Wednesday, December 3, 2008
There was a meeting of beautiful minds here in Buenos Aires yesterday.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (center) arranged a brief encounter between the world’s most famous hostage and the world’s most famous hussy.
Ingrid Betancourt – released by Colombia’s rebel FARC group in July after six years in captivity – and Madonna – released in November by Guy Ritchie after eight years of marriage – exchanged greetings at the Casa Rosada (Pink House), the Argentine presidential palace where Cristina conducts business, and where Madonna sang her famous rendition of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in the 1996 film “Evita.”
Betancourt was in town to thank Cristina for her efforts in trying to secure her release from the jungles of Colombia. Madonna is here to perform four sold-out concerts, beginning tonight. No official word on what Cristina and Madge discussed, but haute couture and botox may have been on the agenda.
According to the AP, Madonna arrived early for her planned meeting with Cristina. My guess is that this was no mistake; the calculating Material Girl knew a photo-op with roundly-admired Betancourt would likely garner more headlines than one just with Argentina’s fashion-conscious firebrand leader.
Madonna kicks off the South American leg of her “Sticky & Sweet” tour tonight at the 65,000 capacity River Plate Stadium. The shows will reportedly be filmed for a live DVD release next year; U2 (“U2 3D”) and The Police (“Certifiable: Live in Buenos Aires”) also filmed their River shows for live films. (I was in the crowd for both concerts; awesome).
After BsAs, Madonna moves on to Santiago, Chile for two concerts and then Brazil, where she’ll play a total of five shows in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The four sold-out Buenos Aires dates are more than any other city on her world tour. That’s quite impressive, really, considering Argentina’s weak currency and low wages. As I’ve written before, people in Argentina truly appreciate a good show, and are willing to pay for it, both financially and emotionally, as long as they are rewarded once the music starts.
I’ll be there tonight; I'm anxious to see if Madonna can deliver the goods.
Photo courtesy AP/Argentine Presidency
Friday, November 28, 2008
That seems to be the prevailing sentiment of a automobile dealer in La Plata, Argentina, who has been robbed ten times (10 times!) in past months.
The most recent stick-up of his Renault dealership took place last week and involved a hooded thug, a Magnum revolver, and the loss of $900 USD, according to La Nacion.
So Ricardo Salome decided to do something about it: drink.
He took out an ad in the local newspaper and invited anyone and everyone in La Plata to a cocktail party to mark the unfortunate occasion.
Yesterday, with the red wine and orange Fanta flowing, Salome, along with employees and neighbors, made a tongue-in-cheek toast with hopes of calling attention to law enforcement's woefully inefficient efforts at stopping the rising rate of violent crime in the greater Buenos Aires region.
“We are very worried about this sad record that we reached. And for the lack of coherent answers from the national and provincial governments to stop this scourge of insecurity,” Salome said.
Sometimes a little humor is what it takes to change a situation. Let's hope that is the case here.
Photo courtesy of El Dia newspaper.
Monday, November 24, 2008
And Al Pacino, who's reportedly been dating actress Lucila Sola for the past two years.
As a man who has also been "conquered" (seriously, that's the word they use here) by an Argentine women, I can only concur with an expression heard commonly in Buenos Aires (and apparently in Los Angeles too):
Polo players are rugged. They get after it on the field: elbows, mallets and insults fly like the wind.
David Nalbandian did his job on Friday, winning the first singles match, but then Del Potro choked in the second match, leaving the series tied 1-1 going into Saturday's doubles match.
Nalbandian and Agustin Calleri (who I've met; he's a tool) dropped the ball in a marathon doubles, and in my opinion, that sealed Argentina's fate. That left Jose Acasuso with the unenviable task of a must-win match on Sunday. I like Acasuso, I think he's a good technical player, but he doesn't seem to be mentally capable of finishing in big matches. He looks scared out there. (He also lost the deciding match in Argentina's 2006 Davis Cup final defeat to Russia. Ouch.)
Since Guillermo Vilas stopped playing in the 1980s, the top Argentine players have consistently failed at bringing home any of the major Grand Slam tournament trophies (with the exception of Gaston Gaudio at Roland-Garros in 2004, but he's since had a mental breakdown, and is not even ranked in the ATP Top 1000 right now) and as a result the people here have invested an emormous amount of energy supporting the increasingly competitive national squad. And they've rewarded them with some great performances in recent years.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I don't know how I feel about this.
Of course, I'm thrilled that one of my favorite musicians will have his lifestory told on film, I'm just weary that it will be done in the right way.
According to THR, the yet-untitled film will focus on Jerry's early-life, before he became a household name. While I like this idea, and think it is chock-full of potentially intriguing film scenes (Jerry watched his father drown, had his finger chopped off by his older brother, and nearly died in a car crash - all before his 20th birthday) but I'm also hoping that someone, at some point, decides to tackle the colorful, chaotic and inspiring story of the Grateful Dead, the band I most admire for myriad reasons, and who I saw live in concert more than 25 times.
The movie will be produced by the guys responsible for "Election" and "Little Miss Sunshine" -- two very good films, so I am confident that they can tell a story, and well. But bio-pics, especially ones about rock stars, can easily fall into caricature, and portray their subjects as characters, not people (which I'm sure is how many of their fans view them, but still....) For every "Sid and Nancy" and "Walk the Line," there is also "Great Balls of Fire" and "La Bamba."
As far as rock bio-pics go, I think Oliver Stone's "The Doors" is probably the template most directors have followed since 1991. It was beautifully photographed, amazingly edited and mixed, and well-acted (let's face it, Val Kilmer was Jim Morrison, but he could also be accused of creating a character, not portraying a person). Regardless, as well-received as that movie was, it doesn't mean it was accurate. In fact, I interviewed Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek in 1999 and he told me he hated Stone's movie, and refused to have anything to do with it. I'd have to go back and review the tape for his exact quote, but I vividly recall him referring to the project as "a white-powder film" - which I took as a veiled reference to Stone's rumored coke habit.
Anyway, Jerry's life is hitting the big screen. What a story it will be. The guy was a genius. A lazy, morally lapsed and drug-addicted genius (aren't they all?) but truly an amazing musician.
It still bothers me that Jerry's legacy is unfailingly associated with the 1960s counter-culture era in which he thrived. Sure, hippies, acid, free love....it was all a part of the scene, but listen to the music, man. Just incredible. Thank you, Jer, for a real good time.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I have worked on five edition of Fodor’s Guides, dating back to 2001. In every one, I have offered my favorite restaurants, hotels and sites in the “Fodor’s Choice” category, however, this is the first time I have ever seen a “Fodor’s Choice” sticker in Buenos Aires, which leads me to believe they are something new. I think it will provide a PR boost for the Fodor's brand in Argentina, where it is not well-known, despite the fact that they are the largest publisher of English-language travel guides in the world. I’ll have to check around town at my other top picks to see if they are displaying their stickers. If anyone sees one, let me know.
As for Republica, it is a wonderfully charming place for a fantastic meal. The relaxed atmosphere is provided by the constant presence of owner/chef Maria Jose Moretti (pictured above with her boyfriend and co-owner/chef Javier Hourquebie) whose shy sweetness and attention to detail are endearing.
What made my sticker discovery even more fun that night was meeting Gail and Daphne, two women from Chicago who were visiting Buenos Aires for the first time. We started chatting and I asked them how they had heard about Republica. Their answer: “Fodor’s. We live and die by its restaurant recommendations while on vacation.” Now, that’s what I like to hear.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Now the hard task is at hand. We need to restore America's faith in itself, as well as our image and relationships around the globe. I have no doubt that Obama is the right man to lead that charge.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The party was attended by about 300 people, and it seemed like there were as many journalists there as there were revelers. It was a total clusterfu*k: Photographers and cameramen tripping over each other to get their shots. They came out of the woodwork for this event: journalists from Italy, UK, Spain, Brazil, Chile, Austria, Sweden, and the U.S. were there.
You can watch my CNN story here.
I was just alerted that it was also posted on DeadSpin, the popular U.S. sports blog.
I went on Day 2 (Saturday) the day with the much stronger (imho) roster of bands. I had never seen R.E.M. before and was anxious to know if they could deliver the goods live. I’ve always admired their songwriting, command of differing genres, and lyrics, despite the fact that Michael Stipe takes himself waaay too seriously. He doesn’t strike me as a guy from Georgia. Seems more like a Connecticut Yankee to me. Anyway, they rocked. 30,000 people on a beautiful spring night. Stipe was doing his hip-shaking, intellectual Iggy Pop shtick, and the crowd loved it. Well done.
Bloc Party, one of my favorite bands to emerge in the past few years, also rocked. They have this nervous, frenetic energy on their albums, and thankfully that sound translated well to the stage. Although I have one critique, and it's aesthetic, not musical: These London boys need some fashion tips. The lead singer, Kele Okereke (above), was decked out in non-ironic jean cut-off shorts, and some sort of environmentally-conscious T-shirt of a crying wolf. Very 1991. And the drummer took his shirt off after two songs, and we had to look at his hairy beer gut every time the director cut to a close-up of him on the big-screen. Bro, if you’re fat, no one wants to watch you sweat and pound the skins; only Keith Moon was allowed to do that.
Seeing a live rock show in Argentina is truly a special experience. The crowds here are super appreciative (sometimes unnecessarily so). It’s like they feel privileged just to have the artists in their country. But I think that attitude is a crock of shit; top-name international acts have been coming here for decades, and they are always blown-away by the reception (just ask Eddie Vedder), so I think the gratitude should come from the artists: they’re lucky to be able to play in Argentina.
Photos courtesy of Leo Liberman.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
**UPDATE** Here's the link to the CNN story.
Yesterday, the U.S. Embassy here in Buenos Aires hosted "Voting Day" for U.S. citizens, who were able to cast their absentee ballots amid patriotic, non-partisan red, white & blue fanfare. Officially, 500 people showed up, but I would put the number even higher. I saw lots of friends and colleagues too.
It was a truly American day: jazz music filled the air, McDonalds food was scarfed, and the Starbucks coffee flowed like wine. Hell, there were even breakfast burritos available, courtesy of my buddy Jordan of California Burrito Co.
I didn't get to indulge in any of the treats, as I was working, not voting. I'm preparing a story for CNN International about Ex-Pat voters in Argentina, and I interviewed several from all walks of (American) life. I also conducted interviews in Spanish that are scheduled to air on CNN en Espanol. It was refreshing to hear so many different opinions and insights; meeting new people and hearing good (and bad) ideas on a daily basis is still the best part of my job.
Before I arrived, I was worried about finding supporters of both candidates at the embassy. In fact, the group was overwhelmingly pro-Obama, but there were McCain supporters there. It's immensely important to me to give both sides the chance to speak their mind, and I think I succeeded.
Photos courtesy of AFP & Charly Diaz Azcue.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
The first was a feature about "Stolen Lives," a popular Argentina soap opera based on the life of Susana Trimarco, who I interviewed in her apartment in Buenos Aires.
Susana has been searching for her daughter, Marita, since 2002, when she disappeared in Tucuman, likely at the hands of human traffickers. She is an amazing woman. Check out the foundation she started in Marita's honor to help victims of human trafficking.
I also visited the set of "Stolen Lives" ("Vidas Robadas" in Spanish) and interviewed actress Soledad Silveyra (in red dress, below), who portrays Trimarco on the show, and seems very committed to the cause and the character (although the day I met her she was out of character, because she was filming segments for her weekly journalism show, "Un Tiempo Despues," ). She was charming as hell.
To watch the feature on "Stolen Lives" click here.
To read the extended article I wrote for CNN.com, click here. (This article got more than 1 million page views the first day it was posted).
On Thursday, I reported from the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange about the volatile South American markets in the wake of the chaos on Wall Street. You can watch two reports here and here.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Newsweek Argentina celebrated its second anniversary with a cocktail party, attended by various local and foreign dignitaries, including U.S. Ambassador Earl Wayne (below).
Newsweek U.S. Managing Editor Daniel Klaidman and Ron Javers, Managing Editor for Foreign Editions (there are nine, soon to be ten, when Newsweek Turkey launches later this year), were also present.
I spent time with both Dan and Ron during their visit and learned a lot from both of them. Dan had just attended both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and had some great stories to tell from the Obama and McCain camps. Ron travels around the globe constantly meeting with the journalists of all the foreign editions. It's given him a unique perspective on news and culture; Ron is the kind of guy that could make fast friends at both the bowling alley and the ballet.
There was also wine to be imbibed at the opening night of the Vinos y Bodegas wine expo, the most important gathering of Argentina’s wine industry. Ballsy Argentine Vice President Julio Cobos was there to kick things off (check out the Wine Harvest Queens from Mendoza behind him in the photo).
Friday night, the confidently ironic Swedish garage rockers The Hives were in town to film a special “MTV Live” concert at a studio in Almagro. The show was taped in HD and will be seen around the world soon. MTV’s Buenos Aires office is becoming a major player in the channel’s international configuration.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I count amongst my friends several former and current employees of HelpArgentina, both Argentines and ExPats. I have learned from them, and seen myself first-hand, the very good work that this organization does in alleviating poverty, encouraging education and stimulating social development in Argentina.
The concept of transparency that HA promotes has long-been missing from the social sector in Argentina. HA thinks outside the box. And when it comes to philanthropy, that can only be a good thing.
HelpArgentina holds two important events each year: The HelpArgentina Award and the Noche HelpArgentina. The HA Award recognizes the efforts of “Social Ambassadors” around the world. In 2005, I nominated my friend Rachel Martinez for this award for her ongoing work with Airline Ambassadors in association with HelpArgentina.
The Noche HelpArgentina is a series of dinners held throughout the globe during the month of September that raise money for HA’s various member organizations. I have attended these dinners, and always enjoy the concept and company. My wife and I will be hosting one later this month at our home in Buenos Aires, as will my parents at their home in Baltimore.
I encourage anyone who has any connection to or curiosity about Argentina, and wants to make a difference for the country, to host a dinner in their home.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I learned a lot while writing this story, mostly because the final product is much different than what I had originally envisioned and pitched to my editors in New York.
I had heard that the employees of the national statistics agency, INDEC, had launched an online petition last week asking for more transparency in their organization, following 21 months of supposed meddling from Guillermo Moreno, the Kirchner-appointed crony who has been accused of cooking the books to mask a rapidly rising inflation rate here. I thought the fact that the INDEC employees had taken up their fight online (and received more than 11,000 signatures in a week) was a great way to begin an brief exploration of Argentina's ongoing (and seemingly constant) economic woes. My editors agreed. However, as is often the case with stories I write for Newsweek, they wanted to take a more global approach, and asked that I look for examples of other countries where leaders have been accused of fudging the numbers. They suggested I start with China and the U.K.
I went back and forth with my editors through at least five drafts of the article. On each draft they asked me for additional insight and analysis to help convey the 'big picture' of this issue.
Much of the copy was edited from the final piece, both for brevity and space reasons. (The articles in the front-of-the-book Periscope section are typically shorter than other articles). This is always a frustrating part of the editing process, especially when you work so hard to understand, and then explain, a topic to readers. But that's the way it works.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Leroi was a brooding bad-ass with serious sax chops. Some say that Boyd Tinsley's harmonic violin licks gives DMB its unique sound, but for me it is Leroi's deep - and often dark - grooves that provide the groundwork for the band's most exploratory and exciting live moments. He will be missed.
Jeff Coffin of Bela Fleck and The Flecktones fame (also scheduled for an upcoming Buenos Aires visit) is currently filling in.
A bit of nostalgia now: Amongst my first -- and undoubtedly most exciting -- assignments as a freshman reporter for the UVM student newspaper, The Vermont Cynic, came in January 1995 when I covered the Dave Matthews Band/Big Head Todd + The Monsters show at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington. I got to interview Boyd, watch the show (with a surprise appearance by local hero Trey Anastasio) from the first-row, swig from a bottle of Jack Daniels with Dave and Trey in the green room afterwards AND my article was the cover story of that week's Cynic; not a bad first gig for an 18-year-old journalist. It was an amazingly exciting experience for me, and pretty much cemented my desire to make my living documenting what is happening around me.
Countless concerts, rock-star interviews and boozy backstage encounters have followed, and they've all been awesome, but that cold night in Burlington was what started me on this path. Leroi was a part of it, and now he's gone....a bummer, indeed.