Sultan besieges another citadel

I've just submitted A Gift for the Sultan to another contest, the Narrative Library. It cost me $45, but it seems like less of a lottery than the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (which charges no fee), where the final selection is put to a vote of Internet users. If you're interested, check them out: Narrative Book Award Series.

(Image: Out Loud Students)

Publishing: The Revolutionary Future - The New York Review of Books

Thanks to friend Dirk for pointing me to this article by Jason Epstein, who has devoted much thought and much experience to this question.
Publishing: The Revolutionary Future - The New York Review of Books

We know he's right that the changes will be immense and will inevitably spawn new literary forms and new ways of filtering and modifying texts (what editors have done in print publishing). What we don't have yet is a model for compensating (paying) authors. I imagine that diverse systems will by invented, and some of them will survive better than others. For me personally, and all other authors who do not depend on writing income to survive, this won't be a serious issue; I wrote and published for pittances, and found other ways to make a living. For younger authors who want to write seriously and publish as I was able to do earlier in the previous print-publishing context, it is an issue.


Amazon contest

This just in: A Gift for Sultan is one of the 1,000 general fiction titles that made it past the first winnowing of entries to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. This may not mean anything in the longer run, but at least I'm still in the contest.

Mind - New Research Focuses on the Power of Physical Contact - NYTimes.com

Not so fast -- a "touchy" culture, as in Spain or Latin America where men embrace and even kiss one another and women even more so, can be very warm and supportive, but also exquisitely cruel. Though come to think of it, the cruelty at Abu-Ghraib by U.S. Wasps, normally a more stand-offish culture, was as intimate and exquisitely cruel as anything the Chilean or Argentine torturers came up with during their dirty war. Given the choice, as I was, I have chosen the touchy culture. I like the embraces, they make me feel more connected to the community.
Mind - New Research Focuses on the Power of Physical Contact - NYTimes.com

Carboneras TV

This segment will give you an idea of some of what we're up to in our little town. Our group of "Personas Libro" -- "human books", people who memorize and perform short texts -- got together with the flamenco aficionados who gather every Friday night to perform, by voice, guitar and sometimes dance, in the Peña Flamenca. I'm the guy in the red sweater, presenting a poem by Luz María González about a flamenco dancer, while Pedro (don't know his surname) accompanies. Pedro & I are both pupils in the flamenco guitar course held on Saturdays, but Pedro is a bit more advanced than I.

Click on Carboneras TV


Spain: Macrosociology of an economic crisis

Thanks to my friend Andrew Hull, an economist and neighbor here on Spain's southeast coast, I've discovered the charts and analyses of Edward Hugh, a macroeconomist who keeps a close watch on several economies, including Spain's. Especially interesting to me is Hugh's blog, Spain Economy Watch. What they, both Andrew and Edward, make abundantly clear is that Spain's problems are deeper than either the government or the opposition is willing to admit -- though for opposite reasons.

The opposition Partido Popular would have us believe that Spain's soaring unemployment and deficit are due almost entirely to the economic mismanagement of the Socialist Party government, and that if they were in charge, they'd bring the country back to the booming prosperity of the recent past -- especially the years when PP leader José María Aznar was president, 1996-2004.

The governing Socialists know that that is impossible, in fact ridiculous, because the main economic policy of Aznar's time was to do everything possible to stimulate the construction boom bubble that has now burst. Zapatero said as much, just today: that it was the Aznar government that was mainly responsible for Spain's crisis -- a simplification, to be sure, but not totally off the mark.

Here are some observations I found most useful in Edward Hugh's blog:
As [Paul Krugman] shows, Spain had no fiscal problem till the housing boom went bust. Now of course, the need to prop up the economy, and support all the "unproductive" labour which doesn't show up in the unit labour costs chart is producing a massive fiscal deficit. Thus the fiscal issue in Spain is a symptom, not a cause. The root of the problem lies in the structural distortions produced by the massive overheating of the economy during the boom years, an overheating which lead to excessive inflation, large-scale dependence on imports, and a complete loss of competitiveness in the non-tradeable sector - a loss of competitiveness which even the Kingdom of Spain accept.

So essentially the issues is this one. Spain's economy will not recover, and return to growth till Spanish products become more attractive in price terms, and this only means one thing: some sort of internal devaluation is inevitable, and all the talk about an exclusively fiscal correction is simply an attempt to get rid of the smoke without going to the trouble of extinguishing the fire which is producing it.

The Socialists, unlike the PP, recognize that what everybody calls "the crisis" is truly a crisis (krisis, in Greek, appropriately enough, meaning a turning point). Meaning, that once you get to this point, you can't go back to where you were. The government, however, understates the depth of the problem and overstates the likely impact of its sometimes contradictory economic responses. Even when the most prudent thing would be to do nothing -- that is, not change policies until the Greek crisis is resolved in one way or another, or until there are clearer signs of what the European Central Bank and the credit markets might do -- the government seems to believe it must be seen to be doing something, because the unemployed and entrepreneurs without clients or credit grow impatient.

The only real solution will be long-term, much longer than the next electoral cycle. The Socialist Party, or at least a part of the party, recognizes this, and has come up with a long-term program for totally reorganizing the Spanish economy, making it much less dependent on construction, much more technical innovation, modernizing agriculture, developing Spain's already impressive advances in renewable energy sources, etc. -- all together, 10 economic sectors to be overhauled. It's a persuasive and well thought-out program, put out by the party's new think-tank, IDEAS, headed by Jesús Caldera. The program would assure a far more prosperous and egalitarian society, and it all is socially and economically within range of the Spain's human and material resources.

The question is whether it is politically within range -- whether the Socialists can keep their allies in the smaller parties and win the votes necessary to stay in power, either alone or in coalition, to see it through. Right now that looks doubtful.

The Partido Popular, meanwhile, offers no positive proposal except to tear down the Socialists. They may succeed in sabotaging the transformation Spain needs by their unprincipled attacks, and the Socialists themselves, being politicians, will no doubt sabotage themselves by opportunistic concessions and compromises to secure votes. But in the longer run, longer than the elections coming up in 2012 (or possibly earlier), something like Caldera's "IDEAS" ideas are a prize worth fighting for.

Spain Economy Watch (Edward Hugh)

Los empleos de la economía sostenible -- ELPAÍS.com

Fundación Ideas

Spanish Premier Insists Economic Recovery Is Near - NYTimes.com