Prague Dog Eat Blog

A case of mistaken identity theft, Czech-style (Part I)

Apr 12, 12:24 (Filed under: Personal )

Yesterday was a classic ‚?úI should have stayed in bed‚?Ě day. I woke up eager to plunge into yet another lifestyle change: early to bed, early to rise, start the day with a run, try to make it through without a single smoke, no coffee, no sweets, three uber-healthy square meals, no World of Warcraft, and beaucoup productivity. I had a bit of paperwork to take care of in order to renew my trade license and visa, but the papers I needed were those that are a snap to get: a statement from the district financial office saying I owed the state no money and my Czech and Canadian criminal records.

On waking at 7 a.m. I felt groggy and cold. I could hear traffic sizzling over wet pavement outside but it didn‚??t sound like it was still raining. As I suffer from a fairly nasty allergy to pollen, I was kind of glad that it was wet out and looked forward to a quick brisk run. Then I opened the blinds.

While it wasn‚??t coming down cats and dogs, the weather looked pretty miserable ‚?? too miserable for me considering the fact that I don‚??t have any waterproof jogging gear. Well, whatever, I thought, I‚??ll return to fitness tomorrow and enjoyed a nice big breakfast instead ‚?? corn flakes and banana, honeyed toast, a yogurt drink, orange juice, a big mug of tea and four squares of chocolate. Then four more squares of chocolate. Then a cigarette. I‚??ll kick tomorrow, I reckoned.

It‚??s a good thing I still had about half a pack of smokes as I ended up needing them ‚?? well, at least I felt I needed them.

First stop, the Prague 9 Financial Office. Getting the document I needed here would be a piece of piss, in spite of an administrative cock-up caused by ill communication between the FO‚??s in Prague 4 and Prague 9 (my records had not been transferred from the former to the latter when I moved two years ago, which had caused a fair amount of stress a few weeks ago when I got a letter from the P4 FO telling me I owed them a penalty for not informing them that I had paid my taxes last year ‚?? the lovely Jitka sorted that out). I just had to go up to someone‚??s office, sign for the paper and that would be it. Then I‚??d pick up both of my pristine criminal records, go to my district Trade License Office, wait a week or so and I‚??d have everything I need to get my visa.

Well, of course everything wasn‚??t that simple, otherwise I wouldn‚??t be writing about it. Apparently I owed the state 1,000 koruna for traffic violations, one in Plzen, the other in Litomerice. This meant I could not get a paper from the FO saying that I don‚??t owe the state any money.

I went a little numb, laughed in disbelief and told the clerk who had just informed me of this that a) I have never been to Litomerice, b) the last time I was in Plzen had been something like three or four years ago and I was a passenger on the way to and from the city, c) I have never even sat in the driver‚??s seat of a showroom car in the nearly ten years that I have been living in the Czech Republic and d) I don‚??t have a driver‚??s license.

After about an hour of arguing and calling offices in Litomerice and Plzen, and, of course, getting the divine Jitka to kick some Czech clerk ass, it eventually dawned on me that perhaps somebody was using my expired Ontario drivers license, which had been in a wallet of mine that got nicked one night at Marquis de Sade just over a year ago. The only other pieces of ID in the wallet were a health insurance card and library card, both expired, as well as an ATM card, but I blocked that on the same night that I discovered that my wallet had gone missing. But as the drivers license didn‚??t have a photo (I got a new one issued to me while I was here, which is something that can be done once), it seemed that somebody was using my license to get out of paying fines for traffic violations.

How naive I had been. I reckoned that since all of the above-mentioned pieces of ID had expired (thinking about it now, I just realised that my old birth certificate was in it, but that‚??s also no longer valid because of a relatively new law regarding birth certificates from the province of Quebec ‚?? not that Czech authorities would know anything about that) and none of them were photo ID nobody could do anything with it. So, I didn‚??t report the theft to the police. I had heard from a few friends who had made such reports that it is an insanely time-consuming and aggravating process, and I‚??ve had more than my fair share of such processes dealing with Czech authorities and bureaucrats. So I let it go, much, it now seemed, to my chagrin.

The smugness that was radiating from the two women working in that FO office I had been fuming in for the past hour was palpable. Tsk tsk tsk, you should have reported it‚?? if you had reported it this would all be sorted out‚?? why didn‚??t you report it‚?? too bad for you‚??

It took all my power to refrain from telling them to shut the fuck up and get back to pushing paper, entering data, fucking the dog, or whatever the hell it is they were hired to do. So, after a couple of cool-down cigs, I was back on the metro from Ceskomoravska to Cerny Most to report a theft that had occurred over a year ago to the city police. This, surprise surprise, is an entry in itself, so I‚??ll write about that colossal waste of time later today or tomorrow.

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working in town again

Mar 25, 09:09 (Filed under: , Personal )

It‚??s been a more productive week than usual. I‚??ve started working outside the flat again. I‚??ve been getting things done at a better, though unhealthier, pace. I don‚??t smoke (all that much) at home, but light up a lot at Villa Incognito while working on the History Essays from Hell.

After putting in several good smoke and coffee-filled hours on the laptop on Monday, I went for a few well-deserved beers and Tullamores at Blind Eye. Had a good chat with King Vitamin and a couple of other guys about DIY-neighbour-hating, visa issues, traveling, and, of course, women ‚?? the good, the badass and the nasty.

I used to be good at remembering conversations and most of the details about the settings in which they took place. I could tell you at what point the waiter came by in any given discussion and what everybody ordered, who rolled which spliff and how good a job they did. Cigarettes were abundant, the soundtrack didn‚??t really matter, it was always all good when you were with the right people ‚?? either it rocked or it gave you a springboard for witty disses.

These days I can‚??t, or don‚??t want to, pay close attention to the details after finishing work for the day. I just want to clear the slate, wipe the windows, sleep easy. I suppose that makes me common. I suppose that should bother me, but it doesn‚??t, it‚??s just kind of boring. Though as far as workplaces go, being able to shift between home and Incognito is a privilege that I shouldn‚??t take for granted.

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Photos of Prague and Cesky Krumlov, courtesy of Richard Body

Mar 22, 06:00 (Filed under: People, Personal )

Just over a week ago Jitka and I had the pleasure of having Richard Body as our guest. You can read about his stay in the Czech Republic here. He has also posted plenty of great snaps from his trip.

I miss the thrill and the loneliness that one experiences when travelling solo. I’ve been feeling this way for a long time now, and reading Richard’s entries have set a few wheels in motion – at least as far as planning goes. Berlin’s looking good, but I’m also considering Budapest. Jitka reckons I should go back to Canada for a few weeks, but I’d rather stay in Europe for now, mainly for financial reasons. This trip has got to happen soon, as these Czech winter blues have got me in one of the deepest funks I’ve ever had.

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On holiday

Mar 17, 08:12 (Filed under: Personal, Road tripping )

Jitka and I are chilling in bed in a pension in South Bohemia, ragging on Clou, a Czech band that makes music that‚??s catchy in a grating, Hootie and the Blowfish or Maroon 5 way, worsened by their lingua franca lyrics. Clou is a fruit-fly in the ointment ‚?? the pension is by far the tidiest, most modern Czech pension I‚??ve ever had the pleasure of staying in, we‚??ve got the place to ourselves, and are being treated to a very pleasant breakfast of coffee, rolls, ham, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, muesli and orange juice.

It feels good to be out of Prague ‚?? hell, it feels good to be out of the flat ‚?? but we‚??re still kind of working, as we‚??ve got to head into Pisek to arrange flowers, sweets, and‚?? damn‚?? there‚??s something else but I can‚??t remember what it is‚??

I really don‚??t know where my head‚??s at these days. All this cocooning and Warcrafting has made me dull physically, mentally and spiritually. As of next week, there are going to be changes. Not saying what, not saying where, when and how, but it‚??s high time for a resurrection.

For now, I‚??m on holiday, so that‚??s enough for today.

Spot-on comments

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Medical insurance and treatment in Prague

Mar 10, 07:33 (Filed under: Personal, Out and About in Prague )

Confession: I had a few smokes yesterday to calm my nerves, and, in a way, to soothe my ego. Gimping around town without any accessories that tell the world you‚??re injured or defective is bad enough. Having a leg brace* (or is it a cast? It‚??s one of them corrective things with Velcro straps) takes me back to my pre- to early teens, when I had to wear orthodontic headgear in public, like your average geek sidekick. Not only do I feel sorry for dogs that have to wear those satellite dishes after an operation, I kinda empathise with them.

Every since I arrived here in ‚??96, I‚??ve been kinda wary of Czech doctors, especially those who specialise in orthopedics. One of the many factors that shaped my initial impression of this place was what seemed to me like an inordinately large number of people on crutches. On top of that, a few weeks into settling in, a fellow English teacher quipped, ‚?úI can introduce you to Czechs who have lost their ability to walk because of a visit to the doctor to sort out water on the knee.‚?Ě

Ugh‚?? I kept thinking about that wisecrack when I realized that I probably had water on the knee and would have to see a doctor here‚??

On Tuesday, getting insured was somewhat of a nightmare in itself, though mainly because of my bad timing. The woman handling short-term insurance contracts buggered off for lunch about five minutes after I got to the VZP offices at Vitezne Namesti in Prague 6, which is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away from Prague 9. I finally got served about forty-five minutes after arriving. However, the hospital would have to wait until the next day, as my insurance wasn‚??t to kick in until then.

Rather than take public transport all the way to Motol hospital (about a ten to fifteen minute bus ride from Andel metro station), I opted to take a cab. As always, AAA‚??s operator was very pleasant (I love the fact that they put you in their database so they know your name when you call), and the cab showed up about seven minutes after I made the order. The ride seemed excessively long, but it ended up being worth it ‚?? the cabbie went the extra mile for me and asked a couple of security guys and a few ambulance drivers for the location of the hospital‚??s foreigner section. He even parked in the emergency area and weathered quite a few dirty looks from the ambulance staff.

A kind security guard ended up leading the way. Turns out that all that extra effort was unnecessary ‚?? had I come by bus, I would have found the foreigner‚??s section in Motol without a problem, as I had been there before. But the way we came by cab kind of disoriented me. In any case, it was nice to go to the hospital in comfort.

Then things took a 180. When one of the clerks in the foreigner‚??s section called the insurance company, I was kept waiting for an hour as it turned out the morons at the VZP hadn‚??t entered me into their system, despite the fact that my insurance was supposedly effective as of yesterday. I kept my cool for the better part of that hour, but lost it after the clerk over to me all shoulder shrugs, head shakes and ‚?úI don‚??t know‚?Ě. ‚?úTell you what,‚?Ě I told her, ‚?úhow about I bash your knee with a hockey stick and leave you sitting here for an hour?‚?Ě

More shoulder shrugs, then ‚?úWe have to wait for them to enter you into their system.‚?Ě

‚?úWell, can I see a doctor while they‚??re doing this?‚?Ě

It was like trying to reason with a cat: ‚?úI don‚??t know if we can accept this card, you must wait.‚?Ě

Then I went off on her ‚?? I know it wasn‚??t her fault as far as the insurance cock-up was concerned, but I kept thinking that it wouldn‚??t have mattered if I had come in riddled with bullets, she would have been just as cold and dumb.

Well, as any quick-tempered foreigner knows, going off on Czechs is an exercise in futility and frustration. I really wish I could master that famous passive-aggressiveness of theirs ‚?? it‚??s kind of admirable.

However, in the end I got to see a doctor. That is, I got to wait a hell of a long time before seeing a doctor, which always sucks, anywhere in the world. Sitting in that long corridor in the Orthopedic section of Motol could not have been any more depressing ‚?? lots of long faces, lots of gimps, lots of cranky old-timers single or double-crutched or in wheelchairs, one old woman with a tracheotomy (I felt she should have had a more profound effect on my efforts to kick the nic sticks, but she didn‚??t, even when she put her finger to the hole in her neck to speak in rusty croaks).

Then, finally, after all the waiting and hobbling and standing with this bitch of a knee, I got to see the doctor. And it was well worth the waiting, hobbling, etc. She was great. Spoke English almost perfectly (British accent) and was friendly enough. She stuck a rather large needle into the side of my right knee and drained it of the excess fluid (I didn‚??t watch, not because of queasiness but because it was nice to have an excuse to lie back with my eyes closed), gave me a prescription for anti-inflammatory pills (good thing I‚??m off the booze right now) and an order for the aforementioned leg brace (or cast, or wrap, or whatever it‚??s called), and told me to stay off my feet for the next week or so (huge drag, especially considering the fact that Richard is coming to stay with us this weekend).

After killing more time in the hospital while waiting for the place that sells orthopedic treatment equipment (there has to be a better term for it than that‚?? damn, that Warcraft is destroying my mind‚??) to re-open after lunch, it was finally time for me to gimp my way back to Blackbridge. Of course, I hopped on the wrong bus and ended up taking a really long way home, ending up out near Nove Butovice. But it was all worth it in the end ‚?? last night was finally relatively pain-free. And I‚??ve got a little more faith in Czech doctors.

*When I googled ‚?úleg brace‚?Ě to make sure I was using the right term, this site (not safe for work) topped the list of results. I find that amusing for some reason‚??

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Getting out of Blackbridge

Mar 4, 07:50 (Filed under: Personal )

Today, for the first time in something like a week (if not more), I‚??m going to leave Prague 9. Not by choice, but because I‚??ve got some pretty important paperwork to take care of. If it were up to me, I‚??d definitely stay in bed ‚?? in part because I don‚??t feel like going into town, and in part because I‚??ve got a problem with my right knee.

It‚??s ridiculous ‚?? some kind of work-related injury caused by too much time spent sitting on the sofa typing away on the notebook (ok, not just working, but getting my druid Patjah up to level 28; check him out at my guild‚??s website, if you‚??re into that kind of thing).

Anyway, I‚??ve been hobbling around the flat like a B-movie zombie, missing out on all kinds of action. I feel like I should feel bad about not immersing myself in Prague‚??s nightlife, but for some reason I don‚??t. I suppose the way I walk isn‚??t the only manner in which I‚??ve zombified myself.

There‚??s another reason I haven‚??t been going out ‚?? detox. While I had a couple of beers last weekend, I haven‚??t touched any kind of smoke, booze or coffee for about three weeks now. I have developed an addiction to English breakfast tea, which is probably worse for me than coffee, but aside from the knee I am feeling somewhat better these days. However, in a way I‚??ve been putting off going into town, especially going to bars, because I don‚??t want to have to deal with the cravings for smoke and alcohol right now.

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(Un)health kick, at the movies, the first Czech Babybox baby

Feb 22, 08:58 (Filed under: Personal, Film )

I’m still feeling rather punky, despite having set a personal record (8 days without a smoke) and having started exercising again. I haven’t touched a drop of booze or inhaled a trace of chronic for over a week. And I still wake up feeling kind of hungover and black-lunged. I thought health kicks were supposed to be healthy?

With the exception of a rather miserable trip out to Kika in Pruhonice on Saturday (I can only stand ginormous IKEA -like furniture shops for about 15 minutes, then my temper goes real foul), I have been pretty much rooted in Prague 9. I feel the need to apologise to friends who have been trying to get me out, and to thank them for keeping me in their thoughts. With any luck I’ll be back in action by the end of next month. One thing’s for sure – I am never selling my soul again like I did with this project of history essays. The money was good, but the conditions are so bad that I’m actually starting to feel like I was better off when I was collecting welfare in Ottawa nearly a decade ago.

Finally saw a couple of movies that reinstilled my faith in Czech cinema: Fimfarum Jana Wericha (Jan Werich’s Fimfarum, 2002) and Smradi (Brats, 2002). Fimfarum is simply Czech imagination at its finest – inventive fairy tales for all ages and dark, twisted and beautiful stop-motion animation. If I can find a place that is showing it with subtitles, I will definitely try to catch Fimfarum 2 , which opens this Thursday, on the big screen.

Smradi features top-shelf acting, particularly the movie’s “brats” who hold their own when sharing the screen with the always-brilliant Ivan Trojan.

I’d rave more, but I think I’ve been devoting a bit too much blog space to movies these days.

Well, one more thing – Jitka and I watched Bad Boys last night. No, not the buddy supercop ego trip starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, but the unbelievable Rick Rosenthal classic starring a badass pre-Madonna Sean Penn and a pre-Brat Pack Ally Sheedy. When I say “unbelievable” I mean easy to discredit – the conditions in the correctional facility are utterly ridiculous. How are we supposed to believe that while in the clink juvenille delinquents can take woodworking classes, are not locked in their cells, have easy access to corrosive and explosive materials… the list goes on. The movie’s entertainment value lies in all the “Oh, yeah, right” it provokes.

On a final note, I knicked the following from the Prague Monitor – a Babybox has been used for the first time in the Czech Republic. Jitka and I saw one of these things in Hloubetin quite a while ago and were a bit shocked. I’m not really sure what to make of these things and what to think of the women who actually use them – there are much better ways of putting kids up for adoption.

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Torino 2006 in Prague

Feb 16, 06:02 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Personal )

Enough with the cinema for now. How about TV? I‚??m not a big fan of the Olympics, but it is nice to watch the games every now and again in the pub, or having them on as background noise at home. In Prague, most pubs with TVs will just leave the games running. I have no idea what‚??s going on in football, but I‚??m sure that Prague sports bars like Jagr‚??s and my personal favourite, Zlata Hvezda (I‚??m not really a sports bar kind of guy, but the prices, the atmosphere and the waitresses at Zlata Hvezda work for me) have a balance of footie and Torino 2006 action.

It goes without saying that ice hockey matches between the Czechs and anyone else will pull in crowds at any Prague bar with a boob tube. I‚??m not sure I‚??ll watch the February 21 match between Canada and the Czech Republic. I tend to get a bit overemotional and I‚??m not sure why. Perhaps it‚??s something in the blood. Perhaps it‚??s because I don‚??t want to experience this crap again.

I must say, however, that I found this article very pleasant reading. Of course, it is likely that no Czech hockey fan will heed The Dominator‚??s warning ‚?? which will make Canadian gold in men‚??s (and women‚??s) ice hockey that much sweeter‚??

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Super Size/Spek Me

Feb 15, 08:38 (Filed under: Film, Personal )

I have definitely overextended myself. Leaving Prague 9 is something I do grudgingly these days, and that kind of bothers me. I‚??m not really in the mood for Prague‚??s nightlife ‚?? hell, any nightlife, in part because of work, in part because I‚??m comfortable out here in the ‚??burbs (a bit too comfortable ‚?? though not really overly melodramatic Fitter Happier comfortable), but mostly because I‚??m not feeling well and am still trying to quit smoking. I made it five days last week before allowing myself to be badgered into going to Strelice u Brna. That is a trip I will not be making again for a long while ‚?? the novelty of parking my ass in the Pub by the Train Station and getting absolutely blotto on any given night of the week got boring long ago.

So, like I said, I‚??ve been feeling a bit under the weather. Not surprising considering the amount of smog we get out here in Prague 9 (yes, I know I’m repeating myself – but it’s really that bad), my blossoming World of Warcraft addiction (especially bad since I discovered the joys of making virtual coin at the Darnassus Auction House) and the fact that I‚??ve been living off of frozen pizza, chocolate and multivitamin tablets these days. Oh yeah, that reminds me, Super Size Me has finally come to Prague.

I suppose I‚??ll have to see the flick, just because there‚??s been so much talk about it. Though I can‚??t understand why ‚?? everybody knows how bloody unhealthy McDick‚??s food is, so what is the attraction of watching a perfectly healthy man poison himself in order to illuminate the obvious?

Then again, I’m one of those folks who can spend hours watching people do the most imbecilic shit over at ebaum’s world. Eating nothing but Mickey Dees for a month is about as imbecilic as it gets. I’m sure it’ll be less stomach-churning than watching homeless people punch the crap out of each other.

And now, in a Czech cinematic equivalent of the bad Czech cover song*, one Karel Gustav Bozan is participating in a documentary about the perils of Czech pub food called Super Spek Me.

Groan

What does this dude expect to accomplish? Everybody knows what can come of a one-month diet of nothing but the lowest-grade cuts of beef and pork, factory-farmed chicken, steamed dumplings, sauerkraut, deep-fried whatever, pickled this and that, snout-bone-and-entrail sausages, lard and onion on black bread, beer and Czurkish coffee. Internal breakdowns, meltdowns and corrosion, together with the added bonuses of getting fat and stinking like a pub 24/7.

But of course I‚??m probably going to go see the freakshow and the film on March 8 “in Kino Aero, where Karel will eat his last sausage, if he‚?? survives the experiment!” If I can motivate myself enough to get my ass out of Blackbridge.

*In case you‚??re wondering why I posted that link, young Ms. Vondrackova‚??s appalling cover of Bonnie Tyler‚??s I Need a Hero has been getting some much undeserved (and unwanted) radio play as of late.

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Devcatko, Pernikova Vez, Patrick on pervatin

Feb 8, 09:54 (Filed under: Film, Personal )

Saw Devcatko (Girlie, 2002) a couple of nights ago. While it didn’t piss me off, it didn’t impress me all that much either. Maybe it’s an age thing, but I’m not as easily duped by films that emphasise style over substance these days. Devcatko is a very good-looking flick, and makes Haje a pretty hip hood (though trying to convince viewers that a Prague herna bar is a club where kids go to take drugs and dance is asking a lot), but it’s pretty much by-the-book as far as modern Czech films go. You get conflicts between generations and genders, sex, and, of course, some death.

The acting is solid, the dream sequences kind of work, and the film looks really good. So, it’s worth checking out if you know someone who’s got it on DVD. Or just wait for Czech Television to show it on TV some night.

Speaking of movies on Czech TV, Jitka and I caught some of Pernikova Vez (Gingerbread Tower, 2002; Pernik is slang for pervatin), which also features Dorota Nvotova, the lead in Devcatko, in a minor role. We didn’t like the film the first time we saw it, and this time around wasn’t much better. Though it opens with a very original and gut-wrenching scene, PV doesn’t do much else to impress, in spite of top-notch acting and an interesting, though convoluted, look at Prague’s underbelly, underground and nightlife. Just look at the still from the flick below—the characters are as dumb and annoying as they look here.

The attempted plot-twist is predictable (I remember figuring it out well before the halfway mark), and the ending is pathetic. Not even worth borrowing from a friend, only worth watching on TV if there’s nothing else on, or you’ve paused a movie while cooking, making drinks, taking a phone call, etc.

Ah, pervatin… what a stupid drug. Is anybody still doing it these days? A drug that inhibits sleep, appetite and libido and renders the user a walking scab after long-term use? Sign me up!

Interestingly enough (well, to me), two pieces that I’ve written appear on the first page of a google search for pervatin. The fifth result is an archived piece right here in DEB, the seventh result on the page is a rather immature piece that I did for the original Think magazine.

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Contemporary Czech cinema pisses me off!

Feb 5, 06:00 (Filed under: Culture, Personal )

I dig movies. Lately I‚??ve been watching at least one DVD a night, sometimes two, followed by a movie on Czech TV. It‚??s simply that kind of weather. And considering the insane quantity of smog that we get out here in Blackbridge, I‚??m not exactly jonesing for a night out in downtown Prague.

Now, I really want to like contemporary Czech movies. But these days, whenever I rent them, they either put me to sleep or piss me off. Most of the time they piss me off.

Ok, they don‚??t exactly piss me off, but the films that the Czechs have been making over the last few years have been disappointing ‚?? at least the ones I‚??ve seen. Here‚??s why: phenomenal acting talents and camera work and dialogue are shot to hell by crap stories, most of which incorporate the socialist era either directly (in films set in the era) or indirectly (most often depicted through a conflict between generations). Of course, that is when the film is not set in, or referring to, the Nazi occupation.

Perhaps it‚??s rather arrogant of me to say this, but this socialism complex is making for a very tired plot device. And a bunch of crazy shit that happens to people does not a movie make (that applies to a number of American movies as well). That‚??s not to say that this, for a lack of a better term, freestyle way of film-making is not without its merits. However, the way Czech filmmakers have been doing this feels like they‚??re being weird for the sake of being weird.

In my opinion, the only contemporary Czech movie that stands up to repeated screenings is Samotari. Every aspect of the movie works in harmony with the others ‚?? soundtrack, acting, dialogue, direction‚?? everything.

Then there‚??s Wrong Way Up ‚?? Pribehy obycejneho silenstvi ‚?? actual translation Tales of Ordinary Madness, not to be confused with Charles Bukowski’s collection of short stories of the same name. Though some parts of the movie seem like they could have been lifted from a Bukowski story.

I tell you, this movie really pissed me off. I mean really got me fuming to the point where Jitka had to tell me to shut up. Why? Because I felt cheated. Everything was great (with the exception of a blatant Graduate rip-off ‚?? if not a rip-off then at least a clumsy homage), even the story, right up until the end. I can‚??t say any more about the conclusion without spoiling it (and if you‚??re going to comment on this entry, please extend the same courtesy ‚?? I will delete spoilers) except the way the movie ended prompted me to react the same way I did to my last meal at Pizza West.

In fairness to the latest Czech movies, I admit that I am basing my opinion on a handful of flicks. And the potential is there. Maybe I’m just not watching the right films. I would like to write a more thorough, less off-the-cuff critique (i.e. “rant”) on the subject, so I will try to commit myself to renting more Czech DVD‚??s ‚?? as of tomorrow. Tonight we‚??ve got The Transporter to look forward to.

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Shaking the dew off the louie in Prague

Jan 31, 10:33 (Filed under: , Personal )

On account of the Antarctic conditions in Prague I didn‚??t leave the flat this weekend. Well, I did a bit of shopping, but other than that Jitka and I just chilled with a generous helping of Hollywood ‚?? watched the first two Godfathers (two movies that stand up to numerous screenings), as well as Mission: Impossible 2 (saw it in Czech, will have to rent it ‚?? I‚??d sort of forgotten how much fun stupid over-the-top action flicks can be) and 28 Days (again in Czech ‚?? I’m not a Sandra Bullock fan, so I’ve got no comment, otherwise I’ll start getting mean).

Since I don‚??t really have anything to write about from the weekend, there‚??s something left over from last week that I didn‚??t get around to mentioning. It occurred when Jitka and I were on our way back from Pizza (bleagh) West. As we were going down the escalator to the Karlovo Namesti metro station, we saw a guy pissing in a corner, right beside a tabak – or was it a bakery? Not sure now. Anyway, he was pissing inside the station.

Jitka half yelled “Jezise kriste, to je prase!” (Jesus Christ, that‚??s a pig!) so that the guy could hear her, and I informed him that there was a perfectly good park just upstairs.

Now, I‚??ve done my fair share of pissing in public, but I always make a point of doing so in areas that are somewhat concealed. When in town, I use the facilities in malls or McDonalds. If I have to take a leak in a bar or restaurant WC, I make a point of ordering a coffee or a beer or something in return for the privilege. At the risk of sounding all high and mighty, I do so mainly out of common courtesy, but also because of the fact that I know it‚??s disgusting and I know that passersby will think, and even say, “Jezise kriste, to je prase!”

OK, OK, there was this one time, something like five years ago, when a Prague 1 resident bellowed and cussed at me because I was pissing on the side of a building across the street from his. But this was at something like four a.m., after having had a few beers after finishing a long shift tending bar at Jo‚??s, when the streets were dark and bare. Czech guys, and a number of Czech girls, have absolutely no shame when it comes to this. I can kind of understand it in the villages, but in Prague?

This phenomenon definitely dates back to their childhood. Stay in Prague long enough and you will eventually be treated to the sight a young mother holding her child up over a sewer grate on a busy street, trousers and pants down so the kid can take a leak ‚?? right in front of a bloody McDonald‚??s.

And hey, I know it sucks to have to pay to drain the main vein (or the‚?? hm, I can‚??t think of a relatively non-vulgar euphemism for the female bits‚?? sorry), but for chrissake, five koruna‚??s not going to break the goddamn bank.

So, yeah, it was a slow weekend and it‚??s almost lunchtime and my mind is way underclocked this morning, so that‚??s today‚??s entry.

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From a long-winded tour at the Brevnov Monastery to Liz Hurley in a schoolgirl outfit

Jan 18, 06:00 (Filed under: Prague sightseeing, Personal )

A couple of days ago, Jitka and I went to the Brevnov Monastery in Prague 6. I’m not really into touring religious buildings, chateaux and the like, but we were in need of a small trip, and bumming around somewhere other than Blackbridge or the centre sounded like a great idea.

brevnov monastery Prague

Getting there from Blackbridge was pretty straightforward ‚ŅŅ a metro to Palmovka, then a 15 to 20-minute tram ride (nos. 15 or 25) to the monastery. It’s a pretty enough building with nice grounds and a somewhat surly monk at the reception area. They offer tours in English for groups of at least 20. A group of at least 10 people is required for a Czech tour.

If your Czech is adequate, the Czech tour (50 CZK/adult, 30 CZK/student or senior) is a good deal ‚ŅŅ if you‚ŅŅre into tours. Personally, I find them tedious ‚ŅŅ I‚ŅŅd rather just take in the sights and read about them later if I‚ŅŅm really that interested. Having said that, our tour guide was impressive, spouting facts practically non-stop for almost two hours (the tour is only supposed to be about 45 minutes). I stopped paying attention after about 20 minutes; I think even if our guide had been speaking English I would have done the same. I translate a lot of material about sites of interest, so the vocabulary wasn‚ŅŅt that difficult for me to grasp; however, the guide ended up sounding like the teacher from Peanuts once my attention span flew the coop.

The Brevnov Monastery is an impressive enough place as far as religious buildings go. However, what impressed me most about it was how clean it was. Other than that, these places always bring to mind a passage from the tenth chapter of The Sun Also Rises, in which Jake Barnes goes to church and tries to pray and ends up thinking more about how he can make money:

“I was a little ashamed, and regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time….”

Churches also get me to thinking about when Sinead O‚ŅŅConnor ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live at the end of an a cappella rendition of Bob Marley‚ŅŅs ‚ŅúWar‚ŅĚ (I can‚ŅŅt seem to find a link to a clip of that ‚ŅŅ anyone care to guide me to one?).

After the church, our guide took us down to the monastery‚ŅŅs crypts. Old stones and broken bones. Then we went upstairs to a network of parlours with paintings of fat women in fat dresses and poncey men in tights. Then we were free to leave.

The Brevnov Monastery also has a very attractive restaurant with a fireplace, a slightly pricey (not vegetarian-friendly) menu, and very pleasant Hare Krishna-type service (all monks, presumably, though they‚ŅŅre dressed more like they should be working in an American-style steakhouse). Jitka and I ate ‚Ņúlinner‚ŅĚ (or is it ‚Ņúdunch‚ŅĚ ‚ŅŅ you know, a meal between lunch and dinner) at a decent typical Czech pub across the road from the monastery (well, it was rather clean for a ‚Ņútypical Czech‚ŅĚ pub).

Having had enough of long-winded tour guides and the Antarctic weather, Jitka and I headed home for a double feature of Chinatown and Ocean‚ŅŅs Eleven, which more than made up for Saturday‚ŅŅs rubbish double feature of Bedazzled and Anger Management (although I could watch that scene in Bedazzled that features Liz Hurley in her schoolgirl‚ŅŅs outfit on a loop for at least an hour‚ŅŅ mmm, saucy British women‚ŅŅ). I let Josh at Movie Star talk me into the former (ok, the case swayed me as well), while the latter was my own bad idea. But, as they say on the Riverbank, that’s another story.

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Boys in Action and a sunset question

Jan 10, 23:29 (Filed under: Prague media, Personal )

Boys in Action

I‚??ve probably taken the piss out of Czech cooking shows on a few occasions here in the blog. Sure the sets look slick enough, and the equipment is all shiny, smooth and scrape-free, but the meals tend to look worse than those leftovers that have been ignored for the last month or two – often justifiably.

Czech TV meals are a little too realistic in treating viewers to the sight of pub lunch‚?? um‚?? specials. Plates full of sustenance that is greasy, lumpy, fatty and just plain nasty. And brown. Just like when first-graders mix all their watercolours together, no matter what Czech TV chefs throw into the mix, unless they‚??re making (lumpy) mashed potatoes, chances are it will turn out brown.

Last week, Jitka and I tuned into this new (at least I think it‚??s new) show called Boys in Action ( Kluci v Akci – I‚??ll leave the wisecracks in your hands, dear reader). It seems like a Czech Jamie Oliver knock-off, and it also seems like the show‚??s Boys, Filip and Ondra, can actually cook. And they‚??re not afraid of moving outside the brown segment of the colour spectrum.
Czech Television's Boys in Action
The show appears to be a hit with viewers ‚?? of the 11683 votes that the show has received on its web page, an overwhelming majority (83%) have given it an ‚?úExcellent‚?Ě rating.

Jitka got inspired by last week‚??s episode and decided to try her hand at preparing the Boys‚?? Curry Sauce and Exotic Cous-Cous (the recipe‚??s in Czech, I‚??ll translate it on request). The cous-cous kicked ass, even without the maple syrup. The sauce‚?? well, Czech curry powder leaves a hell of a lot to be desired, but fortunately Jitka managed to save it. Here’s how to make the sauce work – use an imported curry paste instead.

Sunset in July?

Quick question for y‚??all ‚?? Jitka and I plan on getting married at Zvikov Chateau at sunset in mid-July. Problem is that neither of us are sure what time the sun goes down in the Czech Republic in mid-July. We reckon around 8-9pm, but one tends to forget things like that at this cold, dark time of the year‚?? Anyway, any help in this matter will be much appreciated.

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