Wednesday, February 28, 2007

V + W and Ježek

In the wake of the Ježek exhibition, it seems time to show my photos of the graves of Voskovec, Werich, and Ježek, which can all be found at Olšanska. Admittedly, they don't look like this in February.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jaroslav Ježek

The Jaroslav Ježek exhibition at the Music Museum has ended, and I was just able to get myself there on Sunday (I always mean to get to museums on Sundays, but it happens rather seldom).
I had been looking forward to the Ježek exhibition ever since November or so--well, whenever I became aware of its existence. I'm very fond of Ježek, whose recordings all seemed to go out of print just before I became aware of his work. One summer I spent a good deal of time going into various purveyors of CDs and inquiring (the first few times) where they kept their Ježek CDs and (subsequently) whether by any chance they had any at all. Since Ježek is a national favorite, it seemed bizarre that one could not acquire CDs of his music, even if he is not quite as known to foreigners as Smetana, Dvořák, Janáček, or even Martinů. Anyhow, eventually I did come up with a compilation CD that included one of his more classical works, and I have acquired almost the full set of Voskovec and Werich CDs, which include many of the pieces he wrote for the Liberated Theater.
When I met Jesse, I discovered that he was also a devotée of Ježek, so we made a pilgrimage to the Ježek museum, which is only open Tuesday afternoons. While perhaps not the most exciting museum in the world, we quite enjoyed seeing where the composer used to live and looking at his bookshelves.
I had high hopes, then, for the Ježek exhibition, especially since its being up for five months must mean that it was expected to bring in a lot of traffic.
Or maybe the Národní muzeum's music branch just doesn't expect droves of people for anything and isn't going to have more than two or three exhibitions a year. It is a nice museum in many ways, fairly newly opened, and when Jesse and I checked out the general collection, we were pleased with the numerous opportunities to listen to examples of different instruments and types of music through headphones, although I thought that the museum could have supplied places to sit while listening to all these examples.
All the same, the museum tends to be strangely visual for a newly designed music museum. This was particularly noticeable at the Ježek show. Apart from a two-hour film (Tři Stražnice) that was mainly about Voskovec and Werich, I didn't encounter any musical examples of Ježek's work. There were lots of interesting displays of certificates, photos, identity cards, postcards, and sheet music covers, but although these were pleasant to look at and even included English translations for the wall text, if one didn't already know what kind of music Ježek wrote, it seemed that one was not likely to get any clear idea of it here beyond that much of it was in a popular idiom.
It's true that this may have been affected by the fact that on Sunday afternoon the museum held a concert of music by Ježek and Šlitr, so things may have been a little abnormal in the exhibition itself. Basically, I watched the film for two hours, then the concert began and I listened to that, after which there was no music.
The concert, I must say, was rather disappointing. This was not the fault of the performers, who did a good job and were extremely well received by the audience. However, the sound quality was very poor. I was unsure whether this was due to the acoustics of the building (a former palace, it has a lot of marble and plaster and doesn't seem likely to be acoustically ideal) or whether the group simply didn't need microphones. The general effect was as that of a piano played with the damper pedal eternally depressed, except that a damper pedal only affects the piano it is attached to, not an entire ensemble with two vocalists. The lively type of music chosen by the group would have benefitted most from great clarity and no echoes.
I must admit, furthermore, that there seemed to be very little Ježek on the program. If there were more than two or three Ježek numbers in the mix, they were well camouflaged by a more Šlítr-like style. And, while I recognize that Jiří Šlitr is one of the most beloved popular Czech songwriters of the past fifty years, I can't say that I am that fond of his style. This is nothing personal, I just don't tend to like post-1950 jazz, cabaret, and show tunes. The only mid-twentieth century music I can really take for long is rock in its various forms (although from time to time--for example on road trips when all I can get is an Oldies station--I find bouncy pop songs, especially those with particularly inane lyrics, amusing).
Anyhow, following the concert, everyone returned to looking at the Ježek displays, which made me sorry I hadn't looked at them more carefully when no one else was there blocking the view. I considered returning the next day to get a better look, but concluded that I had really pretty much seen everything and that the same general information is available to me within the purview of my research on Toyen.
The museum, I think, could really stand to beef up its merchandise section. While some museums really go too far in the direction of becoming sellers of miscellaneous over-priced consumer goods that sometimes have only a peripheral connection to the museum itself, the offerings here are really minimal. During the film, someone asked the guard whether it was possible to buy a copy of it. She had no idea, and I saw no sign of any films for sale. The film was really good, and I too would have been interested in getting a copy. This would also have been a perfect opportunity to offer a nice selection of CDs of Ježek's compositions of both the jazz and classical varieties. However, the items for sale are few and you have to ask to look at them, which inhibits all but the most serious potential buyers.
Oh well. I hope that the exhibition was well-attended during its run, but despite the English wall text, I would be surprised if it got any foreign visitors hooked on Ježek.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Lodičky, or Calling All Shoe Experts

There is a section in Jaroslav Seifert's memoirs in which he describes his early encounters with Toyen. First, he'd see an intriguing figure in rough work clothes going by on the street--apparently she was working in a soap factory. Toyen next appeared in his life when she came to join the Devětsil group. At this juncture she was rather fashionably dressed, wearing a type of shoe known as lodičky ("little boats").

Štěpanka has enlightened me that the term lodičky refers to shoes without straps or buckles, which one just slips on and which are... sort of boat-shaped. They may or may not have high heels; the important factor is that most of the top of one's foot is exposed.
I've certainly owned shoes of this type, but I have no idea at all whether they have a name in English. Any ideas how to translate this?

And then, there are also střevičky, which I haven't yet figured out, but which led me to this interesting site for reproductions of historical footgear and saddlery! Click on Shoe and you'll find a vast selection of gothic, Renaissance, and baroque shoes. I am very tempted, but this doesn't translate lodičky or střevičky for me...


Sunday, February 25, 2007

De Libertas Quirkas

Siri, who confesses to reading this blog, has a pleasing French-language blog called De Libertas Quirkas. Topics are diverse and international. Take a look!


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Czech Periodicals Digitized

I realize that some of my readers are waiting patiently for photos of Tirolian mountains and an account of everything inept I might have done skiing, but I have been lethargic since my return. The thought occurs to me that perhaps I have got mono, chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, or of course cancer.
But, of course, while there are times when sitting up does seem fairly exhausting in itself, this has not kept me from working diligently on my dissertation, since in a certain twisted sense this does not require much mental effort (I am used to doing it).
I did manage to summon the energy to meet Shawn for tea yesterday. He tells me that the PNP has a trove of E.F. Burian materials, which while not directly useful to me seems like the kind of thing I might want to dig into some years down the road. More immediately to the point, he has discovered that the Institute for Czech Literature, in its bibliographic wisdom, has been digitizing some of the publications we use and that these are available on the Web! Why were we wasting all that time photographing periodicals?
This afternoon (having failed to find any of this using Google), I got the URLs from Shawn and took a look.
The list is pretty impressive. I poked around a bit and found that while this will be a wonderful resource, actually there is not all that much duplication of my photographic efforts. It's true that I did photograph the first volume of Levá fronta and so did they, but otherwise there is not all that much overlap. I had not yet found a copy of the first volume of Pásmo, but they have put it nicely online for me to use. They have also done those useful publications Rozpravy Aventina and Literární noviny! It's true I have photographed many bits of Rozpravy Aventina, but I am looking forward to having the whole thing conveniently available to me. My only complaint at the moment is that I cannot understand what prompted them to do the digitization in black and white. Part of the fun of looking at the originals is seeing what color paper was used for different issues, or what color ink, and that sort of thing. The covers Adolf Hoffmeister did for Rozpravy Aventina, for instance, tended to be done in color.
I had been hoping that sooner or later the Czechs would do something akin to the Digital Dada Library and now, clearly, it is underway. The library of the Academy of Science is also digitizing Czech periodicals, but it appears that they are working on scholarly publications and that one has to access these from the library for copyright reasons. All the same, I see that Umění is on their list of planned digitizations...

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Complaints Choirs of the World

Not so long ago, Dirk sent me a link to a video of the Helsinki Complaints Choir. It was pretty funny (for those of us who don't know Finnish, there were subtitles).
The concept of the Complaints Choir is apparently taking off worldwide and now the various choirs have their own website, where you can see videos of their performances. I gather that the performers come up with a long list of things that annoy them (some very local, as in the case of the Hamburgers) and then these are put to music.
As I know that members of my department have many complaints about dissertations, their mates, their lack of mates, the price of coffee, students who don't come to class until the test, the number of books allowed on library carrels, and the cleanliness of the TA office refrigerators, they will be heartened to know that a Complaints Choir has formed in Pittsburgh which is looking for additional members!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Scholarly Dining?

Some people might disagree about this, but it seems to me that while the Czech Republic does have a certain regard for tradition, it also likes lightning-fast change.
How long was I away from the Národní knihovna? Surely not more than a week, between being sick, the ski trip, and recovering from same. And what did I find when I returned? Lo, they have not only taken the card catalogues out of the hallway leading to the bathroom and installed new light fixtures (which are more attractive but make the hall needlessly bright), but they have converted the former Scholars' Reading Room into a cafeteria!
Now, I grant that the transformation into a cafeteria did not take place entirely in one week's time. The reading room was closed some time back. But last time I glanced in before leaving town, there was no indication that it was turning into a cafeteria or that it would be in use within the foreseeable future. All I could tell was that the furniture had been removed and some degree of renovation was in progress. And I do walk by that door at least twice a day when at the library.
The cafeteria looked appealing, so I decided to give it a try for lunch. Would it be better than the bistro by the main entrance (which smelled overpoweringly of hot grease two weeks ago and may or may not still be there)? Would it be better than the café at the Městská knihovna, where I usually go for lunch?
The entrée advertised on the door was gone by the time I asked for it, so I resorted to fried cheese instead. While the fried cheese was not actually hot, nor were the accompanying potatoes, it tasted all right. It is my suspicion that the bistro by the door has merely moved inwards to a more appealing setting which it will shortly fill with the smell of heavy grease. So long as it doesn't smell like grease, I will probably eat there rather often, but let's just say that the café at the Městská knihovna normally has more than one or two entrées plus a selection of chlebičky, baguettes, pastries, and palačinky, and I am used to their staff.
On the other hand, I am glad that the library has not gone in for too much gentrification. One of my main lunch haunts of last year, which had a good selection of simple, satisfactory dishes eaten by students and other ordinary people, transmogrified over the summer into what appears to be just another downtown tourist trap. It was always busy last year, but when I stuck my head in the door in September, it was absolutely devoid of customers.
The library seems to be remaining silent about its upgraded eatery. I see no reference whatsoever to it on their web site, and certainly no photos. But then, they don't seem to like to publicize all the renovations that are occurring in the Klementinum. Perhaps they are afraid this will bring too many people into the reading rooms, and that even more of them will have laptops and want to use the wi-fi.


Monday, February 19, 2007

A Word From Our Sponsor

Well, no, actually this blog has no sponsor, but it has come to my attention that you can now not only buy Archelaus cards at Pulp in Washington DC (note that while the Pulp on the Hill store closed on Wednesday, a store in Provincetown, MA called P-Town Pulp will open this spring and also feature the cards), but at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and at an unnamed location in Chicago. They will be available at Downs Engravers and Stationers near the Farragut North metro station (DC) sometime in May.
Of course, you can also get them at the Eastern Market flea market in DC most Sundays, or for those not in any of these areas, order via the Archelaus website!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Back from Austria

I returned safely from the Austrian ski extravaganza at about 1am last night (I was able to catch the last #14 tram across the river by running after it, and then got the trusty #52 night tram the rest of the way). However, I don't think I am yet able to stare at the screen long enough to say much more about it.
Instead, I offer some entertaining tidbits:
Dirk has sent word of a Czech modernist film festival in Chicago. Find out more here!
Jesse, knowing that I would like to be well informed about these things, has located an article about sex shops in Budapest.
Another item that shouldn't be missed is this photo of the standard Slovenian physique as depicted in art deco bas relief. I must say I am relieved that the person of Slovenian descent in my life does not look at all like this and apparently resembles some other part of his ancestry. The excessive musculature could be tolerated if need be, but it would be pretty alarming to dine out in the company of a face like that, let alone what it would be like to have it glaring at you first thing in the morning.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kristen and Travis Do Valentine's Day

While I won't be engaged in any Valentine-like activities on the holiday (though this year's Fulbright group will be having a party), I see that Kristen and our friend Travis have gone all out on the baking and decor.
For an example of what art history students get up to when avoiding dissertations, this must be seen.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How Do You Pay For That?

Over the past few days I have been subject to an unidentified (though not, I trust, serious) ailment that makes it much more agreeable to read in English than in foreign languages, to drink herb tea rather than coffee, and to recline on a padded surface than to sit on a wooden chair.
Whatever it is, it has not been so severe as to force me to stay home the whole time. In fact, I had to venture out in order to pay my share of the ski trip that Štěpanka and I are about to take.
In general, my experience of ski trips is as follows: I set the alarm for about 5:30 and try to be in the car within 45 minutes. If the ski location is less than 4-5 hours away, I get up at a more normal hour. Once I arrive, I buy a lift ticket and rent my equipment.
I grant that that's not exactly how Jesse and I went skiing last winter, but if we had had a car it would have been similar. The aspects that were new to me had little to do with the planning or how we got there.
There are, however, other ways of going skiing.
Since both Štěpanka and I are fond of skiing, and I suppose Michael is as well (insofar as a fifteen-year-old might be), we had spoken for a long time about eventually going. I envisioned something in the Krkenoš, since it is not so far away, but I was open to other possibilities.
Štěpanka, however, has a low opinion of Czech ski facilities, and if she is thinking of the lift equipment, I entirely agree. She came up with a package trip to Austria.
It has been many years since I was in Austria, and I have no doubt that the ski conditions are more alpine than they are here. While I tend to avoid any kind of tour or package, I decided it could at least be tried. I suspect it is somewhat more expensive than going individually, but I am certain skiing is more expensive in Austria than in the Czech Republic, and perhaps the lodgings will be more elegant than those I normally find (I hear there is a pool, which seems very extravagant).
But we had to get all sorts of details about me to the travel agent--for the border crossing, I assume, since Jesse had to provide details about me when he bought our bus tickets to Budapest. And somehow I had to pay for this.
I imagined, in my ignorance, that I would just pay Štěpanka for my share, and she could pay the travel agent. But that's not how these things are done. Czechs do nothing in cash if they can avoid it. Nor, as far as I can tell, do they often use checks or credit cards. At the restaurant and the grocery store, one sees them paying not with money but with mysterious coupons. One does pay the phone bill in cash, but by taking the bill to the post office and paying the bill plus a fee to the post office. (I have no idea why this is considered better than mailing a check, but I have gotten used to it.)
The ski trip payment, then, had to be done at a bank. I was to go to either KB or ČSOB and present them with some code numbers and my cash, and to be sure to bring my receipt on the trip.
I have never in my life paid for anything in this manner.
First I had to locate one of these banks rather than merely one of their machines, which are more common. Fortunately, while I suppose I could have handled the entire thing in Czech, the information clerk spoke some English, so this put us on a more level ground. (I dislike transacting complex things, or at least things I don't at all understand and might make some terrible error with, entirely in another language.) I explained that my friend had booked a trip and that I needed to pay my share via the bank.
The clerk came round to a little machine and pressed several buttons until it spat out a numbered ticket. I was to go to cashier 18 or 19.
The cashiers were not just behind a counter and some glass, they are sequestered in booths. At some point your number appears on a screen and you are allowed access to the correct booth. Even in the booth, the cashier is behind a lot of heavy-duty stuff. One wonders how many hold-ups have ever occurred in Prague banks.
The cashier proceeded to type all the codes into her computer, I paid her, and she gave me a receipt. I managed to lose my hat on the way out, but I hope I still have the receipt in my wallet.
Later this afternoon I will make my way out to Štěpanka's cottage. At some hideous hour of the morning, we will arise and go to Plzeň to catch a 4am bus.
I do not really expect to sleep on the bus tomorrow morning. Chances are better that I will manage to sleep on the bus tonight.
The skiing had better be excellent.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Food and the Academic Life

Fortunately, we managed to complete our conference panel. By July or August, we should be finding out whether it has been accepted. Of course, by July or August we may all have expired, or forgotten about the whole thing.
Once I had gotten the submission uploaded, and finished investigating a book on Roman Jakobson (it does not seem to be possible to read about Jakobson's theories on aesthetics without wading through a lot of highly technical linguistics material, which is tiring for those of us whose interest in linguistics is not supported by any actual coursework), I concluded that all I wanted was a hot meal and bed rest.
My preferred hot meal would have been a buckwheat-and-egg recipe Jesse taught me, but apparently there is a shortage of buckwheat in the Czech Republic this week. The local market was out of it on Monday night and last night it was not to be found at Tesco either.
I must say that despite the switch to capitalism here having taken place quite some time ago, Czech stores do not seem to operate with any kind of real plan regarding their stock. There is always a lot of merchandise to be had these days, but the mere fact that the store had an item you wanted last week is no guarantee it will ever stock it again. One needs to practice, as in the days of yore, a hoarding strategy for long-lasting goods like buckwheat and boxed tortellini, which are on the shelves just often enough that you expect they will always be there. (I ended up making a sandwich and falling into bed at an absurdly early hour.)
Anyhow, I am relieved to have finished assembling the panel, but will now have to turn my attention to inventing a proposal for a conference on Central/Eastern European modernism. This has been hanging over me for a few months now, as clearly I ought to submit a proposal, but I am drawing a blank as to the precise topic. For awhile my conference papers were a bit thin on dissertation-related material; now they are heavy on Toyen so I am branching out to topics that are still dissertation-related but more loosely so.
Unfortunately, at this stage of the game I need to beef up my publications, since so few of them are recent or remotely related to art history or my dissertation. I do not look forward to this--not because it would be so hard to write the articles, but because scholarly articles, like fiction, are submitted as completed works rather than as proposals (one generally writes fiction because one can't not write it, but one writes scholarly articles solely in the hope of publication). Worse, each scholarly journal tends to have its own special style for citations and other things, which one's bibliographic software may or may not offer a template for. And, worst of all, in art history one generally has to provide images and pay the permissions fees to use them. The thought of trying to find the rights-holders for one's images, never mind spending what could be a few hundred dollars on the permissions, makes one feel very much like crawling back into bed.
That said, here is my version of Jesse's buckwheat recipe:
Sautee an onion and some garlic in a flattish pan
Add mushrooms
Pour a quantity of buckwheat into the pan (it will enlarge somewhat but not vastly while cooking). In the Czech Republic, add plenty of water and half a chicken bouillon cube. In the US, add a can of broth and some additional water.
Stir from time to time.
Once the buckwheat is cooked (chewable) and there is no more liquid in the pan, crack an egg into the mixture and stir thoroughly to coat the buckwheat.
Add pieces of several kinds of cheese. Swiss, parmesan, and blue cheese tend to be good. It is preferable to have at least three types of cheese in the mix, but the question is, what's in the refrigerator? There are many excellent Czech cheeses, but I have not seen most of them elsewhere.
Of course, one cannot go far wrong adding additional vegetables like peppers.
The result looks hideous, but everyone I have fed it to claims to like it.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Conference Frenzy

I rather thought that putting together one proposal for a conference panel this year would be enough to suit me, but evidently there is no rest for the wicked. Namely, it dawned on me that I could write a paper suitable for Big Conference X, which is so big that it puts out the call for papers a year and a half in advance (well, probably more than that, but the deadline is about that far in advance). Big Conference X is, roughly speaking, a history conference, and while I do know a fair number of historians, I did not see much likelihood of rounding up a crew suitable to the topic. I figured that I would have to take my chances and submit as a lowly individual paper.
I have, however, recently subscribed to a long list of academic listservs, which is in fact how I heard about said conference. As the deadline approached, I noted that people were posting descriptions of their papers and inquiring whether anyone was putting together a panel that might match.
I proceeded to do the same. I soon received an e-mail from someone who had a related paper.
Very good, I thought, this increases chances that mine will make its way onto a panel, as it has at least one companion.
Two days before the deadline, I received an e-mail about another related paper. Three papers is enough for a panel, but this conference wants a chair and a discussant as well. Paper no. 3 struck me as something that would pique the interest of a professor of my acquaintance (as, I hoped, would our other two), so I contacted her. She was indeed interested in joining forces with us.
Wow, I thought... this is much easier than my last attempt to put together a panel, where I started more than a month before the deadline. That one, however, had to be put together over the holidays, plus the online proposal mechanism was (dare I say it) rather primitive.
The past two days, then, have been something of a whirlwind of emails and adding to the online proposal form. But, of course, life could not be too simple. A look at the conference's last program indicates that every panel has to have separate chair and discussant. I have no idea why, as to me this seems like overkill. Art history panels are not generally done this way. But then, art history panels are generally not done at all like this; as a rule ideas for panels are proposed and then the general art-historical public has the opportunity to send paper proposals to whoever is organizing the panel of their dreams. The most exciting papers are chosen. At the conference, the chair/moderator introduces the panelists and then later asks the audience for questions. That's what I'm used to, just as I'm used to crafting a carefully argued and timed paper (something which, I gather, is seen as stuffy in some disciplines).
Well, we have something like 32 hours in which to rope in our final participant and submit the proposal. It is, of course, less, because submitting online at the last minute is asking for trouble, and also because I do not plan to be awake to submit at what would be something like 6am here (if the midnight is Eastern Time, which I suppose I should check).
The academic life is always filled with unexpected drama, although admittedly of its own curious sort.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Sean Lennon at Lucerna

Last night Štěpanka, Michael, and I investigated the Sean Lennon concert at Lucerna, motivated more by the standard vulgar curiosity than any actual familiarity with his music. (Actually, when Štěpanka first proposed the idea, I temporarily confused Sean with his half-brother Julian, whose early recordings I had at least heard.)
The house was pretty full, and we certainly didn't get to sit down. The opening act was a fairly strange but intriguing band, apparently French although we weren't sure what language they sang in. While this band seemed unlikely to be at all like Lennon (and it was not), the crowd seemed genuinely interested in hearing what they had to offer, which was a positive contrast to the time I saw the then-unknown Gin Blossoms open for the Neville Brothers. The pairing of the Gin Blossoms (who did have a few determined fans in the audience) with the Neville Brothers was one of those sadistic exercises beloved of booking agents who like to make the main act look good by finding an opening act that is either terrible or completely unlikely to appeal to the main act's fans. I recall thinking that, while I didn't especially care for them and they were clearly disgusted with the audience apathy, the Gin Blossoms had something. And indeed, not long thereafter, they had a hit song.
But I digress.
It must be remarked that, while it has no bearing on his music, Sean Lennon looks very much like both his parents. This means that he doesn't look all that much like either one individually, but each seems to have contributed equally to his appearance. Otherwise, perhaps, he goes a little more in his father's direction with the Nehru-like jacket and the choice of unusual glasses.
We were glad to find that he sings and plays guitar quite well and that his songs are very listenable. I wouldn't say they are exactly something new and startling that will take the musical world in an unexpected direction, but then, I don't really require this. When someone really does do something startlingly different in the arts, I'm either gratified or extremely unappreciative; while I value originality, I am not that interested in newness for the sake of mere novelty. So I'm perfectly content to enjoy things that are well done within their niche. And, to be sure, I wouldn't even think about whether Sean Lennon might be expected to come up with something groundbreaking if his parents weren't known for doing the artistically unexpected.
Sean Lennon probably hates it when people say this sort of thing. I would if I were him.
But while I'm sure he has a lot to put up with, I liked his performance and see nothing particularly weird about his wanting to be a musician. Let's keep in mind that historically, it has been normal and expected for entire families to be musicians or artists. Some aspect of the talent seems to be genetic and the rest is encouraged by environment. Having come from a family of (mostly nonprofessional) artists and musicians myself, I say it's no surprise he's a musician and draws, as really, what else would one expect? And while I thought he could improve on his between-song banter, there's something very likable about him.
You can see what he's up to in general at his web site, where the evidence suggests that he is fond of rabbits and probably even lives with one. If I hadn't liked the show, I daresay I'd still have to like anyone who draws rabbits in so many lifelike poses. His model appears to be a smallish, possibly dwarf, rabbit with upright ears who is apparently not given to the kind of melted-rabbit postures favored by Ms. Spots these days. But I think this rabbit is younger than Ms. Spots and, like Orion, more alert and not yet given to massive Flopsy-Bunnydom.
I write this from the couch, which, although we were not up all that late last night, I have barely left all day. Every so often I need some sort of a mental/physical health day, and by about nine in the morning, it was clear to me that I was not going anywhere. Now that I have spent the day on the couch and had a lot of sleep and soup, as well as having read quite a bit of someone else's dissertation and the last part of a biography of S.J. Perelman, I suppose it is within the realm of possibility that I might manage to leave the building again tomorrow. But not necessarily. I daresay that what I really need is some time with the Spotted Pair, although what with the time difference they are probably in mid-nap right now.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

We Go "na film a nedělame nic"

Blogger has now informed me that any "old" blog I might have will be converted (as if it hadn't already done this) and that if I happened to have a Google ID, I could sign in. Once I did that, it offered me the opportunity to start a new blog. Fortunately, when at this point I went back to the blog itself by typing in its URL, it showed me as logged in. I don't know what makes Blogger think its new version is out of beta yet after all these months...
In any case, last night I went to the new Menzel film with Martina, an old friend. It was a pleasant enough movie, although I suspect both of us would have either enjoyed it more or liked it less had we read the original Hrabal novel first. We had also been hoping to go to a baroque-style version of a Moliere play that Martina had heard about on TV, but the TV didn't mention which theater and after much searching around she learned that it was sold out. She had been a bit concerned that the "old" French might be too much for me, but I doubt it would have been any worse than watching something Czech, and probably not as bad. Moliere is not exactly Old French, anyway. Old French is more the realm of Marie de France and Guillaume de Machaut, who sometimes cause me to resort to my Old French dictionary. But of course the said dictionary is packed in a box at the moment.
The main bar to my enjoyment of the film, I think, was the fact that I was actually much more in the mood to work on my dissertation. I had spent the afternoon wrestling with an unruly and chaotic chapter and was anxious to continue doing so. All through the movie, my mind kept returning to such topics as how I should deal with Caillois' article on Legendary Psychasthenia, whether the Frank Illing book on Mukařovský and the avant-garde would revolutionize my understanding of semiotics (which is not all that strong to start with), and how many of Toyen's works could be discussed in chapters other than the one in question so that they would not all appear in one indigestible clump. By the time I reached home, I was unclear whether I was more anxious to revise or sleep. Ultimately the latter won out.
So instead I spent most of today continuing the aforementioned wrestling match with said chapter. Huge amounts of text have now been moved around and small amounts have been written from scratch. It is much better, but no one would call it a real chapter.
It is, I am afraid, somewhat frustrating never to have all my sources in one spot. Anything I want to look up by Rosalind Krauss (that is not on JSTOR) will just have to wait a few months. The same for Bataille and Caillois. The Illing book, at least, is sitting at the library and so far I am very happy with his ability to write academic German that even I can follow. But so far I've only read the parts about the Czech avant-garde, which is pleasantly familiar ground.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Your Egyptian Horoscope?

I don't know whether the ancient Egyptians actually used horoscopes, but give it a try.


Sparkling personality, intense will, intelligent, understanding, impatient to exert influence.

Colors: male: red carmine, female: gold
Compatible Signs:
Bastet, Geb
Apr 20 - May 7, Aug 12 - Aug 19

Role: God of the pharaoh
Form of a falcon-headed man, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt

Sacred Animal: falcon

What is Your Egyptian Zodiac Sign?
Designed by CyberWarlock of Warlock's Quizzles and Quandaries

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Now that the blog has been reset to the "new" version for a couple of days, I can't say I am any more impressed than before. I mean, ok, it's nice that Blogger has implemented labels for posts, but I was already using Delicious tags and will continue to do so, as I don't see going back and labeling hundreds of posts.
No, not only is it really tedious to have to click several extra times every time I want to leave a comment (yes, of course I want all the items on the screen to display, what do you think, electronic moron?), but the identification of all the Blogger commenters of the past has turned to Anonymous. Suddenly, if we go back and look at old comments, there's no way of knowing whether Jesse, Alex, Kristen, or whoever left them. People who did genuine Anonymous-style comments and signed them remain identified, of course. This is not my idea of good web design. It is nice to know who left a comment and to be able to click on the ID to go to their blog, especially with people one doesn't know yet.
And now back to the library, where the librarians have been treating me exceptionally well.