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)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Politics is fun, ... sometimes

Apparently, the leader of CiU (Artur Mas) and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero have brokered a deal on the content of the new Catalan Estatut. Even though it is too early to call, it seems that Artur Mas has followed my advice and given priority to the financial aspects of the reform. It appears that we are only a nation in the preface. The text will run more or less like this: "the Catalans are a group of individuals that believe that they are a nation, so let them dream". The validity of the term nation in the preface seems to be very limited. My deep knowledge of Catalan law tells me that it may mean that we are a nation only on those Sundays when Barcelona Soccer club plays at home and on our national day.

It is obvious that Politics is a joke, most of the time. For this reason I will finish with a political joke (free translation from the Spanish original) that L1 sent to me last week (some of you may have seen it also when 'my other me' was fighting an American hawk that insulted the Spaniards, yes, the Spaniards) :

"This is the first day of school at a US high school when the teacher introduces a new student called Akito Suzuki, son of a Japanese business man.
The teacher starts the American history class by asking who pronounced the sentence 'Live free or die'.
Suzuki quickly raises his hands and replies 'Patrick Henry 1775'.
'Excellent' says the teacher and continues 'who said -Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth-'.
The whole class remained silent until suddenly Suzuki said 'Lincoln 1863'.
The teacher was flabbergasted and said to the whole class: 'you all should be ashamed. Akito Suzuki, who just arrived in our country, knows more history than you, Americans'.
Then someone in the rear of the classroom whispered: 'To hell those damn Japanese'.
'Who said that?' The teacher inquired.
Again Suzuki raises his hand and says: 'General McArthur, 1942 and Lee Iacocca, 1982'
The whole class was silent when one of the students said: 'I am going to throw up'.
The teacher asks again this time: 'Who said that?'
Without hesitation, Suzuki says: 'George Bush Sr. to the Japanese prime minister 1990'.
One of the students totally mad shouts at Suzuki: 'Suck my dick'.
Akito intervenes again: 'Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky 1997'.
At this point in time, the smartest guy in the class yells: 'I was the first until this bloody Japanese arrived'.
And Suzuki answered: 'Mario Vargas Llosa, Peruvian elections 1990'.
The whole class became hysterical, the teacher fainted. The students gathered around the teacher and said to one another: 'We screwed up, now how do we get out? '
And Akito Suzuki said: 'Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, 2005/2006'.

Cartoon: Ventura & Coromina. La Vanguardia

Monday, January 16, 2006

Some guidance on Language

Before I elaborate on why I think that Catalans should start investing in Los Monegros (Saragossa = Zaragoza) and develop a Las Vegas type of environment, I will touch on the language issue for a little while.
I get mad when I read the ABC newspaper. It is strictly an anti-Catalan forum. They only publish articles and letters that denigrate Catalonia and the Catalans, and at a lesser extent, the Basques. It is no secret that this is where they got its name (Anti Basque and Catalan) or maybe I made it up?
However I have to admit that Catalan politicians are clearly misguided. They show daily their provincialism and lack of global approach.
First a couple of facts:

  • The traditional language in Catalonia is Catalan and it has been Catalan for the last 1000 years. Before that, Latin was the language that the previous invaders, the Romans, imposed on the Iberian peninsula. As far as I know, no one in Catalonia is mad at the Romans or their direct heirs, the Italians.
  • When Catalonia lost the Succession War in another tragic September 11th, Philip V's decree of new foundation (January 1716) was the start of the penetration of Castilian (=Spanish) in the Catalan territories, especially Barcelona.

But, by now, all this is history and we need to be pragmatic and smart. Spanish started as an imposition, but in the course of the centuries, it has become an asset. That's why Barcelona is the city where, most probably, more books in Spanish are published every year.

So Mr Maragall, Mr Carod-Rovira, Mr Mas and company. Here a piece of advice:

  • Invest all the additional money you can get as a result of the new "Estatut" in education. Make sure that every single resident in Catalonia is fluent in Catalan, Spanish and ENGLISH. Do it quietly, it will take 15 years to get the next generation up and running, but DO it.
  • Make sure that all students get at least 40% of their education in either Spanish or Catalan, not a Catalan only education with one hour a week of Spanish.
  • At the University, all studies should be offered in Catalan and Spanish. Students should make the decision. This way we would be able to attract talent from other parts of the world, what would generate more income to be reinvested in our education system and hopefully some of the students would settle in Catalonia increasing our brain power. I would also suggest some of the curricula be taught in English to increase the cross-fertilization even further
  • We should recognize that Catalan outside Catalonia, the Balearic islands and Valencia is useless. It is a beautiful language that I love with all my heart, but is certainly useless outside the territories where it is spoken
  • We should not try to impose it outside those territories. It will cause not only rejection, but it will be detrimental for our economy. Sending invoices or other paperwork in Catalan to non Catalan speaking customers outside the areas I mentioned before is not only disrespectful but also the fastest way to commit economic harakiri. Customer should always be first and if they want the invoices in Swahili, we should provide them
  • We should not campaign to get Catalan in the European institutions. We should lobby to remove all languages but English from the European institutions as a way to get a lean European public sector. Only English should be spoken there, all master documents should be English, all public servants and bureaucrats should master English, otherwise they should lose their European job (we can give them some transition time to adapt, like a month or two). Who can get a job in a multinational if he or she does not speak English fluently? Translation to local languages should be undertaken by the respective countries and regions. So the Catalan government could run the Catalan EU website with all translations in Catalan, the same as the Spanish government, the French, the Danish or the Maltese (obviously UK and also Ireland should contribute with some cash, otherwise it would be a free ride for them)
  • In Catalonia, Catalan should be used as a way to promote the economy. Everything should be customer driven. If customers demand Catalan, localization in Catalan should be required. If you come to invest or you are a tourist or visitor, you can speak in whatever language you want or use smoke signals, that we will understand you.

So please, politicians, get me the money, do not squander it (you know, the 3% commissions and things like that), start spending heavily in education and shut up for 2 or 3 or 15 years. Once you deliver, you can open your mouth again.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Las Vegas (I)

We spent the Christmas holiday in Vegas, ideal location if you are traveling, as I did, with a 7 year old and a 1 year old. Las Vegas is far from Boston, almost 6 hours by plane, more or less like London, but with those little kids, it felt to me like New Zealand.
Despite the tiring trip, we had a great time. Weather was good, temperature around 65F degrees, mostly sunny, great. Our hotel was fantastic, the MGM Grand, and our room had a great view to the northern part of the Strip, we could even see the water show at the Bellagio from our room. Most of the foreign visitors were Chinese, some Europeans and people from South America, but the vast majority was Chinese. I only saw one Spanish couple.
I also saw a guy wearing the Madrid track jacket with the Barcelona soccer club logo on. I tried to take a picture, but the result was not so good. You can hardly see the jacket, but you will recognize it if you click here. I was going to delete the picture, but I thought it may become useful if he decides to go to Spain in his next trip instead of going back to Vegas. The plastic surgeon may need it to reconstruct his face.
We also went to see David Copperfield’s magician show in shifts (someone had to stay back to look after the 1 year old). It was a good show but I was somewhat disappointed. The tricks are OK, but I think I can guess the kind of technology behind and I am afraid that half of the volunteers are part of the show. In addition to it, the guy is so presumptuous. He spends 45 minutes of the show either talking about himself or showing video clips of people who praise him, but we had fun at $97 a pop.
In the wine shops I was not able to find any of the Toledo, Logroño or Murcia cava bottles that seem to be hot in the "rest of Spain" boycotting market. There was plenty of Catalan cava (Freixenet) at $14.99. What a price!!! I buy it at Costco at $6.99 and you can buy it in BCN for less that $4.00, so I decided to celebrate the new year with Bacardí;, the founder of which was born in Sitges (Barcelona) and together with some coke it lasted me for a few days, that's the cocktail we call Cuba Libre (free Cuba = Bacardí-Coke).
Another remarkable thing is that while Freixenet sales have dropped 4% in Spain as a consequence of the boycott, all the advertisement made by Freixenet in USA is Spanish stereotype centric (something that really kills me). If you go to Gloria Ferrer's website (a Freixenet group company), you will see that they advertise the Catalan Festival with Flamenco dancers (put your cursor on the picture and you will be able to read "Catalonian dancers") and a Valencian paella (I do not have a big problem with the paella, but I do not want to debate this time the Països Catalans issue).
I cannot accept that the Spanish government portrays all Spaniards in their promotion campaigns as bullfighters or flamingo dancers, but I find it even more intolerable that a Catalan company bastardizes our culture for one point of market share. Why not using the “calçotada” (grilled spring onions more or less), the “castellers” (human towers) and the “sardana” (Catalan traditional collective dance) instead?. And I have already drunk by myself two cases of Freixenet this Xmas to counter the boycott. My goodness!!!
Changing subject, in part two I will explain why I think we should create a Las Vegas in Los Monegros (Zaragoza).