Today marks the 7th year anniversary of the death of my brother, David Rodman Scott. Our parents are in town (that is, in Buenos Aires) to welcome Luca Rodman Mount to the world, so we are far from the gravesite today. But, of course, Roddy is being remembered in many ways.
An interesting Variety article by GoodAirs pal Charles Newberry examines a curious new front in the K government move to increase exports by (micro)managing imports: a plan to require those Hollywood studios that want to show their films in Argentina to export a corresponding number of Argentine films or TV series. Such a plan opens up that great can of worms known as "unintended consequences." Sure, it seems like studios would want access to the Argentine market, but what if they decided it wasn't worth it economically if they had to take a bath on exporting films that didn't sell? Would Argentine suddenly not get films from, say, Sony? Or would the studios follow the time-honored tradition of providing the government with exorbitant (and fake) invoices showing exports that they never really made? A few choice bits from the story below:
Argentina hopes to extend trade tariffs to persuade U.S. majors who bring films into the country for exhibition to export Argentinean content abroad, including films and TV series. ... Liliana Mazure, prexy of the Incaa national film board, suggested each major would have to export four to five Argentine features a year and a number of TV series. A price for films and series would be set for each territory, with payments made upfront and not based on results.
It's hard to tell if this is hard fact or speculation, but it appears that the railroad yard between Godoy Crus and Juan B. Justo and Santa Fe and Paraguay -- where Casa FOA held its 2007 home design show -- is slated to be a shopping mall. The bar/club there now (Godoy) would shut, and the developers would dump $50 million (US) into construction. According to a post in Noticias Inmobiliarias:
En cuanto a la construcción, hay al menos tres ideas. Una de ellas es hacer un shopping tradicional, con locales de las marcas que están en todos los centros comerciales, y agregarle los diseñadores que surgieron del crecimiento de Palermo.
Otra es llamar al centro Alto Gourmet, e instalar allí restoranes de alto nivel como eje de la propuesta. La tercera es hacer un "paseo premium de outlets", para competir con los locales instalados en la avenida Córdoba y la calle Aguirre.
The Economist has a very nice literature roundup of Argentine fiction about the last dictatorship and the desaparecidos, including works by Tomás Eloy Martínez, Carlos Gamerro, Iosi Havilio, and Matías Néspolo. A chilling but arguably true end to the review stuck out:
One of the characters in “An Open Secret” claims bitterly that in Argentina, “the winners make history and the losers write it.” To judge from these novels that scour the past and mourn the future, it seems nobody won.
In an interesting Thanksgiving blog post at the New York Times, Daniel Politi takes on a curious phenomenon: the surprisingly low price of Big Macs in Buenos Aires, at least compared to other McDonalds food, and their relative invisibility (they are barely advertised at all). At one McDonalds, he finds the Big Mac value meal for 21.90 pesos, compared to about double that for the Angus Bacon.
But why? Well, one interpretation is that in the land of statistics fakery, there is no data point too meaningless to tweak. To whit:
There is widespread speculation that the government is trying to influence The Economist’s famous Big Mac Index, a “lighthearted” guide that compares burger prices across the globe to determine whether a currency is under- or over-valued.In other words, the government is supposedly leaning on McDonalds to keep the price of the Big Mac down so that Argentina's international Big Mac Index will look better. And in reaction, McDonalds tries not to advertise the Big Mac, as it doesn't want to lose money (or earn very little). Ah, the law of unintended consequences.
Time for a Big Mac!
On Susana Giménez's talk show last night, actress/model/singer (and plastic surgery victim) Luciana Salazar told the host how she and former Argentina central bank (BCRA) head Martín Redrado re-kindled their romance with a birthday (hers) trip to Paris.
The juicy bits? She and Martín sat in first class, alone, while Presidential sister in law (and minister) Alicia Kirchner only sat in business. Oh, and she and the former bank prez got it on at 30,000 feet. She agreed with Susana that it was, indeed, "glorioso".
I think of Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke knocking boots aloft with the U.S. equivalent--say, Lindsay Lohan?--and I shudder with clammy-palmed horror.
Photo: La Nación
Yesterday, I took a moment to page through "Argenleaks," the new book by pan-publication (La Nación, Pagina/12) journo Santiago O'Donnell, which basically excerpts all the parts of Wikileaks that refer to Argentina. Think of it as an extended political "Como Nos Ven." Anyway, I spent a few minutes on the juicy chapters (Clarín, Antonini Wilson, Boudou pledging his unspeakable love of the U.S., etc.) when I came across one about the slightly unpopular economist, convertibilidad guy and former minister Domingo Cavallo ("...quien quizás sea el hombre más odiado de la Argentina," according to Perfil). Sensing weakness in the Kirchner camp, in 2007 he returned to Argentina from a self-imposed "exile" at Harvard University (tough life). Here, he did the rounds of the newspapers, selling his view of what was to come for Argentina. And he also made a stop at the U.S. Embassy, where he laid out his vision for Argentina's political future. It essentially was as follows: as the economy tanked as social unrest grew, Néstor Kirchner would push his wife to resign, leading VP Julio Cobos and Coalición Cívica head (and crucifix wearing ex-beauty queen) Elisa Carrió to form a government headed by dissident Peronist and race-car driver Carlos Reutemann as a national unity candidate.
Now, I've made wrong predictions myself many times. I admit it. But, damn, I don't think I've even been that off the mark!
In about eight weeks, after much research, interviewing, writing, pain, joy, and wine, my book on the history of Argentina wine, The Vineyard at the End of the World, will be published by the very fine publisher (and I compliment them not only because they published me) W.W. Norton. It's still early days and reviews won't come in for a few more weeks, but I've posted two recently--one from Time Out and one from Kirkus Reviews--at the book's website. Please check in regularly for updates, either here or via my Twitter handle, @IanMount. And if for some odd reason you want to hear me babble on about politics, economics and life in Buenos Aires, listen to the fine podcast audio stylings of Dan and Fernando at BACast.
As you may have noted (if you're still checking), we've been absent from the blogosphere for quite some time. But we're coming back. It may take a while to get into the swing, but we're entrando en calor.
In today's version of "Economic Trend or Meaningless Statistic", La Nación reports that the number of Buenos Aires pizzarías has been climbing and may, within the next two years, surpass the number of parrilla steakhouses. Right now, according to the Observatorio Turístico of the city's Ente de Turismo, there are 650 pizza joints, compared to 780 steakhouses. But what oh what does this mean? Is it a sign of K goverment failure--i.e. of inflation, as porteños flee their traditional beef for cheaper menus, or of shrinking cattle herds caused by poor government policy? Or is it rejection of the Atkins diet? Or just...nothing.
* 650 pizza joints
* 39,000 pizzas served per day
* The average pizza joint sells 60 pizzas per day
* Napoli native Nicola Vaccarezza put together the first local fainá in an horno de barro in La Boca in the late 1800's
* Fugazza con queso was invented by Agustín Banchero