Friday, July 11, 2003

So it's all George Tenet's fault. Jesus fuck. Blame the holdover from the Clinton administration. Seems a bit unsporting.
Yesterday morning I was held up by Czech president Vaclav Klaus. Not literally held up, like a bank robbery, but he messed with my schedule. I was hanging around the lobby of the Granndhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary for a 10:30 a.m. meeting with the festival president, Jiri Bartoska. But El Klauso had just arrived at the festival (Iain Duncan Smith in tow), there was mild chaos in the reception area, and the fest prez was held up in a meeting with the Czech prez.

Bartoska is a funny man. He’s a well-known Czech actor, and I think I accidentally referred to him in a recent Screen article as “a former dissident.” Vladan tells me that's not properly true. He a was popular stage and screen actor under communism, so it’s pretty impossible that he was truly a dissident during the regime's heyday, since dissidents were more or less barred from public performance. Yet he was a Civic Forum member, and he did play a key role in the November 1989 movement that brought down the regime: He was the one who proposed his friend Vaclav Havel as President of the Republic. So I wasn’t entirely wrong. Starting in 1989, he was a dissident. (Here he is on the left with Klaus and his wife.)

Bartoska is a funny man. He’s a bit graying, a schmoozer extraordinaire with a suave, genteel air and a carefully cultivated roughness around the edges. Though he wears the dapper suit well, he rarely appears clean shaven, and he chain smokes Rothman cigarettes which I've seen him stomp out on the floors of plush hotel carpets with his leather shoes. His wears glasses, but they’re almost always resting above his eyebrows rather than over his eyes.

He apologized for his lateness to our meeting (“The president is the president,” he shrugs) and tags me in a back-slapping sort of way as “syn Milana,” or son of Milan, i.e. MacMillan. He asks, in Czech, if my family’s from Kolin. (Bartoska’s a joker, but he speaks very little English.) He hustles us into an official festival Mercedes to do the interview (with a translator) on the way to the tennis tournament, and as he’s doing so a bunch of little girls run up to him and ask for his autograph. He happily obliges and poses for a picture. What a life.

There’s no real point to this entry, but one bizarre thing happened while I was waiting in the Pupp lobby. The phone rang, and the display read: “Tulip.” That part’s normal, as Lubos is often calling me from the café to talk about business-related things. So I figure he just wants to discuss the garden furniture or the new menu or something. A lot is going around me and as I’m trying to figure out where the hell Bartoska, so I answer the phone and bark into it: “Yes?!” That's when the strange part begins.

The voice on the other end says: “Hi Scott. This is Mark Vanhoenacker.”

I'm a bit speechless. Mark Vanhoenacker was my freshman college roommate. We were never exactly close to one another and did not keep up over the years, so I haven’t seen nor heard from him since we left school. We chat for a few moments. Turns out he’s now a pilot for British Airways based in London, and flies to Prague occasionally. Mark saw it mentioned in our alumni magazine that I’m an owner of Tulip, so he looked up the cafe and paid a visit. The staff gave him my mobile number and offered him use of the café’s phone to call me.

He was flying out the next day (today) so we won’t be able to meet up this time around.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Memo to all Germans: Try Spain instead.

Question: How does one call Germans "hyper-nationalistic" with a straight face? That's like.... that's like called Clarence Thomas a white liberal. Or something.

I could think of a few things to say about Italian tourists in Prague.
Speaking of "you can't make this stuff up," a man in Arkansis has woken up from a coma he's been in since a car crash in 1984. His 19-year-old daughter was born shortly after the crash, he remembers his dead grandmother's phone number, and he still thinks Ronald Reagan is president.

Think about that for a second. Imagine you have to bring this guy up to date. Where do you begin?
I added Ohrada News to my blogrole, just in time to be dumbstruck by the post about Bush's visit to a former slave trading station on Senegal's Goree Island. "[R]esidents of the island who live near the former slave trading site were rounded up at 6:00 a.m. local time and taken to a soccer stadium, where they were forced to stay and wait for 6 hours until Bush departed."

You can't make this stuff up.
Crimony! Students in Tehran hold a press conference to announce the revolution has been cancelled (or at least post-poned) and the mullah thugs kidnap the student leaders as they're leaving the press conference! That's just rude.

A paean to the "Youth Against Fascism" poster (you know, the fist smashing the swastika) that adorned my wall in college:

Well well well.... I take back what I wrote below about Michael Savage. Instead, I hope people like Dick Cheney continue to give Republicans a bad name.

As part of his case against Iraq, Bush said in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 28 that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The International Atomic Energy Agency told the U.N. Security Council in March that the uranium story -- which centered on documents alleging Iraqi efforts to buy the material from Niger -- was based on forged documents. Although the administration did not dispute the IAEA's conclusion, it launched the war against Iraq later that month.

It subsequently emerged that the CIA the previous year had dispatched a respected former senior diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson, to Niger to investigate the allegation and that Wilson had reported back that officials in Niger denied the story.
Story here. Not only that:

In a New York Times op-ed article published Sunday, Wilson said he soon concluded "that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." He has said the administration manipulated his findings, possibly to bolster its case for war.

Interviewed Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Wilson disputed the administration's contention that his report never reached high-level officials. He said Vice President Dick Cheney's office had inquired about the alleged link between Iraq and Niger.

"The question was asked of the CIA by the office of the vice president. The office of the vice president, I am absolutely convinced, received a very specific response to the question it asked, and that response was based upon my trip out there," Wilson said.
Story. Sound pretty bad.

For all the goods, see Talking Points Memo.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I hope simpletons like Michael Savage continue to give Republicans a bad name.

Meanwhile, I think it's safe to say that tomorrow's planned revolution in Iran has been put on hold indefinitely, given this very sad news about the joined-at-the-head twins who just died. (See Iranian Girl's reaction.)
Almost forget: Yesterday's story on Slate, a short press review on the Russian rock festival double suicide bombing in which 15 died. Pictures of bodies ripped open and everything. For propriety's sake, I didn't mention that the band playing when the bombs went off was called "Crematorium." Even though gruesome things are happening all over, I found this episode incredibly disturbing -- perhaps because most of the victims were drunken Slavic youths.
Sorry if you've come to this site and have been disappointed at the lack of posting. As I explained, I'm at the Karlovy Vary Int'l Film Festival, working on the Festival's daily newspaper. There's not been too much exciting gossipy stuff to report, although there is one rather long story that I'd love to tell involving the executive editor of Variety magazine. Going back to an incredibly petty incident at the festival two years ago, this rather powerful film biz guy has actually gotten it into his head that I'm out to destroy him. That's the short version of the story. (Yes, that Variety. The most biggest movie industry trade magazine in the world. And when I say executive editor, I mean executive editor. One of the top dogs. I kid you not.)

As you might know, I am a part-time stringer for Screen International, which is a competitor to Variety. The other day Will was sitting out on the terrace of the Hotel Thermal and overheard the following exchange between this man (let's just call him Steve Gaydos) and his colleague:

SG: "I notice there are no copies of (our magazine) Variety here."
SG's colleague: "Well, that should be a good thing, no?" [Implication being that people are snatching up the issues.]
SG: "No. I'm suspicious."
SG's colleague looks at him funny.
SG: "Yes, I'm suspicious. There's this one guy here from Screen...." [Implication being that I've been stealing all the copies of Variety at the festival and hiding them.]

Pretty unbelievable. (Just for the record, it's not true.) The man appears to be insane, and unfortunately I'm his insanity. He must be spending $400 per hour talking about me to his shrink. "I dreamt about him again! We were at the film festival and there was Scott MacMillan, waving a copy of Screen International!" I suppose it should be flattering, but frankly it just gives me the creeps.