Sunday, 19 May 2013 08:00 Published in Commentary
MADRID — The Catalonia bookshop in Barcelona survived a civil war and a fire over its 88 years of business — but nothing could protect it from Spain’s recession.
Like bookshops, theaters and cinemas across Spain, it was no longer getting enough punters to survive.
The store, one of Barcelona’s best-known literary landmarks, closed its shutters for good at the start of the year.
The shelves full of books will give way to burgers and fries when a fast-food restaurant opens on the site on Plaza Catalunya in the heart of the city.
“It’s a loss to the city, in my view,” said Miquel Colome, who bought the store in 2000.
“It was a very hard and painful situation, but it had to be done.”
Sales had fallen by 40 percent in the past five years.
“We had to either raise capital, sell up or take on lots of debt,” said Colome.
Across Spain, bookshops, cinemas and concert halls are being left deserted as recession and a rise in sales tax chokes off cultural life.
The booksellers’ federation CEGAL says sales plunged by 22 percent between 2002 and 2011 and the decline has worsened since.
Since 2008, 30 percent of the jobs in bookselling have been cut, it says. About 30 stores closed last quarter alone.
Spain’s cinemas, as well as losing ticket sales, are reeling from a 55 percent cut in their public subsidies since 2010 and a rise last year in the rate of sales tax (VAT) from eight to 21 percent in some cases.
“The rise in VAT came at a very serious time,” said Juan Ramon Gomez Fabra, president of the cinemas’ federation FECE.
“The way the box office is in the crisis, people can’t manage and cinemas are giving up and closing down.”
The number of people going to see films has declined by 40 percent since 2004 and 114 cinemas have closed down since last year, he said.
April saw the worst monthly takings for a decade in Spanish cinemas — down 43 percent compared to the same month a year earlier.
In theatres and concert halls, the tax hike cost promoters of live music 25 million euros between September and March, according to the Musical Producers’ Association.
“The venues are doing really badly,” said Armando Ruah of the State Cultural Association of Live Music Venues.
“Attendance is down and there has been a very big drop in the amount being drunk in the bars” at the venues, he said.
The crisis is also playing into the hands of another of the cultural world’s enemies: piracy.
Downloads of illegally copied material in Spain surged by 41 percent in 2012 to a total value of 15.2 billion euros, according to the Piracy Observatory, a Spanish watchdog.
“The idea has taken root that culture should be free,” said Juan Manuel Cruz, president of the booksellers’ federation, complaining of a rise in piracy of digital books.
“From no other profession in the country is so much demanded for free.”
To help it through the crisis, the cultural industry is asking the government for greater protection and an easing of taxes on the sector, which provides around four percent of Spain’s economic output and half a million jobs.
“When families are clearly earning less, we must not let that lead to cultural impoverishment,” said Pero Perez, president of the Spanish film producers’ federation.
Others are scratching their heads for new ways to make money out of Spain’s big appetite for culture.
“I am 60 years old and I can tell you that people see three times as many films, go to more concerts, listen to more music and read a lot more than before,” said Colome.
“Transforming that into economic value is another matter. Culture cannot be free but we have to find new formulas.” AFP
This has reference to the news item written by Mr. Ed Velasco on May 5 (Sunday) of The Daily Tribune, entitled “Avoid Compostela Valley, Advises Local Police Chief.”
In the published news item, it stated that “Compostela Valley Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Police Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan has reminded all vacationers to think carefully if they will include the province among the places they want to visit, citing the volatile peace and order situation there.”
It was also stated there a misquoted text message from said police officer, “This is a hotbed for rebellion. So everyone must be careful here.”
This office would like to rectify the published article by the writer. I would like to clarify that the undersigned never advised or stopped foreign and local tourists in visiting Compostela Valley Province nor considered Compostela Valley Province as a “hotbed for rebellion” though we cannot deny the fact that there are a number of untoward incidents being carried out by the New Peoples Army rebels in Compostela Valley Province, to include the abduction of police and military officers.
Furthermore, the PNP-ComVal PPO is doing its very best in keeping peace and order in Compostela Valley Province to protect and secure the community.
We understand that as media practitioners, you are there to report to the people the news. We also would like to appeal to you to be careful in giving such title/caption so that it should not convey a wrong perception or mistaken belief to your readers.
It is in this regard that we earnestly request that this letter be given space in your newspaper as we both endeavor to report only that which is accurate and truthful.
Camilo Pancratius P. Cascolan, CESE
Police Senior Superintendent
Sunday, 19 May 2013 08:00 Published in Commentary
MALMOE, Sweden — When Finnish singer Krista Siegfrids ended her Eurovision Song Contest rehearsal performance last week by kissing one of her female dancers, few members of the audience raised an eyebrow.
Eurovision has been a staple of gay culture for decades in western Europe, where gay bars and nightclubs traditionally screen the event and drag queens often pay tribute to the kitsch outfits seemingly made for them.
But if the lesbian kiss stays part of the act in the Swedish city of Malmoe, it could pose a problem for public broadcasters in the socially conservative nations of eastern Europe.
Russia, winner of the contest in 2008, last year blocked plans for a gay pride parade in Moscow, and in neighboring Ukraine, which clinched the top spot in 2004, lawmakers are mulling a bill that would ban “pro-homosexual propaganda.”
It is a gamble Finland’s Siegfrids may be willing to take: courting the pink vote could also boost support for disco anthem “Marry Me,” which has already spawned a same-sex marriage-themed parody on YouTube.
“I absolutely love the video. It’s really funny,” Siegfrids told AFP.
The former reality show contestant said she hoped Helsinki would legalize gay marriage “as soon as possible,” after the issue became the subject of a so-called citizens’ initiative garnering hundreds of thousands of signatures.
In Sweden, which has been a pioneer in gay rights, the city of Malmoe has worked with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to promote the Eurovision Song Contest.
It’s a far cry from last year’s bizarre row between Azerbaijan and its more staunchly Muslim neighbor Iran, which reacted angrily to an unlikely rumor that the country would hold a gay parade during the event.
A senior presidential administration official retorted that Azerbaijan does not even have a word for gay parade — unlike Iran.
But although the competition’s appeal to gay men is widely known, explaining it has never been easy.
“This has become the Fifa World Cup for gay guys,” said Daniel Poehlmann, who was scheduled to speak at an international Eurovision Song Contest conference held at Malmoe University this week.
“It’s not just about the glitz and glamour... Every country competes with a genre that’s different from the next one,” he added.
The 31-year-old student and translator first became “seriously involved” with Eurovision after joining a Facebook group in 2009.
“Now I have around 20 very close friends from this Facebook group, who travel to Eurovision each year,” he said.
“If you go out to (the official party venue) Euroclub you normally assume that a guy is gay until he says otherwise.”
Out of Poehlmann’s Eurovision friends, around 15 were gay, but none of them had ever been in a relationship with another fan.
“Maybe it’s because when you’re this interested, it’s nice to have a counterweight,” he suggested.
Sensing that he might “overdose” on Eurovision this year, Malmoe’s self-dubbed king of Eurovision will be returning to his alternative rock roots later this year.
“I’ve just booked tickets to the Off Festival outside Krakow in Poland, where my friend and I are going to watch the Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine,” he said.
Ronny Larsson, a journalist and Eurovision blogger for Swedish gay magazine QX, said that although no one had ever managed to fully explain the contest’s popularity among gay men, he had a theory that might shed some light on it.
“A lot of other people are ashamed to listen to this type of music. But gay people have already come out, we’ve had to stand up for ourselves, what we are and what we like,” he said.
“That makes it easier. Even if it’s a bit embarrassing, it becomes such a minor issue for us.”
There is also a faction within the community who hate the Eurovision Song Contest and Melodifestivalen, the annual series of shows to select the Swedish entry, he noted.
“What I find hard to accept is all these theories that it’s because of the glitz and glamour, because it’s such a cliche and that’s never been the reason for my interest or my friends’ (interest),” Larsson said.
Still, those looking for a bit of disco glamour at this year’s gay club nights in Malmoe won’t be disappointed, with Swedish Eurovision divas Loreen, Carola and Charlotte Perrelli each headlining gigs at nightclub Wonk.
All three have won the European contest at some point in their careers.
Club owner Joakim Nilsson booked one of the city’s premier party venues for the event the day after Loreen won last year’s competition in Baku, since Wonk’s regular premises were deemed too small.
The busy schedule will leave him no time to attend the spectacular music fest in Malmoe Arena, but that may have been just as well. AFP
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