Dec 22, 2009


This time in Spanish and English

This is like a retwitt. The story on the link below was going to be here but I pitched it to the LA Weekly and they bought it. I am very happy about it because so far only Canadians had encouraged me to write in their language...

It's about the book 'A heartbeat and a guitar. Johnny Cash and the making of Bitter Tears', by Antonino D'Ambrosio. He did a musical presentation of it at Subliminal Projects, the Shepard Fairey art gallery in LA. Fairey's art work related to the book and to D'Ambrosio's documentary Let Fury have the hour was in display there too.

Read it here:


En el link de arriba podeis leer un reportaje mío publicado en el LA WEEKLY sobre el libro 'A heartbeat and a guitar. Johnny Cash and the making of Bitter Tears', de Antonino D'Ambrosio. El libro habla del casi desconocido album Bitter Tears, con el que Cash reivindicó los derechos de los indios americanos y que fue censurado de forma fulminante. D'Ambrosio hizo una entretenida presentación musical en Subliminal Projects, la galería de Shepard Fairey (el artista mundialmente famoso por los posters de Obama) en Los Angeles. En la foto dos obras de Fairey hechas para la portada del libro y para el poster del documental Let Fury have the hour (sobre 'activismo musical y artístico') que D'Ambrosio presentará en verano.


This time in English.

This is the third chapter on a series about experiencing LA as a potential Angelina.


I needed a prescription. So I went to one of the dozens of clinics that surround my LA apartment in what it's called 'Little Guatemala', this lively neighborhood of Latino workers with a million clinics around. The doctor's experience wasn't really different from others I previously had in New York: a very uninviting place, dust everywhere, and a stretcher that was so old they had secured it with gaffer's tape:

For the uninsured like myself those clinics request that you pay $20 dollars for a visit and $1o dollars for each prescription. If you need a blood test or something more sophisticated, the bill gets into the hundreds. Doctors don't even look at you when they ask questions. They literally couldn't care less about people's health. They just make sure you sign every possible paper so you won’t take them to court later. Hopefully, the health care reform will also change this way of treating people. If being uninsured won't be an option anymore there won't be any dark stigma for people that cannot afford a private insurer...
We are humans too!!


I biked through MacArthur's park a few days ago. It looked very beautiful from the 10th floor of the American Cement Building, where I have been working on my documentary (yes, it will be finally ready quite soon!!). Unfortunately, some parks in LA are not intended to be enjoyed by citizens. I am still trying to understand the reason; all I can say, so far, is that I felt I was biking to hell. I was the only woman; at least three junkies where trying to avoid falling into the water; a wide variety of hustlers where loitering and looking at me without friendly faces and at least two drunk guys mumble who knows what to me. The landscape was either drunken people or homeless sleeping on the park.

In an ideal world, all types of people enjoying the sun would have inhabited this beautiful green space. Someone has told me that those parks exist in LA too. I just wonder how is it possible that an area of town whose streets are alive, as opposite as many others ghostly neighborhoods, is exactly the one where a potentially public space it's a total nightmare. New York parks used to be like that years ago. Now it is a different story. I just hope LA won’t follow Giuliani's example to 'clean' up the city. The 9/11 mayor throws everybody either into jail or into buses with one-way tickets to out of town.

What can I say? As the great Jonathan Gold reminded me, many punk lyrics used to refer to Bonnie Brae, a notorious street in the neighborhood known for being the heroin supermarket of LA (at its corner with 6 st) It seems that crack is more on vogue now days but probably the killer # 1 in the neighborhood is alcohol. Soledad, a Guatemalan who works selling pupusas on Alvarado, told me the sad story that plagues the area: "Almost everybody drinks his salary on Fridays and ends up falling asleep at any given corner. Hard workers but totally depressed by their lives in LA". Is she too? "No hija, en mi país te cortan las orejas para robarte los pendientes. Eso sí que es deprimente. Aquí hay cosas feas pero se puede ser feliz".

Dec 20, 2009


This time in English

This is the second chapter on a series about experiencing LA as a potential Angelina.

Alvarado St.

I am living around MacArthur's park, which means I am a white girl with blond hair and blue eyes around Guatemalan, Salvadorian and Mexican workers who think I am a gringa who doesn't understand Spanish. It's a lively neighborhood where you can incessantly listen to Jose Luis Perales , buy cheap socks and impossible clothes, have great tacos, pupusas -and great pastrami at Langer's- and get fake green cards.

"ID's, ID's". That's the most common word uttered around the area. The cholos (gang people) control the business but deep in the chain of command there are illegal immigrants walking the streets and offering their bargains: the cheapest ID is $40, the most expensive could be $700. Maybe because I look 'gringa' but I speak Spanish with my thick Castilian accent, one of those men agreed to talk to me. "If you just jumped the fence we try to be good and give you a deal. If you are European we charge you more and if your car looks expensive the price goes up". At least, they have a heart...

Alvarado on a Sunday morning

The cost also depends on how fake the ID looks. The quality of the number it's key too. "If you want a green card with a real number you are going to have to pay for it, but we can get you anything". The price of the best ones, $700, looks very cheap to me, compared with New York, where as far as I know you have to pay at least $2000 for a good green card in the black market. "The business is bigger in LA and we sell mainly fake numbers but every employer knows it and everybody plays along" this guy told me.

He was caught months ago when he sold an ID to a cop in the area. He was deported but crossed the border again; it cost him $4000. "I have done it a few times, so that was a 'good customer' price; if not it could have been $5000 or $6000". He used to work in construction in LA but he wasn't making much money. "This is a better business, it's worth the risk" he says, although he wouldn't say how much he makes. "In Mexico there is no money and my girlfriend is here so I had to come back". Whether it's love or money who keeps him here, he doesn't even think about going back to his country. Neither are millions of illegal immigrants who are trapped in all kind of emotional or economic webs.

Picture of 'Love and Documents',
a great short movie recently screened in LA and
directed by Ben Fine using muppets.
It's based on the following story and it´s a good example of how art
can help to raise awareness:

I have a very good friend in New York who crossed the border more than ten years ago. He's married to an American because he loves her but he can't get his green card because he entered the country illegally and laws don't forgive it. It's a catch 22 situation. They are trying to press the government to change the current law and include their case in the future immigration reform: there are at least half a million people in the same situation. You can read about it here, and you can help them by sign their petition for the waiver reform here.

Dec 18, 2009


This time in Spanish

Interrumpo estos relatos sobre Los Angeles para hacer una declaración muy poco habitual en estos tiempos de crisis periodística: he babeado abriendo un periódico. Por primera vez en meses, me he sentado frente a un 'ladrillo' de papeles - en concreto 320 páginas!- como esos que solían llegar cada domingo a los kioskos y me ha apetecido leerme absolutamente todo, incluída la sección de deportes, de la que soy muy poco adicta.

No, ni el New York Times ni Los Angeles Times han mejorado milagrosamente sus ediciones de la noche a la mañana. Siguen su proceso de degradación y aburrimiento paulatino en papel como casi toda la prensa tradicional. Ha tenido que ser la iniciativa del escritor de moda, Dave Eggers, la que me haga recuperar el placer de devorar prensa escrita (e impresa).

Su nombre? San Francisco Panorama. Ya sé que todo lo que cuento no es noticia: hace meses que se especulaba sobre cómo sería la iniciativa de Eggers, que anunció a bombo y platillo que preparaba un periódico 'como los de antes', con mucha letra, mucho papel, reportajes largos y trabajados, en formato sábana y hasta con cómics, concretamente 16 páginas de viñetas!

Pero yo no lo había visto hasta hoy. Y a mí me gusta escribir sobre lo que veo. Llegó a las calles de San Francisco el día 8 y por fin en Los Angeles conseguimos uno ayer. En una de las primeras páginas se explica al detalle qué pasa en Congo, con background, análisis y esclarecedores gráficos, hay un reportaje sobre la sequía en California y también locuras como el recorrido fotográfico de un asado de cordero, desde que el cordero pasta en la hierba hasta que llega al plato, con toda la parte gore incluida. Las elecciones afganas al detalle, Michael Chabon escribiendo sobre música, Stephen King sobre deporte, estupendos periodistas despedidos de otros medios hacen reportajes de investigación...

El SF Panorama está agotado en todas partes. La tirada ha sido de apenas 20,000 ejemplares y en principio es un periódico de un día. Eggers no quiere emular a Rupert Murdoch, simplemente aspira a recordarle a la gente -y a los Murdoch planetarios- que leer diarios con reportajes bien escritos de muchas páginas solía ser un placer y podría seguir siéndolo. Yo también lo creo.

Visualmente es un regalo: hasta las recetas de cocina están hechas con buen gusto. Y los textos... una delicia. Y eso que varios versan sobre temas muy locales de San Francisco, pero importa poco: esa es la clave del buen periodismo, conseguir que te interese hasta lo que en principio te resulta lejano y ajeno.

Obviamente es imposible leérselo en un día, ni siquiera en una semana, pero apetece. Y eso es lo que realmente debería importarle a quienes editan periódicos, que sus lectores tengan ganas de leerselo todo, incluído un reportaje de casi 30 páginas sobre el Camino de Santiago en el suplemento dominical !!! (llevo 15 y es lo mejor que he leído nunca sobre el tema)

En este blog y en este encontraréis más detalles -económicos y creativos, resulta que ha sido bastante barato hacerlo....- y descripciones sobre el contenido. Aquí van las críticas, siempre inevitables. Yo me declaro fan y lamento que el proyecto no se convierta al menos en un mensual. Por cierto, ya han entrado en segunda edición, pero no será cuestión de horas si no de semanas: la reimpresión llegará en enero.

Dec 15, 2009


Yes, believe it or not I am still in LA. I've been 'missing in action', I am sorry, but I had to organize many things in order to stay here in December so my blog suffered of lack of attention, but I am back!

It wasn't difficult to avoid returning to New York: the winter is killer there and December presented itself in LA under the warm light of my beloved Cadiz, (who knew it???) and with different kind of temptations, like a very cheap apartment to stay in or a kick-ass bike to be a rebel and bike instead of driving in LA so, how could I say no? Plus, I am a journalist working for a newspaper in crisis that shrinks everyday and in consequence my amount of work is shrinking too so I figured I wouldn't miss much...

The USC/Getty fellowship provided me with the best possible Cicerones in town, but after those three heavenly weeks, reality hit back. I don't want to be one of those reporters that land in a place and start judging it right away, without really knowing or understanding what life is like in that place. That's a sin that we journalists commit too often and I'd like to avoid it. That was one of the reasons for me to stay in LA longer: let's try to have an Angelino life and see if it is possible to understand why this city is evenly loved and hated.

I am going to try to do my best at describing very simple experiences that are also related with important discussions that are going on around the country and the world, like health care, public transportation, public spaces, culture, immigration or food. I' ll do it over a series of posts.

Yes, I've tried and it's possible. If you don't have a car, a bike makes your life easier, but it's not a solution if you want to go to the other side of the city... unless you have loooots of time!! -I' ll talk about driving in LA in the next few days and also about the project CicLAvia-. My biking trip from Downtown to Hancock Park wasn't too difficult, 45 minutes biking. But the thought of going back in the dark of the night, through blocks and blocks of empty sidewalks it wasn't an appealing idea. It feels very good to be alone in the middle of the countryside looking at the landscape. The emptiness of a city sidewalk and the deafening sound of silence when you are surrounded by inhabited houses it's very foreign and creepy to me... as a Swedish friend asked over and over for a year after she moved to LA, 'where is the city'?????

Well, it seems that in LA the city is always indoors. It feels weird because the climate would make it the perfect outdoors city but if people don't use public transportation, chances are that not many people will flock to the streets to going to places. They just flock into their cars. In fact, LA must be one of the very few cities in the world whose subway looks like this at rush hour:

This picture, taken at 8,30 am on the red line
must look like a dream to new yorkers....

The subway is not too bad, it's quite ugly but at least it's clean, and the city is trying to improve it opening new lines and promising a big expansion,. For buses is quite another story. Some of them look like they belong to a seventies horror movie: they feel old and quite abandoned inside -sorry to say that the GPS screens don't make up reality- and the amount of mentally ill people that board them it doesn't make it better. Public transportation in LA reflects class and economy without mercy : an overwhelming amount of users are Latinos, blacks, elderly people or homeless. I tried buses a few times, and I guess it also depends on the neighborhood but I never had such a depressing experience in a bus before. From a very old sick woman with her very cheap wig on to the super fat guy that hadn't shower in at least a month and walked into the bus drinking and screaming provoking zero reactions around, all I could think of is to leave the bus asap. I couldn't, I had to go somewhere. So were many workers that just happen to don't make enough money to have a car. The depressing view they have to endure inside buses every day probably just make them dream of killing somebody. I would end up in a gang if I had to take the bus everyday... It should be mandatory for every Angelino to hop the bus at least once a week, so people with voice and power -the poor never count- would start asking for improvements. Cities need to boost their public transportation system's asap. Did anybody hear about climate change and Copenhagen in LA????

If the city were smart enough, they would make life inside public transportation a less depressing experience, improving the quality of the buses, the amount of them and taking care of their homeless, that choose buses -and public libraries I am told- to spend their time. It seems that now they are less than they used to be, 'only' 48,000, but I am living downtown and I see them all the time, and it's heartbreaking. Governments are there, among other things, to take care of the weakest parts of society, that's what I learnt in Spain. In the USA 'weakness' equals 'looser', that horrible word that reflects better than any other the cultural values in which Americans are educated. That's why people seem to be afraid of the 'public option' in the health care debate. Being taking care of it sounds like a sin to millions of people. But they should realize that paying for health care doesn't guarantee real or better care...

Nov 19, 2009

I don't live in LA (day 3)

This time in Spanish and English

Hoy he descubierto que un inmigrante italiano llamado Simon Rodia emuló a Gaudí sin saberlo al construir las Watts Towers, una escultura con aire a La Sagrada Familia en el corazón del barrio de Watts, en Los Angeles. Se pasó más de tres décadas dedicado a su obra, reciclando materiales para construirla poco a poco y sin ningún tipo de ayuda entre 1920 y 1954. Las Watts Towers estuvieron a punto de ser demolidas en los años cincuenta pero sobrevivieron a la amenaza de las inmobiliarias y hoy permanecen erguidas como supervivientes ejemplares de la historia de este duro suburbio de Los Angeles, habitado principalmente por afroamericanos e infaustamente conocido por los 'Watts riots' de 1965. Según cuenta la leyenda, mientras Rodia construía sus torres alguien le mostró una foto de La Sagrada Familia. "Se parece a mis torres" exclamó con cierto desdén. Tras contemplar la foto un rato exclamó "!Pero a él le ayudaron a construir su iglesia, yo lo hice solo!".
La banda sonora es un jarocho, música tradicional de Veracruz grabada en directo durante una cena musical en casa de Sasha Anawalt. Uno de los intérpretes es Cesar Castro, un mexicano que hoy vive en Los Angeles y que tiene un brillante futuro como músico. Por alguna razón su jarocho me recordó al viaje al desierto de Mojave que también hemos hecho durante la usc annenberg fellowship. El video no es periodístico, es otro experimento sin apenas edición con la digital harinezumi.

Today I discovered that an immigrant named Simon Rodia built a sculpture -the Watts Towers- that resembles Gaudi's Sagrada Familia. He shaped it in the heart of Watts, one of the toughest and resilient neighborhoods of Los Angeles. We had a very unique guide who told us how the story went: "One day somebody showed Rodia a picture of Gaudi's church. He looked at it and said with some disdain 'it looks like my towers!'. Then, after a pause, he added: 'He definitely had some help, I did it alone!". Rodia spent more than 30 years building his towers all by himself between the '20s and the 50's.
The musical score is by Cesar Castro, who played jarochos live during a musical night at Sasha Anawalt's home. California used to belong to Mexico, I guess that's why I made the unconscious connection between jarochos (traditional music from Veracruz) and the Mojave desert in this video piece. It's not a reporting piece, it's another experiment with almost no editing with the digital harinezumi.

Nov 11, 2009

I don't live in LA (week #1)

This time in Spanish

Me he paseado por el estudio de Frank Gehry de la mano de su socio, Craig Webb; he visitado tres casas clásicas de LA -Eames, Schindler y Hollyhock- guiada por un crack de la arquitectura, Victor Regnier; he descubierto a un personaje increíble llamado mister Jalopi y al director de un proyecto artístico fabuloso, Machine Project; he cenado con Jonathan Gold, un premio pulitzer experto crítico gastronómico del que casualmente publicó un perfil la revista New Yorker la semana pasada- y que en lugar de escoger un restaurante pijo y carísimo nos llevó a un tailandés nada ostentoso pero absolutamente celestial. También he conocido a Peter Sellars, -no confundir con Sellers- polémico director de ópera y teatro, un buda, en palabras de uno de mi fellows, un genio, en mis propias palabras; también he descubierto los secretos de la arquitectura Googie -nada que ver con Google- con la que arrancó la 'car culture' en California y con la que se inauguró el mundo de los shopping centers mucho antes de que estos se convirtieran en horribles cajas rectángulares.
Conversar con toda esta gente tranquilamente, on y off the record, sin las prisas absurdas que normalmente rodean la vida periodística es un lujo impagable. Y aún me quedan otras dos semanas! Tengo un montón de material que irá saliendo en forma de videos y fotos pero poquito a poco porque esto de ser una annenberg/ getty fellow apenas deja tiempo para nada más!

Nov 7, 2009

Nov 4, 2009

I don't live in LA (day 1)

It's official, I don't live in LA but maybe I should!
This is my first video-experiment with my new little toy camera during my Getty fellowship.

Nov 2, 2009


No sé si tendré tiempo de escribir en las próximas semanas. Hoy empiezo la USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship en Los Angeles y aún no sé si tendré tiempo de bloguear. Sé que voy a pasar tres semanas extraordinarias conociendo gente a la que siempre he admirado, entre otros a Bill Viola y a Manohla Dargis. El plan de vida que me han organizado suena más que bien pero no sé si tendré tiempo de hablar de esta magnífica agenda californiana que me regalan a través de esta fellowship.

Disculpadme si no me prodigo mucho por mi propio blog pero es parte del trato: entre otras cosas me piden que no trabaje! Lo nunca visto, que te paguen por no trabajar y te exijan disfrutar al máximo de la gente a la que han decidido que tengo que conocer. Qué gusto da esto de ser una fellow!!!! En cualquier caso algún video caerá por aquí seguro. Please, keep coming back!

Oct 28, 2009


Did you ever heard about it on CNN, on the New York Times, on the Washington Post? They might have mentioned it briefly but they haven't make any noise about it. It seems it takes a French an a Spanish journalists to try to go deep into a an issue that seems too frightening for the US media: rape in the US army. Pascale Bourgaux was in New York this week for the premiere of 'Rape in the ranks: the enemy within', a short documentary that she directed and that was born after Mercedes Gallego's idea.

'The rape of Cassandra', a detail from The fall of Troy,
Greek pottery, c. 480 BCE

Gallego is the New York correspondent for the Spanish daily El Correo, great journalist and a good friend of mine. She was embedded with the American troops during the Iraq invasion in 2003 and she witnessed how the female soldiers feared going alone to the toilet at night. All of them knew that chances of being sexually assaulted were too many. All of them knew that being raped in the army it was too common. All of them knew that perpetrators were left unpunished and all of them knew that the victims were usually advised by their superiors to shut up and let it go. She wrote about it in her newspaper and also in her book Más allá de la batalla (Beyond the battle). She was astonished by the lack of information related to the problem in the American media and six years later nothing seems to have changed.

Bourgaux, who also spent sometime covering the Iraq war, partnered with Gallego to research the subject and this week their 29 minutes documentary finally premiered in American soil -so far only the French tv has screened it-. The film explores the issues through the testimonies of some of those women. It's very disturbing to listen to somebody like Jessica Kenyon, raped twice, once in the US and once in Korea. She quit the army because "it was the only way to escape", in her own words. Her rapists are free and have never being punished. Now she is a counselour for other veterans who have been raped, has a help line (1888 483 8725) and receives about 30 calls a week. It's equally disturbing to listen to a mother whose daughter died in Iraq in her sleep. The army says Tina Priest killed herself with her own gun. Her family doesn't believe it: weeks earlier the 21 years old girl came forward with a rape accusation and she feared for her life. The rapist is still free. In this clip from Democracy Now you can watch some of the film footage:

The statistics speak for themselves: A Pentagon report earlier this year found one in three female service members are sexually assaulted at least once during their enlistment. 63% percent of nearly 3,000 cases reported last year were rapes or aggravated assaults. It's anybody going to do anything about it? At least Pascale and Mercedes did but women in the army need much more than foreign press attention, they need big American headlines and real action. (a note to Spanish readers: Pascale was the only reporter who interviewed the soldiers in the tank that killed Spanish reporter José Couso at the Palestine Hotel). Beyond the crisis of the press, journalists that are still willing to do real reporting are doing it, even without money.

Here a series of links related to the subject:
Study of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine about the estimate of sexual abuse in the US Army (pdf)

U.S. Military Violence Against Women

Helen Benedict, “The Private War of Women Soldiers",

Oct 25, 2009


Eldridge and Broome

Christie and Broome

Broome and Christie

It took about three months of careful preparation, but this time art didn't win as easily as the last time. Five people arrested and an extremely brief life for most of the pieces of art that went up on New York streets it's the balance of today's NYSAT action. About a 100 artists and activists were involved in the second New York Street Advertising Takeover, a pacific, smart, creative and uplifting initiative organized by Public Ad Campaign. Under its umbrella operates a very brave group of citizens that are tired to see their city decorated only with ads.

I reported about them back in April, when artists were able to replace about forty ad billboards with their own creative projects for a whole day. They didn't choose billboards casually, they only attacked those belonging to NPA, a company that according to Public Ad Campaign doesn't pay the city a dime to have their ads up. NPA only pays building owners. Then, why should we endure the visual attack of those ads if our city doesn't even get any money in exchange? Art should be on those billboards instead! Why not?

That thought brought NYSAT back to the streets today but, according to Jordan Seiler, one of the brains behind the project, "police and NPA found out about it very early on so they were very aggressive towards us, they arrested five artists and they were really fast at covering the billboards with ads again". By 3 pm I saw an employee of NPA covering one of the white washed billboards with new ads on Mulberry st... This time, though, Seiler is ready to suit the NPA and even the city because "the way they operate is not legal and now we know who they are". All the artists arrested will plead not guilty in court tomorrow.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to follow the project all day long like I did last time but my good friend Xavi did and we will have more pictures later on. I'm sure the Public Ad Campaign web and the wooster collective will have some pictures too. I'm also editing a short video.

Oct 19, 2009


Lately I feel as the unpaid spokesperson of these guys but I can't stop talking about them if they don't stop doing great things. This morning The Yes Men made the US Chamber of Commerce look very stupid. As it's been reported, more and more business (from Apple to Pacific Gas & Electric included) are quitting this institution in protest for its aggressive opposition to climate legislation, currently in Congress. Among the many surreal things the chamber defends their unsustainable position calling for the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' to prove the science of climate change... (and that is not a hoax!)

Well, this morning DC journalists found on their desktops an invitation to attend a press conference in which the chamber, one of the most influential institutions in Washington DC, was suppose to announce that it was dropping its opposition to climate-change legislation. Of course, everybody showed up, from Reuters to The New York Times and even tv networks got excited about it:

Unfortunately it wasn't true. It wasn't the chamber, it were The Yes Men, impersonating officials from the chamber and and leading the press conference in their name. Everybody followed until a real Us Chamber of Commerce official showed up and screamed at everybody. This reporter from the Washington Post was there. His article tells it all. It seems there was a very funny fight between the real chamber's official and a fake one. In any case, now everybody knows that the US Chamber of Commerce is one of the main obstacles to get a real climate change law passed in this country. Thank you again Yes Men (and Avaaz Action Factor, an activist group who team up with them in the prank). Amazing video of the hoax:

Oct 18, 2009


Today I came across The City of Memory, a website that it's a gift for either new yorkers or tourists and that helps to rethink our way to use the web to enlarge and share information, knowledge or just beauty. Just go and check it out. I won't say anything else about it.

(Actually, what it's fair to say is that I found out about it through this interesting discussion about the future of Arts Journalism that was part of the first ever National Summit on Arts Journalism that was organized a couple of weeks ago by the USC Annenberg School of Communication. If you are a journalist, I strongly recommend to check that out too, specially this video (the whole summit is online) and this magazine called flypmedia, one of the finalists in a contest about how to rethink our way to do arts journalism).

Oct 10, 2009


I didn't even know there was a philosophical theory called The Fun Theory. According to the blog Less Wrong which is run by the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, the fun theory "is the field of knowledge that deals in questions such as "How much fun is there in the universe?", "Will we ever run out of fun?", "Are we having fun yet?" and "Could we be having more fun?".

Forget about 'to be or not to be'. The theory of fun is definitely more... fun! and it's no joke! It poses wonderful philosophical questions that actually are part of "a very serious business" according to its followers. "The prospect of endless boredom is routinely fielded by conservatives as a knockdown argument against research on lifespan extension, against cryonics, against all transhumanism, and occasionally against the entire Enlightenment ideal of a better future. Many critics (including George Orwell) have commented on the inability of authors to imagine Utopias where anyone would actually want to live. If no one can imagine a Future where anyone would want to live, that may drain off motivation to work on the project".

So, there is actually people out there thinking how to theoretically improve our lives using fun as the main engine! (for anybody interested in the whole theory look here). I guess Volkswagen heard about it and in their obsessive quest to look green-friendly, like every car company out there that wants to change their 'polluted/pollutant/ image' into something eco-responsible, they organized a contest using "fun" as way to change people's behavior. No matter what do you think about the automotive industry, the results are... inspiring:

Sep 24, 2009

"Bienvenido al eje del mal, Oliver!"

Hoy es el turno de Hugo Chávez en la ONU y quizás aproveche para hacerle publicidad al documental de Oliver Stone South of the border (link al trailer), que el miércoles presentó junto al director y Evo Morales en el Lincoln Center de Nueva York. Este año ya no hay “demonio” ni “olor a azufre” así que habrá que ver con qué nos sorprende este orador profesional que por supuesto habló mucho más que Stone o Morales durante el coloquio que siguió a la proyección de la película. Si lo que dijo frente a la audiencia del cine puede servir de adelanto, es posible que Chávez se muestre bastante menos combativo que de costumbre, al menos con Estados Unidos. Aquí van frases clave del coloquio y un par sacadas de una película que yo más bien definiría como un reportaje largo (no exactamente un documental) sobre los jefes de estado de la nueva izquierda latinoamericana. Puede gustar más o menos pero lo cierto es que nadie con el peso de Stone había hecho nada al respecto hasta ahora:

Chávez: “No soy un obamista pero tengo esperanza en Obama. Yo con Clinton hablaba por teléfono sin problemas y espero que las relaciones con Obama vuelvan a ser como entonces. Obama es inteligente, rápido, tiene buen humor, es un buen tipo y ustedes deberían hacer algo. Deberían ayudarle porque se está enfrentando al poder, a lo más de recalcitrante de la extrema derecha americana, la misma que mató a Kennedy y a Martin Luther King. Obama tiene sensibilidad social y con él podría empezar una nueva era para el mundo. Yo creo que hay que aplaudirlo y apoyarlo, aunque tenga contradicciones. Habla de paz pero quiere mantener siete bases militares en Colombia. Eso es una contradicción”.

Sobre la película, Chávez: “Esta película es subversiva desde el punto de vista positivo. Una de las razones por las que nos atacan no es porque nuestros países sean una amenaza para Europa y Estados Unidos sino para el sistema, que no quiere que la gente americana sepa lo que hacemos. Si supieran nuestros logros eso podría contribuir al despertar del pueblo estadounidense”.

Morales: "Bienvenido al eje del mal, Oliver!"

Sobre la película, Morales: “Nuestro proceso de liberación es irreversible, imparable. Ver esta película me alienta bastante porque en algún momento tenía que decirse la verdad. Yo me pregunto ¿cuánto costará que este documental se emita en CNN en inglés y en español?”.

Morales: “En la Onu estos días sólo se habla de crisis pero, ¿quién está generando esta crisis? No es el socialismo, es el capitalismo. Todos hablan del efecto pero nadie menciona la causa".

Nestor Kirchner, en la película: “Bush me dijo que Estados Unidos siempre ha crecido gracias a las guerras”.

Pregunta de Oliver Stone a Kirchner en la película: "¿Qué ocurre cuando le dices que no a un banquero (por el no de Kirchner a seguir las reglas del FMI)?". K: "Te tachan de subversivo, de izquierdas, de ladrón o sinvergüenza”.

Si Chavez es "el equivalente a Oprah Winfrey", como él mismo asumió -así se lo dijo personalmente Obama en Trinidad, según contó durante el coloquio-, el documental de Oliver Stone que protagoniza el venezolano junto a Lula, Correa, Morales, Lugo y Kirchner debería arrasar en los cines igual que arrasaron en las librerías estadounidenses los libros de Chomsky y Galeano recomendados publicamente por Chávez. Pero primero tendrá que llegar a las pantallas estadounidenses y esa es la gran batalla a la que ahora se enfrenta Stone. “Quizás al haber tantos hispanos en Estados Unidos haya más presión y sea más fácil distribuirla” dijo Stone, que no pudo estrenar Salvador en los ochenta en su país ni Comandante hace dos años.

El beso de Hugo Chavez a Courtney Love

(This time in Spanish)

Courtney Love y Chavez en el Lincoln Center

Son ese tipo de cosas que en Nueva York ocurren y en otros sitios no. El estreno improvisado de un documental, South of the border, de Oliver Stone, dedicado a alabar a la nueva izquierda latinoamericana, reune en el Lincoln Center no sólo a su director si no a dos presidentes, Evo Morales y Hugo Chávez, y a unas pocas estrellas, Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover y... Courtney Love. Sarandon y Glover son habituales de la progresía neoyorquina. Courtney siempre fue una progre pero no es tan ubicua.

Courtney, Hugo y la hija de Hugo.

Voy a empezar hablando del beso porque soy una vendida, estoy cansada y sé que es lo que más engancha. Tiene morbo eso de imaginarse a Hugo Chávez besando a esta rockera, no? Tras la proyección de la película, durante un cóctel privado en el que la gente hacía cola para sacarse una foto con Chávez -el tipo tiene más tirón que Brad Pitt-, Courtney Love esperó paciente su turno para hablar con el venezolano. Tras una breve conversación cada uno siguió a su rollo pero antes de que Chávez se fuera, zas, Courtney se volvió a acercar a él y decidió despedirse plantándole un beso fugaz en los morros al que siguió una carcajada por parte de ambos. Repito, Courtney le dió un piquito a Chávez. Creo que pilló desprevenidos a los fotógrafos. Si alguno cazó el momento se hará millonario. Espero que no porque es tan absurdo que yo escriba sobre esto como que alguien se forre por esa foto. Disculpen este desliz cotilla.

En realidad de lo que hay que hablar es de la película y del debate -más bien discurso- post-coloquio de Chávez alabando a Obama y suplicándole a los estadounidenses que ayuden a su presidente porque se enfrenta "al poder, a la extrema derecha más recalcitrante, la misma que mató a JFK y a Martin Luther King". Lo dijo muy serio, creo que debió de provocar más de un escalofrío.

"Bienvenido al eje del mal" le dijeron Morales y Chavez entre risas a Oliver Stone por atreverse a filmar un documental que lo tiene muy difícil para conseguir distribución en Estados Unidos, según dijo un director que fue ignorado con la estupenda Salvador -"aunque en video funcionó muy bien" dijo- y que tampoco consiguió exhibir Comandante (sobre Fidel Castro) en su país. Bush se ocupó de que Chávez tuviera muy mala prensa y eso repercutirá negativamente en los intentos de Oliver Stone de llevar este documental pro-Chávez y pro-nueva izquierda latinoamericana a las pantallas estadounidenses.

Morales tiene un aura más seria pero Chavez es terriblemente simpático y se ganó a base de bromas y cercanía -ya sé, muchos lo llaman populismo- a todo el auditorio. En el próximo post colgaré las frases clave y que cada uno decida. Es tarde, me voy a dormir. Información sobre la película, aquí y aquí.

Sep 22, 2009


(This time in Spanish)

Hollywood y sus actores, como siempre que hay discusiones políticas polémicas, no se pierden una. Afortunadamente no todos eligen hacer campaña de ubicuidad tipo Bono o Sean Penn sino que prefieren pelear con el arma que les da de comer: la interpretación. Yo creo que con el talento que tienen deberían concentrarse en este tipo de campañas, resultan más efectivas que aparecer en la Onu dándole la mano a Ban Ki Moon pero supongo que es cuestión de gustos. En este video, muy similar al trailer de la nueva película de Michael Moore, en el que pedía dinero para ayudar a los jefazos de los principales bancos de su país, los actores salen en defensa de 'la integridad' de los directivos de las aseguradoras. Con el país completamente dividido frente a la reforma sanitaria, y con los enemigos del cambio comiéndole terreno a los defensores, Hollywood ha optado por tomar cartas en el asunto -a favor de la reforma, obviamente- con este negrísimo PSA (Public Service Announcement) . La idea ha sido de Will Ferrell - el video es mucho más gracioso que sus previsibles películas- y entre los participantes está el hombre-sex symbol de Mad Men, Jon Hamm. Menos mal que en lugar de esvásticas y rifles -como la derecha- los actores han optado por el humor negro!

Sep 21, 2009


This morning you could get this fabulous fake New York Post all around the city. It was a hoax paper but still, some people believed it was the real one! They used the same language than the tabloid usually uses, like the cover, We Are Screwed. In it's well known apocalyptic tone, the paper screamed all over the city that climate change is a real threat. Although the paper is fake, everything in it is 100% true, "with all facts carefully checked by a team of editors and climate change experts" the authors said. It was made to call attention on the climate issues that this week are being discussed in the Climate Week in NYC. Of course the Yes Men and many activists groups are behind the hoax. They did the same with the New York Times a few months ago. The idea then was a paper full of good news that they wished Obama will have bring to the world six months after he won the presidency. Dreaming is free, I guess.
Here is a video with the new yorkers reaction to the fake Post.

"SPECIAL EDITION" NEW YORK POST from The Yes Men on Vimeo.

Sep 20, 2009


Be ready. When you wake up on Monday morning something really smart and fun will have taken over New York. I know, almost every president in the world is gathering in the city this week either to give long and empty speeches at the UN General Assembly - usually you have to read between lines to find 'some real meat' in their words, diplomatic language, I guess- or at the so called Climate Week, but I am not talking about them. I'm talking about The Yes Men. These glorious activists are bringing some real action to the scene in the morning. You will read about it here and all over, I am pretty sure. If you wake up early you will bump into their 'new product' all around the city.

The Yes Men in action
at a business conference

Then, at night, the meeting point is at the movies. The Age of Stupid, a documentary by Franny Armstrong, is being released with a worldwide premiere, one night only (en Spain también). There will be a green carpet downtown in New York -even the biggest activists need their fix of stars- but what it really matters is the content of the pic. I haven't seen it yet so I can't talk about it but the director has really good credentials as a documentary filmmaker and as an activist. She is the director of McLibel, a very good documentary about a ten years lawsuit between McDonald's and two activists who wrote a pamphlet about the company saying things like "McDonald's wastes vast quantities of grain and water, destroys rain forests with poisons and colonial invasions, sells unhealthy, addictive junk food, or is complicit in Third World starvation". Below is The Age of Stupid' trailer, it looks pretty apocalyptic but for once, instead of watching fiction Apocalypse movies paid by Jerry Bruckheimer you could watch your quite possible future. Those big guys meeting in New York for the Climate Change week should do something about it. I´m afraid they won´t. We should.

Sep 15, 2009


(This time in English)

This summer I discovered a new underground hero, Stingray Sam. It's a movie that will become a cult pic sooner or later. It can't be otherwise. It's smart, it's fun, it's quirky, it's odd, it's a perfect mix of themes, emotions and even musical numbers. I don't usually like musical movies but you have to be a very boring person to not fall in love with Stingray Sam. I'm happy to do a follow up on my June post by posting here the first episode of Stingray Sam. The movie is structurally divided by episodes that could be seen individually. Enjoy the first one and start craving for more!!!!


Como no todo el mundo lee El Pais y como creo que escuchar hablar juntos a Robert Redford, Bob Woodward y Carl Bernstein (los reporteros del Watergate) sobre periodismo y cine no ocurre a menudo, dejo aquí el link a un artículo que publiqué ayer en el que escribo sobre ese encuentro tan especial que ocurrió el pasado sábado en Nueva York. Perdón por la autopromo pero fue uno de esos momentos irrepetibles 'only in New York' que me gustaría haber compartido con muchos amigos, en especial periodistas. Para quien no lo sepa, sólo decir que Robert Redford no sólo es un galán guapo que de joven provocaba desmayos entre féminas. Probablemente sea uno de los actores más inteligentes y cañeros a los que he podido entrevistar en mi vida. Escucharle hablar es un regalo. De Woodward y Bernstein, qué puedo decir que no se haya dicho ya? En dos palabras, brillantes periodistas.

Sep 14, 2009


(This time in English)

Times Square is still tourist's paradise. If visitors could vote in today's primaries for mayor, Michael Bloomberg ("please call me Mike") will probably be reelected - don't worry Mike, without their vote it will happen too, unfortunately nobody is ready for Reverend Billy yet-. To his credit, it was Bloomberg who chose to seal off the heart of Manhattan to traffic and bring a bit of peace to this area. It didn't take much, just a bunch of tables, chairs, a few umbrellas and some stolen space that once belonged to cars and now belongs to humans. During daytime not only tourists but also new yorkers enjoy it. Coffee and cigarette breaks have a new taste in midtown.

Herald Square

At night tough, the taste is very different. Along Broadway, from Times Square to 34th st, all those chairs are occupied by homeless.

Broadway and 37th.

One after the other. Bloomberg either don't think or don't care about having this stretch of city looking 'ugly' to those same tourists that fight for chairs during daytime. I still remember that years ago, in Madrid, outrageous mayor Alvarez del Manzano banned benches in Puerta del Sol to avoid homeless in the area. Fortunately for us, Bloomberg and Manzano don't seem to talk very often and so far, the vision of New York by night as a homeless city is silently taking shape in those new bed/chairs. I don't mind. The Times Square of the new century always looked too fake to last. So fake that now that reality is hitting back after a year of official crisis, homeless are visibly back to remind us that times are tough. Maybe Bloomberg didn't find a place yet to hide them before his reelection, like Giuliani did in the early nineties. Or maybe they are so many that it's already an impossible task. I hope the solution won't mean taken those chairs away from citizens. Homeless, after all, are citizens too and if a city is not able to provide them with a decent rooftop, let them at least profit from one of the few bright ideas of a politician.

Some fresh data from the 2008 census to think about, especially because for most of that year everybody was still living the 'high life', so imagine how the data about 2009 will be:
  • The official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. This was the first statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004, when poverty increased to 12.7 percent from 12.5 percent in 2003. New York's 14.2 percent poverty rate in 2008 was higher than the nation's 13.2 percent, according to the report.
  • In 2008, 39.8 million people were in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007 -- the second consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.
  • In 2008, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (8.6 percent in 2008 -- up from 8.2 percent in 2007), Asians (11.8 percent in 2008 -- up from 10.2 percent in 2007) and Hispanics (23.2 percent in 2008 -- up from 21.5 percent in 2007). Poverty rates in 2008 were statistically unchanged for Blacks (24.7 percent).
  • The poverty rate in 2008 (13.2 percent) was the highest poverty rate since 1997 but was 9.2 percentage points lower than in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available.
  • The real median household income in the United States fell 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303. This breaks a string of three years of annual income increases.
  • Meanwhile, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008, while the percentage remained unchanged at 15.4 percent.

Sep 5, 2009


(This time in Spanish)

La realidad siempre supera a la ficción. Si Robert de Niro y Silvio Berlusconi compitieran por un oscar al mejor intérprete de Al Capone, creo que, pese a mi admiración por De Niro, el ganador sería mister Berlusconi. O al menos eso votaría media Italia, parte del extranjero y sobre todo, los cuatro italianos que han empapelado el sur de Manhattan con este poster fantástico a imagen y semejanza del de la película Los Intocables de Brian de Palma.

Hasta hace apenas un año los neoyorquinos no tenían ni idea de quien era este señor. Les sonaba de haberle visto estrechando la mano del presidente Bush pero poco más. En los últimos meses, entre escándalos variados con putas, orgías y acoso y derribo a periodistas, hasta la prensa estadounidense, muy poco dada a hablar de lo que ocurre fuera de la burbuja americana, se ha ensañado con Berlusconi. Y para que la ciudad entienda un poquito mejor quién es este personaje que inexplicablemente sigue siendo primer ministro de mi país materno, 'la nuova Carbonería' viene al rescate con la 'nueva imagen' del Cavaliere, perfectamente visible en Little Italy, Lower East Side y Soho.

Spring and Wooster

Según me contó Alberto Baudo, el periodista italiano que tomó las fotos y conoce a los ‘autores del crimen’, la iniciativa de los carteles partió “de dos estudiantes italianos y de dos profesionales que viven en Nueva York y que se sienten frustrados con la imagen que el presidente de su país proyecta sobre Italia”. El grupo se autodefine como ‘la Nuova Carbonería’, en alusión a la Carbonería, una sociedad secreta que funcionó en la Italia del siglo XIX durante el llamado Risorgimento Italiano y que se oponía a todo tipo de opresores. Los carteles de El intocable Berlusconi son sólo el principio de su pequeña revolución.
'I nuovi carbonari', que de momento prefieren permanecer en el anonimato, han invertido 4000 euros de su bolsillo en imprimir varios centenares de posters, un proyecto con el que simplemente aspiran a que “los estadounidenses entiendan que no todos los italianos están de acuerdo con lo que hace Berlusconi” según Baudo.

Kenmare and Mulberry

Bajo la imagen de ‘Il Cavaliere’con aire pensativo un título: “The Untouchable. Unimpeacheable at law (El intocable, no impugnable por decreto)’”. Sobre un lateral, cuatro frases contundentes: “Dirige Italia con poder absoluto. Nadie puede tocarle. Nadie puede pararle”. Son las mismas que en el cartel original de la película de De Palma definían a Al Capone, el mafioso más célebre de los años treinta en Estados Unidos. En ese cartel la imagen de Robert de Niro flotaba sobre la de Elliot Ness y el grupo de policías (los intocables) que le dieron caza durante los años de la prohibición. En la nueva versión en cambio, Berlusconi ‘planea’ sobre una imagen de la ciudad de Roma, martirizada por su presencia en el Quirinale (la residencia presidencial).


Cuando Aznar gobernaba España y me encontraba con desconocidos dispuestos a hablar de política, yo aprovechaba que soy medio italiana para esconderme bajo esa nacionalidad y evitar el escarnio. Ultimamente me ocurre lo contrario, tengo que evitar mencionar mi parte italiana para no verme envuelta en conversaciones que inevitablemente acaban en Berlusconi. Por suerte ahora me queda el recurso de unirme a 'i nuovi carbonari'...

Aug 24, 2009


(In Spanish and English)

La idea de este blog nació el día en que Barack Obama ganó las elecciones. Me hubiera encantado cubrir su campaña electoral pero por razones que no vienen al caso no pudo ser. Desde entonces he utilizado este blog para ofrecer mi visión de EEUU y sobre todo, de Nueva York, de una forma más personal de lo que puede hacerse en el diario para el que habitualmente escribo. Sin prisas, al ritmo que marca la vida y no al que que imponen las teorías sobre la velocidad bloguera. Y así he llegado a mi post número 80. Ya sé que no es un número redondo pero no importa. Mi amiga Gloria Vilches, una de las artistas más especiales que conozco, me ha regalado uno de sus excelentes collages. Es un irónico montaje con el que celebrar una gran noticia, que quiero compartir aquí porque al parecer este blog también es 'culpable', en parte, de que hoy pueda contaros lo que leeréis un poco más abajo. Se me cae la baba de felicidad!

The idea of writing this blog was born the same day that Barack Obama won the presidency. I would have loved to cover the campaign but for different reasons it didn't happen. Only then I realized the web was there for me to write and share my experiences and thoughts. Since last November I've used this blog to look at New York and this country in a very personal way, close to journalism but not necessary attached to what's supposed to be news. I've also pushed myself to write in English. After almost 10 years living in this country I had to try. That's how I made it to post #80. The number it's not a round one but it doesn't matter. My Spanish friend, the artist Gloria Vilches, has done one of her very special collages for me. It's an ironic piece to celebrate very good news that I would like to share because in a way, this blog has helped me to get (I still can't believe it!!!!) here:

USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellowships awarded to leading arts journalists
August 11, 2009

Six distinguished mid-career arts journalists have been selected as Fellows for the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program.

Under the direction of Sasha Anawalt, director of arts journalism programs at USC Annenberg, this year's Fellowship will focus on the visual arts and architecture of Los Angeles, with attention paid to the challenges confronting journalists working in the digital-media era. How does today’s arts journalist, especially during a worldwide economic downturn, become the focus for conversation and persuasion? The 2009 Fellowship will be about enabling arts journalists to take a bold lead and tell stories that meaningfully connect audiences and artists.

With support from the Getty Foundation, the program, now in its eighth year, seeks to establish a new standard of excellence in arts and culture coverage. The Fellowship’s philosophy is guided by a core belief in the importance of first-hand encounters with both artists and journalism colleagues. The three-week program begins November 1, 2009.

The Fellows for 2009 are:

Joshua Samuel Brown, writer and photo-journalist. Based primarily in Asia for the past 15 years, Brown has contributed visual and performing arts stories to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Standard, Sculptural Pursuit and many other publications. He has co-authored four recent Lonely Planet titles including Taiwan, Singapore and Belize, and is the author of “Vignettes of Taiwan,” published by San Francisco-based Things Asian Press.

Barbara Celis, reporter, blogger and filmmaker. For the last five years New York-based Celis has regularly covered American arts, culture and politics for Spain’s El Pais. She is a frequent contributor to ARS, Ioncinema, La Repubblica, the Spanish editions of Vogue, Rolling Stone and Cinemania. She has a bilingual blog, and is finishing her first documentary, "Surviving Amina."

Kelly Klaasmeyer, editor and critic. Editor of Glasstire, an online magazine devoted to the visual arts of Texas, Klaasmeyer also writes about art for Houston Press. In 2004, she was awarded the Lone Star Award for first place in Arts and Entertainment Criticism. A working artist, she holds an MFA in Painting and a BFA in Painting and Drawing.

Neda Ulaby, writer and editor, radio and print. National Public Radio arts reporter Ulaby specializes in film, books, intellectual property issues, and cultural trends. She also hosts NPR’s weekly arts podcast. As former managing editor of Chicago’s Windy City Times, a gay and lesbian weekly newspaper, she oversaw staff and freelancers as well as contributed news, features and film reviews.

Randall Roberts, editor and critic. At the LA Weekly, music editor Roberts oversees the multimedia music content of and the music blog West Coast Sound. Roberts has also written for the Village Voice, Salon,, Seattle Weekly and other publications. His work has been honored by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the National Association of Black Journalists and Association of Food Journalists.

Matthew Westwood, writer and editor. As arts editor of the national daily newspaper The Australian, Westwood is responsible for coverage of the nation’s fine, popular, and indigenous arts. He writes mainly about classical music and opera, and the performing arts generally. He is a former editor of 24 Hours, a classical music magazine, and features editor on the startup team of London’s Metro in 1999.

"These Fellows are more interested in what the art they are covering makes us think than they are in telling us what they think about the art," Anawalt said. "Their knowledge, imaginations, and the high level at which they practice journalism -- half of them internationally -- help them foster direct and sometimes intimate conversations between their subjects and those who depend on the media for arts information. They will challenge the program further to push toward the edges where text, image and voice meet on the Web."

The 2009 USC Annenberg/Getty Fellows were selected from an international pool of over 90 applicants from 24 American states and 16 foreign countries by a committee of arts journalists and journalism school directors.