Thursday, October 9, 2008

Music and Economics, BA

This week the Latin Alternative Music Conference reared its lovely head in my hood San Telmo, where three nights of showcases and two days of music industry panels brought artists and people in the biz to embrace Argentina into its pan-Latin fold. I caught an interesting discussion on publishing where the Chilean version of BMI or ASCAP talked about supporting artists in sort of Che Guevara-esque language of the struggle and the little guy. It was cool and I thought it was some sort of radical non-profit/union until it was explained to me that it's the same as ASCAP, just that in the U.S. we don't employ socialist verbage.

Speaking of, there's plenty of talk about the U.S. economy and what effect it might have on the Argentine economy. And I'm like, can it really get any worse here? Soaring inflation, stagnant wages, a climate that's hostile to entrepreneurial ventures, with law enforcement and taxation little more than a joke, but yes it's sure to get worse in line with what happens in "Yanquilandia."

I just wrote a piece about the black market of coins here that's the result of a privatized city bus system. The buses require exact change and then word is they hoard the coins, creating a demand that pushes up price so that if you need to buy change you pay 12 pesos for a 10 peso roll of coins. Businesses are always low on change and sometimes won't sell you something because they can't break your $20. Baffles tourists, of course, who think it's bad service to not give change to a customer. It's amazing to see what happens in a society that doesn't seem to give tickets or hold people accountable for not paying taxes, etc. I'm on the outside looking in, but the mess and corruption seems to have something to do the forgiving nature of the culture, along with disorganization and strategic skimming all around.

Kasha and I have been hanging out on the roof of the apt where we live this month. We're likely going to move again soon, where we are is nice but it's furnished and out of budget. Meanwhile we play on the roof at sunset; me on the guitar, Kasha bats bugs with her paws and sniffs the wind.

This was my second Yom Kippur in Buenos Aires. I went with a friend of a friend who just moved here, two days ago, and caught his first impressions of the city and of Argentine temple. We were one of the first people there, this morning at 10am. He was surprised at what seemed like a light turnout. I told him how the day doesn't really start in BA before 11am. By 11:45am it was standing room only, some suits, some jeans and sneakers, familiar songs on the piano minus the pop music performances common in U.S. I enjoyed the sermon in Spanish that covered everything from the economy to taking the leap of faith necessary to survive as a couple, relevant stuff lately.

I live just off the square now, Plaza Dorrego, and get to hear the marching drums Sundays as they pass by my house. It's nice to hear traditional percussion in a city where easy listening American music rules cafes and stores and cabs. There's tango in the square on the corner on Sundays, I hear the retro recordings that play for tourists and a few locals to dance to. Though maybe it's like easy listening for locals, worn out songs they'd like to leave behind for a while at least. The record label I work for is bringing some fire and they don't even try to get on the radio, here or anywhere. They just throw their own party and book their own tours and so far it's working for them. We're in a do it yourself world here for music and the local economy. Maybe that's where it's all headed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The American Vote in Argentina

Today I went to the U.S. embassy to cast my vote for president. It was a large party from 9am to 12pm that involved lines, food, and confusion. McDonalds and Starbucks had tables, a band played, there were news cameras and members of study abroad programs.

Figuring out how to vote was quite a challenge, though the event was well staffed and the set up facilitated voting and even last minute registration. There wasn't any material with the names of candidates, there wasn't any instruction as to where to go to cast your ballot, there were no visuals and few posted signs. People didn't talk to one another to find out what the line they were in was really for. It was a disconnected scene with crowds of strangers but it was exciting being a part of the voting process (hopefully, if the ballots are in fact received and counted).

My friend and I got out our New York methods of doing business and got through the process quickly enough. The process involved the following:

1. Wait in line to enter the embassy (one hour wait at 9:30am)
2. Go through security (they never checked my ID but did take my phone and camera)
3. Get inside and look for the voting station after making your way through the food
4. Get a write-in ballot, again without showing ID
5. Write your address, social, etc on a form. Write the name of the president and vice president on a second page. Wish that you knew the names of the congress members you'd like to vote for and leave that pathetically blank (like every other person in there).

The highlight of the event was hearing a woman ask a volunteer for the spelling of Sarah Palin's name. The lowpoint was looking at that woman and thinking that she has no idea what she's doing.

That was the general feeling inside the consulate, that we the people haven't a clue. It was as messy a scene as the Argentine traffic outside on the street. My friend and I left, went down to the subway, and got on with our day.