Thursday, February 09, 2006

In the days of bad things, how do we decide when it gets worse?

It truly saddens me to see the state of affairs in the world today, especially the newly invigorated calls for death to western countries. It seems like we are having enough issues with: global warming, AIDS, starvation, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, tornadoes, and ridiculous snowfall. Do we need any more problems that are created by man?

I saw a picture of a protest outside of a ruined Danish Embassy, still smoldering from the previous day when it had been burned to the ground, with people holding signs that said "Death to Israel". What are these protests really about? Some stupidly misplaced bomb-in-the-hat cartoon? I am not even sure how some of these images were concluded to be representations of Muhammed the Prophet. The particularly offensive one showed Arabic script in the middle of a turban that was black and shaped like a pirates cannonball with a lit fuse coming out of it. But, as others have noticed, the cartoon, regardless of how offensive it appears to be, does not seem to label this man as Muhammed at any point. I can only conclude that these protests and riots, in which I think the death toll of Muslims now stands at 15, represent the bigger picture of the West versus Islam. I wish both sides did not feel like it was some kind of competition. A competition of values?

The vile cartoon above appeared in the Saudi newspaper Arab News, supposedly a moderate paper. Hmmm. It's interesting. Where were the outcries and protests with that one? Israel, and Jews, seem to just shake it off. The last just five-thousand years has shown the Jews that times can be rough. A few cartoons, even horribly inaccurate misrepresentations (a miniscule percentage of Muslims do actually use bombs, whereas I find it unlikely that Ariel Sharon committed any of the atrocities that he is depicted to have done in the cartoon). A well-known journalist for the Asia Times--by the way, a great publication found at this in a large statistically-based article last week:

"Like Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, muses the secular West after the Danish cartoon catastrophe, "Why can't a Muslim be more like a Jew?" After all, Arab newspapers daily publish hideous caricatures of Jews, who do not burn down Arab embassies in response. But the Jews learned to swallow humiliation at a dreadful cost. When Rome defiled their temple at Jerusalem in AD 66, the Jews rebelled. Rome crushed them, but they rose again in AD 132, fighting more Roman legions under Hadrian than had conquered Britain. After most Jews were dead or exiled, the remnant invented self-deprecating humor." -Asia Times Online, February 7, 2006


Israel exists, and will continue to exist. Palestine exists, and will continue to exist. Neither of these countries will ever be able to militarily or politically wipe out the other (even though Israel could easily take out every country in a 5000 mile radius, they never would, unlike some of their neighbors, unfortunately). But when two sides hate each other so vehemently, especially over an argument that boils down to "Who was here first?"--like anyone that lived in the last 1000 years could even remember--there is little hope of achieving peace and understanding.

The west exists and the east exists. Stupidity, ignorance, blind racism, and "discrimi-hating" between both sides must stop. The polarization of sides must stop. In this "war", everyone is in the wrong.

But my question is this: If Israel's government, indeed, its LEADERS, called for the destruction of Islam, all Muslims and Palestine, would we still be holding our tongues in our criticisms?

I admit that I am indeed one-sided here, though it is necessary for sides to be erased. I believe that extremist Muslims who call for death to Jews and the destruction of Israel are bad people, just the same way I think that ultra-Orthodox Jews that retaliate in a similar fashion against Muslims or Palestinians are also bad people. I guess I'm on the side of not effing crazy religious fundamentalists of any sort. And I don't know who is.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Keep the scissors perpendicular to the head*

We all remember the kid in school who showed up one day wearing a wool hat towards the end of spring. What the hell? we'd think--might his brain fall out? When asked, the child would shake his head sadly, and soon we learned that the hat was due to some type of horrendous haircut. Patches of hairless flesh would gaze out as us when, finally, he would agree to remove the black and red Spiderman cap, after our repeated promises not to laugh. Of course, we all laughed anyway, and the scarred boy might have run away to cry in the bathroom, and the next day would begin with a high temperature to assure an afternoon at home.

What is even worse than this is coming to school proudly wearing a haircut that your mother's crazy friend gave, shaped like a mixing bowl, bangs sitting languidly a half-inch above the eyebrows and resembling Chris Partridge a bit too closely. Your unabashedness stole the attention from the kid who was still wearing a hat two weeks after his disastrous chop. He thanked you silently, I'm sure.

One would have thought I was drunk when I came home this evening with a large mop of black half-curls on my head and decided that I would cut my own hair, using a battery-powered beard trimmer to buzz the four inch hair down to a neat 1/2 inch. But I wasn't. I quickly gouged a v-shaped bald patch near my left temple with a pair of scissors spontaneously, and unfortunately, turned sideways. JESUS! I yelled. Why was I so surprised? I don't know what the hell I'm doing!

My roommate Elizabeth saved the day. Instead of buzzing it all, I've turned this "bad spot" into an declaration of coolness. Hey, it's better than the freakin' EuroMullet I see all too often in the streets of Prague. I think of it like a pinstripe of sorts. My God, why didn't I think this through......

*By keeping the scissors perpendicular to the head, you will avoid the possibly of embarrassing yourself in front of your business professional students for the next month.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

On Traveling with moving

My thumbs are sore with internet travel. Another good way to waste a morning/afternoon/evening. I’ve developed squint lines around my eyes from spending lugubrious hours searching “Al Gore’s Invention”. I tell myself it’s for a good cause, but I know the truth. As do you…

Trying to find decent airline tickets online is a good way to ruin your stomach early in the morning. In the end, the hours you spent searching for that magically inexpensive ticket from Prague to Barcelona on Qatar Airlines proves to be worth little more than the opportunity cost spent on discovering it.

Although, it is interesting to see how the airline industry has reacted to the tourism bug throughout Europe over the last 10 years. Europe's low-fare airlines are like the public transportation systems in most of its big cities: fairly cheap, easy to use, cramped, smelly, and completely undifferentiated from one another in appearance and service. Strangely, I often find that it is even cheaper to fly to a city nearby than it is travel by bus or train. It begs the question: What does it mean to travel?

Long ago, I thought that traveling was booking a vacation with your family months in advance to some nefarious tourist trap, like Orlando, Florida (we can all guess what American Icon resides there...), or Cancun. Little did I know that an overwhelming majority of the world travels by foot, or wagon, if they're lucky. Trains, planes, and busses are a rarity for most of the Eastern Hemisphere's explosive population.

My mind skips to an exhilarating bus ride (should a bus ride be exhilarating?) from Prague to Cesky Krumlov, the beautiful and quaint medieval town near the Austrian border. Though this destination sports a hefty tourist register, most Czech people adore its preserved qualities that they can all relate to through their genetic memories; cobblestone streets and narrow passages, aged and wizened with slumbering spirits around each corner.

The ride itself, thankfully, was no preview of the destination, since our driver apparently had been snorting crack all morning and working up a healthy rage for any car not going at least twice the speed limit. Horn blaring, he passed 90% of the cars on the otherwise relaxed country road through South Bohemia, yelling what I can only assume were criticisms and profanities. His wild, bloodshot eyes were scattered and roaming. Ahhh, good times.

The luxury of travel, unknown to some people even in Prague, has become slightly exploited by this sudden availability. It's not as though I would propose to restrict travel to certain people (ok, maybe ignorant people); as if this region of the world didn't already have enough experience with restrictions. Instead, I’d have instructional videos—uh, not propaganda—playing at train and bus depots, airports, and docks, educating people how to be respectful and pleasant tourists in other lands. I remember with disgust an older Italian man with his wife in Split, Croatia throwing a handful of newspaper into the street as he walked by a garbage can. And we cannot forget that piece of whatsit that had the remarkable disrespect to throw a rock into the Astronomical Clock, Orloj, in Staromesto. Even a pacifist would have utterly obliterated that guy.

Part of the travel experience is the process of getting to your destination, preferably unscathed. When do we have the chance in a normal day to stare out the window on a dilapidated bus with leather loops hanging from the grip-bars? This daydreaming, another luxury, seems remarkably accessible during these times. Seeing the things around you amplifies your senses; smelling that dreadful mixture of onions, sweat, and pollution makes you realize that your room doesn't smell that bad after all. Traveling, most of all, offers perspective.

People are taking less busses and trains to proximate locations in the face of cheap air travel. Thus, the quality of this travel is declining quickly. I don't recommend taking a bus from Kiev to Lisbon, but why not anyway? After all, it provides some of us with interesting stories to tell upon arrival, and the exciting possibilities that await you in each new place are reason enough for the onerous, uncomfortable ride to somewhere new. For those of us that feel this newfound freedom to roam deep within our bones, take the reins, and go someplace.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sprained thoughts in the clavicle of a Saturday Night

The future is stretched out in front of me like a guitarist's long-fingered hand. I began at the wrist, years ago, an image of myself shorter and hairless, wondering about the abyssmal future coming into shaded perspective, like blinking quickly at passersby on a speeding metro. I could barely see it, these fractured slides in an ADD slideshow. These fingers, so very long, are like a perilously damaged bridge. When do you decide to cross it?

I have chosen a certain finger, that is for sure. I must cross over the first knuckle, the folds of which pretending to be more than just simple speed bumps in that lost parking lot where I learned to drive. The overused cliche of "finding oneself" in Prague is all too true.

The formula for this is easier that you might think: displacement + confusion + encounters with fresh bodies + drastic weather + dramatic weight loss= Staring Down at The Time-Fingers of an Unknown But Suspiciously Familiar Hand.

A question, then: Do you elect to change the path or do you allow it to carry you to uncertain futures? The Tao would recommend both, and neither. The blessing of this philosophy carries with it a short torch. It will provide you light just long enough to burn you severely. My armour is not quite what is used to be, but I'm thankful that I don't really need it.

Who are these randoms appearing in this city stuffed with history and pain and hunger? I've met too many people from Phoenix, Arizona.

I long to be friends with myself again. Would this be self-reciprocation? Or self-deprication?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Untitled, or, if you like: The Zany Adventures of Felix _______

The sunset seen from the top of the strange highrise with the Italian restaurant was fading fast, and I still had to adjust my camera settings. My father was there, throwing small bits of plastic at me as I did this. "Hurry up", he chided. The incredible landscape in front of me was a blazing inferno in the sky, with two focal points of flame, churning on opposite ends of the horizon, yellow purple orange red green indigo etc. Then, complete darkness. The sunset was actually only a painting. The people up there were being duped! Them, with their stupid digital cameras and fat, underworked bodies. I was surgically turning myself into plasteel, light and unbreakable, so that I could begin to jump to incredible heights and learn to fly more easily. "C'mon," he said, knowing that I was unhappy about the outcome of this photo session. "I'll order a bacon pizza and if you like it too, you can bring it back to school with you."

Hold on.

My father hasn't eaten pork for 30 years, and I haven't been in school for a tenth of that time. Oh.

A dream. Eyes: pop open.

It's dark, of course. Everything is dark in the winter nightscapes of Prague, the dim, Soviet era streetlights grant no relief to the huge blanket of P.M. Confused. I never wake up like this, barring some unusual anxiety for the next day. That did not exist here. My time-awareness was off. It felt like I had been dreaming for hours, but it could have been an hour. Then: Voices in the hall, too loud Swedish (almost an oxymoron). Ida and friends arrive. It's 5 am. I have to wake up in 90 minutes.

I have conditioned myself to continue through dreams even after realizing their fictional nature. It's in this way that I can choose the destiny of each dream. Flying, floating, pushing down skyscrapers and corporate centers with my fingertips, my powers are endless. It is better than a movie, more realistic than the best hallucination. But this time was different. Upon realization, my psyche abruptly kaiboshed the dream, forcing me into wakefulness. The curious part is that, literally a dazed 30 seconds after waking up, I heard the keys in the door and someone walk into my flat.

Did I know they were coming? The future of all things are connected with small strings leading up to the very event. It is the "fate" of it, but multiple fates are possible. Any decision or choice, no matter the present significance, has a limited number of options. Therefore, "the sky's the limit" is a truly incorrect axiom, since we have travelled far beyond the "sky". It is like walking six small dogs with different leashes. Holding your arm out, the leashed spread apart in vectors all v-shaped. These are the paths. Take one, forgo another. These are your choices. Label them if you like. Draw them on a large sheet of paper for visualization. But, this path here will end at the KB Bank head office, where, in 30 minutes, I must teach. Goodbye.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Vincent has resumed his hysteria throughout the house, expressing himself with wild eyes and frequent urination. I considered throwing him out the window, to land on the soft snow three stories below and fend for himself, but I would have to tangle with Elizabeth then. So, instead, I've taken to withdrawing privileges from him instead.

1. He is no longer allowed in my room
2. He is no longer allowed to think about my room.
3. He must spend the majority of his day eating dust bunnies and killing any small bugs that appear near our festering kitchen corner

Urine, in addition to the recent malfunction of electrical wiring in my room leaving me in semi-permanent semi-darkness, has taken a toll on my days. Yesterday, I surprised my Czech co-worker in the teacher's lounge with an image of a young American with his face stuffed into his overcoat, sniffing fruitlessly for imaginary micturation. I've begun to hallucinate olfactorily. Something must be done....

Otherwise, things are spectacular. It's almost a sport when you must literally risk death while walking to work. When slippery ice covers 80% of your journey, hills prove to be the best.

What I miss most right now:

-The sun, my tan, and the warmth of the Arizona non-summer.
-Good Mexican food.
-Speakers for my music that are larger than my thumbnail.

What I enjoy right now:

-Walking everywhere, even in the snow. Being outside a lot allows you to see many things.
-Writing in general.
-Making new friends and meeting new people a lot.

Also: I've recently felt a great desire for a tattoo. I have never realistically thought about it. A small word in Hebrew, the meaning of which I would tell nobody, unless they read Hebrew. Below the knees. I know my family would hate me for it and probably disown me, but I can always get it lasered off, right? Well, that's what life is about. Doing things.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tell me what to do

Again, I sigh as I sit down to type out my thoughts. I need to figure out some way to transcribe my thoughts into written words. Hmmm. I think Strong Bad can help me.

I never know what to do with my life. It is a sickness that prevails in me, a cache somewhere of ambivalence and doubt. Should I go to grad school, or should I go to Brazil? What are my options for radio internships? Maybe I need to stay in Prague, or maybe go to Chile, Argentina, Faeroe Islands, Vanuatu...

What is my problem? It seems absurd to be so confused by such great options. It's not as though my choices are between a spinal tap and eating bugs (and I hate eating bugs). Each option includes at least one of the following: excitement, education, travel, learning new languages, furthering a career of my choice, swimming, hiking, meeting beautiful foreign women, drinking excellent wine, and discovery.

This scourge is a common foe in my generation, who is basically a group of people being told all their lives how good things used to be in the old days and finding out that doesn't exist anymore, much to our chagrin. That penny pretzel that was "the size of your head" is now a seat in an MIS class where most of your peers are from Eurasia and way, way smarter and harder-working than you.

The jobs that people like me want these days involve long travel, uncomfortable beds, a constant and complete lost-in-translation nightmare so that it actually reduces your communicative abilities because you can't tell any cool stories or jokes, possible airport security issues, and definitely diarrhea. This is why I have so many option's of this nature: 40 years ago only insane asylum escapees did this stuff.

People seem to crave some sort of goal for their life. It keeps them focused on some sort of plan, a way to look forward to things. But I'm afraid that current societies place far too much on wealth as a form of happiness and achievement, even as the teach the opposite to the poor.

Maybe the goal is to do as many things as you can, to have as many experiences as you can. When we die, all of the things that we can use in those last hours, those final moments, we already have within us. How reassuring.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Eighties Weren't So Long Ago

Questions: Do crowds in Prague love '80s music?

Answer: Yes, they do.

It was Eighties Night on Friday at Lucerna, a theater, pub, disco, and restaurant all rolled into a very large old complex built not recently. Following my usual grimace when told the nights plans include any kind of dancing, I went with a group of six new acquaintences and two friends. Let me tell you something: '80s night in Tucson, Arizona never looked like this.

First, the crowd was young, incredibly hot, and fashionable. Second, everyone was dancing, terribly, with the exception of those few people at clubs who actually go there to dance. They always look like someone dropped them in from some other, faster, more stylish club. But no bother. Third, they were playing the music videos from all the songs, of which there were many, on a large projector right behind the stage. Huge speakers rocked the tables and floor. With five different bar counters placed in a horseshoe shape, drinks were easily procured, and often provided by good-looking dreadlocked bartenders. It was as '80s as I could expect in 2006.

One element of the evening that surprised me was this: it was obvious that these club-goers had memorized a lot of these songs. Screaming unintelligable (for them) lyrics from INXS videos, the crowd surged with '80s cheer. This decade of Western music, bad hairdos and eye-watering fluorescents has made it big in Prague, and probably many other places in Europe.

However, the most surprising part was that not only did I have fun, but I could be glimpsed dancing, often with a disinterested but pretty Welsh girl. The dancing was in terrible form, awkward, powerless over my strange gyrations and flailing arms. I have never felt comfortable dancing. I am not really concerned what others think, I think, because rarely do they dance much better (I am content just watching the really good dancers). No, my bad dancing comes from several factors, none of which are intended to offend or segregate:

a) I am a man. Men do not move their hips at all when they dance, and when they do, it is more like a small rodent have managed to find a way into their pants.
b) I am a Jew. Complex, modern, and progressive dance does not really enter into our tradition strengths. Being white also may have something to do with this. I am from no lineage that I can detect that would allow me to feel the rhythm of my ancestors' traditions.
c) I am conscious that I am a bad dancer. This is the big one. Yuck, picturing yourself dancing is not appetizing. This is why people only dance at bars, where they can drink, and hopefully forget.

What I am good at is writing English lessons. I should practice that now. The question posed earlier was: Do Czech people like the '80s? I would modify the original answer to say: definitely, with all the strength in their limbs.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A topic I normally discuss over drinks...

Déjà Vu (from here known as deja vu) is a phenomenon that has fascinated me for years. In French, it translates into "already seen". It is a feeling of remembering having watched the exact present situation on the cerebral television. It is remembering the memory of something that is in the present--the now part of the present :^) It is a feeling that we all know, and it is a typical event. What is it about deja vu that allows most people to forget about it directly after they experience it? Maybe it happens to those people more often that others.

I try to conjure an "already seen" experience as often as I can. It's like being given a second chance; at least in your mind. I treat deja vu as a welcome respite from waking life, a sudden drop in level into lucidity. One could compare it to sinking into the earth slightly, just enough to cradle you horizontally. For one moment, everything goes quiet, darkly simple, while you freeze with your mouth open and play the moment for yourself. It lasts maybe 5 seconds? If that? Imagine an entire afternoon of lucid dreaming and deja vu. Lucid dreaming is possibly the best part of being awake. Completely natural, non-drug induced and controlled environment hallucinating. Like dreaming, but being awake.

What is it, then, when you have a vision of a future event that you are remembering in the present? I have been able to, from time to time, to predict deja vu. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is possible to predict future situations as you will see them. It is like knowing that you will have deja vu about what is happening now. I believe the word is prescience. This comes from the Latin præscient which means "knowing beforehand". It is not just predicting. I could predict that Bush would eff everything up in the middle east. It is seeing specific events in an image, and knowing that it will be true. Or feeling as such. But, and here is where it gets really weird, you also have deja vu about it later. An example:

* 1
* 2 3

Event 1 = a time in the past when you had prescience.
Event 2 = the time seen in event 1 will occur here
Event 3 = this is also the time when you experience the deja vu about having the prescience.

Having an "already seen" deja vu experience during a moment that you predicted would happen in the past shows me how infeasible so much of reality really is. What does it all mean? It means that you should hug people more often, smile at strangers, live abroad, read anything you can, and educate yourself. It means that reality exists only as we see it. It means that the past and future are connected with thick cords of the present. And if I'm predicting having a deja vu experience based on an event that I already foresaw, it means that, in the end, it is our mind that controls the universe. Our universe.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sure, there's a correct way to walk.

On cold winter days it is important to keep your head up as you walk down the street. (Unless, that is, you are navigating dangerous declines or frozen dog feces. There is one thing of which Prague has no shortage: dog feces on the sidewalk. At least it's frozen now. Like you just stepped on a rock. Better than in the summertime.)

When you walk out of your warm apartment into the dog-poo minefield and that scratching, sightless chill, it is natural to lower your chin to protect the neck and face. I do this myself. But, as I realized at 1:30 this afternoon walking to the metro, you hide yourself and divert your gaze. I learned when I was a kid to keep your chin up and to look at people when you walked. This way, you can smile at them and they can smile back. My heart always jumps when this happens. But I don't do it except towards pretty girls. So if you see me, and I am smiling at you, then I think you're pretty.

Keep your head up when you walk in the cold. It is not much worse, and your posture is better too. You wouldn't want to make a habit of walking with your head down all the time. La-ame...

For some reason I can't post pictures up on this anymore. I guess my free webspace only came with three pictures. So, if you are a visualphile, you're out of luck. Apologies.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Manners plus a third

I would like to start this entry with a quote I heard recently:

"Update ya grey mattah, cuz one day it may mattah." This little turd of wisdom was uttered by Del the Funky Homosapien. I think it is especially important for today's youth, as America slides further down the global youth intelligence scale. Peru has a higher literacy rate than the USA. Just kidding. But for all the money we have, we could try spending it on improving education. Or healthcare. Or the environment. Anyway....

I have often wondered-even before this strange ride into Europe-what cultures traditionally kiss cheeks when greeting. It is a delicate, formal, and disarming way to welcome someone. Cultures that kiss do not also hit. Actually, that isn't true at all. Personally, I have enjoyed kissing the cheeks of many different women of all ages; when else would this experience present itself without a short-but meaningful-trip to jail and a fine?

You will see pompous, blueblood soccer mom's air-kiss each other's cheeks in many countries. I believe it came from England, straight out of "Absolutely Fabulous". Czech's kiss twice, once on each cheek. This is my preferable method. Both cheeks, confirming equal smoothness. Only once is strange, because you can't be sure if they think it is supposed to be twice. But when you have established the one-cheek kiss with someone, it is absurd to try a double without warning. Teeth could be lost, faces lost. This is the theorized reason that the Japanese bow. Yep, they want their teeth.

The Russians also do a double cheek kiss. I know few Russians, but it is nice with them. Their kisses are full of purpose and deliberateness. The French give three kisses when it is formal and special, and two for normal times. The Dutch do once. But they get naked a lot (I've heard).

It is better than a handshake, but worse than coitus. Anyway, I like it because it is classy and new for me. That = good, these days in this paused explorer's life.


The last of the top three places I would like to see is Portugal. Luckily, I am almost definitely going there at May's end. Portugal is among the more culturally hidden in Europe. We don't know much about these Portugese, except that their language is dead sexy. A hot mix of French, Spanish, and, well Polish(?), the Portugese language is quite old: the Kingdom of Portugal was recognized in 1183. Henry the Navigator, son of King João, who was not only a semi-fanatical Catholic, leading Crusades in Spain and Africa, but he developed the first European maps of the Americas and Africa in 1424 (umm, that 70 or so years before America's first slave-trader, Columbus, hit the shores accidentally.)

I have Portugese ancestors. I like to think of that family line as this outrageous group of crafty smugglers and cavorters, lips red every evening with rich wine and spices; they were probably as bland as all of us. But I'll go there and find out anyway. Y'know-redden those lips.

(God, if the cats there don't whine as much as Vincent here, I'll be thankful. I don't think they cut his balls off right at that crazy Czech slaughterhouse disguised as a vet. I didn't go, but there is apparently less blood on the butcher's apron.)

So there it is: Romania, Slovenia, Portugal. Sounds pretty good to me. It's nice to keep on the pulse of things, but I need to jump off of it for about 8 hours right now. Dobrou noc.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dreaming; Part Two

Tomorrow came and is in the process of leaving in a wet flurry. Last night, I dreamt actively. In my dream, I was walking with a heavy bag. I did not look to see what was in it, what was making it so heavy. The strange part was when I realized that the more I walked, the lighter the bag became. My legs felt stronger, so that I began to drift, not using my legs at all anymore. I was floating, suspended above the group slightly, still moving forward, but faster now. The sensational was that of snowboarding down a hill that you are not really sure exists. The cold patted my face with its tiny hands, and I started to go even faster. I became scared, and then, completely calm. My mind was controlling my speed, and I deliberately slowed down. I woke up feeling as though a lot of good blood had been coursing through my limbs.

The second country I would like to visit is Slovenia. Do you even know where this is? This tiny jewel sits cradled by northern Italy and southern Austria. With only three million people, living standards are higher and more pleasant than any other non-western EU country. With most of Greece more easterly than every eastern-EU country, we may need to re-evaluate what is considered Eastern Europe. Especially when Turkey joins.

Slovenia is of the former Communist Jugoslavia, flanked by snowy mountains and silver landscapes, and even beach. It is small, charming, safe, and gorgeous. Go up to the "Links" section of this page to see a great map of Slovenia.

The sun was down by 4:30 PM today. I think this could affect me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

On Travelling Without Moving

There are three places to which I would like to travel before I leave this artery in Europe. The Czech Republic is like the reddest part of your steak, exactly in the middle, flowing with foreign juices. Less than an hour going up on Our Map brings us to Dresden, Germany: this being the best place to get your passport stamped so as to reinvigorate that all-too-temporary-feeling tourist visa. Some ink, less than a penny's worth, keeps you from forced labor and verbal torture from the Foreign Police. This same agency, consequently, denied a residency visa, after 4 months in The Application Process, to the former Mayor of Prague for his foreign-born future son-in-law (the guy was from Senegal, actually).

So, I haven't been there.

The first place to visit is Romania. The name Romania stirs some dark thing in your mind, like a very silent and brutally thick forest, aching with timelessness. Things might have well stopped running 300 years ago in some of these place. Romania. Vampires. Blood and age. The jagged Carpathian Mountains run straight through the middle of the country. Across the Black Sea is aromatic and bright Turkey, former conquerors of Transylvania and Wallachia, two mysterious lands settled by nomads with a nightscape sort of beauty, blue-black and bronze. Yes, I would like to go to Romania very much.

Next on the agenda: We'll find out tomorrow.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Snowflakes actually look like snowflakes sometimes

Image: The Scholarly Press © 2004
It's a difficult thing to know when you should actually write about an idea that you have. I think A Scale should be developed. If it takes less than 10 seconds to promptly abandon any future development, then it should be disregarded. If it takes less than one minute, then maybe you could use that as a way to come up with something more sustainable. Longer than one minute, you got yourself an idea.

The last idea that I wrote down, which is rare for me, is about a rogue former government official who decided to hijack the secret device that the Pentagon uses to make crop circles. This idea passed only the ten second test, since I was with a student at the time. I wonder if they knew that I was generating barely passable ideas instead of listening to them. Upon more reflection however, this idea seems a bit too ridiculous to expand upon. Not that I don't believe that crop circles are part of a vast conspiracy between aliens and government puppets serving radical Christian Scientologists. It's just impossible to prove it.
Maybe someone credible--like Dick Cheney or Mel Gibson--would endorse my seemingly farfetched, but completely believable theories (would you really be surprised if the New York TImes published a story like this about our govt?)

Writing about not writing anything. Hey, I think I got an idea....

Saturday, December 31, 2005

On waking up

I think waking up would be nicer if we all knew that we would passionately kiss an attractive stranger everyday at lunch.

A 20-something

I am sitting in my strange apartment in Zizkov, a neighborhood in Prague where, apparently, all the best restaurants are placed. I watch Vincent as he stares out the window. He does this for several hours a day. I guess it's his television. The coffee maker, which makes mediocre coffee even if you're using grade A Colombian stuff, is gurgling and spitting in the kitchen. I should get my coffee soon before it becomes, in addition to bad, cold too.

It is New Years Eve Day and I am wondering how I ended up here. Aaron and I had been talking about what we thought we would be doing in our mid-20s. Well, that really depends. If you'd asked me ten years ago, I would not have thought that I would be sitting in Prague typing while my coffee got cold and watching my plants die (I am blaming the lack of sun now). I don't think I even knew where Prague was ten years ago. I mean, Prague was here, but I did not know of its location.

I thought that I'd have graduated from some prestigious school working in a highly-paid job and wearing a suit everyday. A wife would have materialized at some point, a gorgeous professional who also led the high life, and vacations/kids/new things and consumerism would pack the horizon. I guess this is what the late H.S. Thompson meant by "humping the American Dream".

Well, now the "American Dream" happens mainly outside of America. It is the Global Dream now, flavored with the Colonel's secret seasoning. Imagine a world where the differences between all of its amazing cultures and people were slowly becoming more like one group, a group that is leading the world in stupidity, obesity, poor health, no exercise, violence, advanced weaponry, and mass media. Don't get me wrong here--America is a wonderful place. It is simply being led poorly, and the people are reaching critical mass. They won't stay stupid, fat, and consumer driven for too long. A revolution is coming. Americans must take the reigns of their powerful starliner and learn about what is really going on. One small weblog is a start, I guess.

Green Leafy Substances

I am locked into a sad debacle where I insist upon starving them to death. I could be convicted of committing atrocities! For some reason, I cannot remember to water my plants. It takes about 30 seconds twice a week to water them. This means I have to devote roughly 52 minutes per year towards watering two plants. One I found upon moving into my apartment in Prague. It had been suspiciously sitting on top of the refrigerator, in the kitchen (admittedly the most depressing area in the apartment) with a bag over it. That seemed cruel. Why put a bag over a plant? The second plant came from a Polish girl that I was half-dating. This one is more seaweedy, and Vincent confirms his obvious preference by consistently eating its leaves. It is much larger than plant #1, and both greener and fuller. Plant #2 visibly sags when it does not receive enough H-2, sulking a bit even.

What I am noticing now, as I disregard the dishes I agreed to clean, is that I have placed plant #1 physically outside the room, stuck in a clear limbo between the inner window and outer window, which is about eight inches away. In the Czech Republic, insulation is provided by a double layer of equally drafty and ineffectual windows, so that warm air simply escapes less quickly. I placed plant #1 in between these two windows, probably trying to hide from its pitiful condition. I figure if I ignore it for enough time I can declare it legally dead, thus abdicating any prior responsibility: "Well, I can't do anything about it now.” What a strange way to behave over a plant.

Plant #2 has unofficially won my interest. It is inside, sitting on a bedside table, watching over me as I sleep, plotting to kill me if I don’t take better care of it. I know that there is no way plant #1 could get through that window, but #2 is sitting within leaves length from my face with all its valuables—eyes, mouth, etc. I have to respect its position. While abroad you must avoid serious injury, especially when you don’t speak the language. A hospital rarely needs even more confusion and misunderstandings.

On cleaning the dishes

My roommate likes to cook a lot, which is great because she is a good cook and it helps when someone else makes the food and you can just sit there and read. I was about 10 pages away from finishing "Breakfast at Tiffany's" when she spoke to me. I had been subconsciously associating "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with "The Breakfast Club", which meant that I was missing the point in several ways. Thus, I had been avoiding both the movie, a classic, and the book because I began boycotting Emilio Estevez in the early 1990s. Truman Capote is the author of the novel. I like him now, but before I liked him because other people said he was a good author. Now I have read one of his books and I can like him without the social pressures of faking it. He writes in a familiar voice, something that my good-cookin' roommate compares to informality and marks with scorn. Consequently, she dislikes the following people: Tom Robbins, David Sedaris, Dave Eggers, Superman, etc. But she is cool still. Her question was this: I'm gonna do half the dishes(?)

A small protest leapt into my mouth. I did not create the mess in the kitchen. She did. But it was in the process of making dinner for both of us. A lightning fast decision must be made. The longer I do not respond, the more it seems like I have declined her question/offer. It was a strange dinner, but ultimately tasty. I allowed myself to ponder the consequences of an argument here--first of all, probably no more tasty dinners including soya shaped into chicken-like strips. If meat was to be replaced permanently with soya, I might endorse it. Secondly, an unnecessary tension would build within our domicile. This would make the cat urinate outside of his box, and this is unacceptable.
I decided to agree with her. I would indeed do half the dishes. But not right now, in a little bit.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Thank Heaven for Tomorrow

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