Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Strictly Come Stripping - The lows of the lowest of popular entertainment

No Brucey with his charismatic Forsyth charm introducing bow-tied gents and elegant, self respecting ladies to come and dance a graceful ballroom routine. No Len Goodman sharing an innocent joke with his little Italian sidekick as they judge contestants on their footwork and posture.

This is Canal 13's Bailando por un sueño (Dancing for a dream) and no one gives a toss about footwork.

If you want high scores here, then girls, get off your kit, flash a little leg, some cleavage, maybe even bend over and bare and bounce your blemish free butt cheeks, neatly separated by the G-ist of G strings, as the cameraman zooms in close enough to check all your most intimate details. Then proceed to take off what little is left and strut your stuff to Regaetton, Salsa and Hip-Hop as you emulate sex while riding your partner in positions straight out of the Karma-Sutra. What about the Argentine Tango some may ask. Don’t be silly, that would actually require wearing clothes, not to mention a dedication to dance.

One should of course, be excused for thinking that Dancing for a dream has anything to do with dance. People do dance but that’s not why people watch.

The brainchild of Marcelo Tinelli (Argentina’s most powerful television star, pictured left), and his Ideas del Sur production company, Showmatch: Bailando por un sueño, is all about personal scandals and arguments amongst contestants and judges. That’s what gets ratings. The dancing really doesn’t matter.

The show, in its sixth season, generally lasts from April until November/December. It airs nearly every weekday night and is analysed all day long by nigh on every other programme on every other channel.

Contestants talk openly about who’s screwing whom and who’s fighting with whom, while the five judges bicker like children and storm off when things get really out of control. (More often than not to head to Miami on holiday).

So far this year, the host Marcelo Tinneli has been serenaded by prospective future girlfriends, judges have secretly filmed one another on mobile phones and then splattered the media with the images. There have been the standard fall outs and constant name calling; and though thirty minute slanging matches are the norm, things did get interesting when seventy-six year old contestant Sarah Paddy Jones from the West Midlands in the UK took on Multi-millionaire heir to The Chocalates Felfort empire, judge Ricardo Fort when he slammed her partner’s performance, and hurled personal insults back and forwards.

The show has been accused of being pornographic and its ten-thirty p.m. broadcast time inappropriate in a country where young children are typically up past eleven. But it does appear that most of the female contestants, who are by and large celebrities for being celebrities, are willing to slut themselves up for media exposure. In some ways perhaps it is not so different to certain reality shows in other parts of the world.

But in a country absolutely obsessed with celebrity gossip and scandal, Bailando por un sueño continues to be the highest rated show, dominating television here. And these so-called celebrities know that tonguing their partner or rolling around on the floor with their feet up behind their head, will keep their image on the screens for fifteen seconds longer.

No Brucey, but then again, it is not for witty comments and cheesy humour that viewers tune in to Bailando por un sueño.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Does Great Britain really exhaust natural resources?

In a rather twenty-first century form of expression, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has launched a youtube video thanking her Uruguayan counterpart for banning a British vessel from Montevideo’s port on Monday.

HMS Gloucester, heading for The Falkland Islands, was due to stop in at the Uruguayan Capital for supplies after sailing from Rio de Janeiro in neighbouring Brazil.

Uruguayan President José Mujica however, felt it necessary to call the Brit Ambassador to, well pretty much tell the Gloucester to bugger off. You needn’t worry sailors. You’ve missed no navy-like night of early-hours, ravishing entertainment in Montevideo. It is, if not the world’s, easily the continent’s most mind numbingly boring capital city, where a Saturday night sees you sitting alone in a downtown bar staring out into deserted streets and wishing you were back across the River Plate in the twenty-first century home of CFK and her youtube.

Uruguay cited its close economic, cultural and touristic ties with Argentina and the ‘very delicate Malvinas issue’.

While in CFK’s youtube broadcast to President José Mujica she said, ‘I read somewhere that you had told United Kingdom Ambassador that you wished to preserve your relationship with Argentina, and that is why I believe this is some sort of joint defence from our region, because we know they are coming to exhaust our natural resources. They may come for the oil, then they may come for the fishery. They are after Argentina for now and they may be after Uruguay tomorrow, if they feel they are lacking something up there. 

She went on to say, ‘I appreciate the eternal solidarity Uruguay has shown towards the Malvinas issue, for this is a question that belongs to the whole of South America.’

One might say that she went a little overboard.

The UK government has said that ‘it respects the Uruguayan right to withdraw clearance on the Royal Navy HMS Gloucester vessel to access Montevideo's port on its way to Malvinas Islands.’

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1000s of teenagers in a park high on pollen

So much for no mischief. Yesterday’s Spring Day’s festivities were left overcast by not only the cloudy skies, but the out-of-control impish behaviour of many of the park going teenagers.

There were no incidents of hospitalisation for pollen induced illnesses, but at least seventy-four were left injured after fighting, stabbing and alcohol poisoning put a real dampener on the day.

From the Bosques de Palermo, Buenos Aires’ largest park, images of sometimes nasty and riotous behaviour flooded the evening news with teenagers giving accounts of their injuries. Several split-opened heads after silly scraps, and a stabbing after students defended themselves against good-for-nothing thieves who looked to take advantage of the large crowds.

‘The underlying issue is alcohol. And local kiosks selling alcohol to underage children,’ stated one television pundit as he analysed the situation.

Activities had begun in the park at 1pm with the announcement ‘Welcome Spring: Enjoy it without alcohol.’

But that wasn’t enough to dissuade many from seeking intoxicating entertainment. There were reports of arrests for marijuana and cocaine pocession. And one teenage girl was rushed to hospital after she slipped into an alcoholic coma. Her sad image being stretchered into an ambulance, her eyes rolling backwards and her head flopped to the side, is one her parents will no doubt cherish for many years to come.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The twenty-first of September, el Día de la Primavera, Spring Day.

It’s the day every Argentine looks forward to. The end of winter. The warming rays of the southern hemisphere sun have been giving the finger to their northern counterparts for most of the last month, but it this day, September twenty-first that officially recognises it. Sod school, sod the homework, the sun is here and the cold is gone.

What the sodding hell is the big deal you might ask? The Buenos Aires winter is like a nasty two week cold spell during an English summer (really it lasts from June 21-Sept 21), but let’s face it, it can get rather bloody chilly, with temperatures dropping to nearly freezing point, especially in the poorly heated suburbs. So when the twenty-first of September arrives, it is a day to festejar. Bid chau to those damp and dark days and buen día to a warmer Buenos Aires. The good air is here.

Men make the obligatory stop at a street-corner florist to buy a blasted bouquet of banality while their women might make a trip to the beauty salon to feminise themselves for the occasion. And all over the country everyone bids ‘Happy Spring Day’ to their colleagues and friends.

But really it is a day for teenagers, because in Argentine the twenty-first is also the national Students’ Day. (Last Friday was Teachers’ Day and sometime next month is Hairdressers’ Day.) So in Buenos Aires, as in every province, secondary school children are taking the day off and hitting the city’s plazas and parks with smiles on their freshly bronzed faces and cigarettes hanging out of their soon-to-be sunburnt lips. The maté which has kept them warm during the winter months is replaced with cold bottles of Coke, perhaps mixed with Fernet Branca and washed down with the odd bottle of Quilmes lager. They’re picnicking on empanadas, joking and laughing, and ‘adolescenting it’ up as they welcome Spring’s arrival.

We can the rest of us, only hope they don’t get into too much mischief.

Everyone is happy today as the next cold spell is a full nine months away. But don’t let jealousy get the better of you if you’re in the north; they’ll be no nose rubbing directed your way once summer is here in full, and rising temperatures are the cause of many a porteño profanity . Though nobody would switch the melting summer for an icy northern European winter, you can rest assured of that.


When a young man from a provincial town in Patagonia inherits his estranged father’s pay-by-the-hour love hotel in Buenos Aires he descends into an unexpected world of sexual perversion, petty crime and loneliness. All boundaries fade away when he starts spying on the clientele of high flying sex addicts, plastic surgeons and cheating couples. In this sultry atmosphere of continuous seduction he desperately grasps for the authenticity of the world he knows. But can he escape the vortex he’s plunged into?

BUENOS AIRES: LOVE BY THE HOUR by Han De Looper and Simon Kofoed is an exciting insight into the world of an Argentine pay-by-the-hour love hotel, and the adventures of its owner and its clientele. These hotels, known as ‘telos’ in Argentina, are commonplace in Buenos Aires and reflect the county’s non taboo attitude towards sex. Han de Looper and Simon Kofoed collaborated to bring together this piece, which is aimed at a male version of the ‘chick lit’ market. It is comprised of individual and linked stories and paints a colourful, realistic, and sometimes shockingly explicit picture that would be of interest to young open-minded and explorative readers.

Most recently, the novela's Barn Room Chapter was published in Issue 109: The International Issue of The Erotic Review Magazine.

For further information about BUENOS AIRES: LOVE BY THE HOUR, please contact Han and Simon at balovebythehour@googlemail.com

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Six months in Rome

Six months in Rome was enough time to say conclusively that I won't eat pasta for the next six. I am now super content to be back in Capital Federal dieting on empanadas, milanesas and asado. Though I do miss my 80 euro cent morning shot of coffee now that the equivalent café in Buenos Aires is going for almost double that price. A more detailed moan about current Argentine inflation will follow....

My first three weeks back in Argentina were bitterly cold ones spent in the countryside two hours outside of the city. 'But you're English, you must be used to it,' my Argentine hosts joked as I shivered beneath five layers of clothing and four blankets. During an English winter it is generally warmer indoors I told them as the damp bare-brick walls let out soaking cold air, penetrating my centrally heated bones.

But now I am comfortably installed in a cosy little eighth floor flat in the very centre of town, back blogging and newly twittered up. Six months away from Buenos Aires was tough going and it feels great to be back on the city's streets......Though I must say that the time spent in Italy was incredibly valuable. After all, if you really want to understand Argentine culture, the food, the way people speak, the hand gestures; you have to get to Italy to see where it all came from.