Thursday, 28 January 2010

Wirdheim in Vilanova: 2010 - 4

I know, I know ... Last weekend I ought to have visited our neighbour town Sant Pere de Ribes to, for the first time, experience their winter version of the Festa Major, la Festa de Sant Pau. But in the end I did not have time for more than family and work. Fortunately enough, digital media allow me to make night time escapes into the world outside.

Guardiola, Barça and verbal contracts

"... Pep Guardiola, has signed for the Spanish champions for another season" was the headline in a major Swedish newspaper, but that is not really true. Guardiola's original intention was to renew his contract only after FC Barcelona gets a new president later this spring. However, media were obsessed with the issue and the coach realized that it was becoming disruptive to concentration of his team. A public, albeit verbal promise was chosen as a solution.

There is probably noone here who does not want to Guardiola to stay for many years. The six trophies from the last season show that he is a master at his job, yet he is so humble that he wins everyone’s respects. In the current situation, there is no other single individual who transmits so much hope and optimism for so many Catalans. And above all Catalan-language media do everything they can to build the common dream: Just imagine their joy about a week ago when Guardiola and his family showed up at a concert with the group 'els Manel', who sing modern ballads in Catalan.

Catalan hairdressers and intellectual property rights

Catalan hairdressers refuse to pay 'radio tax' and instead ask customers to bring their own iPods. In the era of illegal music downloading, SGAE - a Spanish copyright collecting society - seeks new ways to obtain revenue for the artists and in Catalonia this body seems to be extra-zealous. It demands money from pensioners' associations, the people who organize town festivities (festa major) and now also of various small businesses. I actually wonder what applies to my own office. If I promise to turn off the radio whenever a customer enters, then I do not have to pay, do I?

So much viciousness about the Spanish economy

Zapatero's government keeps up appearances despite all financial figures which speak for themselves. First comes the news that Spain will soon take back the position as the EU member state with the highest unemployment rate (20%), and then, according to the IMF, it will most likely be the only major European economy which does not return to economic growth in 2010 (-0.6% ). The EU Commission announces that it wants to send a group of countries, including Spain, on a “savings course” since their budget deficits undermine the Euro. Then enters U.S. economist Nouriel Roubini - known to have foreseen the financial crisis - into the arena and pin-points Spain as a possible future source of social unrest. True, Greece certainly has worse public finances and its labour force less competitive, but it is the Spanish economy which - because of its size - can pose a real threat to the Euro project.

Meanest of them all, however, is a German economist by the name of Jörn Berninger. Spain is one of the most frequently recurring topics in his blog and he warns that a future unemployment rate of 60% is not impossible. Ooops!

Zapatero trumps with his women

So, it is obviously more pleasant for Zapatero to talk about equality between the sexes with his European colleagues. The EU Parliament has applauded him for selecting gender equality and violence against women as two focus areas during his time in the rotating presidency. Many reforms already implemented by his government and particularly the fact that it is dominated by women are irrefutable proof that in these policies he acts with convicition.

Violence against women, Stieg Larsson and Eva Gabrielsson

Violence against women certainly was not one of the things which I, in my capacity as an expat-Swede, used receive questions about before, but that has changed after the tremendous success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium. One Catalan after the other has stressed how these books completely have changed their image of Sweden, something I, in fact, consider quite unfair. Although Larsson's narrative is highly exciting it remains a work of fiction about a more than odd life story.

Now, given how popular Stieg Larsson is here, I am surprised not to yet have seen the latest Swedish gossip in Spanish media. We have, for example, learnt that the late writer's fight against gender violence has its origin in him as a teenager watching, but not daring to intervene, when three of his friends raped a girl together. That episode resulted in a feeling of guilt which he had to bear throughout his life but which also became a catalyst to seek success – to accumulate wealth with the objective to help others.

The centre of a now on-going debate is whether Stieg Larsson actually could have written these best-sellers by himself. Many of those who used to know him personally seem to agree that he was extremely skilled at gathering facts and researching, but a poor writer. In this turbulence, Eva Gabrielsson, Larsson’s former partner, has dropped a few clues about how the writing was carried out, and perhaps an indirect explanation to her bitterness about not being his legal heir: the success trilogy is, to a so far unknown extent, also her creation.

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Sources and inspiration:

SWE: DN - Guardiola stays
SPA: LaVanguardia - The verbal agreement between Guardiola and Laportas
SPA: LaVanguardia – Guardiola, humble and calm aslo when pressed
SPA: LaVanguardia – Guardiola and ‘els Manel’

ENG: BBC – Hairdressers refusing to pay radio tax
SPA: LaVanguardia – Examples of where SGAE demands payments
SPA: LaVanguardia – SGAE deserves to be questioned

SPA: ABC - The optimistic Spanish finance minister Elena Salgado
SPA: LaVanguardia - Spain has the highest unemployment rate within the EU
SPA: LaVanguardia - Spain left alone in the recession
GER: Spiegel - The EU-commission wants to send Spain on a savings course to defend the Euro
SPA: – Berninger: The big crises is yet to come
ENG: Jörn Berninger's blog

ENG: BBC – Zapatero wants to focus on gender equality

SWE: DN – Kurdo Baksi on Stieg Larsson
ENG (!): DN – Stieg Larsson could not write
ENG (!): DN – People close to Larsson reject he could not write
SWE: DN – Stieg had an integrity as strong as Lisbet's
SWE: DN – Eva Gabrielsson: More than just proof reading

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Technorati tags: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, Zapatero

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