Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween in Black and White, 2006

Ever since bringing Orion home from the House Rabbit Society, I have been meaning to post some of the numerous photos of him.
And, since last Halloween I presented photos of George and Ms. Spots in their favorite costumes, it seems a reasonable time to show Orion in his own favorite costume, an elegant spotted coat.
The photos were not, however, taken today, but back in August. One of Orion's first tricks upon arriving in my parents' house (other than biting through a plastic water tube, which was his most dramatic exploit) was to leap onto the couch and explore it fully. I was somewhat nervous that he would proceed onto my mother's desk, but he perceived my anxiety and refrained.
Around the same time, I was able to photograph Orion and Ms. Spots enjoying some treats. I imagine that tonight they may be making off with some chocolates, as while we do not encourage them to eat that kind of thing, the smell of chocolate often prompts theft of the desired object.

A few notes: 1) neither rabbit has red eyes; 2) although they wear matching coats, they are not the same breed (Orion is an English Spot and Calypso Spots is allegedly a French Lop but doubtless some smaller variety of Lop); 3) although without George, there is no real need to have a toweled enclosure, the old George domain works well as a special rabbit area where, while rabbits and humans can both go in and out, hay and other things tend to stay in.
Speaking of rabbits, the House Rabbit Society is always in need of financial, in-kind, and volunteer support. You can find ways to show your support on their home page.

We Go "na Plzeň"

Late Friday afternoon, Jesse and I boarded the bus to Plzeň (Pilsen) in order to visit Štěpanka and Michael for our planned pseudo-Thanksgiving feast. The bus, for some reason, sat for a good while before starting, growing hotter and hotter. An LED thermometer actually displayed the startling temperature (which I have now forgotten) when not apprising us of the time of day.
In these rather uncomfortable conditions, we became gradually aware of an extremely lively child seated across from and one row behind us. It was gleeful and very loud. Around the time that I whispered to Jesse that at least it was a happy rather than a wailing child, it overheard a woman behind us refer to going “na Plzeň.”
For some reason this phrase struck our small neighbor as ecstatically humorous. The entire bus was treated to a remarkably long performance of the phrase “na PLzeň!” (with a steep rise in pitch and volume on PL), punctuated with many giggles and shrieks of merriment. The phrase was probably repeated over a hundred times before we got a brief intermission, after which it was resumed. At one point Jesse, who has been collecting local sounds, undertook to record the performance, but he began just before one of the rare pauses, so the sample is not entirely characteristic.
I would estimate that we sat in the bus for 15-20 minutes before it left the station and began circulating cooler air. The trip to Plzeň normally takes about an hour and a half by bus, but due to an untoward traffic stoppage around the city of Beroun, on this occasion it lasted an extra hour or so (causing us, incidentally, to miss our connection). The trip enabled us to observe just how patient mothers and other travelers are capable of being in this part of the world.
It is my impression that in the US, the child’s mother would either have yelled at it and slapped it until it howled, or completely ignored it and let it run up and down the aisle doing whatever it pleased. In this case, the mother, who was extremely quiet herself, seemed to think that an occasional whispered suggestion to be quiet would do the trick. Her most successful ploy was to embark on reading a children’s book, which provided a break from “na PLzeň!” for at least twenty minutes.
We concluded, from the pronunciation of a few key words, that the pair was Slovak or from eastern Moravia. This brings up a couple of linguistic questions.
First, the child was of somewhat uncertain gender, as they often are in the first few years. Its mother referred to it as Samko, leading us to assume its name was Samka since Samko is the vocative of Samka. Jesse took it to be male and I was uncertain, since we are accustomed to both male and female diminutives ending in a. But if it was Slovak, its (his) name was Samko, because Slovak has no vocative and my Slovak teacher has announced that male Slovaks do not have names ending in a, only male Czechs (who are called things like Mila, Jirka, Slava, Jindra, and so on).
Second, the phrase “na Plzeň” is a little odd, in that Czech usually employs “do” rather than “na” for the purpose of going to a place. One goes “do Brna,” for example. On the other hand, one does go “na” to quite a few places, including Moravia, Slovakia, islands, and concerts. My knowledge of Slovak is not extensive. Perhaps in Slovak one goes “do” when going to Plzeň, which would suggest why it might seem humorous to go “na Plzeň.” Some kind reader might enlighten me on this.

Filed under:

Friday, October 27, 2006

Café Orient

Haven't been there lately, but the Café Orient (in Prague's Cubist Museum) is a very fine place to sit. And to photograph mirrors.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Graves of the Obscure and Forgotten

In anticipation of next week's Dušičky holiday (celebrated by most Czechs over the weekend since so many people live far from their family's home), I offer up some photos I took last spring (well, actually I suppose it was already summer) when Nathan and I went for a walk in the Olšanska cemeteries.
I'm not sure just when these cemeteries were founded, but there are still a few graves from the early nineteenth century to be found. These photos are of somewhat more recent tombs. Olšanska is an impressive place at any time of year, but its special charm in the spring and summer is its lush or even rampant growth of ivy and other foliage. In the older parts, paths can be a bit overgrown, although never impassible since the place is a favorite for walks. And, of course, some of the monuments are pretty imposing.
Some of the graves, however, are in a rather disorderly state. I'm not sure whether this is the result of supernatural forces, exhumation of the dead, FAMU students making a horror film, or mere vandalism. Nathan and I attempted to photograph the inner reaches of a few graves, but without much success... well, we did not feel inclined to do more than poke our cameras into the yawning chasms. Had we gone in a more funereal-looking month, we might have been inspired to be more ghoulish.
Then there are also miscellaneous bits of funeral and tomb debris lying about. We considered taking some of it home with us, but refrained. Of course, some of our friends would have picked it up the instant it was photographed in situ, and put it in the living room or perhaps even the kitchen. I won't name any names there. But I suppose that in the months since I took the photos, someone else will have taken away the bits and perhaps used them in an assemblage.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sen o Devětsilu

It's finally come to this. No, not to Jaroslav Anděl's article "Sen o Devětsilu," but I too now dream about Devětsil. This morning I awoke from a dream in which, having just had a tricky time getting lunch onto my tray at a university cafeteria, I sat down with a table full of friends only to be introduced to a guy who had just written three hundred-page papers on Devětsil.
What was his name? Well, I've forgotten that. He's probably an actual person somewhere out in the world who will cross my path someday.
Whatever his name, I was naturally intrigued. Not that many people write about Devětsil, and very few of them are still in school. And, of course, not that many people write papers that are 100 pages long. I only know one of them, and it's not even me.
My new tablemate indicated that he wasn't altogether sure why he had gone off the deep end and written so much about Devětsil. He was offhand about it. It had taken his fancy. The papers were for different classes, so they were similar, but not really the same. He wasn't sure what he was going to write about next; something related. He was thinking about dissertations.
"Surrealism," I said, perhaps jealously.
"Maybe," he said.
His mind didn't seem to be entirely on the conversation; maybe it was on Devětsil or what to write his next paper on. The dream was full of lots of detail about food and who was sitting where. Someone else was saying something about film, something long and interesting that has since gone out of my head.
While the guy in the dream was a present-day student, I had the curious feeling that the spirit of Karel Teige was everywhere.
Perhaps this was because the last things I paid any attention to at the archive yesterday were a couple of letters from Teige. They weren't originals, but on the photocopies, underneath the inked signatures added by the person who made the copies, I could just barely make out the ghost of Teige's own writing telling me that the letters weren't fakes. (I mean, you have to wonder why someone who fought with Teige would keep photocopies of his letters and not, apparently, keep the originals.)
So... Is Teige trying to tell me something? I can tell him right now that I'm not going to revive the debate about Wolker and proletarian poetry.
Maybe Teige just wanted to mastermind the introduction to the guy who likes to write about Devětsil, whoever and wherever he might be. Anyone who writes hundred-page papers, even if not about Devětsil, is Teige's kind of guy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

From Blogger to Communist Birthday Greetings

Hmm, has anyone else found that Blogger has been awfully finicky and messed up in the last few days? Page refusing to load, or comments getting lost, all that sort of nonsense? Well, there you have one reason for not hearing from me absolutely every day this week. If I can't access Blogger, nothing new gets posted. Very annoying.
Of course, my other reason is merely that I'm busy. My advisor has now read the invented chapter and likes it, although with all the same reservations I have myself. She takes the view that as it is for a brand-new fellowship, we have no way of knowing exactly what the committee prefers. Perhaps they'll be happy that it reads well. Then again, maybe they'll complain that it's background and doesn't say anything startlingly new about surrealism.
Well, what can I say; I'm still gathering my data, not spending all my time analyzing it. One can only do so much. Fortunately, my advisor is aware of this. She says not to obsess too much about the thing, and just keep going.
In my day-to-day research, on the other hand, I get to experience scholarship gone largely wrong. Shawn and I have reached carton 27 of our Communist arbiter's papers. The man was unquestionably highly intelligent, and he left behind mounds of notes and analyses of the literary and polemical works of his contemporaries (along with a certain amount on Goethe and Rolland). The majority of his life seems to have been devoted, however, to canonizing Nezval, Julius Fučík, and one or two other writers, while apparently failing to notice that for some strange reason everyone's best work was written before 1947. Did it not occur to him that even Communists had more freedom during the First Republic?
Then, of course, there is the yawn factor of flipping through endless birthday greetings and thanks for birthday greetings, in search of the occasional page of useful correspondence. There is always something tucked in those correspondence folders that we find we actually want. It's just cleverly hidden amidst thirty years of Comradely birthday wishes.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Read between the Ps: Missed Call Marketing (Australia) – Innovative Telemarketing or Cheap Spam?

Puru Gupta of Read Between the Ps provides an excellent discussion of a new type of telemarketing spam that has annoyed the Australian public. Read all about it at Read between the Ps: Missed Call Marketing (Australia) – Innovative Telemarketing or Cheap Spam? And hope that they don't call you next.
Speaking of stuff a person doesn't want to get, we know that email spam is high on most people's list. (OK, it's less troublesome than AIDS or herpes, but still...) I can usually identify and delete spam without having to look at it, but sometimes this can be a tough call. This evening I nearly deleted an email that turned out to be from a university staff person who needed to know the exact amount of last year's grant for some sort of reporting they do to the government on external funding. It was a follow-up to another university email, not some sort of suspiciously real-looking phishing scheme. However, the subject line wouldn't have prompted me to think one thing or another. She was just lucky I happened to open that email.
On the other side of things, another of today's emails that was definite spam really offended me. I mean, I can deal with spam that tells me I can enlarge my... ahem... male organ (I hadn't realized I had one handy to enlarge), or that I can make semen taste sweeter (I suppose sprinkling sugar on it would be one method)... that sort of spam is merely stupidly comic. However, this spam strikes me as both cruel and likely to be all too effective on all too many insecure people:
Listen, I am not sure whether you got my first email or not. I am sort of concerned. People are making me feel uncomfortable and I don't like being in the middle. Some of the staff are spreading rude jokes behind your back about your weight. I personally have no problem with you just being you. Please don't come back at me for informing. I just wish to help if anything. I thought about mentioning it to a boss but then to have something like this explode is silly and embarassing for everyone involved, including you being the center of attention. If you really want to make somewhat of a difference, I know my cousin and friend both used this and it worked very well for them. They grabbed it off the internet to keep a low profile & stay confidential. This was the site they got it from, if this helps any.
(link deleted)
Again, I don't like people insulting others behind their backs. I am only trying to help. Which I hope I am.
Thanks for at least listening & I hope I am not out of
line by writing this. I am only trying to help.

If this garbage isn't insidious and disgusting, I don't know what is. After all, most people do work for a boss, and a lot of people don't know the names of all their coworkers. We know a lot of people worry about their weight.
So... even if you have to look at some of your junk email, don't take it personally or click on the links in it!
That's your public service message of the day, as a change from any more updates on grant proposals (which I am sure no one really wants to read anyway).

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Learn the Secrets to Getting a Grant"

The archive where Shawn and I have been digging around is closed on Fridays, so it was my assumption that I would get to spend at least part of yesterday working at the library.
Somehow that just didn't happen. After a relatively brief breakfast with Jesse, who had come to Prague for the Central Asian music festival (we did see a couple of films, but the program didn't do a good job of explaining where most of the live performances were), I took care of an errand at the bus station and then planted myself at a cafe to continue slaving away at the dreaded pseudo-chapter.
Next thing I knew, it was around 7pm and there was nothing further on the menu that I really wanted to eat. Admittedly, I had vastly improved the pseudo-chapter, which I have created out of one piece of Chapter 2 and the second half or so of Chapter 3. It hangs together pretty well, it just doesn't have all that much about Toyen in it, or much of my Czech research. So... I went home and messed with it and some other things until I couldn't see straight anymore and went to bed.
This morning I had new dreams of getting to the library. First, however, I had to go to the grocery store so that I could put cream in my coffee. Then I felt ambitious enough to begin a pot of soup (which, it must be confessed, did not seem ready to eat until about 3:30). And, fortunately, something inspired me to bring in my laundry (still pretty wet) just as it was starting to rain.
My advisor had said positive things about the draft of the application that is due first, so I thought that it would be wise to finish that off before going to the library. This was, I might point out, an application that I had almost entirely written already and mainly needed to be reread for improvements. It did, however, need a few small administrative items added, like the latest version of my c.v.
While I cannot claim that I worked on this thing steadily all day--I did a few things on the other application, discovered that there were slightly more than twice as many Central/Eastern European applicants for the grant I had last year than received funding for that geographic area (much better odds than for South America), and so forth and so on--next thing I knew it was nearly 5:00.
So much for getting to the library.
On the positive side, I got all the pieces sent off to my advisor in time to be able to help Alex test her new webcam. Though the webcam is a low-end model, it transmitted an identifiable image of Alex's face. We agreed that webcams are nice to have for special purposes (chatting with those we haven't seen in ages, showing off new acquisitions), but not something we would want to use for everyday Skype calls.
When we ended the call, I checked my email and discovered that some sort of spam group had sent me an email entitled "Learn the secrets to getting a grant."
I would hope that this was merely coincidence and not the result of my having just sent my advisor pieces of a grant proposal. After all, while I do assume that Big Brother is watching me, I don't usually think he is watching me all that closely.
Still, one can only wonder... what are the secrets of getting a grant? Since I have gotten grants, does that mean I already know them? Nah, probably not. No matter how good the proposal is, there are always factors out there beyond our guessing. What are the prejudices of this year's committee? Shawn tells me, for instance, that his advisor is obsessed with the idea that one must convey the gist of the proposal in the first paragraph. While this is never a bad idea, some of us like to use the first paragraph to set the scene. What if the committee includes a die-hard believer in First Paragraphism?
Well, you never know. All I know is that it's been another day on the couch fine-tuning a grant application. I hope that it will still be fall next weekend when Jesse and I visit Stepanka and Michael, so that we can all hike around on autumnal trails. Last weekend Julia B. and I did make an attempt at autumnal roller-blading, but her daughter Caroline was strongly opposed, so we mainly enjoyed watching a dressage competition at the stables near Stromovka.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Heights, Anyone?

The other day as I stood on the tram, my eyes were drawn to the newspaper belonging to the man seated nearest me. Apparently suicide season is upon Prague again, so the paper felt obliged to provide us with a large photo of a man sitting atop the fencing on the Nusle bridge while firemen stood nearby, presumably trying to get him to come down on their side. Some statistics about the month's suicides were printed to the right, but they were a little too small for me to read.
As it happens, when I was in Zlín, Alex and Jesse and I went to the top of the "skyscraper" there, which has a very fine view of the city, and pondered, among other things, the favorite Czech method of committing suicide. While we knew that jumping off the Nusle bridge is a favorite, the lack of protections elsewhere made us somewhat skeptical that leaping from heights is a national favorite.
Jesse offered the suggestion that Czechs more typically commit suicide by drinking themselves to death.
Personally, I don't regard drinking oneself to death over a lifetime as real suicide, even if it comes from the same basic psychological source as quicker deaths, but someone else (I have now forgotten who) later also posited this as the favorite Czech method.
When we were back at Alex's, we discovered that a dubbed version of the film High Anxiety was on tv. I suppose that was rather suitable.
Today's photos are of and/or taken from the so-called 21 building in Zlín, which was the Bat'a company's headquarters. I am not terribly fond of skyscrapers, but as skyscrapers go, this one is not bad, at least from inside and on the terrace.

Filed under:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Home on the Couch

Since Shawn and I both had grant proposals to deal with this week, we decided that today would be a Day Without Archive.
While I did succeed in sending a proposal draft to my recommenders, by afternoon I would rather have been in the archive. It's much more fun to look at old clippings and strange little dossiers than to try to wrestle 25 pages that resemble a real chapter out of 60 pages of pieces and notes.
What ends up happening during this wrestling process is that text gets ruthlessly deleted until one realizes that a given section no longer appears to have any reason to exist in its abbreviated form. Once every fun quote about Paris cafes is removed, Paris cafes cease to be interesting no matter how many Czech avant-gardists spent time in them. And, before long, it seems as though the only parts that still hang together are those that rely entirely on other people's research and say nothing about any Czech avant-gardists or anything else Czech.
It would be desirable, after all, to submit a "chapter" that actually shows I have done some manner of original research, can read Czech, and that is more about art and artists than about topics that in isolation appear to be about something else entirely (no matter how important they may be to the art/artist in the larger picture). Chapter 1 does all these things, it simply also has things like a literature review and an explanation of my methodology.
I remain very annoyed and should probably go off and read a novel.
--Or, to do something entirely different, I could follow Orion's example and go out and vigorously dig up the back yard. I hear that this is one of his favorite pursuits and requires my father to follow him around and fill up the holes.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Illusions and the Grant Application Process

One must never, evidently, succumb to the illusion that one’s proposal-writing is actually proceeding along in an untroubled fashion. No sooner had I learned that I could not use Chapter 1 as a writing sample for the one application, and gone and sequestered myself at Káva Káva Káva for most of the afternoon to slave away at turning a different chapter into a 25-page snippet, than I received a reminder that a different application was due to my department November 4. Since that application is not due to the funding agency until December 1, I had forgotten about the departmental deadline and put the thing aside. Fortunately, I had written the majority of it already, but it must still be revised and a biographical statement invented or cobbled together from some previous biographical statement.
Biographical statements, like proposals, are tricky in that one must generally craft them to fit the interests of the funding agency. A statement that is suitable for one will seem too personal, too impersonal, too regional, or too feminist for another. My suspicion is that this one will require some sort of discussion of my intellectual and methodological development. These are things I generally feel very little interest in contemplating, at least in any form suitable for applications for funding. Grant agencies are not interested in my remarks about how approach X is useful to a point but is too often taken to crackpot extremes, or how approach Y is invariably used by people with an inordinate fondness for impenetrable jargon.
Meanwhile, I should like to know who imagines that a complete chapter in an art history dissertation is likely to be 25 double-spaced pages. A complete chapter in a novel, certainly; nothing could be more normal. Most novels do not have footnotes, and chapter length in novels is completely unstandardized and freeform. Dissertations, however, have numerous footnotes and thus a 25-page chapter seems a little slim on substance to me, even if one does strip out all the Czech quotations from the footnotes on the grounds that the funding agency readers are unlikely to know Czech.
On the positive side, this evening I received word that it looks as though my most recent conference paper will be published. The venture could of course fall through, but the intention sounds solid enough that I should be able to say the publication is forthcoming. This always looks good on grant applications.

Filed under:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Proposal Woes

Just when I thought that everything was moving along rather smoothly as regards the fall's crop of grant proposals (one down, three in progress), I received a rude shock.
One of the said fellowships, which will remain nameless here, requires submission of a completed chapter. Now, of course, no chapter is truly complete until the dissertation is complete. Obviously, one picks a chapter that looks sufficiently complete and polishable for the purpose.
Of my chapters, it seemed to me that the first chapter was in the most nearly final state and could easily be made to appear finished. I inquired of my advisor, a month or so ago, whether she thought there was any reason to avoid using the first chapter. She replied that the first chapter ought to be an especially good candidate, because it lays everything out for the reader.
I proceeded to work away at tidying up the first chapter--throwing out anything that was incomplete or questionable about it--and wrote up a nice conclusory bit leading to the next chapter. It was pretty much complete and required only, I think, a thorough proofreading.
This fellowship is one whose basic instructions are on a public web page, which was where I had gotten my information about the need for the chapter, how long the proposal itself had to be, and so forth. One does the actual application via an online, password-protected site. I had filled out some of the information on the initial pages of this site but was putting most of my energy into writing the proposal and fixing up the chapter.
This morning I decided that it was time to fill in more blanks on the online application. In doing so, I proceeded farther in it than ever before, and made the appalling discovery that, on the very last page of the online application, one is instructed that the sample chapter cannot be over 25 pages and must not be an introduction or conclusion.
This was very annoying and disheartening. While it would not be so hard to lop off 5 pages of the 30-page chapter I had planned to submit, I am unsure that there is any way of making it appear to be other than Chapter 1.
Evidently the remainder of my day will have to be devoted to examining my other chapters in search of 25 pages' worth of material that can be fashioned into a complete-looking chapter. Since I am not short of material, I know it can be done, but I am thoroughly disgusted.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Toyen: Minor Planet?

While exploring Google's Book Search this morning, I made the startling discovery that there is a "minor planet" named after Toyen. It was discovered October 7, 1983, by A. Mrkos, and named in honor of Toyen by J. Ticha. (This data is from Lutz D. Schmadel's Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, fifth edition.)
I have no idea where this planet hangs out. Perhaps there are cafes in outer space for surrealist planets to gather.

Filed under:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Archelaus Expands

It has come to my attention that a select offering of Archelaus cards will shortly be available at both locations of the Washington DC card emporium, Pulp. Otherwise they can be bought online or most Sundays at DC's Eastern Market.
The latest designs can be seen here.

Filed under:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Archives R Us

Shawn and I had made plans, some time back, to wade through the uncatalogued papers of one of the big Communist cultural figures together. We weren't sure what we would find, and there were over 80 boxes to deal with, but the Archiv AV ČR had kindly granted him access to them and he persuaded the archivist that I be allowed along on this adventure, so today was my introduction to this archive and fond.
As it happened, not only did we find a nice stash of E.F. Burian materials (not, perhaps, urgently needed for either of our dissertations, but interesting all the same), and a gigantic pile relating to the sainted Julius Fučík (he who once had a Metro station named after him; I am inclined to think that, considering he was murdered by the Nazis and did not personally perpetrate totalitarian offenses, the Metro station could have kept his name), but a thick mass of stuff relating to Nezval, which included an envelope of items relating to his 1938 attempt to dissolve the Prague surrealist group.
While I had seen some of the news clippings in their original settings, I had not seen the Rudé Pravo coverage nor some of the other items. It was pretty exciting.
More Nezval memorabilia awaits me tomorrow, along with whatever lurks in box 8.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rabbit Reads: Why I hate Thanksgiving

Rabbit Girl opines on Thanksgiving (Canadian and US) at Rabbit Reads: Why I hate Thanksgiving. I must admit that for me, Thanksgiving is one of those holidays I enjoy but don't often celebrate. This year Štěpanka suggested that Jesse and I come out for an end-of-October Thanksgiving. We were hoping it would be somewhere close to Canada's holiday, but I guess it will be midway between the Canadian and US versions. It will give us a new opportunity to experiment with Štěpanka's oven. Perhaps this time the pie dough will not resemble some sort of mutant glue; after all, it always turns out fine in my Prague oven, even though we can never remember quite what we did the last time around.
In the meantime, it's back to those grant applications...

Filed under:

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Film School in Zlín

Jesse and I spent the weekend primarily in Zlín and Uherské Hradiště, which are not far from one another in eastern Moravia.
Our primary reason for going was that there was a folk festival in Uherské Hradiště, where Jesse and Alex planned to shoot footage for a short documentary on the cimbalom. (Which they did in fact do.) Since Alex was so kind as to lend her filmmaking expertise to this project, Jesse and I rented a car so that we could easily go back and forth between Zlín and Uherské Hradiště, and so that we could help Alex move some of her stuff from the new apartment up to her office at the film school.

We thought the film school was pretty exciting, even at midday on a Sunday. Consequently, we took lots of pictures, starting with the front door of Alex's building.

Alex even has a special sign on her office door. This is what she gets to do in exchange for learning about puppet animation. As you might imagine, we were much impressed.

Inside Alex's door is an office about the width of a small closet. In its favor, it is quite long, featuring a desk area at least 10 feet in length plus bookshelf space and a large window overlooking the forest. While I wasn't sure where Alex was going to put all the things we brought (it took two car trips to carry them), I expect it will be a very fine office once she gets it set up.

Once we had unloaded, Alex took us on a tour of the building. While a good many rooms were locked for the weekend, we got to see all the hallways and some production rooms.

The film school complex is designed in a version of Functionalist architecture that appears to be peculiar to Zlín, which is to say a predilection for squarish brick buildings. There is, in fact, something strangely charming about both the town and its film school. One of the striking things about the film school campus is that, although the buildings are not at all new, and the linoleum on the floors might repel me elsewhere, it has an air of being both sturdy and lovingly maintained.

Furthermore, many of the windows look out upon the woods.

The stairwells are very light.

Well--some of them. Others are well decorated.

As are the hallways. Zlín specializes in animated film.

Alex, as noted, is studying puppet animation, a technique for which the Czech Republic is particularly renowned. Not surprisingly, many of the halls and stairwells were decorated with displays of puppets from past films.

We especially liked the puppet filmmaker and his footed camera.

There were, however, lots of other fun puppets.

And nice windows to look out of.

And even a Christmas puppet display.

These instructions, which we found on the ground floor, are very important to achieving the correct effect as a snowman.

I'm not sure what the yeti-like creature is. Apparently something that lives in the woods near Zlín.

I thought the view out the front doors was rather nice.

Alex suggests that we come back sometime soon.

Filed under:

Friday, October 06, 2006

New Bibliographic Options

Regular readers of this blog may recall that I use Notabene and its bibliographic component Ibidem for my dissertation rather than the more typical combination of Word and Endnote, partly because Endnote 7 couldn't deal with Czech characters well. I still subscribe to the Endnote email list, however, because on the whole Endnote is good software and I encourage my students to get it at University of Pittsburgh's impressive discount.
Endnote does have a few other competitors, none of which I've really investigated thoroughly. Those interested in a bibliographic software that includes similarities to Del.icio.us (admittedly, neither Endnote nor Ibidem are stunning at handling Web-bsed sources) may want to read about Zotero. It's a brand-new, free open-source, Web-based system that runs as an extension to Firefox 2. It has some interesting backers, including George Mason University, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Institute of Museum of Library Services.
One issue I see with Zotero is precisely the fact that it is Web-based. Granted, the day may soon come when every computer is always online, but I can assure you that, even with ADSL at home mine is not. I work in quite a few places that don't have internet access, or whose access is not free. Not only am I not about to pay for access in a cafe unless I really need it (and some cafes only give 15-30 minutes of free access with purchase of food, which is not enough to do much), but I haven't managed to get the Wi-fi on the new laptop functional yet. The laptop recognizes Wi-fi connections and claims to connect to them, but neither Firefox nor Internet Explorer can access the Web. I can't figure out whether I have some obscure firewall issue or what; the driver is supposed to be the latest.
Aside from my personal Wi-fi issues (which, however, I imagine quite a few people share), internet access is hardly universal worldwide. I recently read in a news item that an incredibly small percentage of Czechs have internet access at home. This is in an industrialized, modern country where internet resources are pretty good and political parties campaign on a free neighborhood Wi-fi platform. A growing number of Czech students do have laptops, but they don't seem to have internet at home, judging by the number of people who ask me in cafes if I've managed to connect to Wi-fi there because they can't seem to connect. (My response is that I haven't even tried to connect since I have internet at home.)
Well, it will be interesting to see what happens with Zotero, which is still pretty much in development.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Down the Steps and Under the Lemons

I have been meaning to post some of the numerous photos of Orion and Ms. Spots, but of course this means choosing amongst them.
In the meantime, my mother has sent word that Orion has gotten over his hesitation about going down the back steps and now spends considerable amounts of time under the lemon tree in the back yard.
I feel rather deprived at not getting to watch his general domestication and relationship with Ms. Spots. Orion was a stray before being taken to a shelter and ending up at the House Rabbit Society, and while he is not afraid of humans or especially unaccustomed to them, he doesn't fully trust the two-legged species. He seems to regard us as creatures that can provide pleasant experiences, like treats and petting, but who are unpredictable.
He does like to be petted, however. Even before I left California, that was clear, as was the fact that he had taken a liking to my father and wanted more attention from him. I gather that he has now learned to gaze at my mother until she feels compelled to go pet him. This seems like a generally positive development. He's a very likable rabbit, and, of course, anyone who loves Calypso Spots must be an excellent creature!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bookshelves of Note

Blogger does a feature called Blogs of Note, which highlights blogs its staff has taken a shine to. In a somewhat similar spirit, I offer up photos of impressive bookshelves I visited over the summer.
I was inspired to begin when John attempted to organize the books he had brought back from New York.

Kristen's bookshelves also struck me as meriting a place. These are mostly Slavic-related.

So, too, the bookshelves of my sibling.

And, although not photographed with the idea of recording bookshelves (the major bookshelves in the house are elsewhere), here we have Orion and Ms. Spots guarding a small bookcase that has been well rabbit-proofed.

Of course, there are plenty more books and bookshelves where all these came from!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hair, 1936

Since I have nothing brilliant to say at the moment, how about some hair from 1936?
Perhaps aspiring Superstar contenders could find inspiration here. (Or not.)

Or they could have fun with this quiz:
You Are 29% Vain

Okay, so you're slightly vain from time to time, but you're not superficial at all.
You are realistic. You know that looks matter. You just try to make them matter less.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Back to the Library, while Česko Hledá Superstar

I have finally returned to the library, where, as my old card had expired at the end of June and was in tatters, I finally got to have one of those spiffy new plastic cards with the photo ID. It was pretty exciting. I immediately ordered a stack of periodicals, and within a couple of hours I was in the midst of Čin and Levá fronta. Around 8pm I wandered home and discovered that Hubert has finally written something on his blog. If you want to see a composer's obsessed view of the TV show Česko Hledá Superstar (based on an American show called American Idol, I gather), here it is: Martinů and Fried Cheese" Review of Česko Hledá Superstar. The main thing I know about this program is that my friend Zuzana has been known to design costumes for it. We'll keep her opinion of it confidential. Mainly I'm worried that Hubert will persuade me to watch the thing as language practice.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sad News from Santa Cruz

I don't read all that many blogs, and most of those I do read, I read sporadically. When I have time or feel in a blog-reading mood, I catch up on a few.
That was what I was doing this evening after a day of grant- and fiction-writing. I thought I'd see what mischief and political-sexual hellraising Susie Bright had been up to lately.
I always like to check in with Susie's blog. For one thing, she's always interesting and provocative. For another thing, we have a lot in common, including that we went to UCSC at the same time, we know some of the same people, and our mothers even came from the same area. (Granted, my life has been somewhat quieter, but that's beside the point.)
Consequently, when I read down the page and found out that Susie's father, the linguist Bill Bright, has been diagnosed with a remarkably lethal form of brain cancer, I felt a peculiarly intense distress despite not knowing either of them personally.
Send good thoughts in their direction.