Friday, December 17, 2004

Thursday, December 16, 2004

I finally finished The New Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts, and I have to say I don’t particularly recommend the book to anybody. Chalk it up to high expectations, perhaps. How can you go wrong with such a grand title? I’ll tell you: Too many numbers, too much about demographics, literacy rates, population growth, economic output and blah, blah, blah. Pages and pages, entire chapters it seems, go by with nary the mention of a proper name. Please, give me the kings and battles! If I wanted this crap, I’d have gone back to school. (Plus, the ending was a real downer. Some wackos crash some planes into Manhattan! Lame.)

A proper history book should tell you important, useful knowledge, such as: The Roman Army brought elephants to Britain. Guards from Asia Minor manning the northern frontier of Roman Britain worshipped Mithras, the Persian sun god. And the native Celts, according to Caesar himself, wore their hair long, shaved their entire bodies save for the heads and upper lips, dyed themselves blue with woad, and shared their wives between groups of ten to twelve men (all of the lucky gal’s offspring being recognized as the children of her first husband).

Think about that last one for a second. When we think of marriage practices in ancient (and some not-so-ancient) societies, we usually think of multiple women for one man. The Celts did it the other way around.

All of this and more can be found in Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples.
A Very Subtle Shift has occured in my Political Orientation as a result of reading this by-now-well-known-to-those-who-really-care article in The New Republic. Here's what grabbed me the most:
When the Times asked Democratic delegates whether the 'United States should try to change a dictatorship to a democracy where it can, or should the United States stay out of other countries' affairs,' more than three times as many Democrats answered 'stay out,' even though the question said nothing about military force.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Hey you!

Woah. What the heck is that?

That's a festive holiday announcement for the 3rd annual "Toys in the Attic" toy drive this Friday at Tulip Cafe! There'll be an all-you-can-eat Christmas dinner and if you bring a toy, you can drink free beer and wine all night long! The doors open at 7 p.m. and festivities will carry on till the wee hours.

Why does Tulip need toys?

The toys are not for Tulip, fool! They'll be given to local needy children.

But I hate children.

I know, I know... Especially orphans. Look, Scrooge, it's not just about toys. It's about the spirit of Christmas. It's about giving, and having a good time and dressing up like sexy Santas and throwing caution to the wind and forgetting about our troubles for just one night. There will be mistletoe and jingle bells and lots and lots of great food. Dinner costs 300 crowns, and that includes a huge all-you-can-eat buffet with roasted turkey, stuffed goose, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet and savory stuffings, vegetarian lasagna, cranberry sauce, gingerbread pudding, and more! That's the Christmas spirit!

I don't celebrate Christmas.

OK, so we'll make you some latkes. It'll be just like one of your Hannukah seders.

That's Passover, jerk! And I'm not Jewish, either!

Doh! Sorry.

Will there be punch?

Tell ya what. For the 300, we'll throw in a glass of sparkly champagne. Mirth! There will be lots of mirth.


No way, dude.

Plum pudding? I'll only come if there's plum pudding.

Actually we thought of that, but apparently to do a proper plum pudding you have to start one year in advance. So maybe we'll do that for the 4th annual toy drive. Look, when was the last time you ate a roasted stuffed goose?

You're really roasting my goose.

That joke has already been made like a hundred times, dork.

Wait a sec! As I recall Tulip Cafe has only been open since August 2002. So how can this be the 3rd annual toy drive?

Ah, you're smart. In fact, Prague's annual "Toys in the Attic" toy drive is the creation of the former owners of the legendary Old Town watering hole From Dusk Till Dawn.

Dude! That place rocked.

Indeed. They've sold the bar but they've gotten together with Tulip this year to continue the toy drive. And oh! I almost forgot! There will be a guest bartender from the old Dusk.

So basically you're saying I can get sloshed to my heart's content just by giving away a toy. Say, do they have Happy Meals in the Czech Republic?

Yes, but not so fast. You have to bring a new toy. No kid, no matter how underpriviledged, wants somebody's dirty old teddy bear or a second-hand Cracker Jack prize.

I heard orphans here are spoiled and already have all the toys they need.

Whatever you say, man. See you Friday.

Wait! Where's Tulip?

Opatovická 3, in New Town, just a couple blocks south of the National Theatre. Click here for a handy map.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Today, on impulse, I bought a scanner. It's quite often that I feel like I could use a scanner, and they're not that expensive, so I figured what the heck. And it worked right out of the box. Unfortunately the most interesting thing I could find to scan was this old matchbox cover:

I haven't bothered to read any reviews of The Incredibles. I'm sure there are plenty of pseudo-sociological explanations out there of why exactly people find this cartoon so appealing (other than sheer entertainment value). As far as I’m concerned the story was pretty clear: Here you have a bunch of 30- and early-40-somethings that used to be real party animals, dropping E and going out to clubs every weekend, staying out until 8 a.m., and now they can't do that anymore because they're getting old and starting to settle down and they hold normal office jobs with hilariously domestic home lives, and maybe they're even married with -- gasp! -- children. But don’t forget, when the shit goes down, they can still party like it's 1999.

It strikes me once again that the trick to a successful book or screenplay identifying the right demographic and making a cutesy story about it (cf. Bridget Jones).

Sunday, December 12, 2004