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Showing posts from 2008

My OTHER Blog.... Life in DuBois

In case this blog hasn't been feeding you with enough of my ripping, incisive social and artisitic commentary, I've started another. You see, some of my loyal readers (Brent) have been asking me, "So, what is it you do out there in central Pennsylvania?" Actually, I'm having a blast, doing a lot of things I haven't gotten to do in years, and appreciating them a lot more than I ever did before I moved to New York City. So, with that in mind, check out: You shan't be disappointed.

Help, Help! Hurricane Ike Has Stolen My TV!

I was going to write this elaborate rant about all of this Ike coverage, but I can't even find the will to rail against the modern media anymore; because if I ranted about everything I thought was ridiculous and excessive in the media, I'd never be able to leave the computer. The People need information. Sometimes this can raise public awareness, root out injustice, and even save people's lives. But I don't think all this Hurricane Ike coverage is doing any of that. This round-the-clock coverage of the Hurricanes is just--STILL--an effort by the networks to cover their asses for not paying enough attention to Katrina. Nobody wants to be "last man to the party" when the next Big One hits. Well, it looks like the locusts will get their wish. Ike looks like it's going to be huge and going to hit the Houston area very hard. But will all of this "up-to-the-minute" coverage--like the all-important multi-colored, swirling blob; the endless stories abo

A Little Shout-Out to My Friends in Prague

This is a little Bloggy Shout-Out to my friends Ted and Anjya (pictured) who have just moved to Prague to spend the year teaching English; a bold adventure which is sure to yield many great stories...some of which you can read on Ted's blog at: (It will be at the bottom of this blog as well.) Hopefully, he will pick up the trail where I left off...writing humorous and blindingly eloquent reports on life as an American abroad. Good Luck you guys...

An Open Letter to John McCain and Barack Obama

Dear John and Barack, I have one simple question for each of you (answer seperately, please): What exactly are you going to do for ME? I'm 28 years-old, I'm white, I come from a comfortable middle-class background, and like a lot of people my age, I'm trying to find a career and chart my own course in life. For the past year I've heard a lot of mumbo-jumbo said by and about both of you guys, but for the most part it just sounds like vague jabs, over-analysis, and hyper-nuanced statements that don't actually mean anything. Because, let's face it, once you get into office, all bets are off. So, why exactly should I vote for either of you guys? What are you going to do for me? Homeland Security & The War on Terror? I currently live in a small town in rural Pennsylvania. Al-Qaeda is not exactly knocking on my front door. I used to live in New York City, so yes, I "get it." But I've got news for you, if somebody wants to put anthrax on the subw

Movie Review: Vicki Christina Barcelona

For those of you, like myself, who have been a little disappointed by Woody Allen's last few films, I have one simple message: Go see Vicki Christina Barcelona. The film will undoubtedly cause you to renew your membership in the Woody Allen fan club. The film is--like most Woody Allen movies--a tightly shot and carefully scripted exploration of the themes Allen has been exploring for the past 40 years; love, relationships, and how individuals make sense of the two while being true to themselves. The film may not cover any new ground, but Allen chose a cast over-flowing with sex-appeal and a location that drips with old-world charm and raw sensuality, making this film a joy to watch. The film is less neurotic and more liberated than his past few works, and has none of those off-kilter, sinister quirks, as in the murders of Match Point and Scoop . This time, Allen also did not feel the need to write into the script a role for an old Jewish magician/criminal/detective so that he co

Too Much Swimming... and Phelps Overload

Yeah, I like the Olympics as much as anyone, but I'm fed-up with turning on the T.V. and seeing another broadcast from the Water Cube. How many ways are there for people to race through water? Theres the butterfly, the breaststroke, the backstroke, the freestyle, fine. I get it. Then you have all of the different distances like the 50, the 100, the 200. Then you have the relays. Then you have the combo-relays called "medleys." THEN we get to the men's and women's divisions...natch. Is this enough to occupy the T.V. every night for almost a week straight? Apparently. I was excited to see the U.S. men's relay team win the big event, I even actually jumped out of my seat at the final second. But now I find myself settling in for the evening to watch women's gymnastics, volleyball, archery, weightlifting, ANYTHING...but somehow I keep tuning into the Men's 8,000 Meter Hibbity-Jibbity, featuring some combination of Micheal Phelps, Brian Lotche, and some o

Arkansas Democrat Shot

This is a story you may have missed... The leader of the Arkansas Democratic party was fatally shot yesterday. Bill Gwatney, a car dealer, state senator, and Democratic party chairman, was sitting in the party headquarters in Little Rock when, according to reports, a man came in saying that he wanted to volunteer. When he was refused access to Gwatney's office, he barged in anyway and shot Gwatney three times. The gunman has since been arrested and is named Timothy Dale Johnson. Reports say he had recently lost his job, but no connection has been made between he and Gwatney, except that Johnson owned two cars that had been purchased from Gwatney's dealerships. These are the kinds of stories that really stick out to me. What could have possessed this man to shoot the leader of the Democratic party of his state? Was he disgruntled at losing his job? Most likely. Was he mentally troubled? Authorities found anti-depressants at his home; but a lot of people are on anti-depressants

Why is "Beach Volleyball" an Olympic Sport?

Can anyone explain to me why Beach Volleyball is an Olympic sport? I am puzzled by this. Maybe it's just one of those things I don't understand, but which makes perfect sense to everybody else. No, I think you'd have to be some kind of Volleyball-junkie to fully argue the reasoning for contesting Olympic volleyball tournaments on two (2) different surfaces. Volleyball, of course, is a very physical game, but the "beach" part is what bothers me. It seems a bit leisurely, and even a bit elitist. It conjures up images of informal games thrown together by half-drunk college kids looking to get laid; images of Maverick, Goose, the Iceman, and bad 80s music; ugly flourescent sportswear; blistering sunshine and warm 32 oz. cups of beer. Somehow this doesn't fit with my image of the Olympics as rigorous and serious competition by dedicated amatuers, sacrificing their social lives at the altar of Sport. This is a version of a normally In-door sport, played by peopl

Bernie Mac is Dead

Bernie Mac has died at the age of 50, due to complications related to pneumonia. This is a tradgedy. Not only was he funny as hell, he was relatively young. I have nothing else to say at this time. I'm not going to get into some saccharine tribute to his humor or something. But, this is a terrible blow for modern comedy. He will be missed.

You Know You're Living in Buenos Aires When...

Everybody knows Buenos Aires is a late-night party city, that beef is plentiful, and that everything is cheap. Any fool with a Lonely Planet guidebook can figure that out. But there may be a few things you don't know about this city. So, here's a quick checklist of some things you might find if you stay here longer than a week or two. You know you're living in Buenos Aires when... ... you eat for breakfast some food that is at least 75% sugar and could just as easily be served as a desert. This could be anything such as dulce de leche (caramel), an alfajor (a little dulce de leche cookie), or a glazed media-luna (croissant) which more resembles a doughnut in its consistency. ... you face the imminent threat of electrocution whenever you plug in an electrical appliance, assuming you even have the correct adapter. It is a leap of faith. Sometimes you hear a sizzle, sometimes it's a little blue bolt and a "pop" sound, but there is usually some kind of report

Norton Clasico 2005

Alright, I'm finished with beer...for now. I just realized the idiocy of being one of the world's great wine producing countries and drinking beer all the time. No, it is time for a fundamental shift back toward the fruit of the vine... Rather than completely shock you and start writing about expensive wine, however, I've chosen this $9 peso (>$3 U.S.) bottle from Bodega Norton, one of the upper-tier Argentine bodegas. Like I always say, the true measure of a bodega is not the way their top quality wine tastes, but rather how their bottom shelf stuff tastes. Actually, that's the first time I've ever said that, but I like the sound of it. Anyway, the name of this particular Norton wine is "Clasico" and it is referred to simply as vino tinto , or red wine. That basically means (as near as I can tell) that there is not enough of any one grape in it, like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, to classify it as such. It doesn't even classify as a blend, or a

What's With This Big Brown Business??

News from the U.S. doesn't reach me easily or often. Yes, I understand there is literally no excuse for that, given things like the "newspapers" and "the Internet," but still, it's surprising how easy it is to avoid all that business when you really try. None the less, I've been hearing a lot about this horse called Big Brown, probably because he won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes this month and could be first Triple Crown Winner in 30 years. Well, I did about five minutes of research on him; watched replays of the races on I was impressed with both races, but there is no way I'm buying into the whole, "This is the One" hype. It's just a roller-coaster I don't feel like riding right now. In my recent past as a Triple Crown vulture, I've ridden that roller-coaster with War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, even got my heart broken by Barbaro like so many others. Every time there was a Triple Crown at stak

Quilmes and Me: A Love-Hate Relationship....or, A Brief Primer on Argentine Beer

There is basically only one mass-produced beer in Argentina; it is called Quilmes (Say: KEEL-mess). In a way, it is like the Argentine version of Budweiser, except Quilmes is practically the only beer available anywhere here. Whereas in the U.S. most restaurants and bars with serve Budweiser, they will probably also serve at least a few other beers. Not so in Argentina, or at least in Buenos Aires. Here when you go into a restaurant or café the drinks menu says merely cerveza litro and cerveza chopp (meaning a liter, and small draft). And when all the menu says is "cerveza," it is taken for granted they are referring to Quilmes. On average, most places might serve one other beer, such as Stella Artois, but it will be much more expensive. A liter of Quilmes will run you around $9 peso, whereas the same of Stella or another import will be around $15 peso. So from whence comes the title of this piece? Well, I'm not a big fan of Quilmes. It is very, very light in co

Random Notes: More Friendly Locals, and the ol´ "Mysterious Liquid" Gag...

So last night I went into a small restaurant by myself, a little corner place called Plaza España, on Avenida de Mayo near where I live. I was actually testing this place out again because a few days earlier they really pissed me off; I went in trying to get a seat to watch a soccer game, and they studiously ignored me for about 20 minutes until I left. So tonight I was determined to give them one more chance, or else commence a personal vendetta against them for the rest of my stay here. Lucky for them, they did me right this time... Anyway, the point of the story is this; I have again found the locals to be extremely friendly. As I was eating and chatting with the waitress, the couple next to me picked up that I was a foreigner. At some point I asked the waitress for some chilli sauce, but she didn´t seem to understand, or else they just didn´t have any at the restaurant. So the couple next to me offered me some of their chimichurri sauce, which is kind of similar. Not only that, b

Yerba Maté

One of my loyal readers (Aunt Donne) has requested I write something about Argentina's beloved national beverage: Yerba Maté. Well, I´m only too happy to oblige, and hopefully introduce you all to something new from this yerba maté primer. Yerba maté (say: YER-bah MA-tay) is a typical Argentine drink, kind of like a strong green tea, that is drunk hot, and usually shared between two or more people. Basically, the loose-leaf yerba , or herb, is steeped in a hollowed-out gourd, called a maté , and is drunk through a metal strainer/straw contraption called a bombilla . It has a very potent flavor, and can be a bit bitter to the uninitiated. It does contain a lot of caffeine, almost as much as coffee, but it does not produce the same jittery kind of high as coffee. Instead, it produces a lower-intensity buzz, but accompanied by a kind of alertness and heightened focus, which I think lasts much longer than coffee. Maté is a very social drink, and many people here only drink it when t

A Few Random Mendoza & Andes Photos

Here are some photos from a horseback riding trip in the outskirts of Mendoza, and some others I took from the bus while crossing the Andes into Chile. Notice the photo of me drinking yerba maté...that one is going on the jacket of my great Argentine novel. Notice also the one of the switchback turns cutting through the mountains...try about six hours of that, and you´ve made it across the Andes. More photos to come, I promise...

A Lighter Look At Argentine and Chilean Culture

Alright, enough with the Armchair Anthropology and attempts at serious cultural observation. I've been traveling in Argentina and Chile for nearly a month now, and the following are some of the funnier observations, situations, and actual conversations that I've encountered in that time. * Below is an actual conversation between me and a Maitre d' at a restaurant on Cerro Florida in Valparaiso, Chile (translated from Spanish). Me: Hello . Maitre d': Hello . Me: Is it possible to eat dinner here? Maitre d': No. I'm sorry. It is not possible. Me: Oh. Okay. (Awkward pause) But I see other people eating inside. Maitre d': Yes. Me: But you are not open for dinner? Maitre d': No. Me: But it's 6:00pm. Maitre d': Yes. Me: And you're telling me you are closed? Maitre d': No. We are open. Me: So I can eat here. Maitre d': Of course. It is a restaurant. Me: But I just asked you if I could eat here. Maitre d': You asked if you

Viña del Mar, Valparaiso, Puerto Montt, and Bariloche...A Round-Up For Those of You I Haven´t Lost...

It´s been a hectic week with a lot of bus travel. I have no brilliant cultural observations to offer you at this point. Well, not that I ever did in the first place, but... here goes. Viña del Mar, Chile A beach town on the Pacific Coast, kind like what you would get if you combined San Francisco with some little town on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Summer is the high season, and it is autumn here, so the place was definitely a bit subdued. Still a very vibrant and attractive place in winter, with a lot of students and a lot of young people running around. It has an easily navigable bus system and a cool downtown area with plenty of markets and bars. Valparaiso, Chile A bit more of the blue-collar answer to Viña, and about three minutes away by bus. In fact the cities could almost be considered one, but the locals might have something to say about that. The city used to be one of the world´s busiest ports before the Panama Canal was built, and is still a thriving port city. The city

Chilean Horse-Racing: The jockeys are bigger, the horses are smaller, and my run of bad luck continues...

It was a chilly night here in Viña del Mar, with the fog from the Pacific ocean rolling in shortly after sundown. I stood behind the grandstand at the Valparaiso Sporting Club holding my progam, warming myself by one of the little wood fires they make to keep the spectators warm. A few meters away the grooms were walking their horses at the open-air paddock, getting ready for the 13th race. The 12th race, and all of the even-numbered races, were being run at Antofagosta, another racetrack north of Viña, that night. After an eternity of waiting, staring blankly at my program, and trying to ride the line between gathering information from the locals and drawing too much attention to myself, I heard the call to the races. A few minutes later, I went to the side rail to watch the race up close. It was so foggy, I couldn´t even see the horse leave the gate. But soon I heard the thundering of hooves, and then like ghosts a dozen or so horses plunged out of the mist and charged past me to th

Santiago de Chile...a thriving, modern city, in the Land at the End of the Earth

In my posting about Mendoza, I marvelled about seeing the Andes in the distance while approaching the city, but I later realized I had only seen the foothills and what is known as pre-cordillera ( cordillera being the word for mountain range). On Thursday, crossing the famous Paso de los Libertadores in a double decker bus, I saw the real mountains, the alta montañas . I can´t describe them for you, unfortunately. You just have to see them for yourselves, but now I can completely understand the famous quote by Sir Edmund Hillary about why he needed to climb mount Everest..."Because it´s there." There is something about these mountains. I´m now in Santiago de Chile, which is at the base of the western side of the Andes. The entire city sits within full view of the glorious mountains. It is amazing to come out of a shop or a restaurant and look up and see those snow-capped peaks towering off in the distance. It still makes me exclaim a new four-letter word every time it happe

The Dogs of Mendoza

When I first arrived in Mendoza I took a walk to find the Parque Central, on the outskirts of the downtown area. I quickly got lost in one of those dead zones that are common to cities everywhere. Walking down a dusty road, beneath and overpass, flanked on either side by large, vacant lots, I came upon a dog. He was tan and black, with the stripes of a tiger, and his eyes were yellow. When I looked into them, he stared me down as I passed, and I was mesmerized. It was as though he saw into my soul, and I saw into his; I saw wildness, defiance, and hunger. I don´t what he saw in me, but he was still staring at me as I turned away. I turned back, but thankfully, he had moved on. The dogs of Mendoza are lean and hungry, and they own the streets. They roam freely, with no collars and no rules, and a city full of scraps off of which to feed. They are always on the move; trotting behind someone for a few paces to see if they have food, or picking through an opened garbage bag, or even just

Mendoza: Argentina´s Second City....Or, Buenos Aires Lite

This week I'm in Mendoza, which is about a 14 hour bus ride west of Buenos Aires, or 1050 km. It's a great small city, population 100,000, and probably the second most visited place in Argentina after Buenos Aires. It's mostly known for being in the middle of wine country, but it's a great city in it's own right; clean, flat, manageable, and with a thriving night life. The 14 hour busride sounds torturous, yes, but it's not as bad as it seems. The busses here, at least the company I took, give you a couple sandwiches and cookies when you board in BA. Not to mention a coffee machine that dispenses good coffee, and water, throughout the trip, for free. And they have these things that fold under your legs so you can stretch out. Not at all like the Greyhound-death I've experienced on many a trip from New York City to Pittsburgh. No, here they do it right. I was actually able to fall asleep for about six hours of the journey. The trip took me across the belly

What It’s Like to be a Foreigner in Buenos Aires...Notes From a Confused Gringo

What It’s Like to be a Foreigner in Buenos Aires...Notes From a Confused Gringo Today in front of the Congreso Nacional I saw a father, mother, and their two-year-old kid on a motorcycle together. The father was driving, the mother was on the back, and the niño was in the middle, holding on to his father’s torso. None of them were wearing helmets, in fact there was a helmet tied to the front handlebars. The strange thing is, after just one week in Buenos Aires, this scene barely even surprised me... In Buenos Aires parents seem to take their children everywhere. The other day I saw a man walking down Avenida Santa Fe, one of the busiest streets in BA (think Madison Ave.), holding the hand of a baby who was barely able to walk. She was just sort of stumbling along in her diaper, as babies do, to calls of “vamos, vamos” from her father. Just a regular little porteña trying to make her way to the next café or restaurant or party, or whatever. At the San Lorenzo soccer game last week, in

Pictures From Buenos Aires

Here are some photos from around the city, hope you enjoy them... Apologies for the strange layout... I haven't mastered Google's photo layout tool, and my internet connection only works for about 2 minutes at a time, so I had to get the photos up. The one over there with the rotunda is the Congreso Nacional, the Argentine Congress building. It is about fifty yards from my apartment. The Washington Monument-looking thing is the Obelisco, it's in the middle of the city's main avenue, and is perhaps the single most identifiable landmark of BsAs.