Monday, May 26, 2008

Typical Monday, not much of a news day, especially since it's Memorial Day in the States and everyone's down at the lake. Bit of weirdness: Some Spaniards, including Baltasar Porcel, get snippy at America's celebrating Halloween, a kids' dress-up holiday, at the same time Spain celebrates Todos los Santos, the day when dead people are remembered in Spain. Porcel has accused the Yanks of turning a solemn ritual into commercialized kitsch.

Of course, Todos los Santos (All Souls' Day) is a CATHOLIC holiday, and the people of the US are religiously mixed. We have our own secular day to remember the dead, Memorial Day. In fact, we have another similar holiday, Veterans' Day in November, when those who died for their country are remembered. You could argue that Americans are therefore even more respectful of their dead than the Spaniards.

Another piece of evidence: Most Spaniards know nothing about their family history. Remei, for example, doesn't know about any of her ancestors before about 1900. Many Americans, on the other hand, are interested in genealogy and in the lives of their ancestors. My family knows, for example, that some of us were Tennessee-Texas Scotch-Irish (including a couple of Confederate soldiers and Methodist circuit riders; at least one owned slaves), some of us were Kansas Germans from Bukovina in the old Austrian Empire, and that one branch, my mother's maternal grandfather's line, was Oklahoma Cherokee. They were all farmers or ranchers; we're from the landowning-peasant class, not the urban proletariat. An aunt and several of my cousins have married Mexican-Americans, meaning that I have Hispanic relatives as well, none of whom speak Spanish. Family surnames include Chappell, Colley, Whitney, Shannon, Stuart, Aust/Ast, Shoemake, and Walz. My favorite distant-relative surname is Schimmelpfennig.

Spaniards are surprised when they find out I know all this, but it's not unusual among Americans; we all know we're half-Irish, one-quarter Italian, and one-quarter Polish, or whatever the mix may be.

So the Jaume Bofill Foundation did a study and found that only 2% of immigrants in Spain who have been here at least ten years want to go home. Well, duh. If they wanted to go home they'd already have left. Wonder how much the Generalitat subsidized this one with.

Living on the infrastructure edge: This morning the main commuter-train line lost power in a tunnel near Plaza Catalunya and went down for forty minutes, thereby snarling up everything as usual. Another train broke down south of Sabadell and fouled up that line as well. I figure at the very least 50,000 people were an hour late to work, costing us 50,000 production hours that could have been used to increase our GDP.

It rained again this morning, and the five reservoirs in the Ter-Llobregat watershed that supply Barcelona are now at 40% of capacity. Worries about running out this summer are rapidly disappearing. Now they're talking about halting the shipments of water by tanker and calling off the Tarragona-Barcelona aqueduct plan. I don't know; I wouldn't start feeling too safe and secure yet.

Tragedy in Valencia: A scaffold collapsed this morning at the construction site of CF Valencia's new stadium, killing two and injuring four. Jeez. Somebody screwed up bad here, because scaffolds are supposed to be firmly attached to something so they don't fall down. There are entirely too many deaths on the job in Spain, and it's frequently due to half-assery, ignoring the most elemental safety precautions. There is also far too much drinking on the job.

Two squatter punks used climbing equipment to dangle themselves off the front of the Sabadell city hall this morning, in order to demand the release of Franki from jail. If I were the cops I'd give the punks five minutes to cease and desist and then cut their ropes. That would put a rapid end to this crap. I hope Franki is enjoying his stay in the Modelo.

The Spanish real estate developer Habitat is in massive trouble. They already laid off 350 workers at their Don Piso subsidiary, and now they're laying off half their staff, 160 more workers. The Spanish real estate Zeppelin has crashed and burned. Their own company forecast is, get this, to lose €650 million between now and 2010. They've made a deal with the 39 banks to which they owe €1.6 billion to reschedule payments, saving them from bankruptcy, at least for now. The contractor Ferrovial owns 20% of Habitat. I'm glad I don't own any Ferrovial stock.

14 million Spaniards saw the Chiki-Chiki guy perform on Eurovision, a 78% share. That's one-third of the population. I missed it. Damn.

The Japanese yakuza who murdered the mayor of Nagasaki has been sentenced to death. In Japan they hang the condemned in secret, without informing his family until he's dead. No one around here has yet criticized the primitive, barbaric, brutal Japanese for using capital punishment.

Barça update: Edmilson is going to Villarreal. Inter Milan wants to buy Deco. Negotiations for Ronaldinho and Zambrotta continue with AC Milan. Manchester City's offer for Ronaldinho is the best they've received. He's exactly the player a midtable club like that doesn't need. I'd spend that money on five competent young players with a future. Instead of buying one ex-superstar with mysterious injuries and bad habits, get five real, solid pros. Supposedly Barça is going to buy the 21-year-old Uruguayan defender Martin Caceres from Recreativo.


Gil said...

Not to quibble too much with your observation, but Memorial Day is technically the day when we remember those who died in service of country. Veterans Day honors all those who served, living and dead.

However, I've noticed over the years that many folks are now using Memorial Day as an all purpose "remembering the dead" day, even though the current war has driven the focus somewhat back to those who have died in service...



boynamedsue said...

I'd like to take this opportunity to criticise the primitive, barbaric and brutal Japanese for using the death penalty. No civilised state executes its citizens.

Gil said...

boynamedsue said:

"No civilised state executes its citizens."

You're just saying that because you shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you are getting the religious holidays a little confused, too. All Saints Day is Nov. 1, All Souls day is Nov. 2 and Holloween is Oct. 31 and was never a religious holiday.

Akaky said...

John, does this mean you're related to General Schimmelpfenig, who spent three days hiding in Mr. Garloch's wood shed at the Battle of Gettysburg?

boynamedsue said...

The Reno incident was a long time ago, I served my time.