Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A further distraction from my studies

Like the greatest cricketing all-round of all time, Sir Richard Hadlee, I am similarly driven (on the odd occasion at least) by the shameless need to claim my place in statistical legends. While I can't boast an overall bowling average of 21.3 runs per wicket or a batting century against the West Indies (in my one competitive match I struck a flukey four before being bowled second ball), I can boast that, with your help, we have made July the second most prolific month of this blog. Give yerselfs a pat on the back.

As the title indicates, I'm just using this as a distraction from my studies. I was meant to submit my third assignment today, but I'm only about a fifth of the way through it. Have to write seven annotated bibliographies of long-winded and dense academic tracts on ecofeminism. I could have chosen another topic, but by the time I thought about it it was too late (I'd blindly started into the text book without bothering to discern what the subject matter was). No time to change tack now. I did find out some tidbits of mildly interesting trivia, however. Apparently, women condemned to be burned at the stake as witches in medieval times were in fact nothing more than your local family planning consultants who advised the female population on contraception methods. This is was deemed to be a challenge to the authority of the lairds and the church, and so death it was. And I always thought 'tree-hugger' was a pejorative term dreamed up by some nutso right-way nazi American columnist like Ann Coulter, but actually it stems from the Chipko people's movement in Uttar Pradesh, India, formed to prevent the decimation of their forest habitat. Chipko, or its longer title, which I can't remember at the moment, actually means 'to hug a tree'.

Um, yeah, that's it really. Rotten will be pleased to learn that I've finally purchased some HST and am currently imbibing that each night. Will hopefully be able to swap quotes with you shortly.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Rules on how to stay sane

Rule number one: it's okay to have fantasies (especially if your favourite pub in Zizkov is one), but they must also be within the realms of the realistic and achievable, even if the chances are miniscule. For example, I used to fantasise about being Pavarotti, or at least having his lungs minus the girth, and playing La Scala every night for a year. But that's not a very practical fantasy. When I was ten years old and dreaming up ways of escaping my insanely strict and religious mother, I would fantasise that Farah Fawcett-Major was my old lady and we would ride to school together each day on horses (fuck, that's a bit weird). Or kicking the school bully in the nuts and not only getting away with it, but having him pay homage to me forever after. Neither were those particularly achievable fantasies.

Now, however, I get myself to sleep each night (yes, very good at the back there in the cheap seats, haha) by dreaming blissfully about the great journey to be embarked upon next year. Yes, I'm going to bore you all to death with this one at least once a week from now until it happens. I made some more enquiries about flight tickets on Friday, as I've heard it's possible to get return tickets to Prague, but get dropped off somewhere in the subcontinent along the way. I thought maybe I could cut some kilometres off the planned route by flying into Tehran, but that's about the most expensive option. Most probably I'll keep to the Delhi idea and limit my time there and give Pakistan only a week at most. This is because it dawned on me the other day that it's actually about 8,000km from Delhi to Prague and eight or ten weeks isn't actually that much. Especially not when I want to concentrate on Iran and Turkey: the latter to make up for the six months I spent there in 1992 prior to my passage to CZ, when I managed to get out of Istanbul all of two times. One of the those times had to be cut short when my credit card ran dry in Cannakale, and the other time was a trip to Zonguldak courtesy of the hypnotically beautiful Alev, for whom I just about had my buttocks impaled. Although if I were to be 100% honest, which isn't always the case (swift intake of breath), the real reason I went there was her little sister Ebru.

Digression Alert! When I first arrived in Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul, it was into an apartment on the top floor of a seven storey building about ten minutes walk from the waterfront. Sokak Yogurcu, I think was the name of the street. And only five minutes from my employer, English Fast, which generously put me up 10 days before my TEFL course started (cheapest in Europe and matched only by TEFL courses in Cairo) because I'd drained my resources on the epic train journey from Munich. That's another post all on its own, but one digression is enough. The only drawback about this apartment was that I had to share it with an Englishman. Yeah, I know, and it was a cross to bear, believe me. Worse than that, he had a girlfriend who was also English. Yeeeech! She was a total minger and drank like a rainbow, so my flatmate had to shag her early in the evening while the going was good. Her only redeeming feature was the fact that she doubted my intentions toward women long before I recognised them myself. For a simple buran like me, Turkey proved to be my inexorable undoing because it was the first non-Anglo-Saxon country I'd ever resided in, i.e. it was the first country I'd come across where women made their interest more than obvious. It's been a precipitous and very steep downward slope ever since. Should I take the blue pill or the red pill? Whichever it was, I took the yo! open-your-mind-motherfucker pill, and gone forever was that sweet age of innocence (now I'm starting to write like Yoda). Sooooooo, when I leaned over the balcony that looked into our internal courtyard one day and looked down, I saw this most amazing aparition staring back at me. That was Ebru, and to this very day I swear that Turkish women are the most gorgeous I have ever seen. Of course, when you come from the Land of Skank like I do, then it's understandable that women from anywhere else would appear criminally beautiful, but my own personal epiphany occurred in Turkey.

Unfortunately, while I was a mere youngling of 23, Ebru was only 16, and on the Asian side of Istanbul anything was most definitely not possible. Actually, I take that back, because then I met Dilek, who was most definitely not shy about being forward, but that's a darker episode of the personal history that I will only delve into when I get really, really desperate to write something for the blog. Okay, I also met Ebru's sister, Alev, before Dilek...oh, shit, I can't remember the dates at all really...but Alev was almost as stunning as her sister and she possessed the inestimable advantage of being four years older. On the negative side of the ledger, however, she also had a boyfriend already, although she kept that fairly quiet until my cultural awareness radar finally started to pick up some traffic, by which time it was a bit too late. Hence the reference to impalings of sharp utensils into soft underside tissue.

God, and I thought I started to write about Iran. Back on track then: even though I'm not a big fan of Lonely Planet, they are the only big travel guide publishers with a book dedicated to Iran, so I got one on Friday. BradtTravel do one as well, but I've had to order online for that one. Possible routes in are train via Quetta in Pakistan, which would bring me out at the border crossing of Mirjaveh. From there I could go to the 'lonely, silent, crumbling city on a mountain' in Kuh-E-Khajeh before retracing my steps to Zahedan and then on to Bam of devastating earthquake fame. But here I'm sinking into needless detail. Ultimately what I really want to see is Persopolis, the famed Islamic architecture of Estafan and Shiraz, Tehran, and some of the villages and towns on the coast of the Caspian Sea. More importantly, I want to experience some of that reknown Iranian hospitality and friendliness before Jester George and the President potentially fuck up the region even more than it already is.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

I served the box office

Anybody seen Obsluhoval jsem anglickeho krale yet? Probably a dumb question given that it's likely to have been in circulation now for a couple years. We saw it last night courtesy of the annual International Film Festival at the theatre that underwent a $60m makeover for the world premier of The Return of the King (almost no need to write NZ$ or US$ anymore since we're up to US81c and rising - fastest strengthening currency in the world allegedly, which I suspect is bollocks because we're still losing value against the crown).

Have to admit I was slightly disappointed by the film after reading some fairly over-the-top reviews of it at europeanfilms.com and some other extremely earnest arthouse site (almost identical reviews actually, so someone was showing a definite lack of initiative). They gave the distinct impression that Menzel had produced another masterpiece to compare with Ostre sledovane vlaky and Skrivanci na niti, with pastiche black-and-white slapstick comedy scenes to rival Chaplain. The opening scene at the train station was said to be an example of the latter, but I was singularly unimpressed and not stitching my sides up as a result. And after four years of marriage and five years away from Central Europe I was anticipating the alleged “gratuitous nudity” with more than a little bottled-up salacious middle-aged macintosh-coated excitement. But it all turned out slightly flaccid in the end in comparison with what one is used to from Czech cinema. I do agree though that Menzel does film naked women with an artistic eye that you rarely see from anyone else. The scene of the millionaires feasting at a circular table while simultaneously feasting their eye on a lightly-clad young woman lying supine on a revolving ‘lazy Susan’ in the middle was worth the price of admission.

And for dedicated Liberazzi there was even a shot of our very own Reichenberg radnice. But more than that, I discovered during my virtual wandering that another film has been produced that is based wholly in Liberec – Grand Hotel. No surprises that it’s filmed at that monstrosity on top of Jested, but I wonder if anyone’s seen it. I note the director is the same as he of Samotari fame, so does that mean it’s quite good? Does Rotten have a part as a cadaver or a diner in the background?

Obsluhoval jsem anglickeho krale was meant to have provoked controversy in CZ, but I haven’t found any reference to what exactly that means yet. I presume it has something to do with the inherent criticism made of the treatment of the Sudeten Germans in the aftermath of the war, huh?

Monday, 23 July 2007

Rugby, racing & beer

Not a lot of blogging action recently, huh? Here's another fill-in to keep the numbers up. It was the final of the Tri-Nations as well as the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday night, and despite my absence during the first half while I chatted to my insurance company, the ABs showed traditional grit to overpower the Aussie bastards 26-12. That pudgey twat Matt Dunning showed just what a paucity of good front row players the Ockers have, as the Man Mountain Carl Hayman wiped the paddock with him. Okay, I'm not too good at rugby commentaries and will end up doing some serious mixed or inappropriate metaphor shit, so I'll leave you to watch this Kiwi rugby skit on YouTube.

Oh, and the reason I was on the blower to the insurance company for half-an-hour was to lodge a claim for our compacted car. Somehow the missus managed to side-swipe a stationary car parked on the side of a perfectly straight road. I could see it coming since I was sitting in the passenger's seat and while I considered reaching over and making a deft turn of the steering wheel, all I managed to do in time was whimper a weak "oh, God...". Fortunately the owners of the victim car took it all in their stride. It was only the third time it had happened to them. They even drove us home after we'd swapped contact details. Only now we have to wait probably ten working days before an insurance assessment is made. Moral of the story: If you make comments on your wife's driving, it's because you really do know best.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Never too early to prepare for global travel

Other wine cellar trips came back to me in a flash the other night, but I’ll save them for when I’m truly desperate to write something…Hmmm, I suppose that would be now, but I just wanted to point out that I’ve been purposefully filling in the last couple of days visiting all the outdoor equipment shops in pursuit of a sturdy and reliable one-person tent. It’s not that difficult to do in Wellington where all the tramping shops are located virtually along the same strip. And the point of hunting down a good quality tent is that it’s time to begin planning with military precision the travel campaign for next year. It’s getting on toward the end of July afterall, which leaves just 7 or 8 months before departure.

As I’ve mentioned before, a potential plan of attack is to parachute into New Delhi or Kathmandu and reconnoitre the Himalayan foothills before the peak season tourist hordes arrive. I won’t be doing the Annapurna trail in Nepal because of the newly introduced system of compulsory guides for all foreigners, but I’ve been doing some preliminary reading on other 10 or 15-day treks that will require packing up a two or three kilogram tent. As I’ll spend six to eight weeks travelling overland to Prague through Pakistan, Iran, (maybe Syria) and Turkey as well, I’ll try to stop off along the way for the odd trek in one or two of those countries as well. Plus I want to give the Jeseniky and Beskydy a good once over. At the moment, my only semi-concrete plan is to head north of Delhi into the Himalayan area of Uttarakhand province to walk through the Valley of Flowers, as per the picture pilfered from Wikipedia.
I stopped by a travel agent’s yesterday afternoon to enquire about the cost of flight tickets to Kathmandu or New Delhi. Thanks to the strength of the Kiwi dollar at the moment (worth US80c) you can get return flights to Delhi for around NZ$1,500. Tickets to Kathmandu on the other hand are around NZ$2,000, but I’d only head there if my Indian-Malay friend, Sukanya, is still in Pokhara working for the UN and who could possibly stitch up a job for me at a later date. If you’re wondering about the return aspect of New Delhi, that’s because it would work out cheaper to get a budget fare on AirIndia from Prague to Delhi by the time I’m ready to head back in August or September. (It’s all very curious this business of cheap flight tickets; the bubble of cheap aviation fuel and tax-free status of international air travel has to burst soon.)

By the way, this talk of exchange rates has got me curious about what’s happening to the crown. The Kiwi keeps getting stronger and stronger against other currencies all the time, but it keeps getting weaker against the Czech currency. What’s the story there? What’s driving that strength? Rotten, you dabble in the financial markets to keep yourself away from the dirty business of paid employment, so what gives? It’s most disconcerting.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

I want to ride my bicycle

...following on from one of yesterday’s themes, I finally tracked down a decent website promoting cycling tours around the vineyards of Southern Moravia. How times have changed because there wasn’t anything like this at the start of the century. I guess the place is really opening up to foreign tourists now and is no longer the sanctuary from the well-worn tourist trails of the past. This particular website has an English version as well, so it’s probably not long before the praguepissup.com crowd get there, if they haven’t already introduced their charming ribaldry to the region. The sklepky were admittedly prominently advertised in my 1991 edition of the Rough Guide to Czechoslovakia, but they were bloody hard to get to in those early days, nobody spoke foreign languages and the product was basically hamster’s pish. Still, whether it’s pish or not, and no matter whether there are hordes of Germans requesting oompah music and smearing greasy bratwurst over their faces, I’d still like to strike out on an expeditionary mission into the wine-growing estates for two or three days at least next summer. Has anyone been on these steky already? tvc? Here’s a picture plagiarised from the site to jog your memory. Not that jocular ribaldry has been totally absent from the region, of course. My very last weekend in Moravia in 2002 was marked by tvc washing the cobblestones outside a lovely bucolic sklipek in Mikulov with stomach acid. That trip must just about have commemorated the tenth anniversary of my originally introduction to vinny sklepy back in 1992 when the Hlidkovi signed me up to a teachers’ weekend excursion to Hustopeče on board the school bus. Things started out badly when I discovered the risky and zitny chleba that Nada Hlidkova had prepared for me and wrapped in tin foil had been stolen from the communal fridge at my kolej in Jablonec. The day got better though after we stopped five minutes into our trip to purchase a couple crates of beer. This exercise was repeated several times on the way to Moravia, so everyone was in a rather jolly mood by the time we pulled up at our designated sklipek.

That’s where it all goes a bit blurry. I remember the walls being very damp and clammy, lots of singing, mountains of chlebičky and talicka (yuck), and the headmaster’s son instructing me to toast his father each time with confident ‘Čau vole!’. Then I was totally naked and trying to roger one of the cooks in a hostel dormitory with ten other people in the room trying to get to sleep. Christ only knows how that happened because I could only find my jeans, one sock and shoe, and a jacket the next morning. The cook in question led me back to the sklipek and along the way we found the rest of my clothes.

A round of bacon, eggs and rohlicky followed (can’t be arsed looking for the ‘č’ in the symbols menu each time) in the nearest pub, so it was only inevitable that liquidy refreshments started to flow once more. I was innocently stuffing food into my cakehole to stave off the hangover (still at a manageable pain threshold in those days) when a large glass of vodka arrived from the adjacent table of similarly-aged sniggering sports instructors. I accepted the challenge and sent a tray back to them and was rewarded with looks of sudden and unexpected anguish. That was the signal for a game of one-upmanship to the death, and then I woke up last on Monday morning having missed the first two periods of the day. Bedrich will know what it was like arriving back at school to be met with that resigned yet bemused look on Petr Hlidek’s face: “Oh dear Andy, you have caused much comments and laughter”.

Actually, I went on two wine cellar trips while at Sportovni skola a gymnazium, but I’m scoobied if I can distinguish between the two of them.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Mid-winter excursions in the southern hemisphere

According to my traditional predilection, I once again provided ample proof at the weekend that there are no pubes on the bawbaggery because hair doesn’t grow on steel (cymbals! thanks smeaton.com). It was time for the mid-winter tramp to the top of the mountains nearby for a touch of frolicking in the snow and sheet ice, and to prove my ‘metal’ I defied the sniggers and taunts of my fellow travellers and donned my favourite faded pair of rugby shorts. Pictures can be found at the usual place on Flickr. Here I’ve only provided the one photo below because it’s much nicer, and besides featuring the handsome derriere of one of the fairer members of my climbing party, also demonstrates just how sphincter-puckeringly cold it was on the top. That’s the mountain trig she’s climbing toward that had a good foot of ice hanging off it horizontally.
The original intention was to walk across the ridge from Mt Holdsworth to Mitre Peak, but none of us particularly fancied slicing ourselves another arsehole on the wind-blasted ice. I went point just after the trig in this picture but quickly lost my bottle when I slid about 10 metres down a jagged rock face and took half-an-hour to climb back up again. Even a bunch of old fellas wearing crampons thought it would be a bit foolhardy to attempt the crossing. Having visibility down to five metres didn’t help either.

This was with a bunch of about a dozen ex-pat Czechs and one random Pole following the birthday celebrations the previous evening that I mentioned in the last post. It’s always amusing tramping with Europeans in this country, as they insist on wearing the latest mountaineering fashion replete with bright pastel colours, while Kiwis are happiest when they’re covered in the mankiest old woollen jerseys knitted by grandma and moth-eaten long johns.

Change of subject: I know it’s a long way off, but is anyone up for renting a chata somewhere in the Jeseniky or Beskydy next summer? Have been amusing myself today by surfing Czech accommodation websites like superchaty, 1ubytovani, and levneubytovani, and I reckon it could be fun to rent cela chalupa for six or eight people and spread the costs. Could be anywhere in CZ and not necessarily in the areas mentioned. Don’t all rush to agree. Was also looking for information about the cycling trails through Moravian vineyards, but ran out of time. You got any tips on those, tvc?

And speaking of tvc, I was alerted to your comment on that earlier post only through the automated messaging system that I’ve set up for myself. I just finished Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book last night, but I didn’t see your name in the acknowledgements…Jaysas, what a bunch of loons those neocons are.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Jolly hockey sticks!

Weeeeeeeeell, this is all very exciting. There hasn’t been so much literary action in my life since Veronika, Bibiana and Elena all slipped furtive notes into my office mailbox on Voronĕžská announcing their arrival for full oral examinations on the red swivel chair within half an hour of each other. Where were you with that Master of Counselling back then, BA?! Baaaaah!

Yes, it’s a red letter day when not one, but two (fuck, no, three) blog signatories post in material on the very same day. And so it deserves a separate post to mark the occasion. What’s more, I think we’re about to surpass the largest number of hits on a single day since the advent of this blog. BA may think that he hasn’t been making his presence felt in recent times, but actually mate, I can see you lurking and skulking around the ether on an almost daily basis, desperately trying to remain above my jibes and goading until you just couldn’t take it anymore. If the Internet had been around in 1899 I’m sure virtual urine extraction would have had its own subsection under the protocol outlawing torture within the Geneva Conventions. That ‘web stats’ icon on the right-hand side of the page allows me to get a fairly good picture of the traffic zooming around this site like a Los Angeles inner-city freeway (actually more like a nonagenarian taking her 1956 Hillman Humper for a Sunday drive in the country at 6am and coming to a juddering halt at the letterbox). I can see visits taking place overnight from Dretovice (Rotten) to Jihlava (PAM) to Jihomoravsky kraj (tvc) to Idaho (guess who). Hence my recent programme of targeted goading ;) It’s only a matter of time now before we become world famous with hits from all over the globe.

Nice to see Bedřich again and hear that Pepa and Anička are settling into a groove and allowing the old man some quality internet time (and unlike BA you haven’t forgotten your logon password). Those long silences sometimes make me a tad paranoid that I’ve been overdoing it on the Flickr comments…I’m still intrigued though by what else comes on the John Holmes list of excuses rather than the abbreviated Paul Wolfowitz Tiny Tadger list. Otherwise, I think all of us, apart from Rotten, sympathise with the discomfort of incoherent thoughts; just take a look at the utter tosh here resulting from my efforts to keep the Hillman Humper turning over. I leave Rotten out here because has anyone else noticed how he can bang out 1,000 word narratives while allegedly banjoed and not make single spelling or grammatical error? That’s just not right, dude.

Glad you reminded me of that brawl in Salamandr. That was a real doozy. I don’t mean the brawl itself but rather Bedřich going agricultural and swinging a big haymaker into a guy who had actually come to our aid. Otherwise, it was personally notable for resulting in a haematoma on my knee from when I’d been trying to crack open one opponent’s biscuit. That was only one of two occasions in all those Czech years that I’d actually been sober enough to try an offensive move; all the other times I just had the pus kicked out of me.

In the meantime, put a lay-by on one of those items from the Zastavarna on Konevova and I’ll drop by to pick it up next year. Will be visiting a little slice of CZ this evening – it’s the birthday of one of the members of the Czech expat community here and I’ll be the only Kiwi within cooee of the place.

Hadry in Had (I)

I found some pictures, taken probably in June 1996 in Had Klub. You should recognize some famoust faces, even if I still did not improve the quality of the scans. Before I put other pics on the blog, issued from the same "fashion" show, you should give some comments on the people appearing on these ones, to remain to the Liberazzi community some names or stories at least.


I’ve just spent an hour reading the last couple of months of blogtivity. Reassuring to know that I’m not the only unreliable lina pica in the squad. It seems that the form for us picy is to chip in every couple of months with an apology and a promise that there’s more to come. So, erm... Kivak, ya baldy bawbag, I’m, eh, like.... sorry for not writing to your blog.

I have a list of excuses as long as John Holmes.

i) I am the original, and still the best, lina pica. I have never, ever been reliable at all when it comes to staying in touch.
ii) I am a hopeless writer. A while back a realised I couldn’t articlate my thoughts very well. Uncomfortable with this, I decided to stop thinking. And reading. At the weekend I read my first book since Christmas. Nothing so highbrow as the political tomes debated here, but Lance Armstrongs book about coming back from cancer and winning the Tour de France. Full of drugs, no doubt.
iii) I’ve been busy as hell.

OK, so it’s not the full 22 inch list, but it’s enough for me.

Busy as hell is mainly down to being a daddy of twins. Folk say that their children give them energy. Ours do too. In tiny, tiny bursts, when they smile, or laugh, or roll over or wave, or fart in a funny way. But it is nothing, nothing, compared to the energy that they sap from us through sleep deprivation and the need for constant care and attention. We seem to be turning a corner after 6 months and romantic evenings for Mummy and Daddy could be back on the agenda. Time to dig out my string vest and get the Pilsners in.

Busy as hell was also down to work. Our aggressive takeover of the company was exciting because it only just stopped short of actually being aggressive, which was a shame. I’d have been there in the thick of it, probably punching the wrong guy though (remember that fight in Salamandr 10 years ago? I seem to remember it was BAs first night in town and he was welcomed to CZ with the first and only bar brawl I’ve been involved in)

On the subject of BA, as a subsriber to megakozy I’m intrigued by his job as porno tsar (or tzar or however you spell it, but certainly not ‚star‘ which seems a more likely role for those bushy eyebrows). BAman, do you have any training videos of you telling folk how to deal with their addiction. I giggle just thinking about it, which is, after all, probably one of many reasons why I do not have such a socially responsible role in life. „Ah yes sir, let me see, you say that you ’re addicted to shaggin? Well, who fuckin isn’t?“ Ho ho.

Kivak, get yersel back over here. I'm sure there are plenty young children down in lower Zizkov who would be happy to offer themselves up for adoption. Never mind all those NZ bureaucrats, just pop into a Zastavarna on Konevova and you could probably have a sprog to order by the end of the week. He'd even come with his own mobile phone.

Stay black.


Thursday, 12 July 2007

Turning Bhutanese (or Bougainvillean)

No bites or nibbles over the last few days, so I’ll have to revert to the mundane and humdrum, although I won’t go so far as to describe the procedure I went through to remove the old shitter in the second bathroom and replace it with a triple A water conserving Jasmine Deluxe – the type that makes you think you’re laying cables like a Windsor.

I noticed from my lunchtime internet surfing today that Rotten was spot on with his predictions about Grumpy Old Bull-Necked Man McCain losing it over this presidential campaign. Too much up-market accommodation in Alabama, Laird jets and limousines have eaten into his campaign war chest to the extent that he’s had to let his best buddy go from the team. Still waiting for those pics of him looking for a pizza in Baghdad to surface though. I also note that Mitt Romney is about to be prosecuted for strapping his dog to the top of the Chevy for a 12-hour drive back in 1983.

Okay, my latest job fantasy, apart from returning to Liberec to ‘teach English’ to unsuspecting nubiles for 3,000kc per month, or becoming a photographer’s assistant (the guy who sprays oil onto swimsuit models and checks for bikini line), is possibly to do some volunteer work abroad. I know I’ve mentioned consultancy as another possibility recently, but somehow I’ve got to surmount that hoary old Catch-22 obstacle first of getting field experience before ‘real’ employment in the development sector. There’s a rather good partially government-funded organisation here in NZ called Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) which advertises development jobs overseas for people with specific skills, i.e. not some sort of lame-arse conscience-assuaging sinecures for zit-faced liberal arts school graduates. And it’s not altogether ‘voluntary’ in terms of paying to work; volunteers actually get paid a small stipend for the work they do.

I know exactly the same sort of thought is coursing through your biscuit as through mine: what sort of skills could I possibly have to offer? The answer is naturally fuck-all, but a creative interpretation of my ‘career’ to date could potentially wangle something in a couple areas. For example, Bhutan is looking for someone to help set up an education qualifications framework, and I reckon I could just about do less damage than what we’ve done in this country. And Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures its affluence and standard of living via a ‘happiness index’ rather than GDP per capita, etc. Sounds like my kind of place. Then there’s Bougainville, where the semi-independent government wants a policy advisor and evaluator for local government issues. It’s nice and close to the equator, has near pristine flora and fauna (give or take an Australian mega copper mine), and Kiwis are particularly welcome there after helping negotiate an end to a civil war a few years back. What’s more, it has the makings of a good blog called A Bogan in Bougainville (‘bogan’ being Kiwi slang for something like ‘hillbilly’).

It really is pure fantasy at this stage, however, as I must serve out my current employment sentence until we set off to Prague next year and until the university studies are finally complete (just two more assignments to go). It’s only after the proceeds of the sale of the flat have been deposited in our mortgage account that I can attempt to bring the fantasy and the reality into alignment. Hopefully the missus will play along as she’s probably better equipped for development work than I am with her years of experience in logistics (am I repeating myself here?).

Bumped into an acquaintance earlier this week who is off to Abu Dhabi next month for a three-year stint as head of the higher technical college there. Sounds good earning bucket loads of cash and making good use of the 44 days of holiday per year, but 80% of the population is ex-pat and there’d probably be fuck all opportunity for meeting the other 20% in any case. Just trying to justify why I’m not firing off hundreds of CVs over there immediately…

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

A spirit of commitment

Good old Google, huh? When someone goes missing in action you just plug their name into the search engine and Hey Presto! you discover why they’ve been out of contact for the past few months. In this case, it looks like Bedřich has been fomenting revolution in the education sector there in Prague. I was wondering what all the secrecy and allusions to stress was about last time he was in touch. As someone who no doubt devours the Prague Post from cover to cover on a weekly basis in honour of his time served there a few years ago, Rotten will know all about what Bedřich has been up to, but BA may not.

It seems the British International School in Prague (or BISP for short), where our man is the Marketing and Development Manager, has suffered a major mutiny among the rank and file of its teaching and administrative staff. Half of them apparently resigned en masse due to some conflict with the school’s owner, which one can only presume has something to do with the pay and conditions. And now they’re setting up a new school with the slightly syntaxically challenged name of Prague British School. Most interesting news of all though, is that Bedřich is named as a future member of the new school’s Board of Directors. Heady stuff indeed. I hope it’s well remunerated. It’s also caused a lot of chatter on the blog site of that nauseating Prague expat website among the distressed mothers of children who attend BISP. I laughed when one parent thanked the Prague Post for writing the first article in 15 years that actually clarified an issue for her – she must have been on holiday when you were writing for them, Rotten ;) The Post also had a spiffing photo of a group of teachers looking like the Fantastic Four personifying the new “spirit of commitment” at the new school.

Not so easy Googling your moniker in Prague, Rotten, as you seem to have quite a few namesakes. A bit like me really; bloody Banjo Patterson has the same handle! And there are way too many BAs out there to easily identify what’s going on in Idaho.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Further provocation

Alright, I’m freezing my bollocks off today at work because we’re finally having a winter here and buildings in this country are made out of plaster board (which reminds me of one of those apocryphal stories about Dubya as a young jock at college: he allegedly started up a football team called the Nads for no better reason other than to give himself the opportunity of holding up a banner during games exclaiming “Go Nads!”). Actually, I really should just wind up this blog altogether since there’s no way I can top the previous post. On the other hand, there’s always the hope that we can lure Rotten back in, and so because I can’t get any work done in this testes-numbing climate, so I’ll have to dedicate myself to provoking Rotten into another extended diatribe.

So what topic can we train our sights on next? Religiosity is a goody, but I’ll keep the powder dry on that one until I’ve read Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Why God Is Not Great’. Interesting chap that Hitchens: he did a great hatchet job in ‘The Trial Of Henry Kissinger’, labelling the former Secretary of State something like “a humourless toad with only the most tenuous relationship with truth”, and he’s generally one of the great contemporary polemicists, but then he comes out in favour of Bush and the invasion of Iraq and launches a withering attack on Noam Chomsky. Another ‘what the fuck?’ moment.

Equally weird is Bob Woodward’s defence of the Bush administration right up until his last book ‘State of Denial’. But then I guess I’m revealing myself as a naïve bumpkin again, as I was a little taken aback recently when I discovered that Woodward had always been a bit of a conservative and closet Republican, which explains why he had so many contacts in the Bush White House and gave Bush such a sympathetic hearing until not so long ago.

But then that view has been counter-balanced in recent years by the tsunami of titles sticking the knife into Prince of Darkness Cheney and court jester Bush (great Oliphant caricature). Has any other presidency ever achieved so little? Iraq is the petard that Bush and Cheney have happily hoisted themselves upon, and I reckon if Rotten doesn’t have an opinion about that little adventure then I’m a candidate for the Pulitzer for webbloggers.

Thomas Ricks piles up the evidence in ‘Fiasco’ that planning policy for post-invasion Iraq was a total train wreck from the moment the war started; sort of like rubber-necking at a frathouse initiation ceremony where blasts of narcotic cactus juice are administered anally by stomping on plastic bottles connected to rubber hoses inserted into the anus. Fascinating, but gruesome to watch and be on the receiving end of (okay, okay, we don’t have frathouses here, but we do have San Pedro cacti whose sap is very nasty stuff to take orally). I’ve postponed delving into either Mitchell or HST by starting into Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s ‘Imperial Life In The Emerald City’ and it has just the same effect. The State Department and Pentagon had a totally dysfunctional relationship and the White House remained detached from what was going on, apart from Cheney intervening to ensure the supercilious and mendacious Ahmed Chalabi was the preferred candidate for a post-war democratic Iraq. And great anecdotes from the Green Zone about the employment of pimply-faced graduates sent out to work for the Provisional Authority because they’re registered Republicans, or others who were given jobs just because they knew some Republican politician’s wife. Some low-level university academic with no administrative experience is given the job of running Iraq’s entire higher education system, but confesses that he was “a neoconservative mugged by reality”. It would almost read as if the invasion and occupation were invented as someone’s stand-up comedy routine if it weren’t for the hundreds of thousands killed as a result. And apparently soldiers over there are still brainwashed into believing there’s was a connection between Saddam and 9/11. Amazing.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Psephology Revisited

Kivak, you gots to chill the fuck out. Drink yourself a nice tall glass of Bitch-B-Kool. No more old shit. Dukakis? You left out the “Dukakis moment” photograph of him riding around in an M1 tank with a goofy-ass helmet on his shrunken noggin while flashing a limp-wristed thumbs up.

Recall, this was back when the Russians were coming and Reagan’s political death rattle sounded something like: “The Book of Revelations… Armageddon…Judgment Day…I believe our generation might actually be the one to witness all that.” Actual quote. (Okay okay, actual paraphrase.) Nonetheless, it was obviously no time to be cavorting around Massachusetts National Guard HQ like some kind soft-palmed, pansy-ass, rear-echelon douchebag.

Especially with feral gargoyles like WILLY HORTON on the loose!

But the Duke’s M1 moment looks like nothing, NOTHING, compared to the John McCain pub pics showing St. John “strolling” through liberated Baghdad in a flak jacket. These will resurface, mark my words.

In the meantime, Republocrat Joe Lieberman, quickly sensing the danger to this election cycle’s favorite Grumpy Old White Guy, promptly took one for the team and allowed himself to be copiously photographed mere weeks later trekking the same blocks looking like an even bigger pussy, replete with body armor AND Kevlar headgear…

Holy Joe’s contribution was too little, too late. McCain is now poorhouse busted, down to his last three million scoots, according to the latest scuttlebutt…word at the water cooler has it he’s letting loose between 50 and 100 core McCainiacs from his staff…not the signs of a frontrunner gaining steam. Senator Tiger Cage also carries the mange-ridden mantle of Bush-lite.

Grasping this poisoned chalice a year or so ago when he did it didn’t appear like the total bonehead move it looks like now, and even carried a certain “counter-intuitive,” "political genius" vibe, ie: Bush is such a catastrophic fuck up that some correction is due, and at the very least a slight reversal in his tendency to be wrong Every Fucking Time will emerge right before election season, making McCain look like the Wise Old Man Who Was Right To Believe All Along, instead of the image he projects now (Grandpa Simpson/constipated rattlesnake).

But now it’s looking more and more like GWB’s shocking declension from Bad to Worse to What the FUCK..! will neatly trace the nail rows down John McLame’s political coffin…

If you want to know why Rudy Giuliani will never be the president of the United States just log on to Youtube.com and search “Rudy Giuliani” and “drag”. Dial up and play the first video.

Hint: the title “Rudy Giuliani in Drag Smooching Donald Trump” pretty much sums up my argument.

If you actually watch the clip (not recommended immediately post-mealtime) I’ll tell you that no, that is not a stunt double, and that yes, America’s Mayor, three marriages and countless extramarital affairs notwithstanding, is in all likelihood a flaming homo. The Donald Trump clip is only one of several public appearances by His Excellency the Mayor all shiela’ed up.

I don’t have the inclination (or spare life) to round up every pic ever published of Fruity Rudy dolled up like a five dollar whore (including the shot of Rudy-cum-Chorus Girl, cheek mole and all) but believe me, that shit is out there. Ye shades, it is out there. If you’re a Bible Belt Bolshevik from the Republican heartland, Rudy’s gallery of public cross-dressing is an unrivaled record of Big City depravity, nothing more, nothing less.

Mad cow Rudolph Giuliani is USDA Grade A unelectable.

As for the Democrats, aught eight represents the classic “trap game”. The Dems must fight the temptation to believe that this one is so in the bag that they can actually look past it and start strategizing for the next challenge (terrorism, environmental collapse, etc.).

Yet the numbers don’t show Hillary or Obama or Edwards slam-dunking the jokers on the other side of the ticket. Maybe it’s too early for that. Hell, it’s really too early for any of this bullshit. And, as the Libby commutation (read: pardon) showed this week, the gang of rabble currently infesting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. might actually be, yes, SO FUCKING STUPID that Hillary & Co. may be perfectly justified in mailing this one in and planning for next Sunday’s game.

Gore? My dream ticket would be Gore/Obama 08. No big knock against Obama, but he does lack experience. And the US Senate is no place to pick up executive experience for a presidential run (viz: Messrs Dole, McCarthy, Humphrey, Mondale…okay, so Mondale was a VP, but under a one-term president…and so was uber-legislator LBJ, fucking murdering bastard…my point stands). So would Gore actually get into it?

Gore’s no. 1 problem is the liberal US media. Yes, you read that right. If there’s one sin an editor (print) or news producer (TV) absolutely cannot tolerate, will absolutely not pardon, especially in a politician, it is the unspeakable crime of being smarter than said editor or news producer. Gore is smarter than all the editors and news producers in the US.

The media elite in the US is a gang of wanna-be rim-jobbers who make their way through their lives as The Smartest Guys in the Room. An entire “professional” class of mewling pooches kept around for their intellectual cocktail-party tricks.

And hence the average panjandrum of the pundit class sees his watery self-esteem go all to shit when someone smarter than he is enters, and Al Gore is smarter than all these knock-kneed weenie waggers. And for some reason “liberal” journos suffer more acutely from this syndrome, a kind of black lung disease of the newsrag profession.

So as a candidate Al Gore would face not only the grotesqueries of Murdoch McNews, but also the ego-salving peenie-pulling “articles” wanked out by the jerg-ovs, bedwetters, fictioneers and flat out liars currently employed by the New York Times, etc. (check out the Daily Howler online for a blow-by-blow of the liberal media’s disgraceful War on Gore that helped decide the 2000 election and leave us in this hideous lurch).

I think it would need some kind of major, MAJOR, online, alternative politics/alternative candidate-type movement to get Al Gore into the 2008 race. Sadly, I don’t see it.

But don’t ask me. Don’t ask anyone. That there’s this much interest this early indicates nothing more than the fact that every American with an IQ greater than the square root of pi is so sick and fucking tired of the junta calling the shots now that we want President Cheney gone, and I mean like the day before yesterday. Anyone else, ANYONE ELSE, would be better. Call it the all upside election.

As for all the other racket being generated now? An old Scottish king had it pegged. It is indeed,

A tale told by an idiot,
Much sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


Letni obrazek - jihomoravsky

Just to lighten the mood from Kiwak's latest psephological (or whatever the fuck that is) philosophizing, here's a picture about what's really important these days. Beergardens and cheap beergarden favorites like "psi dech" "gulasova polevka" "nakladany hermelin" and "utopenec". Entering the long 4 day weekend here, looking forward to a couple of days in Vienna.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Keep on rocking in the free world

Nah, nothing so prosaic as a review of a Neil Young song. I just feel bout of psephology coming on. I was the geekiest amateur psephologist when I was a young bloke 20 years ago. So much so that I had a large cork board in my student flat that I could use to pin up newspaper and magazine articles tracing the course of the 1988 US elections. A seminal period of my life after my fellow geeks and I let out a collective sigh of relief at having somehow survived the Reagan years; that was a man afterall that Spitting Image depicted in a weekly skit entitled ‘The President’s Brain Is Missing’ but who had his finger trembling with Parkinson’s over the nuclear button at the peak of the Cold War. Back in those days, US presidents purported to be leaders of the ‘free’ world, so we all thought that perhaps all the inhabitants of that world should be entitled to vote for the US president as well. The likes of Dennis Kucinich might have had a change then.

I’ll never work out why the hell the Democrats put up Michael Dukakis to run against Bush Snr. As a typical East Coast liberal that the ‘moral majority’ loved to hate, the guy had about as much chance of winning as Steven Seagal has of showing emotion on celluloid. Not even his sister (or is that his cousin?) Olympia winning an Oscar helped him. And there were those classic photos of him jogging in tracksuit pants, a business shirt and hard-soled leather dress shoes. In all fairness though, he had the moral conviction to state his life-long opposition to the death penalty, even though that probably lost him the election because he allegedly lacked “passion and empathy” when reiterating that point after being asked whether he would change his mind if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered.

Both that answer and question were rehearsed well in advance, as were all the great one-liners of presidential campaigns (except maybe Bush Snr’s great clanger: “I am anti-bigotry, anti-racist and anti-Semite” or something along those lines). But the greatest one-liner had to be deputy presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s retort to Dan Quayle’s claim of similarity to Kennedy: “President Kennedy was a friend of mine…believe me, you’re no John Kennedy”.

Interestingly, Joseph Biden was a candidate in that election (as was a young Al Gore) before he was forced to pull out because he was caught plagiarising speeches by Neil Kinnock of all people. And now he’s trying again for 2008. Yep, 2008 is going to be a good ‘un for the science of psephology, even though the Republicans have one of the dreariest line-ups in a long time, unless Fred Thompson finally throws his hat into the ring. Surely McCain is too old and has too much Iraq War support baggage, while Rudy Giuliani is too socially liberal for his party. Mitt Romney is meant to have good prospects, but electing a Mormon as president? Sheesh. And three of those Republican candidates say they believe in 'intelligent design'!

Michael Bloomberg has undergone a political realignment to become an independent and would be likely to spend up to a billion dollars of his own money, but even that sort of heavy spending could only guarantee him a spoiler effect, like Ross Perot in 1992.

But despite the paucity of choice on the Republican side and the dead weight of an incumbent presidency that is already spoken of as the worst in history, incredibly the Democrats are not a shoo-in next year. Hilary Clinton evokes visceral hatred or loving devotion and not much in between, ala America’s culture wars. And what thinking liberal Democrat is going to vote for someone so closely associated with the approval to go to war in Iraq? I see Big Bubba Clinton has just started campaigning on her behalf, but his legendary campaigning skills probably won’t be enough to galvanise Democrats in the droves required to outnumber their conservative opponents. And even as ‘The First Black President’, Bill won’t be able rein in the growing momentum behind the potential second black president, Barack Obama, a man who DID inhale and even dabbled in a little coke. And Barack’s just overtaken Hilary in the political donation stakes. Even John Edwards is leading in Iowa at the moment.

So, anything could happen yet. But the big poser is should we believe Al Gore when he says he won’t be a candidate? Having undergone the greatest rebranding since St Augustine called a day on pederasty and group fornication in favour of penning impenetrable theological treatises, he could yet enter at the eleventh hour and gain the prize he was denied in 2000. If the Democrat primaries are particularly messy and Clinton and Obama irreparably damage each other during the campaign, then Al could appear at the party convention as the unifier of the party and win the nomination without having to lift a finger.

What are Rotten, tvc and BA thinking?

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Do you ken this?

Whew, it’s only thanks to Stu, who I hardly know but who’s kind enough to include me in emails, that I have something to write about to kick this month’s posts off. Stu’s Glaswegian and as you’ll all know Glasgow has recently made the news for the attempted incineration of its airport via a jeep allegedly laden with propane tanks, petrol and bags of nails for good measure. The firestarters, if it does turn out they’re members of an al Queda cell, were clearly affiliates of its intellectually handicapped and technologically dyslexic wing. Driving your jeep into a barrier, realising your mistake in purchasing the detonators from the Two Dollar Shop, and then dousing yourself in petrol and lighting a match may seem like the thing to do if you’re a Buddhist monk protesting against dictatorships in South-East Asia, but it’s not likely to win too many admirers in Caledonia. They’d probably have caused more damage if they’d stayed in the SUV and driven around Britain for a couple hundred thousand kilometres.

Anyway, there’s a funny side to the story, and it’s brilliantly captured on this very quickly assembled website dedicated to John Smeaton, who was the airport worker standing outside the airport having a fag when the attackers drove into the barriers. As Stu says “Glasgow is probably the only city in the world where a member of the public would pick a fight with a suicide bomber”. He’s got the Glaswegian patter going, so non-Scots will have to listen carefully. Desiček added: “Not sure what the newsreader on FOX News in the USA made of the eyewitness who told her, ‘err wiz weans gaun mental aw ower the place, we jist pure bolted’”. Check out the comments on the site if you've got time. There are some real pearls there.