September 2000  

September 30, 2000
It's official. Two of the largest dailies in the Czech Republic declared Al Gore the winner in his debate last week with George Bush. The reaction of Pravo was no surprise. Although the word means right in English, the paper is all left. Dnes is generally more in keeping with its English equivalent, today. It only reported on the debate a day and a half late because it aired at three in the morning over here. And the paper has other things to worry about these days. The police are hounding it, at the Prime Minister's urging, over the Olovo Affair, and it recently dropped to number two in circulation. Its account of the debate was based largely on polls from America, all of which indicated that Gore had won. Yes, that same guy made up to look like orange crush, who kept snickering like a child and telling all those pathetic stories. Poor little girl doesn't have a chair. Poor old woman has to collect cans so she can fill up her Winnebego. Where does he find these people? They are just the kind of stories that fill the pages of the new largest daily in the country, Blesk. As the name would suggest, Flash is a tabloid with a weakness for Clinton and Hollywood. I didn't catch its post-debate issue, but I can imagine it too went for Gore.

September 23, 2000
Another coincidence perhaps. Now that the anarchists have come and gone, the recriminations over their actions in Prague are setting in. Topping the list is President Havel, who beforehand considered some of the security preparations, like water canon, to be excessive force. He brokered a private meeting between representatives of the IMF/WB and the anarchists and came away looking like he was up for a Nobel Peace Prize. That hope was dashed the minute the police had to use the water canon to disperse the rioting in the streets. In the end, the police were praised for their response and Havel had to comfort himself with a flattering portrayal of his dissident days on a BBC special. One could see that last week's confrontation between demonstrators and police was nothing compared to the events of November 1989. For one thing, it was cold like hell back then. Havel and his friends in the Western media will be happy to tell you all about it, meanwhile the anarchists and IMF/WB have moved on. A final note concerns our old friend Miroslav Macek, one of the deputy chairmen of the Civic Democrats. When asked how the police should respond, he said they should simply shoot the bastards.

September 16, 2000
Even the anarchists are going the way of Czech chic. The spokeswoman for INPEG, the group preparing to take on the IMF/WB in Prague next week, is a comely little creature named Alice. She joins a long list of other spokeswomen who have taken over Czech politics and industry. Most of them look like her, which is to say, slim, young, and gorgeous. In a country where a beautiful woman is as common as a drunk in the local pub, it could all be coincidence. But this is also a country that sees nothing wrong with taking advantage of a pretty face. Here people are free to tell dumb blonde jokes at work without a lawsuit hanging over them, unlike in the Land of the Free. (Example: What should you do if a blonde throws a grenade at you? Answer: Pull the pin out and throw it back at her.) As for Alice, she's no blonde, but I have a problem with any anarchist who belongs to an organization. It just don't make no sense.

September 9, 2000
There's no surer sign that the Czech Republic has fallen on hard times than what's going on in the beer industry. Small breweries are closing up shop or being set on fire, as was the recent case with Prazsky Pivovar. The owners had wanted to renovate it, but couldn't get their plan through with the Buildings Preservation Office. Damage from the fire went beyond the scope of the renovation, so a demolition company was brought in to bring down the rest of the building. It should have been no problem in the land that supplied underground groups with Semtex, the explosive of choice during the 1970s. When the dust cleared, the brewery was gone...along with part of the building next door. Fortunately, no one got hurt and the demolition company has promised full compensation. Meanwhile, the two largest breweries are about to be merged under their one common owner, South African Breweries. Apparently, there are no hard feelings about ANC bombs during Apartheid, but the new owner is demanding layoffs. This coming on top of an end to that most cherished of perks: Free beer for employees. Times are hard indeed.

September 2, 2000
Because Lenin did it. That sounds like a good reason to climb a mountain, certainly better than George Mallory's because it's there. Lenin conquered the mountain, the highest in Poland, before going on to conquer Russia. Last year I attempted to climb it from the Slovak side, but had to turn around because of wet weather and bad shoes. Before setting out this year, some friends suggested we warm up on neighboring Mt. Krivan, the Olympus of Slovakia. At roughly 8,000 feet, it's about the same height as Lenin's Mt. Rysy, but looks more imposing. It certainly felt that way, especially in my knees going down. By morning, the right knee was pretty much finished, so Rysy was out for at least another year. But the worst part was having to take the elevator to get to my room on the second floor of the hotel where we were staying in the High Tatra mountains. Sometimes I would get on with all these old tourists and watch as they press buttons for the sixth, seventh, and eighth floors. And me? Young guy who just descended from Olympus? Number two, please. On top of that, the score still remains Vladimir 1, Darren 0.