Sunday, October 19, 2003

The big news today is Mother Teresa's promotion to saint; it was the lead story on both TV3 and TV1. They got some 250,000 people out in Rome. The Pope presided, and looked comparatively pretty good. The unofficial story they're reporting is that this is a big event for him, that her sainthood was a cause he'd been pushing. The Vanguardia overwhelmed us with Pope stories during the week, since this is the 25th anniversary of his papacy.

I wonder--I know this is morbid--whether this isn't part of his big adios. I've heard--can't guarantee that it's true--that people who are in poor health often manage to hang on for significant upcoming events, say a family visit or the birth of a grandchild or a wedding anniversary or birthday. They make it to the big event and then fairly soon, their last mission accomplished, die. I can see this being true in this case, since the golden anniversary of the papacy and the sanctification of Mother Teresa are certainly big events.

Mother Teresa trivia: She's the first Nobel Prize winner to become a saint, and the time elapsed between her death and sainthood, six years, is the shortest ever.

Let me make it clear that I will be sorry when the Pope dies. While I disagree with him about a lot of things, I know he's a good man. As for Vazquez Montalban, he was a Stalinist propagandist. Leni Riefenstahl, a Hitlerist propagandist, just died, too. My reaction to their deaths is exactly the same.

They've been reporting a good deal about the situation in Bolivia, rather partially, of course; one thing nobody around here is making very big noise about is that Spanish energy company Repsol YPF, one of the seven or so really large Spanish corporations (the others are Banco Santander, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya, telecoms operator Telefonica, and energy companies Gas Natural, Endesa, and Iberdrola), is one of the companies involved in the partnership to export Bolivian natural gas. Repsol has invested more than half a billion dollars in the project.

The campaign for the Madrid and the Catalan regional elections is heating up. El Pais, El Mundo, and La Razon all ran polls giving the PP an absolute majority over the PSOE-IU SocioCommunist coalition. Zap frothed at the mouth some about the illegal and immoral war on Iraq and how Spain ought to pull ought right now and like not be allies with America anymore or something. Aznar reminded him that the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis conceded last week and that the Security Council has reaffirmed its support for the Iraqi reconstruction plan, and asked him if, since he's running a campaign that sounds like the slogan on a sign at a demonstration, his next banner is going to say "Socialists Against the UN".

Artur Mas's Andorra sports plan got savaged by absolutely everybody, even the superCatalanista Republican Left's Carod-Rovira, who called it an insult to both Catalonia and Andorra. We shall hear no more about it, I am sure.

It's cool and rainy, has been for a couple of days. It's fall, it's rainy season. So it rains. And every time it rains hard, the traffic lights short out. This produces a lot of minor accidents and long traffic delays at each intersection. Traffic backs up on all the access roads into town and everybody's two hours late to work. The local urban legend is that more people use their cars rather than public transport to get to work if it rains. I'll agree that that could be a factor, but I think it's more likely to be the following: Spain's not quite Sweden or Holland yet.

The electrical system that runs the traffic lights works just fine day in and day out, but whenever it gets stressed, like by the rain, it goes out. This happens between five and ten days every year, and it's something that people just assume to be a truth of life. It rains hard, the lights short out, and then there's a massive traffic jam and everybody's two hours late to work. Hell, you can "unintentionally on purpose" show up late on a rainy day and say your bus got caught in traffic. Meanwhile, the access roads in and out of town are built to handle normal traffic about ten years ago, so they can't stand any excess amount of cars, which happens every weekend anyway. Push over one domino and the whole system comes down, because it's built to be only as good as it needs to be most of the time instead of being as good as it needs to be in a fairly bad--not even worst-case--scenario.

Barca got stomped last night at the Camp Nou, 0-2 by Deportivo, on national TV. Barcelona wasn't really that bad, they just weren't particularly good, and they were outclassed by a better team. There is just not any question that Valencia, with 19 points out of 21 after they slaughter 0-2-4 Espanyol tonight, Deportivo, with 18 points out of 21, and Real Madrid, with 16 points out of 21, are all clearly superior to Barcelona, with just nine points out of 21. Only Ronaldinho and Van Brockhorst, of this year's signings, are playing. Xavi has been benched. Kluivert is openly up for sale. Saviola just isn't physical enough to play forward for Barcelona--too small, too slow. Motta and Gerard just aren't particularly good. Luis Enrique is officially old--this ought to be his last season. Nobody knows why Overmars is on the team. Marquez bitched about not getting to play--Rijkaard says he's out of shape--, so now he never even makes it on the list of 16 players that are the roster for each game. This team is the New York Mets of international soccer: too many expensive bad players.

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