Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blogging in Summer

I have to admit with the change in temperature and the arrival of the sun after a long winter, I find my desire to sit in an office and blog about as high as going to work on a Monday morning with a hangover. There are too many things I'd rather be doing such as attending the II Gran Pinchada Surf and Roll which takes places at La Cervecita tonight and night starting at seven there's a spring festival at Plaça Sant Pere in El Born. Barcelona really comes alive over the spring and summer months with events such as these, in addition to neighborhood parties, concerts and the like so I feel a bit sad sitting at home when I could be outside enjoying life.

So as with last year, light blogging through the summer months. I'll try and compile a list of neighborhood parties with their dates for anyone interested. There are so many it's by no means easy, so if you know of one, please let me know. In the meantime, enjoy your days wherever you are!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Milk It!

One of the many things I find fascinating about the Spanish language is the importance of the word milk, or leche. It is of course used to describe the white liquid that comes from mammals, but in addition to the literal meaning, such as café con leche (coffee with milk) it's also commonly used either as an exclamation or as part of an expression.

Here are some examples.
  • importar tres leches - to mind three milks, which means to not care at all. For example, me importa tres leches qué opinas. I don't care at all what your opinion is.
  • ser la leche - to be the milk, which means to be unbelievable or great. It can be used literally such as, Soy la leche, he aprobado todos los exámenes. I'm great, I passed all of my exams, or sarcastically, Eres la leche, macho. You're unbelievable, dude.
  • de la leche - of the milk, which means more than a lot, as hell. Hoy hace un solazo de la leche. Today is sunny as hell.  Hace un calor de la leche. It's hot as hell. (I wish!)
  • a toda leche - to all the milk, which means at full speed. Salimos corriendo a toda leche. We ran out at full speed.
  • ¡leche! - dammit! ¡Leche! Me he pillado el dedo con la puerta. Dammit! I caught my finger in the door.
  • estar de mala / buena leche - to be in a bad / good milk which refers to someone's mood. ¿Estas de buena o mala leche hoy? Are you in a good or bad mood today?
  • tener leche en las venas (en vez de sangre) - to have milk in your veins (instead of blood), meaning you show no affection or you lack of drive.
  • cagarse en la leche - to shit in the milk, which is what you do when angry.
Not sure why leche is so prevalent in the Spanish vernacular. Any ideas? Also, feel free to add more if there are. All this talk of milk is making me hungry for cereal.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Boycotting the news

I ran into a friend the other day while out for a drink.  She was still buzzing from a great weekend in Barcelona and excited about the eventual arrival of summer. I told her how much I admired her optimist outlook given the news lately, providing a quick review of the world headlines when she asked what I meant. Her smiling face went stoic, she called me depressing and left to find someone more cheerful to talk to.

The moment really crystallized something that I think would make an interesting case study: how much of a person's outlook on life is correlated to their news intake. It seems the less you know or care, the more pleasant the world is. Yes, when it comes to world events at least, ignorance truly is bliss, which I guess makes the opposite true; knowledge is misery. So the question is - what's more important, being knowledgeable or being happy? I think it's time to debookmark the news sites and find other things to read until the weather improves.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Primavera Sound 2010

It's May which means Primavera Sound will soon be here. Starting the 27th of May and ending the 30th, most of the action takes place at the Forum. It's four days of great music and probably my favorite concert / festival in Barcelona even if I miss the old venue of Poble Espanyol. As with last year, they've got a great mix of bands from oldies but goodies to some up and coming acts. Here's this year's line up based on date. No times available yet. Bold indicates I've heard of the group.

Thursday May 27th: Alado Sincera, Aspe, Bis, Biscuit, Broken Social Scene, Circulatory System, Chrome Hoof, Crocodiles, Delorean, Edredón, Emilio José, Fuck Buttons, Guadalupe Pata, Half Foot Outside, His Majesty the King, Macaco Bang, Mission of Burma, Moderat, Monotonix, Pavement, Pony Bravo, Seefeel, Sic Alps, Sleigh Bells, Superchunk, Surfer Blood, The Big Pink, The Books, The Fall, The Smith Westerns, The XX, Titus Andronicus, Tom Cary, Tortoise, Ui, Wild Beasts.

A strong first day lineup with a definite a nineties influence. Aspe is like Tool except the leader singer has a falsetto. Circulatory System produced one of my favorite albums last year and Pavement is one of my all time favorite groups, although I'm a bit ambivalent about their reunion. In my opinion, Mission of Burma was one of the more overlooked bands of the grunge era for lack of a better word, while Surfer Blood, a relative new comer, takes the nineties sound and adds a bit of pop and rhythm. The Fall is a great band and I hope the sound system works this time. The XX received numerous awards last year, but I can't really get into them unlike the Wild Beasts which I enjoy immensely.  The influnce of the Clash is what I hear when I listen to Titus Andronicus, but that's not a bad thing. There are worse groups to copy.

Friday May 28th: A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Autoramas, Beach House, Beak, Best Coast, Black Math Horseman, Blackbird, Boat Beam, CocoRosie, Cohete, Cold Cave, Condo Fucks, Delco,  Diplo, Fuel Fandago, Ganglians, Harlem, Here We Go Magic, Holy Water, Japandroids, Hope Sandovals & The Warm Inventions, Joker featuring Nomad, Junip, Leda Tres, Les Savy Fav, Major Lazer, Marc Almond, Nueva Volcano,  Oscartienealas, Panda Bear, Pixies, Scout Niblett, Shellac, Spoon, Standstill, The Bloody Beatroots Death Crew, The Dallas Guild, The King Kahn & BBQ Show, The New Pornographers, the Nu Niles, Thee Oh Sees, Wilco, Wild Honey, Wire, Yeasayer.

A night of musical heavy weights with the Pixies, Wilco and Wire. It'll be interesting to see what songs each picks for their set given the wealth of material to choose from. Japandroids and Les Savy Fav remind me too much of other groups but without the enthusiasm of say Titus Andronicus who play on Thursday. Spoon are quality but not something I listen to much. Panda Bear should be interesting to see live while I wish just for once Steve Albini would bring back Big Black instead of Shellac.

Saturday May 29th: Atlas Sound, Ben Frost, Bigott, Boy 8-Bit, Built to Spill, Camaron - La Leyenda del Tiempo, Dinero, Dr. Dog, Dum Dum Girls, Endless Boogie, Fake Blood, Grizzly Bear, HEALTH, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Matt & Kim, Mujeres, Nana Grizol, Niño y Pistola, No Age, ODDSAC, Orbital, Pet Shop Boys, Polvo, Real Estate, Roddy Frame, Sian Alice Group, So Cow, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Bundles, The Charlatans, The Clean, The Drums, The Psychic Paramount, The Slits, Thelematicos, Trigger, Van Dyke Parks, Za!

If I had to pick one day to go, this would be it. Atlas Sound's last album still gets a lot of play in the house, while Built to Spill is a great band live. Dum Dum Girls, HEALTH and No Age all hail from L.A. and offer a taste of the different musical sound Lala land is famous for: sunny pop, in your face aggression, and sonic experimentation, sometimes in the same song. Mat & Kim take synth pop to a whole new level. Grizzly Bear is similar to The XX - they won a slew of awards last year but I'm not sure why, while Sunny Day Real Estate is one group I could never get into depsite many people, whose opinion I respect, telling me they were great. Pet Shop Boys is a group I admire but would never pay to see and the Charlatans is what my older brother used to listen to.

So that's it more or less. There are smaller groups and different stages including Parc Joan Miró, so it's difficult to give a more detailed account.  Check out the official website for more info and enjoy the festivities! Some videos for your listening pleasure to get in the mood.

Atlas Sound & Panda Bear

Wild Beasts


Pixies singing Spanglish

More Bass and Dubstep

Sala Cream is hosting its weekly Mad Session featuring an array of talented deejays spinning bass, dubstep and break beats, plus I imagine some tunes that are unclassifiable. Here's the lineup.

Monday, May 3, 2010


After hinting at summer last week, the weather took a bit of a turn for the worse right around the time Standard & Poors downgraded Spain's credit rating. This news was followed by unemployment reaching twenty percent and the forecast this week calls for rain so the outlook isn't too sunny right now.

The recent spat of bad economic news was followed by some thoughtful articles highlighting the differences between the Spanish situation and Greece in terms of government debt, pointing out that even while downgrading the country, S & P found little chance of Spain going into default.  This is, of course, great news, but it doesn't mean it's hunky dory since public debt is only part of the equation.

Sources: Bloomberg, IMF, European Union Commission Estimates

As the data shows and the related article explains, Spain's problem isn't so much its public debt percentage, which is actually lower than Germany's, but its current account balance, which is a combination of public and private debt. The latter was used primarily to fund the real estate bubble  and when it popped, there's been nothing to replace it other than government spending because the economy's been nothing but construction and tourism the last twenty years.

So the one bright spot, its public debt, is increasing as a result of the crisis. At the same time, private sector debt, mostly tied up in mortgages, is increasing due to the housing crash. Meanwhile, the international community is calling for a period of wage deflation as prices continue to rise. Growth isn't projected until 2011 and even then it'll be anemic, which means there's little hope of the unemployment situation turning around anytime soon despite what the Spanish president says. That's the best case scenario.

One of the tragic ironies is, just when Spain has found a way to harness its famous sun for something other than tourism and become a player in the emerging renewable energy market, the subsidies needed to help nascent groups like T-Solar might be cut in the name of austerity. It makes me wonder if there had been less building and more investing where the country would be now.  Of course, I've never understood why a French company, Alstom, won the contract to build the trains for the Barcelona metro either. Sometimes is seems the only thing Spanish are the banks and their empty buildings anymore. Actually, that's not true; there's the chiringuito once the clouds pass and summer finally arrives.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Plugs and other Tidbits

For anyone interested in doing a bike tour of Barcelona, Steel Donkey offers an alternative view of the city thanks to some locals who are eager to show your more than the standard sights and streets. Meanwhile, Suite Life offers not only apartments for visitors and locals alike, but also services aimed at making your stay more enjoyable. One way to ensure that is to avoid the pickpockets and speaking of which, I know someone who got robbed in Barcelona is a Facebook page that's recently become quite a phenomenon with over a thousand fans and a write up in La Vanguardia. Dedicated to helping people avoid the latest scams and places notorious for their thieves, it offers maps and updates on local initiatives.  Become a fan because it's a worth cause. Finally, Pocket Cultures, where Marta from English in Barna contributes, is a great resource for any traveler offering insider tips and insights so make sure to bookmark it. Enjoy the weekend!