Monday, December 08, 2003

El Mundo reported on Friday that a 425 million year old fossil had been found. The headline for its article referred to the world’s oldest male creature. The Daily Telegraph chose to headline this find as the 425 million year penis. Clearly, you don’t have to reduce the size of your paper to go tabloid. First the sensationalisation and then the down-sizing, a process that Mr Murdoch started with The Times about ten years ago in the UK and, as I have said, is now taking to its logical conclusion.

Here in Spain, the national press gives every impression of being unashamedly elitist. If they have ever faced the temptation to dumb down their contents, then they have successfully resisted it. Not for them the terror of being accused of addressing a white, male, middle-class, middle-brow audience. Or, far worse, of being ‘intellectual’. Middle-brow is the minimum they aim for. In El Mundo today there is an attack on the low-brow, celebrity-obsessed ‘pink press’ in terms which I doubt would have got past the editors of the Telegraph, Times, Independent or Guardian in the UK. Too much fear of losing a huge chunk of their readership.

Personally, I very much prefer my papers this way. But then I believe the world would be a poorer place without its elites. The fact that such a statement is controversial in the UK shows just how unbalanced society there has become.

Meanwhile, back in Spain, it doesn’t do to get too ambitious with your day. Some version of Sod’s Law – let’s call it ‘Paco’s Law – is always going to put you in your place. On Friday, I set out to do a number of things in Vigo and, indeed, en route to Vigo. Suffice to say, I managed to achieve about a third of them. The rest fell victim to something which, when I lived in Indonesia, I used to call The Random Equaliser. No matter how clever you are in planning your day, some dynamic which is perpetually at work is going to screw it up. ‘What Tourist Office?’ they asked me at the town hall. ‘The one mentioned on this brochure issued by the town council,’ I replied. ‘Well, perhaps there’s one in the morning but there isn’t one right now’. ‘What new city museum’? ‘This one pictured in this cutting. ‘Ah, yes. It’s 5 kilometres outside the city’.

When I went for my coffee in town yesterday someone took my umbrella. I suppose it’s possible that it was an accident but I was still very annoyed. My only compensation was to be reminded of an old poem I learned years ago:-
The rain it rains upon the just
And also on the unjust fella
But mainly on the just because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

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