Just back from my shodō (書道) class, where poor Watanabe-sensei keeps trying to teach a bunch of hyperactive, loud-mouthed Argentinians to write nice kanji and insists on using an old Chinese style just when I had more or less mastered kaisho.
The good thing about Watanabe-sensei is that she knows precious few Spanish words, so I'm forced to practise my Japanese. Moreover, I'm by far the most advanced Japanese student in her class (which is not to say I'm fluent or even coherent), so I also have to translate what the others want me to tell her. Usually we end up resorting to the denshijisho (electronic dictionary) that she carries around. Today I learned two new verbs, which I'll have to put in use soon so as not to forget: suberu "slide, glide, slip" and kaku "scratch".
Try this: Shiri o kaku koto wa shitsurei desu. "It is a discourtesy to scratch [your] ass." There's really no "your" in there, but we can safely assume you won't often be scratching anyone else's ass. Change desu to da if you're talking to friends or family; change it to de gozaimasu and say oshiri instead of shiri if you're being extra-polite (for example, if it's a customer or a venerable old lady/gentleman who's scratching her/his ass). Throw in sumimasen and sukoshi if you feel you might come out as too blunt. It's a matter of people's asses, after all.
Then, with the other verb, picture the following: Ojiisan wa banana no kawa de subete shimatte, minna ni warawareta. "The old man slipped on a banana skin and got laughed at by everybody." The example is a bit graphic but hey, it's my study method.
(Just read the first example and found out a mistake. The grammar seems right, but it really should be Hoka no hito no mae de shiri o kaku koto wa shitsurei desu, "It is a discourtesy to scratch [your] ass in front of other people." What was I thinking?)
31 August 2006
I hadn't been to any of the annual Book Fairs in a long time. Why didn't I stay like that? The 2006 Rosario Book Fair was a true disappointment. I was so mad that I had a poetic seizure and started composing a lament in alliterative verse. I forgot most of it, but I distinctly remember pairing "book" with "bloated" and "boring", and "fair" with "fiasco" and "fools' trap". It's not that the fair sucked. There were some interesting things, for the children mostly, besides the books. There even was a sandbox, and a big book with old editions of a defunct newspaper for the curious reader to peruse. But the books!
I reckon that 50% of the fair was taken up by books on one of the following topics: astrology, reiki, chakras, dream interpretation, angels (lore and/or summoning thereof), and how to make yourself believe that you're happy. Almost everything was outrageously expensive, though not more than in the average bookstore. Overvalued bestsellers (popularized history, scandals, novels by pseudo-philosopher Paulo Coelho) competed for space with textbooks on hyper-specialized topics. The horror!
The picture above was taken by a fellow photographer and blogger, independently from me. Me, I'd taken my camera along, but after one round of fruitless searching for a good affordable book, I was so anxious to leave that I forgot to take pictures, and almost ran over a mime that was signaling the way for the people who had just come in. (Mimes freak me out.)
[On second thought, the fair does nothing but reflect the sorry state of today's literature and social discourse (95% crap, 5% gems -- to be found amid the crap).]
Don't take this as anything but personal subjective commentary. By all means, visit the fair if you're in or near Rosario. If you love overpriced feel-good books or have nowhere else to drop your kids at, it's wonderful!
"First line of ecological buses launched in Rosario". Seems we'll have at least 10 buses running with hybrid engines. As I understand, you burn some gasoil as usual, and use part of the energy (heat?) to break water into hydrogen and oxygen, which then combine again and produce more energy. The result: 20% less fossil fuel usage. Not a bad idea, considering we're running out.
Granted, we were hunter-gatherers before they came along. 500 years later, we still have our problems. But they seem to have regressed a bit. Witness La Tomatina! This surely isn't even tasty. It's funny (as in distastefully weird). A crowd of grown-up half-naked men pelting each other with soft fruits? Maybe it's some form of tomacco, or maybe they're absolutely, screaming-chimp-in-heat crazy. But hey, it's the First World. Maybe we should imitate them. It's worked before... NOT!Rosario3 covers the current Tomatina explaining that 40,000 people in the Spanish town of Buñol, province of Valencia, employ more than 110 tons of tomato to enjoy themselves like this since 61 years ago. In 2002 the Tomatina was declared "of touristic interest". I wonder how a tourist agency is supposed to spin it. "Come to this lovely traditional celebration and get turned into a warm mess of mushy tomato"?
I only hope that if the Vulcans come, they don't land over there. That'd be a terrible First Contact.
30 August 2006
Rosario's mayor Miguel Lifschitz is mad at the provincial government, with good reason. This came just out on La Capital: Lifschitz: "La provincia saquea a los municipios"
Mayor Miguel Lifschitz accused the provincial state of carrying out "a permanent looting of the resources of municipalities and communes" for the last 20 years.
To put it short: Argentina works on a system whereby the provinces raise taxes and send the money to the national state, which then returns a part back to the provinces, which in turn distribute part of it to the cities and towns. Of course, some money does get "lost" in the way. The national state uses the money to favour some provinces and punish others. The provincial states, predictably, do the same with the municipalities. Rosario has had the misfortune of being 1) ruled by the opposition, 2) bigger, more successful, and generally more dynamic and cool than the provincial capital -- since 1983. Santa Fe City (the capital) is half the size of Rosario and gets about the same amount of money. The provincial state has been cutting funding to the municipalities lately, and is about to cut some more. A provincial official had the gall of going on record saying that the municipalities were getting tons of money. Lifschitz snapped.
Things might change next year, when a Rosarino gets elected for the governorship. That's practically already done -- the three only candidates with chances to win are Rosarinos.
29 August 2006
The state of the argentinean blogosphere: Rosario, Santa Fe, which says basically that it's a shame that Rosario doesn't have a directory of blogs. So if you are writing a blog from Rosario, just go there (there's a wiki where you list it). It wouldn't hurt to let me know as well.
Do you know what a piquetero is?
In the beginning there was the state. But President Carlos Menem saw the state and said, "This is not good". So he tore the state apart, privatizing lots of state companies. And he saw that downsizing and massive unemployment were good (apparently).
But a group of workers in Neuquén fired from the state oil company didn't agree, so they took to the nearest national road and blocked it. It was 1996, and the luckier part of Argentina was lost in an drunken haze of cheap dollars, frequent trips to Miami, imported luxuries, and the über-buzzword of the time, "stability".
The piqueteros, in turn, were poor, dirty, working-class residents of a small town with a name that sounded like an Indian chief (instead of the names of dictators, 19th century wealthy landowners and British engineers that grace the towns, streets and squares of the Buenos Aires metropolitan area). Half the country had re-elected Menem, and frankly couldn't relate.
By 2001, however, the shit hit the fan. The unemployed workers had gathered in assemblies and movements. In 2002 the devaluation of the peso smashed the economy. Minuscule leftist parties started recruiting from marginalized people. Road blocks moved to Buenos Aires, where media coverage was easier to get.
The piqueteros of today are not what they used to be. Back then they were unemployed industrial workers with a cause; now they're mostly poor people with no chance of getting a permanent job, led by teams of old-fashioned leftist ideologues. Half of them have sold out to the national government; the other became more extreme in their opposition. The government tolerates them. The road blocks are exceptional today, but in years past they angried "the people" (Mauricio Macri dixit). The piqueteros now participate in demonstrations protesting... well, really anything. A few actually work; many won't or can't. They receive welfare, mediated by their leaders, who keep a teeny-tiny percentage for necessities such as protest banners, T-shirts, cell phones, etc.
Luis D'Elía, a government official and legislator (incompatibility, anyone?) is also a piquetero leader (we could refer to him as Major Sold Out). He's leading a march next Thursday, to counter Juan Carlos Blumberg's march (a guy I'll speak about later, but whom we could refer to as Captain Trigger Happy) . I tell you, both give me the creeps.
28 August 2006
No smoking! Since today, you can't smoke in public enclosed spaces in Rosario. If you're caught smoking, you may receive a fine, and the owner of the bar, restaurant, or wherever they caught you will also receive one.
The whole province, indeed the whole country, is moving towards that sort of prohibition, which I find a very wise thing to do. We're lucky enough to have a free public health system, and of course nobody should be excluded from it, but if you smoke like a factory chimney for 30 years and then get sick, I don't want to pay for your lung cancer treatment.
You can say anything about President Kirchner, but you have to admit that he manages to be in the center of almost everything political. Lo and behold, he has just broken up a 100-year-old party! The Radical Civic Union (UCR), after adding compulsory presidential resignation to its centenary partisan tradition and getting beaten to a pulp in every election, has decided that compromise (aka the "screw-the-principles strategy") is the best choice, and a number of them became Radicales K ("K Radicals"), where the K is for Kirchner. Página/12, the leftist newspaper with creative if not helpful headlines, loves using that K (I'd say they popularized it). La Nación, the rightist newspaper that passes as the serious and unbiased representative of "the people" (what's that Fox News motto?), has succumbed to this usage too. I don't know what the Radicales K think. Is it politically correct (in both senses) to call them "K"? Shouldn't they be termed something more descriptive and flattering, like "Radicals for Victory" or "Radicals Unbound" (by tradition, morals, whatever)?
Ironically, one of the founders of the party, Leandro Alem, gave the UCR and Argentina this wonderful motto with regards to principles: Se rompe pero no se dobla, "It breaks but it does not bend". Broken it is, and probably bent over too.
27 August 2006
Mind you, you don't have to read/speak Spanish to fully enjoy this blog, but it helps. I like to comment on news, so you'll get many from online newspapers in Spanish. For example, this one:
El aborto en la Argentina es un tema de salud pública, from La Capital, Rosario's main local paper. It's about abortion, and how everybody's debating about it now because of two regrettable incidents. Abortion is illegal here, unless the mother is mentally handicapped (the law is a bit old and not politically correct, it says idiota o demente, i. e. "idiot/retarded or insane") and the pregnancy was the result of rape. Two cases of this kind took place recently. Both girls managed to get an abortion, though one almost didn't. In one case a prosecutor notified a judge about the upcoming procedure and the judge ordered it to be suspended, then to be overruled, and then the doctors caved in to pressure from religious sectors and refused to perform the abortion, claiming that the pregnancy was too advanced, and the procedure was done elsewhere. Her family had to look very hard for a doctor who was not afraid, and finally got the abortion paid for by a pro-choice organization in a private hospital, under strict secrecy, as if it were illegal. The other girl got a favourable ruling but had to wait for a doctor in a public hospital to perform the procedure for free.
The Catholic Church of Argentina was the primary force resisting the abortions (which were, I repeat, completely legal given the circumstances). Hospitals and doctors received harassment, then legal threats, then death threats and even a bomb threat (false alarm). The Episcopacy passed a document against the "culture of death". Now if you sincerely believe that human life is valuable, it's rather incoherent to threaten other people to death, isn't it? The Catholic Church doesn't exactly have the moral high ground in Argentina, with its history of collaborating with each and every dictatorship that has afflicted this country, including the last one, which kidnapped and killed 30,000 people, including pregnant mothers.
In a way, though, these horrible incidents might have helped to expose the true colours of a number of Church leaders, otherwise uncompromising politicians, and some op-ed journalists. They've made it perfectly clear that they feel their ideology is above the law, and that they'll do anything to keep it like that, even if it means forcing a poor lower-class mentally incapable girl to have a child against her will. And they've done it on the record, for everyone to see. What goes around...
There's a reason why this blog is called "D for Disorientation". I feel that there are many things to say and show, and I'm a little scared about the scale of it. But you have to start somewhere, and disorientation is at least better than desperation. Or destructiveness. Or demon worship. Or the delirious ramblings of Deepak Chopra.
Enough of this. I'm a young man born, raised and living in Rosario, Argentina. I like to play with words. It's easier in English than it is in Spanish, my native language. I also like taking pictures of things when they're a) funny, or b) historical, or c) significant to many. You'll find some of that in my Flickr page. Finally (actually not, but for the moment) I like to read newspapers and vent my rage at the news publically. You'll see some of that too.