Friday, September 28, 2007

Have now reached chapter 13

In the below?

I was wrong. First of all, I've worked out that it's not a book. It's a character spec and storyboard for an RPG.

Secondly, my comparison with Boney M was a terrible injustice to one of the most notable jangly-pop-reggae collectives of the last century. They rhymed better, and had fewer annoying hobbies.

Finally, in a last-ditch attempt to lift the cloud of vwamphyrric gloom that was yesterday's post, and in the interests of fairness, some points of sweetness and light.:
1.The words are generally spelled correctly.
2.None of the character's names or hair colours (apart from a certain vagueness about the eyes) have changed midstream. I am very clear on the details of their physique. Man, big. Lady, small. Got it.
3.Same for the horses. Except there aren't any yet (werelynx, yes. horses, no) which is probably a relief.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Once again, I have fallen for the Kyrse of the Vwampyr (mwhahaha)™. Alas, all down to Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which I finally got around to reading. Hooray! A book that lived up to the hype that I have been oh-so-studiously avoiding. For once, the Buffy comparison was not unwarranted. It filled me with yeasty confidence in the possibility of other interesting-yet-unlikely-sounding books from the sub-genre in question.

Oh how wrong I was.

How wrong.

How very very very wrong.

Dufdufdufdufdufduf. Duf.

Mr. Lestat and J-C, (famed artistic creations of the vwamphyrrically bonkers kind, somewhat long-in-the-tooth, but that's muses for you) have a hell of a lot to answer for. Oh those… Carpathians, to paraphrase Boney M.

In fact, this latest book (for want of a better word, I mean, there are pages and a cover and actual printed words and such) reads to me like a Boney M version of "The Funky History of Drakula with lots of Russky-type-boinking and guns", sometimes set in Romania. Only with Italian subtitles. Featuring a nubile chorus of Egyptian gods wearing sparkly eyeliner and a ghostly, well let's call it a "tambourine", although that would be the wrong shape.

The only problem with that comparison is that I don't think Boney M took themselves quite as seriously as this book (or its heroine) does. No campy fun for us in our flowing pantaloons, oh no.

Still, there is hope. I'm only on chapter 7 (pages are turning quite slowly) and it's entirely possible that the heroine may smack her head against a convenient low-hanging tree branch, get amnesia and forget all the info she must dump along the way. Not sure what to do about every other character's single-minded determination to adore and worship every single fibre of her being, though.

Inadequately-researched digression into Romanian taste in popular music.

It was the chorus of happy Romanian peasants singing Peter, Paul and Mary songs in the pub, accompanied by the heroine on the guitar that pushed me to my current underpants-on-the-head level of despair and befuddlement. Actually, I asked the Romanians in the other office how they felt about Peter, Paul and Mary, or possibly, Petru, Pawel and Maria songs. But apparently, they like Shakira better. Hips don't lie.

End digression.

Since I'm now adament that I will finish this bloody book, I can only hope that there may be a cunning twist in the tail. Perhaps the heroine will whip out (maybe skip the whipping, though, because my imagination has enough to cope with, thankyouverymuch) the trusty, "main-character-as-evil-machinator" plot device (thank you, Dame Aggie).

She can then reveal that the entire preceding storyline is the result of a nefarious plot on her part to lobotomise every character with whom she comes into contact, turning them into brainless lumps of hunky man-jelly, who will be hers… (assume Truman Capote voice here) hers... to toy with... (a loony hand-washing gesture would not go amiss at this point).


Anyone else notice the dearth of decent female secondary characters when a heroine like this flounces, bitches and sweats perspires ahem, glows, her way across a few hundred pages of print?


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lazy list

Ten things you can see/do in Prague that aren't mentioned in my very extensive collection of guidebooks (even the one that has reviews of, erm, houses of ill-repute).

1. Eat dumplings filled with smoked meat and served from a small brass cannon onto a wooden cheeseboard piled high with sauerkraut. (I've mentioned this before, but it's worth mentioning again).

2. See six German ladies of a certain age touring Prague in a seventy-seven year old, bright yellow, open-topped car with six wheels.

3. Have an excellent Thai massage.

4. Visit a museum dedicated to the most famous Czech who never lived, Jara Cimrman, including replicas of his most famous inventions, such as the triple-headed hammer, ladies' mugger-defense glove with retractable claws, or the gentleman's travelling chamberpot.

5. Drink an excellent cappuccino accompanied by a carrot "sandwich" (a slice of loaf that tastes a lot like a nutty carrot cake).

6. Not admire the statue of Jan Hus in Old Town Square because it's completely surrounded by hoardings for Skoda cars which are paying for its repairs, and beds of seasonal flowers, which aren't but make it look nicer.

7. Cruise the Vltava in pedalos (tide permitting).

8. Go roller-blading in one of the big parks outside the centre and play spot-the-most-obscure-yet-obscene piece of graffiti.

9. Wonder at the seemingly unstoppable flood of "Herna Non-Stop", 24 hour gambling shops (places too small and croupier-free to be called casinos) filled with flashing, ringing slot machines, a perpetual cloud of cigarette smoke and free drinks and snacks to playing punters.

10. Go(-)karting in Radotín, Europe's largest indoor karting track and finally understand where all the airport taxi drivers get their training.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

(i can has breef postz)

The short version of the post below?

Escalators in the Prague metro are rather long and slow.

The end.

Moving stairway to nefilim

Somehow, while I have had enough time to stumble across ideas for blog posts and even managed to worry them around enough to find some of the rough edges, I haven't really had the time to bash them into shape. Consequently, when I do sit down at a keyboard for bloggish purposes, I don't even know where to start. It feels as if all these whirling fragments of posts have clogged up my back brain and it takes enormous concentration to get anything down - even a hopeful list of topics.

Personally, I blame the escalators. Escalator-based differences are one of those things that I noticed when I first arrived here, but which rapidly became part of the day-to-day pattern of my life. When I was first getting to know the glories of the Prague metro system, my thoughts when escalator-bound would go something like this:

"Ticket stamping machine… where's my ticket? Oh yes, here. No that's used, okay, yes, here it is."

Silent squishing noise (yes, it is possible) as ticket collapses in ticket stamping machine. Squish again. Squish again.

"Okay… not the ticket. Different machine."

Whirrrrr. Bzzpp. (electronic date-stamping noise). Walk to escalator. Stand. Stare at the back of people's heads, trapped by the lack of appropriate Czech verbiage. Stand some more. Brain flips into the same semi-meditative trance of resigned boredom that causes me to read the ingredients listing on cereal boxes at breakfast and starts looking for escalator equivalent of a nutrition label.

"Ohhhh. Strange-looking Czech words on posters. I recognise that brand. And that one too. But not that one. Hey, I know that word. I think that one is advertising a language school. Yes, "jazyky". I know that word. And "anglic-with-a-hacek-tina" too. Wow. I can read some Czech. So I wonder what that is? Oh "divadlo". That's theatre. So maybe a play? Or seasons? It's a black and white picture of two people with angst in their eyes. With an owl. Must be a play. What's the owl for? How far? What? I'm not even half-way down this thing yet. Bloody hell, this is taking for-ee-vaaahh. Borrreeed.

"What play has an owl? This is a long escalator. I wish that man would move to the right. I wonder what Czech for "please stand on the right is?" Hmmmm… trees of the year. The June one is nice. In London, there are signs and announcements. Very leafy, that May tree. Tree of May. Whatever. Why aren't there signs and announcements? Or is it moving very slowly? In London, heavy breathing makes people move. Don't Praguers understand the meaning of heavy-breathing-at-the-neck? Damn. I think that was my train.

"Yes, look, people are getting on the escalator from that side of the platform. Isn't this light a strange yellowy colour? And the ticket machines are yellow too. This is a really long escalator. I wish I could walk. Or speak enough Czech to ask them to move. Maybe they're tourists. Tourists in London don't always understand the heavy-breathing-at-the-neck thing. Even though they have pictures with big red "X"s. And announcements. But the announcements are only in English. Which is pretty idiotic.

"And there's that whole slow time thing too. Maybe they don't get the need to rush. That's nice. It probably means fewer heart attacks. I'm sure I read somewhere that the faster people walked in cities, the unhealthier they were. These people are probably keeping me healthy. Which is good. Really. But also annoying. Hey, so that's what Bourne Ultimatum is in Czech. Could I get a tree of the year? I would probably feel healthier about the not rushing if I wasn’t breathing in this incredibly unpleasant smell. Especially through warm air. How do people do things like that in ventilation?" Ad nauseam (ahem, big klew about smell there).

Three hours later (okay, actually 2 and a half minutes. E timed one once. But it's a veeerrryy sloooowwwww 2 and a half minutes), I am at last able to admire the unique platform architecture and dulcet tones of the (occasionally) trilingual announcements, where the Czech takes twice as long as the German or English versions, leaving me in a permanent state of anxiety about what important travel-related information I might be missing.

"Bing-bing. Dear passengers, for your safety, you are please asked to remain standing behind the white line." Well, it's white and black. And more grey than white, actually. "Bing-bing. Dear passengers. Already this Saturday Prague will become the venue of the Mattoni Night Grand Prix. The night run in the streets of Prague will affect the city transportation in the centre of Prague between nineteen thirty hours and twenty-two thirty hours. There will be tram service disruption in the section…"

But these days, everything just blurs into the getting-to-another-place zone of empty-headedness. It takes something spectacular along the lines of battling clowns to shake me out of auto-pilot. Familiarity breeds contemptplation (hurhur). So as my daily two to four escalators become the only point in the day where I can actually go into slow time, they give me just enough time to get irritated by a bit of mental grit, but no more. Actual coherent structures would require a bit more of, well, everything.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fancy a brew?

There's plunder, and there's, well, I don't quite know what to call it now.

Naïve fool that I am, I had always assumed that the reason I was hauling back crates of Brand Y. Tea for myself and assorted other expats was one of those home-away-from-home things. Some adjustments are harder to make than others, especially bleary-eyed, early morning ones.

While good coffee is possible to achieve by dint of much banging of the supersonic coffee machine and the stealthy substitution of some Lavazza or other decent beans (kept under lock & key), the concept of a nice brew is light years away from the paper bags of fruit-flavoured wood shavings that usually appear under the the label here. Then there's the whole issue of preparation. The boiling of water first and the right sort of milk.

And I love tea. Proper tea I mean. Thick builder's tea that turns the milk a robust shade of mahogany. Tea you can stand spoon up in. Coffee just doesn't quite have the same effect in the mornings, it's too edgy, too acid. I need a big mug of tea that's almost a meal on its own to strip the flannel from my tastebuds. And then I need a few more to fuel me through the day. Somehow, I always thought that my fellow-drinkers out here needed their imports for the same sort of reason. It's what we're used to, and things don't feel quite the same without it.

Except I was wrong. It's not just that.

The other day, the undercover musician (80 bags, hard water blend) revealed that his particular brand is more than just a pick-me-up. It's a pick-them-up too. "Them" being his series of outstandingly attractive girlfriends. Nothing to do with the jazz cool, the sunglasses, the ability to riff for 2 hours solid and jam with gypsy punk trumpeters from the former Yugoslavia until his fingers bleed. Apparently it's all in the tea. Drop-dead gorgeous supermodel-types from the Czech Rep., Serbia and points east love it. Having never encountered a good cuppa (strong, milky and a good slug of sugar) they think it tastes amazing. And more importantly, because he drinks tea rather than beer, wine or slivovice for refreshment during the day, he's considered more stable and less likely to be plagued by an over-fondness for adult beverages, instantly moving him several points above his peers in the dating stakes.