Saturday, June 26, 2004

Sometimes I glance at a Czech newspaper, and with confidence in my command of the Czech language always shaky, I see a headline that makes me think, "That doesn't say what I think it does, does it?" So I'm on riding tram #9 the other day, when I look over a person's shoulder and catch sight of a newspaper headline that appears to says, "The Jesuits found Gavril Princip's gun."

Naturally I wasn't about to ask the person if I could borrow that section of their paper to read the article, and even if I had, there would have been too many words that I didn't understand to capture the real nuances of the story, if indeed the headline really said what I thought it said.

Turns out it's true: The pistol that triggered World War I has been found "gathering dust in a Jesuit community house" in Styria, southern Austria. Well, not exactly "found." It had been gathering dust in somebody's closet and plenty of people had just forgotten about it.

Shortly after the assassination (the heir to the Austrian empire was killed as they rode through downtown Sarajevo on June 28, 1914), the Bosnian government gave a number of objects from the crime scene to one Father Anton Puntigam, the Jesuit priest that performed that last rites on Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his dying or dead wife, Sophie. Puntigam had declared his intention of building a museum dedicated to the couple, but he died within a decade, never seeing the plan through due to the chaos of the ensuring war. Along with the gun, there is also

petals from a rose attached to Sophie's belt, the cover of the cushion on which the fatally wounded archduke rested his head and the bombs and pistols used by Princip's accomplices.

On the priest's death in 1926, the objects were offered to the archduke's family, which declined to take them. They remained out of sight until recent publicity about the 90th anniversary of the assassination reminded the Jesuits of their importance.
This received more play in Czech papers than in the rest of the world, since the Czech lands were part of the Austrian empire and Franz Ferdinard's murder led to a war that in turn led to eventual independence for Czechoslovakia.

Regardless, it's a good story: An imperial couple dying in a pool of their own blood, rose petals, a priest with a dream, a pistol, and the Jesuits. In Styria.
King's Evil: "For centuries English and French [kings] were thought to possess the ability to cure scrofula by the touching of the sufferers with their fingers...."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Muchos apologies for such light blogging. I don't really have a very clear excuse, although I might mention that my allegies have been acting up like nobody's business. I also think I'm trying to, one might say, figure some stuff out. Aren't we all.

I just finished two excellent books: Eastward to Tartary by Robert Kaplan and The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong. I'm thinking of submitting one of those reader reviews to Amazon.

Anyway, in seeking wisdom, I've turned once again to Scripture. Now I'm making my way through the Book of Proverbs. I'll share one with you:

"The clever do all things intelligently, but the fool displays folly."

That's how my Bible translates Proverbs 13:16. Proverbs is filled with these types of circular, axiomatic statements. Sort of no-shit-Sherlock territory, don't you think?

Yet here's the King James Version of the same line:

"Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly."

If I had a life of pure leisure, I'd learn ancient Hebrew to figure out what it really says.


Last night I went to see David Bowie at T-Mobile arena in Prague. Here's what happened: He played a bunch of old songs that I knew -- starting with pared-down "Life on Mars," followed by "Rebel Rebel," with some newer songs and a Pixies cover mixed in -- until he starting complaining about a pinched nerve. He took a ten-minute break, then came back for two songs, and just after "The Man Who Sold They World," he said, "I'm sorry, I can't continue," and left the stage. Show over. David Bowie, it's worth mentioning, is the same age as my mom. Always has been, always will be. (Likewise for myself and Drew Barrymore.)

A friend who was backstage say he may have even had a small heart attack, but in the news reports, his publicist says it was nothing serious. Poor Bowie has suffered a serious of mishaps. On Friday he was hit in the eye by a flying Norwegian lollipop. In May, a technician at a show in Miami fell to his death just before Bowie went on stage. And in March, his famous Bowie Bonds were downgraded by Moody's to just above "junk" status.

He's still David Bowie. Can't really touch that.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Man, this weather SUCKS!