Saturday, 31 July 2010

Culture: what a load of bull!

Sick And CruelFollowing the Catalonian parliament's decision to ban bullfighting in the region, effective from 1 January 2012, the bullfighting boyos have banded together to form a front, hoping to petition the Minister of Culture, Ángeles González-Sinde Reig, to classify their barbarous activity as one of culture.

On 30 July, the bullfighters Enrique Ponce, José Antonio Morante de la Puebla, Julián López “El Juli”, David Fandila “El Fandi”, Sebastián Castella, José María Manzanares, Miguel Ángel Perera, Alejandro Talavante and Cayetano Rivera, as well as other leading figures in the bullfighting world, met and formed a group to request a meeting with the Spanish Minister of Culture. It seems that bullfighting is currently the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior; these ne'er-do-wells want to change the responsibility to rest with Culture. Their idea is to present a counter-offensive against any possible expansion of the anti-bullfighting movement in the rest of Spain. Needless to say, they are supported in their desires by the ultra-right PP (the main opposition party in the Spanish national parliament), who have announced their intention to have bullfighting declared an item of Cultural Interest

Culture, my foot!

Because something has taken place for a few hundred years, does not make it culture. If that were the case, we'd still be throwing Christians to the lions (actually, not such a bad idea when it comes to pedophile padres). If that were the case, we'd still be executing people in public. If that were the case, we'd still be kicking severed heads around instead of footballs…

Bullfighting is nothing more than the unnecessary and cruel infliction of pain, suffering, humiliation, degradation, and stress, on a living, breathing, feeling creature.

Simply put, bullfighting is depravity.

There is no way that anyone can rightfully defend such inhuman actions as culture.

If it must be declared as anything, then declare it a National Disgrace.

Gymnocalycium saglione

Several of the Gymnocalycium cacti in our collection are now in seed, but the most spectacular must be this Gymnocalycium saglione. The cactus has a diameter of about 12 cm. and a height of 7 cm. maximum, yet it is carrying 10 very large seed pods of a magnificent magenta colour. The largest pods are 3.5 cm in diameter and I don't think they have stopped growing yet!

See more Gymnocalycium seed pods at this Picasa album.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

¡Viva Catalunya!

Well done Catalonia! The Catalonian regional parliament today voted to ban bullfighting throughout the northeastern region of Spain. Excellent news and a real push towards the complete banning of this most cruel depravity that belongs nowhere in the civilised world of the twenty-first century.

Catalonia is now the second region of Spain where bullfighting is outlawed (the law actually comes into force on 1 January 2012), following the Canary Island's decision to stop the "sport" in 1991. Let's hope the rest of Spain soon comes to its senses and also puts an end to this fiesta of bloodletting.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Moors and Christians

The Moors influenced the Iberian peninsula for the best part of seven hundred years, starting with the invasion of Tarik's troops in 711 (they landed in Gibraltar). They provided Iberia and, largely through that channel, the rest of Europe (at least the few civilised parts that were then in existence), with a great wealth of culture, science, astronomy, mathematics, agriculture and tolerance. Sadly, by the beginning of the 11th century, Moslem unity was destroyed through in-fighting and a series of smaller taifas came into being, which allowed the advance of Christian troops from the north (this is commonly known as the reconquest, but there was nothing re- about it). By the end of the 15th century, the Catholics ran the country with an iron hand: the Jews were forcefully deported in 1492 (depriving Spain of a huge well of financial know-how) and the Moslems in 1502 (depriving Spain of a huge well of culture and general knowledge).

The festivals of Moors and Christians (Moros y Cristianos in Castilian or Moros i Cristians in Catalonian (Valencian)) are supposed to commemorate these turbulent times. There is no fixed date for the festivals and they occur from early in the year (in April in Alcoy, for example) to quite late in the holiday season, largely in the southern Valencian area. Here in Guardamar del Segura, some ten days are reserved for the festivals towards the end of July each year. This year's events were held from 16 to 25 July.

The first few days are reserved for more or less official events and other activities of less interest to the general public. After these, however, the "street wars" begin, when bands of both Moors and Christians wander through the streets, making a lot of noise with guns similar to arquebuses. Fortunately, the guns fire only blanks, but we avoid Guardamar at this time! Eventually, these bands attack a "castle," erected in the main square: one day the castle is held by the Christians and is taken by the Moors, then it is held by the Moors and taken by the Christians.

At last, however, when all the nonsense is over, the real business begins: the parades. Guardamar might be only a small town, but it possesses a long, straight, and relatively wide main street, so is able to offer an excellent platform along which the various sections of the comparsas, or groups, can march. Usually, two or three groups of some ten people march in a line and these are followed by a band, which plays suitably strident music. A comparsa can have as many as a dozen groups. The whole thing lasts about three hours and takes place on two evenings, the final Friday and Saturday of the festival period.

You can see photos of the 2010 parades at this Picasa web album.

Elise has also taken some photos for you to view and these you can find here.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Cactus pods

Cacti have all sorts of attractions: they are relatively easy to obtain; they offer great variety; they are easy enough to grow, given the correct conditions (and where we live, the conditions are just about ideal for most cacti); they are very forgiving; they often produce beautiful flowers…

One type of cactus, called Gymnocaycium, also provide a wonderful variety of seed pods. Having flowered and, if the insects have done their work well, the pods of the various members of the Gymnocalycium family develop shapes ranging from club-like to apple-like, with unusual markings and a range of colours from green through blue to pink.

For more Gymnocalycium pods, see this Picasa album.
Gymnocalycium pods

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This Is Not Entertainment ! This Is Murder In The First Degree !The nine days of the San Fermin festivals in Pamplona have just come to an end. Basically, a long week of drunkenness, using an ancient "tradition" to justify such boorishness and the peculiar cruelty to bulls for which Spain should be ashamed.

Each day, six bulls are forced to run a course through the narrow streets between their corral and the town's bull-ring. Men, usually quite young and many the worse for drink, run in front of, at the side of, and behind the bulls, in an attempt to prove how brave they are, the bravest staying just ahead of the bulls, of course. The bulls are poked, prodded, and struck in an effort to make them run as quickly as possible. Not infrequently, this results in one or more of the bulls slipping, falling, and sliding upon the hard paved surface of the road. The unfortunate bull is then encouraged to get up as quickly as possible to continue its ridiculous journey, something that can only be lamented. The fact that the men might also slip and fall, with resulting injury, is to be applauded, rather than lamented, for these idiots have chosen to take part in this exercise of goading a creature that knows no better.

Later in the day, a "real" bull-fight takes place in the bull-ring. This is also touted as being "traditional". But no recourse to tradition, no fancy costumes, no pasa-doble-playing bands, and no quantity of "Olés" can hid the fact that this is cruelty at its most cruel, plain and simple: the bull is forced to undergo all manner of torture to cause it to lose blood, weakening it to such an extent that a matador can prance and strut before it, performing "artistic" passes, before attempting to kill the animal with a sword in the hope of being awarded one or more ears (I kid you not). Thank goodness in the past week or so, the bulls have had a bit of their own back by goring several of these fools.

Come off it. This is the twenty-first century and it really is time to reject such barbaric past-times. We have largely eliminated most other cruel sports from Europe: bear-baiting, dog-fighting, cock-fighting, badger baiting, fox-hunting… so it really is time to also accept that bull-fighting is not an artistic tradition. Instead, it is a pathetically cruel act of cowardice, quite inappropriate for a civilised society.

Soon, the Catalonian regional parliament will vote on whether to ban bullfighting (the Canary Islands banned it in 1991). The Partido Popular (a dangerous right-wing group of Franco-lovers) is, of course, pro-bullfighting (hey, there's a lot of money involved in it). Let us hope that the more sensible members of the parliament will vote sensibly on 28 July and at least one part of mainland Spain will be free from this shame the besmirches the image of the country throughout the world.

Monday, 12 July 2010

There Is a Happy Land

Spain burst into a howl of celebration a short time ago (I'm writing this at 11.38 PM), when the rather lax referee blew the whistle which ended the final of the football World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Football fever is an ever-present sickness here in Spain and its symptoms only grew more pronounced as the Spanish team progressed, somewhat hesitantly, it must be admitted, through the competition.

Tthe Spanish supporters had to bite their nails and exercise considerable patience, even in the final match against the Netherlands, who kept the score to 0-0 unitl well into the second period of extra time, with the spectre of the dreaded penalty shoot-out looming large.

National relief was provided, however, when Iniesta scored the winning goal after 116 minutes of play. The roar that went up four minutes later, when the final whiste was blown, was perhaps even louder.

Spain is a very happy land at the moment.

¡Enhorabuena España!

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

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Thursday, 8 July 2010

iPad at 100

My mother uses an Apple iBook, which is a few years old now (well, in technology terms, it's ancient, practically prehistoric) and really needs to be replaced. I've thought of giving her my PowerBook G4, which has a larger screen and should be more than powerful enough for her requirements. Now, you should know that my mother will be blowing out 90 candles in a few weeks time (2nd of August, in fact), assuming she can keep the false teeth in whilst attempting that feat, so I reckon she does a great job of using her iBook, especially as she had never laid hands on a computer before that one. She emails and surfs the Web, and uses a couple of applications to help her find answers to crossword clues, too. Not bad at all.

When I got my iPad about six weeks ago, I thought that it would be an even better replacement for her than my PowerBook: it's handier, easier to hold, easier to use, has a better screen, less prone to mishaps (such as removing items from the Dock)…

And now I've come across this remarkable story of a 100 year-old lady, named Virginia, who has just received her very first computer—an Apple iPad—and is getting along great guns with it. This is exactly how technology should be: easy and fun to use—forget the moaning geeks who seem to see only the technical aspects of things, instead of their true usefulness.

Enjoy the video:

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Everything's Coming Up Rosas

Sport in Spain generally means football. The sports section of the evening news on TVE1, the main nationwide television station, is almost completely devoted to that pasttime that is for some strange reason considered a sport. Nowadays, of course, an even greater interest is being directed at football (the soccer variety for American readers), given the Spanish team's achievement of reaching the semifinals of the Soccer World Cup.

Still, things are changing in Spain and a number of other sports are beginning to receive a fairer proportion of attention. Furthermore, Spanish teams and individual participants are doing very well in various disciplines.

The Tour de France started yesterday and hopes are high that the Spanish cyclist Contador will repeat his victory of last year.

The final of the men's singles has just taken place at Wimbledon, and it was handsomely won by Spanish player Rafa Nadal, a young man as modest and self-effacing in his own language as he appeared to be in his post-match interview with Sue Barker.

Today also saw the Catalunyan motorcycling Grand Prix MotoGP, in which the first two places were taken by Spanish riders, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Fair enough, they have an easier time than otherwise, thanks to the absence through injury of their Italian rival, Valentono Rossi, but would be giving him a run for his money in any case.

I know less about other sports, though am aware that Pol Gasol, a Spaniard, plays at the highest level of basketball in the USA (for a team called the Lakers, I believe) and that Spanish teams do well in such things as water-polo and handball.

The only disappointment is that so little interest is afforded the only real sport in the world, Rugby Union. Let's hope that, with everything coming up roses in Spanish sports, the Spanish nation will soon discover the real thing.

(Photo shows Spain against the British Lions, played in Elche, May 2007.)

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