Yes, everyone has lost their friggin minds

Its intentions were nothing but good

A retail chain in the Czech Republic was planning to order female cashiers to wear red headbands when having their periods, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) says.


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Has everyone lost their friggin minds?

Sorry, but I thought we were over this sort of thing:

The United captain turned his Los Angeles-bound 747 jet back to Sydney on Tuesday after fearing that the letters BOB on a sick bag stood for bomb on board.

A defensible action among the paranoid, perhaps. But then:

"Nonetheless, someone has been irresponsible at least and horrendously selfish and stupid at worst, and every effort will be made to find the person responsible."

What would be next?

Authorities said the backwards 'B' at the beginning of the word led them to their suspect, 4-year-old Robert MacDonald. MacDonald faces 12 years imprisonment and fines of up to $4 million.

No, it's not in the story, you dolt -- it's only hypothetical.

So whatever you do, do not write your name on a sick bag, especially if your name is John. In some quarters, JOHN stands for 'Jihad Of Holy Narwhales', a shadowy and dangerous pod of underwater Islamists. PAUL, it goes without saying, is an acronym for 'Pakistan's Angry Ululating Liberationalists', a vocally gifted but grammatically challenged group of evil-doers. Counter-terrorist experts have long been aware that GEORGE is quick way to say 'Get Everyone Out of Rear Garage Exit', the appropriate and necessary action to take when the front exit of a parking garage, perhaps the one where you park, is threatened by a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon. And one shouldn't forget the self-explanatory RINGO: 'Really Intense Nuclear Gadget On (Board)'.

In the name of global peace and national security, I'm considering changing my name (which may be misinterpreted as an acronym for 'To Hell, Evil Oligarchs') to a series of 1s and 0s expressed as a barcode. I recommend you do the same. For the children.


Grossová sells Amway


Edward Kelley strikes again

Is 16th-Century Voynich Manuscript A Hoax?

The Voynich manuscript has consistently foiled powerful computers and some of the world's best cryptographers, who have never managed to decipher the 16th-century encoded book. But now, as RFE/RL reports, one scientist says the manuscript could be a sophisticated hoax.

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Paul Simms writes in the New Yorker

Most of the rhymes kicked therein cannot be quoted in a family publication, but observers gave Mr. Cheney credit for his deceptively laid-back flow. Mr. Leahy was applauded for managing to rhyme the phrases “unethical for certain,” “crude oil spurtin’,” and “like Halliburton.”


Sto dvacet jedna, sto dvacet dva, sto dvacet tří ...
So I’ve started skydiving. Most people think I’m at least a little bit nuts, for a couple reasons. For one, it looks like an incredibly, stupidly dangerous hobby. For another, I will have to jump 35 times or so before I can do anything really cool. Why exactly am I doing this? I’m not sure. But let me tell you about it.
The plane Impact is using this summer is an AN-2 – the Anatov “Colt” – an old Russian biplane that rattles and roars like a cast iron stampede and smells like the fuel is sloshing around your feat. The crew has added Czech labels to the originals indicating latches and switches and emergency information. It’s a wonderful machine that moves unbelievably slow, takes off in 200 meters and is pretty much ideal for jumping out of – you sort of want to.
My favorite part is the instant you jump out the door. Everything is suddenly quiet, relatively. The roar of the plane slips quickly away and you’re left with rushing wind, the flapping sound of your parachute opening and/or the sound of your own screaming.
Jana at Impact gave us very thorough instructions on what to do in zvláštní situace: your main canopy can not open at all or open only partly; there can be tangles, tears and twists; there can be problems with your harness; your reserve canopy can open accidentally. Some of these situations are easily fixed, others mean you have to cut away and rely on your reserve canopy. Thing is, for all the instruction you get on what to do when your main canopy doesn’t open, there’s nary a whisper about what to do if your reserve canopy doesn’t open. Hardly surprising, given that there’s not much you can do. 
Before I started training, I had made two tandem jumps. Tandem is a great way to get introduced to skydiving. You’re strapped in a harness and attached to a ‘pilot’ – closer than you’ll ever be to man with your clothes on. The pilot does all the work. He opens the canopy and, more importantly, jumps out the door.
Of course, that’s the hard part. Instinctually we recoil from getting close to an edge like that, when you look down and there’s a sort of postcard of fields, roads and villages. Maybe a couple clouds. Too far away to look like someplace you would actually attempt to go. And then somebody yells běž, and you jump.
The first jumps you make are static line: your main canopy is loosely attached to a cord that's hooked inside the plane and opens your canopy as you fall. In a static-line jump, it takes the Falcon canopy we're using about four to seven seconds to open. Not really long enough to worry much. Sort of like a really high high-dive.
From my tandem jumps, I know that after about 10 seconds of falling, you feel like someone’s playing a joke on you. You just don’t fall that long. None of your ancestors ever fell longer than 10 seconds and lived to pass on their genes.
I’ve found with some relief that my reaction is to the falling is to laugh. Maybe everyone does. I’ll have to ask around. I have noticed that most of us newbies have silly grins on our faces as the plane goes up, grins that get bigger and sillier as the plane levels off and slows and someone opens the door and points at you and you think Am I really going to do this?
My first jump was a disaster. Well, not nearly, I guess, inasmuch as I can tell you about it. My training had been all in Czech – something which I was alternately proud of and extremely paranoid about. Did I really understand it? Is it possible that I missed something? Do I really just jump out the door and count sto dvacet jedna, sto dvacet dva, sto dvacet tří ... Or is there something I failed to understand, a lever I’m supposed to pull?

Anyway, there I was standing on the threshold of a plane looking at the bucolic countryside when somebody yelled běž, which for some reason was not the word I was expecting. I thought maybe hop would be a more likely choice, or jdi. But běž? I looked at the guy at the door with my best stupid face. He looks back with barely concealed disgust and fury at my apparent cowardice in the face of 1200 meters of air, and yells (with feeling) BĚŽ!
Jsem běhal. Maybe I counted sto dvacet jedna, sto dvacet dva, sto dvacet tří ... I don’t remember. I do remember the canopy opening and having the presence of mind to look up and see if it was functioning properly. It was, mainly, but the lines were twisted around each other spiral fashion. This is not a big deal and in fact it’s happened in all my jumps so far, so it no longer alarms me. I didn’t quite panic, I don’t think, and I reached up to pull the lines apart while kicking to spin myself around while they untangled, like I had been taught. No problem.
Except now I had no idea where the airport was. The yelling man at the door had pointed out the airport from the plane, but I couldn’t really see it. I knew, however, that it along a road between two villages and there was a pond a little distance away. But as anyone who’s flown over any part of the country will tell you, everything is along a road between two villages with a pond a little distance away.
I turned the canopy this way and that, eventually found the canopies of the two students who jumped before me, and steered towards them. What I didn’t know was that they couldn’t find the airport either. (And unless you think we’re complete idiots, the airport has a grass runway, so it sorta looks like another farm to the untrained eye.)
But not to worry, Jarda is on the ground with his binoculars and a radio to give us instructions. Blue parachute turn left 90 degrees. That sort of thing. Which he does. Loudly. In Czech. He speaks so loud, his voice is distorted in our tiny little speakers, so all I hear is žžřřááásslsdsáčžýá právožřělthéé prdele!
Anyway, despite our collective cluelessness, gravity eventually brings us all down. Jarda spends most of his time getting the first two jumpers to the target, which means that by the time he gets to me, I’m something of a lost cause. Or just lost. I landed fairly safely on my face in a muddy wheat field about a kilometer from the target. The only damage was to my pride, but I knew immediately that I could only improve. I remembered how my grandmother used to recommend eating a live toad each morning – your day could only get better after that.
The flight up takes about 10 minutes, and it’s about the same coming back down. The plane’s trip is about 40 minutes, depending on the number of passengers and their destination altitude. On a busy day like last Saturday, the AN-2 made 14 flights. My group jumped three times, which means we spent a lot of time sitting around. But that’s what you do at airports. You sit around. You wait. You get bumped from flights and put on standby. You play cards. You want to sit in the hospoda drinking beer, but that would be a really bad idea in this case. But eventually your number comes up, you strap on a parachute and climb in a rattletrap plane that you're not coming back in. It's fun.
Maybe this is about confronting fear, and once I've overcome that panic at jumping out the door, I'll go do something truly frightening, like karaoke. I think it's more about not waiting until that moment that you're completely ready, a moment never comes.
There was a guy on my third flight Saturday who had just graduated from static-line jumping to freefall. He had made a bad landing earlier in the day and Jarda had given him a hard time about it. The guy was obviously shaken up and looking for advice or instructions from Jarda, who was also jumping from this flight. Jarda thought what the guy needed was to learn to make his own decisions. So when we got to 1600 meters, Jarda just opened the door and turned his back on the guy. The jumper stood at the door for what seemed like forever. Then I guess he heard somebody yell běž.

Harmony and a lack of understanding

Can anyone explain to me the Czech love of musicals? It’s something I noticed fairly quickly when I arrived years ago, back when the Pulp Fiction soundtrack was playing somewhere in Prague 3 pretty much every minute of the day. I stumbled across Radio Limonadový Joe – all show tunes, all the time. Everyone had a copy of the Hair and Grease soundtracks. Eventually we would be subjected to Rebelové, not to mention Cleopatra, Drakula, Excalibur ... I think there is actually a musical playing in Prague for every letter in the alphabet. I welcome any efforts to explain this phenomenon away (and will punish severely all attempts that fail).


I was reduced to describing Samira Makhmalbaf as an enigma. That was a tidy way of saying ‘There’s no way I’m gonna be able to fit all this in at under 650 words and still give you brief synopses of her three films that are screening here.’

Suffice it to say I didn’t break any news. A few details, however:

Contrary to what viewers see of her in The Joy of Madness (a video documentary of the making of Samira’s At Five in the Afternoon shot by her younger sister), Samira is not immediately unpleasant. You definitely get the impression that, when pushed, she will push back, and back, and back a little more. And if you still disagree, she’ll let you know how you’re throwing your life away.

She’s actually very gracious when she speaks – lots of thank-yous and easy laughter – and her chin weaves around, making her look a little like a wobble-head doll. She creates a sort of continual drama around her face, resting the point of her chin on her fingers, or smoothing her hair underneath her headscarf.

Her wearing of the headscarf seems to me to be totally subversive. Although she says she believes in god, she has no use for religious superstitions. Her headscarf doesn’t cover much, and as I said she’s constantly running her fingers under it, not so much to keep her thick black hair in line as to remind you that there’s something under the scarf that some people don’t want you to see. Something naughty. Not that she wouldn’t mind showing you, but it might not be proper. Oops, I did it again.

So I finally get her alone. And we talk about how other Iranian filmmakers are jealous of her because she’s Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s daughter and protégé, and how she doesn’t have to rely on subsidies to make her films, so she has more freedom on what and how she can shoot, and how such jealousy is only natural.

Then she took off the headscarf.

I had been so taken in by the whole drama that the sight of her uncovered head put me in a cold sweat. She just reached up and calmly pulled the scarf off the back of her head -- no ceremony, no theatrics. This was a backstage gesture, not intended to excite anyone. But still.

We talked about how she hopes digital technology will make filmmaking more democratic, but she’s said all that elsewhere. And then I asked her about the absurd moments in her films (absurd in that Camus-Sisyphus sort of way). And she didn’t know the word ‘absurd’. I thought that was great.

In the end, my interview didn’t lead our section because the boss thought our interview with Theodora Remundová was more important. But when the Czech section’s interview with supermodel Karolína Kurková turned out to be less than brilliant — kinda like Pope Leo X turned out to be less than Lutheran — they decided to lead with Samira. But they wanted to do their own interview. You know. Just to build it up a little. For a Czech audience. You understand. But if they used any of my material, they’d share the by-line.

So it’s really too bad that Samira wasn’t available to talk.

And I know you were wondering about Nick Holdsworth. And Steven Gaydos, I'm sure. Provided you're not just googling for their names, I'll tell you about it later.


Whrrrrrzzzziiiiizzzz ... smack!

Has anyone else noticed a direct relationship between the degree of irritation caused by a ringtone and how far the user is from the phone? Or perhaps how often it rings? I remember a couple years ago how Hana's phone was always ringing and how she was never around to answer it. This year, Coilin's phone is forever going off with like three different utterly maddening melodies.

Next entry: Ringtones and the Doppler effect.

She's not coming

Several times a day, the phones of all the journalists at KV twitter and beep simultaneously as we receive another text spam from the festival press office. Usually it announces that a press conference has been rescheduled or a press screening has been cancelled. Last night it was to remind everyone that spolocensky oblek was required at the Media Party. As if.

Other text message today: John Cleese doesn' t want to be photographed at the presser. Huh.

The really useful information just sort trickles and oozes around the Thermal, however. Like the news that Sherilyn Fenn is not coming. Just as well, I suppose. I was just getting my mojo up to interview her, as our Czech colleagues hadn't a clue who she was, which would have meant that as soon as they knew we had an interest in her, some enterprising young hack would cherry-pick the interview and leave me standing there with my tape recorder in my hand, as it were. Not that I'm bitter.

Tomorrow I've got Samira Makhmalbaf. The Guardian ran this bit of worshipful drool as a lead-up to the release of her latest film. I really don't know what to expect. The interview was supposed to be today, but she begged off. Her handler said she was exhausted -- she had just arrived in town after a flight from Tehran -- and had 'a problem'.


Prepare yourselves to the Scottish Shower!

After a long exposition to the heat, as it happens in the the rmo-the rapy treatments, it is always advisable that the client has a scottish shower insidc Sprizzy Professional Cabin. ...

During the duration of the program, which is automatically proposed by the equipment, but that can also be manually programmed, each cycle provides to massage separately the following four parts of the body: calves, thigs, thorax, head; from bottom up to the top. ...

The business goes through the shower.

[Thanks, Will.]


Choose life

Cowboys & Angels is a cloying load of tripe, but Michael Legge is the next Elijah Wood.

So where's the party?

Better than in the Maly sal

Last night's party was at the Zanzibar tent outside the Thermal. Actually, the real party was the MTV bash at Roxy-Lazne I, but we didn't have VIP cards, so we went with the punters to the Mistri party. In addition to Mistri director Marek Najbrt and producer Pavel Strnad there were Jiří Macháček and Tereza Brodská (who is so fine). Also Silny Cafe director Börkur Gunnarsson, who was was giving Radio Prague journalist Ian Willoughby an earful about the sorry state of modern football and journalism. Ahem.

And at noon, the mayor of Karlovy Vary gave Jacqueline Bisset a special prize (Oof! -- Right in the Velky sal!) In her interviews, Bisset goes on at some length about her clothes and who over the years has lighted her the best.

Now here's a murky story: Three German women apparently drove 16 hours just to see Elijah Wood. They turn up at his presser yesterday and present him with a large envelope, which -- like the innocent he apparently is -- he opens in front of everyone. In addition to chocolates and cookies, there's a big photo montage of him and another Rings star (Orlando Bloom?) doing things to each other that will get you arrested in many states. (Oof! -- Right in the Velky sal!) Doctored photos, mind you. He just sorta smirked and said 'That's too much'. and put the picture down. Totally unruffled.

Which brings me to a debate I just had with my colleague here. Does anyone not understand the term 'beefcake' as it might be applied in the above anecdote? Buehler? Anyone?

Tonight I'm going to try to catch Cowboys & Angels and either House of Sand and Fog or The Machinist.


Grrr arrr Rum and Monkey.


Šeli jsme do Puppu!

The party was at the Grand Hotel Pupp. Rhymes with 'soup'. I didn't get there until nearly 1 a.m., but it was still fairly swinging. As I mention in tomorrow's issue of the Festival daily, anyone can start a party, but it's the one's that finish that really get my respect. Those would include actors Colm Meaney and Bernard Hill, director David Ondricek, the ubiquitous Nils Jebens, erm, us, Prague Post film dude Ray Johnston, and that guy. You know, the one in this year's KVIFF trailer. He also appears in Rex-patriates as Radek. His name is Petr apparently, and I think he should be a star. But then, I think you ought to be a star.

Harvey Keitel's acceptance speech last night was really good. It was brief, to the point, and relevant. He recalled his first hearing about what was then Czechoslovakia. He had been asked to sign a petition asking the communist regime to free some playwright he'd never really heard of. He did, and a bunch of NY artists went down to the Czechoslovak embassy and knocked on the door. The door opened a crack, they shoved the petition in, and then the door slammed shut. Good story. He even pronounced 'Václav' properly.

You know how the Czech press is kinda funny sometimes? There's a cutline in our Saturday issue: "British actor Bernard Hill enjoyed the carriage ride. The gentle spa wind ruffles his hair and Marek Eben laughed."

Mmm ... planter's punch ...


And no, he doesn't have big, furry feet

Nearly forgot. Elijah Wood is coming, right? (The starlet factor is really low this year. We do have Sherilyn Fenn, however.) Anyway, when the Czech staff isn't referring to him as 'ten Pitlík' or 'Frodo', they call him 'Ellyah'. So the star lineup comes out Ellyah Vode, Harfy Keedle, Yawn Irfink, Jaskeleen Biscuit, Collin Money, Yawn Sleaze, etc. But the only celeb I've seen is Yeary McMockchek.

So where's the party?

Just saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. You're gonna love it.

We had been told there would be a press screening of Sunshine this afternoon, which which is unusual in that we fest hacks are normally treated like mushrooms. Given the way protocol here at KV is running like a well-oiled avalanche of hedgehogs on bad acid, I thought maybe, just maybe, I'd better check with the press office to make sure that my staff ID was enough to get me into the screening. Good thing I checked: As we're sorta working for the festival, we have staff accreditation. You can only have one kind of accreditation. Industry. Press. Staff. Etc. So I don't have press accreditation. Which means that, under normal circumstances, I don't have access to things like, oh, press conferences.

Anyway, the press office assured us that they would get us in the press screening. We got to the screening room, which seems to be reserved for industry screenings, which the press are not invited to. So the security guard wouldn't let any of the press in the press screening.

It was eventually straightened out, but that's the way things go here. Take the coffee machine, for example. The daily's offices have been given a lovely little espresso machine. There are a dozen or so people in our office. They gave us three cups. So I went downstairs to 'production' to ask for more. A very friendly, helpful young lady took a stack of plastic cups off the water cooler and gave them to me.

And the Thermal is lousy with security guards. Jeebus. They're everywhere. And they're all about 17 and bored. And they look like they'd rather be sitting at a tram stop somewhere, spitting. I have this well-nigh uncontrollable urge to slap them.

So where's the party?


Kick 'em when they're down

I'm in Karlovy Vary at the 39th KVIFF, working on the festival's daily paper. It's not really journalism -- more like PR. So, for example, tomorrow's issue will not include the following paragraphs:

The quest for the Crystal Globe has only just begun and already the field has been narrowed by one. KVIFF announced Wednesday that the Slovenian entry Beneath her Window would be removed from the Official Selection.
The film, from director Metod Pevec, screened at the Ljubljana Film Festival last autumn. Per International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF) rules, films that have screened in competition at other international festivals are not eligible for the KVIFF Official Selection.

Producer Danijel Hocevar told the Karlovy Vary program board that, despite his long career in film production, he had not been sufficiently familiar with the FIAPF regulations to that Window could not compete at KVIFF.
Although out of competition, Window will still screen at KVIFF.

Us hacks on the daily are working on Macs, because ... because we just do, okay? Now I used to be fully adept in Mac, but in the last couple years I haven't used one and now I'm completely flummoxed. We're cursed with blue IDs, as opposed to the red ones that get you into the best parties, and generally get no respect. Not that we deserve it or anything. Plus, the best part of the festival is getting into places you're not supposed to be (like using that secret entrance to the Thermal's Velky sal).

The star factor looks a little better this year than last. Supposedly showing up are Colm Meaney, John Cleese, Harvey Keitel, Charlie Kaufman. Sherilyn Fenn. Jacqueline Bisset is apparently coming, although no one is sure why.

I'm finding that most of the things I want to write here ... gossipy hearsay and unkind anecdotes about ... can you infer that I'm talking about ... and that as you might have expected ... oh, just ask me about it when I get back.