tuesday, november 25, 2008
Across the roadways of Argentina are curious shrines enveloped with red flags - these are the devotions to the folk saint Gauchito Gil.
According to legend, Antonio Gil was a farmhand turned soldier or outlaw from the province of Corrientes who lived in the mid 1800s. Captured by the authorities he was killed for either banditry or desertion on Jan. 8, 1878.
While the stories vary, Gil's death was unjust at the hands of a rival and the outlaw performed some type of miracle with his dying breath or shortly after his death. Today he is seen as a type of Robin Hood-esque hero with quasi-religious overtones.
Although he is not recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church, many devotees seek his intercession for good fortune. Hundreds of roadside shrines dot the highways across Southern Argentina and, each year, thousands flock to his hometown of Mercedes to commemorate the day of his death.
tuesday, june 10, 2008
St. Rose of Lima
St. Rose of Lima is the patroness of the America's and the Phillipines. She was born Isabel Flores de Oliva in Lima in 1586. Her devotion to her faith was clear from an early age and he claimed to experience visions, revelations, visitations and voices. She died at the age of 31.
She was canonized in 1671 by pope Clement X. Her feast day is celebrated on Aug. 30 in Lima and hundreds descend on her shrine in downtown Lima built on the site of her birthplace. The faithful write their prayers on letters and cast them into the well there for her intercession.
tuesday, may 27, 2008
A woman in Tinque, Peru pours the sugar cane rum called cañazo from a bucket into a plastic bottle for sale. This locally-made raw liquor (also known as yonque in northern Peru) can be more than 50% alcohol content - although its common for vendors to water it down for resale.
It is essentially a type of Aguardente derived by the fermentation and distillation of sugar cane imported from the coast. Most often it's drunk as a shot, serving as a crude but effective means to keep the sharp cold of the Andean nights at bay.
thursday, may 01, 2008
The Paradigm Shift in American SportswritingEarlier this week, Will Lietch, the man behind the fantastically popular sports blog, Deadspin, decided to take part in a panel on Bob Costas's HBO show, CostasNow. Also taking part was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger, who has made a name as an author of books on various sports themes.
The discourse died the second Bissinger told Lietch "You're full of shit."
Now, I might not possess a Pulitzer Prize but years ago, when I was setting out to get a degree in Philosophy, I learned the hard way that the hallmark of a losing argument was when you became incensed. Cursing means you have graduated to simply showing your ass.
Undaunted, Bissinger went on to excoriate Lietch as an exemplar of all the excesses attributable to those who write under the aegis of bloggers. In one sense, Lietch is a valid target due to the sheer dominance his site has over its niche. But the vitrol this lauded writer spewed out obliterated any possibility of discourse. read more
tuesday, march 18, 2008
The Steward Observatory Mirror LaboratoryTechnicians at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory place pieces of glass in the mold that will create one of the mirrors for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope or LSST. More than 26 tons of glass was placed into the pan that will cook the 8.4-meters-in-diameter mirror. The mirror will eventually be part of a facility to be built on Cerro Pachon in Chile.
friday, january 11, 2008
Olympia Milk Bar
The Olympia Milk Bar is a landmark on Parramatta Road in Sydney, Australia. My friends call it a "zombie store" since the owner, Kirie Fotious, opens it daily but refuses to sell any of the items on display. The place used to serve the Stanmore Cinema that was located next door (and torn down in 2002). So, today, the darkened interior is full of candy and other items that haven't been available for years. Allegedly, you can still get tea or a milkshake if you catch the owner on a good day but I didn't give it a try.
tuesday, december 11, 2007
The statue "Satyr" in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Sydney is a bronze cast of the sculpture completed by Frank "Guy" Lynch in 1924.
The piece was modeled on the artist's younger brother Joseph Young Lynch - a cartoonist for the Sydney periodical, Smith's Weekly. The younger Lynch drowned in Sydney Harbor in 1927. Kenneth Slessor, who worked with him in Melbourne, then penned his masterpiece of Australian poetry, "Five Bells" in tribute to his friend.
Exhibited at the Society of Artists' younger group exhibition in 1924 "Satyr" was both hailed as a masterpiece and damned as 'a pagan work'. The National Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased it but did not put it on display. read more
tuesday, november 20, 2007
Baby Kangaroo Rescue CentreChris "Brolga" Barns and his partner, Emma Dover, take care of infant 'roos' Amy and Nikki at the Baby Kangaroo Rescue Centre in Alice Springs, way out in the middle of the Northern Territory of Australia. It's not uncommon for pregnant kangaroos to be struck by vehicles on the desert roads and the center takes in the infants to raise until they can be released into a sanctuary. For more information you can pop over to the excellent blog Golf Charlie Papa which has story behind the center and how folks can help out.
monday, october 08, 2007
Harry's Cafe de WheelsHarry's Cafe de Wheels is a bit of a Sydney insitution. Located in a tiny shed-like storefront just off Woolloomooloo Bay (there are a couple other located across the city), they serve up that estimable Australian staple, the meat pie. The Tiger Pie to be exact. A baked meat pie topped with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and gravy.
Done wrong, this offering is a nightmare for your digestive system. Done well and it's a hearty and filling meal. And Harry's tends to hit the mark. read more
monday, july 30, 2007
A Requiem for Foreign JournalismI got an email from a gentleman I know very slightly through another website this week asking for information about Peru. Turns out he is about to head down here with his family and had some serious concerns about the situation in the country.
He did his research and came up with a number of stories about recent unrest which, allied with a State Department warning issued last week, had sharpened his concerns.
“It is hard to judge from the limited info I can find what the feeling is like down there,” he wrote.
I was able to give him an “on the ground” report – as well as pointing him to my entries on the incidents I’ve posted on my other blog Andean Currents - that assuaged his concerns but the fact he felt the need to even contact me over this was troubling to me. read more
friday, june 15, 2007
Students from the Instituto Technológico KHIPHU practice the Chuyay Tinkaykuy dance in the San Blas plaza of Cusco, Peru. They are preparing for Cusco's Inti Raymi - or Festival of the Sun - celebrations which mark the founding of the ancient Incan citadel which kick off this weekend.
tuesday, may 29, 2007
The Puruchuco archeological site in the outskirts of Lima has become famous for the discovery of several thousand mummies in 1999, but this pre-Hispanic Incan settlement has been an important location for study for half a century. Work on the site began in 1953 with the efforts of Peruvian archeologist Dr. Arturo Jiménez Borja. Since then numerous important discoveries have been made here, notably pristine examples of Incan khipu, or the mysterious ‘knot language.’ This is an urn on display in one of the public spaces of the re-created Incan huaca, or manor house, at the site today.
monday, may 14, 2007
SoberTwo years ago I woke up with a bit of a hangover after having a bunch of friends over for dinner the night before and decided that was the last one I would ever put myself through.
And, so, with that, I joined the ranks of the non-drinkers.
The first question I get when I tell folks I don't drink is "Why?" My glib answer is that everyone says “I can quit whenever I want to” and I did. The real answer is a bit more thorny.
I like beer. I like all different types of alcohol. I enjoy reveling in a well made brew or mixed drink. Few things in this world are more sublime than a 30-year-old single malt scotch. Also, I like having a buzz but, if I was drinking for drinking sake, I didn’t waste good alcohol on the effort.
That stated, I never liked being drunk - particularly to the point I could not function. The feeling of being out of control was never enjoyable to me. read more
wednesday, april 18, 2007
Cashing in on Socialism in EcuadorLast year, I headed up to Quito, Ecuador on assignment and stumbled across a very interesting t-shirt shop in the Simon Bolivar section of the city – Stefan Brandt’s Only Nature Materials factory outlet.
The owner turned out to be a 44-year-old entrepreneur who came to South America from from Germany with an advanced degree in physics in 1993 and a desire to start over. Brandt made a few attempts at the business until 2000 when he found the key to make it work; “use only the very best materials.”
The result was his prices shot up but the quality of the product was so high he found a waiting market.
These t-shirts cost about $30 apiece. His other clothing such as light jackets, pullover sweaters and such are priced similarly. In a region where mass-produced clothing pushes tourist tees into the $5 range that seems like a suicidal business plan. read more
tuesday, april 17, 2007
Madre de Dios
An Amahuaca indian woman, Delmira, living in the Madre de Dios region of Southern Peru and her pet red-howler monkey, Carolina.
monday, february 26, 2007
Soft Drinks in South AmericaYou are what you drink. And nowhere is that more true than in South America.
Soft drinks – or gasiosas, as they are called in Spanish – can vary widely across South America. With interesting histories and cultural significance that are as important to the people that drink them as the taste itself. The different herbs and fruits that are indigenous to the region give many of the most popular brands their distinct taste.
These also pose a bit of the challenge for outsiders trying them for the first time. Venturing out of my coca-cola universe into this strange world of drinks took as much courage as getting on the plane to come south in the first place.
The most formidable hurdle has to be the undeniable fact that many soft drinks in South America are a god bit sweeter than what you get in the US. A lot sweeter, in fact. Part of this is due to the fact that US soft-drink makers tend to use corn syrup as a sweetener. In South America, sugar prices are much lower and the drinks feature the real thing. read more
tuesday, january 23, 2007
Two men on the Island of Taquile in the middle of Lake Titicaca knit their distinctive hats. Less than 2,000 people live here and almost all continue to dress in a traditional fashion. While women on the island spin thread and weave cloth, knitting is done almost exclusively by the men.
monday, december 18, 2006
The Mendívil figurinesThe San Blas section of Cusco has long been a center for Peruvian artists. Every storefront along the steep cobblestone streets is an entryway to the handiwork of a local master.
Even so, the Hilario Mendívil Museum stands out. Located in the corner of the San Blas Plaza the bold blue doors and balcony are as eye catching as the tile paintings that line the wall. This is the former workshop and home of one of Peru’s most famed artists.
The Mendívil sculptures are ornate and impossibly detailed figurines that depict Madonnas, archangels, saints and many other religious figures. The one characteristic that has become most closely identified with the Mendívil sculptures is the long graceful necks of the figures.
It was a touch Hilario Mendívil took from his childhood – seeing the llamas and alpacas for sale in the streets of his native Cusco. read more
wednesday, october 18, 2006
The Lord of MiraclesThere is, perhaps, nothing more Peruvian than The Lord of Miracles. For almost the whole month of October is devoted to this unique religious icon and it is venerated by Peruvians across the globe
The Lord of Miracles, or El Señor de los Milagros as it is known in Spanish, is actually a centuries-old painting on the wall of a relatively obscure church in central Lima.
According to tradition, in 1651 a slave who had converted to Catholicism painted the depiction of Christ on the cross on the wall of a building in the outskirts of Lima where new devotees to the faith gathered to pray.
When a devastating earthquake struck the city four years later the entire building collapsed except for the wall adorned with the painting. Over the next several decades, the image became associated with miraculous incidents. More and more people, particularly the descendents of slaves, began to worship at the site. read more
thursday, september 14, 2006
Hard Times for the Rock of Truth and Righteousness"Build the news upon the rock of truth and righteousness, conducting it always upon the lines of fairness and integrity, and acknowledging the right of the people to get from the newspaper both sides of every important question." - George Bannerman Dealey
I can still vividly remember the October day back in 2001 when I got a phone call at home from the managing editor of the paper I worked at. This was a little strange since 1) it was 8 p.m. on a Sunday night and 2) I didn’t really like her that much nor she me.
Anyhow, I was told my presence had been requested at a meeting early the next morning and, sorry, she was not at liberty to tell me what it was about.
Needless to say, when I went into the main office the next day all the paper’s panjandrums were sitting dourly at the table and a properly beefy security guard was just outside the door. After an exchange of my security card and beeper for a somewhat tawdry severance check I was invited to leave the building through the loading dock. read more
sunday, july 30, 2006
PachamancaOnce a year, during Peru's Independence Day weekend, there is a huge artist fair in the Campo de Marta park near the center of the city. I'm always in attendance because they also have a food exposition and that means one thing - PACHAMANCA!
While the technique of cooking in the earth is found around the globe, the specifics of how it is done are infinitely variable. One of the most unique approaches is found here in Peru where hot rocks are used in lieu of smoldering coals.
And, like in other cultures, cooking in this manner is a communal affair. The repast becomes a celebration in and of itself. Even though the vendors at the fair were cooking for all comers, you find yourself getting caught up in the spectacle.
My full description of Pachamanca and how it is prepared can be found over at Kleph's Kitchen.
sunday, june 11, 2006
How Coffee Changed the Modern WorldIt is difficult to overestimate the impact of coffee on our modern world. In fact, an peek at how this interesting plant has changed the world we live in can be illuminating on where we might be headed.
A few years ago I happened to pick up Peter L. Bernstein’s Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. It’s a fascinating look at mankind’s long and complex effort to understand risk and probability; or, more precisely, to find a way to predict the future from the confines of the present. It turns out that coffee has an interesting chapter in that tale. read more
friday, march 31, 2006
Peruvian CookingAs I have noted before, Peru is one of the world's great culinary treasures.
This region's unique geography has blessed it with a plentiful larder. The potato originates from here and there are more than 4,000 documented varieties grown in the country. The cool waters of the Humboldt Current provides the Pacific coastline with more than 2,000 varieties of fish. Each distinct region, coast, mountains and jungle, provides it's own unique contribution to the table. Peru boasts unique varieties of corn, beans, tomatoes and peppers that electrify the culinary adventure.
But this bounty itself is just one factor that has played into the country's great cooking heritage. Over the past millennia, Peru has been a crossroads for dozens of different cultures and the subsequent mix of cooking styles and histories has taken that raw material and made it something profound and amazing. read more
saturday, december 03, 2005
Life as a Foreign JounalistSince heading to South America to make my way as a foreign journalist I have noticed many of my friends who still toil in the bosom of daily domestic newspapers are a touch envious. They shouldn't be. The grind of being a freelance foreign journalist provides as much frustration and irritation as working a cruddy bureau beat. It provides some of the same ethical dangers as well.
Recently, COX News Service put out a story that was blatantly plagiarized from other sources. The usual hand wringing and recriminations followed. They blamed their contract freelancer who, in turn, blamed his “fixer.”
Don’t know what a “fixer” is? Well neither did I and I am a contract freelancer by trade. Luckily, former South American contract freelancer David Paulin penned an interesting article for Editor & Publisher magazine examining exactly how foreign journalism works in the wake of this mess. read more
wednesday, august 17, 2005
Marlin BoulevardThere is a place in the deep blue water of the Pacific about 35 miles off the coast of Northern Peru that was once known as "marlin boulevard." During the 1950’s a unique combination of ocean currents and underwater geography led the sleepy little fishing village of Cabo Blanco to become the nexus of the booming sport of deep-sea sport fishing.
Sport fishermen from around the world knew about the abundance of Peruvian waters as early as the 1930s but it wasn’t until after World War II that several Americans came and began looking using scientific analysis. Texas oilman Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. proved the theories right on April 7, 1952 when he caught a 1,025-pound black marlin that was the first fish ever caught that weighed more than 1,000 pounds. read more
saturday, may 14, 2005
Almost precisely halfway down the brick-paved street is a little-noticed memorial. A harsh steel obelisk with a jagged lightening-like design. It stands in sharp contrast to the casual walking area where young children ride their bikes, tourists amble by and restaurant proprietors invite you in to try their food.
This is Tarata.
On July 16, 1992 a car bomb exploded at this site killing 25 people and injuring hundreds more. It was the single most bloody day in the most bloody of conflicts. read more
saturday, october 02, 2004
Reporter Caren Penland did an excellent job telling the story of our hectic year covering the administration. There were street protests, threats of litigation, uncooperative sources, paper trails - you name it. I even had my very own "deep throat" source who tipped me off on some of the most important events. read more
friday, february 27, 2004
Eating CuyI can barely count the number of excellent dishes I have discovered since I ventured to these shores; the smoky flavor of anticucho, the rich decadence of pancitas and the sublime sharpness of the ubiquitous ceviche. The cuisine of Peru is an adventure for the visitor willing to explore beyond the confines of the tastes his culture has taught him.
And while each dish is a revelation worthy of a prolonged discussion it is somewhat obligatory for visitors to Peru to discuss the unique dish of cuy.
To start it is probably best to get over the shock value of this dish... cuy is guinea pig.
That same cute furry little creature that stumbles around a wood chip lined cage in every first grade class in the United States chirping and excreting all over itself. Guinea pig. But in Peru it ain’t a pet. It’s dinner. read more
thursday, february 26, 2004
Peruvian Drinking EtiquetteOne of the strangest nights of my life came just about a decade ago when I traveled from Dallas Texas to Austin with my friend John Wayne. The ostensible reason was to watch the NCAA final four with some friends of his; the practical reason was to waste a weekend having fun in Austin. Which we proceeded to do.
I have a lot of interesting memories from that trip - whacking golf balls out of the backyard at 3 a.m., playing sink-the-keg, the restaurant where they insult you as they cook your burger - but the most interesting was learning the brutal intricacies of three man.
Now, as a longtime undergraduate, I had encountered the excitement of three man in the past. It is a drinking game where you roll the dice and members of the group must drink according to what numbers are exposed. It is called three man because one person is always designated the "three man" and must drink whenever a three appears. not an enviable slot. read more
thursday, february 05, 2004
Climbing Mount MistiWhen Lawrence said he planned on climbing Mount Misti, I simply passed it off as the bluster of an English tourist caught up in the excitement of travel. We had already been up to Colca Canyon which, to reach, you have to pass the 4,800 meter mark. Sure it gave you a bit of a headache to be that high but seemed easy enough when we got off the bus and wandered around.
So I was more than a little surprised to find myself a few days later sitting on a rock in the middle of the night amid an absurdly steep snowfield approximately 5,000 meters above sea level.
As Lawrence and I tried gulping down breaths in the thin air the freezing wind whipped past us with absolutely no inclination of letting up.
"Who the hell's idea was this?" he said.
I was too exhausted to even offer my regular sarcastic reply. With still had more than two hours left to climb I had reached the point of giving up on this adventure. My legs hurt, I was freezing cold, I could not breath, I had no energy left and I had finally realized that I had absolutely no good reason to be there. read more
tuesday, february 03, 2004
A Mother of a Tongue - Learning SpanishLearning Spanish is, to use the expression, a bitch.
I made at least a dozen attempts to master a foreign language in my checkered career in higher education and none were the slightest bit successful. The blame lies with equal parts indolence, dyslexia and sheer outright difficulty. But, now I am in Peru and I am hoping the immersion method has some promise.
Peru is actually a great place to study Spanish. They speak a very conservative version of the language – Mexican Spanish, for example, has a lot of slang – and they articulate very well. On the downside, they speak it fast.
I have found that, for the most part, people here are patient with you and try to speak in their broken English or very slowly in Spanish. Often though, if you are with a group of people, at some point they slip into normal conversational mode. Then you find yourself sitting alone. It is a disconcerting feeling, much like when you were a child and the grownups were talking. read more
sunday, february 01, 2004
Observations and Errata about PeruAssorted observations about Peru in no particular order:
There is a glorious absence of power engines. The workers sweep parking lots and sidewalks rather than blast the detritus with the scream of leaf blowers. And despite the luxury, it is a sad statement on the state of employment, pay and the price of mechanical goods. Similarly the whine of chainsaws is exchanged for the persistent hacks of machetes. A daunting task given the girth of many trees targeted for trimming. of course the abundance of motorcycle taxies in the northern area of the country makes up the difference.
Dinner at a rural restaurant will bring in the stray dog or two looking for scraps. Usually this ends with a hearty yelp and a dash for the door when the proprietor arrives. You leave the chickens alone, that could be your meal tomorrow. Musical duos are just as common. They wander from restaurant to restaurant and, with the owner’s permission, play a few songs for tips. Although i am not even the slightest expert on authentic Peruvian music, these guys usually are pretty good. Lots of practice, I guess. read more
wednesday, january 28, 2004
The White City - Ariquipa, PeruArequipa is called the white city. Which makes you think about something out of Tolkien but it is much more down to earth. The entire town is constructed of a white volcanic stone that gives it a bright sheen in the sun. There are more than a million people who live here making it the second largest city in Peru.
But I heard that from a tour guide. The first lesson you learn here is never to trust a tour guide. To their credit, there is always a bit of truth in what they tell you but take five different city tours and you will be introduced to five very different cities.
While some of the major attractions are well worth a look, I have greatly enjoyed just walking around the city and finding it’s little treasures. Another lesson you learn quickly if you come to Arequipa is to expect a climb. (That turned out to be even more true for me this visit but more on that later) built in a river valley between three volcanoes the geography is wildly uneven. A turn down the wrong street often presents a startlingly steep ascent or descent. The cobblestones give an impression of security and the promise of ample traction but it is hard to overcome the intimidating power of gravity. read more
thursday, january 22, 2004
Riding the Bus in PeruIf you are going to travel in Peru eventually you are going to have to take the bus. it is best to prepare yourself early for this because it can be a bit different than what one expects. In the not-so-distant-past I used to travel by bus pretty regularly in the United States. Not the cross-town bus with graffiti on the seat and the shoeless man talking in tongues next to you but the cross-country bus that serves a different caliber individual.
In the United States, riding in the bus puts you in touch with a whole new class of person. I’ve met the most interesting and friendly people and I have met the most irritating and despicable brand of individual as well.
You kind of cower in your own little corner of the bus until you figure out what is going on. After a few trips you get used to the pints of old granddad being passed around in the dark in the back, the people trying to get their kids to sleep and the dissonant chatter of a dozen CD players on the heads of anyone under 30. Eventually, you mentally find your own place and, to use the expression, ride it out. After that, it is the luck of the draw to if you will have a companion or not. read more
friday, january 16, 2004
An Oasis for the SensesThe cities of Peru can be sensory overload for the unwary.
Coming from the United States, where the whole of suburbia is ceaselessly sanitized, places like Peru have a wild element that can take some getting used to. it isn’t to be confused with being uncivilized, because, in some ways, Peru is one of the most civilized places I have ever seen. There were empires here millennia before much of the rest of the world, and there is an assured sensibility to the culture today that derives from that.
it is mid-summer here in Piura. The warm winds blow the tall mesquite trees with a rustle that is almost a sigh of exhaustion. The motor taxis are a whirring rainbow on the streets, always in a hurry, but the dust settles behind them with a resignation brought on by the heat. But, just when you think the temperature is becoming unbearable, a cool breeze redeems your spirits. It dries the sweat from your forehead and makes the world relax for a moment. read more
saturday, january 10, 2004
Laissez faire and the Fourth EstateA few days ago I laid out my reasoning for skipping the country in light of the abysmal conditions of working in modern journalism. Not the super-high-end-major-daily journalism where the halls are paved with gold and the cafeteria serves ambrosia… well, where they at least pay a decent wage and you have the resources to do something worthwhile. No, I mean the middle and lower tiers of the industry where 90 percent of us toil in rude obscurity.
A bit of news released yesterday kind of highlighted the doublespeak that envelops your life when you are working in these types of places. It seems the economy isn’t doing as peachy as once thought. According to the labor department the U.S. economy was only able to tack on 1,000 non-farm jobs last month – a little short of the 150,000 the government predicted would be in the offing. read more