Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Fourth Estate, Revisited.

One was always inclined to believe everything that appeared in the newspapers - as why would they lie or fabricate items? Perhaps during wars, the reports are manipulated a bit to encourage the populace to fresh efforts, but we are in Peacetime now. However, with falling revenue, corporate ownership, increased costs and the arrival of cyber-news, things are changing. In the UK, some newspapers have been guilty of such aggressive hyperbole in the search for reader approval that they are risking losing advertisers.  Here, we have Leapy Lee (ancient review here). In the US, there’s a newspaper that apparently buys ‘exclusive’ stories... and then sits on them. For truly wacky news, there’s always Rapture Ready, which prepares us for the Second Coming of Christ with appropriate news-items.
In Spain, the Media is broadly owned (and controlled) by four major corporations: ‘...with regard to the independence of the media, ... there are "frequent reports on the pro-government manipulation" of public media, especially since 2012, when the Spanish government changed the way in which it appointed those responsible for public media, leaving it in practice in the hands of the executive. With regard to private media, there is also a lack of independence and autonomy...’. (La Tribuna de Cartagena). El País, created to be a centre-left newspaper, is now so beholden to its corporate owners that it prints fervently pro-conservative stories as a new standard. In contrast to this view, here’s the director of El País: ‘The operations of toxic information through social networks, known as fake news, are a threat not only to the free press, but to Democracy itself. In the face of this epidemic that has spread throughout the world, Antonio Caño claims “as more necessary than ever” quality journalism: “honest, rigorous and respectful of professional rules”...’. Amen to that.
We must face the power of the daily newspapers in Spain, which have persuaded the Government to legislate in their protection, in an attempt to get other news-sources to pay some kind of a canon to link or quote their ‘stories’(by which, we mean ‘factual news reports’): the ‘Canon-AEDE’. As if there is an ownership to occurrence. Meneame, bearded by this rule that says they must compensate the daily newspapers (even though they have boycotted them for the last few years), says it won’t pay. It could, of course, at an extreme, always move to Portugal... GoogleNews, as we know, operates in the entire world, except here in Spain.
Jeremy Corbyn, the hapless British labour leader, makes the point (following the smear attacks in The Express and elsewhere of him conversing with a Russian spy): ‘...A free press is essential to Democracy. We don’t want to close it down – we want to open it up...’.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Revenge, Served Cold, is Best

Egged on by the editors of some of the right-wing press, many Spaniards have become incensed by the article from The Sunday Times about how to become a Spaniard (be noisy and late for appointments).
Saving me the trouble of writing a tounge-in-cheek view of the Brits (George Mikes did it anyway), here's the riposte from the ABC which came out on Thursday:

Here we have, served without a drop of bitterness but instead in a purely jocular vein, a series of very diplomatic recommendations towards how to become 'un British' in a zippity doody jiffy.

First of all, you can carpet up any surface under your roof because Great Britain, the host country, can also be the promised land of all carpet-mites, whether it is the living room, the staircase or the bathroom, whether for public or private use. The advantages of carpeting the 'small room' are undeniable, as it saves a lot of time in mopping and is just the thing for stepping softly, which, in the bathroom, multiplies the comfort of the excretory moment. The hairs on the carpet will absorb whatever may fall outside the target (God forbid) without the need for the daily scrub and bleach.

Hygiene, therefore, has to be fairly relative if you want to be an Englishman, because water is a scarce commodity and its use must be rationalised. A study by Euromonitor International points out that the British are among the Europeans who enjoy the fewest weekly showers: the average being less than four. Another argument for the Brexit? Without leaving the bathroom, the UK is a country firmly anchored in tradition. This is the resistance to the universally used Continental single-lever tap system, in which one chooses the temperature at which the jet comes out. An Englishman - even in the 21st century - will have to risk scalding his hands, getting them frozen or moving them from the cold to the hot tap, which will undoubtedly improve his reflexes.

In general, if you want to be British the trick is to go against the way most other humans circulate (either on the pavement or the road), queue up for everything even if you are the only one in line, dine at an unholy hour and, if you do so away from home, go to a foreign cuisine restaurant because it will be difficult for you to find a decent bite of British cuisine (that oxymoron), unless you love local fish (unlikely choice) or your legendary rhubarb crumble, with its remarkable laxative powers.

When travelling abroad, if you want to be English, don't hesitate to slip some white socks (do not need two pairs, don't exaggerate) into the suitcase. They will be indispensable for the sandals that you will be wearing on your holiday. At your destination, and especially if you are young, be sure to dedicate at least 20 of the 24 hours of the entire day to an immoderate and joyous intake of alcohol, and when you are in  a suitably cheerful frame of mind and yet you find you can't get your point across since not everyone understands the language of Shakespeare (or rather, the Spice Girls), following a couple of street brawls, you can try the "balconing" in the hotel.

Don't waste too much time in museums, such as the Prado for example, where the British hardly account for 0.35% of their visitors (Italians are 9.71 and the French 5.30). Only one exception to this sight-seeing rule is the Museo del Jamón, where those  tasteful sandals will have brought their owners for a spot of culture. On returning to the UK, one traditionally goes straight to a law firm specialized in reporting Spanish hotels for food poisoning. You don't even have to suffer any queasiness, since the paperwork and the scam are arranged there while you wait.

And always exaggerate, exaggerate very much, even employ sensationalism if possible: another great British contribution to the world that strives to entertain one's reader or listener during those dark British months of winter.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Returning 'Home'

It is hard to move to live in another country, surrounded by strangers, with different customs (although, we all seem to enjoy the challenge and the adventure). How hard is it, though, to return to one’s own country again? Perhaps age, or family concerns, or illness, or the death of one’s lifetime companion will be the leading reason why someone must return. How do they manage, once they are back? It is said that after ten years away from your country, you have moved a decade in one direction, while your old home has moved a decade in another.
Is there any help or advice back in the UK, or Germany or Holland for the weary son who returns to the homeland? Will they ‘kill the fatted calf’?
Probably not. It must indeed be very lonesome and sad to be in such a position. It is not unheard of for the ex-expatriate to ask for his ashes to be returned to Spain on his death.
Another group that must face – doubtlessly more often – the return to their country of birth is the Spanish, often studying or working abroad. They may come back to Spain, perhaps, and feel uneasy. They have adopted different customs and life-styles. They had found new companions abroad and now feel that their ‘stay-at-home’ friends no longer understand them. Codigo Nuevo has a report on this subject titled ‘Deciding to return to your country after having migrated is almost as hard as leaving’. It’s sometimes hard to leave; perhaps it is usually far harder still to return.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Rise and Fall of Podemos

Perhaps Podemos should have a close look at itself. It is losing support and has fallen into fourth place. Its message may be as important as ever, but, as with all far-left parties, there are too many tendencies pulling in various directions. Not helping this, the leader of the party, Pablo Iglesias, tends towards an autocratic control of the group, with the consequent loss of some of his associates.
Iglesias is a clever man, and has some good ideas, but he is not strong on self-criticism (an exception following his poor results in Catalonia has been posted heavily in the media). Indeed, there are few newspapers or other sources which have much to say for Podemos either by itself or in coalition with the Izquierda Unida as Unidos Podemos, and, apart from El Diario and Público (both cyber-news sites) the corporate media is uniformly hostile.
Podemos shot to fame a few years back, but maybe their star is burning out. Certainly a president with a pony-tail may be a step too far to imagine.
It’s also true that the voters can be fickle and, as this video shows, quite foolish. Podemos also makes for good jokes, as the fake news site El Mundo Today knows. However, within the joke (Podemos, ‘We Can’, to change its name to ‘We Want’), a kernel grows: the group is indeed considering changing its name as part of a change in image (maybe you should consider cutting off that coleta, Pablo!).

Monday, January 15, 2018

I Didn't Make It Mama

Amidst all the (endless) doggy stories on Facebook, along came a post about a far larger tragedy that's happening right here on our doorstep. I felt it was worth the translation.

I didn't make it, Mama.
But don't tell my siblings, or 
say a word to Dad. 
Tell them I arrived safely 
to that place that Grandfather 
loves to speak of 
- where the tank are full of water
and the bullets are made of sugar. 
Here I have both my bread
and the money to buy more.
Tell them to keep fighting
for a better World!
Tell them I live in EUROPE,
And that my boat didn't sink along the way.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Romería

Sunday was the romería de la Virgen de Mar, which was held around the chapel in the dunes past Retamar, Almería. The virgen was washed ashore there many hundreds of years ago, they say. The gypsies, the horse people, the devout and the curious were there, with their picnics and their children. The horsey types brought their buggies and their mules. There was a market selling toys and hats and - for some reason - a small stand from La Voz de Almería, our local paper.
The bishop of Almería was in the chapel, reading scripture and eulogizing the Virgen. Nearby, a jolly trailer advertising 'Vinos' was doing a good trade.
I ordered a Málaga Virgen to toast the Almería Virgen. It was the least I could do.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Fitur - Because We Need More Tourists.

The huge Madrid tour fair FITUR is held next week – starting on Wednesday and running through Sunday 21st.  This massive event, under the light of over eighty million foreign visitors to Spain in 2017 together with any number of Spanish holidaymakers (Catalonia, disappointingly bucking the trend following the political upheaval there), will be a temporary home to an expected 10,000 exhibitors, as 2017’s figures were ‘...9,893 exhibiting companies from 165 countries/regions, 135,858 trade participants and 107,213 people from the general public. A video from LaSexta says that there were – in the first eleven months of 2017 – 18 million Britons, 11.4 million Germans and 10.7 million French visitors (no wonder they forget about us foreign residents). Does Spain (with a population of 46 million souls) need more tourists – or merely more income from tourism? 

Meanwhile, Mojácar is going to be there as it is every year.  I've been a couple of times in years gone by - when the politics of our town allowed - and it's a massive show indeed. Countries with exhibitions, dancers and free drinks (try Peru for its Pisco Sours if you have the chance). Flamenco guitarists and people with whistles, didgeridoos and nose-flutes. All very jolly. Even Gibraltar has a small and slightly embarrassed presence there. Mojácar for a while had its own stand, which cost a fortune, but - gracious - look at our tourist figures today! We must keep those souvenir shops a-trembling. 
One of our best ideas was to give Indalos de Oro - Golden Indalos - to those who have done much to bring tourism to our fair town. These have, naturally, gone mainly to Spanish entrepreneurs or (in the current trend) to Belgian cyclists, Bless 'em. Indeed, some of our galardonados have been useful to our tourism, others less so. We remember the man who owns and closed the Moresco hotel in the pueblo Arturo Fernández as one, the PP politician Rafael Hernando as another. Singer Miguel Ríos (a regular visitor) as another.
After a prolonged campaign on Facebook - the Tourist Department even relented and gave one to Bob Jones - a local British resident who sent many beautiful pictures of our town over the years to the weather forecast on the national TV, who in turn featured them in their program.  
Last year, they faltered slightly and gave the two prizes to the children of Jacinto Alarcón (the mayor who revitalised Mojácar in the sixties). This year - no one, so far, is saying.

Later: On Wednesday, the first day of FITUR, the Tourist Office relented and produced this notice:  '...This year, having reached in the last edition of FITUR the 25th anniversary of Los Indalos de Oro de Mojácar, the delivery of the traditional Golden Indalos is transferred to the municipality itself, celebrating a feast of the Indalos de Oro that will take place in the town, on a date yet to be specified.
The aim of this initiative is to ensure that all residents and neighbours can enjoy an important event for the locality, while at the same time making it easier for relatives and friends of the prizewinners to share such a special moment..
.'. Stupid, or what?

So, the whole Indalo de Oro thing has been washed up through a complete lack of imagination.