The recent spate of Palermo "resto invasions" we noted recently continued Thursday night at the restaurant Ummo (and, the article notes, started on May 16 at Meridiano 58, at Borges and El Salvador). This naturally leaves us to wonder if Buenos Aires (or at least Palermo) is enduring a kind of crime wave. It's not as obvious as it seems that there is one, as you can string together a few crimes in any zone, publish a few articles about them, and make then seem like a wave. If you listen to statistics from the Policía Federal published by La Nación, robberies were up 3.77% in the first four months of the year (and 11% in April compared to April 2005) and in the southern, poorer, part of the city were up 16.5% from 2004 to 2005. The Minister of the Interior, Anibal Fernández, said that there was not an increase in insecurity in the capital and that it was a media creation, and then said he didn't mean to say that (though he said the above police figures were "false" and "unofficial"). In the end, according to an opinion survey by the Centro de Opinión Pública at the Universidad de Belgrano, 42.1% of residents surveyed had changed their habits becuase of perceived insecurity, including 24.2% who say they walk less on the streets--a sense of insecurity attested to by a recent march in protest of a random shooting in the Belgrano nabe. One note: these stories largely came from La Nación, which is seem as the more right wing (anti-Kirchner administration) of the two major dailes.
After lunch, the weather turned squirrelly and we started hearing the thunks of something on our roof. We scurried up to the roof to see hail -- lots of hail. Then the sound of the thunks of ice balls the size of golf balls was accompanied by the sound of breaking glass -- lots of breaking glass. The photo to the left shows the damage before the storm ended, taken from our front hallway into what used to be a glass-eaved galeria. We're off to our neighborhood glass guy right now to get a place on his wait list....
Wow. There's a second Rock for Roddy concert fast approaching. Mark your calendars. The first--held June 2005, just three months after my brother died at age 30 from complications of type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes--was a huge success. The sold-out concert raised $5,000 to benefit research in his name at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. T-shirts sold at the concert has since been spotted by the Great Wall of China, the Louvre and all over Argentina--from Misiones province down to Patagonia.(Click "read more" below for more info)
Rock for Roddy is a benefit show to celebrate the life of David Rodman Scott and raise money to find a cure for juvenile diabetes. All proceeds will go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The show has been announced and is on sale now! Special balcony access tickets are available to friends and family for $50. Click this link (make sure the VIP box is chosen and use the promo code "princeton") to purchase: http://www.ticketweb.com
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please be forewarned that the music is going to be some serious heavy metal! Bowery Ballroom has a bar downstairs away from the music if needed. If you cannot make the show or want to avoid the ear-lashing, you can still show your support by buying tickets.
Please forward this to as many people as possible so we sell out these special tickets and raise as much $ as possible!
GoodAirs friend Petre sends his smokesignaled wishes for a happy Day of the Friend. "Day of the Friend?" you ask (or at least you do if you don't live down here). If Wikipedia is accurate, it started in Latin American countries, most heavily here in the Cono Sur (Southern Cone) as a way to turn the first moon landing (July 20, 1969) into an international day of friendship. Pretty much everyone emails or calls his friends (it supposedly got so nutty last year that parts of the mobile phone network went down) and tonight goes to dinner with the best of them. This, we're told, can comically lead to friendship breakups when people go to dinner with their best three friends and friend #4 doesn't make the cut. Wonderfully, this day hasn't yet been fully "Hallmarkized"--it feels like people actually just enjoy it. So Feliz Día del Amigo!
The swanky Palermo Viejo/Soho nabe (where yours truly does live) has become a bit of a free-fire zone, if you follow the news reports. In the last three weeks, there have been at least three "restaurant invasions", in which gun wielding folks hit a restaurant at dinner in order to--efficiently, we note--rob both the restaurant and all the eating patrons. First, there was Mex joint Xalapa in late June, then bar Navata in early July, then last Sunday night it was Un Gallo para Esculapio. All occurred between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m.
Not content with the exporting of the English Private Club concept to NYC via the Soho House, the English--well, two English guys--have now brought the concept to Buenos Aires. Time Out Argentina co-editor Matt Chesterton points us to their place, Club 647, an Asian-themed club/restaurant where, and I quote, "the luxury and decadence of 40s Shanghai echo against vast walls of antique French smoked mirrors" (can't you just hear the echo?). The club sells annual memberships for 2000 pesos and has a definite 'Are you cool enough?' vibe: the public can book tables for dinner and stay from 8:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. but only those with "a great attitdue, great style and a sense of fun" will be invited to stay on into the night. As the 647 website says, "The expectation of what happens in 647, will always stay in 647." We agree, we think. And Club 647 is not alone: the restaurant Maat was scheduled to become a private dining club this month (here's a review from B.A. blogger SaltShaker.net). As Matt C. asks, "Will porteños cough up an annual membership fee for this kind of thing? Is there a big enough contingent of media whores in the city to make it work a la New York or London?"
Data from Indec (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Y Censos de La Republic Argentina) shows that some 7.7 million Argentines--20% of the population--spends between zero and 140 pesos ($45) a month, or less than 4.60 pesos (about $1.50) a day; of that group, the average lives on less than 2.75 pesos (about 89 cents) daily. Here are three articles (1, 2, 3) on these not-so-attractive stats.
Today's NYT food trendspots in Buenos Aires, calling out a rise in the use of indigenous Inca empire ingredients like meat from the ñandú (right), a local kind of ostrich that usually appears to be decked out in a nappy shag rug. The idea is that this is surprising because Argentina has historically been so Euro-centric that it would never admit to indigenous roots (as Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes once snarkily said, "The Mexicans descend from the Aztecs; the Peruvians descend from the Incas; the Argentineans descend from the boats."). Putting aside that new world foods and drinks like locro stew and yerba mate tea are muy popular, and that the evidence cited for the trend is that three restaurants are using more Incan ingredients and a native ingredient food supplier has seen his number of customers go from six to 120 in eight years, it is good to see something other than Argentine steak and pasta getting served--and covered in the media.
Still, it's fun to see how Argentines--not a nationality known for adventurous culinary tastes--react to these foods. The lead restaurant in the article, De Olivas i Lustres, gets largely positive reviews in the comments section of the oft-harsh Guía Oleo restaurant guide, but a few posters can't help but freak at the weird foods. "This stuff that everyone thinks is so fabulous seems ridiculous to me; they explain every plate to you as if it were the new invention of Super Chef when it's just half a carrot with some mushrooms stuffed inside," says one. Another huffs: "If you prefer Modern Art Museum style plates to good and abundant food, this place is for you."
At the end of the day, though, gamey ñandu rocks.
According to Cellular-news.com, which reports on a story by Infobae that quotes consultancy Marco Consultora (we're really talking third-hard info here), Buenos Aires had 251 Wi-Fi hotspots at the end of February, more than four times the 62 hotspots registered at end-of 2004. The accuracy of this aside (Because, really, how can you know? Do you count every person who lets his neighbors share his unprotected WiFi connection?), what's interesting is how much this number has grown, and how B.A. compares to other cities. WiFi directory AnchorFree says the top cities for wireless are San Francisco, with 449 free hotspots, Chicago (with 234) and Moscow (with 197). Comparing those numbers to B.A. is like apples to oranges (or, more like apples to kangaroos), but it suggests that B.A. may be further along the tech curve than you might have thought.
As a journalist (at least of sorts), one of the things I find most frustrating about living in Argentina is how largely toothless the press is here when it comes to investigating the government, especially the ruling party of Nestor Kirchner. Granted, the U.S. press fell down on WMD claims before Iraq, but I don't mean this so much as a comparison between the U.S. and Argentine press as I do a statement of bafflement. As a journalist friend also in Buenos Aires recently noted to me, it always amazes that the more popular a regime is with the public (and Kirchner's approval ratings are something like 75-80%), the more paranoid and unwilling it is to accept dissent. As an article in the weekly news mag Noticias recently reported, Kirchner and his senator wife Cristina were displeased with a parody segment done on Marcelo Tinelli's hit show, ShowMatch, that showed actors playing the first couple fighting and portrayed Cristina as a shopaholic; nor were they happy about hidden camera pieces that made Kirchner allies look bad. So, the article reports, the regime apparently threatened Tinelli with taking Radio Del Plata from him and with removing hundreds of thousands of government pesos from his businesses. The hidden camera and parody pieces then did not appear.
If true as reported, it appears to be part of a common practice for the current Argentine government. An editorial titled "Reporting in Latin America" in yesterday's New York Times said:
In Argentina, the administration of President Carlos Menem used to file criminal libel suits against investigative reporters. But after a ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ended that practice, the new president, Néstor Kirchner, simply doubled the government's spending on media advertising, and used it to keep journalists tame. At some newspapers, 75 percent of revenues come from government ads.
Offered the opportunity to attend a press conference with Evo Morales last week, when he was in Buenos Aires to sign an agreement with Argentine Pres. Nestor Kirchner to raise the price Argentina pays Bolivia for gas by 47%, from $3.40 to $5 per million BTUs, I took it. The press conference in Hurlingham was the usual hurry-up-and-wait, 90 minutes of sitting around with crabby, chain-smoking camera men followed by 13 minutes of Q&A made up largely of Morales speaking without saying anything.
But the occasion of the price-raise making for interesting economics: To make sure consumers and businesses don't have to pay more inside Argentina, it appears likely that Argentina will subsidize gas prices in country and raise the export taxes charged on sales to Chile (because, well, the Argentina/Chile relationship is like that). But as this article--and many others--have noted, Argentina is suffering a lack of foreign investment in the energy sector and therefore an increasingly worrisome shortage of gas. This, of course, leads to the next question: can Argentina find a way to increase investment in the energy sector to wean its need for foreign hydrocarbons (making it again totally self-supplied) without crushing local citizens and busineses?
And, more importantly, where does Evo buy his rad coats?