Monday, April 09, 2018

Thoughts from Galicia, Spain: 9.4.18

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.

Spain v Cataluña
  • Here's The Guardian on the Scottish element off this sad saga.
  • Tim Parfitt goes to town here on Spanish reactions to the German court's rejection of Madrid's petitition for the extradition of Sr Puigdemont. He majors on one of the accusation made by Vernon Warner, viz that no one takes responsibility for setbacks or failure in Spain. I have to say it reminds me of the me-me victimhood of individuals I know who suffer from a lack of self-esteem. Can it be that Spain, despite the developments of the last 50 years, still suffers from an inferiority complex?
  • At least someone in Spain seems to recognise realities: Soledad Gallego-Díaz in El País yesterday:- The lack of leadership in the Spanish political landscape and the lack of leadership among the Catalan independentistas threaten to turn a difficult but manageable crisis into prolonged instability that will eventually affect the institutional system as a whole.
Life in Spain
  • I walked past the one-chord, strumming guitarist again yesterday. This time he was just staring at his fingers on the frets, as if thought alone could produce something resembling a chord change. Or even a tune. I almost admire his chutzpah. Especially as there were some coins in his hat.
  • Niall Ferguson reviewed Tina Brown's diaries in The Sunday Times yesterday. It contains some priceless descriptions of Fart, written back in the day when he was just a New York lout on the make. Rather than include them here, I've attached the whole Ferguson article below. Enjoy.
  • From a columnist: Russia is a vast country, the biggest on the planet, with unmatched natural resources. Yet its economy is smaller than Italy’s and about half the size of the tiny islands that comprise the United Kingdom. Imagine how much greater the insecurity in the Kremlin now, when across its vast eastern border, China, once the most poverty-stricken of the great nations, has soared beyond Russia to become second to America in economic power. That can only add to the inadmissible sense of inferiority.  Something shared with Spain???
The UK
  • This is a loyalty card:-

It's pretty standard card, I guess. But, in fact, it's issued by a cocaine dealer in the UK. A Times writer opines that: The emergence of such loyalty cards shows how middle-class cocaine users are fuelling violence - including knife and gun crime between gangs - on city streets throughout the country. Coincidentally, the headline of a local paper on Saturday was about the increase of cocaine imports along the Galician coast.

  • I really should have guessed that a carabela portuguesa pictured (badly) on a local beach was a Portuguese man-of-war. Una carabela being a caravel.
  • Reading the Sporting News about the golf at Augusta, I stumbled on 2 words new to me:- 1. arrogant flog and 2. ropable. This was in the Australian edition - which might explain things -and I noted there were American, Canadian, German and Japanese versions. But no British edition. Bit odd.
  1. Laurel Hubbard, a 39-year-old male-to-female transgender athlete is competing in the female weightlifting category at the Commonwealth Games in Australia. S(h)e is a New Zealander ,formerly named Gavin, who is so muscular she beats every other woman in her category by 19kg. While the average age for success in this sport is 24, Hubbard is 15 years older than that. Games officials have claimed that her levels of testosterone are acceptable for competing; human rights campaigners have insisted Hubbard be treated on merit and that “participation in sport and physical activity” is a human right. I wonder what future generations will think of this one's obsession with human rights. Especially mine which conflict with yours.
  2. That glass of wine costing c. €60 . . . At our Friday night dinner, one of the members of the Pontevedra English Speaking Society presented us with a bottle of wine which I'd never expected to see in an open state. This one:-

I'd had even lower expectation of ever tasting any Vega Sicilia wine, let alone this Special Reserve stuff. A bottle of this costs upwards of €305 here in Spain and between GBP500 and 800 in the UK. Another of our members advised me that no one in Spain ever bought it to drink, only to donate as a gift/bribe to someone else.

© David Colin Davies, Pontevedra: 9.4.18


Portrait of Donald Trump as a young ‘conman’: Niall Ferguson

Tina Brown poked fun at Trump in her 1980s diaries. Look who’s in charge now

I love diaries. Unlike memoirs, which are written long after the fact — with the benefit of hindsight and nearly always in a way that flatters the author — diaries are history in real time, as it was lived. True, the diarist also tends to make himself or herself the centre of events and does not always own up to sins of omission and commission, not to mention acts of downright stupidity. But writing soon after the heat of the moment, the diarist crystallises the reality of the human condition — a reality that historians too often understate — that the future is mostly unknowable.

Unlike the biographer, the diarist does not know which side will win the war, which titan will tumble, which bit player will rise to power. As the great historian of English law Frederic William Maitland observed: “We should always be aware that what now lies in the past once lay in the future.” Reading diaries is the best way to appreciate that.

For this reason, I loved Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries, which cover the period between 1983 and 1992 when she edited the glossy magazine Vanity Fair. They tell, in prose that veers from the dazzling to the dutiful — depending on her mood and level of fatigue — several gripping stories.

There is the story of one of the first female editors of a top publication; the story of an immigrant making it big in the Big Apple; and the story of the central trilemma of the feminist era — that it is impossible simultaneously to be successful (and contented) as a professional, a mother and a wife. (In a trilemma, you can have two out of three, but not all three.) All of this kept me turning the pages.

The obvious historical value of Brown’s diaries is that they capture, vividly, the high noon and then the dusk of the Reagan era, as viewed from Manhattan. On Wall Street the 1980s were a time of deal-making and high-rolling, of junk bonds and boorish traders who gloried in the nickname “big swinging dicks”. Yet just a short distance away in bohemian neighbourhoods such as Greenwich Village the HIV/Aids epidemic was decimating the gay community.

Brown was an acute observer of such incongruities. Her account of the wedding of her friend Arianna Stassinopoulos to the Texan millionaire Michael Huffington perfectly captures the spirit of the age, with Henry Kissinger and Mort Zuckerman wisecracking their way through the over-the-top nuptials. (“The service swerved from High Church to Greek Orthodox, with crowns held aloft over the bride and groom. ‘What will the psalms be in? Aztec?’ muttered Henry Kissinger.”)

Nevertheless, the true gold buried in Brown’s diary is her portrait of a “sulky, Elvisy” property developer whom she features in her first Vanity Fair Christmas edition in 1984 simply “because he’s a brass act. And he owns his own football team. And he thinks he should negotiate arms control agreements with the Soviet Union.”

Three years later she decides to publish extracts of his autobiography, “which has a crassness I like . . . there is something authentic about [his] bullshit . . . it feels, when you have finished it, as if you’ve been nose to nose for four hours with an entertaining conman and I suspect the American public will like nothing better”.

The conman in question is of course Donald Trump, who flits through Brown’s diary like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Her first encounter with The Donald is at a dinner on September 25, 1987. “He was all over me,” she writes, “hoping to charm me into favourable presentation in the mag. At dinner [he] started bombarding me with interest. ‘Tina,’ he shouted, ‘what do you think of the Newsweek cover story on me?’

“‘I haven’t read it,’ I told him. ‘You know, Tina, I could have had Time. They wanted me and I saw them, too. But Newsweek scooped them. Who do you think’s better, Tina, Newsweek or Time?’ ‘Time,’ I said mischievously. ‘You really think so, Tina, you really think so?’ His pouty Elvis face folded into a frown of self-castigation. ‘I guess it sells more,’ he said in a tormented tone. ‘I guess it does.’”

It gets better. “‘You know what?’ Trump continued shouting across to me. ‘Went to the opening of the Met last night. Ring Cycle. Placido Domingo. Five hours. Dinner started at twelve. Beat that. I said to Ivana, what, are you crazy? Never again.’”

Brown’s account of the party Trump threw for his book The Art of the Deal is one that future historians will savour. All she gets wrong is to call it “the gaudy postscript to an era’s boom and crash”. For we now know that Trump’s party was the preamble to an even gaudier, boomier, crashier era.

“Trump himself looked sleek and starry as a prosperous young seal in his tux and white evening scarf. ‘Can you believe this party!’ he kept exclaiming. ‘No, seriously, can you believe it? Love your magazine! Beautiful piece on Ivana. Byoodiful!’”

We next encounter Donald and Ivana in the throes of divorce, an event covered in depth by Vanity Fair. The journalist Marie Brenner sides with Ivana, portraying Trump as “a brutish, philandering husband” so addicted to “lying and loud-mouthing . . . that it’s incredible he still prospers and gets banks to loan him money”.

“He’s like some monstrous id creation of his father,” Brown writes, “a cartoon assemblage of all his worst characteristics mixed with the particular excesses of the new media age. The revelation that he has a collection of Hitler’s speeches at the office is going to make a lot of news.”

Trump took his revenge in characteristic fashion. It was December 10, 1991, and the occasion a black-tie gala to mark the opening of Barbra Streisand’s latest film. Brenner was “sitting demurely . . . when she felt something cold and wet running down her back. Unwilling to embarrass the waiter, she didn’t turn around. Until the other guests at the table started pointing and yelping, ‘Oh my God! Look what he just did!’” She was just in time to spot Trump’s “familiar Elvis coif making off across the Crystal Room”. He had poured a glass of wine over her.

For the diarist, this is the last nail in the coffin of Trump’s reputation. “The sneaky, petulant infant,” she scribbles indignantly. “What a coward!” The historian can only doff his cap in gratitude. For here we see, unvarnished and unmistakeable, the man who would be president. And here we also see the fateful inability of the New York elite to foresee his irresistible rise.

It was on September 2, 1987, that Trump took out a full-page newspaper advertisement with the headline: “There’s nothing wrong with America’s foreign defence policy that a little backbone can’t cure.” In it he called on the United States to cease spending money on Middle Eastern peacekeeping that mainly benefited the Saudis and Japanese, to “end our vast deficits by making Japan, and others who can afford it, pay” and to “reduce our taxes, and let America’s economy grow”.

How Vanity Fair laughed derisively at what is now (with China taking the place of Japan) the foreign policy of the 45th president of the United States of America, Donald J Trump: the Elvisy revenge of the 1980s.


Maria said...

There is still somewhat of an inferiority complex in Spain among the general population. It has had to play catch up after forty years of isolation, after all. Yet, in the government it is giving way to the old superiority felt by Franco over the democratic "trash" of the rest of Europe. In the Franco era, for those in charge, Spain was always better than the rest because it was morally superior. That moral superiority has never really gone away, and is showing itself now in those xenophobic comments made by so many in the PP. The rest of Spain still feels the inferiority thanks to those in power who are trying to stop history.

Why else would only those who criticize the royal house, the Church, and the government be fined and jailed? Why won't they do that to Losanto and others of his ilk? Because those who criticize the standing powers lack moral authority. To the PP, they themselves are the only ones who have the moral authority. And circumstances are making them show their belief that their morality is superior to the rest of Europe. They won't leave the EU, though, the money they would lose is too much of a deterrent.

It may not be very overt, but Spain is on a course toward the far right, and if nothing stops the PP and Ciudadanos, it will become an authoritarian state once more. It will be the western Hungary.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Since 'Se' does not (yet) exist as a personal pronoun, I must supposed that you meant to write '(s)he'....??

Ah, punctuation is an art form is it not???


Colin Davies said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Davies said...

Wrong yet again. I wrote that deliberately as a satirical comment. Too subtle for you, I wager . . .

And I would have thought that it was more spelling than punctuation.

Whatever, it seems you are lacking in and unappreciative of the art . . . .

Alfred B. Mittington said...

Hmmmm... A most subtle distinction... I would say parentheses belong to punctuation rather than spelling (which, after all, is concerned with letters...) But have it your way, by all means.

Incidentally, I don't buy your flimsy excuse that you made that mistake on purpose so as to see if your readers would 'catch' it...


Colin Davies said...

Well, I know I changed it from (s)he to s(h)e deliberately, hoping for intelligence among my readers.

And you know I don't much care whether you or anyone else believes that . . .

I'm sure I'm not to be disappointed in a wider framework than just you and me.

Or is it 'you and I'??