. After 30 minutes, a Brazilian kid went to the office to see what was going on. A strike. Hastily called with no warning. Che Pablo debated joining in at the picket lines, but decided a beautiful day off was worth more than revolutionary glory. A warm afternoon was spent in Recoleta.

After an evening nap, I wandered off to find dinner. I walked down to Avenida de Mayo and stopped at a little cafe. I was the only one outside, but I was good luck for the restaurant and soon after the place filled. I drank porto seco on the house, and ate marinated little fishies as an appetizer. The dinner itself was fair. Cazuela de Merluza, which I have come to realize that I have no idea what it is. Merluza is hake, but cazuela comes different every time I order it.

Then, I literally lost my seat at the restaurant. I went to the bathroom for a sec, and came back and my table and drinks had been cleared and there was someone else siting in my place. I laughed about it with the fellow, and sat down to join him while I finished my drink and paid my bill. The guy was an Argentine from Patagonia. He was in BA because one of his six children was sick and at the hospital. We chatted for a while, then i paid my bill and headed on my way.

I find that I seem to be constantly looking for something that I can´t find in BA, whatever it may be. On a closing note, walking around the streets of Buenos Aires at night, I decided that if I had a million dollars (or pesos), I would fill up random trashbags on the street with money, just to watch the look on the faces of those who dig through the garbage each night for recyclables and cardboard. They work far harder than I do, and live far tougher lives. Life is far from fair.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cristina and the Pink House

Yesterday was election day throughout Argentina. Since it was election day, there was a ban on alcohol sales all day. I tried to convince all the purveyors of libations that because it was election day, there was even more reason to drink. It appears Cristina has won pretty handily, escaping having to fight in a runoff. In a previous blog, I incorrectly stated that her husband Nestor was term-limited (thanks Daniel). He has only run one term, and is stepping down to give his wife a chance at the presidency. The idea is that they can together hold power longer if they alternate. There is also speculation that Nestor is sick, possibly with cancer, but that is just a rumor.

The election was a little strange because I couldn´t find anyone who actually supported Cristina. Everyone I spoke with said the election was a travesty, and there were no candidate they really supported. A friend who ultimately did vote for Cristina said that she did it only after great hesitation, and stared a long time at the ballot in the voting booth. She said that never in her life had she been so disappointed in the choices for the elections, and she felt Cristina was the best of a bad group.

I meanwhile did very little this weekend, save wandering around Puerto Madero on Saturday and visiting a nice little photo exhibit on Art Deco in the Pampas at the Borges Cultural Center. Strange place, cause the cultural center is in a shopping mall. Granted the shopping mall is covered with ornate sculptures and frescos on high ceilings, but I don´t often go to the mall to see art. I also went last night with my roommate Paula to see a cool jazz band. She was invited by the sax player, the group was a quartet with percussion, trumpet, sax and bass. Very cool show in an intimate little club. The group did a lot of experimental jazz, including an african style song played on pvc pipes. The sax player even played two saxes at once. A nice way to end a boring weekend.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

anti-semitic taxi

I was in a cab home tonight and I was talking to the driver about the elections tomorrow. An amiable Chilean fellow, as we spoke. As the discussion shifted to politics, and I mentioned I was from the U.S., he started nicely lecturing me about Allende and Pinochet in Chile. He then moved on to "the Americans and the Jews trying to take over the world." I listened politely until we got back to my apartment, paid the bill and told him I was a Jew. "Oh, my boss is a Jew," and other blah blah.

"Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools"
-Augustus Bebel

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ladrones (thieves)

I started my day by marching down to the pizza place where I had bought two empanadas yesterday. I had bought a cheese and onion empananda and a capresse (mozzeralla and tomato). The first one was fine, but the second one was chock full of ham and I had to toss it. I explained to the manager what had happened, and he had the kitchen give me another one. I took one bite, and realized again I had gotten a ham. The manager yelled at the kitchen to know the difference between a calibrese (ham and cheese) and a calaprese.

I went to get my brazilian necklace fixed, which had broken earlier in the week and I was being plagued by a spell of bad luck. I took it to an artisans market, and they fixed it nicely. That´s when my luck really turned. At some point not long after, someone nicked my cell out of my bag. What a stroke of luck! I hated the damn thing, and didn´t want or need it. It was a second-hand phone, and I won´t miss it. I know I am a rare bird when I am reveling in something being stolen. But that does bring to light a more ominous fact that my bag is rather vulnerable. This is the second time something has been stolen out of the back pocket (first being a blank memory card in China: see Wake-up call). The value of the lost phone is well within the prescribed stupity tax. Anywho, back to being a luddite and happily without a cell.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cristina, Colbert y Vos (you)

That is a play off a rather ubuiquitous advert here regarding the upcoming election. Since I wrote last week about the Stewart/Silverman ticket, Colbert has apparently thrown his hat in both rings. Given my almost punditry, I will take a stab at the upcoming Argentine elections. First, I have one peso for anyone who can name the current Argentine president. Okay, it´s Nestor Kirchner, of the Justicialista Party (Peronists). He has done a good job of righting Argentina´s ship in wake of the financial crisis, and bringing Argentina out of recession. There have been some concerns over Kirchner´s friendship with Chavez of Venezuela, especially given Chavez´s closeness with Iran. Yet Kirchner has been firm in that his dealings with Chavez only pertain to Latin American issues, and was recently critical of Iran at the UN. For the most part, Kirchner´s term has been positive, but "el pinguii (the penguin)" is term limited and cannot run again. The upcoming Argentine election is this week, and there are a brazilian parties running.

Leading in the polls is none-other-than Kirchner´s wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. She is a Senator and is running as his heir. Hillary of South America, as she is called, but interestingly, the personalities are a little switched. She is more personable and more Bill-ish in demeanor, while he is more of the Hillary style. It seems likely that she will win the upcoming election, as she has been running a good campaign and is leading in the polls. With that said, I can´t find anyone who really likes her (maybe a little Hillary-esque). Some of the same criticisms of Hillary´s campaign are made of Cristina. Tightly managed but coming across as a little staged.

Also running is Kirchner´s Minister of Economy, Roberto Lavagna. Lavagna helped pìlot Argentina through the financial crisis as well. He formed his own new party, and there has been talk of support for his candidacy from a number of groups including a wing of breakaway Peronists. I don´t think he will beat Cristina in the first round, but could surprise if it goes to a second round.

Meanwhile, I can count probably close to a dozen different Leftist parties running. Socialist Party, Socialist League, Communists, Workers Party, Communist-Humanist Party, Leftist Front, New Leftist Front, etc. The Civic Coalition is a group of Left parties that is running second in the polls, also with a woman running for president. It looks like the Left is too splintered to overtake Cristina, but that could change in a second round, but probably unlikely. Also running is Alberto Rodriguez-Saa, the brother of a president of Argentina who lasted only a week as president during the financial crisis.

I must say it is nice to be out of the US for the leadup to the election. I was getting sick of all the coverage, this far in advance. I found it to be obnoxious and contrived. I felt the election coverage in the US to be more pronounced and in-your-face than down here, with a major difference in election proximity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Embajada de Israel

After my morning with the kiddies, I went to the Israeli Embassy to meet with Deputy Chief of Mission Modi Ephraim. After running the gauntlet of Israeli security, I finally got to meet Modi. Modi had served as Consul in Houston before I worked there. He is a great fellow, we reminisced about Houston and talked about the life here. He mentioned one story, which I think is acceptable to share.

With all the Israelis visiting the south of Argentina, the embassy wanted to set up an honorary consul in southern Argentina. They approached a fellow about it, and when they decided he was the right person for the job, he mentioned his own story. As a young man, he wanted to make aliyah. Yet his parents pitched a fit. He expected his mother to be in tears, but his father was as well. Realizing he couldn´t move to Israel because of his family, nor stay in his city because of his family, he went to southern Argentina. Now, he said with eyes welled up in tears, all these years later Israel had come to him.

Meeting with Modi made me miss the consular life I once had. The beauty of nostalgia, to paraphrase the "wear sunsceen" speech: fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Pics up

With more to follow. Click on the link:
Even more added today 10/22

Puerto Rico Night

I hung out at the hostel, while people were strumming the guitar and we drank wine. There was a Venezualan Jewish girl who worked at the hostel, I almost proposed on the spot. There was a special Puerto Rico night at the restaurant at the hostel, and we all went for it. I couldn´t eat anything, so the chef prepared a special meal for me. I turned in early and slept well. Now I am just getting ready to leave back for BA. Rosario is a very quaint city, with only one problem. Far too few traffic lights. I almost saw a dozen accidents. Imagine a busy intersection with no light and multiply it by half a city.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time Notes

The day was perfect. I said goodbye to my brazilian and went off to the Museo de Bellas Artes. The museum had a nice collection but there was one exhibit I absolutely loved. It was called Time Notes, and it was a cabinet filled with what looked like money. Rather it was time notes. It was broken down into minutes, hours and years. It looked just like monetary units, and the stacks were wrapped with official looking notices that said ¨Lost Time Refund Office.¨ Meanwhile, there was a video of the artists trying to give or exchange time notes. People were confused when interacting with them, because it looked like a money exchange stand. "Can I give you time," the countergirl said. The ¨bills¨ were offered for your time or whatever you wanted to exchange. The bills looked like Euros and were broken down in respective form as such:
1 minute bill: "Time is the most valuable thing you can spend" -Theophastus

1 minute bill: "Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal, that there is no interaction between master and slave." -Leo Tolstoy

10 minute bill: "Each moment is a place you have never been"

10 minute bill: "In the turning of time back and forth the gaps are not enough to draw breath in. Too soon and you´ve gone too far; too late and you can´t catch up. -Philosophers of Huanin

30 minute bill: "Money is a special branch of communications that could be studfied with the tools of the linguist perhaps better than the tools of an economist." -Carl

30 minute bill: "What does this difference between past and future come from? Why do we remember the past but not the future? -Stephen Hawking

60 minute bill: "Who can make the muddy water clear? Let it bw still and it will gradually come clear." -Lao Tse

60 minute bill: "Money: the signifier most destructive of all signification."

1 year bill: "He who keeps more than he needs is a thief" -Gandhi

1 year bill: "All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing has time." - Baltasar Gracian

5 year bill: "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn´t happen at once" Einstein

5 year bill: "Money is dead labor that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks." -Karl Marx

10 year bill: "Money is institutionalized mistrust." -Michael Hussey

10 year bill: "Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes, but I am the fire." Jorge Luis Borges

I spent a considerable amount of time at that exhibit. As the Phantom Tollbooth told Milo, "All time wasted shall be refunded."

After the museum, I walked through a nice park to another museum for Latin American art. Lots of pre-columbian pieces and works of Argentina´s history. I spent the rest of the day passing my time at various cafes on the main thoroughfare. Now I am back at the hostel, and a troupe of clowns (literally) just appeared. They were making rounds at the local hospitals. Too funny.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Hemmingway Afternoon

I returned to my hostel for a nap, but instead passed it as good ol´ Ernie would have. I met a nice old Argentine named Jose and we chatted for a while over some wine. The day took a turn as we were joined by a swiss guy named Tran (orig from Vietnam) with a guitar. The afternoon was spent sitting in a courtyard, playing music. Drums appeared and the wine flowed. Katambas (wine and coke) all around. We were joined by a Brazilian girl named Deborah, who continued my preference for Brazilians over Argentines.

The Rosary

Rosario is a lovely city, much more tranquil than BA. I wandered down the main thoroughfare, past a street jazz band playing a jazzy version of "Hava Negila." I had to stop for that one and listen. I was joined by what I assume to be a fellow MOT, an old lady who knew the music as well. I walked down to the Monumento de la Bandera, a large marble monument to the Argentine flag. I acsended the monument tower for a great view across the city and the river Paraña that it is situated on.

Following that, I went for lunch at Billy Lomito´s, an Argentine fast food joint. A lomito sandwich, the argentine version of a steak sandwich with a fried egg on top. Yum. Side of lipitor to boot. One thing is that the portions are much smaller here. A medium fries is the equivalent of a small in the states. Same with the drinks. Much healthier and far, far fewer Fatty McFat-Fats here.

However I do need to give America credit for one thing: its paper products. Napkins here, and in many other places, are no better than wax paper and are completely worthless. As for the toilet paper, it is often rough enough to rip you a new orifice. God Bless America for her soft toilet paper. Family, take note and bring a roll for me when you visit. I almost prefer the left-handed method of the Middle East and South Asia.

Cunning Linguistics Translation Services

Yesterday was spent navigating through languages, beginning first with an english teaching session. Immediately following, the teacher became the student as I went to Spanish class. As the professor was taking role, she mentioned that I wasn´t actually in the class and that I was really on the wait list. Puzzling, but she said since there were two people who didn´t show up to the class, I simply needed to go to the office to fix things. After class, I went to the office, where I found out that I wasn´t actually in the class and was merely on the wait list. Apparently even though I took the tests, I never did the necessary step of filling out a sign-up form. So I wasn´t really in the class, and although there were two spots open in the class, I was number 4 on the wait list. How this happened was pure bureaucratic bs. Even though I had been in the office twice and had taken the exams, nobody told me to fill out the form, so instead of being enrolled, I was put on the wait list. The office folks said that I should have seen some sign telling me I had to fill out the form, and basically it was my fault. I was furious. The teacher was being helpful, and she took my number and said she would call me if they could pull me off the waitlist. I left the school fuming, and refusing to speak spanish. I headed straight for the bus station to get the hell out of BA and on to Rosario. As I was waiting on the bus to leave some 2 hours later, I got a call from the teacher that there was room for me and I was back in the class.

The 4 hour ride to Rosario was nice if uneventful. The terrain reminded me a little of Texas or South Africa with its sprawling fields, cows and occasional windmill. Rosario is the birthplace of Che Guervera. It is the third largest city in Argentina, and has a reputation of being the Chicago of the Pampas. I arrived and hopped a bus to a hostel I found online- the Casona de Don Jaime. A very chill hostel with a reggae bar.

As I arrived, I heard some Israelis speaking at a table. The asked the waitress a question, and I gave them the answer in hebrew to their surprise. This begun my night as a cunning linguist. The group of six Israelis were backpacking around and spoke no spanish. It then became my job to translate for them with the Argentine girls. So I was going between Spanish and Hebrew. What a headache. I couldn´t keep my languages straight. I can do ok when I think in Hebrew or in Spanish, but having to work between the two was mind-spinning. Plus with drinks it became even worse. We met two girls and were trying to teach them to play poker. Basically, it just became a big cheers-fest of whiskey. We gave up on poker and played a more universal game- Uno (or taki or 123). All was lots of fun. The girls left with big smiles, and we met two more girls. Again I had to go back and forth explaining. Thankfully these girls spoke some english and could converse better with the Israelis. After we all went to a club/party called Bonita. Lots of young looking Argentines. I stuck around for a while, then felt old and went to bed. Now off to see the city.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Draft Stewart

My Mom gave me an idea. Skip all this Draft Gore biz, I prefer to Draft John Stewart for President. His running ate could be Sarah Silverman. His Sec of Defense, absolutley Colbert. No actually, Sec of State, cause sec of defense could only be Chuck Norris. Stewart will pull out of Iraq and invade Kazakhstan to make the world safe for Borat. On the way home, he will turn Gitmo into a Chucky Cheese. Stewart/Silverman ´08, it couldn´t hurt more than the last 8 years.

El Paro (the Strike)

"Well the first days are the hardest days, don´t you worry any more."
-"Uncle John´s band," Grateful Dead

I´ve spent the last two days being a human jungle gym for twelve 1.5 year olds, lotsa fun. I had my first day of Spanish class yesterday. I´m in class with my roomie Emiko. I practically slept through the first half of class, it was boring. Then the second half, we discussed embarrassing moments in languages. I had two good stories. One time when I was on a train in Transylvania, a nice old man bought me a beer. I didn´t know how to say cheers in Romanian, so I said it in German. Prost! The girl next to me quickly told me not to say it again, because in Romanian it means ¨dickhead.¨ Ooops. The other story was when I was in Rio, and I was talking with some girls on the street. I mentioned that I spoke ¨checka,¨ trying to say I spoke czech; rather in Brazilian portuguese, that means the female netherregions. The girls laughed mightily at that one.

The teacher told us that there wouldn´t be class today because of a teacher strike. Luv it. ¡Solidarity! After class, I had coffee with a cute polish girl from my class named Camilla and Emiko. I tried to polish my czech with the polish, but its like spanish and portuguese. After Camilla left, Emiko and I split a beer at another cafe and spoke with some German tourists. A prost worked fine with them. I didn´t do much last night, other than make dinner and have some wine with the roomies. They are all having problems with termites or ants, I´m not sure which. Since my room is above, I am not having any problems. I told them I wasn´t having problems because my room is soooo clean, which earned my immediate scorn.

After volunteering at the Baby Help Center today, I returned home and Emiko and I went for lunch at a restaurante tenedor-libre: a buffet. The food was good, a mix of argentine and chinese foods. The best part was desert. Dulce de leche and choc ice cream, and three types of flan, including chocolate flan. YUMMY.

After gorging ourselves and taking an overcrowded, unairconditioned subte, Emiko and I went to the MALBA- the modern art museum that is free today. The museum was much better with the proper perspective. The sun was playing tricks with reflections on the glass. I was sitting out in a outdoor section, looking at a spiral staircase that was reflecting against the glass like a DNA strand. I pointed it out to a cute Argentine named Josefina. We chatted and she gave me her email to catch up later for drinks. I´ll take real beauty over modern art anyday.

However, the MALBA had one other really interesting exhibit. It was two tvs in a dark corridor. They were on the ground, and you had to stand between them to see it. On the television were videos of fingers pushing into holes made by hands, but done in a manner that made it appear graphic and vulgar. A really amazing piece, because you feel sheepish watching. It creates a feeling of vulgarity in you, it is really interesting. I give modern art credit that it can make you have feelings that normal paintings cannot.

After the MALBA, Emiko and I hit up a café and I had a Cafe Irlandes (irish coffee). After we hung out in a park and listened to my ipod as we watched the clouds plays tricks with the early moon. Crowded bus home and a delicious steak I bought at the corner grocery for 50 cents. Now just planning my escape tomorrow to Rosario, a city about 5 hours away for the long weekend.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What the World Costs- Argentina

Free: 60 hours a week of intermediate spanish class (donations accepted); Museo del Bellas Artes (always); MALBA (Modern Art Musuem-Wednesdays)
50 centavos (.16c) dulce de leche-filled pastry at the Malvinas bakery on my corner
70 centavos (.22c) subte/metro ticket-all stops for one price
80 centavos (.25c) bus ticket
1 peso (.32c) alfajores (chocolate-covered sponge cookie) at the local store
1.2 (.38c) train ticket to La Plata (1 hour)
1.35 pesos (.43c) bus ticket from airport to Buenos Aires proper (90minutes)
1.5 pesos (.48c) 1 hour internet at cafe
1.75 pesos (.56c) superpancho (hotdog) at the 24hr fastfood joint on my other corner; glass bottle of pomelo soda; steak at the corner markert
1.8 pesos (.57c) an empanada
2 pesos (.63c) sandwich de miga; bottle of coke; 3 apples
3 pesos (.95c) McFiesta hamburger at McDonalds, or at the 24hr corner place
3.5 pesos ($1.11) 1 liter bottle of cheap wine at the market; 1/2 liter at restaurant
4.5 pesos ($1.43) spanish tortilla at a little local restaurant
5 pesos ($1.59) a pint of Quilmes during Happy Hour at the Alamo
6 pesos ($1.90) espresso with condensed milk at Havana coffee shop
7 pesos ($2.22) good bottle of Malbec wine; espresso with dulce de leche
9 pesos: ($2.86) Cafe Irlandes- coffee with whiskey, cream and cinnamon
10 pesos ($3.17) ticket to Bollywood movie; ticket to public theater; maté gourd
12 pesos ($3.81) lunch of a milanesa sandwich and a glass of wine
13 pesos ($4.13) restaurante tenedor libre (buffet)
14 pesos ($4.44) cheapest ticket to a futbol match
15 pesos ($4.76) t-shirt; the Great Gatsby at an old bookstore
20 pesos ($6.35) sim chip for my phone; credit for the phone
29 pesos ($9.21) Tango City Hostel- 1 night, breakfast and dinner included
32 pesos ($10.16) Bife de Chorizo (good steak), frs and a beer in La Plata (tip incl)
50 pesos ($15.87) cellphone (second-hand)
61 pesos ($19.37) Bife de Lomo (really good steak), frs and 2 glasses of wine at swanky Buenos Aires Grill in BA (tip incl)
80 pesos ($25.34) 1 night at the Hotel Acurios in La Plata, brkfst included
600 pesos ($190.47) 1 months rent in BA
1890 pesos ($600) flight to Buenos Aires from Baltimore

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reduta outside Recoleta

It´s been a while, but I found something that I was looking for. Something I needed. The sun was a beautiful perfect blue that melded into a pearl gray teardrop in Athena´s wise eye. I wandered through parks and bathed in the sun. Serious lacking of vitamin D, and C which I grabbed in a park. Staved off the scurvy. I wandered through foreign parks with magnificent statues. The light caught their marble whiteness in full grandeur. Bronze horsemen rode high in sunkist sky. Shadows glanced off tree and played tricks on the walls. A mime played tricks with traffic. The light shifted and I caught some fantastic jazz outside of Recoleta cemetery. Oh´ when the saints. Reduta outside Recoleta. I wandered into Recoleta and captured the angels on a grey backdrop.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I always find countries to be experiments. All represent different works-in-progress.

America is an experiment in creating a middle-class country from the tired, poor, huddled masses from all over the world. Offer them the ability to attain the American dream of house, car and television, and the country prospers.

Israel is an experiment in seeing if the Jewish people can live together after thousands of years apart, and create a modern state from an ancient people.

Brasil is the greatest example of creating a blended, multiracial society.

China is an attempt to prove that if people are given luxuries, they can accept autocracy.

India is project of holding together 1 billion people in a democratic system, and trying to fashion one country of many, many different people, classes, religions, and castes.

Pakistan is an experiment in fashioning a Muslim Indian state on the subcontinent, and like Israel, create a nation among varied people whose only connector is religion.

Germany and Italy were 19th century experiments in creating nation-states for people of common heritage, but had not lived under the same banner. Today, the present Germany is also an experiment in binding teutonic aggression on Europe under a relatively pacifist state.

The European Union is also an experiment in creating a whole Europe, bound together, not in blood and iron, but in bureaucracy and red tape.

Singapore is an attempt at creating a Western outpost in the East. Thailand and Costa Rica are similar projects in creating the trappings of Western life in Southern and Eastern spots- both reach out for tourism by providing alternative environments that are exotic yet user-friendly to Westerners.

The Emirates are a project in socializing the oil wealth of a nation, and building an oasis of capital and commerce in the desert.

My current location, Argentina, is an attempt at creating a European outpost in South America.

There are also the failed projects like Yugoslavia, and possibly Iraq. Czechoslovakia didn't last, and it seems Belgium might go the same way. Not sure if the United Kingdom will stay united, when visiting Scotland I found plenty who felt they were more Scottish than British, and would have gladly traded their pounds with the Queen's mug for Euros stamped with William Wallace.

Spain too might splinter into regions, undoing Isabel and Ferdinand's project for Catalunya and Euskadi (Basque country).

The projects in South Africa and Rhodesia, to create white Republics in Southern Africa both thankfully failed.

Feel free to offer your own takes on different national experiments.

Noble Nobel

"I firmly believe that if Al Gore were president, America would not be at war, our standing in the world would be higher, our economy stronger and our civil liberties more secure."
-Ron Klain, Gore's former chief of staff.
I couldn´t agree more. Mazal tov, President Gore.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

blog time in coming

I know I blog too much when I get an email from my Dad asking if everything is okay since I haven´t written in 4 days. Things are fine here. I started volunteering today at a project through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Service. I´m volunteering twice a week at a day care center. I spent two hours playing with cute little toddlers. Half were climbing on me like a jungle gym, and the other half were terrified of me. I guess it isn´t only the Chinese babies who are terrified of me.

I also took my placement exam for my spanish class. I had previously taken a written exam two weeks ago, which I bombed since I hadn´t studied reading and writing in a while, and now I had the oral exam. The girl who went before me spoke well, and she received pre-intermediate; I was starting to wonder if I would be classified as basic. However, my gift of gab got me placed in the intermediate class, which is the same one as my roommate Emiko. On the english-teaching front, I had another English class that I taught, and I decided to be mean and gave the class tongue-twisters in pronunciation.

I had to vacate my apartment last night, or be forced listen to one of my roommate Fransisco´s amorous affairs. He doesn´t seem to let the bed get cold, last week it was a columbian, this week someone else. I went searching for a true Argentine bar, but had no luck. I can´t seem to find any Argentine bars, all that I encounter are Irish, British or American expat joints. I literally walked for an hour yesterday through the city center looking for an Argentine bar, and after no luck, ended up at the Alamo. I returned and saw the same two putas outside my building. I decided to be a good samaritan and bring them coffee for their long night in the cold, but by the time I had prepared coffee, they were gone. Guess business is good.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Gulag

"I dedicate this
to all those who did not live
to tell it.
And may they please forgive me
for not having seen it all
nor remembered it all,
for not having divined all of it."
-Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "The Gulag Archipelago"

As I sat- in the light of brighter days- on the Avenida de Mayo, just down from the Plaza de Mayo, where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo protest for news of their dear ¨desaparecido¨ loved ones, and I read the ¨Gulag Archipelago¨ by Solzhenitsyn, my thoughts drifted to the brave Monks of Burma. To their courage, I offer my respect, and the words of the Abolitionist Wendel Phillips:

"Whether in chains,
or in laurels,
Liberty know nothing
but Victory."

PS: For those that follow her, the Muse has a few new entries:

God and baseball

More than once, I have learned a great deal about the good Lord with baseball. In 2003, when the Cubs and Red Sox were both 5 outs away from the World Series, only to both choke (Bartman and Aaron ¨Bleepen¨ Boone), I was convinced God was vengeful. But when the young Davidian Florida Marlins subsequently beat the much-favored Yankee Goliath in the World Series, I realized the Lord works in mysterious ways.

The following year, after years of Job-like suffering, the Red Sox and their faithful nation finally prevailed. The repentant White Sox, once outcasts for sinning against the game, became prodigal sons and took the championship.

Again, I was reminded of the divine hand of Providence on the diamond. Last night, as the Yankees were poised to take game 2 against the long-suffering Indians, a plague of insects were unleashed upon the Yankee pitcher. He lost control of his pitches among a swarm of pestilence and Cleveland prevailed.

¨It was not by their bat that they won the game,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.¨
Psalm 44:3, with minor edits

Hola Bollywood

Yesterday was rainy and miserable, and I was melancholy with nothing to do. I walked into the center of the city, had an espresso and dulce de leche with alfora (chocolate-covered sponge cookie) and read the Gulag Archipelago. It started raining more, so I took the subte home. On my walk back from the subway, I saw some people playing futbol at the local field under the highway. I quickly ran back, changed into shorts and joined. It was a small little field of concrete, and a third was wet and slippery, but it was lots of fun. No one will confuse me with Messi, but I held my own.

After the game, I headed to the Alamo to check on baseball and then met my friend Sol for a night of Bollywood. She is my Argentine friend who I met in India. We went to a cultural center with a huge theater to see Dhoom 2. In the huge theater, there were maybe 10 other people. The movie was a typical, hysterical bollywood flick. Dancing, singing and kitsch. The movie was a police chase, and was too funny. It was in Hindi with Spanish subtitles, and I was able to follow pretty well, between the spanish and simple plot. Sol had emailed other friends to go to the movie, but it was a good thing that only I came because she said any of her friends that came would have killed her for bringing them to such kitsch.

After, we went to Palermo Hollywood, a swanky area with lots of bars. We went to a cool restaurant/pub called Bangalore for some Indian food. We had a great Thali (a mix of indian vegetarian dishes), which we, of course, ate with our hands. We were later met by two of her friends, Marina and Inka, for drinks. The place had great pitchers of gin and tonic, and we were there till 4am.

As we were leaving, Sol and her friend Marina snagged some of the glasses from the restaurant. I warned them of my previous experience stealing glasses in Prague. One night at a bar, I had a bit too much to drink with some friends, and I stole a pint glass from the pub. Immediately, I began having bad luck. I lost 1000 crowns ($50) among other assorted maladies. Since Yom Kippur was coming, on my way to synagogue, I stopped by the pub. I went up to the bar, put the glass on the counter and told the barman that I had taken it, and I was sorry. He looked at me a little confused, and asked if I wanted a beer. I said no, please forgive me and left for yom kippur services. This leads me to a whole different story about stealing glasses in Munich during Oktoberfest, and the giant German security guards playing a rousing game of ¨jew-tossing.¨ Ah, but I digress.

Anyway, we got back to Sol´s car, and she was putting her stereo back in the deck. As we were reconnecting the stereo, a police car drove by and stopped. They started questioning us about the stereo and the car. After we explained it was her car and stereo, they giggled and drove on. Meanwhile, the ¨hot¨ glasses sat nicely in the back seat. We cracked up over the police out on patrol for stolen glasses.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

El Alamo

I went out last night with my roommate Emiko to watch the baseball games at an expat pub called El Alamo. The bar was an interesting juxtaposition of an Argentine section with half place with tvs tuned into the local futbol match, and an American section with the tvs tuned into the playoffs. The American section was a quintessential expat bar, with Guns ´n Roses, Greenday and Aerosmith blaring. Emiko and I watched the Cubbies lose to the D-Backs. At about the 7th innings, Emiko went to the bathroom, and returned with three cute drunken Argentine girls for me. They wanted to practice their slurred English, and I was obliged to help them in their studies.

Today, I had my second business english class, this one for the intermediates. My friend Julep mentioned that I should teach them all the important business terms like:
¨Shred those documents, please¨
¨Have it wired to my Cayman Island Bank account¨
¨Do not tell the shareholders about this¨
¨While it may be illegal in my country, in your country it is not¨
¨I have a Nigerian uncle who wants to transfer money to you¨
¨Ponzi is an American word for ´sound investment´¨

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Back in BA

Life back in BA has been a little slow. I had my first teaching session with a girl at an HR firm. The class went well, as we worked on pronunciation and enunciating your words (thanks dad). That night, I just hung out with the roomies, drinking wine. The wine here is super cheap. A passable bottle is $1 and a good bottle is $3. I also finished the fantastic Grapes of Wrath, a tour-de-force of a novel. Highly recommended. Now to kill any of my marxist leanings that I might have picked up, I have moved on to the Gulag Archipelago.

Yesterday I went to the Museo Xul Solar, a semi-famous Argentine artist who was a friend of Borges. I´ll be honest, I wasn´t such a big fan. His work was mostly watercolor pictures of abstract religious and mythological symbols. It was interesting, but not especially deep. I´m a bit jaded when it comes to art museums. After, I went to the Museo Evita, a museum dedicated to Evita´s life. It was interesting reading about her life story, and seeing the old pictures of her and videos of her funeral.

I spent the afternoon doing some analyzing and summarizing for the Obama blog team, and received a nice kudos for my work. Funny how I can help on the campaign all the way down here.

Last night I went out for a bit. I seem to be only able to find Irish or English pubs. Strange that I came all the way down south, to end up at an irish bar playing 90s rock music. I also managed to find the speakeasy bar that I went to before. I have given up any worries of my neighborhood, and managed to avoid the most dangerous part of my barrio last night: the 24hour hotdog/hamburger joint.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Spring showers

As it goes here, October showers bring November flowers. I might not mind the rain so much if it wasn´t coming down in my living room.