Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Look on the Bright Side

Well, on the bright side, even though there are fires burning all over the place here in SoCal, the sunsets are really pretty.

I know people say global warming is to blame for all the weather and fires around the world, and maybe it is, what do I know. I do know that as a guy born and raised in Los Angeles - there have always been fires here - just like there have always been high winds at this time of year, called the Santa Anas. Cool name huh? Very Spanish.

Every time there is some news here no matter how insignificant, a fire, an earthquake, etc. friends always call from Madrid wanting to know if I am in the street. The news-media is the same everywhere, making it sound real bad. This time though, the fires are pretty impressive. But this city is so big that I haven't seen anything - except on the news. And even here they make it sound real bad.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Almodovar He Was Not

Let’s see if I have this right. This article (click the picture to read) is a tribute to the short life of a guy who made his first movie at 22 years of age, and died at 32. His first movie was about a bunch of drug-taking, partying, lowlifes, “in search of the ultimate experience”. Right after filming was completed, two of the actors - while blasted out of their minds on drugs - recreated a scene in the film by KILLING their drug dealer, CHOPPING the body into pieces, and THROWING it in the river (this was real life people). El Pais says this event was “the perfect launch” for the film (not a great launch for the drug dealer though), and that the director “had arrived.” WTF?

Next this young director had a great NEW idea for a movie, this one would be about three gay men living in Chueca, indulging in sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But it seems they had trouble getting Spanish film subsidies for this story about explicit gay sex and drug taking (thank God!). According to El Pais, this theme was “too advanced” for Spanish audiences.

He was not done yet. His next story idea was for a stage play, also set in Chueca. This gem features three guys again - one dude who has to work over the weekend, but doesn’t want to because he wants to go out and bang guys. Another tio whose boyfriend says he has to quit partying and get a job, and the last one who missed his chance to give up his life as a male prostitute in order to become an actor. All of them are bummed out so they want to escape reality for a weekend through … yes you guessed it, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. The big question posed in the film? “Do I stay with my partner this weekend, or do I fuck 30 different guys?” Now that’s movie-quality stuff!

To El Pais this is all perfectly natural, even to be lauded. To them, these are great film ideas. This guy was a genius and “too advanced” for the Spanish film going public. I wonder, are these great ideas because everyone is gay?

I’m sorry this guy is dead and all, but obviously the real story here is he led a tragic life. He achieved some success too young and then spent the next ten years of his short life trying to recreate it. The only problem was – he only had one (bad) story idea in him.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just a Cool Picture

This is a picture I took a long time ago up in the Sagrada Familia Cathedral. I used a colored filter on a normal, film-using, 35 mm camera. The lake below was red - not because of the filter - but because the local fire department dyed it that color for some kind of a fiesta. I'm glad they did though because it made it look very spooky.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Worst Swearing I Ever Heard in Spain … or Anywhere!

The first time I lived in Spain I traveled with my roommate to visit his family in Cartagena for Christmas. I was finally getting a little better at Spanish after a good five months of barely saying anything. Of course, the first Spanish words and phrases I learned were cuss words and dirty words - I was twenty after all. I learned the normal ones like “Joder” and “Mierda”, etc. These words were satisfying and fun to me because they were familiar, direct translations of the English - and all seemed well with the world.

But, on this first big trip out of Madrid, my roommate’s father decided to have a holiday-style disagreement with his estranged wife, my roommate’s mother. One afternoon something was not going well. During the argument, I couldn’t quite catch what the problem was but I did understand one huge horrible phrase. It was the foulest swearing I have ever heard, and almost beautiful in its ability to offend (especially Catholics). He said, to his estranged wife at a particularly heated moment, “ ME CAGO EN DIOS, EN LA VIRGEN PUTA, Y EN TODOS LOS SANTOS, CUARENTA MIL VECES!”

Now THAT is the worst swearing I ever heard.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Watch Out! They're Mad Now

So NOW they are taking off their gloves huh? Kinda late. I touched on this once here.

I was never a big fan of Spain's beaches - Las Islas Cies are pretty. But mostly, the ones I saw were OK but not great, with huge ugly buildings right near the water. I go to Spain for the OLD cities, the crowds, the buildings, and the “Europeness”. Sorry, I don’t go for the natural scenery. I’m afraid California is hard to beat in the nature and beaches department. But Spain, and more specifically for me Madrid, does have so much that California lacks...

I hope they do wake up and save the coasts though. It’s a real shame that there is not a sense of scale and appropriateness when building on the coastline.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

You Are Not In Control

One of the things you have to get used to as an American in Spain is the fact that you are not in complete control of your own bank account. The practice of writing a check and mailing it to a company to pay your bills just does not exist in Spain. They also won’t let you go online and pay after you receive a bill in the mail. What you have to do to pay, let's say your telephone bill, is give the telephone company your bank account number so they can suck the money right out of your account whenever they want to. Then they just tell you what they took - nice guys! If they take too much money because they screwed up, you get the pleasure of trying to fix the problem after the fact!

This is unsettling to Americans. Virtually the only entity that can do that to you in the US is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - for income taxes, and if they do that it’s because you haven’t been paying taxes for years. In Spain it seems they don’t trust people to actually pay their bills themselves so they have this foolproof method instead.

So, every month (or so) I look online to see what they took from me. Usually it’s ok but currently I can’t stop Telefonica from taking money for a dial-up connection I canceled, or for a DSL line I never received.

The latest fun came from Gasnatural. I normally use very little gas. My consumption might be 12 cubic meters per month or 14 Euros. So, imagine my surprise to see I used 2000 meters one month! The company didn’t seem to think this was unusual so they just started to suck Euros out of my bank account – 168, 185, 153 Euros on three consecutive months.

All this makes me very leery about signing up for any more domiciliacion bancaria. It also makes me feel more like a pawn than a customer. In the US, at least you can say, “Screw you I’m not paying!” But in Spain it seems like “The Man” is doing all the screwing.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Big Brother in Spain Doing Fine, Thank You

I wonder if there will be a huge outcry about privacy and the oppressive socialist regime invading the citizen’s lives? I doubt it. El Pais seems to be fine with this law. Of course, if the story was about the U.S. government doing the same thing – I believe the spin would be slightly different. It says calls won’t be recorded. Maybe not .... for now, but I bet they will be listened to for “key phrases”.