Saturday, October 3, 2009

Where are they now?

One of my fondest memories of last year's trip to Buenos Aires was drinking mate in class with Carolina and Rodrigo (see picture on the right). Neither is still at the school, but both are still in Buenos Aires. I got to catch up with them a few times during this year's trip:

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Above is Rodrigo, taken this morning, after breakfast at Scuzi.
Below is Caro, making every effort to blend in with the apartment decor.

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It was great to catch up with them, and with everyone else. Although I am a little sad about leaving B.A., it will be nice to get home and see the kitties:

boris gets his way

Yes, there are indeed two kitties in that photo, even if Boris is hogging the limelight.

It's a glorious spring day outside, so I am going to head to Recoleta to pick up a few last-minute souvenirs and gifties (can you spell E-V-I-T-A?). My flight leaves for Washington at 9 this evening, and - the travel gods willing - I should get back to SF early tomorrow afternoon.

This 600th post seems like a good place to close this exciting chapter of MOTP. Did I mention how much I love Buenos Aires? Watch this space for the next instalment, which will be brought to you from Madrid, starting on or around Saturday October 24th, so just three short weeks from now.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Search engine poetry

Once again, by popular demand, we bring you "poetry" composed solely from search engine phrases by which people were referred to this blog.

I. Right hoors

Dona Letizia diet.
Letizia Bourbon.
Using hemroid cream for love handles.
What would I look like 4 stone lighter?
Right hoor.

French business woman elegant working at her desk.
Do not pet me I am working.
Right hoor.

Streetwalkers Benidorm.
Strumpet City in the sunset.
Do not pet me I am working.
Right hoors.

Hen parties Madrid.
Mujeres con un vibrador.
Hedgehog vibrator.
Right hoor(s).

II. Cat of doom.

World's funniest cat.
Funny redneck cats.
Marmalade cat.
Cat in a taco.
Do not pet me I am working.
Cat of doom.


Hideous, ugly animals.

Bear with chartreuse hair.
Flying bunny rabbits.
Two-headed bunnies.
Tow-headed bunnies.
Big Bunny Winfrey.
Cuy Bono.
La llama que llama.
Brekkies Excel dog.
Panda without a cause.
Bubo Baggins.
Hideous, ugly animals.


Reactions to Susan Boyle.

Raves on the pampas.
Baby born with teeth.
Segovia nanny drops baby.
Eustace Tilley: "Fish, please".
Playboy bunny eats apricot marmalade.
Ethel the aardvark goes quantity surveying.
Rebellious 24-year old child still living at home.
Man poured molten lead into own ear.
Felipe Segundo drinks.
Jolly Roger.
Lazy Susan.
Kafka feliz.

IgNobel 2009

El sostén convertible en máscara de gas, estrella de los 'IgNobel 2009'

El Premio de Salud Pública fue otorgado a Elena N. Bodnar, Rafael C. Lee y Sandra Marijan quienes crearon un sujetador el cual, en caso de emergencia, puede transformarse rápidamente en un par de máscaras, una para el dueño del sostén y la otra para alguien que la necesite.

Entre los otros galardeonados:

Medicina veterinaria: para Catherine Douglas y Peter Rowlinson por conseguir demostrar que las vacas a las que se les pone nombre dan más leche que las vacas que no lo tienen.

Paz: El patólogo Stephan Bolliger y sus colegas de la universidad de Berna en Suiza fueron premiados por un estudio que hicieron para determinar si una botella vacía de cerveza hace más o menos daño al cráneo humano que una llena durante una pelea de bar.

"Ambas son suficientes para romper el cráneo humano. Sin embargo, las vacías son más solidas", explicó Bolliger en un correo electrónico. Esto se debe a que la presión de la cerveza, ayudada por la carbonación, permite que una botella llena explote más rápido.

Matemática: Gideon Gono, Gobernador del Banco de Reserva de Zimbabue, quien lucha contra una hiperinflación, recibió un premio "por dar un modo simple, para no dar a basto con un amplio rango de cifras al hacer que su banco imprima notas bancarias que van desde un centavo a los 100 billones de dólares zimbabuenses.

Química: la investigación de tres mexicanos de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México quienes consiguieron hacer diamantes de tequila.

Medicina: Para Donald Unger por llevar 60 años haciéndose crujir los nudillos de su mano izquierda y nunca los de la derecha para probar si este hábito provocaba o no artritis.

Física: a los investigadores que analizaron por qué las embarazadas no se caen.

El premio de Economía recayó en los gerentes de los bancos Kaupthing, Landsbanki, Glitnir y del Banco Central de Islandia "por demostrar que los bancos pequeños se pueden convertir rápidamente en enormes y viceversa".

Biología: para tres investigadores japoneses que demostraron los desechos domésticos pueden ser “destruidos” en un 90% mediante el uso de bacterias extraídas de las heces de pandas gigantes.

Y no olvidemos el Premio IgNobel de Literatura, otorgado este año a los "Garda Siochana", los policias irlandeses, por haber multado por error, más de 50 veces al infractor frecuente "Prawo Jazdy". En polaco, esto significa "licencia de conducir".

WASHINGTON, 2 Oct. (Reuters/EP) -

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Division of Labor

Two things eventually dawn on the visitor to Buenos Aires. The first is that all the taxi-drivers are male. Taxis are ubiquitous and cheap (well, most of the time), and invariably driven by men. In my entire 12 weeks here, I have never seen a woman driving a cab. The second is that while your server in a cafe might be female, if you sit down for dinner in a restaurant of any reasonable size, your server will be male. Furthermore, he will be a man in his mid-to-late 40s. OK, that's a slight exaggeration. But, take my word for it, he won't be younger than 35, and he is unlikely to be older than 50.

One can come up with a plausible explanation for the exclusively male population of taxi-drivers - after all, it is a profession that still involves a degree of physical risk. A plausible explanation, maybe, though not a very satisfactory one, since there are plenty women taxistas in every other city in the world, some undoubtedly riskier than Buenos Aires. So there has to be something else behind it, if only perhaps a predominantly machista attitude regarding appropriate jobs for women. (Though interestingly, both my dentists from this year and last year were women)

The whole 45-year old waiter cohort thing is infinitely more baffling, however, and has a whole "Brave New World" cloning connotation that I'd rather not contemplate in detail.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You say "Falklands"; I say "Malvinas"

But I think we can all agree that their coat-of-arms is pretty darned nifty:

Coat of Arms

Let's demonstrate!

A los Argentinos les gustan manifestar. (Argentines like to take to the streets)

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Last year, I commented on the apparently irrepressible tendency of folks here in Buenos Aires to take to the streets in protest, at the slightest provocation. It was a poor day for protests if I saw only three on the way to school. Granted, the fact that my route to school took me past "Tribunales" (the High Court Building, a favorite site for street protests) may have influenced my perception. This year, my impression had been that the frequency of demonstrations had dropped somewhat. Apparently, I just haven't been hanging out in the right spots, because as the chart below indicates, this September has actually seen a spike in frequency, with five major blockages in the city just yesterday alone (see photo above):

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This doesn't even include yesterday's most serious demonstration, at the Kraft factory outside the city (following Monday's announcement of major layoffs). There is considerable editorializing about the level of dissatisfaction among the populace:

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It is hard to know whether one should be encouraged by all of this, as a sign of public involvement in a healthy democracy. Given the historical volatility of Argentine politics, as well as a history of street demonstrations which have taken a tragic turn, it appears to have many people worried. Despite the superficial prosperity, there is a definite sense that this is a moment of particular instability in the economy. As la Presidenta Kirchner was doing her tour of the U.S. last week, complete with Obama photo-op, the general consensus in the city seemed to be that she should more appropriately have been at home, trying to deal in a serious fashion with the assortment of problems that face the nation.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Empanada Update

empanadas of superior quality

This photo shows two empanadas, purchased earlier today at a local bakery (la panaderia). Though you would have no particular way of knowing it from their outward appearance, the one on the right contains chicken ("pollo"), the other contains beef ("carne"). Both were delicious, definitely superior in quality relative to the generic Jumbo Foods empanadas sold in el supermercado. But again, if there is a way to infer the contents from their exterior appearance, nobody provided me with the secret decoder.

What's that you say? Isn't "pollo" classified as a type of "carne"? Not here in Argentina it isn't. There's only one kind of carne in these parts. The kind that moos.


Until now, this blog has been reprehensibly silent on the subject of heavy metal, a situation which this post shall endeavor to remedy. Whether you are a fan of death metal, thrash metal, black metal, power metal, or one of those extra-alienated doom or goth metal types, this post's for you. So listen up, motherfrackers! (I'm talking to you, Peter Compton!)

Oh, you can say that what attracts you to metal are the dominant use of the Aeolian progressions I-VI-VII, I-VII-(VI), or I-VI-IV-VII and Phrygian progressions (implying the relation between I and ♭II (I-♭II-I, I-♭II-III, or I-♭II-VII)). But we know that it's really the persistent invocation of the tritone (an interval spanning three whole tones—such as C and F#—a forbidden dissonance in medieval ecclesiastical singing, leading monks to call it diabolus in musica—"the devil in music", which symbolic association causes it to be heard in Western cultural convention as "evil"). That, and the whole headbanging aspect. Why else do you keep renewing that subscription to "Headbanger" magazine?

Or, as it's known in these here parts (and, to the extent that this post has any point at all, which is doubtful, this would be it), "Jedbangers". A name which cracks me the hell up.

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Regrets, I have a few

As my time in Buenos Aires draws to an end, it becomes obvious that there are certain experiences I shall have to forgo this trip. For instance, that trip to Tigre - Paddy and I chose comfort over exhaustion, and my plan to go with Ed this past Saturday had to be shelved in favor of the exciting living statues contest. Also, it seems as if Fate is conspiring to prevent my seeing THE film of the moment, "Los secretos de sus ojos"; despite two efforts to see it with Rodrigo, we have so far not managed to do so.

Similarly, the fact that Friday will be my last evening here makes it highly unlikely that I will be able to participate in the exciting excursion detailed below, much as it pains me to keep my readers in the dark as to the exact nature of the misteryous "Big Ear Pest",

misteryous buenos aires

not to mention the macabre tale of Rufina Cambaceres, "the young lady who died twice". Though that name does ring a bell from last year, I'm afraid the details elude me right now.

However, I suppose I could bring a mate to the laberynth of handcrafters on Saturday:

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assuming I can find a thermos large enough.

There are some events which occasion not even a tinge of regret, however:

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I can safely say that the horror which the thought of this "event" provokes has nothing whatsoever to do with my advanced age. At no point in my life would such a prospect ever have elicited any reaction other than sheer unadulterated horror. As a card-carrying INTJ, I wear my introversion as a badge of honor. If you are an extrovert, who rolls your eyes as you read this, might I suggest that you try spending an evening alone reading a book, or with your thoughts. Oh, that's right - sorry - you don't have any, do you? Besides which, your treasured memory of that delirious pub crawl is going to look like this:

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The plain people of Ireland: Here, that's a bit harsh, isn't it? What's wrong with getting together with a few pals for a couple of pints?
MOTP: Nothing. Nothing at all. But what makes you think that things are going to stop after a couple of pints? Take a close look at the debauched faces in those pictures, and tell me that someone isn't going to end up damaged by the end of the night. It's all fun and games until someone ends up with a broken limb, you know.


Of course it was bound to happen. After weeks of (relative) self-restraint, I ended up going on a binge today in the Libreria del Libertador on the Avenida Corrientes, leaving with roughly a dozen books in various categories. The fact that I paid only a fistful of dollars for them is of no consequence - their purchase has definitively pushed me over the threshold, meaning that a trip to the DHL office later in the week to arrange shipping is now no longer optional, but mandatory. On the plus side, this means I can enjoy a further binge tomorrow, secure in the knowledge that one might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. Relative to the cost of shipping the first 10 kilos, that for the next 5 kilos is peanuts.

I blame Ciro for this. Routing our afternoon stroll past the bookstore in question was an act of sheer gleeful malevolence on his part. He knows full well that the Libreria del Libertador is my particular Achilles heel here in Buenos Aires.

In other news, plans for my Madrid trip are now final - I will be leaving San Francisco on Friday, October 23rd, arriving back the evening of Tuesday, December 1st. I should get back to San Francisco from B.A. this coming Sunday afternoon (October 4th).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Our muse it doth refuse to stop (WARNING! Doggerel Alert)

Damn you, anonymous challenger! This is the kind of thing that keeps some of us from sleeping, and I need my beauty sleep. But there's more:

Lines composed while brushing and flossing

If you should suffer from the caries,
Which often times cause for despair is,
Fear not for here in Buenos Aires,
The quality of dental care is
Very good, a thing that rare is
But not down here in Buenos Aires
The dentists, like benign tooth fairies
Will save your teeth from Raton Perez.
Cancel your trip to the Canaries!
And come on down to Buenos Aires.

I trust this doggerel is bad enough to meet any challenge.

A mash note to Buenos Aires

After the recent outburst of regrettable doggerel, I thought it only fair to list some of the reasons I adore this city. In no particular order (and without much elaboration, because it's late, and I still have to write my nightly essay for tomorrow's class with Ciro):

  • Orderly bus queues.
  • Lingering in cafes, bars, and restaurants: there is no pressure to move on, once you receive your order, you are left in blessed peace to read, chat, watch the passers-by.
  • Ice-cream as good as, and possibly better than, that in Seville.
  • The general architectural ambience, which is like a cross of what one imagines New York to have been in the 1950s and Paris as it is today.
  • The stunningly high prevalence of bookstores, new and used, and the impression that this is a highly literate population. I mean, they name their chocolate bars for Shakespearean characters, for goodness sake!
  • Everything about the school - my teachers, classmates, and the remarkably high quality of instruction.
  • The fact that I get to walk at least 50 blocks daily, often more. (I know, I could do this in SF as well, but the fact is I don't)
  • The general good humor and charm of almost everyone I've met here - people just seem naturally helpful and friendly.
  • The ludicrously favorable exchange rate.
  • The wine.
  • The absence of packs of marauding wild dogs, unlike another Latin American capital I could mention.
  • Electronic tango.
  • The feeling that the city brings out the best in me.

And with that, good night for now.

The Dangers of Lox

Warning: this post contains juvenile humor. Expectant mothers might possibly find it offensive. Or they might find it hilarious - que se yo?

One of the great things about frittering away hours on assorted time-wasting sites on the internet is the way that one hilarious time-wasting site often leads to another, with even greater potential for hilarity and time wastage. This is the process that led me to the often side-splittingly funny "Let's Panic about Babies" website, which I recommend unreservedly, if only for the following table of:

substances to avoid during pregnancy

Warning, link may not be entirely safe for work, as it may cause you to cackle uncontrollably at your desk, and has no obvious redeeming social value. But then, redeeming social value is grossly overrated, and where else are you going to learn about the


Contains: Jewishness, Scandianavianness, that bloated brunchy weekend feeling
Effect on Fetus: Baby will be born covered in capers; cats will follow Baby everywhere; your house will be plagued by reindeer

The site has much, much more to offer -

baby panic

Possibly my other favorite item on the site is the picture ad that plaintively asks:

"Infant stressing you out?"
"One call is all it takes!"

Accepting the Doggerel Challenge

A comment on a previous post wondered if I could write poetry even worse than that of James McIntyre. The answer is - "of course" - though not necessarily for long stretches at a time. But just off the top of my head, here is the

Weather Report for the City of Fair Breezes
(lines composed while attending to Nature's call)

Oh here in downtown Buenos Aires,
The temperature it often varies,
Rain drizzles down like pee of fairies,
And washes downtown Buenos Aires.
Whether you are a Capricorn, or even an Aries,
You'll like it here in Buenos Aires.
Though the temperature it often varies,
And rain drops down like pee of fairies.

I could go on, but I think I've proved my point.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Diorama Update (special vamp edition)

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Evita fashion show

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A first lady has to be decked out nicely. Something that the good folks at the Evita museum recognize:

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For a more extensive sampling of Evita's fashion choices, visit the virtual collection at the following link:

Evita Redux