current events, news

More September 11th Fun Facts!!!

It’s about 10 minutes to 10 o’clock, and those of you who are dreading or are already sick of the media coverage and loud-mouthed punditry–whether it’s concerning the anniversary of the WTC attacks in the US, or the big nationalist rally taking place in honor of ‘la Diada’ here in Catalunya–all know exactly what time it is.

That’s right, kids! It’s that time of the year again! September 11th fun facts, whoo!!! (courtesy Wikipedia, of course)

I’m sure everyone reading this also read last year’s installment. But did you know that on this day in history lots of other important stuff that you should celebrate or commemorate happened, such as…

1609 – Expulsion order announced against the Moriscos of Valencia; beginning of the expulsion of all Spain’s Moriscos.

1609 – Henry Hudson discovers Manhattan Island and the indigenous people living there.

1776 – British-American peace conference on Staten Island fails to stop nascent American Revolutionary War.

1802 – France annexes the Kingdom of Piedmont.

1851Christiana Resistance: Escaped slaves stand against their former owner in armed resistance in Christiana, Pennsylvania, creating a rallying cry for the abolitionist movement.

1897 – After months of pursuit, generals of Menelik II of Ethiopia capture Gaki Sherocho, the last king of Kaffa, bringing an end to that ancient kingdom.

1921Nahalal, the first moshav in Palestine, is settled as part of a Zionist plan to colonize Palestine and creating a Jewish state, later to be Israel.

1941 – Charles Lindbergh’s Des Moines Speech accusing the British, Jews and the Roosevelt administration of pressing for war with Germany.

1972 – The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system has its opening day of passenger service.

1986 – Chiliboy Ralepelle, South African rugby player, born

1987 – death of Peter Tosh, Jamaican singer-songwriter and guitarist (Bob Marley & The Wailers) (b. 1944)

1997NASA‘s Mars Global Surveyor reaches Mars.

1998 – Opening ceremony for the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia is the first Asian country to host the games.

Also, it’s the feast day of St. Paphnutius of Thebes!

Happy Sept. 11th, everybody!!!

 

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current events

More bad news (El Jueves, etc.)

Yes, I’m afraid I have more bad news. This time, it’s not football-related.

For those of you living outside the ‘Kingdom of Spain’ who haven’t been paying attention to the news over here, the King of Spain announced this past Monday that he was abdicating the throne. (I suppose the New York Times’ article will bring you more or less up to speed if you’re interested.)

And no, this is not the bad news I was referring to. The bad news came yesterday, and is only indirectly related to the king’s decision to step down.

Albert Monteys and Manel Fontdevila are leaving El jueves.

El jueves, for those unfamiliar with the publication, is a satirical humor magazine dealing chiefly in comic strips that run the gamut from the political to the scatalogical, from surreal to vaguely smutty.

The magazine’s tagline is “El jueves, la revista que sale los miércoles” (Thursday: the magazine that comes out on Wednesday.) This week it came out on Thursday.

RBA, the company that publishes the magazine alleged some sort of technical problem. Other sources, however, have alleged that the problem stemmed from the question of what to put on the cover. Of the two covers below, which one do you think they went with–the one lampooning the meteoric rise of Pablo Iglesias, or the one featuring Juan Carlos I handing over a crown covered in doo-doo to his son Felipe?

RBA initially claimed that the Iglesias cover which was finally published was the one originally slated before the King’s announcement, and that with news of the abdication coming on Monday there was no time to get a joke to the presses before Wednesday. Then eldiario.es published a story saying that 60,000 copies of the King/Prince cover were printed (and subsequently mulched, one assumes), giving the lie to RBA’s claims vis-a-vis timeframes…

But I don’t want to talk about the alleged political pressure from the Royal Family, or the ‘chilling effect’ of self-censorship in the echoes of the 2007 controversy (which not coincidentally also involved the Royal Family), etc., etc. No, I want to get sentimental and talk about what the work of Monteys and Manel F. means to me.

Flash back to early 2006. I’m still finding my way around Barcelona and the ex-pat life in general. One bored afternoon in Fnac I come across a book of cheaply printed comics entitled Para ti, que eres joven: Sexo, drogas, y otras cosas que les pasan a los demás (‘For you who are young: Sex, drugs, and other things that happen to other people’), which was a collection of strips about a variety of topics: ‘Family’, ‘rock ‘n roll’, ‘looking for work’, ‘sharing a flat’, ‘the future’. At this point, I didn’t know what El jueves was, I just knew I liked the style of art and humor, and that there was a lot of jokes that I didn’t get and would have to look up or ask someone about.

The truth is, discovering the work of Monteys and Manel F formed a huge part of my language learning process here: first, as motivation to learn more about the language. And then later, as a sort of informal corpus for later study.

Yeah, that’s right, I brought up corpus linguistics in a blogpost about comics. My other main interest at the time being language pedagogy, I decided I would try to apply some of the concepts I’d been reading about (Michael Lewis’s ‘The Lexical Approach’, for instance) to my own language learning. (Yes, I did have a whole lot of free time and very little social life at that point in my life, why do you ask?)

For example, I made concordances–which is basically to say that I isolated individual words and tried to locate them in as many different contexts as possible to see its semantic and grammatical characteristics–especially verbs that confused me or that seemed especially versatile or important (i.e., pillar: “Oye, te pillo el boli un momento”, “El futuro puede llegar en culaquier momento y no quiero que me pille en la calle”, “Coño…me parece que ya lo pillo…”, “Lo habitual es pillarse un buen cebollón antes de la sesión perforatorio”, or  enterarse: “Es muy peligroso ser un manitas–sobre todo si los demás se enteran“, “Para que te enteres: yo en mi vida solo he dicho una mentira…”, “–‘Muere en en nombre de Dios! –‘¡Si no existe te vas a enterar, mamón!'”

And in case you were wondering, why yes, I am a huge nerd.

But apart from all these two maestros of the comic arts taught me about the idiosyncrasies of the greater Iberian culture and language, more importantly they made me laugh. It’s true that in recent months I stopped buying the magazine regularly, but when I did pick up a copy I always knew Para ti que eres joven was good for at least a chuckle. (Of course, I also enjoyed their other work in the magazine (Tato, La parejita S.A., etc.), but I always went straight for the pink pages.)

As you can imagine, a world without Para ti, que eres joven in the magazine that comes out on Wednesday is, for me at least, a slightly sadder, more melancholy world than the one I used to know.

I can only hope that Monteys and Manel F continue working, drawing and writing jokes, and wish them the best of luck.

 

 

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current events

Goliath/David redux (empate técnico)

Monday. A cold rainy morning in Barcelona. All across Europe the headlines scream: Le Pen winner of French elections, UKIP wins in UK.

Racist, xenophobe right-wing extremists who once struggled to eke out even a single seat in the Europarliament have now become many voters’ number one option. France’s prime minister Manuel Valls (not exactly an immigrant’s best friend himself) publicly called LePen’s victory ‘a disaster for Europe’. I don’t know how you say ‘a fucking disaster’ in French, but that’s probably what he said in private.

By mid-day though, rays of sun break through the clouds.

In Spain, a new formation by the name of Podemos (one of the ‘smaller grassroots platforms’ that I mentioned yesterday) surpasses all expectations with over 1.2 million votes. 5 seats in the European parliament from which to pursue their platform, available here in Spanish. Regardless of what you think of their agenda, it’s undeniably heartening that a group with only 4 months of existence and a campaign budget of some €200,000 has been able to make such a dent in its first elections.

Some have complained that leader Pablo Iglesias’ experience as a panelist in a number of Spain’s ever-popular TV ‘tertulias’ (debate programs somewhat in the vein of the old McLaughlin Group or Cross-fire) have given him an unfair advantage. Iglesias responded thusly (quoted from an article in El País):

“The criticism is fair. I don’t like it either that there are people who are famous just for being on TV […] We don’t have the funding of the PSOE or the PP, we haven’t asked for a loan, we don’t have any powerful friends nor any friend in the media who give us concessions as favors–we just have a kid with a ponytail on the TV.”

However, some allege that they do in fact have friends in the media–Grupo Planeta, for instance, or Mediaset. Others say that LaSexta TV’s televisedsparring matches between Iglesias and La Razón director Pepe Marhuenda function as a sort of mediated, self-congratulatory voodoo doll are designed to make viewers feel like their voice is being heard and at the same time keep them passive, on their couch, glued to the screen.

Maybe so. Be that as it may, Europe and the world seems to be getting grayer and more dystopic with every passing day. Podemos has a long way to go if it truly hope to achieve its goal of winning the next elections. In the meantime, I say: Damn it, for once just please let me have this one ray of sun.

 

 

 

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current events

When Goliath wins

J.M. Aznar, ex-president of Spain whose land reform inflated the housing bubble and Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid club president and construction magnate

José María Aznar, Florentino Peréz (l-r).

Fate decreed that the Champions League final and the 2014 elections to the European parliament are both being held on the same weekend. I doubt very seriously that the parallels between the two are lost on anyone who’s been paying attention to either.

But just in case, allow me to explain.

Last night two Spanish teams (more specifically, two teams from Madrid), Real Madrid and Atlético de Madrid, disputed the final of the Champions League, the biggest and most elite tournament in European football. For those who are  unfamiliar with the narrative between these teams, it goes something like this:

Real Madrid (as the name, ‘Royal Madrid’ implies–the King himself Juan Carlos I is a supporter, not coincidentally) has throughout its history been seen as an upper-class team, ‘posh’ if you will. They also bear the unfortunate stigma of having been the official team of the dictatorial Franco regime. Even after the death of the Caudillo, they remain the ‘establishment’ team par excellence.

As for el Atleti, their English-language Wikipedia page sums it up admirably:

“On the other side, the Rojiblancos were always characterized by a sentimiento de rebeldía, a sense of rebellion, although during the early Francisco Franco years, it was Atlético that was the preferred team of the regime, albeit forcibly[…]

“Such perceptions have had an important impact on the city’s footballing identities, tapping into the collective consciousness. In this vein, Atlético fans were probably the originators, and are the most frequent singers, of the song ‘Hala Madrid, hala Madrid, el equipo del gobierno, la vergüenza del país’, “Go Madrid, go Madrid, the government’s team, the country’s shame.”

(One would be remiss, though, not to point out the shadier parts of Atleti’s history, namely the 16-year presidency of Jesús Gil, mayor of Marbella and one of the most famously corrupt politicians in Spain’s long history of corrupt politicians.)

In any case there was no small amount of drama in the duel between the two Madrid clubs last night on the international stage of Lisboa’s Da Luz Stadium, with Real Madrid seeking to capture their tenth European title and Atlético seeking their first, a perfect capstone to their Cinderella season. Real Madrid versus Atlético de Madrid: the team of €100-million transfer deals for players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale (seen by many as absolutely criminal given Spain’s current economic situation) versus a much more modestly financed squad (though, truth be told, none of the players on the Atleti side are what you’d call poor, either).

Powerhouse versus underdog. ‘Establishment’ versus ‘sentimiento de rebeldía’.

Real Madrid won, 4-1.

Inevitably, I find that the result of last night’s match has colored my perception of the European elections being held today. As we speak, Spanish voters are casting their votes for the European parliament, and turnout is projected to be abysmal–I, for one, didn’t get the feeling as I accompanied my wife to the polls (she can vote, I can’t) that many people were turning up for what the media often calls ‘la gran fiesta de la democracia’.

Whether that’s down to general skepticism about the European project or perhaps a huge collective hangover after last night’s match, who knows. Maybe people feel as though their vote doesn’t matter. That the major parties have the game rigged in their favor, to the exclusion of smaller grassroots platforms. That no matter who they vote for, the die has been cast, the tide of rampant globalization unleashed and Europe as a whole doomed to backslide into 21st feudalism. That the bigwigs of industry and finance will continue doing whatever the hell they please, regardless of what the great unwashed have to say about it.

Or at least what photos like the one above suggest to my mind, anyway. Try as I might, I can’t shake the feeling that tonight when they announce the elections result, we’ll be told that–just like last night–Goliath won.

 

 

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current events

“State of the World 2014”: My favorite bits

So, it’s that time of year when experts, pundits and assorted brainiacs look back at the global economic, cultural, and political trends and try to decipher the grand meaning of what just happened in the last 12 months.

Actually, maybe “that time of year” was a couple of weeks ago now, but cut me some slack. I was busy.

By now, pages upon pages of punditry have been generated, out there waiting to be waded through, if one is so inclined. Or you could just skip it and read Bruce Sterling and John Lebkowsky’s “State of the World 2014”,  the latest in a series which (if I’m not mistaken) dates back to 2000.

It’s all a bit geeky, and materialistic in a tech-obsessed sort of way, but then we live in an increasingly geeky, materialistic and tech-obsessed world. So there’s that. Also, what they have to say may not be fundamentally different from other such year-end round-ups. But they’re just So. Damn. Pithy.

Extracted without comment on my part below are my favorite bits:

Sterling:

“2013 turned out to be the year when the Digital Revolution trended Stalinist. Old-school Digital Bolsheviks scattered hapless in every direction, as Big Data Killer Bot Commissars scoured the darkening landscape, and Trotsky went to ground in Ecuador.”

Lebkowsky:

“The reality of growing persistent domestic surveillance is somehow distant an unreal. It’s like we’re watching the Man from U.N.C.L.E., the bad acts are bad video, some sort of fiction imposed by deus ex Tom Clancy. We have the same response to the careful dismantling of government and whole sections of the former middle class – it’s a film by Frank Capra, or maybe Judd Apatow. A cheesy bit of cinema that will somehow resolve itself, credits will eventually roll, we’ll step out of the fantasy and into the light of day, and everything will be fine, just fine. But what we’re watching is not cinema, but a maleficent YouTube video gone viral, shot by rabid weasels with an infected Android, looping constantly like Einstein’s definition of insanity. We’ve dozed off watching it, fallen into nested dream states fed by networks of fantasy, no clear way to consciousness.”

Lebkowsky:

“We know too much (broadly) and we don’t know enough (detail), and that odd quirk of knowing invites us to speculate – about chemtrails, which may be ordinary contrails but could also be a spew of unknown, potentially sinister origin. Or Fukushima…”

Sterling:

“Technology’s not moving all that fast in 2014; tech is simply drifting toward the money, really.  It’s hard  to write fiction about technology because the structure of language is mutating.  Also, the demographics for printed fiction have collapsed.  So, who is science fiction talking to? […] For instance, nobody has ever invented a novelistic way to capture SMS messages, which are the way real people basically talk nowadays.  We’ve got dialogue conventions that work on a page, but we don’t have any SMS conventions.   They’re inelegant.  The result is that literary language loses vitality.   It’s out of touch with the digital vernacular of popular speech. […] So fiction is losing its ability to marinate itself in the tenor of the times, and to create a cultural sensibility, to be the credible witness or social guide to ‘the way things are now.’  ‘The way things
are now’ are no longer what pages and paragraphs are about.  Literary communication is a subset of communication, and communication is in turmoil.”

Sterling (discussing the relative success of the current Serbian regime run by the ‘Radikalni’ party):

“I’ve never seen Serbia in such a state of public contentment and apparent stability. It’s truly startling […] This development gives me the conviction that pessimism is public affairs is just a kind of arrogance.”

There’s plenty more worth copying and pasting here. However, that last bit– “Pessimism in public affairs is just a kind of arrogance”–is a surprisingly positive note to stop on, and something I will try to keep in mind as events unfold in the following year.

(You can read more at the link above.) ~nmw

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current events

September 11th fun facts!!!

Hey, did you know that September 11th is the 254th day of the Gregorian calendar! Also, did you know that it’s the first day of the Coptic, and the earliest possible day that the Ethiopian calendar can begin! Fascinating, right?

I have to admit I am somewhat overdosed on September 11th. Yes, an enormous national tragedy of unrivalled scope occurred on that date. I get that.

Also, if I’m not mistaken, Rafael de Casanova gave a rousing speech while Barcelona was falling to the Bourbon forces in the last throes of the War of Spanish Succession, exhorting them to do something along the lines of “salvar la libertad del Principado y de toda España; evitar la esclavitud que espera a los catalanes y al resto de los españoles bajo el dominio francés; derramar la sangre gloriosamente por el Rey, por su honor, por la patria y por la libertad de toda España”. (‘Save the freedom of the Principality (referring to Catalonia) and all of Spain, avoid the slavery that awaits the Catalans and the rest of the Spanish people under French domination, to gloriously shed blood for the King, for his honor, for the fatherland and for the freedom of all of Spain’).

So, if you are overdosed on 9/11 nostalgia, o estás hasta los huevos de escuchar cosas sobre la Diada, why not learn more superinteresting things that happened by chance to occur on this date in history that are like super-relevant to your life and everyone should definitely give a fuck about here:

On this day in history…

  • 1185 – Isaac II Angelus kills Stephanus Hagiochristophorites and then appeals to the people, resulting in the revolt that deposes Andronicus I Comnenus and places Isaac on the throne of the Byzantine Empire.
  • 1297 – Battle of Stirling Bridge: Scots jointly-led by William Wallace and Andrew Moray defeat the English.
  • 1609 – Henry Hudson discovers Manhattan Island and the indigenous people living there.
  • 1792 – The Hope Diamond is stolen along with other French crown jewels when six men break into the house used to store them.
  • 1830 – Anti-Masonic Party convention; one of the first American political party conventions.
  • 1847 – Stephen Foster’s well-known song, “Oh! Susanna”, is first performed at a saloon in Pittsburgh.
  • 1852 – The State of Buenos Aires secedes from the Argentine Federal government, rejoining on 17 September 17, 1861. Several places are named Once de Septiembre after this event.
  • 1857 – The Mountain Meadows massacre: Mormon settlers and Paiutes massacre 120 pioneers at Mountain Meadows, Utah.
  • 1927 – Vernon Corea, Sri Lankan broadcaster, was born.
  • 1939 – World War II: Canada declares war on Germany, the country’s first independent declaration of war
  • 1961 – Foundation of the World Wildlife Fund
  • 1973 – A coup in Chile headed by General Augusto Pinochet topples the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. Pinochet exercises dictatorial power until ousted ina referendum in 1988, staying in power until 1990.
  • 2007 – Joe Zawinul, Austrian keyboardist and composer with Weather Report among others, died.

Plus, today is totally Saint Deiniol’s Day, after Deiniol, Bishop of Bangor?

It’s also Emergency Number Day, proclaimed by President Reagan on August 26 in 1987.

And, it’s Teacher’s Day in Argentina, apparently.

Happy Teacher’s Day, y’all!!!

(source: wikipedia)

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current events

My expert opinion about PRISM and things, in which I link to stuff

If you’re like me, you use the Internet.

Y’know, to do things like stay in touch with friends, keep up with the news, consume pornography,  and vent streams of earnest rage-whining and narcisstic self-disclosure, depending on how your day’s going.

And if you’re like me, in the course of all this news-keeping-up-with and friend-staying-in-touch-with, you’ve probably heard of this whole PRISM thing.

If you’re not like me, or you have no idea what I’m talking about, basically somebody (The Guardian originally if Im not mistaken) called shenanigens on the government’s collecting of metadata from Verizon Wireless customers. Then the Washington Post brought the name PRISM into the national lexicon, ‘uncovering’ (more on those scare quotes later) the NSA’s apparently boundless thirst for sucking up and filtering All The Interwebz looking for…bad guys? The government is all up in your business, like K-Solo’s girl’s mom back in the day.

First off, I gotta say PRISM is a beautifully chosen name for this program. Perfect blend of crisp melodiousness and vaguelyl science-fictional menace. Kudos to the guy who proposed that one in whatever board meeting it was where this stuff gets decided. It’s like, ‘this supersecret program is clearly gonna get leaked at some point, we gotta make sure it gets a cool-sounding name for when it comes out into the open.’

Cool name. But what is it? Apparently PRISM is a code name for one of the many data collecting tools and data processing tools, or ‘signal activity/address designator’ (SIGAD for short), at the NSA’s disposal. And apparently they give each of these SIGADs a number. PRISM is US-984XN.

And apparently this sort of massive data collection has been going on for years.  But this time, who knows why–chalk it up to anxiety over the Bradley Manning trial if you will–with PRISM it seems the shit has hit the proverbial fan, to be diffracted into the myriad shades and gradations of the spectrum of visible light.

On one hand you have David Simon, creator of the tv series The Wire, and as such someone who knows him a thing or two about surveillance. He made some fairly reasonable-sounding points about programs like PRISM and their “legitimate usefulness to counter-terrorism as weighed against the actual intrusion on civil liberties.”

He seemed to predicate this point on a sort of world-weary bemusement, (I’m paraphrasing here) like, “Dude, they’ve been doing this shit for years, and you’re just getting all outraged about it now? How cute.” The data is there to be combed through whether we like it or not, he says, and it’s naive to think that the government’s not going to do so if it means (possibly) preventing some sort of attack.

Others have argued that this is just the first step down a slippery slope. As Gawker put it,

It is a classic example of Martin Niemoller’s famous poem come to life: First they came for Al-Qaeda, and I did not speak out because I was not Al-Qaeda; Then they came for the dark-skinned foreigners, and I did not speak out because I was not a dark-skinned foreigner; Then I found out they’ve had access to all of my pornography searches for years now. Fuck.

Perhaps the most eloquent argument, though, appears on a Reddit page of all places (just joshing, Reddit, you guys are the best). Scroll down to the third post by 161719 and read it. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Then come back and scratch your head with me.

What to do? Fork over great heaping forkfuls of our privacy in exchange for the possibility of maybe preventing like bad stuff from happening? And anyway, is privacy (our concept of it, such as it is) even a valid or useful term to use in the current context?

If it is, and if we do decide to fork it on over, are we ready for the consequences? Have we thought them through to the end?

And if we don’t want to fork that privacy, can we effectively demonstrate or implement that non-compliance? How?

This would be the part of the linkstorm where I link to a page where I found an elegant and dignified solution to the conundrum. Haven’t found it yet, but if anyone reading this has one, let me know.

I guess the real reason I’m writing this is that, now, no matter what I write, I can rest assured that somebody, somewhere out there is going to read it.

So whoever the data analyst is, sitting at their desk making use of the SIGAD numbered US-984XN, thanks for reading.

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