Friday, December 12, 2003

"Miracle." That's what a lot of European papers are saying it will take to salvage the EU Constitution this weekend.

"Pessimists say it might even be the beginning of the end for the Union," writes the Washington Post. I wouldn't be too hasty there. The United States didn't fall apart because the Articles of Confederation were scrapped. Then again, Europe is definitely not the United States.
Writing the post below, I suddenly remembered this funny anecdote from last Sunday, when I was watching the crowd filter into Tulip (I really gotta re-do that web site, I know) for Prague Ensemble Theatre's Second Sundays, a musical theatre review that takes place at Tulip every (duh) second Sunday of the month.

Now I know what you're thinking: Scott, last Sunday was the first Sunday of the month, so you must be lying. Why should we trust you with anything now. Actually, this was a special Christmas performance, and the show is going on as usual this Sunday, and I'm actually going to stay and watch it this time (yes, I bought tickets like everbody else) even though I generally think musical theatre is the corniest thing ever.

Anyway, so I'm standing there watching people filter in, and when the director, the wonderful Cathy Meils, introduces me to Alan Levy, the editor of the Prague Post.

"Yes, we've met before, at Karlovy Vary. I'm Scott, if you don't remember," I said, holding out my hand.

"Yes, yes, I remember... Karlovy Vary and Prognosis," he said, shaking my hand.

The weird thing is that I never had anything to do with Prognosis. I didn't even live in Prague went that paper was published.
The other day I began a post about the Prague TV thread that began with somebody slamming the Prague Post for not covering Scott Ritter's speech at the American Voices Abroad conference and then turned into a series of anonymous rants about how great it would be to start up a new English-language publication in Prague. (Pragueblog noticed this already.) Before I posted my little screed, I got up and went to do something sort of important, and when I came back, Blogger had eaten my entire post alive.

In hindsight there's not much to comment on. A few random things stood out for their mind-blowing stupidity, such as this:

Is the Post so afraid of losing its Texas funding that they'd play down such a remarkable story??
OK, yes, they definitely should have covered it. But Jesus, people, get a grip. Ooooo, it crawled outta Texas, it's gotta be baaaad.

Then there's...

The US Embassy, with which the Post has had agreements in the past about editorial content...
An agreement about content with the US Embassy? Hmm. I'd be interested in seeing the goods on that one. I'm no partisan of the Post, but if it's not true -- and it was posted anonymously, so we'll probably never know -- the statement is bordering on libelous.

And I get a mention, too. Another anonymous poster is speculating on who might write for the next English-language publication in Prague:

There are the Blogs. Ignore Macmillan and speed to the primary material. These Blogists are the raw material for any possible new publication. Would you hire them?
Interesting. The writer must be referring to my "Prague Webwatch" column, which consists solely of me filching stuff from other Praguebloggers. Lately this has mostly meant Doug Arellanes and Steve of Pragueblog. Maybe he didn't know I have a blog too, or maybe he considered it not worthy of mention -- no matter.

The point is... I love Doug and Steve and Bloopy and I think they're writing is great; ditto for most of the other Praguebloggers. One of the things that's so impressive about the blogosphere is that it's shown how so many non-writers (that is, non-professional writers) are so damn good at stringing sentence together. And I'd hire these guys in a second, provided somebody else signs the paycheck and Bloopy starts writing with a few capital letters here and there.

That said, somewhere in my heart of hearts I think it speaks badly of the world that anybody would considers these "primary sources." A blog, almost by definition, is a secondary source of information. That story about the nesting dolls on Old Town Square? That's about the closest this blog, or the vast majority of blogs for that matter, are ever going to get to original reporting or "primary source." A-list political bloggers like Josh Marshall and Mickey Kaus occasionally do a bit of reporting on their blogs and break some minor stories, but even then, it's not much.

I hate it when people blog about blogs, so I'm not going to touch that topic again. But needless to say, proper journalism to me means more than just stringing sentences together. It means doing tedious stuff like research and interviews and gathering more information than what your readers know already. (What? You mean I might have to pick up the phone to write this story?) Of course, it's also about putting your name next to the assertions you make, The Economist notwithstanding.

I think there are plenty of under-employed writers/journalists in Prague who understand this -- the question is if there are enough readers smart enough to recognize good muckraking when they see it. I'd also like to think a good publication could rise from the cold ashes of the Pill, much as a lot of the editorial side of Prague Business Journal came from Prognosis back in 1995. (Most people don't realize this, but many of the top staffers at Prognosis went on to become top staffers at the Prague and Budapest Business Journals. The irony here is pretty striking if you know that Lisa Frankenberg had quit Prognosis to go start a more "serious" newspaper called the Prague Post.)

Anyway, too much inside baseball.

Just one more thing.

Last night I met up for drinks with Micah Jayne, former editor/director of the defunct Pill. He and I and some friends went Christmas Party hopping. First Euro RSCG at Chez Marcel, then Slavia Capital and the Joshua Tree in Slovansky Dum, then the huge Stillking bash at Duplex.

The Stillking party was great (Duplex is a multi-story rooftop club on Wenceslas Square where Mick Jagger had his 60th), there was an open bar and we drank and danced and stayed until the wee hours and sang "Mamma Mia" by Abba at the top of our lungs. That's something one should be embarrassed about, I suppose, so I'm only putting it here just in case anybody saw or heard me and thinks that maybe I'm not embarassed about it. I really, truly am. (Micah had gone home by this point, just for the record.)

Anyway, I mentioned Micah only because I think he and Vincent Farnsworth, one of the organizers of the AVA conference, deserve some recognition for being the only people on that Prague TV thread with the cojones to use their real names.

Have a good weekend, and don't forget about the Amnesty party next Saturday.
Last weekend, just prior to the collapse of the tree on Old Town Square, I got a call from my friend Theo asking if I wanted to meet up and drink hot wine on Old Town Square because, well, because that's what you do on cold December evenings in Prague. Sure, I said. I can be there in about half an hour.

Thirty minutes later I was standing on Old Town Square. The crowd was so maddening, I can hardly move. So I called Theo.

"OK, put your hands up so I can see you," I said.

"Sure... I'm the one with the glowing pair of horns."

That was a big joke, got it, cuz half the people on the square were running around with devil's horns, it being St. Nick's Day. (If you don't follow, read Arellanes's handy guideto the Czech St. Nick's tradition.)

Turns out Theo was on the other side of the square. So I finally met up with him after about 20 minutes, and sure enough, he had glowing (and blinking) devil's horns. We ducked into the alley next to the Cathedral that goes toward Ebel Coffee House, and stopped to browse at one of the kiosks selling Russian nesting dolls.

"I saw one on the square with Osama Bin Laden on it," Theo said.

"You've got to be kidding me."

"Hey, you have Osama Bin Laden?" Theo asked the proprietor.

"No! No, yes.... Oh, Osama, yes.... Osama osama osama...." He turned around, scanning the nesting dolls lined up behind him. There's Putin, there's Yeltsin, there's Bill Clinton (perhaps even the old classic with Monica inside).

"No Osama!" he finally says, shaking his head. "But this one is just like Osama!" He grabs the George W. Bush nesting doll.

And that was St. Nick's Day in Prague, 2003.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

U.S. allies threaten retaliation for Pentagon decision to ban war critics from contracts

I'm so glad to see the current administration is committed to the spread of free and unfettered trade... when it suits them.
London's Mirror goes shopping in the Balkans for Semtex and ends up buying 13.5 kilograms of the stuff (they'd paid for 15). That's enough to do some serious damage.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

2003 & Beyond: Are The Balkans Swinging Back Toward Nationalism?

Franz-Lothar Altmann is the head of the Southeastern Europe Research Unit at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. He told RFE/RL that to speak of a nationalist resurgence would be 'overdone.' Leaning to the right, he says, is the natural reaction of voters who are disappointed in economic and social reforms.

'I see this swing back to national, or nationalist, parties rather as a normal reaction in this pendulum development, which is obvious in all of the Central European countries. That means reformist parties which do not perform so positively as the population expects are outvoted at the next elections because the population is just disappointed. We saw it in Hungary. We saw it in [the Czech Republic]. We saw it in Poland that the reformist parties have been outvoted. The same happened now in Croatia,' Altmann said.
Does anybody have the slightest clue what he's talking about in the case of the Czech Republic? He's not saying Vaclav Klaus's ODS was a reformist party that got voted out in 1997, is he? Or is he talking about the current resurgence of ODS and the Klaus presidency as a reaction to the Social Democrats' failure to meet reformist expectations? Very strange.
The Mysterious Stranger, by David Brooks
The newly liberated Dean doesn't worry about having a coherent political philosophy. There is a parlor game among Washington pundits called How Liberal Is Howard Dean? One group pores over his speeches, picks out the things no liberal could say and argues that he's actually a centrist. Another group picks out the things no centrist could say and argues that he's quite liberal.
Why it's almost as if this guy doesn't hold to any particular political dogma. Oh my god, what a rotten scoundrel.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Man, my stomach hurts. Normally when I'm sick I'm all just achy and feverish, but this stomach pain is something else, lemme tell ya.

Monday, December 08, 2003

I'm sick and feverish and I don't have much to say except for that. Renovation on Tulip's downstairs is mostly complete, and we're technically going to be open tonight, although Mondays are generally slow enought that I'd be surprised if there were people down there. But there will be service, or so the manager tells me, so swing by.

Looks like the installation the new tram line going under the bridge at the bottom of Seifertova is coming along quite well. Today, going out of Zizkov, there were just beginning to contruct the turn (if you know Prague, I'm talking about the turn between Husinecka and Hlavni, where it goes through the little tunnel). On my way back into Zizkov several hours later, they'd already laid down a big stretch of asphalt. It looks like it's going to be one of the single-lane thingies, where one tram has to stop and wait for the other to get by, sort of like the passage on the 22 line between Malostranska nam. and Malostranska metro.

OK, so here's by far the coolest thing I've seen all day -- in many days, in fact. It's the flyer, drawn up yesterday by David Broderick of Amnesty's local chapter, for the Amnesty International benefit party at Tulip on Dec. 20 (that's a week from this coming Saturday).

Because we missed the deadline for placing the ad, Think Again is not in fact co-sponsor. Bohuzel.

Oh wait, and there's another mistake. Important. The flyer says until midnight. Actually, that's when the real party starts cuz that's when DougieGyro starts his set.