Online in Buenos Aires

It’s almost two weeks now that I am traveling in Brazil and, following a mood Argentine. Originally the plan was to go from Porto Alegre to Brasilia and do some Niemeyer sightseeing. But after we had seen quite a bit of cool architecture in Sao Paulo including buildings by the maestro, we decided that we did not need spend time in cars cruising around Brasilia, but go to a place where walking is an adequate way of moving.

In Buenos Aires to our surprise getting online as a traveler is probably easier than in Berlin. We found free WiFi basically anywhere including our hotel. Free Wifi seems to be the standard for hotels, which is noticeable, because in Europe that is not at all the case. In fact in Europe you find your self terrorized by expensive and malfunctioning services that force you to think about the best minute packages. It’s actually a scandal and one should boycott hotels that don’t have free WiFi.

Anyway, there are also strange things when it comes to hotels in Argentine. Because of a traffic jam on the highway, we missed a plain and needed to stay in hotel near the airport. At the information desk they had addresses of three hotels only. The one we chose turned out not to accept credit cards!! We had been warned that the whole airport is under control of mafia like structures and the hotel story supports this view.

Buenos Aires competes with Berlin not only when it comes to free internet access, but also when it comes to fashion and shopping. Certain areas of Palermo make Alte Schönhauser look look boring. Traveling with Euros on your bank account, it’s hard to resist filling your bags. Trying to catch cabs we must have looked like nouveau riche chicks a week before christmas in Manhattan.

PS: Fotos will follow, I mostly used my iPod touch to write this, in fact I even left my laptop in Porto Alegre, because I did not expect that Buenos Aires is so good for web junkies like myself.

Also read (german): Reisebericht: Cardoso, Pecha Kucha Porto Alegre

Ball Pen Faces

On the train between Amsterdam and Berlin a man in his forties was sitting across the table from me. He was drawing faces on a sheet of paper using a ball pen. I couldn’t tell, if he was portraying someone sitting near us or even myself. His drawings were naive, one could say childish. I watched the scene while reading in “Notes From The Furure Of Art” (a highly inspiring collection of texts by Jerzy Ludwinski, a Polish art critic, curator and theorist who I only learned about through the book that the editor, Magdalena Ziolkowska, had given me a couple of days earlier). The book contained drafts, mostly also done with a ball pen of how Ludwinski thought art was expanding. The combination of the two very different kinds of of ball pen drawings gave me a sublime joy.

A long time ago I used to experiment quite a bit with the absentminded drawings of the kind that people do while on the phone or when killing time. Usually this type of drawing is more or less abstract, maybe with figurative elements, but generally avoiding obvious references to the world outside of the drawing. However, I never thought about how strange it is when a grownup man draws figuratively outside of any professional context and without artistic ambition. Abstract drawing is clearly more acceptable in this context.

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Another Train Story

Here is another train story: In January I finally bought a reduction card for dutch trains, because I use trains in the Netherlands all the time. I bought it at the station in Eindhoven, where I ended up with some spare time because of just missing a train. I was given a temporary card because the real one containing an ID photo could not be done immediately. I was a little surprised when I heard that the expected time frame for delivery was going to be about three months (I received my german Bahncard within a week, also containing a photo). I never really had a closer look at the temporary card and was therefore taken by surprise one evening last week, when a conductor told me that it had expired and that I should contact the NS about my card. The next morning I had to take an early train again and of course there was no time to contact the NS in the meantime.

Again a conductor noticed that my temporary card had expired (I had been using the card for a while after the expiration date without anyone noticing). She stamped my ticket and said: “You’re not getting your card back, it has expired”. Since this card was my only receipt, I insisted on getting my card back – as a compromise I offered that she could de-validate it. When she just ran off I went after her, demanding that she would give me back my card. She freaked out threatening to call the police. I told her that this was exactly what I was going to do, if she insisted on keeping my card. When I asked for her name or employee’s ID she refused to give it to me (so far I thought this was a french speciality).

To make a long story short: I let her go with my card after we had agreed on involving the police. 5 minutes later another conductor (the supervisor) showed up. excusing himself and giving me back the card. He told me that he knew that there was a delay with the delivery of reduction cards and that not all conductors had been informed about it. He politely asked to see my ID and explained that the temporary cards are often passed on when people receive the actual card. That is of course no surprise.

But that the NS doesn’t seem to be able to install a system where they don’t need to give out thousands of temporary cards in the first place is a bit surprising. 3 months and a delay on top of it? Get real!

After all the Netherlands are the self proclaimed country of pragmatism and efficiency and unlike the french SNCF which is famous for poor service the NS has been privatized.

Oh yes, did I mention that one can’t use the card during rush hour? Of course I found out after I had bought it, the person selling it to me apparently didn’t think that this was an important detail.

Singing Train

interior of a dutch double decker trainWhen I travel with trains in the Netherlands (which I do fairly often), I usually try to avoid the double-decker trains, because of their poor interior design. The seats make my butt hurt and using a laptop is a pain in the ass: You can’t have it on the roundish table, because it’s to small and you can’t have it on your lap, because the table is in the way.

Being forced to do nothing but hang on my own thoughts during a 90 minute ride, I noticed a melody. It was simple, elegant and slightly melancholic. I tried to identify the source but couldn’t. I couldn’t even tell what direction it came from, the source seemed to change it’s position permanently. The melody seemed to consist of only two tones that alternated with no clear pattern, but not really randomly, a bit like a minimalist free jazz improvisation. It was quite beautiful and the low volume of the tune enhanced the experience additionally.

Because I do not have absolute pitch, I wanted to record it with my phone, so I could reproduce it or at least memorize it. I knew that the chance of actually hearing it on the recording was miniscule, but I tried nevertheless. A young guy who was sitting across the corridor asked me what I was doing. I told him that I tried to record the Sound and to my relief he confirmed that he could also hear it. His theory was that it came from the energy feedback brakes. He also mentioned that one of his professors in industrial design at the university of Eindhoven was the designer of the train’s interior.

Since my musical skill are too poor reproduce the two tones from my memory, I decided to bring better recording equipment next time I’m in the netherlands. My plan is to write a primitive script that would reproduce the tune for me.