Saturday, December 30, 2006

Catalonia, a country without “cojones”

In the Spanish speaking countries, the word “cojones” is gross. Surprisingly in the Anglo countries the same word has pretty positive connotations (a bit “macho”, but positive). I have heard the word used in business meetings several times and I seem to be the only one who gets a bit shocked with the expression, even though the Catalan version of the word, “collons” (pronounced “koo-ee-ons”), is much softer and can be used without raising eyebrows.
To illustrate that the word “cojones” has no negative connotations among the North American Anglo community, I will mention the ad campaigned that Volkswagen started in USA a few months ago. The billboards describe its new Golf as the “Turbo-Cojones”. The campaign did not last much due to the complaints of people, mostly in Florida, who did understand the real meaning of cojones and did not want to be exposed to a gross ad promoting the “turbo-testicles” and maybe, did not want to see the saga continued with a next round of ads promoting the Jetta “Turbo-polla” (Turbo-dick).

However, for this posting, I want to stick to the Anglo meaning of “cojones” and definitely, at the end of the year 2006, I have to proclaim that Catalonia is a country without cojones.
For hundreds of years the majority of Catalans have believed that even though Spain is a good country with excellent people, it is not our country, it is not the country where we belong. We have allowed that people arriving in our country change our way of life in a way only seen in places where the invader had a much more developed culture (and army) than those invaded. A high percentage of the millions of people who came to our land, Catalonia, seeking prosperity (and many of them got it) have “hispanized Catalonia” instead of adapting to our culture and values.
But the responsibility does not lie on those who came. The responsibility lies on those who call Catalonia their nation. And the reality is that we do not have “cojones”, we always back off because we are afraid of losing what we have achieved so far. We hide our Catalan identity, because we believe that if we display it, Spanish will boycott it and foreigners will not recognize it and we will sell less. We are a country of “botiflers”, a country without “cojones”.
As an example, I am including a picture of two bottles I bought here in USA, both bought at Costco. The single malt bottle of scotch shows proudly on the front of the bottle “The Macallan distilleries Inc, Easter Elchies, Craigellachie, Scotland. Product of Scotland”. On the bottle of Freixenet “cava”, there is no reference to Sant Sadurdi d’Anoia, Barcelona or Catalonia, just a laconic “Product of Spain” on the back label. I told you, a country without “cojones”.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Montserrat schism

El cisma de Montserrat
The Catholic Church has always been anti-Catalan. The Catholic Church likes empires, likes authoritarian regimes, likes commonality and Catalonia does not offer any of them. Do not think that the aversion to Catalonia by the Catholic Church is something new. It’s a millennium old.
In 1301, Pope Boniface VIII fell ill. His Roman doctors were not able to heal him. Pope Boniface hated Catalans, he had done everything possible to stop their expansion in the Mediterranean and he also denied the rights of the House of Barcelona to the Crown of Sicily. However, as a last resort, they brought the famous Catalan doctor, Arnau de Vilanova, to see the Pope. Arnau had been put in prison upon arrival in Rome some time before.
Arnau was able to relieve Boniface’s suffering. After that, Pope Boniface exclaimed: “at last I have found a Catalan who does good”.
In the XV and XVI century, the situation got even worst. The fact that Catalans did not support the implementation of the Inquisition was the main reason for that. They even assassinated some of the Castilian lead Inquisitors who were sent to the kingdom of Aragon to implement the Spanish Inquisition. In my opinion that’s the main reason why Catalans were forbidden by Isabel Queen of Castile to go to America till the end of the XVIII century.
Recently, we have seen similar moves by the Catholic church establishment to weaken the Catalan identity. A few years ago, the Vatican determined that the Western Strip (La Franja), the Catalan speaking counties located in the Aragon region would not longer belong to the Lleida archdiocese (Catalonia), but it would become part of the Aragonian archdiocese of Barbastro. La Franja had been part of the Lleida archdiocese for more than one thousand years. The motivation behind the decision was to reduce the influence of Catalonia on this Aragonian region with more of 90% Catalan native speakers (the highest percentage of Catalan native speakers in any region in the world).
The last straw has been the approval last week by the Spanish archbishop conference of a documents declaring that the unity of Spain is a “moral good”, trying to quell any separatist desire in Catalonia or the Basque country. What does the unity of Spain have to do with religion or morality? Why don’t the Spanish bishops spend their time doing the real moral good, as for instance, helping the poor, putting in prison the pedophilic priests or giving support to the use of condoms to curve the growth of AIDS?
I am a catholic, I always went to catholic school and I like Jesus and his teachings, but I really cannot stand the Roman Catholic apparatus. Pope, bishops and archbishops are not a moral good, they are basically a waste. They also proclaimed that the Roman empire and the old Spanish empire were a moral good. Both are long gone. That’s the only thing that gives me hope.
Hopefully one day, pretty soon, the abbot of the Montserrat monastery will secede from the Vatican and declare the Montserrat Schism (“el cisma de Montserrat”), with the basic good teachings of Jesus, but with divorce, non abortive contraception and female priesthood.
I include a videoclip showing the entry of the Franco dictator troops in Barcelona in 1939. My grandfather was by then a P.O.W. My grandmother and my 4 year old father had nothing to eat. The rest of my Catalan relatives were crossing into France, where they have remained since.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Our naked Santa Albert Rivera

The Catalan elections sucked. First of all, how do they dare to announce the results without waiting for my vote which I religiously sent on October 31st by certified mail. Hey guys, I spent 8 bucks and they have the nerve to announce the results without counting MINE. That proves that there was fraud. Remember that Cuidadanos made the 3% threshold by a mere 0.04%. Maybe a couple of votes, mine and Rab’s for instance, can bring it to an insufficient 2.99%.
In a serious note, the only fraud is the clowns we have as politicians. But you are right, we have the politicians that we deserve.
I have to admit that I am surprised by the fact that Ciudadanos made it, even though I have to thank Albert Rivera for having been the reason of more than 1000 hits to my blog last month. On October 7th, several American and Canadian newspapers published an article about Albert Rivera and for two days, when you googled any combination of Albert, Rivera, Catalonia, Barcelona or naked, my site ranked first. Now he has become a popular guy and if you put the word naked, it brings me to the 6th page (otherwise I still make the top 10).
I do not feel too bad about Ciutadans making it to the Parliament. In general, they say the right things (although they think totally differently, but that's politics). My impression is, however, that the vast majority are core Spanish nationalists that cannot deal with Acebes (most probably only his mother can deal with him). As an example, I hardly found any Catalan first names on the ballot of Ciudadanos. I only recall Albert and two Sílvias (and I had to take my magnifying glass to see the two accents ‘ on the first i). I thought they are for bilingualism, therefore I would have expected at least 50-50 Catalan and Spanish first names.

Anyway I want to make use of this opportunity to ask our naked Santa, or even better, king Melcior-Albert-Rivera, the following Xmas presents:

  • Trilingual schools (Catalan, Spanish, English)
  • A new Spanish passport written in Catalan (in addition to the current 12 languages): Regne d’Espanya - Passaport
  • That Catalan has the same rights in the E.U. as Gaelic, Maltese, Danish and any other official language spoken by less than 10 million people.
  • That the Spanish Embassies and Consulates have signs (with smaller font if you want) in Catalan (Ambaixada d’Espanya, Consolat d’Espanya).
  • That birth certificate form at the consulates has a box to tick if you want the inscription in the Civil Registry to be made according to the Catalan usage
  • That all products sold in Catalonia have Catalan labeling and directions for use
  • That all electronic products sold in Catalonia have Catalan user interface

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fuck yourself on the right hand side

I have spent the last 8 days in Europe (Stuttgart, Saronno, Barcelona and now Amsterdam). While in Barcelona, I was exposed, once again, to the scatological and sexual connotations of Catalans politics, especially now that we are getting closer to election day.
I have to apologize once again for introducing to you so much dirty stuff, but Catalan politics are dirty. Thanks God, we do not have (yet) any child molester among the political elite, but we have pretty much everything else: politicians that go the Full Monty, actors that shit on the establishment, politicians' wives that refer to their political opponents as sons of a bitch, and so on.
The last addition to the list has been the most recent campaign by the Eco-socialist youths. They intended to promote the vote for the left by discrediting the right. So they started a campaign that included distributing condoms with what they thought was the printed Catalan phrase “Fuck the right”. However, those responsible for the ads had as much bad taste as they have lack of knowledge of the Catalan language (pretty popular among Catalan politicians who deny trilingual education to the kids, but who can hardly speak two Catalan words without making a grammar or vocabulary mistake). Instead of writing “Fuck the right” (Folla’t la dreta), they wrote “Fuck yourself on the right hand side” (Folla’t a la dreta), because independently of the willingness or not of the one who is being forced to the intercourse, ‘fuck someone” both in Catalan and English is a transitive verb and you “fuck the right” and not “to the right”, unless you have an asymmetrical penis.

The campaign has been since withdrawn, not because of its bad taste, but because of the grammatical blunder.

I promise, this is the last dirty post of the series, if the Catalan politicians allow.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Catalan national teams (II)

The soccer game between the Catalan and Basque “national” teams took place last Sunday. It went well, about 60 thousand people attended the match, it was peaceful and everyone pretty much said what he/she wanted to say, a good sign of freedom of expression. The final score 2-2 did not matter at all, especially to me, since I do not like soccer (at least, I thought so).
But it you ask me, are you for the Catalan national teams? The answer is simple: Yes and No.
Yes, for those sports where Catalonia is a world power, where the Spanish national league is a Catalan league with just one or two Spanish teams dancing around. That is the case of roller hockey or grass hockey. In this case, making use of the status of Catalonia as a stateless nation, I think it is justified to have Catalan national teams playing in international competitions, no matter what Madrid thinks.
No, for those sports where Catalonia itself is not willing to abide by the rules. In order to have a national team, the requirement should be (and it is for soccer) that that particular country has its own league. I do not think that Catalans will bite the bullet and organize a Catalan soccer league, where Barcelona FC would play against Ripollet or Cardedeu, thus turning down the lucrative matches like Barcelona vs. Madrid, Seville or Valencia.

As I mentioned in my previous, the commercial - promoting Sunday's game against the Basque region - began airing in Catalonia last week but a Barcelona judge ordered the suspension Thursday. The ad showed children picking teams for a soccer game. One boy, dressed in a red jersey symbolizing the Spanish national team, refuses to let a boy wearing the Catalonian team's shirt play - unless he removes his jersey. The boy takes off his shirt and other children then remove theirs in solidarity. Then the slogan, "a country, a team," then flashes on screen.
A group, calling itself Right to Decide, urged fans to endorse the commercial by removing their shirts when players entered the stadium.
Using a high tech satellite camera, I decided to check whether any fans would follow the group’s request. I was successful enough to take one satellite picture of one of the fans that decided to follow. Since then, I have decided that I may start to like soccer and we should delay the decision on Catalan national teams for a couple of years, as long as the fans continue to show their support in a similar fashion.
What you are unable to see on the picture is what the woman had tattooed on her back:“If I was the size of Albert Rivera’s, I would also cover them with my hands,”

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Catalan national teams

Spain has done everything possible to suppress the Catalan and Basque country national teams. This weekend Catalonia is playing an "international" soccer match against the Basque country.
Spain would have no problems to play against Wales, Scotland or even the disputed colony of Gibraltar, but it would never agree to play against Catalonia.

The pro Catalan national team movement, created the enclosed TV ad to support the Catalan team. The ad was banned yesterday by a judge. Judge by yourself.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mas Inglés

I thought that Artur Mas was simply the typical kind of Catalan traitor (botifler) who had sold his soul to the devil (Zapatero) for personal political gains. This has happened many times throughout the history, that’s why Catalonia has gradually lost language, political rights and identity in the last 600 years.
This year, during the negotiations of the new Statute (Catalan Constitution), we lost a unique opportunity to take control of our future, by managing our taxes, the infrastructural investments, harbors and airports. The only so-called win is that we are a nation in the introduction of the law, but not in the body.
This week Artur Mas has also demonstrated that, in addition of being a “botifler”, he is also a moron. Apparently he also believes (like me) that Catalans need to be trilingual (congratulations!), but his methodology slightly differs from mine.
As you well know, I am a proponent of trilingual education where Catalan and Spanish are used to teach most of the subjects (in a 50/50 approach) and English is introduced pretty early with the objective that kids leave highschool mastering Catalan and Spanish and being very fluent in English.
Artur Mas has a “better” approach. He is proposing tax deductions for those who have a certificate proving that they speak another language. Great idea! Young kids will put a lot of effort to learn a third and forth language at school, because they know that when they grow up, they will get a tax deduction. Do not tell me that this idea is not bright!
You can also imagine the future growth of a black market of language certificates for languages that no one can verify (Tibetan, Upper Sorbian, Urdu, Uripiv, Urum or Ute) that will funnel their revenues to the Catalan political parties and their leaders.
I am already making plans to go back to Catalonia. With all my languages, most probably I will not have to pay any tax, I may even get back the taxes I paid in the 80s.
The true reality is that both the Catalan and the Spanish governments have failed to resolve the education issue in Catalonia and Spain. The OCDE ranked the Spanish education system as one of the worst in the whole organization. The Spanish teachers are the better paid, kids spend the longest hours at school, but the results are the worst with the highest number of drop-outs.
This is an area where the Catalan government could have made a difference, since it has full responsibility in the area of education, but it has not. The entrepreneurship that characterized Catalonia is gradually disappearing, and we are more and more immersed in the sea of Spanish mediocrity. And between a mediocre independent Catalonia or a mediocre Spain (with a mediocre Catalonia as part of it), I would chose the latter. As we say in Catalan, the more we are, the more we will laugh. However if by managing our own future, we can make a quantum leap in our development, starting with a very robust education, elimination of corruption, reviving the entrepreneurship, etc, then we are in business and my nationalistic spirit will arise from the ashes like the phoenix.

I attach some video clips that prove that, contrary to popular belief, Spanish leaders (famous and infamous) have reached a mastery of the English language beyond expectations. They would, at least, qualify for a 20% tax deduction.

The Dictator:


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Please Catalans, learn English

In my next posting, once again I will try to convince all Catalans about the importance of learning languages, especially English.
Today, I just want to illustrate it with a couple of examples. I will leave the politics for the weekend.

Uploaded by sAdCiTy

Uploaded by Nonoche

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Emperor's New Clothes

I just arrived in Shenyang (China), a city not too far from the North Korean border, but I continue to think of the Catalonia politics.
As some of you know, there is a new party in Catalonia called “Ciudadanos the Cataluña”. It is an anti-nationalistic party that is trying to attract those people from the center left that do not want to play the nationalistic game in Catalonia.
I think that every party has the right to exist. The voters will decide whether or not they become an anecdote (I think they will).
Personally, I do not agree with most of their premises and I do not like their tone in general, f.i. one of their keynote speakers said, with very obscene words, that he could not care less about the Catalan nation (a rough translation to English would be: “the Catalan nation makes my dick sweat”) and I think that they are promoting anti-Catalan sentiments, but let’s wait to the next elections and see what happens.

There are, however, two things they say that I agree with (remember I am a non-orthodox Catalan nationalist):

  • A push for bilingual education (I am actually for trilingual)
  • And that most of the Catalan politicians are crooks (remember the 3%, the revolutionary tax letters sent by ERC, the corrupt business practices by Duran Lleida, La Caixa writing off the Catalan Socialist Party loans, etc), but, to be frank, the Spanish politicians are not much better. This is not an excuse, it is a regrettable fact.

The presidential campaign will start momentarily and the new party has presented its new ad campaign where its presidential candidate, Albert Rivera, appears totally naked. I think it is a bold move, that ERC or the PSC will not be able to match (can you imagine Carod or Montilla in a similar fashion?).

However I would like to give you a piece of advice, if you meet Albert Rivera, do not shake hands with him, just in case he has the same reaction to the Catalan nation as his keynote speaker.

Finally I will say that no one in Barcelona will be surprised to see a naked person on the billboards. It is quite normal to go naked on the streets of Barcelona, either voluntarily or involuntarily. It has the advantage that no one can pick your pocket, what is a very important premise in Barcelona, otherwise ask the prime minister of Bosnia who was robbed last week on the streets of the Catalan capital (… and he thought the problem was the Serbs!). It is also a good method to avoid suicide bikers.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Valencia, California

I was this week in Valencia, California, a nice little city in the outskirts of L.A. It's all brand new construction, but it has a bright fake-adobe looking downtown with the typical malls and restaurants.

One of the locals told me: 'I think you also have a Valencia in Spain', as though the Mediterranean city stole the name from the Californian town. I told him, "yes, but it has around 2000 years more history than this village'.

Talking about Valencia, the original Valencia, it is sad to see the animosity of a sizeable group of Valencians towards Catalonia due to, in my modest opinion, two reasons:

  • The influence of the large group of Spanish nationalists who live in Valencia, mostly around the capital, Castilian speaking and Popular Party (right wing) voters.
  • The stupidity of some Catalan politicians who clumsily want to impose the notion of Catalan imperialism to Valencians and citizens of the Balearic islands (and whatever enclave where 2 or more people speak a dialect of the Catalan language). If I were Valencian, I would hate it too!!!

I have to admit that Valencia has produced outstanding achievements:

  1. One of the best books in history, Tirant lo Blanc, was written in Valencian (the way Valencians call Catalan) in the 14th century. I will write some more about this book in the future.
  2. Valencia got immediately the status of kingdom, while Catalonia always remained as a county or principality.
  3. Our brightest king, James I (Jaume I) spent most of his adult life in Valencia and died there.
  4. Valencians (as Catalans) were barred from going to America till the 18th century. However, as soon as they went there, they organized an uprising against Spain and declared independence. I am referring to Josep Martí;, who led the Cuban independence. Catalans, however, went another route and made money selling alcohol (Bacardí) and Tobacco (Partagàs).
  5. Even the concept of Catalan Countries (Països Catalans) was developed by a Valencian (Joan Fuster).

When driving that evening my rental car, a Mustang convertible, from Valencia CA to Malibu (where I would stay overnight), I was thinking that I really like the idea of a confederate country formed by Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. In a previous article, I tried to find a compromise, acceptable by all parties, but, as Habibi pointed out, the compromise was too painful for Catalonia, since Barcelona would lose the status of capital. The warm breeze from the valley caressing my skin while driving, inspired me and I came up with a slight variation that may allow me to strike a deal:

A Clicktalan from Valeària.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I also have Catalan blood (Jo tambe tinc sang catalana)

According to the 19/1996 law that defines the relationship between the Catalan government (Generalitat) and the members of the Catalan community overseas, Catalonia recognizes the "Catalanity" of members of the Catalan community overseas, independently from their current passport. The Catalan nationality (as per today, just wishful thinking) is also applicable to spouses and descendants. If you read the law, you will realize that it is absolutely lousy, but at least, it will allow me to introduce two people that fall in this category.

The first one is Shakira. Years ago, when I found out that her family name was Ripoll (as many of you know, the mother's maiden name is a part of the official name of Spaniards, Portuguese and most of Latinamerican nationals), I got very curious about her ancestry. The enigma was solved when she visited Barcelona last June. There she said in Catalan (jo també tinc sang calalana, I also have Catalan blood), declared that her family name was Ripoll (beautifully pronounced, unlike the Madrilians), a family name that is more Catalan than bread with tomato rubbed over and seasoned with olive oil and salt. And if you do not believe me, check the videoclip by yourself. And please do not boycott her. As Osgood said in "Some like it hot", 'well, nobody is perfect'.
The second person I want to bring to your attention that also falls in this category is Raymond Domenech, the French national soccer team coach. He is the son of Catalans who fled Spain during the Spanish Civil war.
Many in Catalonia rejoiced when the French team defeated the Spanish one in the Germany soccer World championship. Prior to the match, Raymond had declared: "I am not Spanish, I am a Catalan", what is factually correct, since he has, most probably, a French passport.

Personally, I could not care less about soccer. And if asked to choose between France and Spain, I would definitely choose Spain. I would however, gladly accept a Catalan passport, what is, once again,wishful thinking.
Anyway, we, Ripoll, Domenech, Llorens (Shakira, Raymond, Ian) can proudly exclaim, I also have Catalan blood (Jo també tinc sang catalana), even though I have to confess that I do not like tomato.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I have always been very critical of the Barcelona airport. It is a cute airport, do not take me wrong, but the head of operations is clearly below standards (see my previous posting OK, OK, Barcelona sucks a little bit). Besides I have always been an advocate of cutting ties with Iberia and transferring the control of the Catalan airports from the central government to the Catalan government.
Recent events like the "wild strike" of AENA (a central government owned company) personnel at the Barcelona airport that left stranded thousands of travelers in the middle of the holiday season the announcement of Iberia saying that it would dramatically reduce the flights in & out of Barcelona and concentrate most of the air traffic in Madrid, further justify my position.

Personally, I would like to see Iberia disappear from our skies. It is a lousy airline in all aspects and the best that could happen to us Catalans is that name of our country does not get polluted by association to such a substandard airline. This can only happen if, among other things, the airport competencies are transferred from Madrid to Barcelona.

But, so far, the reality is very different. Madrid receives more than 50% of the total investment in airtraffic infrastructure, even though, only 22% of the traffic goes through that province and I do not see any signs of this changing.

As a containment measure, Iberia announced that it would create a low cost carrier that would be based in Barcelona and that would most probably be called Cat Air. This move was intended to calm down the Catalan people, who were getting pretty upset with the "jacobinic" company.
I never believed that the low cost company would be named Cat Air, even though everyone knows that the name was created after the attached videoclip and that has reminiscences of CATania, CATalina the Great, CATamaran and CATering. Nevertheless the remote event that someone would associate CAT with CATalonia scared the hell out of the Iberia management.

And reality has proven me right. In the meantime, the new low cost company has been created with the name of ClickAir, thus avoiding any potential boycott, resulting of a very provoking name as CatAir. The company is headquartered in Madrid, although the operations center will be in Barcelona. This means that most of the work will be done in BCN, but the revenue and taxes will go to Madrid.
However I must admit that I do not dislike the ClickAir name. So I have decided that if you can't take Mohammed to the mountain, take the mountain to Mohammed. For that reason, I am proposing to rename our country with the techy name of Clicktalonia (Clictalunya in Catalan). The name has a dual advantage: it can help dissipate some of the prejudices against Catalonia and it puts us in the forefront of the new technologies.
I hope you will support this move.
Ian Llorens, a Clicktalan.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Travel nightmare

I am back to China. I have been traveling intensively during the last two months and I am getting tired of the long lines at the airports. It is really annoying. I know that security comes first, but traveling by plane is getting close to being a nightmare.
I predict that the recent changes in the security procedures (no liquids allowed, no hand luggage permitted in some airports, etc.) will lead to major changes in business traveling.
I forecast that business men and woman will go to the airports totally naked and proceed through a special walk-through X-Ray screening that will explore “real-time” every hidden cavities in their (our) bodies (copies of the X-Rays will be e-mailed to the traveler’s doctor in anticipation of the yearly physical after being processed by an early cancer detection software that would flag suspicions results). As you can imagine, this will create substantial changes to our morality, especially in USA, where being topless on a beach is perceived as depravation (at least in New England).
Airline lounges would be converted into artificial beaches with artificial sun, sand and swimming pools with real waves. For the puritan, blinders will be provided to prevent them from looking to other people.
On the more technical side, every business class and economy plus seat will have a built in computer connected to the world wide web. Since no electronic devices will be allowed on board, all business applications will have to be web browser accessible (so your Lotus Notes should be viewed through a web enabled application) and at the end of the session, you should send the result of your work to yourself, since not even memory sticks will be allowed in the airports.
Personally I miss the times when the family could see you off at the gate, you could arrive at the airport 30 minutes prior to departure and you would still make it and you did not have to take off your jacket, shoes or any other thing before boarding a plane. All this is history.
When I fly back on Saturday, I will try just wearing a thong. Let’s see what happens (and NO, the one on the picture is NOT me either).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Shanghai: city of contrasts

I landed at Shanghai Pudong airport pretty late. I went through immigration and customs very quickly. Especially in the summer, I try to travel always with only carry on luggage.
As soon as I appeared at the arrival hall, the driver waved at me. He has picked me there several times in the last weeks. It was hot and humid. We walked to the carpark and started our drive from Pudong to the city. The strong air conditioning was relaxing and refreshing.
I was staying at the JW Marriott. I arrived in my room and laid down on my bed for a while. I was tired, the flights, the heat, the jet lag, meetings during the day, e-mail and teleconferences in the evening.
I took a shower. Most of the rooms at JW are fantastic. The hotel is pricey (about $400 a night), but it is worth the while. My shower was directly onto the window panel. If you dim the lights, you can see the Pudong skyline while you shower. The steam gave the city a mysterious look. I felt much better.
I put on my jeans and a T-shirt. I looked down from the 47th floor and I saw the contrast of this city of 16 million souls. Ultramodern high rise buildings in the middle of old and run down housing complexes. Many of them will not be there anymore when I come back next time. I saw several white, red and blue spinning signs in one of those complexes. I needed a hair cut and a head massage (gen xi tou).
In a few minutes I was in one of those little shops. It was midnight. The hairdresser, a young guy, looked tired. I explained to him what I wanted. He washed my hair, gave me a head massage and cut my hair. He did a great job. He looked so tired. Maybe he had been working since 9 in the morning. It was past midnight now.
I asked him how much I owed him. He told me RMB 10 (US$ 1.25). I never give tips, because I do not like to alter the market price. This time I broke my rule (I would do that later again) and I gave him RMB 20.
I felt I still needed a body massage. I wandered around. It was a bit risky, because I did not know the area well. I saw another shop with the spinning sign.. In the outside there was a sign with the price list. A one hour massage for RMB 30 (less than US$ 4). I ventured in. It was almost 1am.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Japan: watersports and no money at midnight

My flight from Shanghai to Tokyo was delayed due to weather. I landed in Narita at 11pm. Since I was going to stay in Japan for a day (I actually extended my stay one more day), I decided upon arrival to visit the restroom in order to give you a follow up on my previous posting “Pissing Dutch”.
The first thing you notice is that the restroom experience at Narita airport is a matter of trust. There is no lock in the door. The system detects that there is someone inside and blocks the access to another person. The toilet has all kind of controls and there are water jets in all directions. But attention guys, if you manipulate the controls while standing, make sure that you use eye protection gear. Otherwise you may find a powerful jet of water going directly into your eye and I do not think that this is what the designer was thinking when he developed these gadgets.
I also found something that you single people may find irrelevant, but it is vital if you have little kids. It is a kind of wall mount to hold naughty children. You simple place them there and forget about them for a while. However I was not able to figure out the use of the foldable stretcher inside the restroom and I leave it for your speculation.

When I got to the arrival hall, an airline employee told me that due to the late arrival of the plane, the only possibility to go to the city was to take a free bus to Shinjuku railway station. The ATM machine did not operate after hours, the bank was closed and I did not have a single Japanese yen.
During my one hour ride, I defined my game plan. I saw three possible alternatives:
Take a taxi that would take Amex credit card
Try to find an ATM machine that would accept my cash card and then take a cab
Take a cab to the hotel and change some money at the hotel service desk upon arrival.
Many options, nothing to worry.

However I realized that I had forgotten a basic requirement, a piece of advice that I always give to people traveling to countries that do not use the Roman alphabet. I did not have the name of the hotel written in Japanese characters (neither katagana, nor hiragana, nor kanji). I was supposed to stay at the Meridian Pacific.

When I arrived to the Shinjuku station I saw a long cue of cabs. I went to the first one, I opened the door and I showed my Amex to the driver. He said “hai, hai”. My first problem, payment, was solved.
Then I showed him the hotel name on my itinerary and he shook his head. Then I tried the basic trick to translate foreign words to Japanese. Use the 5 Spanish vowels AEIOU and end the word with a U (pronounced “oo”). So I told him Meridianu Pasifiku. He said Pasiku, Pasiku. I looked close enough to me and I said “hai”. He was not convinced, so he asked me the phone number. I wrote it on a piece of paper, after adapting it to what I thought would be the local form of it. He punched the numbers on the keyboard of his GPS navigator and a 3D building appeared with superimposed characters. Pasiku, Pasiku! He exclaimed. He drove through Ropongi district and shortly after, we arrived at the Meridian Pacific, a.k.a. Pasiku, opposite to Shinagawa station. It was 1 am.Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Je parle Québecois

I spent the long Memorial weekend in Québec, half of the time in Montréal and the other half in Québec city. Many things reminded me of Catalonia. Graffiti with independentist slogans painted on some walls, the notorious absence of the Canadian flag even in some public buildings, the seamless mixture of French and English in most public places (similar to the coexistence of Catalan and Spanish in Catalonia).
My perception is that in Montréal more English is spoken than French. When I arrived, I was so excited because I thought I was going to use my French and show off in front of my wife and kids, but the reality is that I mostly used English, since everyone spoke English better than me. The city is a bit disappointing, not much to see and with a waterfront that requires a serious face-lift. I also found prices extremely expensive, not only because we went there without any type of reservations, I always make last minute decisions that I pay dearly, but my impression is that they kind of rip off the tourists.
Québec city is different. I highly recommend to go and visit it. It is the only city in North America (US or Canada) where the colonizers build beautiful permanent structures. The old buildings and alleys are fantastic. You could be in any historical European city. In addition to the wonderful atmosphere, French is spoken throughout, or at least Québecois, the variety of French spoken there that requires quite some additional effort to understand. But I managed. And people were nice to me.
However I started to realize how Americanized my family and I are getting. We missed some of the conveniences that we have in the States, and we even became upset because we did not find any open pharmacy where to buy diapers at midnight. When we finally crossed the border to Vermont and the immigration office told us some nice and funny words, we felt back home.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pissing Dutch

Dutch are well known for their water related civil engineering and their liking for water sports. This combination has also made Dutch become leaders in male urinal innovation (Japanese lead the female related R&D).
Barcelona mayor Clos, in his civic drive, should visit the Netherlands and learn some of the key elements that make civism and human nature compatible. Some of the solutions are simple and, at the same time, ground breaking. As an example I will give the fly engraved in Schiphol airport urinals. Airport statisticians working in the janitor department report that the amount of spilt urine has gone down by 80% what had as a consequence a reduction in force of 20% of the janitor crew and 30% reduction of the cleaning chemicals used to wipe out such a corrosive substance. Between you and me, it is also fun aiming at the little insect.
But this is not all, partying Dutch males who after drinking an undisclosed amount of beers need to give back to nature what they ingested, can make use of the highly sophisticated portable urinals strategically located near bars and other alcohol serving entities, as you can see in the picture. There have been some sightings of females using this facility, although no documented proof has been provided. For the time being, I consider it a pure rumor.
However I would like to warn mayor Clos not to go on a shopping spree and buy this standard equipment from The Netherlands. With my 5 ft 11", I find it sometimes difficult to use the Dutch urinals who have been designed for the Dutch, who are, in general, 4 to 6 inches taller than the Catalans. So, Mayor Clos, please buy a customized version. Otherwise so much pulling and stretching may result in infertility problems which may reduce, even more, the dwindling birthrate in Catalonia.

Out of modesty, I will not comment on the Japanese innovations for female users of the lavatory facilities. Fake waterfall background music to mask physiological noises and remote controlled joysticks to direct the toilet bowl water jet, are things I have no experience with.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Zom una nazió

Last Sunday I arrived in Barcelona in a surprise visit to my younger sister. It was her birthday and I decided to show up without warning. It took her a few seconds to recognize me, but I made her day. It was worth while flying for 10 hours 5000 miles.
We ate cake, blew the candles and drank an excellent cava, Juvé i Camps.
She treated me for dinner at a “tapas” bar at the Rambla Catalunya called “Ciutat Comtal”. They have excellent “tapas”, but it is a real “guirilandia” in miniature. It was full of foreigners and half guiris like me. “Tapas” are great. I had two plates of Jabugo ham and Andalusian “chocos” (squid) to show my support for the Andalusian national caliphal reality and “Padrón” peppers and Galician “navajas” (razor clams) to show my support for the Galician national Celtic reality and, of course, a heavily boycottable Catalan “cava”.
A few days ago, I had emailed my friends telling them that I would be in BCN for a day and asking them whether they would have some time for lunch. They all replied positively with only one condition. Lunch had to be short, not more than 2 hours (1:30pm to 3:30pm). I arrived a bit late (1:35pm), the place was a bit hard to find. The first one, J, arrived at 2.05pm, the second one, L2, at 2.25pm and the third one, L1, at 2.30pm. We had a good lunch and a good conversation. At 4.30pm, they had to “rush” to work. However, do not get the impression that the did not work his 9 hours or more. For sure they were in the office until 8 or 9pm. Barcelona, what a great place!!!

Once again, I was able to verify personally that all those lies spread by the biased media, (Libertad Digital, some contibutors to Barcelona Reporter, ABC, El Mundo, etc.) have absolutely no foundation. This is my experience of one day as a customer in Barcelona:

Lunch - El Balanci - waitress: Portuguese - I started ordering in Catalan - Waitress replied in Spanish – I switched to Spanish
Dinner – Ciutat Comtal - waiter: Filipino - I started ordering in Catalan - Waiter replied in Spanish – I switched to Spanish
Police Station (for national ID renewal) – policeman: Castilian, probably from Valladolid or Burgos – I asked my question in Catalan – Policeman replied in Spanish – I continued asking in Spanish
Airport security – screener: from South America, probably Peru – She asked me to remove my laptop and belt in Spanish. – I obeyed in Catalan.

As you see, “zom una nazió” .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Catalanity test

This is a simple Catalanity test.
Watch this video of Pau Casals addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, the day that his hymn of the United Nations was presented.

  1. If tears come to your eyes and you get goose pimples on your skin, you are a real Catalan
  2. If you get upset, you are a Spanish nationalist who most probably votes for the Popular Party
  3. If you feel nothing, you are not a Spaniard
  4. And if you are a Spaniard and still feels nothing, you'd better brush up your English

History of the unofficial hymn of the United Nations

One such song, or hymn, was written and performed at the United
Nations on 24 October 1971, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the United Nations, by Maestro Pau Casals of "Catalonia". The words were written by poet W.H. Auden of the United Kingdom.
The two, though they had never met, were brought together in this unusual collaboration by then United Nations Secretary-General U Thant. For centuries, poets and musicians have sung in praise of war and celebrated victories in battles. U Thant was intrigued by the fact that there existed no hymn to peace.
Pau Casals was a personal friend of his, and when approached by U Thant, he readily agreed to write the music. As the Secretary-General explained, the song was to be based on the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations. Although it would not be formally adopted as the official anthem of the United Nations, U Thant hoped it would be performed on appropriate occasions.
While Casals greatly liked the ideas contained in the preamble, there was no way he could put music to such a document. The task to write an appropriate poem, based on the theme of peace and ideals enshrined in the preamble, fell on W.H. Auden, then regarded as the greatest living English poet. When a representative of the Secretary-General approached the poet, he immediately agreed to write the poem. In three days’ time, Auden finished writing A hymn to the UN, which was then set to music by Casals.
On 24 October 1971, the Orchestra of the Festival Casals, with the Maestro himself as conductor, presented the hymn in a première performance at UN headquarters.

A Hymn to the UN
Music: Pau Casals Words: W.H. Auden

Eagerly, musician.
Sweep your string,
So we may sing.
Elated, optative,
Our several voices
Playfully contending,
Not interfering
But co-inhering,
For all within
The cincture
of the sound,
Is holy ground
Where all are brothers,
None faceless Others,
et mortals beware
Of words, for
With words we lie,
Can say peace
When we mean war,
Foul thought speak- fair
And promise falsely,
But song is true:
Let music for peace
Be the paradigm,
For peace means to change At
the right time, as the World-
Goes Tick- and Tock.
So may the story
Of our human city
Presently move
Like music, when
Begotten notes
New notes beget
Making the flowing
Of time a growing
Till what it could be,
At last it is,
Where even sadness
Is a form of gladness,
Where fate is freedom,
Grace and Surprise

This fact sheet was issued by the Public Inquiries Unit,
Department of Public Information, United Nations.
Tel.: 212-963-4475; Fax: 212-963-0071; E-mail:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ian Llorens versus the European Union

A close relative of mine, who also happens to live in Massachusetts, got published the attached letter in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia. He tells me that when you send a letter to La Vanguardia, several things happen: they always give it a haircut, without any reason, even if the letter is relatively short. They love to edit it. The result is very often a little bit awkward, but the truth of the matter is that the try to keep the essence of the message.
The second thing that happens is that they correct your spelling and grammar mistakes, even though Bill Gates takes care of the first ones through his outstanding word spell check (in this case for Catalan). But my relative never learnt Catalan at school, it seems that it was banned when he studied, and from time to time, he makes some grammar mistakes, like making intransitive transitive verbs. He does not feel bad about it, however, because in the Valencian variety of Catalan, the construction would have been correct. There is always a loophole.

This is the English version of the article:
"Second class language
What Aleix Vidal-Quadras did when he voted against the use of Catalan in the European institutions, was to condemn the Catalan speaking community to become second class Europeans. The fact that Gaelic and Maltese, spoken by far less citizens and both of them co-official with English, can be used and not Catalan, discriminates us absolutely.
I would have understood that limits are imposed on languages spoken by less than 25 million people due to cost reasons, but this targeted discrimination is a violation of the rights of Catalans, citizens of the Balearic islands, Valencians, Galicians and Basques. I advise the Catalan government and institutions to file a class action lawsuit."

This is the original modified version in Catalan:

"Llengua de segona

El que va fer Aleix Vidal-Quadras en votar en contra de l´ús del català a les institucions europees és condemnar la comunitat catalanoparlant a esdevenir europeus de segona classe. Que es pugui utilitzar el gaèlic i el maltès, parlats per menys ciutadans i ambdós cooficials amb l´anglès, i no el català, ens discrimina absolutament.

Hauria entès que es posessin límits, per motius de cost, a la utilització de llengües parlades per menys de 25 milions d´habitants, però aquesta discriminació és una violació dels drets dels catalans, balears, valencians, bascos i gallecs. Recomano a la Generalitat i institucions catalanes que endeguin una acció col · lectiva als tribunals."

For those who do not know him, Aleix Vidal-Quadras is one of the vice presidents of the European parliament. He is a Catalan, member of the right wing popular party and he was the swing vote against the resolution to allow us to be able to communicate with the Eurochamber in Catalan. He is a clear example of why Catalans have never won any war in the last 600 years, there was always a "botifler" (traitor) that would sell our interests. Note that out of 14 vice presidents, there are 2 Catalans, that's 15% of the presiding body. I really cannot understand.

When asked, Aleix said that he had voted against due to technical reasons, the complexity of having even more languages in the E.U.

This is my answer to that:
  • You know my opinion about languages in the EU. Only English should be use by the people who work there (most probably a more legally acceptable compromise would be, however, that the 3 european union languages that are also official in the United Nations, become the three working languages in the EU: English, Spanish and French)
  • Communication between the citizens and the EU should be in the official language of the citizen. A webportal set up and paid by the regional or national government, should act as intermediary.
  • What you you cannot do is a targeted ethnic discrimination. If you are Maltese, you can use your small little language, if you are Catalan, you cannot. THIS IS A CIVIL RIGHT VIOLATION. Therefore I encourage all you Catalans to file a complaint to the European Ombudsman following this link.
  • Finally I would like to add that all these problems will be solved in 15 to 20 years. Today I attended a series of speaches/presentations at the JFK Library in Boston organized by MassMedic. One of the keynote speakers, Ray Kurzweil talked and demonstrated the future of interpretation with the improvement in computation. He predicted that in the next decade, google-kind interpretation algorithms will be built in our cell phones in such a way that when you call a colleague or friend in Germany, you will be speaking English and your counterpart will be hearing the same conversation in German. Both the software and the computation power will be available in any handheld device. I start to wonder why I learnt 9 languages. Looking from this perspective, Mr. Vidal-Quadras becomes irrelevant.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Vendrell: Catalonia's new CEO

We, Catalans, are masochistic by nature. We not only have lost every single war in the last 600 years (we did pretty well before that time), our national day commemorates a defeat and guess what, it falls on September 11th (do not take it personally, it's been like that for almost 300 years, but it kills me that I cannot even celebrate my national day in the States) , but also we have a broken hand when choosing our politicians.
Our last achievement in the political arena has been the appointment of Xavier Vendrell, the famous alleged CEO (Chief Extorting Officer) as our new Interior Minister ("Conseller de Governació").
As you may remember, Xavier Verndrell allegedly sent letters to all those who had been hired to work in the departments ruled by his party (Esquerra Republicana Bananera de Catalunya) telling them that if they did not contribute part of their salaries to the Party, they would be fired on the spot, and some were indeed fired.
This guy is now responsible to appoint the chief prosecutor that will investigate his alleged crimes. It is believed that he is close to a deal with the former prosecutor in Aruba of the Natalee Halloway case, but he is still open to other options if they are proven to be even more incompetent.
Should I have a Catalan passport (something that I have longed for some times), I would tear it to pieces right now. I love Massachusetts more and more.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Andalusia: national reality

In the new Andalusian Statute, Andalusia will be defined as a “national reality”. What’s a national reality (“realidad nacional”)?, have I made an error in translation? Did I actually mean a national realty? No, they really mean a national reality, what is a euphemism for nation.
Yes, Andalusia has defined itself as a nation. To be frank, I could not care less how the Andalusian people define themselves. I like people from Andalusia and I like their land, even though I do not share many of their values and priorities in life. But diversity is what makes the Iberian peninsula such a wonderful place.
But the big surprise to me is that there is no uproar in Spain because of this. I would have expected a call by the Spanish hardcore nationalists to boycott the Jabugo ham, the Seville olives or the Andalusian ‘fried fish” (“pescaito frito”) and the proliferation of websites attacking Andalusia for its attempt to create a nation within a nation. But nothing of this has happened. Most of the Spanish right-winged press have criticized it a little bit, but they all have put the blame on Catalonia (!?), as you can read by yourselves in the linked article that appeared, guess where, in ABC newspaper.
As I said, I do not care how the Andalusians call themselves. No matter whether they are a nation, a region, a nationality or an empire, I will continue to consume their products and visit their land, even if sometimes I am called names, because I am a Catalan. I will continue to eat as much Jabugo Ham with cava, whenever I go back home and cry every time that the US customs officer confiscates my 2 pounds of Jubugo ham at the port of entry.
But it is obvious that in Spain there is a triple standard, a virulent reaction against Catalonia, a subdued reaction against the Basque country (most probably out of fear) and tolerance vis a vis the rest of the peoples in the Iberian peninsula. Why? I remember that about 20 years ago I saw a program on Spanish TV where a reporter was asking people in Andalusia what they thought about Catalans in a point of time where the political situation was extremely quiet. Many people responded: “los catalanes son muy suyos”, that literally translated would be “Catalans are very themselves” and in a free translation I would put it as, “Catalans are different”. Food for thought.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Catalan - Spanish equalizer

My perception about nationality is most probably different from many other people. Objectively my nationality is Spanish. The funny thing is that, according to the Constitution and the body of the Catalan "Estatut", Catalonia is a "nationality". According to the preface, you all know that Catalonia is a nation. However even though Catalonia is a nationality and a nation, this does not make my nationality Catalan. I admit it is messy.
The way I feel my nationality is exclusive and not additive. I do not think that someone can be Spanish and Catalan at the same time. I think someone can feel 50% Spanish and 50% Catalan. In a normal day, I feel 70% Catalan and 30% Spanish. When I read some of the statements made by the thugs of Esquerra Republicana, my Catalanity descends to a mere 50% (that's my minimum, no matter how upset I may be). When I read ABC, EL Mundo, the trancripts of the COPE radiostation or I listen to politicians like Acebes, my Catalanity moves to 90%, leaving a mere 10% for my "Spanish Nationality".
Some Spaniards may get upset about it, but I cannot help it. The Spanish flag and the Spanish national anthem do not resonate with me at all, I feel absolutely nothing. When I see the Spanish flag at Boston national airport (among many other flags there), my eyes go directly to the Catalan flag that appears in the royal logo. But if I see a Catalan flag or I hear the Catalan national anthem ("els segadors"), that makes my flesh creep.
There might be a psychological reason for that. Most probably it is related to the fact that many Catalan babyboomers like me (the Catalan babyboom was in the sixties) unconsciously relate the Spanish symbols to the Franco dictatorship.
For those of you who did not understand anything, because you are not familiar with Catalonia, Spain and our futilities, I would like to provide this comparison as a reference:

Catalonia = Massachusetts = state
Països Catalans (I like to call them Baleària) = New England = A conglomerate of states with common culture and origins
Spain = United States of America = country

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Brigand - El Bandoler

It is tough to be a Catalan nationalist. You bet. Our biggest enemy is not the conservative Popular Party or the government in Madrid, our biggest enemies are the Catalan politicians. Many of them are dishonest, arrogant, inept, clumsy and with the IQ of an ant (I hope that those ants who read my blog will not be offended).
There is no party in Catalonia who escapes from this pandemic disease. However, there is one that shines above them all, ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya), soon to be known as ERBC (Esquerra Republicana Bananera de Catalunya). They are the worst, like Tom Delay to the 5th power, a bunch of bandits or brigands. As W.H. Hudson would put it, a typical ERC politician is "an ignorant ruffianly gaucho, who... would... fight, steal, and do other naughty things without a qualm".
The latest event that proves their criminal activity is the discovery of the fact that top ERC politicians who have key positions in the Catalan government have been sending letters to all those contract employees who work in the departments they manage asking for compulsory contributions to the Party, otherwise they would lose their jobs. Some of those refusing to pay what I would qualify as "revolutionary tax" (similar to the ones imposed by terrorist organizations to business owners), have been already fired from the Catalan institutions.

What a shame, what a terrible shame. All leaders of ERC should go to prison and spend there 30 years. And they still try to justify it. They say that being financed by party members and supporters makes them independent from the business contributions and this maybe true, but extorting law abiding citizens instead, makes them criminals.

I cannot imagine a Catalonia governed by those crooks. If they ruled the country on their own and you would like to get a governmental job, anything from an administrative assistant to a Secretary of State, you would only need to fulfill three relatively easy pre-requisites: speak Catalan reasonably well, be a ERC party member or supporter and agree to pay the revolutionary tax. All the rest is secondary, your qualifications, your international experience, your expert knowledge, all useless if you do not meet the three basic conditions. I told you, a bunch of bandits. We will get rid of them sooner or later.

I know that some Spanish nationalists will turn this article against Catalonia and the Catalans. I do not care. I just want to influence the politics of my nation, Catalonia, so that they are Sarbanes Oxley (SOX 404) compliant. We will get there, no matter what those who hate Catalonia think or say.

Lluis Llach's song, el bandoler (the brigand) is playing obsessively in my brains. It is a good song and suits this posting very well.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Las Vegas (II)

When I went to Vegas and I was sitting on the 22nd floor of the MCM Grand hotel, my memories brought me back to my childhood. I remember when, as a child, we went through the dessert-like landscape in Los Monegros, a county in Saragossa (Aragon) that resembles a lot the surrounding areas of Vegas.
I thought that it would be great that Catalonia starts to invest in Los Monegros and creates a "Las Vegas" type of set up with nice hotels, celebrity shows and "bullfight arenas".
You know that I am totally for banning bullfighting in Catalonia as soon as possible for two main reasons: first, it has nothing to do with our culture (we only have it now to satisfy the appetite of misguided tourists), second, because I think Catalans should not support an activity where people get excited watching an animal suffer. For those reasons I am hoping that the Catalan parliament will pass a law forbidding bulfighting in the Catalan territories (I assume this will happen soon after the new Catalan Estatut is approved. Doing it before that happens,would endanger the objective to have the Estatut passed in the Spanish parliament).
In the picture you can see a protest from the anti-bullfighting party (PACMA) staged in front of the seat of the Catalan government and the Barcelona Town Hall. Surprisingly, this is the same location where the Nativity scene was located. Remember that the "caganer" was banned from that display, what I interpret as: "you can pull down your pants, as long as you keep control of your sphincters".

So why would I like to have bullfighting in Los Monegros? I like Aragon and the people there. Setting up something like a "Las Vegas" there would create employment, would develop the area and would add some additional attractions to the vicinity of Catalonia without having to develop the oversaturated space in the Principality. We could have one or two days tours originating in Barcelona to attend a bullfighting show, a David Copperfield magician-like show and gambling for a while in Los Monegros. I would encourage Catalan businessman to invest heavily in Los Monegros, but do it low key. They should avoid the boycott (or boyCATt) prone hotel names as the Maragall Grand or the Carod-Rovira Imperial Palace. Just invest in hotels and give them standard names (I would even consider Melià Sol as provoking), theaters and other touristic attractions, link them with stays in Catalonia and we are all set.
Some of you maybe asking why do I support bullfighting in Los Monegros and not in Catalonia. Frankly speaking, I think that if bullfighting bulls were asked, they would prefer to continue to die in the arena, rather than being forced fed in overcrowded farms and killed slowly but surely hanging from a conveyor hook in a modern slaughterhouse. Therefore I leave it up to the Spaniards what to do with it, I just want it out of Catalonia. If one day, farm bulls and cows are roaming freely on the prairies for a few years and after that driven in stretched limos to the slaughterhouses, where they are killed through lethal injection after being sedated by an anesthesiologist, I may change my mind and campaign for a ban also in the rest of Spain. In the meantime, let's invest in Los Monegros (Saragossa).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I love Virgin

Do not worry! This continues to be a respectful political blog. Note the capitalization of the noun and the fact that is not plural. I am referring to Virgin Atlantic, the airline that belongs to Richard Branson, the eccentric millionaire.
In general, I never fly Virgin Atlantic because of two reasons, I hardly use its partners and its hub is Heathrow. I have tried to avoid Heathrow for 20 years. The terminals are far apart, you need to take a lousy bus to commute from one to another, security guards are very often rude and especially because I felt very offended by the signs at customs when I was there 20 years ago. One of the signs said “Europe and Gibraltar” and the other said “Spain and rest of Africa” (that’s at least what I recall, maybe in reality, it only said “Spain and Africa”, but who cares, the damage was done).
However, last month when I was in Malta, I was called back for an urgent meeting in Boston, and the only way to make it in time was taking Virgin through Heathrow.
Heathrow has not changed much, it is still a lousy airport and the buses are still there. Security guards are nicer, even one of them noted that it was my birthday (February 22nd) and wished me happy birthday!! (isn’t that nice?) and the signs at customs had been removed and replaced by the more neutral “E.U. countries” and “non E.U. countries”.
But that’s nothing compared to the Virgin Atlantic “upper class” (that’s the way they call it) lounge. It is like a high society club. You sit down and a waiter will come to take your order. He will offer you drinks, the menu and will recite the daily “specials”. While he brings you the food, you can help yourself at the Deli counter where I got some fresh sushi and sashimi after booking an appointment with the hairdresser (you can also have a massage, spa, manicure, etc.). All of this free of charge (in relative terms). Let’s say that this is included in the $4000 that you pay for the one way ticket from Malta to Boston. But the luxury does not end there. In the plane, the “upper class” features real individual flat beds (not the almost flat that you find in other airlines) with pillows, bed sheets and blankets. They give you a supercute black pajamas that almost everyone will wear (you change is the toilet, in case you are interested). In addition to that, a “Spice Girl” looking therapist will offer you her services that range from a head massage to finger acupuncture or even a manicure. At first, I politely refused because I had missed the word complimentary (and you know how stingy Catalans are and I was sure my company would not foot the bill), but when I realized that the Scottish guy lying next to me had accepted, I changed my mind while promising myself to work on my British English listening comprehension. After this experience, Heathrow moved twenty places in my airport ranking, I started to wonder whether I had actually seen the sign “Spain and rest of Africa” and I ordered myself a Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer card.
You must be wondering what these last two postings have to do with Catalonia Politics. I will try a hat trick. One of last points being debated in the Catalan Statute is the ownership of the airports. The Catalan government wants to manage them and the central government does not want to give them up. In this case, I fully support the transfer of the Catalan airports to Catalan jurisdiction. Looking at the current events, if we live them to the central government, Barcelona airport will become a provincial airport with a handful of European flights and no intercontinental direct connection.
If I were the Catalan government, I would fight for control and immediately after, I would partner with a good international airline like KLM, Singapore airlines or Cathay (or even Virgin), I would turn Barcelona airport into one of their European hubs and I would pass to them the management of the airport to convert it into a Schipol, Changi or Hong Kong airports. This would make of Barcelona an even more attractive city for leisure and business that would outshadow our archrival Madrid with Iberia that tops the ranking this year of European carriers that have lost more pieces of luggage.
I am now on my way to Sao Paulo in Brazil with United. No pajamas, no masseuses, no haircuts.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lufthansa, nie mehr!!!

Last Friday I had a terrible day at Frankfurt airport. It was snowing and the flight out of Stuttgart got delayed. My flight to Boston was gone when I landed in Frankfurt and that's when the odyssey started.
I proceeded to the gate hoping that the flight to Boston would also be delayed but it was not. The gate was deserted, no one greeting us, no one with our alternative boarding passes ready, nothing, not a single soul in the vicinity of gate A63.
I quickly proceeded to the business lounge to try to get an alternative routing. After waiting for about 20 minutes, the lady at the business lounge told me that they were not trained to carry out these complex changes (complex!?) and that I should go to the transfer desk in the main terminal. I went through security and waited for 20 minutes at the transfer counter until it was my turn. There they told me that they were not authorized to do this change and that I had to go back to the terminal. I had to control myself to keep calm. I went back through security again, unpacked my laptop, took off my belt, shoes, jacket and so on and went through immigration. It was snowing outside, but I was sweating as if I were in the Sahara desert.
I finally reached the transfer desk in terminal A that had no counter for business class passengers. I queued for three hours, till I got to the counter. In the meantime I missed two possible connections, one through Washington DC and the other through Detroit. After three hours of wait time in line, I got a good connection one through London. Only the people at the transfer desk were working, the rest of the employees servicing the gates, were basically idle, because the airport was operating at 20%. I even saw a policeman talking in these terms (in German) to an American tourist who understandably had lost his temper in the situation: "In Germany, we speak German and we do not need to put up with assholes like you" (the American guy did not understand German and I did not translate for the safety of both of us).
When I was already in the runway and about to fly to London, the pilot said that the de-icing equipment for small planes had broken down and that we had to go back to the terminal. I deplaned and ran to the terminal B transfer counter (someone in the plane told me that in terminal B, they had a transfer counter for business class passengers and it was true). There were hundreds of people in the tourist class line (maybe also 3 hours wait), but it only took me about 20 minutes to get to the service person in my line. I told him that I just wanted to get anywhere in the East coast of the USA, I would handle the rest. I got a flight to JFK late in the evening. I landed in New York at 9.30pm. The customs officers were so nice to me, I felt at home, I must have looked tired. My luggage was lost and is still lost. I had to make the lost baggage report. But I was close to home. A nice rental car was waiting for me with navigation equipment. Everyone was nice to me, everyone smiled at me. I felt happy to call USA my home.
I drove for 3 hours and 45 minutes through New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. At 2.30am on Saturday I got home and I had to wake up my wife, because my home keys were in the lost luggage. I went to my room and I saw my 2 little kids sleeping in our bed. It was really worth while so much effort to return home for the weekend.

I am going back to Germany in 3 weeks. I have changed my reservation to KLM. Lufthansa nie mehr!! never again!! or at least until the next airline screws up even worse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

George and I

Today it’s George Washington’s birth anniversary. Yes, the first president of the United States was born on February 22nd, and so was I (a few decades later). I have browsed through Washington’s life to see whether there was any other common characteristic in our lives, but I cannot find any significant coincidence.
However I still have time to add some more common characteristics in our biographies. As you may have guessed, when I go back to Catalonia, I plan to join politics. My intention is to return when I retire, in about 25 years. I may then become the first president of Catalonia, not an independent Catalonia, I still think that this is not the right way to go in the new Europe, but of a Catalonia that has found its sweet spot in Spain and Europe.
Do not ask me what this sweet spot is, I do not know it yet, but I have 25 years and hundreds of blog postings to figure it out. Maybe a nation within the Spanish nation, maybe a US-type state in a federal Iberia, perhaps part of the extended nation of “Baleària” (my politically correct alternative to “Països Catalans” or Catalan countries) formed basically by Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia with the following main characteristics:
- Name: Baleària
- Capital: Castelló de la Plana (Valencia)
- Language: co-official Catalan and Spanish
- Flag: equal to the Catalan flag
I am hoping that this compromise would satisfy the majority after reaching a number of trade-offs:
- Name after the Balearic islands, avoiding complex name combinations like Pirineus-Mediterrània (Pyrenees-Mediterranean) or stupid acronyms like Cavaba
- Capital in the old kingdom of Valencia
- The official languages recognize the unity of the Catalan language (Valencian could be used as the unofficial synonym of Catalan, or the variety of Catalan spoken in Valencia as described by the Spanish Language Royal Academy). Spanish would also be official at the same level to warranty the rights of the Spanish speaking and to make sure that Baleària remains competitive in Spain and the Spanish speaking markets
- Flag: the Catalan version of the flag is common to all existing flags.

This could only be possible if politicians like Carod-Rovira and Camps only get a small minority in the parliament and the vast majority vote for people with common sense, like …, I cannot find any name among today’s politicians …., let’s say someone like me.
Baleària would be a part of a federal Spain with only 4 or 5 states, because having 20 states or autonomic regions is hurting the economy now and will hurt it even more in the future due to the unbearable level of overhead and duplications in the public sector that create a non “lean” environment with lots of waste (in the context of a “lean” supply chain that, in my opinion, can be applied successfully to the public sector).

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Today, February 12th 2024, the European Parliament has rejected a proposal by the Spanish representative to the European Council to re-create the Spanish tax collection agency that was eliminated in the year 2014, when the European tax collection agency was founded with the objective to collect all European taxes, except those from Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux, countries that have kept till today their own tax collection entities, claiming historical rights as founding members of the European Union.
Behind the Spanish proposal, we can find the fact that only 75% of the taxes collected in Spain, come back, while countries like Turkey are taking advantage of the solidarity funds due to partisan reasons, since the votes of its 120 million citizens (one forth of the European Union population) are key to keep the EPP (European Popular Party) in charge of the European government.
Due to its current fiscal deficit, Spain has been obliged to restore the inheritance tax, reintroduce tolls at all statewide highways (that had been eliminated in 2002 in the whole country, except for Catalonia) and institute a 20% co-payment for medical assistance, among other measures.
The Spanish representative explained that after the tax redistribution, the per capita income in Spain dropped four places in the European ranking, after being taken over by Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary and Latvia. These four countries that still enjoy the solidarity funds, have been able to eliminate the inheritance tax, all medical co-payments and have even introduced free dental coverage.
The Spanish proposal has provoked violent reactions, especially in those four countries and Turkey. Since Spain started to publicize its proposal, several organizations in those countries have called for a boycott to Spanish products, especially, Rioja wine, olive oil and, of course, “cava” (Catalan sparkling wine). Sales of those products in Europe have dropped significantly (about 7%), although the selling season has been saved thanks to the marketing efforts in Asia and the USA, as well as, the sale of non labeled wine and olive oil to Italian companies.
At the same time, some groups in Madrid have started a boycott against products labeled in English, which are invading the shelves of the supermarkets, due to lower distribution costs. England has sent an official complaint to the Spanish regional government and has qualified the attitude of the Madrilenian citizens as racist.
Meanwhile the dispute between the Seville archdioceses museum and the Moroccan government continues. The Moroccan government is demanding the return of all religious objects (Christian and Muslim) that came from the Spanish ex-colonies of Ceuta and Melilla. As you will remember, those colonies were returned to Morocco in 2018, as a result of the pressure from the Turkish government to the European conservative party that needed the support of the Turkish parties to overcome a non confidence vote in the European Parliament. The leader of the Spanish conservative party, who initially signaled his disagreement, was called to Brussels for consultations and despite the fact that there were many rumors about his possible resignation, he finally accepted the party line and voted for the return of the two enclaves to Morocco.
The only positive event this year has been the return of the documents stolen from Madrilenian institutions and private owners by the French troops during the War of Independence in 1808, and that were located at the French National Museum in Lyon. The documents left Lyon in the middle of the night and with heavy escort. The mayor of Lyon has filed an injunction against the Spanish regional goverment that has been accepted by the European court.

A close aide to the expresident of the Spanish government at the beginning of the century, José María Aznar, has indicated that the expresident, in view of the situation, exclaimed in privacy and in Catalan: “We should have learnt from the Catalans”.

Ian Llorens

Note: This article can only be reproduced if the author Ian Llorens and his website ( are mentioned.

El parlamento europeo ha rezachado hoy, 12 de febrero del 2024, una propuesta del representante español en el Consejo de Europa para recrear la agencia tributaria española que fue eliminada en el año 2014, cuando se fundó la agencia tributaria europea, con el objeto de recaudar todos los impuestos europeos con excepcion de los de Alemania, Francia, Italia y el Benelux quienes aduciendo derechos historicos como miembros fundadores, han mantenido hasta hoy en dia sus agencias recaudatorias.
El fondo de la propuesta se basa en el hecho de que solo el 75% de los impuestos recaudados vuelven a España, mientras que paises como Turquía se están beneficiando de los fondos de solidaridad por motivos partidistas, ya que los votos de sus 120 millones de habitantes (una cuarta parte de los habitantes de la Union Europea) son fundamentales para mantener al Partido Popular Europeo en el gobierno de la Unión.
Debido al deficit fiscal, España ha tenido que restablecer el impuesto de sucesiones, los peajes en todas las autopistas del estado (que a excepcion de Cataluña, se habian eliminado en casi todo el pais en el año 2002) e introducir un copago del 20% en la asistencia sanitaria, entre otras medidas.
El representante español argumentó que tras la redistribucion de impuestos, la renta per capita de los españoles perdía 4 lugares en el ranking europeo, viendose sobrepasada por Portugal, Chequia, Hungria y Letonia. Estos cuatro paises que todavía se benefician de los fondos de cohesion, han podido eliminar el impuesto sucesorio, los copagos en la sanidad y han incorporado la cobertura dental gratuita.
La propuesta española suscitó violentas protestas, especialmente en esos cuatro paises y en Turquia. Desde que España hizo publica su propuesta, varias organizaciones de esos paises han hecho llamamientos al boicot de productos españoles, especialmente el vino de Rioja, el aceite de oliva y como no, el cava. El descenso de ventas de esos productos en Europa ha sido notable (un 7%), aunque la campaña se ha salvado gracias al esfuerzo comercial realizado en Asia y en Estados Unidos y a la venta de vino y aceite sin etiquetar a empresas italianas.
En Madrid, a su vez, se ha iniciado un boicot contra los productos etiquetados solo en inglés, que estan invadiendo nuestros supermercados dado los menores costes de distribucion. Inglaterra ha enviado una protesta formal al gobierno regional español por esta actitud de los madrileños calificada por el representate inglés como racista.
Entre tanto la disputa entre el museo diocesano de Sevilla y el gobierno de Rabat continúa. Rabat reclama la devolución de todos los objetos religiosos (cristianos y musulmanes) procedentes de las excolonias españolas de Ceuta y Melilla, que como recordaran fueron devueltas a Marruecos en el año 2018 debido a las presiones de Turquia al gobierno conservador europeo quien necesitaba el soporte de los partidos turcos para superar una moción de censura. El lider del partido conservador español, quien inicialmente mostro su disconformidad, fue llamado a Bruselas y a pesar que se rumoreaba su dimisión, aceptó finalmente la disciplina de partido y voto a favor de la devolución de los enclaves a Marruecos.
La unica nota positiva este año ha sido la devolucion por parte del Archivo Nacional Francés de Lión, de los documentos robados por las tropas francesas a instituciones y particulares madrileños durante la guerra de la independencia de 1808. Los papeles salieron de Lion escoltados y de noche. El alcalde de Lion ha interpuesto una querella contra el gobierno regional español que ha sido aceptada a tramite.
Un colaborador allegado al expresidente del gobierno español de principios de siglo, José María Aznar, ha comentado que el expresidente, a la vista de la situación, habia exclamado en la intimidad y en catalán: “Deberíamos haber hecho caso a los catalanes”.

Ian Llorens

Nota: Este artículo sólo puede ser reproducido si se menciona al autor Ian Llorens y a su lugar de red (

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The first boycott lasted 300 years!!!

Last year results show that the boycott against Catalan products has had a negative effect on the sales of, at least, one of our flagship products: "Cava" (Catalan sparkling wine). Sales in Spain dropped by almost 7%, and if you take into consideration that the market grew and that, in some areas, consumption went up, it means that sales in the hardcore boycotting regions (Castilia, Valencia and Murcia) may have gone down by 15% or 20%. Fortunately exports offset this reduction and the top line remained almost flat (slightly up).
Boycotts can have very damaging effects to the economy, especially for those activities that are more hardly hit. I remember the boycott against French products when I was living in Singapore, as a result of their nuclear test at Mururoa atoll. Restaurants around the world boycotted French products. For example, Beaujolais wine was a product that was particularly targeted. DeBoeuf Beaujolais had more than 44,000 cases cancelled. In 1995, tourism to France declined by 8% while Club Med's resorts lost $1 million in profits. At the same time South African, Chilean, Australian and Californian wines, among others, seized a substantial part of shelf space in the wine shops and grocery stores that would not give away after the boycott ended.
However, we Catalans should really learn from this experience not by giving in (we are not dropping bombs, just defending out identity as a people) but by diversifying our markets. Sales to the Spanish market should be below 25% of our output. We are so vulnerable having most of the eggs in the same basket. I also think that Codorniu and Freixenet (the main producers of "cava') should buy those non Catalan cava producers that have a better quality product.
On the other side, this is not the first time that Castilia initiates a boycott against Catalonia. Even before Spain was formed, in 1486, the year in which Columbus reached Spain, the Catalans were expelled from the Casa de Contratacion, the commercial centre of Seville, which in 1504 would get exclusive rights of trading with America.
Before dying in 1504, Isabel added an appendix to her will , stating that Catalans were not only excluded from enjoying the benefits of the great discoveries, but were even forbidden to settle in or trade with the new lands.
My interpretation is that the hatred of Isabel against Catalans was due to their obstinate refusal to embrace the Castlian Inquisition and we paid the price.
It was not until 1778 that this prohibition was cancelled by Charles III who came from Naples, imbued with European ideas.
During almost 300 years, Catalonia fell into the dark ages, while the rest of Europe benefited from the discovery thanks to the Dutch, Portuguese, Genovese and Hanseatic merchants and businessmen who settled in Seville. Most probably this also shaped our spirit as a nation, creating entrepreneurss who had to rely on their own work and not on the wealth coming from the colonies and that's why Catalonia was the only area in the Iberian peninsula that did not miss the boat of the industrial revolution.

To finalize and before I go and buy some Danish pastry (I understand that some countries are calling for a boycott against Danish products), I will add the picture of a poster dated 1932 that many of you must have seen this week in the Catalan press, calling Castilians to boycott Catalan products while the first Catalan "Statute" was being debated, yes, 1932. It is worth while reading.

Note: Some of the historical data has been extracted from Josep Trueta's Spirit of Catalonia, 1946.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Thanks God, the judge understood Catalan!!!

The judge who was handling the case of Iu Forn, the journalist of the Catalan-language newspaper Avui, who wrote an article called "Manual of a good coupist", has decided to file the case and not to press any charges. The reason given for dismissing the charges is that the article refers to hypothetical military “coupists” (and his mothers) that want to destroy the constitutional and democratic regime that we have today, and it does not refer at all to the current democratic military institution in Spain.

The right wing press manipulated the article to give the impression that Iu Forn was referring to the whole Spanish military when he, in a more or less subtle way, insulted their mothers, when it is clear from the article that he was referring to the mothers of potential participants in a coup d’Etat against the democratic institutions.

That’s why it is so good to have in Catalonia, judges, policemen, teachers and lawyers who understand our language.

Judge by yourself. I have tried my best to make a literal translation of the article. You can find the Catalan original here.

Manual of a good “coupist” - "Manual del bon colpista"
Forward it

(Iu Forn Jan 12th, 2006. Diari Avui)
(Free translation by Ian Llorens)

We suffer a pandemic disease of high ranking military officials (most probably absinthe liquor[1]) who do not like the new Catalan “Estatut” [2] . This is to say that since they are a little angry, they spend their time threatening us by saying that they will take over the streets with their tanks.. Ok, either they take over the streets or they shut up (for ever). And if finally they do what they have historically done, let me give them a small piece of friendly advice:

If they enter Barcelona along Diagonal avenue [3], please park your tanks and get on the tram, that you are in an environmental friendly city.

Once at the Diagonal Avenue, you will see on your right hand side, the “La Caixa” headquarters [4] those who are trying the hostile takeover [5] and want “Espain”[6] to starve to death. It is evident that it is worth while trying to seize it. But, be very careful!!! If you find a tall and blond girl in an office, do not bother her. She could well be the King’s daughter who works there [7].

If while ransacking the city, you decide to take away some documents, you ‘d better wait for the ones on the way back from Salamanca [8] to come back. It you take them away together, you will make better use of the transportation and you will save a few bucks, what’s always good.

Please remember that the new civic ordinance in Barcelona prohibits prostitution in certain cases. For this reason, you’d better come without your mothers. [9]

Important warning: do you know that the Financial Times, the newspaper that last Tuesday said that article 8 of the Spanish Constitution [10] is “not perfect”, also said that the desire to be a nation is a democratic quest and that the attitude of the Popular Party vis-a-vis the general Mena [11] case could be a bigger threat to the unity of “Espain”[6] than the autonomy ambitions of Catalonia? So this newspaper is not Catalan. If you want to bomb it, you need to call the UK yellow pages and ask them for the address.

Oh! Another important thing that I almost forgot. Please do not pay attention to the words of the Spanish Supreme Court chairman. As soon as you arrive, sign up for some flamenco dance lessons, otherwise you may end up learning Catalan [12].

[1] The Catalan word for ranking (“graduació”) is also used to describe the alcohol content of an alcoholic drink
[2] Statue or Constitution
[3] One of Barcelona’s main arteries
[4] The most powerful Catalan savings bank
[5] Gas Natural, a “La Caixa” group company is trying a hostile takeover of Endesa, a Madrid based energy company
[6] Iu Forn uses the word Ej-paña, Castilian dialect for Spain
[7] King Juan Carlos’s daughter, Cristina, works at La Caixa
[8] The central government recently decided to return to Catalonia the documents that were stolen during the civil war and that were stored at Salamanca’s national archive. This has caused outrage in the rest of the nation.
[9] This is the sentence that caused commotion in Spain after having been maliciously translated by the right wing media as being applied to all Spanish military personnel, when it is clearly applied to potential participants in a hypothetical military coup.
[10] This article states that the Spanish military needs to preserve the unity of the Spanish territories
[11] General Mena said that if the Catalan “Estatute” were approved, the military should intervene
[12] The chairman of the Spanish Supreme court said a few weeks ago that learning Catalan language was comparable to learning “Sevillanas” (a variety of flamenco dance)