Friday, November 30, 2007

Eye candy

Enjoy the pics from Uruguay

The Axis of Oil

With oil prices soaring, we have a new axis of problems. Venezuela, Russia and Iran have all prospered mightily with the price of oil at record heights. All have become more dictatorial and more assertive in global politics. Venezuela and Russia have elections of Sunday which look to cement control for years to come.

Perhaps Chavez have overstepped this time, as his push to be king has drawn blacklash. After being told to "shut up" by Spain's monarch, his people are out rallying to do the same. Protests in Caracas are against his brazen attempts to seat himself as the reigning monarch.

Putin is having an easier time. Bush looked into his eyes and saw his soul, Putin looked back and saw a tyro. A complete novice that the KGB colonel would walk over. Putin has stifled dissent and rolled back rights. Either the NYTimes or Washington Post wrote it best, when they asked, "if he is so popular, why does he feel the need to silence his opponents?" Russia is flexing it muscles again, in Eastern Europe and in Georgia. Russia is bullying its neighbors again, but in a different fashion. It cut off gas to Ukraine. It cyberattacked Estonia, hacking away at the most cybersaavy nations.

And then there is Iran. Given a strong hand in Iraq, and in Lebanese and Palestinian affairs, Iran has increased its influence in the region. Ahmenijad worries me. Forget Lolita, this is Reading Machiavelli in Tehran.

Three potential crises that the Bush administration has mishandled. Tehran, Moscow and Caracas are all far, far stronger than when W took over. Pursuits in Iraq not only took their eyes off al-Qaida, it also lost focus on three real problems. I didn't even mention North Korea or Pakistan. Kim Jong-il remained obstinate, and the Bush administration eventually came around. Meanwhile, Musharraf gave Bush a Putin-like look and played him. The next administration will come in with a full plate, I pray we choose the right leadership.

A PS: I didn't even get into the Middle East, I will let Fred Kaplan of Slate do it for me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New pics up

Random BA pics, photos from my world and the Buddhist Oeishiki ceremony. Uruguay to follow tomorrow. Click the title above.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another day off

Last night was 2 peso (66cent) taco night at California Burrito, so I went with my class. Not the best tacos I have ever had, but still a nice change. Had my morning with the kiddies. I am the most popular kid in the class, it only took my a few decades. Now, I have yet another day off from school. Elections rather than a strike. It´s sunny and beautiful, and I am off to find tickets to the next Boca match.

PS: Rest in peace, Sean Taylor. Good night sweet prince, and may flights of cornerbacks wing you to your rest.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back to BA

After the futbol match, I returned to the hostel and made dinner. I didn´t do much other than hangout with the Commonwealth and watch "Oh Brother, Where art thou?" I woke up this morning, and headed off to the bus station. An uneventful ride for 2.5 hours, and I slept a portion. From Colonia, I took the fast ferry back to BA, where I am now.

I previously wrote about Argentina being an experiment in creating an European outpost in South America; Uruguay is in some ways even more so. Nearly 90% of Uruguay is of European ancestry. There is nearly no Ameri-Indian population there. Interestingly, Uruguay has about 4% black population whose ancestors were brought as slaves. Argentina too once had a large black population, as high as 30%. Yet somehow this population disappeared, and has stumped anthropologists of where they went (Thanks Julep). Today there is a small portion of Africans in Argentina today, recently arrived and mostly from Senegal. They sell gold and silver on the street.

Regarding another previous post about the Botnia war, I received a correction. Botnia is the name of the papeleria that was constructed in Fray Bentos, Uruguay. Fray Bentos is located on the banks of the Rio Uruguay, across from the Argentine city Gualeguaychú. The effects of the pollution will be felt in two Argentine provinces, Paraguay and Uruguay (Thanks Tita). Here is an Argentine link about the papeleria, in English (Thanks Damián).

What the World Costs- Uruguay

14 Uruguayan pesos (64c): 500 ml of homemade red wine
20 pesos (91c): Donation entry to the Mueso Torres Garcia; a Pañarol team flag
25 pesos ($1.14): 6 museum entry pass in Colonia; banana split icecream cone; burger
35 pesos ($1.59): pint of Patricia beer
40 pesos ($1.82): salmon and avacado pate tapas in Montevideo
55 pesos ($2.50): glass of red wine and cover charge for guitar show at El Drugstore
75 pesos ($3.41): chivita (steak sandwich) in Colonia
80 pesos ($3.64): grocery bill for shakshouka (Israeli egg dish) and beer
100 pesos ($4.55): general admission to Nacional vs. Pañarol futbol match
110 pesos ($5); Big Mac combo meal at Montevideo bus station
120 pesos ($5.45): admission to Montevideo night club with 3/4L beer, girls free
161 pesos ($7.32): 2.5 hr bus ticket from Montevideo to Colonia
170 pesos ($7.73): grilled fish with boiled potatoes, bread and white wine in Colonia
190 pesos ($8.64): hostel in Colonia
270 pesos ($12.27): hostel in Montevideo, breakfast included
484 pesos ($22.22): slow ferry from BA to Colonia- 3 hours
695 pesos ($31.59): fast ferry from Colonia to BA- 1 hour

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Futbol and Gaza

I woke up late this morning and debated going back to BA, but decided to stick around. After a chivita (steak sandwich) for lunch, I returned to the hostel and was asked by the Commonwealth if I wanted to joing them for a futbol match. Umm...yeah (Harry and Dad, jealous much?). After a nap, we headed on to the futbol stadium. As we arrived, we were surrounded by a human wave of futbol supporters. Nacional vs. Pañarol. We walked in with the cheering Nacional supporters, who were rowdy. There were a few thugs tossing rocks at the opposition supporters, and people were cheering and shooting off roman candles. As we were approaching the stadium, I saw a true kamikaze raid. As the Nacional supporters were walking with a giant flag, one of the Pañarol supporters took a run into the flag. He was promptly dropped and stomped until police on horseback saved him. We got our tickets and went in. We were in the neutral section but more Pañarol supporters around us. It was an amazing sight. Probably 70,000 fans. Flags waving, banners and colors galore. Loud chanting and cheering. More Roman candles, clouds of colored smoke and confetti.

There was a game taking place, so we figured we were late. As the game was going on, a fight broke out that cleared both benches. The riot police stormed the field. The game was reduced to 8 against 7 after the red cards were handed out. Then suddenly, the game ended. Huh, the game was supposed to start at 5pm, not end. After a little confusion, we found out it was the development teams for the two clubs, and the actual game would be starting. When the teams took the field, the crowd went nuts. Whole clouds of red, white and blue (Nacional) and yellow and black (Pañarol), with waves of confetti. Meanwhile, the Pañarol fans were waving what looked like American flags, only with yellow and black stripes. It was a true sight that I can´t even begin to describe. The game was a good match, and yet again more fights broke out. The benches cleared and even a coach got a red card. The game was a true spectacle and I luved it. However, my only problem with futbol arose as it ended in a 1-1 tie.

After the match, the real chaos began. As we were walking back, some hooligans started fighting with the riot police. People started tossing stones at the cops, who retaliated with clubs. Then the mounted police showed up. Bedlam, total bedlam, and transpiring right in front of us. Hooligans tossing rocks and riot cops charging in and clubbing them. The guy from Northern Ireland said it felt just like home. We were stuck half a block down from it, because the riot was directly in our path. We waited a bit, then crossed the street to get away. The scuffles continued on, as we watched from the other side of the street. As things calmed down, we left. As we were leaving, some hooligans started tossing rocks through bus windows of the opposition team. Welcome to South American Futbol. Welcome to Gaza.

The Commonwealth Games

What looked like a calm night in Montevideo proved otherwise. I returned back to my hostel after wandering around a bit and found a game of Texas Hold´em going on with the hostelmates. After a little poker, I went out on the town with a gaggle of English, Scotish, Irish, Welsh, Canadian and New Zealanders. Off to an Irish pub with live music and a bag pipe. The Scot got on stage and sang the Flower of Scotland with the band. The debauchery moved on to a club, and since I spoke the best spanish, I was left in charge of talking our way in for free for the ladies. We went to a loud, thumping club till the wee hours of the morn. I´m not sure what time I left, but it was either really early or really late, depending on how your clock goes.

On my way back to the hostel, I bumped into a group of two teenage guys who were trying to look after their drunk, pilled-up girl friend. She was going nuts- screaming, yelling and running. They were trying to calm her down enough to get her in a taxi home, so I stuck around to help out. Shades of Heidi and my basement a decade ago. The girl was off, and her friends and I kept trying to calm her down. This went on for about half an hour on the pavement. Finally, she went nuts on too many times. Her friend gave up and clocked her a few times in the face, which brought over the homeless parking attendants who thought we were beating up some defenseless girl. I had to explain quickly that she was their friend and was in bad shape, while they dragged her into a taxi and sped off. I made it back, and went quickly to sleep. I was awoken this morning by an evil alarm clock below me. It woke everyone up, save the person whose alarm clock it was. It was right below my bed, so I was swinging my below at it from above, trying to end its vile ringing. Now, I am up and left debating if I stick around another day or head back to BA.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sleepy Little Montevideo

I spent the day wandering around Montevideo. It is pretty, with its colonial architecture. It is also a sleepy little town, with all the stores closed all weekend. I asked some police if it was a holiday. No, they replied, it was the weekend. But, it´s Saturday I mentioned. They laughed, and said "this is Montevideo." Anywho, the city is pleasant. Reminds me a little of a mix between Budapest and Funky Kingston sans black people, but then again, everywhere reminds me of somewhere.

I wandered through the Plaza de Independencia, with its giant General Soandso on horseback. I walked through the old city, stopping at some museum for some famous Uruguyan artist who did cubist work. It was so memorable, I already forgot his name. I wandered through the old city, which is nice, and down to the jetty. On the rock jetty, there where old fisherman sitting out in the sun and casting their lures into the waves. Afterwards, as I was walking past a park, some kids booted a football (soccer) over the goal. I headed it and kicked it back to them, and they invited me to play. They were surprised when I told them I was an American, and even more surprised when I booted a goal past them.

After soccer, I wandered back into the old city and ordered a snack at a cafe. Or at least I thought it was a snack. Two tapas ended up being huge, and sufficed as a rather early dinner. Later I caught a sunset, which was very cool because the sun seemed to melt into the sea.

The Uruguyans are inveterate maté drinkers. They drink it more than the Argentines, or anyone else. Everyone carries their maté gourds and thermoses of hot water. You even see drivers with a thermos under their arm, with their neck crooked sipping the stuff; gives the dangers of drinking and driving a new meaning. As for Uruguay itself, the Uruguyans have an identity that is very much like the Canadians, ie fashioned on not being your big, over-bearing and louder neighbors. I´m not sure if there is anything else to do in Montevideo and might head back early. I will decide tomorrow.

The Botnian War

No, that is not a typo. There is a big spat at the moment here between Uruguay and Argentina over Botnia. Botnia is an area in Uruguay, on the border with Argentina. The problem began over a papeleria, a paper factory. A Finnish company (Damn the Finns, always messing things up) wanted to build a paper factory in the area. Rumor is that they approached Argentina first, but Argentina wouldn´t put up the necessary funds (ie bribes), so they built it in Uruguay. The environmental activists in Argentina went nuts over the prospect of a polluting paper mill sending its waste into their waters, so they began protesting and blocking the bridges to Uruguay. The mill opened a few weeks ago, to much protest and consternation on the Argentine side. Their were demonstrations outside the Uruguayan Embassy, and when some Uruguayan Ambassador dismissed the environmental concerns and said the smell was no more noxious than boiled cauliflower, the protesters began boiling vats and vats of cauliflower outside. The issue remains relatively unresolved, but probably will end up being a tempest in a boiling cauliflower pot, as the factory is built and online.

In other news, I arrived to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I hoofed it some twenty blocks to a hostel, where I am currently located. The city seems nice, a little like BA but much more lowkey.

PS: Wishing a speedy recovery to my brother Harry for his bursitis surgery. Bursitis is a terrible affliction that poor Harry suffers from.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Apple of Ur-uguay

Its funnier when pronounced in Spanish. I had a lovely thankgiving at my classmate Katey´s apartment. Lotsa turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gooseberry preserve. Sadly no pumpkin pie, but I will make do.

I have spent the whole Black Friday shopping at the mall. I went to JCrew and bought 5 pair of pants, then on to Abercrombie and Fitch for sweaters. I also picked up a new i-phone. I luv Black Friday and all the wonderful sales.

Back to reality. I woke up early this morning and headed to the ferry dock to catch a boat to Uruguay. The process to buy a ticket as confusing, and I was worried I wouldn´t make it. I got onin time, and then the boat didn´t depart for another 30 minutes. Argentine standard time. Sitting on the ferry, I thought back to other past ferry rides. A lovely trip form Morocco to Spain, and with it a a complete change in culture. A nice ride from Rio de Janeiro, with Sugaroaf mountain in the distance. A bumpy but beautiful float from Cape Town to Robben island, with the clouds clinging to Table Top Mountain. Ah, but I digress.

The ride was nice, I napped a while, and chatted with a girl from Spain named Tiki. She was going to Uruguay for a jugglers convention. A convention full of jugglers, too funny. I arrrived to the lovely city of Colonia del Sacremento. It is a antique cobble stone city with picture-eque alleyways. I found a nice hostel with an avocado tree with avocados the size of softballs, and went for lunch. I had a chivito, a steak sandwich, with fries and a Patricia beer. After I wandered around the city known as "La Manzana de Discordia." The city was founded in 1680 by Manuel Lobo, the governor of Rio de Janeiro. It became a hotly contested piece of real estate as Spain and Portugal battled over it. It became part of Spain in 1777, until Uruguay became independent. Uruguay itself was contested by Argentina and Brazil until the British came in and set it up as a republic and buffer between the two nations.

Once I was on a bus in Jordan, talking to an amiable Syrian fellow. He mentionedhe worked in Lebanon, and said Lebanon and Syria are like this- holding up two fingers crossed. It was indicitative on the Syrian feeling that Lebanon was part of their country. I immediately corrected him, taking my pointer finger on the opposite hands and holding them near but not together. Why I am telling this story is because it also relates to the Argentine feelings toward Uruguay. They consider the country to be a province of Argentina. Lebanon is not part of Syria, and Uruguay is not part of Argentina; pity those revanchists that think otherwise.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dia de Pavo

Another Thanksgiving has come, and I am a brazilian miles away from home. 364 days of the year I can travel, today is the only day I am homesick. It is the only day I would trade in all my accumulated miles of the year to be home. What a difference a year makes. Last year I was dining on yak in Tibet, battling altitude sickness; this year in Buenos Aires, getting ready to feast with my class and other assorted Americans. I love the days that let you mark your time. Where were you today-on years past?

I can remember the Turkey Day parade going down the streets of Philadelphia. My grandfather´s wonderful cranberry sauce with a hint of citrus. My father carving the Turkey with the precision of a surgeon. Uncle Tommy´s sweet potatoes with marshmellows on top. The cranberry stuff that comes in a can, and maintains that can shape even after you pop it out. The whole family sitting around the dining room table, sharing the graces of the day.

I remember the year my Mom didn´t make mashed potatoes, and it caused an uproar. I made them this year for the feast. The recipe from Cesco, the restaurant where I slaved away a decade ago.

I have much to be thankful for this year. My year(s) have been nothing short of incredible. Continent-hopping, with the greatest of ease. I offer thanks to those who sheltered and fed me along my long journeys. I offer thanks for being able to wake up everyday in the lovely Argentine capital. Most especially, I offer my thanks for my health, and the health and well-being of my family and friends.

My thoughts this year are with those who I tutored over the summer for their US citizenship exams, all my students from far-away lands who are celebrating their first Thanksgiving as Americans. I remember quizing them about Thanksgiving and asking what their favorite foods were. I wish them all the best for their first Thanksgiving as citizens.

I will end this Thanksgiving cheer with two articles, One from the New York Times on Thanksgiving in Baghdad 2003 that I found to be poignant. The other from the Washington Post about being an Indian Muslim celebrating Thanksgiving. Happy Turkey Day to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A-eshteru

I´m being serenaded with "On my own" from Les Misrables in Japanese. I have a day off from another strike. 4 strikes in four weeks. My solidarity holds firm. I´m off to a museum to enjoy the day.

A Look at Languages

This is an article I wrote for the newsletter of the company that I teach English for. I wanted to call it "A Cunning Linguist Looks at Languages," but figured that was a little too risqué. Instead, simply "A Look at Languages"

“And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.”
Genesis 11.6-7 (The Tower of Babel)

Perhaps one of the best parts of being a global nomad is the opportunity to come in contact with a multitude of different languages. In my studies and travels, I have managed to learn four languages, of which I am able to speak in varying degrees. Beyond English, I am able to converse in Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic and Czech, as well as a smattering of words and vulgarities in a variety of tongues.

Yet, I wouldn’t consider myself gifted in the art of linguistics; what has made me a good linguist is the lack of fear of making a fool of myself when trying to learn a new language. If I received a peso for each time I utterly made a fool of myself while trying to speak another language, I could easily afford to travel around the world many times over.

Recently, I was in Rosario, and met a group of Israelis who spoke no Spanish. Since I spoke Spanish and Hebrew, they decided I would be the perfect translator for all the girls they wanted to pick-up, who spoke only Spanish (Castillano, excuse me). I spent the evening trying to translate from Hebrew to Spanish, and vice-versa. Needless to say, it all became a mess. Amid my linguistic confusion, I ended up speaking Hebrew to the Argentines and Spanish to the Israelis.

As I have learned more languages, I have come to appreciate that letters have far different uses in different languages. Overtime, I have come to value the funny idiosyncrasies that letters can posses. While a “Y” in Argentine Spanish might sound like a “J,” in Czech, a “J” is pronounced like a “Y.” Meanwhile, the letter “X” varies from a “sh” sound in Chinese, to tongue click in Southern Africa when written “X!” The “R” gets trilled in Arabic and Spanish, rolled into a “gh” in French or practically swallowed in Hebrew; or there is the Czech version of an “Ř,” which is pronounced with a tongue roll- like the “ers” of Persian. A “C” that is lisped in Spain, takes on new form as it is pronounced as a “ts” in the Czech Republic. And then there is the fun of the guttural utterances that punctuate Hebrew and Arabic; nothing is more fun than sounding like you are about to hack up a lung while trying to make yourself understood.

The world of linguistic differences has literally left me lost. There are letters that are simply not pronounced, such as “Q” in Egypt. When I was in Cairo, and invariable lost while searching for the street “Qaseer al-Qainey,” people directed me every which way, even when in reality I was standing directly on “Aseer al-Ainey.”

Meanwhile, tonal Asian languages pose even more problems. Once I found myself waiting at a bus stop, outside of the city of Datong, a place about 6 hours east of Beijing. I was trying to catch a bus back into the city, and as one began to approach, I pointed to it and asked the man next to me “Datong?” He gave me a puzzled look that signified he didn’t understand. I tried a second time, “Dah-tong.” Still nothing. I tried a third and fourth time, with different tones, “Dah-TONG,” and “DAH-tong,” but was met with the same blank glare. Finally, in what sounded to me like the most exaggerated Chinese accent I could come up with, I pointed to the bus and asked, “DAAAAHHHH-TONGGGG?” “Oh, DAAAHHHH-TONGGG,” he said as he nodded his head in agreement. He then smiled and replied, “Why didn’t you say so?”

I won’t even broach the subject of the various nods, head-bobbles and hand signs that signify vastly different and often opposite things in different cultures.

Yet, what I have found to be a universal truth is that people deeply appreciate even the feeblest attempts at trying to speak their respective languages. In at least attempting, you are demonstrating your respect for their language, culture and heritage. While poorly accented words or outright mistakes might be greeted with a few chuckles, in reality it helps demonstrate the shared humanity that we all possess.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Pics up

New pics from Tandil and assorted BA

It take two...

to tango. I went to my first tango class last night with my friend Martina. I didn´t so much learn to tango, as I slowly paced around the studio. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I think I can get it. After, we went to a milonga- a tango dance hall. It was amazing. Super elegant. It was mostly middle-aged people dancing tango, and was so interesting to watch. Everyone dances with their eyes closed to feel the music better. I was amazed no one bumped into each other. When the music stops, men sit on one side of the room, and the women sit on the other, waiting for someone to come over and invite them to dance. Something out of a junior high dance.

Otherwise, I had a threesome in the park. The other day I went back to my favorite park the other day, and the cat remembered me, and came up and curled up on my lap. I have named her cafe con leche. A second cat, cinnamon, joined in and also curled up on my lap. For a good half hour, I had two felines sleeping on my lap. So cute.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Morga

I went last night to see a concert of Morga music with my roommates Paula and Cheako. We went to La Boca, to a funky theater with all sorts of mannequins on the roof and painted people peering into urinal stalls in the bathroom. The concert was literally a trip. Imagine an oversized barbershop quartet gets slipped acid and ends up costumed at Carnaval, singing about mushrooms and masturbation in acapella. Too strange, too much fun.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Candombe, Murga and Nanny

I went out last night with a friend of a friend. I went with a Porteña Martina and a brazilian-turned-Argentine named Valeria to a club that had Candombe music. Candombe music is African music that ended up in Uruguay with the slave trade. It has a heavy percussion beat and is very fun to dance to. The club was a fun, little hippyish place, reeking of patchouli and ganja. We danced till real late, lots of fun. My weekend of Uruguayan music continues today, as I am headed off with the roomies to a Murga show. Murga music is acapella, but with a group of 14 men singing as three distinct voices. It is rather impressive.

I´m offering a shout-out for my grandmother. Yesterday was her 80th birthday, and the family had a big party for her. She is an amazing lady and a helluva fighter. She developed ovarian cancer my freshman year of college (not even her first bout), and has battled the disease to a standstill for more than 8 years. She has an indomitable will and irrepressible spirit. My Nanny has a quick mind, and a quicker tongue. She is the ultimate "call´em as you see em" figure, and watch out if you end up on her firing line. She is also a gentle, wonderful, kind and caring woman who loves life and truly appreciates every minute she has. Happy 80th Nanny! I promised that if she sticks around to 81, I would jump out of a cake. The sight of that may finally off her.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

El gato en el parque

I started the morning with a little apartment investigation for my friend Jeremy, who is coming down to Argentina in December. Nice place, a world away from where I live. After, I went to the Museo de artes decoritivas, a nice museum in Palermo. They had a statue of "the thinker," making BA the only city I have been to that has two in different places. The museum was lovely, really beautiful stuff.

After, I had a coffee and chocolate budin (pudding cake)in the outdoor cafe, as I sat in the sun. After, I headed on to a nice park I had walked past, but never been in. It was a great statue park, and I lounged on a bench. I am struggling to refrain from a childish remark, but a cat meandered my way and climbed up on my lap. This black cat, with a white underbelly, lives in the park. He climbed up and sat on my lap. He let me pet him, and purred at me. He then took a nap in my lap. He sat there till it started to rain. The clouds literally rolled in and poured down. I had to run in the rain with two porteñas under a shower. As quickly as the storm came in, it departed.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An epiphany on 9/11

I was sitting in the back of the synagogue, waiting to welcome the shabbat, but another figure found me first. As I was waiting for services to begin, the Muse came to me and offered me an epiphany. Suddenly, everything changed. Plans changed, I think for the best. I will enlighten you, dear readers, as I put in-motion these new plans. After that, my precious Muse had offered me the gift of an idea, and I had clarity. The synagogue radiated, under the glow of candelabras. The music was sweeter, and the prayers came from a deeper place. The shabbat bride was welcomed, and with her came enlightenment.

During the service, the Rabbi mentioned that today was the anniversary of "Kristallnacht," the Night of Broken Glass. Beginning today, Jewish shops and homes were ransacked in Nazi Germany and Austria. Over 8,000 shops were destroyed, and 1,600 synagogues were ransacked, with 300 set on fire. Jews were beaten to death, and thousands were deported to concentration camps. The pograms had begun in earnest.

I was planning to write on a different 9/11 anniversary today. On November 9, 1989 (9/11 as the rest of the world sets their dates) was the day the Berlin Wall came crashing down. I have the video of the NBC newscast from that fateful day, it was intense. With the Berlin Wall falling, so began the wave of freedom that swept across Europe and ended the Soviet Union. Some went as far as to label it "the End of History," as Fukyuma called it.

From 9/11 to our 9/11, the world enjoyed a period of relative peace and prosperity, granted there were plenty of other events that could force me to retract such statements (Algeria, Bosnia, Rwanda). On the whole, the world seemed to be progressing towards a new age of freedom and democracy. I´m not sure where we stand today. Russia has grown increasingly authoritarian under Putin. Iran still is under its theocratic regime, and is far stronger today than it has ever been. Chavez in Venezuela is trying to be the next Castro, and using his petrodollars to finance his ventures. Freedom is being stifled as oil prices reach new heights.

I´m not sure where I see the world these days. There are developments taking place that truly worry me. Not so much, because I don´t think we are any worse off than in any decade past. No one is "ducking and covering" under their desks; there is no gulag to which dissidents from the Eastern block are being sent; Iraq is a mess but the US isn´t nearly as unhinged as it was during the Vietnam war. As the old Chinese curse states, "may you live in interesting times."

These anniversaries help put into perspective where we stand, for my people, for the people of Europe and for the world. In some regards, we have never had it better. My people are no longer wanders- left at the mercy of tyrannical regimes, we have a state of our own. Europe is becoming one, and the European Union will soon stretch from the green fields of Ireland across to the border of Turkey. We have come a long way, yet still have so far to go.

My two centavos

I spent the night hanging out with my friend Daniel. He is sorta a Lewis of the South, a family friend who ended up becoming a friend. It´s nice having intelligent English conversation down here. We hit up a few pubs in Palermo, and I borrowed a book from his library. I began reading "Remains of the Day" under the driver´s blue light of the 12 bus on my way home.

I hate to be gloating about my political punditry, but I was calling a Huckabee bid for the Republican nominee before I left the States. It appears he is picking up steam, as noted in the following Washington Post and NYTimes article. Maybe I spent enough time down in Texas to have a pretty good idea of what conservatives run on. When it comes down to it, a southern preacher-turned-governor with solid conservative credentials will outlast an NY mayor or Mass governor in a Republican race. Should Huckabee continue his rise, and take the nominee, I predict he will pick McCain as his running mate to shore up his lack of foreign policy experience.

As for the Dems, I am still gung ho for Obama. He is my Kennedy. I like that he is refusing to go negative on Hillary or Edwards, as noted in this Washington Post article. Going negative will not get us beyond this current malaise, and we are still stuck in this poisoned political debate. At first, I was worried that Iowa would turn up for Edwards. A white, Southern populist running against a Black man and a woman gave me pause. I had been worried he would take Iowa, and run with it like Kerry did in 2004. However, the more Edwards battles with Clinton, I am also reminded of 2004, and how Dean the frontrunner scrapped with Gephardt, and Kerry and Edwards rose in Iowa. Let Edwards try to take down Hillary, then Obama can sit back and deliver his message for change and reconciliation.

With all that said, whoever wins the Democratic nominee has my support, although I would be rather unhappy with Edwards. His anti-free trade stance and populist protectionism bother me. Still far better than the other side. Rudy scares me, and I don´t like Romney. Romney is a pandering wishywashy flipflopper, he is so fake. Fred is the Wesley Clark of this election, a nice virtual candidacy, but no real substance. McCain seems to be back in the running. I respect him, but could never vote for him. And we´ll see if Huckabee continues his rise. My two centavos....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Strike 3, I´m out

We were told yesterday by our teacher that there might be a strike today. Since I hadn´t received any word when I left my apartment this morning, I left for class. I arrived, and it was a ghost town. There was one other student, an English bloke named Matt. He is down here because of an Argentine girlfriend, and is buying a hostel. Fun, I want to own a hostel. Anywho, there was another strike. Viva el paro! Viva la revolucion!

On another note, I was down in San Telmo a few nights ago for a drink (my friend Brian says I sound like an alcoholic from my blog). I was having a pint in the Plaza Dorrego, an open square with lots of outdoor tables. There were lots of people having dinner and drinks. From the other end of the plaza, some hippy guy started playing some kind of horn. However, it sounded like a bleating dying duck. Everyone stopped their dinners and were stairing at him cause it was awful. I was cracking up. After I finished my drink (one!), I walked over to the "musician," and told him it was wonderful, that he should play more and play even louder. I scampered off with a mischievious grin. Nothing like ruining the evening of hundreds.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Troubled Sleep

No sooner did I finish the book by the same title, can I not. It was a book by Sartre. Brilliant and well written. "From the street the light glared up at him, dazzling white as a catastrophe."

Very poignant passages. All about France in the early stages of the nazi occupation. Another favorite:

"And those who words suddenly reveal to us the countenance of that France of sinfulness, which for a quarter of a century, has been forgetful of its duty to God. Why did we not produce enough? Because we did not work. And whence, my brothers, came this wave of idleness which has descended upon us as once locusts descended upon the land of Egpyt? Because we were a nation divided by internal quarrels. The workers, led by cynical agitators, had grown to detest their employers; the employers, blinded by selfishness, cared nothing about satisfying even the most legitimate of claims, our businessmen were eaten up with jealousy of our public functionaries, the functionaries lived like the parasite mistletoe upon the oak; our elected representatives in the Chamber, instead of discussing affairs of state calmly, with only the general interest in mind, spent their time in brawling and hurling mutual insults so that at times they actually came to blows. And what, my dear brothers was the cause of all this discord, this conflict of interests, of all this degradation of public conduct? The cause of it was that a sordid materialism had spread through the country like an epidemic. And what is materialism if not a tunring away from God."

Brilliant stuff. Alas, I was reminded by the end of the novel of my deep dislike for existentialism. All the fascinating stories of interesting characters were not remotely wrapped up. The story ended in a huff, when it could have easily gone on for another 150 pages. Ah, but that´s existentialism- life is neither great joy nor utter disappointment. It simply is. Frankly, I prefer other styles. While I appreciate Sartre, and his tremendous gifts, I´ll stick to those who take passions, passionate joy or pain, out of life. Now, to try to end my own troubled sleep. Dulces suenos.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Easy like Sunday Morning

A morning coffee with a viceroy and the King. The Liverpool four joined in. I expect to hear from their buddy in black, Mr. Cash. Maybe Willie too, if the power will see me through. Alas, my apple is cored, and hasn´t the power.

Picking up where I left off. I actually did stop in a place called Liverpool, an English pub of sorts. Since I was reading Sartre, I had a cafe Napolean. After, I walked around Tandil, and bought a maté. Maté is the national drink here. Actually the stuff is called Yerba (sh-j-erba), and the gord is called maté. Anyway I got a nice one with an Argentine coin from 1923 on it, and a bombilla (metal straw) with a nice fleur-de-lys. I went back to the hostel, sat on the roof and had maté under the vista of the grey domes. I waited patiently for apropriate Argentine dinner time. I figured 7:30 would be late enough and returned to my Asado place from the night before. That is a grand compliment for me to return to a restaurant. I have only done it twice in my travels. Unfortunately, I arrived too early, and nothing was ready. The place promised an empanada for my wait. They told me to come back in an hour, so I returned to the cervezaria with the Buenos Ayres Herald (yes, they spell it that way), and had a cream stout.

After a long hour, I returned to the Asado place. A little first about Argentine asado. They do it with the utmost love and care. Real asado is whole bodies of meat, hung up on large metal racks, and slowly cooking around a huge fire for hours. This place was a smoke pit. It was a giant oven of meat and coals. I had costillito- beef ribs cut right from the roasting beast. The place is less a restaurant, and more a take-out place, but I didn´t want it to get cold on my way back, so I ate it on a waiting bench. They supplied a fork and knife, I didn´t go full caveman. It was fantastic, succulent enough to make any Texan or South African take notice. A side salad and an empanada to boot. They asked if it was better than McDonalds, and I replied McDonalds was basura (garbage), to which they laughed.

The night was too cold to go out, the wind had picked up and it was far too cold to stay out in my thin shirt. I went back to the hostel, hung out with a musician and his friend, and read. I had an early night, and woke up this morning to go hiking. Yet it was far too cold, and the wind too heavy to go. The hostel gave me free breakfast (they usually charge for it). As a thanks, I gave the woman a Texas pin. As always, I had to explain that Texas wasn´t only Bush.

As I was walking back to the bus station, I passed a street that was named 11 de Septiembre. A sad reminder that so much of the world stood by us on 9/11. I was in Prague and I can remember how people came up to us and expressed their sorrow. Yet Bush has sadly squandered most of the goodwill that existed. I have seen it with my own eyes, in all my travels. People aren´t anti-American, they are anti-Bush. I read in the paper that Karen Hughes is departing now. She was the Bush cronie who was State Dept. undersecretary for Public Diplomacy. Helluva job Karen, glad to see how much good work you did. All of that old gang has gone home, maybe Bush should get the message and leave too. The only remainders are W, Vader and Condi. Basta ya. Enough already, go home. Enough of my tangent, I´m heading back to BA.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tandilicious

Other than the fact that I was just viciously attacked by a tree, I am good. The tree managed to draw blood, but I think I will survive. Picking up yesterday from a much needed nap at the funky hostel I am now staying in, I went off to wander Tandil. I found a grey onion-domed church that looked like something like Sacre Couer or something out of Bulgaria. Sofia, and her sweet golden domes. I wandered through parks, with an orange soda whistling in the wind, and basked in the sun. I hung out at a cafe called "Maxim: el restobar ideal." Sure enough, as I had a banana and dulce de leche crepe and an irish coffee.

After a shabbat with the family on the phone, I grabbed some dinner at an asado joint. Asado is barbecue here, and I had a fantastic grilled chicken and salad. I ate it back at the hostel. Interestingly, while I was eating, complete strangers would wish me "bueno provecho," bon apettit. I found this funny, because strangers don´t often say "bless you" or "salud" after a sneeze, but they will wish a stranger to enjoy his meal.

After dinner, I headed over to a chilled-out brew pub. I drank stout, and met a musician named Emiliano from Tandil, who studies in Patagonia. Owing back to my days at Rock Bottom, I went for a taste test of the beers. Yum. From Kolsh to Imperial stout and all colors in between. My favorite was the cream stout. We hung out at the bar, then headed to the place I was the night before, the music place with the fitting name Antique.

At Antique, they recognized me from the night before, and Emiliano, who has his breakfast there everyday. They reserved us a table, for the music that was beginning in an hour, and we went back for another pint at the brewpub. We returned for some wonderful tango music, over scotch and soda.

Today, I woke up, had my room switched at the hostel cause they had a group coming in, and went wandering. I went to a hilly park overlooking a dyked river. The wind was whipping through the park and birds were suspended in mid-flight. It was kind of like a Memorex commercial. I went trekking through the park. I found a gnarled tree that had been hit by lighting, it looked like an elephant and its tough skin. I hiked my way up to the top, and got lost and ended up in Morocco. At least it seemed like that, cause I found a Moorish castle. I sat on the roof of castle, taking in the sun and resting with the Moor´s last sigh. After a while, I hiked down and had lunch at an asado place that was full with a wait, but I skipped the line and ate outside overlooking the lake. Brochettes of grilled beef and chicken, with the pancetta tossed to a stray dog. The dog was rather pleased that I keep kosher.

PS: Yesterday was a very important day. November 2nd is....the day of the Balfour Declaration. Yes, dear readers, it was the day His Majesty´s government announced that it looked favorably on the creation of a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine. Some 90 years ago yesterday. Oh, and far more importantly...it was my Mom´s birthday. Feliz Cumpleanos, mi madre!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tandil

Welcome November. There was literally a run on the banks yesterday. Perhaps cause it was the first of the month, I´m not sure. In any case, there were lines at all the ATMS in my neighborhood, all at least 7 deep. Meanwhile, other atms were out of cash. I spent the morning teaching, and the afternoon in a reversed role. After class, I headed to the bus station to get out of Buenos Aires.

I left Buenos Aires in search of some fresh air, so I hopped the bus to Tandil, a city 5 hours away in the Eastern Pampas. I arrived close to midnight, and found three things I was missing. First, stars. On the ride down, in my Marco Polo cruiser, I occupied the front seat, the shotgun view in the very front of the bus. The night sky was filled with brialliant stars, which I hadn´t seen for a while under the neon glow of Buenos Aires. I arrived to Tandil, and took my first deep breath of fresh air in a while. The air was crisp, with hints of honeysuckle and honeydew. Not smoggy, city air, but real fresh air. I enjoyed my walk to the hostel, maybe a little too much because I arrived at 12:15 and the hostel was shut. I rang the bell for a while, but no one came, so I wandered down cobblestone streets in search of alternative lodging. On my walk, I spied a park with benches, offering a last resort. I was able to find cheap accomodation at the Hotel Austral, with a room for 49pesos ($16).

I dropped off my stuff and found a great little bar with with a piano man and guitarista. They were joined by singers, some good, some really good. The eyes of lovely ladies in art nouveau posters staired down at me from red walls, as I drank scotch and soda. Interesting how I can find "it" outside of Buenos Aires, but not in it. There is an interesting juxtaposition that I love Argentina, but only like Buenos Aires. Maybe I will find "it" in BA.

Back to the show. Mama Cass took the stage and rocked it with some soulful croning. After the show ended, I talked with Mama Cass for a while, then headed back towards my hotel. I found a little bar next to my hotel, and went in for a last drink. Except it wasn´t. I accidentally ended up with a Budweiser, not recognizing what the bartender said. I met a ballerina and her effeminate friend, and joined them for a drink. We ended up going to a boliche (club), to dance and drink beer spiked with grenadine. That lasted until the wee hours of the morning, and when I left the club, the sky matched the colors of the Argentine flag.