Friday, June 20, 2003

Damn! And I thought Prague taxi drivers were often scary. I've seen a taxi driver pull out a gun and shoot it into the air (it was outside Akropolis, and he was getting the shit kicked out of him) but unlike Salam, I've never had a taxi driver ask me where's the best place to hide a hand grenade.
This is hilarious. Some Miami radio station claims to have prank called Fidel Castro claiming to be Hugo Chavez. The Iranian nutters in LA should try that with the Ayatollah. (Via NicMoc, who saw it on TV Nova.)

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Note: I edited this post after waking up Friday, because I realized it was way too rant-like and defensive.

So what's with the reviews of Tulip that complain about the food, then end with "...but I love the place and I'll go back again and again"? I feel like that's quite an accomplishment on Tulip's part. Maybe we should make that a selling point -- sort of the way the guy from ThatNotSoFreshFeeling.com does a Travelog entitled "Shitty Writing for the Truly Bored" which is, quite frankly, hilarious. "Come to Tulip and sample our unique and mediocre cuisine!" (In Tulip's defense, the food does not suck. I should know because I own the place.)

In his recent blog review (dated June 16, no permalink), Not-So-Fresh calls attention to a number of specific food crimes. (I've edited them out here, because you can read the post yourself. Allow me to say I take them all seriously and I'm treating the missing potatoes and carrots in particular as a felony.) Then he ended with a glowing recommendation! Evan Rail sort of did the same thing, to a lesser degree, in his overall positive Prague Post review.

It's interesting that the customer in this case did not complain, despite the fact that there were some severe problems with the meal. No, I'm not saying the customer is to blame for the shortcomings of the kitchen. I'm just pointing out one complication in trying to please customers here in Prague. People are so accustomed to bad service, they're happy you even brought them the food, so they rarely say anything if there's an actual problem with the order. They should! I spoke to the my partner/manager about the missing carrots and potatoes, and he was shocked. (OK, so he said it was "weird," i.e. that doesn't normally happen.) If any restaurant in the U.S. left out a crucial side dish, it would be unacceptable. When I'm at Tulip, I raise a stink if a dish is sub-par (as it's a partnership, I do order and pay like a regular customer). And I assure you there will be hell to pay about these missing carrots and potatoes!

What I recommend at Tulip: Nothing with meat, not because it's bad, but because unlike my four partners, I'm a quasi-vegetarian. I dig the veggie lasagna big time. The tofu burger is great, although totally unlike your typical tofu burger -- indeed, some people say it's too tough. (Contra that, I say your typical tofu burger is way too mushy.) The fennel-goat cheese salad rocks, as does the croque monsieur salad. And from what customers tell me about the desserts, they're usually excellent, but frankly I'm not the dessert kinda guy. I would rather spend the money on an excellent cocktail or three from the lounge.

One of my current ongoing missions, between writing articles so I can earn money so I can invest more in the cafe, is to improve the quality of Tulip's food to the point where nobody in their right mind can honestly say the meals are not totally scrumdiddlyumptious. This is happening as we speak. We have a new chef from Portland, Maine who's making changes in the kitchen that will lead to greater focus on consistency and quality and ever more tasty servings of our delicious Tulip cuisine.

So if you don't like the food, please come again, because it's getting better every day, and if you still don't like it, come back a third time and a fourth time, and then again and again, because that's how great Tulip is.

The hours are 11 a.m. - midnight, open to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Blog of the day (so far) is Ohrada News, by another Prague-based expat, Jesse Lynch. He's most recently been following the story about a bunch of Roma families who were evicted from their house in Slany for not paying rent. No big story there, but it appears that at least a few of them had indeed paid their rent, while another had made a concerted effort to pay the debt in installments. The mayor dismisses both claims, although Lidove Noviny appears to corroborate the latter one.

Frankly, I wouldn't know who to believe. Most of my knowledge about Romany culture comes from Isabel Fonseca's Bury Me Standing, an excellent portrayal of the Gypsies/Roma of Eastern Europe. Despite being highly sympathetic in her account of Romany culture, Fonseca doesn't shy away from pointing out that an integral part of that culture consists of lying, whenever possible, to gadjo, or non-Roma. You can partially explain this by pointing out the centuries of persecution the Roma have endured -- and continue to endure -- at the hands of gadjo, but at the end of the day, you're left with the simple fact that the Roma have a profound aversion to assimilation, an aversion which comes at a tremendous human cost, and an aversion which you do not generally find among other persecuted ethnic minorities.

Jesse is also one of the few people that agree with my take on the Cesky Sen hypermarket hoax.

The Pragueblogosphere reponds to this post here and here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I recently got an email from Dan Washburn of Shanghai Diaries, who was finally able to read my blog while visiting the states. I had no idea that the Chinese government blocks all Blogspot addresses.
Fantastic essay by Timothy Garton Ash in the New Statesman this week, which I've already seen linked in a couple of places. Keep reading to the end -- it pays off with a punchline.

I really don't think most euro-skeptics are really grasping just how European expansion will transform the character of the European Union over the long term. In the current issue of The New Republic (not available online unless you're a subscriber) there's a polemic by Andrew Sullivan, for instance, on "the threat [to America] of European integration."

[W]ith the unveiling of a new federalist constitution for a "United States of Europe" in June, the anti-American trend will be subtly but profoundly institutionalized. It's past time that Americans wake up and see this new threat for what it is.
Germany ...has largely acquiesced in France's ambitions to create a European rival to U.S. power. Germany's final capitulation came with the abolition of the Deutschmark. The new euro helps fulfill French ambition by becoming a fledgling counterweight to the dollar in international markets, helping erode the critical U.S. economic advantage of having the uncontested global currency....

The USE [United States of Europe] is the obvious next step for this essentially French project.
Jesus. Let me guess. It was Valery Giscard d'Estaign on the grassy knoll.

Sullivan has not done his homework. First of all, the constitution is not a "French project" -- in fact the first European politician to make an overt call for a "federal" Europe was Vaclav Havel, and the second was Joschka Fischer. Structurally, a federal Europe would look a lot more like Federal Germany than the Fifth Republic. In terms of voting power, the chief beneficiary of the new constitution is not France at all, which is in fact a net loser of voting rights. It's Germany, as Thomas Fuller writes in the IHT. And then Poland.... As fellow hack Jonathan Ledgard once said to me, Poles are so pro-American that McDonald's hamburger juice comes out when you poke them. I'd be willing to bet that 20 years from now, talk about the Franco-German axis will be a thing of the past. The center of Europe is clearly moving east, both geographically and culturally, and while hardly "pro-American," I think most of these cultures of the east are deeply different than their western counterparts -- for one thing, they're much more open to the Americanization that Garton Ash writes about, instead of acting like Canute trying to stop the tide. The constitution combined with expansion (and they really are one project) will have the overall effect of further aligning the EU with the US, not distancing it.
G. in Baghdad , an Iraqi who has never left his home country and knows everything he knows about the world from the BBC, now has an excellent blog.
I don’t want to give the impression here that every thing is all right and there is no crisis in Iraq, I just want to say that the Americans had - and still have - a perfect opportunity in Iraq, an opportunity they won’t have anywhere else, they could have won the hearts and minds of the Iraqis from the first week after the toppling of the regime, but instead they just provided the extremists with all the pretexts they need - as if they needed any- to attack the Americans they have wasted a good deal of good intensions and hope.
please stop and start doing your homework properly, I don’t want my country to be another breeding place for Osamas and lunatic terrorists.
Ungrateful wretch! Dude, like, you're welcome!
Three full days without blogging! Oh no.

Here's a nice little tidbit: The movie Aliens vs. Predator will most likely be made here in Prague starting in October, which of course just further cements Prague's position as a mecca for comic-book adaptations and monster movies, as I wrote here. (Note the totally unspecified "sources," a journalistic no-no in most other fields. But it's all true, I swear.)

The whole saga of this dubious combination of the Alien and Predator franchises, driven by the success of the comic book and the video game, can be found here. Apparently Sigourney Weaver was horrified that anybody was even contemplating such a film. Even profit-hungry studio execs were initially concerned about "diluting" the brand cachet of these beasties. Alas, they finally caved when the runaway success of the Aliens vs. Predator video came made a movie adaptation all but inevitable. Thank goodness they've come to their senses.

Didn't things used to be the other way around? Movie first, then video game? Off the top of my head I can't think of any other video games that have been made into movies except for Mortal Kombat, which was directed by the same guy, Paul Anderson (not to be confused wioth P.T. Anderson) who's coming to Prague to do Aliens vs. Predator.