17 August 2010

2010.08.17_Apple introduces multitasking: exploiting, monopolizing, profiting.

Nothing to do with Argentina, or even South America -- where pulling out any device is like jumping up and down and yelling "I'm just visiting!" (in English) -- but a wickedly-relevant article for the rest of the world.

The baddest Apple in a rotten bunch
"...two factors in the targeting of Microsoft products were: One, they were the biggest player in town; and two, they were widely perceived to be monopolistic jerks whose drive for profit was far greater than their desire to encourage exciting software development.

On both counts, Apple should watch out."

11 August 2010

2010.08.11_fuck school!

This may not seem related to expropriation, but it is (see *) (and also I couldn't post it on my other blog because it references my current location).

Since I've been here, my brain has frequently revisited the topic of learning languages, and I've convinced myself that learning a foreign language in the school system is a really lame idea, if not impossible. Some personal examples coming. I studied Italian for YEARS in the university system, and could subsequently speak trivialities if I tried really hard. I lived in Italy for five months and could finally hold a meaningful conversation. I studied Spanish in high school for years and could order a taco, but could never remember if I wanted it caliente or picante. I've lived in Argentina for 11 months and can almost effortlessly maintain a philosophical and political argument about why gays should be able to adopt.

I think the reasons for these phenomenon are common sense, if not obvious. In high school, you're not given a choice -- you're obligated to take a foreign language, and you're involuntarily dropped into a relatively non-interactive, highly-structured, disempowering, artificial, and non-gratifying environment. In the university, you get to choose to enter a relatively non-interactive ... non-gratifying environment. In short, this artificial environment abstracts us from what should be the real goal, which is not to get the teacher to give you a good grade, but to be able to talk to people in the desired language. (Very much like the conventional work environment abstracts us from the real goal, which shouldn't be the compensation, but the finished product as a contribution to society.*)

For me this raises questions about our school system in general. If we learn foreign languages better in a real-world -- interactive, dynamic, empowering, and gratifying -- environment, why not other things. Maybe without the pressure-induced, mind-numbing, mechanical learning experience of school, the inherent desire to explore and learn and progress -- the one that we were all born with -- could prevail. Maybe the school system is what's killing us; teaching us to go for the grade instead of seeking real personal development; teaching us to obey authority instead of driving our destiny; teaching us to be taught instead of teaching us to learn.

Setting aside the environment (as if it could be set aside). and ignoring material issues (like disney-approved U.S. History stories), the status quo learning process raises questions itself. Why do we have to learn math for years so we can use it in something applicable like astronomy or computers? Why do we have to nail grammar structure before we can use it something interesting like a conversation? I'm not saying that there is no place for math or grammar -- I am a seriously huge fan of both -- I just don't see why we can't just jump in and learn the fundamental basics through experience, through the process of learning what we ultimately want to be learning. Unless what you ultimately want to learn is math or grammar, which is totally cool. What I'm trying to say is that our system is largely based on the delay of gratification, and delay of gratification is... not gratifying.

Maybe those rebel kids that wrote "fuck school" on their binders were right the whole time. Maybe California is on the right track, and the next step is to shut down ALL the schools. Maybe school told Google it would be a good idea to ruin the internet. Maybe school is NOT cool.

10 August 2010

2010.08.10_secret sources report from Bolivia

The limits of reformism in Bolivia

Jason Farbman reports from Bolivia on the indigenous movement's challenges to the Bolivian government of President Evo Morales.

"Capitalism merchandises everything. It seeks continual expansion. The system needs to be changed. We have to choose between change or death. Capitalism is the number one enemy of mankind."
-- Evo Morales, Bolivian president

"[T]here won't be a socialist revolution in a nation of small producers...We aren't thinking about socialism for the immediate."
-- Álvaro García Linera, Bolivian vice president

FIVE YEARS after the historic election of Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, ordinary Bolivians are beginning to realize the limitations of reforms possible in a world system of capitalism.

Bolivia remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and it's led to a regional version of state capitalism called... (find out here)

06 August 2010

2010.08.06_WTF Google

Who the hell told Google it would be a good idea to ruin the internet??

05 August 2010

2010.08.04_I can't believe we're still protesting this shit.

Oh noooooo! The Argentine conservatives were RIGHT. Let The Gays marry in one country, and they'll want to do it all over the world. Now what do we have... California's precious Prop 8 threatened? Good god what's next. Equality for EVERYBODY? Constitutional rights?? Communism?!?

(prop 8 protests, SF, 2009)

02 August 2010

2010.08.01_critical mass, buenos aires

From San Francisco to the Obelisco...

...es una masa! Una masa crítica! I made that up myself. I also made up "Bici sí! Otoño!" Well that's what I thought we were yelling, which doesn't make sense, cause it's winter here. "Bici sí! Auto no!" is way harder, and fortunately what it turns out we were actually yelling.

Also, at the starting point, I took a break from Critical Mass to join a protest against doggy abuse, so that's why those photos are there.

15 July 2010

2010.07.15_el matrimonio gay

At almost four in the morning, after 14 cold hours, Argentina's Senate finally ran out of words and settled on passing gay marriage, making itself the first Latin American country to make this huge step against discrimination and for equal rights -- even to stupid things like marriage. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

08 July 2010

2010.07.08_cochabamba futból wars

Bolivia might be the nicest place on earth. Here is approximately how my first experience in Bolivia went:

Immigrations agent: Do you have a visa?
Me: No.

Immigrations agent: Do you have the forms required to obtain the visa?
Me: No.

Immigrations agent: Do you have a photo?
Me: Yeah, in my passport.
Immigrations agent: No, a separate photo, for the visa.
Me: No.

Immigrations agent: Do you have 135 USD to pay for the visa??
Me: No.

Immigrations agent: "Está bien."

Hahaha. Wait, really? He then accompanied me to the ATM so I could take out the 120 dollars I had in my account, then to the exchange booth to change my Argentine pesos for the rest, filled out a quarter of the paperwork, skipped the photo thing, and handed me a visa along with my change in Bolivianos. He then pointed me in the direction of my next personal servant, who was waiting to direct me to my next plane -- which was happily waiting for me. It's like they all took a Accept Everything & Be Happy course!

Other than that, or maybe because of that, or maybe the reason for that, the country is really colorful. I tried to do my usual black and white routine, but couldn't bring myself to drop these colors:

The only downer (besides your run-of-the-line Latin American poverty) was this place...

...the Convento de Santa Teresa, where the second daughter of every family was once destined (the first married to ensure the family's economic security and the third was reserved to change their parents' diapers when the time came). In the convent, they weren't allowed any contact with the outside world. Like ANY. They could see their family once a month -- well, not really see, but hear, as there were bars and black curtain to prevent stimuli overload. They sold goods to the community through a revolving cabinet. They could talk to each other for an hour during dinner -- the rest of the day was to be spent silently working in prayer. Sounds rough, but at least if you paid a lot of money, you got a black veil and more rights. They treated their own wounds and diseases, as any doctor that entered the premises would have to be killed before departing (I made that part up to make the rest seem less offensive). The bad news is that there are still women in there. The good news is that it looks like they're the last of them, as the switch to consensual admission hasn't been good for the cloister business.

The semifinals for the World Cup in the Plaza Principal (the same plaza where the people hung a banner that read "El Agua es Nuestra, Carajo!" and so went the Cochabamba Water Wars and the expulsion of Bechtel) marked my last day in Bolivia. Sometimes I love sports, and this day was one of those sometimes. Everyone was rooting for Spain, because after your country, and after your continent, it apparently comes down to language. Hundreds of strangers from all demographics gathered for a common cause and yelled in unison (it was the Water Wars all over again!). The motivater? Nothing but a ginormous screen with the resolution of a 7-inch with rabbit-ear antennas. It was incredibly charming.

27 June 2010

2010.06.27_fútbol blah blah

I'm watching the tele. Why? Because the World Cup is in the tele. And Argentina is in the World Cup. And I am in Argentina. So, you know.

As expected, the entire country is World Cup crazy this month. Everyone's got their best baby blue and white outfit on. As we passed the cops menacing Cabildo, they blasted the national anthem through the P.A. Two kids rode by on bikes screaming "vamos, Argentina!" -- Argentina wasn't even playing that day. My friend Bryan's in Bangladesh and he says it's the same, "there are motorcycle gangs of kids terroizing the city waving argentina flags and beating drums." Wait wha?

Background check. I don't like sports so much.  I not only don't like them, I resent them for the detrimental effect they have on society.  Beyond distracting citizens from real and consequential issues and providing an environment designed for passive viewing only, like most entertainment, professional sports foster an "us vs. them" mentality, and encourage passionate identification with a team based on arbitrary factors like the country one lives in, all which lends quite nicely to nationalism, jingoism, and xenophobia. However, I think that the more one is aware of the absurdity of rooting for a team because they carry the name of your hometown, the more acceptable it is to root.

I know all about the absurdity, so it's cool if I root. Now, for who?

Yesterday the U.S. played Ghana. I rooted for Ghana, because in Castellano, "ganá" is the imperative of ganar, to win, and it's really fun to yell "Ganá Ghana!" Ghana ganó.

Today Argentina's playing Mexico. I've been to Mexico more times than I've been to Argentina, but I've spent more total time in Argentina. Mexico's got tacos. Argentina's got mate. Mexico's got the Zapatistas. Argentina's got worker-run factories. Mexico's geographically closer to my official home, but right now I live in Argentina. Everyone around me is rooting for Argentina. That's it. Let's go Mexico!




Mexico just lost. 3 - 1. What a racket.

Eh, fortunately the arbitrary process of team selection failed to procure within me a deep sense of attachment.

30 May 2010

2010.05.30_it's a weird socialist conspiracy!

I now present you with a seriously fantastic video about the reality behind motivation.

If only I could draw like that while I talked, people might understand me.

26 May 2010

2010.05.25_el bicentenario, about time for a new revolution.

Nobody likes the honk of a car horn. Especially when it's being misused. Misused like "hi" is cool, but misused like "I'm really pissed off cause I'm sitting in traffic and maybe if I honk everyone will move and then I can drive really fast" is not. There is one exception to this rule -- when they're pissed off because a protest is blocking the street. This is nice. It reminds me that there are still protests with the object of disrupting; of forcing people to pay attention. It's a refreshing break from the "We're so pissed off we're going to take to the streets and and and... block the sidewalk." I'm used to all the protests now. So much that at times I don't even bother walking to the window to see what they're marching for. It's hard to remember the days when I was home, longing for more movements, complaining about being at war everyday while protesting the wars once a year. When I stop and think about it, it's a dreamland.

Millions, like seriously miiiillions, of people flocked to my apartment this weekend (and the blocks surrounding my apartment too, but whatever). It was the bicentennial of the revolution of May, the revolution from which many parks and streets derive their names, the revolution that launched Argentina's campaign for independence.

200 years of independence is a big deal. Everywhere there are concerts, art exhibits, historical exhibitions, lectures, parades. Some people are freaking out and others are crying. The energy and passion could and should start a whole new revolution. Normally this level of patriotism grosses me out more than a misused car horn, but, like Kelly said, it's more charming when it's a small country in big debt. All of the most popular kids in South America showed up -- Evo Morales (Boliva), Hugo Chavee (Vene), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Jose Mujica (Uruguay), Sebastian Pinera (Chile), Lula (Brazil)... and of course Christina K. They say that the gov threw down more than 350 million pesos for their little party. Much of which was originally destined for... yep... social services.

In New York, they lit the Empire State Building in the blue and white of the Argentinean flag. Here, the whole city is dressed in blue. I keep waiting to hear Eiffel 65, but it never happens. By the way, I always thought that song said "I'm blue. If I was green I would die, if I was green I would die, if I was green I would dieee." While not grammatically perfect, it makes sense.

The whole five-day spectacle was admittedly impressive, but for me, the highlights weren't planned. On Thursday, the day before the official festivities commenced, thousands of indigenous came from all over Argentina to take the streets of Buenos Aires, forming what may have been the largest indigenous march in Argentina's history. Their message: We are still here, and, the last 200 years have kind of sucked. For elaboration on why, see Marie's article and radio report. And then on Sunday, downtown was flooded by heavy rains, attacking the ginormous LCD-screens, drowning the food stands, and leaving only the hardcore to hold the nearest table/chair/door above their head and loyally watch their favorite band. I wish I could say I had my camera for both marvels, but I didn't, for either. I did for the rest, though!

09 May 2010

2010.05.08_despenalizacion ya!

It had the lowest ratio of rowdiness to size that I'd seen in a march, but what it lacked in signs and noise it made up for in smiles. It was the Marcha Mundial de la Marihuana -- division Buenos Aires.

Saturday afternoon the smell of joints and the muffled sound of a march lured me out to the balcony. As we ran downstairs to join the action, we passed the doorman, who broke from his conversation with a cop momentarily, "Ah, vas a..." "a fumar un porro!" we answered laughing. What's one pig gonna do up against eight thousand potheads, right?

Everything felt different. Instead of flyers, they passed joints. Instead of high-rising clouds of fireworks, there were low-rising clouds of pot smoke. Instead of jumping up and down and keeping pace with the drum beats, they walked slow and looked around a lot. Instead of loud banging drums and amplified yells attacking your conscience, muffled and discordant chants could be found. The revolutionary newspapers and magazines were replaced by stands of hemp patches and pipes, and one burned-out lady selling cotton candy. Everyone had their sunglasses, and the skaters had their skateboards. In an instant, a dude walking his bike in front of the a row of marchers holding a bandera got distracted, and suddenly the bandera and the bike were one. Everyone stopped and laughed. Normally such a disruption may have detracted from the march, but today it only added to it. I think the most movement I saw all day was when an ambulance passed through a nearby intersection and everyone jolted to a halt to locate the source of the sirens, stashing their cigs in their pockets.

It was like no demonstration I'd been to. If you weren't already high, the altered state of the march was enough to make you feel high. Or maybe it was the contact smoke. I'm not going to go into why marijuana should be decriminalized, legalized, and utilized, because I don't want to insult the intelligence of my audience. Here are the pics.

02 May 2010

2010.05.01_dia internacional de los trabajadores!

One of the many things that Argentina has going for it is a wide array of prominent radical leftist parties. Both theoretically and observationally, it seems clear that the preservation of the radicalism that served to found these parties is largely due to said wide array. For a contrary example, look at the United States, where many liberals adhere to the democratic party because they don't think they have other viable options. In a similar manner, many socialists that have finally given up on the democratic party adhere to the socialist party that offers the most promise. In a society where few socialist options exist, if the vanguard socialist party loses its way, many socialists are bound to lose their way as well -- party because they've grown to identify with and defend the party, and partly because there aren't other viable options available. But here in Argentina there are lots of options. And if your party or union starts to defect to the center, you're on to the next, because you can. The irony in all this is that while most socialist/radical organizations strongly believe in maintaining the militancy of the left, most socialist organizations would kill (completely figuratively speaking of course?) to see the other organizations wither away like the transient Marxist state, thereby inadvertently killing one of the principle methods of ensuring the survival of militancy.

On that note, even though I'm not a party-people, it gives me great joy to see hundreds of different shades of red in one demonstration. The same way that my nose scrunches when I see hundreds of copies of the same flag (ahem, let's tone it down, Partido Obrero).

30 April 2010

2010.04.30_re-entering the atmosphere

I woke up this morning thinking about how awesome my blog name is, and decided that being as awesome as it is, I shouldn't waste it not writing for months, so here I am, with nothing in particular to say but a whirlwind of festering disjunct thoughts. If you're one of the many people I've been neglecting lately, you'll be pleased to learn that you're not alone.

To recap the past four months really quick. I went on vacation and a penguin bit me,

I went on another vacation with a bus full of old people doing things like

and I live in the microcenter now, in a fifth-floor apartment, directly above the action. This means that every morning, if I'm not waking up to the synchronized drum beats of a demonstration, I'm at least waking up to the roaring bus engines, honking horns, sirens, and (I know this sounds entirely too cinematic, but it's real) the faint blare of tango music.

The view from my balcony...

is much prettier than the view from the street.

My Spanish is pretty amazing. I can now laugh at the me from seven months ago... the me that responded to "hola linda" (hi cutie) with "noooo, it's LISA." Or the me that used "ciao!" (strictly goodbye here) in attempt to warmly welcome someone that came to my door. Don't get me wrong, I still order zapatillos (shoes) instead of zapallitos (leeks) in my tarta at times, but at least I get the joke now after I do it.

I've been having a love/hate relationship with consumerist culture lately. On one hand, I love that most households are minimalist. We don't have mops -- we have a trapo (rag) and a secador (it's like a squeegee with a broom handle). Of course the trapo is used for other things, and the secador is used for other things, but together they clearly constitute a mop. Because I can't buy everything, I'm learning that if I can't buy it, I can usually make it out of something that I already have. On the other hand, I really could use some non-flouride toothpaste and tweezers with the angled tip.

Feliz cumple Steven Lim!

All the while my dad's been keeping me informed on life. The dot over the letter 'i' is called a tittle. I'm not sure what the dot over the 'j' is. By slowly raising your legs and lying on your back, you won't sink in quicksand. This I'd very much like to believe, but I saw Princess Bride, and there is just no f-in way Buttercup had time to "slowly raise her legs." And finally, a raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top. This is true. I used this theory test as an excuse to buy champagne and raisins. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the raisins. Blech.