Yeah, right! - Writings by Brian Murdock

Archive for November, 2011

In Spanish

November 29, 2011

Actualizándome

Desde hace años el español normal y corriente era el querido de las compañías de telefonía móvil…incluso más que de un ordenador o del internet.   De hecho, mientras yo me veía en el ’97 como uno de los pocos que tenían una cuenta de internet en casa, los españoles soltaban sus perras en telefonía, y sobre todo en los mensajes de texto.

         El internet era otra cosa.  Mis amigos chupaban de los servicios navegadores ofrecidos en las oficinas de sus trabajos ya que les salían gratis.  No les puedo decir nada.  Los ordenadores de entonces eran más, no, muchísimo más caros que los de hoy.  Hasta la entrada del euro, comprar un PC era una cosa que hacía temblar el cuerpo.  Una versión genérica, es decir sin nombre de marca, me salía por más de mi sueldo mensual…pero mucho más.  Y estamos hablando del valor del dinero de hace 15 años.  Ahora, por más o menos el mismo precio, podría salir de una tienda con tres o cuatro portátiles decentes de marca.  Era una cosa aterradora y las máquinas eran una mierda.  Pero siempre he sido bastante esclavo de la informática, aún cuando apenas la entiendo.  Pero todo eso ha cambiado.

       En el mundo de los móviles, debí de ser de los últimos en la peninsula en subirme al carro.   Andaría allá por el 2001, es decir, casi ayer para lo que es España. Todo el mundo tenía uno. Solo me acuerdo de una persona que adquirió uno después que yo, y menos mal, porque todos necesitamos a alguien a quien podemos llamar “pringado”.  Pero tampoco consolaba demasiado porque ya era hora.

        Al principio me sentía orgulloso de haber resistido, de haber dado la espalda al progreso, de alardear que podía vivir sin él, pero ahora pienso que es una estupidez mía, una de las numerosas.  Claro que es un aparato de utilizamos abusivamente, pero también es un servicio que ha cambiado la manera en la que hacemos las cosas.  De vez en cuando los nostálgicos hablamos de la vida sin móviles y insistimos en que no pasaba.  “Podíamos vivir sin ellos sin problemas.”

       Qué cachondos.  Como si tuviéramos más remedio.  Claro que supimos vivir sin ese servicio.  No existía.  ¿Qué íbamos a hacer si no?   Las cosas que oigo…

       El caso es que compré es móvil y lo he actualizado una vez hace como cuatro años.   Ahora mis amigos se ríen de mí y preguntan cuando voy a hacer algo con él.  Es una especie de presión social a la que he sucumbido.  También porque la batería me dura como media hora.  Así que decidí ser un hombre actualizado, una persona que puede llamar a otro en un sitio público sin llamar la atención, un individuo no solo del presente, sino del futuro.  Fui a Movistar (no me pagan por la publicidad) a ser iluminado en los artes de la nueva generación.

In Spanish

November 23, 2011

Mi Amigo el Español: ¿Quieres qué?

Lo bonito de comentar sobre otro idioma es que normalmente se hacen observaciones sobre algo del que ningún nativo se daría cuenta porque porque les resulta tan natural.  Pero a nuestros oídos pueden resultar algo chocante.  Fijaos que el otro día estaba en coche ensandwichado en el asiento de atrás entre dos sillas de bebés.  Nos entreníamos dentro de lo que se puede sin llegar a grandes cosas porque al final, los niños se aburren en un coche con bastante facilidad, por muy divertido que parezcas.  Al cabo de un rato, la niña de unos tres años anunció bien alto que había un tema que se tenía que atender con bastante rapidez.  Era:  ¡Quiero pis!

      “¿Quieres qué?”

      “Pis.” Repitió escuetamente.  Los niños no suelen andar con historias.  Van al grano.

      Claro que entendí lo que quería decir, por algo soy profesor, pero no dejaba de sorprenderme la forma de expresarse cuando se quiere ir al baño.  Lo peor fue que los padres reforzaron esta técnica.  “¿Quieres pis cariño?  Muy bien.  Ahora paramos.”

      Claro está, de nuevo, que los mayores no iban a entrar en la tienda exprés de la gasolinera para pedir un vaso de orina para su hija, sino llevarle al servicio para que se alivie.  Pero una vez más,  me hizo mucha gracia que también lo utilizasen, y cuando se lo dije se echaron a reír y dijeron que era verdad.  Que no se habían percatado de eso antes.  Y que qué curiosidad.  ¿Cómo era posible?

      Fácil.  Total si las dos partes se ponen de acuerdo, no hace falta decir las cosas como es debido.  Mientras se comunican, se entienden y se responden, existe la comunicación.  A veces es lo único que existe.  Tanto me gusta “quiero pis”, que creo que voy a empezar a emplearlo.

Uncategorized

November 21, 2011

Election Day 3

Ir0s all over.  No surprises.  The PP won by 186 to 111.  How bad was it?  The PSOE basically lost 35% of their representation in parliament which, by today’s standards, is as close to a romp as you can get. Now we’ll see where this all goes.

Good night

Madrid,Spain

November 20, 2011

Election Day 2

There are thousands of followers outside the PP Headquarters on Génova Street.  They are waving blue banners and cheering and dancing to Diana Ross’s Upside Down.  This is what they do when they win elections.   Maybe some people will want to change their vote.  I counted approximately twenty people meandering near the entrance of the PSOE headquarters.  I think they are there because they are smoking.  I’m sure they would like to be smoking inside right now on such a damp evening, but it was their own party that passed a law prohibiting it.

13% of the votes counted -

177 seats for PP

108 seats for PSOE

Madrid,Spain

Election Day 1 I’m twittering…or something like that.

Tags:

Well, it’s Election Day, and it’s almost over.  I’ve been in a faraway village and at the bowling alleys to celebrate the event and haven’t had the chance to reach internet.  Here I am.  So far, things are going according to predictions.  The exit polls have given the PP a huge victory, and the absolute majority.  But those are the polls, and they can’t be trusted.  One thing is for sure, the Socialist Party is on its way out.  By how much?  It’s hard to say.

Madrid,Spain

November 19, 2011

I’m not Talking Spanish Politics 10: Quiet Please

Tags:

Tomorrow is election day.  Today is the day of reflection when none of the candidates or parties can campaign.  It’s a day for thinking.   Sssssh.

 

 

Madrid,Spain

November 17, 2011

I’m not talking Spanish politics 10 – here’s why

Tags:

It’s called the D’Hondt Method, and you can ask a thousand friends and family at home and probably get the same dumb look on their faces, so don’t feel bad.

      It’s the name of the mathematical design behind the Spanish electoral system, and its creator was an 18th Century Belgian mathematician who devised it for party-list elections.  That is, unlike in the States, where members of Congress are voted on directly by the populace, here, as in many European countries, the people vote for entire parties which have prepared their lists for parliamentary representation.  No head-to-head brawling.  Most people have no idea who represents their district.

      This system is considered extremely fair, and only slightly favors large parties, while allowing for small concentrated regional parties to get their representation in the legislature.  I’m no math expert, but I say that’s bollocks.  I mean people whined and bitched about the Electoral College in 2000 when Bush ran off with the elections with a lower popular vote (I’m still one of the few who argue that if a candidate’s own state doesn’t vote for him, as was the case with Gore, then he doesn’t deserve to be elected), but this can get just as dicey.

      Look at the supposed representation.  Izquierda Unida under this method gets reamed big time.  Last 2008, the party pulled off its worse showing in decades, but still ended up being the third most voted for of all.  It tallied 969,871 votes in all, earning them 3 seats in parliament.  The Catalan party CiU grabbed 779,425 votes, yes that’s about 20% less, but somehow ended up with ten members of parliament.  How can that be?  The CiU’s support came from four provinces in Catalonia while the IU disputed 42 provinces.  The votes were greater but all over the goddamn country.  The Popular Party, another pan-Spain competitor, won a little over 10 million votes and landed 154 seats.  Now let’s do a little rounding for simplicity’s sake.  IU won about a million votes and got 3 seats.  PP walked away with 10 million votes and took home 154.  The conservative party outdid IU with ten times more votes but 50 times more representation in parliament.  But wait, they said this was fair.

        It gets better…

Madrid,Spain

November 16, 2011

I’m not talking Spanish Politics 9

Tags: ,

All is terribly quiet on the campaign front in part because there is so little to talk about.  Barring any last-minute shockers, and, after the 2004 elections, I do not say that mockingly, the results are all but a foregone conclusion.  Now they are scrambling to gain or prevent an absolutely majority by the PP.

        Now, just because the Socialist Party and the conservative Popular Party had muscled their way to the top as the two leading national political entities, doesn’t mean they don’t have competitors.  They have; it’s just that they aren’t what they used to be in many ways.  The UCD, which ran the country in the first four years, dissolved rather quickly, and the party to spring up from its ashes, the CDS, fared even worse.  It was all but gone by the early 90s.  This was due to the fact that the PSOE and the PP had become moderate enough in their stances to attract politically central voters.  An official center-party made less and less sense.

       Izquierda Unida (The United Left), or just IU for short, was a conglomerate of different far-left parties which began to grow in popularity.  It managed to pool together several million votes in the 1990s with a man named Julio Anguita at the helm.  But it had a problem.  Because it was voted on nationally, and because its votes were spread out nationwide, the IU rarely got the representation it deserved in parliament.

      The bulk of the other parties is made up of regional and nationalist parties which defend their provincial interests and in some case support secession.  These are my favorite:  They try to get into the Spanish Congress just to say they want to leave.

        The two biggest parties are the PNV in the Basque Country and the CiU in Catalonia.  Their influence on the course of the country has been considerable over the years as the major parties have at times had to pact with them in order to get enough support to run parliament (we’ll get to that later because it’s pretty amusing).  Both the PSOE and the PP are “guilty” of this because they have both resorted to the regional parties when they didn’t have the absolute majority.  These groups have also had a large representation in parliament because of the way the voting system is designed…I’ll tell you more later.

Madrid,Spain

November 15, 2011

I’m not talking about Spanish politics 8

Tags:

To say that Zapatero didn’t deserve to win the 2004 election would be unfair because he undisputedly received the most votes.  To say he didn’t expect to win is a different story.  Some say he got lucky because it came as a result of the death of nearly two hundred innocent lives but that is a twisted way of looking at the whole matter.  However, there is no doubt that, in this case, the use of extreme violence actually did produce the desired results: pain, suffering and political collapse.

       On March 11, 2004, three days before the general election and two and a half years to the day after the 9/11 attacks, what would have been an uneventful morning on the public transportation system, in a flash, turned into hours of horror and mayhem.  191 drowsy commuters were literally blown apart by several bombs planted in small backpacks and left unattended on several commuter trains.  As opposed to the strategy used in America, there were no suicide bombers, but devices set off electronically by cell phones from a distance; the aggressor would call the number and detonate the bomb.

      At first everyone thought this was ETA’s doing.  They are the Basque terrorist group responsible for some 800 deaths over the past four decades.  Though the band had never perpetrated anything on that scale and normally targeted politicians, police, judges or military personnel instead of everyday civilians, no one considered another possibility.  The bombing had been done just the week after a huge van stuffed with explosives had been located right outside of Madrid, and in December of the year before, bags carrying bombs had been discovered on trains in the north of Spain.  Both had been carried out by ETA.  It was reasonable to think ETA was behind the attack this time.  As we walked to work to the incessant sounds of wailing sirens, not a single person I knew thought otherwise.  It was an unusually brutal act for the group, but given the dates, who else could it have been?  Even El País, the left-leaning national newspaper, cast the blame on ETA outright, as did numerous international dailies.

        But something just wasn’t quite right.

      Just hours after the bombing had occurred, the first rumors that the Basques had nothing to do with the horrifying massacre began to circulate.  A tape with verses from the Koran were found in one of the vans used by the attackers, and the explosives used, GOMA-2, were not standard ETA material.    The savagery of the act seemed almost uncharacteristic of the terroirist group; if anything, it appeared suicidal.  If there was ever a way of doing their own cause in, that would have been it.

      Still most people refused to believe it.  It just didn’t make sense.  And the Aznar government reaffirmed that stance of incredulousness by insisting it had no doubt about who had committed the crime.  The opposition grew more and more suspicious.  Suddenly, as a hundred bodies had yet to be identified, politics got involved.

        You see, who was right had huge political implications as what was at stake was enormous.  The ruling party blamed ETA, and that would have meant probably taking in more votes on Sunday because a harder stance would be needed against the terrorists and they would have been just the people to do it.  But if the Muslims had bee the authors of the act, the Left could point the finger at the government claiming that because of Spain’s involvement in the war, 200 hundred people are dead.  Though no one actually sought this, I am not going to accuse anyone of that kind of barbarous behavior, each side knew the benefits and damages of both situations.

        The difference was, there really was no doubt.  At least for those who were well informed.  The Muslim theory grew in strength as the evidence piled up.  While the spokesman for the Popular Party kept the country abreast of this possibility he also played it down, and by Saturday, as members of the police were arresting suspects from a radical Islamic group, the administration was still informing that it believed ETA was probably behind it all.  The government was trying to delay the information before the election halls opened the next morning, and the opposition party was eager to get the news out and place the blame on the part.  Everyone was either in a hurry or taking their time.  No one had bothered to postpone the election a week off and honor the dead.

       The next day, with anger in their minds, voters flocked to the ballot boxes and essentially ousted the Popular Party from power and handed it back to Zapatero and the socialists.  It was a knee-jerk reaction, but an understandable one.  A cell group from Al Qaeda had successfully toppled a government with the effectiveness it had with knocking down two 100-story buildings.

Madrid,Spain

November 13, 2011

I’m not talking Spanish politics 7

Tags:

Spain has held ten free elections resulting in four different prime ministers since its return to democracy.  Given the fact the country had to wrench itself out of four decades of far-right dictatorship, the process has been surprisingly smooth and varied.

      The first elections in contemporary times took place in 1977 and it was a middle-of-the road party, known as the Central Democratic Union, that carried the day.  More than a party, it was a coalition of some twenty other minor parties which banded together to form a considerable political force made up mainly by moderate Francoists and other central right-wingers, but also counted on the support of some center-left groups too.  The UCD did not get enough votes to take the absolute majority in parliament, so its power was conceded to it by the other parties in hopes of getting things started.  The legislature under Spain’s first modern democratically-elected Prime Minister, Adolfo Suarez, lasted roughly two years before the next election in 1979.

     The UCD won again but were barely hanging on as fissures in the federation became greater.  They bad thing about trying to stick to the center is that no one else seems to be entirely satisfied with what you do.   Suarez, feeling that his power was slipping away from him, and realizing that he was no longer able to lead the country effectively, resigned; when his successor Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo was being voted in, the Civil Guard paramilitary group decided to try and take over the government.  They were hoping to bring the country back under the rule of the far-right.  It would seem that was all they knew how to do.  It was how they handled it in 1936.  Luckily, though, it failed.

      A year later, the Socialist Party won by an overwhelming margin.  The UCD showed clear signs of disintegration by losing 155 seats in parliament.  That is what I call a devastating loss.

       The socialist leader was a man named Felipe Gonzalez, who ran the government for nearly 15 years.  Spain, as is the case in many other European countries, still does not have a law limiting the number of years a prime minister can be in power.  Gonzalez, by far the party’s most charismatic leader, had very few internal rivals.  But 15 years is a long time by anyone’s standards.  The Socialist Party won the next three general elections before bowing in 1996 to the Popular Party (sometimes translated as the People’s Party), which was the rising center-right conservative force in Spain.  In a sense this election was vital to the democratic process because it showed that the country was comfortable with letting a right-wing party return to power.  It was an almost necessary step.  Its leader, José María Aznar, took over.  He won again in 2000, this time with the absolute majority.  Aznar took Spain through a period of general prosperity but stumbled with his support of the United States in the Iraq War.  This decision was immensely unpopular in Spain and cost his party dearly.

      Aznar vowed from the beginning that he would never seek a third term and stuck to his word.  His successor, Mariano Rajoy, still the Popular Party’s leader today, ran in his place and competed against the Socialist leader, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.  The race was close, but as late as a week before the election, it seemed Rajoy would hold onto his lead and win.  Then, suddenly, something extraordinary happened…