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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fiction, news

Wow, that was quick: “Chatarra” now up at Ideomancer

What better way to return from a long and pleasant summer vacation than with an announcement like this:

My short story “Chatarra” has just been published over at Ideomancer. Go check it out, it’s me in ‘sombre’ mode.

Kind of a funny story about this one getting accepted, I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.

In the meantime, thanks to Leah and everyone else at Ideomancer. Cheers!

 

 

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Uncategorized

Welp, now I’m almost certainly being spied on, closely perhaps, by the NSA

So we’ve known for a while now that government spooks were snooping through all of our internet communication, or as I like to put it, they were all up in your business like K-Solo’s girlfriend’s mom. Supposedly, they were just ‘collecting’ it and not ‘targeting’ it. ‘Targeting’ was only for the bad guys.

Now it’s come out this week that the NSA has some very interesting criteria that it uses to narrow down who the ‘bad guys’ are.

Cory Doctorow published an article this week entitled “If you read Boing Boing, the NSA considers you a target for deep surveillance.”  In it, he linked to a article on the German news site Tagesschau written in which journalists gained access to the “deep packet inspection” rules used to determine who is considered to be a legitimate target for deep surveillance.

Apparently, the NSA knows when, where, and whether or not you’ve ever searched for online articles about Tails or Tor, perhaps the two most well-known tools used to preserve Internet privacy and anonymity. Now let’s say neither of those names sound familiar and you want to learn more. Before you run off to Google, hear me out first: If you do search for either of those terms, there’s a strong chance you’ll be put on their bad guy list. That’s what I did.

Basically, the NSA thinks it has a right to know if you’re interested (even if only in a casual, ‘here-lemme-click-on-this-link-for-a-second-oh-never-mind-this-shit’s-boring’ sort of way) in the subject of Internet privacy tools, because that interest might translate to you actually using such a tool, which could possibly mean that you’re using it to do ill of some sort (terrorism, cybercrime, piracy, etc.).

That’s some ol’ Tom Cruise Minority Report pre-crime shit if I ever heard of it.

Also–as you’d imagine–anyone who they determine is actually using Tor is also targeted for long-term surveillance and retention. Doctorow writes: “One expert suggested that the NSA’s intention here was to separate the sheep from the goats — to split the entire population of the Internet into ‘people who have the technical know-how to be private’ and ‘people who don’t’ and then capture all the communications from the first group.”

Sad thing is, I’m not even really in the first group and they may already be treating me as such–like, I tried downloading and setting up Tor once, and no matter how many times I tried to key in the command lines, Linux wasn’t havin’ it. I mean, that’s how little I have in the way of ‘technical know-how’. So I was like, fuck it. Doesn’t matter–they’re prolly still gonna read this, and all my email, and all that. And in lieu of coded message about terrorist attacks, they will find boring email back and forth between me and my bosses, banal Facebook posts, and little else I imagine.

I don’t have any illusions about anything I do being at all secure, really. I know basically any jerkass who had a mind to could jack my whole computer up and wreck shop on my hard drive and what not. I’m not naive in that sense. But it makes you think. The government (probably) really is in my business. Damn.

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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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