Prague Dog Eat Blog

Nodding off and toning up with Lush

Jan 7, 12:03 (Filed under: , Personal )

I‚??ve had insomnia all week and I don‚??t know what to do about it. Perhaps it‚??s because of a few of my New Years resolutions – quit (or at least cut back on) smoking cigarettes, smoke less Indo, drink less coffee and booze, and all that predictable lifestyle-changing jazz. Maybe it‚??s because I spend most of the day staring at a monitor. It could be owing to stress, possibly it‚??s cabin fever and the accompanying boredom. The cat jumping on the bed at unpredictable intervals sure doesn‚??t help.

Nevertheless, I am feeling a little more rested and a lot more clear-headed in comparison to the way I felt at the end of 2005. And I don‚??t know whether I‚??m just a sucker for good advertising or if the stuff really works, but I had great dreams when I used the Lush Dream Time temple balm that I got Jitka for Xmas. I didn‚??t use it this past week since I don‚??t really like using gifts that I‚??ve given to her. I‚??d consider buying my own, but those Lush prices‚?? I thought Body Basics (the Czech equivalent of The Body Shop) was expensive ‚?? Lush is simply outrageous.

With the prices that it charges, Lush can certainly afford to pay the rent at its shop on Kaprova 13/14, within walking distance of Old Town Square. The shop is quite small, but packed with style and a heady blend of scents that are invigorating, calming, intoxicating, delicious‚?? the list of adjectives is practically endless. Lush is a rush – its prices are the comedown. That little tin of Dream Time temple balm alone cost something like CZK 250. Bath bombs, soaps, shower jellies and other unpackaged products are weighed and wrapped or boxed like goods you buy at a greengrocer‚??s or a delicatessen ‚?? and priced like foods that one would feed heads of state and royalty.

Are Lush products worth their high price tags? Well, the Smitten hand cream, Skin Sin body lotion, and Breath of Fresh Air skin toner have been a huge hit with Jitka, and I overheard a couple of ladies raving about Lush products while at Villa Incognito one day. Personally, I‚??m pretty intrigued by the place, partly because it‚??s so original, partly because it‚??s a nice shop to browse in, and partly because I suppose I really am a sucker for great marketing. At the risk of sounding, well, camp, perhaps a Lush Dream Time luxury bath melt is what I need to cure this bout of insomnia. Then again, I still have a joint‚??s worth of chronic somewhere in the flat‚??yeah‚?? a spliff, a bath and a shag. Looks like I‚??ve got my Saturday night sorted. Nothing camp about that.

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Buying a computer in Prague

Jan 6, 10:51 (Filed under: Personal )

I treated myself to a new PC and monitor at the end of 2005. After far too much time spent researching components and retailers, I ended up getting the PC from Agen and my Samsung 214T LCD and Harmon Kardon soundsticks from Alzasoft. Agen got the bulk of my business partly because one of their branches is within walking distance (which proved to be mighty handy) and partly because I found their sales people a little friendlier. The Alszasoft folk were pretty cool, but also a little cold ‚?? when I showed one of the sales dudes the three configurations that I was considering, he basically waved them aside and printed out a bunch of Alzasoft‚??s own configurations, which were, to be blunt, a fleet of Skoda S100s compared to the Ferraris that I was contemplating.

Ok, maybe that‚??s a bit of an exaggeration, especially considering the fact that I settled for more of a Porsche or even higher-end BMW. Without further ado, here are the specs:

Motherboard: Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe
Processor: AMD Athlon A64 3200+ Venice
GPU: MSI NVidia 7800GT
2 GB A-Data RAM
HDD: 2 x Seagate Barracudas 160 GB
DVD: LG-4167B
Case: Thermaltake Kandalf VA9000 (silver)

Sticking with the vehicular comparison, this thing is more of a high-end SUV ‚?? the Kandalf is HUGE. And loud. And beautiful‚?? to me. Jitka was pretty pissed when I first took the beast out of the box (unfortunately I didn‚??t have time to do the build myself). And when I fired it up, the first thing I said was, ‚?úDamn, I should have invested in water cooling. ‚?Ě

Now, two of the reasons I got such a badass rig was to game, and to try my hand at overclocking. The components in my machine have a lot of tweaking utilities to play with in Windows and in the BIOS, which I did, which in some cases was a terrible idea (especially using Asus‚?? AI Booster ‚?? even OC‚??ing the CPU by 3% crashed the system, and it took one excrutiatingly stressful hour to realise that I could return everything to default settings through the BIOS). After two weeks of tinkering, downloading, clicking and cursing, I‚??ve decided to hell with OC‚??ing for now. With what I’ve got housed in my big Kandy 9000 , the minimal hike in frame rates is not worth the wear and tear that will result from cranking the graphics card and/or the processor past 11.

The reason I got to writing about my big beautiful PC today was because of the issues I had with Norton SystemWorks 2006 Premier. I started using Norton protection last year based on a mate‚??s suggestion. I was pretty happy with the 2003 version of SystemWorks and the 2005 version of the Norton Firewall, so I reckoned I‚??d splash out on the 2006 Premier this year. I know it‚??s a huge resource hog, but I figured what the hell, both my desktop and my laptop can handle it.

All seemed fine and dandy after loading it up, in spite of the longer boot up and shutdown times. Then I tried gaming with it. Everything, from World of Warcraft to Half-Life 2 (the highest-end game I currently own, unless Call of Duty 2 beats that) stuttered. It took me five days of all kinds of tweaks to realise that it was part of the beastly SystemWorks that was mucking up my system and that part is the GoBack utility. Just check the user comments on it at Amazon and CNet (for the standalone GoBack 4.0). Since I removed that, my desktop has been running much more smoothly.

I‚??m not sure how useful GoBack really is ‚?? by practicing safe surf, using common sense when downloading, and backing up files on a regular basis it seems somewhat useless, though I will gladly stand corrected.

One more thing ‚?? when I was shopping for my desktop, Jimaz was also in the running for my order. If you‚??re on the market for a custom-built PC, definitely speak with them. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and some of the Jimaz folk speak English. Supposedly their customer support is great, and they definitely keep the price-performance ratio in mind when you‚??re talking with them (as do Alzasoft and Agen).

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Cold-hearted Prague

Jan 5, 08:08 (Filed under: , Personal )

When I told my friends in Brno that I was going to move to Prague eight years ago (pretty much to the day, actually), their reactions ranged from a kind of sadness tinged with understanding to outright outrage. The former realized that I found the Moravian capital too small and was feeling somewhat claustrophobic. The latter were indignant at my decision to leave the comfort of charming, laid-back little Brno. Prague is expensive, they told me, the people are cold and selfish and only think about money.

I heard the same thing from friends in Ottawa with regards to Toronto when I was contemplating a move from what I consider The Little Choke to The Big Smoke. I shrugged off my Moravian friends’ warnings and, in doing so, I suppose I took my first steps towards being what most Czechs would call a typical Praguer.

You know what? My mates were right. OK, so it’s not London or New York, but in comparison with the rest of the Czech Republic, people here are generally colder and more money-driven. And while I am still a fairly sensitive and forgiving cat, goddamnit people here really piss me off sometimes.

Here’s what’s got me in a mood: yesterday, while on her way home from teaching, Jitka slipped and fell down the escalator in a B-line metro station. Her knees and ego are a bit bruised, but otherwise she’s alright. In need of new shoes (I keep telling her to invest in an expensive pair but she keeps buying “temporary solutions”), but fine.

After asking her if she was alright, my next question was whether anybody stopped to help her. When she said that nobody had, my heart broke. I can’t believe that nobody in a rush-hour metro crowd stopped to help a woman who was clearly in distress. That’s not just cold and selfish, that’s utterly disgusting.

I suppose the silver lining is that no thieves tried to take advantage of the situation, touchwood.

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Writing and poetry at Villa Incognito

Dec 8, 00:54 (Filed under: People, Personal )

This dog’s been getting hungry over the last week. Every day starts and ends with so much translating and proofreading that I’ve been kinda neglecting my wee corner of the web.

Not much has been going on lately, though I did have the pleasure of running into a couple of Alchemy (RIP) regulars, Karl and Chris, while at Villa Incognito on Sunday. Karl told me about his latest book, a historical novel set in Prague around the time of the Battle of White Mountain (Bila Hora). Unfortunately I was pretty into what I was working on (translating a rather lengthy essay on the conflict between history and modernity in Hungary) so couldn’t absorb a lot of what he was telling me about his research.

As I was getting ready to call it a day, Chris came by with a petite cutie whose name I can’t remember. I stuck around a while longer than I should have (I had promised Jitka I would return to Blackbridge early in the evening to watch the last couple of episodes from season 2 of Arrested Development), smoked a nice little pinner (oh how I wish I had some of that sticky-icky-icky right now), drank a couple of beers, smoked too many cigarettes and chatted a while.

Seeing Karl and Chris got me to thinking about my own literary endeavours. It seems like Karl’s always researching and writing and Chris keeps pumping out some incredible poetry (check out expats.cz’s literature & writing group for a sample – I’ll let you figure out his username on your own). For the last couple of nights I’ve been going through some of my latest scrawlings, all of which are at least three months old, and some of them aren’t half bad if I do say so myself. In dire need of polishing, but there’s some good raw material to work with.

It must be some kind of work-related burnout – I just don’t feel as compelled to write as I used to. I’m hoping that after these essays are done I’ll get that drive back. Ideas go strolling through my mind every now and again, and sometimes they’re even worth jotting down, but things haven’t really gone any further than that. I used to wig out when I didn’t get at least a couple of hours of writing in every day. At the moment that doesn’t seem all that important any more. And to me it probably isn’t right now. So, you get what you’re getting here.

Having said that, I may check out the Poezie a Provokace open mic that’s happening this Sunday, December 11 at 7 pm at Villa Incognito. Maybe that’ll get the juices flowing again.

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World of Warcraft woes

Nov 21, 09:51 (Filed under: Personal )

The weekend started off very nicely – a day of shopping for office furniture on Friday, Saturday was spent working, and yesterday was relatively chill yet productive. However, I also experienced a most frustrating introduction to the World of Warcraft.

I spent some time at Peter’s place on Thursday to get an idea of what the game was like. It was kinda funny to watch him multitask as he spoke with other players on his headset, maneuvered his character, chatted online, and spoke with me. The fact that Peter is a Guild Master made this even more interesting, as it got me thinking about how much project management experience you can rack up playing WoW.

I was convinced enough to buy the game and a sixty day game card. I loaded the 4 CDs last night. An extremely lengthy process. Then came time to register with an authentication key. I don’t know how many times I tried the key that came with the game – the WoW account creation application kept rejecting it. Which, of course, was insanely frustrating, especially considering I was stoned and got to see the incredible cinematic prelude to the game. There doesn’t seem to be any support for the Czech Republic, and the webform at the WoW site doesn’t work for me. Not a good first impression.

And I thought Steam was bad‚??

Update: damn, do I feel stupid. I read the WoW key wrong last night. Though Blizzard is sort of to blame for printing the key badly. Anyway, I’m now in the game…

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Translations from hell. Milos Zeman unleashed - again

Nov 16, 11:29 (Filed under: Personal )

Well, I haven’t been enjoying much nightlife in Prague lately, but I have been doing a hell of a lot of writing and surfing. Well, writing isn’t exactly what I’d call it, but translating does demand a fair amount of creativity – especially considering the quality of some of the texts that Jitka and I have been working on.

The thing that’s been keeping me out of Prague’s centre has been a collection of history dissertations that are due to be published early next year. The worst to date is one that I passed off to Jitka because the author insisted on sticking to a minimum sentence length of five lines. After translating two ten-line sentences in a row I threw in the towel in disgust and gave it to Jitka, who toughed it out, but not without a lot of cussing and complaining. And now I’ve got to proofread the bitch – a task that I’m not looking forward to. It’s entitled Tradition and modernity in the interpretation of the history of the USA following the Second World War: an exchange of illusions, and kicks off like this:

The symbiosis of politics, pop culture and historiography, whose necessary and simultaneously exceedingly intricate and, very often, explosive co-existence form one of the fundamental conditions of the everyday civic plebiscites of all modern societies in Euro-American civilisation. If we want to decipher at least some of the more significant networks, the intellectual and emotional implications of charged elements of a collective self-reflection and the self-realisation linked to it, and examine the place and function of a shift in historical thinking in mutually conditioned impacts and associations on faith, our starting point must be a specific historical situation that a “nation” and its historical life and institutions of the period, acting with structural social processes through technological development and political movements according to the phenomena of mass consumption and culture, with an inherent method of defining and regulating the value of orientation and material and spiritual priorities of most of its members.

Ugh. Gah. Bleagh. The who’s in the what now? My job is to nip and tuck passages like that, though in the interest of time I’ll probably have to let it waddle off to the publisher like a garrulous cantankerous ankleless bullfrog-chinned babicka.

Other than that, the work so far has been fairly well written and somewhat interesting, but nothing groundbreaking – the few essays we’ve done so far have been extensive exercises in the regurgitation of facts. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as they neatly summarise some engaging topics, such as the strengthening of Franco-German ties after WWII, American religiosity in the context of tradition versus twentieth century modernity, and the German perception of WWII war booty (my personal favourite so far).

As enjoyable as it is, this project has definitely made me appreciate Emil Souleimanov’s book on the Russo-Chechen conflict even more than I already did. I hope to elaborate on that in the future, after the book has been published, which should be sometime next spring.

Before I go, I just want to mention this little piece that the Prague Monitor led me to: my favourite former Czech PM is 34 pages into his new book. The working title of Milos Zeman’s follow up to his successful debut, How I Erred in Politics (now in its fifth edition, over 130 000 copies sold in the Czech Republic and Slovakia), is A Political Horror. The official title is supposed to be The Rise and Fall of Czech Social Democracy
. While it would take a hell of a lot of brainpower and energy, reading Zeman’s first book is definitely on my to-do list. I just hope he’s not too wordy…

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Hot Nights in Ceske Budejovice

Nov 8, 07:01 (Filed under: Road tripping, Personal )

Anyone considering a road trip out of Prague should check Sam Beckwith’s tour of Southern Bohemia. I’ve been to a few of the places he writes about and the article brings back some really pleasant memories, especially of my and Jitka’s week-long stay in Zelezna Ruda a couple of summers ago. We were blessed with great weather, a lot of fantastic countryside walks throughout Sumava, and some incredible meals at our pension. Definitely a place I’d go back to.

Regarding Ceske Budejovice, I should add that the place is a blast at night. At least it was when me and my mate Dave went there about five years ago. We had originally planned on staying in Cesky Krumlov, but because we hadn’t made reservations anywhere and every place in the town was booked solid, we decided to go to the birthplace of Budvar (Budweiser) beer.

Ceske Budejovice did not make a good first impression as we walked out of the train station. There was a skanky ol’ hotel across the way with a couple of skanky ol’ Romany ho’s slouched and smoking out front. The walk into the centre was nothing special – I remember a McDonalds along the way, but not much else.

And then we got to the square and were awestruck. You can see why here. Dave was feeling generous so he got us a room right on the square. One of the nicest views from a hotel that I’ve ever had.

We decided to check out CB’s nightlife. We reckoned we’d just end up drinking in some sketchy old pub, but decided to ask the locals where the party was at. We spied a couple of cute girls sitting on a bench by the fountain. In my pidgin Czech I asked them where we could go to have a good time in CB. After a bit of giggling and blushing, the girls first directed us towards the Zeppelin Heaven Club, just across from the fountain.

The Zeppelin Heaven Club was like Chateau on one of its sausage factory nights – in reverse. Babes galore, with a few guys here and there. And, as I recall, it was the ladies who were throwing the looks around. As fun as it sounds, it was actually kind of odd. I had this feeling like I really should get the hell out of there otherwise I’d end up doing something I’d regret in the morning. Besides, the music kinda sucked ass.

We continued on to a bar with a Harley-Davidson motif. It might have actually been called the Harley-Davidson bar. It was alright, but after the Zeppelin Heaven Club, we weren’t really in the mood for a place so macho.

The cuties by the fountain had also told us about a place called Singers, which is where we spent pretty much the rest of the night drinking and being accosted by cute female university freshmen (at least that’s what I’m assuming they were). It was all good clean fun, in spite of all the beer and tequila.

After nursing our hangovers, we decided to spend another night in CB. As it turned out, the day was actually more fun than the evening. The highlight was going to a herna bar to kill some time by dumbly pushing buttons on fruit machines – each of us being assisted by a couple of dressed-to-the-nines babes.

“Can you believe this place?” Dave asked as we walked out of the herna.

“No, I can’t,” I said, “I have got to come here more often.”

Well, that said, I haven’t been back since. It was like when you have one really perfect night at a club or bar, and keep going back, hoping for a repeat, knowing it’ll never happen. In this case my memory of Ceske Budejovice is just fine the way it is.

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Another working weekend

Nov 7, 06:43 (Filed under: , Personal )

It’s 5:35 on a Monday morning and I can’t sleep. It’s been like this for the past week and it’s kinda bothering me. I used to be so good at sleeping in. I also used to be a great slacker.

Workaholism has made bad hosts out of Jitka and me. Our friend Maria arrived in Prague on Wednesday. I was an hour late picking her up at the airport, which was kind of a sign of things to come. We went to U Zpevacku, where our conversation kept getting interrupted by Huggy, who felt the need to weigh in on everything we were talking about. It was pretty rude of him, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything about it because UZ is that kind of place – everybody’s in on your conversation if the place isn’t crowded. Which, at the end of the day, isn’t such a bad thing, I suppose.

Chris showed up a bit later, followed by Jitka. We ordered some pizzas from Popo Cafe Petl across the road and had a bit of a feast. Jeff came round and we caught up. We really need to get our hands on some rehearsal space – not to mention time. As far as creative endeavours go, all I’ve done recently has been some lyrics for a guy whose music I’m not all that crazy about. He wants me to do more for him, but I’m just not feeling it.

Anyway, Maria came back to ours and stayed for two of the four nights she had planned on spending with us. This was because on Thursday Jitka and I spent the whole day working in the bedroom – I had gotten up at 6 to finish a rush job that was due that morning, and kept working in bed until something like noon. Maria didn’t leave the flat that day, and we felt rather ashamed, but there wasn’t much we could do – we simply can’t afford to take that much time off right now.

In the evening, Jitka went to do aerobics, taking Maria with her. I was supposed to catch up with them, but I was so overtired that I ended up going to the wrong fitness centre; we’ve got two near our place – I went to the one that I work out at, Jitka and Maria went to one that’s in a school. As a result, Maria was left waiting outside the school, in a very badly lit area that’s not exactly the kind of place a woman should be walking alone in.

Meanwhile, idiot me was walking around the complex where I thought Jitka was working out, popping into its three bars, drinking beer and wondering where Maria could have gone off to. The girls were a bit too forgiving when we all met up afterwards – at least they behaved that way. I can’t say I blame Maria for deciding to stay at Chris’ instead

The next day was more of the same – all work. Actually, Jitka went out in the evening. I was supposed to join her then hook up with Maria and Chris but got stuck working until 11 pm. On a Friday night. Damn, I thought, there really is something wrong with me.

After the same old same old on Saturday, together with a nap and a trip to IKEA to say hi to a friend and see her baby, we finally got out of Blackbridge to go to Akropolis. There was some crap Slovak “funk” band playing – Akrop had a lot of nerve charging even CZK 20 for this drivel. CE European funk is a genre of its own – limp, uninspired brass, godawful lyrics in godawful pidgin English, dull impotent rhythms, paper-thin disposable guitar licks. Jitka and I lasted about two minutes before saying “Fuck this” and parking our asses in the Divadelni Bar.

It was a good thing we got there early to grab a table for our crew, as the whole joint was heaving within a couple of hours (after the band had stopped playing, natch). I had the pleasure of running into Prague.tv’s Jeff and he filled me in on what went down at Blind Eye over the Halloween weekend. A group of about ten cowardly fuckwits stormed the place in ski masks and armed with baseball bats and a pickaxe. They blinded the crowd (something like ten people) by spraying fire extinguishers then proceeded to trash the place. I guess the damage couldn’t have been too bad – I was there on Halloween and the place looked fine and I heard no mention of the incident. But, come to think of it, I do remember wondering why there was cardboard instead of glass in the front doors.

Ok, so it’s now 6:25 a.m. I’m seriously jonesing for a cigarette. Even though I know I really should not start the day with one (I’ve been having chest pains again), I also know that I will go into the bedroom, get my jacket, go to the balcony and feed this goddamn monkey to kick off another day of translating history essays and pornography.

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A Blind Eye Halloween and a CANZA bash at Fat Boy's Bar.

Nov 2, 12:25 (Filed under: Prague pubs, restaurants and cafes, Personal )

Holy crap, it just never ends‚?? it’s good to be working a lot, but things seem to be spinning way out of control. I’ve stopped exercising, started chain smoking, cut down on my food intake, firing up my nerves with coffee then numbing them with beer and whiskey (something I never usually touch).

On Tuesday it was the Blind Eye Halloween party. My intentions were good – a beer, a Beam and beat a path back home, but then Steve, Becki and Mike (Freak Parade crew members) showed and my good intentions were shot to hell. So, I stuck around for a couple of joints and several hits off a pipe that supposedly had belonged to Motorhead. I can’t remember who said that, and I’m not sure I believe it, but it was a nice pipe‚??

So, I went from blazing up to boozing with the biz caz (as in “business casual”) set. Last night started with a couple of beers at Chateau before heading over to Fat Boy’s Bar across the street for a CANZA mixer. I’m not really into the whole networking thing – these kinds of functions have a worse bullshit stink than that of a ballcap and bimbo bar. I mainly went to hang with my mate Oliver, and to get paid for a press release I did for CANZA’s upcoming charity ball (November 26, the same day as Freak Parade’s next Prague gig). Not a bad bar – cute bespectacled barmaids, a surly Slovak barman (who, to his credit, was pretty cool about Oliver and his friend Dominik’s rather intense play-fighting), weak Long Island Ice Teas – but definitely not the kind of place I would make a regular haunt.

And I’ll probably be out again tonight, as Maria, an English friend of mine and Jitka’s from our ELI days, is arriving in Prague this afternoon and will be staying with us until Sunday.

ELI… ah, that takes me back… some day I’ll have to do a bit of reminiscing here about my teaching days. The school sure wasn’t using its current slogan, “With Our Key We Will Even Open Your Tongue”.

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A little Blackbridge meandering

Oct 24, 05:53 (Filed under: Personal, People )

I’ve been working until the wee hours again, so this may go astray.

Last week I put in a couple of ten-hour days at Villa Incognito (which has a site that’s in serious need of updating considering all the cool events they’ve got going on – cool events that work keeps me from attending – movie nights, poetry open mics, music gigs, and so on). I drank whiskey and beer at Blind Eye to dull all the caffeine. Still smoking – a little less these days, still telling myself I gotta quit.

Been thinking about death a lot. I recently found out that one of my best childhood friends in Ottawa may be on the verge of being a widower. I’m not sure what to do. I haven’t spoken with him in over five years. What do I say?

How’s it going?

Guess what, Jitka, you remember her, well, Jitka and I are getting married. How’s your wife?

How are the kids?

Listen, I heard about‚?? I just want to say‚??

What do I say?

On Saturday Jitka went to see her cousin, who she calls her Sister, in Mnichov Hradiste. She’s married, has two kids. I had to work, so I stayed in. Work due Sunday, work due Monday, work due at the end of every goddamn day. But I love it because I can actually get a sense of what I’m working for. I never really got that when I did the nine-to-five. There was something about working office jobs that always made me feel nervous, like I didn’t belong there. And I could not have made that any more obvious.

But there were a few people who I felt were in the same frame of mind. Peter over at prague.tv is a prime example. When I was working at Cesky Telecom as the company’s Online Media Relations Specialist (how fuckin swank and made up is that title? I had to come up with something for the printers to print on my business cards and Specialist or Manager were rather flaccid), as I was saying, when I was Telecom’s Online Media Relations Specialist, it was up to me to deal with the company’s Internet publisher, Capitol.

I got driven. At the time, Cesky’s website is nothing but a long list of press releases. Not divided by categories, months, anything. I sorted all that out and added all kinds of journalist friendly features. I had a blast and got a bit too into it. I felt proud of what I was putting together, but took myself too seriously. I think Peter sussed that right away.

I don’t see him or any of the other Prague.tv dudes around all that often these days, but whenever I do it’s a good experience. I find it kind of funny, sort of sad and immensely ridiculous that a couple of writers whose work I’ve admired since I’ve been here are having a very personal, yet oddly civil, pissing match in one of the ptv forums. Makes me wonder if I’ve ever really been that bitter, pissed off or angry at anybody enough to argue with them in public. That kind of shit talk never resolves anything. I may bitch a lot here, but I get it off my chest and let it go. People can comment if they want, and if they get personal they get deleted, and that’s that.

Ptv is very cool that way. They don’t delete disses that cross lines, just move them into a dump for all to read separately. Try reading the dump on its own sometime. The end result is about as engaging and asinine as a flame war gets to be.

Now, I just finished searching for the web’s longest flame war and ended up killing an hour here – check it, it rocks. They should definitely have a “What Flame Warrior Are You?” quiz. I’d like to think I’m a Kung Fu Master, but I haven’t read all the warrior classes yet.

But this was about work and drinking and smoking and death and Jitka, and I’m running out of steam at 5:42 on a Monday morning. We’ll have a brand spankin new bed in less than five hours. I’ve got to get away from the Inspiron, rinse the caffeine out of my bones and teeth with a little sticky-icky-icky, and get a little shut-eye.

All things considered, not a bad weekend at all.

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Livening things up

Oct 12, 23:15 (Filed under: Personal )

A couple of days ago I got a comment here telling me that I should liven things up here. It came from someone who had given me props about a week ago. I deleted the more recent comment, perhaps unjustly, but, hell, I run this little corner of Prague Spot, so I can be as autocratic as I like.

Anyway, it turns out my critic wants me to post more practical things about expat life here in Prague, e.g. my experience getting a residence permit, cost of living and so forth. While I’ll be happy to help, I’ll repeat what I posted in my reply to the critique in question – for FAQ-type stuff, it’s best to use the Prague Spot discussion forum for two reasons: a) blog entries eventually end up getting buried in the archives, which are useless for getting really “vintage” DEB material (the process of doing that is explained in comment no. 2 here) and b) to be perfectly honest, it’s not all that interesting for me to write about – and to me, writing a blog means writing about things that interest me.

Having said that, I will keep my word and take requests and put my own personal spin on them while doing my best to make them informative. Though, I don’t think it’ll make for very lively blogging (nothing lively about dealing with red tape in the Czech Republic or anywhere else in the world)

Now, my critic got me to thinking about livening this blog up. And naturally my thoughts turned to Prague’s reputation for 24/7 wanton hedonism. Beer-swilling, blunt-toking, pill-popping, bed-hopping, cash-burning insanity that’s got you rocking and rolling all night and partying every day. Like living in a 50 Cent video without the bling, and substituting slivovice for Hennessy.

Whatever. Been there, done smoked, swigged, screwed and dropped that. You know what? It gets fucking boring. You find you’re ready to move on to the next routine, which is exactly what it gets to be like.

I haven’t really been drinking all that much since my birthday – last night was the first night since then that I’ve had more than two beers in one sitting. I drank a whopping three beers with Lord Nelson at U Zpevacku, and one more at Tulip before going home. Oh, and I’d had one at Tulip before meeting Nelson (Note: be sure to tell your server that you want Bernard beer if you want to take advantage of their Beat the Clock Happy Hour – if you just ask for beer, your server will give you a CZK 30 Gambrinus, which is kind of a bitch move on the server’s part). I got more of a buzz off the nicotine and accompanying toxins in the ten-pack of Marlboro Lights I senselessly indulged in yesterday.

Maybe I’m getting old, maybe it’s more like maturity, but I no longer find any joy in getting utterly bombed out of my skull. That’s not to say I’ll never do it again, but I don’t feel all that driven to go out for the express purpose of getting shitfaced. I don’t like the way excess amounts of booze make me talk and laugh too loud, spend too much money, say stupid shit, get aggressive (only rarely, thank Christ – I’m normally a happy drunk), puke on sidewalks, in bushes, in friends’ apartments, in bed, and so on. All in all, I find getting trashed, whether alone or in a crowd, stupefyingly dull.

I still like getting stoned, but I prefer to do so on my own. I can’t remember the last time I touched a class A (E, coke, speed, pervatin, etc.) – must be well over a year now, and I think I was alone when I did it. Anyway, I can’t say I miss it much. Besides, getting sorted can be such a bloody hassle, especially when you don’t want your girlfriend discovering it.

I’ve got no complaints in the sex department, thank you very much. Ok, so there are a few wants that need a little taking care of, but my needs are being looked after very nicely these days. Having been in a steady relationship practically since I moved to Prague, pretty much all my experience of the city’s expat single life is vicarious. From what I’ve seen, it’s plagued by a loneliness so deep that it actually depresses me sometimes.

So, here I am, comfortable – perhaps a little too comfortable – in a Prague suburb where the only twinge of excitement comes from the pub across the road from my flat, a pub frequented by skater kids learning to drink and failing miserably. Just like we all did when we started boozing.

Smirking to myself whenever I catch whiffs of lousy leafy homegrown creeping up to my balcony, where I’m enjoying a nice tight spliff packed with sweet sticky hydroponic bud. Suffering panic attacks in the local mall while doing the shopping. Having a laugh with the boys at U Zpevacku. Thinking to myself, “Just how well-protected is the Prague metro?” while underground, shuddering, avoiding eye contact and turning up the volume on my mp3 player. Taking a long hot shower after a fantastically brutal workout. Tacking the final period onto the end of the final sentence on the final page of a massive translation job – then firing it off to the client. Waking up and looking at Jitka and hoping she slept well and that she’ll have a good day and that nothing bad will ever happen to her, stroking her hair, kissing her brow, and setting her up for an exclusive French Canadian wake-up call.

Of course the list goes on. Sure it ain’t The Dirt, but it’s a hell of a lot closer to where I wanna be in life compared to when I moved here.

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Driving in Prague

Oct 4, 07:00 (Filed under: , Personal )

I’ve never been into cars. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 21, on my third attempt to get it. The only reason I got it that time was because my teacher was friends with my tester. I basically drove around the block in no traffic and boom, I was allowed to drive. After that I spent two months of solid driving, working as a Civil Engineer’s Assistant for the National Capital Commission during a university co-operative education gig.

My job was to drive out to sites and make sure that workers were doing their jobs properly. I was 22 or 23 at the time. Most of the workers – construction workers, pavers, surveyors, park custodians, and the like – hated my guts because I was making more money than them while driving around town in a shitty brown K-car. I could see where they were coming from and felt rather ashamed myself.

I, in turn, couldn’t stand my boss. My boss was this ginormous fat-pudding of a Quebecker named Ray. The most Ray taught me that summer was the locations of most of the Tim Hortons in the Ottawa-Hull region. Which wasn’t a bad thing since Tim Hortons coffee was, in my opinion, the best donut-shop coffee at the time.

I loathed my time with Ray. All he did was bitch about his ex-wife and talk about the movies he’d rented the night before. It is from him that I developed my knee-jerk “Don’t tell me the end!” reflex whenever somebody starts talking film. As he was a fat angry single man, I was a bit surprised (and extremely grateful) that he didn’t go on about porn.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to spend that much time with Ray. I think he felt the same way about me. I suppose he was pretty good at his job, but he was even better at wasting time. But of course he didn’t want a young upshot like me reporting all his time-wasting to his superiors, whether on purpose or inadvertently.

So, Ray had me doing things like parking the car in an NCC landfill by the Aviation Parkway and making sure no construction companies were dumping dirt mixed with concrete, steel, asphalt, car batteries, arsenic, uranium‚?? you know, contamination and shit like that. Of course, once the stuff was dumped, what could a skinny little engineering student say to a brawny hungover truck driver from, say, Pembroke or Petawawa? And how the hell was I supposed to inspect the stuff prior to dumping? Get up in the truck and wade through it?

So, I let the truckers dump whatever the hell they wanted to dump and cruised around town in my unbitchin turd-brown Reliant.

I spent four months doing pretty much nothing else. I have not even driven a bumper car since then.

Jitka has been talking a lot these days about getting a car. I’m not sure I want to make that kind of an investment. Sure the convenience as far as getting out of the city goes sounds wonderful, but soon that’s going to turn into making excuses to take the car into the centre. Of course, I’ve got nothing against having a ride home sorted when I’m out drinking, but having never been a designated driver myself, I’m not sure I can be as generous. As I don’t have my license, and don’t know how to drive a car with standard transmission, I’ll probably be able to put off driving for another little while.

But back to driving in downtown Prague. No way in hell do I want to get stuck doing that. It’s bad enough on the highways here, but in the centre? I honestly think I’d shoot somebody. When driving in Ottawa, I found myself getting pretty aggressive, and I hated feeling this way. I think it would be even worse here in Prague.

The public transport’s good enough, and I really don’t mind walking to the shops in Blackbridge. While I’ve never participated in Critical Mass, I thoroughly dig what they’re doing, and the same goes for Carfree Day.

In a recent Prague Post article, Matt Reynolds points out that in Prague “roughly one automobile cruises the street for every two city residents — more vehicles per capita than 80 percent of other European cities.” Together with other figures cited in the article, this is not alarming – it’s disgusting. I have never understood why people need cars in town. Though overcrowded and stinky at times, public transit is not all that expensive and is very well-integrated. Taking a car into town is just plain lazy and, to a certain extent, inconsiderate.

So while I may end up giving in to Jitka’s logic, I will do all I can to avoid driving in downtown Prague.

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Autumn crashes in; the genius of Angela Lansbury

Oct 3, 12:02 (Filed under: Personal )

Christ do I ever feel like a moldy old sponge today. I’m a bit ill, but not ill enough to call in sick – if I had an office to call in sick to. Still, it took quite a bit of effort to step out of bed to turn the modem on and pull my laptop out of my closet and switch it on. Like I said – moldy old sponge‚??

Here in Blackbridge, the sky is dull white and hosts air that is greasy, cold and wet. There’s still a lot of green on the smog&exhaust-fed trees, bushes and grass, but that’s all on the verge of turning autumn-coloured – a touch of red and a hint of yellow, but mostly brown. Flock after flock of birds haul ass over the dumb grey apartment blocks across the road, cars moan by my window, and I am jonesing hard for a cigarette. I wish I could get as comfortable and content as Mikesh, who is curled up cozily beside me, dreaming, I assume, of fresh salmon dinners, full clean litter boxes and good mouse and bird hunting – or maybe he’s just dreaming of a good day’s sleep.

Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit carried away here. I’ll take the old Czech excuse and blame it on “Autumn Depression” as we head into a long stretch of short cold days and long frozen nights. Alright, holiday season, which I always enjoy (with the glaring exception of “Act-Like-a-Brainless-Twat-With-Fireworks Week”, which takes place from December 31 until whenever the local kids, drunks and dolts run out of fireworks), is just around the corner. Nevertheless, when I was shopping in my local Albert last week, I got kinda bummed out when I saw the big Christmas display that had been set up in the middle of the shop. I know it’s trite to talk about how shops start peddling holiday wares earlier and earlier every year, but in September? Too much.

For me best thing about the crap weather and the resulting cocooning is that I have a great excuse to stay in and watch movies. Not that I really need an excuse to do that, I suppose.

I decided it was high time I took a break from comedies this weekend. Saturday was spent with a couple of spliffs, a few bottles of beer and The Manchurian Candidate (the original 1962 version) and Vertigo. The latter was enjoyable, more interesting than thrilling, but the former blew me away – especially Angela Lansbury’s turn as a thoroughly evil conniving bitch mother and wife from hell. Yes, I’m talking about sweet little old Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote. She absolutely owns the film every time she’s onscreen.

In her key scene, a scene with intensity that almost rivals that of the film’s climax, Lansbury hits the audience with everything that makes her loathsome, then amazingly evokes an equally potent sense of sympathy, and then goes on to shock, confuse and disgust – and still manages to make us feel sorry for her.

The next day I watched On the Waterfront. Much has been said about the “Contender” scene with Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger, and it is indeed a compelling bit of film. But Candidate’s “My life before my liberty” scene with a terrifyingly poisonous Lansbury and mentally shattered Laurence Harvey is the kind of stuff that sends chills up and down the spine and compels one to rewind the scene to watch it again immediately.

I’d better stop gushing now, otherwise I’ll end up spoiling the thing. John, if you’re reading this, you have got to screen this movie at Villa Incognito – beaucoup thanks for lending it to me.

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Still smoking; a Czech take on Strange Brew

Oct 1, 17:35 (Filed under: Personal, Culture )

At least I can say I’m not a quitter

So, after a buttless chain-gum-chewing week – and setting a personal record of five smoke-free days – I cracked today. After seeing Jitka off to Trutnov, I went to the Blackbridge mall to pick up some grub and Mountain Dew. While shopping I got a strong craving for a Tchibo espresso to go ? and a cigarette to go with it. While in line at Globus, I tried to resist the temptation. I ended up caving in and buying a 10-pack of L&M lights. Well, at least I ran this morning.

I had sort of committed myself to doing away with all vices except for pot and junk food, especially chocolate (Jesus? that sounds like something out of a High Times spoof of Bridget Jones’ Diary, I suppose???). But as I’ve got the place to myself, I’ll probably end up going out tonight, drinking more than I should ??? I haven’t had a drink for a week either, and I’m feeling a little too secluded here in the flat.

Jitka vs. the McKenzie Brothers

I have never been able to understand why The Tragically Hip are not huge outside of Canada. The rest of the world has embraced less deserving contemporary Canuck bands like The Crash Test Dummies (which I kind of understand) and The Barenaked Ladies (which baffles the hell out of me ??? they’re all great musicians, but they’re just so unhip. Fortunately the Czechs don’t seem to know about them either), so why not The Hip? Their rock is far from formulaic and, in my opinion, Gord Downie is the best goddamn lyricist and frontman in rock history. Sure the words to nearly every Hip song demand a lot of their listeners, but the great Canadian (and intercontinental, and intergalactic) highways, off-ramps, detours, roadblocks and all, that Downie sends you along are so breathtaking and full of power and colour that the destination doesn’t matter.

Hm??? maybe the fact that their music inspires such long-winded praise is what turns the rest of the world off. Maybe we Canucks are too hung up on lyrics – and passion (pay attention, Liam). I dunno. But this isn’t supposed to be about The Hip, this is supposed to be about another slice of Canadian pop culture that I tried to turn Jitka onto last night: Strange Brew.

Strange Brew is a movie about brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie, two characters who took certain Canadian stereotypes (our fondness for beer, our ?eh??, our accent, our love for hockey and the bench-clearing brawl, etc.) and blew them up to gargantuan proportions. The flick starts off in a wonderfully subversive way, putting a movie within a movie within the movie. Sound confusing? Well, it is, but it’s also effective. The madness is simply more controlled once the McKenzies’ real adventures get rolling.

Jitka simply didn’t dig on it at all. “It’s too loud and too stupid,” she said during the hockey game between the mental hospital patients in which the McKenzies are tending goal.

Ok, so the plot is absurd (as is the aforementioned hockey game – but the way they’ve got the players geared up is way cool), but no more absurd than the plot of your average Zucker brothers film, let alone a number of oddball Czech comedies (the classic masterpiece Limonadovy Joe comes immediately to mind).

Jitka has good taste in movies and music. So what is it about these two great Canadian cultural institutions that she doesn’t get?

I should mention that I borrowed Strange Brew off of John, the American owner of Villa Incognito. It’s nice to know there are people outside the borders of The Great White North who get it.

I vaguely remember watching the movie a few times in Ottawa ? the reason my memory is so vague is because I was watching it with my flatmate Curtis and our mates, stoned on friend Homer’s godawful grass (it always knocked me out, and probably still would if I were to smoke some today). The only thing that I remembered from the movie was the McKenzies? dog, Hosehead, flying to the Superman theme, and Curtis laughing his tits off at this.

Anyway, now that I’ve got the reminiscing out of my system, I put this question out to you, dear readers: what is it about The Tragically Hip and Canadian humour that most of the rest of the world just does not seem to get?

Oh, and if anybody in town has any Wayne & Schuster, Kids in the Hall, and/or This Hour Has 22 Minutes they can lend me, I’ll be their friend for life???

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