Monday, November 30, 2009

Random Piñera Spotting in Puerto Varas

When I decided that I wanted to work in TV, I had several friends who went into being 'real' journalists. A couple are now political reporters, and at least one spent the last Australian election 'on the campaign trail' following in the steps of some god-awful politician as he toured around the country kissing babies and doling out soup to the homeless.

For a while, as I sat at my desk surrounded by people playing guitars and pondering the tough decisions such as whether to send our next shoot to Morocco or Madagascar, I wondered whether I was missing out. Last weekend in Puerto Varas, I discovered the answer to that question.

Puerto Varas is a small town on the edge of a lake in the getting-towards-being-in-the-South-but-not-quite-there-yet region of Chile. We were there more or less by accident - after a super early flight to Puerto Montt, our planned bus to Bariloche never showed up, and after several hours waiting in the always-entertaining Puerto Montt bus station (nice to see you Ruth and Charles!), we decided to blow that particular popsicle stand and head to Puerto Varas for the night. We´d heard it was nice, and that you could see volcanoes, which is all I really need to be happy.

Because we are focused on our stomachs precisely 100 percent of the time, and because we had got up early and LAN´s idea of breakfast is three chocolate biscuits, we dumped our bags and headed straight for the nearest German cafe, of which there are about a gazillion in Puerto Varas. After rendering my I-don´t-eat-sweet-things rule a lie (although I still maintain that delicious küchen is not in any way in the same category of sweet things as say.. manjar, which is the work of the devil), we discovered that this same cafe also did what looked like a roaring business in empanadas, judging from the industrial-sized parcels of the things that locals kept staggering out the door with.

We purchased two of these delicious Chilean 'snacks' (read: Chileans consider them a snack, pronounced 'esnack', but anyone in the rest of the world might more accurately suggest that they are more akin to a complete meal) and headed off to the pier to take in the view of the lake and volcanoes.

Unfortunately, Chile lived up to its shitty weather reputation, and there were no volcanoes to be seen. Fortunately, the lack of volcanoes was more than compensated for by the announcement over a loudspeaker that shortly Presidential candidate Sebastian Piñera would be gracing the town with both his presence and the whitest pair of chops that have been seen in provincial Chile for a long time.

Pause for a bit of (I dare say ill informed) info: for those not in the know, Chile's about to have an election. Its a big deal here, and although a fair percentage of the young people that I know haven't actually enrolled to vote, there's still a lot more round-the-dinner-table debate than I'm used to seeing in Australia. There are two 'main' candidates (of course there are more running but from what I can tell most people expect the election to go to one of these two men): Frei and Piñera. Frei is from the Party currently in power (centre-left coalition), and Piñera from a centre-right alliance. Despite Chile´s historic problem regarding right wing governments I´m told that many will this time vote for Piñera because they are sick of having the same party make government every time - with all the corruption, crony-ism and old-boys-club thinking that that implies. That may be, all I can say is that they´re not exactly spoilt for choice here. Frei´s about a zillion years old and he´s already been President once (and he didn´t do a very good job the first time round) and Piñera looks like he´d sell his own grandmother to make a buck. Chile needs a change but I don´t think its coming in this election. Ominami?

So, enough of that. Back to the campaign trail.

Not wanting to pass up an opportunity, we stuffed our half-eaten empanadas still oozing their meaty goodness into my backpack (a decision for which I´m still suffering the consequences) and headed off to meet the man himself.

Now, I´ve not seen many Presidents in my time, or even Presidential candidates, but there were several things about the whole Piñera show that struck me as a bit odd. See if you can pick which ones:

First, on arrival, he was literally mobbed by the crowd. There was hair-pulling and clothing grabbing on a scale not seen outside a Bolivian prison. Not something that I can really see happening to Obama. Admittedly, this wasn´t terribly odd, just one of those details you wouldn´t see at home.

Secondly, while on stage Piñera has a mariachi standing behind him... a new kind of secret service perhaps?

Thirdly, and most bizzarly, at certain points in the rally, Piñera breaks into song. Its like a Presidential campaign come open air karaoke session. The crowd love it. He also makes his son sing, and the deputy for the district sing. Out of the three, we decide that Piñera is the best singer. His teeth are also the whitest.

So on reflection, I'm happy to work in TV, because if it were my job to make this kind of che make sense, I might be donning a mariachi costume and grabbing a mic myself.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Plan your Escape this Summer..

Because.. Snake is back!

Yes, I'm right this second watching one of what must surely be the greatest films of all time. Of all time. Yo, Kanye would back me up.

Of course, instead of marvelling at Kurt Russell's mesmerising snakeskin leggings, the like of which we're all bound to be sporting in 2013 (I've got mine already), I should be booking tickets to Argentina. Yep, its that time again - the visa run, also known as the sanity-preserving Escape From Chi-Lay.

Ok so I'm not carrying a time-bomb virus in my body with which the authorities are blackmailing me into finding the President's daughter, nor am I trying to save the world from imminent destruction at the hands of Cuervo Jones, who to my mind sounds more like a mixed drink than a threatening villain, but other than that, I see many similarities between myself and Mr Plisskin.

For one, Santiago and the LA prison hell from which Snake has to escape are not dissimilar. Certainly the fashion seems to be from around the same era. I'm pretty sure I saw several pairs of snakeskin and other assortedly patterned leggings today. Also, Snake's mullet seems to be trendy here, although the eye-patch is yet to catch on. Plus this visa run will this time be to Bariloche rather than Mendoza, which means passing through the Lakes District, and if Chile's geological instability lives up to its reputation, leaves the door open for a reenactment of Snake's biggest achievement - surfing a giant tsunami with Peter Fonda whilst racing a car containing Steve Buscemi, including a jump from the surfboard to the back of the moving car.

Now... imma let Snake finish..

Friday, November 13, 2009

Caminos menos transitados

ahora en español..

For the Aussies out there, make sure to tune in to Nat Geo Adventure Mondays at 8.30pm (repeats on Saturdays and Sundays at 7.30pm and 6.30pm respectively).

For those of us here in Chile, it doesn't seem like the series is screening just yet.

A Valparaiso

No, this isn't about going to Valpo, rather a fabulous documentary from the 60s that I saw the other day at a Chilean film retrospective. Chris Marker wrote it, can't you tell?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

FNM: why men in slacks can still rock

They rocked, despite:
1. Massive overbooking of the venue whereby it was so crowded that there were people hanging off the balconies and I spent the entire show picturing an imminent Republica Cromañón style fire disaster.
2. Me gullibly believing the lady from the venue who told us on the phone that it was numbered seating and there was no need to turn up early (yeah I know.. never again will I make this mistake).

3. Being therefore stuck standing on the stairs in a human sandwich, or this being Chile, a human completo, which is even more disgusting than the regular completo if you can possibly imagine it.
4. My posse on the stairs being behind a surprisingly tall Chilean and thus with a view of nothing except the back of his head apart from the moments (approximately 50% of the time) in which he was occupied by making out with his girlfriend to which I had an uncomfortably intimate perspective.
4. The band getting spat on by the crowd in a marathon of flying saliva - apparently a sign of affection and homage for FNM fans.

Despite all this, and more importantly despite the pitter-patter of lightly falling spit globules onto the body of Mike Patton and every other member of the band, Faith No More were amazing. What makes this more of an achievement was that they were wearing slacks. No need here for ripped jeans, or all-over vinyl bodystockings, or goth make-up, or rat eating antics. No siree, these guys could have stepped off a golf course. Or out of a retirement home in Miami, so clean and neatly pressed were their beige pantalones. And yet they rocked on a monumental scale, making me for a short time forget about Cromañón fires, completos, and exchange of bodily fluids both near and far. And that right there is the greatness of Faith No More.