Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dear Wine Spectator,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dear Wine Spectator,

I have only recently fallen in love with wine, and it is clear that, among the many allies available to consumers in navigating the thousands of bottles available, you are one of the most beloved. In the 2007 year end issue, in which you provide the most detailed explanation of your blind tasting method to date, you say that tasters are only told the region and variety of the wine without beyond told the winery. It is laudable that individual tasters initial reviews so that consumers could see how different tasters differ.

Having traveled abroad, it is clear that Americans suffer from acute myopia when dealing with world culture. Be it Hollywood, music or literature, with the exception of a few lucky Brits, we just don’t bother (or aren’t exposed to) foreign influences. This is due in part to our innovation and vitality of our ability to produce products, but also our ability to market them. In addition to helping local producers, you have done a lot for getting Americans into French and Italian wines.

In terms of your tasting, I can’t help but wonder: isn’t one of the signs of being a wine expert the ability to guess the region and variety? The famed 1976 Paris wine tasting that put American wine on the map was revolutionary precisely because the judges were blind to the region of origin of the wine. I am left wondering if I can trust Wine Spectator to inform me about the next revolution. It is great to promote our once underdog domestic industry, but are you bringing to readers attention wines and aspects of wine that they wouldn’t otherwise notice?

  • Have you made efforts to explain what criteria judges use to give points? How do WS judges differ from each other? How do WS judges differ from judges at other magazines? Other countries?

  • You say that you tasted 15,000 wines this year and that most of those wines were sent to you by producers. Do you have relationships with producers in other countries? What percentage of the wines reviewed are from other countries? Is it the same percentage as the percentage of wines produced by those countries?

  • How do WS tastes reflect popular tastes in the U.S.? How do they influence popular tastes?

I am going to buy and read the next issue, in which you treat the “science of blind tasting”. If I don’t see adequate answers to these questions, I think I’ll just limit my reading to the pile of magazines I peruse while sitting at Borders after buying nothing but a cup of coffee.

Sincerely yours,

Ari Pliskin

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ecological Farm

North of Lima, I did volunteer work at a self-sufficient, environmentally sustainable farm called Eco Truly Park. I learned about organic farming, alternative energy sources and recycling. I helped with daily responsibilities such as cleaning the kitchen, weeding the garden, moving materials and guiding educational visits, like the field trip pictured above.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Alter Colca, I headed north, running into my American friend again. We went though Nasca together, didn’t fly over the lines because we wanted to save money but we saw them. They are pretty cool. We went to the Chauchilla cemetery.
After that, I went with him to the Huacachina Oasis outside of Ica. We did sandboarding. You could see me gracefully mastering the slopes.

Colca Canyon

I did 3-day tour of Colca Canyon, in which we hiked down the canyon and then hiked back up…easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

We saw a lot condors.

This is my international tour group. From left to right: Portugal, Portugal, Peru, Argentina, United Kingdom, United States, Chile.


I visited Tiwanaku, ruins of the center of a pre-Inca civilization. Seeing the site made me want to read more about the culture. On the way there, I met a guy from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We ended up running into each other a bunch of times more and became friends. When I hung out with him, or watch an American movie, I feel like I was reencountering my own culture, getting back in touch with my roots (from last year)…taking a break from getting in touch with my latino roots.

Return to Cochabamba

After Oruro, I returned to Cochabamba, Bolivia where I started my journey. I hung out with Jorge, the friend I made in August. It was really nice, because this time, I can actually talk. I also went to some Andean parties and met some local comic book artists. We climbed up the hill with the Cristo and saw a local group of singers filming a music video.


Carnaval was really fun and so was the trip over there. I met up with Adina and we danced all night with the Bolivians. I love Bolivia!! Then, I got sick with a fever and we went to a hotel and watched TV. Below is a letter I wrote to my grandfather in Spanish about this experience.

Muy rápido después de que me fui de la Argentina me aburré de los otros gringos y empecé de juntarme con puras latinas. Vine en Oruro con un grupo muy amable de chilenos quienes encontré en San Pedro de Atacama y quienes trabajan haciendo shows y vendiendo artesanías viajando por las plazas de Suramérica. Yo gastaba muy poco guita andando con ellos, pagando menos que US $2 diario para alquilar un lugar en el piso de una residencial para poner mi bolsa de dormir y siempre combinando recursos para morfar.

Lo pasamos muy bien en la ruta a Bolivia y acá en Oruro también, tocando instrumentos andinos (y mi armónica yanqui), charlando sobre un montón de cosas y cagando de risa. Fuimos al Carnaval y bailamos con Bolivianos en la plaza con bandas de trompetas y instrumentos así hasta después de que subió el sol! Pero, como saben, lo costó a mi cuerpo. Me enfermé con fiebre y anoche Adina y yo dormimos en el único lugar en cual pudimos encontrar calefacción, unas de los lugares más lujosos de la ciudad! Tomé mi primer ducha caliente hasta que me fui de la casa de la Argentina y tuvimos la oportunidad (con cable) de disfrutar otro tipo de cultura.
Mientras recuperando, vimos un encuentra entre Chávez y Kirchner. Parece que la canal de tele del Gobierno de Venezuela viene a Bolivia. Para fortalecer conexiones entre los dos países latinos, Chávez leyó algo bueno que dijo Perón cuando se murió el Che sobre él. Quizás tenés razón, zede, cuando decís que los nuevos socialistas son nada más de demagogas en la tradición de Perón. Otro parte de la lección me recordó de Bush. Chávez criticó el presidente de Costa Rica (contra quien él luchó para el banco en el UNO) porque el llamó a Chávez un dictador pero quiere mantener relaciones con el. Me pareció como Chávez quería decir "si no eres con migo, eres contra migo". Igual, en una manera, espero que Chávez y Evo etc. logren en unos de los objetivos que dicen que quieren lograr aunque temo que no son realistas o que el costo del éxito (la concentración del poder en un hombre) los costaría más a los pueblos que el éxito mismo los ayudaría. Pero, no puedo negar que esos socialistas nuevos han movilizado poblaciones ignorados por la historia de sus países. La situación es muy complicada y como siempre, quiero seguir aprendiendo.

La única cosa que tengo que admitir es que usé la corrección de ortografía (spellcheck) para escribir este mensaje. Y, el único otra noticia mala es que mi acento argento esta blandando y mezclando. Me siento como traidor a la patria de mi familia! je, je. Por ser gringo, soy muy influenciable. Abro mi boca y en unas frases salen cosas argentinas, chilenas, bolivianas y, obviamente puras gringas. Pero lo tomo como un complemento cuando, inmediatamente después de conocer alguien me dicen que no pueden creer que soy gringo por el acento y la aparencia.

San Pedro de Atacama

So I went to San Pedro in the North, part of the Atacama desert, the driest in the world. After an enjoyable trip sandboarding, I didn't feel very motivated to do tours. Instead I hung out with a bunch of Chileans working in the town. I met some cool folks and traveling to Oruro, Bolivia with them for the 5th largest Carnaval in the world.
Pictured above is a skull from a San Pedro museum. Various cultures practice deforming the head. If wonder what effect that had on the way the deformed people thought?


Different Perspective on the Universe

This is an image of Orion viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.

I remember getting off a bus in Bolivia, back in August and being taken aback by the brilliant sky. I realized that the constellation the Southern Cross is only visible in the Southern Sky and thought 'wow, I am now looking at a whole different perspective on the universe!!' I connected the dots to construct a giant cross spanning the entire sky and wondering if I had found it.
Because the night sky in northern Chile is among the clearest, the region boasts many important observatories. At a tour at one of them, on top of Mount Mamalluca, outside of Vicuña, I learned that the Southern Cross is much smaller than I thought. The guide used a laser pointer to show us various constellations. I also learned that I was misinterpreting my favorite constellation, Orion. I didn't take account for the fact that in the south, everything is reversed so I imposed his head onto his feet and his feet onto his head. Good metaphor for traveling to a new region, eh?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Valparaiso: Pablo Neruda's bathroom

Here I am taking a picture of myself in the mirror in Pablo Neruda's bathroom, part of a museum dedicated to the poet in Valparaiso. After my visit, I went to a café with some guides that work at the museum. I ended up sticking around longer than I had planned. The city reminded me of a mix between San Francisco and Brooklyn. It is a hilly city on a port with colorfully painted houses and interesting people. It also has a grimey, urban edge and several universities. It was my favorite place in Chile.

Comics in Chile

In Santiago, I visited another contact that Cristian gave me. Carlos Reyes met me at the subway station and accompanied me to his house. Carlos is part of Ergocomics. Winning a contest for a government grant, Ergocomics has published yearly non-fiction collections about Chilean comics, among other things.

Carlos shared info from his vast wealth of knowledge on Chilean comics, including self-publishing. Often times, he explained, the money creators make from sales barely serve to publish future works and there is little money to dedicate to PR and business relations. As a result, distribution is the among the largest challenges.

Carlos, who is a writer, and his collegues do not limit their art to comics. They also produce works in graphic design, photography, prose, poetry and other artforms. Pictured above is Carlos with one of a series of pamphlets that serve as an example of how they mix various media. This particular pamphlet illustrates a trip to a comic convention in Bolivia.

After meeting with Carlos, I went to an exhibition of Belgian and Chilean works. Guests of mixed age and gender attended. Some works (see photos) took advantage of the museum setting to experiment with novel formats.

Aregentine Asado in Chile

When I first arrived in Santiago de Chile from Argentina, I found myself much more comfortable with the Argentine tourists. For one thing, I could understand them when they talk and they could understand me. I was dying for a mate and trying to explain to some gringos what makes it so amazing when I was some women drinking mate at the hostel. I asked if I could joing them and I ended up hanging out with them and a bunch of other Argentines for the next few days.

We made an Argentine asado. The blonde and I are the only non-Argentines.

The buses are part of a set designed as part of a story with a giant marrionette.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Autobiographical Comics in the Provinces of Argentina

Rodrigo: The crocodile?
Son: no
Rodrigo: The ball?
Son: no!
Father: Salvi, something has to go.

When I arrived at the house, I was first struck by the fact that Rodrigo Terranova isn´t as ugly as he draws himself to be. I got a taste of the world behind the autobiography. Rodrigo´s son was wearing a Spider-man mask and I came along for the ride to drive him to a friends house. Rodrigo met Buenos Aires comics creator Cristian Mallea after winning a national contest and Cristian suggested I contact him. Along with Cristian´s collegue Angel Mosquito and several other artists, Rodrigo contributes weekly to a Historias Reales, a blog of autobiographical comics. These guys are like Argentine James Kochalkas.

Rodrigo´s father moved from Buenos Aires to the city of San Luis (the capital of the province in which I spent the last month) to pursue a job in industry. The national government had channeled some funds there in order to more evenly spread economic activity through a nation. Like his father (and mine), Rodrigo works in a factory today and he often thinks of Harvey Pekar´s comics about mundane aspects of everyday life to get him through the day.

Rodrigo tried teaching workshops on comics, but didn´t find it terribley fullfilling. He said he could, however, see himself doing it with a smaller, more committed group of students. In terms of grander visions of pushing forward the natonal artform, Rodrigo sees his role as making the best comics he can. Between work, a wife and children, he hardly has time to do that.

While being in San Luis sometimes makes him feel out of the loop, he likes the slower, more managable pace of life and connection to his wife´s family who is from the region.

Rodrigo reads English and you could contact him at

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dirty hippie

OK. Here is another one.

Jessica: so are you a dirty hippie now?

me: no way. i shower
or dip myself in a pool or creek
several times a week

and i guess i did go to see a band that played a lot or bob marley covers
oh no!

yes you are a hippie!

me: no, but i arrived in Santiago de Chile and i was like "aaah, noisy streets and polluted air. Feels like home."

Free movie for teachers

I got this e-mail from a Summerbridge listserve (a summer program I taught it). I have no idea what this movie is about, but free can´t be bad.

Dear Friend, I have some amazing news to share with you!

AMC Theaters and Paramount Pictures have agreed to let teachers across the country see “Freedom Writers” for free for one week! Between January 26 and February 1, AMC Theaters will be celebrating teachers and spreading the Freedom Writers’ message by allowing teachers nationwide to see “Freedom Writers!” I urge everyone to tell a teacher to go see “Freedom Writers” at an AMC Theater near them! I also encourage teachers to bring their class, their co-workers, or even their families to this special film that is touching the lives of millions. Please help the Freedom Writers and me encourage educators everywhere to take advantage of this very unique opportunity! Please see AMC's press release for more information and be sure to forward this email to everyone you know (especially teachers!)

For further details, go to

Thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy the movie!

Erin Gruwell .

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don´t cry for Argentina, Ariel

Today, I think a cut-and-pasted gmail IM conversation will serve to share what is going on more than something I make up.

me: well, now that i left argentina
i feel more connected to it
and i feel like less of an outsider with argentines
because i was there for 4 months

Jill: that's great. you've made a new home

me: yeah, very self-consiously and deliberatley
trying to connect to my roots

Jill: chosen homes are often the best

me: yeah, even when people make fun of me for trying too hard to adopt an accent
and say i sound italian

but to me argentines sound italian

but yesterday i was talking to chilenos in the hostel and they first guessed i was argentine and then said i must have lived there for at least 1 year

i took it as a compliment

Jill: that's awesome..congratulations..on your italian

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Merlo Routine

I found a comfortable routine in Merlo. I enjoyed it for a while and today I left. I wrote the following description of my routine while I was still practicing it: I wake up between 9 and 10 when the bird chirping and heat makes it difficult to keep sleeping in my tent. I brush my teeth as I stroll through a path in the mini-forest. I take a quick dip in the pool to wake up.

While listening to poetry in English on my i-pod, I do some landscaping work on the property for a few hours.

I eat lunch with the family.

I go to a cyber café to revise a comics script that I wrote during a School of Visual Arts course in New York.

I eat dinner with the family and hang out with them until going to bed.

Before going to bed, I practice my rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on my harmonica in my tent.

I occasionaly go up the mountain to bathe in the creep or go on a hike. I go to yoga on Mondays and Thursdays. On weekends, I might go to the bar and see a band.

I was feeling pretty lonely and useless when I left Buenos Aires. It takes time to construct a life in cities. The nature, laid-back pace, physical activity and good company here have rejuvenated me. I´m ready to hit the road again, this time alone.
My landscaping