SPAIN

I´m sitting in F and P’s living room. They were just robbed. Person or persons unknown broke into their Madrid apartment, stealing, among other things, their engagement rings. Pieces of the door’s lock scatter on the floor.

At this time of year Madrid is crisp and clear, with blue skies and little wind. Piles of fetid trash choke the entrances and hallways of the subway system: today the metro cleaners’ strike continues into its second week.

madridmetro-sagasman.jpg[Madrid metro huelga de limpieza, from Sagasman’s flickr.]

The city — at least its outskirts, where I am now — is plastered with pseudopolitical stickers. The usual Spanish fascist graffiti has been supplemented by a much cannier strategy. Bigotry repackaged as national pride and anti-illegal-immigrant political groups. “Don’t be an ostrich!” goes one poster, accompanied by a child-friendly photomontage of a businessman with a bird’s head, “Face the dangers of illegal immigration.” Of course, these people make no distinction between legal and illegal immigration. “Housing for all SPANISH” goes another. Huge stickers adorn doorways, and if their rhetoric is (almost) subtle, the racist caricatures (eastern european, moroccan, black african, chinese) appeal to a more basic sense of literacy.

I don’t remember any of these stickers the last time I was here. Now they bloom like poppies. The spectrum fills with colors. Either post-Franco extremists have learned to groom themselves or someone lies adjacent. And it is cunning, to make immigration look like the spout from which all sorts of social and economic ills pour, and tie that to a throwback notion of ‘Spanish’ identity from the fascist 1970s. Watching cities slide. Feeling the climate change. Seeing the wrong people sharpen their marketing game.

But I was talking about robbery. About thieves. About a broken-hearted couple at the police commissioner’s. The news media is talking about a strange new thievery surrounding the assumption of robbery. It´s called the canon digital. This refers to a blanket fine levied upon all media and gadgets involved in possible music or film piracy. Starting on January 1st, the government will place a surcharge on everything from blank CD-rs to mobile phones, scanners, and hard drives. DSL internet lines may be next. The new Spanish intellectual property law assumes we all use all these items to make personal copies of copywritten media. A big assumption to say the least… Funds generated are meant to compensate for the cost of bootlegging. The money raised will go to the (already wealthy) SGAE, Spain´s national performance rights organization, who trickle out payment to labels and artists after recouping their considerable operating costs.

No, it doesn’t matter if you use USB drives for personal data, or purchase MP3s legally via iTunes, or if you run a copyleft netlabel… everyone must pay. The canon digital is built into the price, then taxed, upping the costs of digital storage media and playback devices even more. The canon adds about 38 cents per blank CD, roughly a 41% increase in total cost to consumer! Price list here. Nosoypirata (I’m not a pirate) blogs about these issues intelligently.

But I was talking about real thieves, the ones who enter your home, smash your sense of security, take the jewelry, make you wait for hours in the police commissioner’s to report a crime the cops will not solve.

I spent a year or so living beside the sea. The Mediterranean was literally a 2-minute walk from the flat (Barceloneta). On the corner stood another police commissioners’. In the summer months a line of people would stretch out onto the sidewalk — people in bathing suits and towels, who’d fallen asleep and gotten robbed of all they had with them at the beach.

Down the street from me (even closer to the sea!) was one of the saddest apartment’s I’ve ever been visited. Inhabited by a real live ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, a black musician from Ghana who liked Steve Reich tape pieces *and* Deep Forest. My friend was sick and his place was dark, so dark, almost unbelievably dark, especially considering he rarely left and the sky outside glared bright and overwhelming, all horizon and space and tourists walking and swimming and eating as if a vacation is a narcotic or a dream. He’d microwave me tea.

Barcelona´s leaders are doing their utmost to ensure that the city won’t survive a sharp drop in tourism. (Paradox being that no city can survive a sustained spike in tourism, survival in the spiritual sense). And Spain itself can’t survive without its immigrants (legal or illegal) — economic survival as well as actual, demographic survival.

On F and P’s TV (too big for the thieves to carry) I’m watching a travel show about a blonde Spanish woman trying local cocktails around the world. That´s all she does. She jokes with the bartenders or resort staffers (they don’t always understand her, looking awkwardly at the camera) and drinks and drinks. Angkor Wat, St. Thomas, Rio de Janeiro. She bubbles through a shrinking world, looking truly drunk.

I switch channels. Jose Luis Moreno appears in a wheelchair. A few days ago real thieves entered his home. They beat him brutally. Like in 24, these thieves used torture to extract quality information in a hurry. If you have spent time in Spain yet don’t know Moreno, perhaps you’ve seen his TV program, Noche de Fiesta. It aired on Saturday evenings. Each episode lasted hours. I’ve watched it (briefly) several times: a variety show featuring models in bikinis, muscle boys, a lingerie catwalk, treacly pianists, Moreno giving away gifts, and all the old people in the audience clapping, clapping, clapping. A very successful show.

Survival of a species. Survival of the fittest. National survival. Survival of stuff like TV, befriending young and old and outlasting us all. For individuals never survive. The arrival of a new year means one less day. Which house to rob? Which love to defend?

5 thoughts on “SPAIN”

  1. germany already has fees in place on devices that can be used to copy materials. including hard disks, blank discs, harddrive recorders, fax and xerox machines.
    i think a printer company just won one lawsuit in an ongoing battle and does not have to pay fees for every printer sold to the society protecting writers’ copyrights for the time being.

    here too the next installment of the copyright law comes into effect in january 1, but i believe said fine has been in place already.
    the new law btw still generally acknowledges the right for a private copy (in germany you are allowed to make private copies of copywritten material but only up to 5 and only for close relatives), but only if it is made from a legal source and if no “effective” technical protection has to be overcome in order to produce such a copy.
    so the vote is still out if germany practically abandons the right for private copies, since any modern cd/dvd has a copy protection mechanism, or if it does not. because what copy protection is “effective”? especially if you obviously could overcome it to produce a copy 😉
    my old cd-drive is not all impressed by any so called “copy protection”, and linux is not by certain ones aimed at windows users. etc. pp.
    but i got caried away…

    copyright owners make money on germans buying cd-burners.

  2. thanks for the info (& hello!). Germany’s situation seems quite similar to Spain — this is all news to me!! the DVD-copy protection is one of people’s biggest specific complaints here — they say either copy-protection should be taken off DVDs, or the canon digital should be removed from DVD media. somehow I trust GEMA more the SGAE, not sure why… SGAE are ruthless and mercenary in Spain, even trying to charge private weddings and places like that for playing music.

  3. Vaya putada, the engagement rings… though breaking into empty houses during a vacation has always been a problem here, in the past 5 years average suburban spaniards have been introduced to forms of insecurity they were completely ignorant of (the type of treatment Moreno got) fear and paranoia follow close behind, everybody has heard the stories of violent masked men entering the houses of the very rich, the moderately rich, even the merely suburban, the wave of opportunistic stickers has followed closely.

    As for the other thieves…. what really pisses me off about the SGAE is that the money that they gather is distributed by percentage according to record sales. If you sold 10% of CDs you will get 10% of all the tax money from recordable media, hard drives, etc. In other words, the artists I listen to and (yes) download from soulseek, will never see a cent of the money SGAE got from me. Instead it will go to support people like Alejandro Sanz….

    I can easily imagine a future where phone companies act as gate keepers/chargers of the content that arrives to your house. They’ll always own the cables, they can control/toll for what goes through them. How they’ve managed to stay out of the accusations so far, without the intellectual property sleuths getting on their case, is a testament to their real size and power. Telecommunication companies are bigger than the entertainment industry, bigger than the computer industry, bigger than Microsoft and Google. They own the cables and the antennas, they own the platform. No one dares pick on those guys.

  4. Madrid, Madrid, Madrid. I hate it more everyday.
    So parochial. So rehashed it stinks.

    It’s a nice town, though, you just have to forget about 90% of the humans there.

  5. ur a lose Shuko ive been to Madrid many times and i love it. ppl is not the way ur saying, im from Germany and ppl r so nice. i think ur just a loser

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