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Spain is looking at changing its time zone. While its longitude is close to Britain's, Spain shares with the rest of western and central Europe the condition of being one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. This state of affairs originated during World War 2, when the dictator Franco unilaterally changed Spain's timezone to match that of Germany, in solidarity with the Nazi regime; what the iron fist of fascism put in place, inertia kept in place, leading to a national case of jetlag:
"Because of a great historical error, in Spain we eat at 2pm, and we don't have dinner until 9pm, but according to the position of the sun, we eat at the same time as the rest of Europe: 1pm and 8pm," explained Professor Nuria Chinchilla, director of the International Centre for Work and Family at the IESE Business School. "We are living with 71 years of jet-lag, and it's unsustainable.
Another thing that needs to change is late-night prime-time TV, said Buqueras. "In England, the largest TV audience is at 7 or 8pm, but in Spain, it's 10pm. Because at 8pm in Spain, barely 50% of the population is at home, and you have to wait until 10pm to find that number of people at home, thus guaranteeing the viewing figures needed for prime time. Sometimes football matches don't kick off until 11pm!" he said.
All of this means people go to bed far later than they should and get less sleep than they need. Studies suggest Spaniards sleep an hour less than the rest of Europe, which means more accidents at work, less efficiency, and more children missing school. Additionally they work longer hours than their German and British counterparts, but are much less efficient.Any change to Spain's time zone is likely to also result in an end (or at least a great reduction) to the traditional siesta, the midday break for a long lunch and a nap.
Life in the Galambosian age of intellectual-property maximalism: When Spanish octogenarian Cecilia Giménez took it upon herself to restore a crumbling fresco in a local chapel and, inadvertently made a monkey out of Jesus,the chapel was inundated with visitors who weren't leaving donations, and soon its owners, a hospital foundation, began charging an entry fee to see the newly famous work (dubbed “Ecce Mono”, or sometimes “Rhesus Christ”). Now, Giménez' family has lawyered up and are suing for royalties from her handiwork.
The Giménez family are not yet going after internet users reposting this meme for copyright infringement, but let's not give them any ideas.
Last week, The Guardian once again ran a series of articles on Europe today, with contributions from papers in France, Spain, Germany, Poland and Italy. Intended partly to combat the rise in anti-European sentiment in the wake of the financial crisis. Among other things, this includes a number of profiles of political leaders by journalists from other countries (i.e., an Italian perspective on Germany's Angela Merkel, a German view of Poland's Donald Tusk, and French and British pieces on the other country's leader), as well as a a section looking at, and responding to, national stereotypes in Europe:
What message do we Brits think we send when our signature cultural export of 2011 was Downton Abbey, a show entirely about the intricacies of class and which apparently longs for a return to Edwardian notions of hierarchy? The smash West End play One Man, Two Guvnors similarly revolves around class. Unfortunately, it's not just a foreigners' myth that in Britain how one speaks and what school one attended still counts.
There is a vibrancy to modern British life that eludes the cliche's grasp. There's a hint of it in that Polish suggestion that the Brits are "kind and friendly to immigrants". Compared with other European countries, it's probably true that Britain is, generally, more tolerant. Some of our public services – the NHS, the BBC – are still cherished. We are not merely a mini-America of let-it-rip free-marketism.
Efficiency is not really a Berlin thing. Take construction. To build 2km of new tram lines to connect the new central station, they set aside three years. Delays were not even factored in. In China, they'd have built whole new cities in that time, or a high-speed motorway across the entire country. Maybe the Chinese are the Germans of the 21st century. Or maybe Berliners are just not typical Germans. Can you stereotype a country if its capital is not typical?
In Italy, sex drive increases with age. Naturally, it is also possessed to a degree by the young (this is why we have children), but it is only after the age of 50 that the Italian male finally dives headlong into adolescence. We are the only nation to have had a prime minister in his 70s who wears a bandana on his head like a tennis player or a rap singer.
Spain's resurgent Right is moving to rehabilitate the memory of Franco. No longer a Fascist dictator whose totalitarian reign oppressed a country for two generations and left a trail of mass graves, according to Spain's Royal Academy of History, he is now merely a ruler who regrettably had to turn to authoritarian tactics to save Spain from "bandits" and "terrorists":
The fact that the dictionary has been presented under the patronage of the king himself and handsomely paid with taxpayers' money to the tune of €6.5m is doing very little to lessen the scandal many specialists and ordinary Spaniards feel at this body of work which, among other things, routinely refers to the republican side in the civil war as "the enemy" while Franco's troops are described as "the national army". Or, for example, when it praises the "pacification" of several regions, by which it means the execution of thousands of democrats, socialists, teachers and passersby in general.
Whatever the reasons, José María Aznar's eight years as prime minister between 1996 and 2004 were a great opportunity for his Popular party (PP) to distance itself from its slightly Francoist origins. But the opposite happened: it chose to legitimise Francoism instead. A whole school of revisionist historians was promoted to great success, endlessly recycling the old Francoist myths. It would have been just ridiculous were it not that at the same time the government was denying thousands of citizens the right to unearth their loved ones from the archipelago of mass graves which still covers the whole country.
A new exhibition in Spain explores sexual relations under Franco's fascist régime, through official advice given to women by the Feminine Section of the Falange, the fascist party:
"If your husband asks you for unusual sexual practices, be obedient and don’t complain. If he suggests union, agree humbly? When the culminating moment arrives, a small whimper on your part is sufficient to indicate any pleasure that might have been experienced."
From 1937 to 1977, some three million women aged 17 to 35 joined an organisation that urged young girls "not to burden themselves with books ? there’s no need to be an intellectual". And although sport was encouraged – one of few positives of the mass mobilisation – enthusiasts were warned: "Don’t take sport as a pretext to wear scandalous costumes."
The head of the women’s section was Pilar Primo de Rivera, sister of Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, who founded the fascist Falange, the ideological backbone of Franco’s rule. "The life of every woman ? is nothing more than the eternal desire to find someone to submit to," she wrote.
For 40 years, women were drafted into "social service", a form of military conscription that supplied free labour for hospitals, publicly run restaurants and other social institutions.
Spain has become the first country to completely outlaw peer-to-peer file sharing. Under the law, downloading files from peer-to-peer networks is in itself a civil offense, whilst ISPs face criminal sanctions for tolerating file sharing (which, presumably, means not blocking it). Oddly enough, the law also puts a tax on all digital media, with the money going to Big Copyright, presumably to reimburse them for all the content the public is absolutely prohibited from sharing on said media.
That sound you can hear is copyright-industry lobbyists in the rest of the world rubbing their hands with glee as they prepare to push for "harmonisation" of the local laws with Spain's.
Your Humble Narrator is watching the Eurovision Song Contest. We're up to song 6 (Spain's Las Ketchup doing a number titled "Bloody Mary"; given that the chorus seems to go "Duty Free Duty Free Duty Free", I think it's about cheap booze).
The first few songs have been interesting enough. Moldova did a vaguely hip-hop-flavoured Latin-dance-pop number with choregoraphy that ventured across the line between raunchy and wrong. The Israeli entrant (by a black American member of some Black Hebrew sect or other) was a syrupy R&B ballad, partly in Hebrew, which may have been about world peace, Zionist nationalism or neither. The Swiss entry was 100% pure Eurofromage.
We're now on to the Maltese entry, a pumpin' disco number. Those are some serious eyebrows there. And now we've got some German banjo-pickin' country music, with a blonde singer and a Bert Newton lookalike wearing a cowboy hat. Yee-ha!
If you're wondering why I haven't posted anything about the Madrid terrorist atrocity here, it's because everyone else has already written about it, and I had nothing to say that would have been any more profound than "that's awful", or "those scoundrels".
Things are geting interesting now, though; the right-wing Spanish government (a key member of the neoconservative Coalition of Willing) had tried to pin the blame on ETA, the Basque separatist terrorist group (previously known only for small-scale car bombings), going as far as to instruct embassy staff to blame it on the Basques. Taking a hard line against the ETA and supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq were two policies of the rightists; so, when it emerged that it was an al-Qaeda operation, the electorate swept them out of office. Presumably they didn't have Berlusconi/Murdoch-style media control on their side; it must be really frustrating to think that, had they kept the al-Qaeda link under wraps (or obscured it with spin and disinformation) for 48 or so hours longer, they would have probably won by a landslide. Children overboard, anyone?
Meanwhile, the new brooms about to form government are the Socialist Workers' Party (who sound like a bolshy lot). Whether or not they're going to abolish private property and herd everybody into collective farms to work according to their ability for the common good, they certainly have been outspoken opponents of the invasion of Iraq, and are likely to join the Axis of Weasels alongside France, Belgium and Germany. (Aside: have any right-wing pundits asserted that the Belgian paedophile scandal and the country's lack of support for War Against Evil are part of the same moral decadence and lack of values?) The Blair administration are putting on a brave face, but the neoconservative coalition in Europe appears to be down to what: Britain, Poland and Berlusconi's Italy?
Also, terrorism experts are predicting that bombs on freight ships are likely to be the next trend in terrorism. Doesn't al-Qaeda have something like 15 freight ships, most of them at unknown locations? (Load one of those up with radioactive waste and Semtex and detonate it in a harbour, and the surrounding city becomes the new Pripyat; in 14 years' time, some chick with a motorbike and digital camera will come along and post photos of the evacuees' abandoned, radioactive iPods and Razor scooters to her website.)
The Spanish troops sent to patrol Iraq are wearing the symbol of an anti-Moorish crusader. Spain's 2,000-strong contribution to Truth, Justice and Cheap SUV Fuel wear on their shoulders the Cross of St. James of Compostella, popularly known as "Matamoros" or "the Moor killer" for his role in the Christian reconquest of Moorish spain. The troops will patrol the sacred Shia city of Najaf.
Stupidity, or a calculated "fuck you" to the Islamic world? Perhaps someone in charge wants to foment anti-Western resentment in the Islamosphere, for some reason or other; like keeping McWorld in a permanent (and profitable) state of siege? (via Anthony)
The Green Party mayoral candidate in the Spanish city of Granada plans to issue youth sex vouchers to couples under 25, allowing them to rent hotel rooms at a discount, thus preserving their fundamental human right to an active and fulfilling sex life. Young couples going at it on the beach are a major problem in Spain, where young people usually live with parents until marriage and the country's conservatively Catholic culture frowns on bringing one's partner home. The usual solution until now was increased police patrols of beaches (presumably with spotlights and water cannon).
"Happiness, well-being and autonomy are very important," he explained. "It's about emotional democracy."
(It always amuses me to see an "active sex life" spoken of as a basic human need. Even the Maslow hierarchy lists sex as a basic physiological need alongside air, water and sleep, and more important than safety needs. Sure, people are sexually obsessed (for example, we have powerful computers and communications technologies, and we use them mostly for downloading porn and talking dirty to each other; well, after making ever-more-lethal killing machines, anyway), but to say that sex is as essential as oxygen is surely an exaggeration.)
Spain's graffiti commandos are what Melbourne's homies (and indeed Prahran's logo-T-shirt set) can only dream of being:
They film their creations and sell the footage to specialist distributors for internet music magazines, or the city's avant garde pubs. Split-second timing is the key. One member of the "commando" - which can number up to 20 - travels on the train. At a given moment and place, he pulls the emergency cord and the train stops. The artists leap into action and - crucial to the financial success of the operation- film themselves in front of their creation before escaping.
Strange, but true: In Catalonia, Spain, the concepts of shit and good luck are closely intertwined. Which is why, among other things, bakeries sell turd-shaped cakes, and Christmas nativity scenes always include a figure of a guy taking a dump, known as the caganer (literally "shitter").
Another Catalán commentator and writer Xavier Fàbregas claims that the crouching figure, busy with his bodily needs, represents "a cosmic indifference which contrasts with the spiritual motivation which is awoken by the greatest mystery of human kind". Right. Although that might explain the absence of the character in most church nativity scenes.
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