Thursday, June 30, 2005

Max on drugs

I have been away from my blog world for 2 1/2 days - not that long I realise, but it has seemed an eternity to me, especially since Monkey has finally got started, as has AG (links to right).

The reason I have been away and the reason that 2 1/2 days has seemed like 2 1/2 years is that I have been flat on my back in bed (occasionally managing a foetal position on my side) with a broken back. Okay, not literally broken, but close enough. Anyway, despite visits by AG and Monkey, and being looked after by Carol Brady, I have been bored to tears. The first day I was in too much pain to even read, yesterday I had July's Vanity Fair and the end of that book on synchronicity to keep me occupied, but I missed writing and cruising my blog world. It's not easy to sit here and type today (Day 3), but at least I can do it.

Monday night I had had a nice evening in the beer garden at Letna with Petr, Jeanie Weenie and their super-sized baby, Lukáš. We were back at their house and Lukáš did what babies do, which is anything stupid you can think of, in this case lunging for a lit candle. Not my baby: I should have let him burn himself and maybe he would have learned something, but no, I had to be SuperMax and save the bloody day. Lukáš lunged for the candle, I lunged for Lukáš (who, remember, is the size of a small running back) and my back broke. Carol and Mike came and fetched me; once home I hobbled my way into my bed, and on Tuesday morning I started calling people for drugs.

Jeanie Weenie had given me the only thing she had, which was super-strength ibuprofen. I took that, couldn't even feel a difference. AG came over with the contents of her medicine cabinet, which included muscle relaxants and codeine. Monkey went to see the Jester who gave him a prescription for me for muscle relaxants and pain killers. This is what I have taken:

Tuesday:
6.30 - Ibuprofen - 600 mg
11.00 - medical marijuana - 1/2 spliff
12.00 - Diazepam - 10 mg
12.30 - aspirin - 1000 mg
13.30 - Dorsiflex (mephenoxalonum) - 200 mg
14.00 - medical marijuana - 1/2 spliff
18.00 - Aulin (nimesulidum) - 100 mg
19.00 - Zyrtec (for hayfever)
21.00 - Kodynal (emetini hydrochloridum - .5 mg, ephedrini hydrochloridum - 10 mg, codeini hydrochloridum - 20 mg)

Wednesday:
8.30 - Dorsiflex + Aulin
14.00 - medical marijuana
15.00 - Aulin
16.00 - Zyrtec
18.30 - medical marijuana
19.45 - Diazepam
20.45 - Kodynal

Thursday so far:
7.30 - Dorsiflex + Aulin

Why do I know exactly what I have taken and at what times? It was Monkey's idea to keep a chart just in case I overdose.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Trial by Jury

In comments to yesterday’s post, Robert Downey Jr said “celebrity juries suck!”, citing OJ, Wacko Jacko and Robert Blake as examples. I doubt anyone would argue with that statement because trial by jury in those circumstances does not work in the interests of justice, but that has to be an unfortunate consequence of our system because trial by jury is necessary to guard against oppression and preserve liberty.

In the past, juries have been an important defence against tyranny largely due to the establishment of the principle that juries can refuse to convict on the basis of conscience - Bushell’s Case 1670. The Salem witch trials were finally ended in 1693 because juries refused to convict, and one of the reasons Prohibition was brought to an end in 1933 was that juries were refusing to convict people for alcohol-related offences.

The Declaration of Independence lists “depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury” as one of the proofs of the tyranny of George III and Great Britain. Our Bill of Rights guarantees us “the right of trial by jury” in both criminal and civil cases. Trial by jury is a fundamentally important institution in our society and we cannot do away with it. For that reason we cannot deprive celebrities of their right to trial by jury, even when we know there can never be justice in certain cases.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Land of the Free

I found this in the newspaper today:

“Countries that already outlaw burning the national flag include China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Cuba.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,11069-1667033,00.html

What the above partial list tells us is that any country that would pass such a law is currently, or is on its way to becoming, a police state, to whatever degree. We need to put aside imagining how we might actually feel were we to see someone burning our flag in order to evaluate what the proposed amendment to our Constitution says about the direction our country has taken.

There is simply no need for such a constitutional amendment or, I will go even further to say, regular criminal legislation. As DD has pointed out, the crime of damaging property belonging to another already exists.

The United States was founded on principles of liberty, as we have all agreed. The word “liberty” is in our Declaration of Independence as one of our “unalienable rights” and in the preamble to our Constitution as a “blessing” to be secured for “our posterity”. Any amendment to the Constitution, therefore, should increase our liberties, not take away from them.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Monkey's Max is proud to present a guest blog by AG

I would like to expand a little on a subject that SS brought up concerning abortion. I know that all you young’uns don’t have a personal memory of what it was like pre Roe vs Wade. So, if you’ll bear with me a moment, I’ll give you a little history lesson.

Back in my mother’s day abortion was illegal in all States of the Union. Rich women could afford to go to places like Switzerland, or even to Mexico, to have a safe abortion. And, believe me, they did.

Poor women, on the other hand, were forced onto kitchen tables. The work was done by either a midwife (with everyone in the neighborhood knowing why the woman was visiting that particular midwife) or by a quack doctor who had lost his license to practice medicine at all. If something went wrong during the procedure and a real doctor was called in to save the woman’s life, he (the doctor) could be sent to jail if he treated the woman and didn’t report the fact that she’d had an abortion. The State thereby guaranteed that the doctor would become part of the police force by informing on his patient. Many doctors complied, for religious reasons, did not treat the patient and the woman died. Or, if he treated the woman and saved her life, he could end up in jail or have his license to practice medicine revoked. Even though it was against the law, women still had abortions.

I’d like to remind you that this was at a time when having a baby out of wedlock meant that you were branded for life as a whore. In the big cities you could just move to another neighborhood and your parents, if they still spoke to you, could visit you. In the smaller townships around America, you were the town tramp – never to be allowed to marry and have a family in the normal, conventional American way. Young girls who got into “trouble” were usually forced to give their babies up for adoption and thereby never see or hear from them again. This attitude was a holdover from a time in the European past, when a woman was expected to suffer for her “sins”.

The controversy over Roe vs Wade spun around my young head and was finally decided in January 1973. Having been raised in the Catholic Church, I was very against the idea. However, my mother and I had a conversation that changed my mind. Her personal memory of the time before, watching friends getting into “trouble” and ending up with never having a child at all because of a botched abortion. A mother who was rational and pragmatic raised me, and I learned to think for myself.

At the age of 35 I finally, for the first time (thanks to birth control pills), found I was pregnant. My choices - yes I had choices - were as follows: give the baby up for adoption, have an abortion, keep the baby and raise her myself, or marry the father and raise the baby together. I was one of the lucky ones. He was a wonderful man and we loved each other very much. My husband and I were together for 22 years before he died of cancer and we have two beautiful daughters, and one granddaughter.

To conclude, I like having choices. I like the idea that I was raised at a time when I didn’t have to feel guilty about my life or my lifestyle. I don’t believe in abortion for myself, my choice, but I will defend a woman’s right to make her own choices when confronted with any conflict in her own life. Now, if that makes me a feminist – yes, I accept that, but it does not make me a man-hater.

- AG

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Do we not have more pressing issues?!!

In the news this morning:
The US House of Representatives will be voting today on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban burning, or other “desecration”, of the American flag.

desecrate to violate the sanctity of (something sacred); to profane (it).

sacred 1 dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a god or gods. 2 worthy of religious veneration; holy.

flag a usu rectangular piece of fabric of distinctive design that is used as an identifying symbol, e.g. of a nation…

I will not bore you with a semantic explanation of why a flag cannot be “desecrated”; I think it is obvious from the definitions above. A flag is, after all, a piece of fabric, and I have got as much trouble with someone burning it as I do with someone burning an old t-shirt. I myself have no interest in burning a flag, a bra or any textiles, but we all have our own behaviours.

My problem is that our government is wasting time and money on a frivolous issue when we are at war and we have scores of other real problems.

Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey said, “to burn a flag is to disrespect America.”

To that, I say, “So what?”

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Visit to Oświęcim

I was resident director of a study abroad programme for American students in Prague in 2001. As the programme was in Jewish Studies, one of its main elements was a 10-day study trip through Poland. We started in Kraków, which is an incredibly beautiful city with an extensive historic Jewish section, Kazimierz, as well as remnants of the wartime ghetto on the other side of the river. Our second stop was the town of Oświęcim, better known by its German name, Auschwitz.

I will not write about the visits to the camps of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau; instead I want to write about a very positive experience in the town of Oświęcim. My friend Tomek runs the Auschwitz Jewish Center, a cultural institute built in and around a reconstructed synagogue, which celebrates pre-war Jewish life in and around Oświęcim. On my second student trip there, Tomek and I had planned a meeting for my group of nine students (eight of them Jewish) with local Polish students and German and Austrian students who were volunteers at the International Youth Meeting Centre in Oświęcim.

It was the first time either of us had tried anything like it. My students had just had a harrowing day in the camps, and they were not feeling very friendly, to say the least, towards their European counterparts. The twenty or so of us sat down around the tables that Tomek had arranged in a big square. Tomek and I started the discussion off by asking a couple of questions, and then the students took over and Tomek and I remained quiet for the next 90 minutes.

A couple of the Polish kids had never met any Jews before. The Jewish kids for the first time heard something about what it was like to grow up in a culture of guilt. The European kids heard personal stories of survival that some of the Jewish kids told about their grandparents. A couple of the Polish kids had similar stories. They all talked about what they had learned or had not learned about World War II and the Holocaust in school and elsewhere. They talked about their own experiences visiting the camps. They talked about their pre-conceived notions about Jews, Germans and Poles. The students really communicated, asking each other questions and listening to the answers. The discussion was amazing and eye-opening for everyone, including me and Tomek.

We broke the discussion off after 90 minutes and invited everyone to go back to the Youth Centre where the Austrian and German students lived and my students were staying the night. They all went into the club where they could drink beer and they continued to talk to each other until the wee hours of the morning. Many of them exchanged e-mail addresses and I know that some of them kept in touch at least for a while.

I have chosen to write about this intensely moving experience because recently I have read a lot of anti-Jewish rhetoric online, all clearly written by people who do not communicate with anyone who is not exactly like them, and it troubles me.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Synchronicity Revisited

This is a follow-up to my post of 21st May in which I started exploring the Jungian concept of synchronicity.

On the 27th of May, Monkey received an sms from our superhero BG which said, “…I’ve crossed the proverbial Rubicon and am not sure how all will turn out.” The Rubicon, if you will remember, is where Julius Caesar said “Alea iacta est.”

Then on the 31st of May, kd made a remark about “gnashing of teeth”.

On the same day, Monkey brought me a book called There Are No Accidents: Synchronicity and the Stories of Our Lives. The book had been sitting on Monkey’s bookshelf. He did not know why he had the book; it is not at all the sort of thing he reads. He remembered picking it up somewhere but he had never so much as leafed through it. When he grabbed it off his bookshelf that day to bring it to me, a postcard that I had sent him fell out of the book.

I did not look at the book until this weekend just gone because I had been reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being for a book club meeting (sophisticated piss-up) I am going to with Jono next time I am in London. I finished the Kundera book on Friday and opened the Synchronicity book on Saturday. The introduction, titled “The Stories We Live, The Connections We Make”, began with a quote:

It is wrong, then, to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences…but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.

The quote was taken from Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

As I read the Synchronicity book and prepare my Kundera for the book club meeting, I expect I will have more to say about it all.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Dumbed Down History

Like I have said in this space, I have been learning a lot from blog discussions and following up with research of my own. It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the sun is shining and there is a nice breeze, so of course I am sitting inside at home reading and writing.

I have just read an article called “Getting Lincoln Half Right and Half Wrong” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo at http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo94.html. Following is a comparison between what I learned in school and what the article claims.

School

DiLorenzo

Lincoln was a good man.

Lincoln was a cold-hearted egoist.

Lincoln was a lawyer.

Lincoln was a wealthy railroad lawyer whose clients were mostly giant corporations.

Lincoln freed the slaves.

Lincoln was a white supremacist.

Lincoln preserved democracy.

Lincoln arrested political opponents and shut down opposition newspapers.

Lincoln preserved the nation.

Lincoln destroyed the Jeffersonian system.

I am not a Lincoln scholar so I am not in a position to say which side of the table is right, if either. I would, however, tend towards believing DiLorenzo.

What I will question today is what I was taught in history classes. Living for many years in a post-communist country, I know that my Czech friends and acquaintances were exposed daily to communist dogma in school. Now it seems to me that my experience in the US was not very different. We were obviously taught history from a slanted angle aimed at convincing us that America was the greatest country in the world and our way was the best way. For example: we were taught not that we pointlessly massacred the indigenous populations of North America, but that we were guided westward by “manifest destiny” – clearly nothing more than political propaganda.

Why were we taught that way? Education should not be dumbed down for children. History classes would have been much more interesting if we had been given the opportunity to discuss and debate, if we had been able to decide for ourselves whether our country’s leaders had made the right decisions. Developing an ability to think critically is so much more important than memorising names and dates. It seems that our education system was designed to produce factory workers rather than thinkers. When we grow up we watch dumbed down news so that we continue to not think for ourselves. It now seems to me that it is all a plot to keep power in the hands of those who have always held it, to preserve the status quo.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Fashion of Politics

It is all too common for people who do not have sufficient knowledge of a given situation to nevertheless take a stand and have an opinion about it. International politics is the obvious example because while most people do not understand what is really happening anywhere, we have all got something to say.

I noticed this first as a student and as a staunch defender of Israel on campus in the 1980s. By that time it had become very fashionable to be pro-Palestinian, and therefore anti-Israel, but it seemed that aside from a small core group of Jews and Arabs that liked to yell at each other on the plaza at lunchtime, no one knew anything factual about the situation. That Jews and Arabs each had their own version of the facts is another matter entirely. Most students were just following political trends in an effort to be cool Berkeley activists as if it were still the 1960s or 1970s. Oddly, everyone seemed to be an extremist and no one ever represented a middle ground; there were never any solutions to discuss, only issues to be argued.

I went to Israel when I graduated from university and I was there for the beginning of the first intifada, which started in December 1987. Going to live somewhere will normally change your understanding of that place. I was living in an international student commune (for lack of a better word), and the intifada divided us politically. But as we were living on the fringes of it (I won’t say ‘in the middle of it’ because we were not in the West Bank or Gaza), we all had a fair idea of what was going on and we could all form our own opinions and take appropriate actions. I went on a peace march while a couple of my friends volunteered for the army.

Amongst Americans in Europe now, it is of course the height of fashion to be anti-war and anti-Bush. Many people stop there, but I am happy to be able to report that a lot of people are going beyond that. The political discussions I have on the blogs are mirrored in political discussions I have with people in Prague and elsewhere. It seems to me that more than ever before people are digging to get at the truth, and more people are contemplating ways in which we can bring about change. It is heartening to see people bucking the trends of fashion and I look forward to the day when our words become actions.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On libraries

In the news this morning:

Supporters of the Patriot Act countered that the rules are potentially useful and argued that the House was voting to make libraries safe havens for terrorists.

“If there are terrorists in libraries studying how to fly planes, how to put together biological weapons, how to put together chemical weapons, nuclear weapons,…we have to have an avenue through the federal court system so that we can stop the attack before it occurs,” said Rep. Tom "Wanker" Feeney, R-Fla.

The dangers of reading have long been underestimated. Books blatantly threaten the peaceful existence of our country. Libraries are clearly rampant breeding grounds for terrorism and therefore should be shut down. Book shops must be closed and their contents confiscated. Anyone with a library card or book club membership will be arrested. No one must read lest he or she learn how to build a bomb.

In fact, we must burn the books – we must burn all books. Start with Harry Potter so that children will not be tempted by witchcraft. Burn histories so that we can forget shameful episodes of our past. Burn textbooks because learning is the work of Satan.

We can, we will, we must eliminate our collective knowledge because it is obviously that knowledge which undermines freedom and democracy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Max needs ideas

This could be the start of a dream come true. I have been in contact with an organisation that is considering giving me a grant to write. This would mean that I could quit work to devote myself to writing full-time for at least a few months. The catch, however, is that they want me to come up with an idea for a novel or some other full-length work. Non-stop blogging, for whatever reason, does not meet their criteria for a grant.

My plea to you, fellow bloggers and anonymous readers, is for proposals of ideas. What do you think Max should write about? What would you want to read? All ideas will be considered, and credit will be given for anything I use.

Thank you for your help.

Love
Max

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Pondering Midgets

Over the last couple of days I have been watching dvds of the first series of Little Britain, which is a tv show of comic sketches, and absolutely hilarious in a very weird British way.

Little Britain features midgets. They have appeared in at least 4 of the 7 episodes I have watched, maybe all 7 and I just haven’t noticed. If you blink you can miss them – they are very small. But really because one of the midget scenes was only about 5 seconds long, if that. The scene was a midget washing a shop-front window. That's it. But it was hilarious because the shop-front window was very tall and the midget was very small and did not have a ladder or anything and could only reach the bottom quarter of the window. Obviously visual humour, and therefore hard to write about, but so bloody funny.

In a couple of the episodes, the midgets were supposed to be children. In the first one, a man called his children and, at that point totally unexpected by the viewer, in ran two midgets, who then proceeded to skip around their “father” and each other, and it was fantastic.

I was writing an email to DD earlier about the Little Britain midgets (we all know how DD feels about midgets) when I decided the subject was bloggable. The aspect of midgets I have been pondering: I think they all look alike.

This thesis raises a lot of questions. Is it just that the same midgets are in films and on tv over and over? Or are they all really just very similar? I have definitely seen the two midgets who are in Little Britain before. Not surprising, except that they also look like oompah-loompahs (from the original film, obviously) and they must be too young to have been oompah-loompahs. How long do midgets live? Do they age unusually well? Are all midgets actors? Where is the dividing line between being a midget and just being very short?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On dating women

I do not have extensive experience dating women and I have never been out with a real lesbian, but these are some of the things I have found that are different from going out with men:

• no first date nervousness - it’s like going out with any other friend;

• no expectations on either side about who should pay;

• you can go to your local together, and no one else realises you’re on a date;

• if you ask her to go home with you, she won’t think you’re a slut;

• she understands period pain;

• there are no “rules” – you can call her the next day;

• relatively effortless mutual understanding;

• you can talk about men you have been out with or are interested in;

• women are more sensual kissers;

• everything is soft to the touch (which clearly would not be a good thing with a man).

This is obviously not meant to be an exhaustive list, just the first few things that came to mind.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Weekend Survey

The question: Which country will the United States invade next? And why?

I was at U Zpěváčků last night (on the beer and black sambuca part of my date with the beautiful kd) and these are some of the answers I got:

Syria – because they are troublemakers, their interference with Lebanon, recent testing of a Scud missile, and we need to protect Israel to bring about the Rapture.

Iran – nuclear weapons, conveniently located next to Iraq, continue our crusade against Muslims.

Cuba – we can spell it, we can find it, we can vacation there. And they’re commies.

Lebanon – to keep the peace.

Belorus – the last dictatorship in Eastern Europe.

Venezuela – oil, and Chavez is friends with Castro. Drug lords.

Mexico or Canada – conveniently located.

Iceland – it poses a clear and imminent danger: the whole fucking place is creeping up on the US by several cm per year with obvious intent. And Björk is a WMD.

Narnia – so that W can stop being scared of the wardrobe.

Thanks to kd, AG, the “arrogant bastard” and others for taking part in the survey.

Opinions, please, my wonderful blogging friends.

Friday, June 10, 2005

On the pleasures of ice cream

Ben & Jerry's ice cream has recently become available in the Czech Republic. Only one shop carries it, and that shop is right around the corner from my office (or, as Jono likes to say, 'orifice'). I have resisted the impulse to purchase said ice cream for the past 2 1/2 months but today I gave in. I am sitting here right now with my 150 ml single-serving portion of Cherry Garcia. Mmmmmmmmmmm...

I think I might just get through the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Feminist Max

Today I am wondering why feminism gets so much criticism. To define my use of the term I am going to borrow from Helena Kennedy, who has said:

Feminism is a theory which involves women emancipating themselves on their own terms from inequalities and discrimination based on gender. The canon of this political philosophy addresses patriarchal orthodoxies within a male-dominated society. It seeks to bring an end to women’s subordination and violence against women by empowering women and giving them control over their own bodies.

I do not understand why so many men seem to be threatened by feminism. I consider myself a feminist, by my own definition, and I do realise that there are other definitions out there. To me, being a feminist means supporting women’s rights, but it does not mean that I want to take anything away from men (except for the power to control women, obviously).

I want equal pay, equal opportunity, streets that are safe for me to walk at night, sexual freedom, the right to choose to have an abortion or not, etc. I do not wish to emasculate men, I do not hate men. In truth, I like men. I will smile and say ‘thank you’ if you open a door for me and I will be grateful if you carry a heavy bag for me. I do not pretend that I am as strong as a man; I acknowledge the differences in our physiology.

I want to be able to make my own choices as to whether to be independent or to marry, stay at home and raise children; men should have the same possibilities. Feminism is really just another philosophy of non-interference, i.e. live and let live. I simply do not see what could be so menacing in that.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Devolution

Gonzales v Raich (the medical marijuana decision) may be the straw that broke Max’s back.

devolution transference (as of rights, powers, property, or responsibility) to another; especially : the surrender of powers to local authorities by a central government

I lived in Edinburgh in 1989-1990 and I have three distinct political images etched in my memory from that time period:
1. The Berlin Wall being torn down;
2. Nelson Mandela’s walk out of prison; and
3. Scottish Nationalist Party graffiti all over town.

The SNP was established in 1934; they stand for an independent Scottish nation, which they have not (yet) achieved. However, seven years ago the UK Parliament passed the Scottish Act of 1998, an act of constitutional reform, which included the words: “there shall be a Scottish Parliament.” In July of 1999, the Scottish Parliament was convened for the first time since 1707. The Act devolved the power to determine domestic policy and laws for Scotland away from the UK Parliament and back to Edinburgh. In the same year, the National Assembly for Wales was convened.

It can be done.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Supreme Court Sucks Butt

In today’s news from the Associated Press: “Federal authorities may prosecute sick people who smoke pot on doctors' orders, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, concluding that state medical marijuana laws do not protect users from a federal ban on the drug.”

This makes me sick. And not just because I may or may not be a libertarian or because I may or may not smoke dope, but because people who are ill need the stuff. The two Californian women who brought the case against John Ashcroft (who also makes me want to vomit) are suffering between them: scoliosis, a brain tumour, partial paralysis, degenerative spine disease, chronic nausea, fatigue and pain, as well as a few other more minor ailments.

What the fuck is the Supreme Court’s problem? In the decision, Justice John Paul "Arsehole" Stevens wrote that it is up to Congress to change the law to allow medical use of marijuana. That might be fair play, except for the fact that the distribution of medical marijuana in California is without charge and does not involve “interstate commerce” in any way. Under the Constitution, that means that Congress has no say in the matter. Perhaps our eminent justices need to go back to law school.

Max Back in Prague

It has been a long hard drunken weekend for Max. To fill you in with the rest of it... it was great to see Paige & Olivier on Saturday night - I love them. On Sunday I had to fight with Jono to get out of bed so we could drive out to Hemel Hempstead and pick up some of my stuff that has been in storage in Gareth's dad's garage since last June. And finally I left for the airport.

Gatwick Airport is an unpleasant place, especially when it is crowded and the queues are miles long and one is exhausted, on her own and carrying a backpack full of books that is too heavy to check. I got through security, bought my newspapers and went to sit down in the central lounge. I got up to look at the monitors at 17.35 and saw "18.20, flight number whatever, Prague, Please go to Gate 28." I went to Gate 28, it was the wrong gate, but I did not notice until 18.10, after they had announced the Czech Airlines flight to Prague at least twice, and I finally looked up from my Times and remembered that I was flying easyjet. Bugger. Same time, same destination, but I still wondered how a woman with my level of education and intellect could be so dumb (snide comments expected). I went up to the counter, told the airline lady my mistake, and she said very calmly that I needed to go to Gate 12. I walked quickly, but did not run, first because the lady had been calm and had not told me to hurry so I figured she must know something I didn't know, but also because the only thing you can count on with easyjet is that they will be late. And they were.

I saw an amazing sunset on the way back, unbelievable colours: pink and blue and violet, and I did not let the woman sitting next to me look out of my window because she was a bitch. And I did not let the girl in front of me put her seat back because I was writing on my little table and she would have been in my way.

Monkey called me while I was waiting at baggage claim so I went to meet him, rtm and Dan for beers. Dr Strangelove came on tv in the bar and no one could believe that I had never seen it. I have been meaning to see it for years but I hardly ever see anything. (See Shiny Matt's post about AADD. Shiny Matt is wonderful.) I watched a bit of the film and will make sure to borrow the dvd soon so I can watch the whole thing.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Max in London - Part II

I had a lunch on Friday, one that was ostensibly business, but that turned into a 6-hour piss-up. I had other plans, involving shopping (Monkey, I wanted to look for those Alain Mikli frames) and going to see Scott at the Whisky Society, but by the time lunch was over all I could do was stand on a corner and wait for Jono to finish work so we could go to an engagement party in Clapham. I did manage to ring Scott at least. I also managed a foray into a pub to buy a half of Kronenbourg to sip outside while I was waiting. On the way to the party we stopped to buy champagne at a corner shop but we ended up with cava because they didn't have any chilled proper champagne. Jono made me eat a sandwich in hopes that it would absorb some of the alcohol I had already consumed. The party was good: lots of bubbly, karaoke, pints of water and more karaoke. The engaged couple had gone to bed before Jono, a few others and I had finished karaoke, but they always do. We got a cab, dropped another party guest at Elephant & Castle, dropped Jono in Soho, and by the time I got home to Islington, the cab fare was £33. I love London and I love black cabs, but fucking hell, the cost is insane.

On Saturday morning when Jono and I finally went downstairs (probably 1 p.m.) Vanessa was already sitting in the garden with the first of her luncheon guests. The only one I had not met before was Kitsch, who was absolutely lovely, and who is a British tv celeb. Monkey, he bats for your team, and you would love him, even if he is a limey. V invited us to have lunch with them, but Jono and I ran off to get burgers in Exmouth Market instead.

After lunch we went to Smithfields to meet JK, a friend of mine from law school. JK is awesome. We sat in a bar, drank beer and talked about everything from politics to urinals. (Yes, I do see the irony in that statement.) JK is a barrister, actually a pupil, meaning that he is doing his one year of apprenticeship before he becomes fully qualified to practice on his own. He has a wig but does not have to wear it very often. On his very first solo court appearance a couple of months ago he was defending 2 squaddies who had been charged with assault. It had been generally accepted in his chambers that they would be found guilty but JK's brilliant defence led to a verdict of not guilty. JK is a legend.

JK ran into someone else we know from law school in the toilets and brought him back to our table. I asked JK to show Tobes the photo of him in his court robes and wig that he had on his phone.
Tobes: You look really good, mate.
JK: No, I don't, I look like a twat.
(That is for all of you in the US to see that the word "twat" is alive and well someplace in the world.)

Then Jono and I had to run off to see Paige and Olivier for more drinks and dinner.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Max in London

My flight was late yesterday - bloody easyjet, but I managed to get to the Whisky Society for 7 o'clock. I still get a thrill opening that door with my member's card. I only had 2 whiskies last night: a rare and spicy Clynelish and then something really unusual that had been aged in a port cask. It was very nice meeting Lawrence, the new boy that works there, but I will have to go back this afternoon to see Scott.

People showed up as they finished work. First Lady Laura and Ronnie, then Jono and finally Christian. A lot of my friends are used to going to the Whisky Society to see me. We went downstairs, comme l'habitude, to the Bleeding Heart Tavern for dinner. They had already run out of the starter that I wanted, and the fish, but never mind; the Côtes du Rhône was lovely and I was happy. They kicked us out at 11.25 - English licensing laws, but just as well because I was exhausted and everyone else had to work the next day.

Jono and I took a cab home, found Vanessa passed out on the couch, sent her to bed, went to say hello to Whisky the cat and then got ready for bed ourselves. Jono brought the laptop to bed with us so that we could look at ratemyschlong.com together before falling asleep.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Perspective from Abroad

I have lived outside of the United States for most of my adult life. As a long-term expatriate, I have not had the opportunity to be involved in politics at a grass-roots level. Politics for me has consisted mostly of heated conversations and voting once every 4 years.

My perspective is different from the perspectives of my fellow bloggers in the US (not to lump you all together, but you know what I am getting at). I have seen foreign (i.e. non-US) news more often than US news; I have read foreign press more than US press. Therefore I have known quite a bit about US foreign policy as it affects other countries but never enough about US domestic policy. Of course I do talk to fellow Americans, some who also live abroad and some who live at home, as well as people from other countries. I do find that we all have our own unique perspectives, but that there is an overall difference in perspective between Americans at home and Americans abroad, especially since 9/11.

I have been a Republican (I don’t usually admit that), a Democrat, and a member of the Green Party, but I have been unaffiliated in any way for at least ten years. My biggest domestic political concerns have always centred on education and personal freedoms. For example, the freedom to have an abortion has always been an important issue to me. Although I do not know if I would or could ever have an abortion myself (and luckily have not had to make that decision), the thought of a bunch of men presuming that they have the right to tell me what I can do with my own body truly enrages me.

Bush’s post 9/11 policy has frightened me from the very beginning. It is grotesque. We have had draconian legislation hiding behind benign names like The Patriot Act. We now have the Department of Homeland Security which has been given a weird name, an unclear mission and undefined powers. Hello, Big Brother.

James Madison once said, “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” Why is it so obvious to some and yet others do not see it at all?

The elections in 2004 were a huge turning point for me. I came back to Prague from England in the summer and started working amongst Americans for the first time since the year 2000. We talked about almost nothing except politics for 5 months - before, during and after the elections. I had a political re-awakening, suddenly feeling the need to be more involved in politics than I had been since university and more of a need to figure out what was really going on and to do something to change things.

That is where I am at the present time. I read, I write, I discuss. I am learning from a lot of different sources and people, and still sorting everything out for myself. I see that our system is not working and that radical change is necessary. I am therefore left with the challenges of figuring out how to effect change, with whom I can work, and how we will ensure that the end result will leave us all much better off than we are now.