Monthly Archives: April 2007

Impeachment for Cheney?

I just discovered through the website StumbleUpon that Congressman (and potential Presidential candidate) Dennis J. Kucinich submitted articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney to Congress yesterday.

Bizarrely (and somewhat suspiciously) this doesn’t seem to have made the mainstream news — not even the trusty old BBC website has the story. I learnt about it from an article on a website called The Raw Story, Kucinich announces impeachment charges against Vice President Cheney. I was a little skeptical at first, but the link to copies of the articles of impeachment on Kucinich’s website seem to be real.

Kucinich, who was my favourite candidate in the last Presidential election, makes the point that it’s important to impeach Cheney before Bush, because if Bush was impeached first, Cheney would then become President!

Movie night

I’m back home in Brooklyn, and enjoyed a quiet night in last night watching two good “message” movies.

The first was Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage, the story of Yuri Orlov, a Ukrainian-American who grew up in a restaurant in Little Odessa in Brooklyn to become the World’s biggest independent arms dealer, a character who is apparently based loosely on real-life arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Apart from being an interesting and compelling action movie (Cage’s Orlov is a surprisingly likeable and sympathetic character, given his occupation), the film ends with the poignant message that private arms dealers are only operating in small-scale niche markets that the big arms dealers are unwilling or unable to operate in — often with their tacit permission.

The film ends by making the point that the five largest arms dealers in the World by far are the U.S., the U.K., Russia, France and China. It is not by coincidence that these five countries are also the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

My second message movie last night was Fast Food Nation, a fictional story based around the non-fiction book of the same name by Eric Schlosser, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the movie. The concept — turning a non-fiction book into a fictional story covering the same themes — worked surprisingly well.

There are various inter-connected themes in the film; it covers Mexican immigrants making the dangerous crossing into the U.S. who end up working as unskilled and abused employees in large corporate meat packing factories; a meat packing industry forced to cut corners to lower costs by profit-greedy fast food companies, and fast food companies trying to make profits by selling as much product as possible.

Everyone in the movie comes across as relatively normal and human, trying to do their best for themselves, but the end result is horrible: The immigrant workers have low pay, appalling and dangerous working conditions and no rights, and the consumers get to eat meat that is contaminated by fecal matter — i.e shit.

I stopped eating in fast food restaurants years ago, even before I read Fast Food Nation (see blogs passim) — I come from the land formerly of the mad cows, after all — but it was a good reminder of how unbridled capitalism can result in stable systems that put profits first and people and the environment last.

Hasta la vista, Argentina!

Chris & Martina got married AGAIN last night — this time by a priest, in a church called Santa Catalina de Siena. It was great; I´ve been to quite a few weddings in the last few years, but until last night, none of them have been in a church. There were about 200 people in the audience, and the ceremony was in both English and Spanish. I even had a small function: I read one of the three “intenciones,” which are kind of like appeals to God. Mine was an appeal for world peace (we were told what to say in advance).

After the ceremony there was a reception in a large courtyard behind the church, and later there was a dance. Apparently it´s traditional in Argentina for the first dance of the night to be a waltz between the bride and her father only, but then the groom cuts in and takes her for the rest of the dance. The symbolism doesn´t really need any further explanation!

It was a brilliant evening — I had a load of fun, and didn´t get back to the hotel until about 4am. Getting up in time for check-out this morning was a bit of a challenge!

Today I have to retrieve my credit card from El General restaurant, bar and cultural center, where I accidentally left it the other day after eating a steak there. When I arrived, all of the patrons were singing an old fist-thumping military song about General Peron! After the meal, I met Nan & Crispian at a huge nightclub called Museum after which we played pool in a dive bar in San Telmo — that was a fun night too!

It´s hard to believe that my vacation in Argentina is almost over already — I fly back to New York tonight at 8:20pm. My time here has gone so quickly; I´ve had a really great time, and met lots of old and new friends.

Tango in San Telmo

Chris´ stag night was fun last night, although I felt a little fuzzy when I awoke this morning — and the fact that it was pouring with rain outside and there was no water in the hotel due to a burst water main didn´t help start the day too well either. However, watching the incredible Manchester United v Roma Champions League game in bed improved things somewhat.

After brunch with Nan this afternoon I took a private tango lesson in San Telmo. It was fun; I had a good and patient teacher who helped to break all the steps down into relatively simple components. It still requires a lot of concentration, though, and it´s difficult to remember what to do next and keep in time to the music simultaneously.

Wedding No. 1

Chris & Martina´s civil wedding took place yesterday at the Registro Civil here in Buenos Aires, and it was a surprisingly funny and light-hearted event for a legal ceremony — both the registrar and translator were cracking jokes throughout, and there was a lot of laughter in addition to the formal parts of the ceremony.

Afterwards we went to a reception at Martina´s mother´s apartment in Recoleta, which was also very nice — we drank champagne and ate cake.

Afterwards I took a power nap before heading out for dinner in Palermo Viejo with some British and Argentinean wedding guests, followed by a trip to another tango place. The dancing was great to watch, but it was all a bit too serious and intimidating for a complete novice like me to try.

Tonight, in a somewhat belated and unorthodox fashion, we are having a stag night (bachelor party) for Chris.

Velez vs Boca Juniors

The Velez vs Boca Juniors game on Saturday was great — it was a beautiful sunny day, and the Velez home crowd were in great chanting form before the match, singing songs and waving around inflated blue bags that were thrown liberally into the stands.

But even though we were seated with the home team´s fans, the legendary Boca supporters — Jugador (player) No. 12 — drowned out the Velez fans with their drums, trumpets, trombones and voices, and continued to produce a constant wall of sound throughout the entire game.

The home team´s mood fell early on when Boca scored an easy goal less than 3 minutes into the game, and their mood hit rock bottom after a terrible and humiliating error by a defender, who was robbed of the ball by a Boca player.

The star player on the Boca team was No. 10, Riquelme. He didn´t score any goals, but was always good to watch.

Velez did manage to rally a little, and had a few chances, but ultimately Boca´s victory was a foregone conclusion — the final score was 3-1.

Steak, wine, tango and tear gas

It´s Sunday lunchtime here in Buenos Aires, and I´m writing this from the guest Internet terminal at the Art Hotel (a useful facility, although somewhat harder to use than it should be because the letters have been worn off many of the keys on the keyboard!).

Since my last post, I´ve had a leather jacket made to order, taken a tango class at the Cafe Tortoni (apparently the oldest coffee shop in Argentina), danced extremely badly at a tango club, hung out with many of Chris & Martina´s friends in and around Buenos Aires, changed hotels, been for a swim in a private pool, played soccer, eaten a large amount of good beef and drunk a lot of good red wine.

In a few hours we´re going to a football match — Boca Juniors vs. Vélez Sarsfield. I´m very excited about it, because Nan & I had a great time watching River vs. Colon last time we were here. Chris is a little more apprehensive, however, since the last time he went to a Boca Juniors game, he was tear-gassed by the Argentinean police!

Speaking of tear gas, there´s some concern that Chris & Martina´s civil wedding might be disrupted tomorrow by a teachers´ strike, which may escalate into a general strike in response to the police killing a teacher protesting about pay and conditions last week; apparently Police fired tear gas into the crowd of protestors, and he was killed when he was hit in the head by the cannister.

Adventures in Argentina

I´ve only been in Buenos Aires for a little over 24 hours, but already quite a lot has happened.

When I arrived yesterday, tired and dishevelled after an 11 hour flight from New York and a struggle to get any Argentinean currency at the airport (all the ATMs were empty, so I had to get a credit card advance), the Astoria Hotel on Avenida de Mayo, that I´d made a telephone reservation with a week earlier, told me that not only did they not have my reservation, but that they were completely full because of the forthcoming Easter holidays! Fortunately I was able to find a room for at least 2 nights across the street in the Novel Hotel.

Yesterday I met my soon-to-be-married friends Chris & Martina for lunch, then went shopping on my own on Avenida Florida for a leather jacket. I eventually found a place that would make a jacket to my exact specifications — I´m going to pick it up later today. I also bought some new trainers, and watched and videoed some buskers doing tango outside a C&A store.

In the evening Chris, Martina & I had dinner with some Argentinean friends of Martina´s, then went to a bar in the Palermo Viejo neighbourhood (where Nan and I stayed when we were here in 2004).

Nan´s arrival today was quite dramatic; I was having breakfast at a sidewalk cafe next door to our hotel when she arrived, so she joined me with all her luggage and ordered some food. After a while, a short stocky guy approached us and started asking for directions; I said “no hablo espanol” and Nan (who, conveniently, is Head of Spanish at a comprehensive school in Sheffield!) said that she didn´t know where it was. But the guy seemed strangely reluctant to leave, and then another guy appeared and also asked directions — it was a bit odd, and after they left Nan immediately noticed that her handbag had gone. I ran around the corner to see the guy who had asked directions walking away in the distance, but he didn´t have her bag with him.

However, across the street, Nan´s handbag was unattended on the corner of the street — it later transpired that one of the waiters at the cafe had seen the theft, shouted and given chase to the guy who had snatched the bag. The thief dropped the bag in order to make his getaway, but we could see from across the street that it had been opened.

Nan was worried that her passport would have been taken, but when the waiter returned with the bag, we were relieved to discover that nothing whatsoever was missing! Thanks to the quick thinking and response of the waiters, a major inconvenience had been avoided; they told us that the thieves were Peruvians, and were presumably familiar with their methods. Needless to say, we were very grateful to the waiters, and I left them a very big tip!