Friday, June 03, 2005

Murder, murder, murder most foul! Sorry to be so depressing with the previous posts, dear reader(s).

OK, is it me, or are the gimps and retards coming out in force this season?

Last night I went to see the third Star Wars episode. Quite liked it, but that's not what I'm about to tell you about.

Checked in for the 8:30pm showing, by myself. (I have few friends, see, and even fewer that have a life to speak of, which is why I'm in on a Friday night writing this post.)

Well, yeah you guessed it: It was dubbed. The tip-off came when the words "A long time ago..." didn't show up in English, yet I wasn't completely sure until Anakin and Obi-Wan started yammering at each through their headsets in Czech.

So I'm thinking: "Hm..."

I quickly got myself back to the ticket desk and, brandishing my ticket, politely inquired of the young man whether Star Wars is showing at this cinema with subtitles. He says, why yes indeed it is, at 9:50pm.

So I'm all, "Please, please, I'm very sorry, I make the big mistake. I speaka the badly Czechly and no want no Starwarsky dubbing. Can I change for the ticket?"

And he's all, "You want to change this ticket for a ticket for the 9:50 show?"

And I'm all, "Please, yes."

And he's all, "Do you have the other part of the ticket [indicating the part they rip off when you enter the cinema]?"

And I'm all, "Uhhh... uhhhh... no... ummmm.... It already started and already I was there and..." (This is maybe 80% a transliteration of my actual bad Czech, and 20% me faking bad Czech so as not to be stuck with the dubbed version.)

"Oh, I see," he said. "It already started and you already entered the cinema." (Duh...) So he called the manager.

I brace myself.

The manager approaches. The young man explains the situation quite well. She looks up at the time.

"You want to exchange it now?"

I am smiling on the inside when she says this. I think if I understood Czech like a native, but had only lived in the country a year or so, I might not have gotten what she was getting at. Of course, having lived here for -- oh, rather too long -- I understood quite well. I couldn't help but be amused.

"Yes, yes, now! The film right now!" I replied, feigning ignorance.

She says, "But it's 8:50. It started at 8:30. It's already 20 minutes into the film."

Let me interrupt the story point out the obvious: Movies here, as most anywhere, never start at the designated time, due to ads and trailers. Right? You knew that. That's clear to anyone who's ever been to a film, never mind somebody who works at a cinema, never mind somebody who manages a box office at a cinema.

Besides, what possible ulterior motive could I have for "stealing" the first 20 minutes of the dubbed version?

The last thing I wanted at this point was to be told I knew Czech well enough to sit through the remaining two hours of the film. So I used hand gestures and played the simple fool. "But only five minutes started it... "

It occurs to me now that she probably thought I was just a smart-ass imitating the Czech-dubbed Yoda.

To the managers credit, she gave me a new ticket, but she really wasn't pleased about it, and she still seemed to harbor a suspicion that I'd somehow cheated both her and the cinema out of 20 minutes of that movie. But god bless her! I enjoyed the film, and I am grateful to Cinema City Flora for all it has done!

Alas, oh Czech nation, in these perilous times we're not laughing with you, we're laughing at you...
Atrocity video may prepare ground for Serb arrests: "His words are code here for the arrest of General Ratko Mladic, former commander of the Bosnian Serb army."

It's been ten years.

Also, this sentence -- "Film of a torture session exists but has not been shown to the public because it is sickening" -- is pretty damn meaningful when it comes from the mouth of Reuters itself.
Been catching up on Slugger O'Toole and I indirectly came upon this:

MEP names three possible witnesses to the murder of Robert McCartney
Just an observation, and a pretty facile one at that:

There are lots of things that distinguish the U.S. from Europe (wooden telephone poles, widespread obesity, "Everybody Loves Raymond") but one of the things that always strikes me is the music scene. I'm not talking about pop music, which is more or less dominated by R&B and hip hop on both continents, but rather the slew of lesser-known artists that make up the creative stew known once oh-so long ago as "alternative music."

In Europe the majority of the stuff you come across on that level is electronic, inspired by dub and trip-hop. In the U.S., on the other hand, every friggin' new band sounds like The Fall and/or Gang of Four.

I think this is a good thing, by the way: When I was in college I used to lament the fact that "they don't make bands like Gang of Four anymore." And now they're churning the shit out.

By the way, I think there's a lot to be said for this Wikipedia passage:

In the United States and other countries like Australia, electronica (and the other attendant dance music genres) remains popular, although largely underground, while in Europe, and in particular the UK, it has arguably become the dominant form of popular music.
"Human rights are too important to be lost in bad metaphors."

Probably the most sensible thing I've read so far today (OK, it's early).

Thursday, June 02, 2005

If you feel like wasting a few minutes reading something I wrote years ago.

I owned the leftover bottom half of a Istanbul-Prague-Istanbul round-trip air ticket, so on September 18, 2001, I decided to fly from Prague, Czech Republic, (where I lived) to Istanbul and come back the long way, over land. My interest in the region was mainly historical. Everything associated with Ottoman Empire’s push into Europe fascinated me, as did anything remotely Roman in origin. The land I would pass through – Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia – were all marches of the Roman Empire and subsequently sites of conflict between Turks and Christians stretching from the 14th to the 19th centuries.

When I landed in Istanbul (only a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Prague) I was dressed in a long sleeve shirt and jacket, due to the prevailing autumn weather conditions in the Czech Republic (cold and rain). I was met by Istanbul temperatures that must have been in the 85F/30C range. Sweating like a pig, I took a bus and then a tram to the central train station, past the Aya Sophia and Blue Mosque and all the main sights in Sultanahmet, central Istanbul. Boy was I hot. I headed straight for the dirty bathroom in the Sirkeci train station, which is down by the water near the Golden Horn. I went into the dirty bathroom and changed into a light shirt, the one I bought some weeks earlier in Barcelona that I like to call my "Ramblas shirt" on account of it has a pocket on the inside, a safeguard against thieving Catalans.

I didn’t want to stay in Istanbul since I’d just been there, especially not in this heat. It was only about 4pm, however, and the train to Plovdiv, my first Bulgarian destination, didn't leave until 11pm. The station also didn't have any storage lockers for my two heavy duffle bags so I was stuck with those. So for a while I stood in the middle of a traffic island outside the main train station with my two heavy duffle bags, sweating and wondering what I was going to do for the next 6 hours.

I decided to trek up to the hill back to Sultanahmet to a youth hostel I knew about, and there they charged me about $1 to leave the bags in the closet for the rest of the evening. The hostel is right next to the Aya Sophia and near the sultan's palace, and it has a pleasant terrace where you can sit and drink beer. So that's what I did. Hung out a hostel -- funny because I don’t know of any place in the center of Istanbul that’s as quiet and pleasant. I was quite tired in any case. Istanbul is a wonderful city -- the sights are great and the people are nice, and I used to want to live there -- but at this time of year it just seemed hot and dirty, and I wanted to get out.

In evening, as it cooled off, I walked around a bit and found a restaurant and ate a delicious flambéed fish casserole, a whole baked fish with stewed tomatoes and peppers. The whole thing cost about $7, including a small beer.

I didn't sleep so well on the overnight train to Plovdiv, but since I was lying down for about 12 hours total, I didn't feel so bad at all the next day.

The train ride itself was really strange, however....
Faithful blog devotees will know what happens next, as it picks up here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Hey man, how did I manage to get sick? I'd been doing so well in that area. It must be altitude sickness. The air is too thick here. Today I couldn't do anything but sleep.

Also, if anybody's been trying to reach me the old-fashioned way -- via mobile phone -- please note that up until 7pm tonight, my phone wasn't working, as I managed to leave it in the hotel in Denver or otherwise misplace it. That also means that I can't call anybody, because I don't have anybody's phone number.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

There are a lot of great concerts in Prague this summer.

Things I won't want to miss:
1. White Stripes at Archa, July 3
2. Patti Smith at Archa, August 26
3. ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, June 10 at Rock Cafe. If you've never heard of these guys, no problem -- it's just because you live in Europe. A good friend whose word on such matters is unimpeachable says this is probably the best live band he's ever seen.
... and finally ...
4. Thievery Corporation, July 7. Yeah.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I'm back now.