not a pretty girl

a new person with each new experience

Saturday, January 20, 2007

ACORN and workers rights

ACORN is an organization that works in low and moderate income communities working towards social change. They go door to door in these areas finding out what people want changed in there area and setting up branches that will self organize to fight for things such as safer communities, forcing landlords to clean up buildings etc. The organization is run like a union so the member pay dues which allows acorn the freedom to piss off the government and big business since they don't get there funding through them. ACORN is able to get things done and wins battles since it has dedicated safe that are happy to go door to door building up motivation to self organize and they then have the experience to help with things such as setting up meetings, press releases, pressure, appropriate actions etc. The work both on local campaigns in the acorn branches that are specific to areas and they work on more general campaigns are beneficial to all working people. Sound great right. Well yeah if you want to work like a slave, don't care about your own community or family and friends. ACORN bends the rules of labour law. Which is interesting and continues the idea that working for an union is the worst workplace to work for. They seem to target university student activists who are use to giving 100% of there time and energy to campaigns and not getting paid or getting the bare minimum. The things is labour laws here say that 8 hours is the maximum hours to work in one day. This number didn't come from anywhere, it was a long and hard battle and I'm sure a group like ACORN would have been involved in this battle if they were around at the time. But here is the loop hole in the 8 hour day clause. You can work longer if it is agreed in writing. I believe that this clause is there so workplaces have the flexiblibty around crunch times or can allow someone to work longer hours but then less days. But ACORN doesn't use this loop hole for flexibibly its part of the deal 10 hour days for the first 4 days, no choice, thats they way it works. So of course if you start working there and signed your contract they it becomes legal, but I say that they are bending the rules. Then there is the over time rule which is less flexible. 44 is the maximum number of hours that one can work in a week, if you work over that the boss has to pay you time and a half. It is possible to have that be flexible and get time in luei which is very popular in europe. But again over time is suppose to be for crunch times. Again ACORN has bended the rules here. The pay via salary, which although is not that high is livable. But once you take into account that the 8 hours on your 5th day and the 4 hours on your 6th day push you over the edge and you are actually working forced 8 hours over time every week you start to realise that they are not really paying a living wage. For an organisation interested in low and moderate communities they are happy to pay there workers just over minimum wage. (This is assuming of course that they are following labour law and paying time and a half for those forced eight hours of over time.) And with only one day of rest just waiting for there workers to get burn out. People died at the Haymarket Riots for a reason and it was not to use the idea of fighting for the working class as an excuse to exploit your workers.

Belladonnakillz and Dance Yourself to Death

Belladonnakillz at Savage Garden a show to remember. The most important thing to remember was NEVER ever ever go to Savage Garden. It incorporates everything bad that Toronto has to offer. The ability to sub-genre every thing till all gigs are near empty. To give these sub-cultures a sense of self-importance so they are out rightly snub everyone who as not bought into the last trend. Which incorporates the Toronto "I wish I was New York" at its worsts. As Nwodtlem said, even if my favorite band ever was playing I would not go back to that place. The opening band, Ghost Telivision which can only be described as emo goth had the crowd dancing like mad which confused us; is it because they are so bad the crowd likes them or is to dance to bad music the new cool. We stayed at the back making up lyrics for these sad teenagers, watching a goth sci-fi film saying that if only we dressed like them we too could have friends in this pretentious venue and amazed with the combinations the goth ravers have pulled together. Before the lads in the dresses came on, the most entertainment of the evening was walking through the dance floor to ge to the toilet and seeing the odd mixing crowd of the cure like goths, the raver goths, the girls with bright coloured dreads and short skirts, the 30 something IT nerd, and the guy with the gass mask. Finally the croed who had refused to smile, laugh or show any signs of having a good time were forced to deal with three guys dressed in bad drag and playing poppy catchy electro tunes and blended between breakcore soles and our favorite keyboard notes. The crowd filled up with people who smarter then us knew that Belladonnakillz would not be on till midnight. Suddenly breakdancers and young couples broke up the dreary floor with a bit of colour and teenage devotion. I closed my eyes and pretended I was in Dublin, Brighton or anywhere else where people would be dancing like fools and drinking up loving the cheesy mixes of breaks and pop. There were a few moment that made everything ok again, everyone in the crowd including mr. cure himself who stopped his pick the apple dance long enough to sing "I'm in my own movie, and I am the star, I'll never crash and burn Yeah Hell Yeah!"

Dance Yourself to Death at The Gladstone. This night was the one year anniversary party for the Gladstone re-opening its doors for the unique hotel and club nights. The same weekend The Gladstone opened up its doors and gave free tours in each of the individual artistic rooms that they have to offer. This is all part of the gentrifying of Queen West West. Where you can find new lofts, art gallaries, The Drake, Communist Daughter, The Beaver and of course The Gladstone. This area has not only been artistically gentrified it was as been rename Queer West. The night is called Foxhole that is advertised as "sexy singles dance and big gay mixer" which doesn't seem to grab the essence of the night at all. It seems like the crowd that use to go for the alternative queer nights at vasaline but have grown up a bit, have a bit more money, less of a punk style but have kept their edge. Or perhaps thats just because Dance Your Self to Death was playing and they brought with them there fans. But from what I gather they chill there whether they are playing or not. The ladies have style, jen has a brilliant voice that carries the band. Everything about them shouts cool, influenced by the queer rockers of the past. The crowd were dancing away and singing along. And the band was getting loads of props by the supportive community. It is nice to go to a queer event and hear some decent music. DYTD would be defined as Rock and although I think they are great I am not one to dance my self to death for rock, sorry ladies. Thanks for the demo cd though, good to listen to at home chilln'.

Monday, January 08, 2007

End of Trip mini book review

Taking back control. A journey through Argentina's Popular Uprising
by Natasha Gordon and Paul Chatterton

This booklet was put together by two activists, who spent time in Argentina in 2003. They are a couple from Britain, Natasha though is Argentinian and during her youth ignored this part of her identity. Her experience of her family and her culture did not relate to what she was reading in the news about the popular uprising and she is there not only to learn and report but to rectify her disregard of the country. I had read this booklet before, but reread it with a more appreciation this time as I was standing in the places that they were talking about. I also found it useful as a resource when try to find out what had changed since the popular uprising.

Naked Cities - Struggle in the Global Slums
Mute Vol 2 #3

This is the latest issues of Mute's Culture and Politics after the web. I highly recommend that you check them out. For those who are adapt with reading articles online you will be pleased to know that all of there articles are online and you can get to them via the link above. Mute is always theme based, and this particular issue was inspired by the recent book Planet of the Slums by Mike Davis. The first few articles deal with this book specifically and they are non to happy with Davis' analysis. the magazine continues with articles written by people living in slums rather then academics like Davis who look from the outside.

Bash the Rich: The True Life confessions of an anarchist in the UK

by Ian Bone

Ian Bone was the founder of the UK based anarchist group class war. This is both Ian Bones story and the history of the group class war that is still around today, at least in the form of there paper. I know a few people in Ireland who read it, mainly a guy who wears a "I still hate Thatcher" t-day daily. It does have something going for it and has been around for years. But if you are not in the mood for a class war, working class, nothing else matters type of book, just put this one done like I did.

Clandestines: The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile
by Ramon Ryan

Hands down this book is great. Ramon is a fantastic story teller, one of the quotes on the back says something like if there were a hundred more Ramons out there the revolution would happen. The problem is that there are hundreds like him and the revolution is no where insight, but the thing they have missing is the ability to tell a story and not just make a political statement. He was a summit hopper before there were summits, Berlin 1988, Nicaragua 1990, Mexico 1994 etc. He was there witnessing and/or reporting and he brings it to life. This book is not a history lesson but rather uses historial events as a back drop for an Irish man abroad.

Fortress of Solitude
by Jonathan Letham

This book I would have to say is brilliant. As my first novel of the trip, it did the job and when I say another book by this author I grabbed it quickly and looked forward to another chance to enter his world. This book is about a loner white kid growing up in Brooklyn surrounded by black families. Although it is mainly his story the protagonist does change to include his best friend, who is black and can only help him so much, both of there fathers who are famous and eccentrics in there own specialties. It a book about never quite coming of age due to an obsession with race, comic books, tagging and music.

We need to talk about Kevin
by Lionel Shriver

I picked up this book because a mate of my had raved about it back in Dublin. Its a retelling of a family life from the mothers perspective. She is writing letters to her husband trying to explain herself and her side of how she say there lives and he son growing up that got to the point where he goes into his school and kids seven people. Its an interesting novel, the worst part about it is that you can't separate it from an Opera type book. Even the novel itself has discussion questions on nature and nurture. Are we to blame the mother for never really wanting the child or was kevin born evil kinda deal. If you can oversee all that then its a good read.


by Irvine Walsh

While reading this book I was in this cafe that let you watch movie on a big screen if you spent a certain amount of money. we got a few beers and headed in to watch trainspotting. With so many of the same characters in the two books it was great to put a face to the personality. In this book sick boy is up to his old tricks of money making schemes and hooks up with a few characters form glue and his dear friend Renton that screwed him over in trainspotting to make a porno. The Chapters are split by five of the characters; Renton, Sick Boy, and Nikki's chapters are written almost entirely in "standard" English while Begbie and Spud's chapters are in Scots. A good read altogether, but you do feel a need for something wholesome after reading this.

Wild Swans: Three daughters of China
by Jung Chang

Why is this not a movie yet? That was the question that lingered with me when reading this. This is a true story where the author is the youngest of the three generations that she covers. The Japaneses occupation, The communists and Maoist regime and the cultural revolution. Both her grandmother and her mother have amazing stories and are really strong characters. The author herself actually gets boring, the amount of pain her parents went through during the cultural revolution is shocking but there is only so many times you can hear about there oppression. If they do make it into a film, I'm sure the last third will be highly edited. For those who don't know that much about china's history this is a easy way to expose yourself to the generalities.

Death in the Andes
by Mario Vargas Llosa

This is the first quick review that I don't link to a picture of the cover, partly because I can't find a picture of the cover that I have and the other cover seems too childish. Although that is not the only reason, I was upset not to find a picture of the fortress of solitude cover and I hate the one I linked to. But also I have linked to a review that I think is good. This book spooked me. Reddy described it as Whickerman (in Peru). It is well written and captivating, fantasy yet thriller. I can't do it justice in this short review so click on the link and if you wanna borrow this book just let me know.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

meeting the millitants

We left argentina through a main route between it and chile throught the andes. Not only did we spend close to 6 hours getting through the mountains, one of the hours was just getting down this winding road. We had the whole back on the bus to our selves and jumped back and forth to get the best view for pics of this crazy trip - knowing still that it was nothing like the bike ride in bolivia "the most dangerous road in the world".

We were met in satiago by a mate that pepe got us in contact with. we was in his thirties and wering a suit, we started to wonder if all chilian anarchists were just like pepe. As we walked down the road to his car, we noted a few punk types in the distance, to our surprise our host stopped and kissed them on the cheek, we were even more surprised when he left us with them with no common language between us. We were ushered onto a bus and told that we were about to learn spanish very quickly. It was like having checkov meeting you at the bus stop and then bumping into wheeler and jules and realising that with comrades you have unlikely friendships.

we ended up staying with the people we met on the streets for 5 nights and learnt how you can spend next to nothing in an expenisve country if you tried. We spent more one day away from them then we did in the week with them.

They were comrades, and has they liked to say millitants. If being in argentina showing revolt video films wasn´t enough to make us think that we don´t knwo a thing about struggle and repression. Spending time in satiago clarified it. The whole house was involved in OCL, a platformist group that is in a internation group with wsm. In the group they are all in fronts. The house was split up in what fronts they were in. Two of them were in popular education fronts. They taught students in the neighbourhood next to theres. The age group was 18-25 yearolds that went to schools that didn´t prepare them for the university exams. They taught history, politics etcs. to prepare the students for the entry exams for university. What was interesting is the area they were doing work in.

In the 1970´s there was this area of 20 families that were self sustainable. They took there politics from cuba and subsiquently named there area new havana. They educated there own children about politics and there situation. the prespective was theres not from the oppressors so they learnt about land lords from the perpective of someone that lives in the big house recieving the benifits of others work. We watched a film about it while staying at our hosts house. Just recently was the 36 aniversay of new havana, and even though now the land is no longer squated and self organized the memory of the area lives on. Our friends were part of doing a few murals for the memory of the area. I havn´t found anything good yet in english about it, but I will keep looking. Here is an account from the celebrations in spanish.

This was not to long ago but the activists involved in this revolutionary community was rounded up and killed. that was a common practice in the 70´s which could be why our frineds are very careful about there actions. Aparently its common practice to have police infiltrate groups. Its not uncommon for cops to do four years of university to get into the left wing groups.

The other group that a few of the people we met were part of was this housing group. There is this phenomena where people don´t have enough money to get there own house so many families like in cramped courters all together.
There group is someing like like tango luche. which would be roof struggle. Its a realitivly new campaign that has allot of support from the people who live in these conditions.

The work they were doing was both idiologically revoutionary and still in touch with what is happening. A few of them are ex anarcho punks, who they seem to have a huge dislike of. The squaters and the punks who build communites and places for themselves but are not involved in sturggle. Although one of our friends there has been in the scene for years he calls himself a new millitant since he has ony joined ocl a few years ago. He was proud to have a group that was spread around the country in four different regions.

Monday, November 20, 2006

wine tasting and mountain biking

After leaving BA, which I´m sure if I said nothing reddy would have stayed there the full two months, we heading to Mendoza. We were told it was sooo beautiful. I think these people need to check their vision checked. It was alright, kinda a plan boring town. On sundays like many small places the place shut down, but we did have the pleasure of witnessing a few scams in action. The first was when a bird shat on my bag (gross) but the moment it happened I was swarmed by people trying to take my bag to "clean" it. On one guy saying that the shit got on my back (which lucky it didn´t) and trying to grab my small bag in the distraction. Then while the hostels doors were open a bag went "missing". Then we say these three guys circling the park checking out the tourists. The surrounded us from a distance but I was on to them and they backed off. Then they went for this guy with a big camera. We went to warn the guy but he got away on his own. Then ten mins later I say one of the guys running down the road with a wallet.

After renting bikes and getting stuck in torential storms that had us walking through river like roads and stuck in bed for a day recovering we went on a bike and wine tour. Less pretencious then any wine tour I have heard of before, except they are trying with this really gourmet lunch that we opted out of and had a picnic on there tables with this german couple we had met. We eventually met this two irish girls who were a blast and giving out about the low levels of free drink just like us. It turned out that they were staying at our hostel so we drank wine all day and night and relaxed in the company of the a similar sence of humour.

The next day we headed to uspallata, this small town in a valley in the andes, it was where seven days in tibet was filmed. really beautiful with nothing to do. We had one great adventure day that made us realise how out of space we were. Here we are with city shoes and needed to take breaks all the time while th guide was never short of breath. We did a few hours of treking then rapelling and finished with mountain biking- deadly buzz all around. Its not that I lost my outdoorness, it just takes me a while to get into it. After the repell I was all gitty and wanted to go again. The next day we rented mountain bikes and biked around the dusty roads on our own, running out of breath and blaming it on the high altitude and dust.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Right to the source

So from talking to the anarchists old and young we learn that there are not that many assembablies, that they are all run differently, although it seems mainly still horizontal. Althought it seems with the new government who is paying attention to human rights has won over loads of support. And once radical groups of women angry about the "disappeared" people, their sons who were "disappeared" during the dirty war, are now a government funded organisation. During 2001, 2 and 3 the area we were staying in was very active and very radical. This shows still today with four seperate assembablies in the area that are still active.

There was one that was just around the corner from where we were staying. It seemed closed to the public much of the time. during the day they sold crafts out the window, and they seemed to be open a few times in the week for a populoar kitchen. We also noticed that on sundays there were showing a film series about aboriginal peoples from argentina.

On a quest to find glue for reddy´s broken glasses we stumbled upon there sunday movie afternoons and walked right in. The offered us seats, mateand bread. The first time we say someone drinking mate, reddy and I both thought it was a bong, of course it was beeing drunk and shared by punks, then I noticed that everyone drinks and shares it.

The films were in spanish but its not hard to understand that the spanish came and colninised south america and they sysematicly tried to distroy the tribes. And it does take a genious to understand the films were made and been showed to try and bring awareness to a dieing history. There was this one sad film where the whole film showed the women making crafts then going out to the train tracks in hopes that the tourists would buy there products and in the end the train doesn´t stop that day.

One of the guys in the assemably spoke great english and chatted with us a bit, he gave us bus dirrections to the party we were going to that night, and gave us his email address. When we emailed him, asking about doing an interview, he responded with saying it was the duty of the people here to share there stories. As we hung out and we share stories, we were just waiting for him to come out as a trot.

Turns out that he is not a trot, very politically aware, but not with any party, the work he does is with the assembably and in his work he is involved in the union. He got a high level position there because they knew he was involved in assembalies and therefore knew how to organise.

the first assembably shut down like many of them due to political groups taking over and argueing amongst themselves. After his got shot down a friend told him about this one and he ahs been coming ever since. The popular kitchen is not a cafe but rather an open kitchen where the food is provided and people who need it can cook themselves. Its is mainly single mothers and the elderly.

Other then the movie nights and the kitchen the work they do know is mainly education, with younge children in the neighbourhood who either don´t go too school at all or are not getting a good education.

the guy we met manual was very interesting. He was born in mexico since his parents who were journalists were being percicuted in argentina and had already been held in prison. He spent his child hold moving around, living in cuba, in nicagraua in 90 after the election when his father who was speaking english helped build back the knowledge of planes as one of few who could read english. He also lived in the middle east before moving back to argentina.

Possibily because he spoke english or that he didn´t live in an arachist ghetto he was very frindly and took us out for another night politics asside. except we met a women doing her thesis on the zanon, the tile factory that Naomi Klein's “The Take“ is based on. He took us to a traditional Tango club, heres us dreading it, thinking it was going to be dancing, the kind that is over dramtic all over the streets near up tryign to get tourists to take their photo with the dancers. But we were happily surprised to find out it was spanish blues. It was like giong to listen to trad music in dublin but everyone was really into it. The singers were telling stories of broken hearts and dark lives. Actually it was really beautiful and there was nothing cheesy or touristy about it at all. So says the outsider ;)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

discovering the movement: the older generation

I mentioned that we visited a second library well the first one we visited was called popular library. This old man called jose was there, we found out later that he lives there. he had no english and we had no spanish so we communicated through the limmited writen french we both had. He understood that we were comrades and we interested in the Red and Black mag that we showed him. In the frustration of language jose called someone from the library collective who was orginally from the states. This Peter invited us to dinner later that night.

Jose showed us arround the archieves and we were in awe, books of material from around the world through out the 20th century. We saw our excitement and gave us bookmarks (apparently we were the first to get them!) and 2006 agenda´s from a book series the collective has put out. He also gave us more anarchist newspapers.

We left jose and headed over to peters for dinner. Peter is from the states, met his ex-wife in italy where he had a few children then they moved to argentina. Hes 18 year old daughter although is not confident with her english speaks very well, she talks to us about argentinian history and her plans to travel. Peter tells us more about both the popular movement and the anarchist community.

He is part of a local assembaly, he says at the hieght there were 160, but now there are only 40. He says yes his assembably has taken food from the government but they are still autonomous. He talks about how some anarchists are involved in specific anarchist groups, and others have "left" the community as such and are involved more in the local community groups.

The collective that runs the library have taken on a great project where they have put out a book series on biographies of anarchists. It is 4 groups together that have done this, a radical book store the library and 2 more. They have managed to get this books in street kiosks and in some bookstores around the city.

He is criticial of groups like OCL it seems for there over theorising and lack of action, yet he is friendly with them. He gave us a very different and friendly view of the anarchist movement. But more then that he spoke english!!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

discovering the movement: the anarchists

While in buenos aires we continued our quest to understand the state of the popular movement in argentina, we decided to talk to anarchists to see what they had to say. We met up wtih this group La Rivolta that does work in the amamblea de almagro. Betty and another guy from la reivolta and this guy from indymedie told us about there assembaly. It was taken spontaniously in 2001. It use to be meat distrobution factory. Some guy bought the space before the occupation. In 2002 there would hvae been 5000 people ther at any given time. Since the economy as stabled some what the middle clesses have stopped participating. La rivolta doesn´t run the place, but works in a few different assembablies. 6 people live there at the moment. The large outdoor space, that use to be used for pick-up is used for party´s, film nights, workshops etc. The day we were there a juggling workshop with about five punks was taking place. Inside there is a meeting space and a small library. Betty said that she came there because that was her area. But you get the impression now that it operates as a libertairan soical centre, not nessissarliy for the local community but for the anarchist community. We went back there a few times shared stories from ireland and gave them some revolt video films.

We did find out much from everyone there. They were critical of some of the other assembalies that have taken government subsidies and food. Other then a few more punk-anarchist squats they were not connected to any other local groups. They were busy at this time with an eviction notice that they had recieved and are fighting in court, they assume that by march they will be fighting in streets to protect there space.

What we did get from them was much anarchist literature and found out about a few libraries and archives. The second archieve and library we visited was brillant, it was the largest I have even seen and a women who is studying and using anarchist historial literature said that she went to spain for her research and was surprised to find that theres was larger and more detailed. They also had a group of computers that had a huge collection of films in the database and you could burn them for free. They burnt a few copies of the revolt video stuff for us and were excited to have us send them literature from ireland, as they didn´t have any. Down stairs was a huge space to watch movies and a cafe that sold veggie and vegan food. We stayed that night for a screening of an action that had happened just a month before. There are this shanty towns outside of the city that open are squated. This particular one as far was we can gather we promised land and houses, but everything was stolen from the houses that were being built. One day they went and took over the land demanding that they can stay there, but a battle with the cops had many of them arrested and injured. It sounds like they are planning to take it over again but havn´t yet. From talking to other people it sounds like usually what happens in these situations is a group takes over the land and starts to build homes and hold the land for a while from the cops. The other moviewere about squats in spain and this fiction something about a snail and its house on its back. The theme was something like space, speculation and squating.

tales of a weathered traveler

I am yet to blog about Buenos Aires, but I better get started. I have been keeping a journal to help remind me of all the adventures.


we arrived at the airport around eight in the morning and could feel the heat press against our bodies. This time of the year averages about 21-25 degrees but the day we arrived it was already 28. we picked a random hostel, it had internet and massages plus breakfast was included. we later discovered that ment there were two slow computers that tended to be broken and always taken. Massages came once a week free for less then 5 mins then arround 15 euro for an hour and breakfast was less then desierable. The place is clean and is one of those places they plan loads of group activities, if we actually took part I{m sure they would be great but 40 paso to get into a club when wages on the low end range between 300-600 pasos. our language teacher told us that to have an apartment and bills on your own would cost 500 p.

We jumped into our bunk beds briefly then eagerly went exploring. The area we are staying is call san telmo. It was a rich area about 100 years ago and has more recently become an artist and antique area. There is a square that has a few markets and where you can sit and get expensive food and drink, or sit of the steps with the homeless and hippies and drink the litre bottles of beer with a friend.

we spent this first day taking photos of all the graffetti, which I would have to say rocks, the stenciling culture here is amazing. We bought a large crossant with hame and cheese and eat it on the street. We wondered towards the centre of town to plaza mayo where many of the protests take place. There are constant bracades up around the pink house and cops a plenty. We stumbled on to a popular assembaly which excited us to no end, we went in and had split a meal that cost 4 p for meet balls, mash potatoes, veggie soup, juice and dessert. (when I say we and meet it is reddy eating the meat bits unless I say otherwise) We continued walking }, talking photos, wondering about the popular uprising and looking for watches since our phones are useless to us here. We ended our longer journey back at the plaza for a late night dinner in the square and split one of the litre bottles of cerveza. Curling up for a much needed sleep on the top bunk in the 6 person room.