September 2007

Jorge Luis Borges: The Mirror Man

The Mirror Man is an excellent documentary about Jorge Luis Borges. I recently learned (via flameape) that the documentary is available online at UBUWEB, a site that describes itself as the YouTube of the Avant-Garde.

Note that the documentary is 47 minutes but the video on UBUWEB seems to stop abruptly about 35 minutes into the film, sigh. So, if you want to see the whole thing you may need to find a copy via BitTorrent. Regardless, even if you see only the partial video on UBUWEB then you will come away with a rich experience.

Mirrors & themes

The script of the documentary was written by Alberto Manguel, a person who knows a lot about Borges. Manguel writes that the central theme of Borges works was the “curious paradox of being human in a mysterious and incomprehensible world.”

Even if you’re not so interested in Borges the documentary features archival video footage of Buenos Aires during the early 20th century. Also, there are interviews with Borges’ mother Leonor Acevedo, Maria Kodama, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Edgardo Cozarinski, as well as Borges himself.

The title The Mirror Man comes from Borges’ childhood fascination with mirrors and mirror-like surfaces. “More than anything the boy feared another self reflected in the polished furniture and dark mirrors of the house.”

The documentary gives a very good overview of the life of Borges and the influence of living in Europe during his youth. Living abroad enabled him to discover Argentina. Borges said, “Absence made it possible for me to see things i would not have seen if i had stayed at home.”

Upon the return of Borges in the 1920s Manguel writes that Borges “wandered through Buenos Aires with the passion of explorer.

Shuttered on Cabello

Robert and I were walking around Palermo the other day and came across this nice old house with its window shuttered on Cabello. I’m not sure if someone is now living there or not but we commented that it’s amazing that the house is still standing, just look at those two bland apartment buildings next to it (and the tall buildings behind it). Clearly, there must have been amazing houses on those properties once. We predict that one day this old house will be demolished for a new apartment building or maybe just for a parking lot. Perhaps not. Let’s hope not. But, just in case, I’m sticking it in my City that Fades Away series.

Shuttered in Palermo

Good advice on the bus

On the #10 bus the other day I saw this sign above the exit door …. good advice to remember as you’re stepping out into the world or returning to your home: “If you want to improve the world, give love to your children. It’s free!”

Good advice

A united Argentina-Germany

There was a rather odd sight in downtown Buenos Aires on Thursday as the city’s landmark Obelisco was draped in fabric displaying the national colors of Germany and Argentina.


I was hanging out around the Obelisco in the late afternoon when a choir formed to sing the national anthem of Germany then followed by that of Argentina. It was all quite peculiar, particularly when the Patricios military honor guard arrived to lower the Argentine flag while the colors of Germany waved in the background.

lowering of Argentine flag

The black-red-yellow-blue-white colored Obelisco was intended to celebrate the 150th anniversary of a treaty signed between Argentina and Germany in 1857. The Obelisco itself does have a German-Argentine connection since it’s construction in 1936 was supervised by the architect Alberto Prebisch, the Argentine son of German parents.

A relaxing afternoon in Plaza San Martín

afternoon in the park

Iglesia de San Ignacio

Walking back last night from the Julio López march I turned down Bolívar and was pleased to see that the scaffolding and support structures finally have been removed from the oldest church in the city.

Iglesia de San Ignacio

“We are all López”

…against the side of the Cabildo before a march to mark the disappearance of Jorge Julio López one year ago.

We are all López

Citizen journalism & future of newspapers in Argentia

Shel of the quite interesting Global Neighborhoods blog has a post about Ignacio Escribano & the Argentine citizen journalism/social media site Igooh (a subsidiary of La Nación). (I must admit that I’ve not seen Igooh before now, somehow I’ve missed it but I’m going to take a closer look at it).

Shel has this to say:

“In fact, my conversations with Ignacio have demonstrated that revolutions move at different paces in different places. No US journalist laughs at or disdains the impact of social media. There are no traditional media companies dismissing what’s happening on line as a passing adolescent fad anymore. When I met Ignacio and Eduardo Lomanto, a business executive for La Nacion, back in July, they were both shocked, when I said that I doubted there would be many metropolitan dailies printing papers five years from today and many would simply be out of business. Their mouths opened in harmony when I said many people doubted that either the Boston Globe or San Francisco Chronicle could survive through 2007…..My free-for-what-it’s-worth advice to Latin American and for that matter European media companies is to pay very close attention to what is happening to traditional US media companies.”

Having just returned from the U.S. I agree that U.S. newspapers are no longer relevant. I found the Nashville Tennessean to be worth nothing. And as a former resident of Miami I also can say that the Miami Herald always was disappointing.

But in Buenos Aires I feel very different about the newspapers, which I look forward to reading everyday. When I moved here I started out reading Clarín but eventually changed to buying La Nación on most days, though I still read Clarín whenever I go to a café and a copy is lying around. Oddly, online, I always go to, which I check daily, rather than And on Sunday’s I buy Perfil as well as the BA Herald (mostly for the reprinted articles from the NY Times).

My choice of newspapers is rather odd since my political slant is probably closer to Clarín’s but I particularly like La Nación’s interviews with intellectuals of the world (e.g., Tzvetan Todorov). Then there are the weekly supplements, like Ñ, which I adore. (I’ve not yet checked out La Nación’s competing supplement, ADN).

As a reader, I find the Buenos Aires newspapers to be a lot more relevant than U.S. newspapers. While I’m quite an advocate of the changes brought about digital media, I’m not sure that the trajectory being experienced by U.S. newspapers can be applied to newspaper in Buenos Aires, where the papers are relevant because they still provide good content. Is the decline of newspapers in the U.S. attributable primarily to the rise of digital media or the increasing absence of quality content in the newspapers? Buenos Aires is an intellectually vibrant city and I just don’t see the major newspapers here fading away anytime soon.

Having said all that, I do think that there is a very bright digital media future in Buenos Aires. Most porteños I know are as adept at Internet technologies as their counterparts in the U.S.

A return to South America from the American South

I returned to Buenos Aires this weekend after a short trip to visit family in Tennessee. Fortunately I wa able to get a cheap flight from using my frequent flyer miles on American. I was able to find a free flight for 40,000 miles from Buenos Aires – Miami – Nashville and back. It wasn’t entirely free since you still have to pay taxes, etc., but was a very good deal on a flight. Hmmm, so I guess that’s a cheap roundtrip to Nashville from Buenos Aires.

One of the main reasons I went was for the Barry Family reunion. My father’s family has lived on the same land in Tennessee since 1820. My aunt, uncle, and cousins still farm the land. It was good to see distant relatives and catch up with the family. Tennessee is suffering from a horrible drought. The land is extremely dry and the corn fields are solid brown… looks like there’s no corn from Tennessee this year.

I visited my brother in east Tennessee and things are a lot greener there though the lakes are still very low.

East Tennessee

This was my first visit back to the U.S. after living in Argentina for the past two and a half years. Driving around Tennessee reminded me how much wilderness still exists in the U.S. and the suburban nature of almost all the cities. Or, as in my small hometown or the small town where my brother lives, the towns are nothing more than one strip mall after another, completely devoid of any charm. I’m not a big fan of the automobile, so I prefer living either in a really big city or in a village nestled in the mountains.

So, here I am back in the urban grit of Buenos Aires. I love it.

But I also always will be a Tennessean, a Southerner. There’s something about growing up in the rural South that always stays with you even though I don’t accept all the conservative attitudes. Non-Southerners don’t understand the South. All I can advise is to read Faulkner, particularly one of my favorite novels: Absalom, Absalom!