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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Guirilandia 2005-2008

I have taken a break from blogging and now I am back under a new name: Unnatural Habitat. This blog will encompass a much wider range of interests, though from time to time I will mention a thing or two about Barcelona.

Hope to see you there. Adios.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Raptor Con in Action

"Distraction" and "snatch"

Making off with the "goods"

"Vacay plans goes blooey"

Larry Kovaks revealed this dastardly technique in last February's crime report, Variations of the Gypmeister Raptor Con.

Also, check out his latest ultra-violent report, Small Time Crooks.

Photos from elPeriodico.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Everything you always wanted to know about Gypmeisters, JDLRs and transvestite distraction artists (but were afraid to ask)

Larry Kovaks – Barcelona’s premier guiri detective – has posted two riveting new cases of dastardly deception.

Variations of the Gypmeister Raptor Con

The Cloaking Con

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kovaks baby, Kovaks

Anyone who thought they could hold Kovaks down has got another thing coming - make that two. Kovaks has been absent for four months now. I was looking for him in the scummiest dive bars, in all the tapas joints I know he hangs in, I even emailed him - and nothing. But finally this morning he got back to me. Apparently he went “deep cover” for a case he was working on. I don’t know what that means, but I sure am glad he’s here again.

He just published two cases on his blog. One is the second part of The Danger of the Perfect Brunette, and the other is an all new case called The Upskirt Con.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

M. L. Estefanía in The New Entertainer

My article about Spain's most prolific author, Marcial Lafuente Estefanía, has been published by The New Entertainer, a newspaper published in Almeria, Spain (check out their website here).

Lenox, the editor, contacted me via email to see if he could publish this article, which was originally published on this blog. Of course I said yes, and I just got the paper a few days ago with my blog article printed in it – as a feature.

A lot of people think blogs and blogging are a waste of time. Well, for anyone that writes, here’s proof that it isn’t. Almost all of my writing gigs have come about as a result of Guirilandia. Who would have thought?

You can read my article on Estefanía on this blog, or download the pdf version here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Si a todo



“Si a todo” means, as you all know, “Yes to everything”. This video of Salvador Dali on the 1950s game show What's My Line? is great because of all the people they could have picked, they picked the one who could literally say “yes” to everything! A classic bit of subversion a la Daliniana.

§

Of course, the title of this post is ironic, because if you say “si a todo” to anyone in Spain they will probably start giggling. This is because in newspapers like La Vanguardia and El Periodico there are daily hundreds of classified ads for “erotic services” which use the term “si a todo”. These range from “massage” services to something called “relax”. The term “relax” means to engage in or solicit erotic services. By cleverly adopting an English word that doesn’t mean anything remotely close to “engaging in or soliciting erotic services”, the Spanish have dressed up licentious behaviour in the garb of European sophistication. Anglicize any word in non-English-speaking European countries and instantly you have sophistication. It’s like an American utilizing non-English terms. I myself am guilty of it a veces. It tricks your conversation partner into thinking you are much more profound than you really are, and impresses school children, blockheads and intellectuals.

So, instead of saying “Voy de putas” or “I go to the whores” a Spanish gent can say something like “I’m going to relax”. Pretty clever! Anyway, what I was getting at is that “si a todo” is the headline or selling point of all these ads. “Todo” – or “everything” – is a huge concept, but within this context I’ll leave the rest up to your filthy imagination. “Si todo” is the motto of every good libertine, or temp worker.

I bet Bill Gates didn’t realize this when he was developing the Spanish version of Windows, because every time you move files to another folder destination and the files already exist there, a prompt will ask you if you would like to replace that file. You can choose “si”, or you can choose “si as todo” to save time. Or so you thought!

In Spanish, unfortunately, you may be saying “si a todo” on a daily basis without even knowing what you are saying. Saying “yes” to everything in English is not a big deal, in fact it is quite common amongst Republican party hacks and street vendors in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

It’s easy to wrap this post up. So if you’re ever in Spain and you meet a guy who says, “Man, I’m going to relax”, or if they have the bad habit of saying “si” to everything, just watch out, or at least carry a jimmy hat.

I hope this was an edifying experience.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Those dirty cebolletas



I know, it’s been a long time since my last post. I planned on retiring Guirilandia, but I couldn’t resist posting this video documentation of that disgraceful phenomenon called Rubbing the Little Onion, which I wrote about many months ago. Even Larry Kovaks is concerned. He might investigate.

Previously: Rubbing the Little Onion

***

Forgive me if this video has been blogged about before. I haven’t looked at any blogs for the last two months.

***

FYI, I will be blogging at my new domain unnaturalhabitat.com in the near future. I’m jumping into the world of open source code and it’s going to take me a while to get this thing ready for the public. Until then, I might post something every once in a while on Guirilandia. The truth is, I am sick of guiris and Barcelona in general. The idea behind starting Unnatural Habitat is to have a larger concept to play around with.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Barcelona in 1975 – Antonioni’s The Passenger

Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger - unimaginatively titled El Reportero in Spanish - is playing at Cinemes Meliès, Barcelona’s art house cinema. I just watched it yesterday and it is too fresh in my mind to properly critique. BUT, check it out if you can. Tomorrow is the last day it's showing at the cinema.

Antonioni, I admit, has put me to sleep a couple of times, but The Passenger is truly a gem of a movie. Starring Jack Nicholson and featuring the artistry of Michelangelo Antonioni, this movie had me marveling the whole way through. From the deserts of northern
Africa, to Munich, to the south of Spain, this is an existential movie par excellence, perfectly playing on the theme of rootlessness and identity. Jack Nicholson is a disillusioned reporter who decides to switch identities with a dead man. But, the new identity brings with it some serious baggage, and this leads to danger and romance and a fantastic conclusion in the remote and dusty regions of Almeria Spain. My only complaint would be the acting of the female lead, Maria Schneider. She needed a little chispa – or spark – as they say here in Spain. Nicholson, however, is awesome as always.

A pleasant surprise for me was a twenty minute segment in Barcelona. The year is 1975 – that’s when old Francisco Franco kicked the bucket in case you didn’t know – and this is one of the best depictions of Barcelona I have seen on film. Of course there’s the Ramblas, the obligatory Gaudi architecture, Park Ciutadella ... but the great pre-EasyJet Barcelona is very palpable*.

The trailer doesn’t do the movie justice, but just check out this amazing shot from near the end of the movie (in Almeria Spain).


Cinemes Melies is a great – though slightly rundown – original version art house cinema in Barcelona. It’s also cheap at 4 euros a ticket.

_

* One hilarious thing is that Spaniards are constantly arguing in Antonioni’s Spain. It’s definitely a Spanish quirk that I’ve noticed, and for an Italian to depict Spaniards as loud-mouthed arguers is quite something!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Vacation is over

Two recent movies that feed into the guiri phenomenon, this time from the point of view of xenophobic Americans.

HOSTEL

Synopsis:
3 backpackers are in Amsterdam where they get locked out of their youth hostel. They are invited into a man's house where he tells them of a hostel somewhere in eastern Europe where the women are all incredibly hot and have a taste for American men. When they get there, everything is too good to be true - the hostel is "to die for" Written by CROESKE (on IMdb)
TURISTAS

Synopsis:

John Stockwell's thriller Turistas begins when vacationers end up stranded in a little Brazilian village after a bus accident wipes out their transportation. Although many in the group are experienced when it comes to unusual travel destinations, none of them are able to get a handle on this strange village. They soon come to realize that they are stranded somewhere with something much more dangerous than they could have imagined. Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, and Olivia Wilde co-star. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

The best parts of the trailer are the intertitles:

THE ONLY THING WORSE
THAN NOT KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE
IS NOT KNOWING
IF YOU WILL SURVIVE

Monday, July 09, 2007

Guirilandia goes abroad

An aptly named tapas bar across the big puddle is seeking help:
Assistant Manager for Spanish Wine & Tapas Bar (Greenwich Village

Seeking assistant manager passionate about Spanish wine, food, and culture for a small family owned tapas bar located in the heart of the village. We are looking for someone who is hard-working, committed, enthusiastic, honest, and always profesional.
Wednesday, July 11th 4-5PM
Thursday, July 12th 2-3PM

Las Ramblas
170 W. 4th St. (Bet. 6th & 7th Aves.)NYC
There, you can be sure, the beers will be extra large.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Woody never did this

Sitting in Café Principal, watching the freak scene of Muntaner boy toys, micro skirts, computer geeks and Japanese guiris circling the block. Two Moritz, two Ambars, the afternoon winds into early evening and it’s hot and humid. Bochorno they call it, that sweltering summer heat, which never is that intolerable in Barcelona despite what some people say. It just makes folk slightly more violent and horny than usual. These five thick-wristed Dutch guys with scuffed work boots and matching black t-shirts sit at the table next to me. They all look the same with short cropped blond hair, chinos cut off right above the knee and military cargo shorts, dirty fingernails, and each with rolling tobacco on the table in front of him. They can’t speak a word of Spanish, and I’m amused at the little key phrases they have memorized. Of course, “Un cerveza, por favor” is one of them, then there’s “Un café americano, por favor”, or even better, “Un café negro, por favor” – which doesn’t go over too well with the Dominican waiter, but he’s used to the gaggle of guiris and freaks which take up temporary residence on the outside terrace. Suddenly, one guy hops by on one foot at incredible velocity; hops down the sidewalk and disappears behind the crowds of tourists out searching for authentic Barcelona and the locals buying 40 inch LCD televisions on credit (so they can spend their vacations at home during the month of August watching HD movies about the exotic lands and hot sex they will not have the chance to see or get). The Dutch guys are laughing so hard about the random hopping fellow that I start laughing too, signaling to them some kind of depraved alcoholic complicity. One of them turns to me and asks, “Perdone, sabes donde esta la casa putas, por favor?” Ah the bochorno! The gaggle of guiris, the city center. Oh how I can tell the summer is on. Those mythical euro-bringing-golden-egg-laying tourists will saturate puticlubs and chiringuitos, they will wander with their backpacks on reverse, maps in hand, I will sit back and enjoy it all – the cycle repeats.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

An Indian guiri in Italy


Indian is Indian, and Italian is Italian, and never the twain shall meet. That is, unless you happen to be dark-skinned and strolling through the streets of Italy – and are wearing more than a loin cloth. Indian-Canadian comedian Russell Peters talks about being a guiri in Italy, and how people assumed he was Italian because of his skin color and “western” sartorial style. I totally relate to him. I’m often mistaken for Mexican - or even Spanish or Moroccan - and when I tell people I’m American with Eurasian ancestry, they are always amazed. But Americans are supposed to be blonde and fat! Blonde and fat like the beer we swill when we are unleashed on the streets of Barcelona!

A funny story: a couple years ago I was on my way to the market in my old neighborhood of Sant Pere and coming down the street was this Moroccan guy. I had heartburn that day, and as we were about to pass each other I tapped my chest with my right hand. It was just a natural reaction to the pain in my chest. But the Moroccan guy, seeing me do this, also tapped his chest and said, “Salam Alaikum”. I looked behind me to see if there was anyone else there, but it was just me. Me and my heartburn. I said “Salam Alaikum” back to him and walked on down to the market.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

You can't win

The video below depicts Barcelona's variation of the shell game scam on the Ramblas. Although filmed on a cell phone, you can still see how the trilero* and his shills lure the tourists in:



From the video poster's own commentary:
I was tricked euro$100 [sic], and decided to video them 4 days later. I had seen some tourist even loss euro$300 per bet!
Larry Kovaks handled these guys a while back in THE AMERICAN TOURIST CON. The shills dress as tourists do, in order to lure the real tourists in. And of course you can't win. Why? Here's the explanation:



Here's a video of a professional doing another variation of this con, with cards. It's in Spanish, but even so, just watch the cards. He's good.


_

*trilero - Spanish for conman or thief, most often applied to three card monte and shell game con artists. The Spanish gent in the last video puts it best: "A trilero is he who confuses you in order to take your money."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rubbing the little onion

I really didn’t want to post about yet another form of deviant sexual behavior - after the motorized bed dude and the most unfortunate drive-by wank inicident I witnessed the other day - but I really think I am on to something. With the arrival of these torrid summer months, lusty, uninhibited behavior is becoming more and more a topic of relevant interest. Whether you like it or not, whether your mom or your dad think it is taboo or unworthy of “proper” conversational topic, something, yes something, is in the air. So fuck it, here’s another bit of titillating trivia from the annals of Guirilandia. We can call it rubbing the little onion, or, in Spanish argot, frotando la cebolleta. This is a real term, used by Spanish folk, for describing a common form of deviant sexual behavior.

No, rubbing the little onion is not a vanguarista cooking technique (with all due respect, maestro Adria). It is a form of frotteurism, which is a technique that viejos verdes - literally green men, in Anglo-American parlance dirty old men - use to garner fifteen or so seconds of glory with young and normally indifferent women. It happens on crowded buses or subways, and the frotador’s technique is to move close to a young woman and discreetly rub his groin area on her person. The frotador does this in a casual way, while looking distractedly in another direction. The young woman usually doesn’t say anything because a) she’s not sure if the heavily breathing man next to her is really doing what she’d rather not even think about, and b) she doesn’t want to make a scene, thereby attracting attention to the most disgraceful event of which she is unwillingly a part of. The frotador stalks, in serial fashion, the bus lines and subway labyrinths, in search of potential victims for his unwanted advances. Basically, they’re pervs who’ll do anything to get close to a young woman, even if it’s just a fleeting caress of their crotch area.

Frotar mean to rub, and cebolleta, according to the La Rousse’s Gran Diccionario del Argot, is slang for penis. Now, cebolleta – and I don’t have an expert on hand to corroborate this – most likely comes from cebolla, which means onion. By adding the suffix eta, you are basically a saying little onion. How that came to mean penis I don’t know. This could very likely be a conspiracy by frotteurism adepts in Spain to euphonize their disgraceful habit. Because, in all honesty, rubbing the little onion doesn’t sound like a very offensive thing at all. Previously, if someone had told me they were going to rub little onions, I would have thought they were a little strange, but never one of those sneaky individuals serially rubbing themselves on strangers. Thank you Miguel at work for confirming the usage of this Spanish phrase. Ah, frotando la cebolleta! What grand schemes I have for today!

I’m not making this up, and I’m sure many women can confirm similar experiences. Furthermore, El Periodico ran an article today about the arrest of a serial onion rubber.

Okay, I’m going to try to aim for “high seriousness” in my next posts. Seriously. Ciao.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Oh, these febrile summer days

8:45 AM in the Eixample, corner of Provença and Aribau. Guy driving slowly in his white VW Golf, pulling up next to a young woman who is dressed like a school teacher in a jersey dress, carrying a large handbag. They exchange a few brisk words. This is about a block away, so I can’t hear what they’re saying. Suddenly she covers her face, as if she just saw something highly repugnant, and yells, in an English accent:

“NO! I don’t know!”

VW Golf guy says something that is inaudible to me. The woman strides forward, with the bounce and conviction of a runway model.

“I said NO! Leave me ALONE!”

The guy says something else. Now the woman is really powerwalking. The guy is still cruising beside her. She screams:

“I SAID NO!!!!”

Traffic surges forward. VW Guy gives up on the woman and accelerates. He reaches my corner of the street, from where I have been watching the whole thing. He takes the curve, and as he’s doing this I make the mistake of looking into the open driver’s side window. The dude’s red willy is sticking out of his open fly.

According to my girlfriend - who has had many unfortunate wanker encounters in Barcelona - the drive-by wank technique is common. They pull up, casually ask for directions and begin wanking.

Of course it’s not just a Barcelona thing. About fifteen years ago, on a beach in San Diego, I was with some friends and we caught a guy furtively fiddling behind a rock. I wish I could say we showered him in rocks and insults, but we were too disgusted and ashamed of the situation to do anything about it. One time, when I was valet parking at a department store in San Francisco, I had to escort several of the shopgirls to their cars because a vagrant was wanking in the alleyway. I remember these days were hot, like today.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Larry Kovaks vs. the Macho Ibérico

Or at least that's what it looks like.

My friend Larry Kovaks is back. The summer months and the heat are bringing the "virulent criminal underbelly" out of the woodwork, and Kovaks is back in action.

Read part 1 of The Danger of the Perfect Brunette. A tale of violencia domestica, English teachers and blackmail. There's an awful lot to unravel here. Let's wish him luck, and hope when he's done with this case he'll get back to solving the petty theft crimes he seems to know so much about.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

No se fia

No se fia, do not trust

Friday, June 08, 2007

3 jokes about Catalans, and my reflections on very large cunts

My translations of some jokes someone* sent to me:

A poor employee goes to the office of his Catalan boss and says to him:
- Excuse me, manager sir, but it’s been six months since I’ve been paid …
- You’re excused, Garcia.

Un pobre empleado se acerca a la oficina de su jefe catalán y le dice:
- Disculpe, señor gerente, pero hace seis meses que no cobro ...
- Está disculpado, García.

A Catalan who is tearing off the wallpaper of house is paid a visit by a friend:
- What, are you redecorating the house?
- No, I’m moving.

Un catalán que esta arrancando el papel pintado de su casa es visitado por un amigo:
- ¿Qué, redecorando la casa?
- No, de mudanza.

A Catalan on his deathbed whispers:
- Montse, Montserrat … Where are you, dear wife?
- Here I am, my husband … next to you.
- And my son Josep … where is he?
- Here I am, father … next to you.
- And my daughter Mercè ... where is she?
- Here I am, father … next to you.
- And my son Jaume … where is he?
- Here I am, father … next to you.
- Well then … why the fuck** is the light in the kitchen on?

Un catalán en su lecho de muerte susurra:
- Montse, Montserrat... ¿Dónde estás, esposa querida?
- Aquí estoy, esposo mío..., a tu lado.
- Y mi hijo Josep..., ¿dónde está?
- Aquí estoy, padre..., a su lado.
- Y mi hija Mercè..., ¿dónde está?
- Aquí estoy, padre..., a su lado.
- Y mi hijo Jaume..., ¿dónde está?
- Aquí estoy, padre..., a su lado.
- Y entonces... ¿Qué coño hace la luz de la cocina encendida?

_

* Before the angry emails start, it should be noted this was a Catalan someone

** I translated “qué coño” as “why the fuck”, but coño literally means cunt, and it’s used in everyday conversations, like “¡Que coñazo de dia!” which would translate to “What a fucking day!”. By adding the “zo” to the end of the word you are literally saying “very large cunt”, or “very big cunt”. “A very big cunt of a day” just sounds silly in English, so that’s probably why we would say “What a fucking day”, simply because it is more practical.

Palabrotas, or cuss words, are used on the radio and television in Spain all the time. Initially I was surprised, coming from the land of The Seven Dirty Words. I would translate everything literally, but soon I realized words like coño are merely expressions used to spice mundane sentences, like we do with fuck, only the Spanish don’t get hung up on the literal meaning of the word, like we do in the States sometimes.

This is something else I overheard recently: “¡¡¡El coño de tu madre!!! !Vete a chuparla al monte!” This actually means “Leave me alone and go do something else”, and not something about so ans so's mother's cunt and the sucking off of a mountain villager.

Basically, if you are a literal-minded person you will go mad if you live in Spain.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Cerveseria DNI

DNI means Identification Card

“Hey, what the fuck should I call the bar?”

“Coño, I don’t know. Lo que le sale de los putos cojones.

“I know. Why don’t I call it Bar Identification Card?”

“Yeah! That’s a great idea. I’d go there!"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Schopenhauer was right

The most fundamental impulse is the sexual impulse, and if anyone doubts this I direct them to the case of Antonio Navarro*, arrested for driving his motorized bed “at a considerable velocity” on a highway in Galicia. This 42 year-old man, who is tetraplegic, told police after being arrested that he was on his way to a brothel. With his body 95% paralyzed, the only way he can operate the bed is by moving a joystick with his mouth. You can only imagine the bizarre spectacle of this guy cruising down a highway on a motorized bed, and, furthermore, what he planned on doing once he got to the brothel.

Anyway, I remembered this story when I re-read this passage from the great Arthur Schopenhauer:

The sexual impulse is proved to be the decided and strongest affirmation of life by the fact that for man in the natural state, as for the animal, it is his life’s final end and the highest goal. Self preservation and maintenance are his first aim, and as soon as he has provided for that, he aims only at the propagation of the race; as a merely natural being, he cannot aspire to anything more. Nature too, the inner being of which is the will-to-live itself, with all her force impels both man and the animal to propagate. After this she has attained her end with the individual, and is quite indifferent to its destruction; for, as the will-to-live, she is concerned only with the preservation of the species; the individual is nothing to her.

From the World as will and Representation, book I

In all seriousness I think Antonio Navarro is the apotheosis of mankind’s most fundamental impulse – the will to propagate. Antonio doesn’t dress up his intentions in pretty euphemisms or claims to a “higher calling”. In the end, you have to admire his tenacity and sincerity. Respect.

_

* For some reason the author of the article cites that Antonio was a gypsy (“This resident of the CAMF [a residency for handicapped people], originally from Valencia and of the gypsy ethnicity”). This is about as relevant to the article as saying that his blanket was made of 100% cotton. Of course, the article is implying that only someone of the dastardly “gypsy ethnicity” would drive a motorized bed to a brothel. I should direct the author of this article to the three block radius around my apartment in the Eixample, in which she will find at least three popular brothels. The Eixample is a middle class Catalan neighborhood and I can tell you the clientele drifting in and out of the brothels look more like "white", upper-middle class lawyer types than people of the “gypsy ethnicity”. You certainly don’t see dudes driving motorized beds to brothels around here, and, even if you did, those motorized beds wouldn't necessarily be owned and operated by someone of the “gypsy ethnicity”. I mean, who are we kidding? I’m amazed, sometimes, at the total lack of rigor in reporting.

(the picture is really Antonio, by the way. It was taken from this article in L'Absurd Diari. More information can be found here.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Marcial Lafuente Estefania

There was a time, not very long ago, when a little book stuck out from the porter’s lodge of a building, the glove compartment of a taxi or the pocket of a worker’s overalls, not a music player or a portable console …

From 'El mejor escritor del Oeste era español' in El Mundo

The other day I walked into a secondhand bookstore in the center and asked the owner if he had any copies of M.L. Estefania books, and he snorted in what only can be described as disgust. My request was so unworthy of his highbrow bookshop that he didn’t even answer me with a monosyllabic “yes” or “no”. Shelves upon shelves of fusty, crease-marked books, stretching to the back and up beyond my reach, and not one copy of M.L. Estefania! Second hand copies of tawdry romance novels, manifestos, historical tomes, garish Franco-era magazines, and not one copy M.L. Estefania, the man singularly responsible for 3,000 western novels, who continues to produce even after his death (with his son now writing under his name). 3,000 novels and counting after a 64-year legacy, and where was his work, in this tomb of resurrected books?

The Last Tequila

Marcial Lafuente Estefania was the son of a Spanish journalist and writer. In his youth he studied industrial engineering, and in the 1920s he visited the United States for work-related reasons. In the 1930s his work was interrupted by the outbreak of the Spanish civil war, in which he fought as a republican general. With the defeat of the republic he had the opportunity to escape, but he chose to stay in Spain, and it was the during his time in prison that he began to write on pieces of scrap paper. When he was released from prison he began publishing crime and romance fiction for a small editorial, but it wasn’t until 1943 that he published his first western, La Mascota de la Pradera, or The Pet of the Prairie. With this publication he became known for the “Estefania style” and as a skilled writer of the western genre, and this brought him a modest but important following. He dedicated the rest of his life to writing western novels.

Human Reptiles

He began publishing with the Bruguera Editorial (alongside writers like Francisco Ibáñez, of Mortadelo and Filemón fame). At a breakneck pace of one novel per week he continued turning out westerns – based partly on his experiences in the United States and on re-formulated plots taken from classic Spanish literature – until 1958, when his sons also began writing under the M.L. Estefania pseudonym. But, first they had to master Estefania’s style, which consisted of, “sentences full of challenges … of easy triggers, Colts and Winchesters shot at point blank, women of easy virtue and quarrelsome people that provoke the sheriff”. When they first started writing with their father they tried using more description – in contrast to Estefania’s trademark spare style – and people noticed. “That’s not Estefania,” they said, and his sons quickly had to adapt their style: less fluffiness, less elaborate descriptions and more action! 64 years later, with over 3,000 titles published, the Estefania legend continues.

The Madness of Betty

Almost all the books I’ve seen by Estefania are exactly 96 pages long, with barebones, action-packed and dialog-driven stories. One thing I’ve noticed is you can’t read them and look for deep meaning (if you do that, you will be extremely frustrated). Some of the stories are totally ridiculous, and lots of the time the plot will be shoehorned into a classic storyline and things will happen without any sort of explanation. What I look for when I read his stories are archetypes and style. The classic characters are all here, the fringe element, the frontiersmen, men of fortune and adventure, the noble and the wicked, the women of easy virtue, the conmen, gamblers and the righteous … It’s the romantic vision of the American wild west, through a European’s eyes. Interestingly enough, during Estefania’s publishing heyday in the 1960s, the best Spaghetti Westerns were being made in Spain, probably giving some of the most enduring – and attractive - impressions of that period of the United States. M.L. Estefania was easily part of this romanticizing movement.

"Pistol" Joe

The author of the article in El Mundo laments Spain’s inability to appreciate Estefania, citing American culture’s lionizing of authors like Hammett and Philip K. Dick. I wouldn’t put Estefania on that level, because both Hammett and Dick injected serious social commentary into popular fiction. Estefania has absolutely no social commentary that I can think of. His characters are cartoonish, and the situations he puts them in are arbitrary and conventional. For example, in El Rancho del Gringo, or The Gringo’s Ranch, the protagonist single-handedly fights a gang of quarrelsome roughnecks terrorizing a frontier town. In Rambo-like fashion he builds a bow and arrow and picks them off one by one. Of course, he’s tall, ruggedly handsome and irresistible to women. He’s also a man with principles and a bastion of macho iberico ethos:

She looked at him, astonished.

“Have you guys finished with Bonanza and his team?”

“Yes.”

“On the frontier, when they get news of this, they will raise a statue as proof of gratitude.”

“This nightmare is over. And it will be necessary to do the same with Clark and those that are like him.”

“Leave them alone.”

“Look, Sussie. The most hateful thing in a woman, is that she asks the man she loves to be a coward.”

Sussie’s mind went ‘white like the snow’.

She didn’t dare say anything.

From The Gringo’s Ranch

A friend of mine used to use the “Johnny Cash litmus test” on people, where he’d off-handedly ask whether someone liked Johnny Cash. “Yes” or “no” would decide that person’s friendship status. Take Estefania with you to a café, read his fictions of daring men and loose women, and observe people walking by. You can almost certainly tell what kinds of people you’re with by watching their reactions. Invite people to your house and watch their reactions to your strategically placed copy of Estefania on the coffee table. A snort of disproval or a word of appreciation will tell you much more about that person than a lengthy discussion of, say, Cortazar, where people usually dare not to disagree. To openly appreciate Estefania is un desafio, a challenge to the bookish elite. So, I pose the question: Hey guiri, hey artista, do you dig Estefania?

I Had to Kill Him

You’ll see his pulp fiction classics in flea markets, in discount trays in front of secondhand bookstores for 50 cents a copy, every so often in the grimy hands of an old man sitting on a bench, but you’ll never see them in bookstores which hold a pretense to “high art”, or on bookshelves next to Calderón, García Márquez, or, for that matter, Cervantes. One day that’ll probably change when someone discovers him. Quentin? If you read this, it’s all you.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mincemeat swallowed whole

In 1943 the body of Major Martin, a British serviceman, washed up on the shores of southern Spain. A local fisherman found the body, noticed the military attire, and the fact that a briefcase was chained to it. He decided to report it to the authorities.

Because Franco's government was in collusion with the Nazis, the body was turned over to the Abwehr, the Nazi's intelligence organization. The Abwehr examined the belongings found on the corpse, and what they discovered were documents too sensitive to send via regular courier, documents detailing plans for an allied invasion of
Italy. The man had been wearing a life preserver and all clues pointed to an airplane accident at sea. Weary of a ruse, they examined and considered every last detail – things like love letters, theater tickets and overdue bills were enough to convince them that the corpse, and the documents it was carrying, were real.

It wasn't until well into the second week of the Allied invasion of southern Italy that they realized they had been duped. Major Martin was a fictitious character, and the documents he was carrying were part of an elaborate plan to divert the Axis powers' forces away from Sicily, where the Allies intended to land. "Operation Mincemeat" was a success.

That’s my quick summary of this fantastic article from Damn Interesting, one of my favorite websites. It's well worth the read.

More info on Wikipedia. And, for added trivia, here’s a link to a web page about Ian Fleming, of “shaken, not stirred" fame. According to this article Fleming himself directed “Operation Mincemeat”. This, however, contradicts both the Damn Interesting article and the Wikipedia article.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Aerofagia Verbal

I love this quote from Jorge Moragas, the international relations representative of the Partido Popular:

La aerofagia verbal del caudillo venezolano apesta a totalitarismo.

The Cervantiesque elegance of the sentence could not possibly be translated into a non-romance language without mangling it, but I will try:

The verbal aerophagia of the Venezuelan caudillo [leader] stinks of totalitarianism.

Aerophagia is a term which literally means "to eat air". Aero for air, and phagy for eat, coming from the Greek language. If you were ever a kid you've played the belching game with your friends, where you drink soda and at the same time gulp down as much air as you can. The results of this are phenomenally scandalous burps which are great for disrupting classes. An unpleasant side effect of aerophagia is flatulence, because the air you don't belch has to come out somehow, and that means out of your ass.

So, the incredibly awesome term - I bet you Castro is pissed he didn't come up with it first - means something akin to verbal flatulence. My preferred term is verbal diarrhea, but aerofagia verbal is far more eloquent. In fact, I'm going to use it as much as possible from now on.

Like some cool guy who's talking about something he doesn't know anything about. I'll just say, hey asshole, you've got aerofagia verbal! I mean, there is no cool comeback to that. Like, oh yeah? You have aerofagia verbal! No you have aerofagia verbal!

The proclamation of aerofagia verbal is final. It's beautiful.

I also like how he ties up the metaphor with "stinks of totalitarianism". I wonder if this guy made this up himself? He definitely has talent.

§


Warning, the following can be considered blogorrhea, a close cousin of aerofagia verbal.

I'll admit, as much as I can't stand certain elements of the P.P., I totally agree with him. Chavez and his amigos are dangerous clowns masquerading as do-gooders. It's incredible, but the age-old comparison between real life and theater is increasingly obvious to me. I mean, look around you. Chavez. He looks and sounds like my 7th grade physical education teacher who sadistically made us run laps and do "cherry pickers" for hours on end. He was also pretty funny, but he was an asshole. His buddy Castro. Shrouded in a classic totalitarian cloak of mystery. We have no idea if he is even alive. Everything, in his mysterious missives, is the fault of Bush. I don't know about you, but I find it pretty convenient to blame everything on Bush. Your job sucks? Because of Bush. Your ass too big? Because of Bush. Aerofagia verbal? Because of Bush. Aznar. Giving classes at Georgetown for christ's sake, when his level of English hardly surpasses that of the average New York cab driver. Saying Muslims should be apologizing to the Spaniards for the conquest of Al Andaluz!* For that matter, the entire Iberian peninsula should apologize to the Greeks and the Romans for usurping their colonies! Karl Rove. A doughy, effeminate slime bag you would never leave alone with your children. Reminds me of Newman from Seinfeld. Bush. A natural comedian. A cheerleading frat boy. You can go on with Cheney and Ahmadinejad, and on and on ...

The strange thing is that all these freaks are highly entertaining. I find them all hilarious, actually, but it is really freakin scary that assholes like these have such sway with the masses. It's just my humble opinion, but we're doomed when the people leading world politics start to resemble the cast of a TV sitcom.

_

* This reminds me of a guy I used to work with, Paco. Paco was this hilarious frustrated middle aged white guy. His favorite phrase was, "El sexo es ... temendo!" He always talked about mujeres and swinger clubs and all that. He once told me he pardoned an American president. I said, what? He said, yeah, when Clinton apologized to the public and asked for forgiveness for his hand in the Lewinsky affair, he pardoned him. I thought it was pretty funny at the time, but then again, I was probably pretty drunk.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Catalans and Jews

Here's a joke that someone sent to me, and here's my quick translation:

A Jew says to his Catalan friend:

- I have a trick to eat free.

- Great, tell me how you do it.

- I go to the restaurant, pretty late, ask for a starter, main dish, cheeses, dessert and I take my time to drink a coffee, a coñac and [smoke] a good cigar and I wait until they close. Since I don’t move, when all the tables are turned up, all the seats are placed on the tables to sweep, the busboy comes to ask me if I can pay because they are leaving, I then answer him: “But I already paid your colleague who left earlier”. It’s that easy.

The Catalan then says to him:

- That’s terrific. Should we try it together tomorrow?

- Ok, the Jew answers.

The next night the two buddies go to the restaurant: starter, main dish, cheeses, dessert, etc. It’s closing time, the busboy asks them if he can charge them and the Jew says:

- I’m sorry, but we already paid your colleague who already left.

And the Catalan adds:

- We have been waiting for a while for the change.


Un judio le dice a su amigo catalán:

- Tengo un truco para comer gratis

- Super, cuéntame como haces.

- Voy al restaurante, bastante tarde, pido un entrante, plato principal, quesos, postre y me tomo todo mi tiempo para tomarme un café,un coñac y un buen puro y espero a que cierren. Como ni me muevo, cuando ya levantaron todas las mesas, dieron vuelta las sillas sobre las mesas para barrer, viene el mozo a preguntarme si le puedo ir pagando porque ya se van, entonces le respondo: "Pero si ya le pagué a su colega que se fue antes". Es así de simple.

El catalán entonces le dice:

- Qué genial, ¿probamos juntos mañana?

- Ok, le contesta el judío.

La noche siguiente los dos compadres van al restaurant: entrada, plato principal, quesos, postre, etc. Llega el momento de cerrar, se acerca el mozo, les pregunta si les puede cobrar y el judio le dice:

- Lo siento, pero ya le pagamos a tu colega que ya se fue.

Y el catalán agrega:

- Estamos desde hace rato esperando el cambio.



§

Catalans are often called the “Jews of Spain”. I’ve heard this from people outside of Catalanya as well as inside of Catalunya. Since being a Jew in Spain is, unlike the United States, somewhat exotic, it doesn’t seem that offensive to call anyone a Jew here, as if being a Jew had certain indelible characteristics.

But why are Catalans called the Jews of Spain? What does Jew mean to a Spaniard? I mean, what is the tacitly accepted definition of the Jew “type”?

To figure this out I first asked a Catalan friend why Catalans are called the Jews of Spain. She said it is probably because they are “thrifty”, they are “investors”, and “tight with money”. Stereotypically, of course. But as with any stereotype, that is projected. Because to a Spaniard, another Spaniard who is thrifty and tight-fisted is merely thrifty and tight-fisted, but as soon that person is Catalan, they become the typical Catalan.

So then I asked a Jewish friend. He said it was probably because they were “clannish and proud”, were “tight/crafty with money”, had “long noses”, and shared a sense of “victimhood”. Since the exception always seems to prove the rule when you look for it, I would say that this does fit certain Catalans that I know, as well as Jews. But, then again, I know people that have all these characteristics (except perhaps for the clannish characteristic) and they are not Catalan or Jewish. My friend also pointed out that many were probably conversos, or Jews who converted to escape persecution from the Spanish Inquisition. Conversos are also known as marranos, which comes from swine. I wonder if more conversos stayed in Catalunya than in other parts of Spain? Or if Catalans are called the Jews of Spain because they apparently adhere to the Jewish stereotypes of being tight-fisted and clannish?

Although many people have no clue where their ideas of Jews and Catalans come from, they bandy about the concepts of “Jew” and “Catalan” on a daily basis, and it ends up meaning what I wrote about above. A group apart, exclusive, shrewd.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Groucho Marx, a post modernist?

You figure it out:

Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... now you tell me what you know.

Groucho Marx

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pure madness

Hey! I have not been slacking for the past twenty some odd days. I have been busy writing non-guirilandia-related material. And I have been reading the news with bewilderment. From a massacre in Virginia, to some idiots proclaiming it was because not enough students were armed ... to the crackdown on the Chinese markets opening up near Plaça Tetuan, to the ERC saying the city government should buy out 2,000 locals in the zone to stop the evil yellow invasion ... to the hysterical anti-marijuana campaigns currently under way, to the springtime weather which is distracting me and keeping me from writing this blog

Let's just go point by point (excuse the haphazard style of this entry):

ON WRITING. 20 Minutos - Spain's second best free newspaper behind ADN - has this interesting article about the dangers of blogging. Here are seven unscientifically-proven symptoms of blogging, all of which I have suffered. Especially in the three weeks I haven't been posting:
1) Madness. You go mad when you cannot access your blog.

This has happened to me numerous times. Not to mention the times I tinkered with the wrong codes and completely screwed up the design, only to have to spend hours afterwards trying to fix it, while at the same time putting on a cool, got-it-all-under-control exterior in order to trick those around me that I wasn't really that obsessed with my blog.

2) The future. You start to think of future articles in the middle of a date, of a movie ... also in the middle of a romantic moment.

Yes, sadly enough this has all happened to me. I recently saw The Other's Life. Awful. No wonder it won an academy award. Halfway through the movie I was thinking of writing a scathing review for the blog. Only I reconsidered because it wouldn't exactly fit the scheme of this blog (you know, Barcelona, sketchy situations, stupid nationalism). I remember ... oh, nevermind.

3) Days later. When you walk down the street you remember a commentary that someone made, you laugh.

Yes this has happened, although I don't allow comments anymore. The shocking truth is that sometime I laugh just thinking about my articles. This is embarrassing, but true. I remember watching a documentary about Robert Crumb who admitted to masturbating to his own comics. I feel somewhat the same, though I have yet to wank to my own stories or blog entries.

4) Anger. When your friends ask you, "What's new?", you get irritated because you have already written about it in you blog and they don't read it.

None of my friends read this blog. In fact, I've met very few people face to face who admit to reading it. I got over the fact a long time ago. I just write.

5) Curiosity. If someone leaves an anonymous comment you try to figure out who it is.

Doesn't apply.

6) Warnings. You have written posts only to say you are going to sleep.

Never. Many blogs have this annoying habit of constantly talking about themselves - like I am doing right now. They talk about boyfriends and girlfriends, about reasons why they haven't been posting, about their favorite music, why their country is better than yours, about people at work, about their idiot landlords ... like this for example:

Chapuza, or postmodern art subsidized by the Generalitat?

I haven't taken a proper shower in a month because the guy who replaced our water heater did a chapuza, which is a great Spanish word for shoddy workmanship. Our first heater broke, it took the landlord three weeks to send a guy to replace it, he did a shoddy job, and it broke again. Six weeks without hot water.

The one he replaced worked fine. Until it rained. Then it broke because water leaked in through the roof and ruined the electronics. Then they didn't want to replace it. Then the guy came and did what you can see above to our terraza roof. This my friends is due to amiguismo. Because the blockhead who put the water heater in and created the postmodern sculpture on my roof is a buddy of the landlord.

Nicholas Mead, fellow contributor at Barcelona Reporter, has water heater mishaps as well. Strangely enough, ours was a Junkers water heater as well. I will go on the record saying for the one week our Junkers heater was working it was wonderful. The fact that it broke is due entirely to the ineptitude of the installer.

7) Jealousy. You are jealous of people who are included on more blogrolls and have more commentaries than you.

Yeah, a little bit. A sad bit of news is that last month I reached a record number of hits (200+ in one day). The saddest part of all was that it was from freaks looking for pictures of six packs (abdominal muscles).

THE VIRGINIA MASSACRE.
Some people at work wanted to know my opinion on it. They wanted know why. Why the massacre? Why are you Americans so fucked up? Why don't you guys control guns more? I thought long and hard for two seconds to come up with the obvious answer. It is not the fault of the easily bought guns. Yes, that's a problem. Especially when it's easier to buy guns than a harmless joint, or when it's less shameful to buy a gun than it is to by a pornography. But we all know it's not the guns that drove the kid to do it. He was probably autistic and had serious social problems. Many factors led up to this. Not just the guns. I can't explain this to people without them shaking their heads and thinking I'm the typical American dupe. So I just ignore them and write blogs about them.

But seriously, how can anyone say everything would be better if more students were armed? Who's to decide who should be armed? Imagine, a whole school of kids and faculty armed to the teeth. Quick, Takeshi Kitano, make a movie on this, because it would be brutal. Or for that matter, Chan-wook Park, the guy who made Old Boy. A wild western set in a school, on the big screen where it should be.

YELLOW FEVER. Big stink lately on the proliferation of Chinese markets near Plaça Tetuan, over by calle Trafalgar and Barcelona's "Arc de Trionf". Citizens are up in arms about the dastardly Chinese taking over their neighborhoods. Now, the ERC, Catlunya's "left wing" nationalist populists, are saying the government should buy 2,000 locals in order to prevent the wholesale buyout from the yellow horde.

I'm not exactly pro-chinese shops, in fact I find some of them a bit repugnant. Here is an example. Last Saturday I went to the Chino to buy some pots for my marijuana plants. While I was perusing the astonishing array of crappy knock-off products, I was subjected to the store owner hocking loogies into the trash bin, one after another, then while I was laughing silently to myself and thinking of how I could incorporate it into a post without it sounding racist, I spied this delectable selection of movies:


Among the choice titles: My mom has a dog, and My favorite pet

Next to innocuous stacks of blank DVDs and CDs is a lusty library of animal porn. If anyone is interested, you can go to calle Casanonova between Provença and Valencia, right in front of the market. Just past the guy hocking loogies into a trash can, past the plastic flowers is a collection of animal porn that will be sure to impress your freakiest friends.

Of course, I know I know, this is not exemplary of all Chinese shops. It's just an anecdote. Some of these guys pasa de todo, and I can see why some people are worried. But, then again, I wouldn't want some hysterical "left wing" nationalist populist government decreeing who can and cannot open a market. I say this with clenched teeth, because in all honesty I am disgusted at the amount of Starbucks cafes proliferating across the city. I detest Starbucks - I will not go into another diatribe on it - but I can't deny them the right to open one of their soul-sucking franchises. I just won't go. I believe in individual initiative. Not social engineering.

MARIJUANA HYSTERIA. Lately there has been an immense amount of ink on marijuana. Papers like la Vanguardia are claiming it is three times more harmful than it was in the 80s and 90s, la Vanguardia even going so far as to imply that it causes schizophrenia. And all this after last year's pathetic La Maria No T'Estima campaign.

2007. And we are still dealing with this. When everybody knows they'd rather be around a stoner than an alcoholic, and everybody knows that marijuana is far less addictive, than, say, an episode of House. By La Vanguardia's logic the streetlights turning on are the cause of the night, and putting a straight-jacket on is the cause of madness. Marijuana is the cause of all the problems, it will make you antisocial, schizo, possibly even gay or left wing. Oh boy we're in trouble.