Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Girl Power

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

Let's Drink to Crime!

If you can’t laugh about your misfortunes, well then, what can you do?

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

Argentine Novias

It appears that yet another Hollywood bigshot is attached to an Argentine woman.

Perfil newspaper reports that "The Simpsons" creator Matt Groening is dating a 31-year-old Argentine artist named Agustina Picasso (great name for an artist!) and that they were seen snogging together recently at a London art gallery (see photo above).

Who knows how much truth there is to this rumor, but Groening now joins a distinguished list of American celebrities who have been entranced by the charms of Argentine women.

They include Robert Duvall, married to Luciana Pedraza, 41 years his junior (atta boy, Bobby).

Matt Damon, who is married to Luciana Barroso, with whom he has two daughters.

And Al Pacino, who's reportedly been dating actress Lucila Sola for the past two years.

In the big picture, this really isn't a big deal, but here in Argentina IT IS. This is the kind of stuff that makes the front page of the papers, and sparks countless hours of discussion and debate on daytime television.

You see, Argentines love to talk about themselves. To their credit, though, they do so in both a positive and negative manner. An Argentine will spend hours telling you what is wrong with their country, leaders, family, soccer team and body shape, but do so in a way that almost makes you envy their situation (and I've been here long enough to learn that this is by design, not coincidence). It's like their pain is a privilege.

So when Argentine women "conquer" powerful American men -- despite all the aforementioned problems -- well, then, that's cause for celebration in some circles here.

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):

"Las mujeres Argentinas tienen algo especial, pero es dificil decir que."

Photos courtesy of Perfil, Stephen Lovekin, and AFP.

Palermo Polo Open

The Palermo Polo Open is underway in Buenos Aires right now. It's the most important polo tournament in the world, and the Palermo field is considered the sport's "cathedral."

It truly is an impressive gathering.

I took these photos on Saturday during the La Dolfina vs. Indios Chapaleufu II match.

Polo players are rugged. They get after it on the field: elbows, mallets and insults fly like the wind.

Three-time defending champs La Dolfina won the match 17-12, led by captain Adolfo Cambiaso, the world's #1 polo player. (He's in the photo below from Saturday, far left, hoisting the Fasano Cup, not to be confused with the Palermo Open tournament, which continues in its elimination format until the final on Dec. 6th.)

It's fascinating to watch Cambiaso play; he is truly on another level. The best ranking you can achieve in polo is a 10 Handicap, and all the players on La Dolfina are 10s, making them one of the few teams with a combined 40 Handicap. But they really should consider changing the handicap system because as good as Cambiaso's teammates are, they are nowhere nearly as talented as he is. One pro player told me he thought Cambiaso should have a 15 Handicap. He's that good.

I interviewed Cambiaso in 2006 for a documentary I produced about polo in Argentina (you can watch a clip of it here, although this doesn't include the Cambiaso interview.) He was a very cool guy. Shy, but well-spoken, and with an obvious determination to change the sport that he loves.

Cambiaso is widely credited with bringing polo to the masses in Argentina. One way he's done so is by encouraging fans from his favorite soccer team, Nueva Chicago, to come to the matches. Nowadays you can see and hear them chanting shirtless in the stands. Needless to say, not everyone in Argentina was pleased with this development. ("They hated me for it. But I don't care," he told me.) Moreover, his buddy Diego Maradona -- not the posterchild for properness --can often be seen cheering him on, and one of the sponsors of his team is Marcelo Tinelli, the king of low-brow nighttime television in Argentina.

The Palermo fields are about 10 blocks from my home, and I pass by them often. Thankfully, the promenade got a much-needed makeover last year, and now it's in even better shape to host the eclectic international mix of jet-setters, socialites, polo junkies, gauchos, corporate executives, models and horse lovers who populate it each November and December.

It's quite a scene.

Davis Cup - Part Dos

Well, Argentina really shit the bed on this one. They had everything going their way in the lead-up to the Davis Cup final against Spain this past weekend: two Top-20 players (including redhot Juan Martin del Potro), home advantage in the raucous indoor stadium in Mar del Plata AND the absence of the #1 player in the world (Rafael Nadal).

So how they managed to screw it up is beyond me.
As Argentines are prone to do, the players probably over-analyzed the situation and took too much solace in the fact that Nadal was a no-show.

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.
But the fact that they blew it this year, at home, and with a stronger team, really makes it sting.
The mud-slinging has already begun in the local press. The coach is stepping down.
Who knows how this will play out.
I think it will be awhile before tennis fans in Argentina recover from this stunning defeat.
photo courtesy of Telam.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Argentina's Tennis Time Has Come ***

*** MAYBE NOT*** (see post above)

Argentina has a chance to finally grab tennis' most prestigious team trophy this weekend when they face Spain in the Davis Cup final. The championship is being played indoors and not on the dusty clay courts upon which Argentine players have always excelled. Argentine officials decided to host the final in an indoor stadium in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, 250 miles south of Buenos Aires, because they feared facing the world's #1 player, Rafael Nadal, on clay, the surface on which he is most dominating.
They may now be regretting the move.
Nadal withdrew from the competition because of injury, but Argentina still needs to face the formidable Spanish squad on the fast indoor hardcourt.
I'm confident they can pull it off.
A Davis Cup victory would cap a unprecedented run of success for Argentine tennis over the past decade, which saw a French Open title (Gaston Gaudio, 2004), a French Open finalist (Mariano Puerta, 2005), a Wimbledon finalist (David Nalbandian, 2002), a Masters Cup champion (Nalbandian, 2005) and an array of other titles from players like Guillermo Coria, Guillermo Canas, Juan Ignacio Chela, and the emerging 20-year-old superstar Juan Martin del Potro, who just finished an incredible year ranked #9.
Argentina has a long and storied tennis history, whose players have done extraordinarily well despite their limited funds and the long distances and inflated costs they have to endure to compete in the world's top tournaments. It's a topic that I examined in a story I filed for National Public Radio (NPR) in 2004. This week, tennis writer Christopher Clarey also touched upon some of these same topics in the pages of the IHT and NYT.
Photo courtesy AFP.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jerry Garcia Pic

My colleague at The Hollywood Reporter reports today that a biopic of Jerry Garcia is in the works.

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 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

Fodor's Choice

I received a pleasant surprise recently when I entered one of my favorite restaurants in Buenos Aires, Republica. As I was walking up the marble staircases to the 1st floor dining room, I saw a sticker in the window of the wooden door. It read: “Fodor’s Choice 2008: One of the world’s top establishments selected by the most discerning travel experts.” Well, I’m happy to say, that I’m the discerning dude who chose this restaurant as one of the city’s best in the recently published 1st edition of “Fodor’s Buenos Aires.”

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


Tuesday was an awesome day for the U.S., and the world. I am proud of Americans, and their wise judgement in choosing Barack Obama as our next president. Well done.

There were an bevy of activities on Election Night here in Buenos Aires. I was invited by the U.S. Embassy to the American Club of Buenos Aires to watch election coverage on CNN and CNN en Espanol.

It was a crowded affair that attracted politicians, businessmen, diplomats and lots of local and foreign press. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, chicken wings and mozzarella sticks (or, should I say, Argentine adaptations of these delicacies), and an open-bar. Jim Beam had a banner and bar set up, but I was told by a source they were charging for the Kentucky Bourbon; only rail booze was free.

We spent a few hours at the party, but then headed to a friend's house in Palermo to watch the real results start to pour in. It was nice to be surrounded by fellow Americans and Argentines on this historic night. It was clear to me that the outcome meant a lot to both.

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

Diego Be Thy Name

Diego Maradona is a living legend. The former soccer star is the most revered athlete in Argentina, and admired around the world. His prowess on the field was truly inspiring, especially his performace during the 1986 World Cup when he single-handedly led Argentina to the title. His off-field exploits have also garnered headlines for decades: drugs, booze, women, tax evasion, mafia buddies, arrests, heart attacks, illegitimate children, fist-fights.....Diego did it all.

But it now seems that Diego is getting a shot at redemption: last week he was named the new coach of the Argentine national soccer team, a move that he called "a dream come true." The news made headlines around the globe. Many have said that Diego is too unprepared, unexperienced, and unstable for the gig (and I agree entirely), but I also feel that the guy deserves a chance. He's lobbied hard for the position, and judging from his attitude at the AFA press conference on Tuesday, he seems determined to do a good job.

I did a story about Diego's new appointment for CNN International, and we filmed some of the segment at the Church of Maradona's annual celebration here in Buenos Aires. Yes, there is a Church of Maradona. It has some 120,000 members worldwide. Essentially, they believe that Diego is GOD, and live their lives as such. You can get married, baptized and blessed in this church. As a sports fan, I find this amusing. As a journalist, I find it amazing. We met some great people at the celebration that night, and filmed some great footage of the procession and prayers.

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.

Personal Fest: REM, Bloc Party, Mars Volta

Personal Fest was a great time again this year. A fantastic two-day line-up that (kind of) ran the rock gamut.

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.
I also saw Mars Volta, the most bombastic, avant-guard prog-rock band to come around in a long while. Their albums and live shows are just one continuous jam; it’s not free-form, like jazz, but rather highly-structured, screeching, introspective noise. Their music is kind of like how people feel about cats: you either love it, or hate it; there’s absolutely no in-between. Personally, I think Mars Volta are amazing. They got a lower slot in the lineup this year, as opposed to last time I saw them at the same festival in 2005, which doesn't make sense to me. There was also a personel change: Drummer Jon Theodore (above) has left the band. Like me, Jon went to high school in Baltimore; I used to see him play in a Grateful Dead cover band at keg parties when we were teenagers. Those were the days....

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.

PBS Worldfocus - Story #2

Here's another story I helped produce for PBS' "Worldfocus" which examines Argentines views of the U.S. presidential election, and their impression of the U.S. as a whole.

To set up this shoot, I arranged for us to visit Radio La Boca 91.9 FM in the heart of the working-class La Boca neighborhood. This is roots-radio at its best: a small group of dedicated people who broadcast to their friends, neighbors and co-workers from a humble home studio. Host Hugo Mayo could not have been more gracious and welcoming. He seemed thrilled to have American journalists on his show, and used the opportunity to grill myself and Edie Magnus on an array of issues. I was translating for both sides, so it was a lot of work for me, but it was a mutually-beneficial encounter for all.

Later that day we went to Palermo and spoke with political scientist Carlos Gervasoni (right), a professor at the Universidad Catolica Argentina, and a graduate of both Stanford and Notre Dame, and Sergio Kiernan (left), a journalist with local daily Pagina 12. Both men offered insight and ideas (in English!) about U.S./Argentina relations, and other topics, all with the constant din of late-afternoon cafe revelers around us. The soundwoman, Celeste Palma, and the cameraman, Guillermo Ciampichini, did a great job of making it all come together.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pilfering Pensions

As it is prone to do, oh....all the time, Argentina started a sh*tstorm this week that has regional and global implications.

President Cristina Kirchner announced plans for the Argentina government to take over $29 billion dollars in private pension plans, which will affect some 3.5 million retirees and workers. Cristina says it is a "strategic" move to shield Argentines from the global financial crisis.

The local Merval stock market plummeted on the news, dropping as much as 17% at one point on Wednesday; other markets in the region also slumped. Argentina's bond ratings fell, and its risk index jumped. Investors are worried about another 2001-like default. Many Argentines think the money will just go to stuff the state coffers.

It's another unusual and inexplicable political move by the Kirchners. As I said live on CNN International on Wednesday, people in Argentina have come to expect the unexpected; it's in their DNA.

I'm very curious to see how this latest move is greeted by citizens and lawmakers. I think people here are more than tired of government meddling in their affairs, and I don't think this initiative will have much support, or an easy road to approval in Congress.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"World Focus" on PBS

PBS Television in the U.S. launched a new, nightly international news program this week called "World Focus," produced by WLIW and WNET in New York and hosted by former CNN/NBC correspondent Martin Savidge.

Its aim is to provide in-depth global news to American viewers, something that has been in shorter and shorter supply in recent years, as most U.S. television networks have scaled down their overseas reporting, shuttering bureaus just about everywhere but the hottest war zones. As someone who continually has to convince U.S. editors that Latin America matters, I welcome this new outlet, and I hope it does well.

I worked with a "Worldfocus" crew that visited Argentina in August, producing and translating on two stories for producer Bryan Myers and correspondent Edie Magnus. The first story is about rising global food prices, and how they are affecting Argentines.
You can watch it here.

Voting Day

**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

Of Suitcases, Stocks and Sponsors....

I have been busy reporting for CNN this past week. First, about the $800K Suitcase scandal that is currently playing out in a Miami courtroom. Today, the woman who discovered the suitcase stuffed with cash, the lovely Maria de Lujan Telpuk (above), is in Miami testifying in the case. Telpuk went from being a homely customs officer at the Buenos Aires domestic airport (where I am pictured below) to being a Playboy cover girl (after some surgical assistance, of course) and now a stand-by on an ice-skating competition show in Argentina. I didn't have time to mention Telpuk in my CNN report, (I would have LOVED to, trust me), but her role in this bizarre situation proves yet again that truth is always cooler than fiction.

On Black Monday, September 29th, I did my first "live shot" for CNN International from the CNN en Espanol bureau here in Buenos Aires. It was the first live report I have done in some 8 years, dating back to my days at WCAX-TV in Burlington. It went well, and as the global markets plunged deeper that day, it became apparent that the story was gaining importance worldwide. Consequently, I was asked to do two more live reports that evening for the CNNI shows that are anchored out of Asia, and again the next morning with the anchors in Atlanta. Considering my location, I had been concentrating my reports on the Argentine Merval and Brazilian Bovespa indexes, so I was a bit thrown when one of the anchors in Hong Kong asked me to talk about the Mexican markets. I mentioned the close relationship (geographical, financial, cultural) between Mexico and the U.S. and then (tried to) coolly segue back into South America news. I think I pulled it off.

I also attended a truly awesome MTV party this week, a "pre-fiesta" for the MTV Latin American Music Awards that will take place in Guadalajara, ("Oh no, Guadalajara won't do...") Mexico on Oct. 16th.

These days, most of the bands that MTV promotes kind of suck, but I have to say that I was really impressed with Uruguayan rockers No Te Va a Gustar who have a kind of Fishbone/Fabulosos Cadillacs-vibe going on....perfect for a warehouse full of twentysomethings wearing purple afro wigs courtesy of Yahoo, while sloshing down free Quilmes and Cuervo ......gotta love corporate sponsorship.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Stolen Lives and Stock Markets

I reported two stories on-air this week for CNN, each very different from the other.

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, 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

Busy Week....

It’s been a busy week here in BsAs.....

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).

I was invited to the “Alta Gama” section where Argentina’s top vineyards pull out their big guns and serve their finest wines. There were some awesome new Cabs, Malbecs and Syrahs. Oddly, it appeared to me that every wanna-be hipster in that VIP area seemed like they’d be more comfortable drinking a beer or Fernet and Coke. Money can buy access, but not knowledge, I suppose....

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


HelpArgentina is a non-profit organization that functions as a bridge between donors from around the world and social organizations in Argentina. They do the middle-man work to make sure donations gets from point A to point B. It works.

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

Anatomy of an Article

I wrote an article in the Periscope section of this week's Newsweek International (Sept. 15, 2008 issue) about rising global inflation related to bad bookkeeping by governments around the world.

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.
Admittedly, I knew nothing about how these nations (or any nations, really) tallied their inflation statistics, but a deadline loomed, so I began a frenzied search for information on the topic. I read scores of analytical pieces and articles, interviewed economist Howard Archer of Global Insight in London (whose obervations got cut from the final piece, unfortunately) and basically became an expert (sort of) on inflation statistics.

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.
I imagine none of this is apparent to the reader when reading the final 230-word article, but I think it's interesting to note the long process and hard work that goes into producing (what I feel to be) quality and insightful journalism.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Leroi Moore - RIP

I was bummed when I heard that Dave Matthews Band sax player Leroi Moore passed away on August 19th following complications from a June ATV accident. The news came just days after DMB announced plans for their first-ever appearance here in Argentina. I am planning to attend; as of now, the show is still scheduled for October 3rd.

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.