The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'czech republic'
Here passes a great man: Vaclav Havel, the Czechoslovakian dissident playwright who led the pro-democracy movement and became the country's first (and last) post-Communist President, then continuing to be President of the newly formed Czech Republic, has died aged 73.
Two culturally influential Czechs have died in the past two days: Ivan Jirous, 67, who had been the artistic director of the underground psychedelic rock group The Plastic People of the Universe, which was a core of the more absurdist wing of the dissident movement after the Soviet-backed crackdown on the Prague Spring, and Zdenek Miler, 90, creator of the cartoon character Krtek (or "Little Mole").
As parts of its Why We Fight column, exploring the cultural flashpoints of (for want of a less loaded word) hipsterdom, Pitchfork has a piece charting the rise and metamorphosis of irony, and exploring the significance of knowingness. The timeline it posits looks like this:
Or, in other words, if this theory holds, Gen Y aren't only the first generation of digital natives, but also the first generation of ironic natives (or perhaps post-ironic natives, though that title might apply more to GenXers who came out the other end and made an accommodation with sincerity via their McSweeney's subscriptions). That is, for values of "first" meaning "since the mid-20th-century".
- Americans born from the late 50s to mid-70s grew up in a world where a lot of old certainties about society, work, family, and life had been eroded-- by big social changes in the 60s, by economic decline, by lots of things. And yet these people were still raised on culture full of old "certainties" that suddenly looked really, really false and corny. Elvis-impersonator corny, After-School Special corny. So they developed a kind of irony and skepticism, floating around smirking but rarely committing to anything. Some of them were good enough at it that, by the late 80s, it'd become an actual cultural aesthetic, a sort of slacker knowingness that could get as mainstream as, say, "The Simpsons".
- Those were Gen Xers, mostly. But even as people slightly younger than them grew up, through the 90s, on a steady diet of that attitude, some folks started to notice a kind of futility in the whole thing, a defensiveness, an emptiness, an inability to embrace anything-- at which point you could suddenly read thousands of words of David Foster Wallace on how damaging it might be, how much we needed to tap back into the kinds of "basic human verities" that actually helped us lead meaningful lives. Some people even started predicting the rise of some "New Sincerity."
- In fact, some of the people who spent the 90s trading in exactly that knowing, snarky sensibility recanted, and started going around bug-eyed, warning everyone about leaving it behind-- raving about climbing out of the hole they'd fallen into, somewhat oblivious to the fact that younger people weren't in the hole with them. Younger people knew how to be ironic and sincere both, and were digging themselves entirely new holes to deal with.
(Other Why We Fight essays on Pitchfork include: why Joanna Newsom is seen as pretentious and Lady Gaga isn't, and the aspirational qualities of shifting musical taste as a sort of hipster arms race.)
In an entirely different negotiation between irony and sincerity, Czechs trying to balance nostalgia with unease for the Communist regime that was imposed on them can now holiday in authentically preserved Communist-era holiday resorts, albeit with better service and a measure of ironic detachment (in the form of singing, dancing Lenin impersonators):
She is upset because I've asked if she was bothered by the bust of Stalin in the hotel lobby. "It's our history and it's inside us," she continues, still brandishing the sausage.
An investigation into German discount supermarket chain Lidl has revealed an extensive campaign of surveillance of employees, which has been compared to the Stasi's monitoring of East Germany's population (though perhaps Walt Disney's surveillance of animators and Henry Ford's sociological department are also good comparisons):
The detectives' records include details of precisely where employees had tattoos as well as information about their friends. "Her circle of friends consists mainly of drug addicts," reads one record. The detectives also had the task of identifying which employees appeared to be "incapable" or "introverted and naive".
While most incidents seem to have occurred in Germany, the most shocking one allegedly occurred at a Lidl store in the Czech Republic, where a female worker was forbidden to go to the toilet during working hours. An internal memorandum, which is now the centre of a court case in the republic, allegedly advised staff that "female workers who have their periods may go to the toilet now and again, but to enjoy this privilege they should wear a visible headband".
Recording how a German employee identified as Frau M spent her break, one report read: "Frau M wanted to make a call with her mobile phone at 14.05 ... She received the recorded message that she only had 85 cents left on her prepaid mobile. She managed to reach a friend with whom she would like to cook this evening, but on condition that her wage had been paid into her bank, because she would otherwise not have enough money to go shopping."A spokesperson for Lidl has said that the surveillance was intended "not to monitor staff, but to establish possible abnormal behaviour".
Six members of Prague-based art group Ztohoven are facing trial for hacking into a television feed showing images from a webcam and superimposing a mushroom cloud over a mountain landscape. If convicted, they face 3 years in jail; that's one year for each 111,000 koruna (approximately US$6,150) they were awarded by another arm of the Czech state, Prague's National Gallery, for the same project.
(via Boing Boing)
Czech Republic votes yes to EU membership by 77% margin, the latest in an unbroken line of yes votes. This only leaves the two easternmost Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, left to vote.
The eastward expansion of the EU may have hit an obstacle, with an outspoken Euroskeptic winning the Czech presidency. Vaclav Klaus, a neo-Thatcherite and vehement critic of the EU, won the presidency by one vote, and his administration could strain relations with the EU ahead of the EU accession referendum.