Monday, October 29, 2007

Go Sox!

When it comes down to it, there are really only three sports teams in the world worth supporting - Manchester United, FC Barcelona and baseball's Boston Red Sox.

All three represent (on the field) what is best about sport. The endeavour is to entertain, and attack rather than defend. All three have traditionally favoured attack over defence in the belief that if they concede four (runs/goals) they have the means to score five or more.

All three have traditionally also pushed their hugely loyal fan bases to the edge by winning things the hard way. Why play to your full ability and win easily when you can play like idiots, go behind and recover in the last stages of the game?

It has not always worked. In fact all three teams have underachieved massively at the highest level over the years. Barca and United have only won two European Cups each while their biggest rivals Real Madrid and Liverpool have won nine and six respectively.

The Red Sox meanwhile won five World Series before 1918 and not a single other one until 2004, while the hated New York Yankees won 20 or more.

Then on Sunday night, they won their seventh Series. And lo, the world is a much better place as a result ...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A brave man

Pasqual Maragall is the man who made modern Barcelona.

As Mayor for 15 years from 1982 he brought the Olympic Games to the city and oversaw its transformation from a sleepy and crumbling port to the cool, modern and wonderful city it is today, one that has attracted thousands of people like me to come and live here.

He also spent three years as President of Catalonia, overseeing the region's new autonimy statute, before he retired last year.

Yesterday he got up and, with his wife by his side, announced that he had Alzheimers and would be spending much of his time now in the fight to bring attention to, and combat, this terrible disease.

It was an incredibly brave thing to do and the coverage in the papers this morning was both moving and extensive, with praise and sympathy showered on him by political allies and enemies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today I am 18,260 days old...

which means in two days time ... (you can work this out in excel)

Motor racing as it should be

I took a very nostalgic trip to Montjuic on Sunday (along with 250,000) others to see a special festival to mark the 75th birthday of the now defunct racing circuit which winds around the beautiful park.

Among the historic cars which lapped the circuit were a dozen F1 cars from 1975, the last time a Grand Prix was held there. Not only was that the time that I followed F1 with a passion, but it was in many ways a golden age of racing. No pit stops, no tyre changes, no computers - just close racing around wonderful road circuits such as Montjuic, Spa, Nurburgring.

All gone now. In fact Montjuic in 1975 marked the beginning of the end. The drivers threatened to strike becuase of the poor safety features and raced only under threat of having the cars impounded. After 25 laps, a car left the tracks, leapt the barriers and killed four people, two of them spectators. The era of road racing was over.

Barcelona still has its Grand Prix of course on the Catalunya circuit, an event that brings millions of euros into the city each year.

It's a very strange business. Under Franco, the sport was very much the preserve of the Nationalists, organised for and by rich playboys, dukes and counts. I doubt there was much of a Republican presence there.

Today you'll see the nationalist and socialist Catalan leaders hobnobbing with the likes of Bernie Ecclestone and dangling baubles to ensure he doesn't take the franchise away from the circuit to some other part of Spain. Most peculiar.

so we did go mushroom picking ..

in the right place ... in the lavansa valley in the shadow of the Pyrenees
at the right time ... in mid October
with the right guide ... a friend who knows her poisonous from her edible

and we found ... eight.

so dry has it been in September that the mushroom season just hasn't happened yet and probably won't now. It's still 20+C and sunny and the chestnut sellers are due out on the streets any day now.

One day autumn will come ...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

La Vanguardia has a redesign

And very nice it looks too. I’ve written here before about what a great newspaper it is and this week’s redesign makes it even better.

New colour presses have prompted a much better use of bigger photos and graphics, while the overall size has been cut down to the same as El Pais. Large elements of the former design (co-authored my Milton Glaser I learned) have been retained but it all looks crisper, brighter and more modern.

What I like about the paper is it doesn’t beat up its readers each day by screaming at them how awful their city, their region and their country is. Instead it explains it to them and let’s them come to their own conclusions.

It reports soberly and crisply on difficult issues such as immigration, violence against women, education, spiralling housing costs and so on. Its journalists see themselves on a mission to explain, rather than sound off and bend the facts to fit their viewpoint. International news is at the front and the sugary stuff about royal children kept to pink pages in the middle.

It’s a sharp contrast to London’s Evening Standard which has until now beaten its readers into submission about how foul their city is, how dreadful their mayor is. It’s depressing and apparently they have now embarked on a mission to be more upbeat.

Local papers should never be unquestioning cheerleaders for their city. But they have a duty to reflect the way their readers enjoy themselves as well as telling the story of what can be improved. Any publication worth its salt should like its readers but not many do. La Vanguardia is one of the few.