Friday, June 30, 2006

Vamos Argentina... Todavia!

Words simply can not express what it feels like after today's tough loss against Ze Germans.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

R.I.P. – Bar Britanico – R.I.P.

Sadly we must say chau to the infamous Bar Britanico on the corner of Parque Lezama in San Telmo. Our beloved and gracious bar at the corner of Defensa and Brasil that used to never close, has finally closed its doors – forever.

As I met up with the young British mathematical physicists Edd Denbee today for a match of ‘Paddle’(1) – which ended in a technical draw due to time constraints; 6-2, 4-3 (Denbee) – we realized that we had scheduled our match at the exact time that Spain was to play France in the World Cup (2). We rescheduled for later and headed to San Remo Pizzeria to watch the game. That’s when Edd told me that Bar Britanico actually had shut down. He said he actually came out of the Piso Loco and saw the crowd gathered for the actual closing. In his own words:

“After more than 40 years the shutters finally fell on Bar Britanico. Los ojos de Bar Britanico se cerraron. The moment passed as Britanico had always lived, quietly, peaceful, without making a fuss. As the dirty shutters rolled down, filthy from lack of use over the last 40 years, there was no shouting, no fighting, just silent reflection on all the events that had happened inside those doors.

The TV cameras filmed, half a dozen policeman stood silently, arms folded, a handful of people with cameras tried to capture the historic moment. Inside a lone waiter swept the empty bar for the final time. The end of an era some might say.”

Ironically as we rounded the corner there was Tony (3), ‘Sub-Editor of the Buenos Aires Herald’ and the Bar’s worst but most steadfast gringo patron, sitting alone on a small stool in the tiny annd cold corner Pancheria (hotdog joint) just a few blocks down from Britanico, also on another corner of Parque Lezama... looking forlorn and lost. “His life must be upside-down,” says Denbee, or something to that effect - a sad day indeed.

1 – A strange purely Argentine invention which uses a tennis ball, a tennis net and something just smaller than an actual tennis court but is played with these giant poly-carbonate paddles with holes in them, similar to racquetball paddles but much larger. It’s also similar to squash (I think), which I’ve never actually played.

2 – Which as most of you will know by now ended 3-1, with France scoring TWO goals in the last ten minutes… damn FROGS!

3 – Tony, as I’ve written before is the guy that looks like the lead singer of ‘Simply Red’ and has been called among other things, ‘the laughing stock of the Buenos Aires Herald,’ mostly because he either comes into work drunk or falls asleep at his desk because he is hung over.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Afghanistan, Rambo III & The War(rior) Within

A slight digression, but this is what happens when you can’t sleep late at night and you flip on the tube in Argentina; bad movies on bad television – badly exported American culture/propaganda.

Released on May 25, 1988(1) towards the end of the Cold War between Russia and the USA, RAMBO III finds ex-Green Beret commando John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) (2) stick fighting in a pit, much like Ultimate Cage fighting of today, somewhere in Asia and winning, giving all his profits from illegal gambling to the Buddhist monks that he lives and works with. Then one day Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), his ex-commanding officer from Vietnam tracks him down at the monastery where he is working peacefully with his bare hands, chiseling away at a tall tower with a wooden mallet. Colonel Trautman tells him about a secret mission to assist rebel ‘Freedom Fighting’ forces in Afghanistan to bring down the weakening Soviet Army.

"My war is over Colonel,” says Rambo in that monotone voice that preceded Keanu Reeves. “John, when are you going to stop fighting yourself? You’re a warrior and always will be. We [the U.S. Army] didn’t make you this way, we just chipped away at the rough edges,” replies Colonel Trautman. Rambo declines and the Colonel leaves.

Time passes and the Ambassador to Afghanistan returns to the monastery alone to inform Rambo that his ex-Colonel has been captured by the Russians and is being tortured against his will. In one scene the Russian commander says to the Colonel, “If you’d studied your history you’d realize that those people [Afghans] would rather DIE than be over run by invading forces.” Sound familiar?

If you look at the history of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan starting in 1979 you’d see the U.S. playing Cold War in Afghanistan. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to then President Jimmy Carter, had this to say in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur: "That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap..." [...]"The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire."

John Rambo travels secretly to Afghanistan, befriends the Mujahideen rebels who caution him against any attempt to rescue his former Colonel, and learns about Jihad. Declaring that he doesn’t care if he dies trying to save his ex-Colonel, one of the wizened guerilla warriors responds, “Us Mujahideen warriors, holy warriors, consider ourselves already dead, so we fight till the death so our children won’t have to.”
It has been widely reported that indeed the CIA was secretly funding the Mujahideen Freedom Fighters with FIM Stinger ‘man-portable surface-to-air' missiles, which is the premise of this film and also the beginnings of Al-Qaida, a point on which I must further digress.

Robin Cook, former British Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons sums it up best: “Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of Mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organization would turn its attention to the west.”

Unfortunatley, the US Government doesn't see it this way. For their official explantion, visit the U.S. Government's Department of State's 'Identifying Missinformation' page. And as for the CIA, they issued this official statement in response to the hypothetical question "Has the CIA ever provided funding, training, or other support to Usama Bin Laden?": "No. Numerous comments in the media recently have reiterated a widely circulated but incorrect notion that the CIA once had a relationship with Usama Bin Laden. For the record, you should know that the CIA never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with Bin Laden (emphasis in original)."

The landscape in the film really does looks like Afghanistan, at least from what I’ve seen in TIME Magazine and on CNN. There's the desert, the mountains with cavernous tunnels, skinny men with beards and clothes wrapped around their heads like turbans... even the music for the film conveys the landscape, almost sounding like the great American composer Aaron Copeland’s vivid compositions, portraits themselves of the vast Western American landscape.

Amidst huge explosions and special effects, (3) Rambo almost single-handedly rescues the Colonel, kills off most of the Russians soldiers (4) guarding the fortress, and escapes, which brings more Russian troops after him as he and the Colonel try and reach the border with Pakistan (sound familiar again)? Facing what look like Apache attack helicopters, a few Russian tanks, and about a hundred Russian soldiers, here come the Mujahedeen on horseback to save the day and Rambo’s ass.

As the film fades to black and before the credits begin to roll, Bill Hedley starts his soulful rendition of ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’. Big bold block white letters appear, simply saying “This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan". And then if you actually read the credits, which I don’t think most people do, you learn more interesting facts about the film. Not only was it shot on location in ISRAEL (and Arizona) but the weapons AND helicopters were provided by ISRAEL!

Even more ironic is the special thanks to then U.S. Republican Senator Pete Wilson who would become Governor of California just two years later. WHAT?! And now we’ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger, another Rambo-type in office. Talk about cover-ups and Illuminati conspiracy theories and gross misuse of American tax-payer dollars! (Perhaps a bit of a stretch but for recent news on deteriorating US - Afghani relationships check out the latest blunder as reported in the International Herald Tribune).

1 – Ironically (again) ten days before the first withdrawals of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

2 – Sly actually co-wrote the film and was nominated for a Razzie award for worst screenplay. He actually WON the Razzie award for worst actor for this film.

3 – According to IMDB, at the time of release this was the most expensive film ever made with a budget weighing in at $63 million. To date the film has grossed $189,015,611 in revenues.

4 – The film was also noted by the Guinness Book of World Records (1990) as the most violent film to date. It was noted with 221 acts of violence and over 108 deaths (IMDB).

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Italy vs. the USA

It's a 1-1 tie with 60:00 minutes on the clock and it seems like the US has been dominating the game so far, at least the first half. It also seems like the referees are a bit card-happy dishing out the red cards a bit unecessarily, prematurely. But at least the US is making a stand, 'playing with heart' as Papa put it.

Now Italy is coming on stronger here in the second half. Both teams need to win this one, not tie, especially the US. It's hard not to catch World Cup fever living here in Argentina. I was woken up yesterday to the honking of horns and shouting on the streets after Argentina, super-well poised to move forward beat, actually slaughtered Serbia-Montenegro, 6-0. But here, the word on the street is the fear of Brazil. No one talks about it but everyone in Argentina fears Brazil, probably the whole world.

The US just scored but there was another penalty and it didn't count. Too many penalties. It's funny how they keep showing blonde American chicks with big tits jumping up and down waving US flags. That's what the rest of the world expects, thinks of Americans, especially American girls. And then the fat US fans, shaking their bellies, also jumping up and down.

Here comes another 'tiro libre' or free kick for the US... missed. Actually the US goal keeper is the hero so far with several excellent saves. 74:00 on the clock and its still 1-1 and here comes another tiro libre for the US. The US has had SO many opportunities to shoot on goal and just can't convert... that's the difference. If Italy had half the chances they probably would have scored twice as many goals by now. At least that's what I think the commentator said in Spanish.

Italy is striking hard with one minute to go. Here they go again... nada. I guess a tie is better than a loss for US!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Maybe the Revolution WON'T Be Televised

Maybe... it won't even happen at all. I must bring to your attention this interesting and somewhat provocative article by Tony Long who writes for Wired Magazine based out of San Francisco.

Is it really that we are all just too 'busy;' paying rent, buying lofts, getting drunk, or just watching TV to really care, or act or to revolt? Sure we talk and laugh and get MAD about it all, sometimes. But when it really comes down to IT, nothing happens, no one learns and nothing changes. But as we all (or not) learned way back in college, 'the only thing that is constant IS change' (and I can't even remember or find who said it... starts with a 'P'). Something will change...

Here's a quote I did find which is semi-relevant. "It is necessary to understand that war is common, strife is customary, and all things happen because of strife and necessity." Heraclitus 500 B.C.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Anonymous Lawyer

OK - here's a slight deviation but just had to throw it out there. This is a letter I just wrote to the Anonymous Lawyer, who's blog is now handily linked over there to the right, towards the top with the other links. He also relaunched their corporate website (including information on their Baghdad office) and has a new book coming out as well (1). All good shit.

Dear Anonymous Lawyer,

After catching pieces of your blog here and there I had to finally
link to it, a privilege that I usually save for close and personal
friends. Perhaps it was watching 'Legally Blond' last night for the
first time, dubbed in Spanish at 4:30am inspired me. Or maybe its my
new 'freelance' virtual sales job with Nolo Press out of Berkeley, selling
sponsored ads for their new nationwide attorney directory for the Fletch Monster, not really

But I do always at least smile if not laugh when reading the few posts
that I actually take time to read and I know nothing of the legal
profession other than through friends of mine in their late thirties or forties that
work as Paralegals or in the Legal Department, making lots of money and hating every minute of

Keep it up,
Goyo (2)

1 - Here's what Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard, and the author of thousands upon thousands of terrific books, including his latest, Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways, says [about the Anon's new book]:

"I know who the Anonymous Lawyer is! He's my former students, their bosses, and their colleagues at the big firms. This hysterically funny novel made me laugh and cry -- laugh at my profession, and cry for the talented students who sell their souls to these soulless law firms. This is Grey's Anatomy for lawyers, with a touch of Seinfeld. You don't have to be a lawyer to laugh out loud at Anonymous Lawyer. Everybody will be talking about this book and seeing a little bit of themselves in its exaggerated truths."

2 - And low and behold, the Anonymous Lawyer who now writes under the pen name Jeremy Blachman responded within about two hours, hard at work I imagine, late at night.

"Thanks. Your e-mail means a lot. I really appreciate it.

Being a paralegal seems really unbearable. I don't know how your friends do it. Although at least they get paid overtime.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Bar Britanico Y La Copa Mundial

Still hanging on for dear life, our beloved Britanico marches on. The deal is this: they are facing a rent hike of close to $6000AR/mo, which, for its prime ‘tourist-tested’ corner location on Parque Lezama in San Telmo could somehow probably be justified. But for the cheap drinks and the twenty four hour service that Manolo and crew dish up daily, its just too much.

But it still feels like old times, even at 4:30am over a Stella Artois on a Thursday night (Friday morning). A group of Espanoles order round after round of F& C’s (Fernet & Cokes), three large women come in with some very dark blacks, probably from Brazil or Northern Africa. The cat, simply named ‘Cat’ stretches our across the middle of the floor in front of us as we order another Stella.

Then, as if exactly on cue, in walks Tony, the drunken Welsh regular who is also the laughing stock of the Buenos Aires Herald. I first began to blog about Tony back in November when I first arrived, referring to him as simply, ‘Simply Red’. There’s enough of resemblance to warrant the reference. Now he’s just annoying and obnoxious, even when being critiqued from afar in secret.

Tonight he meets up with a lovely-enough younger woman and much to our chagrin begins the biggest mockery of a travesty of a sham that ever existed, as we are forced to shield our eyes and hang our heads as he starts making out with this young thing; brandy glass and cigarette in one hand together, dangling in the air. Luck be a lady tonight as I have to acquiesce, everyone deserves a little loving now and then, even I guess Tony.

Today is Argentina’s first appearance in the World Cup and they are leading over the Ivory Coast 2-0 with 72:00 on the clock. The streets are empty as almost everyone is watching. They cut away to Maradona sitting in the stands with who I think is his daughter. The Ivory Coast finally scores with 82 minutes on the clock and its 2-1. Argentina wins and the party begins.

Note: There is a great, and I mean GREAT exhibition of photos on right now all shot inside the Bar Britanico at a gallery on San Juan 427 (@ Defensa) that is entirely worth checking out. I’ll post more details (like the photographers name) and a few of his photos later.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ten Dollar Holla

Bad TV (and bad movies on TV) is soo much better when you're in some lawless border town that borders on not just one country but two (that's three countries sharing the same border, thus the triple border region that is Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina). "Hey, I'm not a lesbian, I'm bi-sexual," says the hot blonde and only female member of Average Joe's Dodgeball Team as she finishes making out with some other hot red-head and grabs Vince Vaughn by the shirt and mad kisses him too. They defeat all the odds (50-1 underdogs) and take out Ben Stiller's team and win in the finals in Vegas.

Now I'm watching the Simpons dubbed in Spanish and the phone rings. I imagine its Ethan or eNano as he is known down here which translates to a cross between dwarf and midget, calling from NYC baked off his ass and wanting to talk some more about his pending return to Buenos Aires. He'll be second in command of the USS 'Dos Polares' or 'Two Poles' Antarctic exploration team based here in BA, which we successfully resurrected from the ship grave yard and kept afloat a few months back. Plus no one else knows where we are staying in caudate del Este, at least not which room.

"Hola," I answer.

"Si, yo soy Aldolfo," says the mysterious voice on the other end. "Sam just left en collectivo [bus]," the voice continues but only now in pretty good English.

"He sold his car?" I ask.

"Yeah, we make a good business," says Alfredo.

I had received a note from the front desk upon my return from the car lot saying Sam was with some guy and they had driven 112km. outside of the city to some Ranch (which turned out to be a German Mennonite colony) to sell his car. It sounded a little sketchy but what was I gonna do - there was nothing too do at this point except to continue to watch the Simpons.

"How much did he sell it for?" I ask.

"$1,200USD," says Adolfo.

"And when is he going to be back into town?" I ask again, trying to get all the info I can up front just in case something goes wrong, or already did thinking that now this NOS is riding on a bus in the middle of nowhere with all those greenbacks on him.

"Maybe about an hour, hour and a half," says Aldolfo again in decent English.

"Thanks for the call," I say and hang up, taking a sip off of the Old Smuggler whisky that I smuggled into Paraguay and add a little Coke to it and smile. We can't get Makers down here even if we could afford it. At least the car is gone and off his hands, mind and heart and we can do Ciudad del Este up right on a Friday night despite the repeated warnings.

Outside dusk was approaching and the city swiftly shuts down right at dark leaving its streets deserted and dangerous. I headed out anyways and bought a small Paraguayan flag, changed some money on the street and kept my wits about me despite a few warnings that its not safe to be walking around alone and I didn't even have my camera with me. What a great country!

Friday, June 02, 2006

El Raton Peréz is NOT from Paraguay!

June 2, 2006 - Ciudad del Este
11:45 AM - Barrometric Pressure down to 29.36 inHg

It´s our third or fourth day of hanging just outside of town on a used car lot drinking tereré (cold mate w/o sugar) and talking... about anything and everything. Our guy who owns the used car dealership has invited us to lunch. Sam declines deciding to check out his last two possible buyers and we walk across the street with the owner's daughter and her boyfriend, I think. There´s a bus attendent hanging out of the side of his bus looking for fares with a colorful shirt that just says 'Albert Einstein'.

We eat at the busy comedor about the supermercado and next to the paint store and chat. The Paraguayan version of their history over the past 200 years is very different than say what the Argentines would say, also very different than what the LP South American Guide says, no fault to Morgan Konn I´m sure (also in my previous post I credited Carolyn Hubbard with the Ciudad del Este hotel recommendation when credit due goes to Morgan. We also think Morgan and her writing on Paraguay is some of the strongest in that guide - hats off Morgan!)

It´s always hard to get accurate information about what is really going on and about what has really happened in the past anywhere, especially if you´re a poor thrid world country in Latin America recovering (or still living) under a vicious Dictatorship like Paraguay. Our guy at the car lot is trying to help us but comes clean this afternoon and says he doesn´t have a buyer for the car. We´ve already decided to leave tomorrow morning regardless of what happens today. I´ve been so tempted to jump from here up to the North of Paraguay from some more solo exploration but need to get back to BA and back to real work, work.

The thing is before arriving in Paraguay I had given up on the speculative rumors of the clandestine US Military base up in the Chaco desert as nothing more than lefty conspirist theories and bad journalism by the Argentine press. Just recently the US Department of State´s 'Identifying Misinformation' Branch updated this report (a MUST READ for anyone that cares about how the US decieves the rest of the world)and completely denounced these rumors as purely false, but inside of Paraguay its a completely different story indeed.

"Not only do they have the base in the Chaco, they´ve got one in Concepción as well," the assistant to the Consul at the Paraguayan consulate in Posadas, Argentina tells me. "They are right next to the Paraguayan bases but no one is allowed near them, not even the Paraguayan military." Since arriving inside of Paraguay, EVERYONE I´ve talked to agrees with him and encourage me to head up to that area to see for myself, but not this trip. Our used car salesman who is also organizing a group to overthrow the current and continuing Dictatorship which hides under the political smokescreen of the current Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte and his Red Party told me he´s actually seen the US top seceret 'UNO' planes landing and taking off in the desert.

I´ll come back later, better prepared and with a plan. It´s not like I´m going to just run up to the Chaco, take pictures of the bases and get a couple of interviews wtih some US Marines on why they are here in Paraguay. "They´ll put a bullet in your head," one source tells me. But if they do indeed exist as the Consulate in Posadas confirms, Rumsfield is an even bigger liar than I thought cause he was year just last year and denied it over and over. But what was he doing here? This isn´t Iraq, there are no terrorists and its not about emergency medical aid or democracy or even freedom, that much abused and overused word. It´s about sucking the blood out of our neighbors to the South so we can preserve our way of life and stay on top at the expense of most others. But its really about our 'precious bodily fluids...'

After lunch while waiting for Sam to return with or without the car the car sales man stands up and points across the street towards some shacks. "How can those poor people live and cook on the street like that with all the dust and car pollution while two powerful and rich countries just across the rivers from us swim in US Dollars?" he rethoically askes. "You see that guy pissing on that tree? It hurts my eyes and makes my heart ache because I planted it thirty years ago, but where else can he go? There´s no running water and no toilets but yet they [the politicians] drive around in their fancy Mercedes and look the other way," he finishes while sitting down and wiping his eyes.

Black, blue, yellow and green butterflies duck in and out of the shaded overhang as I wait another thirty minutes for Sam chain smoking the worst cigarettes I´ve ever tasted in my life - they smell and taste like rat poison is the closest way I can describe them. That then reminds me of El Raton Peréz which is the Rat named Perez and is the Argentine equivilent of the tooth fairly, only its a rat not a fairy. Two more guys piss on the same tree and then boss tells me he´s got another small meeting to attend but if I need anything to just call him. He gets into a huge white custom pickup truck with tinted windows darker than black smoke and drives off. I wait the thirty minutes for Sam who doesn´t show and grab a cab back to the hotel. [TBC]