Saturday, November 13, 2004

Overheard today on tram #22 as it crossed the intersection at I.P. Pavlova going in the direction of Nám?stí Míru: A woman speaking English-accented English, talking to her traveling companion sitting three seats ahead on the opposite side of the tram, saying loudly, "We're coming into the center now."

Thing is, she really sounded like she knew what she was talking about. Did I mishear? Did she simply have an alternative sense, different but no less valid than my own, of Prague geography? I didn't dare say anything. They were still on the tram when I got off at Vršovice nám?stí.
If you have a chance, go say hi to Ken Owen.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I read the remark from the Fray at the bottom of my last Slate column. That guy makes a good point. All this talk about "integration" of Europe's immigrants has long bothered me, but I've never been able to put my finger on why, exactly. (In my own defense, the admittedly non-sensical phrase "second-generation immigrant" is in common use in America, the land of immigrants.) More to come on this if the restaurant's not too crazy during weekend brunch and I have time to post to Fistful. Did I mention that Tulip Cafe now serves a buffet brunch on Saturday and Sunday?

Then there's this:

[Dutch] police have declined to say whether the [anti-terror] operation [in The Hague] is related to the van Gogh murder or whether it would have occurred anyway—indeed, Agence France-Press quotes police saying it is not related—yet nearly every news account links the two cases.
My editor initially struck that sentence on the grounds that she recalled that Reuters had confirmed a connection. But she soon decided that she's probably imagined that and the sentence belonged there after all. And indeed, that was the question I posed to the author of the blog Zacht Ei. You can look at our exchange here.

Speaking of mysterious Dutch connections, why does the reclusive Salam Pax have a single period posted to his defunct blog on August 18, linked to this Dutch-English blog containing various travelogue/image journals apparently posted from the Czech Republic? And no, there is no Dutch connection with Tulip. I just liked the word.
Just notice this blog linking to me:North Sea Diaries - A weblog of European politics.


And Carniola wonders if EasyJet will make Lubljuana "the new Prague" for drunken British lads. Sorry to say it, Slovenia, but let's hope so...
Excuse my language, but how the fuck would he know? Andrew Sullivan on Falluja: : "The sad truth is that this insurgency cannot be subdued without a political solution that our early mis-steps made far, far more difficult."

I'm glad a major blogger is following this story -- and indeed, I suspect that Sullivan's right in this case -- but he also has a track record of making predictions that, like this one, are framed in absolute terms and then turn out to be absolutely wrong. So where's he getting his information? Or is this yet another worthless hunch?
Came across this excellent Dutch blog providing ongoing coverage of the situation in the Netherlands. If you don't know what I'm talking about, lucky you, I just wrote a press roundup about it, sort of a "crisis in the Netherlands for dummies." (Hey, I wasn't following either until I started researching the story, and now I can't stop.)

This just in: Two of the guys arrested in the anti-terror sweep in the Hague were Dutch-American brothers, sons of an American GI stationed in Europe.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Not exactly sure why anybody should care what I have to say about this, but I just finished writing an article and I feel like spouting some bullshit that has no relation to my life whatsoever. So bear with me, or just skip this. So Josh Marshall quotes a chap by the name of James Dobson, who apparently is a very important guy in America these days. Here's what Dr. Dobson has to say about corporal punishment for children: "It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." And: "two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, 'You must obey me.'... By learning to yield to the loving authority...of his parents, a child learns to submit to other forms of authority which will confront him later in his life -- his teachers, school principal, police, neighbors and employers." It's not necessary to beat the child into submission? OK, doctor. Thanks. Will take that under advisement. Wait, there's more: "Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining, and the change can be recognized in the tone and intensity of his voice. I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears." Thank you for your careful study of the matter! You want some more of this? That'll learn 'em to shut up!

Thing is, I actually do think that kids should be whacked around a bit. At least the ones that deserve it. But they way he describes it here is pretty revolting, no? A kid should be punished so he doesn't go through life acting like an animal, not so he learns to submit to the police and ... his neighbors? Huh? And the second thing: This pain of which you speak.... I was indeed spanked by my parents, but I actually don't ever remember feeling much pain from it. The terror, as I recall, was almost entirely psychological. If one of my little friends had come up to me and hit me just as hard, I probably would have laughed and hit him back. But parental figures are a different story. When they hit you, it's scary, even if it doesn't hurt. I therefore suspect that Dr. Dobson's views have nothing at all to do with love and everything to do with sadism.

His ministry runs a program called Love Won Out that seeks to convert "ex-gays" to heterosexuality. (Alas, the program's director, a self-proclaimed "ex-gay" himself, was spotted at a gay bar in 2000, an episode Dobson downplayed as "a momentary setback.")
We're meant to snicker. It's pretty funny, after all. But still. I wonder if we shouldn't be doing something other than laughing. (Like, say, crying?)
Does the Greek press really have nothing better to worry about than whether Macedonia is called "Macedonia" rather than "FYROM Macedonia"? Papers are urging calm in response to the latest U.S. "provocation." Sheesh.
Prague the Lord for Radio Blahblahblah, wherever blahblahblah happens to be. I'm disappointed that Radio Prague, for instance, discontinued its press review in March. But at least Radio Netherlands is here to come up with gems like this:
According to the NRC HANDELSBLAD, the Romans are glad the tourist season is over again, because they are tired of all the dumb questions they get from tourists who "do" Rome in one day. Questions like, "Where is Jesus buried?" and "Why did the Romans build the Coliseum in such a state of ruin?" As for the famous Sistine Chapel, one tourist was rather disappointed in Michelangelo's masterpiece but was overheard to say, "Well the other 15 chapels are supposed to be nice. This was only the 16th."
Visiting Pompeii, I recall a tour guide describing the destructive impact of the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It simply leveled everything around. One woman asked, "But what about all this vegetation?"

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Dear World,
Please don't write to me at my Gmail account! I stupidly allowed months to go by without checking that account. I checked and there were two count 'em TWO important emails from editors asking me for story ideas... Naturally the deadlines had both passed. There's no use getting bent out of shape over missed opportunities, but man oh man! what missed opportunities.
New Old Town pasáž alert: Right next to Kogo -- the first one, on Havelská -- there's a store called ... hmmmm, called U something, selling wine and cheese and stuff, and sort of going through it there's an interesting new passageway that's opened up -- how recently, I have no idea, but it wasn't always there, honest to god -- leading through a swank little shopping area with an upscale Western European cafe, and ending up on that one street -- you know the one, the one that has the store selling medieval swords and full suits of armor and that old beer hall, connecting Melantrichová and Železná. Note this is not the Kogo pasáž itself, which is older than time itself, but one that runs parallel to it and ends up in a slightly different place. Hat tip to my friend Vladan for discovering this, and also the little bar/pot den called Cho Cho Bar, which is right nearby, where the denizens claim that all the ancient underground passageways of Prague converge on that one spot. Whatever that means.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

"They would force a woman to bear her rapist's child even if she had to die doing so.... It's time to stop being polite and start getting real."

That would be a hell of a lot more interesting. Thing is, I was sort of impressed by Kerry in that he wasn't all that polite. Heck, the guy directly accused George Bush of letting Osama Bin Laden get away!

The Democrats really didn't think they'd lose. Proof positive is the sheer volume of vitriol being spilled after the election as compared to before. (To be fair, I didn't think they'd lose either.)

If you thought election season was ugly, newsflash -- the fun has only just begun!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Multiple independent sources (OK, two) tell me I was on Czech Television last night.

At the election night shindig last week, my friend Theo and I spotted a cameraman scanning the crowd for shootable shots. So we began hamming it up, gesturing and gesticulating wildly, pointing at each other and ourselves for emphasis, and enumerating non-existent points on our fingers -- as though we were in the midst of a heated debate, which of course we weren't. Sure enough, the guy took the bait and turned the camera on us for a few minutes.

I got a text message from a friend at about 9:30 last night informing me we were just on TV "looking rather drunk."
Here is a rudimentary map of the United States showing which states are net givers and net receivers of federal tax benefits. Surprise, surprise -- with a few exceptions, the states that voted Democrat are generally giving more than they receive, and their money is going to the Republican states -- since Nov.3, also known as "The Real America." Cast in European terms, the Northeast and California are Germany and northern Europe, while "The Real America" is Greece and Portugal.

Now check out the blog Tilting At Windmills, which posted a similar but much better map with shading. Light blue means they give just a little, while dark red means they suck a lot. (Give me some credit -- I did mine first by about an hour.)

This was prompted by a few things. Matt Welch asked if anybody would give it a stab and provided a link to this handy report and chart showing federal expenditure, state by state, per dollar of federal tax revenue. I joked earlier about northern secession. Now this map is making the rounds, showing North America split between Jesusland and the United States of Canada. Slate, meanwhile, has been running a whole slew of half-in-jest articles about fleeing to Canada or seceeding from the Union.

The topper was this unintentionally hilarious essay (via Layne) by a rabid Bush supporter who actually wants to expel the Blue States from the Union. It's penned as satire but is "nevertheless serious in pointing out the cancer that continues to threaten our body politic." That's a real hoot. The author is oblivious to the fact that these rump United States would go bankrupt even faster than the real United States under George Bush, while the coasts would prosper without those subsidy-dependent Red States weighing them down. Not to mention the liberals could once and for all protect their Blue State way of life from interference by Jesus freaks.

Some more comments about the map: It doesn't show the states that are exactly 1-1 (Florida, which I colored red; and Oregon, which I did in blue), nor does it highlight the fact (as Windmill's does) that 10 states are very close (within 10%). Most red states are red states on the electoral map, and likewise for blue; Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Rhode Island bucked the trend, but are still within 10% of even-Steven.

Notably, only five six states bucked the trend significantly: Colorada and Nevada voted Republican and they're significant benefactors. (Probably the economic capital of "the Real America" is Las Vegas?) And Vermont, Maine and Hawaii voted Democrat, despite being total leeches. UPDATE: And Maryland. I forgot Maryland!