Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's been a nice Christmas break here at Iberian Notes. On the 21st Murph and I went to the Camp Nou to see Barça play Atletico Madrid; they tied, 1-1. It was a pretty good game; the Barça players gave it all they had, and they were operating at about 80% since they'd just come back from Japan. We got to see Ronaldinho score on a free kick, which is pretty cool. I don't go out to the stadium very much, and I really should go more often, since it's not that expensive, €30 for the cheap seats. You can see what's happening on the whole field, while the TV cameras only follow the ball.

We had the annual Christmas dinner at my mother-in-law's apartment; fifteen people, among aunts and uncles and cousins, showed up. Remei did the cooking; she made escudella i carn d'olla, which is basically chicken noodle soup with meatballs, and then chicken and shrimp in romesco sauce, which is based on nuts and olive oil. As the local vegetarian, I had salad. Spaniards don't get vegetarianism at all, and if they do get it, they think you're a health-food nut. They can deal with the concept of someone who denies himself the pleasure of eating ham for health reasons; that seems more or less reasonable. What they don't get is someone who takes no pleasure out of eating ham, and wouldn't do it if you paid him. The concept that a person might find eating our fellow mammals a form of cannibalism goes way over their heads, too.

My mother-in-law was a pain in the ass as usual; she's a cranky old bat who has always been a bully, and she feels herself losing power as she gets older and can't get around as well as she used to. Her response to her decline is to get angry, and she's decided to pick on me about speaking Catalan. Now, I speak Catalan to her, since that's what she wants, but when actually trying to talk to other people about difficult or complicated subjects I almost unconsciously switch to Spanish, since I speak it better than Catalan. So dinner-table conversations with other people were salted and peppered with demands for linguistic normalization, and none of the rest of us killed her, since everyone else is as sick of the woman as I am.

Note: This behavior is a complete aberration. No one else I have ever met is this obnoxious about Catalan. The rest of the family and I are always glad to see one another and it doesn't matter which language is spoken.

Get this. The chief of surgery at Madrid's Gregorio Marañón hospital, which is publicly owned and operated, flew off to Cuba to treat Fidel. He says Fidel doesn't have cancer. I bet he's lying. His trip was paid for by the Cuban government, and was approved by Esperanza Aguirre's Madrid regional government. He brought "medicines and technological equipment that the island's heath service does not have." Doctor García Sabrido, at the press conference, applied his lips firmly to Castro's buttocks, saying that Fidel has "a fantastic, innate intellectual activity." Aguirre wondered publicly whether Cuban political prisoners get the same level of health care.

The alleged peace process with ETA is going nowhere in the wake of the discovery of an arms cache near Bilbao. The Zap government is claiming that the cache was an intentional setup by ETA so that the general public would know that the gang still has its weapons and is ready to at. I think the Zap government is nuts and that the discovery of the arms cache along with the robbery of the pistols in France shows that ETA is just waiting for its chance to strike again. Street violence continues in the Basque country, and Basque businessmen are still receiving extortion demands.

James Brown and Gerald Ford died. May they both rest in peace. Congratulations to those who picked them in this year's Dead Pool.

Meanwhile, the Zap government's health ministry is still trying to crush Burger King's ad campaign calling on consumers to pig out on a half-kilo monsterburger. La Vanguardia referred to the product in question as a "Doble Whooper," which sounds to me like somebody who is going to break out a family-size can of whoop-ass. Seems to me that people ought to have enough common sense to decide what they want to eat, and if they want to eat crap they have every right to eat crap.

The local cause celebre for the last ten days or so has been the manslaughter charge slapped on a man who shot a Romanian armed robber in a town near Manresa. From what I've pieced together, a group of suspicious people had been casing out the luxury house belonging to the Tous family, a well-known clan who own a chain of jewelry shops. Then, one night, the family's security director, also a son-in-law of the patriarch, got a robbery call. Two men were inside the wall surrounding the family property. The security guy drove up to the Tous house, where two guys were waiting out front in a car. He opened fire, killing one and wounding the other. They were Romanians equipped with burglar kits.

The security guy was charged with manslaughter and jailed without bail. He will presumably come up for trial in about three years, as the slow wheels of Spanish justice turn. I assume they will eventually grant him bail. In Texas they would have given him a public service medal. You need to remember that traditionally the first question a Texas jury asks itself is, "Should the deceased have departed?"

Our man Franco Aleman at Barcepundit links to this Heritage Foundation piece demolishing Zap's brainchild "Alliance of Civilizations." Definitely check it out. Here's a good paragraph:

The Alliance of Civilizations is a disappointment. Far from offering a "bridge" to cross the divide, the Alliance of Civilizations report offers little more than platitudes and wishful thinking, one-sided analysis, justification for constraining freedom of expression and religion, and repackaged calls for increased assistance from Western countries. The lack of substance and originality in the report—the report itself acknowledges several times that many of its recommendations and initiatives are already in place or being pursued—explains the lack of interest in the report since its release in November.

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