As Cintra ably noted several weeks ago, the knee-jerk daylight savings hour change pushed through by the Fernández de Kirchner government in an attempt to save energy was irritating enough for people in the western province of San Luis that they quickly recinded the measure. Eating at 11 p.m. was bad enough, but finding out it didn't save energy was worse. Of course, San Luis is governed by Kirchner enemy Alberto Rodríguez Saá, so turning back the clock might have just been a way to stick a finger in the eye of K (further info from Bariloche said the energy both did not and did save energy). A story in today's Wall Street Journal about the use of daylight savings time in Indiana give a bit more of a disinterested third-party take on the thing, and it comes to the conclusion that daylight savings doesn't save any energy: rather, in these air conditioning happy times, it wastes it. So much for that idea, then. Maybe we'll have to invest in finding more energy. Or raise prices to cut consumption. Or maybe we should just pray.
When the New York Times published a page one story about the scourge of paco--smokeable garbage cocaine--sweeping through Buenos Aires's poor neighborhoods, the Argentine press went through its usual What-The-Foreigners-Said Como Nos Ven gymnastics, with both Perfil and La Nación weighing in with stories on the fact that, well, the New York Times wrote a story about Buenos Aires (I won't, of course, be so cynical as to note that Perfil and La Nación are thought of as oppostion newspapers--i.e. ones that publish information that makes the government looks bad--while pro-K papers like Clarín and Página/12 did not note the NYT article, at least as far as I could see.).
My reaction was one that I often have reading Argentine trend stories in U.S. newspapers. 1) I've heard this before and 2) There are a few small, irritating errors. I tossed out the first of these because, as a journalist who lives here, I follow the local press so of course by the time it makes the foreign papers it sounds like old news; the second I tossed aside because when a foreign correspondent flies in (if I'm not mistaken, the NYT writer lives in Rio) there's bound to be tiny faults (the article says, for example, that "...the deep financial crisis of late 2001 turned places like Ciudad Oculta into what are known here as villas miserias," whereas villas miserias existed as far back as the 1930s; the 2001 crisis just made them worse). Small things; no blood, no foul.
But then I read Slate writer Jack Shafer's Wednesday Press Box column, and I realized that I really had heard this before. Shafer, who was looking into the NYT piece as a nominee for his "Stupidest Drug Story of the Week" series, wrote the following:
The hell wrought on Argentina by the illicit drug "paco" has already become a journalistic staple. The Christian Science Monitor visited the topic on April 5, 2006; the Miami Herald on Aug. 12, 2006; the Los Angeles Times on May 25, 2007; and BBC News on Aug. 29, 2007.Not intentional, I'm sure, more of a cut-and-paste than an ethical failing. But, er, whoops!
The New York Times' contribution arrived on Feb. 23 and was published on Page One of the paper. But not only does the Times piece fail to advance the paco story, it plagiarizes two lines from the Herald.
In Argentina, one is required to mull over a handle of weighty questions:
Why is the steak so damn good? This is well chewed by the blog post Argentina On Two Steaks A Day (which brilliantly begins, "The classic beginner's mistake in Argentina is to neglect the first steak of the day...").
Why are the women so beautiful? Guardian writer John Carlin cogitates on this tenet in High-flying, adored and siliconised. (This too leads with a great line: "To be the best at something you have to be obsessed.")
Why does there have to be a financial crisis every friggin' decade? This is too long to be answered by any single article. Metaphoricaly, one must find a large celeste bowl and in it mix one kilo of short term thinking, a cup of bad foreign advice, two tabelspoons of chamuyo, a pinch of baldfaced lies, a dusting of inability to face reality, and a sprig completely unintelligible monetary policy. It's both obvious and inexplicable at the same time. And sort of funny in the same sad, self-inflicted way that a slow-motion car crash in a parking lot between two stubborn men fighting over the same parking space is. Take this Financial Times quote from Eduardo Fracchia, the director of the economics department at Argentine business school IAE, about the ongoing scandal about inflaction number fakery at the national statistics bureau: "Indec’s performance is just a joke. It started as a little lie and it’s snowballed." Notice the assumtion that, of course, no one will do anything about it. It can't be controlled. As they say, Se me complicó.
But as much as I'd like to, I'm not here today to gnaw on these issues. Rather, I'm interested in another question of vast national import to Argentina: Why are Argentines such good athletes? Specifically, this is something that has fascinated me since I noted that, except for France (15), Argentina has the most professional tennis players ranked in the top 100 (it is tied with Spain at 12). It's something I even began pitching as a story myself--How does a not-quite-First-World country have ones of the best groups of players in a sport commonly though of as for the rich? And why do so many of the best ones flame out (see: Gaudio, Gastón; Coria, Guillermo; Puerta, Mariano; etc.)? Well, today The Independent (UK) went wide angle on this idea in Champions of the world: Argentina's sporting miracle. Writer Paul Newman's theories? A "meat and potatoes" diet; a good climate; fútbol-taught dependence on feet--and rhythm--over hands; the underdog's resentment; the proliferation of sporting clubs; and a lack of funds. "In other countries you might think that being given an air ticket to travel to a tournament is normal, but in Argentina you treat it like a trophy," says Martin Jaite, the tennis coach of David Nalbandian (above). "And when you travel to that tournament you make sure you play your absolute best. You know you might not get another chance."
When tango dancer extraordinaire, greco-norteamericana and GoodAirs friend Marina Palmer (left) published her saucy Buenos Aires memoir Kiss and Tango we were pleased; when she and Daniel Dickens of HelpArgentina fame get married, we were very happy; and when she found out that Sandra Bullock was going to turn her book into a movie were were downright thrilled. More about the last bit--the movie--in today's La Nación.