Showing posts with label Vaclav Klaus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vaclav Klaus. Show all posts

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Czech President Pockets A Pen

President Klaus brought home a great souvenir of his State Visit to Chile.  Click on my title to watch the video.  Five million people have already sought it out and watched it!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Smetana's "Ma Vlast" is worth knowing

One of the great attractions of living in the Czech Republic, is that high culture is so alive, so affordable, and so accessible.  Give it another twenty years of capitalism and it may not be so. 

No American could imagine a scenario where every single person in our country knows a specific composer and his works. We all come from too many different backgrounds as citizens.  There is American classical music, but do you think more than 10% of the population knows Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" or Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man?"

When I hear those American-composed pieces, they move me in a way that I consider almost nationalistic because they so perfectly capture an "American" sound and feeling. I wish I could share that pride with every other American when the music plays.

There is a shared culture that everyone knows based on being Czech here in the Czech Republic.  You can assume that when a Czech hears the opening bars of Bedrich Smetana's "Vyshrad" tone poem from his symphonic creation "Ma Vlast" (or "My Country" in English) whenever a Czech train station announcement is played overhead on the train station loudspeaker, they all instantly recognize the opening bars of the music.

One of my blog followers told me that Czech Airlines plays "Ma Vlast" every time they land a plane in Prague coming from out-of-country.

When the Prague Half Marathon began last year, and President Vaclav Klaus set the runners off, the athletes ran from the starting line accompanied by the second tone poem of Smetana's "Ma Vlast" entitled "Vltava."   I can see why.  "Ma Vlast" is a gorgeous, stirring piece of music.  I don't even feel the nationalistic pride that a Czech would but I can imagine how it must make their chests swell.

I recommend a specific album called "Smetana Orchestral Works" recorded by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra in Municipal Hall in Prague in 2001 if you are new to Bedrich Smetana's music.  It was recommended to me by the music library staff at Prague Municipal Library.  "Ma Vlast" is included, along with another piece of music that is played often in the Czech Republic called "Wallenstein's Camp."  Click on my title to get your "Czech music soul" stirring and see the album. Where else is Smetana's music used within the Czech Republic in ways that touch citizens?

Do you have favorite pieces of classical music that represent your homeland or that you associate with a specific geographical place?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Real Reason Vaclav Klaus is so popular with the Czechs

Regular readers of my blog know how I have frequently savored tidbits of Czech skepticism so at odds with American pie-in-the-sky optimism.

Maybe this skepticism is the reason Vaclav Klaus is so popular with Czechs. He is skeptical of the EU and skeptical of global warming.

Ahhh, I get it now. Klaus and the Czech people have total mind meld! Skepticism is the default Czech emotion. A Czech listens to Klaus questioning the conventional wisdom on the issues of the day and completely identifies with his not giving in to political correctness.

Of course, there's probably a few Czechs skeptical of this post.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Free Beer and Chillin' with President Vaclav Klaus

One of the blogs I love to read is Czechmate Diary, by Tanja, a Czech immigrant to the United States. Tanja is in love with all things Czecho and is so proud to be Czech! Her wonderful subtitle to her blog is "Small Bohemian Steps to World Domination."

Someone in power must have recognized this because she was recently invited to a party in Washington D. C. to meet Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Tanja's enthusiasm on her blog for preparing for this party and getting to this party are a delight to read. Every woman will identify with her plaintive cry "what shall I wear???"

On her last post, she featured a link to her husband's take on the event. I enjoyed reading it so much I decided I had to link to here. Tanja's husband also got me to watch the nine minute interview Vaclav Klaus did with Glen Beck (sorry Mr. Beck can't pronounce 'Vaclav' properly, Mr. President) . It was the first interview I've seen in English with the Czech President. He made me think. And as a librarian, I couldn't help but agree with his contention that the marketplace of ideas needs all voices.

I'm also always struck by how good the President's English is each time I hear him (well actually, the only other time I've heard him was when he started the Prague Half Marathon race). The hardest thing for Czech learners of English is to understand native speakers using normal native speed when they talk. The President followed Glen Beck's English perfectly. Usually someone of his age in the Czech Republic has perfect Russian as a second language, not English. He has really invested the time in his English language. I want to give President Klaus his props for that.

Click on my title to read Tanja's husband's blog post about their visit to Washington D. C.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Sizzling Critique of Czech Political Leadership

Will he or won't he?
Vaclav Klaus loves to 'keep them guessing'
when it comes to his endorsement
of the Lisbon Treaty.

Ouch! This New York Times article has nothing nice to say about Czech political leadership during the EU presidency. My own observation is that Czechs are used to being governed and not yet so used to governing themselves. It's their first generation of really running their own show. The people haven't quite discovered their power yet and the quality of politics in the C.R. reflect that. You can read the article by clicking on my title.

Friday, April 3, 2009

President Obama will speak to the most vibrant part of Czech democracy: the people

Vaclav Havel was quoted in the Prague Post as saying "what bothers me most [about the government falling] is that it deepens the alienation between politicians and society." Truer words were never spoken.

Czech people are mortified that their opposition politicians chose to use this moment during the Czech presidency of the European Union to bring down their government. Also, two weeks before Czech people have a fantastic opportunity of having their views represented to the President of the United States of America when the administration is new and formulating policy on missile defense, opposition politicians kept it from happening by voting that this government doesn't have the confidence of it's representatives.

While watching the opposition bring down the government, I couldn't help but think of the bad mom in Solomon's story who wanted no one to have the baby if she couldn't. So if you're a foreigner looking at the Czech Republic from the outside, and you see this weak government and you see the Czechs squander their legitimacy as presiders of the EU, you may think that this isn't a strong democracy. You'd be wrong.

The President of the United States is going to end up speaking to the strongest leg of the triangle in Czech democracy. Not the Prime Minister, not the President, but the people. Czechs are educated, interested, and involved in their politics. They don't ignore them like many Americans used to do stateside. Now Czech democracy just needs some politicians worthy of the people. One Czech friend lamented, "we lost an entire generation of political elites. The ones we have now just fight."

I hope foreign journalists notice how in just twenty years these people have created a vibrant economy that is one of the strongest in Eastern and Central Europe. I hope foreign journalists notice how the Czech Republic is attracting immigrants from all over the East who are coming here for opportunity. I also hope foreign journalists take notice of how strongly Czech people express their grass root opinions through demonstrations. That's democracy!

The "body" of Czech democracy is healthier and stronger than it's "face." There is incredible opportunity here for a politician who doesn't play stupid power games and brings a government down just because it can.

Who in the Czech Republic is going to choose to responsibly represent the people in a way that has them feeling the enthusiasm we feel in America for our current leadership? Can it be done here? Skepticism and cynicism on the part of Czech people are just hunger for someone or something to believe in!

Related posts:

I sooooo don't understand parlimentary politics!

Dear President Obama, Please Come to the Czech Republic

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cheering on the Athletes at the Prague Half Marathon

Today my friend Anna ran her first half-marathon! What a fun and exciting challenge to set. Gulnara and I offered to serve as her "Sherpas," the people who carry the water and raisins necessary for refueling along the way.

Over 6,000 people from 79 different countries had signed up to run. It set off at the Rudulfonium and went through some of the most beautiful streets in Prague. It was probably cobblestone most of the way.

This was Gulnara's first time at a race too!

A nice Czech couple who helped us find our way.

Three fun-loving ladies from Spain
ready to run!

Adorable Anna
preps for her first half marathon

Three pals before racetime

Milan from the Czech Republic

Marc, an auditor from Luxembourg
We enjoyed getting to know people before the race
and cheering them on.

Mohito from Japan
works here in Prague
as a construction engineer.

Czech native Karel
was excited to run.

Agnes and Stephanie
are U.S. Department of Defense civil service staff
working in Germany
They were off to see the Mucha Museum while
their friend ran the race.
Thank you for your service to our country, ladies!
We appreciate it.

This woman and I had fun
chatting about her height
we never spoke the same measurement system
though so let's just say
she was a good half a head taller than me.

We American ladies had to give our native friends
a hard time about the European
way of doing things.
Notice how the male numbers don't have an "M" for male.
Men are the default.
They put an "F" for female who are the exceptions.

The parade of flags

Another Prague native ready to run

Jorg from Germany

As the race gets close to starting
you can feel the runners get jazzed
as their adrenaline gets ready to be sprung.

And they're off!

Align Center
The Prague Half Marathon
is officially opened by Vaclav Klaus,
the President of the Czech Republic.
The first piece of music played
as the runners take-off is
Smetana's "My country."

I shook the President's hand
but got a bigger kick
out of listening to two teenage Czech girls
literally squeal when they got to meet him.

President Klaus
of the Czech Republic
(he's better-looking in person than in the paper).

My compliments to him and his English teachers.
His accent when speaking in English
was practically native.

This man, who is Czech Secret Service
totally impressed me with
how graciously he did his job
with a constant smile
for those in the crowd
even as he protected the President.

The lead pack
halfway through the race.

A fun exuberant Czech runner.

It was nice to experience his enthusiasm
because Czechs in the crowd don't
cheer on their countrymen.
They just watch.
Anna said the only cheers she heard
along the way were in English.

Anna coming in strong and with a smile
near the end of the race.
Her goal was to run a 2:30.
She ran a 2:32.

I saw these braids go by during the race
and knew it could be only one woman:
Black Girl from Prague!
I was right.

Marco from Bavaria
blew us kisses as he raced.

Everyone should get a medal sometime
in their life, don't you think?

Anna happy, tired, and sore.

Can you get a better backdrop for a race well run
than Prague Castle?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Bipolar Society

Last month I happened to be having dinner with a Czech politico who's political abilities were as apparent as Arnold Schwarzenegger's ability to do a bicep curl. "How come you're not serving in elected office?" I asked.

"This is a bipolar society right now. I have perfectly capable friends who have run for office and lost. It's better to be in an appointed position until the country sorts out which direction it's taking."

I was fascinated by this observation and have since seen he's right. This is an exciting time politically in the Czech Republic because the country is assuming presidency of the European Union for the next six months. The presidency rotates among member nations.

Czechs are proud to be only the second post-totalitarian country to have this honor. I see pride among people as they imagine how their politicians should solve EU problems (the Russian gas crisis, the European position on Isreal and Gaza) while their country is in charge. It makes me wonder if more stuff will get done because every country faces an arbitrary six-month deadline with which to make it's mark.

Yet the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, is the one who creates either enthusiastic yeas or equally enthusiastic denunciations of embaressment among Czechs.

I've heard people appreciate him for saying what he believes regardless of result. One friend mentioned how much he appreciated how hard-working Vaclav Klaus was. "Vaclav Havel just let all the prisoners go when communism was over. Some of those people were real criminals, not just political prisoners. Vaclav Klaus reads every single file to see if the person locked up is a political prisoner who deserves a pardon and release or a real criminal. That's hard-working."

Yet other Czechs are deeply embarrassed that Vaclav Klaus wouldn't show up for a artistic performance celebrating the Czech takeover of the European Union, that he considers global warming a fraud, that he makes such a point of letting everyone know he thinks he's the smartest guy in the room. According to the New York Times, even communist secret agents were struck by Klaus's arrogance when they infiltrated his classes:

“His behavior and attitudes reveal that he feels like a rejected genius,” the agent noted in his report, which has since been made public. “He shows that whoever does not agree with his views is stupid and incompetent.”

It will be interesting to watch how these six months unfold for the Czechs. It's a wonderful feeling to be detached from their politics and not have strong feelings. As an American, I'm just getting used to the idea that I can relax a bit about my own country's politics. Someone I approve of is in charge. That is such a great feeling.

Link to the title to read the entire New York Times article about President Klaus.
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