Irresponsible Max

Monday, 23 July 2007


rolling stones

Not dead yet

…or what I did at the weekend instead of preparing my lectures for this week.

Redneck Max

I spent Saturday with friends out at their gun club in Čelakovice. I learned how to shoot a .22 long rifle, which I was good at, and 12-gauge shotguns which I was not good at. And I have a massive purple bruise colouring the whole inside of my bicep proving that I was not holding the first shotgun quite right. My amateur trainer was clearly delinquent in his duties that day.

I had a good laugh shooting Glocks with my trainer’s 17 year old daughter, who is a crackerjack shot with any kind of gun she picks up. We made up little exercises and competitions to challenge and entertain ourselves. Luckily the members of the gun club purchase their ammunition in giant family value packs.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Max

On Sunday I travelled to Brno to see the Rolling Stones. I had been debating with myself for ages whether I should be a responsible summer programme professor or an irresponsible hedonist who lives for pleasure and worries about the consequences later. I had decided to go the responsible route, but once I had convinced myself that I could sacrifice pleasure for responsibility, at least theoretically, I called off that farce and got a ticket.

I have to say that I was not expecting much. The Rolling Stones had disappointed last year when they cancelled their concert due to Keith Richards falling out of a tree and Ron Wood checking into rehab for the 400th time. And the favourite wager on the way down to Brno was whether any of them would drop dead during the concert and, if so, which one. The concert venue was outdoors and the forecast was for rain. But I was in a good mood and I was with some good people so I knew I would have fun.

And then the concert turned out to be amazing. Really a lot better than the other Stones concert I had been to, which was Prague in 2003. Part of the reason was that general admission had been split up into premium and plebeian, so that by paying 45% more, I could see the Stones with my own eyes rather than just on the big screens. We were standing a little bit to the right, but really just a few people back from the stage. And Mick Jagger was very good about using the entire width of the stage. Even Keith Richards ventured out to the sides once or twice. They got so close to us that we could see the creases in their trousers and in their faces.

Mick Jagger had more wardrobe changes than Madonna, but he was on incredible form. His energy was astonishing.

Lisa: I would totally fuck Mick Jagger right now.

Max: I reckon even the boys would fuck Mick Jagger right now.

But then I asked the boys and they said they wouldn’t.

Probably the best thing for me last night was that the Stones played Miss You, which was the first Stones song that I ever loved. And now I’ve heard it live. Cool.

After the concert I had to find Annabel who had wandered off and got lost. On the way I met some nice Serbian boys and then finally everyone else caught up with us at the train station. Our 00.28 train was late, and we didn’t get in to Praha hlavní nádraží until 04.00.

I was at work by 9.45. I am sleep deprived and not at my best, but it was totally worth it and I am so happy that I went.

Thanks Annabel, thanks Mikey!



Thursday, 19 July 2007

Prague has beautiful cobblestone sidewalks. I often notice them, but I don’t often speak of them. Asshole talked about them at some length when he was here a couple of weeks ago, and last night I was out with another visitor to Prague who also expressed admiration for our pavements. After we parted I went to walk by the house where Jono and I may be buying a flat to make sure there were cobblestones there. There were.

Here are some photographs that Asshole took while he was here.

cobblestones 1a

cobblestones 2a

cobblestones 3a

cobblestones 4a

* Thanks Asshole!

Max’s weather report

Tuesday, 17 July 2007


I found this old photo of the Klementinum.

For anyone who is not here in Czech – we are in the midst of a heat wave. Czech is warmer than Italy at the moment, and warmer than most of the rest of Europe.

For anyone who is here but can’t read the Czech news – yesterday’s high at Prague’s official weather station in the Klementinum was 37.3°C.

For anyone who does not understand Celsius – that is 99°F. Baking.

Luckily the humidity has been low so it has not really been uncomfortable. At least for those of us who grew up in desert and savannah climates.

As I write from my un-air-conditioned office…

Picture this… because I didn’t have my camera with me on Saturday (or ever):

A chalkboard outside of a pub (U Kozla in Žižkov) – the top half is a picture of an intensely shining sun with “35°C written underneath it. Below that, a picture of a frosty frothy glass of beer with the caption “7°C. Nice spontaneous marketing.

Pivo in the news

Monday, 16 July 2007

pivo staropramen


My day was made perfect this morning at the tram stop when I looked at the newspaper I had just bought and saw that there was a story about beer right on the front page.

MF DNES Beer Test: Every third was under the measure

And after the story: “Further information on page 4 and in the regional supplement, section D.”

It goes without saying that Czechs take their beer seriously. But they are also concerned with the fairness of transactions and not being ripped off. Restaurant menus traditionally list the weight of the meat in their dishes and how much wine or juice you will get in your glass. And beer glasses have a line on them to mark exactly where 0.5 litres is.

Lager should be served with a good head of foam on it. Something about releasing the aromatics and achieving full flavour. Which is why the mark for 0.5 litres is usually about 3 cm below the top of the glass.

And why I can’t abide how they pour lager in England because they treat it like ale, which is poured without a head, and just fill the pint glass with liquid all the way to the top. But that is a complaint for another day.

So every beer glass you ever see in the Czech Republic should have a line on it, and regular beer drinkers often check to see if they are getting their money’s worth. If you want to be able to complain, you have to wait until the foam all settles and you can really see how much liquid you have. Most people don’t have that kind of patience.

“Someplace millimetres, someplace else up to a whole centimetre below the line…”

Journalists went together with inspectors from the Czech Commercial Inspection. They visited 86 pubs all over the country. The inspectors go with rulers and pipettes to measure beer and shots. In Prague, 6 of 10 pubs poured their beer below the line. The inspectors gave one Prague pub an on-the-spot fine of over 5000 Kč (about US$250).

Customers are fully within their rights to complain if their beer does not reach the line. But please consider before you do complain – I don’t recommend pissing off the people that are pouring your beer.

Max’s excuse

Friday, 13 July 2007


I am stupidly busy now.  Work is busy – today is another Friday that I am going to be working late while my friends are already in the pub.

Last weekend I had my Little Sister and Asshole and their two little kids here for four days.  I love them all dearly, but having two small children around me almost constantly has left me frazzled to a point where I barely recognise myself.  The kids just left on Tuesday, but it already seems ages ago (aside from the emotional damage and the sheets that are still waiting to be laundered).

The thing that is killing my blog and interfering with my social life right now is the extra job I have taken on.  I am teaching a course in law for business on a 4-week summer study abroad programme.  I had never taught law before so I knew this would be a challenge.  But it has turned out to be even more labour intensive than I had expected, and it is taking up all of my time.  I suppose that’s an exaggeration since I managed to throw together a dinner for myself and kd on Tuesday and I was out at a bourbon and cigar tasting dinner on Wednesday.  But still, I notice the difference.

My class is crazy.  I have 16 students and 15 of them are Kazakhs.  Thank goodness Borat is not quite an accurate depiction (although K, who has lived in Kazakhstan, swears he is).  The 16th is American.  As we went through English contract cases today, which I happen to find really interesting, I wasn’t sure if the kids were getting anything at all.  Their levels of English vary quite a bit.  Then I gave them an activity to do and they proved that they had taken in pretty much everything I had said.  That was gratifying.

The students read whatever I tell them to read, they all do their homework and turn it in on time, they ask questions and they seem to be taking their term project seriously.  We’ll see how it goes next week…

Executed for corruption

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


…and generally being a dick.

China has executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of their state food and drug administration, for corruption and dereliction of duty.

This is too easy. Although I am, in principle, against the death penalty, I think it may be time for us to follow China’s lead.

I propose that:

(i) any politician suspected of either corruption or dereliction of duty be tried for those crimes;

(ii) upon conviction, the judge will in good faith consider execution as a viable punishment;

(iii) we start with our own Dick.


Thursday, 5 July 2007



I got some family news in an email from my mom this evening. She told me that my cousin Nick is going to become a dad in a few months, his girlfriend has moved in with him, but they have not set a date for a wedding, and the girlfriend is Hispanic and a year or two older than Nick. My mom also told me that Nick’s mom is “very upset.”

I sent an email to Nick straight away. I wanted to express my cousinly solidarity because his mom’s reaction made me angry.

Nick is around 37, I think. He has a couple of degrees and a good job, owns his own house, and is basically a responsible grown-up. Nick is therefore the kind of person that should have a baby if he wants one. I am going on the assumption that he does, and therefore this should all be happy news.

Nick’s mom had been thrilled when Nick’s older brothers had kids, but they were both already married and their wives were nice Jewish girls.

The reason I got angry was because I thought Nick’s mom’s reaction was idiotic. Imagine this: you are a mom. Your son calls you and tells you that he is going to be a dad and he is happy about it. You love your son and he is happy, therefore you should be happy too. Why would you look for reasons to be unhappy? Especially when those reasons are petty and immaterial.

As I wrote to Nick: Why can’t people just be happy about stuff? There is enough shit in this world without looking for something extra – and meaningless! – to piss you off.