Friends of mine have been in town visiting and exploring some of the city’s great restaurants. As the owners and managers themselves of a successful Vietnamese restaurant in Denver, they’re keenly attuned to food and its many delicious varieties. I was curious to see what do they’d think of the local cuisine. Excellent, they say, but lacking variety and, in some cases, flavor. “The steaks are fantastic,” says my buddy. “But they can start to taste a little bland after a while.”
All of this got me thinking about how accustomed I’ve become to eating Argentine steak. As good as it is, and there is no doubting the quality of the local cuts, Argentine beef can sometimes seem a bit dull. That’s not to say I don’t love the stuff. I do, especially when it’s cooked the right way. But would it hurt to marinade the meat for a while before serving it? Or how about providing some herbs and spices or sauce options so that people could add whatever additional flavors they like? Is salt really the only viable option? I know sometimes you can get Chimichurri, but it’s not always available and it’s not exactly the most flavorful sauce ever invented.
Local foodies might criticize me for even raising the subject, and I’m sure some of my own family members here will take playful offense, but surely there is no mortal sin involved in thinking that the local beef, as tender as it is, could not be made just a bit better by occasionally adding a little more flavor.
A colleague of mine today published this fine story in the Wall Street Journal indicating that Argentina’s admirable grass-fed cattle culture is becoming a thing of the past. I did a somewhat similar story for the Journal in 2004, but the trend I highlighted back then seems, sadly, to be gaining ground.
By now many of you may have heard about the way Yahoo is blocking certain search engine results on computers with Argentine IP addresses. If you’re in Argentina and try to search Yahoo for information about Diego Maradona, for example, you’ll reach a dead end and be met with the following message: “Because of a court order sought by private parties, we’ve been forced to temporarily suppress all or some results related to this search.”
Some of the details behind this situation have been highlighted in other articles, such as this one in Time Magazine. As a result, I won’t re-hash the story here. Instead, I’ve decided to post a Q & A I did with Martin Leguizamón, the Argentine lawyer responsible for the situation. What follows is a very interesting look at how and why all of this came about.
(The Argentine Post) How did you get started with this?
(Martin Leguizamón) The first case began in April 2006 when a fashion model contacted me after losing her job as a marketing manager in Canada because her name had appeared linked to pornographic and sexual websites. These sites showed up through www.yahoo.com.ar and www.google.com.ar searches.
We analyzed the case and opted to ask a federal court here for an injunction that would use all means necessary to prevent her name from being linked to pornographic and sexual sites. The court followed through on this.
It’s 8pm and I can tell what time is it by the echoes of ringing pots and pans. This aluminum symphony goes in crescendo, from the kitchens in my neighborhood to the streets. It started off quietly, just one invisible protester, pan in hand, making some noise, wanting to be heard. Now, a few more have joined him, or her, but just a few.
All this thanks to a new decision by President Cristina Fernández that some of my neighbors don’t like. Lately, it seems like some people have a natural reaction to any speech that doesn’t meet their expectations. It goes like this:
The Buenos Aires Province Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that bans smoking in many closed-door public places. It was not immediately clear when the ban will take effect. The ban makes an exception for casinos and bingo facilities, and lets restaurants and other spaces have a special area for smokers.
About half a dozen provinces have passed similar bans. The City of Buenos Aires banned smoking in October 2006 and, against all expectations, it has upheld the ban exceptionally well.
According to this article, around 30% of Argentines start smoking by the age of 11. That seems hard to believe, but a World Health Organization survey indicates that about 25% of Argentines aged 13-15 smoke. All told, some 35% of Argentine men and 25% of Argentine smoke.
The average pack of cigarettes in Argentina, according to the WHO, costs about $1.11. WHO research indicates that reducing cigarette usage is all about pricing:
“Raising taxes, and therefore prices, is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use, and especially to discourage young people from using tobacco. It also helps convince tobacco users to quit. A 70% increase in the price of tobacco could prevent up to a quarter of all tobacco-related deaths worldwide. A 10% price increase may cause a 4% drop in tobacco consumption in high-income countries and an 8% drop in low- and middle-income countries, with tobacco tax revenue increasing despite reduced consumption.”
For many of us, the end of college is the end of continuous, daily intellectual stimulation. We graduate, join the workforce, grow accustomed to our jobs, get married, have kids, or not, and settle into a quotidian routine that no longer challenges us to think in ways that build new neural pathways. In some ways, our creative capacity, and the related ability to think critically, atrophy amid the lack of constant, vigorous stimulation.
Without fresh cerebral challenges that force us to question our assumptions, we settle into a groove that, while not inherently bad, is somewhat anemic. Too much of this leads to boredom, and there is even some research indicating that intellectual stagnation can lead to depression and reduced life expectancy.
All of which would seem entirely irrelevant to us here were it not for an interesting Argentine antidote to the problem: Alejandro Rozitchner. A friend of this blog, indeed in some ways its partial progenitor, Alejandro is a unique Argentine intellect. He is controversial, pugnacious, razor sharp, creative and funny. He is also a teacher, but not the kind you typically find in an academic environment.
One of his favorite subjects is the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). Alejandro is offering a four-session class on Nietzsche beginning next week in Palermo. If the class is anything like one I took a while back, it will provide insight not only into Nietzsche and his thinking, but also into Argentina. As such, it should also be a perfect way to challenge your assumptions about the world in general and about Argentina in particular.
Prerequisite: Fluency in Spanish
Place: Teatrito del Bar El Taller, Plaza Serrano
Days: October 23th, 30th, November 6 & 13th
Time: de 8-9:45pm
Cost: 250 Pesos
“The Internet in Argentina is going through some hard times,” according to Pedro Less Andrade, and he should know. As director of Public Affairs In Latin America for Google, Andrade knows a thing or two about the Internet.
The problem, Andrade says, isn’t Argentina’s agonizingly slow broadband. It’s more profound: Argentine officials are trying to block access to online information about themselves. In a post on Google’s Official Latin America Blog, Andrade said officials are using the courts to impede free speech and access to information.
The Buenos Aires Province Health Ministry this week banned discos from offering free breast augmentation operations to patrons. Local discos had been raffling the operations as a way to get more girls into the clubs.
Last weekend Sunset, a popular club in the northern suburb Olivos, attracted more than 600 girls to such a raffle, according to this article posted on the Ministry’s site.
“Everything that is not prohibited by law is permitted,” Sunset spokesman Fernando Maldonado was quoted as saying here by the daily Crítica. “If this is law, of course we will obey it, and we will have a raffle that gives cash to the winner so that she can decide herself to have an operation if she wants.”
Dance clubs in the provinces of Cordoba, La Rioja and San Juan have also been raffling free boob jobs, says Crítica. The raffles, which had been marketed under the slogan, “I want my boobs,” are increasingly popular. Rodrigo Herrera, a PR agent for such raffles in La Rioja, was quoted this way: “People are tried of car and motorcycle raffles, and they’re looking for something new.”
Argentina is more corrupt than it was a year ago, according to the results of a Transparency International survey released Tuesday. The survey, in which Argentina typically ranks poorly, rated the land of the Gaucho as the 109th least corrupt country out of 180 surveyed.
That means 108 nations are less corrupt than Argentina, according to the survey, which actually measures perceived corruption. Last year Argentina ranked 105th while in 2001 it ranked 59th, thought that survey included only 91 countries.
Argentina’s poor showing is inline with that of other countries in the region, which has long been a bastion of corruption. “Among the 32 countries from the Americas included in Transparency International’s (TI) 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), 22 scored less than 5 points out of 10, indicating a serious corruption problem, and eleven failed to exceed the three-point mark, indicating rampant corruption,” TI said in a statement. Argentina scored 2.9 points, making it one of those places were corruption is “rampant.”
TI said anti-corruption efforts in the region “appear largely to have stalled.” In contrast to Argentina’s bleak performance, Canada remained the “cleanest,” most trustworthy country in the Americas this year. It was followed by the U.S., which ranked 18th in the world. Haiti was the region’s most corrupt country, followed by Venezuela, which gave birth to the famous $800,000 dollar suitcase brought into Argentina by Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson. (If you’re interested in that story, click here for the latest English-language update.)
In South America the least corrupt country was Chile, which ranked 5th in the Americas and 23th in the world. Denmark ranked No. 1. overall.
Wall Street Journal correspondent Matt Moffett had an excellent story in last week’s paper about one woman’s efforts to teach hooligans “how to play nice.” The story, which landed on the front page of the printed paper, got a bit lost amid all the chaos surrounding global financial turmoil. But in typical Moffett fashion, it’s a finely crafted and reported story and is well worth your time. You can check it out here.
Argentines are more worried about the global financial crisis than any other problem on people’s minds these days, according to a new survey by the consulting firm Ibarómetro. “The world financial crisis has become a central topic and concern for Argentines,” Ibarómetro said Friday in a report. Around 28% of people polled said they were more concerned the financial crisis than anything else. Almost 23% said they were mainly worried “other” things, though Ibarómetro did not elaborate on this. It was not clear if Ibarómetro gave respondents a range of options or if it simply recorded the top concerns.
Other polls have shown crime to be a major concern. In any case, around 20% of those polled said their top concern was the national statistics agency, or INDEC, which stands accused of lying about inflation data. Just under 10% said they were most worried about the recent mafia-style murder of three businessmen widely believed to be invovled in drug trafficking, while another 6% said they were mainly concered about the Venezuelan suitcase scandal. Almost 8% said their main concern is a trial over the 2004 Cromañon nightclub tragedy in which 194 people were killed.
In a separate poll, almost 40% of respondents said Argentina would be affected a lot (“mucho”) by a worldwide financial crisis while 42% said such a crisis would have little (“poco”) impact on the country.
Friends of The Argentine Post over at ThisIsNotAGallery this week will introduce the world’s first solar-powered portable art gallery. “One of the objectives of the project is to place art modules in public places all over the world so people can enjoy free art in their everyday life,” ThisIsNotAGallery said in an ad promoting the new environmentally friendly galleries.
The modules will contain portable DVD players showcasing the work of various artists – including Brazil’s Leticia Ramos and Argentina’s Los Angeles-based Juan Bobillo – whose work appears in video format. ThisIsNotAGallery aims to promote both art and the use of clean energy, so help them out by checking out their work this week at BA Art Week.
BA Art Week or La Semana Del Arte Where: Everywhere around the city Here you will find maps of the various city barrios and summaries of what’s happening in each. When: Sept. 21 through September 27
More info here (in Spanish)