Archive for January, 2010

how could iNot

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

In light of the profound volume of middle-school giggle-fits presently happening online today thanks to to the frenzy around the unveiling of Steve Jobs’ new shiny thing, I dredged up and posted the file for this old ink drawing that I recently rediscovered:

But this, of course, naturally just set off another round of middle-school giggle-fits among the friends on Facebook, so it seemed only right to take 5 minutes to work up a further statement of the obvious:

It reminds me of my 2007 MFA show invitation. Which probably makes sense to about 7 people I can think of.


Thursday, January 21st, 2010

GHOTCZ #4: Czech Lessons

You know that episode of 30 Rock where they suspect that Tracy Jordan is illiterate? And he plays into it, wailing melodramatically, “I can’t reeead, Liz Lemon! My shameful secret is out. Now you know why I’m always running into the ladies bathroom. I can’t read! I sign my name with an X! I once tried to make mashed potatoes with laundry detergent! I think I voted for Nader! Nader!” For some reason this was the image in my head whenever confronted with the initial inscrutability of Czech text. Which was every day. Signs. Sentences. Menus. Magazines. And let’s not even get started on understanding the spoken language. I’m a lousy auditory processor in any language, so deciphering speech has been doubly difficult. Which I guess makes me the Helen Keller of learning Czech.

P, however found a great Czech language teacher, Jana Slavikova (Czech for Foreigners in Prague). Not only is she exceedingly patient with our gruesome, slow-death mangling of her language, she’s a great teacher and friend. And Czech is a really fascinating, if profoundly complex, language, so it’s stimulating learning it with her. P and I are making slow progress, but it’s progress nonetheless. And without Jana, I wouldn’t have met some other very cool women that I’m now friendly with as well.


GHOTCZ#5: Nov 17 1989/2009

For those of you a little shaky on European history, 1989 marked the beginning of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe,  including such dramatic events as the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. On Nov 17, 1989, thousands of Czechs took to the streets in a peaceful protest that was the beginning of a string of political actions and events that led to the demise of the Communist era. We walked with the reenactment/anniversary parade, and it was unbelievably, unexpectedly moving. Participants were for the most part, incredibly quiet and mellow: none of the hollering, sequins and bombast that would probably accompany an equivalent American commemoration. Czechs are so low-key in general, it felt only fitting that their protests would be so…velvety. Somehow, this made the occasion all the more emotional.


GHOTCZ#6: Spartákiáda on YouTube

The continuation of my enthusiasm for large masses of people up to interesting antics! In an utterly different context!
Those of you who know of my profound obsession with the Cebu Prisoners (aka the Dancing Inmates) in the Philippines will appreciate my new-found obsession with vintage footage of the epic “Spartakiada” performances at Strahov Stadium, here in Prague. These mass gymnastics displays were held every 5 years during the Communist era.

Google or Youtube the term “Spartakiada” if you want more: this one’s my current favorite. It’s not just the little white shorts I like: formally, there’s also something about all of this playing out on a dirt field the color of skin, as opposed to the green-ness of grass or Astroturf.  (It does, however, feel more like it should be the opening ceremonies for the next SF Pride, as opposed to a celebration of Czech youth and vigor. But then, I’m a San Francisco native, so I was indoctrinated a little differently).

Greatest Hits Of The Ceezy (GHOTCZ)

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Aaaand welcome back. New Year. All of that.

OK, so I swear I’m not writing a travel/expat blog where I try to provide you with a touching-but-funny memoir of my time among the natives. There are folks who do this in a way I can appreciate, but they’re way outnumbered the folks who churn out dreck, and I hope not to end up in the latter category.

However, I’ve been living in the Czech Republic for roughly 6 months, and seeing as this is presently a big part of my life, here are a few things/places/experiences that have really brought this place home for me, in no particular order. I’ll continue to post erratic, occasional GHOTCZs from now on.

GHOTCZ #1: Žižkov TV Tower
I will bare-knuckle fight anyone who says this thing is an eyesore. It delights me to no end. I know I’ve already rhapsodized about it, but it’s hard to stop. It’s just so big and preposterous and impossible to ignore, and it doesn’t fit in with the packaged, more tourist-friendly center of town, and I love it for all these reasons. It’s just this ridiculous, monstrous, Baby Huey of a transmission device, with a faded, Miami Vice-esque oily paint job in each of the 3 main observation towers. It would be oppressive if it weren’t so damned goofy. It has the best view of Prague imaginable. It’s got a stellar, if under-utilized, metal detector at the entrance. And the apple strudel in the cafe is, for some odd reason, the best we’ve found in the Czech Republic. Maybe it’s the extra altitude.

GHOTCZ #2:Vyšehrad
Surprisingly un-touristed, although hardly undiscovered. Vyšehrad is a massive, wonderful hilltop park, with an extraordinary history, more beautiful views, a snack bar with the nicest lady ever running it, and the most extraordinary cemetery I’ve ever been to. I’m not particularly morbid, but I’ve always found cemeteries beautiful and peaceful, and make a point of seeking them out on most trips. Partly it’s my sculpture background: there’s usually a lot of lovely sculpture to look at, too.

What I love about Vyšehrad Cemetery is the incredible variety, love and individuality put into the sculptures and the graves: the way that many are over-grown and wild, the way that some are absolutely works or art. And the way that some are just SO beyond Goth, like this one:

It’s like, “Fuck yeah, we’re dead. We’re so dead, we’re leading ourselves down into our tomb. That’s how dead we are.”

GHOTCZ  #3: Becherovka/Beton
AKA “Christmas in a Bottle”,  AKA The Beezy. It has notes of cinnamon and other spices, hence the nickname. The greatness of Czech beer is lost on me since I’m not much of a beer drinker, but Becherovka is high on my list of vaguely medicinal, herbal remedy-ish digestifs that I have a weakness for.  When you mix it with tonic and a little lemon, the flavor really shifts and lightens, and it’s called a BeTon. This past weekend, we went to Karlovy Vary, where Becherovka is from, and I made my pilgrimage to the Jan Becher (Becher-ovka…get it?) Museum, and to hug Snow White outside the castle.

GHOTCZ #4: Kavárna Slavia
It’s touristed, yes, but so what: I love Slavia. Its Art Deco design, combined with a certain Czech no-nonsense-ness CFL lighting after dark, redeems its old-school glamour by giving it a certain frumpy, Denny’s-at-3 am kind of aura. Never had a bad meal here. The desserts are super. Service has always been great. I love to sit by the window in the afternoon.

Okay, that’s the first few. More sporadic rants about excellent Czech stuff soon.