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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fine the shitter

This concerned citizen has come up with an ingenious solution to the caganer [shitter]* and civil disobedience problem. Check out this letter to the editor in yesterday’s La Vanguardia (my translation follows):

Multa al 'caganer'


Ante la reciente polémica sobre si el Ayuntamiento pone o no pone el caganer en su belén navideño, se me ocurre una solución que creo sería del agrado de todos. Se trata de que coloquen al personaje y a su lado la figura de un Mosso d´Esquadra que, bolígrafo y talonario en ristre, denuncie al infractor. Se alcanzarían así tres objetivos: respetar la tradición, cumplir la ordenanza municipal y potenciar a una fuerza pública de reciente reimplantación, mostrándola en uno de sus más importantes quehaceres: hacer respetar la ley.

Ya me imagino el próximo mercado de Santa Llúcia con infinidad de variantes sobre la escena, que bien podría titularse: "El caganer, el mosso i l´ordenança municipal".

Fine the "shitter"

As a result of the recent controversy about whether or not City Hall ought to display the caganer [shitter] in its Christmas nativity scene, a solution came to me that I think will please everyone. It has to do with displaying the personage [caganer] and at its side a figure of a Mosso d´Esquadra [Catalan police] that, pen and pad at the ready, fines the law-breaker. Three objectives are reached: respect of tradition, complying with municipal regulation and strengthening of a recently re-implanted public [police] force, showing it in one of its most important duties: making people respect the law.

I can already imagine the next Santa Lucia market with an infinity of variations on the [nativity] scene, that could easily be titled: "The shitter, the officer and municipal regulation".

The variations are mind boggling. There’s already a flurry of Jordi Pujol and Ronaldinho caganers, but why not add less-salient but equally pervading flavor to the mix? I think the fining officer is a brilliant solution to the superficial move to ban the traditional caganer.


* The caganer, or shitter in English, is an essential part of any Catalan nativity scene. There’s Mary and the infant Jesus, the three wise men, and in the back, behind the scene, is the caganer in mid-dump.

Not as heretical as it may seem, the caganer comes from a deep-rooted scatological tradition in Catalonia. "Yo cago …" or "I shit …" preceding any manner of phraseology, "Que te cagas …" "Like you shit …", which means, in essence, "Excellent" are just some examples.

A typical conversation:

"Tio, como fue el concierto?"
"Dude, how was the concert?"

"Que te cagas."
"Like you shit."

There is also the "caga tio", a log that children hit until it breaks and "shits" out presents. This is called "fer cagar al tio" or "making the log shit". "Tio" in this sense means "log", and not "dude" or "man" as in modern nomenclature.

Most likely, as Trevor at Kalebeul points out, it is harking back to pre-Christian soil fertility rites.

Also, Wikipedia has entries on both the caganer and the caga tio.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Primo borracho

An indignant citizen sounds off today's 20 minutes (my translation follows):

Colarse en Alfonso X

Javier Carretero. Publicada el 22.11.2005

El otro día estaba en el metro de Alfonso X delante del taquillero para comprar mi T-10 como persona legal que soy.

De repente, aparece un hombre con pinta de borrachín y así por las buenas le dice al taquillero:

-Oye, primo, ábreme.

Y el taquillero, sin dudarlo, le obedece y le abre el torno. De ninguna forma era otro empleado del metro, sino más bien, por la forma de vestir, parecía un macarrilla con mucha cara. Me han entrado ganas de pedirle lo mismo, porque a lo mejor era el día de puertas abiertas en el metro y yo no lo sabía.


Free rides in Alfonso X [yellow line subway stop]

The other day I was in the Alfonso X subway stop in front of the ticket booth to buy my T-10 like the law-abiding citizen that I am.

Suddenly, a man that looked like a random drunk says to the ticket taker:

-Hey, cousin, let me through.

And the ticket taker, without a moment’s hesitation, obeyed him and opened the turnstile. There's no way it was another employee of the subway, rather, from his way of dressing, he looked like a dimestore pimp with lots of nerve. I felt like asking for the same, because maybe it was free ride day on the subway and I didn't know it.



A couple years ago, 7:30 AM Saturday morning. I'm late, as usual, for work*. Haven't even had a coffee. I get to the turnstile and take out my T-10 (bus and subway pass) and sadly realize it has expired. I walk to the vending machine because the ticket-taker booth is closed. The vending machine is taped over, leaving me with two choices: go back up the stairs, find another subway stop with a vending machine that works and be late; or, hop the turnstile and get to work on time. I hop the turnstile.

As soon as I get down to the subway platform four, I kid you not, four subway ticket controllers surround me and whip out their little subway-violator-fining machines.

I can't run, and I'm too tired to play the stupid tourist who can't understand a thing they're saying. I explain that the vending machine is busted, but that doesn't fly with them.

"That still doesn't give you the right to a free subway ride".

I'm saddled with two choices: pay 20 Euros on the spot, or have the fine mailed to me and pay it through my bank for 40 Euros. Since I don't have the money on me, I opt for the 40 Euro fine. And that happens to be more than I'll make this entire workday.


It’s 2005 and "Primo boraccho" still gets in free. People still smoke on the platforms. I've even seen people pissing. Truthfully, I think the subway system works quite well, but fining musicians without permits, and people for jumping turnstiles (even when they have no other choice) is misdirected. For one, I'd like to see more live music instead of flat-screened televisions spewing out advertisements, public bathrooms, and cheaper fares. It's too expensive (at almost 7 euros for a T-10) for people earning middle to lower middle class incomes - the ones that really need to take it. They're the ones with bosses that can fire them for arriving 10 minutes late. That is, unless you're their favorite "primo borracho".


* I remember this pleasant little job. It was back when I was doing light and sound maintenance for events, driving forklifts - real work that pays nothing! This day we had to go and dismantle a stage we had set up for none other than Jon Clos (yup it was election time in la Ciudad Condal, and this was his political rally).

Friday, November 18, 2005

No me toques los huevos

Just now, after correcting the English in one of my boss's emails, he slaps me on the back and says:

"De puta madre! … Como dices 'de puta madre' en inglés [How do you say 'de puta madre' in English]?"

Like so much slang, there is no real translation, only interpretations of intent. "De puta madre" means "very good" or "great" in the figurative sense, but literally it means "the whore mother". Part of my job is to take those literal translations and find the most appropriate English equivalent. So I say:


"Great? Grande? How boring!"

I always imagine him trying out my slang tips on serious businessmen in formal office environments, so I give him polite equivalents that won't get him into trouble. But, sometimes he really wants to know the dirty words and looks to me for advice. So I say:

"Well, I guess you could say 'Fucking great'" - which is probably the best English equivalent for "de puta madre" in this sense.

He beams at me and stands up and thrusts out his hand.

"Así es! FUCKING GREAT! FUCKING GREAT! Muchísimas gracias! Espero que no te estoy tocando los huevos con tanto email y tanto pregunta [I hope I'm not 'tocando los huevos' with so many emails and questions]."

"No, por supuesto que no [No, of course not]."

He rubs his chin, squints.

"Como dices 'no me toques los huevos' en inglés [How do you say 'no me toques los huevos' in English]?"

"Don't bust my balls."

"Cojonudo! DON'T BUST MY BALLS! Can you please write that down?"

I write down: IT'S FUCKING GREAT and DON'T BUST MY BALLS in big caps on this marketing proposal we're working on, and walk out of his office.

Sometimes I feel like an extra in a Monty Python skit.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Crack down

So, I complained all summer long about guiris ruining Barcelona. And what a summer it was! I've never seen so many drunks and homeless people on calle Ferran, in placa Real, weaving through placa Catalunya at 3 in the morning.

Then there were the riots in Gracia, drunk Germans in Mallorca as usual, hooligans in Lloret.

Joan Clos had to stop doing the lambada with Carlinhos Brown and start cracking down (and on a side note, can someone please explain the Carlinhos Brown phenomena to me? How can music that's so irritating be so popular?). Super Clos said enough is enough, proposed some laws which many found a little too stringent.

After over 600 proposed amendments and 144 accepted, some of the clauses are still ambiguous. And here are some things that have been taken out (therefore still permissible after January 1st):

You can’t piss, but you can vomit because it is an “uncontrollable" act.

You can go nude in public.

Solicit prostitutes on the street (depends). But, it is “especially” against this kind of activity if it is within 200 meters of a school.*

Here's a citizen from today's 20minutes, who eloquently asks:

¿Y qué pasaría si pido limosna para pagarme una prostituta que está a 201 metros de un colegio, para luego desnudarnos los dos en la calle y vomitarla encima? De risa.

And what would happen if I beg for change to pay for a prostitute that's 201 meters from a school, so later we can strip each other in the street and throw up on each other?

De Risa, my friend, mi amigo, that would be performance art. I would pay to see that. And so would the ayuntamiento, for that matter, in the name of "cultura".


* It’s logical that you don't want people pissing in the streets. But what if there are no bathrooms to go to?

Prostitutes. Unsightly and corrupting to minors. Let's arrest them. But wait, could they be victims of the mafia? Should we really punish them? The clients? Because, are people ever going to stop thinking about sex?

Being nude in the streets. Why the hell not? I thought the whole Spencer Tunic thing was stupid, but doing the tripod on the way to work, topless tapas bars … sounds good to me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Homage to Cacaolat

I'm gonna throw a monkey wrench in the boycott-all-that-is-Catalan machine. Is there any sane person (leaving hardcore nationalists on all fronts out) that would boycott this amazing beverage?

There is nothing like a delicious Cacaolat in the morning, in the afternoon, or before bed. I like it cold and shaken, but it's just as tasty when it's heated. Cacaolat cacaolat cacaolat … fools are they who would deny your chocolate charms

(I'll expect the check in the mail, Sr. Cacaolat)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Temps de Video

There's little exhibition at la Caixa forum in Montjuic that's well worth checking out. And the best part is it's free until January 8.

Time is plastic in video. It can be slowed down, chopped up, and juxtaposed in countless ways. No wonder it has been embraced by some of the most emblematic artists of the last forty years.

Temps de Video (Times of Video), the current exhibition at the La Caixa Foundation, is composed of about 30 installations and viewing areas from the Pompidou Center's New Media Collection - each of which have helped promote video as an artform and method for serious social criticism.

This versatile and omnipresent medium has been around since the sixties, when it was primarily used to document live performances and news. As early as the seventies, with pioneering works by artists such as Nam Jun Paik, its use had grown beyond strictly utilitarian confines to the abstract realms of aesthetics, criticism and experimental documentary.


For more info on participants and times read the rest of my article on barcelonareporter.com