Saturday, May 17, 2003

Owing to widespread popular demand, Steve Hercher and I have both added comments sections to our respective weblogs! Please use your real name for comments -- either that or use a consistent nom de blogge.
There's an upcoming conference on European weblogs -- scratch that, a European conference on weblogs -- in Vienna on May 23-24. That's next weekend. Registration for active bloggers is only 30 euros, 45 for others. To be honest, I've always been a little bit put off by the idea of a bunch of blogger theorists sitting around talking about Why We Blog and What It All Means. All the same, if anybody wants to take a field trip, I'd totally be into it.
If you care about the life in the Big Apple, check this out. Jim Lowney (a funny guy I met a few times when he worked as a photographer in Poland and Hungary, and an old Prague Prognosite) writes a compelling account of being down and out in New York Shitty. (Found via Welch.)

Every night I work bartending some one calls asking if we are hiring staff. And I always have a few guys at the bar slowly sipping a beer or two after another fruitless day of job hunting. I don't ever remember it being this bad on the job front.
Take three minutes to read the entire post.

Friday, May 16, 2003

The Austrian magazine Format has published an exclusive interview with Salam Pax (full text unavailable; link to Google-translated intro), courtesy of his ex-roomate in Vienna, a journalist by the name of Stefan Kaltenbrunner. (I've been emailing with Kaltenbrunner and he confirms that he is indeed this man.)

Kaltenbrunner sent me the full German text of the interview, but I'm not really at liberty to quote the entire thing. However, excepts have already been appearing on English and German blogs, including Buzz Machine by Jeff Jarvis.

The gist: Salam will not be revealing himself anytime soon. Frankly, I don't blame him. He appears a bit of an introvert who lets loose only as his online alter ego.

For those determined to "out" Salam Pax, however, he left a good clue on his website recently -- or at least a clue that could lead a Baghdad correspondent for, say, The New York Times to figure out Salam's identity -- and then quickly covered his tracks by removing part of the post. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should read Steve Hercher's PragueBlog more often.

Now about this Jayson Blair character writing for the newspaper in Canada (see post below). He writes:

[O]ne may discover a great deal about him from carefully reading his blog, and following obvious leads from there.

Salam is the scion of a senior figure from Iraq's Baathist nomenclature. He was brought up at least partly in Vienna, which is the OPEC headquarters; his father was therefore an oilman, and possibly a former head of Iraq's OPEC mission.
This statement leads the reader to believe that all this information can be gleaned from a careful reading of Salam's blog. Yet the writer provides no quotes to back up these statements. I myself have read Dear Raed from start to finish, and I never recall Salam saying he father is a Baathist. That certainly seems like something I would have remembered. I also do not recall Salam saying that he grew up in Vienna (although that may be the case). It does seem obvious that Salam comes from a wealthy family: he has a satellite dish and refers to his family home as "Hotel Salam." Only a shoddy pseudo-Marxist dogmatist would hold that against him.

Kaltenbrunner says he knows nothing about Salam growing up in Vienna; as Salam wrote on his blog, he lived with Salam for a few years when Salam was studying (I believe architecture) in Vienna. My understanding is that this was during Salam's adult life. During the run-up to war, Salam repeatedly refered to the "party members" patrolling the streets, without referering to any party member(s) patrolling the kitchen table.

He mentions his father in the interview, and the fact that's he'd hid the fact that he is Salam Pax from him and most of his family. Yet even if Salam's father is a Baathist, reporting that he's a "senior figure from Iraq's Baathist nomenclature" is really pushing it. It's also hardly something Salam himself should feel bad about, despite Warren's confounding comment that Salam "shows no guilt whatever at his own family membership in a Baathist regime."

The real question is why this mysterious figure has sparked such an hysterical reaction in some people. It's also a pretty sad statement about how opinion journalism really works: It doesn't matter whether you've done your homework or whether you have any ground to stand on, but if you can make a forceful point about the topic du jour, you'll be widely read. The writer has obviously succeeded in that regard.
David Warren of the Ottowa Citizen thinks that Salam Pax is a Baathist and part of an anti-Western conspiracy. I find his premise embarassingly absurd and will write more about it later, but I mention it because it's been getting some attention already. Fortunately, a blog called Needlenose does a good job of revealing that Warren is guilty of the greatest of literary crimes -- skimming the text rather than actually reading it.

Actually, that's being generous; I think he consciously fabricated much of the story and assumed nobody (not his editors, at least) would call him on it. (Via Kaus.)
The Prague Post finally reviews Tulip, the Prague cafe-bar-restaurant of which I am part owner. Dan, one of my partners, informs me that his family got a big kick out of the line "it feels like the swingin' pad of your favorite bachelor uncle" since if anybody's the crazy bachelor uncle in question, it's him.

Overall the review is positive and I'm quite pleased. So Evan Rail didn't like the fish and chips or the deserts. I happen to think he's way off on the desert question in particular, since that's one of our strong suits. But if there were no criticisms, we'd have nothing to improve. Evan got the vibe and atmosphere down just right, and gave the food an overall thumbs up, albeit with some caveats.
Here is an "International Papers" column I wrote for Slate today. Czech-watchers, note the account of Zelezny at the bottom.

I know this is probably like revealing your cheat sheet, but here is an unbelievably cool website that takes pictures of front pages of newspapers from around the world.

Radio Prague does a very nice press review column for the Czech press. It's too bad there aren't more such resources for other European countries. If anybody knows of some, please let me know.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Hello people (OK, person). I'm terribly sorry about the light blogging. I have lots to say, for instance about the weather, the high pollen count, the Czech Meteorological Service, Jayson Blair, funny characters that keep showing up in Tulip -- but lots of deadlines as well. Finally, I have some real work.... I gotta write 3000 words on the D47 Brno highway project by Friday, for instance. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, there's an interesting debate going on over the future of Arab liberalism (between Chuck Freund and Michael Young, two editors of Reason) at Beirut Calling.