Monthly Archives: December 2016
In Pamplona at the moment, we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the publication of Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises (a.k.a. Fiesta).
There are several activities organised, and a large exhibition in the Plaza del Castillo of photos from when he visited Pamplona – of him, and taken by him and his friends.
Some of the places he stayed are still here, under different names to those used in the novel, some have changed.
It was interesting to see that Heminway, though he never ran with the bulls himself, did get gored by a baby cow, which they release in the plaza after the encierro.
I was struck by a quote they have printed on one of the posters, which he wrote to a friend: “Pamplona is the most enjoyable place you’ve ever seen.” It was true then and it’s true now.
And my good friend JD Martins would agree.
Have you had One Night in Pamplona?
It’s an important day in the US, and for all of us, given the way the world is heating up.
I know it’s a bad idea to dis the President if you want to get into the country, but for the secret service dudes reading this, please understand, this is an exception…
So here’s hoping it’s a happy holiday for us all, and we can see some people who went to see the musical Hamilton paid attention, and we can stop thinking about how bad things are going to be in the New Year, but instead have some hope. Here’s a couple of poems to mark the occasion.
The Clown Fools Us All
Remember when we thought this guy was a joke?
And now it seems so serious; yet still,
Even at this late stage, he could
Be red flagging us:
Showing us he’s seriously taking the piss,
Waiting for us to see it for what it is,
And pull the plug.
Remember when we used to say:
“Jays, we were blest with the weather today,”
As if we’d got lucky, and we didn’t worry,
Nor wonder what was coming?
I’ve just started watching season one of Stranger Things (two episodes so far) and enjoying it immensely. I won’t give away any spoilers by saying that a kid goes missing (it’s the title of the first episode), and it’s set in a small town in Middle America, back in the Eighties.
It reminded me of some of those Eighties movies I loved – Pretty in Pink, etc., where the differences between the haves and have nots are pretty striking, even within the same school. There are the typical contrasts between the lazy, loutish children of privilege, and the studious sons of middle class, trying to raise their social level by excelling in their education.
One scene, however, seemed so odd to me, that it made me think about the whole setting and scene of the story, and there are disturbing trends that say a lot about America. While the story involves some eerie happenings which are obviously unreal, the daily life of the citizens should be normal enough to be believable. We all know that even in the divine Reagan years, income inequality was stark, if not quite as scandalous as it is now. Winona Ryder’s character is clearly living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s hard to credit that a few hundred photocopies could clean her out completely. But okay. That’s not the scene.
When she goes to her boss looking for an advance, though, at a job she has worked for ten years (without a sick day, as she says) the guy hesitates. He fucking balks at giving her two weeks pay!
What the hell? Where is the loyalty? Where’s the sense of community? Where’s the fucking pity?
It wasn’t the only weird thing about what I assumed was a homogenic and happy Heartland (with a token African American in the show). The kids don’t go to a school assembly to show support for their missing friend (they have their reasons). What’s shocking to me, is that the parents weren’t already planning to take the whole family. After all, the kid would have been eating dinner in their house with the other boys if he’d not been missing.
There hasn’t been a case of a missing person in town in decades; but the whole community isn’t up in arms. It’s only the second episode, but two days have passed and nobody so far has taken a pot pie or a pot roast or a casserole or a fucking sandwich to the single mother who’s at home alone, waiting for news of her child.
There’s a lot more wrong with this town than the dodgy experiments being conducted in the government labs in the woods.
If this is considered normal behaviour, or a valid representation, then the good folk of Middle America have more to worry about than the elites in the big cities.
Do Civil servants read Kafka?
This is not new. Complaining about the strange way civil service has of not serving much of anything or anyone is almost cliché. Kafka showed us all a hundred years ago. ? made fun of it in the forties. And yet it’s amazing how much it still goes on, even after demands for change produced significant improvements.
It’s not that they don’t give a fuck – they do, though they didn’t used to, and the can deny that all they like. The structures are too inflexible to make movement forward anything but slow. Though sometimes you can’t quite see what’s wrong.
Everyone has their story. This is mine.
I joked on my facebook page back in August that it would have been quicker and easier to go home to Ireland and get my Irish driving licence renewed there rather than get a Spanish one here instead.
I wasn’t far wrong. I went home last month without having received my new Spanish licence. And it was far from easy to get….
Part of the problem was the fact that this project of European integration is not running on rails – some of it is active resistance and some just ineptitude. That goes from the top; government departments not really eager to make it easier for dirty foreigners to come and get along here, to the bottom; civil servants unwilling or unable to learn the new rules and systems to follow the new laws.
My old licence photo – part of the problem was having to hand this over, in case I tried to fool the system and get two licenses, and thereby having to saying goodbye to my last ID where I have black hair…
The Traffic department has been turned to an appointment only system. You can’t just walk in off the street and seek assistance, like you would in any other service. That keeps down the number of people arriving at any one time. It hides the flaws, means the slowness is not so apparent. The queues not visible there in the office, but in cyberspace, where you need to wait at least a week to get a window – if you’re flexible in what time you can get there.
So when you get there, if all goes well, you are out in around an hour and on with your life.
But if you hang around, as I had to on my recent visit, well, you notice things that if they happened in any store or restaurant, you’d ask to see the manager and point out the problems with their service. Since it’s the civil service, we’re shit scared to do so, since the bastards know our numbers and can get their own back with good old losing our info.
Anyway, I was trapped in there for a lot longer than I should have when I sought to get a new driving licence. My mistake was not having a photocopy of my identity documents. And they don’t make photocopies in there for Joe Public. They might have a photocopier going night and day, have several sitting around, but they expect you to bring your own, even when they don’t tell you to have them.
I pointed out that the photocopy of the information sheet I’d got after queuing up the previous w
eek hadn’t said to take said photocopy, and the lady behind the desk produced a different photocopy that said I did.
So what were my options?
Go to the stationary store across the street and pay twenty cents for copies.
I had no problem with that. As long as it means you don’t have to come back another day, you forgive a lot of shit in these situations.
She gave me directions and then said she was going on break, but the next person would take care of me.
The copy took twenty seconds. Add to that the minute and a half it took to get there and back and I was standing before her before she’d got her handbag together.
But she was not going to sit back down – or, more precisely, let me sit back down. She’d mentally checked out for her break already. Instead she said to wait just there the next guy was on his way.
He was. He came and told her he wasn’t going to sit at her desk, but at the one next door. There was already an older dude sat there, dealing with some South American selling his car or something. That dude wasn’t going on break, but would swap to the information desk (Yes, I hear you ask, why didn’t the new guy just sit at the info desk and let the old dude stay where he was? Because I’m sure there are strange rules about how much time you have to spend doing each type of job) when he’d done with the car buyer.
He was in no rush, and his computer wasn’t working the best, so the new guy, a long, tall, sour-looking guy with a Union Jack tee-shirt (not necessarily a point in favour or against him) stood there behind him, then started to pace, holding his water bottle, while I stood there in front of the desk, making sure he knew I was next in line.
And we waited.
And so did the poor people who were queuing for the information desk
Because there was nobody there. And the tall guy wasn’t going to sit down there. It wasn’t on his job list for the afternoon.
So for ten minutes, at least, as we waited for that computer to process the car purchase, people came in off the street to find an empty information desk, and the queue built up. And the only person doing any work to speak of was a the security guard – a short young South American lady, who, being responsible for our safety could not allow the line to get so big and out of control. So she gave out photocopies and information to those she could, zipping around the office from place to place, and she most probably getting paid a pittance by the hour compared to the civil servants sat on their arses, or standing like long streaks of piss and going redder all the time in embarrassment at the situation.
Eventually out of said embarrassment, the guy started to acknowledge my presence, and my frustration, and when I finally sat down, and he began to process my own application, he did his best to make the computer do it’s jobs, and he was even nice enough to photocopy of one of my documents for me, so I could keep the original – which I didn’t even want, since it would only be valid for six months and I purposefully didn’t bother photocopying it. But he insisted, and I wasn’t going to argue, though I did wish that his workmate had been half as nice so I could have avoided the whole wait and his embarrassment.
After all that, the poxy computer would not work (they work through the internet, not with their own internal programs and server, if you can believe that shit). So after another half an hour of so of sitting at that desk, I had to come back in half an hour. That didn’t help, and I’d to go back next day. Still the process wasn’t working, and in exasperation I decided that I’d not bother driving for the next few days.
That allowed me to leave my driving licence there with the dude so that he could work away on the renewal in his spare moments. This was because if the driver’s licence is not in his hands, he can’t work on the application – just in case, god forbid, I should try to send my old Irish licence back to Ireland and get a new Irish one in addition to my new Spanish one. Which is fair enough, I’d say – if I didn’t know better.
I’m sure he’s loads of spare moments, but at least he put a few to good use, so that the next day I got a call to go collect my temporary drivers licence, with the assurance that my new, ten-year licence would be in the post in a couple of weeks.
That was September. Now it’s December.
Even when you think you’ve finally won, you’re not always in the clear.
And then, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you get surprised. My new licence arrived eventually, just as I was about to get time off work to go to the DGT office and see what the hell the story was.
The new licence! Worth waiting for? Not for that photo… ;-(
And then it was joined by a second, identical, Spanish licence, so that, if I was so inclined, I could indeed go back to Ireland and get a new Irish one. It’s like waiting for a bus, sometimes.
a billion people…
“We have still time to avoid the worst of it, but we have already opened a number of flood gates, one in West Antarctica, and several in Greenland.” — Dr Eric Rignot.
“This kind of rifting behavior provides another mechanism for rapid retreat of these glaciers, adding to the probability that we may see significant collapse of West Antarctica in our lifetimes.” Ian Howat, Earth Sciences associate Professor at Ohio State University.
“Burning all the world’s coal, oil and gas would melt the entire Antarctic ice-sheet and cause the oceans to rise by over 50m, a transformation unprecedented in human history. The conclusion of a new scientific study shows that, over the course of centuries, land currently inhabited by a billion people would be lost below water.” — The Guardian.
Massive Rift Forming in Larsen C
Larsen C. It’s the next big ice shelf on the…
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