Thursday, June 05, 2003

I've long shared in the outraged of the Jayson Blair scandal, but this strikes me as a tad fatuous:

[One of Raines's remarks] underscored the magnitude of the many news stories that he and Mr. Boyd had led the staff through in just 21 months: the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia, and, ultimately and most recently, the exposition and investigation into how Mr. Blair had committed the equivalent of journalistic fraud on at least 36 occasions since October.
Which of these things doesn't belong here? No, not the space shuttle blowing up....
Slate's Jack Schafer called it on Tuesday. New York Times announces resignation of Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd following Jayson Blair scandal. (Florida's Sun Sentinal was first with the AP story.)
The Czech Foreign Ministry's Jana Adamcova says she's optimistic about the turnout in next weekend's EU referendum:

I hope we will get about 60 percent turnout, and I hope we will have more than 70 percent saying "YES". But there are so many factors that I cannot influence. I can only say that here in the communication department we're doing our best and we're doing the maximum we can."
As the referendum nears, I'm getting the feeling (based on nothing, really) that enough people are worried about turnout that the worst predictions will not in fact come to pass. In a fit of contrarian weirdness, Ivan Langer of President Klaus's ODS says he'll vote "No" while Deputy-Chairman of the Communist Party Jiri Dolejs says he (and other Communists) will in fact vote "Yes."

But then there's the ongoing heat wave, which will drive the entire populace to the countryside if it lasts. The temperature is expected to reach 32 Celsius today. That can easily change in a week, though.

Apart from that, just about the only thing to be said on the subject is what your gut tells you; see Arelannes' guts here, and NicMoc's "random, unsubstantiated thought of the day" here.

Jan Macháèek, meanwhile, writes an unapologetically pro-federalist piece in PBJ arguing against the myth that the EU Constitution is being put together by "ambitious bureaucrats, eurocratic socialists and cryptofederalists." He points out, critically, that the ongoing Convention on the Future of Europe has been all but unnoticed in the Czech Republic as the referendum nears.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Please check out the three new Prague blogs I've added to the left. Most of you know about these already, but each of them are worth reading, including one in Czech.
Dan Washburn over at Shanghai Diaries has posted an article he wrote for that's Shanghai magazine about the city's efforts to make itself greener. But as he points out, greener doesn't always mean better in the People's Republic.
Grass is to be looked at and not laid upon. This is a very different mindset than the one found in the West, where places like New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park don’t hide their imperfections. In fact, people appreciate them.
The pictures included in the article are quite nice, and a reminder that Prague isn't the only city in the world with a high pollen count right now.
Allow me to draw your attention to World Halušky-Eating Championships held June 7 in the Slovak village of Turecká, as reported in the Slovak Spectator.

The jury looks at workplace hygiene, injuries incurred during the grating of the potatoes, aesthetics, product quality, and finally the taste. To be one of the winners, a group has to cook the meal in less than 8 minutes and eat it in less than 12 minutes. Eaters can usually down a plateful in less than 40 seconds.
Via Prague Monitor. Halušky, if you don't already know, are little potato dumpling covered in a salty cheesy mess, often (unfortunately for me) with bacon mixed in. Moravské halušky are now sold in a frozen box under the brand name "Hot & Eat" in Czech supermarkets, which is funny, because I always throught they were a Slovak speciality. (To subscribe to Prague Monitor, send a blank e-mail to subscribe@praguemonitor.com with "subscribe" in the subject.)

I'm pulling a blank here -- what's the Slovak name for fried cheese?

UPDATE (June 5): Matt Welch comes though with the answer, with a mild oath thrown in for good measure. It's vypražený syr.

UPDATE (June 10): Correction. It's vyprážaný.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

OK, am I the only one who thought the "Cesky sen" ("Czech Dream") hoax, in which two FAMU students duped the entire Czech nation into traveling out into the middle of a field in Letòany for the grand opening of a non-existent hypermarket, was just a little bit -- hm, how does one put it -- mean?

Call me a wet blanket, but suckering hundreds (or thousands, by some count) of improverished pensioners into a two-hour bus ride with promises of a two-crown savings on root vegetables only to tell them it was all a joke (and then filming their indignant reponses for a forthcoming documentary) doesn't sound like my idea of a good time. (After receiving advance word that it was a hoax, some friends traveled out to watch the show. I stayed in bed.)

Granted, most of the people that turned up were probably horrible, mean-spirited misanthropes who had it coming to them, like that old lady at the bathroom at Troja chateau who yelled out me for wanting to take a pee after 5pm (when the bathroom closes, of course).

[T]he hundreds that came throughout the day were indeed surprised. What from afar looked like the wall of the Cesky sen hypermarket painted in the bright colours of the advertisements was, actually, just a long billboard. There was no grocery store there, let alone a hypermarket.
Many were, of course, annoyed that they had been duped; they cursed the students, and a group of youths threw rocks at the billboard. ... In Monday's edition of the daily newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes, the students said that they weren't afraid of manipulating the emotions and expectations of people, as they did just the same thing that advertising does.
I see the point, but this strikes me as rather cynical. If advertising makes blatantly fraudulant claims, there's at least the possibility of legal recourse. (The Czech hypermarket phenomenon is really something, though. Jan Svìrák will take a swipe in his next film.)

UPDATE (June 4): Peter at Daily Czech has a bit less sympathy for the suckers than I do. To say the least.

The cost of the advertising campaign -- which consisted of TV, outdoor and direct mail, even including its own jingle -- is not stated in the article, but it must have been enormous, since media owners would be unlikely to co-sponsor such a project. These kids got their money from the Ministry of Culture's State Fund for the Support of Czech Cinematography. The irony is that I wrote an article last week on the Czech film scene for Screen, in which I quoted a local producer lamenting the fact that funds are drying up for Czech cinema, leading to a large number of foreign co-productions this year. (Co-productions are a good thing; it saves Czechs from the navel-gazing narcissism that all too often infects domestic cinema.)

Before you start yapping about the "Czech taxpayers" funding such nonsense, note that this fund -- which along with Czech Television is virtually the only local source of cash for filmmakers -- is financed primarily by the sale of old Czech movies (plus a one-crown tax on cinema tickets). This revenue stream is slowly turning to a trickle as the years go on.
Looks like Salam Pax's identity will soon be the world's biggest open secret.

His latest post mentioned an afternoon he spent at the Hamra Hotel pool, reading a borrowed copy of The New Yorker. I laughed out loud. He then mentioned an escapade in which he helped deliver 24 pizzas to American soldiers. I howled. Salam Pax, the most famous and most mysterious blogger in the world, was my interpreter. The New Yorker he had been reading—mine.
From Slate.

I have to say, I'm quite pleased at how this is all turning out.

Plus, the article contains one of the funniest lines of all time.

He was amazed at the length of the stories [in the New Yorker]. "They go on and on," he remarked. "They start in one place, go somewhere else, then to another place. They are, like, endless."

Monday, June 02, 2003

Numbers in the news. Total amount of annual agricultural subsidies of the EU's 15 Member States: $40 billion. Microsoft's cash in the bank: $40 billion.
The Island of Jersey -- 14 miles from the coast of France, 100 miles from England -- says it won't necessarily follow suit if the UK joins the euro! They might start using the dollar instead...
I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more play.

Journalists and opposition politicians claim Ferruccio de Bortoli was pushed out of his job at Corriere della Sera because the centre-right paper criticised Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Italy: A banana republic in your very own backyard!
Jazz Tuesdays now Jazz Thursdays. The following message brought to you by Will Tizard, emcee and bon vivant:

Owing to popular demand, Tulip's live music groove-fest has now moved to Thursdays at 8, when more folks are free to indulge in foot tapping and gin sipping. Jazz & Blues Thurs, as it's now known, welcomes all with the same incredible 70 Kc entry fee, which includes a Beefeater gin cocktail of your choice and the hottest live café tunes around. Soak it all in downstairs at Tulip's burgundy-walled lounge. Arrive on time for some of those premium easy chairs - last week was standing room only after halfway through the

So the new Bat-time:

Tulip Lounge (downstairs)
Opatovicka 3, Nove Mesto (just down the street from The Globe Bookstore)
8pm every Thurs
70 Kc entry includes hot jazz and cold Beefeater gin
Salam answers his blockhead critics here.
Elizabeth has written to inform me that Salam Pax will be a regular contributor to The Guardian. Woo hee. Here's an interview with the man along with his first entry.

It's a sunny day. I interviewed Senator Zieleniec this morning. And I'm trying to find information about Jordanian princesses....