Saturday, July 29, 2006

Nenas at Friend's Birthday Party

This was taken in the outskirts of BA at a birthday party for a friend of mine's son. In Spanish, the word for puppy is 'Chachorro'! It's a good word.

Young Woman Walking Past Wall

Man Looking Out Door

Man With Cart Sleeping In Parque Lezama

This is part of my ongoing series entitled 'People sleeping outside'.

Monday, July 24, 2006

'Friends Day' is Fashionable Indeed

Friends day was last Thursday here in Buenos Aires and it was a BIG DEAL! Went to a runway show at Mint and snapped a few pictures, most to blurry to post... but fortunately I did make some new friends!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Butterfly Effect - Chaotic Motion

These are things that I have done, learned, or have noticed over the past week.

- Even though there was a fairly recent film made called 'The Butterfly Effect' starring Ashton Kutcher, I had never heard of The Butterfly Effect until playing poker last night with the young British mathematical physicist Edd Denbee. The actually 'effect' according to Wikipedia is truly fascinating and usually used in physics to explain a technical part of Chaos Theory - sensitive dependence on initial conditions- illustrating how small changes to the beginning of a system can bring about major changes in the weather, for example... how the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil could cause a Tornado in Texas. "However," according to Denbee, "the movie is not fascinating. It is absolutely dreadful!"

- Today after class I bought a Boca Juniors banner to replace the framed and kitschy sea shell hanging 'thing' in our kitchen; both because we LIVE in La Boca and to shout out to a good friend of ours here who is a HUGE Boca Jrs. fan and who also has had a tough few weeks - suerte amigo!

- I finally learned how to make RISOTTO - even assisted in the cooking AND eating of it. Thanks Edd Denbee and Marina Costaguta for the help and inspiration. The secret ingredient - BACON!

- Last night I had a horrible run of bad luck, playing poker on full tilt until 5am but then made a HUGE comeback on the very last hand - heads up pot limit. My Kings and Jacks beat out Denbee's Kings and Two's. The pot was over $400 pesos and saved my ASS!

- I learned that 19.8% of the U.S. Federal Budget for FY05 was allocated to 'Defense Discretionary' spending and that 19.3% was allocated as 'Non-Defense Discretionary', but I have NO IDEA what 'Non-Defense Discretionary' really means? My guess is that we are paying for the Iraq war with some if not most of the later funds. Funny how I didn't see EDUCATION anywhere on the pie chart or the Congressional PAY RAISE that U.S. Senators allocated for themselves a few months back!

- I safely boarded, rode and lept off the #10 collectivo (bus) today on the way home from school without banging my head on the handrails the entire time.

- For the first time in my life I had a sty in my eye which swelled up almost closing it completely. But then thanks to the local pharmacy that acts-as-doctor on the corner, they sold me some ointment and its getting better. But DAMN! Marina told me its from riding the busses and then wiping your eyes. Won't be doing much of that anymore!

- Speaking of busses, I saw a beautiful woman today out the window of the bus that I thought, for an instance, was Sarah Wheeler.

- I (along with Ethan) had a mild to medium case of dysentery (splatter-ass) which I determined was actually not caused by my lentil stew. I ate the last of it from the fridge day before yesterday... todo bien.

- And, today both in Spanish and English I finally began to grasp the concept of the 'SUBJUNCTIVE' form of the verb. In English, it is "a situation or condition that is untrue, not yet true, or highly unlikely." Ex.--use of "were" instead of "was" in this sentence--If I were you, I would submit another application before the deadline date, this to me via email from my dear Mom. The thing is that in Spanish, they actually change the form of the verb in many tenses to reflect the 'subjunctive condition' not to be confused with the 'conditional' condition. Wait... that vaguely reminds me of a song I can't seem to recall off hand.

- Speaking of songs, Marina and I practiced our version of the duet called ELEPHANT LOVE MEDLEY(?!) from Moulin Rouge over the weekend in preparation for our big BA Karaoke debut. 'Love lifts us up where we belong, where eagles fly on a mountain high'. I also 'agreed' to do a duet with the lovely, super smart and flowery Jennie Burke, another young Brit who studies at Oxford (gasp!) from the movie Grease... what am I thinking?! "You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs..." (also from Moulin Rouge)

Note: another funny side bar is that the other 'California' BAD Marina is a HUGE Moulin Rouge fan and agreed to burn down the house with me on my next visit back home with the Elephant Medely Song at Karaoke. That's one song, two Marinas and me, who can't sing worth a damn but is finally ready to face my karaoke fears.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Labratorio Para Idiotas

Speaking better Spanish was one of my three primary goals upon relocating to Argentina. The University of Buenos Aires or UBA, offers a twice yearly one month intensive ‘Spanish for Foreigners’ course, which had been on the clanender for over a month now. I had finally convinced myself (and Ethan) that this intensive course was not only imperative but also critical to both of our future successes here in Latina America. Needless to say we were upset when we both woke up three hours late for the evaluation exam because we were playing poker until five in the morning.

The intensive version of this Spanish course is three hours a day, five days a week for four weeks. It is also very popular with gringos and fills up quickly. Get here early was the only advice I had received when initially investigating the course. We bolt into action and arrive at the Language Laboratory campus disheveled and unshaven, jumping from the cab almost before it stopped. The younger woman at the information booth tells us that we’ve missed the morning round of testing and have to return at 5pm later that same day. We are both handed slips of paper with the numbers ninety and ninety-one on them and leave, dejected and also a bit sick to our stomachs, which may or may not be attributed to my burgeoning cooking skills and my now somewhat infamous lentil stew.

We return well before 5pm and wait around until after 5pm only to realize that the testing has already begun in another room. We each receive our two-sided sheets of paper, which along with an oral evaluation will place us between levels 0-6. At first glance I almost burst out laughing as the exam looks impossible and I realize once again that I can speak much better Spanish than I can read or write. At one point I caught Ethan’s eye and just whispered, “don’t forget to include ‘Paraguay’ in one of your answers!” We both laughed out loud and continued to plug away, writing something, anything on the fairly cryptic exam. When I finally turned in my test, the woman in charge at the front table was trying to slowly communicate to a younger male Japanese student which level that he was going to be in. He politely nodded his head at her and she turned to her collegue and said in Spanish, "he doesn't understand a word I'm saying." She then simply made a zero sign with her hand and said to him once again in Spanish - "ZERO!"

Afterwards we both had a good laugh and Ethan asked me about that one question which was something about ‘How much does your sister cost?’ I only remember the one that was something like ‘If there’s a terrible storm_______________.’ My answer was something like ‘you need to run cause you might get hit by a bolt of lighting’, which I totally misspelled beyond the point of recognition so badly that she actually asked me, ‘and what we’re you meaning by this answer?’ (Ethan put some like '... agua y agua y AGUA!')

As we wait for them to grade our tests I’m thinking she probably won’t even be able to decipher my horrible penmanship, let alone actually score the test. After about an hour of waiting and watching Ethan randomly bump into two different women that he knows from his first visit (more on that strange and slightly surreal experience later – although I can say that he did throw himself on the floor after Stella, his ex-Spanish teacher left the room causing half of the students to turn around and look back, seeing him laying face up on the floor) I get called forward and sit down with one of the all-female instructors to go over my exam and to chat. “All of your answers are fine and there are only a few minor mistakes, but I noticed that you didn’t use the subjunctive at all, either on your test or your verbal answers. Do you know the subjunctive?” she asks? “Umm… I think I’ve heard of it,” I stuttered back trying to fake some kind of answer. “OK – level four, you start on Monday.”

Ethan tested into level two and just like that this painfully hysterical situation is over and now the challenge begins. I’ve taken three college courses since dropping out of college my senior year at San Diego State University and am not that thrilled to be back at it. Spanish was one of my worst classes and I think I failed level three twice back then. And that was almost twenty years ago. At least my class doesn’t begin until 2pm unlike Ethan’s rude awakening for his 9:30am level two course tomorrow morning. [TBC]

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The 4th of July - Dia de Independencia de Los Estados Unidos

Today marks the day that the founding fathers of the United States signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, two hundred and thirty years ago, demanding independence from the King of Great Britain. And what a long way we’ve come, from colonial patriots to hot dogs and hamburgers, parades, BBQ’s, baseball and yes – FIREWORKS - my personal favorite, although in many US cities you aren’t actually able to buy them, just the hot dogs and the charcoal.

In the words of Founding Father John Adams, the holiday would be “the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” (Wikipedia)

Guns?! Hmm… I think some of the only places where you can actually celebrate the Day of Independence with firearms currently in the States are West Oakland, East LA and maybe some parts of Philly and Northeast Washington D.C. Maybe that’s a constitutional right that we can bring back into mainstream America – shooting off firearms instead of fireworks, or why not both?

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – that’s what the founding fathers wanted for future generations. Currently Freedom from terrorism is our government’s main preoccupation. "We’re gonna smoke ‘em out!" said President G.W. Bush a few years ago, speaking at the beginning of the war against terrorism which began in Afghanistan in response to 9/11. Unfortunately the terrorists, who used to be our allies helping us fight the Russians in Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, all fled to Pakistan and lands beyond. Sure we nailed some of them along with a bunch of innocent civilians but by all accounts, we’re still in a ridiculous quagmire Afghanistan.

And now we’ve got Iraq, motherland of all civilization and a sacred holy land to millions of Muslims who don’t eat hotdogs or play baseball. We’ve even helped them implement their own coalition government as well as their very own constitution. Now they can pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as well.

But what actually is liberty? According to the dictionary it’s defined as: “the condition of being free from restriction or control. The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing.” Hmmm? Not sure that’s what we’ve got planned for Iraq.

What we really stand for in today’s post-modernist, consumerism First World is a different kind of freedom. A freedom to choose which type of cleaning detergent we’d prefer, how we’re going to afford a bigger house, and which color of the latest fuel-efficient car we’re going to buy (must include stereo with an iPod jack). We want to maintain our abilty to consume—the status quo in our privileged First-Word form of Life, Liberty and Freedom. We fight to continue to maintain our Number One status at the expense of anyone who gets in our way.

Speaking during the darkest days of World War II, President Roosevelt reminded American citizens: “So is it now…. The tough, grim men who fight for freedom in this dark hour take heart in its message -- the assurance of the right to liberty under God -- for all peoples and races and groups and nations, everywhere in the world.”

Too bad that doesn’t ring true today as we continue to spread armed conflict around the world, primarily with the stated goal of fighting terrorists in order to allow others, among other things, to practice religious freedom. But isn't it really more of a question of, “Our God is mightier than your God,” which is what Christians along with many others have been fighting for since the beginning of religion?

Here in Argentina, July 9th marks the day that Argentina declared its independence from Spain. Largely seen as nothing more than a political dog and pony show, it’s not really a celebration so much as a day of remembering that they are still under some kind of foreign control; whether its control from the World Bank and the IMF, foreign financiers or the Yankis – that come for the water! At least in Argentina they eat hot dogs, which are called panchos.

Note: The photo is a posed shot of two Cartoneros with a model named Arceli in a shoot called 'Tomando Sol' or 'Sunbathing' which is part of an ongoing series that I am shooting on the trash recycling aspects of city life here in Buenos Aires. I'm trying to show a fictional contrast between their lives and work and the rest of the city.