It seems that after the summer's movie project, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (which our good friend Tuixent worked on), Woody Allen will not be returning to film again here. The head of media firm, Mediapro, who handled the production, has said that Allen won't be filming in Spain or Catalonia again. He cited some political pressure and questions over grants of public money which the production received. Though I'm finding it hard to find any evidence of political pressure, I have found several quotes from local filmmakers and producers complaining about Allen and Mediapro receiving grants from the Ajuntament and the Generalitat.
And I can sympathise with those filmmakers. It must be pretty galling to see a (very wealthy) foreigner come in and snaffle up cultural funding to which you might feel more entitled. I imagine that this is rationalised by the authorities because the film (despite its atrociously bad title) would obviously be a massive advertisement for Barcelona, potentially worth far more than €1.5 million. But if grants are to be offered to cultural development (and I think they should be), there should perhaps be a way of preventing wealthy directors from New York getting their mits on them. At the same time, Tuixent and plenty of other young residents of Barcelona were employed for the summer and have gained vital experience which will no doubt help their careers in film production.
In the end, I think it's something of a shame that Woody Allen won't be filming in Barcelona again. But he hasn't made a decent film for ages, so perhaps it's not the end of the world. I'm still trying to work out what this alleged political pressure was. I suspect it's an invention of the media (plenty of which, let's remember, is owned by Mediapro), determined to pin something on Catalan political parties.
The good news is that John Howard's Liberal-National coalition looks likely to lose this weekend's general election in Australia. They're trailing Labor by up to 14 points, so a thrashing seems to be on the cards. Hooray!
The bad news is that Howard's Liberals have been up to their old tricks again. And by 'old tricks', I naturally mean 'dirty tricks'. Campaign staff in Sydney have been caught distributing false electoral material in an attempt to smear the Labor party. The leaflets, distributed in the Lindsay district of the city, purported to come from an invented Islamic organisation in alliance with the Labor party. They claimed that Labor was ready to forgive the perpetrators of the Bali bombing which killed more than 200 people, including 88 Australians (and which, justifiably, is seen in Australia as effectively a direct attack on Australia itself).
As anyone with a passing interest in Australian politics will know, this is not the first time that Howard's party have been caught red-handed. For me, the most atrocious incident brings together issues like race and manipulation and speaks volumes about the sort of man Howard is. I'm speaking, of course, of the notorious 'Children Overboard Affair' in which Howard and his ministers lied about illegal immigrants threatening their own children's lives by throwing them into the sea after being intercepted by a Royal Australian Navy vessel.
The aim was to make Howard look 'tough' on immigration. Indeed, Howard himself uttered the words "I don't want people like that in Australia", even though it has since been proven that he knew that no asylum seekers had thrown their children recklessly into the sea. What a disgraceful man.
He won the election that year. In a few days, though, he'll be out of office. So that's Aznar, Blair and Howard out. One more to go!
An interesting story has been bubbling away for several months. Antoní Fernández Teixidó, a CiU member of the Catalan Parliament, failed to turn up at court the other day for a hearing into his links with Malchas Tetruashvili, an alleged Georgian mafia boss. Apparently, during an anti-mafia operation, police found a letter from Teixidó, written on official notepaper, thanking the Georgian for dinner. The mafia guy could then take that note and show people how well connected he was. It's an old trick, but a pretty stupid one as most people don't write a note on official notepaper to say thanks for dinner. It makes you look a bit odd. Hopefully more details on the case will emerge soon.
My favourite bit so far is some of the information surrounding Teixidó's failure to turn up at court. Officials said that he must have known about the case because they'd sent him a telegram. A telegram! One wonders why they didn't send the pigeons like normal.
By the way: you may have noticed some strange characters and symbols cropping up in my posts. There's some sort of problem with my character encoding settings which I don't currently have time to look into.
And no, this isn't the way I proposed to my dear wife.
Apparently, a woman who said "No" to her ex-boyfriend's proposal live on El Diario De Patricia was stabbed in the neck five days later.? Svetlana Orlova, who died in hospital on Monday, had already suffered violence at the hands of? Ricardo Antonio Navaro and didn't know that he would be joining her on the TV show. The programme makers have said that they were completely unaware of Navaro's history of domestic violence for which he had already been given a suspended prison sentence (and a restraining order to keep him away from Orlova). "You're everything. Everything. Forever", he told her.
It looks likely that the humiliation of a public rebuttal pushed this nasty man over the edge and that five days later, he stabbed the woman he professed to love. What a sad story. Domestic violence against women still appears to be a major problem in this country: 63 women have been killed so far this year.
Apparently, every single child in Britain had their data lost on two password-protected (but not encrypted) CD-ROMs which were sent to the National Accounting Office but never turned up. After the Northern Rock incident, Alistair Darling should now resign. He probably won't yet, but I bet he'll be gone soon.
The Tories have suggested that this is proof enough that the National ID Card project is a risk to far, and dead in the water. They're probably right about that too.
I don't have much of a problem with the term 'Cataloony'. But it does seem to be something of a handy shortcut past debating an issue which concerns a large minority of people here. John at Iberian Notes, 'expat wanker' according to a fan, loves using 'Cataloony' to describe any Catalan who dislikes the king of Spain or wants more independence for Catalonia. Statistically, some of those people probably are lunatics, so he probably scores a couple of hits with his scattershot.
The problem is, if I use the terms 'dumb Yanks' or 'stupid Americans'* to describe American citizens who still support Georgey boy and his gang of no-good rats, then I'm being anti-American. Moi? But calling Catalan nationalists 'loonies' ain't the same thing. See, I get more than a little whiff of hypocrisy from this. So my proposition is simple: either quit using the 'Cataloonies' tag or quit whining when someone has the temerity to insult one of your stupid countrymen (like your stupid president). Name calling is just as clever/silly, whatever side you're on. It's exactly the same thing and you can't have it both ways.
Personally, as someone who believes in freedom of expression, I reckon that John should be able to call Catalan nationalists whatever he likes.
*sorry, these names don't quite have the same ring to them as Cataloonies. I'm not a very experienced name caller. It's a short cut to thinking, really, isn't it?
Yesterday, after watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (0/1) and Turistas (1/1) we flicked over to More 4 to watch a documentary which was first broadcast in July this year. It concerned Lamb and Lynx Gaede, the teenaged twins who comprise Prussian Blue, a Nazi pop band. I'd heard of Prussian Blue before, probably through the Popbitch message-board, but had never really given them much thought. The documentary offered some insight into these Nazi pop twins and the way they were manipulated and pushed around by their scary mother, April. The twins, aged around 14 or 15 in the film, were clearly? trying to distance themselves somewhat from the White Pride / National Vanguard movements.
The film was naturally full of unpleasant views , mostly espoused by the awful April and her equally unpleasant father. At onepoint, during a small argument about signing CDs for members of the White Pride movement, April could be heard saying to one of her daughters that she should help out for a bit and that "Then you can be as much of a cunt as you like for the rest of the evening". I hope that Lynx and Lamb find the strength to make the break with the atrocious philosophy forced on them by their mother. She's one of those annoying people, incidentally, who doesn't understand language or logic: the thought that she could define racism and that what she promoted wasn't racism because she didn't call it that. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
Anyway, the documentary is well worth watching. It should be noted that such families are extremely rare in the USA… failure to remember this would be thoroughly anti-American.The reason they don't make many documentaries about all the other, normal families is that they probably wouldn't be as interesting as a film about some Nazi Pop Twins.
LITTLEJOHN: But you haven't read the book in its totality and you have to read the book in its totality.
LITTLEJOHN: In order to understand it.
SELF: Does it turn into Tolstoy at page 205?
LITTLEJOHN: No it doesn't turn into Tolstoy. I don't set out to be Tolstoy. It is a much more complex book than that.
SELF: Than Tolstoy?
OK, so it's from a few years back, but I still find this 'clash' between pernicious right-wing cock, Dick Littlejohn, and actual writer, Will Self, makes for genuinely uplifting reading. Littlejohn is so markedly out of his depth when met with a truly intelligent man that he looks utterly absurd.
Also, have a look at the reviews for his books on Amazon. Some of them (particularly the one comparing Dick to Plato) are more than a little tongue-in-cheek.
…Yet another example of what really happens when the market is left to regulate itself. This disaster, caused by risky mortgage sales in the US, will end up being sorted out by British taxpayers. And if they're going to pay the bill, they should own the bank.
It's lucky that Saudi Arabia is such a close ally or otherwise we'd have to invade them on moral grounds.
The Metropolitan Police was recently found guilty on health and safety charges after the unlawful killing of Jean Charles de Menezes. This would be a welcome verdict if it had sent to jail those responsible for killing an innocent man. But I'm not surprised: the Met has a record for getting away scot free after killing innocent men. That such a high-profile police killing should end up being investigated by just the Health & Safety Executive says a lot about the current state of governance in England.
I've written before about Azelle Rodney, the innocent man shot dead by the Met in 2005. But sadly, the campaign to restore his name seems to have foundered. Azelle is now forgotten by pretty much everyone but his family. No protest marches for him anymore. But his family are still fighting for his name. A release of 'secret' intelligence could finally allow an inquest in to his death to take place.
Ian Blair was Met Commissioner when Azelle was shot, too. What will it take to make this man resign?
The other day, a young left-wing activist was stabbed to death during a brawl in a Madrid metro train, by a neo-Nazi. The neo-Nazi, a soldier named Josué Estébanez de la Hija, yesterday explained why he had stabbed young 'Carlos Javier P.' with a 25cm knife. Apparently, he got scared after the left-wingers who were accosting Josué and his neo-Nazi pals chanted that they were 'neo-Nazis'. After this terrifying provocation, Josué stabbed the 16 year-old in the heart. Apparently, Josué hasn't alleged that any of the anti-fascists attacked him first, just that he got scared and lashed out (he injured a couple of others, as well as stabbing the 16 year-old in the heart with his 25cm blade).
Now it strikes me that an open far-right activist, on his way to attend a far-right demonstration, should probably have considered that he might get shouted at for being… well, what he is.
Of course, the story is nonsense but tragic. Carlos was, apparently, unarmed. Several political demonstrations have been stopped from taking place since the murder ocurred. But fear not! The Falange will be allowed to make their (now potentially illegal) march from Madrid to el Valle de los Caídos. Great news for fascist-fans.
As you have probably seen, Hugo Chavez was told to shut up the other day by king Juan Carlos during an international conference. Chavez was boorish as usual, using flamboyant insults to lambaste former Spanish president Aznar as a 'fascist' (not strictly correct – Aznar was a falangist, which isn't quite the same thing). When current president Zapatero stepped in to say 'Steady on, old boy', Chavez wouldn't stop interrupting him, despite his microphone being turned off. At this point, Juan Carlos did his bit for international diplomacy by saying "Why don't you just shut up?".
The general feeling in the media is that most Spaniards are pretty happy about their king taking Chavez down a peg, but the people I've spoken with don't sound quite so pleased. Chavez was being a complete prick, as usual, but JC didn't make himself look much more civilised by telling him to shut up, and then storming out of the conference. A friend said to me "He shouldn't have said that… that's not how you talk to people at these sorts of events". And I agree. The king, for all the short term 'macho' points he might have earned, didn't do much to make Spain look like the modern, civilised democracy we know it to be. He may also have piled some more risk onto Spain's relations with Latin America, which could affect trade and the economy. No, it was an unhelpful flare of temper and not much more.
One man did make Spain look good, and that was Zapatero. In the coverage on the UK's Channel 4 News, ZP was praised for his composure and diplomacy. Oh, and apparently, our cousin Mariano Rajoy telephoned the king to thank him for sticking up for Aznar… but failed to call Zapatero to thank him. What a petty, poisonous little man Rajoy is. He's almost worse than Aznar.