When the lights go out

January 23rd, 2012

Buenos Aires is a bustling, crowded, city that experiences a mass exodus in January, which is why today’s event outside of my local subway station, Angel Gallardo, drew my attention. A dozen people had gathered in the middle of Corrientes, cutting off traffic in all but one lane. The people were banging drums, pots & pans, clapping, basically making noise with whatever means they had available. There were no signs signaling a political affiliation nor any flyers or banners stating their discontent. Dying of curiosity I strolled up to the nearest bystander and asked what was going on. He calmly explained to me that the electricity has been out for six days in one of the adjacent buildings and the group had taken to the streets in protest. Thirty minutes later, instead of an end to the incident, I witnessed the crowd blocking the whole avenue with a good sized street garbage fire. I imagine environmentalists wouldn’t approve of this form of protest, but when the electric company leaves a building without electricity for six days, and romantic, candlelight dinners begin to lose their magic, what else can people do?

Candlelight Dinner?

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Friendship a la Río Cuarto

September 19th, 2011

Río Cuarto is a mid-sized Cordobean city with 156,000 people located 10 hours northwest of Buenos Aires. Before heading there for a Communication conference I asked some Porteños what Cordobenses are known for and everyone unanimously told me that people are quite sociable and the alfores are deliciosos. I must concur that the alfores are tasty and can attest to the socialness stereotype as I personally made two unforgettable friends in 3 short days. However, it is not the communication conference, the breath of fresh air away from Buenos Aires, nor my new friends that stick out in my mind, but the send off that I witnessed as I was taking the Midnight express back to Buenos Aires. I was seated on the top floor of the double decker bus and was truly touched as I watched a good 20 people gathered to send off their French friend who had been studying at Río Cuarto’s beautiful campus. Each Río Cuarteña/o personally hugged, kissed, in some cases shed a tear, and said good bye to to a guy that had become a friend who in a perfect world they would see again, but judging from personal experience, they just might not. I was moved by this event for two reasons. First, it was one of those happy moments that makes one think about how valuable friendship is for us human beings while at the same time it was sad to see friendships splitting apart. Second, these types of moments are exactly what my research is looking to facilitate, I want to find contact conditions that put international students in position to form these kinds of intimate bonds with local people. Bonds that build intercultural understanding and love between cultures. I thank Río Cuarto for giving me hope that it is in fact possible!

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Tires anyone?

June 4th, 2011

This ad sums up three observations that I’ve made about Argentina and its culture.

First, much of their humor is sex based and has a double meaning. At first glance this ad says “FREE SEX” or if you read a little closer “with the purchase of 4 new tires, you get FREE SEX” I’ve seen this sign in passing about 40 times, but today for the first time I read it in detail. It says “With the purchase of 4 tires, whatever your sex
(gender), you get a free official hankook merchandising kit”

Second, the culture is slowly moving away from traditional sex roles. The tire store has realized that in 2011 not only men buy tires. Many here would say that Argentina is a “machista” or sexist country, but that it certainly evolving.

Third, and I have said this before, there are a great deal of creative minds in Buenos Aires. I could be biased because I taught English in an advertising agency, but this seems to be true among the general public as well.

Note: between writing this post and actually posting a friend showed me this ad for selling English classes in Peru, so this could mean that in Argentina, Peru, or both they’re good at copying, or most advertising is recycled humor.


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Not in Our House

May 23rd, 2011

On Sunday May 22nd the BBCs Andrew Marr had an extended interview with Barak Obama where he discussed the assassination of Bin Laden and the future relationship with Pakistan. He gave one answer that clearly shows that US attitude on foreign policy does not change from administration to administration. This attitude is why many people that I talk to in Argentina have a general disgust for the US.  

“I’ve always been clear to the Pakistanis and I’m not the first administration to say this, that our job is to secure the United States, we are very respectful of the sovereignty of Pakistan, but we cannot allow someone who is actively planning to kill our people or our allies people, we can’t allow those kind of active plans to come to fruition, without us taking some action and our hope is and our expectation is that we can achieve that in a way that is fully respectful of Pakistan’s sovereignty. But I had made no secret, I had this said when I was running for the presidency, that if I had a clean shot at Bin Laden, I/we would take it”

If I had heard this before moving to Argentina, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice. It seems reasonable, non-threatening, and diplomatic. But is it? I now realize more than ever that the US is arrogant, they do what they want, when they want, where they want and it’s a big reason why it has so many enemies. There is no reciprocity. If another country’s government performed a similar secret mission on US soil, would that fly?

I suppose it was naïve to think that a new president would change the way the US does business abroad. I often wonder what would happen if it did change and stopped using force to keep control. Would people in the US still enjoy the freedoms and advantages that they have? Would people in the US benefit from new freedoms and new advantages? More importantly, how would this change the lives of people in other countries? The US has a vast influence on the world and its decisions set off chain reactions that ripple across oceans, financial markets, and airways. I have a great deal of respect for Barak Obama, I understand his decisions and rhetoric and realize that there’s probably no better person in the US for the job. I have panic attacks just thinking how life would be like if someone like Sarah Palin were president. The Enlightenment will take an optimistic outlook and give Obama the benefit of the doubt. First term fix the country and in the second term he can fix US relations with the world. Put the guns down and start a chain effect. Why not?

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Freedom of the Press?

March 30th, 2011

In the words of Mason Jennings, “The Empire controls the media, and media controls the world.” These words rang true to me before spending a year in Argentina where the media and the government have, well, a not so friendly relationship. This past Sunday protesters sympathetic to the government blocked the distribution of Clarin (Argentina’s most read daily newspaper) for 12 hours, which undoubtedly created a freedom of the press uproar. Due to the oppressive regimes of the past, the current government has an “all protests must go on policy,” which partly explains why they didn’t step in and stop the blockade. Another reason could be that Clarin is the current governments arch enemy numero uno. Clarin is a media conglomerate with money, power, links to the military dictators of the 70s, and not surprisingly supports a right wing agenda. Not surprisingly, the better business bureau of Buenos Aires strongly rejected the government non-action while city mayor Mauricio Macri, arch enemy número dos, declared that Argentina was living the worst moment of it’s democracy since 1983. When I arrived a year ago there were mass, government organized protests that shut down main city streets during rush hour in an attempt to rally the people against the media conglomerates. This was a strange phenomenon for me, governments protesting and initiating disorder, huh? To be honest, I’m annoyed by the blatant bias in Clarin’s news coverage, although the free newspaper published by the government isn’t any better. Final verdict: The enlightenment remains gray on the issue; not a fan of Clarin, nor a fan of a government attempt to control the media. The world would be a better place if it listened to a bit more Mason and “no da bola” to private interest based media giants like Clarin.

Freedom is not competition
I believe freedom’s got to come from within
Yes it does
Not with the gun
Freedom’s the ability to feel love for everyone

Clarin’s blank reaction to the blockade

Check out the comment below by a friend who is more well read on the subject, thanks G-man!

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Nothings Impossible

February 11th, 2011

I think the best place to have been on February 11th, 2011 is Cairo, Epypt. Bar none. No questions asked, the year 2011 is just beginning but today could turn out to be the best day of the year for any country. As a proponent of peaceful revolution, I can’t help but share this video. Sitting at home in my new apartment it brought me to tears and gives me hope that humanity is not destined to blow itself up. Today, the Egyptian people are a model for the world, and I say thank you!


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Super Ad Sunday with an Argentine Twist

February 5th, 2011

In the wake of the upcoming Super Bowl XLV and the 3 million dollar commercial craze I can’t help but be reminded of some of the most unique and creative marketing campaigns that I was exposed to while teaching English in a multi-national advertising agency in Buenos Aires. I have no doubt that my students and their colleagues in other agencies created Super Bowl quality work. Below are three examples from FIAT, Axe, and Diesel. I’m confident that even before seeing the Top Ten best super Bowl ads from this year, these would be as memorable as any. There was a time in my life where I saw advertising as the devil, a tool used to propel consumerism and get people to buy things that they don’t need (maybe I still think this way). Another way to look at it is that it gives individuals a chance to express their creativity and knowledge of social behavior. That being said, it’s a shame that some of the world’s most creative minds are not being utilized for more productive ends. Furthermore, these ads are a reflection of a collective sense of humor that says something about the nature of a culture and it’s values.




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