Saturday, July 22, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 22.7.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • Some people are claiming that the moustache aspect of this story is a 'miracle'. I do hope they are joking. But one never knows with theists.
  • It's been an open secret for decades that Catalan politicos were creaming off 3% of every goverment contract given to a successful bidder. So, as I asked about something else yesterday, why has the Guardia Civil suddenly decided to go and search government offices there? Could it have something to do with the 'illegal' referendum scheduled for October 1?
  • Reader Eamon tells me something that I didn't know even after almost 17 years here - The Spanish Post Office offers an urgente service for letters. I guess its the equivalent of the British 'first class' post. A Spanish friend has told me that there are actually 4 categories:-
  1. Normal
  2. Normal certificado (registered letter)
  3. Urgente
  4. Urgente certificado.
  • So, if you really want a letter or package both to arrive and to do so quickly, you have to pay a double premium. I guess that makes sense to someone. Offer a crap service and then charge people twice for a decent one. Neat. But probably only doable if you're a government monopoly.
Which reminds me . . . This being summer, I wasn't too surprised that – until yesterday – I hadn't had any mail for more than a week. And then I read in the local newspaper that there are more than 10,000 letters piled up in Pontevedra's sorting office because, inter alia, there aren't replacement staff for the people who've gone on holiday. Presumably students prefer the beach to temporary work.

I wrote something about social network sites yesterday. Right on cue comes a Times article on the subject, headed: If you can't find an enemy, just invent one. See below the cartoon for this.

I almost lost my latest panama hat yesterday. It had dropped to the floor and I hadn't seen it when I'd left the table. After a few hundred metres, I realised I didn't have it and hurried back to my bar, arriving just as a guy with a trolley (a porter?) was picking it up. Of course, I can't be certain that he'd have kept it. But if the experience of the last 17 years is anything to go by . . . This hat, by the way, doesn't have my phone number in it. And I haven't yet followed up the advice of a Spanish friend to replace this useless stratagem by writing alongside it that I'd pay money for its return.

The Spanish Language: My command of idiomatic Spanish is not great, mainly because I don't spend much of the day speaking the language, neither being at work nor having a Spanish partner. Nor watching TV or (dubbed!) Spanish films. Which is a shame, as I love learning phrases such as: No confundes la velocidad con tocino. “Don't confuse speed with [slipping on] pork fat.” Which Reverso says means not to get 2 things mixed up.

Here's a nice comment on Trump from a Guardian (American) columnist:- If you want to be able to sleep this weekend, do yourself a favor and don’t read the New York Time’s expansive interview with Donald Trump. The president makes little sense as he answers questions about everything from Russia to Jeff Sessions and healthcare – and if you were already worried about whose hands the country is in, this piece will not put your mind at ease. For example, it seems pretty evident that the president of the United States has no idea how health insurance works. I used to see interviews like this and be a bit pleased – because the more coverage of Trump’s stupidity the better. But if you don’t realize by now that a total clown is in charge, there’s no interview or exposé that’s going to change that. 

Finally . . . A second idiomatic Spanish phrase: Ella deja el sol pasa por la puerta. "She lets the sun leave through the door." Meaning: "She's never going to get married." Perhaps not a very nice one . . . Tellingly, Reverso doesn't recognise it.

Today's cartoon:-

My view of the world . . . .

Isn't life simple when you know you're right all the time?

If you can’t find an enemy, just invent one.  Hugo Rifkind

It scarcely matters to social media witch-hunters whether stories about Philip Hammond or the new Dr Who are true

I don’t know Philip Hammond, so I have to admit it is totally possible that he’s surprised a woman can drive a train. Like, perhaps he’d have been equally astonished if he’d seen a dog doing it. In which case, wow, but how terrifying his life must be. Because there are women everywhere, these days, aren’t there? Flying aeroplanes, cutting people open, putting them back together. Driving, indeed, and without even rails to guide them. Some of them even have guns. Yes! Guns! When he was defence secretary, for three whole years, he could easily have met one of them. And she could have mistaken it for a lipstick and shot him in the face. 

Or maybe — and I’m just throwing this out there — he isn’t that surprised. When the papers reported that he’d said in cabinet last week that driving a train was now so easy “even a woman could do it”, then maybe, just maybe, the true situation wasn’t quite as “oh, look, there’s the Duke of Edinburgh” as many seem to have immediately assumed. Could he in fact have been saying something fairly innocuous, that merely came out wrong? Do we think that’s plausible? Might this man, with a female boss, and numerous female colleagues, and who isn’t actually a moron, perhaps not really think a woman would be inherently worse at driving a train at all? 

I also don’t really know any male Doctor Who fans. I’ve never been one, myself. As a child, ignorant of BBC prop budgets, I objected to sci-fi with so few laser guns. (Now I’m not a child, ironically enough, I’m always annoyed by the way it seems to have been written by one.) So, in my ignorance, I must admit that it is equally possible that there are, indeed, hordes of male Whovians out there who are jolly upset by the prospect of her from replacing him from 'The Thick of It' as the next duo-cardiac, Dalek-bothering phonebox pilot. 

“Political correctness gone mad!” they may genuinely be shrieking, somewhere. Or, “they’ll be letting women be actual doctors next!” and so on. Only, they do seem hard to find. Or, at least, harder to find than all the other people who are giggling and mocking them for thinking this. With it being deemed somehow irrelevant — in much the same way that Hammond’s actual words seemed to have been deemed irrelevant — that they might not actually exist. 

Sure, there are some. On social media, the new Doctor’s defenders, keen to find something to defend her from, have been trawling hard. Most of what they have turned up seems to have come from Mail Online reader comments, which strikes me as cheating. We all know that an infinity of crazed, typing monkeys locked in a room will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. As this may be literally how that website’s reader comments are produced, it’s hardly surprising they’ve found the odd bit of Whovian broflake rage down there, too. 

My favourite example unearthed so far comes from Brian from London, who wrote, fabulously, “nobody wants a Tardis full of bras”. Which, as well as being hilarious, is of course quite wrong. Everybody wants a Tardis full of bras. Some male Whovians possibly want one so badly that they could go blind. Also, the interior of the Tardis is infinite, so you couldn’t fill it up with bras, anyway. Although if you did, I suppose you’d at least have one each for the monkeys. 

Fights like this are sometimes real. When the all-female Ghostbusters was announced in 2014, the angry male response was loud and vicious, and ultimately, after it incorporated racism too, led to Twitter issuing a lifetime ban to the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Even then, though, the initial bout of objection was ultimately dwarfed by objectors to that objection, to the extent that “pathetic sexists hating the new Ghostbusters” became a fun, feminist meme in its own right. The origins — the reality — becomes unimportant. It doesn’t even need to have happened. The rallying point is the response. 

In the social media age, we are tribal not just about our likes, but our dislikes, too. Perhaps the latter are even more important. There are reasons why fairly minor political candidates are now routinely virally shamed for sexism, racism or homophobia, and it is not always to do with a desire to smear their parties, or to spread guilt by contamination. Often it is something far more needy; a plea for reassurance, or a desire for group confirmation against a perceived enemy. It is also why the Brexit right seeks the bogeymen of “saboteurs”, and why both extremes respond so shrilly to any utterance by Tony Blair, without ever seeming to care what that utterance is. Pointing at a witch and crying “witch” is a great way of showing you aren’t one. 

In the end, though, it is also counterproductive. In a world where Hammond is noisily slammed for saying a woman can’t drive a train, even if he didn’t, the space is opened up for somebody to say this for real. When Twitter thrums with disdain for theoretical critics of a female Timelord, a market — a real market, which can generate real money through clicks, and infect the web by the virality of disapproval — is generated for anybody prepared to take up that banner with gusto. If we hunger for witches, eventually we will get witches. In newspapers, on television, in politics. Sometimes, they do rather well. Whereupon we may wish that we had done things differently. Or that we could go back in time. In our Tardis. Which is full of bras.

1 comment:

Maria said...

Another saying for not mixing up things: No mezcles churras con merinas. These are two different breeds of sheep, apparently one more pricey than the other.

And for an old maid: Se quedó para vestir santos. Apparently, this is because it used to be the spinsters who had the job of dressing the images of the saints in the churches once upon a time.

As for substitute postal workers, unless they've already been hired by the state, there are no summer jobs for university students available there. If only there were, my daughter could have applied for one at the central office in Santiago. Instead, in the job she found, she's been sent door to door, trying to sell Vodafone packages to people suspicious of door to door salespeople. She asserts that if this is the future that awaits her upon graduation, she's out of here!