Monday, May 4, 2009


So I've been meaning to finish writing about my trip to the Balkans (I've yet to write about Dubrovnik, Budva, Prishtina, Sarajevo, and Mostar), but they will have to wait since I just got back from Prague and rather than letting that city slip further down the back-burner I thought I'd knock it out right now in pictures and a few brief words.

May Day. I arrived on the First of May in Prague and the city's as gorgeous as I'd heard it would be. The Charles Bridge, the Castle, the Cathedrals, the (anticlimactic) clock. Beer is cheaper than water and the smell of sausage and fried cheese (as good as it sounds) hangs in the air from the street carts serving the hungry hearts of Prague. Many thanks to my friend Caitlin for taking me in for the weekend and showing me around!

Pictured above is the Lennon Wall named after John (Lennon) and, during Communist rule, this wall provided the only means of public expression in the city. Youth wrote lyrics to Beatles songs and continually frustrated authority figures who would paint over the graffiti only to find new messages written the next morning. People still write on it today.

At first I thought it was nice to have people signing their names to the wall, but that changed fast when I saw four girls (I'm going to assume they were from New Jersey based on accent and general surly demeanor) sign their names to the wall as they posed for a photo in identical black leggings. You know the girls I am talking about. If it had been colder I'm sure they all would have worn Ugg boots and no one who stuffs their feet into those horrendous sheep killers should be allowed to make any contribution to public discourse in my opinion.

They weren't contributing to the spirit of the walls earlier days, only detracting from its once forceful message of disobedience in the face of injustice. Today, speech is open in the city. The country's joined the European Union and within the year will start using the Euro. Moreover, twitter, blogs, and Facebook have made public expression (however minute and trivial that expression may be) available to the masses. Jersey girls -- stick to the Book. The only people I saw signing the Lennon Wall this weekend were not Czech and it struck me as just like a Che Guevara t-shirt that the wall had been sapped of all its initial power and force. What does it mean to sign your name to that wall? Is it to associate oneself with ideas of rebellion and counterculture and revolution that have been repackaged and bought and sold back to us (drawing on ideas from David Foster Wallace's brilliant essay, E Unibus Pluram)? Is the message diluted and, ultimately, gone? Or am I just over thinking all of this? Probably.

I'd just prefer to see the wall remain static and decaying, a historical (and crumbling) landmark to the horrors of the Communist period and the suppression of speech in Prague. Apologies for the digression but this post is called "Detours."

1 comment:

chart! said...

don't think i didn't notice how you labeled this guy.