Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blogus resurectus

A couple of months ago, I decided to discontinue my blog. Some of you have asked me why. There were several reasons. The main reason was related to what I would qualify as blog stalking. From now on, I will give less information about me in order to protect my privacy.
I also needed a break, the mental pressure of having to publish something smart every couple of weeks, while working 11 hours a day, traveling all the time and having to raise a family, was a little bit too much. I needed some time without that pressure.
However I am coming back with a new blog . I am not sure which language I am going to use yet. As you probably know I am a Catalan nationalist who defends Catalonia without blaming Spain for where we are. I like Spain and the Spaniards. They would make excellent neighbors. I want to influence the Catalan society towards nationalism/globalism, not towards localism. I want every Catalan to be fluent in Catalan, Spanish and English, proud of our mother tongue, Catalan, but conscious of its limited reach. The problem is that English level in Catalonia is pathetic. Should I write in Catalan? Should I write in Spanish? Should I stick to English?

Anyway from now on, you can read my posts here (catalon-IAN politic-IAN)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Blogus interruptus

I am discontinuing this blog. I would like to thank all those who visited and commented during the last 2 years. I will continue to visit yours.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Take action: Jazztel

While in Shanghai this week, I continued to keep in touch, as usual, with what happens in my dear Catalonia. I read in e-noticies a piece of news that described the policies of the telecommunication company Jazztel. Apparently this company only accepts communications in Spanish even though is sells products and services in the Catalan speaking territories of Spain where Catalan is the official language.I am not surprised that Jazztel tries to get away with it. Companies hate diversity, “one size fits all” is the best methodology to reduce cost. Customization and localization cost money even if you have embedded DFD (design for diversity) in your design process. But market forces are able to counterbalance the natural tendency of companies to avoid diversity. My biggest issue is the reaction of some people to Jazztel arrogant position. The worst attitude is the ‘botifleristic” approach. One guy was saying, if by having Catalan customer service I will have to pay more, forget about it. These are the kind of people who have made us lose all battles since the Trastamaras, people who would not move a finger to support their country and that would sell it for personal gain, like Mas with the Estatut (Catalan Constitution), like Carod-Rovira and Montilla with TV3 in Valencia and so on.
Let me tell you, if the vast majority of Catalans wanted products and services in Catalan we would have them, the applicable techniques: solidarity, perseveration and market economy.
Let me explain you how this would work for Jazztel. All Catalans or at least the 60%-70% who care about their language, should stop using Jazztel and switch to a carrier where service is offered in Catalan (preferably in Catalan, Spanish and English, my trilingual dream), even if it is more expensive. After a few weeks, the market share of Jazztel in Catalonia, the most affluent area in the country, would be so low that they would put together a taskforce to try to reverse the trend. After analyzing the exit interviews, they would conclude that the solution was an aggressive marketing campaign in Catalan with attractive prices and the set-up of a call center in Catalonia to serve the customers in Catalan.In order to maintain the margins in Spain, they would be forced to go for a second round of outsourcing and move more jobs from Spain to Argentina. A few months ago, Jazztel shut down the call center in Galicia and moved it to Argentina (que bueno que chamaste), read it here and here.
Conclusion, in a few months, we would have Jazztel in Catalan, we would have created jobs in Catalonia (pretty difficult to outsource, maybe to Valencia, Andorra or L’Alguer) and it would have cost us close to nothing.

In a larger scale, the solution is even easier. Let’s assume that we declare the months of October 2007 and February 2008 as the months of Catalan in labeling and services with the support of all society, consumer associations, political parties (except PP), etc. It should be a non political exercise, not a boycott, but an exercise of consumer preferences. During the month of October, only products and services that would offer labeling and customer support also in Catalan (I am not saying only in Catalan) would be chosen. We may suffer a little bit, we may have to pay more for some products, we may even have to narrow our selection, maybe have only lettuce and onions for a couple of days, but it will be worth while. In November, after having given our warning signal, we would go back to our normal consumption habits, while all the companies that got the message would start to address the Catalan market seriously developing labeling, graphic interfaces, directions for use and service centers in Catalan. When in February, the campaign would reinitiate, the choice of products would be much wider, the price differential insignificant and those manufacturers who chose to ignore the customer requirement would be definitely out of the Catalan landscape.
There is only one aspect that worries me and it is collusion. I have the feeling that it already exists today and we need to bring it to the open. I am afraid that many companies have agreed on certain rules of the game to avoid that one of them goes full speed with Catalan and the others are forced to follow. The solution is called “whistleblower”, someone needs to produce an internal document or trail of emails to prove it and the justice system will do its job. Collusion and price fixing are illegal practices.

Note: The videoclip is an edited version of an original Motorola ad. The company SardanaTel only exists in my imagination, maybe now in yours too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pop goes my heart

Last Friday night I left for China. I had a couple of important meetings in Suzhou on Monday morning and my assistant was not able to get me a confirmed ticket flying west, so I had to fly east, although it meant a very long layover in Germany. Those who have followed me for a while, will remember that I swore not to fly Lufthansa anymore (Lufthansa nie mehr!), but this time I had no choice. The way to China was long, but I slept a lot, both in the plane where the business class seats recline to almost flat position and in the lounge where they have a special area with dimmed lights and reclining chairs. The stewardesses continued to be rude, but bearable and Lufthansa has really good planes and safety is first.
During the last 18 to 24 months flights to Asia have always been packed, all of them overbooked and with the risk that if you would not make the connection due to weather, they would send you to Anchorage and Narita prior to getting to your Chinese destination.
In the plane I watched a couple of movies. I started with a drama called Blood Diamond with Leonardo di Caprio, but I was not in the mood to see people suffer, so when they started to slaughter little kids I stopped it and decided to go for a comedy. I chose a Cantonese movie called Ngor yiu sing ming (My name is fame). I watched it in Cantonese with English and German subtitles. A nice movie with good actors, especially the very charming actress Huo Si Yan (or Fok See Yin in Cantonese) and I noticed that I understand more Cantonese than I thought. Remind me and in a couple of weeks I will talk about the trilingual territory of Hong Kong.
I did the return in First class, apparently business was full according to my assistant. I never check the itinerary before I leave. I open the folder upon arrival and all the required information is always there, including the cell phone of the driver that will pick me up in those countries where renting a car is either not possible or not advisable.
From Shanghai I called the travel agency to try to downgrade me to business but they told me it would cost me 1000 dollars. I try to always be cost conscious and business class is good enough, despite the angry stewardesses.
So I resigned myself to take First Class on the way back and surprise, surprise, stewardesses were friendly, you get a 100% flat bed, a pajamas and a sweater, caviar, Jabugo and all that jazz.
The return was not through Frankfurt, but through Munich. I hate Frankfurt, it is a lousy airport, but Munich is great. Germany has been able to create a double hub, something that Spain opposes, but Bavaria, the strongest Bundesland demanded to Lufthansa the creation of an international hub in its capital and Lufthansa did. Actually the airport is by far better than Frankfurt’s. Those of you readers living in the Jacobine country of Spain will know that the army is there to protect its unity and a citizen who challenges that principle can become a target for the army. The Spanish constitution legislates, in an implicit way, that those Spanish citizens who challenge the unity of Spain can be lawfully executed and the core conservatives consider that an international hub in Barcelona would be the first step towards a breakaway.
Months before the whole fuzz about the Barcelona hub started, I wrote about it in my blog (click here if you want to re-read it) and I advised the Catalonia government to lure a foreign airline to set up its European hub in BCN. My preference would be United Airlines of Star Alliance that could get good European connectivity through Spanair. Since I am the one making this suggestion, can I ask for a favor? Can you put a United flight from Boston to Barcelona on Friday evenings, leaving Logan at around 7pm and arriving in BCN around 8.30 am (Papa vine a recollir-me, arribo a dos quarts de nou!).
Going back to First Class, still nothing like Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class that I described in my post “I love Virgin”, neither masseuse nor manicure.
In the last leg, I watched another comedy, you will hate me for this, but I loved it. The movie was Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grand and Drew Barrymore. I think it is created after the duet Wham, a kind of caricature. It is fun to see Hugh Grand dancing and Drew is really sweet and believe it or not I decided to see the version dubbed into American Spanish and this added to the charm (remember I am a non orthodox Catalan nationalist that supports trilingualism and actually likes the Spanish language, although I do not buy the Spanish Constitution). I attach a freshly googled video-clip of one of the songs Pop goes my heart, do not kill me, I find it fun.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I am NOT Hispanic.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) loosely defines Hispanic as someone of any race whose ancestors were born in a country where Spanish is the official tongue. According to this definition, Brazilians, Portuguese and Andorrans are not Hispanic, but Catalans are. As minorities we supposedly have all kinds of advantages in what is called positive discrimination.
Many Americans (and this includes governmental employees) still confuse race and ethnicity (even in the official forms) and think that all Hispanic are what ethnically is called mestizo, that is to say, a brown skin mixture of white and native American.

But I have to tell you, I am a Catalan. Yes, I have a Spanish passport, but I am not Hispanic and I do not want to be. My mother tongue is Catalan and about my race, plain white. So, thank you very much, I do not need any positive discrimination, I do not want any help. Do you mean that if I had been raised in Spanish, I would be handicapped and I would need a favor? Absolutely disgusting!

When asked, I always tell the truth, race: white (most probably a mixture of Celts, Iberians, Greeks, Romans, Franks, north European Barbarians with some drops of Arab and Jewish blood), nationality: Spanish (that’s what my passport says), ethnicity: Catalan. I assume that some of the federal agencies have put a working group together to find out what Catalan ethnicity is (OK, the reality is that Catalan ethnicity appears under Hispanic in the US census with the code 204).

Luckily my color, my family name (Llorens) and my slight accent (Catalan, but most of the people confuse it with French or French Canadian) keep me off the Hispanic-targeted telemarketing campaigns.

I see many people in USA who are very worried about Spanish taking over from English. Two months ago, the congress quickly put together a law declaring English the official language of the United States. Calm down, do not worry too much, the Spanish spoken on the streets of USA is terrible and it is getting worse and worse, as we speak.
Phrases as: “Aplicar pa un trabajo” (Apply for a job), “Llámame p’atrás” (call me back), “El interé de tu mortgage”, make me sick. I cannot help it, I am a language purist.
However the government does not seem to have any kind of remorse when using Spanish to recruit people for the military (I took the attached picture in my town, where the Hispanic population is close to zero).

I have also observed another interesting phenomenon. When I talk in Spanish to people from South and Central America who live in USA, most of the times, they refuse to answer back in Spanish, even if they were talking in Spanish among themselves. Also very often, they switch to English when I get close by (by the way, most of them speak an American English 10 times better than mine). I dislike this attitude. Even if I do not consider myself Hispanic, I am proud to speak standard Castilian Spanish, and I would never switch language, just because a perceived Anglo is walking past.

To summarize, I do not need any kind of discrimination, neither positive, not negative. Look at my green eyes and judge me for what I am. But if I need to identify myself, I will always proudly say, I AM A CATALAN.

Monday, April 23, 2007

If we were independent, we would not starve

Due to my eclectic nature, I read (or browse through) 8 or 10 e-newspapers every day: e-noticies, Vilaweb, Raco Català, La Vanguardia, El Periódico , but also ABC, El Mundo, Las Provincias (Valencia) and a couple of international ones (Reuters, BBC, CNN, Haaretz and Le Monde).

ABC always amazes me. When a Catalan does a something that they judge wrong, he is a Catalan, when a Catalan does something they judge positive, the person becomes a Spaniard.

The latest example of that, is yesterday’s report on the latest list of best restaurants in the world (Restaurant magazine S. Pellegrino’s list). According to ABC’s report, El Bulli, owned by the SPANISH cook Ferrán Adriá or Adrià (apparently, ABC also wants to re-write the Catalan grammar, it should be Ferran Adrià, no matter where it shows up in the article) is for second consecutive year, the best restaurant in the world.
According to the article, 6 SPANISH restaurants make it to the top 50 list. Good job Spain!!
But, let’s analyze the location of those restaurants:

Oh! Surprise, surprise. There’s three Catalan and 3 Basque. However, the article does not mention, not even a single time the words Catalan or Basque. I understand, it is hard to tell, El Bulli, Mugaritz, Ferran, Berasategui, Can Fabes, Celler, Arzak, nothing closer to standard Castilian, at least for

Anyway, Catalans and Basques, let’s not take this very seriously. Let’s not allow the single-sided, “Catalans-you-are Spanish-you-like-it-or-not-and-you-shut-up” approach of the Spanish nationalist media to cause us an indigestion.

The only consequence I can get from the article is that when we are independent, we will not starve. Let’s toast with “cava” and “txakoli”.

El Bulli de Ferrán Adriá repite como el mejor restaurante del mundo

El Bulli, propiedad del cocinero español Ferrán Adrià y situado cerca de la localidad gerundense de Rosas, sigue siendo por segundo año consecutivo el mejor restaurante del mundo, según la prestigiosa revista gastronómica Restaurant.
Gracias al voto de la mayoría de los 651 jueces participantes, El Bulli consigue mantenerse en la primera posición de la lista San Pellegrino de los cincuenta mejores restaurantes del mundo que elabora esta revista, a la que España contribuye con otros cinco templos gastronómicos, ha informado hoy Restaurant.
El Bulli, que en los últimos seis años no ha bajado del tercer puesto dentro de ese índice, ocupó el primer lugar en las ediciones de 2001 y 2006. Entre los elegidos de este año, y por detrás de El Bulli, los críticos de Restaurant han reconocido la labor gastronómica del restaurante Mugaritz, de Rentería (Guipúzcoa), que alcanza la séptima posición.
De cerca le siguen el donostiarra Arzak y el gerundense El Celler de Can Roca, décimo y undécimo mejores restaurantes del mundo, respectivamente. El restaurante Can Fabes, de Sant Celoni (Barcelona), logra el vigésimo segundo lugar, mientras que el Martin Berasategui, de Lasarte (Guipúzcoa), alcanza el puesto veintisiete.
Gracias a estas seis representaciones, España es el cuarto país, junto a Italia, con mayor número de restaurantes de alta cocina del mundo, superados por Francia, con doce; EEUU, con ocho, y el Reino Unido, con siete.
El brasileño DOM, de São Paulo, en el puesto 38, es el único restaurante latinoamericano que logra hacerse un hueco en esta lista de los cincuenta mejores, en la que el año pasado ocupaba el último lugar.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Future in our hands

We, Catalans, cannot simply complain about the Spanish government not doing this or that to grant Catalonia the rights it deserves.

It is also true, however, that so far nothing has been done to make of the Kingdom of Spain a place that Catalans (real Catalans, those Catalans from all origins who feel our culture, language and philosophy of life has a value) can call their country.
Those who, like me, live overseas, know that in the Spanish consulates and embassies, there is absolutely no sign or indication that Spain is a multicultural, multilingual country. With a minimum investment, it would have been possible to have the key signage in Spanish and Catalan (most probably they should have had it also in Galician and Basque too), and in those locations where there is Catalan speaking personnel, a sticker on the counter saying: “es parla català”.
It would have been a great gesture by the Spanish government to push to have Catalan recognized as an official language of the EU, based on the fact that is the EU language without state that has highest number of speakers and is used at all levels of society (education, communication, literature, business, etc.). It would have been easy to make the case, or otherwise refuse to pay for those languages that are not even exclusive of their countries and used by orders of magnitude less that Catalan, like Gaelic or Maltese.
They could have supported the Catalan national teams in those sports where Catalonia is a world leader (roller hockey, waterpolo, ...), the same as Great Britain with soccer, rugby and others, instead of spending public money to avoid it.
They could have favored multi-language labeling for products with distribution nation-wide. They could have included Catalan (and also Galician and Basque) as languages that can be used to represent Spain in any foreign cultural event (even the Eurovision, I do not think that by singing in Catalan, we would be worse off).
They could have encouraged the use of the 4 national languages in Parliament, just by investing a little bit in interpreters, a small investment to show that they care.
They could have fought to get the bullet train connection Valencia-Barcelona-Paris, far earlier than the Madrid-Seville. They could have pushed to get an international airport hub in Barcelona to support the “still now” leading economy in the Iberian peninsula.
They could have used the traditional Catalan industrious and reserved character, to counter the Hispanic stereotype flamenco-party-fiesta-macho-ole that people outside Spain have in their minds.
The could have endorsed the fact that Catalan and Valencian are the same language, something that is clear as water, but they never did it because they wanted on one side, to undermine the Catalan culture, and on the other side to score points with the Valencian Spanish nationalist. The scientific truth to hell if we get the majority in congress, that’s their approach. In the 70’s, for instance, the Belgian government issue a law that stated that Flemish and Dutch were the same language (Neederlands), something unthinkable in Spain.

During the 30 years of democracy, I thought that there was hope for a federal monarchy, where Catalonia, its culture, language and personality would be valued.
As per today, I have totally lost hope, especially today after watching a hate- speech program in Telemadrid. We need to go a different route. It is all in our hands, Catalans at home, in Europe and overseas. The biggest handicap is also within ourselves. The current Catalan politicians are a scam.

I hope that one day, we will act united as Catalans and not in a partisan way. Before that happens, I have no hope.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

2024 (re-print)

More than a year ago, I posted a political fiction post called 2024. I am publishing it again to remind us how things change depending on where we stand.

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”.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Do not get married by a piglet

Two weeks ago, I read in the Catalan e-papers an unbelievable story. A Catalan couple who lived in Madrid, went back to Barcelona in order to have their wedding ceremony held in Catalan.
To their dismay, the judge refused to marry them in Catalan. The were told that if they wanted to get married in Catalan, they had to wait to the end of the day, after all the other couples were married, and after that, maybe someone would marry them in Catalan. The name of the judge is Antonio Lechón (literally Anthony Piglet).
The even more amazing thing is that the judge was getting an allowance (additional monies on top of his salary as judge) because he had demonstrated command of the Catalan language.

The couple sued the judge and they lost. The reason: judges are not required to speak Catalan, even if operating in Catalonia and, apparently, even if they are paid additional money for having demonstrated proficiency in the Catalan language.

But we should not be surprised, this is another clear demonstration that Catalonia is still in a colonial situation as it has been in the last 300 years.

It all started with the Decree of New Foundation issued on January 16th, 1716 by King Philip V. In the 6th paragraph, he clearly states:
"Las causas en la Real Audiencia (de Barcelona) se substanciaran en lengua Castellana, y para que por la mayor satisfacion de las partes, los incidentes de las Causas, se traten con mayor deliberacion, mando que todas las Peticiones, presentaciones de Instrumentos, y lo demas que se ofreciere, se haga en las Salas...." (this can be summarized as 'all proceedings in the Barcelona Supreme Court will be held in Castilian languange only').
For the first time in the history of Catalonia (and the County of Barcelona), Castilian was imposed as the only language that could be used in legal procedings. Before that date (1716), Catalan and Latin (in some documents) were used. Castilian was, up to that point, a foreign language.

This Decree has never been revoked and it is therefore, legally speaking, still applicable. For this reason, we should not be surprised about Mr. Piglet winnimg the case.

Conclusion: Never get married by a Piglet!!!

By the way, since we are talking about pigs, let me tell you a free translation of a joke that Johnny Tastavins forwarded to me yesterday:

José Maria Aznar, Eduardo Zaplana, Ángel Acebes were driving to downtown Madrid in a stretched limo to meet Zapatero. When they were still in the outskirts of Madrid, three pigs suddenly appeared in the middle of the road. The driver was unable to avoid them, hit them and killed them on the spot. The three politicians of the conservative Popular Party got out of the car and inspected the damage to the Party's limo and noticed that it was severely dented. When Rajoy saw the extent of the damage, he got mad and told the driver: "Go right now and find out who the owner of these three pigs is, I am going to sue him. We will wait for you here". After a couple of hours, they saw the driver staggering towards them. He was drunk, had red eyes and a smiley face. Zaplana asked him: "What happened? Did you find that bastard?". The driver nodded and said "it was a farmer and he gave me this expensive bottle of brandy, his wife gave me this box of cigars and his daughter gave me three blow jobs".
Acebes interjected, "what did you tell them?.
The driver answered. "I just told them that I was the driver of Aznar, Zaplana and Acebes, that I had an accident and I had killed three pigs".

Friday, March 16, 2007

'John Cleese is the son of a bitch' would rhyme for Manuel

The comments deserve something a little more elaborated than a laconic reply. Therefore I have decided to make a post.

I would like to thank Tom for the clarification. I have changed the text to put the blame only on John Cleese, what makes me feel much better, because I actually like many of the other works of Monty Python, especially Brian's life. I also agree that Manuel is a nice guy. Most probably he would make a much better job representing Barcelona than our current rising star of diplomacy, Carod-Rovira.

I would also like to take some time to reply to Garci.
I can understand that your intellectually challenged friends (aka retarded or intellectually disabled) resonate with Manolo.
It is funny, however, that you do not identify yourself with him, but you have no problem to link him with the non Catalan speaking population born in Barcelona. By the way, the fact that 50% of the people from Catalonia does not have Catalan as mother tongue, does not mean that they do not speak Catalan (the percentage of Barcelona born people who speak Catalan is in the high 90s) and it does not mean either that they have Castilian or Andalusian accent. In general those Catalans who were born in Catalonia and have Spanish as mother tongue speak pretty neutral Spanish, sometimes with a slight palatal l and ll and use some Catalan words to describe some specific things where the Catalan word fits better, as for example “plegar” (finish your workday or quite a job voluntarily).

Regarding languages, I speak Dutch and German, Catalan and Spanish, and from all points of view, grammar, vocabulary and phonetics the percentage of correlation is very close in those 2 pairs (80% to 85% depending on the text, if you use kadoje instead of geschenk, the correlation is lower, for instance). Flemish and Dutch have dialectal differences similar to Catalan and Valencian, with a fundamental difference, in 1980 the Dutch and Belgian governments signed the “Taalunieverdrag”, a treaty that recognized that Dutch and Flemish were the same language under the name of Nederlands.

As usual, I will ignore your “under the belt” attack. Those things I mention are common themes for the Catalan stereotype in the rest of the Spain, used in jokes and parodies, and that have a certain foundation, although they are normally an exaggeration or a distortion of reality. And about my kids, I am trying to do my best to educate them well and I make them citizens of the world. However, I had my 8 year old daughter next to me when I was preparing the previous posting and she saw the video clip and asked me, are the people from Barcelona so stupid? Although she has never lived in Barcelona, she was born there. I did not reply, just closed the window.

And yes, I am upset and pissed off and I have the right to be. To be frank I would also be upset (maybe slightly less, but still upset) if Manuel had been from Madrid or Seville and a little been upset if Manuel had been from South America. However I would have enjoyed the series, if he had been Italian or French. Because I like Spain and the Spanish people. My problem is that Spain is now an enlarged Castile, and all efforts are being made to shield any other cultures and languages from the rest of the world. Today’s Spain is not my country, I do not feel represented at all, as I do not feel represented by Manuel.

But judge by yourself, let me copy and paste the description of the character from Wikipedia:
“Manuel, a waiter played by Andrew Sachs, is a well-meaning but disorganised and constantly confused Spaniard from Barcelona with a poor grasp of the English language and customs. He is constantly verbally and physically abused by his boss. He is afraid of Mr. Fawlty's quick temper and violent assaults, yet often expresses his appreciation for being given the position. When told by either Basil, Sybil, or Polly what to do, he answers, "Qué?", which means 'What?', and "Sí", which means 'Yes'.
The character's nationality was switched to Mexican for the Spanish dub of the show broadcast to most of Spain, while in the Basque region he is an Italian called Manolo”

And do not forget that when they try to explain to others the rootcause of his imbecility, they justify it as saying, “he is from Barcelona”.

I know it is difficult for you to understand the feeling since you are not from Barcelona, but Tom or even you, if you love UK, can get a taste of it when reading my rant about the British bitches, meant to be a figure of speech without much sophistication.
And the problem is that those stereotypes stick for years, especially among certain parts of the society and they are difficult to change. Be honest and tell me how would you react if you read a piece of news saying that Harvard university has decided to establish its European campus in Lepe.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I am sorry, I am from Barcelona

I am just back from China. I got a couple of excellent Chinglish examples that I will publish in a couple of weeks. I am jetlagged and tired, but I need to write something about Faulty Towers.
Today I had a quite high level meeting with some pretty senior people. Whenever someone asks me where I am from, I always say, I am from Barcelona. I have a hard time to say that I am from Spain, and if I say I am from Catalonia, most of the people say Cata-what?, so since I left Spain 15 years ago I always say Barcelona.
In the meeting I met a Dutch guy who, when I said Barcelona (pronounced in the American way), told me with a grin, I thought you called it “Barthelona” (pronounced as in Spanish). I told him that we , Catalans, call it Barcelona (very close pronunciation to the English one) and that Barthelona is in Spanish, not our mother tongue.
He then told me: but Catalan and Spanish are basically the same language, like Dutch and Flemish. I replied to him that the difference between Catalan and Spanish is the same, more or less, that between Dutch and German. The he argued, the latter are definitely two different languages. I replied that it only took me three weeks to learn Dutch after having learned German (what, by the way, is true) and that I am not “Manuel”.

The reason why the Dutch guy was grinning is because of the British series “Faulty Towers”. One of the main characters of the TV series is “Manuel”, a stupid, clumsy, strongly Spanish accented waiter from, yes, Barcelona, a true stereotype of the Spain of bullfighting and flamenco that the dictator Francisco Franco sold to the world.

I saw one episode of the series once and I could not stand it. I made me vomit. I has nothing to do with our Catalan culture. I do not mind being laughed at, because we dance the most boring dance in the world, the “sardana”, or because we make human towers (“castellers”) or because we are stingy, or because we work when the other party. I do not mind to be called Polish because we speak a different language or singled out because my real Catalan first and middle names are unpronounceable by an average Spaniard, but I cannot swallow the fact that they laugh at me for things I consider are foreign to me as the Balinese dance.

Some time ago I wrote to the Catalan government and the Barcelona town hall asking them to initiate legal action against Monty Python. I did not even get a reply from them. I think they were too busy siphoning money from the law abiding citizens. I hope I can find, one day, a lawyer who is willing to start a class action law suit. If that happens, I am willing to support with one thousand dollars.

For my ease of mind, let me say that I think that Monty Python's John Cleese has done a lot of damage to Barcelona’s reputation in many of the North European countries (thanks God, the series is not popular at all in USA). That's why I have no choice but to qualify him and the other authors as morons, idiots, motherfuckers and sons of some of the hundreds of British bitches that come to Barcelona to get drunk for 2 euros. They may even have a Barcelona father without knowing it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Catalan and Market Economy

Unfortunately the best word to describe us Catalans is a Spanish one: “gilipollas”. There’s plenty of Catalan words that have a similar meaning (“beneit, ximple, babau, beneit del cabàs, curt, poca-solta, …”), but none of them describes this special kind of acquired moronity that characterizes us. Led by politicians whose brain is the size of a mosquito’s testicle, we act as a divided people with neither ambition not pride. It’s 500 years of lowering our heads and those who dared to raise it were betrayed by their own neighbors ("botiflers").

I love market economy and I am appalled by the fact that most Catalans put all the responsibility of the situation of our nation and especially, our language, on the government. Dear fellow citizens, our government is useless, the brainpower of the whole cabinet put together would not rival the one of an Australopithecus having a bad day. Write them off. They would sell you and their mother, for an ephemeral political gain.

The power is in our cash, credit cards, cash cards, checks and bank accounts. Let’s put our money only on those products that offer user interfaces, directions for use, call centers, labels and advertisements in Catalan. Let’s value the customer focus of those companies that believe that satisfying the Catalan customers is worth while the effort of creating diversity in their product portfolio.
If a company from Albacete offers a product labeled in Catalan and a company from Palau de Plegamans offers a similar product only labeled in Spanish, let’s all massively buy the one from Albacete.
Even assuming that only 50% of the Catalan speaking people gives a damn about their language, that makes a good 5 million people with a purchasing power bigger than many mid and small size European countries with solid line borders around them. When the market share in the Catalan speaking areas of those companies who refuse to offer their services in Catalan plummet, you will see how quickly all of them will offer their products and services in Catalan.
I personally hope that one day, every product distributed in Catalonia will be labed in three languages (Catalan, English and Spanish), any call center and service website will be in those three languages and every shop assistant, taxi driver, policeman, etc will be fluent in those three languages too.

It is in our hands. Let’s not look at the country of origin of the products to decide whether we buy them or not, let’s check whether they have been tailored to satisfy our needs, thinking that we, Catalan customers, are important for this or that company, let’s favor those businesses that value us and are willing to spend some resources to meet our needs and let’s be ready to pay a little bit more for those products too.

If we act this way, you will see how fast the language will be normalized and we will be able to reserve the adjective “gilipollas” only for our politicians.

Note: as a business person, I am aware that the distribution of multi-language labeled products poses a big challenge in Spain. Many Spanish people would boycott products that are labeled in Spanish and Catalan and distributed outside the Catalan speaking areas, simply because Catalan is also on the label. As you can see, Spain is not Belgium, Singapore, Switzerland or Canada.

I am getting ready to fly to Shanghai and practise my Mandarin. Zai jian.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pep Priorat i Aguiló: Presidente

As some of you will still remember, today is George Washington's birthday and so is mine. Therefore I plan to write about a president that will never exist, Pep Priorat i Aguiló, "Presidente" of Spain.

Many inside, but especially outside Catalonia thought that Catalonia would never have a president that did not have Catalan roots. They all have been proven wrong. Our current president, José Montilla Aguilera, has no Catalan blood whatsoever and he was not even born in Catalonia. He did not even change his first name to Josep (he did that only in previous elections, but not anymore) and he is clearly no "Terminator" either.

Personally I think that laws should require a president be born in Catalonia to run for office, mainly trying to avoid conflict of interests and to warranty allegiance to the country he/she serves. But anyway, José was elected legally and democratically and therefore he is our president, whether or not I like it, and most probably he will do a better job than many of his colleagues of the "tripartit".
So yes, it is proven, a non Catalan born person can become the president of Catalonia, but could a Catalan become the president of the Kingdom of Spain? The answer is categorically NO. Any party that proposes a Catalan candidate to run for office would definitely lose the elections, Pep Priorat i Aguiló has absolutely no chances at all to win the Spanish presidential elections. And you will ask me why? Very simple, Spaniards consider Catalans Spanish, but not as Spanish as the rest. They do not trust us, they believe that we are different, but they are horrified by a potential split.
Let’s not forget that when Miquel Roca i Junyent ran for president in 1986 as the candidate for the Reformist Party, he only got 0.96% of the votes and not a single representative in the House. If he had been called Miguel Piedra Afluente, he would have got a much better result, maybe even the presidency, but he had the wrong name and the wrong origin. Funnily he was born near Bordeaux (in Caudéran, to be exact) when his parents fled the ditactorship, so he could not be Catalan president either if my rule took effect (neither could my son, a New Englander).
Some of you may point out that indeed there were two Catalan presidents in the past.
Estanislao Figueres i Moragues (February 1873 – June 1873) and Francesc Pi i Margall (June 1873 –July 1873) were the first two presidents of the Spanish first Republic, but the fact that they stayed altogether 6 months in power, only proves my point.
Finally, some of you may suggest that I am forgetting one Catalan president of the second Spanish Republic, Alejandro Lerroux, but he was not a Catalan. He was, as our current president, also from Cordoba.

Conclusion: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a Catalan to become president of Spain." (Mark 10:25 with some help)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Fake politics

Since New Year I have been traveling continuously. Seattle, California, Arizona, Germany, The Netherlands, Florida (3x), and I have had no time to write any meaningful posting yet.
And when I am at home, I try to spend some quality time with my wife and the kids.

Two weeks ago, I netflixed "When harry met Sally ...". I had seen this comedy 15 years ago, but I thought that my wife (remember that she grew up in communist China, where western films were normally not shown) would enjoy it.
I had totally forgotten the scene where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm. It is one of the best comedy scenes in history. To hell, Catalan politics.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The day that the 3 Magic Kings came to Massachusetts

As expected, since I had left my shoes under the Christmas tree, the three Magic Kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar came to our home in Massachusetts to visit one of the few idealistic Catalans that still exist. They did a great job in combination with eBay and Barnes and Nobles, maybe because they heard that I paid off my mortgage in December.

This is the list of things I got:
  1. A "made in Taiwan" Catalan flag (“la senyera”) that is now proudly hanging from the veranda that overlooks our family room. Unfortunately I will not be able to display it on our national day, since believe it or not, it’s on September 11th.

  2. An old “3 QUARTOS” coin from the Principality of Catalonia dated 1811

  3. A 1734 original map of Arragonia & Catalonia by Gerardus Mercator, published in the Mercator Atlas Minor 1734 edition; attractively colored with a fine hand, strong impression, in very good condition on clean white paper with minor marginal soiling. Absolutely guaranteed an original antique map.

  4. A novel from Patrick O'Brian called THE CATALANS, a dark story of love and betrayal set against the brilliant colors of the Catalan country in southern France, long out of print. According to the publisher it is a powerful successor to Testimonies, Patrick O'Brian's first novel written for adults. It is set in that corner of France that became O'Brian's adopted home, where the long dark wall of the Pyrenees runs headlong to meet the Mediterranean. I am curious to read this novel that situates Catalonia in France, maybe it takes place in northern Catalonia, but I doubt it

  5. And finally a history book, out of print, called, guess how? THE CATALANS by Jan Read. “This is not a formal 'history book' account; it touches on the literary and scientific achievements of a Ramon Llull or Arnold of Vilanova, the origins of the Catalan language, the nineteenth-century literary revival of the *Renaixença" and resurgence of nationalism, the emergence of the labour movement in Barcelona and the divisions between parties of the left during the Civil War. Jan Read's graphic and carefully researched book, the only one of its kind in English, will interest any reader who wishes to look beyond the headlines and to understand the situation in Catalonia today."
I hope you also got as many presents as I did.

Happy New year 2007 – Bon Any 2007