Just when you think Spain's bad, Italy jumps right!
Those of you not au fait with the world of interactive computer entertainment (games), probably don't have the date Tuesday April 29th 2008 burned into your brains like I do. Tomorrow sees the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, arguably the most eagerly-anticipated videogame release of all time.
The game, which is already receiving 10/10 (that's 1/1 on thebadrash.com's binary review scale) ratings everywhere, is set to be more than just another jaunt in the GTA world. It's set in Liberty City, a through-the-looking-glass version of New York City, rendered to an incredible level of 'living and breathing' detail.
As I said, the game is released tomorrow so assuming the PlayStation 3 version on sale in Spain includes the 'versión original' English, I intend to be enveloped in its pillowy embrace for the next few weeks. Baby, it's cold outside.
UPDATE: The game is now on sale in GAME shops in Spain. I've just picked my copy up. If you get one and want to play before midnight, it's probably a good idea to make sure you're disconnected from PSN or xbox Live. I've heard that some online accounts have been suspended for playing the game early.
I'm a big fan of country music. Not the real, commercial 1990s shit, but the fake and made-up 60s and 70s country produced by Gram Parsons and the Rolling Stones. So I wasn't disappointed to see that Neil Hamburger's new album, Neil Hamburger Sings Country Winners (SCW from now on) is just what the title suggests: a collection of country songs, sung by one of America's greatest comedians.
The songs range from The Recycle Bin, an expletive-ridden piece about recycling and failure (more on this later), to a new interpretation of Hamburger's popular classic, Zipper Lips. But pervading the entire album is a sense of sadness, depression and bizarrely, jubilation.
Naturally, the lyrics are very funny. In Please Ask That Clown To Stop Crying, Hamburger recounts an episode where he witnessed a children's party in a local park, ruined by a clown who, instead of entertaining the kids, slumps at the table with 'a cigarette and a shot of gin' and cries. The clown, of course, is Neil Hamburger. Meanwhile, in Jug Town, we hear of the solace a man can find in 'a jug of wine' down in Jug Town. At Least I Was Paid is a tribute to Hamburger himself, who has chosen to work as a hugely unpopular comedian sometimes paid in casino chips – but at least that's payment.
For me. the big hit on the album is Recylce Bin, a song that combines a forceful rebuke to those who put unrecyclable items in recycling bins ('You pricks, you fucking pricks') with a heartbreaking ode to the things that just can't be recylced ('Not everything goes into a recycle in: a shattered dream, a divorce? Those are just waste').
Neil Hamburger Sings Country Winners probably started its life as a joke. But the final product will immediately be rated as some of Neil Hamburder's best work. I'm obviously a fan and I think it's fair to say that his material will mainly appeal to drink-soaked, single, depressed, male fans of sick humour (which obviously excludes me: I'm married). That said, I really believe that with a bit of effort, anyone who enjoys really good comedy could learn to love Neil Hamburger. The 'Great Moments At Di Presa's Pizza House' as well as the numerous 'live' albums, along with the original 'Great Phone Calls' are all indicative of a great talent which will probably only spoil if it gets too much recognition.
Neil Hamburger Sings Country Winners – 1/1
Out now on Drag City Inc.
And here's a video of Jug Town:
Great news: that Chinese ship packed with arms and ammunition has been ordered to return home, after no port could be found to unload its cargo, apparently bound for Zimbabwe.
What started out as action by human rights groups and trade unions in Durban expanded into a tacit agreement between African states not to allow the cargo ship to unload. This is proof, for those who would normally deny it as well as we who already knew it, that trade unions and peaceful protest can achieve great things. While I don't doubt that Mugabe has ready access to plenty of guns, mortars and broken bottles, this union action has undoubtedly denied him weapons he could have used against his politcal opponents.
Oh yeah, and Barça – while not the winning side – played pretty well yesterday. They're by no means through but Manchester Utd have to beat them now to proceed to the final.
Today's Saint George's (or Sant Jordi's) day. I'm not the biggest fan of celebrating saints' days, but as George most likely didn't exist, I generally go along with this one. The fact that George is the patron saint of my former home and my adopted home makes it easy to remember.
As you may well know, there is no tradition in England for celebrating St. George, at least nothing more than having an extra pint of Stella at the Rose and Crown. Some English nationalist parties (the BNP, the English Democrats) bemoan the fact that the English celebrate numerous other festivals (St. Patrick's day, Eid) but not the day of their own patron saint. The truth is that the English seem to have lost touch with their 'national' traditions around the 18th century… which coincides with the time we started conquering new lands and discovering new cultures*.
Interestingly, I received a text message from Vodafone two days ago which suggested that 'On the national day of the UK, sign up for our My Country service and save on calls home'. Huh. At first I thought that Vodafone were talking about St. George's day, which is in no way 'the national day of the UK', though I don't doubt that the BNP would make it so. Actually, April 21st is the Queen's birthday… so maybe that's what they were getting at. Not her official birthday, mind, her real one.
In Catalonia, Sant Jordi is celebrated with a rather sweet version of the English St. Valentine's traditions. Called 'the day of the rose' and 'the day of the book', Catalan men traditionally give their sweetheart a rose, while Catalan women are supposed to give their fella a book. The tradition has now become more egalitarian (and profitable, mark you), as both genders now expect to receive a book and a rose. So those of you with Catalan girlfriends or wives: don't forget to buy them a nice cookery book, or even better a book about roses – kill two birds with one stone. You, meanwhile, should expect a manly tome on Catalan history, tax law or Barça.
Speaking of which, the footage of large, pale men beating the shit out of eachother on Les Rambles can mean only one thing: English football fans are in town again. Yes, the savages from the north are hear to support their team of nobodies 'Manchester Foot Ball United' or something. They're playing Barça in the first leg of the semi-final of the Champions' League. Given that Manchester will probably win, Catalan women should prepare themselves for a miserable supper starting at about half-past ten tonight.
*By 'discovering new cultures', I of course mean 'eradicating newly discovered cultures'.
I saw Esperanza Aguirre, PP leadership hopeful and all round liar, referring to her love for card games the other day. She plays poker, apparently. Despite the fact that my Dad was in the Navy, I've never been someone who could pick up card games. There's a wonderful scene in The League Of Gentlemen where a doctor is forced to join a card game called 'Go Johnny Go Go Go Go', the rules of which are insanely complex. The sketch must have been written by a fellow non-card-player, as it perfectly captures the feeling of trying to play one of those infernal games, always knowing that the next card you put down will be met with sideways glances and the introduction of yet another arcane 'rule' which only serves to prolong the agony of putting down another card.
There's an ancient rehearsal of the sketch at YouTube:
Go Johnny Go Go Go Go, YouTube (but the sound is rubbish, so…)
Meanwhile, Daniel Sirera, the head of the PP in Catalonia was on the morning news show today on TV3. Golly, he's uncharismatic. The interview was shit, as they usually are. The only amusing bit was when Sirera refused to rule out that he'd back Aguirre in her bid for the PP leadership. He hummed and hawed a bit, which was enough to make me think that his vote hasn't yet been bought.
The reason for a lack of updates here is simple: too much work. However, the world has carried on spinning.
The Spanish political arena is currently fairly dull. Zapatero announced a female majority cabinet, which is obviously an interesting statement. It doesn't say much about what his second government will achieve. My guess is: not a hell of a lot. Libertad Digital reckons that ETA are pushing for talks with the government by letting off bombs. Talks should happen, but probably won't, given that the PP is committed to breaking the historic pact of support for the government's terrorism policy. The struggle for power in the PP is the only story really worth following.
Good news: unionised dock workers in Durban refused to unload millions of dollars worth of Chinese weapons bound for Zimbabwe. Action by local human rights groups and trade unions prevented the delivery of arms and ammunition for Mugabe's regime from a Chinese ship. Apparently, the ship is now enroute for Mozambique. I can only hope that union workers there will also fight the 'free market' which allows China to arm Mugabe's psychotic and murderous regime. I mean, could the timing be any more obvious? This is the moral equivalent of Mussolini's assistance to Franco's rebellion.
We met up with Graeme of South of Watford fame (Madrid's best English-language blog) last night. I got a bit drunk (sorry about that) but we had a great evening, ending up in Plaça Reial, where I insulted an arsehole of a waiter.
The next few weekends will be pretty busy and work is going to be intense over the coming weeks. But I'll try to blog a bit more because I enjoy this.
There's something in me that switches off when pro-Tibet protesters hang a banner off San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge, declaring "One World, One Dream: Free Tibet". One world, one dream, eh? I mean what does that even mean? That the whole world wants Tibet to be free? That the 'one world' is united in that 'one dream'?
Photo from sfthqphotos, at Flickr
Tibet and its treatment at the hands of Chinese authoritarianism is an important issue. But 'One World, One Dream'? If the protesters had wanted to make a decent point, they'd have opposed the Oympic Games all together. 'One World, One Dream: Bread' would have moved me a lot more.
One of the bigwigs at Mediapro, who have produced Woody Allen's crap-sounding Barcelona love letter, 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' (still hate that title), has said that in Catalonia, the film will only be screened in English or dubbed into Catalan (IE, no Spanish dubbed version).
Jaume Roures, speaking [link in Catalan] on the RAC1 radio station, said that he also hoped that the film might open this year's Cannes festival.
The story has been picked up on the wires, and is generally being used for a spot of Catalan-bashing (any excuse, right?). Several papers have also fished up the 'political pressure' story from a few months back, which seems to me to be without substance.
This doesn't appear to be a decision even remotely connected with the Generalitat. In fact, it seems that Mediapro (or perhaps Roures) itself is behind the decision, and I suppose they're perfectly justified in taking it, however foolish a business idea it might be. I kind of suspect that he was either speaking out of turn or angling for nationalist-love, and that the film will also be dubbed into Spanish.
A more daring move would be to screen the film with only Spanish or Catalan subtitles, and no dubbing. The reservoirs of Catalonia will fill before that happens.
Oh yeah, for those of you hoping for lots of Scarlett and Penélope girl-on-girl action (as has been reported in less salubrious joints than thebadrash), apparently the rumours have been 'greatly exagerrated'. Tough luck. Still, you're on the Internet so I'm sure you can find something else.
I'd like to state for the record that I had nothing whatsoever to do with this.
(Softonic.com do the chiki-chiki)
The Olympic torch made a pretty pathetic tour through London today, beset at first by snow and wind, and later by numerous pro-Tibet campaigners intent on bringing their independentist protest to the fore again.
I was hoping that the torch would be fucked with at some point, because the relay is just another side of Britain's craven pursuit of China's acceptance. Because of 2012 the torch had to visit London, but at no point has the UK government spoken out about the violent crackdown taking place in what should be a free Tibet.
The most striking quote of the day for me came from the Chinese Olympic Committee representative, who said something along the lines of "It's sad that people have to hijack the Olympics as a legitimate space for protest". He went on to explain that while protest should be allowed (yeah, right!), the Olympics are a sporting event, not a political one.
Sorry but that just doesn't wash. If there is any 'non-political' event as political as the Olympic Games, I'd like to know. I'm sick of committee organisers, politicians and police 'advising' on the best way to protest. Their suggestions inevitably involve meeting in some park, well away from TV cameras. Yeah, perhaps we could just do it in a labour camp. Actually, the torch relay is about the most suitable target for protest that I can think about at the moment.
Despite all the talk about Islamist terrorism, I'm still convinced that the number one threat that worries governments everywhere is organisation of labour and mass protest. We should continue our protests, illegal if need be, so that governments can't sit pretty and pretend there is no opposition.
Yes, it has been sunny. I've been studiously ignoring the news here too. The only thing really worrying me is the current water crisis, which has us on a hosepipe ban already, even though we're at the beginning of April.
Our great friends Mary and Ben came to visit, which gave us the opportunity to visit the Castell de Remei winery in Lleida province. It has a pretty good restaurant and my wild boar cooked in the local wine was absolutely delicious. We also picked up a few bottles of 'Gotim Bru' (about €6) as well as the delicious '1780'.
The next day, we took a stroll in the Collserolla park, which is just a ten minute walk from our front door. Not as wild as the Prepirineu but pleasant all the same.
We've also been lucky enough to really start enjoying our terrace, which at this time of year becomes an additional kitchen, dining room and salon, and gives us a bit more room to stretch out (the interior of the flat is only 50m2).