Thursday, February 08, 2007

The big news around here is still the death of Erika Ortiz. No cause of death has been announced; Libertad Digital, Spain's most tasteful news site, is speculating that she committed suicide with an overdose of barbiturates. La Vanguardia's take is that she was a shy and private person and did not deal at all well with media intrusion into her life, especially after she and her husband separated several months ago. I have to say that I had never heard of her before they announced her death, and I keep up with the print, Internet, and TV news pretty well, so the media intrusion can't have been that bad. Then again, who am I to judge.

If it's true that she committed suicide because of media harassment, it's time for the celebrity-oriented media to take a good, long look at its practices. I don't want the government to get involved, of course, but there should be some industry-wide minimal standards, one of which would be respecting the privacy of those who do not want to be news. There's a clear and obvious distinction between those who seek press coverage and those who do not want it.

They cremated her early this afternoon; Spanish burial practices are quite different from American. Here the funeral is almost always the day after the person dies, while in the US it's between, say, three days and a week after. This is why embalming is normal in the US and not practiced in Spain. Cremation used to be very rare, and is still uncommon among the working class here, but it's becoming more frequent as the cost of a cemetery niche keeps going up.

In Spain, of course, they bury people above ground in niches. They look like five-meter-tall concrete beehives. Apparently--I'm not entirely sure how this works--they stick you in the niche and let you decay for a few decades. Then they dump your bones into the ossuary, and reuse the niche.

I think one reason they embalm the body and delay the funeral in the United States is so that people can travel to the ceremony. Many families are scattered across the country, and can't get together on very short notice.

Zap named Mariano Fernández Bermejo to substitute Juan Fernando López Aguilar as minister of justice. There's been judicial turmoil in Spain in the last two weeks because of the De Juana Chaos case, Ibarretxe's being cited to testify about his meeting with Batasuna, and the kerfuffle at the Constitutional Court. So somebody's head had to roll, and apparently López Aguilar had failed to foresee any of these decisions and Zap was left unprepared. As for the Constitutional Court thing, Pérez Tremps hasn't made a decision yet and Rajoy and Zap sniped at each other in Parliament.

They busted another etarra in France in the wake of last week's arrest of Iker Aguirre in Portbou. This one, Pedro Álvarez Saleta, is apparently an infrastructure guy who rented apartments for ETA members and drove them to meetings and the like. ETA has stolen dozens of cars in France already this year.

Barça club president Joan Laporta is pissed off at Oleguer Presas for having said his political piece in the club's pressroom; Laporta said that he wouldn't have let Oleguer make such statements while representing the club at an official interview if he had known about it previously.

Al Gore's in town promoting his Chicken Little movie. He's done his slideshow thing and had a 1 1/2 hour meeting with Zap. Zap promised to make Al's movie part of the curriculum at every school in Spain.

Genius Joan Saura, the Catalan interior counselor (chief law-enforcement officer) said a few days ago that he wanted to legalize drugs. Cool! He has, however, been roundly hooted down by CiU and the PP, and Montilla told him to shut up.

Speaking of enforcing the law, three squatter punks took an iron bar to the famous "psychedelic lizard" in the Parque Guell, just up the hill from my house. They smashed in the head of the statue, which of course is a significant work of art. The cops got two of them only after it was too late; they suspect the other is hiding out at one of the squats in the area. One of them has a police record for, get this, participating in a fight between a gang of squatters and some locals. He tried to escape by breaking into an old lady's apartment and ordering her to get out. He's got several counts of theft and vandalism as well, including smashing the windows of parked cars and kicking a phone booth to death. Why isn't this guy in jail?

Great. How in the hell did these lowlifes ever think they could get away with such pointless vandalism? Answer: Because of broken-windows syndrome. There were no park police up there at night and bums were sleeping there and the local scumbags were drinking litronas and getting high and leaving garbage all over the place. Come on, Saura, do your job and have the cops patrol Barcelona's parks. And kick out the damn squatters instead of kissing their asses.

Gee, the suspension of the Italian league sure lasted a long time; play begins again this weekend. Stadiums which do not meet certain standards will be closed to the public; the games will be played before empty seats and TV cameras. Of course, the big clubs' stadiums meet the standards. This is not a bad idea, forcing clubs to build safer stadiums, but the real problem are of course the street gangs associated with the clubs. Meanwhile, Madrid coach Fabio Capello, get this, praised the Ultra Sur, Madrid's hooligans, for supporting the team.

The murder case in Fago is getting even better--now the guy who confessed to killing the mayor has withdrawn his confession. Meanwhile, the astronaut-love-triangle story is big news over here.

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