lunes, 31 de diciembre de 2007

On New Year's and Sour Grapes

Here's a Spanish custom for you today:

Tonight, at 12 o'clock, a big fat clock at the 0 km of Madrid will start chiming. The 0 km is where all the roads start counting kilometres, since until recently all roads went through Madrid (and people still wonder why the Catalans and Basques hate us...)

So, first you have the warning chimes, which are like seconds or something and then you get the gong, gong, gong of the actual hour. So, with each gong, you're 'sposed to eat one grape. If you don't choke and die by the end of the twelve gongs and have managed to finish your twelve grapes, you'll be lucky for the next year!

Pagan custom? I don't think so.

In the 18th century there was a huge harvest of grapes. So the grape people went to the King, who was Charles III and said: Oh, mighty King, may we throw the grapes into the sea so that the insurance company will pay us monies?

And the King said: you may not, for those insurance companies of which you speak do not yet exist, although I may have to invent them for my private profit. Instead, let us con a whole nation into eating grapes on New Year's Eve, so that the harvest will be sold, and at a great price.

And so it was.

But, but, but... was that the end of Teh Spanish Crazy?

No! One fine year, in a little town (don't remember well), the lights went out on New Year's Eve so that they couldn't eat their grapes watching their TV's. And so the inhabitants went to the Mayor and said: Oh, woe on us, who didn't eat our grapes. Are we unlucky for the coming year?

And the Mayor said: Not in the least, we'll change the date to August 31st and eat grapes anyway and advertise in the papers and get lots of tourists because, really, New Year's is fine, but it'd be better if it were warmer.

And so it was. And now that town lives off tourism. On August 31st.

That's Spain for you.

So, gotta go choke on my grapes and cava (Spanish equivalent to Champagne, but the French don't let us call it Champagne, for some reason). Some people buy their grapes canned and peeled, but my family are all macho (and cheap about it) and our grapes have skins and pits to chew/choke on. When I was younger I remember the chimes went faster, but they've been slowed as a result of the aging Spanish population (we wouldn't want any of the old folks to die, now would we?) and as a result the tradition has been completely sissified. Oh well, macho customs of choking for luck don't last forever.

So, happy New Year or whatever crazy passes for New Year wherever you come from. And don't choke on your grapes. Sour or otherwise.

(By the way, my History is like my reviews: a helluva a lot of embellishment + one pinch of truth. Don't take me to court for that: I like my reality distorted. It's a lot more fun this way. So there)

martes, 25 de diciembre de 2007

Merry Christmas...

... from the bottom of my oesophagus.

There, I said it. I can try to be merry now.

The only thing that helps is that this is possibly the last Christmas I will ever have to celebrate: I plan on being on call for each and every yucky holiday from not until the day I retire.

Oh, and if you do enjoy the holidays, well, good for you, and sorry for the snark. I don't like cola drinks but I'm ok with people liking the stuff. Let's be mature and accept that some people feel the same way about Christmas. Just because I don't like it doesn't mean we can't be friends.

If you're like me, survive and think that it'll all be over soon. Sadly, in Spain we have the Three Kings on the 8th, so the whole family-meal thing won't be over until then. Congratulate yourself thinking that your Christmas is almost over.

If you actually like the Holidays, have a merry one with lots of gifts and lots of pie.

jueves, 20 de diciembre de 2007

Laugh or Cry?

Ben Payne has taken my frustration at some of the SF I've read lately and put it in words.

It hurts so much I think I'll have to laugh.

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2007

A Whimpering Mess of Spiritual Constipation

Ok people, the big day is coming. I should have realized this about six months ago, but it hit me yesterday that my exam is on January 19th. That's little more than a month to revise everything that can come up in the exam--ie: all the Medicine in the World.

Some people say God is so obviously not a woman. Well, God is so obviously not a doctor either, or he wouldn't have all these diseases so complicated. The fact that these things kill people is no longer an issue. I'm studying to pass and right now, to be sincere, I don't much care about any hypothetical patients. Ever wondered how the empathy was beaten out of your doctor? This is how.

I haven't been able to write for a month or so (except for the micro story I wrote for that editor--he knows who he is). Ideas keep building up faster than I can bat them aside to focus on my books. Hell, even the books make me think of story ideas. And, guess what? Ideas spawned by miastenia gravis? Not so good. I'm spiritually constipated and ideas keep throwing themselves at the blockage. The blockage is January 19th. I wish once that's done all these ideas will come out nice and easy. But from experience with previous pre-exam idea barrages, I doubt that's going to happen.

miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2007

lunes, 3 de diciembre de 2007

It's official: Godtouched in Czech

Pevnost will translate and reprint Godtouched, which originally appeared in Strange Horizons. This is a particularly important step in my World Domination Plan since my maternal grandfather is Czech and will now love me for ever.

And you know me, I like to make the grandparents happy. They may be old and look frail, but anyone who'se survived the Korean War or the Spanish Civil War (respectively) while holding down three jobs or blackmarketing (respectively) to survive is guaranteed to keep an ace up their sleeve. And you know what? I'm not sure I wanna see that ace just yet. Besides, grandparents are sweet.

I have three surviving grandparents, which I think speaks well for my genes. My Spanish grandfather died more than ten years ago. During the Franco Dictatorship, he maintained his membership to the outlawed Communist Party and kept the card around his house. That's my definition of cojones, people. And before anyone starts screaming about commies, Spanish commies were the good guys during the dictatorship. Their connection to Russia was nominal at most and they were the only people putting up a decent underground and insurgency (There was also ETA, but we've all seen how they turned out. Anyone claiming that they're anything more than the black hole that attracts the psychopaths that any society seems to produce, regardless of social structure, needs to get their heads checked)

Then there's my Spanish grandmother. She didn't get much schooling, because her dad died when she was young and she started working as a seamstress at age 12. But she reads fast, man and when I mean fast, I mean faster than I did when I was 15. And that was really fast. I guess this comes from working at a kiosk for the last 60 years. You gotta scan the material. We've tried to get her to stop working, but she won't listen. She still spends a couple of hours each day helping my uncle. I guess it gives her something to do, but I wish she'd stay inside during the worst of the winter. She's 83 after all.

Grandparents on the American side. My grandma grew up in a German farm, with people who didn't speak much English. She was discouraged from going into MedSchool by some priest who told her to leave the well-paying jobs for men who had to support their families. She then went on to teach High School and have nine kids. She could have used the well paying job. Needless to say, she's very proud of me being a doctor. She writes poetry and does little craft things with paper and poems which have been showcasted in the Milwaukee art Museum. She ran marathons until recently. You go grandma!

And then there's grandpa Ptacek. Jeremy or Jaroslav in Czech. I can't even remember all the things he's done. He's the guy who had three jobs to put 9 kids through college. And he flew an airforce jet. And he was in the reserve, some. Like the Spanish grandma, he narrowly escaped death more than a few times. In Spain, we call this "being born with a flower on your ass". It means you're born lucky, dunno what the flower has to do with it. Anyway, I sure hope it's a hereditary condition.