Friday, November 14, 2003

Every Friday I write a round-up of the local blogosphere for Prague TV. Here's this week's. Have a good weekend.
Bush is Pedro Martinez - A baseball metaphor that scores! By Mickey Kaus Yep. OK, I would never have put the guy on the field to begin with. But here's exactly why a vote against Bush is not necessarily a vote against the war. (And why it's important to follow baseball every so often.)

It's really difficult to follow an election -- especially a primary election -- from abroad. You know I have never seen Wesley Clark speak apart from his CNN gig? I can't recall ever having seen John Kerry speak until I watched the recent "Carrier" campaign ad. I distinctly remember that queasy feeling I got when I downloaded a CNN clip of the the press conference where George W. Bush, just days before the 2000 election, fessed up to the drunk driving charge. That was the first I'd heard him speak. (You mean this guy? Christ, he mumbles!)

Perhaps what most disqualifies me from even speculating about next year's elections: I have never, ever seen Howard Dean utter a word.
Romania: Hollywood Filmmakers Move Farther East In Search Of Good Deals: "According to the Czech Association of Audio-Visual Producers, foreign filmmakers invested more than $250 million in film production work in the Czech Republic last year alone."

I could write a whole article on the provenance of that $250 million figure, but let's just say it's way, way off and leave it at that.

Furthermore, the whole premise of the article is wrong. Hollywood filmmakers are not moving east. They made one big movie in Romania -- Cold Mountain -- and that's it. It was a one-off that's provided the hook for a steady stream of articles with identical headlines, identical leads and nearly identical quotes from people who have every reason to be pumping Romania as the next location hot spot.

Next time you come across an article like this, ask yourself: If you were a Hollywood exec, would you want to be the guy blamed for sending Wesley Snipes on an extended stay in Bucharest? I think not.
Article: "An Oregon scientist inspired by Homer Simpson has successfully created 'tomacco' -- a tomato plant that contains nicotine."

Read the part about the fermenting sludge patent.
Mr. Chrétien winced when reminded that a Canadian bishop suggested he was risking the fires of hell by deciding not to appeal an Ontario court decision extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

'God and I will decide that,' he said with a guffaw. Then quickly correcting himself to appear a tad more modest, he added, 'We'll discuss and he will decide.'

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Dear blog,

I feel like I've been neglecting you lately. I just haven't been spending enough hours in my day surfing the web and writing stuff for my blog. All I can do is apologize. I've been working on this weird article about tennis -- yes, tennis, a sport about which I know next to nothing, about how it's the chosen sport of the Euro elite. It's for a big hotel magazine, and well, though it's an embarassingly dumb topic, I'm actually getting more money for this one assignment than I've been paid for a single assignment ever. In absolute terms, that's not saying much, but it means I should probably pay a bit of attention to it and not put off all the interviews until the last minute, my usual strategy.

As an act of contrition, I took a break and watched Vaclav Klaus's interview on BBC's HardTalk for you.

The same thought immediately struck me that strikes me every time I watch Klaus or, as happened on one occasion, speak to him in person: The man appears strangely meek and soft-spoken -- even slightly beleaguered and whiny -- especially when speaking English. I came to know Klaus, the current Czech president, not through observing him directly or on the television, but via numerous twice-removed sources -- conversations with friends, English language media, translations of Czech language media, and Czech headlines. And if I were less familiar with his actual political behavior, I might view the HardTalk interview and ask: What's the big deal? Why do people get so worked up about this guy?

I know better than to ask that question seriously, of course, and towards the end of the interview you start to get a sense of Klaus's oddly blinkered view of the world. Problems with integration of Gypsies? Pshaw! That's "such stupidity and such nonsense" that he doesn't even bother to respond.

Tim Sebastian: "...written by George Soros...."

Klaus, cutting him off: "Who?"

TS: "George Soros."

Klaus: "This is not my guru."

Ah. Well then nevermind. Ditto for Amnesty International and its allegations of Czech arms trafficking. Not an organization to be taken seriously, he says. Klaus seems to think that if you dismiss the source of the complaint, the facts will evaporate.

Finally, I'm left wondering why Klaus never names names when speaking of "certain German and Austrian politicians" that present such a danger to Czech sovereignity with their post-WWII restitution claims. But a for a few opportunists on the other side of the border, Czechs and Germans love each other, he says. Yet you can't but help but sensing a bit of projection here, and that Klaus is the opportunist for even raising this non-issue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Tony Blair's on an Atkins diet: "During lunches at Number 10, he leaves potatoes untouched on his plate and picks the fruit out of the tarts. Privately, he expressed his horror at the way in which Bill Clinton would munch his way through bowls of peanuts during meetings."
Iraqis turn on US after death of leader: "Iraqi guards, who patrol the entrance with US forces, denied that Mr Kaabi reached for the soldier's gun or tackled him. Several guards who claimed to have witnessed the incident said Mr Kaabi yelled in English at the soldiers as they tried to search his car. One of the soldiers bumped him with his chest, then pushed him and a shoving match ensued.
'They fired the second bullet deliberately, 100 per cent,' Mr Abboud said. 'It was killing for the sake of killing. It was not self-defence.' "

Whatever it was, it wasn't very smart.

I keep reading these stories about the, um, shall we say, impolite behavior of US troops in Iraq. You can't tell me all of them are cooked up or exagerrated. Then again, such things are bound to happen if you give enough 20-year-olds some M16's and send them into hostile territory far from home.
I really wish I'd caught Tim Sebastian grilling Vaclav Klaus on BBC's Hard Talk. Apparently Klaus didn't do so well. (CTK says he denied problems with Roma and called himself an "optimistic Eurorealist.") It's Tuesday now and the latest program posted on the Hard Talk site is from Friday. Klaus appeared yesterday so keep your eye on that site.
Beirut's Daily Star reviews the Arab press. I'm not sure what I'm calling attention to here, but it's pretty interesting. Some of the views expressed are a bit twisted, some are spot-on, some are a mixture of each.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Hey Blogger bloggers. My "blog this" right-clicking feature was disabled or nonexistent on my new browser (just IE5) so I used this page to fix it. I wish all things network- and computer-related were that simple.
Here's an article making the rounds on the liberal blogs: Perhaps the biggest "gotcha" so far on Rumsfeld's furious backpedalling.

In two weeks I'm going to Berlin to file for my Czech visa at the Czech Embassy there. (Yes, I've been in Prague for that long on a tourist visa, minus a few months in 2000 when I actually had residency.) If anybody has any tips (e.g. go to door #9 and wear a blue scarf) drop them in the comments bin.