Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just Gifted I Guess

So above is the name of my subway stop here in Vienna (go U1 !). The one above translates as "deaf-mute street." At least in German speaking countries I seem to have a real knack for getting fairly bizarre Subway stops. It was one of those "hmmm, I think I know those words, could that mean? Nah....or?" Apparently there was a home for the deaf-mutes here back in the day. We're all still a bit special here.

Then back in the day when I was living with a host family in Berlin my stop was "Onkel Toms Hütte," literally "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Didn't really believe that one was for real at first either. Then I asked people why it was called it and people kept telling me that with the American military base near there and we probably named it that to remind us of home, then I usually got to explain how oddly enough slavery isn't really a big gut buster in the US. Turns out a guy named Thomas who was aware of the novel had a pub and decided to call it Uncle Tom's Cabin (I can't say why, but that is really typical Berliner humor) and the stop just got named after his pub.

I kind of feel like it is a warm up process and am sort of waiting for the outright insulting subway stop of my future when it suddenly just says in English "everyone-who-get-off-here-is-a-poo-face avenue" and I am still thinking hmmm, I think I know those words, could that mean? Nah....or?"

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


So I had a bit of a scary moment at the super market today. I had ran in to quickly get two things and the there was only one register open so the line was extremely long. Then another register opened, which I conveniently missed and only noticed when everyone behind me suddenly disappeared. So I jumped lines too. Then for a while I was playing the "I switched lines, will I beat the person in my spot in the other lines, race! race! game" [note: this is not the scary part of the story] until I was about two people away from paying. Then the guy at the front of the line was getting ready to pay when -BOOM- he collapses. Oddly, I don't think I've ever seen anyone feint before. It wasn't how I imagined it. He dropped really fast, not at all in the soap opera diva gentling feinting into somebody's arms way. I mean -BOOM- and then his eyes started moving up and down. Yeah, I had no idea what to do. Fortunately other people there did, one guy immediately put something into the other guy's mouth (to keep him from swallowing his tongue?) another guy was at this side and two people were on the phone with emergency services (I think must have had them on speed dial). Then about thirty second later the guy who had fallen got up dusted himself off in a way that would almost make you think nothing had happened...except you know he was bleeding from his head (fun reminder of my own head wound, which still freaks me out). So he walked over to the office to wait for an ambulance and everybody got back to normal. Most people didn't even act like anything had happened. Except for me and the guy with blood all over his hand from helping the guy. I think he had the better excuse.


Lemming Electrician

Monday, January 29, 2007


And so begins research season.

I started researching today. I cannot describe how much the libraries here drive me crazy. I will attempt to explain. Imagine waring feudal states viciously competing against each other who own their loyalty to the King, but never actually contribute any troops when the king comes around asking them to fulfill their obligations. Oh they talk big, but they know their power is measured by how many soldiers they have. They don't really care where the soldiers come from, the important thing is that they have more than their rivals and don't give them to the king. Now replace feudal states with libraries, soldiers with books, and the king with the main library. Now understand why books on political science will be in the sociology and economics, but never in the main library.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Axe to Grind

I never liked lectures. Starting my first year of college I tried to get into as many seminars as quickly as I could. The thing is I find I learn so much less in lectures and find it much more difficult to really focus and dig into the material. I also tend to unintentionally try to turn lectures into seminars by asking specific questions and raising other points. I hope I wasn't the annoying kid who everyone wanted to shut up, but I think I might have been. Eh. The things is, I am abysmal at wrought memorization and have to build a framework of cause and effect to retain information and the only way I can pin that down is by asking questions. Anyway, at Columbia I was able to take a good number of seminars and graduate courses so it worked out and really enjoyed those classes.

Fast forward to this year. I love Vienna, but I hate European universities. Education in Europe emphasizes wrought memorization with next to no emphasis on thinking for yourself or questioning. I still remember being in college in the UK and being in an English class and being given sentences that we were encouraged to reproduce exactly in our standardized tests at the end of the year. When I was in Berlin things weren't that bad, but classes were usually too big for discussion. The academy here in Vienna, however, is small (there are only about 130 of us) and many of the classes are small enough that they could be run like seminars or at least feature some discussion But they don't. not only that, but many professors if not take aback by students having the nerve to ask questions, outright discourage the asking of questions or just won't answer them. The funny thing is there are 'seminars' here at the academy but they are classes that only meet twice, the first time there is a lecture and by the second time everyone is supposed to have written their seminar paper and they present it. Still no discussion. And I was looking forward to the one seminar I was going to get to take!

Yeah, not such a happy camper. What drives me crazy is on exams we don't even have real essays, we are not asked to write an essay about why something happened or to analyze, just to regurgitate facts and details exactly as the professor presented them with the exact same outlook and conclusions. AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE GRADUATE SCHOOL! There is absolutely no promotion of free thinking. I know I am still learning, but compared to what I could be learning here it is just sad. I certainly didn't love everything about Columbia, but there were definitely some things that were and are done very well there.

Ball Season

So Ball season has kicked off here in Vienna and at a rapid pace. With several balls going on each week this is serious business (both in the sense that the Austrians take their balls very seriously and that tux rentals are ridiculously expensive [italics indicate bitterness]). Now, I would never claim to be an expert on balls, but it seems to me like nowhere else take their ball quite as seriously as the Austrians. In the U.S. I certainly have heard the names of a lot of balls (Officers' Ball, Governor's Ball, Policemen's Ball), but I am not sure how ball like they actually are (in terms of mass-waltzing, required ball gowns, and opening processions). I tend to think they aren't quite the same. But even the non-Austrians European here at the academy have been surprised by the grandeur of the Viennese balls. Communism seems to have wiped out the tradition in the other pieces of Austria-Hungary and it just doesn't seem to be taken to the same extreme in say France or Germany.

So enough of my ball psychobabble and on to a quick run down of the ball I went to last week (yes I know it was ages ago, yes I know the pictures have been up on facebook for ages, but better late than never).

So anywho, the ball was the Officers' Ball in the Hofburg Palace. When we got there it looked like this:

i.e. pretty much empty, but pretty. The girls in the white are the debutantes . I have to admit I was a big fan of the huge Austrian flag in the center of the room . It was pretty impressive even if it did make me think of the scene in the Sound of Music where Germans replaced the Austrian flag in the van Trapps' home with that of Nazi Germany. The whole time I felt like to should be keeping on eye open for naughty Nazis trying to take down the Austrian flag so I could yell "No! Bad Nazis. Leave Austria alone." Because that would have worked.

So after that things kicked off at around 9:30 and by kicked off I mean the hour long opening started. So first the cadets and debutantes entered, and then various military dignitaries, foreign dignitaries, an then with the Austrian ministers bringing up the rear. They had sashes, I was jealous.

Next came the marching band:

I can't really say what they played when the entered but it was definitely something along more traditional lines. They played a number of different pieces, but the best was when they played the theme to Lord of the Rings! They played it brilliantly, but what was really great was just seeing as different people in the ball room suddenly realized what was being played. Sort of along the lines of "Is that? Could it be? I think it is. Awesome!" So the marching band was very cool even if the tradition of playing musical pieces while moving in various sluggish box like formation still escapes me.

So after that there were some girls in blue dresses doing some very sprightly dancing and the cadets and debutantes danced some more before the ball was opened. Ah waltzing. It certainly can look elegant, but at least at a crouded ball (as they all hear) there is the added excitement of trying not to spin into another couple and conversely to avoid being waltz-rammed by couples spinning out of control.

But what is also pretty neat is that there are multiple dance floors at the balls here. There is a live band playing more traditional music, a jazz band, and then even a disco area. Then after midnight there is something that amounts a dance version of Simon says, where everyone get into two lines and somewhat complicated dance instructions are given to the two line about how they are supposed to dance together, and then they run the whole things is run really fast, which is usually pretty amusing.

So all and all I have to say I am a fan of the ball tradition here. I have a few more lined up, which is good since I have a purchased tuxedo I need to get the most out of. And now, as requested a picture of me in a tux with some friends from the academy:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Those That Left Us This Year

And now, part three in a very special Barbarossa look back at some of those who left us this past year:

Augusto Pinochet

An elegy to Pinochet, to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson"

By special Barbaross contributor Edward

And here's to you, General Pinochet,
Jesus loves the army, don't you know,
God bless you, please General Pinochet,
Helping Heaven reward those who pray,

We'd like to help one of our best neighbors to the south,
We'd like to help you learn to help yourself.
Three years of socialism clearly did you wrong,
Take a look at Argentina, they need someone strong.

Take it away, General Pinochet,
Go take over Chile in a coup,
Here's planes and bombs, General Pinochet,
Get rid of that Marxist Allende,

Executing thousands of exiles isn't fun,
A dictatorship is not a cupcake,
What use is a free press when you're on the run?
Take an order, thirty-thousand need torture.

Ka-ching, ka-ching, General Pinochet,
Milton Friedman loves you, don't you know?
God bless the Queen, General Pinochet,
Keep the Falklands safe for the UK,

Seventeen years, then you learned that nothing gold can last,
You need a European vacation.
Ignore the arrest warrants issued for your kin,
Is that the way your nation thanks you nowadays?

Where did you go, Señor Augusto,
A lonely tribunal waits for you,
Age ninety-one, you recanted some,
Then a heart attack took you away,

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Principality of Sealand

Visit Sealand! A small independent micro-state of the coast of England with its own citizenship, passports, money, postage, constitution, and royal family. Yes it has all the trapping of a small European principality, including the seal above with the motto "E Mare Libertas," "From the Seas Freedom!" Oh wait did I mention it looks like this:

Yes that's right, Sealand is a military platform during World War II built by the British to protect the port of Harwhich. They later abandoned it and it when through a few different rulers until the Bates family arrived and established themselves with Roy Bates established himself as the first Prince of Sealand.

"For its short time in existence it has a fascinating history which you can learn more about here if you are interested. Anyway, my favorite bit of the history is this part here:

In August of 1978, about ten years after independence was declared, Roy was approached by a consortium of German and Dutch diamond merchants who wanted him to fly to Austria to entertain a business proposition. Upon their arrival, he and his wife Joan were met by five men who arranged for a meeting later that day, but the meeting time came and went without any word from the men. Concerned, Roy and his wife tried to make contact with their son Michael at Sealand, but since there was no phone or radio on the artificial island, they had to call local fishermen and the coast guard. "I saw a big helicopter hovering over Sealand," one of them reported. Things were beginning to look very suspicious.

Their worries were confirmed when they finally heard from Michael, many days later. A helicopter had arrived at Sealand, claiming to have a Telex from Roy. But upon landing, they took the platform by force with the assistance of the "Prime Minister" Roy had appointed, a man named Alexander G. Achenbach. The invaders locked Michael in a cell for three days without food or water, then put him aboard a Dutch vessel which dropped him off in Holland with no money and no passport.

The Bates family enlisted armed assistance, including a helicopter pilot who had done some work on James Bond movies, and headed back to Sealand to storm the fortress and take back their country. When they arrived, Michael slid down the rope onto the deck armed with a shotgun, and fired a shot. The intruders quickly surrendered, and were held as prisoners of war until their home countries petitioned for their release."

So all of this was pretty interesting for me, espceially since Sealand was put up for sale, but then I read the other day that a Kazakh had bought it! That's right Daniyar Ashimbaev is the newest proud owner and Prince of Sealand. In an interview he has said that he intends to be a reformer and replace the SeaLand Dollar to Sealand Tenge (the Tenge is Kazakhstan's currency). I want Sealand Tenge! I am really just ecstatic that there is now a second Kazakh state. Even my host brother in Kazakhstan was blogging about it. I still think it is the beginning of a Kazakhstani invasion of the UK for Borat though.

Monday, January 15, 2007


So I have have been spending what seems like the last five hours with the fine looking gentleman pictured above. Oh yes, it Monday night (well oh so early Tuesday morning really) they time of the week when I struggle to get some Russian homework done for the next day while being oh-so-painfully aware that I have French that morning. Tomorrow (errr, today [cries]) I get to be interviewed and tape recorded in French for a fake job interview. All of my French mistakes on tape? Truly a new classic.

Anyway, because I have Russian and the teacher always guilts me for not writing more, on Monday night I usually desperately try and squeek out a page or so in Russian to then give as an offering. This time Brezhnev was up. Basically how we have old people telling us how everything was better and simpler when they were younger you have the same thing in the former Soviet Union, except they were right. No leaving the country, one type of sausage, and one political party to ram it all home. The better is in the hey we have services that work rather than a synonymous mafia/government structure out to rob you and the country blind. It is just amusing because I have spent all this time weaving all of these impressive words together and I am still pretty sure I have said the same thing over and over:

Some people thing Brezhnev was really great even though when everything seemed to be going well the Soviet economy was falling apart. That is really funny because it is the falling apart part that made life in Russia so crappy later, and that crappiness that made people think the Brezhnev era was so good in comparison. There are a lot of old people in the former Soviet Union who think everything was better when Brezhnev was still in charge, but they aren't entirely right because things were really falling apart.

Ah, what a beauty to behold. Still though I liked the faint hearted praise the speaker of the state Duma had to offer on Brezhnev's 100th birthday: the Brezhnev era wasn't the worst period in history. Oh Brezhey, one day they will love you for you and not just your crazy eyebrows.

Also, thanks to Antonella and because it is awesome Beeeeeeeeeeeees!

Sunday, January 14, 2007


So another weekend has trickled away. Nothing to exciting happened, I wanted to go see an Austrian Cabaret, but it was sold out (they seem far to legitimate and established here) so instead I ended up going to the party here at the Diplomatic Academy, which was surprisingly fun. We have a student run bar here which now and again will have parties. They are nice, but they had become a little sad at least for a while as fewer and fewer people were coming and there just weren't very many new people to talk to. This was really pretty cool, there were food and alcohol specialties from almost all of the different nationalities present at the Diplomatic Academy (yeah the Americans didn't do anything, should we have bough McDonald's?), which turned out to be quite appropriate for a student party as with the large number of Eastern European students there was a lot of vodka (regional specialties). The coming week is pretty much hell though as Saturday was dedicated to finding an affordable tux (acquired huzzah!) and then preparing a French cover letter and refining my French resume for my mock job interview on Tuesdays (which will be video taped so there will be condemning video evidence to boot!). Then today was mainly preparing for my E.U. Substantive law exam tomorrow.

So then when I really should have been sleeping I started looking at the blogs of some of the Upright Citizen's Brigade Performers I am familiar with. Goodness they are a funny and active bunch. It blows my mind all the stuff they do and aren't compensated for at all (even the theater doesn't pay after all). It was all highly amusing and made me miss New York and being involved in the improv scene.

Anyway here is a video I stole from one performer's website mocking public access style ads. I love it. It gets everything right to the last awkward detail.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The New York Time's Manhola Dargis on Justin Timberlake's new movie "Alpha Dog":

"The cretins rule in “Alpha Dog,” which has much the same entertainment value you get from watching monkeys fling scat at one another in a zoo."

Now called my old fashioned, but seems like an awfully low blow coming from highbrow New York Times, don't get me wrong it doesn't upset me, to the contrary having Justin Timberlake's appeal being compared to a shit throwing monkey in a zoo warms my heart. It is just who said it that makes it great, even more wonderful was the fact it was that very sentence that was put on the New York Times Homepage as a link to an article. Brilliant. Well I mean I certainly clicked on it.

On another note, I have a tux! They are expensive though. I was a little hesitant to buy one, but the rental rates are ridiculous here and even if I had my old tux from home chances are it wouldn't fit anymore. The first place I went with my friend Eva despite having a 'good' reputation seemed awfully shady and the salesman seemed pretty eager to fleece me. So after leaving there I felt pretty depressed (images of being the one boy at the Diplomatic Academy left home on the night of the ball flashing through my head), but thanks to Eva's keen instincts we were able to find some nice more reasonably priced tuxes. I really don't like shopping though. The general male vs. female approach to shopping generally amuses me, women look for clothes or at least dresses that are unique and fashionable (constantly changing), where men look for whatever the set 'male' outfit for the occasion is (the phrase"oh my god, you are wearing a black tux too? Whatever will I do." doesn't usually pop up). The funny thing is even buying a tux of a normal pair of pants can be hard and designers seem to keep to weird things to them (like adding stange frills, odd buttons, and especially on casual pants useless straps).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Officers' Ball

So as promised to my dear old auntie In, here is a little bit of information about the next shmanciesh shindig here at the Diplomatic Academy.

So with January we are enter into ball season here in Vienna. Specifically, we here at the diplomatic academy are getting ready for the Officers' Ball next Friday in the Hofburg palace (pictured above). To be perfectly honest, I don't completely understand the concept of an officers' ball, but sufficed to say it is ostensibly put on by the the Austrian army and Austria's officer academy. The event promises to be the fanciest I have ever attended (required floor-length dresses for women and tails for men) and certainly sounds awfully imperial. It does have me scrambling though as I don't have tux here and I am expected to waltz. I can't waltz. I can't dance. I can't count. I certainly can't be expected to keep counting to three in my head while making sure my three matches the 'real' three totalitarianly imposed by the 'music.' It is a challenge. If you think I jest, then just be aware that for almost a decade I was the bane of any choreographers existence. Oh sure I could sing in musical theater, but turn at the same time as a group of twenty other people? Surely not. I have video proof. In fact, one choreographer when I was doing Guys and Dolls for the second time in England (somehow I know there will be a third time) was nice enough to give us all little cards with positive things on them. My complemented me on my acting and singing, but left out any reference to dancing. There was a reason. The general mentality of waltzing does amuse me though as it is basically away from side to side until there is enough space for you to erupt in series of waltzing circles without killing anyone. So tomorrow I am off to try and find a tux and then to continue to try and have a waltz I am not ashamed to share in public.

Auntie In, if there are any archaeological treasures you need to smuggle out of Austria this would be the time.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Nobody's Watching

I love Nobody’s Watching! Unfortunately, in keeping with shows I like being brutally cancelled or not made at all, this show only got a pilot (seen above in three parts). Watch it! The really cool thing is they are still trying to get a network to pick them up and have done some other really awesome videos on their website. Anyway, trying to do my part for this great show, so watch it and leave a message telling me what you think (positive, negative, or indifferent).

Edit: I love all the comments being left of this post! Good discourse guys!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


So in a shocking turn of events I had a Russian class today! The day before I had gotten a text message from a classmate who said he was sick and wanted me to tell the teacher for him when we had class the next day. All fine and well and that much I understood. He named the sickness as 'angina,' which meant absolutely nothing to me. Actually, to say it meant nothing to me is being a little too generous. You see in German it would be pronounced 'angeena,' which sounds an awful lot like the German for vagina, 'vageena.' The fact that said classmate is a burlier hairier fellow made things all the more amusing as I contemplated all the possible vagina related illnesses his non-vagina could be suffering from. Could it be vagina shaped growth, not life threatening but socially awkward enough to warrant social exile? A more aggressive and emasculating form of the metrosexual virus? A physical assault by sassy yet strong woman named Angeena ? It boringly turned out to mean 'tonsillitis.'

Monday, January 08, 2007


This will be quick since I am procrastinating writing something for Russian. So classes started up again at the diplomatic academy, which was a little weird since everything is obviously getting going again, but I don't have any classes on Mondays so I sort of felt like I was haunting the place as I would see people on the way to something else but there was no real interaction. And then there was the one girl who when I said 'hi' and smiled walked by without smiling or saying anything. If she was the most popular girl at diplomacy camp I could understand, but she is so not so it is just rude. Also I was almost relegated to the uncool kids table at lunch today. Okay, so in reality here in nerdsville pretty much every table is the uncool kids table, but the really uncool kids table is the professors' table where professors and any students unlucky enough to have to sit there keep separate conversations going except for the occasional awkward exchange and neutral conversation offering. Yeah I was a bit late and I almost had to sit there, without any other students. The student conversation would have consisted of me talking to me. Nobody wants to talk to me, I know I don't and I wasn't going to talk to the professors. So I left. No lunch, but apparently it wasn't any good and I can live without unnecessary extra awkwardness in my life. I'm a self sufficient producer and leading exporter!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Those That Left Us This Year

And now, part two in a very special Barbarossa look back at some of those who left us this past year:

Slobodan Milošević

Picture of a President

"Milosevic was an outstanding politician who gave his all to serving his fatherland."
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus

The world seems a bit less of a cheery place this year without Mr. Milosevic's upbeat demeanor to brighten our days. His light has dimmed and the world is a bit of a darker for it. Certainly whenever President Lukashenko was in a bind Mr. Milosevic was there to help him through it, to encourage him and to tell him, "Who cares what the western election observers think, huh? Do they have a cool moustache? No. Do they have their own country? No. You do and they are just jealous. You rig those elections if you want to because I know you will be a good president, you know it, and one day your people will too. Oh sure it make some time and half a tub of tear gas, but they will!" Mr. Milosevic was always there for his friends and he never gave up. He didn't give up after losing one war, or a second, or a third, or a fourth, or after his capitol was bombed, or after he falsified election results, or after his people came out onto the streets to protect his election rigging, or after the military refused to quash the demonstrators like he nicely asked them too, or when he was twiddling his thumbs in jail cell in the Hague. Okay he did give up when he had a heart attack, but that isn't the point, the point is that Sloby didn't give up or let people live because he wasn't a quitter, he was a winner and winners never quit. He listened to his high school gym teacher, oh no didn't just ignore his high school gym teacher's advice because he saw that his gym teacher was well a gym teacher and had done nothing in his life and therefore had no business telling anyone else what to do with his, no, he recognized his gym teacher was from Yugoslavia and that nobody in Yugoslavia could so anything with their lives so he set out to make Yugoslavia a somebody. After years of communist oppression where no one could leave the country he was determined to show people something new, to take them to new countries, to spice things up a bit (except for the ethnic Albanian, they weren't invited, okay they were but the invitations were never delivered or something). So he started of with one country and by the end he didn't just have one country, oh no anyone could do that, he took his one country and invested it and in the end had not one but five countries. Be brought new countries for the people of Yugoslavia to see and they didn't even have to leave their own homes. If that isn't love then I don't know what is. We miss you Sloby and Lukashenko just hasn't stopped sobbing since you left, I am just not sure he would have the heart brutally break up another non-violent protest without you.

Don't Fly British Airways, Ever

So my bag still hasn't arrived, that's right two weeks after having left my bag has yet to either make it to New York or Vienna. Now I could complain about how I was promised that I would have it in a week, that no one has been very nice about the whole thing, that nobody at the BA baggage office bothers to answer the phone until they are done for the day (then they put up the message telling you they are not available and letting you leave a message they will not respond to), I could, but I'd rather complain about the fact that I got a call from BA on Wednesday when I was in Prague telling me they had my bag and that they could deliver it whenever I wanted. That sounded great since my family was still around and I could have given them their presents and those for other people before they left. Suddenly I was full of the joy of the Christmas spirit again and virginal optimism of the New Year. So I said that I would be back on Friday and asked them to deliver it to the academy. Well Friday came and went and after spending most of the day waiting for the bag it never showed up. What was even better though is after calling the central BA hot line in God knows where and my mom talking to the people at the airport before she left, it turns out they have no idea where my bag is or who or why someone would have called to tell me they had it and would be delivering it. Oh now they are just being cruel on purpose.

The great things is that after a little bit of research it turns out that bags were not only left in London in hug piles (there were at least 8,000 supposedly down to 2,000 now), but bags were also put on the wrong flights. One bag meant for Switzerland wound up in Brazil for example. So my bag could literally be anywhere. My feelings are pretty much put forward in an article on the subject in the Daily Telegraph:

The problems may be, as BA says, "outside our control". But instead of resorting to a Soviet-style information blackout the airline could at least keep passengers informed. At the very least, its staff could answer the fucking telephone [my fucking and italics].

So don't fly British Airways. They are evil. If they do this to bags, just imagine what they will do to your children.

Just remember this isn't the true face of British Airways:

This is:

Also, because I feel like it, the first person to correctly post the name of the movie the first and last pics are from wins and can give me a blog topic if they so wish.

Update: My bag finally arrived around six o'clock last night. Again this is after I had been told twice in the past two days that they had no idea where my bag was and that it certainly wasn't in Vienna. It does have a JFK sticker on it which leads me to believe they sent it to JFK even after they promised they wouldn't. I am happy (yeah!) that I got my stuff back, but at the same it is frustrating because I got it all back after I could give presents to people. BA will be getting an angry letter and a receipt for the shipment of my extra stuff home.

Don't ever fly BA

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Kids in the Hall

I love the Kids in the Hall. I think they are absolutely amazing and are pretty much my favorite comedy group of all time (there improv is fantastic too!). There are how I instantaneously try and bond with any Canadian I meet... and then how I lose interest in any Canadian I meet if they do anything but sing the kids' praises (blasphemy!).

I remember watching the old repeats on Comedy Central and the great thing about the show has been it is something I am actually able to go back and enjoy more than when I was watching for the first time in elementary and middle school. The first thing is that they are just plain funny, and the second is that they are amazingly good technically. There is much stuff you learn when studying the Harold about good comedy structure (keeping the most absurd situation real in the way you play it, heightening, pattern of threes) that they just do and are text book examples of even though that wasn't any of there backgrounds. Also, their women are just plain amazing, even my mom says so. Yes, I know, I am jealous but in a mentory sort of way.

It kills me though that when things got tough in the 90s when things got tough Lorne Michaels, who produced both Saturday Night Live and the Kids in the Hall, and Lorne Michaels had to choose between them and chose Saturday Night Live. I know SNL is an American institution, but is hasn't been funny in sooo long. It is like watching the plow horse with the broken leg limp about, you know farmer Bill is coming back, it is just a question of when. Anywho, I would have killed for the Kids in the Hall to keep going, but it wasn't to be. What was great about it was that it was a real ensemble show, it was really just the six of them and they would all write (for themselves and for others), star, and support. It was just some amazing work they did and I am sorry it ended with so much frustration for them.

So the last season came out on dvd and I got it for Christmas and have been dutifully watching it here in Vienna. One of my favorite sketches was also in that season and thanks to youtube it can be watched on the internet too. Youtube won't let me embed it though so click on the link. So without further ado here is Stair Climber.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


In Prague with the family. It is pretty and hence causing me once again to take lots of pictures of things and pretty much none of people (people spoil pictures, also old cars and stuff make pictures look dated in ten years time). I suppose the biggest difference between Prague and Vienna is that because Prague wasn't bombed during the war and never underwent any really major reorganization of the historic center it still has a lot of really cute windy old roads and neat little streets, where Vienna is more impressive for its big grand buildings and open spaces. My parents and brother all like Prague more than Vienna, but I still like Vienna more maybe that is just because I speak German and not Czech and feel a bit like Vienna is my city so I am a bit biased. I never said I was fair.

A few quick notes: Prague is loaded with Russians, I think I have heard more Russian than Czech, not entirely sure why I suppose because it is a bit cheaper than Western and Europe and it is probably easier for Russians to get a visa 2. I can understand a good amount of Czech, but it is more interesting to see how Czech and Russian use the same word for different things, they will both use "dobriy den" to mean "good day," but Czech uses Mecto to mean "city" where Russian uses it to mean "space," Russian also uses narodniy to mean "people's" where Czech uses it for "national," and Czech uses Rodina to mean "family" where Russian uses it to mean "motherland." There are definite connections, it is just different to see where even the words they had in common diverged 3. It is really interesting so see a sort of Eastern European orientalism at play here, people come here and think "former communist country=Soviet Union" and want Soviet kitsch stores are packed with Soviet flasks, Lenin t-shirts, Soviet military stuff, and nesting dolls, but I mean none of that stuff is Czech there in so Czech communist kitsch for their communist party or leaders, it all jumps straight to the Russian and Soviet stuff.

Also, Czech beer is really good.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Those That Left Us This Year

And now, part one in a very special Barbarossa look back at some of those who left us this year.

Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow

The Man, The Legend, The great Dictator

Saparmyrat Nyýazow, president of Turkmenistan for an all-too short life, left us this year on the twenty-first of December. Born a humble orphan in Soviet Turkmenistan, he grew up to become Turkmenbashi, the head of the Turkmen people. He will no doubt be remembered for his numerous accomplishments: the banning of movies, video games, car radios, opera , ballet, facial hair, imposing a $50,000 tax on marrying Turkmen, the closing of all libraries outside of the capitol, the closing of all hospitals outside of the capitol, the construction of a theme park named after himself, making his autobiography the basis for university entrance exams, wire tapping all hotels, forcing physicians to swear an oath to himself and his autobiography instead taking the the Hippocratic Oath, renaming January after himself and April after his mother, and of course the Turkmen run of fitness, in which all bureaucrats were required to run up the miles of concrete steps he had built into a mountain as he started the race and then helicoptered to the the end to greet said winded bureaucrats. It is sad that one so concerned with the health of his people, would sacrafice his own health each year just to let the first runner bask in the knowledge that in seeing his supreme leader that he had won the race. His dieing of a heart attack only shows his endless sacrafice for his people.

We, howevere, are not here to glorify Tirkmenbashi, no history will do that, no instead we are here remember him, remember him as he was immortalized in this delightful piece of State propaganda:

Or in this picture of a younger Turkmenbashi:

Surprisingly grey considering the dark haired Turkmenbashi we see in later pictures, it can only be said that his own virility was revived just like that of Turkmenistan and the Turkmen people in the freedom he brough to Turkmenistan in independence. He filed with new life just as his country did. And of course who could forget the many golden statues of himself, like this one that rotates with the sun:

Turkmenbashi will be missed, but lives on in the month of January, his theme park, and as a Zommunist soon be to awakened. What is saddest is the fleetingness he has taught us about our own lives and our world, in unstable and ever changing times it is the entrench dictators we look to for continuity and reassurance. Turkmenbashi has taught us that even they can not always been there for us.

President Nyýazow leaves behind a country of two million people, two billion dollars in overseas bank accounts, and an illegitimate son desperately trying to take over the country.