Down to Modrany

We took a little bike ride today.  Well, about 30 km all told.  Helena and I were totally wacked by the end of it, but Isabel was just fine.
We took the path that starts from our house to the river and then left, south, toward the center.  Mostly just because we haven’t been that way for a while.  We had to dismount the bikes and walk a couple of times, we kept running into large groups of people mingling amongst food stands, sipping wine and eating all sorts of concoctions.  This should have been expected, in Spring, in Prague, on a lovely warm day after a couple weeks of shit.
We stopped for a snack after we got clear of all that, like down around Modrany or nearly, and I thought the ice cream looked delicious so we all had one.  H and I thought it was pretty good, I was disappointed because it wasn’t actually ice cream, it was a frozen fruit swirly, but it was refreshing.
Then we pedaled on a little further to take a ferry across and ride back on the Lesser Side as they call it in Czech.   Here we saw some sheep and then a swan swimming with 6 or 7 little downy gray babies, and we all stopped and some much more competitive type biker nearly hit me and shouted rather angrily, I guess I was dawdling in the middle of the path.  My bad.
Then we got to a point where the path went no further but, voila, there was another ferry crossing but this one not only crossed the river, it dropped us significantly north of where we’d boarded, so that shortened our trip a bit, which we were starting to be quite desirous of.

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The Irony of Tourism

I saw a very funny photo on Facebook today.  There was a big, ugly bit of graffiti on an old stone wall that said “Tourists Go Home.”  And the lady posing by the sign was obviously a tourist.
What makes someone obviously a tourist?  I can’t quite put my finger on it, because often tourists are like psychopathic mass murderers – they like just like everybody else.  And I’m not one to say “I don’t know, but I know one when I see one,” because that would probably be an exaggeration of my observational skills.  I’m just saying it was pretty clear that’s what this picture was about.  So, it was ironic.  And that makes it funny.

I’ve lived in Prague for 20 years, but I’m still a tourist in many ways. I frequently find myself in neighborhoods I’ve never been in before, and I speak English most of the time.  But I’m very happy being a tourist, a stranger in a strange land, so to speak.

Prague draws the people of the world like moths to its flame. The beer, the clubs, the old buildings, the statues, the parks, the bridges. It is a treasure appreciated by the entire human race.
Of course, some Czechs feel their capital city has been co-opted, and they resent tourism.   I’m not terribly sympathetic.  Prague is one of the great tourist cities of the world, and if you live here that’s just a fact of life.  It would be like living in Los Angeles if you hated the film industry and Mexican food.

 

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Speaking to the Crowd

Of course we all live in information bubbles.  To a certain extent this has always been true because it’s human nature to hear what we want to hear, and to listen to the people we associate with the most.  Social media has made it more so, to be certain.
My bubble is the Bernie/Tulsi bubble, but I also make forays into the poetry and literature bubble, the Americans abroad bubble, the music lovers bubble, the fantasy and science fiction bubble (rooting for Arya, here), and others.
But, this blog is about the Bernie bubble.  That big, brilliant, glowing Bernie bubble.  I was just watching a little video, a home made video, of his speech to the overflow crowd before a speech in North Carolina.  This is not a new thing.  As many have pointed out, it’s always the same speech, as far as content, and it’s very standard of him to make a speech to the overflow crowd.  I never get tired of listening to it, amazingly.
It’s also great politics.  It is a constant reminder that, unlike his opponents, he always has an overflow crowd, which means he always fills the designated venue.  Whatever the size.
It gives him the chance to give two speeches instead of one.  Since so much time on the campaign trail is taken up in travel from one location to the next as they criss-cross the country, this is an act of practical economy.
The optics are great.  In this case, his podium was a couple of cinder blocks.  The crowd was standing among the parked cars.  It was a lovely day in North Carolina and the trees were green.
And, every time one of these videos hits social media, it gets shared.  It gets shared by those people in the crowd who are standing in the front row, who want all of their families to see them at a political rally, engaged in politics, being a part of history.  It is a video people will show their grandchildren, but the impact in the present is tremendous.
It’s not just Bernie speaking to the people.  It is the people who are speaking to the people, who are speaking to the people, who are speaking to the people.
And they are saying “We can win this.  We can make the world a better place.  Come.  Join us.  Feel the Bern.”
Sure, I’m living in an information bubble.  But it is a large, growing, glowing, beautiful bubble.  May it encompass the whole world.

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Science, History and Linguistics

As a wannabe writer and long term teacher of English, of course I am interested in language.  I have always been interested in history, since elementary school.  And, of course, science is fascinating.  Watching old episodes of DS9 at the moment.  Of course, that’s science fiction, but fans of science fiction are almost invariably fans of science fact as well.
So, when the science of linguistics creates revelations about the past, I perk right up.  Which brings us to the news that the Vojnich manuscript has been decoded.  Of course, this will be disputed and debated and it may be a while before it’s confirmed or disproved, but the decoder seems to make a credible case.  He claims that it’s a proto-romance language, i.e. the descendant of Latin which was the precursor to French, Spanish, Italian and a few other, less widely spoken languages.
Which is really interesting, since nobody knew such a language existed.  I suppose, on the other hand, that is cause for skepticism.  Still, if the whole thing holds together, if words and phrases repeat and make sense, then the English academic who did this translation has discovered a language which was lost to history, and that’s an amazing thing.
Also, it would blow my pet theory out of the water, which is that some illiterate person, who had seen letters but didn’t understand them, was just scrawling shit in a notebook.
So, I will be following this story with great interest.  Let the truth be known, let the chips fall where they may.

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Biden’s “Gaffes”

They say Joe Biden makes a lot of ‘gaffes.’  Once upon a time, back in the days of innocence, I used to think “Well, old Joe is a garrulous guy, it’s only natural that he should occasionally say the wrong thing, that doesn’t make him a bad guy.”
That was before 2016, before the curtain was drawn back, before the full corruption of the Democratic party became plain for all to see.  That was before Bernie Sanders.  Now, of course,  I see that they are not gaffes, they never were gaffes.  He truly does have some hideous positions, and occasionally he talks about them.  He really did support the Iraq War, and the Patriot Act, and he really did work to get a lot of people incarcerated, and he really is against the legalization of marijuana, and he really did brush  Anita Hill off and get Clarence Thomas confirmed to the Supreme Court, and he really meant it when he said (recently) that he loved taking those sweet, sweet, lobbyist payments, and he really did mean it when he said (this is also recent) that we should find the ‘middle ground’ on climate change.  I don’t know exactly what he meant by that.  Is it that we should only half destroy the planet, or that we should only destroy half of the planet?
I saw a video today with congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, who made a real good point.  She didn’t specifically say Biden, she just said she didn’t understand those people who said the Green New Deal is ‘just too much.’  I’m paraphrasing now, but this was the gist of her point:  If we were to put solar panels on the roof of every home in America, it would not be too much.  If we were to have windmills stretched out in a line all the way from Oklahoma up to through North Dakota to the Canadian border, it would not be too much.  If we were to recycle every piece of plastic, every shard of glass, every shred of paper and every tin can it would not be too much.  If we were to plant a billion new trees, it would not be too much.  Even a trillion.  Even a hundred trillion.  If we were to have high speed trains running from Seattle to Miami and New York to L.A., it would not be too much.  If we were to plant organic, urban gardens in every poor neighborhood, and on the grounds of every high school in America it would not be too much.  You cannot have air and water that is too clean, food that is too fresh, soil that is too free of contaminants.
So, Joe Biden saying we should find ‘middle ground’ on climate change is not a gaffe.  He totally meant it.  It is just absolutely, completely and totally wrong.

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22

There are now 22 Democratic candidates for governor.  This is generally viewed, in Bernie circles, as a strategy on the part of the DNC to make sure Bernie does not get 51% of the delegates on the first ballot, which will mean that the superdelegates kick in and the DNC can then nominate any piece of shit corporate tool they want, probably Biden or Harris.  Maybe Warren.
I suspect that’s at least partly true.  Also, though, each of these 22 candidates has their own agenda and even the most pragmatic among may secretly harbor a fantasy that they’re actually going to be the next president of the United States.  Even Marianne Williamson.  It’s possible that, with no pre-ordained candidate like Hillary Clinton, everybody is rushing in, like planets being sucked into a black hole.
But, for the purpose of tonight’s blog, I’m going with theory #1.  They’re trying to keep Bernie below 51%  I don’t think it will work.  First, there will be the debates.  Sure, 22 candidates will mean each one gets less time to speak, but Bernie’s message is already out there.  Then, there are the questions.  Whether they ask about an increase in the minimum wage, or the Green New Deal, or free college, or ending private prisons, or taxing the rich, or legalizing marijuana, every candidate is going to be evaluated on how close they are to Bernie’s positions, and if they’re not close enough, they’re going to lose votes.  So, the debates are going to be an endorsement of Bernie.  The policies he’s been talking about forever are now what America is talking about.
I’m just guessing, but my prediction is that after the debates, the number of candidates will be significantly fewer.  If candidate like Steve Bullock, John Delaney and Julian Castro haven’t gained any traction by that point, they’re probably going to drop out.
Unfortunately, much as I love her, I imagine Tulsi Gabbard will be out by that time, too.  She is essentially a younger version of Sanders, with an even more progressive foreign policy platform, but her campaign has been drowned by the Sanders wave.
I imagine there will still be about a dozen by the time of the Iowa precinct caucuses.  That’s a crucial test, and anybody who comes out of Iowa with only 1 or 2 per cent of the delegates is likely to drop out.  So, we’ll be down to 5 or 6 and the race will be on.
I do think Sanders will go into the convention with over 51% of the delegates.  That’s my prediction.

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Designated Survivor

This is my latest binge program on Netflix, and I kind of hate myself for it because it’s such propaganda, but it’s exciting, fast paced, well written and well acted.  So, a couple of comments.
The setup is that a terrorist attack destroys the Capitol building during the State of the Union address, killing the president and almost all of congress and the cabinet.  So, Kiefer Sutherland, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who had been named the ‘Designated Survivor’ and was holed up in a hotel room, suddenly becomes the president.
The thing about all movies with American presidents, they are all totally dedicated people who try to do the right thing.  It’s Mr. Smith goes to Washington, every damn one.  What strikes with this program is that the idea of an honest person becoming president has become so unrealistic, so unbelievable, that it’s only by a magical hypothetical that it could happen.  That’s a bit sad, but not entirely untrue.
On the casting.  Kal Penn as Press Secretary is kind of brilliant, because he did work in the Obama White House, so it lends a bit of authority to the whole production.  I always wondered why he got sacked, though (because who would leave a gig like that voluntarily) and also why they wrote him out of House so thoroughly and vindictively.  Seriously, that was a low point for House.  House never did get to the bottom of it.  Totally out of character.
One that really surprised me was Rob Morrow turning up as an old, alcoholic journalist.  The thing is, after a brilliant run as Fleischer in Northern Exposure, I lost track of him for a while and then he was working on that totally pukeworthy series Numb3rs, where he was a hot shot detective whose brother was a math genius and they solved lots of crimes using statistical analysis and various other math tricks.  Hated that show, and pretty much everybody in it, Morrow especially.  Just sort of an arrogant vibe.
So, seeing him a few years older, with a bit of extra weight, and playing somebody a bit more rumpled and a bit more ethically compromised, is interesting.
I give it 3 and a half stars, 4 if you like that kind of thing.

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